Poetry Saturday—Exhortation To Prayer

William CowperWhat various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy-seat!
Yet who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there?

Prayer makes the darken’d cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw,
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight,
Prayer makes the Christian’s armor bright;
And satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.

While Moses stood with arms spread wide,
Success was found on Israel’s side;
But when through weariness they fail’d,
That moment Amalek prevail’d.

Have you no words? Ah! think again,
Words flow apace when you complain,
And fill your fellow-creature’s ear
With the sad tale of all your care.

Were half the breath thus vainly spent
To Heaven in supplication sent,
Your cheerful song would oftener be,
“Hear what the Lord has done for me.” —William Cowper

 

How Is Your Heart Hearing?

Therefore take heed how you hear… (Luke 8:18).

Therefore—when I see this word, I need to ask, “What came before?” Jesus has just shared the parable of the sower and given its fuller explanation to His disciples. Now Jesus is speaking privately to His disciples and telling them, “Be very attentive to how you are hearing My words.”  

Why would Jesus tell them that? He says that the way we pay attention to His words can either bring more blessing to our lives, or cause us to miss out on His blessings: “For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken away from him” (v. 18). 

In other words, every single one of us has the capacity to have hearts like all four types of soil Jesus talked about in His parable: hard, rocky, thorny, productive. 

I must be attentive to how I’m listening to Christ’s words…

  • …with a prepared (plowed) heart 
  • …not preoccupied with worldly things
  • …ready to obey what He says
  • …ready to share the blessings of what I hear with others

Lord, my heart is ready. Speak to me. I am ready to hear, ready to obey, and ready to share. Give me more insight into what You are saying to me.

Blessings And Woes

… blessed are you … woe to you … (Luke 6:20-27). 

Blessings and woes: the positives and negatives of the Christian life. Jesus listed these back-to-back to remind us that we need to keep both of them in mind, sort of like two rails that keep us on track. 

It’s interesting to note how many of these blessings and woes are opposites of each other. It comes down to this—

there are blessings for seeking the Kingdom of God, AND there are woes for seeking our own immediate pleasure.

Notice the contrasts Jesus lists:

  • You are blessed when you seek heavenly rewards; you experience woe when your focus is earthly treasure (vv. 20, 24). 
  • You are blessed when you are driven by a hunger for God; you experience woe when your god becomes your selfish appetites (vv. 21, 25). 
  • You are blessed when you acknowledge your sin, weep over it, and repent from it; you experience woe when sin is laughed at (vv. 21, 25). 
  • You are blessed when you are hated by the world for loving God; you experience woe when you are loved by the world for loving sinful pleasures (vv. 22, 26). 

I think C.S. Lewis captured these thoughts well when he wrote in Mere Christianity, “Give yourself up and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. … Look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” 

Blessings for seeking Jesus and His kingdom; woes for seeking only your own kingdom. 

So how do we live blessed? Here’s what Jesus taught us (vv. 27-49)—

Love your enemies
Always do good, even (especially!) to your haters
Bless those who curse you 
Don’t fight for your rights
Be an impartial, liberal giver
Treat others the way you want to be treated 
Love and give to others without expecting a return
Be merciful
Don’t be judgmental
Give, give, and give some more
Look in the mirror at yourself first before looking out the window at others
Serve others
Check what sort of fruit your life is bearing
Build everything in your life on God’s Word

Avoid the woes AND enjoy the blessings of God! 

Blessing Follows Obedience

Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did (Genesis 6:22). 

Noah did ALL that God commanded him to do. Noah was asked to…

  • … remain pure in a depraved, everything-goes generation 
  • … build an ark in a place nowhere close to water, when it had never rained on the earth, let alone flooded 
  • … gather animals from all over the world 
  • … secure food for himself, his family, and all of the animals he had collected
  • … convince his family this ark was needed to escape the world-wide flood God was sending, and 
  • … keep convincing his family to hang in there with him for the next 100 years! 

And Noah did all of this: Everything that God told him to do. 

“No matter how unusual, or unconventional, or even unheard of, if God commands I must fully obey. I must do according to all that God says.” —Craig T. Owens 

In doing so, God saw that Noah was “righteous before Me in this generation” (7:1). This allowed God to pronounce a blessing on Noah and his family (9:1). 

God’s blessing always follows our obedience. 

God doesn’t say, “I have blessed you, now obey Me.” But He says, “If you obey Me I will bless you.” 

Holy Spirit, help me to obey all that You are instructing me to do. May my obedience be as pleasing to my Heavenly Father as Noah’s obedience was. May God be glorified by my full and quick obedience, and may others be drawn to Christ as they see the blessings that follow obedience. No matter how unusual, or unconventional, or even unheard of, may I be quick to obey. In Jesus name I pray. Amen!

Saturday In The Proverbs—What A Waste! (Proverbs 29)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy (Proverbs 29:1).

God gives us SO MANY opportunities to experience His blessings, but when we continually flout His laws, we squander what we could have enjoyed. 

We waste things like…

  • …personal growth (vv. 1, 19)
  • …nurturing relationships (vv. 2, 5, 8-11, 24, 27)
  • …wealth (v. 3)
  • …leadership opportunities (vv. 4, 12, 14, 18, 26)
  • …escape from heartache (vv. 6, 15, 17, 20, 21)
  • …relieving others’ suffering (v. 7)
  • …revelation / insight (vv. 13, 19)
  • …growing in righteousness (v. 16)
  • …lasting peace (vv. 22, 23, 25)

Don’t waste what God wants to give you! 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 24

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

Jeremiah 24

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 24.] 

     The estimate a Christian must hold of his own value is what he is worth to God. You cannot judge whether you are right with God by His blessings because “He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” [Matthew 5:45]. God is not meant to bless us; the vital question is—What am I worth to God? In times of affliction am I giving way to self-pity? am I badgering the throne of God for Him to bless me, or am I saying, “Though He slay me, yet will I wait for Him” [Job 13:15]? … 

     The question, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” is the call for Jeremiah to state clearly to himself what it is he sees. ‘Two baskets of figs set before the temple of the Lord’—these symbolize the people as they appear before God. They have been trying to bring wrong things to the altar, and now God is saying He will destroy the evil and wrong out of the nation.

     “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). This verse refers to an abiding law, individually and nationally: we cannot consecrate to God anything that is sinful. We cannot present our bodies “a living sacrifice” to God unless we have been cleansed from sin; He won’t have them. The call in this verse is not for sanctification, but for the service of the sanctified. We could never begin to be of worth to God in service until we have been through what is represented in the atoning sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why the majority of us are of no worth to God. We are of no value to God until we enter into the experience of instantaneous, continuous sanctification, then our “spiritual act of worship” is the offering of ourselves “as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God,” and we no more bother about ourselves.

From Notes On Jeremiah

This is, without a doubt, a challenging word from Oswald Chambers that deserves some time for us to thoughtfully consider it. 

Can God use me? Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to continually and instantaneously stamp the image of Jesus more clearly in my life? Or am I saying, “I’m good like this. I don’t need to go any further”? 

God wants to use us for His glory. Are we allowing ourselves to be in a place where we can be used “as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God”? 

Saturday In The Proverbs—Knowing True & False Riches (Proverbs 22)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

…riches… (Proverbs 22:1, 4, 16).

There are earthly riches and there are heavenly riches. There are temporary gains and there is eternal wealth. This Proverb helps direct us to true riches that last forever. 

Good character and a good reputation are better than money (v. 1)

God alone decides what is truly valuable (v. 2)

Prudence helps you avoid bankruptcy (v. 3)

Humbly fearing God is the path to eternal wealth (v. 4)

A perverse pursuit of wealth is a hard and painful path (v. 5)

Better godly children than gobs of money (vv. 6, 15)

Debt enslaves (v. 7)

Cutting corners to make a buck will come back to bite you (v. 8)

Generosity leads to more blessings (v. 9)

Don’t pay attention to those who scoff at God’s ways (vv. 10, 24, 25)

A grace-filled, pure lifestyle will get you noticed and rewarded (v. 11)

God rewards those who do things His way (vv. 12, 17-21)

A good work ethic brings rewards (vv. 13, 29)

Immoral pursuits end in a deep pit (v. 14)

Don’t treat people differently because of their ‘net worth’ (vv. 16, 22, 23; see also James 2:2-4)

Be careful to whom you make financial  commitments (vv. 26, 27)

Don’t encroach on others’ space (v. 28) 

%d bloggers like this: