Monday, November 30, 2009

Decmber 1- Isaiah 44:6-8- The God who holds the future

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

11/16- Isaiah 44:6-8

6 "This is what the LORD says— Israel's King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God. 7 Who then is like me? Let them proclaim it. Let them declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come— yes, let them foretell what will come. 8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one."

Calvin abridged: We never ascribe as much as we ought to ascribe to the power of God, but we are distracted by adversity and a variety of thoughts, and are too strongly attached to the present state of things. God is not only the “King” but also the “Redeemer” because the power of God is not enough if we do not believe in God’s good will toward us. “I am the first” God not only asserts his eternity here, but shows that He is always faithful to himself, and that our hope rests in that he will be in the future what we have found him to be in the past. The Prophet wants our minds to be free from false imagination, and instead we should raise them to heaven, that they may be altogether fixed on God. 7Who then is like me? The Lord compares himself with idols. Though they would be fiercely insulted by their Babylonian conquerors, they should not lose hope or be discouraged. God governs all things by his providence, so he knows everything in the future, and gives evidence of his foreknowledge. God is the only one who can raise up and call up deliverers. 8 “Fear not”- Since the Lord is so powerful and governs all things at his pleasure, the people whom he has taken under his protection ought not to be afraid.

Thoughts: The context of Isaiah 44- the way it was written, is the God proves himself different from idols because he can predict the future, and holds the future of his people in his hands. So God predicts through Isaiah about 130 years before it happened, that Cyrus (by name) would arise to bring the people back from their exile (44:28). If we really believed with all our heart that God not only knew the future but held our future, we would trust Him more. We cannot see around the next corner, but if we know God can, we ought to seek to communicate with Him. When I lived in the mountains, there were times when I would get behind a slow moving truck going up those curvy mountain roads. I could not see ahead to know when I should pass. It would be nice if I could have communicated with someone in a plane who could see and tell me by radio when it was safe to pass. God is King, and sees all things. We should call out to Him the only real God.

Prayer: Lord, our future is uncertain. Help us to listen to your voice, and to trust your advice to us.

11/30/09 - Psalm 95- Worship the King even in tough times

(Calvin preaching at St. Pierre)

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Psalm 95

1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. 3 For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. 6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice, 8 "Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. 10 For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, 'They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.' 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'"
Calvin abridged: This Psalm exhorts the people of God to praise Him in worship together, giving two grounds why God should be praised; first that he sustains us by his power in the world which he created, and second that he has adopted the Church into a gracious relationship with himself. At the same time, he encourages us to be sincere, serious and devoted in service, and to show by the way they live that they were not chosen in vain. That they may guard against hypocrisy, he mentions that their fathers were stubborn and ungrateful to God from the beginning. He reminds them of the punishment inflicted on them, so that we will be deterred from following in their footsteps.
Thoughts: “O worship the King all glorious above, O gratefully sing His power and His love.” This great Psalm calls us to come and worship the Lord who is King of all that is made. He has created the kingdom, and He rules over the kingdom. The world is in his hands, and as his people we are in his hands as the great shepherd watching over us- to guard us, protect us, care for us. It makes no sense to rebel against such a wonderful king, but people have done it before. We are in the midst of a full scale rebellion today. We put ourselves in the king’s place, instead of recognizing we are stewards of the king. Exodus 17:1-7 tells the story of the Israelites rebellion against the king at Meribah (which means “quarreling”) and Massah (which means “testing”). There was not enough water, and they did not trust God to provide for them, so they rebelled, wanting to go back to Egypt. Can you imagine wanting to go back to Egypt when God had delivered them by the ten plagues, the Passover, through the Red Sea, and the destruction of the Egyptian army that was following them? It is amazing that people forget how powerless the false gods are, and how powerful our own God is. Yet we live in a day in which we have been blessed perhaps more than any other time in the history of the world (think air conditioning, cars, jets, abundant food and clothing, relatively free from war on our shores), but we still have not had enough. We need to come back to the King and trust in Him even when times are hard (as indeed they were at Meribah and Massah- and as they are harder today than they were two years ago).

Prayer: Help us, O King, to come before you in worship, and praise you with our whole hearts.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

11/29/09- Mark 1:14,15 Repent and Believe

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!"

Calvin abridged: Christ began exercising his office when he arrived in Galilee. The summary of his doctrine consisted in two parts: repentance and that the kingdom of God is at hand. Since repentance depends on the Gospel, why does Mark separate it from the doctrine of the Gospel? First God sometimes invited us to repentance when nothing other than changing our life for the better is meant. Afterwards he shows that conversion and newness of life (Rom. 6:4) are the gift of God. We are informed that not only are we called by duty, but the grace and power which enables us to obey are also offered. The Lord commands us to turn to Him, but we cannot do this by trying hard. But God promises the Spirit of regeneration, so we must receive this grace by faith. There is a special relationship between faith and forgiveness of sins often mentioned in Scripture. God offers us a free salvation in order that we may turn to him and live to righteousness. When he promises us mercy, he calls us to deny our flesh. Paul calls the gospel the kingdom of God. By the preaching of the Gospel the kingdom of God is set up. There is no other way that God reigns among us. How wretched is our condition without the Gospel

Thoughts: This is a great advent verse, on this first Sunday of advent. God’s kingdom (presence, fullness) is coming- so repent and believe the good news. If you knew you were going to see God in all his glory, on the judgment seat very soon, how would you respond? Would you wish to change your life any? Somehow we have lost the urgency of the Gospel for our generation. Our beliefs are watered down, our repentance is flmsy. Too many Christians are apathetic, and the Gospel is something extra. We believe we can add God to our lives without subtracting sin. There are some Christians on the edges who think all that is happening in our country is a sign of God’s judgment or possibly even his coming again. However, most Christians plug their ears to that kind of talk. But we should never plug our ears to the message of Jesus- repent and believe.

Prayer: Lord, give me the desire to repent, and then pour out upon me the power of your Holy Spirit that I might have the strength to turn from my sins and turn toward you.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

11/28/09 Luke 18:15-30 The kingdom's opening

(Jesus welcomes the children- Carl Bloch)

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Luke 18:15-30 (MATTHEW 19:13-15; MARK 10:13-16)
15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 18 A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 19 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'" 21 "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said. 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." 23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God." 26 Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?" 27 Jesus replied, "What is impossible with human beings is possible with God." 28 Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!" 29 "Truly I tell you," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life."
Calvin abridged: This narrative shows that Christ receives not only those who, moved by holy desire and faith, freely approach him, but those who are not yet of age to know how much they need his grace. The little children did not have enough understanding to desire his blessing; but when they are presented to him, he gently and kindly receives them, and dedicates them to the Father by a solemn act of blessing. 17- “For such is the kingdom of heaven”- When Jesus said this, he included both little children and those who resemble them in the kingdom; some foolishly exclude children with whom the kingdom must have started; He also by saying this intends his disciples to lay aside malice and pride, and put on the nature of children. Mark and Luke add that no one “can enter into the kingdom of heaven” unless he be made to resemble a child (cf. 1 Cor. 14:20). “A certain ruler”- This was a man of high authority, held in high esteem as a good man. Though in some gospels he is called a “young man”, in my estimation he belonged to the class of elders. He did not come treacherously, but came seeking instruction. He inquires about keeping the law and earning eternal life by his merit. The scriptures promise life to those who keep the law perfectly (if there was such a man) (Lev. 18:5; Deut. 30:19). But since we all fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), the young man should be taught that no one is accounted righteous unless they have fulfilled the law perfectly (which is impossible). Salvation comes by faith, but the law is far from being useless. Let everyone who endeavors to regulate his life by obedience to Christ, direct their whole attention to keep the commandments of the law. So Jesus refers him to the second table (not murdering, honoring parents)- the same as loving neighbor as yourself. Christ makes him look at himself through the mirror of the law. He does not just tell him to sell, but to also give to the poor. Some applaud Crates the Theban, because he threw all his money into the sea, thinking that he could not save himself unless his wealth was lost; Christ does not compel everyone to sell all that they have. The laborer who supports his children would do wrong to sell his possessions unless he had to do so. To keep what God has given us by His power, living frugally and giving to the poor- is a greater virtue than to squander it all. “He went away sorrowful”- This shows how far away the young man was from the perfection to which Christ called us. To persevere in the school of Christ, we must renounce the flesh. This young man brought a desire to learn and modesty, but he withdrew from Christ because it was hard to part with a darling vice. The same thing may happen to us, unless the sweetness of his grace of Christ render all the allurements of the flesh distasteful to us. It is hard for those who place confidence in riches to enter into the kingdom. This is said to keep the rich on their guard, and to keep the poor from overly desiring what they do not have. Riches by themselves do not keep us from following God, but it is almost impossible to avoid being intoxicated with riches, becoming slaves to the earth. The disciples were astonished at this warning and asked, “Who, then can be saved?” Christ answers, “What is impossible with human beings is possible with God.” He does not free his disciples of all anxiety, so that they wouldn’t think it is easy to ascend to heaven, but find strength from heaven. The ending of this passage ends with this: Those who shall willingly lose all for the sake of Christ, will be more
happy even in this life than if they had retained the full possession of them; but the chief reward is laid up for them in heaven.

