Posted by: davidlarkin | July 20, 2019

The Bible and the Hydrologic Cycle

Usgs_water_cycle 2X

Graphic Illustration above is the United States Geologic Survey (“USGS”) graphic representation of the Hydrologic Cycle, also referred to as the Water Cycle.

“The Bible and the Hydrologic Cycle”

King Solomon, son of David, prayed to God for wisdom:

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

1 Kings 3:5-15 (ESV)
The next passage below is from Ecclesiastes in the wisdom books of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian Old Testament, King Solomon, referred to as the “Preacher”, reflects on the cyclical nature of this life of vanity:

. . . “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 1:9 (ESV)

“The basic theme of Ecclesiastes is the necessity of fearing God in a fallen, and therefore frequently confusing and frustrating world. The unique character of the book, however has let to its being interpreted in widely diverse ways: as a statement of pessimism, optimism, religious and philosophical skepticism (either the Preacher’s own or a skepticism assumed for the purpose of of demonstrating the futility of an irreligious point of view), faithful belief, heterodoxy, to name only a few.

—- English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible, Introduction to Ecclesiastes, p. 1193.

As many know, the rock group, the Byrds, third hit song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” was written by Pete Seeger, who adapted the first 9 verses of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3 from the King James Version of the Bible:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (KJV)

In the introductory verses 1 through 9 below from Chapter 1 of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher introduces the vanity of life on earth, and the cyclical nature of life. “There is nothing new under the sun.”

And in verse 7 below, Solomon recognizes the mystery of the hydrologic cycle without knowledge of the underlying science, as the USGS reveals in the Graphic Illustration above.

The words of the King Solomon, the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7 All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8 All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:1-9 (ESV)
Ecclesiastes ends with an epilogue of comments by the Preacher, and an apparent editor in verses 9-10:

9 Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man

Ecclesiastes 12:9-13 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 17, 2019

Sodom and Gomorrah Explained by Albrecht Dürer

“Lot and his Daughters” by Albrecht Dürer

Pastor Joseph Parker ministered for years at City Temple in London, England. One morning, an elderly woman walked up to him after a service and thanked him for shedding some much-needed light on a particular Bible story.

“Dr. Parker,” the woman began, “you do such a wonderful job explaining the Bible. Did you know until this morning, I had always thought Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife?”


Painting is “Lot and his Daughters” by Albrecht Dürer – dated (1496-99). From the National Gallery, Washington DC. Here is the National Gallery Overview of the painting:

This scene is painted on the reverse side of Dürer’s Madonna and Child. The story of Lot and his daughters comes from the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis. In the foreground, Lot and his two children are portrayed fleeing from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which erupt in blinding explosions of fire in the background. Lot’s wife is visible on the path at the upper left in the middle distance. She has been turned into a pillar of salt for disobeying the divine command by looking back on the scene of retribution.

This scene was important for the moral lesson it taught. Like the story of Noah and the flood, that of Lot and the desolation of Sodom and Gomorrah was an allegory demonstrating the power of God to save the righteous.

Since the combination of the story of Lot with the depiction of the Virgin and Child is extremely unusual, the exact relation of the two images remains unclear. However, they could be understood as two examples of the value of a just life and of the pervasive grace of God, especially if the Madonna and Child on the obverse was intended as a private devotional image.

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 24, 2019

A Prayer about Prayer, and a Prayer about Creation


“Old Man Praying” by Vincent van Gogh, drawn in The Hague, April 1882 in pencil, brush, black chalk and Indian ink on paper.

These prayers are from my daily devotions this week.  First, here is a short prayer about prayer I read today in the The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers.

A Prayer about Prayer

I leave aside my shoes — my ambition,
undo my watch — my timetable,
take off my glasses — my views,
unclip my pen — my work,
put down my keys — my security,
to be alone with you, the only true God.

After being with you,
I take up my shoes — to walk in your ways,
strap on my watch — to live in your time,
put on my glasses — to look at your world,
clip on my pen — to write up your thoughts,
pick up my keys — to open your doors.
— Anonymous

Second, a short poem of praise for God’s creation, including praise for fog, the “gentle mists”, seen in the right spirit which was written in Canterbury, Connecticut by a pastor, Philip Jerome Cleveland (1903-1995), it was a blessing to me.

For thoughts that curve like winging birds
Out of the summer dusk each time
I drink the splendor of the sky
And touch the the wood-winds swinging by —
I yield Thee praise.

For waves that life from autumn seas
To spill strange music on the land,
The broken nocturne of a lark
Flung out upon the lonely dark —
I yield Thee praise.

The gentle mists that wander in
to hide the tired world outside
That in our hearts old lips may smile
Their blessing through life afterwhile —
I yield Thee praise.

For hopes that fight like stubborn grass
Up through the clinging snows of fear
To find the rich earth richer still
With kindness and honest will —
I yield Thee praise.

— Philip Jerome Cleveland

Philip Jerome Cleveland was the pastor of “The Church of the Broken Bell”, Westminster Congregational Church in Canterbury, Connecticut from 1945 to 1958. The Westminster Church was established in 1770 and continues to provide a place of worship in Cantebury. The history of this church is here. This poem of Praise is also from the prayer collection, “The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers,” edited by Dorothy M. Stewart, prayer no. 132.4.

Posted by: davidlarkin | November 23, 2018

Prayers for Humility

Prayers for Humility

The Scripture makes it clear that the virtues of humility and modesty are not natural features of the flesh and our sinful nature, but are gifts of God by grace.  For example,

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:6 (ESV), 1 Peter 5:5 (ESV), Proverb 3:34 (ESV)

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

James 4:10 (ESV)

“Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.”

Proverbs 21:4 (ESV)

It is easy to see why we need prayer for humility and modesty, a word for outward expression of humility.

Here are three prayers for humility I have found over the years, and also a prayer for modesty:

The first is a prayer from Andrew Murray (1828 – 1917), who was a South African writer, teacher and Christian pastor. Murray considered missions to be “the chief end of the church”. Wikipedia.

From Your great goodness, Lord, make known to me and take from my heart, every kind and form and degree of Pride, whether it be from evil spirits, or my own corrupt nature; and awaken in me the deepest depth and truth of that Humility, which can make me capable of Your light and Holy Spirit.

Adapted from Andrew Murray’s book, Humility, Chapter 12 “Humility and Exaltation”.

The second prayer is from Walter Russell Bowie (1882 – 1969), was an American priest, author, editor, educator, hymn writer, and lecturer in the Episcopal Church.  He was born in Richmond, Virginia, actually the fourth of his family to have the same name, and with family relationships among the First Families of Virginia. Nonetheless, he traveled north for his college education, receiving a B.A. (1904) and M.A. (1905) from Harvard University. As a Harvard undergraduate Bowie was co-editor of The Harvard Crimson, with Franklin D. Roosevelt. Wikipedia.  He then returned to Virginia and entered the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary, now known as Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, where he earned a B.D. in 1908 (shortly after which he was ordained a deacon) and later earned a D.D. (1919). Wikipedia.

O God, our Father, since he who stands must take heed lest he fall, deliver me this day from the foolishness of pride. Grant that neither outwardly nor inwardly may I boast of my imagined powers. Give me such reverence for the real tasks of life that I may know that they are above my own unaided strength; that so with a clean mind and a pure heart I may turn to You for the help by which alone I may stand unashamed when the day is done. And to You be the praise both now and ever. Amen.

Adapted from Walter Russell Bowie, Lift Up Your Hearts, p. 21.

The third prayer for humility is from William Barclay (1907 – 1978), who was a Scottish author, radio and television presenter, Church of Scotland minister and Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific writer, and is best known for his 17 volume Daily Bible Study, a commentary on 17 books of the New Testament.  A list of the over 120 books published by William Barclay can be found here.

William Barclay Prayer for Humility

O Father, give us the humility which
Realizes its ignorance,
Admits its mistakes,
Recognizes its need,
Welcomes advice,
Accepts rebuke.
Help us always
To praise rather than to criticize,
To sympathize rather than to condemn,
To encourage rather than to discourage,
To build rather than to destroy,
And to think of people at their best rather than at their worst.
This we ask for thy name’s sake.

– From Dorothy M. Stewart (editor), Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, #78 p. 162

This last prayer, for modesty, is from Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin, (1928 – 1996), who was an American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Cincinnati from 1972 until 1982, and as Archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until his death in 1996 from pancreatic cancer. Bernardin was elevated to the cardinalate in 1983 by Pope John Paul II. former Archbishop of Cincinnati and Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago:

Prayer for Modesty

Grant us, Oh Lord, the gift of modesty. When we speak, teach us to give our opinion quietly and sincerely. When we do well in work or in play, give us a sense of proportion, that we be neither unduly elated nor foolishly self-deprecatory. Help us in success to realize what we owe to you and to the efforts of others: in failure, to avoid dejection; and in all ways to be simple and natural, quiet in manner, and lowly in thought: through Jesus Christ, Amen.

— adapted from Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin, Oxford Book of Prayers, #406 at p. 122, George Appleton (editor).

What’s the difference between Humility and Modesty:

While “humility” and “modesty” are often used interchangeably, they are different in usage.  A modest person generally is humble, and a humble person is generally modest.  Here is a discussion of the difference in usage.

‘Modesty’ and ‘humility’ are often used interchangeably, but they are actually very different concepts.

‘Modesty’ derives from the Latin modus, ‘measure’ or ‘manner’. It means restraint in appearance and behavior: the reluctance to flaunt oneself, to put oneself on display, or to attract attention.

Modesty often implies a certain artfulness and artificiality, perhaps even inauthenticity or hypocrisy. The fictional character of Uriah Heep in David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is notable for his obsequiousness and insincerity, often emphasizing his own “umbleness” to cover up the true scale of his ambition. Modesty often poses as humility, but, unlike true humility, is skin-deep and external rather than deep and internal. At best, modesty is no more than good manners.

‘Humility’, like ‘humiliation’, derives from the Latin humus, ‘earth’ or ‘dirt’. Unlike mere modesty, true humility derives from a proper perspective of our human condition: one among billions on a small planet among billions, like a fungus on a tiny fragment of cheese. Of course, it is nearly impossible for human beings to remain this objective for very long, but truly humble people are nonetheless far more conscious of the insignificance of their true relations, an insignificance that verges on non-existence. A speck of dust does not think itself more superior or inferior than another, nor does it concern itself for what other specks of dust might or might not think. Enthralled by the miracle of existence, the truly humble person lives not for herself or her image, but for life itself, in a condition of pure peace and pleasure.

Neil Burton, M.D., Psychology Today, June 30, 2018.

It is a lifelong struggle for me to be humble and modest, and prayer is essential for me.

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 13, 2018

Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home?

Return of the Prodigal Son – Rembrandt (1669)

“Going home” is a repeated theme throughout history, from Jesus parable of the Prodigal Son in the New Testament Scripture, Homer’s Odyssey and the story of Odysseus’ journey home after the fall of Troy, to Thomas Wolfe’s modern novel, You Can’t Go Home Again published posthumously in 1940.

Jesus promised us a home in heaven.  He said:

In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

John 14:2 (NASB)

A week or so ago, I made a YouTube slide show for a song I recorded 30 years ago. In 1988, when I was a lawyer living in Carmel, California, I recorded this song, “Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home.” I found that recording on a cassette tape in a box in the garage about 15 years ago. I had forgotten it. It was originally a country/pop hit by Joe South in 1969. My arrangement is unlike Joe’s. I recorded the song on a Portostudio 4-track, hence the recording quality. I made my own arrangement, sang and overdubbed all the vocal parts, played all the instruments: a Gibson J-50 acoustic guitar, a Gibson SG Bass Guitar, an Alesis drum machine I programmed for the song, and the electric guitar is a 1971 Gibson Les Paul Custom Deluxe which I still have. The guitar solo at about 2:10 is one of my best. I recorded the solo in one take, playing the guitar on my bed in my Carmel bedroom. In the slideshow, I used a picture of Jimmy Page playing a black Gibson Les Paul guitar similar to mine.  I used Shotcut open source software to make the video. My first full coordinated slide show video with Shotcut. It was fun to make. Took me back to my youth. Fortunately, God has forgiven the sins of my youth.  It is probably 70s music. Here is the YouTube link. The title painting is Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son.”

Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!

Psalm 25:7 (ESV)

Here is my YouTube video link:

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 10, 2018

“What a Dream I Had” — Paul Simon


“Jacob’s Ladder – painting by William Blake (1800) from the British Museum

What a dream I had,” Paul Simon, from For Emily Wherever I May Find Her.

A few nights ago I had one of my best dreams ever. I was sitting on a porch somewhere, an older home, and it was evening, dark. Most of my dreams I remember seem to be at night, which may be because it is night when I am dreaming. I have had daylight dreams which seem to be in morning after sunrise.

Anyway, I was sitting on the porch, no one was around and I started to sing at the top of my lungs, one of my favorite Christian contemporary songs, “Let It Rise,” by Paul Baloche from 1999, which is a good Gospel song even if you are not Christian. See the YouTube video linked below. As I sang, people started coming by in an informal parade, and they started singing acapella in great harmony along with me, like a flash mob of great singers going somewhere, so I got in the line with them and we kept singing, except, it was like a great choir, better than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir even, and I looked around and nobody acknowledged me or anyone as we all sang to the Lord in a great choir. It was really quite astounding, as I felt in my dream. I awoke when I couldn’t remember any more lyrics. 

Posted by: davidlarkin | August 2, 2018

There is More to the Mind than Neurons in a Brain

Nerdy Brain” – Grafacil by Paul and Boong of Bangkok, Thailand

There is more to the mind than neurons in a brain. God works through our minds to draw us to him, as He must, if we are to call upon the Lord and be saved. Through His Holy Spirit working in our minds with his Word, He uses his Word, and especially the words of the Gospels, and the New Testament, to draw us to Him.  And as here, in today’s Our Daily Bread for July 31, 2018, he uses Edith’s mind playing tricks on her, to draw her to thoughts of Him and to Him. This happened to me and to my wife Susan, each in our own unique way. After Edith’s story, I share Susan’s testimony again which quite a few of my friends have read. I think it is an inspiring testimony. So is Edith’s brief story here:

This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.

Luke 15:2 (ESV)

I have a friend—her name is Edith—who told me about the day she decided to follow Jesus.

Edith cared nothing for religion. But one Sunday morning she walked into a church near her apartment looking for something to satisfy her discontented soul. The text that day was Luke 15:1–2, which the pastor read from the King James Version: “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”

That’s what it said, but this is what Edith heard: “This man receives sinners and Edith with them.” She sat straight up in her pew! Eventually she realized her mistake, but the thought that Jesus welcomed sinners—and that included Edith—stayed with her. That afternoon she decided to “draw near” to Jesus and listen to Him. She began to read the Gospels, and soon she decided to put her faith in Him and follow Him.

The religious folks of Jesus’s day were scandalized by the fact that He ate and drank with sinful, awful people. Their rules prohibited them from associating with such folk. Jesus paid no attention to their made-up rules. He welcomed the down-and-out and gathered them to Him, no matter how far gone they were.

It’s still true, you know: Jesus receives sinners and (your name).

The photo below is my wife Susan Larkin. Her testimony, which I have shared here before, and is one of the “Testimony” tab links above, and is very inspiring.  Both of her parents committed suicide, her mother when she was 3 and her father when she was 28.  When I met her in the late 80s, she was in therapy.  In her testimony, Susan describes how God delivered her.  Click Here for Susan’s Testimony.

Posted by: davidlarkin | June 15, 2018

Upon Edom I Cast My Shoe

I follow a daily Bible reading schedule I put together from several different reading plans.  In my Bible readings today (June 14), I read again a Psalm of David, Psalm 60. I like Verses 6-8; the metaphoric images always catch my interest and thought:

God has spoken in his holiness:
“With exultation I will divide up Shechem
and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet;
Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin;
upon Edom I cast my shoe;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”

Psalm 60:6-8 (ESV)

These words and symbols came through the mind of David, who was a warrior King, and the geography was also part of his Kingdom, hence the coverage of tribal territories by King David in his poetic reflections on his God. I like the geographical image presented of named regions, mostly named after Israel’s tribes or non-Israelite people groups, who have settled in the region at the time of David’s Kingdom. You can see most of the places named in these verses on the map of Israel after Moses returned the children of Israel to the promised land. In these verses, the tribes of the map are symbolic accessories, e.g., helmet and scepter, of the God of the Israelites, at the time of King David.

Looking at the map above, the tribe of Ephraim is settled north of Judah, where David was headquartered. Moab, not a tribe of Israel, is southeast and below it, Edom, not a tribe of Israel, but descendants of Esau, is below Moab. The twelve tribes are descendants of the sons of Esau’s twin brother, Jacob, renamed “Israel” by God.

And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel [“the face of God”], saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

Genesis 32:27-30 (ESV)

Much more could be written about these verses and have been over the many years since the Psalm was written. Historians of the Ancient Near East agree that David probably existed around 1000 BCE.

Believe it or not, for the past 10 years at least, I have read through all 150 Psalms every 7 weeks on my Bible reading program, and each day, I generally find something new to think or wonder about, or something old to re-ponder and appreciate.  My Daily Bible Reading plan is posted on this blog in the “Bible Reading” tab above.   Of course, I have my days of spiritual dullness and distraction, but on those days, the Psalms and other Bible verses I read are uplifting and help me stay the course of my now senior days, so to speak. Were I not thinking about the verses as I am reading, it would otherwise be a 150 part mantra for meditation since I am at peace when I read these.

Some of the Psalms are difficult and jarring. Most of the various emotions, desires and acts of man are represented in the Psalms and not always appealing, but these are contemplations, prayers, praises and petitions to God by imperfect and sinful mankind, a portion who recognise God’s existence and sovereignty.

Over my 47 years a Christian, I have read books and commentaries about the Psalms. My favorite is C.S. Lewis’s book, “Reflections on the Psalms” which I have read at least 3 times I can recall over the past 25 years since I first bought the book. It helps to have a knowledge of the Old Testament and the history of the times for a deeper experience in reading, but that took many years of study and reading as a layman, and not as a Biblical scholar or minister of the Word.

I read the Old Testament and the Psalms through my Christian lens, but appreciate the Psalms as they gave meaning to the Jews of the Old Testament times as well, to the best of my ability as a 21st Century man now.

A study Bible is very helpful. In the past, I have used a New King James Study Bible, an NIV Study Bible, and for the past five years I have used an English Standard Version (ESV) Large Print Study Bible which I love. The pages are covered with my handwritten notes and yellow highlighting covers a multitude of verses. However, that education and experience of mine is not necessary for experiencing the joy and comfort of the Psalms. Most any committed Christian and observant Jew who reads them regularly can tell you that. Even for those who do not believe, there is poetic and intellectual pleasure in reading the Psalms.

Note: The ESV Large Print Study Bible is expensive.  There is a less expensive paperback ESV Study Bible here.

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 21, 2018

God Give Me Work

Winifred Gravestone epitaph

God give me work

Till my life shall end

And life

Till my work is done.

She died young, age 37.  In 1967, the Royal Society of Literature instituted the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for the best regional novel of the year. In 2003 it was incorporated into the Ondaatje Prize.
Posted by: davidlarkin | March 16, 2018

Truck Driving in Ghana with the Lord

In the photo above, the truck driver in Ghana chooses “God is My Protector” for his truck.

Like a modern Psalm, in the following prayer, a young Ghanaian Christian truck driver, choosing “Jesus is Mine” for his truck, prays for his trip through Kumasi to Accra, and he and his passengers and cargo make it safely with the help of Jesus:

Truck Driver’s Prayer by a young Ghanaian Christian

the motor running under me is running hot.
there are twenty-eight people
and lots of luggage in the truck.
Underneath are my bad tyres.
The brakes are unreliable.
Unfortunately I have no money,
and parts are difficult to get.

I did not overload the truck.
‘Jesus is mine’
is written on the vehicle
for without him I would not drive
a single mile.
The people in the back are relying on me.
They trust me because they see the words:
‘Jesus is mine’.
I trust you!

First comes the straight road
With little danger,
I can keep my eyes on the women,
children and chickens in the village.
But soon the road begins to turn,
it goes up and down,
it jumps and dances,
the death-road to Kumasi.
Tractors carrying mahogany trunks drive
as if there were no right or left.
Kumasi is the temptation
to take more people than we should.
Let’s overcome it!

The road to Accra is another problem.
Truck drivers try to beat the record,
although the road is poor
and has many holes
and there are many curves
before we come to the hills.

And finally to Akwasim.
Passing large churches in every village,
I am reminded of you and in reverence
I take off my hat.
Now downhill in second gear.

One more temptation;
The straight road to Accra.
Lord, keep my feet steady on the pedals
Even on the straight road to Accra.

I sing hallelujah
when the ride is ended
for you brought the truck and the people
in safety
through the hustle and bustle of Accra.

Lord, all is mercy,
‘Jesus is mine’.
Hallelujah. Amen.
from the Oxford Book of Prayer, #432

Here is a road map of the Accra area in Ghana.  You can see Kumasi in the Ashanti district in the upper center.  One of the roads going to Kumasi on the map is the “death road to Kumasi.”  Accra is on the southeast coast.

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 24, 2018

A Concentration Camp Prayer for Enemies

The Prophet Ezekiel by Michaelangelo, Painting in Fresco c. 1508-1512, The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Europe

Here is a supernaturally inspired prayer I found today in the Oxford Book of Prayer. No man or woman in such circumstances could show such love of enemies without the Spirit of God:

“Oh Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the sufferings they have inflicted on us; Remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering — our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this, and when they come to judgement let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness.”

Prayer written by an unknown prisoner of Ravensbruck concentration camp and left by the body of a dead child, from the Oxford Book of Prayer, #367

Ravensbruck was a dismal evil concentration camp.


Ravensbrück (pronounced [ʁaːvənsˈbʁʏk]) was a German concentration camp exclusively for women from 1939-1945, located in northern Germany, 90 km (56 mi) north of Berlin at a site near the village of Ravensbrück (part of Fürstenberg/Havel). The largest single national group consisted of 40,000 Polish women. Others included 26,000 Jewish from all countries, 18,800 Russian, 8,000 French, and 1,000 Dutch. More than 80% were political prisoners. Many slave labor prisoners were employed by Siemens & Halske. From 1942-1945, medical experiments to test the effectiveness of sulfonamides were undertaken.

In the spring of 1941, the SS established a small adjacent camp for male inmates, who built and managed the camp’s gas chambers in 1944. Of some 130,000 female prisoners who passed through the Ravensbrück camp, about 50,000 of them perished, some 2,200 were killed in the gas chambers and 15,000 survived until liberation.

From Wikipedia.

I cannot imagine the moment when this suffering prisoner penned this prayer, with a dead child at his feet.

This prayer is reminiscent of Jesus words in Luke 23:34 (ESV),

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The prophet Ezekiel reminds Israel that God does love all men, even the wicked, but Divine Justice requires penalty for wicked ways:

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Ezekiel 33:11 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 12, 2018

A Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson on his veranda in Vailima, Samoa, c.1893 from an Old postcard.  Robert Louis Stevenson’s most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.

Last weekend, the AT&T Open PGA golf tournament was played at Pebble Beach next to Carmel, California where I lived in the 80s. Robert Louis Stevenson lived in Pebble Beach in the 1870s, and there is a private prep school there named after him, Stevenson School, formerly Robert Louis Stevenson School. Clint Eastwood, who lives nearby, sent his daughter Alison there.  My brother-in-law Peter graduated from the Stevenson School.

Here is a Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) in the Oxford Book of Prayer:

The day returns and brings us the petty round of irritating concerns and duties. Help us to play the man, help us to perform them with laughter and kind faces. Let cheerfulness abound with industry. Give us to go blithely on our business all this day, bring us to our resting beds weary and content and undishonored, and grant us in the end the gift of sleep.

Googling, I found a book of his prayers written at Vailima, Samoa which I ordered for $4.99 from Amazon.

Here is some information about Vailima, Samoa and Robert Louis Stevenson’s final days there from Wikipedia,_Samoa :

Vailima is the name of a village about four kilometres south of Apia, the capital of Samoa. The population is 1,462. Vailima is part of the electoral political district Tuamasaga.

The village is most known as the location of the last residence of Robert Louis Stevenson, named “Villa Vailima”. Vailima Letters: Being Correspondence addressed by Robert Louis Stevenson to Sidney Colvin were first published by Methuen, London, 1895. The estate has had a varied past with it functioning further as the residence for the governor of German Samoa, the administrator of the New Zealand mandatory authority and the Samoan head of state. It is now a museum in honour of Stevenson and has been substantially restored.

The name Vailima means “water in the hand”, according to an old Samoan tale. A woman gave some water (vai) in her hand (lima) to help her thirsty companion. A widely quoted misinterpretation states that the name means “five waters”, as the word “lima” means both “hand” and “five” in Samoan.

Stevenson is buried in a tomb on Mount Vaea overlooking Vailima. He had two wishes for his burial, to be buried on the top of Mt Vaea and to be buried with his boots on as he used those boots to walk on the Samoan lands.


Posted by: davidlarkin | February 11, 2018

On Growing Old

When Growing Old. A print of this painting by Rembrandt, Philosopher in Meditation (1632), hangs on the wall of our family room.

The old philosopher may be meditating on getting old, as expressed in this prayer below by William Barclay (1907-1972 from his collection, “Prayers for Help and Healing.” Barclay was a Scottish author, radio and television presenter, Church of Scotland minister and Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow and prolific author.  He wrote a 19 volume commentary series on the books of the New Testament.  They are very good, with one limitation — Barclay did not believe the miracles in the gospels and acts of the Apostles.  He made natural explanations.  For example, when Jesus fed the 5000, Barclay does not accept the plain language that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes miraculously.  Instead, he writes that all the people had private stashes of loaves and fishes, and felt guilty when Jesus’s began to feed the 5000 with a few loaves and fishes, and brought out their stashes and fed the people around them.  That is harder to believe than that Jesus miraculously multiplied the loaves and fishes.  Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and founding pastor of the Calvary Chapel movement of more that 1,500 churches world-wide, believed the miracles of Jesus.  However, he said he liked to use Barclay’s commentaries, remarking charitably, that “Barclay had a problem with miracles,” but that his commentaries on the historical background and theological insights were good and helpful in Bible study and sermon preparation.

Here is Barclay’s prayer, “When Growing Old.”

When Growing Old

O God,
I know now what it is like to be growing old.
Everything is a bigger effort than it used to be.
I get more easily tired,
and each job takes longer to do.

My memory is not so good;
My mind is not so quick;
My body is not so strong.
And yet I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.

I have learned
what is important
and what is not important.

I know now
that there are a great many things
not worth worrying about

I have learned
to take the rough with the smooth
and not to get upset.

I have learned
who my real friends are, and how much I owe
to those who love me, and to those whom I love.
Above all, when I look back

I can see your hand in everything,
and when I remember all that you have done for me in the past its easy to trust you for the days to come.

Isaiah heard God saying:

“Even to your old age I am He,
and to gray hairs I will carry you,
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”

—– Isaiah 46:4

Under the shadow of they throne, thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.

Prayers for Help and Healing at p. 51.

When I turned 60 on July 14, 2008, that morning I wrote a short blog post “On Turning 60,” my first PAT (paroxysmal atrial tachycardia), running in Pebble Beach, running the first Los Angeles Marathon, and God’s blessed removal of the fear of death.

You can click here to read “On Turning 60.” 

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 8, 2018

Did Jesus Have a Home?

The engraving above of Jesus healing the paralytic below is by Jan Luyken (1649 – 1712), a Dutch poet, illustrator and engraver.

Self-Consciously Observing Conscious Discursive Thought.

Today, reading the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 2, it begins with:

“And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.”

Apparently Jesus was living at “home” in Capernaum at the commencement of his ministry. He had a home. The ESV Note for Verse 1 confirms that reading. Reading that this morning, I then consciously remembered that Jesus also said:

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.

Matthew 8:20, Luke 9:58 (ESV)

Then, I remembered that I read a prayer every morning for the homeless that begins:

“God of compassion, You love the poor and the homeless so much that you came to earth as a poor child and lived as a homeless man.”

See my previous blog post, “Consider the Poor and the Needy”

As I read about Jesus home and remembered these seemingly contradictory Scripture verse and prayer, without conscious effort, I observed my mind automatically attempting to reconcile them while I read on in Mark, Chapter 2.

I noticed that as I read further in Mark 2 that some men “removed the roof above” Jesus in his home and lowered a paralytic through the roof. Mark 2:1-12 (ESV)

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

And as I read that, I noticed my mind thinking discursively, ‘well, maybe he had to leave that home because the roof had a hole in it.’ I almost laughed as I thought that, and that is when I realized I had been self-consciously observing the automatic reconciliation process of my mind, even stretching to reconcile as it did here. I expect that my mind is always trying to reconcile observations of the world which appear to my mind to be contradictory. I know I do that, but this is the first time in 69 years, that I remember, where I self-consciously observed, almost as a third party, the automatic operation of my mind in the background as I read the Scripture.

I still do not know whether after leaving Capernaum on his itinerant ministry throughout Israel, whether Jesus had a home. He must have stayed at the homes of his Apostles from time to time. I will have to study that. I remember he healed Peter’s mother’s fever, and she got up and started making meal.

Note:  Later the day I posted this, I looked at three Commentaries on the Gospel of Mark: William Barclay’s, the New International commentary and the Tyndale commentary. One suggested it could have been his mother, Mary’s, home or a relatives. The translation in ESV is “home,” but other translations say “house.” Another commentary suggested the house was likely the home of Peter or Andrew. The third commentary did not discuss the house or home. So, whose house it was is unclear. However, surely, as a carpenter, Jesus, along with his brothers would have provided a house for their mother and sisters to live in. My best guess is the house was his family home where his mother, brothers and sisters lived, as implied here:

Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

Mark 3:20-21 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | January 25, 2018

The Ineffable God

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:9 (NIV)

How Can We Talk to God, if He is?

There has been theological controversy forever whether we can know God, who, if he exists, must be beyond our ken, and therefore, how can we find his language to speak to him.

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Paul, Romans 11:33 (ESV)

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.”

Psalm 145:3 (ESV)

“Because God is infinite and we are finite or limited, we can never fully understand God. In this sense God is said to be incomprehensible where the term incomprehensible is used with an older and less common sense, “unable to be fully understood.” This sense must be clearly distinguished from the more common meaning, “unable to be understood.” It is not true to say that God is unable to be understood, but it is true to say that he cannot be understood fully or exhaustively.”

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (1994), Ch. 10. The Knowability of God
Religious language has been a philosophical problem arising from the difficulty of accurately describing God. Because God is generally conceived as incorporeal, infinite, and timeless, ordinary language cannot always apply to that entity.  As Jesus said:

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

John 4:24 (ESV)

This makes speaking about or attributing properties to God difficult: a religious believer might simultaneously wish to describe God as good, yet also hold that God’s goodness is unique and cannot be articulated by human language of goodness. Arguably so, and if we cannot use language to describe God, and his attributes, how then can we use human language to communicate with such a God?

Christians believe that the language we have is God given, so of course, we can speak to God, who in effect, lowers himself to our level for communication. Nevertheless, it is conceptually difficult to understand how we could speak God’s language.  God is an ineffable God.

This poetic prayer by C.S. Lewis looks at our prayers as metaphor, and is quite good regardless of spiritual beliefs. In this prayer/poem, “Pheidian” refers to the Greek sculptor Pheidias who was famous for his sculpture of the Greek god Zeus, who he sculpted as he imagined him, though we know of the sculpture only through historical ancient Greek writings because the statue did not survive to modernity:

Prayer to the Ineffable God

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aim unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolaters, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if thou take them at their word.

Take not, oh Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great,
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

C. S. Lewis, 1898-1963 from The Oxford Book of Prayer, Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford (1985).


Posted by: davidlarkin | January 23, 2018

Prayer before a Meal

Prayer before Meal. Painting by Vincente Manansala (1910 –1981) Manansala was a Filipino cubist painter and illustrator.

The Christian practice of grace before meals follows Jesus practice of looking up to Heaven and giving thanks for food prior to meals, for example, in Matthew 14:15-21:

‘Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

And again in Matthew 15:32–38:

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.

From the beginning, the Church practiced giving thanks before meals from the beginning, even on a ship in danger, as the Apostle Paul did in Acts 27:33-37:

When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.

As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength,for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.

The English Puritan, Thomas Gouge, made the underlying seriousness of our dependence on God plain in his devotional discussion of the need for prayer for blessing on a meal, before partaking God’s creatures. The thought of food as God’s creatures is generally far from our consciousness in this secular world of commercially mass-produced, processed and packaged food today:

What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? Psalm 116:12

Forget not to pray unto God for a blessing on the things you are to partake. For as the apostle says, “Every creature of God is good, being sanctified by the Word of God, and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4-5). By the Word, as it does show, and warrant our right thereunto: and by prayer, as it is a means appointed by God for obtaining His blessing upon our food, without which it will do us little good. “For man liveth not by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). that is, bread does not nourish by its own power, but by the appointment and blessing of God. And therefore it was the usual practice of our Savior to lift up his eyes and crave a blessing upon the creatures, before he did partake of them, which has been the usual practice of the saints and people of God, before and since Christ’s time (1 Sam. 9:13; Acts 27:35-36). Having therefore such worthy patterns and precedents, follow them, not daring to partake of any of God’s good creatures, until you have lifted up your heart to God and craved his blessing upon them, for otherwise how justly might you expect from God a curse rather than a blessing? The things on the table are God’s things, and therefore you must need be more bold than welcome, if you make use of them without asking His blessing.”

Thomas Gouge, The Works of the Late Reverent and Pious Ms. Thomas Gouge (London: Printed by Thomas Braddyll, 1706), 218-19 quoted in Day by Day with the English Puritans, edited by Randall J. Pederson (Hendrickson, Publishers 2007), entry for January 23.

Gouge cites 1 Samuel 9:13 as example of the practice of prayer before the blood sacrifice and sacrificial meal that followed, which the Jews practiced before Jesus was born.  In this passage from Samuel, Saul is on his way to meet with Samuel, who is referred to as the “Seer” or prophet.  Samuel, as a priest and prophet would bless the animal sacrifice, which would then be eaten, thus prayer before the sacrificial meal:

When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant[a] who was with him, “Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys and become anxious about us.”  But he said to him, “Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true. So now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us the way we should go.”  Then Saul said to his servant, “But if we go, what can we bring the man? For the bread in our sacks is gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?” The servant answered Saul again, “Here, I have with me a quarter of a shekel of silver, and I will give it to the man of God to tell us our way.”  (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for today’s “prophet” was formerly called a seer.)  And Saul said to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was.

As they went up the hill to the city, they met young women coming out to draw water and said to them, “Is the seer here?”  They answered, “He is; behold, he is just ahead of you. Hurry. He has come just now to the city, because the people have a sacrifice today on the high place.  As soon as you enter the city you will find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately.”  So they went up to the city. As they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out toward them on his way up to the high place.

1 Samuel 9:5-14 (ESV)

But Christians pray before every meal as Jesus and Paul did because there is no more sacrifice for sin.  Jesus was sacrificed once for all on the cross, then resurrected from the dead to make intercession for us.

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

Hebrews 7:23-27 (ESV)

A final thought, this from Our Daily Bread for June 25, 2018, the author of the entry writes:

For many years, I’ve enjoyed the writings of British author G. K. Chesterton. His humor and insight often cause me to chuckle and then pause for more serious contemplation. For example, he wrote, “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the play and the opera, and grace before the concert and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing; and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

As the Apostle Paul wrote:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17 (ESV)


Interior Painting of Old Woman Reading by Candlelight and Man with Lantern by Michiel Versteegh (1756-1843), a Dutch painter best known for his obscure light scenes lit by candlelight like this one.

“Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet,” is a familiar verse, verse 105, from the King James Version of Psalm 119.  Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm and one of about a dozen Hebrew acrostic poems. “Its 176 verses are divided into twenty-two stanzas, one stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet; within each stanza, each of the eight verses begins (in Hebrew) with that letter.” from wikipedia.

Psalm 119 is a loving tribute of a devout Jewish poet to the law of God, His statutes, His precepts and rules to follow in the Mosaic tradition.   But how should Christians read this Psalm with devotion, if we are no longer under the law, but under grace?  This post is intended to provide an answer to that question.

In the early 90s, we attended a large Calvary Chapel church in Phoenix, Calvary Community Church.  Pastor Mark Martin started with a 11 people in a Bible Study, and it has grown to over 12,000 believers with two Northwest Phoenix campuses today.  Its well-attended Sunday Evening service began every week with Amy Grant’s recording of “Thy Word,” from verse 105 of Psalm 119, and then Pastor Mark Martin would come and sit in a chair on the stage to teach verse by verse from a book of the Bible.

The first eight verses are a good example how the poet praises God’s law and his obedience to the law of God.

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,

3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.
8 I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me!

And in verse 97, he expresses his love of the Law of God:

Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119 (ESV)

The New Testament teaches that the Christian is no longer under the law but is under grace.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 6:14 (ESV)

The substitution of grace for the law is a fulfilment of the prophesy of Jeremiah to the Jews exiled from the land of Israel to Babylon of God’s promise of a new covenant in the last days.  Jeremiah 31:33:

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV)

Instead, Christians have the promised new covenant and are now under grace, no longer under law.  We are not saved by obedience to the law and works of the law, as the Apostle Paul wrote clearly and convincingly:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

And faith in Jesus and His resurrection and life comes to the chosen ones through the Word of God, and not through the law.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17 (New King James Version)

As Jesus said when He was being tempted by the Devil in the desert:

“It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:4 (ESV)

Now we have the living Word of God, the resurrected Messiah, Jesus, creator of all things, present in our hearts through the Holy Spirit to guide us to salvation, justified and glorified:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 

John 1:1-5 (ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30 (ESV)

Those good works, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 above, that God has prepared in advance for us to do after we are born again in the Spirit, will not violate the law of God, but instead, the moral leadings of the Spirit will be be more expansive than simply following the Ten Commandments, which we will not violate if we are walking with and following Jesus through the Holy Spirit, in faith.

In Acts, Chapter 15, Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem to meet with the church there, led by James, the brother of Jesus.  Some Christians who were from the Pharisees, argued that Gentile Christians must be circumcised, and must follow the Mosaic law as Christians.  Paul and Peter both made strong arguments that Christians were no longer under the law, and Gentile Christians were not required to follow the Mosaic law anymore.  The first council of the Church, the Jerusalem Council is described in Acts as follows:

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”  And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

“‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
and I will restore it,
that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

Acts 15:1-21 (ESV)

If Christians are are no longer under the law, how are we to read Psalm 119 and its tribute to the laws and statutes of God under the Old Covenant?  Back in the early 90s, Pastor Mark Martin at Calvary Community Church told us when he read Psalm 119 in his devotions, he substituted in his mind, the word, “word,” for “law”, as the Psalm sometimes does, as in “Thy Word is a Lamp unto my Feet.”  The “Word” and the grace of God, and His revealed Word to us in Scripture, has replaced “the Law.”

I have done that expressly for my own devotionals.  Here below in Psalm 119 which I have modified for New Testament Christians, I have replaced all words of “law”, e.g., law, statute, rules, etc. with “Word.”  It is a blessing to me and I hope it is to you who read this as well.  After the Psalm, there is a link to the pdf for downloading, saving and printing for your personal devotions.

Psalm 119 (ESV)


119 1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Word of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your Word to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your Word!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your Word.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous Word.
8 I will keep your Word; do not utterly forsake me!


9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your Word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your Word!
11 I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your Word!
13 With my lips I declare all the Word of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your Word and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your Word; I will not forget your Word.


17 Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your Word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your Word.
19 I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your Word from me!
20 My soul is consumed with longing for your Word at all times.
21 You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your Word.
22 Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies.
23 Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your Word.
24 Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.


25 My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your Word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your Word!
27 Make me understand the way of your Word, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your Word!
29 Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your Word!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your Word before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your Word when you enlarge my heart!


33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your Word; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your Word and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your Word, for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your Word is good.
40 Behold, I long for your Word; in your righteousness give me life!


41 Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise;
42 then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your Word.
43 And take not the Word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your Word.
44 I will keep your Word continually, forever and ever,
45 and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your Word.
46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame,
47 for I find my delight in your Word, which I love.
48 I will lift up my hands toward your Word, which I love, and I will meditate on your Word.


49 Remember your Word to your servant,in which you have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
51 The insolent utterly deride me,but I do not turn away from your Word.
52 When I think of your Word from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.
53 Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your Word.
54 Your Word has been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
55 I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your Word.
56 This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your Word.


57 The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your Words.
58 I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;
60 I hasten and do not delay to keep your Word.
61 Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your Word.
62 At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous Word.
63 I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your Word.
64 The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your Word!


65 You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your Word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your Word.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your Word.
68 You are good and do good; teach me your Word.
69 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your Word;
70 their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your Word.
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your Word.
72 The Word of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.


73 Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your Word.
74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your Word.
75 I know, O Lord, that your Word is righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your Word is my delight.
78 Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your Word.
79 Let those who fear you turn to you, that they may know your testimonies.
80 May my heart be blameless in your Word, that I may not be put to shame!


81 My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your Word.
82 My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your Word.
84 How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me?
85 The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your Word.
86 All your Word is sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
87 They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your Word.
88 In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.


89 Forever, O Lord, your Word is firmly fixed in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
91 By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.
92 If your Word had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your Word, for by it you have given me life.
94 I am yours; save me, for I have sought your Word.
95 The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies.
96 I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your Word is exceedingly broad.


97 Oh how I love your Word! It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your Word makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your Word.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your Word.
102 I do not turn aside from your Word, for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your Words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your Word I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.


105 Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous Word.
107 I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your Word!
108 Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your Word.
109 I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your Word.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your Word.
111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
112 I incline my heart to perform your Word forever, to the end.


113 I hate the double-minded, but I love your Word.
114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your Word.
115 Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the Word of my God.
116 Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
117 Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your Word continually!
118 You spurn all who go astray from your Word, for their cunning is in vain.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.
120 My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.


121 I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me.
123 My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
124 Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your Word.
125 I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies!
126 It is time for the Lord to act, for your Word has been broken.
127 Therefore I love your Word above gold, above fine gold.
128 Therefore I consider all your Word to be right; I hate every false way.


129 Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The unfolding of your Words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your Word.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.
133 Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
134 Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your Word.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your Word.
136 My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your Word.


137 Righteous are you, O Lord, and right is your Word.
138 You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness.
139 My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your Words.
140 Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.
141 I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your Word.
142 Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your Word is true.
143 Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your Word is my delight.
144 Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.


145 With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your Word.
146 I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your Words.
148 My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
149 Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O Lord, according to your justice give me life.
150 They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your Word.
151 But you are near, O Lord, and all your Word is true.
152 Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever.


153 Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your Word.
154 Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your Word.
156 Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your Word.
157 Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies.
158 I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.
159 Consider how I love your Word! Give me life according to your steadfast love.
160 The sum of your Word is truth, and every one of your righteous Words endures forever.

Sin and Shin

161 Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your Words.
162 I rejoice at your Word like one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your Word.
164 Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous Word.
165 Great peace have those who love your Word; nothing can make them stumble.
166 I hope for your salvation, O Lord, and I do your Word.
167 My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
168 I keep your Word and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.


169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your Word!
170 Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your Word.
171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your Word.
172 My tongue will sing of your Word, for all your Word is right.
173 Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your Word.
174 I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your Word is my delight.
175 Let my soul live and praise you, and let your Word help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your Word.

English Standard Version (ESV) as modified.

Click Here for PDF of Psalm 119 for New Testament Christians

Posted by: davidlarkin | October 20, 2017

In Prayer

Painting by George Elgar Hicks (1824 – 1914). He was an English painter during the Victorian era.

I have a prayer by a nameless Puritan about prayer itself, 8 paragraphs of “In prayer, I . . .” The first paragraph, my favorite of the eight, is the introduction to the experience of the eternal in prayer itself:

In Prayer, O Lord, I launch far out into the eternal world, and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs over all evils on the shores of mortality. Time, with its glad amusements and cruel disappointments, never appears so inconsiderate as then.

This is a wonderful image of the soul touching eternity and contacting the eternal God.

The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Deuteronomy 33:27 (ESV)

The Bible says we have eternity in our hearts. It is hard to find it there sometimes.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:3 (ESV)

Here is the remainder of the Puritan prayer, “In Prayer”:

In prayer I see myself as nothing; I find my heart going after You with intensity, and long with vehement thirst to live to You. Blessed be the strong gales of the Spirit that speed me on my way to the New Jerusalem.

In prayer all things here below vanish, and nothing seems important but holiness of heart and the salvation of others.

In prayer all my worldly cares, fears, anxieties disappear, and are of as little significance as a puff of wind.

In prayer my soul inwardly exults with lively thoughts at what You are doing for Your church, and I long that You should get a great name from sinners returning to Zion.

In prayer I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life, and taste heavenly joys; entering into the eternal world I can give myself to You with all my heart, to be Yours forever.

In prayer I can place all my concerns in Your hands, to be entirely at Your disposal, having no will or interest of my own.

In prayer I can intercede for my friends, ministers, sinners, the church, Your kingdom to come, with greatest freedom, ardent hopes, as a son to his father, as a lover to the beloved.

Help me to be all prayer and never to cease praying.

Posted by: davidlarkin | August 26, 2017

Resurrection – Daniel 12:2

The Resurrection, Cookham 1924-7 by Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959

The Resurrection, Cookham – 1924-27 painting by Sir Stanley Spencer

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Daniel 12:2 (ESV)

In the painting above, the artist Sir Stanley Spencer depicts the resurrection in Cookham, the British village of his birth. Sir Stanley Spencer CBE RA (1891–1959) was an English painter. “Spencer became well known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham, the small village beside the River Thames where he was born and spent much of his life. Spencer referred to Cookham as “a village in Heaven” and in his biblical scenes, fellow-villagers are shown as their Gospel counterparts.” (Wikipedia) “Sir Stanley Spencer believed that the divine rested in all creation. He saw his home village of Cookham as a paradise in which everything was invested with mystical significance. The local churchyard here becomes the setting for the resurrection of the dead. Christ is enthroned in the church porch, cradling three babies, with God the Father standing behind. Spencer himself appears near the centre, naked, leaning against a grave stone; his fiancée Hilda lies sleeping in a bed of ivy. At the top left, risen souls are transported to Heaven in the pleasure steamers that then ploughed the Thames.” (Tate museum Gallery label, September 2016)

This passage above is from the Old Testament prophet Daniel. Jesus used Exodus 3:6 as prophetic evidence for the afterlife and the resurrection in arguing with the Sadduccees, the Jewish sect that did not believe in the resurrection of the dead:

And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.

(Mark 12:24-27 (ESV)) But he could have used this passage from Daniel. Jesus expressed the final judgment in the words of Daniel in the last verse of the story of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV).

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

This passage is also a warning about the peril of ignoring needy people in our midst.  This is a sobering passage.  We pray that those who have not yet been born again, may heed the warnings of Scripture and come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, our Messiah and Lord.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:8-12 (ESV)

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

Joel 2:32 (ESV)

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);  because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:8-17 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | August 10, 2017

The Power of the High Priest’s Vestments

Priestly Vestments

This illustration of the vestments of the High Priest of Israel as God dictated to Moses in Exodus 28:2-4 (ESV) :

And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests.

Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first High Priest of the children of Israel. The High Priest was the leading position of the Jews because of his “lifelong sanctity” of one authorized by God to annually make atonement for the sins of the whole community.

Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.

Exodus 30:10 (ESV)

In Exodus 28:5-39 (ESV), God instructed Moses specifically how the vestments of the High Priest were to be created, as illustrated above:

The Priests’ Garments

They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.

“And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth. As a jeweler engraves signets, so shall you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall enclose them in settings of gold filigree.  And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for remembrance.  You shall make settings of gold filigree, and two chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; and you shall attach the corded chains to the settings.

“You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, in skilled work. In the style of the ephod you shall make it—of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen shall you make it.  It shall be square and doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth.  You shall set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle shall be the first row;  and the second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond;  and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold filigree.  There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel. They shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes.  You shall make for the breastpiece twisted chains like cords, of pure gold.  And you shall make for the breastpiece two rings of gold, and put the two rings on the two edges of the breastpiece.  And you shall put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the breastpiece.  The two ends of the two cords you shall attach to the two settings of filigree, and so attach it in front to the shoulder pieces of the ephod. You shall make two rings of gold, and put them at the two ends of the breastpiece, on its inside edge next to the ephod.  And you shall make two rings of gold, and attach them in front to the lower part of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, at its seam above the skillfully woven band of the ephod.  And they shall bind the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, so that it may lie on the skillfully woven band of the ephod, so that the breastpiece shall not come loose from the ephod.  So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord.  And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.

 “You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue.  It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear.  On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them,  a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. And it shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the Lord, and when he comes out, so that he does not die.

“You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the Lord.’  And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban.  It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.

“You shall weave the coat in checker work of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash embroidered with needlework.

The Vestments were considered to be necessary for the High Priest to make annual atonement, and for this reason were treated as precious, and were safeguarded by the authorities at the time of Jesus, to avoid rebellion.

This character of office was transmitted to the [High Priest] by the investiture with the eight-parts of the splendid high-priestly vesture. This vesture possessed atoning power and each of the eight parts atoned for specific sins. Consequently, for Jewry it was the very symbol of their religion. Only thus can it be understood that neither Herod the Great, Archelaus, nor the Romans later could find a more effective safeguard against rebellion than to keep the high-priestly robes in custody in the temple fortress of Antonia, handing them over to the High Priest only on feast days. It also explains why the Jews struggled so tenaciously to have the vestments released, a struggle that ended only when the Emperor Claudius ordered their release by a decree in his own hand, on 28 June AD 45; for the campaign over the High Priest’s vesture was for Jewry a religious campaign.

Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the times of Jesus, Fortress Press, Philadelphia (1969) pp.148-49.

Proper care for the High Priest vestments would keep them safe and ceremonially clean and pure, as the Lord required them to be:

A Vision of Joshua the High Priest

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”  And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.

Zechariah 3:1-5 (ESV)

But now, we have one High Priest forever, Jesus Messiah!

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:14-15 (ESV)

Jesus our High Priest has made the atoning sacrifice once for all.

He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

Hebrews 7:27 (ESV)

And therefore, our great High Priest is no longer clothed in the in the former vestments of atonement.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,

Psalm 104:1 (ESV)



Posted by: davidlarkin | June 16, 2017

God Knows Everything – Psalm 139

Old Man Praying” Rembrandt 1661.

In Psalm 139, a psalm of David, David speaks to God in prayer, acknowledging God’s omniscience.  “Omniscience” is an attribute of God which means He has complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things, both in the past and in the future.  Here in Psalm 139, David marvels that God knows David’s own thoughts, and every part of his physical being, which was made by God as God determined:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
     you discern my thoughts from afar. v. 1-2

For you formed my inward parts;
     you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;  v. 13-14

And God’s foreknowledge of David’s days on earth:

Even before a word is on my tongue,
     behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. v. 4

And in verses 17-18, David’s realization that the “thoughts of God” are “more than the sand,” a Biblical image for the infinite.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
     How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
     I awake, and I am still with you.

Here are the words of David, the King of Israel, and warlord, the former shepherd and King Saul’s court musician, from Psalm 139, verses 1 through 18. I picture David as Rembrandt’s old man above praying his Psalm in seclusion.

Psalm 139:1-18 (ESV)

Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
     you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
     and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
     behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
     and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
     it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
     Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
     If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
     and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
     and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
     and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
     the night is bright as the day,
     for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;
     you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
     my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
     intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
     the days that were formed for me,
     when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
     How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
     I awake, and I am still with you.

Posted by: davidlarkin | May 28, 2017

Consider the Poor and the Needy

The drawing here is by Rembrandt (1606-1669). It is considered to be the one of the first portrayals of beggars as humble and decent people in need. That is the proper charitable attitude to have for the poor, even knowing that there are those among the poor who are mentally ill lacking social skills, or who are sadly brought up with poor character so difficult to correct.

With President Trump’s proposed budget seeking to take from the poor and give to the rich, i.e. cuts to food stamps (SNAP program providing food to 43 million poor Americans, 2/3 of which are children, elderly or disabled) and other social safety net programs to pay for tax cuts for the rich, it is fitting to consider, especially for the Christian Right, the duty to take care of the poor set forth in Scripture.

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

Proverbs 14:31 (ESV)

Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.

Luke 6:30 (ESV) 

Scripture also supports the duty of government to care for the poor and needy, The “king” is government. Here from Psalm 72:1-4, 12-14:

Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
. . .

For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.

Here is a prayer for the needy composed Miles Lowell Yates, 1890-1956, followed by a prayer for the poor and homeless my wife and I have added to our daily devotionals:

For the Needy

Oh God, look upon those who are in need but cannot work, or who lack employment and search for it in vain; on those who struggle to meet exacting claims with inadequate resources; on all who move in insecurity, attended by worry or despair.

Stand by them, O God, in their deprivations, their dilemmas, and guide them as they try to solve their problems; let them come to open doors of opportunity or refuge; and so quicken and extend the world’s concern for all its people that every man may be ensured a livelihood and safety from the bitterness of want; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Miles Lowell Yates

And this is the prayer my wife and I have added to our morning devotions:

Prayer for the Poor and Homeless

God of compassion, You love the poor and the homeless so much that you came to earth as a poor child and lived as a homeless man. We pray for all the poor and homeless in our community; open our eyes to ways we can serve. We ask you to draw near to the needy and comfort them, and bless them with work, shelter, food, health care and friendship. Most of all, we pray that they would come to know you by Your grace, as Lord and Savior, and see You as the source of everything. Amen.

Posted by: davidlarkin | May 20, 2017

The Apostle John, Eyewitness to the Majesty of Jesus

Transfiguration of Christ is the subject of two paintings by the Italian Renaissance master Giovanni Bellini, who finished them, respectively, in 1454-1460 and 1480. The earlier version here is on display in the Museo Correr of Venice;  the later one below is now housed in the Capodimonte Gallery of Naples, Italy.

When I was saved reading the Bible for the first time in 1971, in the middle of the Gospel of Luke, I suddenly believed the words I was reading were true.  That belief in the truth of the Bible, was also a belief that the facts were transmitted to the pages by eyewitness accounts.  I cannot take any credit for this conclusion because my belief was sudden, unanticipated, and without choice, and by the sovereign work of God alone.  I was saved by the grace of God.  My personal account is here in my Spiritual Memoir I wrote in 2005.

The authors of the New Testament disclosed in their work that either they were eyewitnesses, or received the testimony of eyewitnesses.  As the evangelist Luke wrote at the beginning of his gospel:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,  it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Luke 1:1-4 (ESV)

The Apostle Peter, one of the three at the Mount of Transfiguration in the Bellini paintings above, wrote of the eyewitness status of Jesus’ Apostles, chosen to transmit the gospel, in his second epistle or letter:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

2 Peter 1:16 (ESV)

The Apostle John, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, was one of Jesus’ three closest companions, along with Peter and James.  He refers to himself in his Gospel, as the “disciple who Jesus loved,” avoiding reference to himself by name, although Jesus loved all the disciples.  See John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20.

John, Peter and James were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration where they heard the voice of God,

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”

Luke 9:28-35.

John wrote five of the books of the New Testament. He wrote the Gospel of John, three epistles or letters: 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John, and is considered by most Christian scholars to be the author of the Book of Revelation, his written record of the vision he received from the Lord on the island of Patmos, to which he had been exiled. In the epistle 1 John, he begins with an introduction to the divine sonship of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah of God, and a statement of his authority to testify as an eyewitness to Messiah in the flesh, and the promise of eternal life.

This version below of Chapter 1 of 1 John is from David H. Stern’s Jewish New Testament. David Stern received a Ph.D in economics from Princeton University. While pursuing an economics professional life, he became a believer in the Messiah, and a Messianic Jewish Christian. He then received a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, a prominent Evangelical seminary in Pasadena. He taught the first course in “Judaism and Christianity” at Fuller.  See Wikipedia entry for David H. Stern.

Stern has translated the Old and New Testament from the Hebrew and Greek, with Jewish or Hebrew words translated to English to create a Jewish Bible. For example, “Jesus Christ” is translated “Yesuah Messiah” because the Greek word translated “Jesus” is the Greek translation of “Yeshua” which becomes “Jesus” in English, and the Greek word “Cristos” attached to Jesus, is the Greek translation for the Hebrew word “Messhiach” or Messiah, as translated into English. Stern has therefore put the New Testament in a Jewish context which is fitting because Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, and his twelve disciples were Jewish, and the writers of the New Testament were Jews, [although some scholars argue that Luke was a gentile]. And as Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek [Gentiles].”


ROMANS 1:16.
1 Yochanan [John], Jewish New Testament and comment David H. Stern

Chapter 1

1. The Word, which gives life!
He existed from the beginning.
We have heard him,
we have seen him with our eyes,
we have contemplated him,
we have touched him with our hands!
2. The life appeared,
and we have seen it.
We are testifying to it
and announcing it to you —
eternal life!
He was with the Father,
and he appeared to us.
3. What we have seen and heard,
we are proclaiming to you;
so that you too
may have fellowship with us.
Our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Yeshua the Messiah.
4. We are writing these things
so that our joy may be complete.

[David Stern’s Commentary] This prologue, like the one the same author wrote for his Gospel, seems to be composed as poetry; see Yn [Gospel of John] 1:1—18&N. The Word, who existed from the beginning, is Yeshua the Messiah (Yn [Gospel of John] 1:1-18. Believers (you… us) have fellowship (Greek koinonia,, “commonness, communion, community”) with God (the Father… his Son; compare Yochanan [Gospel of John] 17).

5. And this is the message which we have heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him — none!
6. If we claim to have fellowship with him while we are walking in the darkness, we are lying and not living out the truth.
7. But if we are walking in the light, as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of his Son Yeshua purifies us from all sin.
8. If we claim not to have sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9. If we acknowledge our sins, then, since he is trustworthy and just, he will forgive them and purify us from all wrongdoing.
10. If we claim we have not been sinning, we are making him out to be a liar, and his Word is not in us.

[David Stern’s Commentary] Because there is no darkness in God. if we claim to have fellowship (v. 3) with him but are walking in darkness, then we are lying with our words and also with our actions (not living out the truth). Only when we let the light of God shine into our whole life, permitting even its secrets to be judged by him, can we be purified from our sinful habits and be made more holy.

As a rule, people do not want to let in God’s light (Yn 3:19-21), but instead of saying so, they claim they don’t need it. Yochanan gives two examples: If we claim not to have sin, not to have a nature which tends to sin, not to have a yelzer ru’ (“evil inclination”; see Ro 5:12-2IN) ever rearing its ugly head, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Likewise, If we claim we have not been sinning, that our acts have been above reproach, and we have not committed actual sins, we are making him out to be a liar, and his Word is not in us. Either of these claims, if true, would provide an excuse for not letting God judge our inmost heart, in accordance with the prayers of Psalms 19:13-15(12-14), 139:23-24.

In Yochanan’s day it was especially the Gnostics who, misusing Romans 6 and 8, said that since the Messianic believer has the Spirit of the Messiah in him, he cannot sin any more. Yochanan agrees that the Spirit of the Messiah cleanses us and gives us strength to overcome sin, in keeping with Ezekiel 36:27,

“I will put my Spirit in you and cause you to follow my statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them.”

Nevertheless, we still commit sin, as v. 10 reminds us; this follows along with what is said about the days of the Messiah in Jeremiah 31:29(30), “Everyone will die for his own iniquity.” Isaiah 65:20 too speaks of sinners in the Messianic Era, and in the Lord’s Prayer believers are told to pray, “Forgive us what we have done wrong” (Mt 6:12).
This is also the answer to the objection raised in the sixteenth century by Rabbi Yitzchak of Troki’s Chizzuk-Emunah, which says — citing Deuteronomy 30:6, Zephaniah 3:13, Jeremiah 3:17, Ezekiel 36:25-27 — that Yeshua cannot be the Messiah because in the days of the Messiah there will be everlasting righteousness, and iniquity will cease. Eventually this will be the (Revelation 21-22); but in the present segment of the days of the Messiah there are sinners. Nevertheless, the Messiah “will justify many” (Isaiah 53:12), and by his death he atones for sin (v. 7, 2:2).

The objection that here Yochanan contradicts what he writes at 3:6. 9 (“…no one who remains united with him continues sinning…. No one who has God as his Father keeps on sinning….“) is answered in the notes to those verses.

Believers commit sins. They are not to be confronted by self-righteous fellow sinners passing judgment (Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:1-4) but by God’s own Word, which sets the standard for holiness. Then they will not make the mistake of the rich young ruler who asserted that he had kepi the Ten Commandments from his youth (Matthew 19:20). Instead of deceiving ourselves with excuses we should be walking in the light (v. 7), trying to do what pleases God. And we should acknowledge our sins as we commit them, even (though we do not intend to commit them (v. 9). The Greek word “omologeo” (“acknowledge, confess”) is, literally, “say the same thing.” If we say the same thing about our sins as God does, namely, that our sins are truly sinful; and if we have the kind of godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10-11); then the blood, by which is meant the bloody sacrificial death (Romans 3:21-26), of Yeshua continually purifies us from all sin. Our identification with his atoning death (Ro 6:3, Ga 2:20) empowers that death to go on helping us put to death our yetzer ra’ (Romans 6:16-23, 8:12-13, and Section D of Romans 5:12-21), which is what we must do if we are to conduct our life the way Yeshua did (2:6). Also, since he is trustworthy and just (Romans 3:25-26), he will forgive our sins and purify us from all wrongdoing. Compare John 13:1-17.
Acknowledging of sin, then, as Yochanan uses the term, is not merely a verbal tnins action but in every respect the full equivalent of repentance, t’shuvah (see Matthew 3:1-12). The relationship between repentance and blood sacrifice is correctly set forth in these verses. Repentance is the sine qua mm of forgiveness; with this non-Messianic Judaism agrees, as is clear from the Mishna:

“A sin-offering and a trespass-offering atone for sins committed wittingly. Death or Yom-Kippur atones, provided a person repents. Repentance atones for minor transgressions against the Torah’s positive commands and for any transgression against its negative commands; for more serious transgressions repentance suspends punishment until Yom-Kippur arrives and atones. “If a person says, ‘I will sin and repent, I will sin and repent,’ God will not give him an opportunity to repent! If he says, ‘I will sin, and Yom-Kippur will atone,’ then Yom-Kippur will not atone! Yom-Kippur atones for transgressions from man towards God; but for transgressions between a man and his fellowman, Yom-Kippur does not atone until he has conciliated his fellowman…. Rabbi Akiva said,’.. .Who cleanses you [from your transgressions]? Your Father in heaven, as it is said, “1 will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean” (Ezekiel 36:25). And it also says, “Mikveh-Israel” [which can be translated either “the hope of Israel,” referring to God, or “the ritual-bath of Israel”] (Jeremiah 17:13). Just as the ritual bath cleanses the unclean, so does the Holy One, blessed be he, cleanse Israel.”‘

Yoma 8:8-9

But at the same time that repentance is proclaimed as essential before God can grant forgiveness, the justice of and necessity for a blood sacrifice is clear both from the Torah (see Leviticus especially; but also Isaiah 1:16-17, Malachi 3:2-4) and the New Testament (see the book of Messianic Jews especially).

vv. 1:5-2:2  [Here are verses 2:1-2 from Stern’s Jewish New Testament:

Chapter 2:

1. My children, I am writing you these things so that you won’t sin. But if anyone does sin, we have Yeshua the Messiah, the Tzaddik, who pleads our cause with the Father.

2. Also, he is the kapparah for our sins — and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.]

This section deals with the relationship of a believer both to sin in general (what theologians call the “sinful nature of man”) and also to particular sins. These verses give a threefold message:

(1) There is an absolute call to put away sin.
(2) It is impossible to live without sinning.
(3) Nevertheless, one has no right to give up the battle against sin.

The following famous quotation from the Mishna is appropriately cited in connection with many New Testament passages, but I have saved it for this one:

“He [Rabbi Tarfon, 2nd century C.E.] used to say, ‘You are not obligated to complete the task, but you are still not free from working at it.'”

Avot 2:16


For the Christian who is not Jewish, there is much to be gained from reading David H. Stern’s works, the Jewish New and Old Testament and his commentaries.  In conclusion, 1 John concludes with this message of hope:

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:20 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | March 19, 2017

Giotto’s Two Views of the Massacre of the Innocents

Massacre of the Innocents, Cathedral at Scrivegni, Italy,  Giotto 1305-1306

Giotto de Bondone (1266/67-1337), or Giotto, as he is generally known, was a late Medieval Italian painter and architect from Florence. I am reading a book, Storytelling in Christian Art from Giotto to Donatello, by Jules Lubbock.  As the title reveals, Lubbock describes how early Renaissance Christian artists visually told stories from the Bible, which the Roman Catholic Church approved and financed, distinguishing this religious art from forbidden graven images. The Church decided that these story-telling paintings and frescoes educated the illiterate peasants about the Bible which the Church prohibited them from having, even if they could read.

Pope Gregory I, or Gregory the Great (540-604), wrote in his second letter AD 600:

For it is one thing to adore a picture, another to through the story [historiam] of a picture to learn what must be adored.  For what the writing offers to readers, a picture offers to the ignorant who look at it, since in it the ignorant see what they ought to follow, in it they read who do not know letters; whence for gentiles a picture is a substitute for reading.

In an earlier letter, Gregory explained why paintings, as pictures, were displayed in churches:

. . . in order that those who do not know letters may at least read by seeing on the walls what they are unable to read in books.

(emphasis added in the two quotes) Lubbock, Storytelling in Christian Art at 6-7.

Lubbock spends Chapter II looking at a series of Giotto’s frescoes in the Cathedral in Scrivegni, Italy which tell the story of Jesus life, death and resurrection. He writes about the fresco above where Giotto is picturing the story of the Massacre of the Innocents, the slaughter of infant boys under two years old in Israel. Herod was told by the Three Wise Men that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem without revealing exactly when it happened.  Herod then ordered the slaughter of infants born there within the past two years, estimating the time window when the birth must have occurred, in an attempt to murder the Messiah Jesus as set forth in Scripture in Matthew 2:16-18 (ESV):

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

In the Scrivegni fresco, the faces of the mothers are somewhat impassive and subdued, as if they were numbed by the earlier loss of their children, lying in a lifeless pile below them, “resembles the dead on a battlefield. A soldier engages in a tug of war with a mother to take another child to add to the pile, while a second soldier to the right of that mother is taking another child, whose head is half hidden behind his body. Even with the massacre still in process, the other mothers are apparently defeated with numb expressionless faces.

Several years later, around 1311, Giotto painted a second fresco in the Lower Church in Assisi, Italy depicting the same scene of the slaughter nearly identical in organization. Here, though, the mothers who have lost their children are portrayed differently, clearly expressing their emotions in their anguished faces.

Massacre of the Innocents, Lower Church, Assisi, Italy, Giotto 1311

We can only speculate why Giotto chose to express the anguish in the mothers whose babies were massacred. He may have been criticized by priests or patrons of the Church, or by his assistants or other artists that the first portrayal was unrealistic or false.  Or he simply wanted to paint the scene differently, having chosen purposely to paint the scene the first time with impassive numbed suffering mothers, and the second time with the mothers still in anguish, clearly distraught. Unfortunately, there are no records from the 14th Century which explain why Giotto did this.

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 17, 2017

Sir Robert Peel’s Hidden Prayer


Sir Robert Peel, portrait by Henry William Pickersgill

Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) was twice Prime Minister of England (1834–1835 and 1841–1846) and twice Home Secretary (1822–1827 and 1828–1830). He is one of the founders of the modern British Conservative Party.  He was the son of a wealthy textile manufacturer, and was educated at Harrow and Oxford. He was elected to Parliament in 1809, at the age of 21 and served as member of Parliament for 40 years.  He became Home Secretary in 1822.  According to Wikipedia:

As Home Secretary, he introduced a number of important reforms of British criminal law: most memorably establishing the Metropolitan Police Force (Metropolitan Police Act 1829) for London. It was the enabling legislation for the first English police force, the “bobbies” (in England) or “peelers” (in Ireland), which served as the model for modern urban police departments throughout England. He also reformed the criminal law, reducing the number of crimes punishable by death, and simplified it by repealing a large number of criminal statutes and consolidating their provisions into what are known as Peel’s Acts. He reformed the gaol system, introducing payment for gaolers and education for the inmates.

He served as Prime Minister from 1834 to 1846. As Prime Minister he was instrumental in repealing protectionist trade laws and in establishing free trade as a 19th Century British policy as the industrial revolution progressed.  On June 29, 1850, he was thrown from his horse while riding on Constitution Hill in London, and the horse stumbled on top of him.  He died three days later on 2 July at the age of 62 due to a clavicular fracture which ruptured an artery.

He was an Anglican, a member of the Church of England.  Apparently, he was a privately devout Christian because the following prayer was found in the private drawer of his dressing case after his death.  In this prayer, designed by him, he communicates to God his personal needs as Prime Minister, petitions God for help in governing with wisdom and prudence, and requests God’s favor on the King and country, and for himself, that he would remain faithful in his walk with God:

Great and Merciful God, ruler of all nations, help me daily to repair to Thee for wisdom and grace suitable to the high office whereto Thy providence has called me. Strengthen, 0 Lord, my natural powers and faculties, that the weighty and solemn interests with which Thy servant is charged may not greatly suffer through weakness of body and confusion of mind. Deign, I beseech Thee, to obviate or correct the ill-effects of such omissions or mistakes in my proceedings as may result from partial knowledge, infirmity of judgment, or unfaithfulness in any with whom I may have to do.

Let Thy blessing rest upon my Sovereign and my country. Dispose the hearts of all in high stations to adopt such measures as will preserve public order, foster industry, and alleviate distress. May true religion flourish, and peace be universal. Grant that, so far as may consist with human weakness, whatever is proposed by myself or others for the general good may be viewed with candour, and that all new and useful measures may be conducted to a prosperous issue.

As for me, Thy servant, grant, 0 Merciful God, that I may not be so engrossed with public anxieties as that Thy word should become unfruitful in me, or be so moved by difficulty or opposition as not to pursue the narrow way which leadeth me to life. And, 0 most gracious Father, if, notwithstanding my present desires and purposes, I should forget Thee, do not Thou forget me, seeing that I entreat Thy constant remembrance and favour only for the sake of our most blessed Advocate and Redeemer Jesus Christ, to whom with Thee and the Holy Spirit be glory for ever. Amen.

“Great and Merciful God,” Book of Uncommon Prayers (UK)

from the collection, Give Us Grace, An Anthology of Anglican Prayers, compiled by Christopher L. Webber

Posted by: davidlarkin | January 10, 2017

Absalom Jones – Prayer for the Abolition of the Slave Trade


Absalom Jones was born in slavery in Delaware in 1746.  He was the founder of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia in 1792, the first Black Episcopal Church in America as it describes itself today.  The Church is celebrating its 225th anniversary this year.

In his younger years in Delaware, Absalom sought help to learn to read. When he was 16, his owner Benjamin Wynkoop brought him to Philadelphia where he served as a clerk and handyman in a retail store. He was able to work for himself in the evenings and keep his earnings. He also briefly attended a school run by the Quakers where he learned mathematics and handwriting. In 1770, he married Mary Thomas and purchased her freedom. It was until 1784 that he obtained his own freedom through manumission. He also owned several properties.

“About Absalom Jones” African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas website

In 1802, Jones was ordained as the first African American Episcopal Priest.  Absalom Jones died on February 13, 1818 at his residence.  “The February 13th Absalom Jones Feast Day was added to the Episcopal Church Calendar in 1973. His ashes are enshrined in the altar of the Reverend Absalom Jones Chapel of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, and a memorial stained glass window commemorates his life and work.” [“About Absalom Jones”]

“His piety, pastoral faithfulness, and moral integrity were legendary.”

Here is a prayer he composed for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade, in an understated humble plea, “Give peace in our day we beseech thee, O thou God of peace! and grant, that this highly favoured country may continue to afford a safe and peaceful retreat from the calamities of war and slavery, for ages yet to come.”


Oh thou God of all nations upon the earth!  We thank thee, that thou art no respecter of persons, and that thou hast made of one blood all nations of men.  We thank thee, that thou hast appeared, in the fullness of time, in behalf of the nation from which most of the worshiping people, now before thee, are descended.  We thank thee, that the sun of righteousness has at last shed morning beams upon them.  

Rend thy heavens, O Lord, and come down upon the earth; and grant that the mountains, which now obstruct the perfect day of thy goodness and mercy towards them, may flow down at thy presence.  Send thy gospel we beseech thee, among them.  May the nations, which now sit in darkness, behold and rejoice in its light.  

May Ethiopia soon stretch out her hands unto thee, and lay hold of the gracious promise of thy everlasting covenant. Destroy, we beseech thee, all the false religions which now prevail among them; and grant, that they may soon cast their idols, to the moles and the bats of the wilderness.  

O, hasten that glorious time, when the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea, when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them and when, instead of the thorn, shall come up the fir tree, and, instead of the brier, shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name and for an everlasting sign that shall not he cut off.

We pray, 0 God, for all our friends and benefactors in Great Britain, as well as in the United States: reward them, we beseech thee, with blessings upon earth, and prepare them to enjoy the fruits of their kindness to us, in thy everlasting kingdom in heaven; and dispose us, who are assembled in thy presence, to be always thankful for thy mercies, and to act as becomes a people who owe so much to thy goodness.

We implore thy blessing, O God, upon the President, and all who are in authority in the United State’s [sic]. Direct them by thy wisdom, in all their deliberations, and O save thy people from the calamities of war.

Give peace in our day we beseech thee, O thou God of peace! and grant, that this highly favoured country may continue to afford a safe and peaceful retreat from the calamities of war and slavery, for ages yet to come.

We implore all these blessings and mercies, only in the name of thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. And now, O Lord, we desire, with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, ever more to praise thee, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty: the whole earth is full of thy glory.

“A Thanksgiving Prayer,” Thanksgiving Sermon; the italicized portions are references to Scripture.  From Give Us Grace, An Anthology of Anglican Prayers, compiled by Christopher L. Webber.

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 19, 2016

Susan Larkin’s Message – Go To Prayer

Susan Larkin

Here is a message my wife Susan gave several years ago to her Wednesday Night Women’s Bible Study group at our Church, Arizona Community Church in Tempe, Arizona:

Go to Prayer

Everyone loves some kind of music. I happen to live with two musicians. They sing, play guitar, keyboards, drums, saxophone – you name it. I can’t even clap on beat, but I always enjoy hearing them.

When I was a little girl, my family sent me to Catholic boarding school, we weren’t Catholics, but they thought I belonged there. (Just curious – anyone else have the special blessing of CBS?) No? I’m so happy for you! When I was eight years old, in 4th grade, it was time to get ready for the Christmas pageant. The nun (I think it was Sister Dominic, not sure) took the whole class into the auditorium, sat at the piano and played a few notes of some carol and each child sang along. She sorted us into groups that I found out later were soprano, alto and bass or tenor. After it was my time to sing, she said, “Suzie, stand over there.” I kept waiting for other children to join my group and no one ever did. It turned out I sang so badly I wasn’t allowed to sing at all. And all little children love to sing, it never occurs to them that they “can’t sing.”

I was to play the triangle. Some of you remember them. Our song was The Little Drummer Boy and it went like this (you can laugh-I think I have gotten over it) . . .  “Come, they told me, parumpumpumpum.” Ding Ding. That was me, the triangle. “The newborn King to see, parumpumpumpum.” Ding Ding. You can imagine what that did for my self-esteem. I was already the shyest person in the class. I was the one who got ‘demerits’ for group participation. Children could get merits on their Deportment Card (like a Report Card only regarding your behavior) or demerits for acting up. When all the children were playing kickball or jump rope, I would be by myself reading a book – and that got me demerits, seriously frowned upon.

Anyway, years later (I was about 16) I was with my dad, stepmother, a high school friend coming back from a trip and I told that story. I didn’t realize it, but afterward I was singing along with a song on the radio like you do. At the end of the song, my dad says, really droll, “You know, Sue, the nun was right.” Embarrassed all over again. My own father!

By the way, my husband who can sing very well, told me when I became a Christian over 25 years ago and shared that story, that the Lord gave us our voices to praise Him and whatever it sounds like to us, it is beautiful to Him, so we should sing. That was really encouraging, because I was hyper-sensitive by then and afraid to sing at all.

So that’s my music history. But I love to listen and you might be surprised that the kind of music I like best is bluegrass, especially bluegrass gospel. It got started with the movie O Brother Where Art Thou. If you haven’t seen it, rent it, or watch it again anyway if you have. Fabulous music, very soulful, and George Clooney is funny besides just easy to look at.

And the reason I like bluegrass music is it is the history of our country. You hear about railroads, miners, farmers, hard-working regular folks, Bible-believing grandparents, things like that. The musicians are excellent, the instruments are clear-sounding. The songs are typically happy and upbeat. But the best thing is, almost exclusively, the singers are Christians. They sing about the Lord and heaven and prayer just as naturally as they speak.  A couple times a week in fact on my channel, Wednesday night and Sunday morning, they have 6 hours straight of just gospel music. You would like it.

So, I listen on the way to work, I live about 5 mins south of here and work about 5 mins north. But at the beginning of this year, I decided to instead of listening to the music in the car in the morning to turn it off, pray and listen to the Lord. And I did pray, not expecting  to hear an answer immediately, but as the Scripture says, Be still and know He is God.

We have a small family business, just my husband and myself, and like all of the economy, expenses had risen and business had been off in the 2008-2009 recession. So I was considering our finances one day, and I was praying in my car when I wasn’t listening to music. The Lord was prompting me to do something crazy. I got to work and made some calls to see if anyone we paid monthly would be willing to adjust their charges. Which sounds kind of impossible – no one lowers their rates, they raise them. I actually made 3 calls and each one I talked to agreed to reduce our expenses – our rent by 1/3 – back to what we paid 14 yrs earlier, storage by 50% – we have to keep records for 7 years so we have loads of document to store – we even got an indoor place with air conditioning, and our messenger service reduced us by 75% – a company we have done business with for 20 years dropped us back to our rate from 25 years ago!  In fact, the man who answered the phone had owned the company, sold it and was back working there. He remembered us from 20 years earlier. I was stunned – I was rejoicing all day! I’m still rejoicing!

And here is the really amazing part, as it turned out, the next month we had 2 new, large expenses that equaled to the dollar, what we had saved – exactly $900, so that proves also that God is perfect at math, He is perfect at everything, of course. I knew those expenses were coming, but I wasn’t thinking about it at the time.

With the Lord and prayer – impossible things can be possible! So I encourage you to bring that insurmountable thing in your life to the Lord. Our pastor had been teaching us just a few weeks earlier that when you have an obstacle in your life, one of the things you do is listen to God and then let Him lead. He was talking about when the Israelites needed to cross the Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant, the most holy Presence of God on earth. It was at flood stage, but in faith, they listened to the Lord, followed His command and stepped in. As soon as they took that step, the waters parted and they walked through on dry land. Impossible? . . . not with our God.

Jesus said with faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. And if you don’t have that mountain-moving faith right now, take it straight to the Lord, He would love to hear you pray for that impossible thing. We can stop to pray together right now, okay?

Father in heaven, thank You for your incredible provision and unlimited creativity. Thank You that You do the unthinkable when we least expect it. Why are we so surprised at Your amazing grace? Help us to listen for Your voice and to follow when You speak. Help us to be faithful in prayer as You are faithful in mercy and grace. We give You the glory for Your mighty answers to prayer, In Jesus Name, Amen

Other posts by Susan Larkin:

Susan Larkin’s Testimony

Susan Larkin’s Message about Giving to Those in Need who Ask

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 17, 2016

The King’s Prayer


Charles I of England painted by Dutch painter Van Dyck.  Charles I brought both Van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens to England

Charles I of England (1600 -1649) was crowned king of England in 1625 and shortly thereafter married Henrietta Maria, sister of the French king, Louis XIII.  Charles I was a devout Christian preferring the high church services of the Church of England to the plain services of the Puritan reformers who were growing in number and power.  With a Roman Catholic wife, the Puritans never trusted him and suspected him of Popish sympathies.  In his private devotions, he prayed for wisdom to rule righteously, and prayed for his subjects’ well-being.  He considered himself a King of the people. He died claiming to be a martyr of the people.  As he prayed,

“And if thy anger be not to be yet turned away, but thy hand of justice must be stretched out still; let it I beseech thee be against Me, and My father’s house; as for these sheep, what have they done?”

Unable to cope with the dissatisfaction either of a rising middle class or of those Puritans seeking more radical reforms in the church of England, Charles I pursued policies that conflicted with Parliament that led finally to civil war. Defeated by the Puritan dominated Parliamentarians, arrested, and beheaded, Charles was seen as a saintly martyr by royalists and a day in the Church of England Prayer Book calendar was dedicated to his memory when the monarchy was restored.  The prayer below attributed to Charles I and from his private devotions, reflects with great skill the vision of the godly king held by those who supported him.


Give ear to My words 0 Lord, consider My meditation, and hearken to the voice of My cry, My King and My God for unto thee will I pray. I said in My haste I am cast out of the sight of thine eyes; nevertheless thou hears the voice of My supplication, when I cry unto thee.

If thou Lord should be extreme to mark what is done amiss, who can abide it? But there is mercy with thee, that thou may be feared; therefore shall sinners fly unto thee.

I acknowledge My sin before thee, which have the aggravation of My condition; the eminence of My place adding weight to My offences.

Forgive, I beseech thee, My personal, and My peoples sins; which are so far Mine, as I have not improved the power thou gave Me, to thy glory, and My subjects good: thou hast now brought Me from the glory and freedom of a King, to be a prisoner to My own subjects: justly, 0 Lord, as to thy over-ruling hand, because in many things I have rebelled against thee.

Thou hast restrained My person, yet enlarged My heart to thee, and thy grace towards Me. I come far short of David’s piety; yet since I may equal David’s afflictions, give Me also the comforts and the sure mercies of David. Let the penitent sense I have of My sins, be an evidence to Me, that thou hast pardoned them. Let not the evils, which I and My kingdoms have suffered, seem little unto thee; though thou hast not punished us according to our sins. Turn thee (0 Lord) unto Me; have mercy Upon Me, for I am desolate and afflicted. The sorrows of My heart are enlarged; 0 bring thou Me out of My troubles.

