Poetry Saturday—I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath

I’ll praise my Maker while I’ve breath;
and when my voice is lost in death,
praise shall employ my nobler powers.
My days of praise shall ne’er be past
while life and thought and being last,
or immortality endures.

How happy they whose hopes rely
on Israel’s God, who made the sky
and earth and seas with all their train;
whose truth forever stands secure,
who saves the oppressed and feeds the poor,
and none shall find God’s promise vain.

The Lord pours eyesight on the blind;
the Lord supports the fainting mind
and sends the laboring conscience peace.
God helps the stranger in distress,
the widowed and the parentless,
and grants the prisoner sweet release. —Isaac Watts

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Study The Right Things

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.

Study The Right Things

     It is very advantageous to the Christian mind frequently to consider the deep and unsearchable attributes of God. … If we study man and make him the only object of our research, there will be a strong tendency in our minds to exaggerate his importance. We will think too much of the creature and too little of the Creator, preferring the knowledge that is to be found out by observation and reason to the divine truth that revelation alone could make known to us. … 

     The fleeting things of human life and the fickle thoughts and showy deeds of men are as movable and as changeable as the waters of the treacherous deep. But when we mount up, as it were, with eagles’ wings to Him Who sits upon the circle of the earth, before Whom all its inhabitants are as grasshoppers (Isaiah 40:22), we nestle in the Rock of Ages that from its eternal socket never starts and in its fixed immovability can never be disturbed.

From The Infallibility Of God’s Purpose

I read a lot of books. But in the hands-down, it’s-not-even-close category, I read the Bible more than anything else. It is the Book of books because it reveals the eternal Wisdom behind the earth’s wisdom. 

Zig Ziglar used to say, “Every morning I read my Bible and I read the newspaper. That way, I know what both sides are up to.” That’s pretty good!

We read the Bible not just to know the Bible, but to know the One Who authored the Bible. Or, as I like to say it—

My goal in reading the Word God is to get to know the God of the Word better and better.

Charles Spurgeon would never say—nor do I—that you shouldn’t study a variety of topics. Just make sure that your priority is God’s Word. This will give you the greatest insight into other topics and will protect you from humanistic error. 

Read Your Bible More

“Read your Bible more and more every year. Read it whether you feel like reading it or not. And pray without ceasing that the joy return and pleasures increase.

“Three reasons this is not legalism:

  1. You are confessing your lack of desire as sin, and pleading as a helpless child for the desire you long to have. Legalists don’t cry like that. They strut.
  2. You are reading out of desperation for the effects of this heavenly medicine. Bible-reading is not a cure for a bad conscience; it’s chemo for your cancer. Legalists feel better because the box is checked. Saints feel better when their blindness lifts, and they see Jesus in the Word. Let’s get real. We are desperately sick with worldliness, and only the Holy Spirit, by the Word of God, can cure this terminal disease.
  3. It is not legalism because only justified people can see the preciousness and power of the Word of God. Legalists trudge with their Bibles on the path toward justification. Saints sit down in the shade of the Cross and plead for the blood-bought pleasures.

“So let’s give heed to Mr. Ryle and never grow weary of the slow, steady, growth that comes from the daily, disciplined, increasing, love affair with reading the Bible. 

‘Do not think you are getting no good from the Bible, merely because you do not see that good day by day. The greatest effects are by no means those which make the most noise, and are most easily observed. The greatest effects are often silent, quiet, and hard to detect at the time they are being produced. Think of the influence of the moon upon the earth, and of the air upon the human lungs. Remember how silently the dew falls, and how imperceptibly the grass grows. There may be far more doing than you think in your soul by your Bible-reading’ (J.C. Ryle, in Practical Religion).” —John Piper 

The Personal Element

It is the personal element that Christian discipleship needs to emphasize. ‘The gift without the Giver is bare.’ The call of this age is a call for a new discipleship, a new following of Jesus, more like the early, simple, apostolic Christianity when the disciples left all and literally followed the Master. Nothing but a discipleship of this kind can face the destructive selfishness of the age, with any hope of overcoming it. … But if our definition of being a Christian is simply to enjoy the privileges of worship, be generous at no expense to ourselves, have a good, easy time surrounded by pleasant friends and by comfortable things, live respectably, and at the same time avoid the world’s great stress of sin and trouble because it is too painful—if this is our definition of Christianity, then surely we are a long way from following the steps of Him who trod the way with tears of anguish for a lost humanity.” —Rev. Maxwell in Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps (emphasis mine)

A Life Worthy Of The Gospel

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ… (Philippians 1:27).

The apostle Paul wanted the Philippians’ living to be their preaching. Much like Francis of Assisi said years later: “Preach always; if necessary, use words.”

