Poetry Saturday—Why Art Thou Weary?

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Sad heart, why art thou weary
With anxious strivings drear?
Thou hast no cause for sadness,
No cause for restless fear.
Thou longest for thy Master,
Then cease and be at rest;
For shall not He who made thee
Know what for thee is best? —Oswald Chambers

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Poetry Saturday—Affliction IV

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Broken in pieces all asunder,
                      Lord, hunt me not,
                     A thing forgot,
Once a poore creature, now a wonder,
               A wonder tortur’d in the space
               Betwixt this world and that of grace.

My thoughts are all a case of knives,
                     Wounding my heart
                     With scatter’d smart,
As watring pots give flowers their lives.
               Nothing their furie can controll,
               While they do wound and prick my soul.

All my attendants are at strife,
                     Quitting their place
                     Unto my face:
Nothing performs the task of life:
               The elements are let loose to fight,
               And while I live, trie out their right.

Oh help, my God! let not their plot
                     Kill them and me,
                     And also Thee,
Who art my life: dissolve the knot,
               As the sunne scatters by his light
               All the rebellions of the night.

Then shall those powers, which work for grief,
                     Enter Thy pay,
                     And day by day
Labour Thy praise, and my relief;
               With care and courage building me,
                Till I reach heav’n, and much more, Thee. —George Herbert (**spelling is 1663 English**)

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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 Sin Of Man, The Salvation Of Jesus

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“Jesus is risen indeed!” This is the glorious good news that Christians around the world celebrate. 

But good news is really only good news when you fully realize how bad the bad news was. Like when the doctor comes in to tell you, “You’re going to be fine,” and you breathe a sigh of relief. And then the doctor goes on to explain what your condition was and all of the heroic efforts that were undertaken on your behalf, and you realize how close to death you actually were that your sigh of relief turns into a shout of joy! 

The resurrection of Jesus is the good news that brings us eternal life. But instead of merely breathing a sigh of relief thinking, “I shall not perish but have everlasting life,” let’s take a look at how close we were to everlasting death. 

Our fourth foundational belief says: “Man was created good and upright…. However, man by voluntary transgression fell and thereby incurred not only physical death but also spiritual death, which is separation from God.” 

Adam and Eve were given a choice: they were able not to sin and they were able to sin. God gave them dominion over everything in His creation but themselves, and He made them to be personally and intimately connected with Himself. But satan tempted them to take dominion over themselves, saying that they would become like God.

They sinned. “And sure enough, they then had knowledge of good and evil, but it was from the standpoint of becoming evil and remembering how good they once were,” said Nancy Guthrie. Because they sinned, now all of us are unable not to sin. Why? Because no one has been able to demonstrate to us how to be able not to sin. 

Their sin had consequences for them that have extended to us:

  • they felt shame at their vulnerability before God
  • they were fearful to be in God’s presence 
  • they were separated from God  
  • and they doomed all of us to live an utterly meaningless existence forever! 

But Adam and Eve’s sin didn’t send God scrambling for a remedy. Our fifth foundational truth says: “Man’s only hope of redemption is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” 

Jesus turned the absolutely worst news into the most eternally, overwhelmingly good news ever! 

Jesus was made the cure for sin from before the foundation of the world. God made Jesus to be our sin (not just to carry our sins). In order for this to happen, Jesus had to become human like us. That means that Jesus, like Adam and Eve, had the same choice to sin or to not sin but He did not sin. This allowed Him to be our perfect sacrifice on the Cross. 

When He died on the Cross, Jesus removed the uncrossable abyss between us and God. Jesus made it possible once again for us to be able not to sin. Not only that, but Jesus covers the shame that would linger even after our sin is forgiven by clothing us in His own righteousness! 

(check out all of the biblical references for the above points by clicking here)

Sin had us doomed to not only a meaningless existence on earth, but also to an utterly meaningless existence for the eternity following death. Jesus became our sin to allow us to be reunited with God and reclothed in Christ’s righteousness. This is not just good news, it’s eternally, overwhelmingly good news! 

If you’ve missed the discussion of any of our other foundational truths, you may access the full list by clicking here.

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The Mercyseat

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Hear my cry for mercy … He has heard my cry for mercy (Psalm 28:2, 6).

For David, his cry for mercy was never a one-and-done action. The verb in verse 2 makes this verse read more like, “Hear my cry for mercy as I am continually calling to You for help, as I am continually lifting up my hands toward Your Most Holy Place.” 

