Poetry Saturday—My Country

America! my own dear land,
O, ‘tis a lovely land to me;
I thank my God that I was born
Where man is free!

Our land—it is a glorious land—
And wide it spreads from sea to sea,
And sister States in Union join
And all are free.

And equal laws we all obey, 
To kings we never bend the knee;
We may not own any Lord but God
Where all are free.

We’ve lofty hills and sunny vales
And streams that roll to either sea,
And through this large and varied land
Alike we’re free.

You hear the sounds of healthful toil,
And youth’s gay shout and childhood’s glee,
And every one in safety dwells 
And all are free.

We’re brothers all from South to North,
One bond will draw us to agree;
We love this country of our birth,
We love the free. 

We love the name of Washington,
I lisped it on my father’s knee,
And we shall ne’er forget the name 
While we are free.

My Land, my own dear native Land,
Thou art a lovely land to me;
I bless my God that I was born
Where man is free! —Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (1788–1879) 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Thoughtful Meditation And Application

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.

Thoughtful Meditation And Application

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:7-8) 

     Observe, then, that God’s people are a thoughtful people. If they are what they are to be, they do a great deal of remembering and considering. … I wish, in these days, that professing Christians remembered and considered a great deal more, but we live in such a flurry, hurry, and worry, that we do not give time for thought. …  

     Our great Master never aimed at originality—He said that He did not even speak His own words, but the words that He had heard of His Father [John 12:49]. He was docile and teachable. As the Son of God and the Servant of God, His ears were open to hear the instructions of the Father, and He could say, ‘I always do those things that please Him’ (John 8:29). … 

     There is no difference whatever in the relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ to His people at this time! He is just as ready to comfort us tonight as He was to comfort those with whom He dwelt when here below! Sister Mary, He is as willing to come down to your Bethany and help you in your sorrow about Lazarus as He was when He came to Martha and Mary whom He loved! Jesus Christ is just as ready to wash your feet, my brother, after another day’s weary travel through the foul ways of this world. He is as willing to take the basin and the towel and to give us a loving cleansing as He was when He washed His disciples’ feet! Just what He was to them, He is to us! Happy is it if you and I can truly say, ‘What He was to Peter, what He was to John, what He was to Magdalene, that is Jesus Christ to me—the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ 

From The Unchangeable Christ 

If Charles Spurgeon thought the 19th century was a time of “flurry, hurry, and worry,” what adjectives might describe the supersonic, multi-tasking, get-everything-done-now 21st century?! 

Today, more than ever, we need to take time to reflect on God’s Word. Read it slowly. Put yourself in the story. What would you have observed if you were there? What would you have felt? Look around at the others who were there: how would they have perceived what was happening? 

You don’t meditate on God’s Word so that you can find something original, but you meditate so that the Holy Spirit can reveal the original truths that are already there! The Holy Spirit can show you how to apply the Bible to your life, if you will only slow down to give Him time to do so. 

Don’t race through your Bible reading time—slow down and take it all in. Then let the Holy Spirit work out what He has helped you put in your heart and mind.

 

God’s Unrivaled Pencil

Not a flower
But shows some touch in freckle, streak or stain
Of His unrivaled pencil. He inspires
Their balmy odors, and imparts their hues,
And bathes their eyes with nectar.
Happy he
Who walks with Him! —William Cowper







all photos (c) Craig T. Owens 2020

Miracle Of Miracles

…Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like You… (1 Kings 8:23).

Yahweh is unique. He isn’t #1 in the categories that men use to rank things—He embodies the categories; He is in those categories all by Himself. He has no peer, He has no rival. He is the I AM. 

This seemingly unapproachable God approaches us—miracle of miracles! He makes a covenant of love, and He keeps that covenant. He makes promises, and He fulfills all those promises. He is the Judge, and yet He provides for the atonement and total restoration of the guilty sinner. He knows every human heart (v. 39) and every human sin (v. 46), and yet He does not abandon, but saves!

Miracle of miracles! He is the one who gives to me a heart that wants to walk in obedience to Him…

  • …so that He can keep all of His promises that are reserved for those who walk in obedience to Him
  • …so that all the peoples of the earth may see and know “that the LORD is God and that there is no other” (v. 60)

Miracle of miracles! The unique I AM wants me to be in a relationship with Him. The One who is complete in Himself wants me to be in this blessed completeness with Him forever! How could I ever say no to such an invitation?! How could I ever refrain from telling others about this invitation?!

God loves me and He has done everything necessary for me to be in an eternal relationship with Him—miracle of miracles indeed!

Apples Of Gold In Pictures Of Silver (book review)

The title of this book comes from the King James Version of the Bible: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). A picturesque phrase for words that are challenging and uplifting. 

This book came to me from my Grandfather’s library. Originally published in 1889, my Grandfather had an autographed copy from 1901. The words in this book have stood the test of time. 

The first section of the book contains quotes, poems, and other life-guiding words to be read each day of the year. The subsequent sections are targeted to specific seasons of life. They are “Apples of Gold for…

  • … Children
  • … Youths 
  • … Lasses 
  • … Young Men 
  • … Young Women
  • … Early Married Life
  • … Middle-Aged 
  • … The Old
  • … Mothers 
  • … Dark Days 
  • … Bright Days” 

Each of these sections contains short stories, quotes, and poetry to both recover from a stumble and help the reader grow to new levels of maturity and success. 

I realize this book is out of print and probably unavailable to most, but there is an important principle from these types of books: Never stop learning. Find sources of wisdom that have stood the test of time, and let others’ hindsight be your foresight as you strive to keep on growing. In the case of Apples Of Gold In Pictures Of Silver, the editors approached this book from a biblical worldview, making sure that all of the counsel they printed aligned with God’s Word. 

I would encourage you to find these types of books to help you grow through life.

How To Pray When You’ve Been Stabbed In The Back

Sadly, some of the people who do us the most harm are those whom we least expected to hurt us. They seemed to have our back, but then they are stabbing us in the back! 

It’s sad, but it shouldn’t be totally unexpected. Matthew Henry said it well: “Never let a good man expect to be safe and easy till he comes to heaven. … It is well that God is faithful, for men are not to be trusted. 

David learned that lesson. He rescued the town of Keilah from the Philistines, only to hear that King Saul has called out his army to destroy Keilah and kill David. This prompted David to leave Keilah and flee to the Desert of Ziph. It appears that David has given Saul the slip, but the Ziphites send a message to the king saying, “We know where David is hiding, and we’ll gladly hand him over to you.” 

Here’s the painful part for David: Both Keilah and Ziph were in Judah—David’s tribe! His own family—that should have had his back—stabbed him in the back instead! 

I wish I could say this was a once-in-awhile thing, but we all know that it’s not. In fact, this sort of betrayal probably happens more often than we would care to admit. 

It was during this time of betrayal by the Ziphites that David wrote the 54th Psalm. In the opening verses, David laments the ruthless, Godless men that have betrayed him. And then comes that word of pause: Selah. 

I believe this Selah may have come when “Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). One of the definitions of Selah is to weigh things to see what is more valuable. Notice that Jonathan took David’s attention off his evil betrayers and turned it to his loving God. So in the very next phrase after the Selah we read David saying, “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.” 

Notice four key components of David’s prayer—

  1. David’s motive for praying. In the opening verse, he says, “Your Name…Your might.” To me, that sounds a lot like the opening words to the model prayer Jesus taught us: “Hallowed be Your Name.” 
  2. David’s prayer. He said, “Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.” It’s interesting to note that David says nothing to the Ziphites themselves, but he only speaks of them when he is alone with God in prayer.  
  3. Prayer’s result. David didn’t have to try to make things right on his own because God took care of it—evil recoiled on those who stabbed David in the back. 
  4. David’s praise. Notice the words “I will praise Your Name…[You] have delivered me.” Again, this praise and focus on God sounds like the end of the model prayer Jesus taught us: “Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever!” 

When enemies assail, when you have been stabbed in the back, don’t look to men for help and don’t take matters in your own hands. Instead take a Selah. Consider that God is worthy of your attention, and not the “ruthless men” who hurt you. Turn your pain over to God and say with David: Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me. 

Evil will recoil on evildoers, you will be kept safe, and you will be vindicated by God’s might! 

If you missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find them all by clicking here. 

Poetry Saturday—If We Had But A Day

We should fill the hours with the sweetest things,
   If we had but a day;
We should drink alone at the purest springs
   In our upward way;
We should love with a lifetime’s love in an hour,
   If the hours were a few;
We should rest, not for dreams, but for fresher power
   To be and to do.

We should guide our wayward or wearied wills
   By the clearest light;
We should keep our eyes on the heavenly hills,
   If they lay in sight;
We should trample the pride and the discontent
   Beneath our feet;
We should take whatever a good God sent,
   With a trust complete.

We should waste no moments in weak regret,
   If the day were but one;
If what we remember and what we forget
   Went out with the sun;
We should be from our clamorous selves set free,
   To work or to pray,
And to be what the Father would have us be,
   If we had but a day. —Mary Lowe Dickinson

Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Christian’s Waiting Activity

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.

A Christian’s Waiting Activity

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     Despisers tell us nowadays, ‘Your cause is done for! Christianity is spun out! Your divine Christ is gone! We have not seen a trace of His miracle-working hands, nor of that voice that no man could rival.’ Here is our answer: We are not standing gazing up into heaven. We are not paralyzed because Jesus is away. He lives, the great Redeemer lives, and though it is our delight to lift up our eyes because we expect His coming, it is equally our delight to turn our heavenly gazing into an earthward watching and to go down into the city and there to tell that Jesus is risen, that men are to be saved by faith in Him, and that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life! We are not defeated! Far from it—His ascension is not a retreat, but an advance! His tarrying is not for lack of power, but because of the abundance of His long-suffering. …  

     It is clear that He has not quit the fight nor deserted the field of battle. Our great Captain is still heading the conflict! He has ridden into another part of the field, but He will be back again, perhaps in the twinkling of an eye [Revelation 22:12; Matthew 25:21]. … 

     Brothers and sisters, do not let anybody spiritualize away all this from you! Jesus is coming as a matter of fact—therefore go down to your sphere of service as a matter of fact. Get to work and teach the ignorant, win the wayward, instruct the children, and everywhere proclaim the sweet name of Jesus! … Jesus is not coming in a sort of mythical, misty, hazy way. He is literally and actually coming—and He will literally and actually call upon you to give an account of your stewardship. Therefore now, today, literally not symbolically, personally and not by deputy, go out through that portion of the world that you can reach and preach the gospel to every creature according as you have opportunity, for this is what the men in white apparel meant—be ready to meet your coming Lord. … 

     If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness! 

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was about His Father’s business the whole time He was on earth. As He ascended to heaven, He promised us His authority and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit so we too could be about our Father’s business. 

In one of His parables about stewarding our Master’s gifts and resources until He returned, Jesus said, “Occupy until I return” (Luke 19:13). I love Spurgeon’s remind: “If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness!” 

Yes, we are waiting for Jesus to return, but our waiting is an active waiting. With one eye toward the heavens and one eye toward earth, we actively tell others about our soon returning King. Occupy! Stay active! Stay alert! Meet Him with joy! 

God’s Artistic Designs

…God devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from Him (2 Samuel 14:14). 

This wise woman from Tekoa captures an important principle about God in a picturesque way. She also makes a graphical contrast that was good for David to hear—and good for me too!

This wise woman uses the same Hebrew word for both David’s plans and God’s plans but shows just how different these two plans actually are. The word is translated “device” (vv. 13, 14), but the Hebrew word chashab is more graphic: It means to weave, fabricate, or plait something that has been well designed. 

Here’s the contrast: David’s “plan” is really not a plan at all; it’s simply passive procrastination, a wistful longing for things to turn out well. David is doing nothing, which means he is squandering his opportunities. This wise woman says, “It’s like you are spilling water on the ground which can never be recovered.” 

God’s device/design is incomparably better! God is both the Designer and the Artisan. He has both the plan of restoration and He is fabricating the plan. His designs are intricate and beautiful. In fact, the same Hebrew word is used for the artisans who fabricated the items that were to be used for worship in God’s tabernacle. 

Even though this woman flatteringly said David was “like an angel,” David’s devices are nothing compared to God’s device! God wants to give us His designs—He wants us to be a part of His masterful artistry!

Notice how this psalmist contrasts man’s designs with God’s designs—

The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations. (Psalm 33:10-11) 

God will share with me His beautifully intricate plans and masterful device IF I will ask Him with a heart that is ready to obediently go to work. Or, I can try to work out my own devices, but they will most likely end up as merely spilled water that comes to nothing and accomplishes nothing.

I think you can see that God’s devises are always THE best option!

Philosophical Thoughts (book review)

C.S. Lewis once quipped, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” And there are very few people that have presented what I would call “good philosophy” like Lewis himself. The collection called Philosophical Thoughts is a prime example. 

Certainly, many of Lewis’ books would fall into the category of philosophy, or at the very minimum contain overt philosophical elements. This collection was different than many of his books because of the wide range of topics explored. Not only the topics but the “source material” as well. By that I mean, sometimes Lewis’ words are in the form of a conversation he had with a friend, some are from lectures he gave, and one is even Lewis sharing a very lucid dream that he had. All of them challenged the paradigms of my thinking. 

The word philosophy is a combination of two loanwords from Greek: philo and sophia. “Philo” is the love and appreciation of something, and “sophia” is wisdom. Have you ever heard the phrase, “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good”? That is the exact opposite of the definition of sophia. Sophia is a lofty wisdom that is highly practical. This perfectly describes the pondering of C.S. Lewis: elevated thoughts that can be immediately applied to our daily lives. 

I don’t believe this collection is available as a written book, but that’s just fine because listening to the mellifluous voice of Englishman Ralph Cosham was sort of like sitting in Lewis’ study and listening to him speak. A very enjoyable experience indeed! 

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