Two Great Lies

“By two great lies was man led away from God. By the same two lies has the estrangement been kept up. On these two lies the world has been feeding ever since the Fall. Their fruit has been woe and death—‘Ye shall not die’ and ‘Ye shall be as gods.’ …

“The world’s history is the same. Our race has been eating the fruit of lies [Hosea 10:13]; not simply of sin, but of lies. The sorrows, sighs, tears, pains of our race are the fruit of lies—the original lie of Paradise, and a thousand such since then. …

“The two original satanic lies are continually coming up, and along with them myriads of others, all leading us astray. Each day brings forth the lie, the fruit, the eating thereof. satan, or the world, or the flesh, or a friend, or a book, or a scene whispers the lie; it is fair and specious, we believe it; it brings forth fruit, we eat of it, and the end is bitterness and disappointment. We feed on lies. … We persuade ourselves that this world is good, and pleasant, and excellent, so we pursue it in preference to the world to come. …

“Jesus says, ‘Yes, ye shall not surely die, but that deliverance shall not be in the way you think. Death is the wages of sin, yet I bring life to the sinner, everlasting life, life through the belief of the Truth, even as death came through the belief of a lie. Yes, ye shall be as gods, but not in your way. I will make you partakers if the divine nature, not by eating the forbidden tree, but by eating of Me.’” —Horatius Bonar, in Light and Truth: The Old Testament

The Ultimate De-Stress Practice

We all experience a certain amount of stress in our daily activities. Our body helps us meet the demands of each day by releasing a hormone called cortisol. Here’s how cortisol helps us— 

  • manages how our body uses carbohydrates, fats, proteins 
  • keeps inflammation down 
  • regulates blood pressure 
  • controls the sleep/wake cycle 
  • boosts energy  

Cortisol is naturally flushed out of our body each day by exercise and rest. 

But what happens if we don’t have the proper exercise and rest? In that case, cortisol can become a cruel double-edged sword leading to things like unhealthy weight loss or gain, inflammation (and the accompanying aches and pains), elevated blood pressure, difficulty sleeping at night, and difficulty staying awake during the day. 

As a result, we start to turn every molehill into a mountain, and we tend to the extremes of avoidance (flight) or argumentation (fight). 

Cortisol is naturally flushed from our bodies by a healthy on-and-off rhythm. God built this into His Creation by giving us daily rhythms of day and night, work and rest, and by giving us a weekly Sabbath to rest and reflect. 

We don’t need just a Sabbath day (although that is important and God-honoring), but we need to engage in sabbathing. Look how Jesus did this: 

  • up early to pray before a busy day 
  • a nap in the afternoon when He was tired 
  • a snack along the road when He was hungry 
  • an extended getaway time with His friends 
  • time alone with God after a long day of ministry (see Mark 1:35, 6:30-32; Matthew 8:24; 12:1; 15:21) ** 

In Psalm 61, notice how David’s stress is building: he says, “my heart is overwhelmed” (v. 2). He needed a Sabbath pause (a Selah) to look back on how God had helped him in the past. When we are over-stressed, we seldom Selah to look back because we are so focused on NOW. But a time of sabbathing will allow us to reflect and celebrate yesterday’s blessings and provisions so that we have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” 

David concludes his prayer by building a proper God-honoring rhythm into his life—So I will sing praise to Your name FOREVER, that I may DAILY perform my vows. The sabbathing kept David eternity-focused which gave him the daily strength he needed. 

Beware of the warning signs that you need a sabbathing pause: turning every molehill into a mountain, avoiding problems, frequently arguing with others, constantly feeling fatigued. Allow these signs to turn you to this Psalm, and turn this Psalm into your prayer. 

**To learn more details of how Jesus practiced this principle of sabbathing, check out this post.

If you have missed any of the other posts in our Selah series, you can access the list by clicking here. 

Poetry Saturday—Out Of Touch With Your Lord

Only a smile, yes, only a smile,
That a woman o’er burdened with grief
Expected from you; ‘twould have given relief
For her heart ache sore the while;
But weary and cheerless she went away,
Because as it happened, that very day
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a word, yes, only a word,
That the Spirit’s small voice whispered, “Speak”;
But the worker passed onward, unblessed and weak,
Whom you were meant to have stirred
To courage, devotion and love anew,
Because when the message came to you,
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a note, yes, only a note,
From a friend in a distant land;
The Spirit said, “Write,” but then you had planned
Some different work, and you thought
It mattered little, you did not know
‘Twould have saved a soul from sin and woe;
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a song, yes, only a song,
That the Spirit said, “Sing tonight—
Thy voice is thy Master’s by purchased right“;
But you thought, “Mid this motley throng
I care not to sing of the City of Gold,”
And the heart that your words might have reached grew cold;
You were “out of touch“ with your Lord.