Thought: The kingdom of heaven belongs to little children, but it doesn’t belong to those who think they can buy it. This is a real contrast with what the world says. The humble win, the last shall be first, those who think they are first- without humility will be last. There is a different value system here. It is a system of child-like trust instead of pride and self-reliance. The rich need to stoop to God as a camel must bend low through a low-lying gate to go inside the city. The great thing about the kingdom of God, is that it is open to everyone, not just to the rich. But, that does not mean the rich cannot come too. All are welcome who make God their God.
In response, we should welcome all, and also be careful to treat all people with respect.

Prayer: Give us grace, O God, to put your kingdom first and enter into it with humility and grace. Help us to treat all people with kindness as you are so kind to us.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

11/27/09- Psalm 138- Thanks for God's help

(Part of Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms inferred by FDR- Freedom from Want")
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

11.27- Psalm 138

1 I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart; before the "gods" I will sing your praise. 2 I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame. 3 When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me. 4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD, when they hear what you have decreed. 5 May they sing of the ways of the LORD, for the glory of the LORD is great. 6 Though the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly, but he takes notice of the proud from afar. 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. 8 The LORD will vindicate me; your love, LORD, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.

Calvin abridged: In this Psalm David remembers God’s great help brought on by His faithfulness and goodness and is stirred to gratitude. Because he had known God’s faithfulness before he anticipates God’s continued mercy.
1- “I will praise you, Lord, with all of my heart”- David gives thanks not with his lips only, but with his sincere and whole heart. The word “gods” (Elohim) could refer to angels or kings and either meaning will suit. David is praising God in the public assembly where angels were present. 3 “When I called you answered me”- David knew his escape from danger was not just lucky. “May all the kings of the earth praise you.” Here he wishes that the goodness he had experienced would be known over all the earth. 6- “Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly.” He speaks here of God’s government of the world, and that he is not indifferent to our safety. The greatness of God does not prevent his having respect for the poor and humble (Ps. 113:5). When we think of God’s majesty, we should not forget his kindness; when we think of God’s kindness we should not lose reverence for his majesty. “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.” When the least danger comes, we become immoderately afraid, as if our emergencies are beyond God’s help. Faith’s true work is to see life in the midst of death and continue to trust in God.
8- “The Lord will vindicate me”- God will not forsake the work of his hands. To maintain hope, we should focus on God’s goodness, on which our deliverance rests.

Thoughts: God is worthy of our praise and thanks. When we call to God, he answers us (138:3). There are those who think in our day, that God is a great big CEO in the sky and is too busy to pay us much attention, though we are a part of His company. They forget that the Lord looks kindly on the lowly. As David says, “A contrite heart, O Lord, you will not despise.” Others, in an effort to absolve God of any blame for any wrong, make God powerless. But this passage reminds us we owe our thanks to God. For though He is high, yet He is mindful of our humble state. God is the preserver from our trouble and from our enemies. We need to remember this in times of war, plague (H1N1), and economic hardship we need to look to God- for help. And when He gives help, we need to give Him thanks. Today, we are still a very blessed people. But there is danger not far away. Let us give thanks to Him for He made us and He redeems us. He is our help in times of trouble.

Prayer: Thank you Lord, for who you are. Though you are great, yet you consider our small needs- which seem so great to us.

11/26/09- Thanksgiving- Give thanks to the Lord

(Jean Louis Ferris rendering)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

11/26- Thanksgiving- Psalm 118:1-9, 13,14, 25-29
1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 2 Let Israel say: "His love endures forever."
3 Let the house of Aaron say: "His love endures forever." 4 Let those who fear the LORD say: "His love endures forever." 5 When hard pressed, I cried to the LORD; he brought me into a spacious place. 6 The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can human beings do to me? 7 The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. 8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in human beings. 9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. 13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me. 14 The LORD is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. 25 LORD, save us! LORD, grant us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you.27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you. 29 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Calvin abridged: David doesn’t just give thanks to God privately, but loudly summons the people to join together in a joint exercise in piety. So he encourages them to magnify the grace of God, under whose kind protection re-establishes them in safety. He praises God for His mercy and goodness- not just his power and justice. We will never quickly and heartily praise God until we are won over by the sweetness of his goodness (cf. Ps. 51:17). 5 “When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord”- David was applying to the Church what had happened in his own life- that God provided and lifted him up. He was encouraging the faithful not to give up in the day of adversity. The times of sad adversity are the times we should abound in prayer which is a consolation and antidote for all our ills. 6- “The Lord is with me I will not be afraid”- Since we are defended by God, all the schemes of human beings are worthless. When all the power of the universe is deemed as nothing, in comparison to God’s power, then God is honored properly. In saying this he rebukes the unbelief of almost everyone who spontaneously alarm themselves with groundless fears. All desire peace of mind; but because they rob God of the praise due to his power, their own ingratitude keeps them from realizing the blessing of His peace. But when we pay more attention to the mischievous attempts of human beings than to the help which God can give us, we deserve to tremble at the falling of a leaf. “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in human beings”- When we compare God to human beings, He must be viewed as infinitely exalted above them. The comparison is improper, however, because we should not transfer to others the smallest portion of our confidence which must be placed in God alone. The Psalmist ridicules the illusory hopes of people by which they are tossed here and there; In the 9th verse he substitutes “princes” for “men”, indicating that even those who confide in the greatest earthly powers act foolishly. The trust that is put in earthly things shall be cursed in the end, but the enjoyment of God’s favor will convert even death into life. 27 “The Lord is God”- God out of compassion to His Church, dissipates the darkness, and introduces the light of His grace. God as the author of our deliverance, shows Himself to be truly God. The Church was reduced almost to the brink of despair; and the ungodly imagined that God had forsaken them. So David again acknowledges God’s grace. “procession to the horns of the altar”- legally they could not render solemn thanks to God without sacrifices. It remains to us that we should offer to God our thanksgiving through Christ who sanctifies us by his own immaculate offering. Giving thanks helps to not miss the promises and the hope of receiving sure and immediate assistance from his hand.
Thoughts: To whom do we give thanks? Some of our retailers are giving thanks this year for the first time in centuries by opening up and making their employees miss their rest. The whole idea of stopping to give thanks or to worship is missing from our society. We are so worried about missing a dollar that we even open on Thanksgiving. Two years ago stores that weren’t open on Christmas Eve opened up to get that last minute shopper. In the meantime, there is less time with family, with God, and with thanks and more time shopping, spending, and working. Ironically the dollar we are working so hard for is not worth as much. Seven years ago the dollar was worth more than the Euro. Today it takes about $1.58 to equal one Euro. The reason gold is up to record levels is the dollar is down. Yet, instead of turning to God in repentance- we turn to our work. Isaiah (30:15) says “In repentance and rest is your strength.” Okay, okay- enough of looking at how the world messes up Thanksgiving by doing the opposite of this Psalm- putting trust in princes and riches. There is definitely a positive side here- that we NEED to hear.
I enjoy thanksgiving so very much, because I am truly grateful to God for His many benefits. Though the world may forget, we can rejoice that God is good and merciful- even when things look bleak. That God delivers the faithful is a promise we need to hold onto in a recession. We can put our trust in Him and pray that God will save us and grant us success, as He has done in the past. It is such an important thing to give thanks to God- for this shows we acknowledge Him as our help and our hope.

