Come To God And Keep Walking With Him

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

I have been so grateful for the insights of Dr. Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages. I have found this book to be of immense value in helping couple prepares for marriage, and in helping married couples get beyond a place where intimacy has become stuck. 

In short, the five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. The goal of learning the other person’s love language—and learning to speak it consistently and fluently—is an increased level of intimacy. In the book of Amos, God asks, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (Amos 3:3 NLT), and speaking the right love language definitely helps people agree! 

The whole reason we come to God in prayer as a Father, as a Brother, and as a Counselor is so that we can hear Him speaking our love language and we can continue to walk in deeper intimacy with Him. 

When my then-girlfriend Betsy and I first met, we spent hours and hours getting to know each other. We would ask questions, share stories, and tell things we did and didn’t enjoy. This is the epitome of intimate conversation: getting to know the other person’s heart as you open up your heart to them as well.

I’ve shared this analogy before, but intimacy grows stale and can eventually disappear altogether if those in a relationship are no longer walking together. It doesn’t work if I say, “Betsy, I’m looking forward to spending an hour with you each week,” or even if I say, “I’ll give you 15 minutes each morning.” Instead, our relationship needs to be one of continual walking. 

It’s the same thing for us as Christians: we cannot only give God an hour at a church service on Sunday mornings, nor is intimacy going to increase if I only walk and talk with my Savior for a few minutes in my morning devotions. 

Walking closely with Him is what God has desired right from the beginning. He walked with Adam and Eve each evening. This phrase “walking with God” is used consistently throughout the Bible of those who had an intimate relationship with their Father, Brother, and Counselor—Noah, Abraham, Isaac, the people of Israel (Genesis 3:8, 6:9, 17:1, 48:15; Leviticus 26:12). And even as the New Testament era dawns, we read, “And they [Zechariah and Elizabeth] were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6 NKJV). 

But I’m especially intrigued by the story of Enoch in Genesis 5:21-24. Twice in four short verses, we read “Enoch walked with God.” Remember that verse in Amos—“Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”—so Enoch and God had to be in agreement. In fact, that’s exactly what we read about Enoch in the Book of Hebrews: 

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:5-6)

If you’ve taken Dr. Chapman’s love language assessment, you probably found that you were pretty lopsided: maybe you scored very highly in one love language and then barely registered in another. We may be lopsided in our love language skill, but God speaks every language perfectly! 

  • Words of affirmation—Hosea 2:14; Isaiah 40:2 
  • Quality time—Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 23:3-4
  • Gifts—James 1:17; 2 Peter 1:3
  • Acts of service—Philippians 2:13; Romans 8:28
  • Physical touch—Psalm 139:13-15; Luke 24:39 

(Click here to check out all of those verses.) 

Dr. Chapman noted that when our love language is being spoken to us sincerely and consistently, our love tank is filled, and all of the love languages begin to become more meaningful. 

Just as God walked with Enoch until the day He brought him Home, so He wants to walk with us. 

  • Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper. (Deuteronomy 5:33) 
  • The Lord will establish you as His holy people, as He promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to Him. (Deuteronomy 28:9) 
  • May He turn our hearts to Him, to walk in obedience to Him and keep the commands. (1 Kings 8:58) 
  • Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him. (Psalm 128:1) 
  • And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love. (2 John 6) 

When we walk in loving intimacy with Him, our intimacy grows deeper and more mature. Sometimes they will say of couples who have been married for a long time and walk in increasingly deeper intimacy with each other, “They seem to know each other’s thoughts.” That’s because they know each other’s hearts—and that’s what God wants to do with us. He did it with Enoch, and He will do that with us too (Jude 14; Jeremiah 33:3; Habakkuk 3:19). 

Enoch walked intimately with God for 365 years. Let us walk intimately with God for 365 days a year, for as many years as He gives us until God takes us away with Him forever! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our prayer series called Intimate Conversation, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Come To God As A Brother

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

Being the firstborn, I didn’t have a big brother, but I took being the big brother to my little sister very seriously! Like when young men would come to pick her up for a date, I would meet them on the front porch and say, “I hope you have a really nice evening. Just so you know, I will be home all evening waiting by the phone. You’d better pray that my little sister doesn’t have to call me!” Hopefully, that let my sister know I was ready to protect her whenever she may need it. 

 Whenever we go into any situation for the first time, there is always a natural fear of the unknown. What’s going to happen? How do I behave? What do I say? How will others treat me? How will I know who to trust? Or even, how will I know what to pray for? 

