The Attitude That Thwarts God’s Blessings

Two of Israel’s king Jehoahaz and his son Jehoash perpetually hung on to an attitude that limited what God wanted to do for Israel. That attitude can be summed up in a single word: but. 

Jehoahaz “sought the Lord’s favor” during a time Israel was under the oppression of their enemies, and “the Lord listen to him”! God raised up a deliverer who brought them freedom. Israel, under Jehoahaz’s leadership, could have used this newly won freedom to live closer to God and remain in a place of renewed worship. “But” they used their freedom as a license to sin and God reduced Jehoahaz’s army to a mere skeleton of what it had been (2 Kings 13:4-7). 

Jehoash went to visit Elisha. It doesn’t appear he went with a prayer request but merely to pay his respects to this dying prophet. God in His graciousness gave Jehoash something he didn’t even ask for: a promise of victory over Aram! Jehoash was invited to boldly ask for God’s help “but” he thought God had a limited supply and he asked for just a small portion. As a result, his victory over Aram was small—much smaller than God wanted for Israel (13:14-19). 

Once again, enemies surround Israel and we read a statement pregnant with possibility: “But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of His covenant” (13:22-23). Despite their sin, God still wanted to bless them! 

God wants so much more for us than we even want ourselves! But our sinfulness, stubbornness, and unbelief will limit the fullness of what God wants to do. 

Jesus fulfilled God’s covenant. If God did not spare His own Son, how can I ever continue to remain skeptical that He wants to bless me?! He is glorified when I am abundantly blessed in Him. What do I do with God’s gracious concern? Will I squander it and live hemmed in by oppressors? Or will I embrace everything God has for me in Jesus and live in a way that He delights to bless? 

My attitude will determine the blessing I receive. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Oftener The Better

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 Oftener The Better 

     It is strange that spiritual blessings are our only possessions that we do not employ. We get a great spiritual blessing and we let the rest get on it for many a day. There is the mercy seat, for instance. Ah, my friends, if you had the cash box as full of riches as that mercy seat is, you would go often to it, as often as your necessities require. But you do not go to the mercy seat half so often as you need to go. Most precious things God has given to us, but we never overuse them. The truth is, they cannot be overused. We cannot wear a promise threadbare. We can never burn out the incense of grace. We can never use up the infinite treasures of God’s lovingkindness. … 

     How seldom do we ask counsel at the hands of the Lord! How often do we go about our business without asking His guidance? In our troubles how constantly do we strive to bear our burdens, instead of casting them upon the Lord, that He may sustain us! And this is not because we may not, for the Lord seems to say, “I am yours, soul; come and make use of Me as you will. You may freely come to My store, and the oftener the better. Welcome.” … 

     Have not God in name only. Since He allows you to have such a Friend, use Him daily. My God will supply all your wants. Never want while you have a God. Never fear or faint while you have a God. Go to your treasure and take whatever you need. There is bread and clothes, and health and life, and all that you need. O Christian, learn the divine skill to make God all things; to make bread of your God, and water, and health, and friends, and ease. He can supply you with all these. … 

     Oh! Child of God, let me urge you to make use of your God. Make use of Him in prayer. I beseech you, go to Him often, because He is your God. … Fly to Him; tell Him all your wants; use Him constantly by faith, at all times. …  

     Go to God continually, importunately, confidently. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will bring it to pass. Commit your way to the Lord, and He will guide you by His counsel and afterward receive you to glory (Psalm 73:24).

From God In The Covenant 

Oh what peace we often forfeit
Oh what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Greatest Treasure Ever!

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 Greatest Treasure Ever!

     Oh! Christian, do but consider what it is to have God to be your own! Consider what it is, compared with anything else.

Jacob’s portion is the Lord;
What can Jacob more require?
What can heaven more afford—
Or a creature more desire?

     Some have their portion in the city. Their wealth is superabundant and in constant streams it flows to them, until they become a very reservoir of gold. But what is gold compared with your God? You could not live on it; your spiritual life could not be sustained by it. Apply it to your aching head, and would it afford you any ease? 

     Put it on a troubled conscience, and could your gold allay its pangs? Put it on your desponding heart and see if it could stay a solitary groan or give you one grief the less. But you have God, and in Him you have more than gold or riches ever could buy, more than heaps of brilliant ore could ever purchase for you. … 

     There are griefs here with which men cannot intermeddle, and there are griefs to come with which men cannot interfere to alleviate the pangs, pains, agonies, and dying strife. But when you have this: “I will be your God” [Jeremiah 31:33]—you have as much as other men can have put together. … 

     O Christian, ask for nothing in this world but that you may live on this and that you may die on this: “I will be your God.” This exceeds all the world has to offer. …

     Oh! Here is a very sea of bliss, a very ocean of delight! Come, bathe your spirit in it. You may swim to eternity and never find a shore. You may dive to the very infinite and never find the bottom. “I will be your God.” Oh! If this does not make your eyes sparkle, if this makes not your foot dance for joy and your heart beat high with bliss, then assuredly your soul is not in a healthy state.

From God In The Covenant 

I agree with Spurgeon: “If this does not make your eyes sparkle, if this makes not your foot dance for joy and your heart beat high with bliss, then assuredly your soul is not in a healthy state.” 

If you want your soul to be in this healthy state, it is possible for you to know assuredly that God is saying to you, “I will be your God.” Jesus died in your place to pay the penalty for your sin. If you believe that, you may ask God to forgive all your sins—completely cancel that record of wrongdoing—and He will! Then His Spirit will take up residence in your heart and you can know the unspeakable bliss of the truth of what God says: “I am your God”! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Joy Of Saying, “My God”

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 Joy Of Saying, “My God”

     We commence then by the first thing, which is enough to startle us by its immense value. In fact, unless it had been written in God’s Word, we never could have dreamed that such a blessing could have been ours. God Himself, by the covenant, becomes the believer’s own portion and inheritance. “I will be their God” [Jeremiah 31:33]. … 

     Stop just one moment and think it over before we start. In the covenant of grace, God Himself conveys Himself to you and becomes yours. Understand it. God and all that is meant by that word—eternity, infinity, omnipotence, omniscience, perfect justice, infallible rectitude, and immutable love; all that is meant by God as Creator, Guardian, Preserver, Governor, Judge. All that that great word God can mean of goodness and of love, of bounty and of grace. All that this covenant gives you to be your absolute property as much as anything you can call your own: “I will be their God.” … 

     While He is Judge of all, He especially is their judge because He is the Judge whom they love to reverence, the Judge whom they long to approach because they know His lips will confirm that which their hearts have already felt, which is the sentence of their full acquittal through the merits of the glorious Savior. Our loving God is the Judge who will acquit our souls, and in that respect we can say He is our God whether as Sovereign, as Governor enforcing law, or as Judge punishing sin. Although God is in some sense the God of all men, yet in this matter there is something special toward His people so that they can say, “He is our God, even in those relationships.” … 

     Furthermore, the Christian can call God his God from the fact of his justification. A sinner can call God, God, but he must always put in an adjective and speak of God as an angry God, an incensed God, or an offended God. But the Christian can say “my God” without putting in any adjective except it be a sweet one wherewith to extol Him, so now we who were sometime afar off are made near by the blood of Christ. We who were enemies to God by wicked works are His friends, and looking up to Him, we can say “my God,” for He is my Friend, and I am His friend.

From God In The Covenant 

What an incredible assurance in those two words: my God! Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). 

It makes me want to sing along with Fanny Crosby:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song
praising my Savior all the day long!

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—“Got To” To “Get To”

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.

“Got To” To “Get To” 

     What a glorious covenant the second covenant is! Well might it be called “a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). … 

     It is better, for it is founded upon a better principle. The old covenant was founded on the principle of merit. It was “Serve God and you will be rewarded for it. If you walk perfectly in the fear of the Lord, God will walk well toward you and all the blessings of Mount Gerizim will come upon you and you will be exceedingly blessed in this world and the world that is to come.” But that covenant fell to the ground, because, although it was just that man should be rewarded for his good works, or punished for his evil ones, yet man being sure to sin and since the fall infallibly tending toward iniquity, the covenant was not suitable for his happiness, nor could it promote his eternal welfare.

     But the new covenant is not founded on works at all. It is a covenant of pure unmingled grace. You may read it from its first word to its last, and there is not a solitary syllable as to anything to be done by us. The whole covenant is a covenant, not so much between man and his Maker, as between Jehovah and man’s representative, the Lord Jesus Christ. The human side of the covenant has been already fulfilled by Jesus, and there remains nothing now but for the covenant of giving, not the covenant of requirements.

From God In The Covenant 

The old covenant was—you’ve got to do this. The new covenant is—you get to do this! 

The old covenant made requirements. The new covenant invites joyful participation. 

The old covenant needed men to do rituals of sacrifice. The new covenant was done once for all when Jesus said, “It is finished!” 

Under the new covenant, we are free to worship God and enjoy His blessings without having to complete a checklist of religious duties. Have you traded GOT TO for GET TO?

Not How But Who

This is part 3 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible?

Statement #3—This is how you should take Communion.… Is that in the Bible? Quite simply: No, it’s not. 

Every church seems to celebrate Communion with its own unique style, typically following an age-old tradition. There’s nothing wrong with traditions per se. The only thing we have to watch out for is when traditions become the focal point, instead of the thing the tradition is pointing us to. Almost as if we are celebrating the celebration (see Isaiah 1:11-14; Mark 7:1-8). 

In 1054 AD the Great Schism occurred between the Roman church (in West) and the Byzantine church (in East). One issue that led to this schism was Communion. The West used unleavened bread, saying that sin was removed. The East said that sounded like they were adopting Judaism, so they used leavened bread, saying that the “rising” symbolized new life. 

Even today there are differences and disagreements—only administered by a priest … only certain church officials can “bless” the elements … a common cup … individual cups … unfermented juice … fermented wine … unleavened wafers … pieces torn off a full loaf of bread. The Bible never says about Communion, “Do it this way.” All of these are man’s traditions. 

Passover was first instituted in Exodus 13. This is before the Law is given through Moses (Exodus 20) and before the instructions for the tabernacle are given (Exodus 25). In the first version, the sacrifice of the lamb was in individual homes, the lamb’s blood was shed on the doorposts of that home, and the family ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home. 

After the tabernacle was operational, there was a change (Deuteronomy 16). Now the sacrifice of the lamb was in the tabernacle, the lamb’s blood was sprinkled on the altar, but the family still ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home. 

By the time of Jesus, there were newer traditions which weren’t prescribed in the Bible that involved as many as five cups of wine, a very specific order that the meal was presented, and the singing of Psalm 113-118 (sometimes people sang all the way through Psalm 138). 

In the last supper Jesus shares with His disciples, we see some of these later elements. We read about the different cups of wine, the unleavened bread, the supper of lamb, and the singing of a hymn (Luke 22:14-20; Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). 

I want to specifically focus on the second cup of wine Jesus used in this supper. Paul calls this cup the cup of thanksgiving and the cup of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:16, 21). Why? Because Jesus switched cups with us! 

The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and therefore we are supposed to drink the cup of God’s wrath—For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup of His wrath, and the wine foams and is red, well mixed; and He pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth must drain it and drink its dregs (Psalm 75:8 AMP). 

But Jesus switched cups with us. He took the full wrath of God upon Himself, and then gave us God’s new covenant of forgiveness—“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke My covenant…. This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. … For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 33:31-34). 

Jesus said, “When you drink this, do this in remembrance of Me.” THIS is what we’re called remember and celebrate! 

It’s not HOW we celebrate Communion but WHO we remember when we do celebrate. 

Let’s not celebrate the celebration, but let’s celebrate the Savior who paid the price so that we could celebrate the forgiveness of our sins under God’s new covenant! 

The Mystery & Meaning Of Marriage

John Piper’s insight of both the Old Testament and New Testament meaning of marriage is profound!

Here are the links to the Scriptures he references:

Piper’s conclusions:

  1. God modeled marriage on the covenant love between Christ and the church.
  2. Therefore, marriage has always been a witness (or a drama or a parable) of covenant love between Christ and the church.
  3. Therefore, the roles of husband and wife derive from the roles God designed for Christ and the church.
  4. Therefore, confusing or minimizing these roles obscures the meaning of marriage as a drama of the covenant love between Christ and the church.
  5. Therefore, let every husband seek to love and lead and nourish and protect like Christ, and let every wife love her husband and honor his Christ-like role, joining hands in Christ-exalting mission as God meant for the church to do.

9 Quotes From “Seeing Jesus”

Nancy Guthrie marvelously shows us how Jesus links the Old Testament prophesies with His New Testament activities. This book makes the Old Testament come alive! Check out my full book review by clicking here, and then enjoy a few quotes from this book.

“satan’s power is wielded in the world in the form of death. What gives him that power is sin and the estrangement from God it brings. But on the Cross, Jesus did what was necessary for sinners to be reconciled with God. The devil thought he was defeating Christ, but in reality Christ was reconciling us to God, defeating the devil, and delivering us out of his clutches.”

“It has always been God’s way to use the weak, the foolish, the imperfect—even the shamefully sinful but ultimately repentant—in His redemptive plan. It is His glory to do so, and will be into eternity.”

“God has always wanted His people to know Him—not in a generic or shallow way, but personally, as He truly is. So He revealed Himself in a progressive way, not only through His name, but also through His glorious presence that dwelt in the Temple, through the Law, and through His mighty deeds on behalf of His people. But these revelations all led up to a definitive revelation in the Person of Jesus.”

“Our security in Christ frees us to enjoy His Sabbath rest. Christ fills our hearts with the same love He has for His Father so that we can honor our parents. Christ fills us with His very own faithfulness so that we can live in sexual purity. He convinces us of all that is ours in Him eternally so that we can stop coveting the things other people have that will not last beyond this life. As we refuse to allow anything else to be a god to us; we honor His name, His day, and our parents; as we value life; as we live in sexual purity and fidelity; as we nurture contentment and integrity, we’re not being merely legalistic. The grace of God is at work in our lives, making us holy and happy in God.”

“Jesus was less interested in explaining Himself to Nicodemus than in offering Himself to Nicodemus. … Jesus wanted Nicodemus to understand that we, too, have been bitten—not by a poisonous snake, but by the poison of sin. We, too, need a cure or we face certain death. And just as God provided the cure to His people in the desert, so has He provided a cure to us. But to experience healing requires something of us. We have to look to Jesus.”

“Jesus came into the world to make God knowable so that we can truly love Him with all our hearts, souls, and minds.”

“Jesus came the first time to offer forgiveness rather than bring down fire. He came down the first time to experience the fiery judgment of God in the place of guilty sinners. But the day is coming when Jesus will ‘come with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus’ (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).”

“Whereas Proverbs describes a way of wisdom that leads to life and to God, Jesus defined that way in much more personal terms. He said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6). The decision, as Jesus made clear, is not merely a matter of behavior or companions, but a choice about how we respond to Him, whether or not we will choose Him as our path, our life.”

“The people of Israel had the law; they knew what God wanted from them and for them. But they didn’t have the power or strength to obey. They knew what to do, but they didn’t have the ‘want-to’ to live as God commanded and to love Him as He desired. God’s commands in the covenant of the law were just a list of external rules. …

“In the new covenant, God’s law would be written on the hearts of His people rather than on stone tablets. He would put His Spirit inside His people. In this way, He would give them a love for His will and His ways, and a hatred of sin. His people would finally be able to love His will and walk in His ways because they would want to.”

Poetry Saturday—Abandoned

DSC_0004Utterly abandoned to the will of God;
Seeking for no other path than my Master trod;
Leaving ease and pleasure, making Him my choice,
Waiting for His guidance, listening for His voice.

Utterly abandoned! No will of my own;
For time and for eternity, His, and His alone;
All my plans and purposes lost in His sweet will,
Having nothing, yet in Him all things possessing still.

Utterly abandoned! It’s so sweet to be
Captive in His bonds of love, yet wondrously free;
Free from sin’s entanglements, free from doubt and fear,
Free from every worry, burden, grief, or care.

Lo! He comes and fills me, Holy Spirit sweet!
I, in Him, am satisfied! I, in Him, complete!
And the light within my soul will never more grow dim
While I keep my covenant—abandoned unto Him! —Anonymous

11 Quotes From “The Duty Of Pastors”

The Duty Of PastorsJohn Owen has some fascinating insights on pastors and ministers (hint: they’re not the same thing) in his book The Duty Of Pastors. Here are some of the quotes I liked from this book. Remember this book was written in the 17th-century, so don’t let the Old English keep you from discovering the rich truths in these passages.

“Why should any speak where the Holy Ghost is silent? … Where things are obscured, it is a safer way to prove the practice of men by God’s precept, charitably supposing them to have been obedient, than to wrest the divine rule to their observation, knowing how prone men are to deify themselves by mixing their inventions with the worship of God.”

“The lights which God maketh are sufficient to rule the seasons for which they are ordained. As, in creating of the world, God ‘made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night;’ so, in the erection of the new world of His church, He set up two great lights, the lesser light of the Old Testament to guide the night, the dark space of time under the law, and the greater light of the New Testament to rule the glorious day of the gospel. And these two lights do sufficiently enlighten every man that cometh into this new world. There is no need of the false fire of tradition where God sets up such glorious lights.”

“All faithful ministers of the gospel, inasmuch as they are ingrafted into Christ and are true believers, may, as all other true Christians, be called priests; but this inasmuch as they are members of Christ, not ministers of the gospel. It respecteth their persons, not their function, or not them as such.”

“Thus, this metaphorical appellation of priests is, in the first place an intimation of that transcendent privilege of grace and favour which Jesus Christ hath purchased for everyone that is sanctified with the blood of the covenant.”

“Not to lose myself and reader in this digression, the sum is, the unspeakable blessings which the priesthood of Christ hath obtained for us are a strong obligation for the duty of praise and thanksgiving; of which that in some measure we may discharge ourselves, He hath furnished us with sacrifices of that kind to be offered unto God.” 

“That the name of priests is nowhere in the Scripture attributed peculiarly and distinctively to the ministers of the gospel as such. … And yet, when Christ ascended on high, He gave some to be prophets, for the edification of His body, Eph. iv. 11; none, as we find, to be priests. Priests, then (like prelates), are a sort of church-officers whom Christ never appointed.”

“Never fear the equity of what God sets thee upon. No excuses of disability or any other impediment ought to take place; the Lord can and will supply all such defects.”

“God never sendeth any but whom He doth so extraordinarily and immediately call and ordain for that purpose; and that this may be manifested unto others, He always accompanieth them with His own almighty power, in the working of such miracles as may make them be believed, for the very works’ sake which God by them doth effect.”

“We do not read of any such miracles wrought by the prophet Amos, and yet he stands upon his extraordinary immediate vocation, ‘I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son, but the Lord took me,’ etc. It sufficeth, then, that they be furnished with a supernatural power, either in, 1. Discerning; 2. Speaking; or 3. Working. … The sum is, that seeing such men pretend that their revelations and miracles are from heaven, let us search whether the doctrine they seek to confirm by them be from heaven or no.”

“There is a general obligation on all Christians to promote the conversion and instruction of sinners, and men erring from the right way.”

“For a public, formal, ministerial teaching, two things are required in the teacher: first, Gifts from God; secondly, Authority from the church (I speak now of ordinary cases). He that wants either is no true pastor.”

Be sure to check out my review of The Duty Of Pastors by clicking here.

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