Prayer: We give thanks to you, O Lord, for you are good! Your mercies endure forever! Thank you for the opportunity to give thanks.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

11/25/09 Luke 22:31-34 Temptation of Denial

(Betrayal of Peter)
Devotional using the Gospels, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Luke 22:31-34
31 "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." 33 But he replied, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." 34 Jesus answered, "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me."

Calvin abridged: “Satan has desired”- Paul teaches that we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with spiritual armies (Eph. 6:12). Frequently from not thinking about it, we are overcome not taking seriously that we face fiery darts from our powerful enemy. Satan desires our destruction. He desires to sift us as wheat- here this means to be tossed up and shaken with violence. Matthew adds “strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered”- a reference to Zechariah. The meaning is that though they think they are strong, when their leader is killed, they will realize their weakness. Peter answered not with hypocrisy but with a false confidence in his virtue. Peter promised more for himself than he was able to accomplish because he had not sufficiently examined himself. This also shows how stupid is the intoxication of human presumption because even after the Son of God said otherwise, Peter still has his foolish confidence. We need to all remember our own weakness relying on the Holy Spirit and not agree to more than the Lord promises. In preparing with our contest with temptation we need to avoid fear and we also need to guard against pride which extinguishes a desire to pray. In facing temptation we must remember our weakness and also remember God’s grace so we will call on God. Otherwise we are like drunken soldiers trying to fight and when sobering up begin to run away. The other disciples also join in Peter’s rashness even after Peter had been rebuked. Nothing is more fading or transitory than inconsiderate zeal. The disciples think that nothing is more unreasonable than to forsake their Master, and so they detest such an action; but having no reliance on the promise of God, and neglecting prayer, they boast of things they do not possess.

Thoughts: How discouraging to Christ is must have been to know that his disciples, and especially Peter, would run away from him. Surely this was another part of his suffering on earth—those he had invested himself in, at the crucial point, would turn away. How discouraging it is for God that we, when we have the opportunity to stand up for our faith, pretend we do not know Him at all. Calvin is certainly right to say we need to resist temptation with the promises of God (the Bible) and prayer. In our day, not many teach about resisting temptation- and so we give into the world so easily today. Because there is little difference between the people of God and the world, many refuse to come to the Lord. The church becomes one more thing to do instead of the opportunity to please God. To think that we are better or stronger than we are is one of the worst things we can do in the face of temptation.

Prayer: Lord, keep me from the temptation of denying you today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

11/24/09- Temptation and Prayer in the Garden

(Gethsemane Warner Sallman)
Devotional using the Gospels, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Mark 14:32-42

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch." 35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." 37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." 39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him. 41 Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"

Calvin abridged: Gethsemane- Luke and John add that Jesus came there according to his custom. So he was not trying to hide himself, but was letting his enemies knew where he was, presenting himself to death. “Sit here”- Jesus places his disciples away from danger (except for the three) as a soldier might protect their family before battle. 33 “He began to be deeply distressed and troubled”- Jesus fights face to face with temptation. The true test of virtue occurs when the contest with temptation begins. Ambrose justly said, “There is no instance in which I admire more his kindness and his majesty; for he would not have done so much for me, if he had not taken upon him my feelings. He grieved for me, who had no cause of grief for himself; He took upon himself not the appearance, but the reality of incarnation. He experienced grief so that he might overcome sorrow, and not shut it out.” Cyril has properly said that “the suffering of Christ on the cross was not voluntary in every respect, but on account of the will of the Father and our salvation.” So we may learn from the prayer, “Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Human nature, even in Christ, has the sufferings and fears that belong to it. The difference between us and Christ is that our weakness is not accompanied by sin. When Christ was distressed by grief and fear, he did not rise against God. Luke says that he was “seized with anguish. Mark says he “trembled.” Death for Christ is not just the separation of the soul from the body, but also facing the load and burden of having our sins placed upon him- pressed down with this enormous weight. 34- “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow”- he says that to make them sympathetic that they would be more ashamed of their carelessness. The phrase literally means he is half-dead with sorrow. Jonah makes a similar statement when he says “I am angry even to death” (4:9). Death would not have tormented the mind of the Son of God if he did not also deal with the judgment of God. 35 “Going a little farther”- It is not necessary- nor is it always proper- that we should retire to distant corners whenever we pray. But sometimes when the need is great, and the intensity of prayer is greater when we are alone, it is useful to pray apart. His falling on his face showed his deep earnestness in prayer. “If it be possible”- This is a prayer, not a complaint. It is not inconsistent to ask for a thing that is impossible. The prayers of believers do not always flow in an uninterrupted progress to the end, are not always uniform, are not always in a distinct order, but are involved and confused—like a vessel tossed by storms, which though it advances toward the harbor does not always keep a straight course. So Christ, after He prays to be freed from death, also restrains himself submitting to the Father’s will. Believers in pouring out their prayers, do not always ascend to the contemplation of the secrets of God, or ask only what is possible. So Moses prays that he would be blotted out of the Book of life (Ex. 32:33), and Paul wishes to be made anathema (Rom. 9:3). There is nothing wrong with not knowing everything in prayer. As there appeared to be no hope, Christ throws himself on the power of God (“everything is possible for you”). The “cup” is the providence of God, which assigns to each person their measure of the cross and affliction, just as the employer gives an employee a wage, or a father distributes portions to the children. “Yet not as I will, but as you will”- Christ restrains himself, making himself obedient to the Father. Some may ask, “How was his will free of all vice if it was not in line with the will of God?” There are times when an indirect disagreement with God’s will is not faulty. For example, we may desire to see the Church in a calm and flourishing condition, that the godly were delivered from afflictions, that all superstitions were removed, and that the rage of the wicked was restrained. These things are right in themselves, and properly may be desired by believers, though God is pleased to order a different state of matters: for he chooses that his Son should reign among enemies; that his people should be trained under the cross; that the triumph of faith and of the Gospel should be shown more glorious by being opposed by the schemes of Satan. God does not desire us to be always exact or scrupulous in inquiring what he has appointed, but allows us to ask what we feel. Yet Christ moderates his feelings submitting them to the will of God. We ought to repress the violence of our feelings which are always inconsiderate and rash and full of rebellion. The modesty of faith consists in permitting God to appoint differently than what we desire. What did Christ gain by praying, then? Hebrews (5:7) that he was heard. Christ intended by his example, that we must not be discouraged or grow weary in praying- even if we do not immediately obtain our wishes. So it is not a superfluous repetition of words if we ask a third or fourth time what God appears to have denied.

Thought: On the Mount of Olives there is preserved by oral tradition and later markers the grove where Jesus prayed. It is a dark place. There is an olive press there that turns the olives into beneficial and healing oil. Jesus expresses that he is pressed and the disciples see that he is being pressed like olives into oil, or grapes into juice/wine. What Calvin says above about prayer is so important for us. Too many today are afraid to pray- as if they will pray inadequately or pray for the impossible. How often I have heard people afraid of trivializing prayer- afraid of praying about a parking space, but also afraid that they are insignificant to God- or God is to busy to hear the prayer when their heart is breaking. This passage (and Calvin’s commentary) reminds us that prayer is not meant to be exact. Sometimes we pray wrongly or trivially. Today, I would much rather that people pray at all than to leave God out of their lives when they need Him so much! Our constant prayer- after we have poured out our feelings to God- is to say, “Lord, not my will but yours be done!”

Prayer: Lord, nothing is impossible with you. Take my doubts, my worries, my pressures, my problems away. Yet, Lord, not my will but yours be done through me today.

Monday, November 23, 2009

11/23/09- Mark 4:1-10, Ways we respond and fall away

(The Sower- Pieter Bruegel the elder Flemish- 1557)
Devotional using the gospels, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Mark 4:1-10

1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 "Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times." 9 Then Jesus said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." 10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.

Calvin abridged; 4- The path- These are the barren and uncultivated, who do not receive the seed within, because there is no preparation in their hearts. He compares such people to a stiff and dry soil like what is found on a public road which is pressed down like pavement. These are those who come out to hear but do not respond. . 5- “Rocky places”- This is temporary faith and promises some fruit, but their hearts were not soft enough for their continued nourishment. These eagerly embrace the Gospel, but fall off not long afterwards because of some trial or persecution. The honor these give to the Gospel resembles faith, but they are not truly regenerated by the incorruptible see which never fades (1 Pt. 1:4). 7- “thorns”- This third class are those who would have grown in faith had they not permitted other things to corrupt and kill it. Christ compares the thorns to the pleasures of this life, wicked desires, or covetousness and other anxieties of this life. We should tear these thorns away from us- for not one of us whose heart is not filled with a thick forest of thorns. How few of us reach maturity (scarcely one out of ten). Christ says that riches are “deceitful” thorns so that we would guard against falling into their snares. 8- “Good soil…producing a crop”- Is it possible to find anyone pure and free of thorns? Christ does not speak of perfection here, but only of those in whom God’s word yields fruit. Those who do not fall away are reckoned “good and fertile.” Each of us should endeavor to pull out or deaden the thorns that threaten our faith, so that the fruit of the word is not hindered. All do not yield fruit in an equal degree, and we should not make much of that as the Lord gives the fruit.

Thoughts: by most accounts this is the first parable of Jesus, and it has to do with how people respond to Him. Even speaking in parables is a method by which some “get it” and others are utterly confused. The seed is the word, the farmer is God, and the soil is how we respond. We live in a day in which many Christians are in a free fall away from their faith, and are not trying in the least to stop it. There are temptations all around us, and the Church in America is trying so hard to become like the society around it that we are giving no or little aid to those who are resisting temptation. The idea of temptation and repentance are downplayed in our church and certainly in our secular society. Many have given into the deceitfulness of riches, but in this recession so much of this deceitfulness has been unveiled for what it truly is- temporary and poisonous. Many a marriage and the ability to parent has been lost to those who overwork in order to obtain more riches. The worries of this life are mounting in our society to a crescendo point. The good news is that it is possible to escape the thorns of life and still have fruitful and productive years. We escape by listening and responding to the Word. The fact that some are reading this today is God’s grace and Spirit at work. Perhaps He is calling us to resist the temptations around us and focus on Him.

Prayer: Lord, temptations abound all around us. Lead us away from them and toward your love and presence. Nourish our souls by your Word and Spirit.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

11/22/09 James 1:2-15 Thanksgivng in trials

(Gold being refined)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

11/22- James 1:2-15

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; 8 they are double-minded and unstable in all they do. 9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. 12 Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each of you is tempted when you are dragged away by your own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Calvin abridged: We are exhorted to bear trials with a cheerful mind. The Jews were miserable and despised, and the early Christians were even more despised among the Jews. But this passage of comfort was not just for this one time, but it is always useful to believers, who continually struggle on earth. “temptation or trials” includes anything that goes against us that tests our obedience to God. He bids the faithful when they are facing these to rejoice; The Lord afflicts us in various ways because different temptations are cured by different medicines. When he asks us to “count it all joy” it is as though he had said the benefits coming from temptation are so great that these temptations should be regarded as occasions of joy. There is nothing in afflictions which ought to disturb our joy. We may ask why is he calling that which is bitter now “sweet?” This is because the effect of facing such things brings us patience. I Peter says that the trial of our faith is more precious than gold. Paul says in Romans 5:3 that we are to glory in our tribulations. Afflictions themselves do not make us better, but the providence of God through which the afflictions come, that the faithful learn patience from troubles; for the ungodly are provoked to madness by troubles (as the Pharaoh of the plagues proves). Real patience endures to the end. There are some who show great promise at first, but do not last. Here he encourages us to persevere to the end.

Thoughts: Trials, troubles, temptations are all part of the crosses we bear in this life. We must take up our crosses and follow Him. When we do, we find we die to ourselves more and live to Christ more. Trials are the furnace in which we are purified and come forth as refined silver and gold. Even Jesus was tempted as we are. He withstood the powerful force and lure of temptation and that shows us that this is possible. It is perhaps impossible for a hungry cat not to eat when food is set before it. But a hungry human can say no. Faith helps us to resist giving into our appetites all the time, out or love for God and neighbor. On this Sunday before Thanskgiving, I am thankful that even though life is not perfect, it can still be meaningful and hopeful- in faith. Paul was able to sing in prison in Philippi, and that prison became a church where the jailer was baptized. Today you can go to Philippi and see the prison Paul sang in. It is possible to be thankful in al circumstances- even the trials and troubles of life.

Prayer: When we are weak, Lord- facing our troubles and trials- then you are strong. Thank you for the thorns and rocks along our path. Help us to be strong in you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Hope in Temptation

(Temptation- Sandro Botticelli)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

I Corinthians 10:1-13

1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry." 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Calvin Abridged- especially on 10:13: Paul is writing here to console them since he previously talked about instances of God’s wrath, and he didn’t want them to feel discouraged or overpowered with alarm. Now he gives them a sure hope- “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” He tells them to look to the Lord, for temptation will overcome us if we rely on our own strength. He speaks of the Lord as faithful- meaning that he was not only true to his promises, but also He is the sure guardian of his people keeping them safe and not abandoning them. God helps us in two ways- He supplies us with strength and He sets limits to the temptation. God knows the measure of our power and strength because He has given that to us. “Temptation” means everything that draws us away from God.

Thought: This great passage on resisting temptation was written to a people whose ancestors and neighbors had given into it. Idolatry was everywhere in Corinth. When you are in Corinth, there is a huge mountain towering above it with a temple to Dionysius who was goddess of wine and sexuality. When you go to the museum in Corinth there are grotesque statues of deformed body parts indicating the epidemic prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases- gonorrhea, and syphilis. The oldest temple in Greece is a temple is the temple to Apollos in Corinth. So before this great verse he speaks of idols (vs. 7) and of not following the bad examples in the Old Testament of giving into idolatry (like the golden calf). Then in verse 14 he tells them to “flee from idolatry.” Idolatry, Calvin thought, was the root of all sin- making a thing or a person God- putting something or someone else in God’s place. God’s faithfulness, the commonality of each temptation, and God’s provision of a way of escape are three aids to help us in temptation.

