Poetry Saturday—Praise To The Redeemer

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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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Complaining To God

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One of the things I love about the minor prophets is the reminder of the historicity of the Bible. Habakkuk, and the other prophets, lived in an actual moment of history. Check out some of the key dates during the ministry of Habakkuk: 

  • 605 BC—Nebuchadnezzar invades Judah and carries off Daniel and his friends 
  • 597 BC—the Babylonians attack Judah again and take 10,000 exiles back to Babylon, including the prophet Ezekiel 
  • 586 BC—Judah is besieged and defeated, and all remaining residents are exiled to Babylon 

Jeremiah, a contemporary of Habakkuk, preached to faithless Israelites, imploring them to return to God, while Habakkuk attempted to encourage faithful Israelites to continue to trust Jehovah. 

Habakkuk recognized that he was delivering a heavy word. When he opens this book by saying this is “the oracle” that he received from God, that word is better translated “burden.” Part of this burden may have been due to the fact that Habakkuk had something on his heart that we often have: a complaint. 

Can we complain to God? 

Habakkuk complained to God—twice!—and God doesn’t reprimand him, so there must be a right way to vent about our frustrations and confusions. Here’s what we can learn from Habakkuk’s two complaints: 

  1. Instead of making accusations, ask questions. Habakkuk asks God eight questions in his two complaints. I think this is an attitude issue. Complaints are saying, “God I disagree with what You’re doing,” while questions seem to be more like, “God, I don’t understand what You’re doing.” 
  2. Desire God’s glory to be seen. At the conclusion of both of Habakkuk’s complaints he uses the word “therefore” (1:4, 16). His conclusion is something along the lines of, “God, if You let this continue, it appears that Your glory is being obscured by the activities of wicked people.” 
  3. After your complaint, close your mouth and open your eyes and ears. After Habakkuk’s first complaint, God tells him to “look” at all He is going to do. And after the second complaint, God tells him to “write down the revelation” God gives him and then “wait for it” to be fulfilled” (2:2, 3). 

Then Habakkuk does something that isn’t seen anywhere else in the Bible outside of the book of Psalms: he calls for us to Selah pause three times! 

Habakkuk shows us that our best response to what God reveals to us should be worship: 

  • Selah (3:3)—pause to consider what God has done 
  • Selah (3:9)—pause to stand in awe of His very present glory 
  • Selah (3:13)—pause in anticipation of His righteous justice and awesome glory that will be revealed 

Key phrases from Habakkuk are quoted in the New Testament, and at least three of them are directly tied to these Selah pauses:

  • The earth WILL be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” (2:14), is echoed in the way all of humanity will see the glory of the risen Jesus.  
  • The righteous WILL live by his faith” (2:4), is quoted as a Christian’s ongoing interaction with the indwelling Holy Spirit. 
  • I WILL rejoice in the Lord my God … I WILL be joyful in God my Savior” (3:17-18) figures prominently in Mary’s song after she realizes that she is pregnant with the soon-to-be-born Savior. 

(Check out all of the above biblical references: Habakkuk 2:14, 2:4, 3:17-18; Revelation 1:5-8; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:37-39; Luke 1:46-47, 54-55) 

Can you air your complaints to God? Yes, but do it the right way. Then silently listen, patiently wait, and then eagerly tell others about the coming judgment that they can avoid by having their sins forgiven through faith in Jesus our Savior. Only then can we also echo the “I will” statements of Habakkuk that are echoed in the New Testament—I will live by faith, I will look forward to the glory of God being fully revealed, I will continue to rejoice in God my Savior every day, and I will tell others how they, too, can live this way themselves! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the major lessons we find in the minor prophets, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

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Poetry Saturday—In The Crucible

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Out from the mine and the darkness,
Out from the damp and the mold,
Out from the fiery furnace,
Cometh each grain of gold.
Crushed into atoms and leveled
Down to the humblest dust
With never a heart to pity,
With never a hand to trust.
Molten and hammered and beaten
Seemeth it ne’er to be done.
Oh, for such fiery trial,
What hath the poor gold done?
Oh, ‘twere a mercy to leave it
Down in the damp and the mold.
If this is the glory of living,
Then better to be dross than gold.
Under the press and the roller,
Into the jaws of the mint,
Stamped with the emblem of freedom,
With never a flaw or a dint.
Oh, what a joy, the refining,
Out of the damp and the mold.
And stamped with the glorious image,
Oh beautiful coin of gold! —Anonymous

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Useful To The Master

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.

Useful To The Master  

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

     On the vessels of honor, you can see the hallmark. What is the hallmark that denotes the purity of the Lord’s golden vessels? Well, He has only one stamp for everything. When He laid the foundation, what was the seal He put upon it? ‘The Lord knows those who are His, and, everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’ (2 Timothy 2:19). That was God’s seal! That was the impress of the great King upon the foundation stone. Do we find it here? Yes, we do. ‘Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work’ (2 Timothy 2:21). Do you see, then, that the man who is the golden or silver vessel departs from all iniquity, and that is the token of his genuine character. …  

     Brethren, I count it an honor to be useful to the meanest child of God, but I confess that the honor lies mainly in the fact that I am thereby serving the Master Himself. Oh, to be used by God! This is to answer the end of our being. If you can feel that God has used you, then you may rejoice indeed! 

     There are some Christians whom the Lord cannot much use because, first of all, they are not cleansed from selfishness. They have an eye to their own honor or aggrandizement. The Lord will not be in complicity with selfish aims! Some men are self-confident—there is too much of the ‘I’ about them, and our Master will not use them. He will have our weakness but not our strength!

From The Great House And The Vessels In It

The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of many members. The Bible uses pictures of a body, a building, and a bride to describe how all of the parts work together to bring strength and vitality to the whole. But Jesus is always the central object: He is the Head of the body, the Chief Cornerstone of the building, the beloved Bridegroom to the bride. 

Everyone in the Church is placed there by God Himself to fulfill a vital role. It is incumbent upon every single Christian to yield themselves to the sanctifying, maturing work of the Holy Spirit so that we can all be “made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” 

Don’t let either the extremes of selfishness of self-abasement limit the good work you were created to do in making the body of Christ, the building of Christ, and the bride of Christ something radiantly God-glorifying!

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Godly Leaders Do God’s Justice

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How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? (Psalm 82:2)

It’s been said that those who attain a position of authority or leadership will make it their sole focus to retain that position of leadership, even to the point of judging unjustly or showing partiality to the wicked. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I wrote, “When God uses the word ‘Woe!’ we should definitely take that seriously. He uses that very word to warn shepherd leaders who were shirking their responsibility when He said, ‘Woe to those shepherds who only take care of themselves’ (Ezekiel 34:2).” 

God is the Ultimate Judge, yet while we are here on earth He chooses to allow men and women to be leaders and judges. We can do this in a God-honoring way only when we lead and judge like God. 

In this psalm, God Himself calls out the ungodly practices that self-serving leaders employ to keep themselves popular and in their positions of leadership: 

  • partiality = wickedness 
  • biases = wickedness 
  • apathy = wickedness 
  • injustice = wickedness 
  • ignoring = wickedness 
  • seeking earthly applause = wickedness 
  • taking advantage of others = wickedness 

Instead, God calls on leaders to lead according to the principles He both exhibits Himself and lists for us in the Bible. Things like…

  • defending the poor 
  • serving as a father to the fatherless
  • dispensing justice to the disempowered 
  • speaking up for the voiceless
  • standing up to the wicked 
  • and doing all of these things in a way that God is glorified 

I must always remember why I am in any position of leadership: God chose me for that position and placed me there to do His justice in the world. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who is doing God’s justice in God’s way.

This is part 57 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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You Are A Unique Masterpiece

The Bible uses two phrases that we don’t typically use today: “the horn of the wicked” and “the horn of the righteous.” 

A horn in Hebrew literature is a symbol of strength. The wicked blow their own horn—trumpeting how they are self-made people. Obviously, this God-ignoring arrogance isn’t something God can bless! 

What about “the horn of the righteous”? Is there a way to blow our horn so that God is glorified? In a word: Yes!

Check out this short 2-minute video to hear how I describe the right and wrong ways to honor your uniqueness by blowing a righteous, God-honoring horn…

Always remember this—You are God’s grace gift to the world, so you must always strive to blow a God-honoring horn! 

If you would like to check out some of the other thoughts I shared about our horns, please click here. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Sent To Show Jesus To The World

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.

Sent To Show Jesus To The World

And the glory that You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are One: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (Jesus, in John 17:22-23)

     The essence and cause of the glory that the Father gave the Son was, first of all, that He endowed Him with the Holy Spirit. ‘God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand’ (John 3:34-35). The Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord in His baptism and abode upon Him so that in the power of the indwelling Spirit He lived, spoke, acted, and in all that He did, the Spirit of God was manifest. …  

     Now this glory, our Lord has given to all His disciples. Upon each true disciple, the Spirit of God rests according to his measure. If we have not the anointing to the fullest, it is either from lack of capacity or by reason of our own sin, for the Spirit of God is given to the saints—He dwells with us and will be in us always. My brothers and sisters, I would to God we realized this, that the glory of the Holy Spirit that was given to Christ is also given to us, so that it is ours to think, to feel, to speak, to act under His guiding influence and supernatural power! What are we apart from the Holy Spirit? How can we hope to convince even one man, much less the world, that God has sent His Son unless the Holy Spirit is with us? …  

     If men would see God, let them look at Jesus, for there is He to be seen! And with bated breath we add—let them look at Christ’s people, for there also is God revealed! It is the glory of the saints that they are the mirror of the divine character! … 

     Christ Jesus was sent to reveal the Father, sent to reclaim the wandering souls of men, sent to seek and to save the lost. And this is exactly what every true Christian is sent into the world to do. He is commissioned to reveal God in his every act and word. He is commissioned to win back rebellious hearts. He is commissioned to save the sons of men and bring them up out of the horrible pit into which their sins have cast them. …

     Jesus was the Son of God, and He overcame the world in the power of His Sonship. Now, this glory that the Father gave Him, He has given us, that we, too, may be accepted; that we, too, may have access; that we, too, may have prevalence in prayer; that we, too, may have the Spirit of Adoption; and that we, too, may trample upon sin and overcome the hosts of darkness. This is the glory that rests upon all the faithful!

From The Glory, Unity, And Triumph Of The Church

Jesus commissioned His followers to go into all the world as His witnesses, but He never intended for us to go in our own strength. As Spurgeon asked, “How can we hope to convince even one man, much less the world, that God has sent His Son unless the Holy Spirit is with us?” 

That’s why I always stress that Christians not be content with merely having received the salvation that comes with the forgiveness of their sins, but that they press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. It’s this empowerment that will allow us to be effective witnesses for Jesus.

Zeal For God

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For zeal for Your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult You fall on me (Psalm 69:9). 

David said this about 1000 years before Jesus lived it out. 

David was uncomfortable with the spiritual status quo that had seemed to descend on him and the people around him. He desperately wanted to stoke the passion of his heart to burn hot for God again. So he prayed, he fasted, he abased himself, he cried out to God. Zeal for God consumed David! 

Jesus wanted all people everywhere to come into His Father’s presence. So when Jesus saw His Father’s house overrun by merchants, effectively keeping people away from the closeness that David and others longed for, He went into action. Zeal for God consumed Jesus! 

In both of them we see a passion for God that moved them to action, but action that also aroused the anger of those who preferred the passivity of “religious activity” to the realness of God’s presence. Both David and Jesus became the targets of insults, scorn, and mockery. 

Just as Jesus would announce 1000 years later, David expressed the same motivation that prompted his zealous action: God’s glory—

  • may those who hope in You not be disgraced because of me
  • may those who seek You not be put to shame because of me
  • may Your salvation protect me 

Zeal for a real closeness to God’s presence is rare.

Zeal for that intimacy upsets hypocrites. 

Zeal for God empowers others who aren’t satisfied with merely playing at religion. 

Zeal for God glorifies God. 

And most importantly: Zeal for God pleases God! 

When you see play actors and religionists blocking hungry seekers from coming closer to God, I pray that your zeal, too, burns white hot. Be prepared to be the target of scorn, but know that God’s smile on your zeal for Him far outweighs their insults. 

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The Reason We Can Live Securely

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The wicked plot…but the Lord laughs… (Psalm 37:12).

The wicked may hatch all sorts of evil plots that appear to benefit themselves, but God always gets the final word and the last laugh!  

This 37th Psalm is filled with the contrasts of the temporary advantages of evil versus the eternal rewards of righteousness. Wicked people may flourish for a moment in time, but righteous people have both an inheritance that lasts forever and God’s help every single day too! In other words, the righteous get to securely live in a win-win relationship. 

With this in mind, David instructs the righteous how to live out their days: 

  1. not fretting over evil people
  2. trusting God to supply their needs 
  3. doing good for others
  4. delighting in God
  5. remaining steadfastly committed to God
  6. patiently
  7. refraining from anger 
  8. full of hope
  9. generously
  10. securely in God’s peace 

Righteous people can live securely every single day because they know that not only does God holds them securely today, but He will continue to hold them securely for all of eternity. Secure people are empowered to live a joy-filled, others-centered, God-glorifying life. 

If you know Jesus as your Savior, you can say “Amen!” to this secure way of living. 

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Soul-Calming Peace

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…the Lord blesses His people with peace (Psalm 29:11). 

Please forgive me for the use of so many exclamation points in this post, but it’s the only way I can even begin to come close to portraying the awesomeness of our God!  

What brings peace to God’s people? David says it is the glimpse of God’s awesome power—

  • the God of glory thunders! 
  • His voice is powerful! 
  • His voice is majestic! 
  • His voice splits cedar trees! 
  • lightning and thunder cannot compare to His voice! 
  • His voice shakes the deserts! 
  • His voice twists oak trees and strips forests! 
  • He is enthroned as the King over all forever and ever!

Count all of the ways God is awesome! Give Him praise that is equally great! Tremble at His weighty, majestic holiness! Be filled with the awe of His strength! And let this bring you peace.

Why? 

Because this awesome, glorious, omnipotent, majestic, powerful, unrivaled, holy God wants to be in a relationship with you! He cares about you! He will unleash His power against any enemy that comes against you! What brings peace to your trembling soul? A glimpse of this awesome God! 

The awesome strength of your God IS your soul-calming peace! 

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