Poetry Saturday—The Church A Garden

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Christ hath a garden walled around,
A Paradise of fruitful ground,
Chosen by love and fenced by grace
From out the world’s wide wilderness.

Like trees of spice His servants stand,
There planted by His mighty hand;
By Eden’s gracious streams, that flow
To feed their beauty where they grow.

Awake, O wind of heav’n and bear
Their sweetest perfume through the air:
Stir up, O south, the boughs that bloom,
Till the beloved Master come:

That He may come, and linger yet
Among the trees that He hath set;
That He may evermore be seen
To walk amid the springing green. —Isaac Watts

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—We Are All Laborers

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.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

We Are All Laborers

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) 

     Remember that the ablest ministers, the most powerful evangelists, the most profound teachers are, after all, nothing but laborers together with God. Let your mind be set upon the Master and not upon the servants! Do not say, ‘We are for this man because he plants,’ or ‘We are for the other because he waters,’ or ‘We are a third party for nobody at all.’ But let us join in ascribing all honor and praise to God, Who works all our works in us, since every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, to Whom be glory world without end! … 

     The church is God’s farm.… In the margin of the Revised Version, we read, ‘You are God’s tilled ground….’ 

    We begin by considering that the church is God’s farm. The Lord has made the church of His sovereign choice to be His own by purchase, having paid an immense price for it. ‘For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance’ (Deuteronomy 32:9). Because the Lord’s portion was under mortgage, therefore the only begotten Son laid down His life as the purchase price and redeemed His people to be the Lord’s portion forever and ever. Henceforth it is said to all believers, ‘You are not your own. For you were bought at a price’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Every acre of God’s farm cost the Savior bloody sweat, yes, the blood of His heart! He loved us and gave Himself for us; that is the price He paid! … 

     The Master’s commission is not ‘sit still and see the Spirit of God convert the nations,’ but ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15). 

     Alas, the loiterers are many, but the laborers are few.

From Farm Laborers

It’s sad how much time Christians spend on non-essential things. We church shop to find the pastor or the music that suits our tastes; we claim ownership over ministries and only allow others to work under us, but never alongside us; or we attend church and give our tithes and offerings and expect the pastor to do all of the ministry. 

All of this is not only unbiblical but none of this is focused on eternity. And as C.S. Lewis said, “All that is not eternal is eternally useless.” 

Jesus paid too high a price for us to keep the good news to ourselves, or claim that our ministry is superior to someone else’s, or to simply loiter and watch others do the work. All Christians are laborers in God’s field. God made an invaluable investment in the work Jesus did on the Cross, so He wants to see a return on His investment that will last for all eternity. 

It’s time for us to stop squabbling, stop protecting our turf, and stop loitering. We must get to the work because the time is short and the Master is looking for eternal results.

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The Circle Of Love And Hate

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Oh, how I love Your law! … Therefore I hate every wrong path (Psalm 119:97, 104). 

These bookend verses of the section called Mem form the conclusion of a logical argument, and in between are each step of the progression. Notice the word “for” (in vv. 98, 99, 100, and 102) and the words “so that” in v. 101. 

This progression forms a circle from love to hate, and back to love again. Check this out—

I love Your law so I meditate on it all day. 

Meditating on Your law makes me wiser than my enemies and my teachers. 

This wisdom helps me obey Your laws. 

Obedience keeps me on the right path. 

I stay on the right path because You Yourself teach me while I’m on that path. 

Because You are my Teacher, Your laws are sweet to me. 

Because Your laws are sweet, I hate anything contrary to Your laws. 

Hating everything that is not found in Your law helps me love Your law even more. 

[Back to the top] Since I love Your law, I keep on meditating on it all day. 

Far too often I believe Christians are known more for what they’re against than what they’re for. The author of Psalm 119 urges us over and over and over again to not only fall in love with God’s Word but to fall more deeply in love with the God revealed in His Word. When we are brimming full of love for God, we cannot help but show the world what we are for, and that is for everyone to have a personal relationship with this loving God for themselves. 

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You Are A Unique Masterpiece

The Bible uses two phrases that we don’t typically use today: “the horn of the wicked” and “the horn of the righteous.” 

A horn in Hebrew literature is a symbol of strength. The wicked blow their own horn—trumpeting how they are self-made people. Obviously, this God-ignoring arrogance isn’t something God can bless! 

