The Danger Of Great Gifts

I recently posted this

“We are more vulnerable to an attack (and a temporary defeat) after a victory than after a defeat. Why is that? Because victory tends to make us self-satisfied, but defeat tends to make us God-dependent.”

The same is true with our God-given gifts. In his book on spiritual warfare, William Gurnall identifies great giftings in an individual’s life as a vulnerable place for an attack:

“Great gifts lift a saint up a little higher in the eyes of men, but they also tempt him to pride. Do not envy those with great gifts; instead, pity and pray for them. It is hard for them to escape the error of supposing that God’s grace in them is their own doing. … 

“Had God given you gifts merely for your own pleasure or edification, the sin of pride would not be quite so bad. But when you use your gifts to lift yourself up, you tear down the Body of Christ. Your gifts are necessary to the health of the whole Body, but they must be administered properly.” —William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armor (emphasis mine)

Messes

My good friend Josh Schram shared a powerful message in our Selah series. 

David is the anointed king, but instead of living in a palace, he’s living in a cave. From this cave, David gave us Psalm 57. 

Here are some of my takeaways from Josh’s message, but I would encourage you to watch this 20-minute video for yourself

Takeaways: 

  • To get where God needs me to be, I often have to go through things I never expected. 
  • Even my “cave times” are directed by God. 
  • “David didn’t get down on Saul’s level; he got down on his knees.” —Josh Schram 
  • If David had taken matters into his own hands, what would his legacy have been? Instead, he worshiped God, and let God take care of Saul. 
  • “We don’t worship God because our circumstances are good but because our God is good.” —Josh Schram 
  • My little messes become big messes when I try to handle them myself. I need to run to my Heavenly Father for help with all of my messes! 

If you have missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can access all of them by clicking here. 

Apples Of Gold In Pictures Of Silver (book review)

The title of this book comes from the King James Version of the Bible: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). A picturesque phrase for words that are challenging and uplifting. 

This book came to me from my Grandfather’s library. Originally published in 1889, my Grandfather had an autographed copy from 1901. The words in this book have stood the test of time. 

The first section of the book contains quotes, poems, and other life-guiding words to be read each day of the year. The subsequent sections are targeted to specific seasons of life. They are “Apples of Gold for…

  • … Children
  • … Youths 
  • … Lasses 
  • … Young Men 
  • … Young Women
  • … Early Married Life
  • … Middle-Aged 
  • … The Old
  • … Mothers 
  • … Dark Days 
  • … Bright Days” 

Each of these sections contains short stories, quotes, and poetry to both recover from a stumble and help the reader grow to new levels of maturity and success. 

I realize this book is out of print and probably unavailable to most, but there is an important principle from these types of books: Never stop learning. Find sources of wisdom that have stood the test of time, and let others’ hindsight be your foresight as you strive to keep on growing. In the case of Apples Of Gold In Pictures Of Silver, the editors approached this book from a biblical worldview, making sure that all of the counsel they printed aligned with God’s Word. 

I would encourage you to find these types of books to help you grow through life.

How To Pray When You’ve Been Stabbed In The Back

Sadly, some of the people who do us the most harm are those whom we least expected to hurt us. They seemed to have our back, but then they are stabbing us in the back! 

It’s sad, but it shouldn’t be totally unexpected. Matthew Henry said it well: “Never let a good man expect to be safe and easy till he comes to heaven. … It is well that God is faithful, for men are not to be trusted. 

David learned that lesson. He rescued the town of Keilah from the Philistines, only to hear that King Saul has called out his army to destroy Keilah and kill David. This prompted David to leave Keilah and flee to the Desert of Ziph. It appears that David has given Saul the slip, but the Ziphites send a message to the king saying, “We know where David is hiding, and we’ll gladly hand him over to you.” 

Here’s the painful part for David: Both Keilah and Ziph were in Judah—David’s tribe! His own family—that should have had his back—stabbed him in the back instead! 

I wish I could say this was a once-in-awhile thing, but we all know that it’s not. In fact, this sort of betrayal probably happens more often than we would care to admit. 

It was during this time of betrayal by the Ziphites that David wrote the 54th Psalm. In the opening verses, David laments the ruthless, Godless men that have betrayed him. And then comes that word of pause: Selah. 

I believe this Selah may have come when “Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). One of the definitions of Selah is to weigh things to see what is more valuable. Notice that Jonathan took David’s attention off his evil betrayers and turned it to his loving God. So in the very next phrase after the Selah we read David saying, “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.” 

Notice four key components of David’s prayer—

  1. David’s motive for praying. In the opening verse, he says, “Your Name…Your might.” To me, that sounds a lot like the opening words to the model prayer Jesus taught us: “Hallowed be Your Name.” 
  2. David’s prayer. He said, “Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.” It’s interesting to note that David says nothing to the Ziphites themselves, but he only speaks of them when he is alone with God in prayer.  
  3. Prayer’s result. David didn’t have to try to make things right on his own because God took care of it—evil recoiled on those who stabbed David in the back. 
  4. David’s praise. Notice the words “I will praise Your Name…[You] have delivered me.” Again, this praise and focus on God sounds like the end of the model prayer Jesus taught us: “Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever!” 

When enemies assail, when you have been stabbed in the back, don’t look to men for help and don’t take matters in your own hands. Instead take a Selah. Consider that God is worthy of your attention, and not the “ruthless men” who hurt you. Turn your pain over to God and say with David: Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me. 

Evil will recoil on evildoers, you will be kept safe, and you will be vindicated by God’s might! 

If you missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find them all by clicking here. 

7 Quotes From “Faith Of Our Founding Fathers”

Parents, please download a FREE copy of this book to help educate your children on the biblical faith that informed the decisions of our Founding Fathers (link in the book review). You can read my complete book review of Faith Of Our Founding Fathers by clicking here. 

“The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God, and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it, and to regulate your life by its precepts.” —John Jay 

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” —Benjamin Franklin 

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and Soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion. To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian.” —George Washington 

“In this situation of this assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights, to illuminate our understandings? … I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth, That God governs in the Affairs of Men! And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without His Notice, is it probable than an Empire can rise without His Aid?—We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring Aid we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel…. I therefore beg leave to move, That henceforth Prayers, imploring the Assistance of Heaven, and its Blessing on our Deliberations, be held in this Assembly every Morning before we proceed to Business.” —Benjamin Franklin 

“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep for ever….” —Thomas Jefferson 

“The diminution of public virtue is usually attended with that of public happiness, and the public liberty will not long survive the total extinction of morals.” —Samuel Adams 

“Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.” —Samuel Adams

7 Quotes From David Livingstone

The Daring Heart Of David Livingstone by Jay Milbrandt is an amazing account of this man’s heroic and history-altering life. Check out my full book review by clicking here. Below are a few quotes that Milbrandt shared in his biography. 

“It is something to be a follower, however feeble, in the wake of the great Teacher and only model missionary that ever appeared among men.” —David Livingstone 

“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger now and then with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.” —David Livingstone 

“I shall hold myself in readiness to go anywhere, provided it be forward. … Our duty is to go forward … I have observed that people who have sat long waiting have sat long enough before they saw any indication to go.” —David Livingstone 

“As they are experts with the spear I don’t know how it missed, except that he was too sure of his aim and the good hand of God was upon me.” —David Livingstone, after surviving two spears thrown at him during an ambush 

“The Gospels reveal Jesus, the manifestation of the blessed God over all as minute in His care of all. He exercises a vigilance more constant, complete, and comprehensive, every hour and every minute, over each of His people than their utmost selflove could ever attain. His tender love is more exquisite than a mother’s heart can feel.” —David Livingstone 

“If the good Lord permits me to put a stop to the enormous evils of the inland slave-trade, I shall not grudge my hunger and toils. I shall bless His name with all my heart. The Nile sources are valuable to me only as a means of enabling me to open my mouth with power among men. It is this power I hope to apply to remedy an enormous evil [in the East African slave trade]. Men may think I covet fame, but I make it a rule never to read aught written in my praise.” —David Livingstone 

“I am a missionary, heart and soul. God had an only Son, and He was a missionary and a physician. A poor, poor imitation I am or wish to be. In this service I hope to live, in it I wish to die.” —David Livingstone 

Stand-Up Christians

“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” —G.K. Chesterton 

It’s true that no statues have been erected to committees or groups, but groups of people have been allowed to stand up because just one strong leader stood up for them. And history has shown that never has been a greater servant leader—lifting and rescuing more people than we can count—than Jesus of Nazareth. 

Before He ascended back to heaven Jesus said to His followers, “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). He has called us to stand up as His representatives in the world. Jesus didn’t send His followers out under their own power, but He directed them to first be empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:7-8). 

Last week I shared how Hannah’s persistence in prayer led to a revival in Israel. Hannah’s physical barrenness was a picture of Israel’s spiritual barrenness. When Hannah prayed, we read a key phrase: Hannah stood up (1 Samuel 1:9). She was really saying, “God do something IN me that will turn people to You!” 

And God literally did something IN her: she became pregnant, and the son that came from her was the spiritual leader Israel needed. 

New Testament Christians can have a new life conceived IN them when they are baptized IN the Holy Spirit. They can then spiritually give birth to a revival, just as surely as Hannah’s son Samuel led a revival in Israel! Being baptized IN the Holy Spirit empowers us to be stand-up Christians.  

Consider the disciple Peter. On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter couldn’t stand up for Jesus, even though it was just two little servant girls who confronted him. Then Pentecost Sunday came, Peter was baptized IN the Holy Spirit, and this Spirit-empowered man now became a stand-up Christian (Matthew 26:69-72; Acts 2:1-4, 14). 

As Aimee Semple McPherson noted, “The Holy Spirit, when He endues you with power, puts a real ‘stand up for Jesus spirit’ within you, and removes your cowardice.” 

Peter not only stood up before a questioning crowd, he stood up to the same religious leaders who had Jesus crucified, and he stood up for the Gentiles who became Christians (Acts 4:5-10; 15:6-11).

In Peter’s first letter to the Church, he explained how Spirit-baptized Christians could…

  • stand up joyfully in trials (1:6-9; 4:7, 12-19) 
  • stand up for holiness in a wicked culture (1:13-16; 2:11-12)
  • stand up to be able to submit to and serve those in civic government positions (2:13-17)
  • stand up to serve your employer (2:18)
  • stand up like Jesus did to the people who revile and slander you (2:19-25)
  • stand up for your spouse’s salvation (3:1-7) 
  • stand up for your Church family (3:8-12) 
  • stand up to fear (3:13-14) 
  • stand up to give testimony to your faith in Jesus (3:15-17)
  • stand up to live counter-culturally (4:1-6)
  • stand up for the shepherds and the sheep in God’s family (5:1-5)
  • stand up to anxiety (5:6-7)
  • stand up against the devil’s growling (5:8-11) 
  • stand up for Jesus until the very end of life or until Jesus returns (5:12-14) 

All of this from a man who couldn’t stand up to a little servant girl! 

That’s why I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it—Don’t stop at salvation! There is SO MUCH MORE for those who will receive the baptism IN the Holy Spirit. If you want to stand up for Jesus and stand up for others who are being pushed around by the devil, you must be empowered with the stand-up-for-Jesus spirit that only comes from the Holy Spirit. 

Will you let the Holy Spirit put that stand-up spirit in you?

If you have missed any of the other messages in this series, please click here to access them.

10 Quotes From C.S. Lewis

Any day is a good day for some C.S. Lewis quotes! 

“To be ignorant and simple now—not to be able to meet enemies on their own ground—would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did.” —C.S. Lewis 

“If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude,’ you will probably be disappointed.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.” —C.S. Lewis 

“For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear—fear of insecurity.” —C.S. Lewis 

“The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.” —C.S. Lewis 

“Faith, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” —C.S. Lewis 

“And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?” —C.S. Lewis 

“A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.” —C.S. Lewis

10 Quotes From “Coronavirus And Christ”

John Piper has given us a book that is so spot-on timely for this unusual time we are going through. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“I am a sinner. I have never lived a day of my life—not one—without falling short of God’s standards of love and holiness. So how can this be? How can God say, ‘You, John Piper, will be with Me—live or die’ [1 Thessalonians 5:9-10]? God didn’t even wait for the question before He answered. It’s because of Jesus.” 

“To be God is to cause His own counsel to stand—always. God does not just declare which future events will happen; He makes them happen. He speaks His word, and then He adds, ‘I am watching over My word to perform it’ (Jeremiah 1:12).” 

“Jesus expresses the sweetness of God’s sovereignty for His disciples as beautifully as anyone: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows’ (Matthew 10: 29–31). Not one sparrow falls but by God’s plan. Not one virus moves but by God’s plan. This is meticulous sovereignty. And what does Jesus say next? Three things: you are of more value than many sparrows; the hairs of your head are all numbered; fear not.” 

“Christians get swept away in tsunamis. Christians are killed in terrorist attacks. Christians get the coronavirus. The difference for Christians—those who embrace Christ as their supreme treasure—is that our experience of this corruption is not condemnation.” 

“God put the physical world under a curse so that the physical horrors we see around us in disease and calamities would become a vivid picture of how horrible sin is. In other words, physical evil is a parable, a drama, a signpost pointing to the moral outrage of rebellion against God.” 

Physical pain is God’s trumpet blast to tell us that something is dreadfully wrong in the world. Disease and deformity are God’s pictures in the physical realm of what sin is like in the spiritual realm.” 

“Jesus wants us to see the birth pains (including the coronavirus) as reminders and alerts that He is coming and that we need to be ready [Matthew 24:44].” 

“What God is doing in the coronavirus is showing us—graphically, painfully—that nothing in this world gives the security and satisfaction that we find in the infinite greatness and worth of Jesus.” 

“Paul does not view this experience of desperation as satanic or random [2 Corinthians 1:8-9]. It is purposeful. And God is the One whose purpose is mentioned: this life-threatening experience ‘was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.’” 

“Jesus taught His followers to ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16). What is often not noticed is that being the salt of the earth and the light of the world in this way was the more salty and the more bright because the good deeds were to be done even in the midst of suffering. …

“It is nor mere good deeds that give Christianity its tang and luster. It is good deeds in spite of danger.”

8 Quotes From “Warnings To The Churches”

This hard-hitting, no-pulled-punches book is directed primarily at pastors and other church leaders. However, I think anyone who loves Christ and His Bride will find much to ponder in Warnings To The Churches by J.C. Ryle. You can read my full book review by clicking here. 

“Go forward, beloved brethren, and fear not the adversary. Only abide in Christ and the victory is sure. Marvel not at the hatred of the gates of hell. ‘If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own’ [John 15:19]. So long as the world is the world, and the devil is the devil, there must be warfare, and believers in Christ must be soldiers! The world hated Christ, and the world will hate true Christians as long as the earth stands. As the great reformer, [Martin] Luther, said, ‘Cain will go on murdering Abel so long as the Church is on earth.’” 

“He who cannot lie has pledged His royal word that all the powers of hell shall never overthrow His Church. It shall continue, and stand, in spite of every assault. It shall never be overcome.” 

“Weak as this true Church may appear to the eye of man, it is an anvil which has broken many a hammer in times past, and perhaps will break many more before the end. He who lays hands on it is touching the apple of God’s eye!” 

“We corrupt the Word of God most dangerously when we throw any doubt on the absolute inspiration of any part of Holy Scripture.” 

“We corrupt the Word of God when we make defective statements as doctrines. We do so when we add to the Bible the opinions of the Church or of the Church Fathers, as if they were of equal authority. We do so when we take away from the Bible for the sake of pleasing men. We do so when from a feeling of false liberality, keep back any statement which seems narrow, or harsh, or hard. We do so when we try to soften down anything that is taught about eternal punishment or the reality of hell. We do so when we bring forward doctrines in their wrong proportions.” 

“May we never care what men say of us so long as we walk in the light of God’s Word! May we strive and pray to be wholly independent of, and indifferent to, man’s opinion, so long as we please God!” 

“Chosen as believers are by God the Father, justified as they are by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, sanctified as they are by the Holy Spirit, believers are still only men—they are still in the body and still in the world. They are ever near temptation. They are ever liable to misjudge, both in doctrine and in practice. Their hearts, though renewed, are very feeble; their understanding, though enlightened, is still very dim. They ought to live like those who dwell in an enemy’s land, and every day to put on the armor of God. The devil is very busy: he never slumbers or sleeps.” 

“Like the fruit of which Eve and Adam ate, at first sight it looks pleasant and good, and a thing to be desired. ‘Poison’ is not written up on it and so people are not afraid. Like counterfeit coin it is not stamped ‘bad.’ It passes for the real thing, because of the very likeness it bears to the truth. Let us be on our guard against the very small beginnings of false doctrine.” 

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