Perilous Times in the Age of SARS-CoVID-19

The USN aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt offloaded the majority of its crew in Guam where they went into quarantine. At the time, around 5 percent of the sailors tested positive for CoVID-19. The captain sent a letter, dated March 30, 2020, to many but not all of those in his chain of command and some that weren’t.

The letter was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and published March 31, 2020.

The captain was relieved of his command because of poor judgment.

On April 1, 2020 the Global Times posted an article titled, “Fate of virus-hit US aircraft carrier worsened by Cold War mentality,” An excerpt reads:

The US is putting the lives of its sailors under the unnecessary threat of the coronavirus due to an outdated Cold War mentality, and there is no need to maintain the carrier’s combat readiness, Chinese experts said.

The Theodore Roosevelt was in the South China Sea to carry out provoking military actions in mid-March, but these actions were not necessary to the US’ national security, and no one would launch an attack on the US in the first place, Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

“The US is not facing the threat of war, but it is seeking enemies everywhere it goes with a Cold War mentality, looking for unnecessary trouble,” Zhang said.

“Even if all crew members on the aircraft carrier disembark and go into quarantine, no other country will wage war on the US,” Zhang said.

From a Claremont Review of Books editorial written in October 2018 about tensions in the South China Sea:

“The Chinese strategist Sun Tzu admonished that “to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is.” China seems to be taking Sun Tzu at his word as it moves towards strategic goals without provoking an armed response from the United States, or anyone else.”

Ponder that somber warning in our current situation.

You might think this pandemic can’t be deliberate. I say, you must rethink what “deliberate” means. Here’s an interesting nine-minute video from Vox that discusses “How Wildlife Trade is Linked to Coronavirus.” Consider carefully what is said from just before the 3-minute mark to the end.

Then, you decide.

“How Wildlife Trade is Linked to Coronavirus,” March 6, 2020, Vox  via YouTube

We’re Not Dead Yet

Hi! We’re back. We’re not dead yet (warning: video ends a little violently.) A lot of things have happened over these past twenty months. Among other things we’ve moved about ten miles from where we once were. The necessity of the move fell upon us like the water streaming from our roof, running down our office walls, and drenching our carpeting. Sorry we never uploaded those promised posts, we were treading water at the time. We hope to upload a few posts in this time of SARS-CoVID-19. These will be centered on our planned books (yes, we still plan on those) and will be, as always, mostly harmless.

Whither Goest Thou?

We’re still here. Our last post proves it.

We’re in the midst of changes at Mandated Memoranda Publishing.

Hopefully, these will be for the best.

Our plan is to make at least two new posts in the coming months. One, a review of Charles Krauthammer’s Things That Matter.

The second is a review of Robert McKee’s Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting

Then, we plan writing Who Shall Be God. The characters are getting restless for us to get on with it.

We Stand United – A Review

Thomas Brooks, seventeenth century Puritan preacher, wrote much during his time on earth. One of these is his book: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. According to Ligonier, Brooks said, among other reasons, he wrote it because:

Satan has a greater influence upon men, and higher advantages over them than they think he has, and the knowledge of his high advantage is the highway to disappoint him, and to render the soul strong in resisting, and happy in conquering.

We Stand United is a brief excerpt from his larger work.

In We Stand United, Brooks discusses twelve remedies for the ways in which the adversary divides Christ’s body, that is, you and me. He bases this portion on the scripture:

If you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:15 English Standard Version (ESV)

And motivates his readers with the statement that one device by which Satan destroys the Saints is:

By working them first to be [strangers,] and then to divide, and then to be bitter and jealous, and then ‘to bite and devour one another.’

The remedies listed are:

  1. Dwell more upon one another’s graces than upon one another’s weaknesses and infirmities.
  2. Consider that love and union make most for your own safety and security.
  3. Dwell upon those commands of God that do require you to love one another.
  4. Dwell more upon these choice and sweet things wherein you agree, than upon those things wherein you differ.
  5. Consider that God delights to be styled Deus pacis, the God of peace; and Christ to be styled Princeps pacis, the Prince of peace, and King of Salem, that is King of peace; and the Spirit is the Spirit of peace. ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace’ (Gal. 5:22).
  6. Make more care and conscience of keeping up our peace with God.
  7. Dwell much upon that near relation and union that is between you.
  8. Dwell upon the miseries of discord.
  9. Consider that it is no disparagement to you to be first in seeking peace and reconcilement, but rather an honor to you, that you have begun to seek peace.
  10. Join together and walk together in the ways of grace and holiness so far as the saints do agree, making the Word their only touchstone and judge of their actions.
  11. Be much in self-judging: ‘Judge yourselves, and you shall not be judged of the Lord’ (1 Cor. 11:31).
  12. And this, above all, labor to be clothed with humility.

