Which Engine Drives You?

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

There’s a little song that makes me chuckle every time I hear it, and I may have even sung this song a couple of times myself. It goes like this, “I had a lot to do today, but you know what I did instead? I took a nap. It was a very good nap.” 

We’ve all been there. There are things we know that we should do, but we simply don’t feel like doing them. We let our feelings drive our actions. There are several seemingly innocent things that we can handle this way, with no apparent problems created for ourselves. 

The real problem comes in when our feelings continually drive our actions. Because the caboose which must follow that engine can easily become “my truth.” It goes like this:

  • I let my feelings take the lead
  • I act on my feelings
  • I now believe what I felt was truthful

This could be called pragmatism—allowing a positive outcome to determine what I believe to be truth. 

But our feelings may lie to us. Our feelings can make us believe something is harmless, when in fact it may be putting us on a path from which it may be extremely difficult to recover. 

Jesus taught us a different way. He prayed this way to His Father, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). He may have had in mind these words from the psalmist:

The sum of Your word is truth—the total of the full meaning of all Your individual precepts; and every one of Your righteous decrees endures forever. (Psalm 119:160 AMP) 

When we let truth drive our actions, we are performing those actions in faith that good feelings will follow. Now the progression goes like this:

  • I let what I know to be true take the lead
  • I act on that truth
  • I feel good for doing the right thing

I may not feel like exercising, but I know it’s good for me. So I do it and then I feel good for doing it, and my body is healthier for doing it. 

I may not feel like forgiving the one who wronged me, but I know God says I should. So I do it and then I feel good for doing it, and my emotions are healthier for doing it. 

I may not feel like speaking the tough word in love to my friend, but I know the Bible says I should. So I do it and then I feel good for doing it, and my relationship is healthier for doing it.

Letting God’s truth be the engine that drives our actions will result in healthiness and good feelings. But letting my emotions be the engine that drives my actions may sometimes result in temporary good feelings, but the longterm consequences may not be healthy or God-honoring. 

We should not say, “God, please bless what I’m doing so that I can feel good about it,” but instead we should say, “God please help me to do what You say is right, and I know I will feel good because Your blessing will be on it.” 

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The Key To God’s Treasure

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…the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure (Isaiah 33:6). 

What treasure is Isaiah referring to? There is an amazing list of blessings in this chapter! Things like…

  • God’s graciousness 
  • God’s strength
  • Salvation
  • God’s justice
  • God’s righteousness
  • A sure foundation
  • “A rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge” 
  • Eternally secure in God’s presence
  • Seeing God’s beauty 
  • Having evil people removed from my life 
  • Peace 

How do I get the key to this treasure? By placing my faith in Jesus. Jesus paid the price, so He could take the key from the devil and hold it securely. When I am in Him, I have access to this key to God’s riches! 

With all of this treasure accessible to me, how do I now live? In a word: Nobly. “But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand” (Isaiah 32:8). I am a child of God, a joint-heir with Jesus. I lack no good thing, so I can live securely, gracefully, and nobly. I must live this way to bring glory to my Lord and my Master every single day! 

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No Contradictions

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…I will hide My face from this city because of all its wickedness. Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it… (Jeremiah 33:5-6) 

God’s anger at Judah’s sin is blazing hot! And rightly so: Dr. Henry Halley points out, “Most of the 20 Davidic kings who reigned over Judah during the 400 years between David and the Babylonian exile were very bad. Only a few were worthy of the name of David.” So it is understandable that God would need to punish that sinful nation. 

Then comes that word “nevertheless.” In spite of the rampant sin, God’s promise of restoration is even greater than the pain of His punishment. 

God promises healing, restoration, complete cleansing from sin, and more descendants of David and Levi than can be counted. And He promises this to the exact same people that He promised to punish. 

I don’t know about you, but to me this almost seems like a contradiction. Does God want to punish them or does He want to bless them? 

The apparent contradiction is hard for our finite brains to comprehend. That’s why God makes an important statement to Jeremiah before He begins describing the punishment and the blessings: “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (v. 3). 

Aha! When we call on God to help us with unsearchable things, we find there are no contradictions in God nor in the Bible itself. 

If you feel stumped on a text of Scripture, I have previously shared how I handle the tough texts, but step number one is always calling on God to help. 

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem”—or any contradiction at all. 

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An Appeal To Preachers

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…They have turned their backs to Me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, “Come and save us!” (God in Jeremiah 2:27) 

In so many ways the USA today resembles ancient Israel. Abortion, prostitution, idolatry, envy, greed, atheism, dirty politics, self-serving church leaders. Our culture calls itself “Christian” but we live anything but. 

God is not allowed to be mentioned in our schools, but the moment there is a school shooting, people cry, “Where was God?! Why didn’t He stop this?!” 

God is banished from the town square, but as soon as a tornado or hurricane or flood levels the town, the people yell, “How could God let this happen?!” 

This was exactly the same lifestyle and same response in Jeremiah’s day. 

When these painfully tragic things happen, there should be a different response: “Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you have forsaken the Lord your God and have no awe of Me” (v. 19). 

Typically, this considering takes place post-tragedy. But it really should be considered before disasters strike. Four times in this chapter God calls us to consider “the word of the Lord” (vv. 1, 4, 5, 31). In order for that considering to take place, loving pastor-shepherds need to hold up the mirror of God’s Word to the ungodly lifestyles people are living.

To all of my fellow pastors, I appeal to you to boldly and lovingly proclaim the full counsel of God’s Word. Not just the “pleasant” parts that speak of God’s blessings, but also the calls to repentance that will allow your people to avoid God’s righteous judgment. And don’t wait to only speak about these topics post-tragedy, but make this message a consistent part of your teaching. 

Pastor, if you don’t speak these truths to your flock, how will they know how to live in the way that pleases God? I am praying that God will help you in this. 

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The Blessing In Affliction And The Affliction In Blessing

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Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such agony… (Isaiah 38:17).

These are words written by King Hezekiah after God had healed his life-threatening illness. Hezekiah also noted how he would now conduct himself: “I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul” (v. 15). 

Hezekiah had been a godly king, leading Judah in removing idol worship from its borders. In his prayer from his sickbed, Hezekiah asked God to remember how he had faithfully lived in such a God-honoring way. God heard this prayer, He answered this prayer, and Hezekiah was totally healed. 

Sadly, after the threat of death was removed, Hezekiah became proud of his accomplishments, and enjoyed showing off his treasures (Isaiah 39:2, 4). When some ambassadors came for a visit because they had heard he was ill, he showed them every precious thing he possessed, but didn’t mention one word of the God who had miraculously and graciously healed him. 

There’s a valuable lesson in this for us to keep in mind today: Affliction can be a good thing IF it drives us to God’s presence. 

And there’s a corollary to this lesson: Blessing can be a bad thing IF it drives us from God’s presence. 

Hezekiah would have done well to remember the words of one of his predecessors. King Solomon prayed, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9). 

Whether things are going well or not—whether we are suffering affection or enjoying blessing—we must be diligent to remain constantly dependent on God! 

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But And And

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Proverbs 10 begins with these words, “The proverbs of Solomon…” (Proverbs 10:1). 

Over the next six chapters (184 verses) Solomon generously employs the contrasting conjunction “but” 144 times—that’s nearly 80 percent of these verses! He clearly tells us the blessings of trusting God’s wisdom contrasted with the pitfalls of trusting our own wits. 

I am also intrigued by the 21 verses where Solomon uses the amplifying conjunction “and.” These proverbs give us either the double advantage of leaning into God’s wisdom, or the double whammy of trying to do it our own way. 

I’ll let you read through these six chapters and notice the contrasting conjunction “but” for yourself, but in this blog post I want to especially direct your attention to some of the “and” statements. I’ve listed these in three categories.

(1) The double whammies—

  • malicious people cause grief to others AND ruin to themselves (10:10) 
  • trusting mortals is short-lived AND self-defeating (11:7) 
  • a quick-tempered person does foolish things AND is hated (14:17)

(2) The double blessings—

  • a generous person prospers AND is refreshed (11:25) 
  • a righteous life is a blessed life now AND an eternal life forever (12:28) 
  • fearing God brings security for you AND gives your children a sure refuge (14:26) 

(3) And these mixed proverbs using both a whammy and a blessing—

  • a righteous person is rescued from trouble AND it falls on the wicked instead (11:8) 
  • a prudent person is praised AND the one with a warped mind is despised (12:8) 
  • evildoers are trapped in their own evil AND innocent people escape evil (12:13) 

There is so much wisdom to be gleaned not only in these words of Solomon, but throughout the entire Bible. Take your time and soak it in as you read the Scripture for yourself. 

Here are some of the other posts I’ve shared that may help you in your Bible study time: 

I’ve also posted reviews on these study Bibles: 

However you do it, and whatever tools you may use, get into your Bible every single day, and then let the Word of God get into you too. I can promise you this: Your time in God’s Word will absolutely change your life! 

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Trainable

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

Blessed are the people of whom this is true… (Psalm 144:15). 

This is how David closes the 144th Psalm, but a good question for us to ask is, “Of whom what is true?” David explains that blessed people are those who are experiencing safety from their enemies, healthy, prosperous children, abundant harvests, and freedom.

Well, you might ask, how are these blessings to be obtained? David opened this psalm by thanking God this way: “Praise be to the Lord my rock, Who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” In other words: Thank You, God, for giving me victory! 

This raises yet another question for me: Did David win all of these blessings of victory, or did God? The answer is quite simply, “Yes!” 

David recognized that God trains, but he had to be trainable. So too for us today, we have to be trainable to learn to discern God’s voice. Sometimes God says, “Attack,” and sometimes He says, “Stand still and watch My deliverance,” but in all cases, God is the ultimate Source of our victory and the blessings that flow from that victory. 

The blessings of God our Trainer flow to the people who have made themselves trainable.Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” This blessing caused David to sing out in worship, as it still should for us today, “I will sing a new song to You, O God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to You, to the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers His servant David from the deadly sword. 

If you want to experience more of God’s blessings, you need to regularly ask the Holy Spirit, “Am I trainable today?” As this psalm makes abundantly clear: Those who are trainable are also bless-able! 

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Abiding In God’s Omnipresence

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

Why do Christians say things like, “Let’s go to church” or “Let’s go meet with God”? 

Do we forget that Jesus said He would never leave us, or that He sent the Holy Spirit to be our constant Companion, or that our very heart is the temple of God’s presence (Matthew 28:20; John 14:16; 1 Corinthians 3:16)? We are naturally self-focused creatures. It takes discipline on our part to keep reminding and re-reminding ourselves that God is always with us. 

Psalm 84 and its two Selahs is one way of re-reminding ourselves of God’s abiding presence. The Selahs are reminders to pause and consider, “Where am I?” and to know that the answer can always be, “Surely I am in God’s presence!” 

This psalm is divided into three 4-verse stanzas. Stanzas 1 and 2 end with the call to Selah, and all three stanzas feature a powerful name for God: LORD Almighty. When we see LORD in all capital letters, that is God’s covenant name: Yahweh or Jehovah, which means that He is the “I AM that I AM.” Almighty signifies that He is the invincible, un-defeatable Captain of angel armies. 

In these two combined titles, we have the personal intimate God of love and the unstoppable God of limitless power! If He were just the God of love, we may not be able to trust His power. If He were just the God of power, we may not be able to approach Him. He is the All-Loving, Ever-Approachable Power. 

Another important recurring theme in Psalm 84 is the word blessed. It’s used three times in this psalm, more than in any other single psalm. This word means God’s unmerited favor, and the word either begins or ends each of the three stanzas.  

In stanza 1 (vv. 1-4), twice we have that combined title of LORD Almighty. But we must always remember that our God is not distant and unapproachable, but the sons of Korah call Him “my King” and “my God.” At the end of this first stanza, we are invited to Selah—a pause to praise our glorious King! 

Stanza 2 (vv. 5-8) begins with that reminder that we are blessed. The psalmists tell us that God’s blessings flow even in my Valley of Baca (or weeping). With God’s presence surrounding me, I can go fromstrength to strength” because the LORD Almighty hears my prayer and responds to my prayer! So at the end of this stanza, we are again invited to Selah—this time it’s a pause to pray to our listening God. 

In stanza 3 (vv. 9-12), another important word is featured that reminds us that our God is not a stingy King, but One who delights in His children and wants to lavishes them with His blessings: the word is favor. We read, “look with favor on Your anointed one” and “the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” God’s favorable blessings flow toward us as eternally as He exists! 

This psalm is circular: it begins as it ends, so it invites us to continue to praise, continue to pray, and continue to abide in His presence. We’re called not just to know about God’s presence, but to rejoice in His presence. 

It’s one thing to know about God’s omnipresence, but it’s an entirely different thing to abide in God’s omnipresence! 

This isn’t something that happens overnight. Brother Lawrence reminds us that this is a progressive revelation for Christians: “One does not become holy all at once. … The more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love of God were great we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures.” 

I encourage you to Selah frequently so that you can move from mere head knowledge of God’s presence to becoming intimately aware of His closeness! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms, you may find the full list by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Showers Of 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.

Showers Of 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) 

     ‘I will send them showers.’ It does not say, ‘I will send them drops,’ but ‘I will send them showers.’ Remember the saying, ‘It seldom rains but it pours.’ So it is with grace. If God gives a blessing, He usually gives it in such a measure that there is not room enough to receive it. …  

     Ah, we want plenteous grace, my friends. Plenteous grace to keep us humble, plenteous grace to make us prayerful, plenteous grace to make us holy, plenteous grace to make us zealous, plenteous grace to make us truthful, plenteous grace to preserve us through this life and at last to land us in heaven. We cannot do without showers of grace. …  

     But how is it that it does not fall to some of the people? It is because they put up the umbrella of their prejudice. And though they sit here, even as God’s people sit, even when it rains they have such a prejudice against God’s Word that they do not want to hear it. They do not want to love it and it runs off their prejudices.

From The Church Of Christ

God wants to bless you! Sadly, there are far too many people who put up their umbrellas of excuses like, “I’m nothing special,” or “Do you realize how many times I’ve blown it,” or “God has more important matters to attend to than little ol’ me.” 

These are lies that keep saints of God in a dry place. God’s grace is pursuing you. In one of the most well-received and most downloaded series of messages I shared on God’s favor, I said this about God showering His blessings on you: “Why would God do this? Because if you feel distant from Him, how can you glorify Him? If you feel disconnected from His love, how will you draw others to Him? If you feel like your relationship with Him is hanging by a thread, how can you happily abide in His presence?” 

God gave the promise of these abundant showers of blessings through Ezekiel of the Old Testament, and then Jesus made it a reality. The apostle Paul tells us, “Since God did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32). 

My friend, please put away those umbrellas of excuses—of satanic lies—and bask in the refreshing showers of God’s grace. It’s time to talk back to those excuses and tell them, “These are lies. God Himself says that He will bless His children and I am most assuredly His child!” 

If you would like to explore this topic more, please check out the series of popular messages I mentioned earlier by clicking here.

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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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