God Loves Wicked People

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The first two Selah pauses we see in Psalm 140 are pauses to remember two things: 

  1. There, but for the grace of God, go I. 
  2. God is doing something in me through wicked people and evil times. 

But there is one more Selah in this chapter that we need to consider—Do not grant the wicked their desires, O Lord; do not let their plans succeed, or they will become proud. Selah. (v. 8) 

Most of  us would probably agree with Abraham Kuyper who said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” 

But the amazing thing here is that God allows David—and you and me—to call Him mine! “O LORD, I say to You, ‘You are MY God’” (v. 6). David goes on to say that God is my strong deliverer who shields me against evildoers (v. 7). 

But isn’t David’s God also the God of the wicked? Aren’t they a part of “the whole domain of human existence” that is His? Yes! 

So that must mean that God wants even wicked people to call Him, “My God”! 

This is exactly what Jesus told us: For God so loved the world [including wicked people] that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever [including wicked people] believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world [including wicked people] through Him (John 3:16-17). 

Just before this third Selah in verse 8 David prays that the plans of the wicked might be thwarted so that proud people don’t become even more proud. That seems okay. But after the Selah David seems to be asking God to let everything that wicked people have planned to boomerang back on them (vv. 9-11).  

Isn’t that hateful? Not if we understand “hate” correctly. 

Hate isn’t the opposite of love, but apathy is the opposite of love. Hate is a very strong emotion that usually comes out when something we love or desire is thwarted or kept from us. 

Just as we learned last week that God allows evil people and their slander and wickedness to prune us and make us more fruitful, can’t God give back to evil people exactly what they need to get their attention? Can’t He use their own evil plans for them just as He used them for us? Yes! 

If God loves us—and He does—then He must hate anything that keeps us from Him. 

If God loves wicked people—and He does—then He must also hate anything that keeps them from accepting the atoning work Jesus did for them on the Cross. 

God is love. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more. There is nothing an evil person can do to make God love them any less. 

David’s third Selah is really his reminder that he must leave evil people to the only One who can discipline them in perfect measure. We have to leave evil people to God’s care—the only One who can rescue them. That’s why Jesus told us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). 

David’s prayer in verses 9-13 does leave evil people in God’s hands, and it’s a prayer you and I can personalize for those whom we desire to know Jesus as their Savior. 

It’s not God’s desire that any should perish. So let’s Selah to call God, “My God,” but to also pray that even the wicked people around us will come to the realization that through faith in Jesus, they too can cry out, “My God!” 

God gave me a unique story when I was walking through a challenging time with a friend that I needed to leave to God’s care. I called the story The Parable of the Lifeguard. You can watch it in the video below, or you can read it by clicking here. 

If you have missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find a list of all of those messages by clicking here. 

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The Reality Of Temporary Darkness…

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A father came home from work and noticed a note addressed to him taped to his teenage son’s door:

Dear Dad, 

Jason and I borrowed Mom’s car to go to Taco Bell. I know I didn’t have permission, but I thought we’d be back before you and Mom got home. Unfortunately, I hit a pothole and blew out the front right tire. 

We jacked up the car to put on a spare tire, but the jack slipped and the car rolled backward into the ditch. 

Bill came with his pickup to pull us out, but the tow strap pulled off the front bumper and the car rolled further down the hill and sunk in the pond. 

I bought a bus ticket to get out of town and go enlist in the Army. Give Mom a hug and I’ll see you both in about 2 years. 

Love, your son

P.S. None of the above is true. Mom took her car to Aunt Jan’s house and I rode my bike to Jason’s house. However, I hope the fact that none of these bad things actually happened will help you put in perspective the D+ on my report card. 

We like to manage expectations, don’t we? We frequently deliver bad news with the good news close by. 

Psalms 88 and 89 are written by brothers: both of them are called Ezrahite, and both of them were worship leaders in the tabernacle. And until Solomon, these guys were considered the wisest in the land (1 Chronicles 2:6; 15:19; 1 Kings 4:29-34). 

I believe these two psalms form a couplet. They make up the last two psalms of Book III in the Psalter, with Psalm 89 ending with, “Amen and Amen.” Both of them label their psalms a maskil which means “a poem of contemplation” (NKJV). And look how Psalm 88 leaves us in the dark, while Psalm 89 shines a light in the dark.

In Psalm 88, Heman soberly prepares us for his two-Selah psalm in his introductory remarks. He uses a phase mahalath leannoth which means someone who is so physically weak from emotional grief that they are now battling depression. The NLT calls it “the suffering of affliction.”  

Heman is describing a reality: We will all experience pain in this life. Maybe even for our entire earthly life—from my youth I have been afflicted and close to death (v. 15). Heman’s reality is seen in his words in the first five verses of this psalm. 

His first Selah is breathtaking because he wants us to pause to realize that God has allowed all of this (notice the pronoun You in vv. 6-8, 16-18). But still, Heman knows God saves because he has made a decision to continue to praise Him even in the dark times (vv. 1-2, 9, 13).  

Heman’s second Selah comes in the middle of a series of five questions (vv. 10-14) that sound a lot like both questions Jesus asked in Gethsemane and from the Cross, and the reality of the temporary darkness He was facing (Psalm 22:1-2; Luke 22:53; John 19:11). 

Even the way Heman closes his psalm foreshadows the darkness surrounding the death of Jesus: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? 

Jesus tasted all of this darkness for us so that He could be our perfect and empathetic High Priest (Hebrews 5:7, 4:15-16). 

Psalm 88 shows us the reality of temporary darkness (like Good Friday), but Psalm 89 points us to the certainty of eternal light (like Resurrection Sunday)! 

So when you are battling your dark times, let me give you these assurances: 

  1. This darkness is only temporary (Romans 8:18) 
  2. Jesus walks with us in our dark times (Romans 8:26-39)
  3. The darkness cannot prevail—Jesus tasted all of this temporary darkness for us so that He could be our eternal High Priest!

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can check them out by clicking here. Please join me on Sunday when we will look at Ethan’s words in Psalm 89 about the certainty of the eternal light. 

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New Inside

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

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character (Phil) is stuck in a small town where February 2 keeps repeating. Phil tries desperately to get out of this town and out of this day, but nothing he seems to do gets him out of the endless loop. He becomes smarter and richer each day, but at the end of the day, everything resets to the beginning. 

It’s frustrating! 

God’s people of the Old Testament had their own “Groundhog Day”—the Day of Atonement that came every single year. This was the day their sins were confessed, forgiven, and atoned for, and had a very specific set of sacrifices and rituals. Much like Phil in the movie, they began to go through these motions almost entirely without thinking. 

Year after year, millennia after millennia “the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, [couldn’t] make perfect those who draw near to worship” (see Hebrews 10:1-4). 

Even those who were God-fearing and tried their best to live perfectly righteous lives could find in the law provision for those who “sin unintentionally” (Leviticus 4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:15, 18, 22, 24, 27-29). It was just another reminder that the loop of sin-confession-repentance-forgiveness-atonement was never ending. 

And as if all the requirements of the Torah weren’t enough, Jesus came on the scene and seemed to raise the bar, telling us even though our outward actions might look righteous, our inward thoughts and attitudes made us just as sinful (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28). And then Jesus even dropped this on us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)! 

Perfect?! As perfect as God?! This could easily make people throw their hands up in resignation, “I give up! Why even try?” 

Through Ezekiel, God prophesied an internal change. This wasn’t something I must do, but something GOD will do—

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27) 

The solution to our endless loop of sin-confession-repentance-forgiveness-atonement must become internal. It’s no use trying to correct the fruit if the root is still evil! That requires an inside job. 

On Good Friday, the last words Jesus spoke before His death were, “It is finished” (John 19:30). 

What was finished? Our struggle to get ourselves out of this endless loop. The writer of Hebrews had this to say about Jesus: 

But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. … For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:12, 14) 

Remember Jesus told us we had to be perfect like God? The root word for “perfect” in that verse is telos. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” He said one word in Greek: tetelestai. This also comes from the root word telos. Jesus perfectly finished all that was necessary for us to become perfect in God’s sight. 

