The Circle Of Love And Hate

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Oh, how I love Your law! … Therefore I hate every wrong path (Psalm 119:97, 104). 

These bookend verses of the section called Mem form the conclusion of a logical argument, and in between are each step of the progression. Notice the word “for” (in vv. 98, 99, 100, and 102) and the words “so that” in v. 101. 

This progression forms a circle from love to hate, and back to love again. Check this out—

I love Your law so I meditate on it all day. 

Meditating on Your law makes me wiser than my enemies and my teachers. 

This wisdom helps me obey Your laws. 

Obedience keeps me on the right path. 

I stay on the right path because You Yourself teach me while I’m on that path. 

Because You are my Teacher, Your laws are sweet to me. 

Because Your laws are sweet, I hate anything contrary to Your laws. 

Hating everything that is not found in Your law helps me love Your law even more. 

[Back to the top] Since I love Your law, I keep on meditating on it all day. 

Far too often I believe Christians are known more for what they’re against than what they’re for. The author of Psalm 119 urges us over and over and over again to not only fall in love with God’s Word but to fall more deeply in love with the God revealed in His Word. When we are brimming full of love for God, we cannot help but show the world what we are for, and that is for everyone to have a personal relationship with this loving God for themselves. 

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Learning Contentment

A mark of a maturING saint is one who when he realizes he is in a trough begins to praise God in anticipation of the blessings which are coming! Even the most mature Christian you know hasn’t “arrived”; we are all a work-in-progress. Going through the dark nights is one way God helps mature our understanding of contentment. 

You know the differences between a need and a want: a need is something vital, something I require to survive; a want is something that would be nice to have. 

In good times I can convince myself that my wants are really the same as my needs. In the bright, sunny times a lot of wants mistakenly get called needs. But in the dark nights, this confusion is quickly clarified! 

In Philippians 4, Paul explains what he has learned about needs as he went through some very challenging, dark times. When he says he knows what a need is, he isn’t exaggerating a bit (see 2 Corinthians 11:24-28). And yet the Amplified Bible has Paul saying, “Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want.” 

That’s because Paul was learnING contentment. The verb tense here means I have learned, I am learning, and I will keep on learning. It was an ongoing process that helped him clarify needs from wants. The word Paul uses for content is unique in all the New Testament and it means independent of external circumstances, or as the Amplified Bible says, “satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted in whatever state I am. 

Paul uses another unique word in verse 12 when he says “I have learned.” This is a different Greek word from the previous verse. This time it means disciplined by experience to know how to respond. In other words, Paul disciplined himself to reflect on the lessons he learned in the night. The cliche “Experience is the best teacher” isn’t necessarily true. Lots of people go through experiences and never learn a single thing. Instead, we should say, “Evaluated experience is the best teacher.” That’s exactly what Paul is saying here: “I have learned lessons in my time of meditation after going through a dark night.” 

The English dictionary defines contentment in two important phrases: 

  1. Satisfied with what I have. In Psalm 16, David learned that he had everything he needed in God, and Jesus reminded us that “your Father knows what you NEED before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8).
  2. Satisfied with who I am. Paul knew that “God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by His grace, was pleased” (Galatians 1:15). God made Paul on purpose and for a purpose, and Paul was satisfied with who he was in Christ. God made you on purpose too! 

Our relationship with Jesus is a maturING one. It’s only IN Christ that I can be satisfied with what I have, and satisfied with who I am. It’s only IN the night that my wants get separated from my needs, by learnING contentment.

I can be thankful in the night because I am learning contentment. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series called Thankful In The Night, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

Discovering True Friends

Last week I shared that a mark of a maturing saint is one who when he realizes he is in a trough begins to praise God in anticipation of the blessings which are coming! I believe a keyword in this statement is realizes. Once we realize that we are in a trough, what will help us turn our mourning into praise? In a word: meditation. 

Notice Asaph’s words at the beginning of Psalm 77. Twice he says he “cried out” to God. This literally means that he called aloud, not caring who heard him. It wasn’t a whimper, but Asaph said he was “distressed.” As soon as he realized the distressed state he was in, notice the words of meditation in the next four verses: 

  • remembered (2x) 
  • mused (2x) 
  • thought 
  • inquired 

Asaph also began to ask himself questions, all of which have the obvious answer “NO”:

  • Will the Lord reject me forever? NO! 
  • Will He never show His favor again? NO!
  • Has His unfailing love vanished forever? NO!
  • Has His promise failed for all time? NO! 
  • Has God forgotten to be merciful? NO! 
  • Has He in anger withheld His compassion? NO! 

Again, Asaph meditates (notice the words thought, remember, meditate, and consider once again in the next three verses). His conclusion leads him not to self-pity, but to praising God.

Asaph taught us that when we get our eyes off ourselves we can see what God is doing in us, around us, and through us. 

One lesson I learned in a very dark night time of my life: Who my true friends are. When all my “fans” stopped cheering and started jeering, I ended up in a very dark place. But as soon as I realized the valley I was in and began to meditate on God’s presence even in this dark place, I began to see what was happening around me. One of the things I saw were two men who stood up for me against all the foes attacking me. They stepped in when all my “fans” stepped away. 

The apostle Paul had the same realization in the dark night of his Roman prison cell. He stated, “at my first defense no one came to my support.” But he also saw those who stood by his side: Luke, Timothy, and Mark.

Dark times can quickly lead us to self-pity UNLESS we will realize we are in a dark place and begin to meditate on all that God says in His Word about His faithfulness. Once we get our eyes off ourselves and onto Him, we will begin to see the lessons God is teaching and the amazing things He is accomplishing. 

I can be thankful IN the night because the dark nights have shown me my true friends. 

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

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Stick To The Revealed Word Of God

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.

Stick To The Revealed Word Of God

Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. (Hebrews 13:7-9) 

     From the connection it is evident that our text refers to the teaching of Christ, who is ‘the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ This is not according to the so-called development folly. Theology, like every other science, is to grow, watered by the splendid wisdom of this enlightened age, fostered by the superlative ability of the gentlemen of light and leading of the present time, so much superior to all who came before them! 

     We think not so, brothers and sisters, for the Lord Jesus Christ was the perfect revelation of God. … In previous ages, God has spoken to us by His prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son [Hebrews 1:1-2]. Now as to that which was a complete revelation, it is blasphemous to suppose that there can be any more revealed than has been made known in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God! … And as He shuts up the book that contains the written revelation, He bids you never dare to take from it, lest He should take your name out of the Book of Life! And never dare to add to it, lest He should add to you the plagues that are written in this book [Revelation 22:18-19]!

From The Unchangeable Christ 

BEWARE when someone tells you they have discovered some new revelation from God that they—and they alone—have uncovered. God’s Word doesn’t need anyone’s “help.” 

But DO pray before you read the Bible to ask the same Holy Spirit that inspired the Word of God to now illuminate it to your mind as you read and study. 

(P.S. Oswald Chambers had some sobering words about false prophets.)

 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Thoughtful Meditation And Application

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.

Thoughtful Meditation And Application

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:7-8) 

     Observe, then, that God’s people are a thoughtful people. If they are what they are to be, they do a great deal of remembering and considering. … I wish, in these days, that professing Christians remembered and considered a great deal more, but we live in such a flurry, hurry, and worry, that we do not give time for thought. …  

     Our great Master never aimed at originality—He said that He did not even speak His own words, but the words that He had heard of His Father [John 12:49]. He was docile and teachable. As the Son of God and the Servant of God, His ears were open to hear the instructions of the Father, and He could say, ‘I always do those things that please Him’ (John 8:29). … 

     There is no difference whatever in the relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ to His people at this time! He is just as ready to comfort us tonight as He was to comfort those with whom He dwelt when here below! Sister Mary, He is as willing to come down to your Bethany and help you in your sorrow about Lazarus as He was when He came to Martha and Mary whom He loved! Jesus Christ is just as ready to wash your feet, my brother, after another day’s weary travel through the foul ways of this world. He is as willing to take the basin and the towel and to give us a loving cleansing as He was when He washed His disciples’ feet! Just what He was to them, He is to us! Happy is it if you and I can truly say, ‘What He was to Peter, what He was to John, what He was to Magdalene, that is Jesus Christ to me—the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ 

From The Unchangeable Christ 

If Charles Spurgeon thought the 19th century was a time of “flurry, hurry, and worry,” what adjectives might describe the supersonic, multi-tasking, get-everything-done-now 21st century?! 

Today, more than ever, we need to take time to reflect on God’s Word. Read it slowly. Put yourself in the story. What would you have observed if you were there? What would you have felt? Look around at the others who were there: how would they have perceived what was happening? 

You don’t meditate on God’s Word so that you can find something original, but you meditate so that the Holy Spirit can reveal the original truths that are already there! The Holy Spirit can show you how to apply the Bible to your life, if you will only slow down to give Him time to do so. 

Don’t race through your Bible reading time—slow down and take it all in. Then let the Holy Spirit work out what He has helped you put in your heart and mind.

 

The Knowledge Of The Holy (book review)

One definition of a Christian mystic is someone who engages in deep, prayerful pondering of the nature of God, as He is revealed in the Scriptures, and then emerges from those intimate encounters to share with us what he or she has learned. I would put A.W. Tozer in this category, especially in his book The Knowledge Of The Holy—The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life. 

