The Circle Of Love And Hate

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

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

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

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

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

This wisdom helps me obey Your laws. 

Obedience keeps me on the right path. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Blessed To Be A Blessing

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

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

Blessed To Be A Blessing

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

     There are two things here spoken of. First, Christ’s church is to be a blessing. Second, Christ’s church is to be blessed. …  

     When God chooses any men by His sovereign electing grace and makes them Christ’s, He does it not only for their own sake, that they may be saved, but also for the world’s sake. Know you not that ‘you are the salt of the earth.… You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden’ (Matthew 5:13-14)? … Salvation is not a selfish thing. God does not give it for us to keep to ourselves, but that we may thereby be made the means of blessing to others. …  

     But there is constraint here. ‘I will make them a blessing.’ I will give them to be a blessing. I will constrain them to be a blessing. … And so it is with God’s people. As they go through their lives, wherever they have been made a blessing, they will find that God seems to have thrust them into the vineyard. …  

     God never makes useless things. He has no superfluous workmanship. I care not what you are. You have something to do. Oh, may God show you what it is and then make you do it, by the wondrous compulsion of His providence and His grace. … 

     I hope we will never be satisfied, as members of Park Street, until we are a blessing not only to ourselves but also to the places all around our hill.

From The Church Of Christ

The Church is made up of many members—every member is needed for the Church to be the Church. Let me be more specific: God has placed YOU in Christ’s Church on purpose. You have been gifted and blessed by God so that you can be a blessing to others. 

You have purpose. You have been made on purpose and for a purpose. That purpose, according to God’s own word, is to shine brightly that others can receive God’s love into their own hearts. 

I pray that each and every one of us can insert our own names or our own church name into the prayer Spurgeon offered for his congregation: “I hope we will never be satisfied, as members of [my family, my church, my school, my community], until we are a blessing not only to ourselves but also to the places all around our hill.” Amen, Pastor Spurgeon, Amen!

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Unity Not Uniformity

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

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

Unity Not Uniformity

And the glory that You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are One: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (Jesus, in John 17:22-23)

     Beloved, those in whom Christ lives are not uniform, but one. …  

     As I have remarked, it is not uniformity. Of this our Lord says nothing. Though we are one body in Him, yet all the members have not the same office. The eye is very different from the ear, and the foot has not the same form as the hand. Neither does He speak of any formal organization by which unity is to be secured. How many have tried to create a mechanical union and have made confusion worse confusion! Their eagerness for unity has threatened to dash everything to shivers! The very first step toward a visible unity of the church is, with most men, that they will fix a standard of what the church ought to be and cut off everybody who will not conform to their idea! …  

     Christ lives in His people, and we are to act so, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that onlookers will say, ‘Surely Christ lives again in that man, for he acts out the precepts of Jesus. Did you notice how he bore the insult? Did you notice how he laid himself out to oblige and to serve? Did you observe how, without introducing religious talk, he gradually steered the conversation toward that which is to edification?’ …

     Brothers and sisters, if you and I are living for the same design that our Lord lived for, and if the very life that quickens us is the life of Jesus, then, since Jesus lives always for the same thing that God proposes and works out, surely there is a grand unity, the likes of which are not found in the universe! … 

     ‘That the world may know that You have sent Me.’ How will they know it? Why, when they see such characters as I have so feebly tried to paint! When they see men who are no longer selfish, hard, and ungenerous—when they see men no longer governed by their passions, no longer earthbound—when they see loving men, men who desire that which is holy, just, and good! When they see men living for God, the world will say, ‘Their Master must have been sent of God.’

From The Glory, Unity, And Triumph Of The Church

Several years ago I was meeting with a group of pastors from various denominations. Although the meeting was friendly, I still sensed some “walls” between us. At one point I asked, “By a quick show of a raised hand, how many of us believe that salvation from the penalty of our sin comes only through the work that Jesus did for us on the Cross?” Every pastor in the room raised a hand. “Great,” I said, “let’s just focus on that!” 

Some Christians are Calvinist, and some are Arminian; some take Communion one way, and some another way; some are charismatic, and some more liturgical; some baptize one way, and some baptize differently. Jesus wasn’t looking for uniformity, but He did pray for unity. 

