Selah

The word Selah appears nearly 70 times in the Bible, almost exclusively in the Psalms. Although it is primarily a musical term, it applies beautifully to our summer series. 

Selah can mean…

  • a pause from the noise to reflect;
  • a preparation for an exciting accent; or 
  • a reflective time of consideration

Throughout the Psalms, Selah appears at the end of a verse, at the end of the psalm, or sometimes even mid-sentence. But each one of them is perfectly placed by the Spirit-inspired authors to get us to take a breath and deeply contemplate what we just read or sang. 

Summertime is typically a time for us to pause from our regular routine. Perhaps it’s a vacation, time with friends and family, driving around with the windows down and the music blasting, or just a quiet walk through woods or along a beach. In any case, whether we realize it or not, we’re actually doing Selah in these break-from-the-routine activities. 

Join me this Sunday as we continue our summertime look at each of the Psalms that ask us to Selah. I think you will find that this Sunday summertime pause will be both refreshing and encouraging. You can join me either in person or on Facebook Live. 

Since this is a continuation of our summer series, you can check out the Selahs we discussed by clicking here for the 2018 messages, here for the 2019 messages, and here for the 2020 messages.

The messages this summer include:

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—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!

The Inspiration Of Scripture

In 2021, I am discussing our 16 foundational beliefs, attempting to illuminate why we believe what we believe. 

Foundation belief #1: “The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.” 

The phrase “verbally inspired” comes directly from the apostle Paul who said, “all Scripture is God-breathed.” The Greek word theopneustos that he uses literally means “breathed out by God” (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:20-21).  

In our culture today, it seems as if science is opposed to Scripture, but let me attempt to clarify this point. Science can answer the what/how questions (like how did the universe come into existence) but it cannot answer the why questions (like why did the universe come into existence). 

On the other hand, the Scripture can tell us not only what exists but also why it exists. That means Scripture can also tell us how to live our daily lives. 

Consider a scientific philosophy of life versus a Scriptural philosophy of life. 

Philosophy ponders beginnings and endings, and from those, it then proposes how to live today. Science says we are here by lucky coincidence, and that our life after death is unknowable. A scientific philosophy must therefore conclude that we should live today looking out for #1: survival of the fittest, do what’s best for me, pragmatically, unconcerned about the consequences. 

Scripture says God created our universe—and each individual human—on purpose, and that our life after death is not only knowable but can be determined based on the choices we make. A Scriptural-based philosophy must therefore conclude that we can know how to live our lives today to receive entrance to Heaven afterward. 

There is also other apologetic evidence that I believe makes it reasonable to believe the Bible is truly the inspired Word of God. Things like the accuracy of biblical texts over thousands of years, extra-biblical corroboration, fulfilled prophecy, the discoveries of archeologists, and so forth. You can check out some of these pieces of evidence by clicking here and here. 

But I think the best proof of the life-changing power of the Word of God is a life changed by the God of the Word. The one with an experience is never at the mercy of the one with an argument. I love being able to tell people how my personal relationship with the God of the Bible has made all the difference! 

Check out the video of this full message, and be sure to check out all of the messages in this Foundation Stones series by clicking here.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—An Exhortation To Preachers

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.

An Exhortation To Preachers 

He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14-15) 

     Ah, brothers, the Holy Spirit never comes to glorify us, or to glorify a denomination, or, I think, even to glorify a systematic arrangement of doctrines! He comes to glorify Christ! If we want to be in accord with Him, we must preach in order to glorify Christ. May we never have this thought: ‘I will put that bit in. It will sound well….’  No, no! 

     I would say, ‘Brother, though it is a very delightful piece, strike that out, because if you have had a thought of that kind about it, you had better not put yourself in the way of temptation by using it.’ … 

     Well then, it may be very admirable, and further, it might be a very right thing to give them that precious piece; but if you have that thought about it, strike it out! Strike it out ruthlessly! Say, ‘No, no, no! If it is not distinctly my aim to glorify Christ, I am not in accord with the aim of the Holy Spirit and I cannot expect His help!’ … 

     How then does the Holy Spirit glorify Christ? It is very beautiful to think that He glorifies Christ by showing Christ’s things. If you wanted to do a honor to a man, you would, perhaps, take him a present to decorate his house. But here, if you want to glorify Christ, you must go and take the things out of Christ’s house ‘the things of Christ.’ … 

     Again, I think that the blessed Spirit glorifies Christ by showing us the things of Christ as Christ’s. Oh, to be pardoned! Yes, it is a great thing, but to find that pardon in His wounds, that is a greater thing! Oh, to get peace! Yes, but to find that peace in the blood of His Cross! … That it came from Christ is the best thing about the best thing that ever came from Christ! …  

     He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.’ Yes, it does glorify Christ for the Holy Spirit to show Christ to us. … Since it is for the honor of Christ for His things to be shown to men, He will show them to us, that we may go and show them to other people.

From Honey In My Mouth

My fellow pastor, I cannot add anything to these wise words except this simple exhortation: Read these words again and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can more accurately live this out in your sermon preparation and preaching. 

God bless you, my friend!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Unity Of Scripture

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.

The Unity Of Scripture

He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14-15) 

     Let us never allow anybody to divide between the word of the apostles and the word of Christ! Our Savior has joined them together. ‘I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word’ (John 17:20). And if any begin rejecting the apostolic word, it will be outside the number for whom Christ prays. …  

     Such a doctrine that we are sometimes taunted about as being not revealed by Christ but by His apostles were all revealed by Christ, every one of them! They can all be found in His teaching, but they are very much in parabolic form. It is after He has gone up into glory and has prepared a people, by His Spirit, to understand the truths of God more fully that He sends His apostles and says, ‘Go forth, and open up to those whom I have chosen out of the world the meaning of all I said.’ The meaning is all there, just as all the New Testament is in the Old! … [Jesus Christ] is the Old Testament to which the Epistles come in as a kind of New Testament, but they are all one and indivisible. They cannot be separated. …  

     Remember that the quickest way into a text is praying in the Holy Spirit. Pray the chapter over! I do not hesitate to say that if a chapter is read upon one’s knees, looking up at every word to Him who gave it, the meaning will come to you with infinitely more weight than by any other method of studying it. ‘He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.’ He will redeliver the Master’s message to you in the fullness of its meaning!

From Honey In My Mouth

Augustine wrote, “Scripture is the unus sermo Dei—the one sermon of God.” 

There is one consistent message in the Bible from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21, and the Holy Spirit wants to reveal that message to us. He is our Helper that will illuminate to our lives what has already been inspired in the Scripture. 

Jesus is Jehovah God from beginning to end. He is the “one sermon of God” that we can read and understand. Think about this: the same Spirit who inspired the pens of the biblical writers is the same Spirit in you who can help you understand and apply those words to your life. More than that, the Holy Spirit wants to make the Word of God clear to you. 

God is glorified and you are edified when Scripture comes alive in your heart and mind. 

Peter wrote this about Paul, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand….” But if we don’t take the time to wrestle with that passage, Peter says this is what happens next: “…which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). So, as Spurgeon suggests, begin your Bible reading time in prayer. Then if you come to a difficult text, don’t rush past it and don’t turn too quickly to what another human has written in a commentary, but ask the Holy Spirit to help. (I shared a 5-step process I use for these challenging passages here.) 

Pray, read, pray, apply, pray. The Holy Spirit WILL help you! “Remember that the quickest way into a text is praying in the Holy Spirit.”

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Not Carried Away

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.

Not Carried Away

He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14-15) 

     [The Holy Spirit] does not aim at any originality. … The Spirit takes of the things of Christ and of nothing else. Do not let us strain at anything new. The Holy Spirit could deal with anything in heaven above or in the earth beneath—the story of the ages past, the story of the ages to come, the inward secrets of the earth, the evolution of all things, if there is an evolution. He could do it all! Like the Master, He could handle any topic He chose, but He confines Himself to the things of Christ and therein finds unutterable liberty and boundless freedom. …  

     When, therefore, anybody whispers in my ear that there has been revealed to him this or that, which I do not find in the teaching of Christ and His apostles, I tell him that we must be taught by the Holy Spirit. … If we do not remember this, we may be carried away by quirks, as many have been.

From Honey In My Mouth

How many arguments have devastated people, how many friendships have been lost, how many churches have split because of a clinging to doctrines which aren’t found in the Bible?! How this must break our Father’s heart! 

Quite simply put: we argue and take sides over things on which the Word of God makes no distinction. Oh, foolish pride! 

The Holy Spirit never reveals a unique or private or exclusive word to anyone. He only makes clear what has already been revealed in the Word of God. Does that mean we cannot have an opinion on something? Of course not!

But love for Christ and for His Bride means that my opinions must never become my doctrines. 

Holy Spirit, help me to listen to Your voice alone as You illuminate what has already been inspired. Jesus, may Your love for the Church be my love for the Church. Root out this accursed pride in my heart that makes me fight for my opinions. Father, may You be glorified in Your Church as we are unified around Your revealed truth.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Honey In My Mouth

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.

Honey In My Mouth

He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14-15) 

     So we actually receive, through Jesus Christ, by the Spirit, what is in the Father!  

     Ralph Erskine, in the preface to a sermon upon the fifteenth verse, has a notable piece. He speaks of grace as honey for the cheering of the saints, for the sweetening of their mouths and hearts. But he says that in the Father, ‘The honey is in the flower….’ In the Son, ‘the honey is in the comb…. But then we have honey in the mouth. That is the Spirit taking all things and making application of them, by showing them to us and making us to eat and drink with Christ and share of these things….

