Fear & Trembling

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This is an updated version of my last post, Beholding the Glory of the Gospel. Essentially this is a step by step guide for what to do when reading your Bible. I have updated this post to better reflect what most helps me get into the presence of God and to experience him. This is something to go through once you have your Bible in front of you and have a Bible reading plan to start. If you’re more of a neat-nic like me, you might find this helpful (if not, you may just be overwhelmed). I find that if I don’t have a plan for how to read, I simply read my Bible and just go on my way without it having any affect on me.

This plan is something I’ve gathered together from a few different sources over a few years. It really helps my Bible reading affect my soul, and work change in me, rather than just being something I glance over. Before starting you may want to grab a coffee, get out a journal, maybe light a candle, or turn on some quiet music that helps you get into God’s presence. To go through everything here will probably take a few sittings, so some people may find it better to pick and choose some things that are most helpful for them. My hope is that this will help you to more deeply enjoy, know, and be swallowed up in the glorious majesty of Jesus our king!

 

Luke 8:18

Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

2 Corinthians 2:16

to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

 

 

APPROACHING GOD

 

  1. Remove other cares from my thoughts. If necessary list them out for dealing with later.
  1. Get my heart impressed with an awful sense of the majesty and holiness of God into who’s presence I am going, and who’s word I am about to hear. See Psa. 89:5-14; Isa. 6:1-5; Psa. 46:1-11.
  1. Apply Christ’s suffering, death, and his imputed righteous life in my place, to myself and my sin and even my self made righteousness that stands between my soul and God.
  1. Examine myself and stir up in my heart great spiritual desires for my own soul’s needs and deficiencies.
  1. Pray that God would give me assistance in seeing, feeling, and hearing what he has for me in his word. Pray that he would direct the word to me as I need it, and that he would press it home on my heart with his blessing in order that I may be enlightened, sanctified, strengthened, humbled, or raised up by it, as my case requires according to Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”
  1. Ask that God would pour out his Spirit on me through the reading of his word, knowing that none of these actions procure God’s action toward me, but that he acts according to his own will, and pours out his Spirit on whom he wills. Ask this according to the promise in Proverbs 1:23: “If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.”

 

 

HEARING GOD

 

LISTENING
  1. Treat the reading with great respect and read without many distractions or breaks which show contempt for God who is speaking to me by his word.
  1. Read each verse as if it is to me. See Thomas Watson here: “Take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the word thunders against sin, think thus: “God means my sins;” when it presseth any duty, “God intends me in this.” Many put off Scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written; but if you intend to profit by the word, bring it home to yourselves: a medicine will do no good, unless it be applied.” (See Watson’s great little book on spiritual disciplines, Heaven Taken by Storm.) Donald Whitney says of this quote: “Watson was right when he said, “Take every word as spoken to yourselves.” But we cannot do that until we understand how it was intended for those who heard it first. If you take every word of God’s call to Abram in Genesis 12:1-7 as spoken to yourself, you’ll soon be moving to Israel. But if you understand that particular call as unique to Abram, you can still discover the timeless truths within it and apply every word to yourself. Have you followed the call of God to come to Christ? Are you willing to obey the voice of God wherever He might call you—to a new job, a new location, the mission field, etc.?” (See Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life).
  1. Consider each section of Scripture prayerfully, diligently, and slowly, not carelessly passing by anything so as to miss anything God would have for me.
  1. Prayerfully consider how each verse makes me feel, and also how the author (both the Biblical, and ultimate author, God the Holy Spirit) feels in this writing. Think on the emotion that rises and send it up to prayer to God for every sentence or so. This is the gateway to real interaction with God.
  1. Do this until a word from God stands out in my heart by the Power of the Holy Spirit. This can be a word specifically to my spiritual need, situation, fear; or a word that frightens me or gives me deep concern.

 

TILLING THE SOIL

If nothing in God’s word seems to be jumping out and speaking to me directly:

  1. Then make a list of everything it says about God (Father, Son, and Spirit).
  2. List anything that it tells you about yourself.
  3. List any examples to be followed (or things that need to be avoided).
  4. List any commands to be obeyed.
  5. Finally, list any promises to claim.
  6. When this is all done, choose the verse and truth that is most striking and helpful to you (sometimes nothing in particular will really stand out, if this happens just choose the one that most strikes you, even if it doesn’t seem that great – often God will surprise you with these).
  7. Paraphrase the thought or verse in your own words.

 

MEDITATION

 

Write down answers to the following questions:

  1. What does this text show me about God for which I should praise or thank him? Adore, praise, and thank him for this.
  1. What does the text show me about my sin that I should confess and repent of? What false attitudes, behavior, emotions, or idols come alive in me whenever I forget this truth? Confess and repent of this in prayer to God.
  1. What does the text show me about a need that I have? What do I need to do or become in light of this? How shall I petition God for it? Petition and plead with God for this in prayer.
  1. How is Jesus Christ or the grace that I have in him crucial to helping me overcome the sin I have confessed or to answering the need I have? Pour out your thanks to God for Jesus and his salvation.
  1. How would this change my life if I took it seriously— if this truth were fully alive and effective in my inward being? Also, why might God be showing this to me now? What is going on in my life that he would be bringing this to my attention today?
  1. Pray for all of your needs and pressing concerns.
  1. Pray for others on the truth that God has revealed to you. If you have a prayer list, use it here.
  1. Take a final moment just to enjoy God and his presence. Do this however you would like. I personally prefer enjoying God’s presence as I read a devotion on the Bible text I just read. Good devotions I’ve found that follow a Bible reading plan are:

Older Devotions (Dead Guys)

Philip Doddridge’s Family Expositor (Usually 2-6 volumes depending on the edition; contains a devotion for every section in the New Testament (about every 4-10 verses), and by far, my very favorite) Paperback V1 V2 | Hardcover V1 V2

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (very devotional throughout, goes through the entire Bible by sections (usually 2-5 pages for every 10-15 verses give or take) Single Volume | Six Volume Edition

Joseph Hall’s Contemplations (contains a 2 or 3 page devotion for every narrative section (typically a chapter) of the Bible) Kindle Edition V1 V2 V3 | Hardcover

Robert Hawker’s Poor Man Commentaries (contains a devotion (about a page long) for every chapter of the Bible) Kindle Edition | New Testament Hardcover | Old Testament Hardcover | Abridged New Testament & Psalms Hardcover

Isaac Watts’ Psalms & Hymns (the Psalms; typically one to three hymns for each Psalm) Paperback | Hardcover

Thomas Chalmers’ Sabbath Scripture Readings Volumes I & II (I haven’t spent much time in these, but they contain devotions for every chapter of the New Testament in volume I and Gen. 1 – 2 Kings 11 in volume II) Paperback V1 V2

Modern Devotions

D. A. Carson’s For the Love of God, Volumes I & II (this follows the McCheyne Bible reading plan and pretty much covers the whole Bible, (although there are some chapters that don’t get a devotion); the devotions typically correspond to a single Bible chapter) Paperback V1 V2 | Hardcover V1 V2

Joel Beeke’s Family Worship Guide (entire Bible) (I haven’t looked at this yet, but it is likely very good) Hardcover | Leather

ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible (entire Bible) (I haven’t seen much of this one either, but it’s supposed to be great) Many Editions

There are many other good devotionals that I didn’t list because they aren’t really arranged chronologically in order to be a companion to reading through the Bible, but rather as something to be read on their own. I’m also sure that there are other devotions that are arranged to be read chronologically with Bible reading that I haven’t heard of yet. If you know of any, feel free to post them in the comments!

 

 

I’ve gleaned these directions from several authors. The Approaching God and Hearing God sections are mostly adaptations from a sermon (which I can no longer find) of the puritan Thomas Boston. Some of the content in the Hearing God section is from Donald Whitney’s excellent Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. The Tilling the Soil and Meditation sections are taken directly from Tim Keller’s great book Prayer. All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version.

May God provoke you to more awe, delight, and satisfaction in him through his word in the coming year!

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Beholding the Glory of the Gospel

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I‘ve been trying to hone in on my Bible reading and prayer and actually have it be genuine time with God, leading to genuine change in my heart. I’ve found that without some kind of organization, I typically gloss through my morning Bible text, and my reading basically just becomes a meaningless means of works righteousness; a box I can check off that does me no good. In the last few years I’ve looked at several suggestions of Bible reading methods and prayer models, and the following is my attempt to converge many useful suggestions into one system. The following is a way to go about meeting with God once you’ve sat down and have your Bible open. If you’re an OCD neat-nick like me, you may find this helpful. Note that this is for people who already have a reading plan they intend to use for their daily Bible reading. I don’t intend, or suggest anyone else go through everything here in one sitting. But instead I plan to choose some things from this every morning as I think they’ll help me. I owe much here to Tim Keller, and some to the puritans Thomas Boston & Thomas Manton. This will likely remain a work in progress as I learn what is most beneficial to my soul. Here’s what I have so far. I hope it may help you on your journey to walk closer, and to more deeply enjoy the beauty of our God.

 

Quiet myself

Quiet my heart and mind and enjoy stillness before God. Light a candle. Silence… Simple Prayer… Quiet Music or Hymn…. Deep Breathing… Take a few minutes to focus on God and to shut out distractions. Experiment. Vary this. Try one or two of the following each time before I begin reading:

  • Invitation: Read a verse inviting me into the presence of God. Examples: P 130:5 Ps. 100:1-2 Titus 2:11-13 Ps. 145:8 1Pet. 1:3 Ezek. 36:26-27 Rom. 5:5
  • Fear of God: Get my heart deeply impressed with an awe filled sense of the majesty and holiness of God into who’s presence I am seeking to go, and who’s voice I am seeking to hear. Delight in the greatness of God and in my smallness in light of his immensity. Delight that he commands all things, and that all things are for his greatness and are at his sole disposal. See Lk. 8:18, 2 Cor. 2:16, Ps. 89:5-14, Isa. 6:1-5, Psalm 46:1-11.
  • Love of God: Apply Christ’s suffering and death for my inherited sinful nature, for my evil heart toward him in actual sin, and even my evil self-made righteousness that stands between my soul and him. Apply his righteous life infused to me, and counted as mine because of his amazing divine mercy. Consider God’s eternal decree to save me before the foundation of the world, and the fact that he loves me dearly enough both to die for me, and to send his only Son to do so. Consider that God the Father constantly feels great, deep, unrelenting love, gladness, and joy toward me because of his pure mercy and what his Son has done in my stead, and the righteousness he has clothed me with. See 2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 3:21, Rom. 5:6-11, Zeph. 3:17-18, John 10:27-30.
  • Stir my affections: Examine myself and stir up in my heart great spiritual desires for my majestic God and Father and for knowing him more and for my becoming like him. See 1 Tim. 4:16 & John 15:5.
  • Gospel Song: Read or sing a song or hymn from a psalm or hymn book. The one I’m experimenting with now is The Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts by Soli Deo Gloria.
  • Prayer Book: Read and pray a prayer from a prayer book. The Valley of Vision is an excellent option.
  • Pray for eyes to see: Pray that God would give me assistance in seeing, feeling, and hearing what he has for me in his word. Pray that he would direct the word to me as I need it, and that he would press it home on my heart with his blessing in order that I may be enlightened, sanctified, strengthened, humbled, or raised up by it, as my case requires according to Psalm 119:18.
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit: Pray that God would pour out his Spirit on me through the reading of his word according to the promise in Pr. 1:23, knowing that none of these actions procure God’s action toward me, but that he acts according to his own will, and pours out his Spirit on whom he wills.

 

Bible Reading

Slowly read the scripture passage 2-3 times, inviting the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s truth to me. Read it as God’s word to me at this moment in life. Read for understanding. Write down answers to the following (or just a few that stand out):

  • What does this text tell me about God or Christ? (e.g. His names, attributes, desires, pleasures, promises to claim, commands to obey, a comfort to be savored)
  • What does it tell me about mankind? (e.g. nature of man, examples to avoid or follow)

 

Meditation/Dwelling

Become aware of God’s loving presence and read the passage again, perhaps out loud. Notice how He might be speaking to me through His Word. Dwell on a word or a phrase that jumps out at me. Record answers to the following:

  • What truth has caught the attention of my heart or mind?
    (e.g. a command to be obeyed, a comfort to be savored, a characteristic of God to be grasped)
  • Think about this truth. What is it really saying? Put it into my own words.
  • Why is God showing me this today? What is going on in my life right now? As thoughts become clear or convicting, write them down.
  • Talk to myself in the presence of God (Soliloquy as demonstrated by the psalmist). Ask myself: If this truth were explosively alive in my inner most being, how would I be different? If I really believed this at the bottom of my being would I be different? How? How does God want to transform my heart, thinking, habits, relationships?

 

Response

Respond to God for what he has just revealed to me in prayer. The following ways are very helpful. Ask:

  • Where in the scripture I just read is it prompting prayer? What type of prayer responses does this text ask me?
  • In light of my meditation, in what areas should I pray?
  • Pray freely about these, and also anything else that is on my heart or mind.
  • Also pray for others about these things. Incorporate my daily prayer list. The Bible is not just my story — it is first and foremost God’s story, then our story, and finally my story. What does this truth and the passage reveal about God’s heart for the people and world around me? (e.g. family, extended family, neighbors, workplace, church, city, nation, world) Who or what has God put on your heart today? Pray this truth for them.
  • Use the ACTS model of prayer if you would like:
  • Adore God/Christ/Holy Spirit for who He is in this passage (e.g. His attributes revealed in this passage).
  • Confess the sinful emotions, attitudes, and behavior that result in me when I forget who he is in this truth I have read.
  • Thank God for what He has done (e.g. his grace to forgive and heal me). And ask, “How is the grace that I have in Jesus Christ the key to help me overcome the sin that I have just confessed?”
  • Supplicate (ask), “What do I need to become in light of this truth?” Make a plan. Ask for God’s comfort, wisdom, and strength in applying this truth today.
  • End by beholding, adoring, and appreciating some aspect of the excellence and beauty of Christ.

 

Devotion

Read a devotion on the text I just read (especially if after meditation and prayer I still feel dry and lifeless). As I read the devotion pray through each sentence of it, and ask God what he has for me in it, and ask for help in feeling the weight of his word through it. Best biblical devotions to use:

 

Blessing

Close my scripture reading with a blessing or promise or view of the beauty of God in his word ideally from the reading for the day. Dwell on this throughout the day. Try and think how it fits into biblical/systematic theology, delight in it and think on it. Throughout the day ask questions of this truth to God in prayer, and ask God to give me understanding, and a proper emotional response to it, and to bless me through it. Delight in, and praise God throughout the day through this revelation given to me.

 

The Family Expositor | Philip Doddridge

 

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If you don’t know what the Family Expositor, or who Philip Doddridge is, you’re not alone. Philip Doddridge is an extremely obscure later puritan, and the Family Expositor is his commentary and devotional on the New Testament. Most people have never heard of either, and even enthusiasts of puritan literature mostly haven’t heard of him, let alone had the luxury to read him.

I first encountered Doddridge’s Family Expositor when I saw it referenced by Jonathan Edwards. Edwards references Doddridge time after time in his Blank Bible. Of the 423 page New Testament in his Blank Bible, Edwards mentions Doddridge 351 times. That’s almost once per page. In comparison, the only 2 other commentaries Edwards regularly used, Matthew Henry, and Matthew Poole, have only 9 and 7 mentions respectively.6 Doddridge’s Family Expositor was Edward’s most used commentary on the New Testament.

Edwards is probably my favorite theologian to read, so I was curious about the books that he enjoyed. I went looking for Doddridge, and his Family Expositor, but I just couldn’t find it. It seemed notoriously hard to find. I was able to find some poorly made facsimile reprints in several volumes, but it was difficult to determine which Bible books each volume covered since they usually weren’t properly titled, and each release date had differing numbers of volumes. I did however, finally find the Expositor on archive.org. And here I was able to read it, and was blown away with what I found.7

Philip Doddridge was an early 18th century non-conformist pastor, and like Matthew Henry, he spent much of his free time writing his commentary. Doddridge notes in the preface that he intended this commentary to be used by families at the dinner table. The forgotten practice of family worship is a great way to use this commentary; the expanded translation, and the devotions at the end of each section (see below) work together seamlessly as a perfect tool for family devotional reading and discussion. This may well be the book that Jonathan Edwards used for his family devotions.

The Family Expositor is really an extraordinary work. Doddridge deems it “a paraphrase,” but it is much more than that. Really it’s three works in one. It is a puritan translation and expansion on the text, a puritan commentary on the text, and a puritan devotional work on the text. Doddridge combines these three to make a truly great puritan companion to the New Testament. Let’s look at these three successively:

The Paraphrase

Doddridge took the Bible text itself, and in lengthy characteristic puritan style, he commented and expanded on it. The Old King James Bible text is included in outside columns on each page, and Doddridge’s translation and expansion (paraphrase) is in the larger center column. Within his paraphrase, the translation of the Bible text is italicized, whereas his own expansions on the text are in standard font. This helps the reader not confuse Doddridge’s expansions with the Bible text itself. Here’s a sample from John chapter 3:

 

The Notes

Doddridge’s paraphrase is lengthy! As you can see above, this is not even 2 verses. But even in addition to his paraphrase, throughout he includes lengthy notes on the Biblical text. The notes above are a good example of what pervades the book. The notes are so extensive that by themselves they would comprise a complete commentary. These notes are glorious! I’m a sucker for great footnotes, so I love this. The notes address many questions that would naturally arise (such as the “we” reference above) and explain the meaning of scores of the difficult passages and phrases in the New Testament. The notes are one of the best things about this work.

The Devotions

One of my favorite things about The Family Expositor though is that it includes devotions for every section of the New Testament. This is great because it allows the reader to base their devotional reading on their Bible reading, rather than the other way around. The reader can read the paraphrase on the section of Bible they are in at the time, and then read the devotions on that same scripture. This way the Bible is primary, and the devotions can be used as needed on any given passage. I like to read devotions particularly when I’m in a stale season in my reading. The devotions in the Family Expositor in particular help to heighten my appreciation and sharpen my savoring of the great things of God.

Doddridge’s devotions are my favorite of any author. Many of the prayers in the classic puritan prayer devotional Valley of Vision are from Doddridge, and he doesn’t disappoint in the Expositor. He mingles both head and heart wonderfully. Most devotionals are all heart but nothing weighty, and most commentaries are all head but no heart. Doddridge on the other hand excels in both. Just after a lengthy theology of regeneration from John 3, he adds a devotion that would stir the heart of your grandmother. This is after all, one of, if not the, favorite commentary and devotional of Jonathan Edwards, and it’s nothing less than what we’d expect of his favorite. See the devotion here on Luke’s prologue:

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In the Family Expositor, Doddridge has given us, I think, one of the greatest works on the New Testament ever written.

 

Stumblingstone Press Volumes

After a couple years of searching for a good volume of The Family Expositor in vain, I gave up and decided to publish my own. I decided to use the large 1836 single volume version, but to break it up into 2 volumes (reluctantly, but required by the book printing service).

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The volumes are about 500 pages each and are large, measuring to 8-1/2″ x 11″. I designed the covers to be plain but striking. The first volume contains the Gospel harmony and Acts, the second volume contains the New Testament Epistles and the book of Revelation. The pages are based on the scanned images of the document as seen above. While the images are not always perfect, and there is some rare blurring or fading, the books are eminently readable. The books are more expensive than I want them to be, but with the cost for printing with the large page count and size, the current price is the best I could do. See the volumes in hardback and paperback below. Enjoy!

