People Of The Word

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

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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The Circle Of Love And Hate

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

Oh, how I love Your law! … Therefore I hate every wrong path (Psalm 119:97, 104). 

These bookend verses of the section called Mem form the conclusion of a logical argument, and in between are each step of the progression. Notice the word “for” (in vv. 98, 99, 100, and 102) and the words “so that” in v. 101. 

This progression forms a circle from love to hate, and back to love again. Check this out—

I love Your law so I meditate on it all day. 

Meditating on Your law makes me wiser than my enemies and my teachers. 

This wisdom helps me obey Your laws. 

Obedience keeps me on the right path. 

I stay on the right path because You Yourself teach me while I’m on that path. 

Because You are my Teacher, Your laws are sweet to me. 

Because Your laws are sweet, I hate anything contrary to Your laws. 

Hating everything that is not found in Your law helps me love Your law even more. 

[Back to the top] Since I love Your law, I keep on meditating on it all day. 

Far too often I believe Christians are known more for what they’re against than what they’re for. The author of Psalm 119 urges us over and over and over again to not only fall in love with God’s Word but to fall more deeply in love with the God revealed in His Word. When we are brimming full of love for God, we cannot help but show the world what we are for, and that is for everyone to have a personal relationship with this loving God for themselves. 

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Eternal

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

Psalm 119 is divided into twenty-two 8-verse segments, with each verse of the segments beginning with its own Hebrew letter. Lamedh is found in verses 89-96, and lamedh is the tallest of all the Hebrew letters, so that means it stands out. 

Lamedh shows us big proportions. Words like eternal, boundless, established, enduring, and forever are prominent in these eight verses. The psalmist is inviting us to climb up into God’s Word and get a bigger view, a higher vantage point of who God is. 

Consider the opening verse of this section: Your Word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Eternal—think of the implications! If what God says—His Word—is eternal, then…

  • it continues through all generations (v. 90) 
  • it endures even when everything else fades away (vv. 90-91) 
  • it has no limits or frontiers (v. 96) 

At every single moment in my life, my eternal, enduring, limitless God knows the outcome or consequence of each option I could choose. His Word can so transform my mind that I can always choose the most Christ-glorifying option. The Spirit of Truth—my eternal Counselor—can guide me with God’s Word. 

I never have to be at a loss. I am never stumped. I always have access to eternal Truth. 

The psalmist got this: If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction (v. 92). 

Through God’s firmly-established Word I have—

  • Eternal Counsel 
  • Enduring Help 
  • Limitless Strength

And you have all of this, too, through God’s Word! 

Psalm 119 is a great place to start to make Bible reading a daily habit. Scientists tell us that you only need 21 days to make a new habit, and in Psalm 119 you have 22 days of daily reading that will transform your heart and mind. 

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The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible (book review)

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

Full disclosure: I’m a bonafide Bible study geek! I’m always on the hunt for any study tool I can get my hands on that will help me dive deeper into God’s Word. Quite possibly the gold standard for biblical study aids is The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible. 

As a young person, I would hear pastors talking about their Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, so I always assumed this was merely a “preacher’s Bible,” and as a result, I never really looked into it. Now I’m kicking myself as I think about all of the rich study material I had missed out on previously. 

Check this out: the back portion of this Bible contains 800 pages of cross-referenced study materials! Dr. Frank Charles Thompson (after whom this study Bible is named) spent almost 20 years compiling the notes that went into this Bible’s first printing in 1908. Since then, the improvements have only made using this study tool a richer experience. Because of Dr. Thompson’s detailed work, following the “chain” of scriptural references for a biblical character or a biblical theme is literally at your fingertips. There are even “chains” you can follow within each book of the Bible. 

If you love studying the Bible as much as I do, this fascinating work is a must-have for your library. 

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I am a Biblegateway Blogger Grid book reviewer. If you would like to read more about how to use this Bible, please check out this link on the BibleGateway Blog.

Security Beyond Comprehension

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

Psalm 93 opens with these powerful words: The LORD reigns. 

Consider this: When we see the word LORD in all capital letters in our English translations of the Bible, we are reading God’s covenant name—Yahweh or Jehovah. This Limitless Power allows us to call Him by His personal name! 

How can our finite minds even begin to fathom this? Listen to the psalmist’s words—

The LORD reigns, He is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. Your throne was established long ago; You are from all eternity. The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea—the LORD on high is mighty. Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns Your house for endless days, O LORD. 

You can almost hear this psalmist struggling to help us comprehend the majesty of God. But how does a molecule comprehend the vastness of a planet? Creation sometimes roars and sometimes thunders, but even that only shows us a small glimpse of the Creator. 

Do you see how established, orderly, firm, and secure this universe is? Even it had a starting point. Its Creator, however, has existed for all of eternity! 

Have you ever been to the ocean and felt the pounding of the waves and heard the deafening roar of the breakers? That’s barely a toe-tapping of the might of Yahweh.

In the closing verse of this psalm, we read these words: “Your statutes stand firm.” Jehovah has given us a way to begin to comprehend Him. He has given us His statutes. This God who is unlimited in power has given us words we can live by. We can rely on them because they are backed by this limitless God! His promises stand firm forever. Nothing can shake God or His Word, so that means nothing can shake me when I stand on Him.

Standing on God’s Word means we are standing on Limitless Love and Limitless Strength.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Context Is King

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.

Context Is King

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)

     Some words serve many uses and have many meanings. We are very apt to make mistakes if we give the same sense in all places to the same word. The word world throughout Scripture is used with a very remarkable variety of meaning, and one had need to have his wits about him and to read carefully in order to know what is the precise source of the term in each place where it occurs. …  

     I say again, the word world, therefore, has many shades of meaning ranging from that jet black meaning in which the world lies in the wicked one—‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world’ (1 John 2:15)—upward to the milder sense in John 1:10, ‘He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.’ And yet higher to the bright meaning, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ’ (Revelation 11:15). It is not in the worst sense that our text speaks of the world, but in the same manner as we find it used in such passages as these: ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29). ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). And again in 1 John 2:2, ‘And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.’ 

     It is certain that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16), and we cannot suppose that the great Redeemer would refuse to pray for those whom He was given. I understand in this particular place by the word world the whole mass of mankind upon the face of the earth who are not as yet converted. … 

     For the sake of the world, He would have the church in a high state of holy beauty and strength. May His gracious prayer be answered in all of us by the working of the Holy Spirit! … Our wish is to bring multitudes to the Savior and to conquer province after province of this revolted world for King Jesus. ‘Let the whole earth be filled with His glory’ (Psalm 72:19) is a prayer that we cannot, we dare not, we would not fail to pray! 

From The Glory, Unity, And Triumph Of The Church

When we are studying our Bibles, we must remember that context is so vital. We have to read each inspired word in its proper context so that we know how to believe, think, live, and pray. I urge you to slow down in your Bible reading—aim for better and richer comprehension than to just try to read a lot in one sitting. Sometimes in my own personal Bible study time, I may spend several minutes just thinking about one phrase, and that may be the only part that I read on that particular morning. 

I would also counsel you to use some trustworthy Bible study tools. I have a list here of 8 must-have Bible study tools, and you can find some new ways to use these tools in this post about three types of Bible studies you may not have considered before. 

However you read your Bible, make sure you are reading each part in its proper context. Pray before you begin reading and ask the Holy Spirit—Who inspired the Scriptures—to illuminate them to your heart and mind. These thoughtful Bible studies will do more to grow your spiritual maturity than simply rushing through your reading time.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Basis Of Our Hope

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.

The Basis Of Our Hope

     If there is no resurrection, apostolic preaching fails. ‘If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty’ [1 Corinthians 15:12-22]. … If Christ was not raised, the apostles were false witnesses. When a man bears false witness, he usually has a motive for doing so. What motive had these men? What did they gain by bearing false witness to Christ’s resurrection? It was all loss and no profit to them if He had not risen. They declared in Jerusalem that He had risen from the dead, and straightway men began to haul them to prison and to put them to death! Those of them who survived bore the same testimony. They were so full of the conviction of it that they went into distant countries to tell the story of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead. … They were brought before Roman emperors again and again, and before the proconsuls, and threatened with the most painful of deaths, but not one of them ever withdrew his testimony concerning Christ’s resurrection! …  

     If Christ is not raised, your faith is in vain. If it is in vain, give it up! Do not hold on to a thing that is not true! I would sooner plunge into the water and swim or wade through the river than I would trust myself to a rotten bridge that would break down in the middle. If Christ did not rise, do not trust Him, for such faith is in vain! But if you believe that He did die for you and did rise again for you, then believe in Him, joyfully confident that such a fact as this affords a solid basis for your belief! …  

     If [Jesus] died for you and rose again for you, that is the groundwork of your confidence, and I pray you keep to it. … Go your way and sing, ‘The Lord is risen indeed,’ and be happy as all the birds in the air, till you are, by and by, as happy as the angels in heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From If There Is No Resurrection 

I shared a series of messages that said, “I know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of…” and each of the letters of ALIVE reminded us of a convincing proof of His resurrection. I would especially direct your attention to two of those letters. 

The “L” stands for lives changed. When someone has a complete about-face life change because of their interaction with Jesus, that is pretty strong proof that their encounter was with a living Savior. 

And the “E” stands for the engagement of Christ’s followers. It’s astounding to see how much of our world’s history has been positively impacted because of the influence of Christians. Their lives had become so radically different because of the life of Jesus in them that they could not help but change the culture around them. 

As I said last in the last Thursdays with Spurgeon installment, always remember that the one with a personal experience is never at the mercy of the one with an argument. If your life has been changed by personal and ongoing interactions with Jesus Christ, don’t keep that good news to yourself. Let that assurance you have be a bright and winsome witness to all who are around you.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Stop Arguing

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.

Stop Arguing

     Our religion is not based upon opinions, but upon facts. We hear persons sometimes saying, ‘Those are your views, and these are ours.’ Whatever your views may be is a small matter; what are the facts of the case? We must, after all, if we want a firm foundation, come down to matters of fact. … 

     Beloved friends, let us never tamper with the truth of God. I find it is as much as I can do to enjoy the comfort of the truth and to learn the spiritual lessons of God’s Word without setting up to be a critic upon it. And I find it immeasurably more profitable to my own soul to believingly adore than unbelievingly to invent objections, or even industriously to try to meet them. The meeting of objections is an endless work. When you have killed one regiment of them, there is another regiment coming on, and when you have put to the sword whole legions of doubts, doubters still swarm upon you like the frogs of Egypt! It is a poor business. It answers no practical end. It is far better to firmly believe what you profess to believe and to follow out to all the blessed consequences all of the truths of God that, in your own heart and soul, you have received of the Lord. 

From If There Is No Resurrection 

I have presented evidence numerous times that makes it reasonable to believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word (check out my posts here, here, here, and here). And yet there are still people who stubbornly want to argue that the Bible is made-up stories, or that there was no such person as Jesus, or that if there were a Jesus, He was just a good man but not God Himself who was raised from the dead. These arguments are nothing new. Paul had to address them just a few years after Jesus had ascended back to heaven, so what would make us think that we would escape those doubters? 

As Spurgeon says, there is so much more joy when we simply “believingly adore” the God who is revealed to us on the pages of Scripture than it is to address such flimsy arguments. So that is what I typically do. Trying to debate with someone who won’t even accept basic facts is typically an unprofitable use of my efforts because they usually aren’t open to listening to what I have to say. 

Instead, I simply remember this: The one with a personal experience of a life-changing encounter with a risen Savior is never at the mercy of the critic with only a handful of arguments! So you can simply say to that argumentative critic, “I know how different my life is because Jesus is in me and I am in Him.” 

Stop arguing with close-minded critics and start adoring the God who loves you!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—An Assured Eternity

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.

An Assured Eternity 

     The life of God in the soul is not transient but abiding. Not temporary but eternal. Some think that the life of God in the believer’s soul may die out. But how then could it be eternal? If it dies, it is not eternal life. If it is eternal life, it cannot die. … We are said to have been made ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4). Surely this means, among other things, that we receive an undying life. …  

     If our life is Christ’s life, we will not die until Christ dies. … 

     This is John’s desire for you: that you would believe with all your heart and soul and strength. He would have you believe more constantly, so that you may say, ‘My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise’ (Psalm 57:7). It is not always so with us. We are at times chicken-hearted. We play the man today and the mouse tomorrow. Lord, have mercy upon us. We are an inconsistent people, fickle as the wind. The Lord would have us abide always in Him with strong and mighty confidence, being rooted and built up in Him. He would have us trust courageously.

From The Blessing Of Full Assurance 

John the Beloved wrapped up his Gospel with this statement: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). The word John uses for “life” is the Greek word zoe. This is how zoe is defined—

Life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection to be consummated by new accessions…and to last for ever. (Strong’s Greek dictionary) 

Do you believe Jesus died and rose again? Based on that faith, have you asked the Father to forgive you of your sins? If so, then listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in your heart that is giving you full assurance of promises like these: 

  • Everyone who believes may have eternal life in [Jesus] (John 3:15) 
  • Whoever believes in [Jesus] shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16) 
  • Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent (John 17:3) 
  • Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life (John 3:36) 
  • Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14) 
  • Because I live, you also will live (John 14:9) 
  • Whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24) 
  • My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day (John 6:40) 
  • When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4) 
  • Resting in the hope of eternal life, life which the ever truthful God Who cannot deceive promised before the world or the ages of time began (Titus 1:2) 
  • I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13) 

[Check out all of these verses by clicking here.]

Friend, this is why it’s so important for us to regularly read the Bible. We need to have our faith bolstered by hearing these rock-solid, unchanging, eternal words of God so that we can live each day in full assurance of our salvation and eternal life.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Three Pieces Of Evidence

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.

Three Pieces Of Evidence

     Many who believe in the name of Jesus are not sure that they have eternal life. They only hope so. … I speak affectionately to the weaker ones who cannot yet say that they know they have believed. I speak not to your condemnation but your consolation. Full assurance is not essential to salvation, but it is essential to satisfaction. May you get it at once. At any rate may you never be satisfied to live without it. You may have full assurance. …  

     Do you love God? Do you love His only begotten Son? You can answer those two questions surely. … If I love Him, I know it is because He first loved me [1 John 4:19]. Love to God in us is always the work of God’s love toward us. … Love to Jesus is an effect that proves the existence of its cause. …

     John goes on to give another evidence: ‘By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments’ (1 John 5:2). … The Holy Spirit tells us that if we love the brethren, we have passed from death to life. You can tell whether you love the brethren, as such, for their Master’s sake and for the truth’s sake that is in them. And if you can truly say that you thus love them, then you may know that you have eternal life [1 John 3:14]. … 

     Our apostle gives us this further evidence: ‘This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome’ (1 John 5:3). Obedience is the grand test of love. … Do you feel that you love the ways of God, that you desire holiness and follow after it joyfully? Then, dear friends, you have eternal life and these are the sure evidences of it. Obedience, holiness, delight in God, never came into a human heart except from a Heavenly Hand. …

     To me the fact that the mouth of God has spoken it stands in the place of all argument, either for or against. If Jehovah says so, so it is. … If your faith stands in the wisdom of men and is based upon the cleverness of a preacher, it will fail you. But if it stands on the sure Word of the Lord, it will stand forever.

From The Blessing Of Full Assurance 

These pieces of evidence are why I stressed last week that you make reading the Bible a regular practice: God tells us that faith comes through hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). One of the favorite tactics of the devil is to try to get people to doubt or misapply God’s Word—he asked Adam and Eve, “Did God really say…” and then he quoted the Psalms out of context to Jesus to try to get Him to doubt (Genesis 3:1; Luke 4:10-11). 

So when doubts about your secure standing in God’s sight creep in, you can return to the Scripture to say, “I have these three pieces of evidence that make me confident of God’s favor: I love Him because He first loved me, I love others because His love is in me, and I delight to obey all that my Father has told me.” 

Don’t passively listen to your doubts and the devil’s lies, but actively talk back to them! Get into God’s Word and let God’s Word get into you so that you can speak the truth to every doubt.

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