Book Reviews From 2018

The Powerful Name Of Jesus

As we approach Christmas Day and we think about the First Advent, many times our thoughts go to the scene of a lowly manger, tired parents, and a newborn baby wrapped in cloths. We tend to focus on the Baby. 

And rightly so! 

It is fascinating to think that before He was even born an angel appeared to both Joseph and Mary to tell them that this Baby should be named Jesus (Matthew 1:21 and Luke 1:31). But have you also noticed all of the other names and titles given to the Baby at His birth? 

    • a Savior who is Christ the Lord
    • Immanuel which means “God with us” 
    • Son of the Most High 
    • King of the Jews
    • Ruler of God’s people
    • Son of the Most High God
    • God Himself

What do we do with the name of the Lord? 

When I say “the name of the Lord” I’m not talking about the five letters that spell J-E-S-U-S or even C-H-R-I-S-T. The name of the Lord means all of God’s character, His majesty, His personality, His magnificence, everything that makes God God. 

The Bible clearly tells us how to use God’s name properly. We are to use the name of the Lord for

    • salvation
    • protection
    • batting the enemy
    • preaching
    • praying
    • casting out demons
    • healing the sick

The use of the name of the Lord should distinguish us. CHRISTians bear the name of Christ, so they should represent the character of God accurately, and in a way that causes others to glorify Him and want to approach Him. 

If there is a proper way of using the name of the Lord, that also means there are ways we can misuse the name of the Lord, something God expressly forbids in the third of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:7). 

We misuse the name of the Lord when we… 

    • …use His name as a throwaway phrase or as a curse word  
    • …make light of His majesty
    • …allow Jesus to be one of many options to salvation (see Acts 4:12) 
    • …use His name to make us look or sound religious (see Matthew 7:21-23) 
    • …perform parlor tricks (see Acts 19:13-16)

There is a holy balance—Jesus is both King of kings and a Friend of sinners. God paid an incredibly high price so that we could be reconciled to Him, but not so that you could treat Him ignorantly or carelessly. This calls for some serious searching by the Holy Spirit! Perhaps you could pray a prayer that David penned: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

The Value Of The Old Testament

“Jesus exalted the law of God, and made its importance more evident even than it had been before. In a word, ‘He magnified the law and made it honorable’ (Isaiah 42:21). …

“Let us beware of despising the Old Testament under any pretense whatever. Let us never listen to those who bid us throw it aside as an obsolete, antiquated, useless book. The religion of the Old Testament is the embryo of Christianity. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the bud. The New Testament is the Gospel in full flower. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the blade. The New Testament is the Gospel in full ear. …

“Let us, for another thing, beware of despising the law of the Ten Commandments. Let us not suppose for a moment that it is set aside by the Gospel, or that Christians have nothing to do with it. The coming of Christ did not alter the position of the Ten Commandments one hair’s breadth. If anything, it exalted and raised their authority (Romans 3:31). …

“In the last place, let us beware of supposing that the Gospel has lowered the standard of personal holiness, and that the Christian is not intended to be as strict and particular about his daily life as the Jew. … The more light we have, the more we ought to love God. The more clearly we see our own complete and full forgiveness in Christ, the more heartily we ought to work for His glory. …

“Jesus shows us that the law, as expounded by Him, was a far more spiritual and heart-searching rule than most of the Jews supposed.” —J.C. Ryle, in Expository Thoughts On The Gospels

What Is Shalom?

Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. Some of the best definitions of shalom include ideas of completeness, soundness, and wholeness. One Jewish rabbi commented that when you say “Shalom” to someone, you’re really saying, “may you be full of well-being.” Or another way of thinking of shalom is—nothing missing, nothing broken. 

Some have tried to describe shalom as the absence of conflict, but that’s not quite accurate. On the verge of going into the Promised Land to fight their enemies, God commanded Aaron to speak a blessing of peace of the people (Numbers 6:24-26). And just before Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,” He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9-10). 

Shalom is not controlled by outward circumstances. Shalom is a deep-seated, rock-solid, unshakable assurance that I am in God’s hand. 

Isaiah describes how we live in shalom like this—

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind—both its inclination and its character—is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. (Isaiah 26:3)

How do we do keep our mind stayed on God? The Apostle Paul says, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Psychologists call this process metacognition: when we think about what we’re thinking about. It’s being aware of our anxious thoughts that are robbing us of shalom and then talking back to them. 

What often robs us of peace is listening to ourselves instead of talking to ourselves! 

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

Why do we make our thoughts obedient to Jesus? Because one of the titles given to Jesus before He was born was Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and Jesus assures us that His peace is unlike anything we can ever find in earthly things (John 14:27, 16:33). 

God’s peace is always there, but our divided minds keep us from experiencing His peace. So Isaiah tells us to keep our mind steadfast on God’s goodness, and Paul says the same thing—Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I want to encourage you to practice what the Bible calls capturing your thoughts—or what psychologists call metacognition. Ask yourself, “Why am I thinking that?” Capture those thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. Don’t let your worrisome thoughts rob you of God’s shalom.

Join me this Sunday as we take a closer look at the “shalom cycle,” including the things that can derail it. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 29

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 29

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 29.] 

     The great message of the prophets is that evil and tyranny are there by the permissive will of God, there is never any room for thinking that these things happen by chance (cf. Isaiah 45:7). Never tie God up in His own laws; He is never guided by precedence. If a prophet is more concerned with logic than with loyalty to God, he will always mislead. … 

     We have no control whatever over external history; God has, and as saints we have to wait in patience wherever we are placed in the providential order of tyranny. …  

     Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage…. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper (Jeremiah 29:5-7). Jeremiah commands the people to obey God’s order in the dust and dirt of captivity. When we become rightly related to God we are loosened from everything around us, and the danger is to imagine we have to get out of the world. Our Lord did not pray that His disciples should be taken out of the world, but that they should be kept from the evil. It is nothing but unmitigated cowardice to get out of the world; we have to remain unspotted in the midst of it. “Do you mean to tell me I can live a holy life there?” If you cannot, the grace of God is a fiction. External surroundings make no difference to our inner life, but our inner life makes a telling difference on our surroundings (see Philippians 2:15). … 

     Our problem is not one of proportion: how much worldliness can I live in? but of spiritual insight which will enable me to live a holy life in the midst of worldliness, looking for the fulfillment of God’s promises. 

From Notes On Jeremiah

Christians living here on earth are truly “temporary residents” or “aliens and strangers,” as Peter calls us. As such, we sometimes feel a bit perplexed about the evil all around us and how we’re supposed to respond to it and to the Earthlings who question us about it. 

Chambers reminds us that God is not surprised by the evil, nor is He surprised where we are. All of these things are under His sovereign control. 

We are not to give in to evil, compromise with evil, or even try to pretend that evil doesn’t really exist. We are to live with our eyes fixed on Jesus regardless of our evil surroundings. This is the only way we will shine like stars in our evil world, and point the way for Earthlings to have a relationship with Christ for themselves. 

Shine on! 

A Leader’s Broken Heart

My heart will cry out for Moab … Therefore my heart shall resound like a harp for Moab, and my inner being for Kir Heres (Isaiah 15:5; 16:11). 

Judgment from God falls on Israel’s enemy and Moab is inconsolable (Isaiah 15:2-4, 5-9; 16:7-8, 10). And yet Isaiah weeps for them!

No gloating.

No “I told you so.”

No smug self-righteousness.

A mark of a godly leader is one whose heart is broken by what breaks God’s heart.

“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice” (Proverbs 24:17).

Remember—there, but for the grace of God, go I. 

It is actually God’s mercy that His throne is established and judgment can bring an end to the suffering of punishment (Isaiah 16:5). But in the meantime, we should rescue those careening toward God’s punishment, watering our testimony with our tears.

This is part 27 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 22

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 22

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 22.] 

     “Perfect love drives out fear” [1 John 4:18]—but not love in its beginning. To say “Therefore will we not fear, though…” [Psalm 46:2] is only possible when the love of God is having its way. … 

     Every power of human government that can be used by the devil and self-interest can be reclaimed and used by God. On the other hand, everything that is usable by God is abusable by the devil. … 

     As in the Book of Isaiah, so in Jeremiah, God is revealed as the Controller behind every power of evil; when evil strikes His people it strikes not only by God’s permission but under His direct control (cf. Isaiah 37:29; John 19:11). … 

     Divine fire as opposed to natural fire, burns the fiercer the farther you get away from it; when you get nearer to God, His burning becomes a comfort.

From Notes On Jeremiah

These are good thoughts from Chambers—and good passages of Scripture as well—to keep in mind when we are staring down evil or being persecuted for our faith in Christ. 

Remember:

  • God’s love drives out our fear, but focusing on our fears can drive out God’s love. 
  • God uses; the devil abuses. 
  • No evil can touch you unless God has allowed it, and He only allows it to accomplish something that will bring Him glory. 
  • If the fires seem to be burning hotter, run to God not away from Him!
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