Poetry Saturday—For Fear Of Feeble Man

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Shall I, for fear of feeble man,
The Spirit’s course in me restrain?
Or, undismayed, in deed and word
Be a true witness for my Lord?

Awed by a mortal’s frown, shall I
Conceal the Word of God Most High?
How then before Thee shall I dare
To stand, or how Thine anger bear?

Shall I, to soothe the unholy throng,
Soften Thy truths, and smooth my tongue,
To gain earth’s gilded toys, or flee
The Cross, endured, my God, by Thee?

What then is he whose scorn I dread,
Whose wrath or hate makes me afraid?
A man! an heir of death! a slave
To sin! a bubble on the wave!

Yea, let men rage, since Thou wilt spread
Thy shadowing wings around my head;
Since in all pain Thy tender love
Will still my sure refreshment prove.

Savior of men, Thy searching eye
Doth all my inmost thoughts descry;
Doth aught on earth my wishes raise,
Or the world’s pleasures, or its praise?

The love of Christ doth me constrain
To seek the wandering souls of men;
With cries, entreaties, tears, to save,
To snatch them from the gaping grave.

For this let men revile my name.
No cross I shun, I fear no shame,
All hail, reproach, and welcome, pain!
Only Thy terrors, Lord, restrain.

My life, my blood, I here present,
If for Thy truth they may be spent,
Fulfill Thy sovereign counsel, Lord!
Thy will be done, Thy Name adored!

Give me Thy strength, O God of power;
Then let winds blow, or thunders roar,
Thy faithful witness will I be:
’Tis fixed; I can do all through Thee! —Johann Joseph Winckler (translated by John Wesley)

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Mouth Of The Lord Has Spoken

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The Mouth Of The Lord Has Spoken

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     However this sacred Book may be treated nowadays, it was not treated contemptuously, nor negligently, nor questioningly by the Lord Jesus Christ, our Master and Lord. It is noteworthy how He reverenced the written Word. The Spirit of God rested upon Him personally, without measure, and He could speak out of His own mind the revelation of God, and yet He continually quoted the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms…. I am sure, brethren, we cannot be wrong in imitating the example of our divine Lord in our reverence for that Scripture, which cannot be broken. … 

     The New Testament writers sit reverently down before the Old Testament and receive God’s words as such without any question whatever. You and I belong to a school that will continue to do the same, let others adopt what behavior they please. As for us and for our house, this priceless Book will remain the standard of our faith and the ground of our hope so long as we live.

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

As I have discussed before, the 39 books of the Old Testament were called “Scripture” by Jesus and those living in that same era. The New Testament writers saw Jesus as the fulfillment of those Old Testament Scripture, and what they wrote for us then became Scripture also (Luke 4:18-21; 24:27, 44-45; John 2:22, 17:12; Acts 1:16, 8:35; Galatians 3:8, 16, 22; James 2:8, 23, 4:5-6; 1 Peter 2:6; 2 Peter 3:16). 

When we read the Bible, we are reading words from the mouth of God Himself! 

This Book is the measure of truth, the guide for our lives, and the blessed assurance we need as we anticipate the second advent of Jesus. We need to be much in this Sacred Book!

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Poetry Saturday—I Have Made Thy Word My Choice

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Lord, I have made Thy Word my choice,
My lasting heritage;
There shall my noblest pow’rs rejoice,
My warmest thoughts engage.

I’ll read the histories of Thy love,
And keep Thy laws in sight;
While through Thy promises I rove,
With ever fresh delight.

’Tis a broad land of wealth unknown,
Where springs of life arise,
Seeds of immortal bliss are sown,
And hidden glory lies.

My faith and love and every grace
Fall far below Thy Word, 
For perfect truth and righteousness
Dwell only with the Lord. —Isaac Watts

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The Proper Value Of Words

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I once knew a businessman who was one of the most silver-tongued talkers I have ever met! He could persuade just about anyone to join him in one of his “can’t miss” business ventures. 

And even after they did miss (which was all of them that I was aware of) he could still convince many of his backers to continue. I never knew him to fulfill what he had promised. 

Eventually, this caught up with him. And so did the law, and he ended up serving a prison term. 

It has always been intriguing to me how much value we put on the words of leaders. It seems as if they can “talk a good game,” we feel a need to exalt them to a higher level. It’s not the one who gets things done, or the one who has the best ideas, or the one who can bring increased efficiency or effectiveness, but the one who can talk the most convincingly. 

I think about in my own profession as a pastor. Churches will select a pastor based on how he sounds from the platform. And yet the sermon is only a tiny fraction of a pastor’s work each week. 

The danger comes when the leader thinks that his highest value to the organization is the words he speaks. Inevitably, then, he will put more effort into what he says than into what he does. He will spend a lot of time figuring out the right words to say, and how to move people’s hearts. 

The apostle Paul told the Christians at Corinth, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:4). And he told the Christians at Thessalonica, “For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:2), not Paul’s own authority. 

I don’t want people to be impressed with me. I don’t want my authority to come from my vocabulary. I simply want to be known for speaking the Word of God, and then living a life that matches the Word of God. 

As King Solomon said, “A truly wise person uses few words” (Proverbs 17:27). The wisest words are not mine but God’s. Then “your faith [is] not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). 

Words do have their place. But let’s always make sure that that place isn’t in place of God’s Word. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Logical Conclusions

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Logical Conclusions 

     Every doctrine of the Word of God has its practical bearing. … Hence you will find the apostle Paul very full of ‘therefores.’ … I marvel that our excellent translators should have divided the argument from the conclusion by making a new chapter where there is least reason for it. 

From The Watchword For Today: “Stand Fast”

 

The Bible is the most practical, applicable, and timeless Book I know! In order for this Book to be of both immediate and eternal help to us, it has to be a book that is logical. The Bible is a logical book, but far too many readers miss the logic unfolding right before their eyes. 

In this particular sermon, Charles Spurgeon takes his text from Paul’s letter to the Philippians, so let me use that epistle as an example. There are three logic signposts that I would ask you to look for: therefore, so that, and if…then. 

Let’s start with “therefore.” I have trained myself—and I endeavor to train the folks in my church—to ask this question every time they come to the word “therefore” in the Bible: What’s that there for? Therefore always signals a logical conclusion to a set of premises that are constructing the argument. As Spurgeon mentioned, sometimes the verse and chapter breaks can obscure this, so we must always go back from the “therefore” to see what the argument was. 

I find the word “therefore” used three times in this letter in the New International Version: 

  • Therefore God exalted Him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name (2:9). What’s it there for? Because Jesus was obedient, therefore God exalted His name. 
  • Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (2:12). What’s it there for? Because Jesus has conquered death and purchased our salvation, therefore this is how Christians should now live. 
  • Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! (4:1). What’s it there for? Because our citizenship is in Heaven, we must stand firm in that hope. 

A second logical statement to watch for when you’re reading is “so that.” This logical phrase, much like “therefore,” is telling us what comes next in light of what came before. I see this phrase multiple times in Philippians (1:10, 13, 20, 26; 2:15, 19, 28; 3:21). 

Finally, watch for those “if…then” statements. These also follow the logical argument of, “If you do this, then this will happen” or “If you ignore or disobey this, then you can expect this to follow.” I see this quite clearly in Philippians 2:1-2 and 4:8-9. 

Don’t rush through your Bible reading time. Slow down and watch for these very logical and practical arguments—the Bible is absolutely full of them! By reading your Bible this way, you will be getting your doctrine directly from the Holy Spirit, which is the best way to know the heart of God. 

If you’re interested in digging deeper into this, I’ve shared some other Bible studies you can try:

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Three Keys To Effective Prayer

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Three Keys To Effective Prayer 

     Why is this extraordinary power of prayer given to those who abide in Christ? May what I have to say encourage you to make the glorious attempt to win this pearl of great price! Why is it, that by abiding in Christ and having His words abide in us, we get to this liberty and prevalence in prayer? … 

     I answer, first, because of the fullness of Christ. … I see clearly enough why the branch gets all it wants while it abides in the stem, since all it wants is already in the stem and is placed there for the sake of the branch. What does the branch want more than the stem can give it? If it did want more, it could not get it. For it has no other means of living but by sucking its life out of the stem. O my precious Lord, if I want anything that is not in You, I desire always to be without it. I desire to be denied a wish that wanders outside of You. But if the supply of my desire is already in You for me, why should I go elsewhere? You are my all, where else should I look? … 

     The next reason for this is the richness of the Word of God. … The best praying man is the man who is most believingly familiar with the promises of God. After all, prayer is nothing but taking God’s promises to Him and saying to Him, ‘Do as You have said.’ … If the Word of God abides in you, you are the man who can pray because you meet the great God with His own words…. 

     A man will succeed in prayer when his faith is strong. And this is the case with those who abide in Jesus. It is faith that prevails in prayer. The real eloquence of prayer is a believing desire. ‘All things are possible to him who believes’ (Mark 9:23). A man abiding in Christ, with Christ’s words abiding in him, is eminently a believer and consequently eminently successful in prayer.

 From The Secret Of Power In Prayer

God Himself has told us, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). Not “I might answer you,” but “I will answer you.” 

God also tells us how to receive what we ask in prayer:

  1. Abide in Jesus. Desire nothing else but to know His heart more intimately. 
  2. Know God’s Word. The Bible isn’t just a Book to be read through, but it’s a Book to be prayed through. 
  3. Stretch your faith. A desperate father said to Jesus, “If You can, please help us.” Jesus admonished that father—and all of us too—to believe that Jesus is able to accomplish what we ask of Him. And then comes this great exclamation from that same desperate father: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” The God that wants us to have faith in Him for answered prayers is the same God Who imparts that faith to us. How? By abiding in Jesus and taking God at His Word. 

Don’t give up, my friend. Keep praying. There is no other way to learn to pray more effectively than to keep on abiding in Jesus, keep on claiming the biblical promises, and keep on stretching your faith to present your prayer request to Him again.

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Bible Translations

There are so many quality translations of the Bible to help us read God’s Word profitably, but many people ask me about the origin of each of these translations. I have shared three views of biblical translations below—two serious and one comical way of looking at them.

They only caution I would point out is a translation or paraphrase that is from a single person’s point of view. The Bible itself talks about success that comes from the combined wisdom of counselors, so a single-person paraphrase does open itself up more to the author’s whims than to true scholarship.

I shared a series of posts about my favorite book, and I have also shared some Bible studies that you may want to try with your favorite translation, or perhaps a new one that you are exploring.

Stop Listening To You

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

Isaiah 49 has an interesting phrase that appears twice: “But I said…” (vv. 4, 14). 

Notice that first word: But. That conjunction means that “I” am saying something in contradiction to what someone else has said. Sadly, in this case the Someone Else that is speaking in this chapter is God Himself! 

The phrase “this is what the LORD says” is used three times in this same chapter (vv. 8, 22, 25). Look at what God is saying to you and me:

  • I made you 
  • I called you 
  • you are My servant 
  • I reward you 
  • you have My favor 
  • you have My comfort 
  • I never forget you
  • I will never disappoint you 

A consistent strategy of the devil is try to get us second-guessing or doubting God’s promises. He did this to Eve—“Did God really say that?”—and he tried it with Jesus—“Are You really the Son of God?”—and he’s still trying it today. 

Jesus said the devil’s native tongue is lying. He lies and he slanders you. He wants you to simply listen to those lies without questioning them. 

Someone once asked Smith Wigglesworth, “Smith, how do you feel?” He replied, “I never ask Smith how I feel. I tell him how he feels!” 

That’s good counsel for us today! 

Don’t listen to yourself, especially when you’re tired or lonely or anxious or scared, but talk to yourself. Remind yourself what God says to you and what He says about you. Remind those negative thoughts that God never lies, that He is all-loving, that He is all-powerful, and that He has a unique plan and purpose your life. 

Whenever you feel like saying, “But I said,” change those thoughts around to, “But this is what God says!” 

I’ve shared a couple of other posts that expand on this idea which you may want to read here and here. 

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Faith To Stand

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“…If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah 7:9). 

These words were spoken to King Ahaz and his people when they heard that enemies had allied themselves to attack. Their immediate response was, “And his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind” (v. 2). These are the people to whom God says, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” 

In Hebrew this phrase is really just the same Hebrew word repeated twice: aman aman. It amounts to this: if you don’t stand, you won’t stand. 

Stand on what? Your faith. 

Faith in what? Isaiah tells us, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says” (v. 7). Jehovah Adonai is the final word. He calls the two conspiring enemies “smoldering stubs of firewood,” and He states definitively of their plans, “It will not take place, it will not happen” (vv. 4, 7). Fittingly, several English translations of this verse say, “Their plans will not stand.” 

When God speaks his final and decisive word, my faith-filled response should be exactly what He commanded the Israelites: “Be careful, keep calm, and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart” (v. 4). 

I must deliberately and repeatedly silence the saber rattling of the enemy by standing in faith on God’s decisive word. My faith comes from hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17). 

This is why I am a huge proponent of not only reading God’s word, but turning His decisive word into prayer. Reminding myself—and repeatedly re-reminding myself—of what Jehovah Adonai has said is the only way to stand firm in faith. If I don’t stand firm in faith on His word, I will not be able to stand at all. 

I recently shared some faith-filled decisive promises from God’s word in another post. If I can help you find a word of God on which you can stand in faith, please reach out to me. 

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People Of The Word

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Haggai appears on the historical scene for just five months, but what a bright light he shines! He is the first of three post-exilic prophets to encourage the Israelites who have returned to Jerusalem.

Before we talk about Haggai’s ministry, we need a brief grammar lesson. Specifically, let’s look at two prefixes: un- and non-. Both of them ultimately mean “not,” but there is a distinction that we need to consider when it comes to the Bible: 

    • unbiblical would mean something contrary to the teaching of the Bible 
    • non-biblical is something that may or may not be correct, but it’s not specifically mentioned in the Bible 

Let me give you an example from my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. Chris asked me whether I preferred the title senior pastor or lead pastor. This is a non-biblical issue; that is, it doesn’t really matter to me because neither of those titles are found in the Bible. Technically, the word pastor isn’t in the Bible either. The word that is usually translated “pastor” is really a herdsman or a shepherd. 

The problem is that if we put too much focus on non-biblical things, those things can end up becoming unbiblical pursuits. Like when Jesus took the Pharisees to task for their focus on traditions over Scripture (see Matthew 15:1-6). I wrote Shepherd Leadership mainly to get pastors and church leaders to spot non-biblical metrics which may have sneakily turned into unbiblical pursuits, so that they could return to pure biblical principles. In the Preface of my book, I wrote—

“My larger concern is that churches, parachurch organizations, and nonprofit ministries that are largely founded to fulfill a biblical mandate are straying from the simple, freeing truths found in the Bible. Or maybe I should say that they are adding things to their ministries that aren’t in the pages of Scripture. Whichever way you want to say it, the result is the same: We are using the wrong metrics to define ‘success’ for our ministries. I fear that in our focus on unbiblical practices, we are missing the joy of really doing ministry.”

Haggai calls God’s people to return to God’s Word. This is the second-shortest book in the Old Testament (at just 38 verses long), yet Haggai says something like “this is what God says” 28 times in these 38 verses! 

Haggai also records five times that God says, “Give careful thought to your ways.” This phrase literally means to take a strong hold on each thought and examine it intensely. This idea is always connected to a phrase like, “This is what the Lord Almighty says” (1:5, 7; 2:14-15, 17-18). In other words, we are to thoughtfully examine our lifestyle with God’s Word being THE standard of measurement. 

Paul made a similar connection in the New Testament: We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). 

Jesus did this too. When speaking to the religious leaders, He said, “You are wrong because you know neither the Scriptures nor God’s power” (Matthew 22:29). And even with His own disciples, He had to open their minds to see how the Scriptures pointed to Him and were fulfilled in Him (Luke 24:25-27, 44-45). 

Indeed, the phrase “it is written” is used 75 times in the New Testament! 

That’s why Haggai’s words still ring true to us today: “Give careful thought” to how you live in light of how God says you should be living. Christians need to…

  1. Hear the Word of God every day 
  2. Consider their lives in light of the Word of God
  3. Obey what the Word of God is saying to us 

(check out Acts 17:11; Psalm 139:23-24; 1 Samuel 15:22) 

We must become people of the Word of God or else we run the very real risk of letting our non-biblical decisions spiral downward into a sinful, unbiblical lifestyle that grieves the heart of God. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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