Highly Esteemed

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“Highly esteemed” is how two different angels addressed Daniel (Daniel 9:23, 10:11). This was a title they obviously heard from God Himself. At both instances, Daniel was in a time of intense and sustained prayer and fasting. 

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making request to the Lord my God for His holy hill … Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me…. (Daniel 9:20-21) 

At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all. (Daniel 10:2-3) 

Prayer was a regular habit for Daniel and prayer was also what Daniel turned to immediately in times of trouble (Daniel 2:18, 6:10). 

We see the same thing in the lives of two notable women in the New Testament. Elizabeth is described as an upright woman who observed all of God’s commandments blamelessly. She continuously prayed that she might get pregnant, and then Gabriel came to bring the good news of her upcoming pregnancy. Elizabeth responded by saying, “The Lord has done this for me.… He has shown me His favor” (see Luke 1:5-25). 

Mary was also a righteous woman who was steeped in Scripture (as we can see in her song of praise). When Gabriel appeared to her, he called her “highly favored” (see Luke 1:26-55). 

A righteous, prayer-filled lifestyle also brings favor and esteem with earthly kings. Daniel and his friends fasted and prayed, which led to King Nebuchadnezzar’s favor directed to them (Daniel 1:11-20, 2:48-49). After three days of prayer and fasting, Queen Esther found favor in the eyes of King Xerxes, which led to the salvation of all the Jewish people (Esther 4:15—5:3). And Nehemiah’s sustained prayer over four months won the favorable reply from King Artaxerxes (see Nehemiah 1:1—2:8). 

If you want to hear deep things from God, if you want to be called “highly esteemed” by the Most High, if you want to gain favor with earthly kings, you must be committed to the sustained work of prayer and righteous living. If you would like to dig into this deeper, check out 4 Thoughts To Help Prayer Become A Daily Habit.

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The Key To God’s Treasure

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…the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure (Isaiah 33:6). 

What treasure is Isaiah referring to? There is an amazing list of blessings in this chapter! Things like…

  • God’s graciousness 
  • God’s strength
  • Salvation
  • God’s justice
  • God’s righteousness
  • A sure foundation
  • “A rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge” 
  • Eternally secure in God’s presence
  • Seeing God’s beauty 
  • Having evil people removed from my life 
  • Peace 

How do I get the key to this treasure? By placing my faith in Jesus. Jesus paid the price, so He could take the key from the devil and hold it securely. When I am in Him, I have access to this key to God’s riches! 

With all of this treasure accessible to me, how do I now live? In a word: Nobly. “But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand” (Isaiah 32:8). I am a child of God, a joint-heir with Jesus. I lack no good thing, so I can live securely, gracefully, and nobly. I must live this way to bring glory to my Lord and my Master every single day! 

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Poetry Saturday—Before The Throne Of God Above

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Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart,
No tongue can bid me thence depart. 

When satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me,
To look on Him and pardon me. 

Behold Him there! The risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless righteousness;
The great unchangeable “I AM,”
The King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God,
With Christ, my Savior and my God. —Charitie Lees Bancroft

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The Best Leadership Manual

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When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice… (Proverbs 29:2). 

I have read hundreds of leadership books and biographies of history’s most influential leaders. But no book even comes close to the leadership principles I discover on an almost daily basis in my Bible. Without a doubt, my Bible is my go-to leadership Book! 

A great place to start mining leadership principles is the book of Proverbs. Take time to study just one of the 31 chapters each day, and you will be astounded at the leadership insights you will have gleaned by the end of the month. 

Take Proverbs 29 as an example. Reading through this chapter, I’m reminded that:

  • righteous leadership causes people to rejoice 
  • a leader builds stability through consistent justice, but bribes or showing favoritism undermines a leader’s foundation 
  • leaders who speak up for those without a voice of their own will continue to exert influence long after their tenure is over 
  • wise leaders energize people when they share a compelling vision 
  • justice comes through a righteous leader, but ultimate justice come from God

I even read an important warning for leaders who make it their goal to lead righteously: Bloodthirsty men hate a man of integrity and seek to kill the upright (v. 10). 

But even on the heels of that warning I read this assurance to continue to lead righteously: Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe (v. 25). 

A mark of a godly leader is one who is continually finding new leadership principles in the Bible. 

Try it for yourself and see how applying God’s wisdom will increase your influence as a leader. 

This is part 58 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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Judging Like God

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I may have heard more confusion, bad preaching, and even heresy based on Psalm 82 than almost any other passage! Most of the confusion comes from just verses 1 and 6, but if we read the entire psalm, I think confusions are quickly cleared up.

The biggest point of confusion is the use of the word “gods.” The Hebrew language doesn’t have capital and lowercase letters like we do. So the word God (with or without a capital “G”) is the same Hebrew word—el (singular) or elohiym (plural)—which means mighty One or mighty ones. Humans can be mighty ones, but only Yahweh is the Mighty One. 

Further adding to the confusion for some people is that Yahweh God is sometimes referred to in the plural in Hebrew: elohiym. This is understandable because we believe God is Three-in-One. Not three gods, but one God in three Persons. 

Bible translators have to use context clues to determine whether the biblical authors are referring to Yahweh or a pretend deity. Thankfully, English Bible translators have helped us out:

  • when the Hebrew word is Yahweh, most Bibles print it LORD 
  • when the Mighty One is implied in the text it’s God (with a capital “G”), and when it’s just a mighty person it’s typed god/gods (with lowercase a “g”). 
  • the NIV translators really helped us in Psalm 82 by designating the false deities in quotation marks (“gods”), almost as if they’re saying “the so-called gods.” 

When we were looking at the Selah in Psalm 81, I pointed out the importance of remembering that context is king. Clearly, from the context in Psalm 82, these are false gods (lowercase “g” and inside quotation marks).  

Asaph only speaks in the first and last verses of this psalm, but notice his commentary that “God presides…He gives judgment.” As in, God gets the final and decisive word. In fact, God does the most speaking in this psalm (in verses 2-7). God indicts wicked people for…

  • defending the unjust 
  • showing partiality to the wicked 
  • knowing nothing, understanding  nothing, walking around in darkness 
  • and notes “you will die like mere men” 

Now notice what the Selah pause connects. This is a pause for us to contrast two things: the righteous way and the wicked way. Or maybe we could say the contrast is between the way of the righteous Mighty One and His followers, and the way of wicked mighty ones. 

The Selah really begs an important question, “How long will your pride keep you doing these wicked things?” Notice what God calls on people to do in opposition to what the wicked are doing:

  • the wicked defend the unjust vs. the righteous are to defend the weak and fatherless 
  • the wicked show partiality to the wicked vs. the righteous maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed 
  • the wicked are concerned only about themselves vs. the righteous rescue the weak and needy from the hand of the wicked 

The Selah is intended to prompt us to ask ourselves: “Which are we? What am I doing or not doing?” 

The word for rendering a judgment is used four times in Psalm 82: 

  • God gives judgment on the activities of the “gods” 
  • the wicked defend the unjust, meaning that they condone their unjust activities 
  • the righteous defend the weak, meaning they speak up for those being oppressed by the “gods”
  • finally, Asaph declares in verse 8 that God renders the final and decisive judgement 

God wants us to exercise His righteous judgment on the earth. We have to Selah to examine ourselves first (see Matthew 7:1-5), but then we need to act boldly and righteously (see Micah 6:8; Leviticus 5:1; Proverbs 31:8-9). 

We can judge like we are “gods,” or we can judge, defend, and speak up like ambassadors of the Mighty One—the Ultimate Judge.

Wicked people are punished for judging like “gods.” Righteous people are rewarded for judging like God. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series exploring the Selahs in the Psalms, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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Hating Well

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I hate… (Psalm 119:163). 

In my experience, many Christians struggle with the word “hate,” as though it shouldn’t have any part in their vocabulary. And yet here is that word right in the middle of Psalm 119, this longest chapter in the Bible which extols the value of the Bible in all 176 verses. 

I remember watching “Sesame Street” when they would sing the song, “One of these things is not like the other.” Let’s play that same game from this Sin/Shin section of Psalm 119:

  • I stand in awe of Your Word 
  • I rejoice in Your promise 
  • I love Your law 
  • I praise You, God, for Your righteous laws 
  • I follow Your commands 
  • I obey Your statues 
  • I love Your statutes 
  • I obey Your precepts 
  • I hate falsehood 

Doesn’t that last one seem out of place? In fact, it’s not just “hate,” but one translation says, “hate and abhor,” and another says, “hate and detest”! 

But I want you to notice first of all that it is not a person that the psalmist hates, but falsehood, deception, fraud, lying. The root word in Hebrew is someone who is purposefully dealing falsely as a means of tricking or cheating. 

This is what we could correctly say is righteous anger.

The psalmist’s love for the glory of God is great, which means he also reveres this Book of Truth—the Bible—that leads people to basking in God’s glory. To be apathetic about lies that are deliberately attempting to cheat people out of an intimate relationship with God is the exact opposite of love.

Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is the opposite of love.

Hate of those things which keep people from God is the completion of the love for God and the respect for the Book that brings people to Him.

To love fully, I must also hate well. Not people, but actions that keep people away from experiencing and knowing God’s love. May all of us learn from the Holy Spirit how to awaken from any apathy we may have, and to correctly express our righteous anger. 

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You Are A Unique Masterpiece

The Bible uses two phrases that we don’t typically use today: “the horn of the wicked” and “the horn of the righteous.” 

A horn in Hebrew literature is a symbol of strength. The wicked blow their own horn—trumpeting how they are self-made people. Obviously, this God-ignoring arrogance isn’t something God can bless! 

What about “the horn of the righteous”? Is there a way to blow our horn so that God is glorified? In a word: Yes!

Check out this short 2-minute video to hear how I describe the right and wrong ways to honor your uniqueness by blowing a righteous, God-honoring horn…

Always remember this—You are God’s grace gift to the world, so you must always strive to blow a God-honoring horn! 

If you would like to check out some of the other thoughts I shared about our horns, please click here. 

5 Truisms From Psalm 62

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When I see words like truly (3 times), surely (2 times), and yes (1 time) occurring so frequently in a rather short psalm, it catches my attention. Combined with the call for a Selah pause another two times in this twelve-verse psalm, and this is clearly a chapter that we should read slowly and deliberately. 

Because of these words truly and surely, I find five truisms that David makes clear to us, and I also find that they are linked together in a beautiful circular chain. 

Truism #1—God keeps me secure. He alone is my source of security (vv. 1-2). 

Truism #2—Evil people are envious of a righteous person’s secure position and will try to pull them down (vv. 3-4). When this happens I need to take a Selah pause to remember Who holds me secure. 

Truism #3—These attacks by evil people do not put my security in jeopardy, but instead it gives me a been-there-done-that testimony to share with others (vv. 5-8). Again, I need to Selah to remember that my challenges are often for the benefit of others as much as they are for my strengthening. 

Truism #4—Poor people are not excluded from God’s help, and rich people are not above God’s help (vv. 9-10). God sees every human being as infinitely valuable. 

Truism #5—God is both All-Loving and All-Powerful. He gets the final word on both judgment and reward (vv. 11-12). This fifth truism should refuel my understanding of the first truism—that God holds me securely—which continues my confident journey through this chain of beautiful truisms all over again. 

Friends, I urge you to go slowly through your personal Bible reading time. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s illumination before you begin reading, and then watch to see how He will point out to you patterns, repeated words, and other insights that will allow you to apply God’s Word to your daily life.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—An Important Distinction

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.

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An Important Distinction

     Many had been the good works of Abram. It was a good work to leave his country and his father’s house at God’s bidding. It was a good work to separate from Lot in so noble a spirit. It was a good work to follow after the robber-kings with undaunted courage. It was a grand work to refuse to take the spoils of Sodom and to lift up his hand to God that he would not take a thread even to a shoelace. It was a holy work to give to Melchizedek tithes of all that he possessed and to worship the Most High God.

     Yet none of these are mentioned in the text, nor is there a hint given of any other sacred duties as the ground or cause, or part cause, of his justification before God. No, it is said, ‘And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness’ (Genesis 15:6). … 

     If there is salvation for the dying thief and others like him, it cannot be of debt, but of grace, seeing they have no good works! If Abram, when full of good works, is not justified by them, but by his faith, how much more we, being full of imperfections, must come to the throne of the heavenly grace and ask that we may be justified by faith that is in Christ Jesus and saved by the free mercy of God! …  

     Always distinguish between the truth of God that living faith always produces works, and the lie that faith and works cooperate to justify the soul. We are made righteous only by an act of faith in the work of Jesus Christ. That faith, if true, always produces holiness of life. But our being righteous before God is not because of our holiness in life in any degree or respect, but simply because of our faith in the divine promise [Romans 4:22-25]. 

From Justification By Faith

“I’ve been made righteous in God’s sight SO THAT I can live a holy life” is vastly different from “I’m living a holy life SO THAT I can be made righteous in God’s sight.” 

None of our good works—no matter how many we do—will ever wipe the slate clean of our sins. It’s an impossibility! That is why faith in the work of Jesus on the Cross is vital. It’s my faith in His substitutionary work that has canceled the record of my sins and made me holy before God, SO THAT now I am free to live out that holy life! 

What freedom there is in allowing our living faith to overflow into our loving deeds! Our holy living is our thankful worship to God for His precious gift of Jesus. 

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Poetry Saturday—Truth

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Since the dear hour that brought me to Thy foot,
And cut up all my follies by the root,
I never trusted in an arm but Thine,
Nor hoped, but in Thy righteousness divine:
My prayers and alms, imperfect and defiled,
Were but the feeble efforts of a child;
Howe’er perform’d, it was their brightest part,
That they proceeded from a grateful heart:
Cleansed in Thine own all-purifying blood,
Forgive their evil and accept their good:
I cast them at Thy feet—my only plea
Is what it was, dependence upon Thee:
While struggling in the vale of tears below,
That never fail’d, nor shall it fail me now.
Angelic gratulations rend the skies,
Pride fall unpitied, never more to rise,
Humility is crown’d, and Faith receives the prize. —William Cowper

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