Prayer: Lord, lead us not into temptation, and if we face temptation, please show us the way of escape you have provided.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

11/20/09- Exodus 32:1-6 The Temptation of the Golden Calf

(Adoration of the Golden Calf- N. Poussin)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Ex. 32:1-6

1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him." 2 Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD." 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
Calvin Abridged: We see, here, the detestable impiety of the people. We see their crass ingratitude, and their monstrous madness and stupidity. For their sakes Moses was carried above to receive his mission, and so his authority would not be questioned. They perversely say that they do not know what happened to him. Stephen rebukes the people for this (Acts 7:35). They acknowledged he had been their deliverer, but since he wasn’t before them they forgot him. God had offered Himself present in the pillar of fire and cloud-as well as daily manna, but they still despised his glory by making an image of his glory in the shape of a dead idol. They thought they could only possess God unless they made and image of Him. It is probable that Aaron devised the calf in accordance with Egyptian superstition. It is well known the Egyptians honored the senseless god Anubis who was in the form of a bull. Aaron, when he sees he cannot control the rage of the people, in cowardice gives way to compliance So it is with all those who do not seek to be strong, and give way to bargain and compromise.
Thought: How are we tempted? One way we are tempted is when godly leaders disappear, and the leaders left care more about the people than about God. I have often thought that the Christian church in America is missing a strong leader. There is no Billy Graham, or Dwight L. Moody of the current generation. We have too often rewarded Christian scholars to criticize the faith- with publishing and financial incentives. We are skeptical of our own faith in academic circles that we are hesitant or paralyzed to make bold faith statements. We have become no different from the world in our morality, and then wonder why the Holy Spirit has left us. We have been tempted to be like everyone else, and make our God as weak and powerless as theirs. The Israelites made their golden calf like the worshipping calves of Canaan and Egypt (later done again in Dan and Beersheba)- but with no god-rider on the back. Yet this compromise with idolatry was anathema to God. So when we compromise with the world to make our faith more palatable to them, we lose the purity of faith.
Prayer: Lord, you alone are holy. Keep us from temptation and evil.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

11/19- Sympathy from the throne

(Adoration of the Lamb- Van Eyck)

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Calvin Abridged: This passage shows us what benefit Christ’s priesthood has for us. Because He is the priest we can hold fast to our profession of Him. The Son of God has sanctioned our faith and His Gospel, and so we may be confident in His pledge, and we can rely on the Gospel without hesitation. It should not be glossed over that he calls Jesus “the Son of God.” Jesus has the power to mediate between us and the Father because He is truly God and truly man. We are reconciled and have peace with God because He is one of us. Christ was tempted yet he was without sin. Poverty and sickness- are outside circumstances and are not counted as sinful. Christ controlled the inside (the feelings and affections) so that his emotions were always regulated while ours flow turbulent and unbridled. 16- Access to God comes freely and openly to all who come to him relying on Christ as Mediator.

Thoughts: A priest is supposed to hold God in one hand and the people in the other, and try to mediate and reconcile them. For Protestants, there is only one great high priest- and that is Jesus. Teh good news is that our high priest who empathizes with our weakness, who knows what it means to be tempted, sits on the throne, and bleeds for us. Becuase He is there, a sympathetic priest-king, we can have confidence to approach God's throne in our prayers, and be confident in them of his willingness to help us (as priest) - and also his ability to help us (as king on the throne).

Prayer: Thank you, Lord for being there for us in our time of need.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

11/18- Hebrews 2:14-18 Christ became flesh

(Via Dolorosa 11th station where Jesus was crucified- Church of the Holy Sepulchre)
Daily Devotional using Calvin.

Hebrews 2:14-18

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Calvin abridged: This passage speaks of why the Son of God to put on our flesh so that he might take part in the same nature that we have. He put on our nature that he might make himself capable of dying, for as God he could not undergo death. One of the benefits of his death is that we are so delivered from the tyranny of the devil that we are rendered safe, and that he so redeemed us from death, that it is no longer to be dreaded. 16- “It is not angels that he helps”- he chose to be like us not because we were better than angels, but because of our misery. This passage lays to rest those who denied that Christ became a real human being. 17- “be made like us’- He is like us in the flesh, and also like us in the affections or feelings. “to be a merciful and faithful high priest”- a priest’s work is to appease God’s wrath, to help the miserable, raise up the fallen, relieve the oppressed, and mercy is especially required.

Thought: God became human in part to sympathize with us, understand us, communicate with us, and to have mercy upon us. In the process he defeats death and evil.

11/17- Isaiah 42:1-4

(Baptismt of Christ Salvator Rosa 1650s)
Daiuly Devotional with Calvin on his 500th anniversary year.

Isaiah 42:1-4

1 "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope."

Calvin abridged: Isaiah changes his subject abruptly to speak of the Messiah. The prophecy that seems impossible, is often fulfilled in Christ whom Paul said was the yes and the amen (2 Cor. 1:20). For how can we have a relationship with God unless a mediator comes between us? We undoubtedly are so alienated from his majesty, and so could not enjoy his salvation or any other blessing without the kindness of Christ. In this passage the Prophet speaks of Christ as the First-born and the Head, because there is no other person to whom these statements can apply, and the Evangelists confirm this (Mt. 12:17-21). He calls Christ “servant”, but this name is shared by all the godly who seek to obey Him. Godly teachers who work in the church are especially called servants. This name also belongs to our very human nature. When Christ took on our flesh, he submitted to the obedience of the Father (Phil. 2:6). This was a voluntary act and so it did not detract from his rank or glory.

Thoughts: This passage has similarities to the baptism passage of Jesus in Matthew 3:13-17- when a voice came from heaven and said, “This is my Son with whom I am well-pleased” (my servant in whom I delight); and he saw the Spirit descending upon him (I will put my Spirit on him). Jesus is the servant who pleases the Father, and sets us an example. He is the One filled with the Spirit who will bring justice and hope in a meek and humble manner. Surely Christ has done that. If you compare the barbarism of the ancient world with Christ, you find a tremendous change. When it says, “The islands will put their hope”- I think specifically about the New Hebrides Islands. Before Christ there was cannibalism, constant warfare, gross sexual immorality, and much fear, hatred, and superstition. At the cost of the lives of several missionaries the islands became a place of refuge and hope for sailors for centuries. Even Darwin said to those who were criticizing missionaries, that if they were ever stranded on an island in the Pacific they had beeter hope that a missionary had gotten there first. There is no doubt that many Christians have done and said some pretty wrong and stupid things, but there also is no doubt that Christ was not leading them to do so. The life of Christ, the spirit-led servant. Is a check on our greed, our corruption, and our evil. I know without Him I would be much worse off, and so would the world.

Prayer: Lord, you set an example of servanthood and yet you changed the world. Help us to follow in your footsteps of humility, and use us for your glory.

Monday, November 16, 2009

11/16 - Psalm 2 Christ's kingship

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

11/16- Psalm 2

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together
against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, 3 "Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles." 4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. 5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 6 "I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain." 7 I will proclaim the LORD's decree: He said to me, "You are my son; today I have become your father. 8 Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." 10 Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. 12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry and you and your ways will be destroyed, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Calvin abridged: We know many conspired against David and tried to prevent his coming to the throne. If David only used his sense and reason, he might have been so fearful that he would give up any hope of ever becoming king. David says that attacks against him places God in opposition to his attackers, for by seeking to undermine the kingdom which he erected, they blindly and ferociously waged war against God. David saw his kingdom as a type of the Redeemer’s kingdom. Those things which David declares about himself are not violently or even allegorically applied to Christ, but were truly predicted about Him. This is sufficiently attested to by the apostles who seeing the ungodly conspire against Christ, arm themselves with prayer (Acts 4:24). The point appears to be that all who do not submit to the anointed one (the authority of Christ), make war on God. It is a true saying “He who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:22). There is an inseparable connection between the Father and the Son, as the majesty of God shines clearly in his one and only Son, so the Father will not be feared and worshipped except in this person. There is a twofold comfort that comes from this passage: First, even though the world rages, in order to disturb or try to put an end to the prosperity of Christ’s kingdom, this is just a fulfillment of what was predicted long ago. We should compare our persecution to what happened to the apostles long ago. The other comfort is that when the ungodly have mustered their forces- their vast numbers and great riches, pouring forth proud blasphemies, we may safely laugh at them because they are attacking God who is in heaven. This prayer is not just restricted to Christ, but it applies to all of us as is shown by how the apostles applied it in their prayer (Acts 4:18-25).

Thoughts: This Psalm, according to scholars, was read at the coronation of the Davidic kings. It remembers God’s covenant with David. It brings out the praiseworthiness of Almighty God, and then transfers some of that power to the anointed one- the King (ultimately Jesus the King of Kings and the ultimate anointed one- “Christ” and Messiah mean “anointed one”). This passage is quoted (or referred to) extensively in Acts 4:25-28, but also in the following places: Mt. 4:3; 3:12; 21:38 Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; Rev. 2:26,27; 6:15; 19:15. This is an important Psalm for Christians- for it elevates the anointed one (here the Judaic king- but ultimately the Messiah), and even calls this anointed one “Son” (implying Son of God). There appears to be in this life a constant tension between those in earthly power and God’s Almighty power. The exception would be those who recognize they come into power by God, and seek to fulfill His purpose for them. In the end, those who fight (or struggle, or argue) against Christ are fighting against Almighty God. Those who are fighting against Christians are fighting against the kingdom of Christ (Acts 4:18-31). Governments (Jewish and Roman- representing Gentile unbelievers and believers) killed Christ. But that was not the end of his kingdom. They did their worst- robbing him of this life. But this life is not all there is (we tend to forget that these days), and so the resurrection occurred after the crucifixion. So the Lord has the last laugh. In our day- 21st century America- my concern is for the government that has become in the last 25 years openly secular- trying to separate itself as much as possible from God’s blessing. But I am also very concerned about Christians who act as if our government is our only hope. I have heard good Christians say some evil things about both republicans and democrats as if everything depends on them- it does not. Politics and government are only tools of God- they are not to be equated with God’s kingdom, or God’s power itself. The Church and Christians need to see, it is important to be good citizens and to be involved with politics individually; it is important and part of our calling to pray and be a conscience to government. But our lives do not depend on our government. Mao and Stalin tried the experiment of placing government in the place of God- and it didn’t work. We should be careful about saying evil things about our government or praying curses on those who govern us. Instead, we should ask that as those whom God has placed over us, they should be blessed with faith, and turn to Him for guidance- making their government in line with His kingdom (Rom. 13; 1 Tim. 2:1,2).

Prayer: Lord, thank you that no power can unseat your throne. Help us to remember that when we line ourselves up with you, we are lining ourselves up on the winning side.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

11/15- Matthew 4:1-11, The Temptation of Christ

(Duccio's Temptation of Christ)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Matthew 4:1-11 (Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13)

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." 4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' " 7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' " 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." 10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' " 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Calvin Abridged: There are two reasons why Jesus withdrew into the wilderness: 1) that after fasting for forty days he would come forth as a new, heavenly man to discharge his office. 2) That he might be tried by his temptation as an apprenticeship before he undertook his elevated office as the highest teacher of the church- the ambassador of God. In the same way Moses was withdrawn from the people into Mount Sinai before the giving of the Law. Christ abstained not to give us an example that we might have a forty day fast, but as an evidence of his authority (as Moses had authority to give the law, so Christ has authority to give the Gospel). The only one who followed Moses’ example of fasting forty days was Elijah who was called to restore the Law. Why did God will for his Son to be tempted? The Spirit led him into the wilderness. God intended to show in the person of His Son how Satan opposes our salvation. He attacks Christ because he is preparing to redeem us. So ministers are also the objects of Satan’s daily warfare. The Son of Man voluntarily endured these temptations, and it is a victory for all of us. The temptations that befall all of us are not accidental, or regulated by Satan’s will- without God’s permission, but the Spirit presides over our contests an exercise of our faith. This will aid us, giving us hope for God can fortify us against our distresses. 4:3- “Stones to bread”- The ancient commentators said there were there temptations: 1) gluttony, 2) ambition, and 3) covetousness. But it is not gluttony when a hungry person desires food. Christ had scripture at hand to defend against this attack. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God (Gal. 4:16,17). 4:4- “By bread alone”- (Deut. 8:3) This shows the temptation was an attack on Christ’s faith, so that Christ might use wicked methods for procuring food. Certainly we are pressed hard when we are tempted to distrust God and use our own advantage in a way not authorized by his word. Thought we live on bread, we must not ascribe the support of life to the power of bread, but to the secret kindness, by which God gives bread the ability to nourish our bodies. Here the stupidity of those who think life consist in luxury and abundance; We should trust in God for food, and for the other necessaries of the present life. 4:5- “Then the devil took him to the…highest point in the temple”- Probably this was in a vision more than physically taking him. There was probably long intervals between the temptations. The strategy of this temptation was to induce Christ to exalt himself against God- to go beyond his human limitations. He also wanted to render his life useless. The devil misapplies scripture in 4:6 (command his angels to lift you up). Satan often profanes the Word of God to torture it for our destruction. Angels have been given to guard over Christ and us, but only when we walk in our ways- not purposefully exposing ourselves to death and danger. 4:7- “You shall not tempt the Lord”- whoever desires to make an experiment of the divine power, when there is no necessity for it, tempts God by subjecting his promises to an unfair trial. 4:8- “the devil took him to a very high mountain”- This temptation is that Christ should seek apart from God, the inheritance which he promised his children- thus robbing God of the government of the world and claiming it for the devil.

Thoughts: Jesus was tempted just as all of us are, but these are temptations that would thwart him specifically from the cross and the dangers of life. Jesus thwarts Satan each time by quoting from Deuteronomy- thus showing the importance of knowing and even memorizing scripture. The devil quoted scripture- so we should not be surprised when people twist scripture to prove an evil point. In the end, Jesus triumphs and goes onto face persecution, rejection, the cross- but it is by his faithfulness to his calling and his cross that the resurrection occurs. It also should be noted that God did not truly forsake Christ in all this. The minute Satan left, angels came and nurtured Jesus. So God comforts us when we are faithful to Him, resisting the devil. To some the idea of angels and devils seem far fetched. But there is more to life than we see, and spiritual influences in many places. To think we make all our decisions in a vacuum is naïve.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord for facing temptation so faithfully. Give us grace to do the same this day. Amen.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

11/14 John points to Jesus

Daily devotional from the Gospels using Calvin on the 500th anniversary year of his birht.

11/14- John 1:29-34

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." 32 Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God's Chosen One."

Calvin abridged; There can be no doubt that John had already talked about the coming of the Messiah, but now he quickly makes known his announcement about Christ. John’s ministry was coming to an end as when the sun rises the dawn disappears. The principal office and chief blessing of Christ is known here- “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” By the word “Lamb” he alludes to the ancient sacrifices affiliated with the Law. Those listening to him were accustomed to sacrifices, so they learned quickly using this allusion for the atonement. John was probably here referring to the lamb of Passover. Baptism is a way that we symbolize forgiveness of sins by the blood of Christ- by the washing away of our pollutions. The lambs of the Old Testament were outward shadows and pointed to the real, spiritual lamb of Christ. “The sin of the world”- “Sin” is singular- indicating Christ absolves every kind of unrighteousness that alienates us from God. Our duty is make sure that nothing hinders us from obtaining the reconciliation of Christ. People used to anxiously labor to procure forgiveness. John tells us that He alone takes away sin. So there is no other refuge from sin- and we need to flee to Christ. “Take away” may be seen in two ways- 1) That Christ took upon himself the load that weighed us down (I Peter 2:24, Isa. 53:5), or he blots out our sins. But both are right- by bearing our sins, he takes them away. Chrysostom notes that this taking away is a continual act- for Christ’s sacrifice is always in full vigor. So we are reconciled to the Father by the Lamb and our guilt is removed. 30- “This is he of whom I said”- John says that Christ is to be preferred to him as he is only a herald to the Messiah. 31- “I did not know him”- This testimony should not be suspected to be from friendship or as a favor. He obtained this knowledge of Christ as Messiah by inspiration of God. 32- “I saw the Spirit descending like a dove”- This is not a literal but a figurative expression, for what eyes can see the Spirit? In a similar manner Christ is present in the sacraments spiritually, but not physically. The dove appears here rather than the tongues of fire (Acts 2:3) as symbols of the Spirit because the mildness of Christ is emphasized here (Isa. 42:3). “II have seen and I testify”- There is no doubt about this testimony. John is affirming God’s testimony- as God testified by sending the Spirit upon Christ.

Thoughts: John the disciple knew the teachings of John the Baptist well, and passed it on. So in Revelation Jesus is often (thirty times) described as the Lamb. The nation of Israel was really formed at Passover when the blood of the lamb was placed over their doors as a protection from the angel of death (Ex. 12). So the blood of Christ protects us from eternal death. Our baptism is a visible way that we show Christ’s blood is over us and has washed away our sins. How appropriate that the Baptist who speaks of repentance and getting rid of sins so much- points to the One who finally may abolish and cover sins. Isaiah 53 uses this imagery- we are like sheep that have gone astray (53:6), he is like the lamb sacrificed quietly to the wolf so the rest of the flock can escape (53:7). Pilate before Jesus' crucifixion said, "Behold the man" (Jn. 19:5)- unknowingly echoing the Baptist's statement. John’s words still invite us to behold him- to not only look at but understand and follow this Lamb. The next day John said it again and some of his disciples left John to follow Jesus (1:35, 37). John is amazing in his humility and willingness to stay in his role. He sets a wonderful example for us- that we should seek not our own glory, but Christ’s glory. In our day when people tend to almost worship those who are celebrities, musicians, politicians- anyone well known- we should remember our true role is not to elevate ourselves, but God.

Prayer: May we see and understand who you are, O Christ. May we understand our role in pointing others to you. May we seek to honor and glorify you this day.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

11/13 Mark 1:9-13 Baptism of Jesus

(Perugina 1498)

Daily devotional using John Calvin's commentary on the Gospels on his 500th birthday year.

Mark 1:9-13 (Mt. 3:13-17; Lk. 3:21-23)
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." 12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Calvin Abridged: Why did Jesus wish to be baptized? He received the same baptism with us, in order to assure believers, that they are ingrafted into his body. Matthew 3:15 says he did this to “fulfill all righteousness” (righteousness frequently means law). Since Christ had voluntarily subjected himself to the law, it was necessary that he should keep it in every part. The general reason was that Christ might render full obedience to the Father; The specific reason is that we might bless the act of baptism by his partaking in it, and that we might have it in common with him. In Matthew John acknowledged the superiority of Christ (Mt. 3:15). “heaven was opened”- John could see something beyond the planets and the stars, seeing into the presence of God. How this happened is not very important, what is important is that it symbolized the Divine presence. But why did the Spirit who was in Christ before descend upon him at that time? Isaiah 61:1 answers that the time for his ministry and public life had come, and He needed the power of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit came upon him in the form of a dove and not fire to show the mildness of Christ (Isa. 42:2,3). John did not see the essence or power of the Spirit, only the symbol of the Spirit in the form of a dove. The voice from heaven gave Christ the title “beloved Son.” He is the mediator between us and God, making us sons by his sonship. In ourselves we are not beloved sons, but are hateful towards God, and his fatherly love most flow to us form Christ (Eph. 1:5,6). Christ is the firstborn of every creature (Col. 1:5) so that we might obtain our adoption as His children.

Thoughts: Christ was baptized as an example to us, so that we might not hesitate to see the need to be baptized. At His baptism there is the Son in the water, the Spirit in the form of a dove, and the Father in the form of the voice. There was unity in all three persons- uniting in the blessing of baptism. There also was separation so that all three were there in different forms. This goes against modalism that says that Father appeared in the Old Testament, Jesus in the New, and the Spirit after his descension. All three co-exist and work together. "Coming up out of the water"- is not necessarily coming up from down under the water as much as coming up out of the river bank. There are two common extremes in our day. Those who make a huge, sophisticated deal out of baptism, and those who completely ignore it, even neglecting it. In the middle is the better way- treating baptism with respect and honor, yet not making it a hocus pocus, heebie jeebie thing. Calvin despised adding anointing oil to baptism as it was not added in the biblical baptisms, but also because it took away from the simplicity and true meaning of it. There are some post-Christian families who want their children baptized as insurance. I have run into some lately. There are others who just neglect baptism altogether, and thus neglect the promise to care for the souls of their children as well as their bodies and minds. In our culture, when a parent neglects caring for their child’s physical needs we arrest them. When a parent doesn’t send their child to school, the truant officer calls and there can be fines. But when someone neglects to care for their child’s eternal soul, our culture yawns as if it means little. Christians should see the importance of baptism as Christ took time out to show us it was important to Him.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord that you were baptized. Help me to remember my baptism, and hold baptism in honor.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11/12- John 1:19-28- John's identity

(John the Baptist Isaac Dutch 1569-1625)
Daily devotional from the Gospels, Calvin and thoughts for our day.

11/12- John 1:19-28
19 Now this was John's testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Messiah." 21 They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?"
He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." 22 Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.' " 24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" 26 "I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." 28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Calvin abridged: Here John openly confesses to the priest’s delegation his purpose. It had been a long time since they had prophets, and everyone was thinking about the Messiah’s coming. That they did not appear to be neglectful of their religious duty they asked him, “Who are you?” At first they were not opposed to John and were earnestly looking for their redemption. Later ambition and a wish to retain their authority influenced them. “He confessed”- This means he stated the fact as it really was-- openly and without any ambiguity or hypocrisy-- that he was not the Christ. 21- “Are you Elijah?” They asked for Elijah rather than Moses because of Mal. 4:2,5 which predicted Elijah’s coming before the “Sun of Righteousness.” John was right in saying he was not Elijah for the soul of one man does not pass into another. But Christ affirms that John is Elijah (Mt. 11:14; Mark 9:13). When they said, “You are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet” they intended to point out different persons. John says he is not a prophet, he was detaching himself from the company of the prophets. Christ says he was a prophet- even the greatest of them (Mt. 11:9). John was a prophet in that he was a herald of Christ. All ambassadors—even those who are not sent on matters of great importance—obtain the name and authority of ambassadors, because they hold special commissions. John says he is “not a prophet, but a voice crying in the wilderness.” John, as the herald of Christ, is more excellent than all the prophets, but he is still not a prophet. 23- John describes his job by quoting from the Prophet Isaiah (60:3). Isaiah does not speak of John alone here, but promises a restoration of the Church. While God was present when the people of God came back from Babylon, He was particularly present when Christ came in the flesh. John was the chief herald of Christ’s coming. “Wilderness” describes the miserable desolation of the Church, which seems to come before the people return. The Lord made a way when there was no way.

Thoughts: The humility of John was amazing. He had the chance to be more of a celebrity than he was. In our world, people would jump at the chance. He would secure his rock-star status if he had said he was a prophet, or Elijah, or the Christ. He could have rightfully even claimed he was a prophet or Elijah. Yet John lives in the wilderness, away from the intrigues of the city, and the lust for power. He kept camel hair and ate locusts, when he could have lived in the temple, and eaten meat each day, wearing the clothes of the priests (he was of a priestly family). John was the one who said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” John was the one who made few claims for himself, but gave glory to Christ. John was the greatest of the prophets because of his heralding of the Messiah, but also because of the way he did it- with great humility. Today ministers want to much for themselves, and fight over the scraps of power left after the world has taken away so much from the church. But not just ministers, also politicians, celebrities, rock stars, doctors. Today people expect big egos to go with big positions. John reminds us that the last shall be first. He was the greatest because he desired the least. John's identity, ego, and calling were all wrapped up in God's glory, not his own.