We can all be unified around the love of Christ, and the unity of the family of Christ. 

If we will set aside the petty denominational differences and simply love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, we will present a witness for Him that is unmistakable and irrefutable! We need each other to bring out the saintliness in all of us. When the world sees this vibrant saintliness—regardless of which church those saints attend on Sundays—it will capture their attention and draw them to Jesus. 

Charles Spurgeon concluded the sermon I just quoted from with a prayer, to which I sincerely hope all of us Christians can add our own Amen: “Oh, for grace so to live to God in Christ Jesus that the world will never be able to answer the argument of our lives! Help us, O Spirit of the Lord! Amen.”

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The “Ologies”

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…God has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have wrought salvation for Him (Psalm 98:1 AMP). 

I like The Message paraphrase of this verse too: “Sing to God a brand-new song. He’s made a world of wonders! He rolled up His sleeves, He set things right! 

This psalmist happily extols all of the ways God the Creator has revealed Himself to mankind:

  • He has done marvelous things
  • the Lord has made His salvation known
  • He has revealed His righteousness to the nations
  • the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God
  • let the sea resound, and everything in it
  • let the world praise, and all who live in it
  • let the rivers clap their hands
  • let the mountains sing together for joy

This tells me how fitting it is for us to use all of the sciences—every “ology” to declare God’s greatness: biology, astronomy, cosmology, chemistry, psychology, anthropology, and even theology. All observations point to the glory of God. 

C.S. Lewis wrote, 

“If I swallow the scientific cosmology as a whole (that excludes a rational, personal God), then not only can I not fit in Christianity, but I cannot even fit in science. If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees. And this is to me the final test. … Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” 

The apostle Paul agreed with this psalmist, telling us that creation itself is enough proof that there is a God. But God went further: He gave us His word, He gave us prophets to remind us of His word, and ultimately, He sent His Son Jesus to earth. Paul concluded that “men are without excuse—altogether without any defense or justification” for refusing to believe in God. 

Don’t ever buy into the lie that science and Christianity are incompatible. All of the discoveries of science point to a Creator. We use all of these “ologies” because we never know which one may eventually get someone’s attention. 

Famed scientist Sir Isaac Newton noted, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.” 

Let’s join our minds, our hearts, and our voices in declaring the greatness of our Creator at every opportunity we have! 

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We Are: Pentecostal

Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! 

Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. 

We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. We can experience an anointing and an empowering in our lives that turns ordinary Christianity into extraordinary Christianity! 

Please join me this Sunday as we rejoin this series. You can check out what I taught in this series in 2019 by clicking here, and the topics I covered in 2020 are on this list.

Check out the messages in the 2021 series:

How Christianity Changed The World (book review)

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Alvin Schmidt claims, “No other religion, philosophy, teaching, nation, movement—whatever—has so changed the world for the better as Christianity has done.” And I quite believe him. He lays out the evidence to back up this bold claim in his book How Christianity Changed The World. 

A few years ago I presented a series of messages to make the case for the resurrection of Jesus. One of the pieces of evidence I presented was the cultural engagement of Christians whose lives had been transformed by a personal relationship with the resurrected Jesus Christ. Alvin Schmidt’s book is like taking this single point of mine and putting it on steroids! 

Using the reports of first-person observers from the first century all the way through present day, Mr. Schmidt shows how there is not a single part of the culture that hasn’t benefitted from the involvement of those who live out the Christian principles they have discovered in the Bible. From the care of the sick and elderly, to the elevation of women and marriage, to art, and architecture, and music, and medicine, and science, and education—every sphere of life has been improved by practicing Christians. 

I would highly recommend reading this book and then keeping it close at hand to share with those ignorant or skeptical of the claims of Christianity. As William Barclay noted, “Anyone who asks the question, ‘What has Christianity done for the world?’ has delivered himself into a Christian debater’s hands. There is nothing in history so unanswerably demonstrable as the transforming power of Christianity and of Christ on the individual life and on the life of society.” To that, I add a hearty Amen! 