Only a day, yes, only a day!
But, oh, can you guess, my friend,
Where the influence reaches, and where it will end
Of the hours that you frittered away?
The Master’s command is, “Abide in Me,”
And fruitless and vain will your service be,
If “out of touch“ with your Lord. —Jean H. Watson

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Christ’s Momentary Pain, Your Eternal Gain

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.

Christ’s Momentary Pain, Your Eternal Gain

After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You. (John 17:1) 

     The Son of God was glorified while He was dying, and it was one part of His glory that He should be able to bear the enormous load of human guilt. As a race we lay crushed beneath it.

     A thousand Samsons could not relieve us! Angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim could never lift the stupendous mass! But this one Man alone, with no help, in weakness of body and in death pains, bore away the enormous load of human guilt! The chastisement of our peace was upon Him. The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all! What a load it was! And that He could bear it was, indeed, a display of His glory. The lost in hell cannot bear the wrath of God! An eternity of suffering will not have discharged the dreadful penalty, and yet He bore that burden in an hour! Oh, marvelous strength of the incarnate God! Glorious are You indeed, O Christ, upon Your Cross! …  

     I say He was glorified in His passion and His prayer was heard! The Father did glorify His Son even on the Tree! It was an hour of glory that might dazzle angels’ eyes; that hour when He said, ‘It is finished!’ (John 19:30) and gave up the ghost. What had He finished? He had finished that which saved His people! He had peopled heaven with immortal spirits who will delight in Him forever and had shaken the gates of hell! God indeed glorified His Son in enabling Him to bear, and bear so well, all the weight of sin and the penalty that was due to it. …  

     When He died, He did not render the redemption of His people possible, but He ransomed them completely. By His agonies and death He did not merely give a bare hope of the pardon of sin, but He hurled the sin of all His elect into the depths of the sea in that same moment! He did not merely make the salvation of men a possibility if they would, but He saved His people then and there! He finished the work that He came to do, and proof of it is written that ‘this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God’ (Hebrews 10:12).

From The Son Glorified By The Father And The Father Glorified By The Son 

The enemy of your soul would love for you to believe his lies that you have to do something to secure your salvation, or that your most recent sin somehow made your salvation iffy, or that God is angry with you. 

THOSE ARE ALL LIES! 

Jesus didn’t make your salvation possible; He made it yours. This is what glorifies God: when you believe that the death of Jesus is all that is needed for your complete and eternal salvation! 

Jesus paid it all
All to Him I owe
Sin had left a crimson stain
He washed it white as snow

The Danger Of Great Gifts

I recently posted this

“We are more vulnerable to an attack (and a temporary defeat) after a victory than after a defeat. Why is that? Because victory tends to make us self-satisfied, but defeat tends to make us God-dependent.”

The same is true with our God-given gifts. In his book on spiritual warfare, William Gurnall identifies great giftings in an individual’s life as a vulnerable place for an attack:

“Great gifts lift a saint up a little higher in the eyes of men, but they also tempt him to pride. Do not envy those with great gifts; instead, pity and pray for them. It is hard for them to escape the error of supposing that God’s grace in them is their own doing. … 

“Had God given you gifts merely for your own pleasure or edification, the sin of pride would not be quite so bad. But when you use your gifts to lift yourself up, you tear down the Body of Christ. Your gifts are necessary to the health of the whole Body, but they must be administered properly.” —William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armor (emphasis mine)

Check All The Boxes

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders … [and] consulted the young men… (1 Kings 12:6, 8). 

As King Rehoboam ascended Israel’s throne, the people met with him to ask if there could be a change in policies. They stated that Rehoboam’s father, King Solomon, had worked them hard building God’s temple and Solomon’s palace. They asked for a bit of reprieve. 

Rehoboam took this suggestion to both the elders who had consulted his father, as well as to his friends that were his own age. 

Sometimes the older generation wants to stick with “the way we’ve always done things” because it appears tried and true; they are usually hesitant to make any changes.

Sometimes the younger generation wants to change nearly everything because they think there must be a better way; they are usually anxious to make changes. 

So when the elders suggested a change from Solomon’s policies, Rehoboam should have taken notice. “This is not typical for the elders to suggest a change, so perhaps I should ponder this more closely.” For the young leaders to suggest a change was typical for their generation, so Rehoboam should have expected that. 

Also notice that the elders’ advice was toward servant leadership, while the young men’s advice was toward more top-down, heavy-handed leadership. Although there is no record of either Rehoboam nor his advisers seeking God’s counsel, the elders’ advice is clearly more in line with God’s heart. God spoke through Moses about how He carried (or served) His people (Exodus 19:4), so a reprieve from hard labor would have been more God-honoring. 

Sadly, Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders, making the working conditions even harsher for the people of Israel. This terrible decision had disastrous consequences, as Israel was henceforth split into two nations: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Rehoboam missed the cues from both the older and younger generations, as well as God’s own example, that could have preserved a united nation. 

For our decision making today we have the additional example of Jesus who came not to be served but to serve others, and who gave us a similar servant-hearted command (Mark 10:45; John 13:12–17). 

When God-fearing people are facing a key decision, here are three important things to consider: 

  1. Are the seasoned, God-fearing elders advocating a change? 
  2. Will this decision help me better serve the people I lead? 
  3. Is this decision exemplifying Christ’s servant-leadership? 

This is so important—I need a “YES” in all three boxes if I am going to move forward! 

If any box is unchecked, I need to seriously re-evaluate making a change.

Run To The Banner

Psalm 60 may have the longest introduction of any of the psalms, and it gives us some key historical information. David has been successful against the Philistines and the Moabites, and now he is fighting in Mesopotamia. While the army was focused elsewhere, the Edomites must have seen an opportunity to attack Israel, where they won a temporary victory (see the intro to Psalm 60 and 2 Samuel 8:1-3). 

David’s reflexive response to this temporary setback was not retaliation or blaming, but remorse and repentance. In verses 1-4 he says “You have” five times, acknowledging that God allowed this temporary defeat. He also acknowledges that only God can restore. 

Then David comes to the Selah pause: But You have raised a banner for those who fear You—a rallying point in the face of attack. Selah. (NLT) 

The Selah here is David calling us to evaluate our options just as he did. We are to consider things like: 

  • God’s help vs. our own strength 
  • the benefits of righteousness vs. the consequences of sin
  • depending on God vs. depending on man 
  • rallying under God’s banner vs. rallying under our own banner 

It’s interesting to note that in the list of David’s long string of victories in 2 Samuel 8, we read this: “The Lord gave David victory wherever he went” (v. 6). But how can that be since the Israelites were temporarily defeated by the Edomites? 

I think this is the key principle—We are more vulnerable to an attack (and a temporary defeat) after a victory than after a defeat. Why is that? Because victory tends to make us self-satisfied, but defeat tends to make us God-dependent. 

When David confesses that God has allowed this temporary defeat, he is really confessing that he had attempted to navigate things on his own. Perhaps he thought his strategy would keep Israel secure, or that his men were trained and resourced enough to be victorious, or that David didn’t even have to pay attention to the Edomites any longer. 

Whatever went through David’s mind, it was clear that he had become more self-satisfied than he was God-dependent. So David correctly recognized that he needed to run to God’s banner. He recognized that was the only secure place for him to stay. 

The Bible DOESN’T say “resist the devil and he will flee from you,” but it DOES say “submit yourself to God—run to His banner and stay under His banner—and then you can resist the devil and he will flee from you.” 

Look at the keywords in the final verse of Psalm 60: “With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies.” 

WE WILL only because HE WILL. 

Has there been a temporary setback in your life? Repent and run to the banner of God. 

Have you felt under attack? Humble yourself and run to the banner of God. 

Have you recently won a victory? Stay humble and keep on running to the banner of God! 

If you have missed any of the other posts in this Selah series, you can find the full list by clicking here.

Poetry Saturday—Brothers And Sisters The Same

Look around at the sign of the times,
churches are closing their doors.
Is it because God has left them
or because of internal wars?

There‘s people trying to find the Savior
but they don’t know where to go.
One says, “This church is a good one,”
another says, “No, it ain’t so.”

What happens when the doors lock?
What happens to the lost soul?
Is this what Jesus was all about?
Was fancy carpet His real goal?

Does anyone know where God truly is?
Did He tell you while deep in prayer?
Does He need stained glass windows
for Him to be present there?

If Jesus Himself came to your church
do you think that they’d let Him in?
Or would they say, “That‘s outrageous,
the people He’s with commit sin!”

Do you think that you’ve overcome,
that you‘re a sinner no more?
If that’s what you think, I’m sorry,
Jesus has something for you in store.

We all are sinners each and everyone.
None of us are innocent and pure;
if you think that you are different,
I don’t think that you are so sure.

So before you go pointing your finger,
before you go laying the blame,
remember what it says in the Bible:
we are brothers and sisters the same. —Barney Fritcher

Thursdays With Spurgeon—“The Hour Has Come”

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 Hour Has Come” 

After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You. (John 17:1) 

     Father, the hour is come.’ This is the hour ordained in the eternal purpose. The hour prophesied of which Daniel sought to know. The hour toward which all hours had pointed. The central hour—the hour up to which man dated and from which they will date again if they read time right. The hinge, pivot, and turning point of all human history! The dark yet delivering hour! The hour of vengeance and of acceptance! ‘The hour is come.’ …  

     You and I look into the hour of darkness, as a frequent rule, and see no further, for our eyes are dim through unbelief. But [Jesus] goes on beyond the hour and His prayer is, ‘Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.’ He fixes His eyes upon the glory that was yet to be revealed and for joy of which He counts even His death to be but an hour—looking upon it as soon to be over and lost in the glory of His Father! 

     In all this, brothers and sisters, let us imitate our Lord and let us keep our eyes not on the present, but on the future; not on this light affliction, which is but for a moment, but on the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory that will come of it. And let us with holy confidence, whenever our hour of darkness arrives, resort to our God in secret. The best preparation for the worst hour is prayer! The best remedy for a depressed spirit is nearness to God! 

From The Son Glorified By The Father And The Father Glorified By The Son 

Solomon became depressed when his gaze went no higher than “under the sun.” We, too, can become quite overwhelmed by our trials if our eyes only look at the present hour of darkness. 

The writer of Hebrews tells us to keep our eyes on Jesus who conquered in His hour of darkness—Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the Cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3). 

No matter what you are going through, keep your eyes on Jesus. Don’t give in to the darkness because Jesus has made you more than a conqueror if you will remain in Him (Romans 8:37-39). 

 

The Destructive Power Of Self-Sufficiency

…Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her (1 Samuel 28:7). 

How sad for King Saul! But this is the inevitable path for one who was put into his leadership position by God and then completely turned his back on God. 

God did so much over so many years to try to get Saul to turn back to Him, but Saul persisted in his self-sufficiency. As Paul wrote in Galatians, “A man reaps what he sows.” Militarily, Saul had one shining moment: delivering the people of Jabesh Gilead. The closing words of 1 Samuel show us the valiant man from Jabesh conducting a covert nighttime mission to remove the bodies of Saul and his sons from the Philistines, and then giving them a proper burial. Just imagine how many more valiant men may have been around if Saul had continually obeyed God! 

Now, nearing the end of his life, Saul is at his wits’ end: God is not answering him by any means he tries. As a result, this final chapter of Saul’s leadership is characterized by words like:

  • afraid
  • terror filled his heart 
  • great distress 
  • filled with fear 
  • his strength was gone

Until King Saul ultimately takes his own life.

The consequences of Saul’s sinful self-sufficiency impacted more than just him. A leader’s sins have devastating effects on his followers. Throughout Saul’s reign as king we see the army fearful, hesitant, ill-equipped, slinking away, confused, set up for failure, and ultimately defeated. Saul could never get out of his own way, taking Israel down with him.

A mark of a godless leader is sinful self-sufficiency.

How sad for Saul and Israel. Especially because Saul’s demise was totally avoidable if he only would have repented of his pride and turned wholeheartedly to God.

This is a sober reminder for all leaders: if God has put you in a place of leadership, you will experience success. Don’t let that success fool you, as it did with Saul, into thinking you created that success. This is the first step toward the downward slide that ultimately destroyed Saul, and it will be your undoing as well. 

This is part 49 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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