Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

April 18

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

It is God’s word that counts

Take all the writing, preaching, and teaching of the past hundred years. In a sense, human ability and effort have never exerted themselves to such an extent. Philosophy has been glorified, and man has claimed that he could solve the riddle of life and of the universe. Never has man been so proud of him­self and his achievements and his understanding.

But what has been the result of all this? What of life today? Is it not clear that we are precisely in the same position as was the world in the time of Paul? Oh, the tragedy of it all! We have boasted of processes and systems, but they have yielded no results. We have taken pride in our ability to think, but it is the function of thinking to arrive at valid conclusions.

Let us be honest. Are we any nearer to the solution of the problems of life and living than the philosophers were who lived and died before Paul? The answer is to be found in the state of the modern world.
Our knowledge has grown merely with respect to the externals of life, its amenities and pleasures. Life itself still remains an enigma, and the art of living still seems to be as elusive as ever.

The rival systems still fail and cannot satisfy our needs. But the gospel is not a human philosophy. It is not man’s idea or the result of man’s effort and seeking. It is the revelation of what God thinks and says concerning life.

The Plight of Man and the Power of God, pp. 81-2


“Text reproduced from ‘A First Book of Daily Readings’ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, published by Epworth Press 1970 & 1977 © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes. Used with permission.”
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What in the World To Do?

Building, Restoring, and Cleaning

The perspective held by Christians about human society and economy tells one a great deal about their beliefs concerning Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. 

That we all live in human society to one degree or another is inescapable.  Even the foolish Stylites, who committed themselves to a life of isolation from all others, living on poles in the extreme attempt to divorce themselves from human society and the world, could not escape.  The most famous were plagued by tourists coming to gape.

Since living “in the world” is a providential given–a divine decree–the belief we Christians have about the world and our place in it is a vital concern.  Since God has placed us in human society and human economy, we had better get our understanding of it right and in conformity with the Bible. 

R. H. Tawney tells us that there are four distinct beliefs or attitudes about human society and human economy. He presents them as follows:

There are, perhaps, four main attitudes which religious opinion may adopt toward the world of social institutions and economic relations:

1.  It may stand on one side in ascetic aloofness and regard them as in their very nature the sphere of unrighteousness, from which men may escape–from which, if they consider their souls, they will escape–but which they can conquer only by flight.

2.  It may take them for granted and ignore them, as matters of indifference belonging to a world with which religion has no concern; in all ages the prudence of looking problems boldly in the face and passing on has seemed too self-evident to require justification.

3.  It may throw itself into an agitation for some particular reform, for the removal of some crying scandal, for the promotion of some final revolution, which will inaugurate the reign of righteousness on earth.

4.  It may at once accept and criticize, tolerate and amend, welcome the gross world of human appetites, as the squalid scaffolding from amid which the life of the spirit must rise, and insist that this also is the material of the Kingdom of God.  To such a temper, all activities divorced from religion are brutal or dead, but none are too mean to be beneath or too great to be above it, since all, in their different degrees, are touched with the spirit which permeates the whole.  It finds its most sublime expression in the worlds of Piccarda: “Paradise is everywhere, though the grace of the highest good is not shed everywhere in the same degree.”
[R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism. (London: John Murray, 1923), p.16f.]

The question is begged, To which of these, dear reader, do you hold?  

The first two options presuppose the Kingdom of God and the redemption of Christ have rejected the creation of God.   Either the creation is intrinsically evil, beyond redemption, or God has chosen not to redeem it, for the manifestation of His own glory.  This would place the creation, the world, human society, economic labour and institutions in the same category as the demonic.  These options do not square with the promise God has made concerning the redemption of the creation itself (Romans 8: 20-23).

The third introduces a new redemptive act, and another redeemer, without which the reign of righteousness will not come.  This presupposes the inadequacy and incompleteness of Christ’s work upon the Cross and His subsequent resurrection, ascension, and enthronement in heaven. 

The final option is the one most squared with God’s revelation concerning His kingdom.  Christ has appeared to destroy the works of the Devil, as far as the curse is found (I John 3:8); He will have every thought, motive, and intention underlying every human action of His people brought captive to Him (II Corinthians 10: 4-6); whatever we do, even down to our eating and drinking, is to be redeemed (I Corinthians 10:31).  How much more, then, every economic and social relationship, every duty, obligation, and commitment to others. 

Thus, in Tawney’s presentation of the fourth option, the letter “s” in spirit is to be read as upper case.  Amidst the scaffolding of the creation itself, the life of the Spirit must arise.  It is the Spirit’s great task to apply the redeeming work of the Son of God to all of creation.  It is our great task to be His faithful servants in this endeavour.  No calling or endeavour could possibly be higher or more noble. 
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Lenten Meditation

Holy Week, Day 4: Wednesday

Wednesday, April 1, AD 33.

The following video, filmed in conjunction with our book The Final Days of Jesus, features short explanations from and interviews with historian of ancient history Paul Maier (of Western Michigan University) and New Testament professor Grant Osborne (of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), focusing on the behind-the-scenes motivations and actions of the Sanhedrin as they plot to put an end to Jesus once and for all.

H/T: Justin Taylor
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Why shouldn’t we bomb abortion clinics?

Imagine you’re chillaxing at home when you hear a commotion next door. Peeking through the curtains you see that your neighbor is holding her toddler’s head against a block of wood, and is raising a machete in her other hand.

In this situation, you should:

  1. Go back to chillaxing
  2. Tweet that someone should look into the situation
  3. Call the police
  4. Immediately run outside and forcibly restrain her if necessary

If you answered 1, 2 or 3 you obviously need your head examined—though I fear there are people out there who would disagree. I am not talking to them.

The correct answer is 4: you yell at her to stop, and if she ignores you, you leap over the fence and try to grab the machete out of her hand—or at least make yourself a more inviting target than her child. You should, if possible, also call the police—hopefully you have your cellphone to hand, and the presence of mind to dial 911 as you’re leaping over the fence.

Anyway, my point is that it is morally obligatory to forcibly intervene when a child is about to be murdered and you are physically capable of stopping it. We should think less of you if you just stood by and watched. Even if you were wringing your hands. No one likes a coward.

You can probably see where I’m going with this, but let me make it obvious:

What is the relevant difference between a mother about to cut her child to pieces with a machete, and a mother about to cut her child to pieces with a vacuum tube operated by a doctor?

Since abortion is murder, morally-speaking, why do protesters outside abortion clinics not try to forcibly restrain women from going inside to kill their children?

A possible answer

Perhaps many abolitionists—that is, people who want to abolish abortion—haven’t thought in these terms before. But I suspect some have, and the reason they don’t use force is because it would be counterproductive in the long run. Since abortion is legal, restraining a woman would constitute assault. Thus, after the police settled the matter, the abolitionist would go to jail, and the woman would go back to the abortion clinic to finish the job anyway. A net loss for the abolitionist, especially in view of the fact he is now very limited in his ability to dissuade other women from entering abortion clinics.

Does this mean we should abandon the idea of force altogether?

On the face of it, surely the opposite.

Isn’t the problem with forcibly preventing women from entering abortion clinics not that it is going too far, but that it is not going far enough? Stopping women from having abortions by physically restraining them is impotent because abortion is legal. What we need is to eliminate the possibility of women entering clinics.

Obviously the most effective way to do that is to destroy the clinics.

This is an extreme solution—even to abolitionists. People tend to resist it. Yet I think it is perfectly proportionate given the extreme nature of the problem—as becomes clear when we use abolitionists’ own analogies:

If abortion is the new Holocaust, then abortion clinics are the new death camps

The Holocaust is an analogy often used by abolitionists. Indeed, just going by the numbers, abortion is 220 times worse, having so far killed about 1.3 billion worldwide since 1980 (in the US, 57 million since legalization in 1973); in contrast to the “mere” 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Yet when I look back on the events of Nazi Germany, I feel very strongly that citizens should have done far more about the extermination of the Jews. Surely citizens ought to have at least tried to use sabotage to disrupt the systematic extermination of an entire people? Indeed, it hardly seems a stretch to say they would have been justified in doing anything within their power to fight the regime, up to and including assassinating Nazi officers. But certainly destroying Nazi facilities would have been justified—perhaps even obligatory.

What, then, is the relevant difference that makes it wrong to destroy “death camps” in a situation 220 times worse than Nazi Germany? Given the sheer scale of abortion, should our response be not far greater?

Civil war?

The other analogy often used by abolitionists is American chattel slavery. Indeed, they consciously model their efforts after the abolitionists of the 18th and 19th centuries. But whether slavery should be abolished or not was the issue at the heart of the American civil war. It seems to me that the 600,000 soldiers killed in that war was a steep, but tragically necessary price to pay for the freedom of an entire race of human beings.

