Thursdays With Spurgeon—Froth Or Substance?

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. 

Froth Or Substance?

     Many of you will read a novel from beginning to end, and what have you got? A mouthful of froth when you have done. But you cannot read the Bible—that solid, lasting, substantial, and satisfying food goes uneaten, locked up in the cupboard of neglect, while anything that man writes, as a catch of the day is greedily devoured. ‘I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing’ [Hosea 8:12].

From The Bible

The Bible is the most important book anyone can read, contemplate, and apply to their lives. Yet far too many people say, “I just don’t have enough time to sit down to read the Bible.” Sadly, these same people take a lot of time on much less meaningful activities. 

One thing that has been immensely helpful to me is the Urgent/Important grid Stephen Covey talks about in his book The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. Your Bible reading is never urgent—that is, an alarm will not go off to tell you it is time to read. However, your Bible reading is hugely important. 

Covey discusses how we can put all of our activities into one of the four quadrants in this chart:

Your Bible reading time is definitely a Quadrant II activity, and the best place to find time for this activity is by eliminating things in Quadrant IV—the activities Spurgeon would call froth. In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I discuss how leaders can use this grid to increase their leadership effectiveness. 

The bottom line: We all must make sure we are eliminating the froth so that we have time for the great Substance that can only be found in God’s Word. 

You can download Covey’s Urgent/Important grid here → Urgent Important [Covey quadrants]

And then check out chapter 10 in Shepherd Leadership—“Can’t, Won’t or Don’t”—to learn how to use this grid to help you make the time for those important Quadrant II activities.

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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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The Comfort And The Terror Of God’s Love

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

The Book of Hosea is a love story. It’s a real story telling a much grander story. 

The real story is between a man named Hosea and his wife Gomer. Sometime after their marriage, Gomer became unfaithful to Hosea and became entrapped to someone like a pimp, because it required a rather large payment from Hosea to redeem her. Gomer was restored to Hosea and they lived together faithfully from that point on. 

The grander story is the relationship between God and His people. God’s faithful love redeemed us, but our sin is like that of a cheating wife who has abandoned her husband for another lover. 

God’s love sounds like this:

  • “Let My tender words woo you back to Me” (2:14) 
  • “I will betroth you to Me forever” (2:19) 
  • “My compassion is aroused toward you” (11:8) 
  • “I will not carry out my fierce anger against your sin” (11:9) 
  • “I will care for you in the wilderness” (13:5) 
  • “I will feed you until you are satisfied” (13:6)

But God’s love also sounds like:

  • “I will block your path with thornbushes” (2:5) 
  • “I will ignore you” (4:6) 
  • “I will hide Myself from you” (5:6) 
  • “My sword will flash in your cities” (11:6) 
  • “I will terrify you like a roaring lion” (11:10) 
  • “I will attack you like a mother bear robbed of her cubs” (13:8)

(Check out all of the above references by clicking here.) 

We love the first list—and, indeed, that’s where God would desire us to stay—but the second list is just as loving. 

The opposite of love is not hate, but the opposite of love is apathy. 

God loves us too much—His Son paid too high of a price for us—for Him to let us head down a path that leads to eternal destruction. Listen to how the prophet Isaiah says this:

In all their distress He too was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them. In His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit. So He turned and became their enemy and He Himself fought against them. (Isaiah 63:9-10) 

We need both the comfort and the terror of God’s love. 

We need Him to roar His lion’s roar and flash His terrible sword when we are on the path of destruction so that we can return to the path of life and experience His tender voice and bountiful provision. 

When we pray for our wayward loved ones, pray for both God’s sword and His loving words. He knows best which to use. And for ourselves, when we are stricken with fear, use that as an opportunity to ask why we have heard God’s roar or seen His sword flash. Then, if needed, repent and return to His tender embrace. 

God’s love speaks tenderly and roars ferociously because He loves you so very much! 

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

9 Quotes From “A Spiritual Clinic”

J. Oswald Sanders gives Christians just the check-up we need in his hard-hitting and highly practical book A Spiritual Clinic. You can read my full book review by clicking here. 

“The greater our weakness, the greater glory will be God’s as we work in His power.” 

“We are busier than God intends us to be if we are too busy to take time for relaxation.” 

“It is characteristic of the earthly mind that it always covets the service of others: it desires to avoid toil and drudgery. This is one of the factors which makes wealth so desirable—it can secure the service of others. The mind of Christ manifested itself in His words: ‘I am among you as He that serves’ (Luke 22:27). ‘The Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister’ (Matthew 20:28). It was His delight to be servant of all.” 

“How are we to obtain the mind of Christ? … Is not the secret hinted at in the exhortation, ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’? It is the work of Another. Is not the supreme work of the Holy Spirit to reproduce in the yielded believer the inner disposition of Christ? What is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) but the mind of Christ? As we willingly consent to the crucifixion of the earthly mind and purposefully yield to the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, He will perform the miracle. Our minds will be transformed in ever-increasing degree by the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” 

“Nothing so tends to inflate a man with a sense of his own importance as the possession of great gifts of intellect and the enjoyment of special and unusual experiences. And there is nothing which more surely disqualifies from spiritual usefulness than spiritual pride.” 

“It will be recalled that the favored three disciples were not permitted to encamp on the Mount of Transfiguration. They must exchange the vision glorious for the convulsions of a demon-possessed boy. So must Paul descend into the valley if he is to be God’s messenger to a distraught humanity. He must learn that the mountain is only as high as the valley is deep. The higher he ascends in spiritual experience, the more deeply must he be identified with his crucified Lord.” 

“Even God’s honored servants cannot break His physical laws with impunity, nor are they immune from the onslaught of despondency. … We must seek physical and spiritual renewal if we are not to be put to flight by our enemy. If we shift our center from God to self, even for a period, we lay ourselves open to this malady of the spirit.” 

“Discouragement over the apparent failure of our best efforts, if not met with the shield of faith, will react disastrously on our spirits and degenerate into self-pity and despair.” 

“We seldom give God time to deal with us radically and deeply. Even when we experience conviction of failure and sin, we do not allow the Holy Spirit to work in us so strongly that we are brought to hate the sin. We lightly assent to our sinfulness without seriously and permanently dealing with it. We act as though new results would take the place of heart repentance and renunciation. [see Hosea 6:4] 

Two Great Lies

“By two great lies was man led away from God. By the same two lies has the estrangement been kept up. On these two lies the world has been feeding ever since the Fall. Their fruit has been woe and death—‘Ye shall not die’ and ‘Ye shall be as gods.’ …

“The world’s history is the same. Our race has been eating the fruit of lies [Hosea 10:13]; not simply of sin, but of lies. The sorrows, sighs, tears, pains of our race are the fruit of lies—the original lie of Paradise, and a thousand such since then. …

“The two original satanic lies are continually coming up, and along with them myriads of others, all leading us astray. Each day brings forth the lie, the fruit, the eating thereof. satan, or the world, or the flesh, or a friend, or a book, or a scene whispers the lie; it is fair and specious, we believe it; it brings forth fruit, we eat of it, and the end is bitterness and disappointment. We feed on lies. … We persuade ourselves that this world is good, and pleasant, and excellent, so we pursue it in preference to the world to come. …

“Jesus says, ‘Yes, ye shall not surely die, but that deliverance shall not be in the way you think. Death is the wages of sin, yet I bring life to the sinner, everlasting life, life through the belief of the Truth, even as death came through the belief of a lie. Yes, ye shall be as gods, but not in your way. I will make you partakers if the divine nature, not by eating the forbidden tree, but by eating of Me.’” —Horatius Bonar, in Light and Truth: The Old Testament

Love Changes Everything (book review)

One of the most fascinating love stories in the Bible is between Hosea and Gomer. In this story, we see a picture of God’s unconditional love so clearly. Using this story as a backdrop, Micah Berteau explains how this love is still potent for all of us today. His book is called Love Changes Everything.

Micah believes our culture has watered down and diminished what love really means. And I heartily agree with him! There’s an old children’s song that says, “Jesus loves me this I know,” but Micah entitles one of his chapters: “Jesus loves me… this I don’t know.” This book is meant to help us recapture what real love is. 

Weaving aspects of the rescuing love Hosea had for Gomer throughout the entire book, Micah teases out thoughts that many may not have considered. He then skillfully uses his own personal life journey to bring a modern-day feel to this love story. Each chapter opens a new facet of God’s love that is intended to dismantle all of the false definitions of love too many have previously taken to heart. 

Although this book is a good reminder for a wide audience, I especially think this would be a good discussion guide for a mature Christian to use with someone who is struggling to believe that God can unconditionally love and forgive them. 

I am a Revell book reviewer. 

It’s Time To Come Home

I already shared the bizarre but beautiful sermon illustration that Hosea lived out for the Israelites and for us. His wife had been unfaithful to him and had gotten herself so far in debt that she was a virtual slave. Hosea, in a clear picture of God’s amazing, unrelenting love, bought back his wife, paid off her debts, and completely restored her to himself. 

Sadly, the people of Israel—even after seeing this grace-filled living lesson—continue to push farther and farther away from God. This prompted God to announce the indictment against them… 

Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hosea 4:1-2). 

It wasn’t the first time that someone preferred the things of the world to the things of God (like Adam and Eve), and it wasn’t the last time (like you and me). We mortals tend to be seduced by what we can see and hold right now, instead of trusting God for something far better. 

Jesus told a story about a son who enjoyed the full privilege and favor of his father, yet this son thought he could do better on his own. He asked his father for his share of the inheritance and left for a distant land, determined to live a life where he called all the shots. But with his money gone, he found himself in debt, starving, and working as a hired hand in a pigsty. 

It was then that Jesus said that young man came to his senses. He had nothing to bring to his father—no gift of restitution, no token of respect, nothing except his words. All he could say was, “Father, forgive me.” 

But that’s all that was needed. Hosea counseled the Israelites to do the same thing:

Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips” (Hosea 14:1-2). 

The wayward son had a rehearsed speech asking his father to simply hire him as a servant, as if he wasn’t worthy to be considered a son any longer. But the father—in words that reflect our Heavenly Father’s love—cut the son’s speech short. He let the son only say, “Forgive me,” but before the son could make the request to be a servant the father totally restored him. 

After Hosea calls the wayward people to return with their “forgive us,” he quotes God’s reply: “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them” (14:4). 

How could this be? How could God’s full judgment not fall on His wayward people? How could it not fall on you and me?! Because it fell on Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21)! So when we come back to God with our words of forgiveness, He restores us and clothes us in the robe of Jesus (Galatians 3:27). 

Absolutely amazing! 

God longingly speaks to His wayward people, “It’s time to come home. I’m waiting for you with open arms. I am ready to restore you completely. Just come home.”

Join me next week as we continue to learn about the major lessons we can discover in the minor prophets. 

A Bizarre Sermon Illustration

Hosea is the only prophet from Israel (he calls the Israelite king “our king” in 7:5), and along with Amos he is the only prophet to address the northern kingdom exclusively. Hosea addresses the northern tribes of Israel with brutal honesty—he calls them an adulteress wife! Hosea isn’t alone in saying this, as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all same the same thing too. 

But Hosea alone is called on to live out his message in a most unusual way: God instructs him to marry “an adulterous woman”! The question is: was she already a promiscuous woman before they married? Or did she become unfaithful after they were married? 

I believe that she became unfaithful after marriage. When Gomer gives birth to their first son, Hosea writes that “she bore him a son”—indicating he is the father. But with Gomer’s second and third pregnancies, Hosea simply writes, “she gave birth,” leading me to think that Hosea wasn’t the father of those children. 

The names of the children are also interesting: 

  • Jezreel—This boy’s name means “God sows.” It is a neutral word meaning either sowing good seed and reaping a healthy harvest, or sowing godlessness and reaping punishment. 
  • Lo-Ruhamah—Her name means “not pitied.” God indicates that He will bring a judgment on Israel that is deserved justice. He has been patiently calling them to repentance but they kept running farther away from Him. 
  • Lo-Ammi—This boy’s name is saddest of all. It means “not My people. 

How sad! Can you imagine Hosea’s heartache?! Can you imagine God’s heartache?! God tells Hosea the penalty for their adulterous life (Hosea 2:2-13), which the apostle Paul would later sum up in these straightforward words: the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). 

“YET” and “THEREFORE”…

In the middle of God expressing His heartache over His wayward wife He says two amazing words “Yet” and “Therefore” (1:10; 2:14). 

  • Yet I will bless you and reverse your misfortune” 
  • Therefore I will allure you and speak tenderly to you” 

This is UNBELIEVABLE!! Who would respond like this to such vile unfaithfulness?! 

God would.

God did! But God shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ—the Messiah, the Anointed One—died for us (Romans 5:8). 

Hosea—whose name means salvation—is called on to do exactly what Jesus did for us. Hosea buys back his wife from her master. Hosea pays the price for Gomer’s sin, just as Jesus paid the price for our sin. 

What amazing love God has for us! 

You have never lived an unloved day in your life. Not a single one! God loves you more than the best husband could ever love his wife. He paid for your forgiveness and your freedom. Will you receive that forgiveness and restoration today?

Join me next Sunday as we learn more major lessons from the minor prophets. 

A Minor Introduction

The minor prophets in the Bible are pretty cool! But we have to be careful with man-made titles. For example, the “old” in Old Testament doesn’t mean outdated; nor does the “new” in New Testament mean something updated to modern times. 

In the same way, the minor prophets are only called “minor” because of the volume of their writing, not the quality of their message. In fact, their messages are actually quite major! 

The minor prophets cover a span of about 300 years, from 760 BC (Amos) to 450 BC (Malachi). You can check out this side-by-side chart to see where these prophets fit in the history of Judah and Israel. 

Here are some interesting tidbits about the minor prophets:

  • In the Hebrew Bible, these books are referred to simply as “The Twelve.” 
  • All of these prophets identify themselves in the first verse of their writing except Jonah, but he is identified in 2 Kings 14:23-25. 
  • The only others of the Twelve that are mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament are Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah (see Jeremiah 26:16-19; 2 Kings 25:18-21; Ezra 5:1). 
  • The prophets consistently give us some historical context in their writings to help us place when, where, and to whom their ministry took place. 

The Twelve also show up quite liberally in the New Testament. Every one of them has either direct quotations or has their writings implicitly referred to throughout the New Testament. Here’s just a small sampling… 

  • Micah 5:2 tells us where Jesus would be born (Matthew 2:6)
  • Hosea 11:1 says Jesus would spend time in Egypt (Matthew 2:15)
  • Malachi 4:5 says an “Elijah” would precede Jesus (Matthew 17:10-11)
  • Zechariah 9:9 foretells Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-10)
  • Jonah 1:17 was used by Jesus to predict His own resurrection (Matthew 12:39-42)
  • Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21)
  • Amos 9:11-12 foretold all peoples coming to Jesus (Acts 15:16-17)
  • Hosea 13:14 was quoted by Paul to show how death was defeated (1 Corinthians 15:53-57)
  • Habakkuk 2:4 was also quoted by Paul to tell how righteous people live (Galatians 3:11)
  • Haggai 2:6 foretells the end times (Hebrews 12:26-29)

I look forward to diving deep into the major lessons in the minor prophets over the next several weeks, but in preparation for that let me give you 3 overarching lessons for all Bible studies:

  1. Christianity is rooted in history. The Bible is a historical record of real people, saying and doing real things in real places in the world. It’s not a collection of fables, myths, or legends. 
  2. We need to study the whole counsel of God’s Word. All of Scripture is interdependent on all the other parts of Scripture, and every part reinforces and amplifies every other part. Don’t limit your Bible reading to just one or two parts.
  3. Looking back in wonder and gratitude builds faith for today and hope for tomorrow. When we see what God has done in the past, and we realize that He is still the same God today, it builds our faith for today. And when our faith today is strengthened, it gives us a bright hope for tomorrow. 

I look forward to having you join me on this journey of discovery through the minor prophets! 

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets

Sometimes the naming of things gives us an inaccurate picture of the thing being named. For instance, many people think the “old” in Old Testament means outdated or perhaps updated by the “new” in the New Testament. When in fact, both Testaments are needed to give us the full picture of God’s love and glory. 

A similar thing happens with the headings “major prophets” and “minor prophets.” It makes it sound like the major prophets have something major to say to us, while we could take or leave the minor messages of the minor prophets. 

In reality, they were given these headings simply because of the volume of writing—the five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of their writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power! 

If you missed any of the messages in this series, you can find them here:

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