Please take the opportunity to read Brook’s pamphlet. His exposition is very encouraging.

Not to Us

We seek to be the center of attention. We want to be acknowledged as experts in our fields. We want our deeds to count, to make a difference, and to be recognized, no, acclaimed, by all. This is our life’s goal. It’s true even in the churches.

The Psalmist, however, expressed a different viewpoint. One that’s even more pertinent in our day:

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,

for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

“Why should the nations say,

“Where is their God?”

“Our God is in the heavens;

He does all that he pleases.”

Psalm 115:1-3 English Standard Version (ESV)

Both Calvin and Spurgeon spoke about these verses. Here’s an excerpt from Spurgeon’s sermon:

There are times when this is the only plea that God’s people can use. There are other occasions when we can plead with God to bless us for this reason or for that, but, sometimes, there come dark experiences when there seems to be no reason that can suggest itself to us why God should give us deliverance, or [bestow to] us a blessing except this one—that He would be pleased to do it in order to glorify His own name…

Self-seeking is the exact opposite of the spirit of a true Christian. He would rather strip himself and say, “Not unto me, but unto You, O Lord, be all honor and glory!” He seeks no crown to put upon his own head. Twice [Christ] refused to wear it. Even if the world would press it upon him, he says, “Not unto me; not unto me.” He does not wish for honor. He [is] done with self-seeking. His one great objective, now, is to glorify God— “Unto Your name give glory, for Your mercy, and for Your truth’s sake.”

…Brothers and Sisters, this is the spirit in which to live. Has God blessed us? Do we look back upon honorable and useful lives? Has our Sunday school class brought in souls for Christ? Have we been privileged to preach the Gospel and has the Lord given us converts? Then let us be sure to stick to the text — “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory.”

…There are very few men who can bear success—none can do so unless great Grace is given to them! And if, after a little success, you begin to say, “There now, I am somebody. Did I not do that well? These poor old fogies do not know how to do it—I will teach them” — you will have to go [to the back of the line], Brother, you are not yet able to endure success! It is clear that you cannot stand praise.

But if, when God gives you blessing, you give Him every atom of the glory and clear yourself of everything like boasting, then the Lord will continue to bless you because it will be safe for Him to do so…

Yes, and when the time comes for us to die, this is the spirit in which to die, for it is the beginning of Heaven. What are they doing in Heaven? If we could look in there, what would we see? There are crowns there, laid up for those that fight the good fight and finish their course—but do you see what the victors are doing with their crowns? They will not wear them! No, not they—they cast them down at Christ’s feet, crying, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Your name give glory.”

Brother, Sister—living, dying—let this be your continual cry! If the Lord favors you, honors you, blesses you, always say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, be the glory.”

It’s hard not to be conformed to this world. Rather, seek to be a servant, a doulos, which is a lowly and humbling calling. The way up is down; yet, it is how our Lord lived among us. How much I long to be like Him where He is.

Sinclair Ferguson: Not unto Us, O Lord: Awakening & the Glory of God, Ligonier Ministries, Published on Mar 12, 2018

Innocent

What do the news anchors mean when we hear, over and over: “More innocents were… today in…?” One definition of the word ‘innocent’ is:

In·no·cent

adjective

Not guilty of a crime or offense.

“the arbitrary execution of an innocent man”

Synonyms: guiltless, blameless, in the clear, unimpeachable, irreproachable, above suspicion, faultless; honorable, honest, upright, law-abiding; informal: squeaky clean

“he was entirely innocent”

Antonyms: guilty

Turns out, this is almost the same as the third definition for the word ‘good:’

Good

adjective

Possessing or displaying moral virtue.