Christians often use the the phrase “I invited Jesus into my heart” as an expression of their faith in what Jesus did for them on the Cross. That word “IN” is a good reminder. 

Jesus comes IN and the fear of punishment—the fear of being eternally stuck in the endless loop—has to go out. “There is no fear IN love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect IN love” (1 John 4:18). 

The word “perfect” in that verse is also from the same root word telos. 

Not only does Jesus come IN to our hearts to make them new, but He also takes us IN to His perfection. “Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith—giving the first incentive for our belief—and is also its Finisher—bringing it to maturity and perfection…” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP). 

Jesus shared a last supper with His disciples. His last supper was the first Communion. At this time Jesus told them He was establishing a “new covenant.” How do we square this with His previous statement that He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it? 

Jesus said this new covenant was IN His blood. His blood doesn’t abolish the law, but it perfects the law. His perfect blood makes out hearts new and takes us out of the external loop and IN to His prefect righteousness. 

Jesus accomplished all that was needed to make us perfect inside, and then to perfectly take us into God’s presence. As the hymn The Old Rugged Cross reminds us, “In that old rugged Cross, stained with blood so divine, a wondrous beauty I see. For ’twas on that old Cross Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me!” 

May we always cherish the perfection that was purchased for us on that Cross. 

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Poetry Saturday—Oh The Lamb

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In evil long I took delight,
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object met my sight,
And stopp’d my wild career.

Oh, the Lamb, the bleeding Lamb,
The Lamb on Calvary,
The Lamb that was slain and liveth again
To intercede for me.

I saw One hanging on a Tree
In agonies and blood,
Who fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near the Cross I stood.

Sure never till my latest breath
Can I forget that look,
It seem’d to charge me with His death,
Tho’ not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned my guilt,
And plung’d me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt,
And helped to nail Him there.

A second look He gave, which said,
“I freely all forgive,
This blood is for thy ransom paid,
I die, that thou may’st live.”

Thus, while His death my sins display
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.

Oh, the Lamb, the bleeding Lamb,
The Lamb on Calvary,
The Lamb that was slain and liveth again
To intercede for me. —John Newton

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Love So Amazing

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.

Love So Amazing  

Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32) 

     The first phrase to think about is ‘for Christ’s sake.’ We use these words very often, but probably we have never thought of their force. … All the good things that God has bestowed upon us have come to us ‘for Christ’s sake.’ But especially the forgiveness of our sins has come ‘for Christ sake.’ …  

     It is His very love as well as His holiness and His justice that, if I may use such a term, compels Him to severity of judgment so that sin cannot and must not be blotted out till atonement has been presented. There must, first of all, be a sacrifice for sin, that, mark you, the great Father, to show His love, supplies, for it is His own Son who is given to die! And so the Father Himself supplies the ransom through His Son, that Son is one with Himself by bonds of eternal unity, mysterious but most intense. If God demands the penalty in justice, He Himself supplies it in love. … 

     I want you to consider, for a moment, how readily God may now blot out sin since Christ has died. … God, for Christ’s sake, has accepted us in Him, has forgiven us in Him, and looks upon us with infinite love, changeless in Him. This is how all our blessings come to us, in and through Christ Jesus. And if we are indeed in Him, the Lord does not only forgive us our sins, but He bestows upon us the boundless riches of His grace in Him. In fact, He treats us as He would treat His Son. He deals with us as He would deal with Jesus! … 

     And you, big evil sinner, if you will go to God at this moment and say, ‘Lord, I cannot ask You to forgive me for my own sake, but do it out of love for Your dear Son,’ He will do it…. Christ took the shame that He might magnify His Father, and now His Father delights to magnify Him by blotting out the sin.

From Forgiveness Made Easy 

I’ve lost track of the number of times someone has told me, “I’ve messed up for so long—I’ve done such atrocious things—there is no way God could forgive me.” This is one of satan’s lies that keeps people from accepting God’s forgiveness. 

Jesus took your penalty, He paid the price for your sin! The moment you believe that, you are clothed in Christ’s righteousness. So now when the Holy God looks at you, He says, “You look like My Son. I love to bless My Son. I love to do what He asks of Me. For His sake, I have forgiven you. Not only forgiven, but I’ve forgotten everything I’ve forgiven!” 

Don’t wait another moment: If you haven’t asked God to forgive you “for Christ’s sake,” do it right this very minute! I’d love to chat with you about this, so reach out to me and let’s talk more about this amazing new relationship you now have with Almighty God because you are forgiven for Christ’s sake. 

This reminds me of a song by Chris Tomlin—

He became sin Who knew no sin
That we might become His righteousness
He humbled Himself and carried a Cross
Love so amazing!
 

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Poetry Saturday—Praise To The Redeemer

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

Prepare a thankful song
To the Redeemer’s name
His praises should employ each tongue
And every heart inflame!

He laid His glory by,
And dreadful pains endured;
That rebels, such as you and I,
From wrath might be secured.

Upon the Cross He died,
Our debt of sin to pay;
The blood and water from His side
Wash guilt and filth away.

And now He pleading stands
For us, before the throne;
And answers all the Law’s demands,
With what Himself hath done.

He sees us, willing slaves
To sin, and satan’s pow’r;
But, with an outstretched arm, He saves,
In His appointed hour.

The Holy Ghost He sends.
Our stubborn souls to move;
To make His enemies His friends,
And conquer them by love.

The love of sin departs,
The life of grace takes place,
Soon as His voice invites our hearts
To rise and seek His face.

The world and satan rage,
But He their pow’r controls;
His wisdom, love, and truth, engage
Protection for our souls.

Though pressed, we will not yield,
But shall prevail at length,
For Jesus is our sun and shield,
Our righteousness and strength.

Assured that Christ our King,
Will put our foes to flight;
We, on the field of battle, sing
And triumph, while we fight. —John Newton

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Poetry Saturday—The Wond’ring World Inquires To Know

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The wond’ring world inquires to know
Why I should love my Jesus so:
What are His charms,” say they, “above
The objects of a mortal love?”

Yes! my Beloved, to my sight
Shows a sweet mixture, red and white:
All human beauties, all divine,
In my Beloved meet and shine.

White is His soul, from blemish free;
Red with the blood He shed for me;
The fairest of ten thousand fairs;
A sun amongst ten thousand stars.

His head the finest gold excels;
There wisdom in perfection dwells,
And glory like a crown adorns
Those temples once beset with thorns.

Compassions in His heart are found,
Hard by the signals of His wound:
His sacred side no more shall bear
The cruel scourge, the piercing spear.

His hands are fairer to behold
Than diamonds set in rings of gold;
Those heav’nly hands, that on the Tree
Were nailed, and torn, and bled for me!

Though once He bowed His feeble knees,
Loaded with sins and agonies,
Now on the throne of His command
His legs like marble pillars stand.

His eyes are majesty and love,
The eagle tempered with the dove;
No more shall trickling sorrows roll
Through those dear windows of His soul.

His mouth, that poured out long complaints,
Now smiles and cheers His fainting saints
His countenance more graceful is
Than Lebanon with all its trees.

All over glorious is my Lord
Must be beloved, and yet adored;
His worth if all the nations knew,
Sure the whole earth would love Him too. —Isaac Watts

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Such Love!

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.

Such Love!

     Our Savior so loved us that He stripped Himself of His robes of radiance. Listen, you children of God, it is the old story over again, but it is always new to you. He stripped Himself of His bright array. He laid aside His scepter and His crown and became an infant in Bethlehem’s manger among the horned oxen. Thirty years of poverty and shame the King of heaven spent among the sons of men, and all out of love to us. Jesus the heavenly lover, panting to redeem His people, was content to abide here without a place to rest His head that He might rescue us!

     Do you see Him yonder in the garden in His agony? His soul is exceedingly sorrowful even to death! His forehead, no, His head, His hair, and His garments are red with bloody sweat. Do you see Him giving His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them who pluck off His hair? See Him, as He hides not His face from shame and spitting, dumb like a sheep before her shearers and like a lamb that is brought to the slaughter! He opened not His mouth but patiently bore it all on our behalf. See Him with the Cross upon His mangled shoulders, staggering through Jerusalem’s streets, unwept for and unpitied, except by poor feeble women! 

     See Him, you who love Him, and love Him more as He stretches out His hands to the nails and gives His feet to the iron. See Him, as with power to deliver Himself He is made captive. Behold Him as they lift up the Cross with Him upon it and dash it down into its place and dislocate His bones. Hear that cry, ‘I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint’ (Psalm 22:14). Stand, if you can, and view that face so full of grief. Look till a sword will go through your own heart as it went through His mother’s very soul. Oh, see Him as He thirsts and has that thirst mocked with vinegar! 

     Hear Him as He prays and has that prayer parodied, ‘Look, He is calling for Elijah! … Let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down’ (Mark 15:35-36). See Him as they who love Him come and kiss His feet and bathe them with their tears. Will you not love Him who did all that friend could do for a friend? He who gave His life for us?

From The Church’s Love To Her Loving Lord

My friend, if you don’t know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, I ask that you would consider this amazing act of love all for you. Jesus went through all of this for you! Won’t you accept His love and invite Him into your heart today? 

If you do have a personal relationship with Jesus, look again at your Beloved Savior. Let this love rekindle your heart to share Christ’s love with everyone around you.

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Poetry Saturday—Upon A Life I Have Not Lived

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Upon a Life I have not lived,
Upon a Death I did not die,
Another’s Life; Another’s Death,
I stake my whole eternity.

Not on the tears which I have shed,
Not on the sorrows I have known,
Another’s tears; Another’s griefs,
On these I rest, on these alone.

O Jesus, Son of God,
I build on what Thy Cross has done for me;
There both my death and life I read,
My guilt, and pardon there I see.

Lord, I believe; O deal with me,
As one who has Thy Word believed!
I take the gift, Lord, look on me,
As one who has Thy gift received. —Horatius Bonar

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“Father, Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit”

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I have some sobering news for you: You are going to die. 

Death is the great equalizer. It comes for the rich and poor, the scholar and the illiterate, all races, all ages, the healthy as well as the sick. Unless you’re still alive when Jesus comes back again, your odds of dying are 1-in-1. 

What happens “on the other side”? What happens after this life is over? Since it seems dark and mysterious to most people, they tend to ignore it until it’s thrust upon them. That’s why I find the dying words of people interesting. Like P.T. Barnum asking, “How were the receipts today at Madison Square Garden?” or W.C. Fields reading a Bible on his deathbed and telling a friend, “I’m looking for a loophole.” 

Or the very last words of Jesus: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” 

Jesus is steeped in Scripture, so nearly everything He says in His final four declarations come directly from the Psalms, including His final phrase which comes from Psalm 31:5. 

When Jesus broke a three-hour silence with His cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me,” both Matthew and Mark use the Greek words megas phoné to describe how loudly Jesus spoke. And now with His final words, Luke uses the same megas phoné description. 

Notice in the first megaphone cry Jesus calls on God the All-Powerful Creator. And with His last megaphone declaration, He calls on His Father who is All-Loving. How comforting it is to know that God is both All-Powerful and All-Loving! Not only can He answer our cries, but He delights to answer them! 

The word Jesus uses for “commit” is in the future tense and it means “to entrust as a deposit.” Jesus believed that God was going to do more than just give Him life again, but that He would give life to all who would believe in Him. 

Unlike atheist Bertrand Russell who said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong,” Jesus DID die for His beliefs, and by rising from the dead proved He was right in trusting God. 

Job saw an inescapable death for all mankind, but he also foresaw the forgiveness of God (Job 14:5, 16-17). Jesus died once for all mankind and was then resurrected, bringing about the death of death by making forgiveness accessible to anyone (Hebrews 9:27-28; 1 Corinthians 15:19-22). 

We can now have the peace that comes from trusting the only One to Whom we can safely entrust our souls. Because Jesus brought death to death, we can have the same peace when we die that Jesus had when He died. 

With faith in Jesus, you can…

…live today knowing you’re invincible until God calls you home 

…live today full of joy because your home in heaven is secure

…live your very last day in peace because you know to Whom your soul is entrusted 

Because Jesus died at peace with God, we can face death triumphantly! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on the dying declarations of Jesus, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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