Hardback

Paperback

I’m waiting for the day when Doddridge’s Family Expositor will be republished in handsome cloth bound volumes, re-typeset for a hand held size. But until then, I think these volumes are the next best thing. I hope they give you as much pleasure as they’ve given me.

Jesus Before Jesus

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Oldest Existing Psalm 22 Manuscript [5/6HevPs Scroll]

Prophetic Poetry

One of the great turning-points that led me to have a greater awe in the Bible was when I found that the Bible spoke of Jesus before he ever came. The Bible spoke of him hundreds, and almost thousands of years before he came. There are scores of prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament. My favorite one though, is the twenty-second Psalm.

Psalm 22 depicts the whole crucifixion scene. Here are verses 12-18:

Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me;

they open wide they’re mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint;

my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast;

my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws;

you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me;

they have pierced my hands and my feet- I can count all of my bones-

they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them,

and for my clothing they cast lots. (ESV)

Now let me rehash some of what we read above in case you missed it.

  1. The person speaking here dies at the hands of persecutors (you lay me in the dust of death)
  2. The person here is in deep physical anguish (my heart is like wax; my strength is dried up)
  3. The person here has their hands and feet pierced (they have pierced my hands and feet)
  4. The person’s garments are taken by the persecutors (they divide my garments among them)
  5. The person’s clothing -seemingly a different article of it than above- is also gambled for (for my clothing they cast lots)

The Awe of God’s Foretelling

This is astonishing! In the beautiful mysterious way that Biblical prophecy does, this Psalm startlingly, even pointedly, depicts Jesus’ last moments. What’s even more fascinating, is that not only does it mention his hands and feet being pierced, but it also mentions both the dividing of Jesus’ garment, and the gambling for his cloak. This is detailed in the Gospel of John chapter 19, verse 23:

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be. (ESV)

Another interesting fact is that this Psalm couldn’t fully represent David, its Old Testament author, because these events do not line up with how David died, or even how he was persecuted.1

So how long before Jesus’ crucifixion was this Psalm written? Biblical scholars place the composition of this Psalm in the time of the Davidic Dynasty, somewhere around 1000 BC.2 But even scholars who push for a later date, date the writing of this Psalm around 587 BC.3 So this Psalm was written at the latest about 600 years before Jesus underwent crucifixion. Now, what’s incredible about this date, even the later date, is that this is before the practice of crucifixion even existed yet.4 So the Psalmist mentioning hands and feet being pierced has no natural explanation.

The Consolation of God’s Promise and His Plan

Why would God go through the trouble of announcing this beforehand in this strange mysterious way? Because God delights to fill us with awe at the beauty and mystery of his coming as a man. Jesus quoted this Psalm from the cross.5 It was one of his last words before he died. He cried out from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” which is the first line of Psalm 22. This was Jesus pointing us to this Psalm, and his death as the fulfillment of it.

This Psalm is the poetry of God, displaying to us the agony of his own suffering for us. It is fitting that the most glorious event in the cosmos was foretold by it’s creator in song. In his infinite mercy, God became a man, was born into human history, and lived a perfectly righteous life, in order that he could take all our sin, shame, condemnation, punishment, and death, -all of it, on himself through the cross, and give us his brilliantly perfect righteous life in place of our own sinful one.

Why was Jesus forsaken on the cross? So that we never will be. We will never be forsaken, left, forgotten, or neglected by him. There no longer remains punishment, shame, guilt, or fear. They were all placed on Jesus in the brutality of the cross. Instead he pours out on us his love, kindness, delight, and nearness. You are so dear to him, that he died for you. There is no more religious working, white knuckling, measuring up, earning, or trying to merit his approval, because his perfect, sinless, earthly life he gives to you; it is counted as yours. You are adored. Your sins are gone. You are free. And you will be an example of the glorious depth of his unparalleled love throughout the ages of eternity future.

Welcome

Welcome to the Stumblingstone Blog! This site is essentially going to be a place for my theological musings. Check it out, look around. There will be new stuff popping up now and then as I get it running! Thanks for your time, and enjoy!