Hast thou forgotten to be gracious, and shut up thy loving kindness in displeasure?

O remember thy compassions of old, and thy loving kindnesses, which have been for many generations. I had utterly fainted, if I had not believed to see thy goodness in the land of the living. Let not the sins of our prosperity deprive us of the benefit of thy afflictions. Let this fiery trial consume the dross, which in long peace and plenty we had contracted. Though thou continue miseries, yet withdraw not thy grace; what is wanting of prosperity, make up in patience and repentance.

And if thy anger be not to be yet turned away, but thy hand of justice must be stretched out still; let it I beseech thee be against Me, and My father’s house; as for these sheep, what have they done?

Let My sufferings satiate the malice of Mine, and thy Churches enemies;
But let their cruelty never exceed the measure of My charity.

Banish from Me all thoughts of revenge, that I may not lose the reward, nor thou the glory of My patience. As thou give Me a heart to forgive them, so I beseech thee doe thou forgive what they have done against thee and Me. And now, O Lord, as thou hast given Me an heart to pray unto thee; so hear and accept this vow, which I make before thee. If thou wilt in mercy remember Me, and My kingdoms; in continuing the light of thy Gospel, and settling thy true religion among us;

In restoring to us the benefit of the laws, and the due execution of justice;

In suppressing the many schisms in Church, and factions in State:

If thou wilt restore Me and Mine to the ancient rights and glory of My predecessors;

If thou wilt turn the hearts of My people to thy self in piety, to Me in loyalty, and to one another in charity;

If thou wilt quench the flames, and withdraw the fuel of these civil wars;

If thou wilt bless us with the freedoms of public counsels, and deliver the honor of Parliaments from the insolence of the vulgar;

If thou wilt keep Me from the great offence of enacting anything against My conscience; and especially from consenting to sacrilegious rapines, and spoilings of thy Church:

If thou wilt restore Me to a capacity to glorify thee in doing good, both to the Church and State;

Then shall My soul praise thee, and magnify thy name before My people.

Then shall thy glory be dearer to Me then My crowns; and the advancement of true religion both in purity and power be My chiefest care. Then will I rule My people with justice, and My kingdoms with equity. To thy more immediate hand shall I ever own as the rightful succession, so the merciful restoration of My kingdoms, and the glory of them. If thou wilt bring Me again with peace, safety, and honor to My chiefest city, and My Parliament. If thou wilt again put the sword of justice into My hand to punish and protect.

Then will I make all the world to see and My very enemies to enjoy the benefit of this vow and resolution of Christian charity, which I now make unto thee O Lord.

As I do freely pardon for Christ’s sake those that have offended Me in any kind; so My hand shall never be against any man to revenge what is past, in regard of any particular injury done to Me.

We have been mutually punished in our unnatural divisions; for thy sake O Lord, and for the love of My Redeemer, have I purposed this in My heart, that I will use all means in the ways of amnesty and indemnity, which may most fully remove all fears, and bury all jealousies in forgetfulness.

Let thy mercies be toward Me and Mine, as My resolutions of truth and peace are toward My people.

Hear My prayer O Lord, which goes not out of feigned lips.

Blessed be God, who hath not turned away My prayer; nor taken his mercy from Me.

O My soul, commit thy way to the Lord, trust in him, and he shall bring it to pass. But if thou wilt not restore Me and Mine, what am I that I should charge thee foolishly? Thou O Lord hast given, and thou hast taken, blessed be thy name. May My people and thy Church be happy, if not by Me, yet without Me.

from Give Us Grace, An Anthology of Anglican Prayerscompiled by Christopher L. Webber for Moorehouse Publishing,  Harrisburg, London and New York (2004)

More Anglican Prayer – The Ability to Love God is a Gift of God – The Collect of Thomas Cranmer for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity Sunday

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 6, 2016

The Son of Man


Painting “Son of Man” by Magritte (1964).

Why Did Jesus often refer to himself as the “Son of Man?”

From the Complete Jewish Bible, Mark 14:61-62:

But he remained silent and made no reply. Again the cohen hagadol questioned him: “Are you the Mashiach, Ben-HaM’vorakh?” “I AM,” answered Yeshua. “Moreover, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of HaG’vurah and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Here the Jewish/Hebrew words are translated as follows:

cohen hagadol” is the high priest
Mashiach” is Messiah in the Hebrew, Christ in the Greek
BenHaM’vorakh” is “Son of the Blessed
Yeshuah” is Jesus in the Hebrew.
HaG’vurah” is Hebrew word for “Power” as that word is translated from the Greek, likely used by the Scribes as a euphemism for the sacred name of God.

Here is the same passage from the more familiar gentile English translation, though less authentic:

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Mark 14:61-62 (ESV)

Thus, Jesus announces he is the fulfillment of scripture, using the term the “Son of Man” which the prophet Daniel used in his prophesy of Messiah:

“I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14 (ESV)

In the Gospels, Jesus refers to himself as Son of Man more than any other title.



For a discussion of the use of Christian symbols in modern art, as Magritte did in the painting above, and blasphemy, Click here for my 2008 post, The Twenty-Million Dollar Golden Calf.

Posted by: davidlarkin | July 8, 2016

Jesus said, “I Am the Good Shepherd.”

Pissaro - Shepherd-and-Sheep

Shepherd and Sheep painting by Camille Pissaro – 1888

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.John 10:11 (ESV)

Jesus describes his flock in the verses that follow:

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.

John 10:14-17 (ESV)

Here Jesus explains that his flock is composed of two folds, the fold of those to whom he was sent, the children of Israel.  The other fold is the Gentiles who are included in God’s plan of salvation in the work of those who follow Jesus.  In Matthew and Mark’s gospels, when a Canaanite woman comes to the disciples crying out for mercy from the Lord Jesus, Jesus states that He was sent expressly to redeem the lost sheep of Israel.  Here is Matthew’s account:

And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Matthew 15:22-28 (ESV)

While Jesus’s mission was to confront Israel and preach repentance to them, He was compassionate with the Gentiles as well.  For those who had faith in Him, He would have mercy.  For example, the Samaritan woman by the well and villagers in John 4:

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days.  And many more believed because of his word.

John 4:39-41 (ESV)

And the Roman Centurion in Matthew 8:

When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.”  But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

Matthew 8:5-13 (ESV)

When Jesus sent his disciples out to spread the message, He instructed them to go only to the Jews:

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans,

Matthew 10:5 (ESV)

It was the Apostle Paul who was ordained and sent by the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles: “Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles. . .”  Romans 11:13 (ESV)

Jews and Gentiles were called, but only those chosen by God are saved.

For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 22:14 (ESV)

And Jesus said the gate to salvation is a narrow one:

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

Jesus talks more of His sheep, the chosen by God, in Chapter 10 of John’s Gospel where He continues the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd in verses 27-30:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

John 10:27-30 (ESV)

In addition to the gift of eternal life Jesus gives to the chosen ones, in these verses He tells us we are eternally secure in our salvation.  No one is able to snatch them out of Jesus’s hand or the Father’s hand.  That would include the Devil, or anyone who would try to persuade the elect to fall away.  For as the Apostle Paul says:

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:4-6 (ESV)

With this great salvation awaiting those who God calls, it is urgent for those who have not passed through the narrow gate to heed the words of the Apostle John:

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

1 John 4:15 (ESV)

And follow the admonishment of Paul to be saved:

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Romans 10:8-10 (ESV)

Today is the day of Salvation.


Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
     He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord


Thomas Cranmer – Portrait by Gerlach Flicke – 1545

The Ability to Love God is a Gift of God. This is expressed in the Collect of Thomas Cranmer in the Book of Common Prayer for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity Sunday, which was last Sunday.

“God, which has prepared to them that love thee such good things as pass all man’s understanding. Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we loving thee in all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire.”

Inspired by 1 Corinthians 2:9

But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

and Isaiah 64:4,

From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.

thus, our love towards God is a gift from God. Poet Robert Browning expresses this in these lines placed on the lips of Jesus, the Lord and Savior:

“O heart I made, a heart beats here!
Face, my hands fashioned, see it in myself!
Thou hast no power nor mayst conceive of mine,
But love I gave thee, with myself to love,
And Thou must love me who have died for thee!”

Robert Browning An Epistle Containing the Strange Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician” (1855)

The Anglican Book of Common Prayer, first composed by Thomas Cranmer in 1548, is a masterful orderly prayer book, used both in liturgy and in devotions, both public and private. In the Book of Common Prayer, Cranmer wrote “Collects” for each of the weeks of the liturgical year. He found them in writings of the church fathers and composed some himself.

What is a collect? The origin of the term “collecta”, while rather obscure, refers to the “gathering of the people together” as well as to the “collecting up” of the petitions of individual members of the congregation into one prayer. This at first extemporaneous prayer would later also be connected to the Epistle and Gospel appointed for the day in the liturgical calendar of the Western Christian Churches, both Roman Catholic and Protestant liturgies. In this form during liturgical services, a Collect is a short prayer that asks “for one thing only.” (The Collects of Thomas Cranmer,” Barbee and Zahl (1999)

Thomas Cranmer (2 July 1489 – 21 March 1556) was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. He helped build the case for the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which was one of the causes of the separation of the English Church from union with the Roman Catholic Church and the Papacy. Along with Thomas Cromwell, he supported the principle of Royal Supremacy, in which the king was considered sovereign over the Church within his realm. During Cranmer’s tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, he was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England. In 1548-49, Cranmer wrote and compiled the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the English Church, still in use though modernized, in the Anglican and American Episcopal churches. When Roman Catholic Mary I took the English throne, Cranmer was arrested and executed on March 21, 1556, as a Protestant heretic, although to Protestants, he and the other 283 Protestants Mary executed, were martyrs.

Mary died two years later, and Elizabeth I, a Protestant, succeeded as Queen. Anne Boleyn gave birth to Elizabeth in September 1533. Cranmer had been Archbishop of Canterbury for six months. He immediately baptized Elizabeth and acted as one of her godparents. Sadly, but for Bloody Mary, he would have been an asset for Elizabeth in her reinstatement of the Anglican Church her father Henry VIII founded to allow for his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Cranmer was a Protestant Reformer and followed the lead of Luther and the Reformers on the Continent in shaping the Protestant Anglican Communion.

Source for Thomas Cranmer and Bloody Mary 1 – Wikipedia

Posted by: davidlarkin | June 30, 2016

Nahum and the Roman Road


The prophet Nahum of Elkosh wrote the book of the Bible named after him, “Nahum.” Elkosh means “comfort.” He wrote sometime after 660 B.C. and before 630 B.C., prophesying the destruction of Nineveh, made the capital of Assyria by its king, Sennacherib, around 700 B.C. Nineveh fell to a coalition of Medes and Babylonians in 612 B.C. In Nahum 1, verse 15, after 14 verses of doom to Nineveh, Nahum gives a good word of hope to Judah:

Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him
who brings good news,
who publishes peace!
Keep your feasts, O Judah;
fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the worthless pass through you;
he is utterly cut off.

The Apostle Paul borrows from Nahum to conclude the “Roman Road” to salvation in Romans 10 (ESV) :

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Roman Road to Salvation.

The Roman Road to salvation is summed up as:

The preacher is sent to preach the good news. People hear the Good News.  The elect believe the Good News and call upon the name of the Lord and are saved.

Regarding the “elect”, election and predestination, the Scripture provides these words, among others:

And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Matthew 24:31 (ESV)

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

2 Peter 1:10 (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV)


Posted by: davidlarkin | January 7, 2016

Morning Praises – God Inhabits the Praises of His People

Sunrise-large“Sunrise” by George Inness (American,  1825–1894)  Date: 1887

The King James Bible translates Psalm 22:3 as

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

Psalm 22:3 King James Version (KJV)

From this translation, Christians commonly say that God inhabits the praises of his people.  Modern translations generally translate this verse differently, as God enthroned on the praises of His people.  For example,

Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.

Psalm 22:3 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.

Psalm 22:3 New International Version (NIV)

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.

Psalm 22:3 English Standard Version (ESV)

Regardless of the translation, the message of the King James Version is a faithful representation of the relationship between God and His people when they praise Him.  Of course, God does not need praise.  He has no self-esteem issues.  However, when Christians praise God, we recognize His amazing work of Creation, His constant work in the world and our redemption and salvation in the sacrificial and atoning work of Jesus Christ.  When we praise God, He is present in our consciousness, as He is always present in our lives and in the world around us when we are not conscious of His presence.  Thus, when we praise God, He becomes present in each of our conscious lives in our acts of praise.

Praising God often comes spontaneously when some good thing happens, or we are saved from sudden peril, “Praise the Lord” or “Praise God” we might exclaim when we hear good news or just miss getting hit by a another car in traffic who cuts us off, or more likely, when we just miss hitting another car when we we are inattentive in switching lanes.

I have included a prayer of praise in my morning prayers.  I adapted this prayer of praise from the “Day 7 Morning” prayer in John Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer, 1949 version.   There is a fine updated 2014 version of Baillie’s A Diary of Private Prayer which I now used each day.  It was edited by Susanna Wright who was chosen by John Baillie’s son, Ian, to edit the update.

Here is the morning praise I use in my morning devotions.  In addition to praise, it has reminders to consider those who are suffering in the world, e.g., the blind, the sick, the grieving, and I have added to Baillie’s list those who are mentally ill.

Morning Praise

O Lord and Maker of all things, from whose creative power the first light came forth, who looked upon the world’s first morning and saw that it was good, I praise You for this light that now streams through my windows to rouse me to the life of another day.

I praise You for the life that stirs within me;
I praise you for the bright and beautiful world into which I go;
I praise you for earth, sea and sky – billowing clouds and singing birds;
I praise you for the work You have given me to do, and for your provision;
I praise you for all You have given me to fill my time of prayer and Bible study and my leisure hours;
I praise you for ______ and ______ and my family, our pets and my friends;
I praise you for music and books and good company.

O Lord who is everlasting Mercy, give me a tender heart today toward all those to whom this morning light brings less joy than it brings to me:

Those in whom the pulse of life grows weak;
Those who must lie in bed through all the sunny hours;
The blind who are shut off from the light of day;
Those who suffer from distorted reality and evil due to unsound mind and mental illness;
The overworked who have no joy of leisure;
The unemployed who have no joy of labor;
The bereaved whose hearts and homes are desolate,
And grant Your mercy on them all.

O Light that never fades, as the light of day streams through these windows and floods this room, so let me open to you the windows of my heart that all my life may be filled by the radiance of Your presence. Let no corner of my being be unlit by the light of Your countenance. Let there be nothing within me to darken the brightness of the day. Let the Spirit of Him whose life was the light of men rule within my heart all this day. Amen.

Posted by: davidlarkin | August 29, 2015

Supernatural Answers to Prayers in My Life


The Raising of Lazarus – Rembrandt c. 1620

Jesus prayed often during his ministry years recorded in the New Testament.  He was an example for us

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

Hebrews 5:7 (ESV)

Sometimes Christians are discouraged when our prayers are not answered.  But when we pray that God’s will be done, that does not mean that our desires are his will, and we should not expect our prayers to be answered as we desire.  Only God can change hearts and we cannot know what he is doing in the lives of others most of the time.

In 1971, I was an agnostic or atheist. I was studying philosophy at Yale.  Surprisingly to me, I was saved reading the Bible.   I was intrigued by Soren Kierkegaard’s discussion of “faith” and the “knight of faith” in his book Fear and Trembling, and his philosophical characterization of God’s instruction to Abraham to kill his only son, Isaac, as the “teleological suspension of the ethical.”  I decided I should look at “faith” as expressed in world religions.  I read through Buddhist writings, the Hindu Vedas, Taoism – Lao Tse’s Tao Te Ching, Confucius, all of the Alan Watts books popularizing Eastern religious thought, the drug induced fantasies of Carlos Castenada, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (before he was Baba Ram Dass), and the Koran. I read them all. I threw the I Ching.  Nothing seemed to strike me as believable.  Having run out of major religions to look at, I decided I should read the Bible to be fair.  I had an old Bible society hotel King James Bible in my cottage where I was living, no idea where it came from.  Starting with Genesis, I read straight through the Old Testament which was not easy. The New Testament Gospels were much easier to read, and suddenly in the midst of the third Gospel, the Gospel of Luke, I believed what I was reading was true.  I was standing in the middle of the living room of my cottage and God was alive and in the room with me. There was no leap of faith. There was no bells or angels singing, only a moment where before I didn’t believe it and now I did. God was a living God and He was able to hear my innermost thoughts. I spoke to him. No decision, I just believed, a work of the Holy Spirit as I now know. Jesus found me. I believed He died for my sins and was raised from the dead, and was alive, just as the Bible said. God was a living God. I became a Christian. I still have that old hotel King James Bible.

In 2005, I wrote my Spiritual Memoir.  I wanted to make a record of how God worked in my life over the 34 years that I had had a relationship with Jesus Messiah, my Lord and Savior, my salvation experience and the theological and philosophical issues I thought about during those years.  In particular, I wanted to record how God had shown himself to me supernaturally as a living God who answers prayers.  Some of my answered prayers seemed like insignificant requests, but God honored my sincerity at the time to show me He was interested in me and my life and the lives around me and it is not for me to judge what is important to God.  We cannot possibly fathom how “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8 (NKJV). It is not easy in our fallen flesh to pray with sincerity, and often, I expect, our prayers are not sincere, but self-centered or rote repetitions, but we must persevere in prayer for those around us who need the Lord.  Here is the segment from my Spiritual Memoir recording some of the answers to prayer, and supernatural ways that God can show himself.  He is always at work, but we cannot see him unless He graciously brings it to our attention.  I always try to be attentive to Him and His work, but unfortunately, my sinful nature is not cooperative much of the time, and only by His grace do I see.  Here, beginning with Section II of my Spiritual Memoir, I distinguish between “small world” events in our lives which do not seem to have any personal spiritual significance, which is followed by an account of how God answered prayer in his supernatural way, revealing Himself to me, beginning in Section VII of my Spiritual Memoir.



In addition to abstract curiosity, the psychedelic world of the sixties did open us up to the possibility of a supernatural reality. No one that I knew was unable to distinguish between hallucination or delusion and reality. However, we were interested in coincidence. The simplest occurrence might seem improbable under the influence of hallucinogenic substances. “Faaaar out!” we shouted. But there were some events that seemed too improbable.

In the summer of 1969, Woodstock summer, I shared an apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts with some Yale classmates. One weekend, my roommate Jon’s cousin visited us from Toronto. We were also joined that weekend by another Yale friend Rusty, who drove up from Pennsylvania for the weekend. Jon, Jon’s cousin, Rusty and a couple others spent the afternoon on a boat in the Bay. I stayed at the apartment to learn how to play the Travis pick on the guitar for 13 hours straight. Anyway, Rusty reported a year or so later after a trip to Asia that he had been riding on a train in Nepal, and who did he find sitting across from him in the train compartment, but Jon’s cousin from Toronto that he had met on the boat in Boston Bay that previous Summer weekend afternoon. Small world.

In 1974, I was had been living in Honolulu for a few weeks. I had been staying at the YMCA and had a job working as a fry cook in Waikiki. I wanted to find another place to stay, for although the fellows were nice enough to me, I was straight and except for about seven of us, the rest of the residents were gay. I didn’t fit. I was across the street from the Y in a music store at the Ala Moana shopping center one day, playing “Stairway to Heaven” on a Takamine 12-string guitar. A woman walked up and gave me a kiss. It was someone I knew briefly three or four years ago in Connecticut. She told me that she was living in Honolulu with her Yale boyfriend, “in a big house up on Liliha Street owned by Senator Hiram Fong’s son.” There were nearly a dozen people living there, she said, several artists and there was a room available this week. They could use a musician in the house as well. That house and what happened there is another story, but had we not met by chance in the music store, I doubt that I would have found her and a better place to live. I had no idea that they were living there. Small world.

Around 1981 or so, I was living in Phoenix, Arizona. I had completed law school in Kansas and had spent two years acquiring experience as an accountant, including a year with the now-deceased Arthur Andersen & Co., in order to add Certified Public Accountant to my resume. Now an attorney in my own fledgling private practice, I kept getting mail for another David Larkin. Out of curiosity I called him to introduce myself. He was getting my mail as well. We decided to meet at the Arizona Club in Phoenix for lunch. He was a marketing man from Manhattan, a couple of years older than me, who had relocated to Phoenix for the weather. He was working for a market research company, but was planning to start his own marketing company. A year or so later after Marketing David Larkin had gone out on his own, we formed a computer hardware company with a client of mine. One night I was describing our new venture to my doctor Dave in the parking lot of an Italian restaurant in Phoenix. I was telling Dr. Dave about my partner who had the same name as me, David Larkin. Just as I was telling him about the other David Larkin, a guy walked up to us in the parking lot and said, “Yes?” I said “Yes, what?” He said, “I’m David Larkin.” He was another David Larkin. I said, “I’m David Larkin, and I was just telling my friend here about my partner who is also David Larkin.” We all laughed. This new third David Larkin was a professional masseuse. Small world.

Coincidence by itself does not prove anything. Depending upon the magnitude of the improbability, coincidental events raise an inference that something may have influenced the course of events to lead to the improbable result, the invisible hand of God, perhaps. The Twilight Zone event in real life opens the door to thoughts about a supernatural or spiritual realm. It is difficult to find a rational point of demarcation between the historical event that is strangely improbably, like the coincidental second meeting on a train in Nepal, and the event that is so much stranger than fiction that thoughts of spirits or God or alien presences occur naturally.

Crop circles seem to cross that line. Crop circles are the type of event where an unknown agency is evident in the natural brute facts of the event itself. The crops must have been matted to the ground by some type of agency. Natural physical phenomenon cannot account for the multiple and elaborate designs around the world, nor can pranksters of a nature we can fathom.

Often the timing of an event alone gives the sensation or thought of a higher power working in our lives. In 1970, I was told by my roommate in Cambridge that I had to pay the rent the next day or he would ask me to leave, a polite eviction. The rent was $40. I had no idea where to get the money. The next day I went to get the mail and there was a last paycheck in the mail from a prior employer that I had not expected in the amount of $40.35 – rent and a pack of cigarettes.

Years later when my wife and I were struggling to establish my law practice, we were very short on cash one day. We needed money for necessities: gas, diapers, and groceries. My wife spotted some papers in some blankets in the baby’s playpen – just what we needed – about eighty dollars worth of checks from clients that the baby had taken from my wallet on the desk next to the playpen months earlier that we had not noticed missing and forgot about. We needed it when we found it. Sure our accounting procedures were sloppy and the baby accidentally saved it for us, but the timing was highly providential at the time. We were happily thankful to God for using our son to provide for us.

. . . . .


After conversion, it was difficult to make decisions at first, to discern the will of God for my life. Shortly after conversion, I was inclined to travel from Connecticut to Blacksburg, Virginia with the intent just to study the Bible. I had been there the summer before with my Yale friend Larry. I had fond memories of Blacksburg and the beautiful countryside and that it would be a good place to study. I read in the Bible that after Judas Iscariot committed suicide, the eleven remaining disciples cast lots to determine which of two candidates would replace him. According to the Old Testament history, the Jews used the “urim and thummin,” some kind of oracular device of which no physical description has been found, to divine the will of God.

I had used the I Ching [a Chinese oracle which uses sticks which you throw and a book of oracular “hexagrams” with foretelling passages]. I suspected that it was not a Godly means by nature, but I decided that with prayer, God can use anything. I would let God speak to me through the I Ching about this seemingly important matter of travel. So, I said a blessing over my Wilhelm translation and my sticks and asked God to use the I Ching to communicate to me His will regarding a proposed trip to Virginia. It seemed Biblical at the time. I threw the sticks and read the hexagram. God answered my prayer. I threw number 46, the Shêng hexagram, “Pushing Upward.” The “Judgment” of the hexagram was decisive:

has supreme success.
One must see the great man.
Fear not.
Departure toward the south
Brings good fortune.

I thanked God for the help. I departed toward the south, to Blacksburg, the next day in my red VW Bug. Though it seems superstitious, it was convincing as it happened. I do not consult oracles today. It is not necessary for a Christian who trusts God to find the will of God in his life. It is supposed to be a natural result of “walking in the Spirit” Jesus said:

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”


Most Christians can give examples of answers to prayer as evidence of God at work in their lives. I have had my share of prayers answered, including eight years of praying for a wife. In 1989, when I was deciding whether to ask the woman who became my wife on our first date, I was walking up Ocean Avenue in Carmel, California, trying to work up the courage to ask. As I approached the entrance to the Dowd Arcade where Susan worked, she walked out of the entrance about ten yards in front of me as if on cue and headed up the street. My decision was made easier for me with the appearance of a divine appointment. A few quick steps and I was walking with her. I found the courage to ask her to a weekday Bible Study at a nearby Calvary Chapel – some first date for a forty-year old man to propose to a woman who was not a believer. Fortunately, the novelty of the request was sufficient to overcome any prejudice she had towards Christians and she accepted my invitation. She was struck deeply by the Pastor’s message that evening, a pleasant surprise to me. She became a believer herself shortly thereafter and we have been going to Church together ever since.

When I was living in Los Angeles in the early 1980’s, I was without a car and rode the bus for about 11 months. I was spending much of my time studying the Bible again because I had reached a low point in my life, “backslidden” as Christians refer to the situation. I needed to get right with God. I had forsaken alcohol addiction and was attending AA meetings as I reassembled my life. I was interested in talking with people about God and the Bible at the time. The bus provided many opportunities to share my faith, as I often carried a Bible on the bus. As it says in Ecclesiastes, “To everything, there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven.” This was a season for me for learning about fellowship with other Christians, which I had avoided for years, about sanctification, about holiness, about prayer and significantly, about the presence and power of God.

While living in Los Angeles, I was studying acting at the Loft Studio. Peggy Feury was a famous acting teacher. I found her by asking people I knew in the film industry who the best acting teacher was. I auditioned and was fortunate to be given the opportunity to study with her. She taught method and at the time, the successful actors and actresses sought her help, along with novices like me. While I was at the studio, Johnny Depp, Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern and Meg Ryan were among those taking classes and practicing scenes each day. I was told that Sean Penn had studied with her for six years. When Lily Tomlin was preparing for her one woman Broadway play, “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” she came to our class in her sweat clothes and practiced scenes for us. We would then leave and she worked privately with Peggy. One Friday afternoon Peggy came up to me, a glass of wine in her hand, smiled and said, “David, I’m so proud of you. I think you’re ready for any role.” I was very surprised and flattered. I thought she hated my acting. Once, she had me get my haircut twice in the same day. She told me that the male film stars all had short hair, and she gave me a short list of them. I thought she was running out of ideas for me. I was excited to hear that she was giving me her blessing. However, two weeks later she was killed in a fiery car wreck on Sepulveda Boulevard. She had narcolepsy and failed to take her medication. My acting career came to a halt. For a number of reasons, I decided that God did not intend for me to be in that business then, but that I should have a family and away from the temptations of show business. I moved to Carmel, became a trial lawyer, got married and started a family.