Prayer: Help us, O Lord, to desire less for ourselves and more for you.

11/11/09 John 1:5-8 God's Light Overcoming Our Darkness

Daily devotional blog using the gospels and John Calvin.

John 1:5-8
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
Calvin abridged: Not only did Christ exhibit himself before people, but he chose to be made known by the testimony and teachings of John. John was appointed not for the sake of Christ, but for our sake. John was an ambassador of God, with the character of an angel more than a man. “sent from God”- John came not by his own wishes but by the command of God. So all the teachers of the Church today are called to come by God. 7- “He came as a witness” the goal of his calling was that he might prepare a church for Christ. 8- “he was not the light”- John was so well respected that the Evangelist gives this warning lest his excessive brightness obscure the glory of Christ. Just as some are fascinated with the dawn so much that they do not see the sun come up, so there were some who looked at John so eagerly they neglected Christ. All the godly are light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8)- because they are enlightened by the Spirit, so they see their salvation, and direct others by their example to the way of salvation. The apostles are especially called the light (Mt. 5:14) because they go before us, holding out the torch of the Gospel, to dispel the darkness of the world. But here the Evangelist speaks of Him who is the eternal source of illumination.

Thoughts: There is a tendency to think that our darkness is stronger than God’s light. That is, that our sin is stronger than God’s power to forgive. I have known many people who give up on the God and the Church because of some sin or darkness in their lives that brings them shame. Yet God’s grace is much more powerful and can give us another chance. In John 1, it speaks of the light (Jesus) coming into the darkness but the darkness does not overcome the light. Evil resists good, but is not strong enough. Christianity differs from Zoroastrianism that says that evil and good struggle against each other (as equal gods) and we’re not sure which one will win. Christianity also differs from Panentheism (a new development of pantheism) that downplays the omnipotence of God, so that He cannot be blamed for evil- but as a consequence we cannot fully trust his promises or that He will win over evil. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are a testimony to us that God wins. On this veteran's day, that is an important concept- Jesus is the veteran who has secured the victory for us. He wins over the political evil, the religious evil, the sinfulness of the people, over sickness, over persecution, and over death itself. So we should take heart. When I lived in Asheville, N.C., there was a rock slide that blocked a tunnel. It backed traffic up for miles, and I was stuck in the middle with seemingly no way out. But the crews were working. After a few hours, the road was cleared and the first car made it through the tunnel. I said, “We made it through” even though I was still in the traffic jam. Jesus has overcome the darkness- He has made it through. There is light at the end of the tunnel. So we too overcome darkness because He has overcome it. John testifies to this light, and we should too. People need hope, and we have the eternal hope in us when we believe.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for piercing our darkness, and for overcoming the world’s and our darkness. Help us to remember your hope today.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Acts 19:1-7 Re-baptism of the Holy Ghost

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

11/10/09- Acts 19:1-7
1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." 3 So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied. 4 Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

Calvin abridged: The Church in Ephesus was confirmed and built up by Paul’s return, but also the Holy Spirit was at work there, transforming rough and new disciples. It is not known if these disciples were residents of Ephesus or not, but we do know they were Jews who had received John’s baptism. 2 “Did you receive…” Paul was not speaking of the Spirit in terms of regeneration, but of the special gifts that edify the Church. Paul asked them this question as a test and a sign. Receiving the Holy Spirit was a sign and token of belief. In Galatians 3:2 Paul asks a similar question- did they “hear of the Spirit through the law or by faith?” (Gal. 3:2). “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit”- How could this be since Jews knew the prophets speak everywhere of the Spirit in scripture? Paul was not speaking of the general existence of the Spirit, but of the visible graces by which God beautified the kingdom of his Son. They were saying that they did not know that God gave such gifts. Paul wanted them to not stay in John’s teaching alone, for John’s purpose was to prepare disciple for Christ. Paul wanted them to be convicted of their ignorance that they might desire to go forward. Paul did not flatter them so that they would remain complacent, but he shows where they were lacking in order to encourage them to grow. John’s baptism was a sign of repentance and remission of sins, and our baptism today does not differ from it at all, except that Christ’s death and resurrection and our salvation have been revealed to us. Baptism is a sign of regeneration, renovation- both purging of sin and newness of life which flow from Christ alone. We grasp this gift of Christ by faith, so the outward sign of baptism does not take away anything from the grace of Christ. 5- “they were baptize in the name of Jesus”- Because they believed the baptism of John differed from Christ (which it did not), they were baptized again. That this is not necessary is seen in that both baptisms were signs of the same repentance to the same God, the same adoption, and the same newness of life. John’s baptism was the baptism Christ received and the visible sign of the Spirit came upon him (Mt. 3:15). Christ did not re-baptize John’s disciples who followed him. The laying on of hands is how they received the Holy Spirit- so it is a sacrament- but a temporary sacrament. I do not dislike the laying on of hands, as there are examples of it in the prophets of old. However, the laying on of hands (and worse the adding of the anointing of oil to baptism) is not necessary for baptism as if it made the sacrament better. The laying on of hands, unlike baptism and the supper, is not a perpetual command for us.

Thoughts: In the 1970’s when the charismatic/Pentecostal movement was very strong in the United States, a co-worker of mine at the grocery store told me that I needed the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He referred me to this passage to say that my baptism was not sufficient. He was saying that if anyone really believed, they would speak in tongues. But such rationale takes a one-time example and makes it the rule of everyone. However, clearly Paul inferred that not everyone speaks in tongues when he asked the rhetorical question (I Cor 12:30; 14:5) “Do all speak in tongues? Do all prophesy?” Romans 8 indicates that we cannot separate Christ in us from the Spirit’s presence in us. So if we believe, our bodies are the “temple of the Spirit” (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). When Christ was baptized, the Holy Spirit came upon Him in the form of a dove. When we are baptized, the Spirit also comes. We do not need to be re-baptized in the Holy Ghost-as the Spirit comes (invisibly usually) when we are baptized. There was a time when I thought re-baptism with water was a terrible practice- that I would say is like re-circumcision. The Presbyterian Book of Order discourages it, and instead asks us to remember our baptism- which we do in our church each January (people come forward and take a marble out of a water-filled bowl). I encouraged my daughter to join the Baptist church she attended with her husband (who had grown up as a member there). To do so, she had to be re-baptized. She had been baptized by Dr. John Leith who was a prominent Presbyterian professor and author, and she didn’t want to do it. Yet it seemed that this was the church to which she was called. I told her they should worship together and a little extra water wouldn’t hurt. Baptism is a thing people have fought over. But to Paul and the early church, it wasn’t a big deal- he just baptized them again. There is no evidence that Peter, John, James, and Andrew (who were known disciples of John that became disciples of Jesus) were baptized again. Apollos confessed he had received John’s baptism in the chapter before (Acts 18:25) but he was not baptized again. Certainly there should be limits to what defines baptism and the supper, but arguing over such things is almost a throwback to the concerns of outward things of the Pharisees. Baptism is a gift and a command given to us by Christ. While it should be done with reverence as a sacrament (thus rules come into existence- about mode, manner, and age), in the Bible there was more flexibility than there is in the Church today. Today, we ought to remember our baptism, which is a sign of the Holy Spirit’s baptism.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank you that you are alive and well and inside of us- convicting, inspiring, comforting, guiding, helping us. Thank you for our baptism that is a reminder that we are yours- signed, sealed and soon to be delivered.