From Honey In My Mouth

My grandfather had honeybees on his farm and I was fascinated by them. So much so that in my ecology class in college, I wrote my final research paper on the fascinating inner workings of the honeybee hive. My grandfather would often plant various crops so that the nectar from those flowers would give a distinct flavor to the honey. 

The nectar of a flower has everything in it to make honey except for one thing: a honeybee’s care. The nectar has to be transported back to the hive where it then undergoes the process of being transformed into honey—precise temperatures, storage, and evaporation processes are perfectly overseen by the bees until edible honey emerges. 

Ralph Erskine’s analogy of this nectar-to-honey process is very apropos to the things of God. Our Heavenly Father said that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts: they are inaccessible by our finite human minds (Isaiah 55:8-9). Jesus came as the revelation of all of the things of the Father, declaring to us all that God has for us. Jesus added, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12), which is why the Holy Spirit illuminates the inspired Word of God.

Do you see the whole Trinity active in this process? The Father creates, the Son reveals, and the Spirit makes accessible (or, if you will, the Spirit makes edible). 

The Holy Spirit not only makes the things of God edible to us, but He gives us new tastebuds. No longer will the things of the world satisfy our tastes, no longer will we find any satisfaction in them, no longer will those earthly things nourish us. What the Father has created, and the Son has revealed, the Spirit will make real—and delicious!—to us.

 

The Old Testament Affirmed In The New Testament

(click image for a larger view)

Sometimes, instead of referring to the two major divisions of the Bible as the Old Testament and the New Testament, I prefer to use the First Testament and the Second Testament. This helps me remember that “Old” doesn’t mean outdated and “New” doesn’t mean forgetting what came before it. 

I love how B.B. Warfield describes the First Testament as being like a mansion with richly-decorated, beautifully-ornate rooms, but which are dimly lit. With Christ’s Advent described in the Second Testament, the light is turned on and we can now appreciate the beauty that was always there! 

Sadly, there are far too many people who see the two divisions of the Bible as separate. In reality, the First Testament is affirmed over and over again in the Second Testament. In fulfilled prophesy alone, there is an abundance of evidence! 

But let’s get even more obvious: In just the four Gospels there are at least 100 direct mentions or quotations of passages from the Old Testament. Clearly, both Jesus and the Gospel writers saw the First Testament as an integral part of Christ’s ministry. 

Check out this list that I compiled and look up the references for yourself (a great place to look up Scriptures is on BibleGateway.com). 

If you would like to download a PDF version of this list, click here → Old Testament affirmed in the New Testament ← If you would like to use this document in a teaching session, just be sure to mention that you downloaded it from craigtowens.com. Thanks! 

More resource for your Bible study: 

The Core Curriculum Of The Spirit

“The Law of God teaches us how to love Him and our neighbors (Matthew 22:34-40). The Law of God is critical for seeking the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:17-19). The Law of God liberates us from the blinding and binding power of sin (James 2:8-13). The Law of God marks the path of love that Jesus walked, and that all must walk who would follow Him (1 John 2:1-6; 5:1-3). The Law of God provided the framework within which the apostles ordered their churches (cf. 1 Corinthians 5, 9; James 2:5; 1 John 5). The Law of God is the core curriculum of the Spirit, as He brings us into the presence of God’s glory and transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ (Ezekiel 36:26-27; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18). Neglecting the Law of God is a major cause for the decline of true and selfless love in the world; it licenses the progress of evil; and it threatens to render the prayers of Law-neglecting believers an ‘abomination’ or, we might say, ‘a dead and a useless thing’ (Matthew 24:12; Proverbs 28:4, 9). 

[all Scriptures from the above paragraph are here]

“It’s no wonder the psalmist, echoing Moses, insisted that the righteous person, the one who embodies the goodness of God in all his ways, meditates on the Law of God day and night, hides it in his heart and embodies it in all his ways (Psalm 119:9-11; Deuteronomy 6:1-9), keeps it diligently, delights in and loves it, and hastens to make sure his feet follow in its path (cf. Psalm 1; Psalm 119:4, 5, 35, 59, 60, 97). 

[all Scriptures from the above paragraph are here]

“If you are missing the Law of God in your relationship with Jesus, you are depriving yourself of a most important resource for bringing the goodness of God to light in the land of the living. The good works outlined in the Law of God are those ‘ordained of old’ which God intends us to do in all our ways (Ephesians 2:10). Yes, understanding the Law can be difficult. But we can learn from the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles how to read, study, and meditate in this most important corpus of Biblical literature, and thus we can discover the true freedom for goodness and love that God has prepared for us.” —T.M. Moore 

%d bloggers like this: