Poetry Saturday—Life Is Brief

’Tis not for man to trifle. Life is brief,
And sin is here.
Our age is but the falling of a leaf—
A dropping tear.
We have no time to sport away the hours:
All must be earnest in a world like ours.
Not many lives, but only one have we—
One, only one;
How sacred should that one life ever be—
That narrow span!
Day after day filled up with blessed toil,
Hour after hour still bringing in new spoil. —Horatius Bonar

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Our Prayer Helper

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Our Prayer Helper 

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27) 

     God helps our infirmity, and with a Helper so divinely strong, we need not fear the result! … We take our burden to our heavenly Father and tell Him in the accents of childlike confidence, and we come away quite content to better whatever His holy will may lay upon us. … 

     We bathe our wounds in the lotion of prayer and the pain is lulled; the fever is removed. But the worst of it is that in certain conditions of heart we cannot pray. We may be brought into such perturbation of mind and perplexity of heart that we do not know how to pray. … We fall into such heaviness of spirit and entanglement of thought that the one remedy of prayer, which we have always found to be unfailing, appears to be taken from us. Here, then, in the nick of time, as a very present help in time of trouble, comes in the Holy Spirit! He draws near to teach us how to pray, and in this way He helps our infirmity, relieves our suffering, and enables us to bear the heavy burden without fainting under the load. … 

     He will guide you both negatively and positively. Negatively, He will forbid you to pray for such and such a thing, even as Paul essayed to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit would not allow him. And, on the other hand, He will cause you to hear a cry within your soul that will guide your petitions, even as He made Paul hear the cry from Macedonia, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’ (Acts 16:6-10). …  

     If I am a true believer, there dwells the Holy Spirit, and when I desire to pray, I may ask Him what I should pray for as I ought and He will help me! He will write the prayers that I ought to offer upon the tablets of my heart, and I will see them there and so I will be taught how to plead! It will be the Spirit’s own Self pleading in me and by me and through me before the throne of grace!

From The Holy Spirit’s Intercession

Oh, how many times I’ve been in desperate need but cannot find the right words to pray. The Holy Spirit understands even groans that come from my anguished heart and can help me turn those groans into perfect prayers. 

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would remind us of His words and would guide us into truth. I’ve experienced this for myself: I’m at an utter loss of what or how to pray, and then a passage of Scripture comes to my mind. I start there with that phrase. Often I will begin to read the surrounding passage from the Bible out loud and feel the gentle affirmation from the Holy Spirit as I begin to personalize that portion of Scripture into my own prayer. As Spurgeon put it, this is “the Spirit’s own Self pleading in me and by me and through me before the throne of grace!” 

What a Helper we have in the Holy Spirit!

8 Quotes From “Words To Winners Of Souls”

I don’t say this very often, but Words To Winners Of Souls by Horatius Bonar is a must-read for those in pastoral ministry. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“The question, therefore, which each of us has to answer to his own conscience is, ‘Has it been the end of my ministry, has it been the desire of my heart to save the lost and guide the saved? Is this my aim in every sermon I preach, in every visit I pay? Is it under the influence of this feeling that I continually live and walk and speak? Is it for this I pray and toil and fast and weep? Is it for this I spend and am spent, counting it, next to the salvation of my own soul, my chiefest joy to be the instrument of saving others? Is it for this that I exist?’” 

“It is not opinions that man needs: it is truth. It is not theology: it is God. It is not religion: it is Christ. It is not literature and science; but the knowledge of the free love of God in the gift of His only-begotten Son.” 

“Our power in drawing men to Christ springs chiefly from the fullness of our personal joy in Him, and the nearness of our personal communion with Him.” 

“Why so many meetings with our fellow men, yet so few meetings with God?” 

“Our life has not been a lying-in-wait for the voice of God. ‘Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth,’ has not been the attitude of our souls, the guiding principle of our lives. Nearness to God, fellowship with God, waiting upon God, resting in God, have been too little the characteristic either of our private or our ministerial walk. Hence our example has been so powerless, our labors so unsuccessful, our sermons so meager, our whole ministry so fruitless and feeble.” 

“It is easier to speak or write about revival than to set about it. There is so much rubbish to be swept out, so many self-raised hindrances to be dealt with, so many old habits to be overcome, so much sloth and easy-mindedness to be contended with, so much of ministerial routine to be broken through, and so much crucifixion, both of self and of the world, to be undergone. As Christ said of the unclean spirit which the disciples could not cast out, so we may say of these: ‘This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’” 

“These must be days of strenuous, ceaseless, persevering, and, if God bless us, successful toil. We shall labor till we are worn out and laid to rest.” 

“It is unbelief that makes ministers handle eternal realities with such irreverence. It is unbelief that makes them ascend with so light a step ‘that awful place the pulpit,’ to deal with immortal beings about heaven and hell.” 