Tozer himself described the Christian mystic more fully than I could in his book The Christian Book Of Mystical Verse. In that book, Tozer shared some poetic verses from some of his favorite mystical thinkers. He noted, “The hymns and poems found here are mystical in that they are God-oriented; they begin with God, embrace the worshipping soul, and return to God again.” 

In The Knowledge Of The Holy, Tozer takes us on his own personal journey into the immeasurable depths of God’s greatness. Whereas many theologians tend to focus on one attribute of God at a time, Tozer has a God-given ability to help us see all of God’s attributes operating in their infinite fullness. 

Even as Tozer plunges deep into the attributes of God’s self-existence, self-sufficiency, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, love, mercy, justice, grace, and sovereignty, he reminds us, “Because God is immutable He always acts like Himself, and because He is a unity He never suspends one of His attributes in order to exercise another.” 

This is not a book you can ready lightly or casually, or even quickly. This is a book that invites you to read slowly and reverently each of the short chapters, and then to meditate long on the immenseness of an All-Powerful, All-Loving God who wants to reveal Himself to you. 

The Knowledge Of The Holy is a soul-expanding book!

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.

George Mueller On Meditation

“I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…. I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words for the Lord’s blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching, as it were, into every verse to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated on, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. … So that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer.” —George Mueller, in his Autobiography (emphasis mine)

What’s In A Name?

Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son… (Genesis 29:32). 

Jesus said that ALL the Scripture pointed to Him (John 5:39). That means even the various names of people in the Scripture give us some insight into the nature of Jesus. 

Consider Jacob and his sons, who become the fathers of the tribes of the nation of Israel. Jacob the deceiver is transformed into Israel the guileless, and the names of his sons point to what Jesus does to transform all of us into His righteous brothers and sisters. 

[Check out the links posted below to read all the Scripture references.]

Reuben—God sees my misery and sends His Son (Genesis 29:32; John 3:16). 

Simeon—God sent His Son when I was unlovable (Genesis 29:33; Romans 5:6-8). 

Levi—after I am saved from my sins, I am joined to God (Genesis 29:34; Ephesians 2:1-5).

Judah—my salvation brings praise to God (Genesis 29:35; John 15:8).

Dan—God has vindicated me in Jesus (Genesis 30:6; John 8:11).

Naphtali—Christ’s righteousness has given me victory over my struggles (Genesis 30:8; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 15:54-56). 

Gad—God’s favor now advances toward me like an unstoppable troop (Genesis 30:11; Romans 8:31-39). 

Asher—I am now able to enjoy God’s happiness (Genesis 30:13; Matthew 25:21, 34). 

Issachar—God IS my reward (Genesis 30:18; Revelation 3:20-21).

Zebulun—my Husband (Jesus) honors me (Genesis 30:20; Ephesians 5:22-23; Hebrews 2:11).

Joseph—God has taken away my disgrace and added His blessing (Genesis 30:24; Romans 8:1, 32).

Manasseh—God has made me forget my past (Genesis 41:51; Psalm 103:12).

Ephraim—God has made me abundantly fruitful (Genesis 41:52; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

Benjamin—I am God’s son (Genesis 35:18; Ephesians 2:6)! 

God has done ALL this—and more!—through Jesus! 

When you read the Bible, don’t rush through it. Slow down. Meditate on it. Soak in it. And then see how the Holy Spirit will illuminate truth to you. 

[Please check out the Bible references I’ve listed above for yourself. All of the Genesis references are here, and all of the other references are here.]

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Best Study To Expand Your Mind

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 Best Study To Expand Your Mind

     The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy that can ever engage the attention of a child of God is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. … It is a subject so vast that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity, so deep that our pride is drowned in its infinity. …

     But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. …

     Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. …  

     There is one name on which mutability can never be written. One heart never can alter. That heart is God’s; that name Love. 

From The Immutability Of God

The vastness—the infiniteness—of God is something which should much consume us! The psalmists frequently write of the time they spent meditating on God and His awesomeness. 

That word “meditate” means to mull something over and over in your mind; literally, it means “to hum.” Perhaps that’s why the psalms were written as songs, so that it would be easier for people to hum their pondering on how majestic our All-Powerful, All-Loving God is. 

It’s not about the quantity of your Bible reading, but it’s about the quality of your reading. And it’s about what you do with what you have read. Soak in it. Meditate on it. Hum it over and over again throughout the day. Let the truth of God’s majesty lift your mind and spirit to new heights!

This is truly the greatest topic on which you can muse. The illumination of God will expand your mind like no other study in the world can.

Oh Lord my God when I in awesome wonder
consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art! (Stuart Wesley Keene Hine)

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