The big question is—what does conduct “worthy of the gospel of Christ” look like? I believe Paul identifies at least 15 characteristics in just the next 20 or so verses

  1. It is not a people-pleasing lifestyle. It is a God-honoring, Spirit-lead, Christ-glorifying lifestyle.
  2. It is steadfast, which means it perseveres even through the trials and difficulties.
  3. It is a heart and mind unified with other Christians.
  4. It is bold—“without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” 
  5. It is strengthened in Christ and it is in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit. 
  6. It overflows with loving comfort, affection, and mercy to those around it.
  7. It humbly serves others while confidently refreshing itself in Christ.
  8. It strives to live as Jesus did, seeking always for God to be glorified.
  9. It is obedient to the conviction and direction of the Holy Spirit.
  10. It finds pleasure in doing God’s will.
  11. It doesn’t complain.
  12. It is a blameless and harmless life.
  13. It shines a light that attracts others to God’s love.
  14. It holds fast to the Word of life for the long haul.
  15. It is a rejoicing, contented lifestyle.

Heavenly Father, may it always be said of my life that it is one that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. May I always be sensitive to the nudges of the Holy Spirit to keep my life aligned in this way. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen! 

How To Respond To Evildoers

I’m sure if I asked for a show of hands, everyone of you would put up a hand (or maybe even two!) to the question, “Has someone done something bad to you?” 

The real issue is not if we’ve been the victim of evildoers doing evil things; the real issue is how to respond to evildoers that do evil things. 

In Psalm 52, David tells us that he wrote this prayer after a vile man named Doeg had done atrociously evil things to a whole town of innocent people. Worse yet: these people were simply trying to help David!

David was fleeing for his life from King Saul, forcing him to leave home with just the clothes on his back. He stopped at the village of Nob and asked Ahimelech the priest for food and a weapon. That act, in King Saul’s mind, was worthy of death. None of Saul’s soldiers would carry out his command to execute the priest, but Doeg quickly responded. Doeg not only killed Ahimelech, but he killed the 85 priests with him, and then he proceeded to annihilate everything and everyone left in the village of Nob. Only one man escaped to tell David what happened. 

When David begins this psalm, he uses the words you or your 14 times in just the first five verses. David is addressing Doeg, almost holding up a mirror to his evil deeds. By contrast, the word I is used five times in just the last two verses of this prayer. 

That tells me that we have to work on this problem of evil from two different directions. We need to see evildoers in their evil, and we need to see a godly response to evildoers. As with many Hebrew poems, the most important principle is in the middle—Surely God will bring evildoers down to destruction, but He will protect the righteous (v. 5). 

In the opening words, David asks Doeg, “Why do you boast of evil?” The word for boast in Hebrew is halal—this is usually the word we translate Hallelujah! In other words, Doeg has put his evil on the throne of his life and is saying “Hallelujah!” to it. A downward slide of all sorts of evil words and evil deeds spiral out from this until the climax: Surely God will bring judgment. 

Notice David says “God” (not you) “will” (not might) take care of this. 

Now let’s look at it from a righteous perspective. Working backwards from verse 9 to verse 5, we see whereas Doeg was praising his evil deeds, David is praising God. David recognizes that it’s only in God’s presence that he can be free, and it’s only God that can ultimately balance the scales of justice. 

▶️ My friend, you cannot make things right. Only God can do this. Please, please, take your eyes off the evildoer that did evil things to you, and put your eyes on the Perfect Judge. He alone can balance the scales of justice. ◀️

So here are four lessons for all of us to learn—

  1. When evildoers do evil things to you, talk to God about them; don’t talk to your enemies and don’t even talk to your friends.
  2. Continue to redirect your heart and thoughts to God’s unfailing love, and away from thoughts of retribution—even if you have to do this a hundred times a day.
  3. When evildoers afflict you, look in the mirror of God’s Word to see if there is anything for which you need to repent and then ask forgiveness.
  4. When judgment comes, don’t gloat. John Bradford, when he saw a cartful of men going off to be hanged said, “There goes John Bradford but for the grace of God.”

In this video I reference our series on the Selahs in the book of Psalms. If you missed any of these, please click here to find a list of the other topics we covered.

Poetry Saturday—Taladh Chriosda

The Lord my shepherd is and I 
shall not want. He makes me lie 
in green pastures, leads me by 
refreshing waters, still.

Restore my soul, Lord, day by day.
Lead me in Your righteous way 
for Your Name’s sake, Lord, I pray 
according to Your will.

And though through death’s dark vail I go,
I no fear of evil show, 
for Your rod and staff, I know, 
shall guard and comfort still.

A table You before me spread 
in the midst of those I dread, 
and with oil anoint my head.
My cup You overfill.

Thus goodness e’er shall follow me, 
mercy all my path shall see,
Your house shall my dwelling be 
forever after still. —T.M. Moore, in Bricks And Rungs

The Unborn, Unchallenged, And Unreached

“The Lord of life will not tolerate senseless death whether through abortion or neglect of our missionary commission. Both rebellious sins result in billions dying. The killing of unborn babies and the reluctance to spend ourselves that the unreached may be born again are equal and connected evils: both would rather others die, unprotected or unwarned, than be inconvenienced. If we do nothing about the unborn and the unreached, if we do not respond to God’s command to fight for life, then we break covenant with Him, scoff at His messengers, and the wrath of God will rise until there is no remedy. With the blood of 50 million unborn on our hands and the blood of 3.15 billion unreached on our heads, surely wrath is nigh and remedy runs out. 

“The enemy is most vile in his demonic success when he succeeds in getting us to kill our own. How many future missionaries lie buried in tiny graves? How many unreached will die because a ‘Christian’ nation aborted our own missionaries? A less decried corporate murder, another abortion campaign, is the emasculation of men. Men were born to fight, and the spirit behind homosexuality denies masculinity and seeks to kill the warrior spirit. If the enemy can get us to kill our own children and emasculate our own men, he can sit back in demonic satisfaction as we destroy ourselves and no one lives so that the nations may not die. There are on average seven single missionary women for every one single missionary man. Where are the missionary men? Have we killed them in the cradle of the womb or the cradle of culture, media, and caricature? 

“What if there is a deeper core to the travesties of abortion and homosexuality? What if the implications are so much bigger than our ‘rights,’ ‘convenience,’ or ‘pleasure’? What if these issues are about the nations and the glory of God among all peoples? What if by getting us to kill our children and neuter our men, the devil knows he can hold unreached people captive and death will reign both at home and abroad? Maybe there is yet one last remedy for wrath. Maybe the fate of the unborn, unchallenged, and unreached are all connected. Perhaps as we fight for the abolition of abortion, the warrior masculinity of men, and the glory of God among all peoples, God will have mercy on our land and hold back the winepress of His wrath.” —Dick Brogden, in Missionary God, Missionary Bible (emphasis mine)

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Best Study To Expand Your Mind

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 Best Study To Expand Your Mind

     The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy that can ever engage the attention of a child of God is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. … It is a subject so vast that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity, so deep that our pride is drowned in its infinity. …

     But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. …

     Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. …  

     There is one name on which mutability can never be written. One heart never can alter. That heart is God’s; that name Love. 

From The Immutability Of God

The vastness—the infiniteness—of God is something which should much consume us! The psalmists frequently write of the time they spent meditating on God and His awesomeness. 

That word “meditate” means to mull something over and over in your mind; literally, it means “to hum.” Perhaps that’s why the psalms were written as songs, so that it would be easier for people to hum their pondering on how majestic our All-Powerful, All-Loving God is. 

It’s not about the quantity of your Bible reading, but it’s about the quality of your reading. And it’s about what you do with what you have read. Soak in it. Meditate on it. Hum it over and over again throughout the day. Let the truth of God’s majesty lift your mind and spirit to new heights!

This is truly the greatest topic on which you can muse. The illumination of God will expand your mind like no other study in the world can.

Oh 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! (Stuart Wesley Keene Hine)

Names Of God In The Old Testament

I love my Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible! I found this gem while reading in the Psalms.

יהוה (yhwh)

The name יהוה (yhwh) is known as the Tetragrammaton, and was probably pronounced as Yahweh. In the Old Testament, it is the proper name of God and is the most common term used to refer to Him (e.g., Gen 4:1). Exodus 3:13–15 connects this name with the verb הָיָה (hayah) “to be”; in this passage, God uses two related names for Himself that are not used elsewhere in the Bible: אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה (ehyeh asher ehyeh, “I am who I am”) and the abbreviated אֶהְיֶה (ehyeh, “I am”), and declares that יהוה (yhwh) is His name. By the time that the Septuagint version of the Torah was translated in the third century bc, Jews avoided pronouncing the Tetragrammaton to avoid committing blasphemy; in reading the Scriptures, the name אֲדֹנָי (adonay, “Lord”) was substituted, and the Septuagint translated this with the Greek word κύριος (kyrios, “Lord”). In English translations of the Bible, יהוה (yhwh) is usually represented as “the Lord,” using capital or small-capital letters to distinguish it from “Lord” as a translation for other Hebrew words. The English representation of this name as “Jehovah” is based on a misunderstanding of a scribal convention that combined the consonants of יהוה (yhwh) with the vowels of אֲדֹנָי(adonay) to remind the reader to pronounce Adonai in place of the Tetragrammaton.

For further details, see these articles: YHWH; Tetragrammaton; Tetragrammaton in the New Testament; Jehovah; I Am Who I Am.

Compound names with יהוה (yhwh)

Sometimes the name יהוה (yhwh) was combined with other terms characterizing God to produce a compound name. The most important of these is יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת (yhwh tseva’oth, “YHWH of Hosts”; e.g., 1 Sam 1:11), which expresses God’s position as the leader of the armies of heaven. Some compound names involving יהוה (yhwh) are translated in the King James Version or in other English translations using the erroneous representation “Jehovah.”

For further details, see these articles: Lord of Hosts; Jehovah-Jireh; Jehovah-Tsidkenu; Jehovah-Nissi.

אֱלֹהִים (elohim) and Related Words

Hebrew אֱלֹהִים (elohim) is by far the most common member of a small group of Hebrew and Aramaic words used to refer to God and other deities. This word is plural in form, but is most often used with singular meaning as a name for the one God of Israel; in this meaning, it occurs with singular verbs (e.g., Gen 1:1). It can also be used with plural meaning to refer to deities of polytheistic belief; in this case, any verbs and adjectives that go with it are plural (e.g., Deut 13:13).

The other words in this family also refer either to the one God or to a polytheistic deity. These are Hebrew אֵל (el, “god”; e.g., Num 12:13; Deut 32:12), Hebrew אֱלוֹהַּ (eloha, “god”; e.g., Job 11:7; Dan 11:38), and Aramaic אֱלָהּ (elah, “god”; e.g., Ezra 6:3; Dan 6:7).

For further details, see these articles: Elohim; Eloah.

Compound Names with El

Hebrew El (“God”) sometimes occurs with other terms in compound names for God. These compound names differ from one another in several ways. For example, the name אֵל שַׁדַּי (el shadday) combines El with the word שַׁדַּי (shadday), which also occurs by itself as a name for God—often translated “Almighty.” The compound name El Shaddai is not frequent, but does occur in several passages (e.g., Gen 17:1; Ezek 10:5). By contrast, the name אֵל רֳאִי (el ro’iy) “God of seeing, God who sees me” occurs only in Gen 16:13, and רֳאִי (ro’iy) does not occur independently as a name of God.

For further details, see these articles: El Roi; El Elohe Israel; El Shaddai; El Elyon.

אָדוֹן (adon) and אֲדֹנָי (adonay)

The Hebrew word אָדוֹן (adon, “master, lord”) is not specifically a divine title. It can be used of humans, indicating a person who has authority (e.g., Judg 19:11; Gen 45:8). It is sometimes used to describe God, emphasizing His authority (e.g., Josh 3:13).

The divine title אֲדֹנָי (adonay) is related to אָדוֹן (adon) and is used only of God (e.g., Psa 2:4). Its form is very close to and may be derived from אֲדֹנַי (adonay, “my lords”), which is simply the plural of אָדוֹן(adon) followed by a first-person singular suffix (e.g., Gen 19:2); but it has a short a vowel in the suffix while the divine title אֲדֹנָי (adonay) has a long a vowel. The divine title may have originated as a respectful title used to address God (e.g., Exod 4:10), using a plural form to express extra respect. However, in the Old Testament it is used not merely to address God, but also to talk about Him (e.g., 2 Kgs 7:6).

For further details, see this article: Adonai.

שַׁדַּי (shadday)

The origin of the name שַׁדַּי (shadday) is uncertain, but it is used as a title for God, especially in the book of Job (e.g., Job 13:3). Its original meaning is debated, but it is often translated “Almighty.” It is sometimes combined with אֵל (el, “god”) in the compound name אֵל שַׁדַּי (el shadday) (e.g., Gen 17:1), but more often occurs alone.

For further details, see these articles: Shaddai; El Shaddai.

עֶלְיוֹן (elyon)

The word עֶלְיוֹן (elyon) means “high, highest”; as a title for God, it is commonly translated “Most High.” It most often occurs alone (e.g., Psa 91:1), but also occurs in compounds with other names of God, including El(e.g., Gen 14:18–22), YHWH (e.g., Psa 7:17), and Elohim (e.g., Psa 57:2).

For further details, see this article: El Elyon.

Other Names

A variety of other names and titles are used for God. A few examples include צוּר (tsur, “Rock”; e.g., Isa 17:10), רֹעֵה (ro’eh) (“Shepherd“; e.g., Gen 49:24), and בּוֹרֵא (bore’, “Creator”; e.g., Isa 40:28). In Psalm 68:4, the Masoretic Text refers to him as “Rider through the Desert”; this is sometimes taken to be a modification of an expression “Rider on the Clouds” which was applied to Ba’al in Ugaritic. In Hosea 2:16, God declares that Israel will no longer call Him בַּעֲלִי (ba’aliy) “my master, my Ba’al” but will instead call him אִישִׁי (ishiy, “my husband”); these names are not used elsewhere in the Old Testament.

Please check out my review of the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible and pick up a copy for yourself.

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