But in that case, why is civil war not a tragically necessary price to pay for the lives of an entire class of human beings? Obviously the political situation with abortion is not particularly similar to the political situation in 19th century America; but that isn’t to say that civil war is unthinkable in the modern day.

“It will damage our witness”

This is the common rejoinder I’ve received when discussing these ideas with other abolitionists. The abolitionist movement is centered around the gospel. We want the church to rise up and transform the culture peacefully so that abortion is criminalized as a natural consequence. Violent action would hinder the reception of the gospel.

But this response seems weak to me.

Firstly, the reception of the gospel in our culture is icy. Hoping and praying for revival is virtuous, but it is not a substitute for taking immediate and proportionate action to prevent something similar to genocide. It would be nice if the whole culture would support us, but it may never happen. How long do we wait in hope of it—and how many children will we let die?

Secondly, this attitude takes the completely subjective, ill-informed and unconsidered opinions of non-Christians as a guide for how we should respond to evil. This isn’t a case where Christians have the freedom of conscience to do something (like drinking) but refrain so that non-Christians won’t perceive hypocrisy. This is a situation where Christians seem obliged to act. If I am in a situation where someone is being assaulted, and the only chance they have to live is if I intervene, then it is really irrelevant if the bystanders think Christians should be strict pacifists.

There’s also the issue of how much non-Christians should respect us for failing to have any strength of conviction. If we believe that abortion is murder, and that it is being done nearly 4,000 times a day in the US alone, and we know exactly where it is being done, and that if we don’t stop it no one will, then how much should anyone respect us if we do nothing? What kind of witness is that?

Sure, if Christians sabotage abortion clinics—even if they are very careful to avoid loss of life—plenty of people will consider us extremists or terrorists or anarchists or whatever. But does public perception of Christians matter more than saving millions of innocent lives every year? I just can’t see how.

“If we bomb abortion clinics, they’ll just get better security”

Maybe they will. Maybe the logical outcome of bombing clinics is escalation to the point of civil war. But so what? That does not, in itself, give us a reason to think we shouldn’t destroy abortion clinics, any more than it would have given Germans a reason to think they shouldn’t have sabotaged death camps. Civil war doesn’t seem like a prima facie unreasonable option, as demonstrated by the analogy of slavery or Nazi resistance—and especially in countries like the US where citizens have ready access to military-grade hardware and training.

What does this prove?

I confess I would be rather glad to hear a compelling case against bombing abortion clinics. The idea doesn’t sit well. But I haven’t seen one yet; and the idea of Christians allowing millions and millions of children to continue being legally killed every year sits even more ill than them rising up in violent protest.

What have I missed?

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Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

April 17

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC wesbsite

Don’t mortgage the future

[Jesus] asks … Why do you allow yourself to be worried thus about the future? “The morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” If the present is bad enough as it is, why go to meet the future? To go on from day to day is enough in and of itself; be content with that….

Worry about the future is so utterly futile and useless; it achieves nothing at all ; … worry is never of any value at all. This is seen with particular clarity as you come to face the future. Apart from anything else, it is a pure waste of energy because however much you worry, you cannot do any­thing about it. In any case its threatened catastrophes are imaginary; they are not certain, they may never happen at all….

But above all that, says our Lord, can you not see that … you are mortgaging the future by worrying about it in the present? Indeed, the result of worrying about the future is that you are crippling yourself in the present; you are lessening your efficiency with regard to today; … worry is something that is due to an entire failure to understand the nature of life in this world…. Man has to labor and must meet trials and troubles….

The great question is, how are we to face them? According to our Lord, the vital thing is not to spend every day of your life in adding up the grand total of everything that is ever likely to happen to you in the whole of your life in this world. If you do that, it will crush you. That is not the way.

Rather, you must think of it like this. There is, as it were, a daily quota of problems and difficulties in life. Every day has its problems; some of them are constant from day to day; some of them vary. But the great thing to do is to realize that every day must be lived in and of itself…. Here is the quota for today. Very well; we must face that and meet it, and He has already told us how to do so.
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, ii, pp. 149-50


“Text reproduced from ‘A First Book of Daily Readings’ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, published by Epworth Press 1970 & 1977 © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes. Used with permission.”
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Christian Activists

Hard Work the Highest Service

The general medieval world-view was deeply suspicious of economic motives.  Lucre was, after all, filthy.  Therefore, it had to be limited, controlled, and governed.  All economic activity had to be carried on for the public good; profits must be restricted to sustenance payments.  Clearly, the medieval world had a problem with the Parable of the Talents. 