“I’ve met many good people who made me feel ashamed of my own shortcomings”

Synonyms: virtuous, righteous, upright, upstanding, moral, ethical, high-minded, principled; exemplary, law-abiding, irreproachable, blameless, guiltless, unimpeachable, honorable, scrupulous, reputable, decent, respectable, noble, trustworthy; meritorious, praiseworthy, admirable; whiter than white, saintly, saint-like, angelic; informal: squeaky clean

“a good person”

Antonyms: wicked

The similarity is especially noticeable when we compare the synonyms. However, over the millennia, there has been only One among us that’s been unqualifiedly good. Speaking with the rich young ruler:

…Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. Luke 18:19 English Standard Version (ESV)

Recounted again:

…Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. Mark 10:18 (ESV)

And, getting to the core of the matter:

…He said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” Matthew 19:17 (ESV)

The last remark seems outrageous, especially to our modern ears. How can we do such a thing as keep the commandments blamelessly (i.e., in innocence)? Concerning this very question:

[Jesus]…told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

“The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’”

Luke 18:9-12 (ESV)

The Pharisee claimed to practice the Law and thought himself righteous before God and better than his fellow-men.

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:13-14 (ESV)

The tax collector, on the other hand, fully expecting his due punishment, confessed his unworthiness under the Law and received mercy.

So we see it is by God’s mercy and unmerited favor, alone, that we can be justified (i.e., made right) before a holy and righteous God.

Who then is this holy and righteous one? To that, the scriptures attest:

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!”

And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.

Luke 23:46-48 (ESV)

Calvin and Spurgeon both comment on these verses. Let us look at what Calvin said:

Now the centurion. As Luke mentions the lamentation of the people, the centurion and his soldiers were not the only persons who acknowledged Christ to be the Son of God; but the Evangelists mention this circumstance respecting him for the purpose of heightening their description: for it is wonderful that an irreligious man, who had not been instructed in the Law, and was ignorant of true religion, should form so correct a judgment from the signs which he beheld.

This comparison tends powerfully to condemn the stupidity of the city; for it was an evidence of shocking madness, that when the fabric of the world shook and trembled, none of the Jews were affected by it except the despised rabble.

And yet, amidst such gross blindness, God did not permit the testimonies which he gave respecting his Son to be buried in silence. Not only, therefore, did true religion open the eyes of devout worshipers of God to perceive that from heaven God was magnifying the glory of Christ, but natural understanding compelled foreigners, and even soldiers, to confess what they had not learned either from the law or from any instructor.

Examining the confession, he said:

When Luke represents [the centurion] as saying no more than “certainly this was a righteous man,” the meaning is the same as if he had plainly said that he was the Son of God, as it is expressed by the other two Evangelists. For it had been universally reported that Christ was put to death, because he declared himself to be the Son of God.

Now when the centurion bestows on him the praise of righteousness, and pronounces him to be innocent, he likewise acknowledges him to be the Son of God; not that he understood distinctly how Christ was begotten by God the Father, but because he entertains no doubt that there is some divinity in him, and, convinced by proofs, holds it to be certain that Christ was not an ordinary man, but had been raised up by God.

Calvin then clarifies our understanding of the Centurion’s confession:

The words, he feared God, must not be so explained as if he had fully repented. It was only a sudden and transitory impulse, as it frequently happens, that men who are thoughtless and devoted to the world are struck with the fear of God, when he makes an alarming display of his power; but as they have no living root, indifference quickly follows, and puts an end to that feeling. The centurion had not undergone such a change as to dedicate himself to God for the remainder of his life, but was only for a moment the herald of the divinity of Christ.

And, finally, he explains the multitudes’ reaction and gives us warning:

As to the multitudes, by [beating] their breasts, they expressed the dread of punishment for a public crime, because they felt that public guilt had been contracted by an unjust and shocking murder. But as they went no farther, their lamentation was of no avail, unless, perhaps, in some persons it was the commencement or preparation of true repentance.

And since nothing more is described to us than the lamentation which God drew from them to the glory of his Son, let us learn by this example, that it is of little importance, or of no importance at all, if a man is struck with terror, when he sees before his eyes the power of God, until, after the astonishment has been abated, the fear of God remains calmly in his heart.

Therefore, be not amazed at these things, but truly repent and believe.

Jesus and His Active Obedience, YouTube, Ligonier Ministries, Published on January 17, 2013

God’s Will

I was reading God’s word and stumbled across this passage again:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

1 John 5:13-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

It hit me that very few things are as sure as this. You can say we have God’s word on it.

All that’s left for us is to discern His will. Impossible you say? Well not for the things He has revealed to us. For other things, He has promised He, Himself, will intercede for us.

Now, what kinds of things are His will?

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God [bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God], just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.

For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-3, 7-8 (ESV)

Here we have our first example of His will; that we walk so as to please God (bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God,) that we be sanctified. Note, here, that the Apostle uses ‘moral purity’ vice ‘set apart’ which he exemplifies by ‘sexual immorality.’ It’s as prevalent now as then. Fruit is grown in us by His agency and though our submission to His will.

