King And Commoner

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus… (Ezra 1:1). 

Ezra begins as 2 Chronicles ends: with the proclamation of Cyrus allowing the Israelites to return to Jerusalem. 

The Babylonians defeated the Assyrians, who were then defeated by the Medes, who were themselves defeated by the Persians under Cyrus II. This was a powerful man who claimed “all the kingdoms of the earth” as his possession. (v. 2). 

Yet this conquering king who was called Cyrus the Great had his heart directed by God. 

Among the Israelite exiles that returned to Jerusalem were princes, priests, Levites, servants, and common people of every stripe. These exiles were rulers of nothing. 

Yet these people also had their hearts moved by God (v. 5)—42,360 of them, to be precise. 

The same God who moved the heart of the most powerful king on earth also moved the hearts of common people. God had a plan to fulfill and He knew exactly which hearts to move at the precise time to bring about His purpose. God is sovereignly in control. All of history—including all the people in history—is His story. 

The king is not too powerful and the common citizen is not too small to be used by God. 

Let me make that statement more personal: All of the “great” people on earth today are not too powerful to be used by God, nor are you too small to be used by Him. 

Will you say “yes” when He moves your heart to action?

It’s Not About Me

After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done… (2 Chronicles 32:1). 

After three very long chapters outlining Hezekiah’s faithfulness to obey God and restore worship in the temple, how would you expect this sentence to be completed: 

“After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done… 

  • …God gave Hezekiah abundant blessings”? 
  • …Hezekiah never had any problems”?
  • …all of Hezekiah’s enemies were afraid of him”? 

Actually, the full sentence says, “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.” 

What?! That doesn’t seem fair! 

Shouldn’t it be something like, “If I do these good things then God will do good things for me”? Or even, “If bad guys do bad things then God will do bad things to them”? 

But this wasn’t about Hezekiah. It wasn’t even about Sennacherib. It was about God’s glory. 

Jonah had delivered God’s message of judgment on Nineveh and the people had repented. But then they had begun to backslide from that. God was mercifully giving them another chance to repent. Sennacherib felt he was invincible and didn’t need to turn to Yahweh. So God had to demonstrate “with [Sennacherib] is only the arm of flesh” (vv. 8, 10-19). 

God’s judgment fell, Sennacherib was assassinated, Judah was delivered, and God was glorified (vv. 21-23). 

It is shortsighted of me to say, “But God, I did everything faithfully so this bad thing shouldn’t be happening to me.” 

It’s not about me! It never has been. It’s all about God’s glory. 

Yes, Hezekiah reaped the benefit of Sennacherib’s defeat, but it wasn’t because God was “paying Hezekiah back” for the good he had done. God was still being glorified when “many brought offerings to Jerusalem for the Lord and valuable gifts for Hezekiah king of Judah. From then on he was highly regarded by all the nations.”

Sennacherib was defeated and Hezekiah was saved for the same reason: God was glorified in doing so! 

Whenever you walk through a dark time, you too might be tempted to say, “God, this isn’t fair!” But remember, it’s not about you—it’s about God being glorified. Perhaps God gains greater glory and you gain greater rewards by Him delivering you through an enemy’s attack, not delivering you from the attack. Whatever God is doing, He is doing it for His glory. 

Sola Deo gloria!

Poetry Saturday—Why Fret Thee

Why fret thee, soul,
For things beyond thy small control?
Do but thy part and thou shalt see 
Heaven will have charge of these and thee.
Sow thou the seed and wait in peace
The Lord’s increase. —Kate Putnam Osgood

7 Quotes From “Faith Of Our Founding Fathers”

Parents, please download a FREE copy of this book to help educate your children on the biblical faith that informed the decisions of our Founding Fathers (link in the book review). You can read my complete book review of Faith Of Our Founding Fathers by clicking here. 

“The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God, and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it, and to regulate your life by its precepts.” —John Jay 

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” —Benjamin Franklin 

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and Soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion. To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian.” —George Washington 

“In this situation of this assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understandings? … I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth, That God governs in the Affairs of Men! And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without His Notice, is it probable than an Empire can rise without His Aid?—We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring Aid we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel…. I therefore beg leave to move, That henceforth Prayers, imploring the Assistance of Heaven, and its Blessing on our Deliberations, be held in this Assembly every Morning before we proceed to Business.” —Benjamin Franklin 

“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep for ever….” —Thomas Jefferson 

“The diminution of public virtue is usually attended with that of public happiness, and the public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals.” —Samuel Adams 

“Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.” —Samuel Adams

The Source Of A Leader’s Moral Authority

Samuel said to all Israel… (1 Samuel 12:1-25). 

A mark of a godly leader is one who leads with God’s moral authority. 

Samuel had always been a public person: accessible and visible to all. Now he calls all Israel together to challenge them to point out where he may have taken a bribe or used his position to his own advantage. All Israel was silent on this—no one could speak a word against him (v. 4). This gave him the moral authority to speak a hard word to the people. 

Samuel reminds Israel that God is sovereign:

  • God appoints leaders
  • God overrules evil plans
  • God fulfills all His purposes

Samuel had to “confront [them] with evidence” (v. 7) that they had not acted like those things were true about God. A prophet frequently has to say, “Here is God’s standard, and here is where you are falling short of His standard.” But a shepherd’s voice quickly adds, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right” (v. 23). 

This prophet-shepherd is attested to by God Himself. God will sometimes thunder His thunder (vv. 17-18), but God will always make sure that none of His servant’s words fall to the ground (3:19). This moral authority is gained by both fearing God and delighting in Him.

Fear of God brings the prophet’s voice forward. Delighting in God brings the shepherd’s voice forward. God’s effective leader needs both voices to lead with moral authority.

This is part 47 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Poetry Saturday—Sacred Bond

‘Twixt Jesus and the chosen race, 
Subsists a bond of sovereign grace. 
That hell, with its infernal train. 
Shall ne’er dissolve, or rend in twain. 

This sacred bond shall never break, 
Though earth should to her centre shake ; 
Rest, doubting saint, assured of this, 
For God has pledged His holiness. 

He swore but once, the deed was done; 
‘Twas settled by the great Three One; 
Christ was appointed to r’deem 
All that the Father loved in Him. 

Hail sacred union, firm and strong! 
How great the grace, how sweet the song! 
That worms of earth should ever be 
One with incarnate Deity! 

One in the tomb, one when He rose, 
One when He triumph’d o’er His foes. 
One when in heaven He took His seat. 
While seraph’s sung all hell’s defeat. 

This sacred tie forbids their fears, 
For all He is, or has, is theirs; 
With Him their head, they stand or fall, 
Their life, their surety, and their all. —Anonymous

10 Quotes From “Coronavirus And Christ”

John Piper has given us a book that is so spot-on timely for this unusual time we are going through. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“I am a sinner. I have never lived a day of my life—not one—without falling short of God’s standards of love and holiness. So how can this be? How can God say, ‘You, John Piper, will be with Me—live or die’ [1 Thessalonians 5:9-10]? God didn’t even wait for the question before He answered. It’s because of Jesus.” 

“To be God is to cause His own counsel to stand—always. God does not just declare which future events will happen; He makes them happen. He speaks His word, and then He adds, ‘I am watching over My word to perform it’ (Jeremiah 1:12).” 

“Jesus expresses the sweetness of God’s sovereignty for His disciples as beautifully as anyone: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows’ (Matthew 10: 29–31). Not one sparrow falls but by God’s plan. Not one virus moves but by God’s plan. This is meticulous sovereignty. And what does Jesus say next? Three things: you are of more value than many sparrows; the hairs of your head are all numbered; fear not.” 

“Christians get swept away in tsunamis. Christians are killed in terrorist attacks. Christians get the coronavirus. The difference for Christians—those who embrace Christ as their supreme treasure—is that our experience of this corruption is not condemnation.” 

“God put the physical world under a curse so that the physical horrors we see around us in disease and calamities would become a vivid picture of how horrible sin is. In other words, physical evil is a parable, a drama, a signpost pointing to the moral outrage of rebellion against God.” 

Physical pain is God’s trumpet blast to tell us that something is dreadfully wrong in the world. Disease and deformity are God’s pictures in the physical realm of what sin is like in the spiritual realm.” 

“Jesus wants us to see the birth pains (including the coronavirus) as reminders and alerts that He is coming and that we need to be ready [Matthew 24:44].” 

“What God is doing in the coronavirus is showing us—graphically, painfully—that nothing in this world gives the security and satisfaction that we find in the infinite greatness and worth of Jesus.” 

“Paul does not view this experience of desperation as satanic or random [2 Corinthians 1:8-9]. It is purposeful. And God is the One whose purpose is mentioned: this life-threatening experience ‘was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.’” 

“Jesus taught His followers to ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16). What is often not noticed is that being the salt of the earth and the light of the world in this way was the more salty and the more bright because the good deeds were to be done even in the midst of suffering. …

“It is nor mere good deeds that give Christianity its tang and luster. It is good deeds in spite of danger.”

Poetry Saturday—One God

One God! one Majesty! 
There is no God but Thee! 
Unbounded, unextended Unity! 

Awful in unity,
O God! we worship Thee,
More simply one, because supremely Three!

Dread, unbeginning One! 
Single, yet not alone, 
Creation hath not set Thee on a higher throne. 

Unfathomable Sea!
All life is out of Thee,
And Thy life is Thy blissful Unity.

All things that from Thee run, 
All works that Thou hast done, 
Thou didst in honor of Thy being One. 

And by Thy being One, 
Ever by that alone, 
Couldst Thou do, and doest, what Thou hast done. 

We from Thy oneness come, 
Beyond it cannot roam, 
And in Thy oneness find our one eternal home. 

Blest be Thy Unity! 
All joys are one to me— 
The joy that there can be no other God than Thee! —Frederick Faber

The Knowledge Of The Holy (book review)

One definition of a Christian mystic is someone who engages in deep, prayerful pondering of the nature of God, as He is revealed in the Scriptures, and then emerges from those intimate encounters to share with us what he or she has learned. I would put A.W. Tozer in this category, especially in his book The Knowledge Of The Holy—The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life. 

Tozer himself described the Christian mystic more fully than I could in his book The Christian Book Of Mystical Verse. In that book, Tozer shared some poetic verses from some of his favorite mystical thinkers. He noted, “The hymns and poems found here are mystical in that they are God-oriented; they begin with God, embrace the worshipping soul, and return to God again.” 

In The Knowledge Of The Holy, Tozer takes us on his own personal journey into the immeasurable depths of God’s greatness. Whereas many theologians tend to focus on one attribute of God at a time, Tozer has a God-given ability to help us see all of God’s attributes operating in their infinite fullness. 

Even as Tozer plunges deep into the attributes of God’s self-existence, self-sufficiency, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, love, mercy, justice, grace, and sovereignty, he reminds us, “Because God is immutable He always acts like Himself, and because He is a unity He never suspends one of His attributes in order to exercise another.” 

This is not a book you can ready lightly or casually, or even quickly. This is a book that invites you to read slowly and reverently each of the short chapters, and then to meditate long on the immenseness of an All-Powerful, All-Loving God who wants to reveal Himself to you. 

The Knowledge Of The Holy is a soul-expanding book!

Poetry Saturday—Of Hidden Uses

All things being are essential to the vast ubiquity of God;
Neither is there one thing overmuch, nor freed from honorable servitude.
Were there not a need be of wisdom, nothing would be as it is;
For essence without necessity argueth a moral weakness.
We look through a glass darkly, we catch but glimpses of truth;
But, doubtless, the sailing of a cloud hath Providence to its pilot,
Doubtless, the root of an oak is gnarled for a special purpose,
The foreknown station of a rush is as fixed as the station of a king,
And chaff from the hand of a winnower, steered as the stars in their courses.
Man liveth only in himself, but the Lord liveth in all things;
And His pervading unity quickeneth the whole creation.
Man doeth one thing at once, nor can he think two thoughts together;
But God compasseth all things, mantling the globe like air;
And we render homage to His wisdom, seeing use in all His creatures,
For, perchance, the universe would die, were not all things as they are. —Martin Fraquhar Tupper
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