Check All The Boxes

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders … [and] consulted the young men… (1 Kings 12:6, 8). 

As King Rehoboam ascended Israel’s throne, the people met with him to ask if there could be a change in policies. They stated that Rehoboam’s father, King Solomon, had worked them hard building God’s temple and Solomon’s palace. They asked for a bit of reprieve. 

Rehoboam took this suggestion to both the elders who had consulted his father, as well as to his friends that were his own age. 

Sometimes the older generation wants to stick with “the way we’ve always done things” because it appears tried and true; they are usually hesitant to make any changes.

Sometimes the younger generation wants to change nearly everything because they think there must be a better way; they are usually anxious to make changes. 

So when the elders suggested a change from Solomon’s policies, Rehoboam should have taken notice. “This is not typical for the elders to suggest a change, so perhaps I should ponder this more closely.” For the young leaders to suggest a change was typical for their generation, so Rehoboam should have expected that. 

Also notice that the elders’ advice was toward servant leadership, while the young men’s advice was toward more top-down, heavy-handed leadership. Although there is no record of either Rehoboam nor his advisers seeking God’s counsel, the elders’ advice is clearly more in line with God’s heart. God spoke through Moses about how He carried (or served) His people (Exodus 19:4), so a reprieve from hard labor would have been more God-honoring. 

Sadly, Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders, making the working conditions even harsher for the people of Israel. This terrible decision had disastrous consequences, as Israel was henceforth split into two nations: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Rehoboam missed the cues from both the older and younger generations, as well as God’s own example, that could have preserved a united nation. 

For our decision making today we have the additional example of Jesus who came not to be served but to serve others, and who gave us a similar servant-hearted command (Mark 10:45; John 13:12–17). 

When God-fearing people are facing a key decision, here are three important things to consider: 

  1. Are the seasoned, God-fearing elders advocating a change? 
  2. Will this decision help me better serve the people I lead? 
  3. Is this decision exemplifying Christ’s servant-leadership? 

This is so important—I need a “YES” in all three boxes if I am going to move forward! 

If any box is unchecked, I need to seriously re-evaluate making a change.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Seeds Of Revival

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.

Seeds Of Revival 

     How did Jesus Christ save souls in olden times? By the foolishness of preaching. And if you will look down through church history, you will find that, wherever there has been a great revival of religion, it has been linked with the preaching of the gospel! … Ah, my dear friends, the world will never be saved by Methodist doctors, or by Baptist doctors, or anything of the sort! But multitudes will be saved, by God’s grace, through preachers! It is the preacher to whom God has entrusted this great work! Jesus said, ‘Preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15). 

     But men are getting tired of the divine plan. They are going to be saved by the priest, going to be saved by the music, going to be saved by the theatricals, and who knows what! Well, they may try these things as long as they like, but nothing can ever come of the whole thing but utter disappointment and confusion—God dishonored, the gospel travestied, hypocrites manufactured by thousands, and the church dragged down to the level of the world! Stand to your guns, brothers, and go on preaching and teaching nothing but the Word of God, for it still pleases God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save those who believe! And this test still stands true: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ …  

     Well, you may try to do without prayer meetings if you like, but my solemn conviction is that, as these decline, the Spirit of God will depart from you and the preaching of the gospel will be of small account. …  

     The Holy Spirit works all the good that is ever done in the world, and as the Holy Spirit honors Jesus Christ, so He puts great honor upon the Holy Spirit. If you and I try, either as a church or as individuals, to do without the Holy Spirit, God will soon do without us. Unless we reverently worship Him and believingly trust in Him, we will find that we will be like Samson when his locks were shorn. He shook himself as he had done before, but when the Philistines were upon him, he could do nothing against them. Our prayer must always be, ‘Holy Spirit, dwell with me! Holy Spirit, dwell with Your servants!’ We know that we are utterly dependent upon Him. Such is the teaching of our Master, and ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.’

From The Unchangeable Christ 

Charles Spurgeon is exactly right. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can change our world today. For this message to go out in all of its life-changing power requires three things: 

  1. Pastors who will preach the Word of God. Music, opinions, and theatrics will not change lives. 
  2. Prayer. Both those in the pulpit and those in the seats of the church must be praying. 
  3. Reliance on the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, we won’t be effective at all. 