While studying acting, I shared a house in Hollywood with an actress. She was a daily witness to my spiritual rebirth in sobriety. She was also receptive to the things I would say to her about my study of the Bible and talk about God. Her father was a lawyer in Dallas. Her father’s best friend, also a lawyer, had been cured of cancer at a Kathryn Kuhlman healing service and my roommate’s whole family, including her, had answered an altar call to be saved. She had fallen away from observance of the faith, but was receptive nonetheless. She began to look at the Bible again. I remember telling her about Jesus’s parable of the sower sowing the seed. The sower’s seed is the Word of God. When a person hears the Word, the devil is actively trying to prevent the seed from taking hold in the persons heart. In some cases, the seed may be sown among thorns. The hearer of the Word is caught up in the world and “the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” My simple take on this was that when we became interested in Jesus, the enemy would provide diversions in the world to distract us and hopefully lead us away. I warned her about this possibility.

Sure enough, she got two auditions out of the blue. She was invited to try out for a rock group and she did not play an instrument or sing. They would teach her. And she was invited on a free trip to Europe with a guy she hardly knew. Worse, she told me that he thought that his house was haunted. This all happened in the space of two weeks. It was stunning. She did become less interested in spiritual matters with all this worldly opportunity coming her way. She took the trip to Europe, to Germany, swearing that they were just friends. She did not want me to think she was paying for the trip with her favors.

While she was away, I woke up on a Sunday morning to hear the news that there was a bombing of a disco in West Berlin. This was 1986. I was worried about her. Later that morning I was on my way to my church, “The Hiding Place,” a nondenominational charismatic Christian church started by a young man who felt called by God to start a church in Beverly Hills. I had read in the paper that the music minister was Todd Fisher, brother of actress Carrie Fisher, and son of actress Debbie Reynolds and crooner and former spouse of Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Fisher. The church attracted Hollywood types. Stevie Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac, married a member of that church in the early 80’s. By 1986, The Hiding Place had moved its services from the Beverly Theater in Beverly Hills to a junior high school behind the Mormon Temple on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles. The services were crowded; it seemed like over 1,000 attended each Sunday.

I stopped at a payphone on Santa Monica, a block from the junior high, and called my friend, Terry, to arrange brunch. After hanging up the phone, I checked my watch to see if I was on time for church, and headed up the street. I thought of my roommate, and prayed for her protection. I asked God to let me know that she was alright. I thought the immediate peace I felt was the answer to that prayer.

Two days later I received a message to call my roommate at a phone number in Germany. I called her. She said she was worried that something happened. I said, “About what?” She said, “I don’t know exactly, but I can tell you the time. It was around ten minutes to ten in the morning, Sunday, your time, something happened.” I immediately remembered praying for her and having checked my watch. She was prompted that something was up at the exact time I was praying for her on the other side of the world. I told her everything was alright, and that I had been worried about her because of the bombing. Basically, that was a message from God that He was concerned for both of us, and that He worked in mysterious ways.

During this time, I read in the papers about a cult of Buddhism that was making a mark in Hollywood – Nicheren Shoshu Buddhism. Hollywood people were chanting in order to receive material reward: money, a new car, whatever they desired. It was like the prosperity “name it and claim it” gospel that televangelists touted – “Gaaawd-ah whants yew to be rich!” I was concerned that friends of mine might be tempted by the Buddhist chanting. I said a little off-the-cuff prayer that God would teach me something about this cult so that I would be equipped to talk about it if the subject came up in conversations with others, and be able to witness the truth of the Gospel. The prayer was perfunctory but sincere. I forgot about it.

A week or so later I was waiting at a bus stop in Downtown L.A. The stop was crowded with about 25 people waiting. I was standing behind the crowd. As I stood there, I noticed a red compact car come up to the curb to my right and park about ten yards past the stop. An small Asian woman in business clothes got out of the car, walked through the crowd and right up to me. She looked up into my eyes, said, “I have something for you.” She reached into the pocket of her jacket and handed me a brochure for Nicheren Soshu Buddhism. I thanked her and she turned and walked back to her car and drove away. I got goose bumps and chills. I still do. I closed my eyes and thanked God for answering my prayer in such a spectacular way. Why would God use such a supernatural means to provide me with a brochure, other than to give my faith strength? When something like that happens, it diminishes any natural tendency for me to doubt that God is real and alive.

This marvelous event was surpassed, though, by another event that happened around the same time. I took the Wilshire bus to downtown Los Angeles one morning. The seats were all taken so I stood at the back of the bus holding onto the bar. I noticed a woman in her early 30’s wearing an unusual blouse that she had embroidered with the words, “And God created the duckies and the piggies and chickies and the horsies. Read the Oldist Testament.” She had glazed eyes and was saying out loud the things written on her blouse. People on the bus were purposely avoiding looking at her because she was obviously mental. The African-American man standing across the aisle from me looked at me and rolled his eyes knowingly – another crazy woman. I said a prayer for her. That was a good habit that I had developed of using prayer to deal with situations where someone, including me, needed help. She needed help.

Later that day, I was back in Hollywood walking down La Brea after acting class to catch a west bound Wilshire bus. As I approached Wilshire, I watched four buses go by heading west. I did not usually miss four buses like that, and my immediate reaction was that God was punishing me for something, a silly reaction, but I really did not like to wait for a bus. I quickly examined my conscience which was clean to the best of my knowledge. I wondered if God wanted me to meet someone at the bus stop and the missed buses were to call me to attention. I approached the bus stop curious, but no one was at the stop.

I walked under the eaves of the bus stop shelter, and looking up, I noticed handbills were plastered to the ceiling of the little shelter. I was surprised to see multiple copies of one hand-written handbill that said, “And God created the duckies and the piggies and chickies and the horsies. Read the Oldist Testament.” It identified the author as “Becky” and gave an address for correspondence. Obviously, the author of these handbills had to be the same young woman I saw on the downtown bus that same morning. Putting aside my surprise, I wrote down the address.

Later, at home, I wrote Becky a letter urging her to read Ezekiel in the “Oldist Testament.” I quoted Ezekiel 36:26:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

I told her that Christians believe that Ezekiel is prophesying the new birth. In John’s gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” I included a “Four Spiritual Laws” tract which gave instructions for salvation. I sealed the letter and prayed that God would show me what He was doing with Becky. The spirituality of her mental disorder was curious.

A month or so later, I was at The Hiding Place in West Los Angeles for Sunday service. I was sitting near the back row in the crowded auditorium waiting for the service to start as people were seating themselves around me. A young woman sat directly in front of me just as the service was about to begin. I was amazed to see writing on the back of her blouse, of course, “And God created the duckies and the piggies and chickies and the horsies.” It was Becky. I tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Becky?”

She turned around with her deranged smile, “Yes.”

I said, “I wrote you a letter. I told you to read Ezekiel. I gave you one of these. Did you get my letter.” I pointed to a Four Spiritual Laws tract that I took from my pocket.

She replied, “Oh yes. Thank you. Did you get my letter?”

I had not given her my address. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your letter yet. Why are you here today?” I asked.

She looked at me with her eyes wide and said, “I was roller skating at Venice Beach this morning and a guy got out of a red Porsche and came up to me and told me to go to this church this morning.”

“Un huh.” I whispered and pointed towards the front where the Pastor was about to begin. I wondered who the man in the red Porsche was, marveling at chain of events that led her to sit down right in front of me. Los Angeles is a big town!

Becky stayed until the Pastor started talking about Jesus, when she abruptly stood and walked out, looking around like she was lost as she left. She was obviously a work-in-progress. But what a blessing to have God provide me with that experience. Can I doubt that God is alive and working in the world?

Before I left Los Angeles and moved to Carmel, California, I was in Carmel for a few days looking for a job. I was staying at a motel there. The first evening I was in town, I was walking from my motel room to get some ice. I heard someone yelling at me from up above. I looked up and there were three young women on the third floor balcony of the apartment building next to the motel. They were having a little party, drinks in hand.

“Hey, Hi. What are you doing?” one of the women yelled.

“Going to get some ice,” I responded.

“No, what are you doing here in Carmel?”

“I’m looking for work. I want to move here.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a lawyer.”

“Oh, you should meet my boss. She knows all the lawyers in town. She has an agency that places legal secretaries.”

“Great!” I yelled, “do you have a business card?”

She went inside for a moment and returned with a card which she threw down to me. The card traveled in the breeze from the third floor balcony, flipping over and over until it landed on the parking lot asphalt and I ran to get it.

I thanked her and excused myself with a polite and sincere “Thanks,” and a pass on having a drink with them because I needed to get a good night’s sleep.

The next day I called her boss, Pat, first thing in the morning. She asked me if I had a resume and if I could come to her office around eleven. I said, of course, and was sitting at her desk across from her at eleven on the dot. Pat looked at my resume and picked up the phone. She dialed, and asked for Larry.

“Larry, I have a guy here from LA who says he’s a lawyer looking for work here.” She looked at me. “Yeah, he looks ok.” Pause. “Can you see Larry at one o’clock.”

“Sure,” I said, without asking who Larry was.

“He’ll be there at one. Good, Larry, bye now.” She hung up the phone.

“His name is Larry. He’s an attorney. Here’s his address. He says he might need help.”

“Is there anything you need me to sign?” I asked.

“No. This is just PR for me. Let me know if it doesn’t work out and I’ll see if I can help you find something else.”

At one o’clock I walked upstairs to an office in an interesting looking wooden building with an outside stairway and outdoor balcony upstairs. The receptionist led me into a lawyer’s office and there behind huge stacks of files on his desk was Larry. He put each hand on a stack of files. “I’m swamped!”, he laughed.

To compound the serendipity of my job search in Carmel, California, Larry was also a graduate of my law school at the University of Kansas. After discussions and several weeks of negotiation, I went to work for Larry. I drove a rented truck from Los Angeles up Highway One with my mother visiting from Arizona accompanying me for the trip. God knows what we need before we ask.


For nearly twelve years after becoming a Christian in 1971, I struggled with alcoholism. I seemed to have missed the parts of the Bible about holiness. Some who knew me must have questioned the sincerity of my faith when I was shamefully intoxicated, I am sure. Jim, one of my roommates in Hawaii, was a sculptor. He was working with surfboard resins at the time. One of his works looked to me like Dumbo had flown over and dropped his technicolor droppings in our front yard. One evening Jim and his girlfriend Nana asked me sincerely how I could claim to be a Christian and drink so much beer. I told them that I was not a Christian because of my actions, but by the grace of God, that I prayed every night that God would deliver me from alcohol, and that I was not proud of my excess. Most important, I said, was that I was a sinner and that Jesus died for sinners like me. If I had not been sorry for my gluttony, my faith would be questionable, because as a Christian, I knew that my conduct was sinful. Just because one is given a new life in Christ does not mean that the old sinful nature is not still present, doing battle with the new. Paul described this struggle with continuing sin after conversion in his letter to the Romans:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

With a new spirit, Christians have to overcome that sinful nature with the help of God; the lifelong process of sanctification. Christians are supposed to be salt and light in the world, and though I was salt in the world, I was not providing enough light with my unholy public conduct. I was sorry for my conduct, but not sorry enough at that point to quit.

It wasn’t until I was sitting in the backseat of a police car in El Segundo, California in 1983 on my way home from playing guitar and singing in a South LA beach town bar, and drinking shots until the bar closed.  I was under arrest for drunk driving that I was able to decide that enough was enough. I had reached my “bottom,” a low point in life where I had a “moment of clarity,” as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous. I realized I was powerless over alcohol and drugs. God honored my decision and took away my desire to drink shortly thereafter. More importantly, God left it to the Court to order me to six AA meetings. God knows I would not have listened to anyone recommending AA. I went to my six meetings, and like them so well I went to meetings 6 days a week until I left LA in late 1987.  I have been clean and sober for 36 years now (May 2019) and with God as my AA Sponsor-in Chief, I have not been tempted to drink or get high since. The principles of the AA twelve steps are embedding my my psyche. I always looked at AA and its principles through the lens of Christ, and I thank God for the life of sobriety He gave me, the most supernatural experience of my life. I should have been dead from alcohol and drugs, but by the grace of God he kept me alive until I was 35 and was ordered by the Court to AA. I also started going to church and reading and studying the Bible regularly with daily prayer at the same time I started going to AA. I have been attending church almost every Sunday since, not because I feel an obligation, but because I like being in church and hearing the Word of God and worshiping Him. It was a momentous moment in my life in the back of that police car in El Segundo.

A few years later I got a letter from Nana telling me what happened to my friends in Hawaii to whom I had ashamedly explained how as a Christian, I drank so much beer. Jim and Nana moved to Brooklyn so that Jim could try to work into the New York art scene. They were walking down the street in Brooklyn one evening when they passed an African-American Baptist church with a spirited gospel-music service in progress. They went in out of curiosity. The minister got to them with a message of salvation. They both responded to an altar call and were saved that night. They got married shortly thereafter and moved to San Antonio. Jim got a job in advertising, and they co-founded a Christian church there. Despite my errant ways, God was able to use me to plant a seed in their hearts.

God protects my family supernaturally. For example, when my son was two and a half years old, I usually left for our law office early. My wife would take our son to his baby
sitter and join me at the office a couple of hours later. (She has been the office manager/paralegal for our ma and pa law office since we married in 1989). One morning our son insisted that I take him to the baby sitter. My wife tried to talk him out of it, but because his preference was unusual and seemed so determined for a two year old, she acquiesced and I took him to the sitter’s house. After we left, my wife decided she now had some time to pray and got on her knees next to our bed. However, instead of praying, she kept getting a repeating impression in her consciousness, “Call the mechanic, Call the mechanic.” She had an old BMW. She had noticed some play in the steering wheel. She decided she should stop trying to pray and call the mechanic. She called our mechanic, a BMW specialist who was also a Christian, and told him she had noticed some play in her steering wheel. He told her not to drive the car and have it towed into the shop. She did. They examined the car and found that the steering box, which had three bolts had one bolt sheered off. The second bolt was loose and the box was hanging on with only one bolt, ready to break off. The route to work was seven lanes – four southbound and 3 northbound down a steep hill.  The speed limit was 45 mph.  In those days, the baby’s car seat was in front.  If my wife had lost steering at high speed going downhill, the damage could have been devastating to my family and possibly to others.  God used our little boy to avoid likely danger. This providential event is composed of seemingly natural events, but the timing of the components reveals to us God at work. Our pastor asked us to tell the story to the church that Sunday evening.

It is not normal to hear voices in the head. Of course, mental disease is a valid explanation for most accounts. However, I am sure there are exceptions, hearing voices in the mind that are not the result of a mental disorder.

On Sunday, August 11, 2002, I awoke late, around 9:00 a.m., fully rested after a good eight hour sleep. I was lying on my back in bed. I clearly heard the voice of my mother calling, “Dave . . . Dave.” It was alarming. My mother, in her seventies, lived in a nursing home about ten miles from my home. She had Alzheimer’s. Because of the sad mixture of feelings I experienced seeing her like that, I had avoided seeing her for a few months since a family get together for her May birthday. Although her sight was nearly gone, along with her memory, she always recognized my voice.

That morning, when I heard her voice, I responded to her with my own voice in my head, guiltily, saying “I’m coming to see you today, Mom.” Shortly after getting out of bed, I called my sister to see if my mother had some recent health setback. She told me that she had gone to see her last week and that she was as fine as she could be in her condition.

I went to see my mother that morning with my wife and son. She was cheerful. She seemed happy to see us. We had a conversation that was mostly spoken pleasantries that she heard, acknowledged, but clearly did not understand. Her last words when we were leaving were, “There’s that blue kitty again.” She had frequent benign hallucinations. Unexpectedly, she died of a heart attack four days later. Obviously, I’m very glad I heard her voice in my head that Sunday morning. I consider it the grace of God, mercifully sparing me the guilt of the neglect I would have endlessly felt had I not seen her shortly before she passed away. I have not heard any voices since then.

Around 1988, I told some of these stories to a Roman Catholic nun who was waiting outside the law office where I worked in Monterey, California at the time. I asked her what she thought. She smiled. “The language of Heaven,” she summed up. Catholic or Protestant, evangelical or mainline, regardless of the denomination or non-denomination, Christian true believers know the language of Heaven. Their God is a living God who is at work in their lives. I am grateful that God cares enough to provide me with supernatural confirmation of His presence in the natural world.


If you are interested in reading about my early life in Omaha, Nebraska, my time at Yale as an athiest/agnostic, and then my 1971 conversion experience, both subjective and objective, in detail,

you may click on this hyperlink and read the first half of MY SPIRITUAL MEMOIR HERE.

– – – – – – –
May 24, 2005
David C. Larkin


Prayer with Bible


Posted by: davidlarkin | May 23, 2015

Holy Spirit Prayer

We pray to the Father, to Jesus, for many things, but I believe we often neglect to pray for a most important thing, for the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the triune God, the mysterious trinity.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 14:26 (ESV)

R.C. Sproul provides a theological and Biblical explanation of the Trinity in this Crucial Questions pamphlet here:

What Is the Trinity – Sproul

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together.  In this event in the supernatural inauguration beginning of Jesus ministry, the three are present together:

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;  and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV)

Here is a prayer for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives from William Barclay’s 1964 collection of prayers, Prayers for the Christian Year, the Sunday after Ascension-Day:

Holy Spirit Prayer

O God, our Father, we remember that Jesus promised that he would send the Holy Spirit from you.
Keep that promise to us today.

He called his Spirit the Spirit of truth.

Open our eyes that we may see the truth;
Strengthen our hearts that we may face the truth;
Enlighten our minds that we may understand the truth;
Make resolute our wills that we may obey the truth, through the Spirit which he has promised to us.

He said that the Spirit would bring to our remembrance all that he had said to men.

O God, when we are in danger of forgetting the things which we should always remember, grant that your Spirit may bring again to our memory the promises, the commands and the presence of our risen and blessed Lord.

He said that the Spirit would take what is his and declare it to us.

O God, when we do not know what to do, when we find the teachings of our Lord either difficult to understand or to apply, grant that your Spirit may show us what to believe and what to do.

He said that the Spirit would tell us things which in the days of his flesh he could not say to his disciples, because they were not ready to receive them.

O God, keep us from ever thinking of our Christian faith and belief as something static. Help us to remember that there are ever new depths of truth, new vistas of beauty, new glories of experience, new gifts of power into which the Spirit can lead us.

He said that the Spirit would lead us into all truth.

Help us to remember that all truth belongs to you —

The skill of the scientist and the thought of the philosopher;
The inspiration of the poet, the vision of the artist, the melody of the musician;
The craft of the craftsman and the strength of body and of mind by which we make a living.

And since everything comes from you, help us to use everything for you and for our fellow men and women; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For a discussion of the Holy Spirit and thoughts about divine action in the world, see my prior post:

The Holy Spirit and Divine Action in the Material World

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 25, 2015

A Prayer for the Gifts for the Daily Tasks

Portrait_of_Henry_van_Dyke Half Size

Henry van Dyke was born on November 10, 1852 and died on April 10, 1933.  He graduated from Princeton University in 1873 and from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1877. His friend and classmate Pres. Woodrow Wilson appointed him Ambassador to Netherlands and Luxembourg in 1913 just before WWI broke out. There he worked to protect American lives and provide relief. He was a friend of Helen Keller who wrote in her autobiography, Midstream: My Later Life :

Dr. van Dyke is the kind of a friend to have when one is up against a difficult problem. He will take trouble, days and nights of trouble, if it is for somebody else or for some cause he is interested in.

(Keller, Midstream, pp. 233-34)

Henry van Dyke was a Presbyterian clergyman and a writer, poet and hymn lyricist. Van Dyke chaired the committee that wrote the first Presbyterian printed liturgy, The Book of Common Worship of 1906, the first liturgical book of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. In 1908–09 Dr. van Dyke was an American lecturer at the University of Paris.

Here is a prayer he wrote for gifts for the daily tasks. It is as close to perfect as man can create:

These are the gifts I ask of thee, Spirit serene:

Strength for the daily task, courage to face the road,
good cheer to help me bear the traveler’s load,
and, for the hours that come between,
an inward joy in all things heard and seen.

These are the sins I fain would have thee take away:

Malice and cold disdain, hot anger, sullen hate,
scorn of the lowly, envy of the great,
and discontent that casts a shadow gray
on all the brightness of the common day.

— Henry Van Dyke

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 7, 2015

Moses Said to Amenhotep II, “Let My People Go.”

Amenhotep II, the Egyptian pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty

In the recent Ridley Scott film, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Moses confronts the Egyptian pharaoh, Ramses II, with the request that pharaoh let Moses lead the children of Israel.  As the Bible tells it:

And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land.  But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”  Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them.

Exodus 7:1-6 [ESV]

No one knows who the pharaoh was when Moses confronted pharaoh.  There is no Egyptian record, and the Biblical record does not name the pharaoh by his Egyptian name.  The Ridley Scott film is fiction though. Some modern critical scholars have set a date for the Exodus that corresponds with the reign of Ramses II.  However, that later date does not correspond to the traditional date of the Exodus, 1446 B.C., based on the chronology of the Bible itself.  Biblical scholars who hold to the traditional date, 1446 B.C., based on the Biblical chronology, believe that Amenhotep II of the Eighteenth Dynasty is a better candidate for the pharaoh of the Exodus.  According to the 1994 history “Chronicle of the Pharaohs” by Peter A. Clayton, his reign lasted from 1453 until 1419 BC. [Older histories place the reign later]

Amenhotep II is considered to be the pharaoh who reigned when Moses led Israel out of Egypt for several good reasons. His seventh year coincides with the traditional date of the Exodus, 1446 B.C. And there are two other considerations supporting this view:

(1) most of the pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty made Thebes their home, far to the south of the Israelites in Goshen in the Delta, but Amenhotep II had his principal residence in Memphis, in close proximity to the Israelites, readily accessible to Moses and Aaron, and

(2) the best understanding is the Amenhotep II’s power did not pass to his eldest son but rather to Thutmose IV, a younger son.

This is at least implied in the so-called dream stela found at the base of the Great Sphinx near Memphis. This text, which records a dream in which Thutmose IV was promised that the would one day be king, suggests, as one historian says, that his reign came about “through an unforeseen turn of fate, such as the premature death of an elder brother.” It is impossible to prove, but one cannot help but speculate as to whether this premature death was not caused by the judgment of Yahweh, who in the tenth plague struck dead all the firstborn of Egypt, who were unprotected by the blood of the Passover, “from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dugeon” (Exodus 12:29).

Merrill, Eugene H. “Kingdom of Priests – A History of Old Testament Israel” 2nd Ed. (2008).

Here is the stone sculpture head of Amenhotep II kept in the Brooklyn Museum:

Amenhotep II - Brooklyn Museum_edited

Posted by: davidlarkin | January 3, 2015

Sons of Ham

Sons of Ham: I have read and heard over the years that Egyptians are descendants of Ham, a son of Noah in Genesis.

After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem,Ham, and Japheth.

Genesis 5:32 (ESV)

Reading 1 Chronicles yesterday, I noticed for the first time that Egypt was listed as a son of Ham:

The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.

1 Chronicles 1:8 (ESV) See also Genesis 10:6 (ESV)

and that Egypt had sons named in the Bible:

Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, 12 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.

1 Chronicles 1:11 (ESV)  See also Genesis 10:13 (ESV)

I wondered why I had never noticed that. I looked at other versions, King James, New International Version (prior to the latest revision), New American Standard. All of them had Mizraim instead of Egypt. But the NIV had a footnote for Mizraim, “that is, Egypt.”

So the new version I am reading, the English Standard Version or ESV avoids the footnote stating that Egypt is the name of the son of Ham, deciding to use “Egypt”, i.e., that “Mizraim” is the Hebrew or Aramaic word for “Egypt.”. In Matthew Henry’s 1710 Commentary of the Bible, he writes of Mizraim, “from whom came the Egyptians . . .” and “for with their descendants the Israel of God had severe struggles to get out of the land of Egypt and into the land of Canaan; and therefore the branches of Mizraim are particularly recorded (v. 11, v. 12)”

There is archaeological evidence from non-Hebrew sources of Mizraim as the source or ancient name of the Egyptians. From Wikipedia:

“Neo-Babylonian texts use the term Mizraim for Egypt. The name was for instance inscribed in the famous Ishtar gate of Babylon. Ugaritic inscriptions refer to Egypt as Msrm, in the Amarna tablets it is called Misri, and Assyrian and Babylonian records called Egypt Musur and Musri. The Arabic word for Egypt is Misr (pronounced Masr in Egyptian colloquial Arabic), and Egypt’s official name is Gumhuriyah Misr al-‘Arabiyah (the Arab Republic of Egypt).”

So, this is well-settled.  Egypt is a son of Ham, a son of Noah.  The Egyptians are descendants of Noah, and his son Ham.

Posted by: davidlarkin | October 19, 2014

What Should We Pray For? A List From R. A. Torrey


Christians know that they should pray.  Jesus admonishes us in the parable of the persistent widow to pray always and not to lose heart. Luke 18:1-8 [ESV]  Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 [ESV].  What then should we pray for?  We have the Lord’s Prayer as a model, but it is not a prayer that can be said without ceasing or it becomes vain repetition.

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Matthew 6:7 [NKJV]

I was pleased to find a very complete delineation of what we should pray for in a work by a Yale alumnus, R. A. Torrey (1856-1928). Torrey was an American evangelist, pastor, educator, and writer.  He graduated from Yale University in 1875 and Yale Divinity School in 1878. From 1882-1883, Torrey studied theology at Leipzig University and Erlangen University in 1882–1883.   He had a blessed career of service for the Lord, impacting countless lives over the years.  A prolific writer, he published books to help Christians live holy lives and appreciate and use the Scriptures in their lives. From Wikipedia,

Torrey joined Dwight L. Moody in his evangelistic work in Chicago in 1889, and became superintendent of the Bible Institute of the Chicago Evangelization Society (now Moody Bible Institute). Five years later, he became pastor of the Chicago Avenue Church (now The Moody Church) in 1894.

In 1898, Torrey served as a chaplain with the YMCA at Camp Chicamauga during the Spanish-American War. Later, during World War I, he performed similar service at Camp Bowie (a POW camp in Texas) and Camp Kearny.

In 1902–1903, he preached in nearly every part of the English-speaking world and with song leader Charles McCallon Alexander conducted revival services in Great Britain from 1903 to 1905. During this period, he also visited China, Japan, Australia, and India. Torrey conducted a similar campaign in American and Canadian cities in 1906–1907. Throughout these campaigns, Torrey utilized a meeting style that he borrowed from Moody’s campaigns of the 1870s. In 1907, he accepted an honorary doctorate from Wheaton College.

In 1912, Torrey was persuaded to build another institution like Moody Bible Institute, and from 1912 to 1924, he served as Dean of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (now Biola University) and contributed to the BIOLA publication, The King’s Business. Beginning in 1915, he served as the first pastor of the Church of the Open Door, Los Angeles. Torrey was one of the three editors of The Fundamentals, a twelve-volume series that gave its name to what came to be called “fundamentalism”.

In his 1898 book, What the Bible Teaches, Torrey presents a systematic theology with propositions derived from Scripture.  In his chapter on prayer, the section on “What should we pray for,” Torrey presents 41 separate substantial matters about which Scripture provides express authority for our prayers.   I added one proposition at the end of Torrey’s list, number 42, so that we should pray for our government authorities that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 [ESV],  Romans 13: [ESV].

Here is my adaptation of Torrey’s list of what we should pray for taken from Scripture, with his citations.  I have not included Torrey’s excellent exposition of the Scriptural support for his propositions, which I encourage all to find in this fine book.  Although the book was published more than 115 years ago, it is not dated because the Scriptures were the same then, and because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Hebrews 13:7-8 [ESV].

A. Prayers Relating to God.

1. We should pray for the hallowing* of God’s name. 

Matthew 6:9 [ESV] “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name.”

* “hallow” means to honor as holy.

2. We should pray for the coming of God’s kingdom.

Matthew 6:10 [ESV] “Your kingdom come.”

3. We should pray for the coming of God’s king, Jesus.

Revelation 22:20 “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

4. We should pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 6:10(b) [ESV] “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

5. We should pray for the reviving of God’s work and God’s people.

Habakkuk 3:2 [ESV] “O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.”


Posted by: davidlarkin | July 12, 2014

A Prayer for John Shelby Spong

Spong Here I Stand

Photo:  Cover of John Shelby Spong’s autobiography

I recently read the autobiography of John Shelby “Jack” Spong, Here I Stand: My Struggle for a Christianity of Integrity, Love, and Equality. Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey for 24 years before his retirement in 2001. He is a prolific writer, and his latest book, The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic, was published in 2013 when he was 82 years old. Bishop Spong considers himself to be a prophet of a new age of Christianity, a post-modern age where science speaks to Spong louder and with the authority that the Holy Scriptures no longer have for him, if ever they did.  Born in 1931 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jack Spong’s long life is very interesting from a human point of view. He was a civil rights activist, leading his southern dioceses in integrating their cities in the early 60s, and always preached and lived the social gospel.  While he was active in issues of social justice, he also began early in his ministry to question the authority of Scripture, finding it difficult to relate to the old stories from two thousand or more years ago in the modern age of science. Consequently, he gradually discarded the Holy Scriptures, the personal God, the deity of Jesus, the incarnation of God in the flesh, the atoning sacrifice and death of Jesus on the cross, for a god compliant with modern science of Spong’s making.  Spiritually, it was a difficult task to finish this book because my faith is in a different God and a different Jesus.  I am a Christian for whom the “Five Solas of the Reformation” are the foundation principles of my faith:

Sola Fide, by faith alone.
Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

 Over time, Bishop Spong rejected the five solas, replacing them with a new faith, a faith that he considered to be the beginning of a new reformation of Christianity.  He was very proud of his intellectual creation of a post-modern “Christianity” that used Christian nomenclature, but with anti-orthodox meaning, rejecting the Scriptures as the Word of God, but rather, as man’s writings to men in ancient times, writings that no longer had meaning to modern scientific men and women like John Shelby Spong.  He is also very proud of his academic and intellectual accomplishments, repeatedly referring to his academic and professional achievements and accolades, interactions with prominent famous names, thus, relying on the praise of mankind outside the orthodox church of God for confirmation of his radical anti-theology.  He has very unkind things to say about conservative Christians who hold to the traditional orthodoxy.  For example, he had disdain for evangelism and those who took the Great Commission seriously: at a gathering of the Episcopal House of Bishops, Spong writes, the day devoted to Evangelism “hit a new low in content and in attendance, . . . and while our conservative evangelical bishops droned on about how they sought souls for Christ and how we should follow their good example, the crowds around the coffee tables in the hall grew larger and larger.” [p. 301].   He and his liberal brethren did not take seriously Jesus’s Scriptural command to go into the world and make disciples, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Matthew 28:1-20  Spong rejects the personal God of the Bible, the physical resurrection of Christ, the incarnation of God in the man Jesus and his divinity and redefines Christianity in his own terms on his own authority, Sola Spong.  Spong proudly considers himself the new progressive Martin Luther, when in fact, he is the anti-Luther.  In his 1999 book Why Christianity Must Change or DieSpong announces his creation of a new “Christian” religion, calling his work, “a manifesto calling the church to a new reformation.”  As he states in the appendix to Here I Stand,

In that book I sketch out a view of God beyond theism, an understanding of the Christ as a God presence and a vision of the shape of both the church and its liturgy for the future.

“Theism” is generally defined as “belief in the existence of a god or gods; specifically : belief in the existence of one God viewed as the creative source of the human race and the world who transcends yet is immanent in the world.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.  Spong arrogantly wants to go beyond a belief in the Christian God who is a person with whom we have a personal relationship with, pray to, and rely on for our salvation.  He wants to replace God with a “god presence,” an impersonal force. Praying to God is an antiquated concept for Spong.  All four Gospels proclaim that Jesus prayed to the Father, more than 25 times.  The night he was betrayed, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.  Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Matthew 26:36-46 [ESV]

Spong rejects this depiction of Jesus himself praying to God, the Father, as a person who hears our prayers.  Spong has summarized his anti-theism with a sorry mockery of Luther’s 95 Theses.  On 31 October 1517, Luther posted the ninety-five theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, which is considered the commencement of the Reformation.  Luther was calling for a reformation of the Church based on the authority of Scripture, sola scriptura.  Spong, by contrast, is calling for a reformation of the Church by a rejection of the Scripture.  Spong is very proud of his technical fluency with Scripture, but he does not believe that the Scripture is the word of God. Reading his biography, Spong never speaks of any faith in the trinitarian God of orthodox Christianity.  He does not mention God at work in his life, he abandons prayer early in his ministry as meaningless, and he gives himself credit for all his achievements, no credit to God, whose minister he publicly and proudly pretends to be.  He has no faith that the Holy Spirit preserved the Scriptures for the faithful to find revelation of God’s plan of salvation.  Spong has no personal relationship with God because, for him, God is not a person with a name who hears us call on His name and saves us.

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Acts 2:21 [ESV]

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:13 [ESV]

Here, the anti-Luther makes his proclamation which are Bishop Spong’s 12 Theses of unbelief, with my comments and Biblical references in brackets:

A Call for a New Reformation

1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

[The Bible clearly speaks of a personal God who is Lord and has a name, which we translate from the Hebrew as Yahweh (archaically translated Jehovah).   Yahweh or Lord is a personal name, a proper name, that is called upon by His people by name.  Yahweh or the Lord is also a person.  John M. Frame, a Reformed theologian, explains the Biblical doctrine of a personal God as follows:

Scripture rarely if ever uses the word person to describe God, or even to refer to the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit.  But like Trinity, person is an extrabiblical word that is very nearly unavoidable for us.  It is the word in our vocabulary that applies to beings who speak, act intentionally, and so on.  The Biblical term living reinforces this picture. God is the living God against all the nonliving gods of the nations. (See e.g. Deut. 5:26, Josh. 3:10, 1 Sam. 17:26, 2 Kings 19:4, Psalm 42:2, 84:2, Jer. 10:10, Matt. 16:16, 26:63, Acts 14:15, Romans 9:26)

Frame, John M., The Doctrine of God, p. 25 (P&R Publishing 2002)

As R. A. Torrey summarized the personality of the God of the Bible:

God is a living God.  He hears, sees, knows, feels, wills, acts, is a person. He is to be distinguished from idols, which are things, not persons.  He is to be distinguished from the works of his hands which he formed. 

Torrey, R. A. What the Bible Teaches (1957)]

2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.

[Paul wrote to Titus of the identity of Jesus with God:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)]


Posted by: davidlarkin | June 29, 2014

For We Saw His Star

Adoration of the Magi after restoration tourist photo

In March 2017, Leonardo da Vinci’s unfinished masterpiece “Adoration of the Magi” emerged from a six-year restoration cleaner, brighter and with a depth that hasn’t been seen for centuries.  Here a visitor to the Uffizi museum in Florence, Italy snaps a photo.

The familiar Bible story of the Three Wise Men, the Magi, tells of a star that appeared to them, signifying a great historic event. Somehow, a “star” acted as a travel guide. The event is commemorated in the historic church holy day of the Epiphany, January 6 on the Anglican/Episcopal Liturgical Calendar.

As the Bible story goes, when Jesus was born, these three men from the east saw his star in the sky, and somehow, guided by the star, they traveled to the stable in the “little town of Bethlehem” where Jesus was born, in diapers in a manger, and giving him luxurious gifts, they worshiped him, intuitively knowing by the grace of God, that they were in the presence of God.  Here is the familiar Christmas passage from Scripture:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

. . .

 And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11 (ESV)

I have read attempts to explain this phenomenon of the star as an actual historic astronomical event, like a super nova.  However, if that were the case, it does not explain how this astronomical event “came to rest over the place where the child was.”  It is a difficult passage to explain objectively in modern scientific terms.  Science, of course, undoubtedly requires this event to be disposed of as myth.

For those who believe that God is a God of miracles, and that He can give a heavenly sign to three men alone who believe in signs from God in the heavens, as a guide to witness the new birth of the Messiah, the Lord and Savior, there is likely a supernatural explanation that will evade natural history in this life.

I attended the Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California for a time in the 80s.  The Church on the Way was an early “megachurch” with thousands of members, notably then, Pat Boone and his daughter, Debbie Boone, who sang at the Christmas service when I attended.  The Pastor was Jack Hayford, a brilliant Bible teacher and man of God.  I remember Jack Hayford giving us a lesson about how God will make a way for the Gospel to be heard by those who are waiting to hear it.  He told us a story about an evangelist who attended the Lausanne Congress, the First International Congress on World Evangelism held in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974.

“The congress was a conference of some 2,700 evangelical Christian leaders that was held in the Palais de Beaulieu in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974 to discuss the progress, resources and methods of evangelizing the world. The conference was called by a committee headed by U.S. evangelist Billy Graham and brought together religious leaders from 150 nations.’

Source: Wikipedia

One of the evangelists in attendance was an African man who carried the Gospel message on his bicycle to the rural tribes in his native African country.  He told the story of how he had heard the Gospel and was saved.  He was living in a tent in the bush lands.  He felt a need to know God.  He prayed that the God of the universe would reveal Himself.  He said he then saw a light outside his tent.  He followed the light overland through the bush country until he was led to the tent of a Christian missionary.  He told the missionary he was led by a light to his tent and he wanted to know the true God.  The missionary shared the Gospel with him and he was saved. He then dedicated his life to sharing the Gospel with his countrymen and women, thankful for the supernatural grace he was shown by the Living God, who led him by a light to Jesus, just like the Three Wise Men were led by a light to the Lord.   We will never know what kind of light led the Wise Men.  Certainly, a light in the sky that was revealed only to the Magi would appear as a “star” to them, but under the circumstances of the birth of the Savior, we can be sure that God did a miraculous work in leading them to a Bethlehem stable from afar.

The African evangelist was drawn by God to Himself when he sincerely petitioned God for revelation of His existence.  By grace, he was given the faith to ask and to believe.  It takes faith to be blessed with the experience of the supernatural presence and work of God.

And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

Matthew 13:53-58 [ESV]

Who were the Magi? This discussion from the January 8, 2015 Tabletalk Devotions with R. C. Sproul is a good summary:

Present among the figurines in the nativity crèches found everywhere at Christmastime are usually three regal men bearing gifts. As we know, these kings are supposed to represent the wise men.

Unfortunately, this depiction of the wise men takes liberties with the text. Matthew never tells us how many wise men come to see the Messiah. The tradition of three wise men probably comes from the three different gifts mentioned in Matthew 2:11. Moreover, the first gospel does not say the magi are kings. This idea goes back to the church father Tertullian (around 200 a.d.) and is likely due to his reading of passages like Psalm 68:31 and Isaiah 49:7.

Who, then, are the wise men? Precise identification is difficult, but we do know they are “from the east” of Judea (Matt. 2:1). Persia, Babylon, and Arabia are all possible countries of origin, with Babylon the likeliest option since contact with its large Jewish community would have prompted the magi to come looking for a king in Jerusalem. The Greek term for “magi” (magoi) refers to a group interested in predicting the future via dream interpretation, magic, and other methods, such as astrology, which explains their interest in the star.

Posted by: davidlarkin | May 11, 2014

Susan Larkin’s Message

Susan Larkin

My wife, Susan Larkin, was asked to give a message on her walk with Jesus this past year to her women’s Bible study group at our church, Arizona Community Church.  This is the message she gave last week summing up what God had put on her heart to share with the ladies:

Looking back on this year ‘Walking with Jesus’, what came to mind first is how thankful I am for the new friends I have met here and the ones I am getting to know better, just the sweet fellowship and the wisdom of the women as they each share their own walk with the Lord.

I am thankful too, for the women in the prayer for our adult children group because while each of us are praying the same things for our children, we hear the fresh insight and perspective the Lord gives each mother.  We can have unity of spirit and a new vision at the same time, knowing God hears our prayers for our children and trusting we can influence their lives with prayer.

Another great thing is a darling prayer partner the Lord brought me this year – she is in this room tonight. I’d had a prayer partner for about 15 years and she broke up with me 9 months ago, so I was delighted when this new sister came and she has been a true blessing.

I learned about the power of prayer long before I became a Christian. I was a flight attendant in the mid-70’s, so 40 years ago, and worked on international flights. I had 2 close calls one after another. The 1st time our pilot almost landed us in a jungle in Africa. I remember feeling the descent, looking out the window and seeing all green when there should have been concrete, and hearing the first officer scream “Pull up, pull up, pull up!!!”. Suddenly we were zooming up. When we did land, it was on the runway in the right city. I never did find out what happened that day, the pilots did not want to talk about it but it was really scary.

Another time was in a DC10 over Calgary Canada going from London to Oakland when the plane dropped about 5,000 feet in just a few seconds. We dropped so fast that everything and every one that wasn’t secured hovered in the air before crashing down – people, beverage carts, everything. The sharp descent was followed by lots of dramatically serious vibration, it felt as if the plane would break apart. Many people were badly injured, and if you ever thought you were going to die, you never forget it. So after my time off, I was really frightened to get back on a plane.  My boyfriend, not a Christian, suggested I pray for peace to go back to my job. And it worked! I asked for protection every time we took off and I thanked God every time we landed safely – and I still do. I flew for several more years after that. So I knew God answered at least emergency prayers for sure.  The Lord (I believe) later revealed to me that as a professional baseball player, that boyfriend likely had a team chaplain who flew with the team regularly and had the Lord’s wisdom to pray with the young men as they flew back and forth across country all season long year after year.

But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.
When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth.  He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

 Jeremiah 10:12-13 (NIV)

When I first became a believer, someone gave me a laminated prayer card with a list of things to pray for because I only knew the Our Father & Hail Mary from my days at Catholic boarding school. It listed prayers for the leadership of the church, people in government, the schools, police officers and so on, and on the list was prayer for the harvest. I lived one valley over from the Salinas valley, a large agricultural area, so for about 6 months I prayed fervently for the broccoli, strawberries, lettuce and artichokes before I found out that the Harvest, capital “H” meant the unsaved souls.

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Matthew 9:35-38 (ESV)

I thought the Lord had such a sense of humor in my early prayer days as a Christian to let me pray on and on about the farm workers, the rain and the fertilizer – nothing wrong with that, farmers do it all the time.  

Kathy has been using Scripture to teach us about the Lord’s compassion. One of the ladies in our prayer group shared that she lost her wallet, she left it on top of her car when she bought gas and drove off. You can imagine her distress, she went back to search for it, but of course it was gone. The next morning she got a call from her apartment manager that there was someone in the office who wanted to speak to her. And there was a young man covered in tattoos, kind of scary looking, someone she said you would instantly make a judgment about and not a positive one. But he had been riding his bike, found the wallet and wanted to return it. She thanked him of course, gave him some money because it was all there – and she invited him to our church. It was such a lesson to me how if we could only see the heart, the inside of a person and not only the outside  – like Jesus does, we would treat people so much differently.

And God forbid that young man should come to our church and I would judge him by his appearance instead of seeing him as he really is, as God sees him. It was a great lesson to me to be so much more generous in my assessment of others.

The Lord does not look at the things a man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

When my girlfriend read this, she said it reminded her of when she lived in San Francisco.  She said she was reading the Bible while riding the bus and she saw this ‘gay guy’ looking at her and she thought – a derogatory word you might think about homosexuals. But he approached her and said, “It is wonderful to see someone reading the Bible, it reminds me of when I read the Bible with my family.” Needless to say, she was profoundly ashamed before the Lord for judging that man.

Sometimes I encounter someone who at a glance I think I have nothing in common with and my first impulse is to avoid that person. Our Lord did exactly the opposite – He sought them out if they had an infectious disease, were known sinners or homeless and destitute, were mentally ill, demon possessed, crippled, or blind. Even the Samaritans who were despised as a mongrel race by Judaism, were tenderly regarded by our merciful Messiah. He went out of His way to connect with them and offer what He could and so did His disciples. So the theme of compassion this year really has convicted me that I am not really that Christ-like at all. I think Kathy wanted me to talk about what I had learned, but I’m afraid this is about what I haven’t learned.

I often forget that we are the rich of the world that the Bible speaks of and that everything I have is a gift from God, but it belongs to Him, it isn’t mine alone. I have a home, clothes and shoes, I never miss a meal all because of His grace and goodness. Mother Teresa told a story about a dying man brought to her shelter in Calcutta, as she visited with him he was crying. She asked him why. He said it was because it was the only time in his whole life he had ever laid in a bed – the day he was dying – and it was just a wire cot, but he was thankful. She said once, “I wouldn’t touch a leper for 1,000 pounds, but I will willingly care for him for the love of God.”

When we see someone begging we might think they should get a job … but if they have dirty clothes, no place to shower or brush their teeth, no phone or transportation, they are unlikely to be hired unless they get some help. I have heard fellow Christians declare that they refuse to give money to someone they see begging, even if holding a sign saying they are hungry, for fear they may use it to buy alcohol.  In Proverbs 31, the mother of young King Lemuel advises her son to avoid alcohol because, “It is not for kings to drink wine…lest they forget what the law decrees and deprive the oppressed of their rights.”  She continues, “Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more”.  We need not worry about what someone who humbles themselves to beg before us chooses to buy. The Queen Mother goes on to advise that the woman of virtue “…opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy”.  

I met a man who had been a respiratory therapist at a hospital, they reorganized and moved him to another area of the hospital, his license lapsed and then a new administrator downsized his dept. and he was terminated. He didn’t have the money to renew his license and he had been trying but he hadn’t found a job. He said he never could have imagined himself begging in his wildest dreams but he had 3 children he needed to feed and he was begging because he was desperate and determined to care for them.

In Luke 6, Jesus said ‘Give to everyone who asks of you.’ and to be merciful and not to judge. In Matthew 25:31-46, He tells us whenever we provide for someone who is hungry, thirsty or we visit the sick or the prisoners, the ‘least of these’, as He calls them, we do it for Him. As Paul says, “not that I have achieved it yet, but I can press on”, keep trying and thank Jesus for demonstrating compassion so I can know exactly what it looks like. I praise God we have His promise that He Who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.

Let’s pray. Lord, would You give me the heart of love that You have. Let me remember that every person on earth is someone You love so much, You gave Your only Son’s life so that one day they could spend eternity with You. Amen.

I know all were blessed by her words.



Posted by: davidlarkin | April 13, 2014

Now is the Favorable Time


Christ Blessing the Little Children, by Jan Aertsz Marienhof (1626 – 1652), a Dutch Golden Age painter.

Jesus said:

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:3 (ESV)

Now is the favorable time for salvation:

For he says,

“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:2 (ESV)

In the 80s I was attended the Hiding Place Church that met at a middle school next to the Mormon Temple on Santa Monica Boulevard in West LA.  A humble fellowship in the shadow of the proud Mormon showpiece.  I met a middle-aged woman there who was on fire for the Lord.  She was not ashamed of the Gospel, and was a personal evangelist working on the streets of Hollywood with those who the Lord appointed for her to meet.  She told me about a neighbor of hers in her apartment building in Hollywood.  He was a very bright young man in his thirties, she said, who was working in a business where he had great opportunity for material success, he told her.  One night she had the opportunity to share the gospel with him, declaring to him that Jesus died for his sins and rose again, and is alive and ready to save him from his sins, and give him the gift of life eternal, if he will only call on the name of the Lord, repent and ask forgiveness and let Jesus be his Lord and savior.

She told me that he listened intently, and told her that he believed what she said.  He believed that he needed to be saved, and that he wanted to have life after death in heaven.  But, he told her, he was not ready to give his life up.  He wanted to be rich, and he wanted to be able to enjoy the worldly pleasures now.  He said that once he has success, he will get saved.

She was disappointed for him, she said, but she had shared the Gospel, and he had heard it.

The next day, she had been away from her apartment and returned to find an ambulance outside the building.  As she was about to enter the building, the paramedics brought her neighbor out on a stretcher, and put him in the ambulance.  They had put him in a straight jacket, and he was lying on his back with a blank expression on his face.  She asked the paramedic what had happened, and was told that he had lost his mind,  and a neighbor had called the police because of his loud screaming.  He was sedated and taken away.  She said he did not return.  She told me that she saw this as God’s instant judgment on the young man for hearing the gospel, understanding it, and sincerely rejecting it.  The story was and remains chilling because that may have been his last chance for salvation.  As the scripture cited above says, “now is the day of salvation.”

Salvation is the sovereign act of God, not a voluntary choice we can make when it is convenient.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

There may be a point in a man or woman’s rebellion against God where God gives the person up to his or her sins for good.  As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Romans 1:18-32 (ESV)

Three times Paul writes that “God gave them up,” for the “wrath of God from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  The young man who heard the Gospel from my friend apparently reached his last chance, and God gave him over to a debased mind, in fact, God took his mind away from him, perhaps for good, but arguably, in reaction to his sincere rejection of the truth, that we are sinners, and that we are called to repent:

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17 (NKJV)

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Luke 5:32 (NKJV)

“unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Luke 13:3 & 5 (NKJV)

How long will God wait for a man or woman to repent and call on Him?

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,  

Hebrews 9:27 (NKJV)

Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.  If you have not called on the Lord for your salvation, now is the time, and you may pray this prayer to be saved and to obtain the gift of eternal life: 

Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness.

I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin.

You said in Your Holy Word, Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God, that is, if we declare Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved.

Right now I confess and declare Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved.

Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance. Therefore Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and not to myself.

Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life.


If you said that prayer sincerely, and are truly sorry for your prior rejection of God, and sorry for your sins, you have been saved by God.  You have the promise of heaven. You should ask God to help you find a Bible-based church that teaches the word of God and then be baptized.  You can talk directly to the Lord.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God, and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 11, 2014

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

“When you understand all about the sun and all about the atmosphere and all about the rotation of the earth, you may still miss the radiance of the sunset.”

Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (1925)

Scientists today estimate the adult human body is composed of trillions of cells, upwards of 37.2 trillion.[Source: National Geographic, October 2013]  There are approximately 200 different types of cells all working together expressing themselves as one conscious person.

One of the enduring mysteries of biology is that a variety of specialized cells collaborate in building a body, yet all have an identical genome. Somehow each of the 200 different kinds of cells in the human body — in the brain, liver, bone, heart and many other structures — must be reading off a different set of the hereditary instructions written into the DNA.

The system is something like a play in which all the actors have the same script but are assigned different parts and blocked from even seeing anyone else’s lines. The fertilized egg possesses the first copy of the script; as it divides repeatedly into the 10 trillion cells of the human body, the cells assign themselves to the different roles they will play throughout an individual’s lifetime.

New York Times, February 23, 2009 [Obviously, scientists differ in their estimate of the number of cells in the human body, 10 trillion in this 2009 article and 37 trillion in the 2013 National Geographic article cited above, but qualitatively, there is little difference for purposes of acknowledging the mystery of how billions of individual cells can cooperate to manifest one person]

If you are able to stand back from the massive accumulation of knowledge of the physiology of the human body, the neurons in the brain, the interaction of the billions of cells and their individual differences acting as one person, you cannot miss the glorious mystery and gift of life.  We are a reflection or the image of the incomprehensible God and Creator of the Universe.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26 (ESV)

then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Genesis 2:7 (ESV)

We should praise God for the wonder of life and creation and especially for his saving grace as the Scripture teaches:

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!”

Psalm 40:16 (ESV)

For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Hebrews 2:2-4 (ESV)

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17 (NKJV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)

Here is a short prayer of praise for God’s creation and the gift of life:

O Lord and Maker of all things, from whose creative power the first light came forth, who looked upon the world’s first morning and saw that it was good, I praise You for this light that now streams through my windows to rouse me to the life of another day.

I praise You for the life that stirs within me;
I praise you for the bright and beautiful world into which I go;
I praise you for earth, sea and sky – billowing clouds and singing birds;
I praise you for the work You have given me to do;
I praise you for all You have given me to fill my leisure hours;
I praise you for my friends and family;
I praise you for music and books and good company.

John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer, 7th Day, Morning

Posted by: davidlarkin | December 14, 2013

New Every Morning

At day’s end, it is often discouraging to reflect on the day’s activities. A sincere review will reveal failings and sinful actions and thoughts. As the Apostle Paul wrote:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Romans 7:18-20 (ESV)

It is common, therefore, to find confessions of sin and failures in daily evening devotionals, like John Baillie’s A Diary of Daily Prayer. We can be troubled by the past days misfortunes, sins and errors, and be worried about what will come tomorrow, both leading to sleeplessness and a troubled mind.

Paul McCartney recognized the problem of worry and sleeplessness in the Beatles song from the White Album, “I’m So Tired,” only he appeals to his lover, who is breaking his heart, for peace, as the troubled lovers so generally do, rather than to God:

It’s doing me harm, you know I can’t sleep
I can’t stop my brain, you know it’s three weeks
I’m going insane

You know I’d give you everything I’ve got
For a little peace of mind

Things often seem at their worst when I awake in the middle of the night and my mind is stirred to worry and I can’t stop it, losing sleep. The old saying, “The darkest hour is just before the dawn,” captures that late night worry about my life’s problems, my loved ones, or my work and also that feeling of nebulous doom I sometimes feel when I wake up in the middle of the night, with nothing specific worrying me. See Bob Dylan, “Meet Me in the Morning” and Crosby Stills and Nash, “Long Time Gone.”

It would be nice to have memorized a well-crafted prayer especially for the middle of the night, so I don’t have to muddle along with a sleepy rambling prayer.  I am sure, of course, that the Lord will accept any sincere and humble prayer in my moments of distress. Typically, I appeal to God to stop my brain and give me peace.   This requires trust in His faithfulness.  As I grow older in the Lord, 42 years now, I am more aware of His presence, and more constant in communicating with Him and seeking reconciliation.  As a result, I am able to fall asleep and when I awake in the middle of the night, fall back to sleep easier, although there are occasional times when I have to get up and do some online legal research on a case that is troubling me, which I consider a blessing that the Lord has prompted me to do that work, even in the middle of the night.

The blessing of communicating with God at the end of the day, or even just before the dawn — asking forgiveness, petitioning for peace and for a good day to come — is that the believer can awake with the joy that he has made peace with God and start the day walking in the Spirit as if he were starting anew.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:8-9 (ESV) [See my previous post, A Daily Confession]

When we fall, the Lord is there to lift us up and begin as if anew.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24 (ESV)

Alexander Whyte (1836-1921), a Scottish minister, professor at the University of Edinburgh and prolific writer, wrote:

The victorious Christian life is a series of New Beginnings.

The mercies of God are new every morning.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 21, 2013

A Reader’s Prayer

My Favorite Bookmark

Books to the ceiling, books to the sky.
My piles of books are a mile high.
How I love them!
How I need them!
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.

I am a reader. I have too many books left to read, and more are available to read everyday. The photo above is my favorite bookmark. When I reached 60 years old, I realized that I would not be able to read all the books that I had hoped to read over the years.

I am grateful to have the time to read and that I am compulsive about making the time to read.

Today, I was reading John Baillie’s A Diary of Daily Prayer, Day 21 morning, and included in that daily devotional was a petition to God for reading guidance that can be used as a prayer on its own. So for dedicated readers who want divine help in choosing what to read for profit or recreation, and in being a better steward of his or her time, I offer this Reader’s Prayer which I adapted from Baillie with modification to include internet reading:

A Reader’s Prayer

Leave me not, O gracious God, in such hours as I may today devote to the reading of books, magazines, internet websites, newsletters, and blogs or newspapers. Guide my mind to choose the right books and other written works, having chosen them, to read them in the right way. When I read for profit, grant that all I read may lead me nearer to you. When I read for recreation, grant that what I read may not lead me away from you. Let all my reading so refresh my mind that I may the more eagerly seek after whatsoever things are pure and fair and true.

Adapted from A Diary of Daily Prayer, Day 21, Morning Prayer by John Baillie

Now that I am nearly 70 and I have many books unread, I have added to my prayer the following:

Help me and strengthen me to overcome with wisdom and faith the discouragement of so many books to read with insufficient time remaining to read them, and give me the confidence and peace that I will choose what to read according to your will for me and for your purposes, to used my time wisely, both for profit and for recreation.

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 20, 2013

A Violent Week

This has been a violent week.  The tragic drama of the Boston Marathon bombing and the gripping manhunt has left us all emotionally exhausted.   What can I write that we all have not thought or experienced about this horrific event.

Closer to home, however, we had a shooting at our office complex on Thursday morning.  I was at the dentist when I received a call from my wife that our office complex was a crime scene, someone had been shot.  Fortunately, my wife and I, who work together at my law office, did not arrive at the office until after the shooting, and were not harmed or in danger.  Nevertheless, I left the dentist immediately and went to meet my wife at the office, where we waited while the police secured the crime scene and took the shooter away.

We heard a report that the criminal attorney in another office, two doors down from us, was involved.  My first thought was that he had been shot by a criminal client.   The criminal lawyer’s father works for him, and had been arrested a few months earlier for pulling a gun on a client, apparently in self-defense, but had not shot the gun.  My wife and I were very uncomfortable having the criminal law practice so close and considered moving, but did not.  Now with this shooting, we were physically and emotionally shocked.

It turns out that the shooting had nothing to do with the criminal lawyer’s law practice or criminal clients.  The lawyer was the criminal.  He was 48 years old, married with children, and he was having an affair with his office receptionist who was in her twenties.  He was representing her in a paternity action against her ex-boyfriend.

The lawyer  came to the office that morning with his .357 handgun to meet the ex-boyfriend.  The 25-year-old victim was sitting in his car.  The lawyer approached him holding the gun, and ordered him out of the car.  The young man grabbed the barrel of the gun and tried to duck out of the way but the lawyer fired a shot, striking him in the back.  The victim ran to a nearby medical office and collapsed.  He recorded the incident on his cell phone which police recovered at the scene.

After the shooting, the lawyer stood over his victim saying something like, “Do you feel that … that’s you dying boy,” according to court documents.   Others in their office who heard a pop, went out to the parking lot, saw him standing there holding the gun, and called 911.  The lawyer went back to his office and called police to turn himself in.  See news report here.

I first met the lawyer on Tuesday this week in the parking lot where he was arriving with his receptionist.  I suspected they were having an affair because I had seen her driving to work in the morning in the lawyer’s Mercedes and opening the office.  My suspicions were correct, and his adultery was the source of the emotion and evil intent that led to his attempted murder of the young man.

So, this week has been a week of violence for us along with everyone else in America.  Today, April 20, is the 14 year anniversary of another day of violence in America, the Columbine High School massacre.  Reading through the One Year Book of Christian History in my morning devotions, today’s entry was about a young teen, Rachel Scott, who attended Columbine High School in 1999.  Here is the remarkable April 20 entry from the book:


God gave us a glimpse of the future.

RACHEL SCOTT was just eight when her father, Pastor Darrell Scott, walked out on her mother Beth, leaving her with five children. A year later Rachel’s grandparents helped her mom move to Littleton, Colorado, and buy a home.

When Rachel was twelve, she had a life-changing spiritual encounter.  She later wrote in her Journal, “Everyone was there at the altar, and I felt so drawn to it.  You have to understand that I was so young . . . to be drawn that way, it was nothing short of God . . . .  That night I accepted Jesus into my heart.  I was saved.” From that time on her family saw a spiritual depth beginning to develop in Rachel.

Two years later, Rachel’s mother remarried.  During this difficult adjustment Rachel became increasingly withdrawn and private.  When she was sixteen, her mother gave her a journal, the first of many.  Rachel began to chronicle her spiritual journey and commitment to Christ — a commitment that cost her deeply.  She broke up with the boy she loved in order to keep herself chaste and was rejected by five of her closest friends for talking openly about her faith.  On April 20. 1998,  one year to the day before she died, she wrote these words:  ‘I have no more friends at school.  But you know what . . . it’s all worth it to me . . . . If I have to sacrifice everything I will.”  Rachel had no idea of the sacrifice she would ultimately make.

On April 20, 1999, Rachel sat outside the cafeteria when two troubled students armed with guns came up the stairs at Columbine High School.  They opened fire, hitting her three times.  After leaving to find more victims, they returned to where Rachel lay in pain.  One of them lifted her head by her ponytail and jeered, “Do you believe in God?”  She answered, “Yes.”  He put the gun her temple and killed her.

About a month after Rachel’s funeral, her father received a phone call from a stranger who told him about a dream he had.  As Darrell recalled it, “He dreamed about her eyes and a flow of tears that were watering something that he couldn’t quite see in the dream.  He was adamant about the eyes and tears and wanted to know if that meant anything to me . . . . He told me that dream had haunted him for days, and he knew there was a reason for it.”

Her father had no idea what the dream could mean.  Several days later he picked up Rachel’s backpack from the sheriff s office.  Inside were two journals, one with a bullet hole through it.  He turned to the last page of her most recent diary and was dumbfounded to see a drawing of her eyes with a stream of thirteen tears watering a rose.  The tears appeared to turn into drops of blood as they touched the rose.  The number of tears matched the number of victims at Columbine.  It practically took his breath away to see in Rachel’s final diary exactly what the stranger had described to him a week earlier.

Looking in previous diaries, her parents discovered that same rose drawn a tear before Rachel’s death.  The earlier drawing simply showed the rose with the bloodlike drops, not her eyes or the clear tears, and it showed the rose  growing up out of a columbine plant, the state flower from which Columbine High School got its name.


It was like “Pop, Pop, Pop.”  A Christian couple hid in the bathtub with their dog praying for safety.  Click Here for the video interview by NBC anchor Brian Williams with the Watertown, Massachusetts couple who heard the gun fight between the Boston Marathon terrorists and police taking place in their front yard.

After a week like this, the Apostle Paul’s words are a comforting source of rest.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 [NIV]

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 7, 2013

A Daily Confession

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” 

Luke 5:32.  

Thus, Jesus summed up his mission to mankind.  He did not come to heal the sick, make the blind see, or make the lame walk.  These were signs of his power and authority.  But he came to lead sinners to repentance, and by believing and repenting, receive the gift of eternal life.

Jesus also came to earth to die for the sins of the redeemed, and those who are redeemed are redeemed through God’s sacrifice of his son.  This was Jesus’ mission for mankind.  Who can understand this?  Fortunately, we are not asked to understand this, but to believe:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 [ESV]

True repentance, however, will not come without belief.  As a Calvinist, I believe that God’s chosen are first regenerated.  We are born again or receive new birth or are reborn from above.  Regeneration is followed, perhaps instantaneously, by faith, which is belief that Jesus is my Lord and that he died for my sins and was raised from the dead, alive today as you or me.  Regeneration and Faith is followed by repentance, again this can be instantaneous.  But it is elementary that you must repent to be saved.  And this is saving faith.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Titus 3:4-6 [ESV]

But what is it about true belief that leads to repentance?  In our encounter with the holy, with a holy and perfect God of all creation, we recognize that we are sinners who need to be reconciled to a Holy God.  We need forgiveness for sin and we experience the gift of godly sorrow:

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

2 Corinthians 7:10 [NKJ]

Godly sorrow is a gift.  Oswald Chambers has described it wonderfully in one of his daily devotions in the Christian classic, My Utmost for His Highest:

Conviction of sin is best described in the words:

My sins, my sins, my Savior,
How sad on Thee they fall.

Conviction of sin is one of the most uncommon things that ever happens to a person. It is the beginning of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict people of sin (see John 16:8). And when the Holy Spirit stirs a person’s conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not that person’s relationship with others that bothers him but his relationship with God— “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight . . .” (Psalm 51:4). The wonders of conviction of sin, forgiveness, and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the forgiven person who is truly holy. He proves he is forgiven by being the opposite of what he was previously, by the grace of God. Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, “I have sinned.” The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakes— a reflex action caused by self-disgust.

The entrance into the kingdom of God is through the sharp, sudden pains of repentance colliding with man’s respectable “goodness.” Then the Holy Spirit, who produces these struggles, begins the formation of the Son of God in the person’s life (see Galatians 4:19). This new life will reveal itself in conscious repentance followed by unconscious holiness, never the other way around. The foundation of Christianity is repentance. Strictly speaking, a person cannot repent when he chooses— repentance is a gift of God. The old Puritans used to pray for “the gift of tears.” If you ever cease to understand the value of repentance, you allow yourself to remain in sin. Examine yourself to see if you have forgotten how to be truly repentant.

Chambers exhorts us to examine ourselves.  He likely means to examine ourselves at least daily.  Repentance is not a one-time initiating event in the life of a Christian.  The great 19th century British preacher Charles Spurgeon put it like this:

Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day. This dropping well is not intermittent. Every other sorrow yields to time, but this dear sorrow grows without growth, and it is so sweet a bitter, that we thank God we are permitted to enjoy and to suffer it until we enter our eternal rest.

Spurgeon on 2 Corinthians 7:10.

After 42 years of Christian life, one would think that I have less sin to confess each day.  However, it seems my sins have not diminished, just changed.  It is like a whack-a-mole game.  You get control of one type of sin, and another one pops up.  A loss of self-control, and angry unnecessary comment, when we notice and remember, needs to be confessed.  I thank God I don’t remember all my failures, and that I remember so few.  Jesus said:

 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.

Matthew 5:21-22a [NKJV]

Or all of a sudden, my memory punishes me with a thought of the sins of  my youth.  How could I have done that?  And I ask God’s forgiveness, even 45 years after the fact.

There are Scriptures that seem to say once saved, the Christian no longer sins.  For example, from the King James Version:


 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

1 John 3:9 [NKJV]

However, this is mistranslated from the Greek text.  Modern translations recognize that the Greek verbs are referring to continuous sinful conduct.  Here is the recent English Standard Version, a translation whose General Editor is the scholar Wayne Grudem, a conservative reformed Evangelical theologian.

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

1 John 3:9 [ESV]

This conforms to the Scriptural fact that we have a sinful nature which remains in the flesh after salvation, to be wrestled with daily with the help of the Holy Spirit.  As Jesus admonished us:

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Matthew 26:41 [ESV]

Further, when he gave us the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus reminded us that we do not cease sinning when we are saved, and that we must ask God’s forgiveness daily.  In addition for thanking God for our daily bread, we pray as well

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.  And lead us not into temptation.

Luke 11:4 [NIV]

To help me with confession and forgiveness, I have composed a Prayer of Confession that I put on my Amazon kindle which I read in my daily devotions.  My prayer begins with a Scriptural acknowledgement of my sin:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:8-9 [ESV]

Once acknowledged, realizing that we must approach God sincerely and personally, one-on-one, my prayer follows with Scriptural encouragement and further acknowledgement of the privilege of the redeemed in Christ:

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession . . .  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14, 16 [NKJV].

Finally, my prayer ends with a confession, adapted from the Holy Eucharist service in the Anglican/Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, with a pause where I can insert those specific sins that the Holy Spirit brings to my attention and prompts my memory to reveal to me:

I will confess my sins unto Almighty God

Most merciful God,
I confess that I have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what I have done,
and by what I have left undone.

[Specifically, I have . . .]

I have not loved you with my whole heart;
I have not loved my neighbors as myself.
I am truly sorry and I humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on me and forgive me;
that I may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name.


All together now, here is my daily prayer of confession:

A Prayer of Confession

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:8-9]

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession . . . Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. [Hebrews 4:14, 16]

I will confess my sins unto Almighty God

Most merciful God,
I confess that I have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what I have done,
and by what I have left undone.

[Specifically, I have . . .]

I have not loved you with my whole heart;
I have not loved my neighbors as myself.
I am truly sorry and I humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on me and forgive me;
that I may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name.


Posted by: davidlarkin | June 2, 2012

The Holy Spirit and Divine Action in the Material World


“Pentecost” by El Greco c. 1596-1600, Museo Del Prado, Madrid

Christians believe that God works in the world, that He interacts with the world and with us, that He is a physical causal influence on events in the material world. Divine action in the world may be general or special. God can be said to act generally through the regular structures of the world, matter and the laws of nature, which God created and sustains. This General Divine Action (GDA) parallels and is the means of General Revelation, that God reveals himself in nature. As poet Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote —

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

from Hopkins’ poem, God’s Grandeur

And as David wrote in Psalm 19:1 (NIV):

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.   

Thus, God reveals himself generally in nature through General Divine Action.

I have written in a prior post about the constant work of God in holding the material universe together.  God is the essence, the active power of the forces that we describe as doing that, namely, the physical forces including gravity, and the strong and weak forces that hold the repellent subatomic particles together. See What is a Force?

Theologically, the constant holding of the universe together, the divine order manifested in His laws of nature set in motion by God, the prime mover, at the moment of creation, would be the work of the second person of the Trinity, Jesus or the Word of God.

In the beginning was the Word,and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
. . .
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5, 14 (NIV)

Speaking of our Lord Jesus, Paul writes:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things,and in him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:17 (NIV)

We believe in this divine activity despite our simultaneous acceptance of a theoretical scheme of natural laws which on a physical level, science tells us, determine physical events, subject to an underlying and inherent modern indeterminacy: events occurring as a matter of an ambiguous and uncertain probability labelled as quantum or chaos. Clearly, there is room for God to work in a quantum world or an unknowable chaos of events beyond or hidden from observation. Contemporary theologians speculate about this locus for the interactive Special Divine Action sometimes referred to as “SDA.” This special or particular divine action parallels the special revelation of God’s redemptive plan revealed in the Scriptures, as general revelation is God revealing Himself in nature through general divine action.

God may be interacting as well in the internal world of the mind, moving our spirit to make choices, or gain wisdom in our subjective minds or souls. We believe that God is interacting with us and with our minds, hopefully influencing somehow our desires and choices.  He carries out his will with particularity through particular or special divine action.  With the source or physical locale, if any, of the human consciousness unknown to science and philosophy, what is referred to as the hard problem of consciousness, faith stands firm in our Christian experience of the interaction of God with us in our subjective worlds of our minds.  In faith, we rely on God to give us wisdom, to lead us, protect us and provide for us. We pray for these blessings. In our desire to carry out the will of God, in faith we look for signs, or simply trust that he is with us as we make our choices and walk as strangers in a strange land. The material comfort we enjoy can make it a challenge to remember that we are not of this world. We need to be reminded. Here, the Apostle Peter admonishes us:

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

1 Peter 1:17 (NIV)

With the faith that God is acting in the World, the Hebrews used the Urim and Thummin, some device of randomness used for making decisions and determining the will of God, like an oracle, where God guides the random process to deliver a message.

Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron’s heart whenever he enters the presence of the LORD. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD

Exodus 28:30 (NIV)

After Jesus was crucified and Judas Iscariot had committed suicide in shame, the Apostles were short one of the twelve. They decided to choose a successor by casting lots, allowing God to intercede in the action of a seemingly random act, as Aaron did with the Urim and Thummin, telling the Apostles who His choice was to succeed Judas:

(With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)

“For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms,

‘May his place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in it,’
‘May another take his place of leadership.’

Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Acts 1:18-26 (NIV)

This practice of choosing a successor to the Apostles by casting lots continues today in the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt:

On the day of his consecration the Patriarch Elect of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt is traditionally led to the cathedral having spent the previous night in chains keeping vigil by the dead body of his predecessor.  When he arrives at the cathedral he is taken to the altar and stands between the bishops as his deed of election is read aloud to the congregation:

We besought the Spotless Trinity with a pure heart and an upright faith to
reveal unto us him who (was) worthy of this meditation … Therefore, by an
election from above’ and by the w’orking of the Holy Spirit and by the assent
and conviction of us all, it was revealed unto us to have regard unto N for the
Apostolic Throne of the divinely-prophetic Mark.

What is particularly interesting is the procedure adopted by the Copts to manifest most reliably God’s choice and revelation of their new Pope the election from above and working of the Holy Spirit is invoked by means of a wry ancient tradition.  In the election of their sixty-fifth Pope, HH Shenute II (1032-1046): the Copts adopted a process analogous to the Nestorian custom of choosing their patriarch by means of picking lots.  Throughout the next nine hundred years this process was only used occasionally until it became accepted as the standard method of selection in the twentieth century with the election of the patriarch, HH Shenouda III, on 31 October 1971.

HH Pope Shenouela III was chosen by the process of al-Qur’ah al-Haykaliyya, which literally means “the choice of God from the Altar.”  The names of the final three candidates for election are written on identical slips of paper and placed into a sealed box.  During the Mass a very young boy is selected from the congregation.  He is blindfolded and the priest opens the box.  As the congregation pray the Lord’s Prayer and chant “Lord have mercy” the boy chooses one of the slips inside.  The name picked is that of the new Patriarch.

Of course there are certain things we can say about how God brings about this revelation.  Central to the modern Coptic ceremony is the belief that God helps to form the intentions of all of those involved in the selection of the three names that will be written on the lots and many intercessionary prayers are made to ask for God’s guidance in this matter.  In the ceremony of the young boy choosing the slip there are two further implicit statements about God — both of which have Biblical parallels: that God has knowledge of the configuration of the slips in the box and knows which slip has which name written upon it: and that God can make his specific intention known to the mind of one child who then chooses in accordance with that intention without himself knowing which slip to choose.  Both of these are essential claims about the extent of God’s knowledge of the natural world — the exact configuration of the slips in the box, and the nature of the boy’s thought processes.  The latter element also includes a claim that God is capable of acting in the world on the level of human mental processes and accordingly instigates the child’s movements.

A strong element of the selection of the Coptic Patriarch is that God is capable of guiding a chance-like process and has knowledge of how to effect that process in a suitable way to select a desired result.  Put another way, God acts with intention to determine an otherwise random selection by virtue of knowledge and foresight of the implications of that determination.  .  .  .

[emphasis added) Nicholas Saunders, Divine Action & Modern Science, p. 1-4.

To Continue Reading This Post Click Here

Ecclesia semper reformanda est

This is Part 2 of a series of posts on Annihilationism, the Christian doctrine that the eternal destiny of lost souls is eternal death, annihilation, after the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment. This doctrine is contrary to the traditional orthodox position that lost souls consciously suffer eternal torment in hell fire, which I will refer to as “Traditionalism” and those who subscribe to the doctrine as “Traditionalists.” Part 1 of this series on annihilationism is found here on my blog.

As I previously contended in Part 1, Annihilationism is supported by Scripture, and the traditional doctrine of conscious eternal torment is not supported by Scripture, despite more than 17 centuries of acceptance of Traditionalist doctrine as orthodox. Traditionalism relies on the premise that the soul is immortal, a doctrine that is not found in Scripture. In fact, the Bible teaches that the soul is not immortal.  This post will further discuss the false doctrine of the immortal soul, the foundation upon which the doctrine of conscious eternal torment of the lost rests.  I will begin with some review of the Annihilationist doctrine as discussed in my prior post. Annihilationism is generally coupled with conditional immortality. Immortality is the gift of eternal life given to those who believe which is conditioned on election.

As I wrote in Part 1, the Biblical support for the Annihilationist view begins in Genesis, Chapter 3.

And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

Genesis 3:22-23 (New International Version 1984)

Whether you understand this passage and the Genesis creation story as literal history, or as a true myth provided by God as revelation of the fallen nature of humankind, or consider the Bible to be just an ancient text, in this passage God banishes mankind from the Garden of Eden expressly so that we cannot live forever. Sin entered the world accompanied by death.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (New International Version 1984)

Who gets eternal life?  Those who believe in Jesus Our Lord!  John affirms the gift of immortality to those who believe in this familiar passage:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 (King James Version)

Here, those who do not believe “perish.” The primary meaning of “perish” is to die. However, when a Traditionalist reads this, he or she substitutes “. . . should not suffer eternal torment in hell” for “. . . should not die.” In discussing this passage with a Christian friend, my wife asked her what the word “perish” meant. Without hesitation, her friend responded, “Eternal torment in hell.” If the word “perish” is used anywhere else to describe what happened to someone, in the newspaper describing a house fire, or an auto accident, we think “death”, the cessation of life. But we have been brainwashed to read “eternal torment in hell” whenever a Bible verse is referring to the fate of the lost, whether death, destruction, perish, or eternal punishment or destiny.

John 3:16 is clearly referring to eternal destiny of the believer, eternal life, and clearly should be read as referring also to the eternal destiny of the unbeliever; he or she will “perish”, will die.

You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.

John 11:50 (NIV)

In fact, the Traditionalist makes this substitution for all of the references to the “death”, “destruction”, and eternal “punishment” of the lost souls. It should be obvious that cessation of existence forever is an eternal punishment, but Christians tend to ignore this because of the strength of Traditionalism in the Christian Church and in our Western culture.  Capital punishment is the most serious punishment that we have in our human system of justice, and the Bible authorizes this punishment beginning in the Old Testament proportional system of punishment summarized in the well-known Biblical passage:

But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Exodus 21:23-24 (NIV).  In order to accept the doctrine of eternal torment, the Christian must be able to accept the justice of eternal suffering in hell, conscious suffering forever, as justified by a temporal life of sin on earth which may be as short as a moment, if you believe that unbaptized infants go to hell, or 13 years for a teenager who dies an accidental death without a saving faith in Christ.

John Furniss was a 19th Century Roman Catholic priest who was known for his ministry to children.  In a book authorized by the Roman Catholic Church, Furniss mercilessly describes the fate of the child who dies without baptism, condemned by original sin:

“The fifth dungeon is the red-hot oven. The little child is in the red-hot oven. Hear how it screams to come out; see how it turns and twists itself in the fire. It beats its head against the roof of the oven. It stamps its little feet on the floor. God was very good to this little child. Very likely God saw it would get worse and worse, and would never repent, and so it would have to be punished more severely in hell. So God, in his mercy, called it out of the world in early childhood.”

quoted in Henry Constable 1868 – Duration and Nature of Future Punishment, pp. 141-142.  To write this, Furniss or anyone would have to overlook the barbaric injustice, and rely on some mysterious divine judgment that could justify such disproportionate and clearly sadistic punishment to an innocent infant without rational conciousness.  God gave us our conscience and moral sense.  Why would He have us believe that He would do this to an infant who dies without grace?

Henry Constable was an Anglican minister who wrote a definitive argument for Annihilationism in his 1868 book — the entire book in pdf is available here:  Henry Constable 1868 – Duration and Nature of Future Punishment.  The recent theologians who have argued for Annihilationism are indebted to Constable, including Edward Fudge, whose exhaustive 466 page study of the doctrine of eternal punishment, originally published 1982, examines Biblical references from Genesis to Revelation, and extra-Biblical references as well from the period between the Old and New Testament to look at what people at the time of Jesus thought about eternal destiny, arguing persuasively against the Traditionalist dogma of eternal conscious torment in hell, The Fire that Consumes.  As I wrote in Part 1, in reading Fudge’s book, I was surprised to find that F.F. Bruce, a prominent mainstream Evangelical historian/scholar, wrote the Foreward, commending Fudge’s work, claiming himself to be agnostic like C.S. Lewis on the question of eternal torment versus annihilation.  I highly recommend both Constable’s and Fudge’s books.  I also recommend Glenn People’s excellent paper, Why I Am an Annihilationist  which is among his work on annihilationism and other theological and philosophical subjects found on his blog.

For the Traditionalist, not only does the lost person suffer incredible torment forever for his temporal sins and inherited fallen nature, but the elect, the chosen ones, saved by the mercy of God, are supposed to rejoice.  Here, Jonathan Edwards describes what the saints in heaven will experience looking upon lost souls suffering torment in hell:

Every time they look upon the damned, it will excite in them a lively and admiring sense of the grace of God…The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardor of the love and gratitude of the saints in heaven.

Jonathan Edwards, “The Eternity of Hell Torments,” IV.

As Evangelical theologian and scholar Clark Pinnock, an Annihilationist, has described this unfathomable eternal schadenfreude as follows:

Not only is it God’s pleasure so to torture the wicked everlastingly, but it will be the happiness of the saints to see and know this is being faithfully done. It would not be unfair to picture the traditional doctrine in this way: just as one can imagine certain people watching a cat trapped in a microwave oven squirming in agony and taking delight in it, so the saints in heaven will, according to Edwards, experience the torments of the damned with pleasure and satisfaction.

Pinnock – The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent [Original Paper], p. 6 [First published in Criswell Theological Review: 4.2 (1990), 243-259]. Pinnock’s paper is the best short defense of Annihilationism I have read, and I recommend it highly.  I rely on it extensively in this post.

How can this be?  I cannot imagine feeling such joy, or being changed so that I put natural affection and empathy aside to experience “joy” at such eternal suffering.  If you believe that the lost souls suffer eternal torment in hell, it is apparently logically necessary (and psychologically necessary as well, to avoid cognitive dissonance), to also believe that the sanctified soul in heaven must rejoice in the sufferings of the lost because the Christian believes that there is no sorrow in heaven.   Surely, even if you are a Traditionalist and believe this is a Biblical doctrine, if you are honest and have any sense of empathy or pity or mercy, you must admit that this is a miserable doctrine to attribute to the loving God that we find in the Bible, regardless of His wrath and hatred of sin which offends His pure and holy nature.  As Pinnock further writes:

Let me say at the outset that I consider the concept of hell as endless torment in body and mind an outrageous doctrine, a theological and moral enormity, a bad doctrine of the tradition which needs to be changed. How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness whose ways include inflicting everlasting torture upon His creatures, however sinful they may have been? Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God, at least by any ordinary moral standards, and by the gospel itself. How can we possibly preach that God has so arranged things that a number of His creatures (perhaps a large number predestined to that fate) will undergo (in a state of complete consciousness) physical and mental agony through unending time? Is this not a most disturbing concept which needs some second thoughts? Surely the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is no fiend; torturing people without end is not what our God does. Does the one who told us to love our enemies intend to wreak vengeance on His own enemies for all eternity? As H. Küng appropriately asks, “What would we think of a human being who satisfied his thirst for revenge so implacably and insatiably?”

Pinnock – The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent [Original Paper], p. 8.

I reviewed arguments for Annihilationism in my first post on the subject.  Now I want to concentrate on the foundation of the Traditionalist doctrine — the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.  The Bible says there is one who is immortal, God.

God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal . . . . 

1 Timothy 6:15-16 (NIV)

Paul clearly tells us that the gift of eternal life clothes us mortals with immortality.

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

Romans 2:7 (NIV) and further, describing the believer’s transformation, clothed with the gift of eternal life, Paul writes:

 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. . . . For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

1 Corinthians 15:52-54 (NIV)

Immortality is the gift of eternal life given to those who believe, not to those who are damned.  And yet, in order for souls to suffer eternal torment they must also be given eternal life.  If lost souls literally suffer torment in fires of hell, then, as Glenn Peoples puts it, either the lost must be given an infinite mass in order to be consumed in fire forever, or God must constantly regenerate the resurrected body cast into hell as it is consumed by the eternal fires of hell moment by moment forever. The honest traditionalist admits that the lost soul must also be given immortality in order to suffer in hell for forever, even though there is no Biblical support for a gift of eternal life to the lost, only to the saved.

Pinnock sums up succinctly as follows:

Belief in the immortality of the soul has long attached itself to Christian theology. J. Maritain, for example, states: “The human soul cannot die. Once it exists, it cannot disappear; it will necessarily exist forever and endure without end.”18 To this we must say, with all due respect, that the Bible teaches no such thing. The soul is not an immortal substance that has to be placed somewhere if it rejects God. The Bible states that God alone has immortality (1 Tim. 6:16) and that everlasting life is something God gives to humanity by grace (1 Cor. 15:51-55). Eternal life is not something we possess by any natural right according to Scripture. Immortality is not inherent in human beings. We are dependent on God for what happens to us after death. Rather than speaking of immortal souls, the Bible refers to resurrected bodies, to persons being reconstituted through the power of God (Phil. 3:20). In a word, Jesus Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).

Pinnock – The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent [Original Paper], p. 14.

How did this happen?  As Constable and others have written, in the 3rd century, the Christian Church incorporated the Greek concept of the immortal soul into the theology of eternal destiny.  Augustine was the Church father who is most responsible for the adoption of the immortality of the soul, and the consequent doctrine of eternal torment.  In his theology, Augustine adopted the Platonic belief of the immortality of the soul, though he did not believe in the Platonic belief in the preexistence of the soul.  According to Peter Brown, writing in Augustine of Hippoin the period just before Augustine’s conversion to Christianity and his baptism in 387, Augustine absorbed himself in the writings of the neo-Platonists where he learned his Platonism.  Plato’s own writings were not available to him then.  In that same year of his baptism, Augustine published a series of “sketches” titled On the Immortality of the Soul.   There, Augustine argues for the immortality of the soul from reason, not from Scripture.  For Augustine, the soul is the Platonic form of the body, the eternal idea derived from God, the Supreme Good, and the body is animated by the soul. The body gets is form and its life from the soul which is derived from God, the Supreme Good.  As such, the soul is immortal.  Augustine reaches this conclusion by arguing that the soul and reason are inseparable because he also has found that the mind and reason co-exist and that the soul and the mind are one.  He concludes:

Consequently, if, as we said above, the soul is a subject in which reason is inseparably (by that necessity also which it is shown to be in the subject), neither can their be any soul except a living soul, nor can reason be in a soul without life, and reason is immortal; hence the soul is immortal.

A Christian relying on revelation in Scripture could easily call this nonsense, but this is Augustine, and apparently, the Church has not been interested in tracing his belief in the immortality of the soul.  This immortality comes to us living in our body on this earth in this life through our soul.  Plato equated the form of the Good, the ultimate form, with God, and Augustine does as well, for example, in Chapter XV of On the Immortality of the Soul, Augustine writes:

The soul is prior to the body in connection with those supreme and eternal principles which survive unchangeably and are not contained in space; and the soul’s connection is not only prior but also greater; as much prior as it is nearer, and for the same reason as much greater as it is better than body.  And this nearness is not in place but in the order of nature.  According to this order it is understood that the supreme essence bestows form upon the body through the soul by which it exists in whatever degree it does exist.  Therefore, the body subsists through the soul, and it exists to the extent that it is animated, whether universally, as the world, or particularly, as some animal or other within the world.

This is philosophy.  It is not theology.  There are no citations to Scripture supporting the immortality of the soul in Augustine’s On the Immortality of the Soul.  The soul is immortal for philosophical reasons, based on a Platonic idea of God.

Later in life, Augustine wrote a masterpiece, the City of God, comparing the world with the kingdom of God using the analogy of two cities (from which my blog gets its name).  In the City of God, Augustine is arguing against annihilationists of his time who believed that the lost, those who die without Christ, do not live forever in torment in hell.  Without any reference to Scripture regarding the immortality of the soul, which is unusual for the mature Augustine, Augustine refuted the annihilationist by assuming the soul’s immortality as follows:

The soul gives life to the body by its presence: it rules the body; and this soul itself can suffer pain, while incapable of death. Here we have found something which feels pain and yet is immortal. This property, which now, as we know, belongs to the souls of all men, will at that time belong to the bodies of the damned.

Augustine, City of God, Book 21, Chapter 3, Penguin Books (2003), Trans. Henry Bettenson (1972).

Martin Luther did not believe in the immortality of the soul.  He considered it to be a Roman Catholic lie, as he wrote with colorful language:

However, I permit the Pope to establish articles of faith for himself and for his own faithful—such are: That the bread and wine are transubstantiated in the sacrament; that the essence of God neither generates nor is generated; that the soul is the substantial form of the human body that he [the pope] is emperor of the world and king of heaven, and earthly god; that the soul is immortal; and all these endless monstrosities in the Roman dunghill of decretals—in order that such as his faith is, such may be his gospel, such also his faithful, and such his church, and that the lips may have suitable lettuce and the lid may be worthy of the dish.

(emphasis added) Martin Luther, Assertio Omnium Articulorum M. Lutheri per Bullam Leonis X. Novissimam Damnatorum (Assertion of all the articles of M. Luther condemned by the latest Bull of Leo X), article 27, Weimar edition of Luther’s Works, vol. 7, pp. 131, 132 (a point-by-point exposition of his position, written Dec. 1, 1520, in response to requests for a fuller treatment than that given in his Adversus execrabilem Antichristi Bullam, and Wider die Bulle des Endchrists).

Interestingly, early Church father and theologian Origen also assumed the Greek idea of the immortality of the soul and further adopted the Platonic belief in the preexistence of the soul.  However, because Origen believed that Scripture teaches that God eventually eradicates evil, and death and hell, Origen taught that the souls in hell eventually were saved, adopting a universalist position on salvation.

Constable describes the contradictory positions that resulted from Augustine and Origen’s belief in the immortality of the soul:

Before the preaching of the Gospel, the highest order of heathen philosophy had framed for its satisfaction a theory of the immortality of the soul. While the great mass of mankind had absolutely no hope of any future life; and while far the greater number of philosophers taught that death was for all an eternal sleep; there were “high spirits of old” that strained their eyes to see beyond the clouds of time the dawning of immortality. Unable, as we are able, to connect it with God as its source, and with his promise as their assurance, they framed the idea of an immortality self-existing in the human soul.  Egypt, the prolific mother of religious error, appears, from the best authorities in our hands, to have been the source of this idea. But it was extracted from the tombs and the hieroglyphics of Egyptian priests by the brilliant and restless curiosity of Greece. Socrates, and his great pupil, Plato, presented it to the human mind wherever the Grecian intellect penetrated, and the tongue of Greece was known.  Cicero recommended the theory of the Academy to his contemporaries in his “Tusculan Questions.” They did not indeed teach it at all consistently, nor do they appear themselves to have relied with any firmness on its reality.  It was with them a great hope fitfully entertained, rather than a sober conviction. “I have perused Plato,” Cicero sadly complains, “with the greatest diligence and exactness, over and over again; but know not how it is, whilst I read him I am convinced; when I lay the book aside and begin to consider by myself of the soul’s immortality, all the conviction instantly ceases. It is indeed doubtful whether any of the great minds of antiquity in their esoteric or inner faith held more than the tenet of Buddhism, which teaches that the soul, originally derived from Deity, is at length to be re-absorbed and lost in Deity again:

“That each, who seems a separate whole
Should move his rounds, and fusing all
The skirts of self again, should fail,
Remerging in the general Soul.”—TENNYSON.

5. However this may be, those of whom we speak presented to the common mind an idea not so vague as this. The conception of it kindled their imagination, and the discussion of it afforded a theme for their logical powers. According to it, the soul was possessed of an inherent immortality. It had no beginning and could have no end. What was true of one soul was equally true of all souls, good or bad. They must live somewhere, be it in Tartarus, or Cocytus, in Pyriphlegethon, or the happy abodes of the purified. This idea, sublime for a heathen, passed readily and early into the theology of the Christian Church. Philosophers, converted to Christianity, brought with them into their new service too much of their ancient learning. Heedless of Paul’s warning voice against philosophy in general, they considered that a considerable portion at least of Plato’s philosophy must be exempted from the apostolic condemnation. We find accordingly the Platonic philosophy of the soul’s immortality running through and blending with the theological reasoning of Athenagoras and Tertullian, of Origen and Augustine.  Teachers who should have consulted only the oracles of God, leaving behind them their heathen lore as Moses left behind him the learning of Egypt, supplemented those living oracles with theories drawn from a brilliant Greek philosophy, which was in its turn suggested by the priest-craft taught in Egyptian temples. Their theory was that the life of the wicked must be as eternal as the life of those here redeemed and brought to Christ, because every soul of man was immortal.

6. A moment’s reflection will show us that a dogma of this kind could not remain idle. It must influence irresistibly in one direction or another this whole question of future punishment. It must mould the entire doctrine of the Church upon the subject.  According as men connected it with one truth of Scripture or another, it must give rise to two opposite schools of thought. Connect the immortality of the soul with the scriptural  doctrine of the eternity of punishment, and you inevitably create the dogma of eternal life in misery, i.e. of Augustine’s hell. Connect it with another great truth of Scripture, the final extinction of evil and restitution of all things, and you as inevitably create Origen’s Universal Restoration. For each of these opposing theories there is exactly the same amount of proof, viz.:—Plato’s dogma and a dogma of the Bible; and if Plato’s dogma could be proved to be a scriptural doctrine, then, by every law of logic, Scripture would be found supporting two contradictory theories, or, in other words, would itself destroy all its claims to authority.

7. Accordingly, this philosophical idea of Plato is found influencing most powerfully and most unfairly the interpretation of Scripture from the second century down to our own time. An example of this will probably show this more forcibly than any words of ours. Tertullian is commenting upon our Lord’s teaching in Luke xix. 10: “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.” (Vulgate, quod perierat). No one knew better than Tertullian the primary and proper meaning of the Latin verb pereo, and that it meant, “to vanish,” “to die,” “to perish,” “to be annihilated.”  Why would he not attach this meaning to it when he was commenting upon the text of the Latin version? Here is his own account:  “We, however, so understand the soul’s immortality as to believe it lost, not in the sense of destruction, but of punishment, that is, in hell. And if this is the case, then it is not the soul which salvation will affect, since it is ‘safe’ already in its own nature by reason of its immortality; but rather the flesh, which, as all readily allow, is subject to destruction.”  Such was the influence upon the interpretation of Scripture which his theory of the soul forced upon Tertullian. It led him to deny to the terms of God’s word what he knew to be their primary and proper meaning, and to affirm that the salvation of our Lord had no relation to the human soul, but only to the bodies of men! A similar influence this theory has had upon theologians down to the present day.

[footnotes omitted]  Henry Constable 1868 – Duration and Nature of Future Punishment, pp. 14-19.

There are several passages of Scripture that Traditionalists use as proof texts that have been discussed by the prominent scholars who believe Annihilationism is supported by Scripture, including John Stott in “Essentials”  See  john-stott-discusses-hell.  Clark Pinnock discusses the passages that support Annihilationism followed by the passages cited by Traditionalists in the previously cited article, which since this is a blog, is worth citing in its entirety as follows:


What I want to do is what I am assured cannot be done, namely, to show that the Bible does not teach Augustine’s version of the doctrine of hell.  Almost all who defend his view admit that the idea of everlasting torment is a genuinely awful concept, but they go on to defend it anyway on the assumption that it is nevertheless mandatory scriptural truth (much as a strict Calvinist argues in defense of his doctrine of the sovereign reprobation of the nonelect—recall Calvin’s reference to “the horrible decree”).  They tell us that they do not like the doctrine any more than anyone else but have to espouse it because it is a biblical idea and they have no choice but to uphold it. They make it sound like the infallibility of the Bible were at stake. Let us ask then whether the traditional doctrine of hell is biblically and theologically sound. In my view it is not.

1. The strong impression the Bible creates in this reader with regard to the fate of the finally impenitent wicked is a vivid sense of their final and irreversible destruction. The language and imagery used by Scripture is so powerful in this regard that it is remarkable more theologians have not picked up on it. The Bible repeatedly uses the language of death, destruction, ruin, and perishing when speaking of the fate of the wicked.  It uses the imagery of fire consuming (not torturing) what is thrown into it. The images of fire and destruction together strongly suggest annihilation rather than unending torture. It creates the impression that eternal punishment refers to a divine judgment whose results cannot be reversed rather than to the experience of being tormented forever.

Frankly it is a little annoying to be told again and again by the defenders of everlasting torment that there is no biblical case for the annihilation of the wicked. A. Pink, for instance, calls the position an absurdity, while W. Hendriksen says he is aghast that anyone would argue otherwise than for hell as everlasting torment; and Packer attributes the position to sentimentality, not to any scriptural ground. But is it not really quite the other way around? Does the burden of proof not rest with the traditionalists to explain why the strong impression of the destruction of the wicked which the Bible gives its readers should not just be believed?

A brief overview of the Bible will show what I am driving at. The Old Testament gives us a clear picture of the destruction of the wicked (perhaps because it is more oriented to this world than the next) and supplies the basic imagery of divine judgment for the New Testament as well. Consider Psalm 37 where we read that the wicked fade like grass and wither like the herb (v. 2), that they will be cut off and be no more (vv. 9, 10), that they will perish and vanish like smoke (v. 20), and be altogether destroyed (v. 38). Listen to this oracle from the prophet Malachi: “For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch” (4:1). The message is plain—the finally impenitent wicked will perish and be no more.

Turning to the New Testament, Jesus’ teaching about the afterlife is sketchy in matters of detail. While he certainly referred to a destiny beyond the grave either of bliss or woe, he did not bother to give us a clear conception of it. He was not a systematic theologian but a preacher more concerned with the importance of a decision here and now than with speculations about the furniture of heaven or the temperature of hell. At the same time Jesus said things which support the impression the Old Testament gives us.

He presented God’s judgment as the destruction of the wicked. He said that God could and perhaps would destroy body and soul in hell, if He must (Matt. 10:28). Jesus’ words are reminiscent of John the Baptist’s when he said that the wicked are like dry wood about to be thrown into the fire and like chaff to be burned in the unquenchable fire (Matt. 3:10, 12). He warned that the wicked will be cast away into hell like so much rejected garbage into the Gehenna of fire (5:30), an allusion to the valley outside Jerusalem where sacrifices were once offered to Moloch (2 Kings 16:3; 21:6), and possibly the place where garbage actually smoldered and burned in Jesus’ day. Our Lord said that the wicked will be burned up there just like weeds when thrown into the fire (13:30, 42, 49, 50). The impression is a very strong one that the impenitent wicked can expect to be destroyed.

The Apostle Paul communicates the same thing, plainly thinking of divine judgment as the destruction of the wicked. He writes of everlasting destruction which will come upon the wicked (2 Thes. 1:9). He warns that the wicked will reap corruption (Gal. 6:8). He states that God will destroy the wicked (1 Cor. 3:17; Phil. 1:28). He speaks of their fate as a death they deserve to die (Rom. 1:32) and which is the wages of their sins (6:23). About the wicked, he states plainly and concisely: “Their end is destruction” (Phil. 3:19).

It is no different in the other New Testament books. Peter speaks of “the fire which has been kept until the day of judgment and the destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:7). The author to the Hebrews speaks of the wicked who shrink back and are destroyed (Heb. 10:39). Peter says that false teachers who deny the Lord who bought them will bring upon themselves “swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1, 3). They will resemble the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah which were “condemned to extinction” (2:6). They will perish like the ancient world perished when deluged in the great Flood (3:6, 7). Jude also points to Sodom as an analogy to God’s judgment, being the city which underwent “a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7). Similarly, the Apocalypse of John speaks of the lake of fire consuming the wicked and of the second death (Rev. 20:14, 15).

At the very least it should be obvious to any impartial reader that the Bible may legitimately be read to teach the final destruction of the wicked without difficulty. I am not making it up. It is not wishful thinking. It is simply a natural interpretation of Scripture on the subject of divine judgment. I think it is outrageous for traditionalists to say that a biblical basis for the destruction of the wicked is lacking. What is in short supply are texts supporting the traditional view.

2. Some advocates prefer to call their position conditional immortality rather than annihilationism because it sounds more positive to the ear. Underlying the doctrine of annihilation, after all, is a belief in conditional immortality, the understanding that our immortality is not a natural attribute of humankind but God’s gift. This is clearly an important issue in our discussion because belief in the natural immortality of the soul which is so widely held by Christians, although stemming more from Plato than the Bible, really drives the traditional doctrine of hell more than exegesis does. Consider the logic: if souls must live forever because they are naturally immortal, the lake of fire must be their home forever and cannot be their destruction. In the same way, the second death would have to be a process of everlasting dying and not a termination of existence which is impossible. I am convinced that the hellenistic belief in the immortality of the soul has done more than anything else (specifically more than the Bible) to give credibility to the doctrine of the everlasting conscious punishment of the wicked. This belief, not holy Scripture, is what gives this doctrine the credibility it does not deserve.

Belief in the immortality of the soul has long attached itself to Christian theology. J. Maritain, for example, states: “The human soul cannot die. Once it exists, it cannot disappear; it will necessarily exist forever and endure without end.”18 To this we must say, with all due respect, that the Bible teaches no such thing. The soul is not an immortal substance that has to be placed somewhere if it rejects God. The Bible states that God alone has immortality (1 Tim. 6:16) and that everlasting life is something God gives to humanity by grace (1 Cor. 15:51-55).  Eternal life is not something we possess by any natural right according to Scripture. Immortality is not inherent in human beings. We are dependent on God for what happens to us after death. Rather than speaking of immortal souls, the Bible refers to resurrected bodies, to persons being reconstituted through the power of God (Phil. 3:20). In a word, Jesus Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).19

The Greek doctrine of immortality has affected theology unduly on this point. It is one of several examples where there has been an undue hellenization of Christian doctrine. The idea of souls being naturally immortal is not a biblical one, and the effect of believing it stretches the experience of death and destruction in Gehenna into endless torment. If souls are immortal, then either all souls will be saved (which is unscriptural universalism) or else hell must be everlasting torment. There is no other possibility since annihilation is ruled out from the start. This is how the traditional view of hell got constructed: add a belief in divine judgment after death (scriptural) to a belief in the immortality of the soul (unscriptural), and you have Augustine’s terrible doctrine.

Nevertheless, I do not call my position conditional immortality. It is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition of my view. Conditional immortality has to be true for a negative reason—to make the destruction of the wicked conceivable, but it does not positively establish annihilation simply because it would still be possible that God might give the wicked everlasting life and condemn them to spend it in everlasting torment.  Conditional immortality then, while necessary to belief in annihilation, does not prove that annihilation is true. The key issue remains my first argument: the Scriptures suggest the destruction of the wicked.

3. As I intimated earlier, everlasting torment is intolerable from a moral point of view because it makes God into a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for victims whom He does not even allow to die. How is one to worship or imitate such a cruel and merciless God? The idea of everlasting torment (especially if it is linked to soteriological predestination) raises the problem of evil to impossible dimensions. A. Flew was quite right (I think) to say that, if Christians want to hold that God created some people to be tortured in hell forever, then the apologetic task in relation to theodicy is just hopeless.  Stott seems to agree: “I find the concept intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterizing their feelings or cracking under the strain.”  I even wonder what atrocities have been committed by those who have believed in a God who tortures His enemies?

Naturally, various attempts have been made by the traditionalists to hide the gruesome problem. C. Hodge and B.B. Warfield, for example, make use of postmillennial eschatology to argue that very few persons (relatively speaking) will go to hell anyway. Presumably we do not need to worry much if only a negligible number is tormented while a numerical majority is saved. Such a calculus, however, achieves little: first, because few today would accept the postmillennial premise to begin with, and second, because the tens of millions still suffering everlasting torture even under their scenario are tens of millions too many.

Alternatively it is common to try to hide the moral problem by redefining hell. C.S. Lewis tries this when he pictures hell in The Great Divorce as almost pleasant, if a little gray, being the kind of place from which one can take day trips on the bus into heaven and return again to meet with the theological society which meets regularly in hell.  This resembles Sartre’s picture of hell in No Exit as consisting of being cooped up with the other people forever. In these terms, hell is nasty and inconvenient, but certainly no lake of fire. Thus by sheer speculation the biblical warnings are emasculated and the moral problem dealt with by fancy footwork devoid of exegesis. The fact is that the biblical warnings spell a terrible destruction awaiting the impenitent wicked, and if hell is everlasting there is no way to make it other than endless torture. I understand why traditionalists want to take the hell out of hell, but it should not be permitted, because it breaks the concentration and prevents people from seeing the need for theological renewal on this point.

4. The need to correct the traditional doctrine of hell also rests upon considerations of the divine justice. What purpose of God would be served by the unending torture of the wicked except sheer vengeance and vindictiveness? Such a fate would spell endless and totally unredemptive suffering, punishment just for its own sake. Even the plagues of Egypt were intended to be redemptive for those who would respond to the warnings.  But unending torment would be the kind of utterly pointless and wasted suffering which could never lead to anything good beyond it.  Furthermore, it would amount to inflicting infinite suffering upon those who have committed finite sins. It would go far beyond an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. There would be a serious disproportion between sins committed in time and the suffering experienced forever. The fact that sin has been committed against an infinite God does not make the sin infinite. The chief point is that eternal torment serves no purpose and exhibits a vindictiveness out of keeping with the love of God revealed in the gospel. We should listen to H. Küng:

Even apart from the image of a truly merciless God that contradicts
everything we can assume from what Jesus says of the Father of the lost,
can we be surprised at a time when retributive punishments without an
opportunity of probation are being increasingly abandoned in education
and penal justice that the idea not only of a lifelong, but even eternal
punishment of body and soul, seems to many people absolutely monstrous?

5. Finally, from a metaphysical point of view, everlasting torment gives the clear picture of an unending cosmological dualism. Heaven and hell just go on existing alongside each other forever. But how can this be if God is to be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28) and if God is making “all things new” (Rev. 21:5)? It just does not add up right. Stott asks: “How can God in any meaningful sense be called ‘everything to everybody’ while an unspecified number of people still continue in rebellion against him and under his judgment?” It would make better sense metaphysically (as well as biblically, morally, and justicewise) if hell meant destruction and the wicked were no more. Otherwise the disloyal opposition would eternally exist alongside God in a corner of unredeemed reality in the new creation.

6. Nevertheless, the reader may be asking, have I not forgotten something important? What about the texts which have always been taken to support the doctrine of everlasting conscious torment? In regard to them I would say that their number is very small. The texts which can be taken to teach this doctrine are few in number and capable of being fairly interpreted in harmony with the majority of verses which teach the destruction of the wicked. I deal with these “difficult” texts in the way that biblical inerrantists or high Calvinists deal with the difficult passages they face.

(1) “Their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).  This imagery is taken from Isaiah 66:24 where the dead bodies of God’s enemies are being eaten by maggots and burned up. It is safe to say there is not a hint of everlasting suffering in the verse. The fire and the worm destroy the dead bodies; they do not torment them. The fire will be quenched only when the job is finished, not before. The tradition simply misreads the verse.

(2) “They will go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46). I admit that the interpretation of everlasting, conscious torment can be read out of this verse if one wishes to do so. Such a meaning is not at all impossible from the wording, especially if one smuggles the term “conscious” into it as is very common.26 But there are considerations which would bring the meaning more into line with what I judge to be the larger body of evidence. Jesus does not define the nature of eternal life or eternal death in this text. He just says there will be two destinies and leaves it there. One is free to interpret it to mean either everlasting conscious torment or irreversible destruction. The text allows for both possibilities and only teaches explicitly the finality of the judgment itself, not its nature.  Therefore, one’s interpretation of this verse in respect to our subject here will depend upon other considerations. In the light of what has been said so far, I think it is better and wiser to read the text as teaching annihilation.

(3) But did not the rich man suffer torment in the flames in a famous parable of Jesus? (Luke 16:23ff.). Yes, this is part of the Jewish imagery Jesus uses. But one should keep two things in mind here: first, the mention of Abraham’s bosom (v. 22) should alert us to the fact that we are dealing with imagery, not literal description; and second (and more importantly), the story refers to the intermediate state between death and the resurrection and is not really relevant to our subject. This point should not be missed given the fact that the passage is used regularly (and erroneously) in the traditionalist literature to describe hell, not the intermediate state.

(4) But what about those passages in the book of the Revelation of John which speak of Satan, the false prophet, the beast, and certain evildoers being tormented in fire and brimstone (Rev. 14:11; 20:10)? Only in the first case (14:11) are human beings at all in view, and it is likely that what is being described is the moment of their judgment, not their everlasting condition, with the smoke going up forever being the testimony to their final destruction. In the other verse (20:10), it is the Devil, the beast, and the false prophet who are the only ones present, and they cannot be equated with ordinary human beings, however we should understand their nature. John’s point seems to be that everything which has rebelled against God will come to an absolute end. As Caird comments: “John believed that, if at the end there should be any who remained impervious to the grace and love of God, they would be thrown, with Death and Hades, into the lake of fire which is the second death, i.e. extinction and total oblivion.” I think it would be fair to say that the biblical basis for the traditional view of hell has been greatly exaggerated.

Positively I am contending that Scripture and theology give solid support to the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked. The case is impressive if not quite unambiguous, and the traditional view looks less likely in comparison with it. Yet I would not say that either side wins the argument hands down largely because the Bible does not seem concerned to deal with this question as precisely as we want it to. But it is amusing to hear traditionalists claiming that they alone hold to the infallibility of the Bible as illustrated by their holding to everlasting torment of the wicked.  Their position is in fact very weakly established biblically.

[footnotes omitted] Pinnock – The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent [Original Paper], p. 11-19.

In conclusion, the Traditionalist doctrine, that the lost suffer conscious eternal torment in hell, relies on a false doctrine of the immortality of the soul.  Scripture strongly supports the Annihilationist doctrine.   In his paper, Clark Pinnock has strong initial words expressing his outrage at the defenders of the Traditionalists who argue that the Annihilationist position is grounded in secular sympathy for the lost.  His words are worth pondering:

How should I begin? Shall I treat the subject in the calm way one would when dealing with another issue? Would it be right to pretend to be calm when I am not? To begin calmly would not really communicate a full account of my response. I do not feel calm about the traditional doctrine of hell, and so I will not pretend. Indeed, how can anyone with the milk of human kindness in him remain calm contemplating such an idea as this? Now I realize that in admitting this I am playing into the hands of the critics, when I admit how disturbed the doctrine makes me. They will be able to say that I have adopted arguments on the basis of sentimentality and a subjective sense of moral outrage. In a recent paper, J.I. Packer has said that he dislikes the idea which critics of everlasting conscious punishment seem to have of their moral superiority, when it is not spiritual sensitivity, he says, but secular sentimentalism which motivates them (referring in the context to none other than his esteemed evangelical and Anglican colleague J. Stott).  Nonetheless, I will take the risk of beginning at the point of my outrage and hope people will hear me and not put it down to sentimentality. To such a charge I would reply: if it is sentimentality which drives me, what drives my opponent? Is it hard-heartedness and the desire for eternal retribution? Such recriminations will get us nowhere fast.

Pinnock – The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent [Original Paper], p. 7-8.

Our God is a loving God, who shows mercy to us who believe as a matter of grace alone.  In addition to conforming to Scripture, it is fitting that a righteous judge whose nature is love would justly punish the lost after the first death, and then end their existence in the second death, rather than punish with conscious excruciating pain forever.

I conclude with a video of a lecture by Edward Fudge on “Three Views of Hell.”


For reference, Part 1 of my discussion of the doctrine of conscious eternal torment of the lost in hell and Annihiliationism is found by clicking here.

Older Posts »


%d bloggers like this: