I don’t say this very often, but Words To Winners Of Souls by Horatius Bonar is a must-read for those in pastoral ministry. You can check out my full book review by clicking here.
“The question, therefore, which each of us has to answer to his own conscience is, ‘Has it been the end of my ministry, has it been the desire of my heart to save the lost and guide the saved? Is this my aim in every sermon I preach, in every visit I pay? Is it under the influence of this feeling that I continually live and walk and speak? Is it for this I pray and toil and fast and weep? Is it for this I spend and am spent, counting it, next to the salvation of my own soul, my chiefest joy to be the instrument of saving others? Is it for this that I exist?’”
“It is not opinions that man needs: it is truth. It is not theology: it is God. It is not religion: it is Christ. It is not literature and science; but the knowledge of the free love of God in the gift of His only-begotten Son.”
“Our power in drawing men to Christ springs chiefly from the fullness of our personal joy in Him, and the nearness of our personal communion with Him.”
“Why so many meetings with our fellow men, yet so few meetings with God?”
“Our life has not been a lying-in-wait for the voice of God. ‘Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth,’ has not been the attitude of our souls, the guiding principle of our lives. Nearness to God, fellowship with God, waiting upon God, resting in God, have been too little the characteristic either of our private or our ministerial walk. Hence our example has been so powerless, our labors so unsuccessful, our sermons so meager, our whole ministry so fruitless and feeble.”
“It is easier to speak or write about revival than to set about it. There is so much rubbish to be swept out, so many self-raised hindrances to be dealt with, so many old habits to be overcome, so much sloth and easy-mindedness to be contended with, so much of ministerial routine to be broken through, and so much crucifixion, both of self and of the world, to be undergone. As Christ said of the unclean spirit which the disciples could not cast out, so we may say of these: ‘This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’”
“These must be days of strenuous, ceaseless, persevering, and, if God bless us, successful toil. We shall labor till we are worn out and laid to rest.”
“It is unbelief that makes ministers handle eternal realities with such irreverence. It is unbelief that makes them ascend with so light a step ‘that awful place the pulpit,’ to deal with immortal beings about heaven and hell.”
…make you fishers of men” (Matthew 7:23; Mark 1:17)
…acknowledge in Heaven those who acknowledge Me on earth” (Matthew 10:32-33)
…give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)
…build My church” (Matthew 16:18)
…give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 16:19)
…show you whom you should fear” (Luke 12:5)
…drive out demons and heal people” (Luke 13:32)
…never drive away those who come to Me” (John 6:37)
…give My life for your life” (John 6:51)
…rise again from the dead” (Matthew 27:63; Mark 14:28; John 2:19)
…raise up believers to eternal life” (John 6:40, 44, 54)
…come back to take you to be with Me forever” (John 14:3)
…do whatever you ask in My name” (John 14:13, 14; 16:28)
…not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18)
…ask the Father to give you an Advocate” (John 14:18)
…give you words and wisdom that are irresistible” (Luke 21:15)
…see you again and give you eternal joy” (John 16:22)
Oh, what a Savior!
Psalm 68 is a Christological Psalm. That means it points to Jesus and it is fulfilled through Christ’s First and Second Advents. These types of psalms don’t make sense if they are restricted strictly to the Old Testament.
As I have explained previously, Hebrew literature often puts the key point in the middle—in the case of this psalm, that’s verses 18-20. The opening verse sets the stage, or the scene of battle, and then right in the middle of this psalm of David is the description of God’s victory won through Jesus.
There are three Selahs in this psalm, and I want you to notice what’s happening at each one:
Do you remember the three definitions of Selah? A pause to consider; a breath before the crescendo; a time to weigh what’s valuable. In this case, I believe we should lean more to the second definition. Why? Because all three of these Selahs shows us what God has done, what He is still doing, and what He will ultimately do in the eternity of Heaven. I believe we are living in the breath/Selah after Christ’s First Advent and leading up to the crescendo of His Second Advent.
Jesus is BOTH the Immanuel that came to earth at His First Advent AND the returning King at His Second Advent. We are living in an era of BOTH “now” AND “not yet.”
The apostle Paul looks back to this psalm (especially those middle verses of 18-20) even as he looks forward to the Second Advent. He captures the essence of “now” and “not yet” in all these passages:
So how shall we now live in this time of “now” and “not yet”? In a word: AWARE…
Now is not the time for fainting, but fighting the good fight. Our Immanuel has won the battle, He will continue to strengthen us every day that we walk this Earth, and He will keep us by His side as He reigns for all eternity as King of kings and Lord of lords!
If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this series, you can check out the full list by clicking here.
The distraught father named Jairus hurriedly left his home. He was looking for this Man named Jesus. People said Jesus could perform miracles, and Jairus needed one.
He found Jesus and quickly explained that his 12-year-old daughter was dying. They had tried everything they knew to do, but she kept inching closer and closer to death’s door. Jesus readily agreed to go with Jairus to his home.
Along the way, Jesus was interrupted by another woman in desperate need, and He stopped to heal her. As Jairus was (im)patiently waiting for Jesus to continue on the journey, one of his servants ran up to Jairus with the sad news, “Your daughter is dead.”
Jesus looked at this heartbroken father and simply said, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe, and your daughter will be well.”
Jairus took Jesus at His word and continued walking with Jesus to his home.
While Jairus was gone, family members and friends had shown up to mourn the death of this sweet girl. They were wailing loudly, but the clear voice of Jesus could be heard even over their woeful cries: “Stop crying. She is not dead, only asleep.”
There was a pause, and then there was a totally unexpected and out-of-place response: laughter.
Not joy-filled laughter, but mocking, derisive laughter at the utter foolishness of the words of Jesus.
“What do you mean, ‘She isn’t dead’” they yelled. “We’ve been in her room. We’ve seen the cold, lifeless body! She is absolutely, undeniably dead!” And they continued to laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of what Jesus had pronounced. Many of the laughs probably turned to jeers as they began to mock His foolish, insensitive statement. The historian Luke wrote, “They knew the girl was dead.”
Jesus took the grieving yet believing parents into the girl’s room, He took her lifeless hand in His hand, and simply said, “Little girl, get up.”
And she did. Fully alive!
Let me ask you something: Who was laughing now?!
I’m sure the uncontainable joy of these parents burst out into laughter. And I think Jesus shared in the joyful laughter as well.
“He who laughs last, laughs best.”
Friend, what do you “know” right now? What’s gone wrong that cannot be fixed? What terminal diagnosis have the doctors given? What is approaching death’s door? What has already died?
Listen again to the words of Jesus: “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove His people’s disgrace from all the earth. (Isaiah 25:8)
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:4-5)
Don’t be afraid. Just believe.
Jesus has secured the last—and best—laugh for both you and Himself! A laughter that will reverberate through all of eternity!
Is death the #1 fear people have? The simple and complicated answer is: It depends. Fear of dying is a BIG fear in those that statistically are the least likely to die: the young. But fear of dying is very LOW for those on death row, the elderly, and the terminally ill.
I hope to convince you of a fourth group that shouldn’t fear death. It’s a group that all of us can be a member of: Those who understand that physical death is not the end.
In the Garden of Eden, God planted one tree that was off-limits, and He said that the penalty for eating from this tree was death (Genesis 2:16-17). satan tried to get Adam and Eve to doubt what God said, and after they ate the fruit, it appeared satan was correct—they didn’t die. At least not physically.
But their sin did something far, far worse—it separated them from God’s presence. Now when God appeared, Adam and Eve hid in fear. In fact, Jesus even told His followers that the greatest fear wasn’t physical death but spiritual death (Luke 12:4-5).
Jesus came to lift our hope to something beyond this physical world. He said, “God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not die, but would have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Famed atheist Bertrand Russell said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.”
On the other hand, Jesus DID die for His beliefs and proved He was right by His resurrection!
Friend, listen to me—We’re definitely not living our best life now. We are all terminal. Unless Jesus returns, the chances of our physical death are 1-in-1.
But physical death is not the end! Death of the body means freedom for the soul. Jesus has defeated Death once for all! “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades,” Jesus said (Revelation 1:17-18)
Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
Invite Jesus into your life right this moment!!
Once you have invited Jesus into your life, and your sins have been forgiven, and your destiny following your physical death is assured, this is how you should now live:
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that to be a Christian and to be fearful of death is a sin. A fearful Christian gives God no praise, robs Him of glory, and paints God in a bad light. A happy, secure Christian knows the Lord is his strength, his comfort, his supply. A happy Christian lifts God high and invites others to know this All-Good, All-Happy God too!
We can live this way because Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins that separated you from God, and He was resurrected back to life to assure you that your eternal home in God’s presence is secure!
In Longfellow’s classic I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day every stanza ends with the phrase “peace on earth, goodwill to men.” Unless you’ve been living someplace that doesn’t get the daily news, you might be saying, “Peace on earth? Really? I just don’t see it….” Or as Ebenezer Scrooge might say, “Peace on earth? Bah! Humbug!”
A humbug is an imposter, or something empty of meaning.
The third stanza of I Heard The Bells seems almost to slide into that Christmas humbug note: “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said. ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.’”
Indeed, even for those who call themselves a Christian, Christmas could become a humbug if…
Between Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) and Matthew (the first book of the New Testament) is a time span of about 400 years that is called “the dark period.” God had promised through Jeremiah that He would restore the Israelites and rebuild Jerusalem. There were promises of the Messiah coming to set things right, but after 400 years of darkness, the mindset of most Israelites was probably, “Messiah? Peace? Bah! Humbug!!”
What God really promised through Jeremiah was a peace that came about as a result of two things: (1) forgiveness of sins and (2) restoration of a perfect relationship with God. The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, which means one’s personal sense of wholeness and well-being, free from anxiety and fear, knowing that all is well between my soul and God.
This is what God promises—I will cleanse them from ALL the sin they have committed against Me and will forgive ALL their sins of rebellion against Me (Jeremiah 33:8).
This shalom is what comes through the First Advent of Jesus! As Longfellow observed, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
And this is what Jesus brought—
The bells and carols and remembrances of Christ’s First Advent should send our hearts soaring in anticipation of Christ’s Second Advent—when Christ shall return to take all of His own to be with Him forever, where He will wipe away every tear and where we live forever with Him in the New Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 33:9; John 14:3; Revelation 21:1-4).
Let us guard against Christmas ever becoming a humbug—an imposter, something empty of meaning—but let’s make sure the rich meaning of Christ’s peace dwells richly in us!
Join us this Sunday as we continue our look at the carols of Christmas!