Do you want to see a revival? Encourage your pastor to preach well, keep on praying, and keep on asking for the Spirit’s empowerment!

 

The Artisan Collection Bible (book review)

How do “Bible” and “artisan” belong in the same title? They’re more connected than you may have previously thought, and The Artisan Collection Bible is the perfect place to explore this connection. 

If you were to ask someone what occupation Jesus had while He was on earth, it would be a safe bet that most people would say He was a carpenter. Indeed, the Greek word tekton is translated as “carpenter” for both Joseph and Jesus (see Matthew 13:54-56 and Mark 6:2-3). However, the consensus among Greek scholars today is that the word tekton is more likely to mean an artisan than just merely a wood-working carpenter. 

That makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, you would expect boundless creativity from the Creator. The One who fashioned our beautiful universe would certainly still be interested in expressing Himself in creative and beautiful ways. 

For myself, reading the Bible sparks in me a desire to be creative with words, and images, and colors, and designs. This is exactly what The Artisan Collection Bible gives you the space to do. And I literally mean “space.” 

One of the most attractive features to me about this Bible is the extra-wide margins along every single page. As you read God’s Word and the beauty of the Creator is illuminated in your heart and mind, you have readily available space to express your own creativity as worship to the Creator. Try crafting a poem, or turning the passage into a personal prayer, or drawing a picture that captures the vibrancy of God’s love letter written to you. The design of this Bible helps you to do more than just read the Word of God, it invites you to interact with the God of the Word. 

The Artisan Collection Bible would make an excellent gift for your creative friend or loved one. 

I am a Zondervan book reviewer and a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid. As a book reviewer I received a free copy of this book from the book publisher. I am not compensated for my review. Although I may have received the book free of charge, I am under no obligation to write a favorable review. I am free to express my honest opinion about the book’s content. If I say it’s a good book, it’s because I think it’s a good book! 

Fasting Power

We are always engaged in an intense spiritual battle. Sometimes we feel the intensity of the battle, sometimes we don’t. But it’s always happening. 

This is why we need to make prayer an ongoing discipline. If we do, we will be much more likely to turn to prayer when we feel the intense moments, and our faith in those intense moments will be strengthened and ready to respond. 

Every day we are either preparing or repairing. Prayer is either helping us prepare for the challenges we will be facing, or it’s helping us recover from the battle we just fought. Believe me: it’s much better to be preparing than it is to be repairing!

One time the disciples of Jesus got stymied in a spiritual battle. A father brought his demon-possessed son to them, asking that they cast out the demon. But this distraught father then had to report to Jesus, “They couldn’t do it” (see Matthew 17:14-21). 

Why couldn’t they? These men had been taught how to pray by Jesus Himself, and they already had experienced ministry success (Matthew 6:9-13; Mark 6:13). So were they stumped now? 

Jesus told them, “It’s because you have so little faith.” He went on to tell them that these intense spiritual battles require an ongoing lifestyle of prayer. Jesus wasn’t suggesting that they should have said to that father, “Come back in a few days after we have prayed and fasted.” 

But what Jesus was really saying was that all of us need to stay connected to the Source of our spiritual power at every single moment (John 15:5, 7). Sometimes this requires taking our eyes off ourselves and our own appetites. 

In a word: we need to fast. 

The word fasting means “to cover the mouth” or “to close the mouth.” 

  • often fasting is in response to calamity or as a sign of mourning 
  • sometimes it’s alongside an intense prayer 
  • ideally it should be a regular discipline in our lives. In Matthew 6:16-18, notice the phrase “when you fast.” Not “if you fast,” but when. Jesus assumed that we would do this, and since this teaching appears right after Jesus teaches us how to pray, it makes sense that prayer and fasting go well together.  

Fasting is not…

Fasting intensifies our focus on God in the quiet times so that we can keep our eyes on Him in the crashing storms. 

Fasting helps us tune in to the unmistakable Voice of the Holy Spirit in the peaceful moments so that we can still recognize His Voice in the tumult of battle. 

Is there a comfort food you tend to run to? Is there a coping activity that you typically use to de-stress? Is there someone or something other than God that is your go-to in times of trouble? Perhaps we should start there and fast from those things for a short period of time. 

Fasting in the quiet times will strengthen us for the intense battle times. 

Let’s prepare daily for victory, instead of having to repair after a failure.

Enjoying The Meal

I am so active every day that I need to eat about 2700 calories just to maintain my weight. Eating that often, if I’m not careful, I can just simply put food in my mouth and really not taste it. 

I think most people realize that there is a difference between eating and enjoying their food. Not only is gulping not very pleasurable, but doctors have even found some negative impacts on habitual food-gulpers. Things like: 

  1. Indigestion 
  2. Weight gain 
  3. Disconnection from hunger/full signals 
  4. Increasingly likelihood of unhealthy food choices 

In the same way, there’s a difference between praying and enjoying our time with God (see Mark 6:30-31 and Revelation 3:20).

Just as there are many physical benefits to enjoying healthy food, there are also many spiritual benefits to enjoying our time in God’s Word and God’s presence. This spiritual eating and digestion process is called meditation. 

Allow me to put a couple of thoughts together to show you the value of this spiritual discipline: 

  • The apostle Paul told us, “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). 
  • God told Joshua, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

So the way we pray continually is to have something healthy to digest. We can feast on God’s Word and then allow the Holy Spirit to extract all of the healthy spiritual nutrients that will allow us to grow and mature. 

David said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Don’t gulp down your meal of the Scripture—taste it. Don’t rush through your prayer time—enjoy it. Keep mulling over what you have read. Keep chewing on it to help the digestion of the good stuff you need to be healthy.

We meditate on the Word of God to learn how to continually commune with the God of the Word. 

Meditating on God’s Word with the Holy Spirit’s help means you will never lack material for praying continually.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—All The Trinity In Salvation

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.

All The Trinity In Salvation

     We are, alas, too apt to forget that while there are distinctions as to the persons in the Trinity, there are no distinctions of honor—and we do frequently ascribe the honor of our salvation, or at least the depths of its mercy and the extremity of its benevolence, more to Jesus Christ than we do to the Father. This is a very great mistake.

     What if Jesus came? Did not His Father send Him? If He were made a Child, did not the Holy Spirit beget Him? If He spoke wondrously, did not His Father pour grace into His lips that He might be an able minister of the new covenant? If His Father did forsake Him when He drank the bigger cup of gall, did He not love Him still? And did He not, by and by, after three days, raise Him from the dead and at last receive Him up on high, leading captivity captive?

     Ah, beloved, he who knows the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as he should know them never sets one before another. He is not more thankful to one than the other; he sees them at Bethlehem, at Gethsemane, and on Calvary all equally engaged in the work of salvation.

From The Incarnation And Birth Of Christ

All of the Godhead is involved in our salvation. God doesn’t separate Himself—He is One. 

God the Father planned our salvation and sent His Son (Micah 5:2; Matthew 10:40; Ephesians 1:4-5).

God the Son proclaimed the Father’s good news and purchased our salvation (Mark 10:45; John 3:17; Ephesians 1:9-10). 

God the Holy Spirit seals and confirms our salvation (Galatians 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:13-14). 

We come to the Father, through the Son, by the drawing of the Spirit. We need the full Trinity to bring us fully into His presence forever and ever! 

Godly Leaders Need (+) Desires

…if someone desires to be a church leader, he desires an honorable position (1 Timothy 3:1). 

Desires—Paul uses two different Greek words for this one English word. The first word is orego. In the (+) sense it means to stretch out in order to grasp something. In the (-) sense it means to give one’s self up to the love of money.

The second word is epithymeo. In the (+) sense it means to long for a good thing (see Matthew 13:17; Luke 22:15). In the (-) sense it means to covet what is forbidden (see Matthew 5:28; James 4:2).

So (+) or (-) leadership comes down to desire. If I want a leadership position for what I can get, that is a (-) desire. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them… (Jeremiah 45:5). 

But if I desire a leadership position for what I can give, that is a (+) desire. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45). 

With these differing desires in mind, the list of qualifications for church leaders in verses 2-7 and 8-13 should be viewed through the (+)/(-) desire lenses:

  • Why should I be above reproach: (-) so that I can get something, or (+) so that I can serve others better?
  • Why should I be faithful in marriage: (-) so that I look good, or (+) so that I am strengthened by my spouse to serve? 
  • Why should I be temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, sober, gentle, agreeable, content, and so on? The answers to those questions determine what desire I have.

A godly leader desires to glorify God and serve others, so a godly leader willingly submits to the Holy Spirit to address any area of (-) desire that may derail the God-honoring (+) desires. Just as Jesus is the Ultimate Servant-leader, I too must “have the same mind as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

A mark of a godly leader is one who desires leadership with a (+) desire.

This is part 43 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Hallowed Be Your Name

Jesus was once asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He responded by saying, “The Lord our God, the Lord is One,” and then saying we should love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (which fulfills the first four of the Ten Commandments), and then love our neighbor as ourselves (which fulfills the next six of the Commandments).

To live this way, we need to pray this way too! That’s why Jesus taught us a model prayer—which we typically call “The Lord’s Prayer”—in which the first three petitions are for God’s glory (hallowed be Your name; Your kingdom come; Your will be done), and the next three petitions are for man’s help (daily bread, forgiveness, victory over temptation). 

Jesus says we can pray to our Heavenly Father, but we still need to remember that He is also the God of the Hallowed Name. The Greek word for hallowed is made up of two other Greek words: 

  • hagnos is something totally immaculate, blindingly pure, and unapproachable. The apostle Paul said this about God: Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on His way. He’ll show up right on time, His arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He’s the only one death can’t touch, His light so bright no one can get close. He’s never been seen by human eyes—human eyes can’t take Him in! Honor to Him, and eternal rule! (1 Timothy 6:15-16) 
  • thalpo means cherished. The same apostle Paul also said that God has given us the right to approach Him as “Abba, Father” or “Daddy, God” (Romans 8:15). 

He is both unapproachable and approachable. He is both awful and lovable. He is both Supreme power and Supreme love. He is both Hallowed and Father. He is unique. Since He is unique, we must approach Him uniquely in holy prayer. But we must always approach first and foremost to reverence His holy Name. As Matthew Henry said, “Let Him have the praise of His perfections, and then let us have the benefit of them.” 

Think of His glory in every request you make of Him. Father, may Your holy, righteous name be hallowed and exalted and made famous as You…

  • … provide my daily bread
  • … forgive me and help me forgive others
  • … give me victory over temptations

Let’s not pray prayers that rob God of His glory. Prayers like:

  • Selfish prayers that are all about me, me, me
  • Doubtful prayers that aren’t really sure God can help
  • Little prayers that insult God’s power and His love
  • Unexpectant prayers that ask God to do something, but we don’t really expect that He will

Let’s be known as people who pray confidently humble prayers. Let’s come to a Father Who is All-Love and to a God Who is All-Powerful—a God Whose power is perfectly balanced by His love, and Whose love is perfectly balanced by His power. May our prayers HALLOW His name! 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn more about prayer. 

Killing Discontentment

Fading gratitude is a terrible thing. Not being thinkful of our past not only keeps us from being thankful, but it also keeps us stuck in the past. And allowing gratitude to fade also sucks the life out of our every-day experiences.

Asaph told us about the manna that God provided for the Israelites to eat every single day that they were in the wilderness. He called it the bread of angels. But even this wasn’t enough for people who weren’t thinkful nor thankful. Instead, they craved more (Psalm 78:25-30). 

The dictionary defines forgetfulness as “ceasing to think about something.” Gratitude, then, is to continue to think about Someone—that “Someone” being God who daily provides for us.

Fading gratitude brings two ugly realities: 

(1) Discontentment. The dictionary calls this “a restless desire or craving for something one does not have.” In other words, it’s counting up what you don’t have instead of being grateful for what you do have. 

