Savoring The Meal

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Jesus told us twice, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8, 32). He knows the good we need. 

When we were children, our parents tried to give us good-for-you food, but sometimes it wasn’t necessarily good. It might have given us nutrients, but perhaps it wasn’t as tasty as we would have liked. Let’s be honest: most junk food tastes really, really good—probably better than the good-for-you food. As a result, sometimes we eat just to eat. We eat because we have to. We choke down the vegetables just so we can get to the dessert.  

As parents, we want our kids to have good-for-you food. God wants that too, but He wants more than that for us: He wants it to be savory as well. Jesus talked about how evil parents knew enough to give good things to their children, but then He reminded us how much more does God want to give us (Luke 11:11-13)! 

It usually takes much longer to prepare food than it does to eat it. This is especially true for more savory gourmet meals. When we gulp down our food, we don’t really appreciate or savor the tastes, the subtle hints the chef has mixed in, and certainly not the time involved to prepare such a lovely feast. 

When we gulp down our food without savoring it…

  • …we don’t honor the one who prepared the food 
  • …we don’t savor the goodness so we don’t appreciate the goodness
  • …we move on to dessert (or junk food) before our body is ready for it 

In Psalm 106 we read a history lesson of Israel’s ups-and-downs—the trouble they were in and the deliverance God prepared for them. The psalmist directly connects their lack of savoring God’s good things to their rebellion and their carnal, godless cravings. Instead of slowing down to be grateful for what God had given them, they just wanted to move on to the next dessert. That attitude may have been what was behind the spoiled girl named Veruca Salt in the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” who sang the song “I Want It NOW! 

David gives us the antidote for this tasteless gulping of God’s good and good-for-us food: “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:8a). This deliberate tasting allows us to see how excellent the things of God are, better than anything else the world has to offer!  

David concludes his counsel with these words, “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing” (Psalm 34:8b). 

In the New Testament, the apostle Peter gives us a similar word: “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness” (1 Peter 2:2-3 NLT). 

It’s this savoring that will help us appreciate the sweet and the bitter. It’s this appreciation that brings glory to God and keeps us craving more of the ultimate good that only He has for us. 

If we will slow down to savor God’s Word, if we will delight to spend time in prayer, if we won’t rush through the good-for-you trials, we will taste and see that there is nothing that can satisfy like our Savior! 

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

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Unexpected Response

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

I’m a bit of a nut about the exactness of words, so one of my pet peeves is the incorrect use of imply and infer. “Imply” is something I do as the speaker; “infer” is something you do as the listener. Or you might say implying is like throwing and inferring is like catching. 

A big problem arises when I infer something that you didn’t imply. Or even worse, when I infer something based on something you didn’t say. People will often say something like this, “Since Jesus didn’t specifically talk about ________ then it must be okay.” In logic, this would be called an argument from ignorance: concluding that an action must be acceptable because it has not been specifically stated to be unacceptable. 

Statement #10 in our series asking “Is that in the Bible?” is—Love your neighbor. Is that in the Bible? Yes!  

Remember Jesus called “Scripture” all of the words we would now call “Old Testament.” So in Matthew 5:43 Jesus quoted Scripture: Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:18). 

Later on, Jesus would add to this Deuteronomy 6:5—Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength—to answer the question about the greatest commandment of all. 

In Leviticus 19, the Hebrew word for love means love in the broadest sense of the word, and neighbor means a friend or a fellow citizen. Unfortunately, the rabbis inferred that someone not a Jew was therefore an enemy and therefore not worthy of love. They further inferred that the opposite of love was hate. 

Matthew Henry commented, “They were willing to infer what God never designed.” 

Statement #11 is—Hate your enemy. Is that in the Bible? Yes, in the fact that it appears in print in Matthew 5:43, but it doesn’t appear in the Scripture that Jesus knew. It had become so ingrained in the thinking of people that they now assumed it was in the Bible. 

In many ways, the Old Testament laws were easier to live out because they were all external and easy to measure, like don’t murder or don’t sleep with someone who isn’t your spouse. But Jesus made it a heart issue—He said lust is the same as adultery and hate is the same as murder. 

Jesus also made love for enemies a heart issue. The word He used for love in the Greek is agape—the same word describing God’s love for His enemies in John 3:16—For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but would have everlasting life. 

Jesus said our enemies were really our neighbors and were worthy of sacrificial love because they, too, were loved by God. 

Matthew 5:44 is shortened in the NIV and has a footnote explaining that the longer verse was not seen in the earlier manuscripts. But given the fact that Jesus demonstrated everything found in the longer version of this verse, I think we are safe in using it. So let’s look at the response Jesus calls us to from the NKJV: But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. 

Here’s what Jesus says it means for us to love our enemies:

(1) Bless the cursers. We’ve all been “cursed out” with nasty, hateful words. When that happens, Jesus wants to bless that neighbor. The word He used for bless literally means to say good words. 

(2) Help the haters. Jesus said we are to do those things that are beautiful and excellent—like the good Good Samaritan did for his enemy-turned-neighbor (see Luke 10:25-37).  

(3) Pray for the persecutors. Talk to God about them; don’t talk to others about them. 

This response from Christians toward people whom others would call an enemy is totally unexpected by the world. This unexpected response will begin to draw enemies toward Jesus (1 Peter 2:12). If we will treat enemies and neighbors, they may soon become brothers and sisters in the family of God! 

When the world hits us Christians out of hate, let’s respond with unexpected love: blessing those who curse us, helping those who hurt us, and praying for those who persecute us. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Is That In The Bible? series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Protected To Be Fruitful 

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

We just finished a 2-week look at Psalm 88 & Psalm 89 which reminded us of the reality of temporary darkness and the certainty of eternal light. We said our dark days are meant to get our attention to rely on God’s covenant promise. 

Something else we should be aware of: Whenever we run to or return to Jesus, the enemy of our souls prepares an attack (1 Samuel 7:3-10; 1 Peter 5:8). 

The next psalm with a Selah is David’s prayer in Psalm 140. Selah appears 3 times in this short, 13-verse psalm. 

We’ve said that Selah can mean a pause to carefully consider, a pause to observe the contrasts, or a pause to prepare for a crescendo. The Selahs after verses 3 and 5 don’t appear to fit the second or third definitions, but why would David ask us to pause to consider what wicked men are doing? I believe it is because we need to pause to contemplate two vital things, which I’ll share with you in a moment. 

But first, notice the wicked men and evil times that David is confronting. He speaks of evildoers, violent people, wicked men, arrogant people, and slanderers (vv. 1, 4-5, 8, 11). 

Surrounding the first two Selahs, check out David’s prayer for God to…

  • …rescue me (v. 1a)—get me out of here, or take the evil away from me  
  • protect me (v. 1b, 5b)—don’t let me be defeated or even diminished  
  • keep me (v. 4a)—we might say David is asking God to “watch my six” or guard the places I cannot see (notice the words net and traps in v. 5b) 

The first Selah lesson we should take away is: There, but for the grace of God, go I. 

If I hadn’t accepted Jesus as my Savior and had a new nature imparted to me, I would be doing exactly what these wicked people are doing. Paul tells Timothy what evil people will do, and he tells the Corinthian Christians that they used to be those same kinds of people (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 1 Corinthians 6:11). 

When I see evil men, men of violence, and wicked people who are proud and slandering, I need to Selah to pray that the light and love of Jesus will be revealed to them. 

The second Selah lesson we should take away is: God is doing something in my life through wicked men and evil times. 

The words the Holy Spirit prompted David to pen have a richer definition than what I previously shared with you. Check this out…

  • rescue me (v. 1a) also means make me strong and well-armed for battle  
  • …protect me (v. 1b, 5b) envisions a gardener carefully watching over his vineyard to bring the plants to fruitful maturity (like in John 15:1-2)  
  • keep me (v. 4a) can mean “fight for me”  

Sometimes God protects me from violence. Sometimes God protects me through violence. Whatever the case, I can be assured that I will be rescued and He will be glorified. This prayer in Psalm 140 is a prayer for protection so that we can be fruitful for God’s kingdom.

We need to Selah during the evil times we live in and whenever we have to endure wicked attacks. 

  1. Selah to thank God that you have been redeemed from that evil lifestyle by your faith in Jesus, and then pray for your attackers (Matthew 5:44). 
  2. Selah to thank God that He is using even evil people to make you more fruitful, to arm you for battle, and to glorify His name (Mark 13:9). 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can check them all out by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Mouth Of The Lord Has Spoken

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The Mouth Of The Lord Has Spoken

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     However this sacred Book may be treated nowadays, it was not treated contemptuously, nor negligently, nor questioningly by the Lord Jesus Christ, our Master and Lord. It is noteworthy how He reverenced the written Word. The Spirit of God rested upon Him personally, without measure, and He could speak out of His own mind the revelation of God, and yet He continually quoted the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms…. I am sure, brethren, we cannot be wrong in imitating the example of our divine Lord in our reverence for that Scripture, which cannot be broken. … 

     The New Testament writers sit reverently down before the Old Testament and receive God’s words as such without any question whatever. You and I belong to a school that will continue to do the same, let others adopt what behavior they please. As for us and for our house, this priceless Book will remain the standard of our faith and the ground of our hope so long as we live.

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

As I have discussed before, the 39 books of the Old Testament were called “Scripture” by Jesus and those living in that same era. The New Testament writers saw Jesus as the fulfillment of those Old Testament Scripture, and what they wrote for us then became Scripture also (Luke 4:18-21; 24:27, 44-45; John 2:22, 17:12; Acts 1:16, 8:35; Galatians 3:8, 16, 22; James 2:8, 23, 4:5-6; 1 Peter 2:6; 2 Peter 3:16). 

When we read the Bible, we are reading words from the mouth of God Himself! 

This Book is the measure of truth, the guide for our lives, and the blessed assurance we need as we anticipate the second advent of Jesus. We need to be much in this Sacred Book!

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Saved From The Consequences Of Folly

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I am so grateful for the blessings of a godly mother and a godly wife! I can relate to Abraham Lincoln who said, “All I am, or can be, I owe to my angel mother. … I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” 

Mothers—both the natural, physical, and adoptive mothers—can save the rest of us from a world of hurt. We see this in a story in the Bible of a mother that saved innumerable people from the consequences of folly. This is an amazing story in 1 Samuel 25, so please take some time to read it for yourself.  

King Saul and David have finally separated from each other, with Saul returning home to Gibeah and David returning to his stronghold at En Gedi. Eventually, David moved west from En Gedi to the Desert of Moan, where the town of Carmel was nearby. 

A prominent citizen of Carmel was a man named Nabal. He is described as “very wealthy,” owning 1000 goats and 3000 sheep. But he apparently gained his wealth through less-than-honorable means because he is described as “surly and mean in his dealings.” We find out later in the story that he’s also hard-hearted and hard-headed, not listening to any counsel others may offer him. 

That fits him because his name means “fool.” I find it hard to believe that his parents named him this from birth. If they did, it reminds me of the opening words of C.S. Lewis’ book The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader: “There was a boy named Clarence Eustace Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” Instead, I think Nabal’s dealings were so mean, surely, and foolish that the name stuck. Perhaps he even wore that name as a badge of honor. 

It came sheep-shearing time—which is really payday for shepherds—so David sends some of his servants to Nabal to ask for whatever he might find to give as a gift to “your servants and your son David.” David’s men had been a constant source of protection for Nabal’s herdsmen, so a gift of gratitude does seem appropriate. 

Nabal doesn’t just say, “No,” but he insults David. As his foolish nature controlled him, he not only insulted David, but he insulted God too by implying that David wasn’t anointed by God, but was merely ruthlessly climbing a ladder of success. Probably Nabal thought this way because that’s how he himself gained his fortune. 

Nabal’s response lit David’s fuse! In fact, David’s response to his men was just four words long: “Put on your swords!” 

Fortunately, one of Nabal’s servants informed his wife Abigail of this. 

In the same verse where Nabal is described as mean and surely, Abigail is described as “intelligent and beautiful.” Whereas Nabal’s name means fool, Abigail’s name means “my father’s joy.” She must have been born at just the right time for her father and she continues to be a just-in-time woman! 

This servant brought Abigail word of Nabal’s foolish response, telling her that David’s men were indeed “a wall around us” while they were in the desert. And then he says, “Think carefully about what you should do because disaster is hanging over us!” 

Abigail acts quickly, wisely, and humbly. 

The first thing she does is send hundreds of pounds of food to David and his men. She sends the gift that Nabal probably should have sent. Then Abigail herself follows the gifts on her own donkey. When she encounters David and his armed men coming down the mountain pass, she humbly falls at his feet asking David to reconsider. 

Abigail doesn’t tell David he shouldn’t be angry, but she points him to something bigger and more long-lasting than his immediate thought of revenge. She reminds him that he is God’s anointed leader, and she asks, “When you become king, do you want this bloodshed on your conscience?” 

Abigail’s words have an immediate effect on David, who calls off the attack, praises Abigail, and praises God for sending Abigail to him. Abigail rescued Nabal’s family and workers from imminent destruction, and she saves David from the consequences of his rash response. 

The next morning, when she relates this story to Nabal, he has either a stroke or a heart attack, and then dies ten days later. Justice is served, but it’s served by God and not by David.

Later on, David takes the now-widowed Abigail as his wife. 

Abigail’s name scarcely appears anywhere else in the Bible, but there is one notable appearance: 

Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream the son of David’s wife Eglah. (2 Samuel 3:2-5) 

Amnon, first in line for the throne, raped his half-sister Tamar and was then killed by Absalom, who was Tamar’s brother. Absalom, third in line for the throne, not only avenged his sister’s disgrace but led a coup against David, where he was killed in battle. 

That leaves Kileab as the obvious heir to King David’s throne, yet this is the only place he is mentioned in the Bible. I think Abigail’s wise influence saved Kileab from the drama of aspiring to be king, a painful future, and perhaps a premature death. 

From this amazing story, I would like to offer three takeaways for Moms:

  1. Use your inner beauty to persuade foolhardy men—1 Peter 3:2-3 
  2. Use your Holy Spirit-given wisdom to dissuade foolishness—Matthew 10:19 
  3. Use your prayer life to bring a legacy of peace—Psalm 116:16  

(Please read all of the above verses by clicking here.)

Godly mothers, please be encouraged today at how much influence you exert over others in your life. Your inner beauty, God-given wisdom, humility, and prayers are making more of an impact than you may ever know. I believe in heaven the full story will be shared, and you will be praised for being a wise and faithful servant. 

May God continue to bless, empower, and use our Moms to save us from the consequences of our foolishness! 

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Don’t Putrefy Your Leadership

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King Solomon nailed it pretty succinctly with this verse: Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor. (Ecclesiastes 10:1) 

As a Christian leader, I always have mixed emotions when I hear of another prominent Christian leader who has stumbled. Part of me is angry because I know that all Christian leaders will get painted with the same brush. Another part of me is incredibly sad to hear of a brother or sister who has squandered the trust that was placed in them. Finally, part of me becomes quite self-reflective, because I don’t want to repeat their mistakes. 

Tom Peters said, “There are no minor lapses of integrity.” King Solomon would agree. And so do I. 

Godly leadership can be such a beautiful thing, but just a couple of dead flies can putrefy the whole thing! 

Here are four things that I have seen in the lives of those leaders who haven’t finished well. These are the things all of us need to watch carefully in our own lives.

(1) They compromised in “the little things.” None of them started off by saying, “I’m going to completely ruin my reputation as a godly leader.” But they allowed themselves to indulge in things that were just “little things” in their minds. Perhaps they thought, “It won’t hurt if I indulge in this one little thing.” The apostle Paul warns us, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). 

(2) Pride crept in. They thought they were better than others. Peter said it this way: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). I addressed this topic in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter like this—

     Did you catch that? God stands back from the proud person who will not admit his error nor ask for help, let alone ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, God lavishes His grace on the humble one who admits both his error and his need for help. Admission of an inappropriate action or reaction brings God’s help! 

     Friends, the mark of a maturing shepherd is not one who never misspeaks or never makes a mistake. No, the mark of a maturing shepherd is the one who is closing the gap between his mess up and his confession.

Pride will keep us from confessing the “little sins” and keep us from God’s help. But humility quickly admits the smallest of slip-ups and therefore receives God’s grace and help. 

(3) They lowered their standards. If anything, leaders should raise their standards as they become more successful. Think of it this way: when I was young and immature, I didn’t give much thought to my diet or my exercise routine. As I became older (and hopefully more mature), I became much more tuned-in to these things. Physically, the older I get, the more I need to pay attention to my health. The same thing is true in our leadership: maturity should lead to higher standards and higher levels of scrutiny. 

(4) They stopped listening to others. The combination of little compromises, pride, and lowered standards doesn’t easily invite accountability nor transparency. The track record is pretty consistent among those who have fallen short: they stopped listening to people who tried to correct them.

I want to finish well. I don’t want a leadership stumble in my life to rob God of glory, nor to cause others to stumble in their Christian walk. I am committed to living my life in a way that will allow Jesus to say to me at the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

I pray that all Christian leaders will join me in this.

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Who Can Claim God’s Promises?

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

It’s a bit scary to me to realize how many people have a scarcity mindset. As a result, far too many people are trying to figure out how to get their piece of the pie, but they don’t really want others to have their piece too. This should never be the mindset of a Christian! Our God has an unlimited supply, so we should be the most generous and abundance-minded people. 

Sadly, sometimes I still encounter Christians who think that only some people can claim some of God’s promises. 

This is part 5 in our series “Is that in the Bible?” 

Statement #5—Old Testament promises are for the Jews, New Testament promises are for the Christians. Is that in the Bible? No! 

First of all, this assumes a dichotomy between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Second, it reveals a lack of understanding of what Jesus has done for everyone who places their faith in Him. 

Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to do away with or undo but to complete and fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17 AMP). 

Plato told a story about people chained in a cave in such a way that they could only see the shadows on the wall. He said that if the chains were unlocked, some would turn toward the opening of the cave, see the solid figures that had been creating the shadows, and move out of the cave. Plato also said that some would see the reality and choose to stay trapped in the cave—they would prefer shadows over reality. 

Both John and the writer of Hebrews describe how Jesus came as the incarnate Reality of God. Jesus reveals that He is the Substance behind all of the shadows of worship in the First Testament (Hebrews 1:1-2; John 1:1-14). 

Look at the worship practices of the tabernacle, specifically the practices on the Day of Atonement. Two goats or lambs were brought into the outer court on that day—one had all of the sins of the people transferred to it and was sent into the wilderness as the scapegoat, and the other was sacrificed so its blood could make atonement for the sins of the people. The high priest would take this blood past the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, and would sprinkle it on the atonement cover (also called the mercyseat) of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. 

John said that Jesus came to make His dwelling among humans. The word John uses for “dwelling” is the same word for “tabernacle.” Jesus Himself became not only our High Priest, but every single item the earthly high priest used on the Day of Atonement. Jesus is the…

  • scapegoat—Leviticus 16:20-22; John 1:29 
  • sacrificial lamb—Leviticus 16:15; 1 Peter 1:18-19
  • curtain in front of the Holy of Holies—Hebrews 10:22 
  • mercyseat—Exodus 24:8; Leviticus 4:6, 5:9; Hebrews 4:16

(Check out all of the above references by clicking here.)

By His life, death, and resurrection the shadows became Substance through Jesus. Hebrews 10:1-14 describes this, but especially note verse 12: “But when this High Priest [Jesus] offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.” 

Look again at the picture of the tabernacle and note that there are no chairs. That was because the earthly priest’s work was never done. But our fully human, fully divine High Priest completed everything that needed to be done, so He could sit down. 

This High Priest not only sits down in God’s presence, but He takes us with Him into the Holy of Holies: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6)! 

So now ALL God’s promises are for ALL who are in Jesus! “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

I like how the Personalize Promise Bible turns that verse into this prayer: “My heavenly Father is faithful to His every Word. No matter how many promises He has made, in Jesus, He makes good on every one. I have God’s Word; therefore, I have God’s will. Every time that I pray in line with His Word, the answer is guaranteed.” 

My friend, if you have placed your faith in the completed work of Jesus, then EVERY promise in the Bible is a promise you can claim for your life. Hallelujah! What an amazing thing God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ! 

If you’ve missed any of the topics we have covered in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Best Of Neighbors

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The Best Of Neighbors

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27 KJV). 

     The word ‘conversation’ does not merely mean our talk with one another, but the whole course of our life and behavior in the world. The Greek word signifies the actions and the privileges of citizenship, and we are to let our whole citizenship, our actions as citizens of the New Jerusalem, be such as becomes the gospel of Christ. …  

     We are delighted to preach good high doctrine and to insist that salvation is of grace alone! But we are equally delighted to preach good high practice and to insist that a grace that does not make a man better than his neighbors is a grace that will never take him to heaven nor render him acceptable before God!

From The Gospel’s Power In A Christian’s Life

Some other translations of the text from Rev. Spurgeon’s sermon bring out the meaning: 

  • Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (NIV) 
  • Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ (NLT) 
  • Live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ (Message) 

I believe that Christians are not citizens of Planet Earth. Our citizenship is in a place called Heaven, and yet we are traveling on Earth during our present lifetime. While we are here, we need to conduct ourselves in such a way that we make our Homeland desirable for other Earthlings too. 

Let’s live in a such a way that Earthlings will say, “I ❤️ those Christians!” 

I shared a whole series of messages on living as “aliens and strangers” (as the apostle Peter calls Christians), which you may check out by clicking here.

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The Beautiful Jesus

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

I think we all know the cliche, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” But isn’t that too shallow? Are we really saying that beauty is only what we can see on the surface? Instead, I think we should say, “True beauty is in the heart of the beholder.”   

Where does beauty begin? What is its source? 

Jesus told us, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I can only love others to the level that I love myself, and that also means that I can only see beauty in others as I see it in myself. But if I try to achieve this by just loving myself or telling myself how beautiful I am, my pride comes in and crumbles the whole foundation. 

So the first thing Jesus told us was to go to the Source—to Love Himself: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30-31). When we come to our Heavenly Father through our beautiful Savior we discover how beautiful we are in Him. We are clothed in the righteous robes of Jesus, which makes us as beautiful as He is. Then our Father sings His love to us (see Song of Songs 2:10, 4:7). 

The dictionary defines beauty this way: “The quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind.” But the word beauty originated from a Latin word that meant good or virtuous. Sadly, our vain world has made beauty something that is only skin deep, and very rarely is someone’s goodness or virtue described as beautiful. 

Let me say it again: “True beauty is in the heart of the beholder.” Peter and Jesus both make this same point, reminding us that something beautiful on the outside can actually be covering up something quite ugly on the inside, or to say it another way: true beauty is far deeper than merely what we see with our eyes (1 Peter 3:3-4; Matthew 23:27). 

On the other hand, Isaiah prophesied about Jesus that, “there was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him” (Isaiah 53:2 NLT). Outwardly, especially at His crucifixion, Jesus was grotesque, but this ugliness was our ugliness—our sin, and our disease, and our pride that Jesus took on Himself. He willingly took on our ugliness to allow us to exchange ashes for beauty, mourning for rejoicing, and sin for righteousness (Isaiah 53:2-5; 61:1-2, 9-10). 

So in prayer, we go to the One who isn’t beautiful in the eyes of a vain world. Jesus made Himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, He came not to be served but to serve, He washed dirty feet, He hung out with sinners, He didn’t stay at the Ritz (He didn’t even have a home of His own), and He had only one set of clothes to wear. But He willingly took on all of our pain and sin so that He could take away our ugly robes and clothe us in His beautifully perfect robe of righteousness. 

It’s only when I know how beautiful and loved I am in God’s sight that I can begin to love others and see the beauty in them. 

Looking at True Beauty is the only way I can see myself correctly. Looking at True Beauty I can see the intrinsic worth and beauty in others. 

Prayer takes me to the beautiful Savior. Prayer reveals Christ’s beauty in me. Prayer brings His beauty to a vain world. 

“Without prayer the Christian life, robbed of its sweetness and its beauty, becomes cold and formal and dead; but rooted in the secret place where God meets and walks and talks with His own, it grows into such a testimony of divine power that all men will feel its influence and be touched by the warmth of its love.” —E.M. Bounds 

I pray that we will know this truth—that true beauty is in the heart of the beholder—and that we will truly know that Real Beauty is only found when we gaze at our beautiful Savior. 

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If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on prayer called Awesome: Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus, you can find all of the messages by clicking here.

Everlasting, Unshakable Joy

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

The Lord is angry with all nations… (Isaiah 34:2). 

Perhaps that verse surprises you in light of the title of this post, “Everlasting, Unshakable Joy,” but stick with me.

These phrases from Isaiah 34 do sound like terrible news:

  • God is angry with all nations
  • His wrath is on all their armies
  • God will totally destroy them
  • Even all the starry host will fall
  • God Himself says, “My sword has drunk its fill” 
  • All the world’s princes will vanish away 

But please keep in mind that this is only bad news for those who don’t have their sins forgiven through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause” (v. 8). And, “He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution He will come to save you” (35:4). 

So God’s anger is not at those whose sins have been forgiven, but at those who are not only unforgiven but hell-bent on attacking those who are forgiven. 

These words are intended to “strengthen feeble hands, steady the knees that give away,” and to bring strength “to those with fearful hearts” (35:3-4). 

The righteous have nothing to fear when the world is quaking in fear! “They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crowned their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (v. 10)! 

This is why Jesus told us, “I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more” (Luke 12:4 NIV), and, “Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in His hands” (Luke 12:5 MSG). And also the apostle Peter reminds us that we do not fear what the world fears (1 Peter 3:14). 

If your sins are forgiven, if you are walking in God’s paths, if you are seeking to savor the glory of God, and desirous that His glory be seen on earth as it is in heaven, there is not only nothing to fear, but you will have an everlasting, unshakable joy! 

Get your eyes off the world’s bad news, and keep your eyes firmly on the Good News that only Jesus has made a reality! 

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