Our Most Effective Shield And (S)word

…with You mouth You have promised and with Your hand You have fulfilled it… (2 Chronicles 6:15). 

I rest solely on what God says—He says it and He fulfills it. 

I can live on “every Word” He speaks (Deuteronomy 8:3).

“Every Word” of God is flawless and is a protection for me (Proverbs 30:5).

None of God’s Word ever fail (Isaiah 55:11).

God gives us His Word to speak (Jeremiah 26:12; John 12:49; Luke 21:15).

We defeat our enemies by God’s Word in our mouth (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; Revelation 12:11).

Every Word of God gives life because of the Holy Spirit’s anointing on it (John 6:63).

Every Word of God is a sword (Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15). Or as my friend Sasha reminds me God’s Word is our S(word)! 

There isn’t a more effective shield against enemies, there isn’t a more deadly weapon against temptation, there isn’t a more sure foundation in storms than the Word spoken and fulfilled by God! 

[check out all of the above passages for yourself by clicking here] 

Words To Winners Of Souls (book review)

Horatius Bonar has given us a collection of sermons preached to pastors, which have been collated in a book under the title Words To Winners Of Souls. 

Although these were words by a pastor to pastors, this shouldn’t be a book exclusively read by pastors. Anyone who wants to successfully share their Christian testimony with unsaved friends and loved ones can find much to digest in these sermons. That being said, this is still a must-read (and I don’t say that very often) for those in pastoral ministry. 

Bonar was a no-pulled-punches preacher! He spoke candidly and forcefully, but he also spoke out of a love for the Body of Christ and its ministers. Early on in this book he says, “We take for granted that the object of the Christian ministry is to convert sinners and to edify the body of Christ. No faithful minister can possibly rest short of this. Applause, fame, popularity, honor, wealth—all these are vain. If souls are not won, if saints are not matured, our ministry itself is vain.” Wow: “our ministry itself is vain”—you cannot get more gut-level honest than that! 

In this collection of messages, Bonar helps us diagnose what may be hindering our soul-winning practices, and he also proposes the remedy for those shortcomings. These words are honest and often hard to hear, but they are so needed for everyone who desires, as Jesus does, “that none should perish but all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 

Pastors, please read this book! 

Parishioners, please get a copy of this book for your pastor and then offer to prayerfully read through it with him or her. I promise you: this book will pay eternal dividends. 

The Fear And The Comfort Of God’s Judgment

Near the end of the movie The Princess Bride, the grandson learns that Wesley, the hero of the story, has apparently died. He asks his grandfather, “Who kills Prince Humperdink,” the arch-villain in the story. 

His grandfather replies, “No one. He lives.” 

“You mean he wins!?” blurts out the exasperated boy, “Grandpa, why did you read me this story??” 

We love to see bad guys get what’s coming to them, don’t we? Some of the baddest bad guys—perhaps in all of history—are the kings of Assyria. When the Assyrians in Nineveh repented and God’s judgment didn’t fall on them, Jonah’s response was much like the grandson in The Princess Bride, “God, why did You send me here?!” 

Sennacherib was the king of Assyria who was threatening Judah. Nahum writes a short, scathing prophecy about the destruction that is headed Assyria’s way. This is fulfilled in a small part when God defeats Sennacherib’s army, which leads to Sennacherib then being assassinated by two of his sons.

For Judah, this is a short-lived victory because the two kings which follow Sennacherib turn out to be two of the evilest and ruthless kings of Assyria. Yet Nahum’s prophecy still stands: an ultimate destruction is coming. In 605 BC Assyria was defeated by the Babylonians, and the destruction was so complete that Nineveh’s very existence was questioned until archeological discoveries were made in the 19th century. 

Why is this prophecy given to us? What are we New Testament Christians supposed to do with this promise of judgment? 

Nahum’s name means comfort, so it seems like God’s justice should comfort us. But, interestingly, the root word of his name means to regret or to feel sorry

Why is this? Think about it: You cannot really know what peace is unless you have been through a period of turmoil. Likewise, you cannot truly understand the relief of being spared God’s judgment unless you fully understand the weight and totality of God’s judgment that should fall on you.  

Nahum reminds us that God will never let the guilty go unpunished, and yet in the very next breath he tells us that the Lord is a refuge for those who trust in Him.

God is Just. This is a cause for…

  • …BOTH fear of God’s anger AND rejoicing that He is good 
  • …BOTH humility for our sin AND confidence that He forgives our sin 
  • …BOTH regret that we fall short of God’s righteous standard AND relief that Christ’s blood makes us righteous in God’s sight 

It’s amazing to think that it was MY sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross, but it was HIS love that allowed that to happen so that I could be forgiven! 

God is not willing that any should be separated from Him, but we do have to choose to receive the forgiveness that Jesus purchased for us. 

Assyria’s utter destruction is less than a drop in the bucket compared to eternal separation from God. As C.S. Lewis commented about the end of time: 

“For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing: it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.” 

Today (and every day) is the day for heart-searching, acutely feeling the regret of our sin, and then knowing that our forgiven sins are forgotten sins! 

If you have missed any of the messages in this series on the major lessons from the minor prophets, you can find the full list by clicking here.

Podcast: Winning Teams

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • Greg’s college football experiences  
  • how do teammates get along better?  
  • the 3 Ts that help make teams stronger and more effective  
  • how leaders can help teammates who make a mistake  
  • the strategic importance of “timeouts” 
  • the importance of a leader’s confident humility 
  • the attractiveness of a team’s enthusiasm  
  • an insightful quote from Rich DeVos 

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and iTunes. 

Get more information at Maximize Leadership.

Poetry Saturday—Knowing Greatness

galaziesO Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed
 
          Then sings my soul
          My Savior God to Thee
          How great Thou art
          How great Thou art (Carl Boberg)
 
Galaxies and snowflakes.
Volcanoes and water geysers.
Summer and winter.
Day and night.snowflake_
Puppies and mosquitoes.
Red blood cells and white.
Me.
 
          You made them all.
          You know them all.
          You are in them all.
          How great Thou art!
 
I want to praise You more.
To praise You more,
I must know You more.
To know You more,
I must experience You more.
 
          Give my eyes sharper sight.
          My ears more attentive hearing.
          Give my tongue better tasting.
          My nose more acute smelling.
          Give my skin more sensitive feeling.
 
All my senses more keenly aware of all Your creation.
More aware of my Creator in creation.lightning
 
          You are in every sight.
          Sound.
          Taste.
          Smell.
          Touch.
          You are in all.
 
Today I want to experience You more.
To praise You more.
To know Your greatness more.
To realize Your love more.
How great Thou art! —Craig T. Owens
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Thursdays With Spurgeon—God’s Part, Our Part

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God’s Part, Our Part

     The lesson is clear to all: The wind turns mills that men make. It fills sails that human hands have spread. And the Spirit blesses human effort, crowns with success our labors, establishes the work of our hands upon us, and teaches us all through that ‘the hand of the diligent makes rich’ (Proverbs 10:4). And ‘if anybody will not work, neither shall he eat’ (2 Thessalonians 3:10). … 

     Let us do our part faithfully, spread every sail, make all as perfect as human skill and wisdom can direct, and then in patient continuance in well-doing await the Spirit’s propitious gales, neither murmuring because He tarries nor being taken unawares when He comes upon us in His sovereign pleasure to do that which seems good in His sight.

From The Holy Spirit Compared To The Wind 

We cannot do what only God can do, and God will not do what we are supposed to do. It is the Holy Spirit who can help us keep those two thoughts clear. 

It’s wrong to say, “God only helps those who help themselves.” But it’s equally as wrong to say, “I don’t need to do anything except wait for God.” In example after example in the Bible we see people doing their part while at the same time believing for God to do something miraculous:

We don’t take matters into our own hands, but neither do we sit idle waiting for something miraculous to happen. We plant, and water, and tend, and then God brings the harvest.

The Lingering Effects Of Poor Leadership

Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord’s command… (2 Kings 24:3). 

I am intrigued by the succession of the last kings of Judah just before Jerusalem falls in 586 BC. The leadership authority has been completely undermined by the downward spiral of sin in the previous leaders. As a result, the kings of Judah are now just an “empty suit,” with someone else exerting the real influence.

King Josiah was the last God-fearing king Judah had. After Josiah died, “the people of the land” made Jehoahaz king of Judah. He only reigned three months. 

After Jehoahaz died, “Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim son of Josiah king” after Egypt subdued Judah. Pharaoh changed his name to Jehoiakim, took all of Judah’s treasures, and imposed a tribute on Judah, forcing Jehoiakim to tax all the citizens. 

Later on, Jehoiakim became a vassal king of Nebuchadnezzar. After Jehoiakim died, his son Jehoiachin only reigned as king for three months before he was deposed by Nebuchadnezzar. 

Nebuchadnezzar then “made Mattaniah” king. He also imposed tribute and changed the king’s name to Zedekiah. 

King Zedekiah rebelled and was executed, after which Nebuchadnezzar “appointed Gedaliah as governor.” Gedaliah was assassinated shortly thereafter, completing the collapse of Judah and sending the people into exile in Babylon for the next 70 years. 

[Check out all of the biblical references for these sad events by clicking here]

Oh, what misery for the people of Judah for this last 20-year span under these final kings! The consequences of the leaders’ continual rebellion against God brought such uncertainty and heartache for the citizens. 

A mark of a godless leader is the wake of misery that follows him for generations afterward. 

Lord God, help me to see that my actions today have consequences for tomorrow. I want to leave an empowering, God-honoring legacy for the next generations, but this can only happen as I remain obedient to You! 

This is part 51 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here

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