Those unknowns cause fear, and fear prevents intimacy. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love” (1 John 4:18). Where there is love, fear has to leave. But when there is fear, love is pushed aside. 

We learned that we can come to God in prayer as a Father—we can bring Him all our fears and concerns and problems—but did you know that we can also come to God in prayer as coming to a Brother? 

Jesus loves the fact that we can come to our Abba Father just as He did, which is why He taught us to begin our prayers with, “Our Father in heaven.” 

How wonderful it is to have a “big brother” to show us the ropes, to walk with us, to give us his counsel! One that says, “I’ve already been to that high school … I know that employer … I have experience with that kind of relationship … I’ve solved that problem … I’ve tasted that pain.…” That’s exactly what Jesus does for us. He is our perfect Big Brother! 

Jesus knows everything we will experience in life. There might be unknown things that we walk into, but they are never unknown to Him. And more importantly, they are never unexperienced by Him. Check out these assuring words from the Book of Hebrews—

Both the One who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. … For this reason He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. (2:11, 17-18) 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (4:15-16) 

Jesus has been there, done that, and has the scars to prove that He is victorious! 

  • We never have to be at a loss of what to say (John 12:49-50)
  • We never have to be at a loss of what path to take (John 14:6) 
  • We never have to be at a loss of what prayer to pray (John 16:23)

(Check out all of those verses by clicking here.) 

Charles Spurgeon said, “The Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to take the most imperfect prayer and perfect it for us. If our prayers had to go up to heaven as they are, they would never succeed; but they find a Friend on the way, and therefore they prosper.” 

Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

Commenting on these verses in his book Proverbs: Amplified and Applied, Dick Brogden wrote:

“We tend to crave God’s explicit direction for the momentous choices of life—marriage, study, career, transition, promotion, change—but sail through a thousand daily choices independent of consultation with Him. Functionally, we act as if we only need God’s help for big things because we can handle the small things without Him. The error in this dichotomy of dependence (thinking we only need God’s help for big decisions) is twofold. First, big decisions are not divorced from small decisions; they are simply the crowning act, the summary of a legion of choices. Second, big decisions are not more important than small decisions. It is the small, simple, silent, serial choices of daily living that make one wise. When we acknowledge the Lord in all the minutia, our course is chosen and our path is set, and we do not stand bewildered at the critical crossroads of life.” 

Walking with Jesus as our Brother keeps us free from fear. His perfect love opens our hearts to have intimate conversation with our Heavenly Father. You can trust our Brother to help you with every single decision at every single moment. Let’s learn to lean on Him more! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on prayer called Intimate Conversation, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Mighty Deliverer

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

The world can marshal its weapons of war. They may gain a temporary victory. They may build strongholds, and cast spells, and appear to be the unquestioned ruler. But God always gets the final word, the decisive word, and the best word! 

Don’t despair in the middle of the Story! All of History is His Story. No matter how dark it seems, we are assured of God’s victorious outcome! 

Bethlehem is our proof:

  • 700 years before it happened, Bethlehem is named as the birthplace of Jesus (Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7) 
  • 700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, His titles were given and then fulfilled in the way that Jesus lived (see for example Isaiah 9:6 and Hebrews 13:20) 

Sometimes God has to let the darkness fall so heavy so that it seems hopeless. In fact, in human power alone it is hopeless and impossible. So God foretells His victory—

“Listen to this, you descendants of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and come from the line of Judah, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord and invoke the God of Israel—but not in truth or righteousness—you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city and claim to rely on the God of Israel—the Lord Almighty is His name: I foretold the former things long ago, My mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. … Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, ‘My images brought them about; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’” (Isaiah 48:1-5) 

We have seen how Micah prophesied our Messiah coming as the Great Shepherd and as the Prince of Peace, but He also comes as our Mighty Deliverer (Micah 5:1-6). He comes at an incredibly dark time that is described like this: “He will rescue us from the Assyrians when they pour over the borders to invade our land” (Micah 5:6 NLT). 

Darkness may appear to have a stranglehold even now in our time. One of the verses in the New Testament that pretty accurately sums up a Christ-less culture says, “The god of this world has blinded the unbelievers’ minds that they should not discern the truth, preventing them from seeing the illuminating light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4 AMP) . 

But this is only temporary darkness. When the mob came to arrest Jesus, He said, “This is your hour—when darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53). Darkness only gets an hour, but the Light of God shines for all of eternity! 

One of my favorite Advent texts is found in Hebrews 2:14-15:

Since the children have flesh and blood, [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 

Our Mighty Deliverer came to destroy satan’s power and free those held hopelessly in darkness. The word “destroy” is a powerful, all-encompassing word. Imagine a tyrannical ruler who sent one of his strongest police officers with an arrest warrant, who then grabbed onto you and subdued you with his vice-like grip. 

Only someone stronger than that officer can release you from that grip. That’s what Jesus did when He destroyed satan’s ironclad grip on your soul. Paul asks mockingly, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

Now you may be free of the grip of that officer, but the arrest warrant still remains—you are still subject to the penalty. But that word “destroy” also means that the charges against you have been set aside so that there is no penalty outstanding against you. The apostle Paul again addressed this when he wrote, “For we know that our old self was crucified with [Jesus] so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. … Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” (Romans 6:6, 8:33). 

You are now set completely and irrevocably free! “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). 

The Messiah—our Mighty Deliverer—destroys darkness and delivers those who believe in Him! 

No matter how hopeless it may seem, the Mighty Deliverer always prevails! Jesus has destroyed every enemy that has opposed God’s people! Jesus our Champion shines a light so brightly that nothing in satan’s arsenal can ever diminish it. 

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:5 NLT). 

So allow me to repeat: Don’t despair in the middle of the Story! All of History is His Story. No matter how dark it seems, Bethlehem is our proof that Jesus has destroyed our enemy and removed from him all grounds for charging us with sin. Bethlehem is our proof that we can live assured of God’s victorious outcome! 

What a great Christmas gift that truly is! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this Advent series, you can find a list of all of those messages by clicking here. 

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The Prince Of Peace

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

Last week we saw the dark times in which Micah lived as he prophesied the advent of the Messiah. Israel was both surrounded by enemies as well as lots of practices within their borders that were heartbreaking to God. Many times, our lives can feel the same way: enemies of God all around us and our own turmoil and doubts inside our hearts and minds.      

In this dark, hopeless time, the Messiah came as our Great Shepherd. Take a look at what this Shepherd brings us:

He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the Earth. And He will be their peace. (Micah 5:4-5)

We see this idea of Jesus our Great Shepherd bringing peace to our hearts in the New Testament as well: 

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21) 

This peace is also implied in Psalm 23:1 when David wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” That phrase “I shall not be in want” really captures the definition of peace. 

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. An easy-to-remember definition of shalom is “nothing lost, nothing missing.” Our Great Shepherd makes sure nothing is lost or missing that would cause us anxiety or doubt, so we can have total peace—we can have shalom!

Jesus said the devil’s agenda was for everything to be lost or missing—“the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy”—but our Great Shepherd’s agenda is for there to be nothing lost or missing—“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). 

Isaiah, who was prophesying at the same time as Micah, sounded a similar note:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel. … And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6) 

When this Great Shepherd was born in Bethlehem, the shepherds in the field were the first to hear the good news. Notice what the angels announced: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14). 

Who has God’s favor? Those with faith in Him: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). So those with faith in God have God’s favor. 

Faith in what? In all that Jesus purchased for us by His blood shed on the Cross: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). 

Check this out: The root word of shalom is a word that means, “It is finished.” These are the exact same words our Price of Peace announced from the Cross! Jesus finished the work that brings us peace from the turmoil and anxiety of sin! 

Faith comes from believing that God has made the promise of peace, that God has fulfilled the promise of peace through Jesus, and that God is bringing us to His eternal peace. So now our lives of peace in a world of turmoil can serve as a testimony to others. 

Jesus called His followers to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) but we cannot do this while we are experiencing anxiety or doubts. To be peacemakers we must be full of peace because of our relationship with the Prince of Peace, who has ensured that nothing is lost and nothing is missing! 

If you feel anxious, remember that Bethlehem is your proof that the Prince of Peace has come to remove doubts, anxiety, fear, and inner turmoil. Let every pang of anxiety be immediately a call to run to the Prince of Peace. He has paid an incalculable price to purchase your peace, so don’t leave this gift unopened and unused. A dark, anxious world is looking for peace. Know the author of shalom so that you can introduce others to this Prince of Peace. 

If you’ve missed any of the message in this series, please check them out by clicking here. 

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The Great Shepherd

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

God delights to show up when the situation seems hopeless from any human standpoint. When He does what no one else can do, He alone is glorified!

A very notable dark time took place in Israel about 700 BC as the nation was surrounded by enemies. Micah prophesied the arrival of the Messiah. But he also prophesied that before He came, there would be dark days. He talks about the siege of enemies surrounding them, Israel’s ruler being stuck on the cheek with a rod, not to mention the strongholds, witchcraft, and idolatry that plagued the nation within its own borders (Micah 5:1, 11-13). 

But whenever it seems darkest, God is not the least diminished! He always gets the final word, the decisive word, the best word. 

So into this inky darkness, Micah prophesies a ray of light—“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be Ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). 

I’m sure many people thought that Bethlehem was too small of a village for anyone of significance to be born there.

The Last Battle is the final book in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. This story also portrays a similar dark time. Shift the ape has convinced Puzzle the donkey to wear an ill-fitting lion skin to pretend to be the great king Aslan. Through tricks, sleight of hand, deception, and the plans of some evil schemers, many of the Narnians come to believe that Puzzle is Aslan. But it’s confusing because this “Aslan” is not the kind, strong king they believed in, so many begin to just look out for themselves. 

In a fitting setting, Puzzle is being hidden inside an old stable. A great battle takes place with the true Narnians ending up inside the stable, and yet once inside they discover not a dark stable, but a sunlit land spreading farther than their eyes can see. Lord Digory observes, “Its inside is bigger than its outside.”  

But I love this line from Queen Lucy, “In our world too a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” 

Inside that Bethlehem stable was born the Great Shepherd! Who was inside that stable and what He would accomplish became so much grander and more beautiful than any human had ever imagined! 

Jesus is our Great Shepherd—He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth (Micah 5:4). 

Jesus is strong, majestic, and great (John 10:10-15). 

Jesus equips us to be victorious (Hebrews 13:20-21). 

Jesus walks with us every step of the way (Psalm 23:1-6). 

And Jesus takes us Home to be with Him forever (1 Peter 5:4). 

(Check out all of these passages by clicking here.) 

Our faith is not rooted in some mysterious thing with an uncertain history. It is a faith rooted in real historical events. The Great Shepherd being born in the town that was prophesied 700 years beforehand is one more proof that God is in control, that God loves you, and that God always gets the final word, the decisive word, the best word! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Advent series Bethlehem Is Proof, you find the full list by clicking here. 

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How I Learned To Stop Sabotaging My Sabbath

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

We all know that it’s impossible for a leader to be “on” 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Yet many leaders continue to operate as though they are supposed to be “on” all the time. The Bible not only calls for us to take a Sabbath rest, but it is something that God Himself demonstrated for us. 

I enjoyed my time on the Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis while his podcast partner Dace Clifton was on sabbatical. Kyle and I didn’t plan this, but he mentioned a passage from Hebrews 4 that the Holy Spirit used years ago to get my attention. 

I would make my plans for a day off, or even a break in the middle of a busy day, only to find myself allowing work to consume that time. I was sabotaging my sabbath time until I saw three life-changing words in Hebrews 4:10. 

It is a very humbling thing to recognize that it is “my own work” that is sabotaging my sabbath rest. God is aware of my need for sabbathing, but I have to submit my plans to His plan. As I mentioned in this interview, and in a previous blog post, writing “ITLW” at the top of my daily To Do list has helped me immensely. It is a reminder to me that God knows what I need to be doing, with whom I need to be speaking, and what ministry needs to be accomplished each day far, far better than I ever could. I must listen to the Holy Spirit and submit “my own work” to God’s will. 

I talk about some other strategies that helped me in this area in my book Shepherd Leadership. It is a part of a 5-chapter section where I discuss how leaders can achieve wholly healthiness—mental, physical, spiritual, and relational health. I hope you will pick up a copy for yourself.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

More Than Worth The Wait

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

Our cravings are implanted by God and are fulfilled solely in our relationship with Him. Sometimes the journey seems long. If you have been in the car with kids, you know they are infamous for asking, “Are we there yet?” just a couple of minutes into the trip. We adults aren’t much better. Perhaps we have a little more patience but if we’re honest we may find ourselves asking, “How long is this going to take? It seems like it’s soooo long!”  

We’ve discussed that a maturing attitude shift for us is exchanging “have to” for “get to.” This is when we begin to understand that something good—something far better than what we have now—is coming. This is the starting point to help us to wait well, to not get frustrated and bail out. 

Jesus did this: “For the joy set before Him He endured the Cross” (Hebrews 12:2). He could see what was coming so He wouldn’t accept any lesser substitutes. But that same verse also calls us to be “looking away from all that will distract to Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP). 

This attitude exchange helps us in three ways: 

  1. Maturing self-control 
  2. Understanding the rewards of delayed gratification 
  3. Having a joyful expectation of both what’s coming and what’s happening now 

Self-control, delayed gratification, and joyful expectation are also the key components of a satisfying relationship. These then allow me to make another important exchange: “don’t” for “won’t.” 

For example, in my relationship with my wife Betsy, no one has to tell me, “Don’t speak to her unkindly.” I won’t speak to her unkindly because that would damage our relationship. No one has to tell me, “Don’t flirt with other women.” I won’t do that because I know that would jeopardize our relationship, perhaps causing me to look elsewhere to satisfy my craving for a meaningful relationship. 

In the book called Song of Solomon, the word “lovely” is used frequently between lovers who only have eyes for each other. Paul uses this keyword when he talks about us only having our eyes, and heart, and mind on Jesus—“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). 

David, who is described as a man after God’s own heart, wrote several psalms expressing his longing to be in God’s presence both now and for all eternity. Especially in Psalm 16 and Psalm 37, David shows us the don’t-for-won’t exchange (Psalm 16:1-11; 37:1-4). 

Sometimes we will experience some lovely things here on earth, but those are nothing compared to the eternal rewards awaiting us. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” 

Even if we experience unpleasant things here, the apostle Paul reminds us, “But what of that? For I consider that the sufferings of this present time—this present life—are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us!” (Romans 8:18 AMP). 

The marshmallow test is a famous experiment. Kids were given the choice to eat one marshmallow immediately or be rewarded with a second marshmallow if they waited. Researchers found that those who practiced self-control, delayed gratification, and joyful expectation faired much better later in life. 

So I would encourage you to keep your marshmallow somewhere you will see it often. It will harden, but it will not mold or spoil. Every time you look at it, let it remind you that what’s coming is so much more than anything you could ever find here! Let this reminder help you exchange don’t for won’t as the Holy Spirit helps you keep your eyes only on Jesus. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Craving series, you can find a list of all of those messages by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Proof Of God’s Love

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. 

Proof Of God’s Love

I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing. (Hosea 8:12) 

     It is no mean proof of His goodness, that He stoops to, rebuke His erring creatures. It is a great argument of His gracious disposition, that He bows His head to notice terrestrial affairs. … He might dwell alone, far, far above this world, up in the seventh heaven, and look down with calm and silent indifference upon all the doings of His creatures. He might do as the heathens supposed their Jove did, sit in perpetual silence, sometimes nodding his awful head to make the Fates move as he pleased. But Jove never thought of the little things of earth, disposing of them as beneath his notice, engrossed within his own being, swallowed up within himself, living alone and retired. … 

     We see from our text that God looks upon man, for He says of Ephraim, ‘I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing.’ But see how when He observes the sin of man He does not dash him away and spurn him with His foot? He does not shake him by the neck over the gulf of hell until his brain does reel and then drop him forever. But rather, He comes down from heaven to plead with His creatures. He argues with them, He puts Himself, as it were, upon a level with the sinner, states His grievances, and pleads His claim.

From The Bible

In my sermon this last Sunday I was leading my congregation through Psalm 89. I noted that there were two important blessings that Ethan the Ezrahite tells us of: 

  1. The blessing of God’s favor on our obedience 
  2. The blessing of God’s discipline on our disobedience

Yes, the fact that God disciplines us—that He “stoops to rebuke His erring creatures”—is positive proof of His immense, unending love for us. The opposite of love is not hate but apathy. If God didn’t love us, He wouldn’t personally involve Himself in our lives because neither our obedience or disobedience would mean a thing to Him. 

Consider this passage—

In all their affliction He was afflicted,
and the Angel of His Presence saved them;
in His love and in His pity He redeemed them;
and He bore them and carried them
all the days of old.
But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit;
so He turned Himself against them as an enemy,
and He fought against them
. (Isaiah 63:9-10)

In His love, God both carries us in our adversity AND turns to confront us in our waywardness. BOTH of these actions are proof of His love. My friend, wherever you are and whatever you may be facing, be assured of God’s unquenchable love for you!

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“Let Us” Be The Church

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

I had a great time on the 200churches podcast with Jeff Keady. 

Jeff asked me what was different for our church during the pandemic shutdowns. I explained to him how our season of change had begun long before anyone was even talking about a coronavirus.

Of course one of the big things in my personal life during the last year was authoring a #1-selling book called Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. As I commented to Jeff, those “let us” phrases in the Book of Hebrews so struck me that I wrote about it in my book. 

     Have you noticed that the word “saints” in the New Testament is always in the plural, never the singular? That’s because we need each other to bring out the saintly qualities in each other. This is why the writer of Hebrews stresses the camaraderie of “let us” so many times (Hebrews 10:22–25). I’ve found that many shepherd leaders tend to isolate. They are so involved in their own pasture of ministry that they seldom make the time to interact with other shepherds. In fact, isolation is one of the devil’s favorite tactics. I encourage you to find friends—fellow saints—who are also committed to healthy spiritual growth and avail yourself of their friendship and insight. —an excerpt from the chapter ‘Four Elements to Optimal Spiritual Health’ 

“Let us” be the church wherever God places us and however He chooses to use us. 

I’ll be sharing more clips from this 200churches interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

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The Reality Of Temporary Darkness…

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

A father came home from work and noticed a note addressed to him taped to his teenage son’s door:

Dear Dad, 

Jason and I borrowed Mom’s car to go to Taco Bell. I know I didn’t have permission, but I thought we’d be back before you and Mom got home. Unfortunately, I hit a pothole and blew out the front right tire. 

We jacked up the car to put on a spare tire, but the jack slipped and the car rolled backward into the ditch. 

Bill came with his pickup to pull us out, but the tow strap pulled off the front bumper and the car rolled further down the hill and sunk in the pond. 

I bought a bus ticket to get out of town and go enlist in the Army. Give Mom a hug and I’ll see you both in about 2 years. 

Love, your son

P.S. None of the above is true. Mom took her car to Aunt Jan’s house and I rode my bike to Jason’s house. However, I hope the fact that none of these bad things actually happened will help you put in perspective the D+ on my report card. 

We like to manage expectations, don’t we? We frequently deliver bad news with the good news close by. 

Psalms 88 and 89 are written by brothers: both of them are called Ezrahite, and both of them were worship leaders in the tabernacle. And until Solomon, these guys were considered the wisest in the land (1 Chronicles 2:6; 15:19; 1 Kings 4:29-34). 

I believe these two psalms form a couplet. They make up the last two psalms of Book III in the Psalter, with Psalm 89 ending with, “Amen and Amen.” Both of them label their psalms a maskil which means “a poem of contemplation” (NKJV). And look how Psalm 88 leaves us in the dark, while Psalm 89 shines a light in the dark.

In Psalm 88, Heman soberly prepares us for his two-Selah psalm in his introductory remarks. He uses a phase mahalath leannoth which means someone who is so physically weak from emotional grief that they are now battling depression. The NLT calls it “the suffering of affliction.”  

Heman is describing a reality: We will all experience pain in this life. Maybe even for our entire earthly life—from my youth I have been afflicted and close to death (v. 15). Heman’s reality is seen in his words in the first five verses of this psalm. 

His first Selah is breathtaking because he wants us to pause to realize that God has allowed all of this (notice the pronoun You in vv. 6-8, 16-18). But still, Heman knows God saves because he has made a decision to continue to praise Him even in the dark times (vv. 1-2, 9, 13).  

Heman’s second Selah comes in the middle of a series of five questions (vv. 10-14) that sound a lot like both questions Jesus asked in Gethsemane and from the Cross, and the reality of the temporary darkness He was facing (Psalm 22:1-2; Luke 22:53; John 19:11). 

Even the way Heman closes his psalm foreshadows the darkness surrounding the death of Jesus: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? 

Jesus tasted all of this darkness for us so that He could be our perfect and empathetic High Priest (Hebrews 5:7, 4:15-16). 

Psalm 88 shows us the reality of temporary darkness (like Good Friday), but Psalm 89 points us to the certainty of eternal light (like Resurrection Sunday)! 

So when you are battling your dark times, let me give you these assurances: 

  1. This darkness is only temporary (Romans 8:18) 
  2. Jesus walks with us in our dark times (Romans 8:26-39)
  3. The darkness cannot prevail—Jesus tasted all of this temporary darkness for us so that He could be our eternal High Priest!

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can check them out by clicking here. Please join me on Sunday when we will look at Ethan’s words in Psalm 89 about the certainty of the eternal light. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

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