Why the Most Holy Place? What was there? Inside the Most Holy Place was the ark of the covenant of the Lord which represented the presence of God. 

What was on top of the ark of the covenant, covering and superseding the Law that was inside the ark? It was the mercyseat (or the “atonement cover” in some translations). The mercyseat is where the high priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrificial lamb every year to make atonement for sins.

Jesus became the once-for-all sacrificial Lamb to make ultimate atonement for all who would believe in Him. When Jesus had finished His work on the Cross, the curtain separating us from the Most Holy Place was torn in two. The ark of the covenant of the Lord with its covering mercyseat—the presence of God—was now accessible to all of us! It was accessible because it was in Jesus, and when I have taken Jesus as my atonement, He is in me and He takes me in to the Father. The mercyseat of my heart has been sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb (see Hebrews 9:1-5, 11-14; 10:19-22). 

Whether David was saying, “Hear my cry,” or “He has heard my cry,” the Hebrew word means to listen with interest and full attention. Whenever you pray, God listens to you with interest and full attention because you are praying right in His presence! Your very breath can be a continual crying, a continual lifting of your voice toward the mercyseat where God meets with you! 

God is not far away from us. He is closer than we usually think. That’s why David says, “My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him”! 

Keep this in mind the next time you are asking God to hear your cry: He listens to you with full attention because Jesus has taken you right into His presence.

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“These Things”

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…whoever does these things will never be shaken (Psalm 15:5). 

David says “these things” are what allow us to come into God’s presence, but we cannot consistently nor completely do “these things” without the help that can only come from being in God’s presence. So I have to already be doing “these things” in order to get into His presence in order to get empowered to do “these things”?! 

That seems like a classic, no-win, Catch-22! 

So… how do I get into God’s presence in the first place?

Simple: I can’t. 

Only Jesus can. 

Thankfully, He made it possible for me to come in: He became the Door! 

Only by Jesus can I come in. Only in Jesus can I be empowered. Only with Jesus can I consistently do “these things.” 

What are “these things” that David listed that both allow me to come into God’s presence and then keep me in God’s presence? David said we must…

  1. …walk blamelessly before God. Or as Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). I am blameless in God’s sight only when I am in Jesus.  
  2. …speak truthfully: from the heart, no slander on my tongue, no unkind words in my mouth, no gossip on my lips. 
  3. …live courageously: honoring what is good and opposing what is evil. 
  4. …keep my oaths: making my yes mean yes, not making any excuses, helping others to do the same. 

“These things” both glorify God and keep me in God’s presence. And “these things” attract others to His presence too. But I don’t try to do “these things” in my own strength—that would make me God—nor just as a religious To-Do List—that would make me a Pharisee. But I take a cue from the apostle Paul—

But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out His special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace (1 Corinthians 15:10). 

It is grace—a free gift of God—that enables me to do “these things” not in my own strength, but in His strength! 

I don’t try harder to do “these things” that keep me secure in God’s presence, but I trust more profoundly in His grace that continually empowers me to successfully do “these things” every single day.

Two Joys

…joy… (Nehemiah 8) 

Although the word in English is “joy,” there are two different Hebrew words used here. Think of them this way—one is the root and the other is the flower. 

In verse 10, the Hebrew word chedvah is only used twice in all of the Old Testament (it’s also used in 1 Chronicles 16:27). This word describes the source of joy—or the root—which is found exclusively in God’s presence. 

In verses 12 and 17 the word for “joy” is simchah. This word essentially becomes the outward expression—or the flower—because it is nourished by the chedvah root. 

Here’s how it plays out in the book of Nehemiah. Because the people had heard and been given understanding of God’s Word, they joyfully celebrated. And because God helped them complete the wall around Jerusalem and reestablish worship at the temple, they also happily celebrated. God was the chedvah root of their joy, and their outward celebration was the simchah flower. 

God alone is the Root—the Source—of chedvah. My simchah celebration both glorifies Him as the Source and points others to Him. My simchah flower will make others desirous for the chedvah root that has brought about this outward joyful expression from me. 

To be a joyless Christian is a contradiction of terms. To not express simchah means either I am not abiding deeply in the root of chedvah, or that I don’t believe it is worthwhile enough to share with others. But of course, if I have truly been to the Source, I will want others to enjoy this relationship with God as well.

Two questions for me to ask myself: (1) Is my heart abiding deeply in God as my Source of joy? And (2) Is my outward joy a making others desirous to know this Source of joy for themselves? 

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that to be a Christian and to be unhappy is a sin. A joyless, unhappy Christian gives God no praise, robs Him of glory, and paints God in a bad light. A happy Christian knows the Lord is his strength, his comfort, his supply. The joy-filled, happy Christian lifts God high and invites others to know this All-Good, All-Happy God too! 

Seeking God

…David sought the face of the Lord… (2 Samuel 21:1). 

בָּקַשׁ פָּנִים יְהֹוָה

The Hebrew phrase is baqash paniym YHWH: 

  • baqash is to ask for, beg, desire “specifically in worship or prayer.” It’s a “searching as done by touching.” 
  • paniym literally means the face, but it carries the idea of being in someone’s presence.
  • YHWH (Yahweh) is Jehovah God. 

David repeatedly asked, sought, and begged through both prayer and worship that he might be in God’s presence. “Almighty God, I want to be with You. I want to know your heart intimately. I want to see Your face. I’m not seeking help from any other source, but I am resolutely seeking You alone.” 

Perhaps Jesus had this in mind when He told us, “Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. You will get an answer, you will find what you’re seeking, the door to God’s presence will be opened to you. Your Father—YHWH, God Almighty—longs to reveal Himself to you.” 

Q: How long did David seek the face of the Lord? 

A: Until God spoke, until God delivered, until God opened the door. 

Q: How long am I willing to keep on seeking the face of the Lord? 

A: I hope I can say until God speaks, until God delivers, until God opens the door.

‘Tis I, Be Not Afraid

Tossed with rough winds, and faint with fear, 
Above the tempest, soft and clear, 
What still small accents greet mine ear?
“‘Tis I; be not afraid.”

“‘Tis I who led thy steps aright; 
‘Tis I who gave thy blind eyes sight; 
‘Tis I, thy Lord, thy Life, thy Light. 
‘Tis I; be not afraid.

“This bitter cup fear not to drink; 
I know it well—oh! do not shrink; 
I tasted it o’er Kedron’s brink. 
‘Tis I; be not afraid. 

“Mine eyes are watching by thy bed, 
Mine arms are underneath thy head, 
My blessing is around thee shed. 
‘Tis I; be not afraid.“

When on the other side thy feet 
Shall rest ‘mid thousands welcomes sweet, 
One well known voice thy heart shall greet. 
“‘Tis I; be not afraid.”

From out the dazzling majesty 
Gently He’ll lay His hands on thee, 
Whispering: “Beloved, lov’st thou Me? 
It was not in vain I died for thee,
‘Tis I; be not afraid.” —Anonymous

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Turn The Scriptures Into Your Cries

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.

Turn The Scriptures Into Your Cries

     My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ … This cry is taken from ‘the Book.’ Does it not show our Lord’s love of the sacred Volume, that when He felt His sharpest grief, He turned to the Scripture to find a fit utterance for it? Here we have the opening sentence of the twenty-second Psalm. Oh, that we may so love the inspired Word that we may not only sing to its score but even weep to its music! … 

     When you are delirious with pain, think of your Bible. When your mind wonders, let it roam toward the mercy seat. And when your heart and your flesh fail, still live by faith and still cry, ‘My God, my God.’ … 

     Grief has small regard for the laws of the grammarian. Even the holiest, when in extreme agony, though they cannot speak otherwise than according to purity and truth, yet use a language of their own that only the ear of sympathy can fully receive.

From My God, My God Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Grief is a time to get real. As Spurgeon said, “Grief has small regard for the laws of the grammarian.” Grief is not a time to carefully choose our words. 

Get real with God in your prayer closet. Tell Him everything that frustrates you. I promise you, God is not going to fall off His throne and say, “What?! I had no idea you felt that way!” He already knows what’s in your heart, but it will do you much good to get it out. Much like someone with food poisoning needs to vomit out the poison, God will not be offended when you vomit out your “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” in His presence. 

Many scholars believe that Jesus probably sang the entirety of the 22nd Psalm from the Cross. Whether He did or not, listen to the assurances that Jesus had from just this psalm alone, even in the midst of His heart-wrenching cry—

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but You do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One; You are the one Israel praises. In You our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were saved; in You they trusted and were not put to shame. … But You, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. … I will declare Your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise You. … From You comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear You I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise Him. (vv. 1-5, 19, 22, 25-26) 

Jesus turned to the Scriptures to find the words He cried out to His Father in His darkest moment, and He invites you to follow His example. Make the psalms your own—turn them into your own prayers. God is close to you when you cry out, “My God!” to Him.

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