What else is explicitly His will that we may ask for it and be confident that we will receive it? In our churches, we should:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

Be at peace among yourselves.

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-21 (ESV)

Pray that you do these things.

But, what else? In society we should:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

Honor everyone.

Love the brotherhood.

Fear God.

Honor the emperor.

1 Peter 2:13-17 (ESV)

At our work places, we should:

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Ephesians 6:5-9 (ESV)

And, to sum up, we should be good stewards of God’s grace:

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

1 Peter 4:1-3 (ESV)

Each of us, then, praying that we submit to His will and bear these fruits, open ourselves to the following glorious promise:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:3-11 (ESV)

Resolve, then, to pray for God’s will to be done in our lives from this point on.

Why Don’t Christians Care That They Sin? Ligonier Ministries, Published on Jan 17, 2013

Thoughts and Prayers

Thoughts and prayers, once a common expression of sympathy, now vilified as “not enough.” And, in one sense, these words aren’t enough. However, it isn’t the words that have power, but the One who listens to and answers them.

The Second Book of Kings contains a startling passage that illustrates some of the hidden reality behind our prayers:

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city.

And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.”

So, the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.”

So, He struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.

And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria.

2 Kings 6:15-19 English Standard Version (ESV)

At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, on Thursday evening, November 5, 1874, C. H. Spurgeon delivered a sermon titled: “Eyes Opened” (No. 3117) In it, he drew lessons for his congregation (and us) from the text in Second Kings.

Spurgeon’s first observation was: “The natural eyes are blind to heavenly things.”

Man boasts that he can see, but he cannot. He sees natural things and he often sees them very clearly.

…For natural things, the natural eyes are sufficient but, as the natural man understands not the things of the Spirit of God, seeing that they are spiritual and must be spiritually discerned, so the natural eyes discern not spiritual things.

…The natural man can go through the world and not see God at all. Yes, and he will even have the audacity to deny that God is there! And he may go further, still, and say that there is no God at all! David says that such a man is a fool, but the modern name for him is, “philosopher.”

…So blind is man that in addition to not seeing his God, he does not see the Law of God…The great reason why men do not comprehend the high spirituality of the Law, its exceeding breadth and wondrous severity, is because they are blind.

Being thus blind to God and to His Law, they are also blind to their own condition. He who has his eyes opened but for a moment will perceive that his soul is as full of sin… He sees that every action he performs is stained with sin and that he is so guilty before God that condemnation has already passed upon him—so guilty that he can never make any atonement for the past and that nothing he can do or suffer can ever save him!

He must feel, if once his eyes have been opened, that he is lost, ruined and undone by nature and by practice, too—and that only a supernatural act of Divine Grace can deliver him from the danger into which he has brought himself and the guilt into which he has plunged himself!

…In-as-much as men are not able to see their sin, and to see their danger, therefore they do not see the way of salvation. They…will not understand it unless their eyes are opened by a miracle which only the Holy Spirit can work. …[They are] not in a position to see the wondrous scheme by which [they are] delivered from that danger through the Grace of God, by the atoning Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the effectual working of the ever-blessed Spirit!

The next Truth of God is: “God alone can open men’s eyes.”

We may lead blind men to Jesus, but we cannot open their eyes. We can, in a measure, indicate to them what spiritual sight is and we may explain to them what their own sad condition is—but we cannot open their eyes! Neither can anyone, but God alone, open their eyes…

Why [is it] that God alone can open men’s eyes? It is because to open the eyes of blind souls is an act of creation. The faculty to see is gone from the fallen spirit—the eyes have perished—the optical nerve has died out through sin. God will not merely clean the dust out of old eyes or take cataracts away from them—but old things must pass away and all things must become new! He gives new eyes to those who have totally lost all power of sight. The act of creating a soul anew is as much a work of God’s Omnipotence as the making of a world!

…We must remember, too, that man is willfully blind. Our old proverb says, “There are none so deaf as those that won’t hear, and none so blind as those that won’t see.” It is not merely that man cannot come to Christ, but he will not come to Christ that he may have life! It is not merely that he cannot see the Truth of God, but that he loves darkness rather than light and does not want to see! You cannot convince a man who is resolved not to be convinced. If sinners were only willing to see, they would soon see, but their will itself is in bondage and utterly estranged from God. And, therefore, it is that only a Divine Power—the will of God—can overcome the desperately wicked will of man!

Thirdly, Spurgeon said, “Though we cannot open the eyes of the blind, we can pray for them that their eyes may be opened.”

This is what Elisha did for his servant. The young man could not see the horses and chariots of fire and Elisha could not make him see them, but he offered this prayer for him, “Lord, I pray You, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw.”

…While teachers or parents entertain the belief that there is some innate power in themselves with which they can do God’s work, they are not on the right track, for God will not work through those who believe in their own self-sufficiency.

But when you say, “I can no more save a soul than I can open the eyes of a man born blind, I am utterly helpless in this matter,” then it is that you begin to pray. And beginning to pray, you are taught how to act—and God uses you as His instrument and eyes are opened—yes, opened by you, instrumentally, but God has all the Glory!

Now, when should you specially pray for those who are blind? I think this narrative teaches us that we should do so whenever we see them in trouble. This young man said to Elisha, “Alas, my master!” So that was the time for Elisha to pray for him, “Lord, I pray you, open his eyes, that he may see.”

…It is also a good time to pray for sinners when we hear them enquiring. This young man said to Elisha, “What shall we do?” Be always ready, when you hear them asking, “What shall we do?” or, “How shall we do?” to point them at once to Jesus and also to take their case to Jesus in prayer.

It is also a good time to pray for them when we ourselves have had a clear sight of the things of God. You ought, by the very clearness of the vision which you have enjoyed, to pity those who still sit in darkness, and to pray that they may be brought into the Light. Elisha had himself seen the horses and chariot of fire and, therefore, he prayed for his servant, “Lord, I pray you, open his eyes, that he may see.”

When it is well with you, speak to Christ on behalf of poor sinners. When you have good times, yourselves, remember those who are starving away from the banquet—and pray the Master of the feast to give you the Grace to “compel them to come in.”

It is well to pray for sinners, too, when their blindness astonishes us. I know that, sometimes, you are quite amazed that people should be so ignorant about Divine things. It surprises you that intelligent people should have such mistaken notions concerning the very simplest Truths of God’s Word. Even if you are astonished, do not be vexed at them, but pray earnestly for them.

…Let us also remember, dear Friends, that when we received our spiritual eyesight, it was mainly because others had been praying for us. Most of us can probably trace our conversion to the intercession of a godly father, or mother, or teacher, or friend. Then let us repay those prayers which were offered for us, in years gone by, by pleading for others who still are blind—

“Pray that they who now are blind, Soon the way of Truth may find.”

…Make this the burden of your daily approach to God for anyone in whom you are specially [concerned], “O Lord, I pray You, open his eyes, that he may see!”

Fourthly, he said: “There is this blessed fact…that God does open men’s eyes.”

God can do it and, according to this [description], He has done it in an instant A moment before, this young man could see no horses or chariots of fire, but as soon as Elisha’s prayer was registered in Heaven, his servant could see what was before invisible to him! …The soul is dead, and it is made alive in a single moment!

…My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, pray fervently that the blind may have their eyes opened, seeing that God can do it, and can do it at once!

And Spurgeon’s last remark was: “even those persons who can see need more sight.”

We all need to see more in the Scriptures. Each of us needs to pray to the Lord, “Open You my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Law.”

…We also need to have our eyes opened as to the great Doctrines of the Gospel.

…We also need to have our eyes opened with regard to Providence.

…Oftentimes we need to have our eyes opened to see ourselves.

…We need to have our eyes opened with regard to temptation, for we may think that we are not being tempted at the very moment when we are in the greatest danger from temptation.

…We need to have our eyes opened as to what is most desirable, for we often aspire after the high places when the lowest are the best— and seek wealth when poverty would be the better soil for the growth of Grace—

…We need to have our eyes opened that we may see a great deal more of our Savior. The strangest thing of all is that though the Lord has opened our eyes and we have seen Jesus as our Savior, we know so little of Him after all.

***

In this day and age, when the love of many has grown cold, those in the churches even doubt the effectiveness of prayer.

However, the Book of Revelation says:

And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.

Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

Revelation 8:3-5 (ESV)

Thus, in this passage, we have a picture of God’s powerful answers to the thoughts and prayers of those who have faith in Him.

Ligon Duncan: Why Should We Pray? YouTube, Ligonier Ministries, Published on Apr 9, 2015

Conspiracy

If only they could find the President guilty of collusion with the Russians to manipulate the 2016 election. Why, that would be a conspiracy to subvert the government; an impeachable offense; a veritable constitutional crisis.

