Poetry Saturday—On The Journey

Make home beautiful,
Have lips truthful,
Make hearts hopeful,
Have friends trustful;
   As you journey on through life.

Make eyes shine brighter,
And hearts grow lighter,
Ever lend a helping hand,
Do all the good you can;
   As you journey on through life.

Do not form opinion blindly,
Nor of others speak unkindly,
If we like our Lord would be,
We must show more charity;
   As we journey on through life.

Let our motto ever be,
‘More like Thee! More like Thee!’
Savior, Leader, Brother, Friend,
All our hopes on Thee depend;
   As we journey on through life. —Emma C. Elliot

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Directs His Wind

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 Directs His Wind

     At the present moment, I am not able to enter fully into the subject of the new birth. I am very weary, both in body and mind, and cannot attempt that great and mysterious theme. To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven, and it is not the time to preach upon regeneration when the head is aching, or to discourse upon the new nature when the mind is distracted.

From The Holy Spirit Compared To The Wind 

Charles Spurgeon had a sermon in mind, but a headache and a distracted mind caused a course change. Can God use a headache to accomplish what He wants done? Of course He can! God knew exactly what that audience needed to hear that evening, and He arranged for His servant Charles Spurgeon to preach that needed message. 

The apostle Paul was on his way to Rome, where God had said that Paul would speak before Caesar. But on their way, such a strong wind came up against their ship that they were blown off course. The wind ultimately caused them to shipwreck on the island of Malta. It was on Malta that Paul was able to show the power of God in a couple of miraculous ways. Can God use a storm at sea to get someone where He needs him? Of course He can! 

So too with your life. You may have some plans or desires that a wind is tossing around. Don’t fight the wind and don’t curse the wind. Can God use this adversity to get you exactly where you need to be? Of course He can! He is using this wind to put you exactly where He needs you. 

Trust God in the storms!

 

Stand Up For God’s Word

…Josiah read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant… (2 Kings 23:2).

The leader must go first.
The leader must go big.
The leader must be visible.
The leader must be consistent.

This is the only way to affect real change.

Josiah did this extremely well. In fact, he did it better than any other king!

Josiah called all the people together and read “in their hearing” God’s word. Then he made it his own and took a public stand to confirm it (v. 3). Josiah went first, and “then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.” 

The rest of Josiah’s reign is punctuated by telltale phrases like:

  • in accordance with the Word of the Lord
  • as it is written in this book of the covenant
  • fulfilled the requirements of the law

Here’s one of the most amazing things to me: Josiah’s wholehearted obedience to God ends up fulfilling perfectly a 300-year-old prophecy that God gave through a prophet of Judah (v. 16; 1 Kings 13:1-3).

A mark of a godly leader is his public alignment with God’s Word.

When the leader goes public and then wholeheartedly follows through on his commitment to God, others will follow his lead. May all of us be that kind of pacesetting leader. 

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

Starlight And Time (book review)

Creationists (especially young-Earth creationists) have often been stymied to reconcile the biblical evidence for the creation of Earth with the astronomical evidence of observable stars and universes being billions of light-years away. As D. Russell Humphreys notes in his book Starlight And Time, “Good science requires that we try to reconcile both the young-earth data and the cosmological data.” 

So how can both things be true: an Earth that was created 6000 years ago and a distant star appearing to be billions of light-years old? Using the theories of general relativity applied to the best cosmological data, Dr. Humphreys presents a novel hypothesis that appears to accommodate all of the data we have gathered. 

The equations of general relativity have always indicated that time itself had a beginning, which means we have to be open to the idea that something outside of Time—outside of our universe—had a hand in the beginning of our universe. Dr. Humphreys does an excellent job of unpacking these equations to show how accurately they end up being in agreement with the biblical account of Creation. In fact, he notes that “as measured by clocks on earth, the age of the universe today could be as small as the face-value biblical age of about 6000 years.”

I’ll admit that physics wasn’t my favorite subject in school. However, after leaving school I was determined to get a better grasp on it, and found myself actually enjoying the studies of physics and cosmology. With my rudimentary grasp of these concepts, I still struggled to conceive the impact of all the equations that Dr. Humphreys laid out, but that didn’t keep me from being astounded at how well his theory fits all the evidence. 

The physics equations shouldn’t stop you from picking up a copy of this book either. In fact, if you enjoy creationist apologetics, this book needs to be on your “must read” list. 

Don’t Let Prejudices Rob You

Imagine you had a family member killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City or Washington, DC., and then after that horrific event God asked you to go to Osama bin Laden’s headquarters to talk to him about a personal relationship with Jesus. 