What about “the horn of the righteous”? Is there a way to blow our horn so that God is glorified? In a word: Yes!

Check out this short 2-minute video to hear how I describe the right and wrong ways to honor your uniqueness by blowing a righteous, God-honoring horn…

Always remember this—You are God’s grace gift to the world, so you must always strive to blow a God-honoring horn! 

If you would like to check out some of the other thoughts I shared about our horns, please click here. 

How I Got This Way (book review)

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Who doesn’t love Regis Philbin? Even if a morning talk show wasn’t your thing, the personality and professionalism that Regis demonstrated for over 50 years put him in a category all by himself. How did he get this way? He tells us in his entertaining memoir How I Got This Way. 

I purchased the audiobook for this one because I love hearing Regis speaking so passionately about those things that fire him up. Although he was mostly subdued in his recording, there were moments that his Irish was up! 

This book is presented in a very interesting format, with each chapter being named after a person who had a huge impact on fashioning Regis into the television icon that he became. Some names are readily recognizable, while others would be names known to only a handful of people. Since Regis would stick with this person through all of the years that he knew them, as the book progresses you will begin to see these strands intersecting with other people and forming a comprehensive picture. 

This was a delightful book! If you want a behind-the-scenes look at the television industry almost from its very beginning stages, this memoir will more than fit that bill. 

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Our Glorious King

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I had just finished playing three games of full-court basketball and it was time to leave for work. A young kid challenged me to stay for another game by making some comment about my old(er) age, which give me a fresh motivation to play another game. I told him I would play one more game on one condition: he had to guard me. I scored all 15 of our team’s points. One of my teammates said to that kid after the game, “You shouldn’t have made Craig angry.”  

Last week Asaph told us about the boastful who say, “Hallelujah!” to themselves, and he continues with that theme in Psalm 76 by saying, in essence, “You shouldn’t have made God angry!” 

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, had defeated Babylon and Egypt and had now turned his eye toward Jerusalem. He sent Lachish, his general, to deliver some stinging insults against the people of Judah and even against God Himself.  

I know the Israelites had strayed from God, but the Assyrians made no pretense whatsoever to honor Yahweh, so why was God allowing them to get away with this? Doesn’t it seem sometimes like God is waiting too long to deal with these wicked insulters? 

Many scholars feel that Psalm 76 was written after Sennacherib’s defeat. And make no mistake about this: it was a decisive defeat—God struck down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers while they slept! Asaph’s song of victory contains two Selah pauses, both of them intended for us to consider the greatness of Yahweh: 

  • one Selah is after verse 3—pause and remember that God is Sovereign and Resplendent in glorious victory 
  • the second Selah is after verse 9—pause and reflect that God’s wrath defeats His enemies and brings forth praise from His people 

The Old Testament gives us actual historical events, but these physical events point to an ultimate spiritual fulfillment. Sennacherib’s physical threats against God’s people are still seen in the devil’s boastful threats against God’s people today.

Look at two attacks against Jesus— 

  • Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. (Luke 16:13-14) 
  • Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at Him. They said, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” (Luke 23:34-35) 

These are the only two times in the New Testament that this Greek word for “sneer” is used. It means to deride, scoff, or mock. But in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) the same word that Luke used for sneer is used when God Himself says to Sennacherib, “The Virgin Daughter Zion despises you and mocks you” (see 2 Kings 19:20-28). 

Sennacherib thought he was insulting God’s people, but God said, “You are really insulting Me!” Yikes—you shouldn’t make God angry! 

Psalm 76 gives us the same reminder that we read in Revelation 12:10-11—“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” 

We defeat the enemy of our soul not by facing him but by facing our King! 

When we are confronted by the ungodly insults from snarling, scoffing, wicked people, we must Selah to remind ourselves that Yahweh is—

Alpha
Known and Renown
Invincible
Majestic
Awesome
Holy
The Final Judge
Irrefutable
Glorious
Omniscient
Omnipotent
Unrivaled
Undefeated
King of kings
Lord of lords
Sovereign Ruler
Omega
THE Decisive Word

Let me say it again: We defeat the enemy of our soul not by facing him but by facing THIS King of kings!

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find the full list of those messages by clicking here.

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Poetry Saturday—Why Art Thou Weary?

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Sad heart, why art thou weary
With anxious strivings drear?
Thou hast no cause for sadness,
No cause for restless fear.
Thou longest for thy Master,
Then cease and be at rest;
For shall not He who made thee
Know what for thee is best? —Oswald Chambers

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Showers Of Blessing

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.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Showers Of Blessing

I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. (Ezekiel 34:26) 

     ‘I will send them showers.’ It does not say, ‘I will send them drops,’ but ‘I will send them showers.’ Remember the saying, ‘It seldom rains but it pours.’ So it is with grace. If God gives a blessing, He usually gives it in such a measure that there is not room enough to receive it. …  

     Ah, we want plenteous grace, my friends. Plenteous grace to keep us humble, plenteous grace to make us prayerful, plenteous grace to make us holy, plenteous grace to make us zealous, plenteous grace to make us truthful, plenteous grace to preserve us through this life and at last to land us in heaven. We cannot do without showers of grace. …  

     But how is it that it does not fall to some of the people? It is because they put up the umbrella of their prejudice. And though they sit here, even as God’s people sit, even when it rains they have such a prejudice against God’s Word that they do not want to hear it. They do not want to love it and it runs off their prejudices.

From The Church Of Christ

God wants to bless you! Sadly, there are far too many people who put up their umbrellas of excuses like, “I’m nothing special,” or “Do you realize how many times I’ve blown it,” or “God has more important matters to attend to than little ol’ me.” 

These are lies that keep saints of God in a dry place. God’s grace is pursuing you. In one of the most well-received and most downloaded series of messages I shared on God’s favor, I said this about God showering His blessings on you: “Why would God do this? Because if you feel distant from Him, how can you glorify Him? If you feel disconnected from His love, how will you draw others to Him? If you feel like your relationship with Him is hanging by a thread, how can you happily abide in His presence?” 

God gave the promise of these abundant showers of blessings through Ezekiel of the Old Testament, and then Jesus made it a reality. The apostle Paul tells us, “Since God did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32). 

My friend, please put away those umbrellas of excuses—of satanic lies—and bask in the refreshing showers of God’s grace. It’s time to talk back to those excuses and tell them, “These are lies. God Himself says that He will bless His children and I am most assuredly His child!” 

If you would like to explore this topic more, please check out the series of popular messages I mentioned earlier by clicking here.

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First-Century Rulers In Palestine

I have frequently made the assertion that God is sovereign over all history, or as I like to say it… All History is His Story

When we are reading the Bible, it is important to keep in mind that these are not “once upon a time” stories, nor are they set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” but we are reading the accounts of actual people in actual moments of history.

I hope this chart from The Archeological Study Bible helps you in your reading of the New Testament.

Any of the names listed above in ALL CAPS are people who appear on the pages of the New Testament.

You may also want to check out a previous post where I discuss the historicity of the Gospels, or this post and this post about the resurrection appearances of Jesus.

Eternal

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Psalm 119 is divided into twenty-two 8-verse segments, with each verse of the segments beginning with its own Hebrew letter. Lamedh is found in verses 89-96, and lamedh is the tallest of all the Hebrew letters, so that means it stands out. 

Lamedh shows us big proportions. Words like eternal, boundless, established, enduring, and forever are prominent in these eight verses. The psalmist is inviting us to climb up into God’s Word and get a bigger view, a higher vantage point of who God is. 

Consider the opening verse of this section: Your Word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Eternal—think of the implications! If what God says—His Word—is eternal, then…

  • it continues through all generations (v. 90) 
  • it endures even when everything else fades away (vv. 90-91) 
  • it has no limits or frontiers (v. 96) 

At every single moment in my life, my eternal, enduring, limitless God knows the outcome or consequence of each option I could choose. His Word can so transform my mind that I can always choose the most Christ-glorifying option. The Spirit of Truth—my eternal Counselor—can guide me with God’s Word. 

I never have to be at a loss. I am never stumped. I always have access to eternal Truth. 

The psalmist got this: If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction (v. 92). 

Through God’s firmly-established Word I have—

  • Eternal Counsel 
  • Enduring Help 
  • Limitless Strength

And you have all of this, too, through God’s Word! 

Psalm 119 is a great place to start to make Bible reading a daily habit. Scientists tell us that you only need 21 days to make a new habit, and in Psalm 119 you have 22 days of daily reading that will transform your heart and mind. 

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