But, so far, it’s not; not even close. If anything, some contend our President sounds much like the Founders.

Turns out, social media feeds this sort of thing by gaming what you see. It must increase its’ profits; why else would they do it? So much for knitting, quilting, and cat videos; go figure.

Maybe we have Russian bots too much on our minds? We certainly like to spread novel falsehoods. But maybe, just maybe, the real collusion story has yet to surface?

The definition of conspiracy is:

con·spir·a·cy

/kənˈspirəsē/

noun: conspiracy; plural noun: conspiracies

1. A secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.

“a conspiracy to destroy the government”

synonyms: plot, scheme, plan, machination, ploy, trick, ruse, subterfuge; informal racket

“a conspiracy to manipulate the results”

2. The action of plotting or conspiring.

“they were cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”

synonyms: plotting, collusion, intrigue, connivance, machination, collaboration; treason

“conspiracy to commit murder”

The Bible addresses the concept in various circumstances. One of the most striking is in the Book of Isaiah:

For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying:

“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear and let him be your dread.

“And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

“And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Isaiah 8:11-15 English Standard Version (ESV)

Calvin remarks on these verses, starting from Isaiah’s perspective:

For thus Jehovah spoke to me. Here the Prophet contends…against the unbelief of the people; and…there were two remarkable temptations, the one external, and the other internal.

The external temptation came from professed enemies, such as from the Assyrian; and when the people saw his plundering and cruelty, they thought that all was over with them, because he had brought them almost to utter ruin.

The other temptation was internal; for that sacred people, which boasted of having been chosen by God, relied on the assistance of man rather than of God. Now, this was a most dangerous temptation; for it appeared as if that nation, by its unbelief, refused [acknowledgement of] the promises of God, which were daily offered, and which were continually sounded in their ears…

And he continues:

As if by taking hold of my hand. This is a beautiful metaphor, [by which Isaiah] alludes to fathers or teachers, who, when their words have not sufficient effect, seize the hand of their children or scholars, and hold them to compel them to obey.

The servants of the Lord are sometimes disposed to throw everything away, because they think that they are laboring to no purpose; but the Lord lays as it were, his hand on them, and holds them fast, that they may go forward in the discharge of their duty.

…Undoubtedly, we would every moment be driven up and down, were it not that we are held by the powerful government of God and fix the anchor of constancy in firm ground.

Every one of us ought to meditate earnestly on this thought; for though we may be convinced, yet when it comes to the trial we fail, and look [to] men rather than [to] God. We should, therefore, attend more carefully to this doctrine, and pray to God to hold us, not only by his word but by laying his hand on us…

Next, Calvin examines God’s admonition to Isaiah:

Say not, a conspiracy. …We must consider what was the condition of that people, for they saw that they were not provided with numerous forces and were not able to contend in battle against such powerful enemies. They longed for outward assistance, and eagerly desired to obtain it, for they thought that they were utterly ruined if they did not obtain the assistance of others…

The Lord…admonishes Isaiah not to regard the counsels of wicked men, though the whole of the people should vie with each other [over their guidance.]

Neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. There may also be a twofold meaning; for some read it separately, as if in this second clause the Prophet condemned in general terms the wicked customs of the people. But these two clauses ought rather to be joined together. “Let it not distress you, if your countrymen in the present-day plot about unlawful confederacies, and do not consent to them.”

And he explains the people’s fear:

Their fear. …The same cause of fear was alleged against [both] the godly and…the ungodly; but all did not fear in the same manner…

The Lord certainly does not forbid the godly to fear, for they cannot avoid that; but he bids them overcome that excessive terror by which the ungodly are swallowed up. [Therefore,] let us not, by their example, gaze around in every direction, and rush headlong to seek unlawful aid; and especially we must [be on guard] lest fear take away our judgment.

There is but one remedy for this evil, to restrain ourselves by the word of God, from which proceeds real tranquility of mind. Comparing the condition of that people with our own, let us learn to [seek refuge in] the name of God, which will be to us an impregnable fortress. (Proverbs 18:10.)

Here, Calvin gets to the heart of God’s message to those who follow Him:

Sanctify Jehovah of hosts himself. …Dangers lead to immoderate alarm [because] wretched men do not raise their eyes and minds to heaven. The Prophet…therefore proposes a suitable remedy for allaying terrors, that they who dread the evils which threaten them may learn to give to God the honor due to him.

To sanctify the God of armies means to exalt his power highly [in such manner] to remember that he holds the government of the world, and that the beginning and the end of good and evil actions are at his disposal. Hence it follows that, in some respects, God is robbed of his holiness, when we do not immediately [go] to him in cases of perplexity.

This expression [i.e., Sanctify the God of armies,] …is highly emphatic; it shows us that no higher affront can be offered to God than to give way to fear, as if he were not exalted above all creatures, [and not in] control [of] all events.

On the other hand, when we rely on his aid, and, through victorious steadfastness of faith, despise dangers, then do we ascribe to him lawful government; for if we are not convinced that innumerable methods, though unknown to us, are in his power for our deliverance, we conceive of him as a dead idol.

Then he presents God’s “blessing and cursing” of obedience or disobedience:

And let him be your fear and let him be your dread. He…means that [those] will be free and exempted from [anxiety], if a sincere fear of God be deeply engraven on their hearts, and never pass away from them; and indeed every person who freely devotes himself to God, and undertakes to fear him alone, so as to lay this restraint on himself, will find that no haven is more safe than his protection.

But as the ungodly do not cease to provoke his anger by shameless transgression, he harasses their minds by continual uneasiness, and thus inflicts the most appropriate revenge for their careless indifference.

And Calvin goes deeper and explains God’s relation to His people:

And he shall be for a sanctuary. He promises that the true worshipers of God will enjoy tranquility of mind, because the Lord, covering them, as it were, under his wings, will quickly dispel all their fears…

The meaning therefore is, that God demands nothing for which he does not offer mutual recompense, because everyone that sanctifies him will undoubtedly find him to be a place of refuge. Now, although in this sanctification there is a mutual relation between us and God, yet there is a difference, for we sanctify him by ascribing all praise and glory to him, and by relying entirely upon him; but he sanctifies us, by guarding and preserving us from all evils.

He then punctuates the explanation with strong encouragement for his hearers:

To the two houses of Israel. …[Isaiah] enjoins believers, though nearly the whole multitude of both kingdoms should dissuade them from obedience to God, not to be discouraged, but to disregard everything else, and break through all opposition…

This is a remarkable passage and cannot be [recalled often enough], especially [now], when we see the state of religion throughout the whole Christian world brought nearly to ruin. Many [people] boast that they are Christians who are strongly alienated from God, and to whom Christ is a stone of stumbling…

Wherever we turn our eyes, very sore temptations meet us in every direction; and, therefore, we ought to remember this highly useful instruction, that it is no new thing, if a great multitude of persons, and almost all who [claim] that they belong to the Church, stumble against God. Yet let us constantly adhere to him, however small may be our numbers.

Then turning, with Isaiah, back to the disobedient, Calvin says:

For a snare to the inhabitant of Jerusalem. …[Isaiah] means that God became a snare, not only to the common people who were scattered throughout the fields and villages, but to the nobles themselves, and to the priests who dwelt in Jerusalem, who dwelt in that holy habitation in which God intended that the remembrance of his name should be chiefly preserved…

And, finally, he reiterates God’s admonishments to both groups:

And many among them shall stumble. …Let not the ungodly…imagine that they are stronger or wiser than God; for they will find that he excels them in strength and wisdom, and that to their destruction. They must, therefore, unavoidably be ruined; for either they will be utterly bruised, or they will be snared in such a manner, that they can never [extract] themselves.

This threatening also regards the godly, that they may not hesitate to withdraw from holding fellowship with the multitude, and that they may not resolutely disregard the sinfulness of revolt…Peter reminds us that, though many unbelievers stumble, this is no reason why their stumbling should obstruct the progress of our faith; for Christ is…a chosen and precious stone. (1 Peter 2:4.)

Let us therefore, Sanctify the God of armies and cling to Him.

***

Perhaps the greatest conspiracy that was plotted and actually carried out was the one where the leaders of Israel, the occupying rulers, and the government servants conspired to withhold the Good News of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, it was all in accordance with God’s consummate plan. God’s servants prayed that God would thwart their enemy’s plan:

“…Now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

And, as a result:

…When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Is your world shaking? Or are your energies spent in foolish controversies?

R.C. Sproul: The Resurrection of Christ, YouTube, Ligonier Ministries, Published on May 29, 2015

Who Do You Say That I Am?

Perhaps the most important question in the world is: “Who do you say Jesus is?” The answer to this determines whether you will find yourself at His right hand or the left, saved or condemned, and filled with joy or weeping for eternity.

Three of the gospels ( Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, and Luke 9:20) record the Lord Jesus asking this very question:

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:15-17 English Standard Version (ESV)

John Calvin says about this question:

But who do you say that I am? Here Christ distinguishes his disciples from the rest of the crowd, to make it more fully evident that, whatever differences may exist among others, we at least ought not to be led aside from the unity of faith. They who shall honestly submit to Christ and shall not attempt to mix with the Gospel any inventions of their own [mind], will never [lack] the true light.

But here the greatest vigilance is necessary, that, though the whole world may be carried away by its own inventions, believers may continually adhere to Christ. As Satan could not rob the Jews of the conviction which they derived from the Law and the Prophets, that Christ would come, he changed [their hoped-for Messiah] into various shapes, and, as it were, cut him in pieces. His next scheme was, to bring forward many pretended Christs, that they might lose sight of the true Redeemer.

By similar contrivances, [Satan] continued ever afterwards either to tear Christ in pieces, or to exhibit him under a false character. Among the confused and discordant voices of the world, let this voice of Christ perpetually sound in our ears, which calls us away from unsettled and wavering men, that we may not follow the multitude, and that our faith may not be tossed about among the billows of contending opinions.

Then, Calvin explains the importance of Peter’s answer:

You are the Christ. The confession is short, but it embraces all that is contained in our salvation; for the designation Christ, or Anointed, includes both an everlasting Kingdom and an everlasting Priesthood, to reconcile us to God, and, by expiating our sins through his sacrifice, to obtain for us a perfect righteousness, and, having received us under his protection, to uphold and supply and enrich us with every description of blessings.

Mark says only, “You  are the Christ.” Luke says, “You are the Christ of God.” But the meaning is the same; for the Christs (χριστοί) of God was the appellation anciently bestowed on kings, who had been anointed by the divine command.

And this phrase had been previously employed by Luke, (2:26,) when he said that Simeon had been informed by a revelation from heaven[, which was clearly divine,] that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ for the redemption, which God manifested by the hand of his Son; and therefore it was necessary that he who was to be the Redeemer should come from heaven, bearing the impress of the anointing of God.

Matthew expresses it still more clearly, “You are the Son of the living God;” for, though Peter did not yet understand distinctly in what way Christ was the begotten of God, he was so fully persuaded of the dignity of Christ, that he believed him to come from God, not like other men, but by the inhabitation of the true and living Godhead in his flesh. When the attribute living is ascribed to God, it is for the purpose of distinguishing between Him and dead idols, who are nothing, (1 Corinthians 8:4.)

He goes on to describe Christ’s blessing of Peter:

Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona. [Peter was blessed in this sense]:

This is life eternal, to know the only true God, and him whom he has sent, Jesus Christ, John 17:3 ESV,

Christ justly pronounces [Peter] to be blessed who has honestly made such a confession. This was not spoken in a [unique] manner to Peter alone, but our Lord’s purpose was, to show in what the only happiness of the whole world consists.

That everyone may approach him with greater courage, we must first learn that all are by nature miserable and accursed, till they find a remedy in Christ. Next, we must add, that whoever has obtained Christ [lacks] nothing that is necessary to perfect happiness, since we have no right to desire anything better than the eternal glory of God, of which Christ puts us in possession.

Finally, Calvin recounts the mechanics of faith:

Flesh and blood has not revealed it to you. In the person of one man [(i.e., Peter)], Christ reminds all [of us] that we must ask faith from the Father and acknowledge it to the praise of his [unmerited favor]; for the special illumination of God is here contrasted with flesh and blood.

Hence, we infer, that the minds of men are destitute of that [discernment] which is necessary for perceiving the mysteries of heavenly wisdom which are hidden in Christ; and [beyond] that, all the senses of men are deficient in this respect, [until] God opens our eyes to perceive his glory in Christ.

Let no man, therefore, in proud reliance on his own abilities, attempt to reach it, but let us humbly suffer ourselves to be inwardly taught by the Father of Lights, (James 1:17,) [so] that his Spirit alone may enlighten our darkness. And let those who have received faith, acknowledging the blindness which was natural to them, learn to render to God the glory that is due to Him.

So, ask yourself, “Who do you say Christ is?”

Who Is Jesus? How Would You Answer?, YouTube, Ligonier Ministries, Published on April 13, 2017