Please get a copy of How Christianity Changed The World for your library. 

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The Hiding Place (book review)

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In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis writes, “Suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, her submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.” This sentiment was never more fully displayed than in the lives of the ten Boom family. Corrie ten Boom relates her story in The Hiding Place. 

The ten Boom family had lived in Holland for a couple of generations at the time the Germans occupied their country during World War II. Immediately, their family home and watch repair shop became a hub for underground resistance activity. But the start of this war was not the start of their compassionate activity in their city. The ten Booms lived out their Christian faith in tangible, compassionate ways every single day, and their neighbors reaped the benefits. 

The entire ten Boom family was actively involved in the efforts to protect at-risk people during the Nazi oppression of their country, including the elderly and sick, their Jewish neighbors, the mentally disabled, and the young men that were being pressed into duties to support the German war effort. As The Hiding Place progresses, the story begins to zoom-in on two sisters: Betsie and Corrie, especially their activities inside the German prisons and concentration camps in which they were imprisoned. 

The miracles that God performed for these women are too many to recount here, but it seems like hardly a page in the story passes before another miracle is seen. These Christian women took full advantage of each miracle and used them to continue to bring light and love into one of the most dark and hateful times in human history. Even after the war has ended and Corrie has returned to her Holland home, the ministry of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation continued unabated through her tirelessly loving activities. 

The Hiding Place is truly a heroic tale! I highly recommend parents and grandparents reading it aloud to their children and grandchildren. May all Christians follow the example of the ten Boom family in finding ways to daily share the love of Jesus to their neighbors-in-need. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Talking Back To Your Old Family

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

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

Talking Back To Your Old Family

     When a man is adopted into a family and comes thereby under the regime of his new father, he has nothing whatever to do with the old family he has left behind and he is released from subjection to those whom he has left. And so, the moment I am taken out of the family of satan, the prince of this world has nothing to do with me as my father and he is no more my father. I am not a son of satan; I am not a child of wrath. 

     …When the law comes to a Christian with all its terrible threats and horrible denunciations, the Christian says, ‘Law! Why do you threaten me? I have nothing to do with you. I follow you as my rule, but I will not have you to be my ruler. I take you to be my pattern and mold, because I cannot find a better code of morality and of life, but I am not under you as my condemning curse.’ …  

     If one man adopts another child into his family, he cannot give it his own nature as his own child would have had. And if that child whom he will adopt should have been a fool, it may still remain so. He cannot make it a child worthy of him. But our heavenly Father, when He comes to carry out adoption, gives us not only the name of children, but the nature of children, too. He gives us a nature like His well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

From Adoption

Charles Spurgeon was called “the prince of preachers” for good reason! His word pictures are so biblically-accurate and so easy to recall, that anyone can grasp the concepts he shares from the Scripture. I have two takeaways from this portion of his sermon: 

First, we need to talk back to our old family. The name “satan” means accuser: he accuses, condemns, slanders, and does his best to separate. When a Christian has been adopted into God’s family, there is no condemnation for the one who now calls God, “Abba Father” (see Romans 8:1-17). 

This is where we need to call out satan’s lies. I mean literally call them out. We need to talk back to the devil and tell him the truth, just as Spurgeon said in his example of talking back to the Law. Let me say it again: literally speak the truth out loud. The devil needs to hear it and your own ears need to hear it too: “I am no longer subject to your jurisdiction. You have no say over me any longer. I am a child of God. My sins have been forgiven and forgotten; therefore, there are no grounds left for any condemnation!” 

Second, we need to talk back to our old nature. After being adopted into God’s family, the Holy Spirit undertakes a process to conform us to the image of Jesus. This process is called sanctification, but I like to call it saint-ification. 

This is where we call out what we used to be. And, again, I challenge to literally speak these words out loud. Don’t say, “I’m so impatient,” but tell yourself (out loud!), “I am becoming the patient saint Jesus wants me to be.” Don’t say, “I’ll never get this right,” but tell yourself, “I am learning more and more about Christ’s nature with each attempt.” Talk back to these old habits from your old family, and tell them about the new saintly habits the Holy Spirit is developing in you. 

The book of Revelation tells us that the saints overcame the slanderous devil by the blood of Jesus and by the words of their testimony. Speak out those life-affirming words every time that slanderer tries to make you forget into whose family you have been adopted!

12 Lessons From The Good Samaritan

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Dwight Moody was passionate about telling others how they could have a relationship with Jesus. In his book To The Work! he encourages other Christians to share this passion with him, and he counters any hesitations that Christians have to this work. Using the story Jesus told about the good Samaritan, Moody made these noteworthy observations: 

“Some people seem to think that all the world needs is a lot of sermons. Why, the people of this land have been almost preached to death. What we want is to preach more sermons with our hands and feet—to carry the Gospel to the people by acts of kindness. … 

“The Jews considered that the Samaritans had no souls; that when they died they would be annihilated. Their graves would be so deep that not even the sound of Gabriel’s trump would wake them on the resurrection morning. He was the only man under heaven who could not become a proselyte to the Jewish faith, and become a member of the Jewish family. …  

“You observe there are twelve things mentioned in the narrative that the Samaritan did. We can dismiss in a word all that the priest and the Levite did—they did nothing.

(1.) He ‘came to where he was.’ 

(2.) He ‘saw him;’ he did not, like the priest, pass by on the other side. 

(3.) He ‘had compassion on him.’ If we would be successful winners of souls we, too, must be moved with compassion for the lost and the perishing. We must sympathize with men in their sorrows and troubles, if we would hope to gain their affections and to do them good. 

(4.) He ‘went to him.’ The Levite went toward him, but we are told that he, as well as the priest, ‘passed by on the other side.’ 

(5.) He ‘bound up his wounds.’ Perhaps he had to tear up his own garments in order to bind them up. 

(6.) He poured in oil and gave some wine to the fainting man. 

(7.) He ‘set him on his own beast.’ Do you not think that this poor Jew must have looked with gratitude and tenderness on the Samaritan, as he was placed on the beast, while his deliverer walked by his side? All the prejudice in his heart must have disappeared long before they got to the end of their journey. 

(8.) He ‘brought him to an inn.’ 

(9.) He ‘took care of him.’ … 

(10.) When he departed on the morrow, the good Samaritan asked the host to care for him. 

(11.) He gave him some money to pay the bill. 

(12.) He said: ‘Whatever thou spendest more, when I come again I will repay thee.’ …  

“Do you want to know how you can reach the masses? Go to their homes and enter into sympathy with them; tell them you have come to do them good, and let them see that you have a heart to feel for them. When they find out that you really love them, all those things that are in their hearts against God and against Christianity will be swept out of the way.” 

To read my full book review of To The Work!, please click here. You can also check out some other quotes that I have shared from this book by clicking here. 

The Pilgrim’s Progress (book review)

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Charles Spurgeon said of John Bunyan, “Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.” Although this can be said of all Bunyan’s books and sermons, it is abundantly clear in The Pilgrim’s Progress. 

In my mind it’s easy to classify this book as “a classic” because of its enduring message. The journey through life for pilgrims like Christian, Hopeful, Faithful, Christiana, and you and me resonate with readers all over the world. In over the nearly 350 years since this book was first published, the pilgrimage has connected with Christians and seekers alike because it is the pilgrimage we are all on. 

In The Pilgrim’s Progress it’s not hard to identify the biblical messages because Bunyan literally names them for what they are, using names like Talkative, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, the Giant Despair, Mr. Great-heart, the Interpreter, and many more. Some biblical stories are portrayed in this book just as they are in the Bible, while others are fairly easily seen for all modern-day pilgrims to learn their lessons. 

As I’ve said before about this book, it’s an excellent one for parents to read aloud to their children. Then as their kiddos get a bit older, there is an easy-to-read version called Little Pilgrim’s Progress for them to read on their own. But I still highly recommend the original version of Bunyan’s classic in its 17th-century English. To me, the Old English in a story like this makes it feel like an epic adventure story, which, in fact, it is because it is every Christian’s story still to this day. 

I can’t urge you enough to make The Pilgrim’s Progress a friend that you visit often.

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