I bet you would have felt much like Jonah did when God said, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). The Assyrians were some of the most brutal peoples of history, perpetrating almost unspeakably grotesque torture on everyone they attacked. 

And if you or I feel that way, it’s a good bet we would have responded like Jonah responded: “Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish” (v. 3). You probably know the rest of the story: Jonah spent three days in the gut of a huge fish before he finally agreed to obey God’s directive. 

It’s interesting to note that God was sending Assyria as His agent of punishment against Israel for all their vile idolatry, AND He was sending Jonah from Israel to Assyria to call them to repentance for their grotesque torture practices.

That tells me something we all need to remember: God cares for ALL people, and He will use whatever means necessary to get the good news of His mercy and love to them. 

Why is the story of Jonah in the Bible? Perhaps to teach us that although we think some person or people group is so beyond hope, God still loves them. It’s a reminder that God extends grace and mercy to everyone—even to those who are the least deserving of His grace and mercy. People like you and me (Romans 3:23, 5:8). 

In Hebrew literature, the main point of the story is found in the middle. In the case of this story, the middle is the prayer in chapter 2, especially verses 8-9 where Jonah contrasts the worthlessness of trying to cling to our prejudices versus trusting who God is and what He says. 

In light of that, I think this story should prompt us to ask three introspective questions: 

  1. What prejudices am I clinging to that are out of alignment with God’s Word? David’s prayer in Psalm 139 is one we should regularly pray. 
  2. Who have I thought is beyond God’s reach? God’s grace isn’t earned by anyone, but no one is beyond the reach of it! 
  3. Can I say as Jonah did, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will obey You, God. What I have vowed I will make good” (2:9)? It’s better not to make a vow to God than it is to make the vow and not follow through on it. 

Let’s all learn from the life of Jonah how much God loves ALL people. Don’t get so hung up on your prejudices that you miss out on the incredible things God has for you, as well as the incredible things God wants to do through you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series on Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

Poetry Saturday—The Bible: The Light Of The World

A glory gilds the sacred page,
Majestic like the sun:
It gives a light to every age;
It gives, but borrows none.

The Hand that gave it still supplies
The gracious light and heat;
His truths upon the nations rise,
They rise, but never set.

Let everlasting thanks be Thine,
For such a bright display,
As makes a world of darkness shine
With beams of heavenly day.

My soul rejoices to pursue
The steps of Him I love,
Till glory break upon my view
In brighter worlds above. —William Cowper

You Have A Choice

“While we may not be able to take every thought captive in every situation we face every day, we can learn to take one thought captive and, in doing so, affect every other thought to come. So what is the one thought that can successfully interrupt every negative thought pattern? It’s this: I have a choice. 

“When we’re spiraling in noise or distractedness, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through stillness. When we’re spiraling in isolation, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through community. When we’re spiraling in anxiety, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through trust in His good and sovereign purposes. When we’re spiraling in cynicism, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through worship. When we’re spiraling in self-importance, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through humility. When we’re spiraling into victimhood, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through gratitude. When we’re spiraling in complacency, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through serving Him and others.

“If you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior, you have a God-given, God-empowered, God-redeemed ability to choose what you think about. You have a choice regarding where you focus your energy. You have a choice regarding what you live for. You are not subject to your behaviors, genes, or circumstances. You are not subject to your passions, lusts, or emotions. You are not subject to your thoughts.

“No fixation exists outside God’s long-armed reach. Because we are a ‘new creation,’ we have a choice.

“When we think new thoughts, we physically alter our brains. When we think new thoughts, we make healthier neural connections. When we think new thoughts, we blaze new trails. When we think new thoughts, everything changes.” —Jennie Allen, from the YouVersion reading plan Get Out Of Your Own Head

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Holy Spirit Is Our Teacher

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.

The Holy Spirit Is Our Teacher

     The question arises: How may I know whether I am enlightened by the Spirit’s influence and led into all truth? First, you may know the Spirit’s influence by its unity. He guides us into all truth. Second, by its universality. He guides us into all truth. … 

     The true child of God will not be led into some truth but into all truth. When he first starts he will not know half the truth. He will believe it but not understand it. He will have the germ of it but not the sum total in all its breadth and length. There is nothing like learning by experience. A man cannot set up for a theologian in a week. Certain doctrines take years to develop themselves. …  

     It needs but little intellect to be taught of God. If you feel your ignorance, do not despair. Go to the Spirit, the great Teacher, ask His secret influence, and it will come to pass that He will guide you into all truth. …  

     Whenever any of our brethren do not understand the truth, let us take a hint as to the best way of dealing with them. Do not let us controvert with them. I have heard many controversies but never heard of any good from one of them. … Few men are taught by controversy, for ‘a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.’ Pray for them that the Spirit of truth may lead them into all truth. Do not be angry with your brother, but pray for him. Cry, ‘Lord! Open his eyes that he may “behold wondrous things from Your law”’ (Psalm 119:18).

From The Holy Spirit: The Great Teacher 

 

The Holy Spirit wants to help us understand the Book that He inspired. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 16:13). 

So I would suggest: 

  1. Pray before, during, and after reading Scripture that the Spirit will illuminate His inspired Word. The Holy Spirit is our Prayer Coach.
  2. Since all of God’s Word is inspired, use all of God’s Word. Don’t get bogged down in a single verse or passage, but ask the Spirit to show you the full counsel of the Bible. 
  3. Learn how to handle difficult passages in a productive way (check out this post). 
  4. Strive for unity among fellow believers. 
  5. Avoid controversies among fellow believers and non-believers. Simply present the Word of God and let the Spirit do the work that needs to be done. 

May our study of Scripture with the Spirit’s help bring illumination, empowerment, and unity.

Assyrian Kings Involved With Israel

A helpful Bible study tool—

Assyrian Kings Involved With Israel

  • Shalmaneser III (858-824 BC)—2 Kings 17:3-4
  • Adad-Nirari III (810-782 BC)—took tribute from Israel; king during Jonah’s visit (Jonah 3) 
  • Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 BC)—deported most of the northern part of Israel 
  • Shalmaneser V (727-722 BC)—besieged Samaria (2 Kings 18:9) 
  • Sargon II (721-705 BC)—deported the rest of Israel (Isaiah 20) 
  • Sennacherib (704-681 BC)—invaded Judah (Isaiah 36) 
  • Esar-Haddon (681-669 BC)—very powerful king 
  • Ashurbanipal (668-626 BC)—most powerful and brutal Assyrian king 

Two weak kings followed (626-607 BC), and Assyria fell in 605 BC. 

Source: Halley’s Study Bible 

You may also want to check out my chart of the kings and prophets of the divided kingdom of Judah and Israel.

9 Quotes From “A Spiritual Clinic”

J. Oswald Sanders gives Christians just the check-up we need in his hard-hitting and highly practical book A Spiritual Clinic. You can read my full book review by clicking here. 

“The greater our weakness, the greater glory will be God’s as we work in His power.” 

“We are busier than God intends us to be if we are too busy to take time for relaxation.” 

“It is characteristic of the earthly mind that it always covets the service of others: it desires to avoid toil and drudgery. This is one of the factors which makes wealth so desirable—it can secure the service of others. The mind of Christ manifested itself in His words: ‘I am among you as He that serves’ (Luke 22:27). ‘The Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister’ (Matthew 20:28). It was His delight to be servant of all.” 

“How are we to obtain the mind of Christ? … Is not the secret hinted at in the exhortation, ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’? It is the work of Another. Is not the supreme work of the Holy Spirit to reproduce in the yielded believer the inner disposition of Christ? What is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) but the mind of Christ? As we willingly consent to the crucifixion of the earthly mind and purposefully yield to the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, He will perform the miracle. Our minds will be transformed in ever-increasing degree by the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” 

“Nothing so tends to inflate a man with a sense of his own importance as the possession of great gifts of intellect and the enjoyment of special and unusual experiences. And there is nothing which more surely disqualifies from spiritual usefulness than spiritual pride.” 

“It will be recalled that the favored three disciples were not permitted to encamp on the Mount of Transfiguration. They must exchange the vision glorious for the convulsions of a demon-possessed boy. So must Paul descend into the valley if he is to be God’s messenger to a distraught humanity. He must learn that the mountain is only as high as the valley is deep. The higher he ascends in spiritual experience, the more deeply must he be identified with his crucified Lord.” 

“Even God’s honored servants cannot break His physical laws with impunity, nor are they immune from the onslaught of despondency. … We must seek physical and spiritual renewal if we are not to be put to flight by our enemy. If we shift our center from God to self, even for a period, we lay ourselves open to this malady of the spirit.” 

“Discouragement over the apparent failure of our best efforts, if not met with the shield of faith, will react disastrously on our spirits and degenerate into self-pity and despair.” 

“We seldom give God time to deal with us radically and deeply. Even when we experience conviction of failure and sin, we do not allow the Holy Spirit to work in us so strongly that we are brought to hate the sin. We lightly assent to our sinfulness without seriously and permanently dealing with it. We act as though new results would take the place of heart repentance and renunciation. [see Hosea 6:4] 

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