(2) Entitlement. This is discontentment’s sickly twin sister. Where discontentment counts up what it doesn’t have, entitlement says, “I deserve what I don’t have!” Jesus told a story about entitled people who had been given land, a vineyard, and everything they needed to be successful with their farm. Yet when the owner of the farmland asked for his rightful payment, the renters thought they were entitled to keep it all. 

There are serious—and potentially eternal—consequences for our unchecked discontented entitlement. Jesus said, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others” (Mark 12:9). And Asaph reported that for the discontented, entitled Israelites, “God’s anger rose against them; He put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel. … So He ended their days in futility and their years in terror” (Psalm 78:31, 33). 

One of two things is going to happen: either we kill discontentment, or discontentment will kill us! 

It’s not complicated to kill discontentment, but it is hard work. We kill discontentment with contentment. We learn to separate the dis from discontentment with the sword of gratitude! 

The apostle Paul wrote “…I have LEARNED to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have LEARNED the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13). 

One way to learn contentment is to keep reminders around you of all the things which with God has blessed you. Don’t let your gratitude fade for one moment! 

Next week we will be wrapping up this series by considering what can happen to our future outlook if we let gratitude fade from our hearts and minds. I hope you can join me! 

Not How But Who

This is part 3 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible?

Statement #3—This is how you should take Communion.… Is that in the Bible? Quite simply: No, it’s not. 

Every church seems to celebrate Communion with its own unique style, typically following an age-old tradition. There’s nothing wrong with traditions per se. The only thing we have to watch out for is when traditions become the focal point, instead of the thing the tradition is pointing us to. Almost as if we are celebrating the celebration (see Isaiah 1:11-14; Mark 7:1-8). 

In 1054 AD the Great Schism occurred between the Roman church (in West) and the Byzantine church (in East). One issue that led to this schism was Communion. The West used unleavened bread, saying that sin was removed. The East said that sounded like they were adopting Judaism, so they used leavened bread, saying that the “rising” symbolized new life. 

Even today there are differences and disagreements—only administered by a priest … only certain church officials can “bless” the elements … a common cup … individual cups … unfermented juice … fermented wine … unleavened wafers … pieces torn off a full loaf of bread. The Bible never says about Communion, “Do it this way.” All of these are man’s traditions. 

Passover was first instituted in Exodus 13. This is before the Law is given through Moses (Exodus 20) and before the instructions for the tabernacle are given (Exodus 25). In the first version, the sacrifice of the lamb was in individual homes, the lamb’s blood was shed on the doorposts of that home, and the family ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home. 

After the tabernacle was operational, there was a change (Deuteronomy 16). Now the sacrifice of the lamb was in the tabernacle, the lamb’s blood was sprinkled on the altar, but the family still ate the lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs together at home. 

By the time of Jesus, there were newer traditions which weren’t prescribed in the Bible that involved as many as five cups of wine, a very specific order that the meal was presented, and the singing of Psalm 113-118 (sometimes people sang all the way through Psalm 138). 

In the last supper Jesus shares with His disciples, we see some of these later elements. We read about the different cups of wine, the unleavened bread, the supper of lamb, and the singing of a hymn (Luke 22:14-20; Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). 

I want to specifically focus on the second cup of wine Jesus used in this supper. Paul calls this cup the cup of thanksgiving and the cup of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:16, 21). Why? Because Jesus switched cups with us! 

The Bible tells us that we have all sinned, and therefore we are supposed to drink the cup of God’s wrath—For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup of His wrath, and the wine foams and is red, well mixed; and He pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth must drain it and drink its dregs (Psalm 75:8 AMP). 

But Jesus switched cups with us. He took the full wrath of God upon Himself, and then gave us God’s new covenant of forgiveness—“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke My covenant…. This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. … For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 33:31-34). 

Jesus said, “When you drink this, do this in remembrance of Me.” THIS is what we’re called remember and celebrate! 

It’s not HOW we celebrate Communion but WHO we remember when we do celebrate. 

Let’s not celebrate the celebration, but let’s celebrate the Savior who paid the price so that we could celebrate the forgiveness of our sins under God’s new covenant! 

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