These generalisations hold generally true.  But there were exceptions.  Gradually, as Western economies developed, the exceptions became more common, more widespread.  Medieval theology, and the economic theories it produced, were broken apart by economic realities.  Theological understanding did not catch up until the Reformation–and then, only gradually.

John Calvin argued that laws against usury were entirely inconsistent.  They simply did not make sense.
  If someone leased his land and took gain from the terms of the lease, how was that different from someone lending money at interest?  Why was the former not usurious, whereas the latter was?  Moreover, why ought income from a business not be allowed to be larger than the profits from landowning?  Surely, the merchant profited from his own diligence and industry, as did the landowner?  Both alike deployed capital.  Why is the one sanctified, and the other suspect? 

The upshot was that capital (whether in the form of land, cash, buildings, livestock) all came to be viewed alike.  They all came to be viewed as property which could be used to produce goods or provide services from which profit could be taken.  If one did not use it actively, but left one’s capital stock idle, indolence and laziness would doubtless multiply. Either way, capital would produce something–either good or bad.  

The final step in this Christian thought-revolution over work and business was to understand that the owner of capital was a steward accountable to God for the use and deployment of the capital goods entrusted to him by God, in the same was the labourer, or tradesman was accountable to God for the deployment of his skills and labour.  Here lay the final piece of the puzzle: to make profit and to increase capital came to be seen as a holy calling, not usury or greed.  This calling sat alongside the responsibility to take care of one’s family, of the neighbour, of the poor, of the orphan, and of the sick.  The more business, the more profit; the more the nurture and care of others could be facilitated.  God would require an accounting of each servant for his service. 

[The true aim of man's existence] is not personal salvation, but the glorification of God, to be sought, not by prayer only, but by action–the sanctification of the world by strife and labour.  For Calvinism, with all is repudiation of personal merit, is intensely practical.  Good works are not a way of attaining salvation, but they are indispensable as a proof that salvation has been attained. . . .

For the Calvinist the world is ordained to show forth the majesty of God, and the duty of the Christian is to live for that end.  His task is at once to discipline his individual life, and to create a sanctified society.  The Church, the State, the community in which he lives, must not merely be a means of personal salvation, or minister to his temporal needs.  It must be a “Kingdom of Christ”, in which individual duties are performed by men conscious that they are “ever in their great Taskmaster’s eye”, and the whole fabric is preserved from corruption by a stringent and all-embracing discipline.  [R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism. (London: John Murray, 1923), p. 109.]

This theology of economic service and labour reached its logical zenith at the hands of the latter Puritans.  Whereas the medieval Schoolmen and  the Church courts sought to restrict earnings and labour to that which was necessary for survival of self and family (all else being a manifestation of the sin of greed), Puritan theologians turned the matter on its head.  If one did not apply oneself with lifelong arduous dedication to one’s calling, the deadly sin into which one would inevitably fall would be sloth–the sin of the self-indulgent sluggard.

On the lips of Puritan divines, [one's calling] is not an invitation to resignation, but the bugle-call which summons the elect to the long battle which will end only with their death. . . . The calling is not a condition in which the individual is born, but a strenuous and exacting enterprise, to be undertaken, indeed, under the guidance of Providence, but to be chosen by each man for himself, with a deep sense of his solemn responsibilities. . . .

The labour which he idealizes is not simply a requirement imposed by nature, or a punishment for the sin of Adam.  It is itself a kind of ascetic discipline . . . imposed by the will of God. . . . It is not merely an economic means, to be laid aside when physical needs have been satisfied.  It is a spiritual end, for in it alone can the soul find health, and it must be continued as an ethical duty long after it has ceased to be a material necessity. (Ibid., p. 241f). 

From a necessary evil to an spiritual, holy duty is a long distance to travel.  But that doctrinal and theological revolution, we venture to say, has done more to release the Church to manifold works of spiritual service than any other.  It gives us the Christian ideal of the hard-working, hard-worshipping saint–the kind of person who is too consumed with his duties and responsibilities to God and to man to fall into the idle life of a busybody.   
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Lenten Meditation

Holy Week, Day 3: Tuesday

Tuesday, March 31, AD 33.

The following video, filmed in conjunction with our book The Final Days of Jesus, features short explanations from and interviews with New Testament professors Grant Osborne (of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) and Andreas Köstenberger (of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) along with historian of ancient history Paul Maier (of Western Michigan University), focusing in particular on the opposition to Jesus and what angered his Jewish antagonists so much.

H/T: Justin Taylor
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Daily Devotional

Daily Devotional

April 16

A First Book of Daily Readings

by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (selected by Frank Cumbers)
Sourced from the OPC website

Take this first step

Look at nothing and nobody but look entirely to Christ and say:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust my sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name;
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

You must so believe that as to be able to go further and say with holy boldness:

The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do.
My Savior’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.

Would you like to be rid of this spiritual depression? The first thing you have to do is to say farewell now once and for ever to your past. Realize that it has been covered and blotted out in Christ. Never look back at your sins again. Say, “It is finished, it is covered by the Blood of Christ.” This is your first step. Take that and finish with yourself and all this talk about goodness, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is only then that true happiness and joy are possible for you. What you need is not to make resolutions to live a better life, to start fasting and sweating and praying. No! you just begin to say:

I rest my faith on Him alone
Who died for my transgressions to atone.

Take that first step and you will find that immediately you will begin to experience a joy and a release that you have never known in your life before. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law.”

Blessed be the Name of God for such a wondrous salvation for desperate sinners.

Spiritual Depression, p. 35


“Text reproduced from ‘A First Book of Daily Readings’ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, published by Epworth Press 1970 & 1977 © Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes. Used with permission.”
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Hard to Believe

 Naomi Klein On a Good Day

A recent piece in the Guardian by Naomi Klein should come with a health warning:  “During reading, you may die laughing”.  Naomi (the Fulminator) Klein–the ardent anti-globalization campaigner and anti-climate change warrior–has turned her attention to the latest evil to threaten humanity.  Ukraine is going to exploit its natural gas reserves by means of fracking. This is eeeeeviiiillll, says the Fulminator.

Why so?, you mildly ask   One would have thought that Ukraine, hitherto dependant upon Soviet (er, Russian) gas, would be well within its rights and prerogatives to harvest its own gas supplies using whatever means it saw fit.  Moreover, it would be wise to do so.  Since fracking is a recovery technique accepted to be safe, what’s the fuss about?

Well, first up, says the Fulminator, global oil companies will be involved.  Right off that means it is a dirty business, since globalisation is also eeeeeeviiiiilllll.  Those pariahs will be putting profit ahead of humanity.  Good luck trying to carry off that argument to a crowd of shivering Ukrainians unable to heat their own houses or food.  (The Fulminator, of course, is making these arguments from the comfort of a centrally heated, warm living room.)

But, says Naomi, it is true that fracking releases the most deadly global warming gas of all, methane, into the atmosphere.

Never mind that the industry’s singular solution to the climate crisis is to dramatically expand an extraction process in fracking that releases massive amounts of climate-destabilising methane into our atmosphere. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases – 34 times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, according to the latest estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And that is over a 100-year period, with methane’s power dwindling over time.

Fracking, says the Fulminator, releases “massive amounts of climate-destabilising methane into our atmosphere”.  That’s the second reason it’s evil.  Then, two paragraphs later, she writes the following, without the slightest self-awareness of irony:

Not that we know how much methane is actually released by drilling and fracking and all their attendant infrastructure.

We don’t know, but we do know for sure that fracking is evil because it releases methane.  (We are not making this up.  Read the article if you want confirmation of how badly reasoned her piece is.)  How do you know fracking releases methane?  What’s the evidence?  Well, it’s not been measured, proven, or established.  The Fulminator apparently believes it to be a self-evident truth, the veracity of which is carried in its very assertion.

It would appear that passion has substituted for reason, emotion for evidence, and laziness for logical, coherent argument.  It’s so bad that one is inclined to wonder whether Klein as actually engaged in self-parody.   But if not, if she wants to be taken seriously, the only appropriate response is gales of belly-laughter, notwithstanding its possible danger to one’s health, and to the climate, of course.
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Lenten Meditation

Holy Week, Day 3: Tuesday

Tuesday, April 1, AD 33.

The following video, filmed in conjunction with our book The Final Days of Jesus, features short explanations from and interviews with New Testament professors Nicholas Perrin (of Wheaton College) and Grant Osborne (of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), focusing in particular on the cursing of the fig tree, the cleansing of the temple, and the role of the temple in the theology and practice of Jesus. We will be releasing a new video each day this week.

H/T: Justin Taylor
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