Thursdays With Spurgeon—Cutting The Root Of The Weed Of Sin

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.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Cutting The Root Of The Weed Of Sin

I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah. (Psalm 32:5) 

     We must confess the guilt as well as the fact of sin. It is useless to conceal it, for it is well known to God; it is beneficial to us to own it, for a full confession softens and humbles the heart. I will confess my transgressions to the Lord. Not to my fellow human beings or to the high priest, but to Jehovah. … 

     When the soul determines to lay low and plead guilty, absolution is near at hand; hence we read, “And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Not only was the sin itself pardoned, but so was the iniquity of it; the virus of its guilt was put away at once, as soon as the acknowledgment was made. God’s pardons are deep and thorough: the knife of mercy cuts at the roots of the ill weed of sin.

From Spurgeon And The Psalms

I notice again the Selah at the end of this verse. That word means to pause and deeply consider the previous words. I shared a sermon about the weight that is lifted and the freedom that is restored if we will just confess our sin to God! 

But the devil loves to condemn us, to whisper the lie that we’ve sinned one too many times for God to forgive us again. This is truly a lie because a forgiven sin is a forgotten sin. So in essence when we ask God to forgive us for our most recent sin, He views it as our only sin! 

In my book Shepherd Leadership, I challenged pastor-shepherds to make good use of confession: 

     When your reactions aren’t Christlike, admit it. Someone might want to push back, “But if I say I was wrong, then I may lose some leadership credibility.” I would agree that you will lose credibility if you believe you are a self-made leader and if you are climbing up a career ladder that you designed. But if you are truly living and leading as a servant that God has equipped and placed among this flock, admission of an un-Christlike action or reaction triggers something extraordinary: God’s help. Peter said it this way: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). 

     Did you catch that? God stands back from the proud person who will not admit his error nor ask for help, let alone ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, God lavishes His grace on the humble one who admits both his error and his need for help. Admission of an inappropriate action or reaction brings God’s help! 

     Friends, the mark of a maturing shepherd is not one who never misspeaks or never makes a mistake. No, the mark of a maturing shepherd is the one who is closing the gap between his mess up and his confession, and one who is experiencing fewer mess ups over time because the Holy Spirit is helping him get healthier and more mature. —an excerpt from chapter 12 of Shepherd Leadership

Don’t listen to the devil’s lies, but hear the loving voice of the Holy Spirit calling you to confess your sin and receive immediate absolution from it. As Spurgeon said, “God’s pardons are deep and thorough: the knife of mercy cuts at the roots of the ill weed of sin.” 

If you would like to know more about Shepherd Leadership, please click here.

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Sure And Secure

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We have looked at all of the psalms with a Selah pause, but there is one bonus message that we need to consider, and I think it’s a perfect wrap up to this series. 

Outside the book that bears his name, there is no other mention of Habakkuk anywhere else in the Bible. The author himself gives us no biographic information, nor does he give us dates as most of the other prophets do. However, there is enough information inside his short book that allows us to make some solid inferences:

  • based on his instructions in 3:19 we can infer he is a Levite and a worship leader—notice that he says “my instruments” 
  • we know for certain he is a song writer and a prophet (1:1; 3:1) 
  • he is a prophet with a heavy message—the word oracle in in the opening verse is probably better translated a “burden” 
  • he is a contemporary of Jeremiah, who spoke to backsliders, but Habakkuk speaks to the godly remnant to help them make sense of what’s happening in their crumbling culture 

Habakkuk does something that isn’t seen anywhere in the Bible except in the Psalms: he calls godly people to Selah—not once, but three times! 

In our look at the Selahs of Psalm 55 we noted how David’s Selahs almost came as an interruption of his anxious thoughts. Habakkuk’s Selahs follow this same theme. That’s because Habakkuk’s culture (like ours today) was increasingly unrighteous, unstable, and unsure. This prophetic worship leader wants righteous people trying to stand strong in their unrighteous culture to know that our surety and stability must come from our unshakable relationship with our righteous God. 

We’ve said that one of the definitions for Selah is “pause and calmly think of that,” but for Habakkuk’s Selahs I want to modify it slightly: Pause to interrupt your doubtful thoughts and consider this…. What he wants us to consider, I believe, comes from the opening words of his song in chapter 3—

Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy (v. 2). 

We are to pause to consider that God has already shown His unrivaled power in the past, and then we stand firm to see Him move again “in our day, in our time” so that the unrighteous will have an opportunity to repent and turn to Him. 

The first Selah is after v. 3 in which Habakkuk references Mount Paran. How did God show His fame there? Moses recorded it this way: 

The Lord came from Sinai and beamed upon us from Seir; He flashed forth from Mount Paran, from among ten thousands of holy ones, a flaming fire, a law, at His right hand. (Deuteronomy 33:2)  

Selah—pause to interrupt your doubtful thoughts and consider this: God did this before and He can do it again. His glory will cover the heavens, His praise will fill the earth, His power will be so evident that the earth will quake and nations will tremble (vv. 4-6). All of this to reassure the righteous and arrest the attention of the wayward unrighteous.  

The second Selah is after v. 9 where Habakkuk is still describing all that God will do personally to rescue His righteous ones. Selah—pause to interrupt your doubtful thoughts and consider this: God did this before—see the almost identical language David uses in Psalm 18:3-17—and He can do it again. All of this to reassure the righteous and arrest the attention of the wayward unrighteous. 

The final Selah is at the end of v. 13 where Habakkuk describes what God will do to the enemies of His people. He uses words of decisive victory—crushed, stripped, pierced, trampled. 

Once again, Selah—pause to interrupt your doubtful thoughts and consider this: God did this before and He can do it again. More specifically, Jesus is the Decisive and Ultimate Victor over sin and death! Check this out: 

Then the end will come, when [Jesus] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:24-26) 

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross. (Colossians 2:15) 

Do not be afraid. I [Jesus] am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18)

When our culture is becoming increasingly unrighteous, unstable, and unsure, what an unshakable surety and security we have standing on Christ the Solid Rock. As the old hymn reminds us—when all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay!

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

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Dehydrated

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I just came back from California where drought-like conditions cause residents a lot of concern—wildfires, crop failure, what happens if too much rain falls too quickly? Being dry causes people a lot of stress. 

Most people live under-hydrated, if not dehydrated. Depending upon the size of the person, the amount of water in the human body makes up 55-75%. That means that when we don’t get enough water, many complications can arise. So if you struggle with…

  • …headaches, don’t take a Tylenol, but trying drinking more water 
  • …bad breath, don’t swish mouthwash, but trying drinking more water 
  • …being tired, don’t guzzle caffeine, but trying drinking more water 
  • …gut problems, don’t pop an Alka-Seltzer or milk of magnesia, but trying drinking more water 
  • …bags under your eyes, don’t get botox, but trying drinking more water 

The introduction to Psalm 143 only says, “A psalm of David,” but nothing about his actual predicament. But we can see the things that were weighing heavy on David: 

  • he pleaded for mercy, which means not getting the punishment he deserved (vv. 1-2) 
  • enemies were pursuing him (v. 3) 
  • he felt faint in spirit and dismayed in heart (v. 4) 
  • he had a failing spirit (v. 7) 
  • he was lost, asking God to “show me the way” (v. 8) 
  • he prayed for God to “preserve my life…bring me out of trouble” (v. 11) 
  • he felt the slander of his enemies (v. 12) 

All of this must have led to David feeling emotionally and spiritually—if not even physically—dehydrated. 

We have said there are three definitions for Selah, but I think the context of this chapter clearly limits it to just one definition: a pause to reflect. David’s Selah in this psalm is actually a quadruple Selah! A dehydrated David reminds himself and us to…

  • remember or recall to mind 
  • meditate or speak to yourself (also see Psalm 42:5-6) 
  • consider—some translations use the word “muse,” a word meaning an inner conversation, including airing our complaints 
  • Selah—the call to “pause and calmly think of that,” as the Amplified Bible defines that word  

All of these things pressing in on David were getting his full attention, so he forgot to drink deeply of the Living Water of God. As a result, David was dehydrated. This is why he calls for that quadruple Selah to be refreshed. 

But what if there are so many problems around us that we cannot even think of anything that we can “drink” from God? What if there are so many troubles that we don’t know what to thank Him for? 

Let me point you to a tiny preposition: IN in vv. 8, 9 (and also in Psalm 42:5-6). David is not saying he has to get a drink, but that he has to go IN to the Source of Living Water. 

Rejoice IN the Lord (Philippians 4:4) and Trust IN the Lord (Isaiah 26:4). As a result, God will then keep us IN His peace (Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:7). [Check out all of these verses by clicking here.]

This is what I think David spoke to himself in his remembering, meditating, and considering—in his inner conversations. Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust IN You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life (Psalm 143:8). 

When you’re dehydrated, it’s hard to think of things to be thankful for, but we can look to the unchangeable attributes of God. David did this and it helped him with his actions and attitude: 

God’s love is unfailing so we can rely on Him (v. 8a)
God’s omniscience is infinite so we can trust His leading (v. 8b)
God’s omnipotence is unmatched so we can be secure in Him (v. 9)
God’s sovereign wisdom is unrivaled so we can confidently obey and follow Him (v. 10)
God’s eternal glory is unending so we can have eternal hope (v. 11)
Again David notes that God’s love is unfailing so we can continue to fearlessly serve Him (v. 12), which takes us right back to the opening two verses of this psalm

The Selah time allowed David to make these connections, or rather, it allowed him the quiet time to drink in the Holy Spirit’s reminders of these attributes of God. David always knew who God was, but in his time of dehydration his Selah re-reminded Him of who God was to him. 

When we are feeling dehydrated, we must Selah to drink deeply of the Living Water. This Selah pause plunges us INTO God’s presence and allows us to make His attributes personal.  

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find the complete list of them by clicking here. 

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God Loves Wicked People

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The first two Selah pauses we see in Psalm 140 are pauses to remember two things: 

  1. There, but for the grace of God, go I. 
  2. God is doing something in me through wicked people and evil times. 

But there is one more Selah in this chapter that we need to consider—Do not grant the wicked their desires, O Lord; do not let their plans succeed, or they will become proud. Selah. (v. 8) 

Most of  us would probably agree with Abraham Kuyper who said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” 

But the amazing thing here is that God allows David—and you and me—to call Him mine! “O LORD, I say to You, ‘You are MY God’” (v. 6). David goes on to say that God is my strong deliverer who shields me against evildoers (v. 7). 

But isn’t David’s God also the God of the wicked? Aren’t they a part of “the whole domain of human existence” that is His? Yes! 

So that must mean that God wants even wicked people to call Him, “My God”! 

This is exactly what Jesus told us: For God so loved the world [including wicked people] that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever [including wicked people] believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world [including wicked people] through Him (John 3:16-17). 

Just before this third Selah in verse 8 David prays that the plans of the wicked might be thwarted so that proud people don’t become even more proud. That seems okay. But after the Selah David seems to be asking God to let everything that wicked people have planned to boomerang back on them (vv. 9-11).  

Isn’t that hateful? Not if we understand “hate” correctly. 

Hate isn’t the opposite of love, but apathy is the opposite of love. Hate is a very strong emotion that usually comes out when something we love or desire is thwarted or kept from us. 

Just as we learned last week that God allows evil people and their slander and wickedness to prune us and make us more fruitful, can’t God give back to evil people exactly what they need to get their attention? Can’t He use their own evil plans for them just as He used them for us? Yes! 

If God loves us—and He does—then He must hate anything that keeps us from Him. 

If God loves wicked people—and He does—then He must also hate anything that keeps them from accepting the atoning work Jesus did for them on the Cross. 

God is love. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more. There is nothing an evil person can do to make God love them any less. 

David’s third Selah is really his reminder that he must leave evil people to the only One who can discipline them in perfect measure. We have to leave evil people to God’s care—the only One who can rescue them. That’s why Jesus told us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). 

David’s prayer in verses 9-13 does leave evil people in God’s hands, and it’s a prayer you and I can personalize for those whom we desire to know Jesus as their Savior. 

It’s not God’s desire that any should perish. So let’s Selah to call God, “My God,” but to also pray that even the wicked people around us will come to the realization that through faith in Jesus, they too can cry out, “My God!” 

God gave me a unique story when I was walking through a challenging time with a friend that I needed to leave to God’s care. I called the story The Parable of the Lifeguard. You can watch it in the video below, or you can read it by clicking here. 

If you have missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find a list of all of those messages by clicking here. 

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Protected To Be Fruitful 

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We just finished a 2-week look at Psalm 88 & Psalm 89 which reminded us of the reality of temporary darkness and the certainty of eternal light. We said our dark days are meant to get our attention to rely on God’s covenant promise. 

Something else we should be aware of: Whenever we run to or return to Jesus, the enemy of our souls prepares an attack (1 Samuel 7:3-10; 1 Peter 5:8). 

The next psalm with a Selah is David’s prayer in Psalm 140. Selah appears 3 times in this short, 13-verse psalm. 

We’ve said that Selah can mean a pause to carefully consider, a pause to observe the contrasts, or a pause to prepare for a crescendo. The Selahs after verses 3 and 5 don’t appear to fit the second or third definitions, but why would David ask us to pause to consider what wicked men are doing? I believe it is because we need to pause to contemplate two vital things, which I’ll share with you in a moment. 

But first, notice the wicked men and evil times that David is confronting. He speaks of evildoers, violent people, wicked men, arrogant people, and slanderers (vv. 1, 4-5, 8, 11). 

Surrounding the first two Selahs, check out David’s prayer for God to…

  • …rescue me (v. 1a)—get me out of here, or take the evil away from me  
  • protect me (v. 1b, 5b)—don’t let me be defeated or even diminished  
  • keep me (v. 4a)—we might say David is asking God to “watch my six” or guard the places I cannot see (notice the words net and traps in v. 5b) 

The first Selah lesson we should take away is: There, but for the grace of God, go I. 

If I hadn’t accepted Jesus as my Savior and had a new nature imparted to me, I would be doing exactly what these wicked people are doing. Paul tells Timothy what evil people will do, and he tells the Corinthian Christians that they used to be those same kinds of people (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 1 Corinthians 6:11). 

When I see evil men, men of violence, and wicked people who are proud and slandering, I need to Selah to pray that the light and love of Jesus will be revealed to them. 

The second Selah lesson we should take away is: God is doing something in my life through wicked men and evil times. 

The words the Holy Spirit prompted David to pen have a richer definition than what I previously shared with you. Check this out…

  • rescue me (v. 1a) also means make me strong and well-armed for battle  
  • …protect me (v. 1b, 5b) envisions a gardener carefully watching over his vineyard to bring the plants to fruitful maturity (like in John 15:1-2)  
  • keep me (v. 4a) can mean “fight for me”  

Sometimes God protects me from violence. Sometimes God protects me through violence. Whatever the case, I can be assured that I will be rescued and He will be glorified. This prayer in Psalm 140 is a prayer for protection so that we can be fruitful for God’s kingdom.

We need to Selah during the evil times we live in and whenever we have to endure wicked attacks. 

  1. Selah to thank God that you have been redeemed from that evil lifestyle by your faith in Jesus, and then pray for your attackers (Matthew 5:44). 
  2. Selah to thank God that He is using even evil people to make you more fruitful, to arm you for battle, and to glorify His name (Mark 13:9). 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can check them all out by clicking here. 

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…The Certainty Of Eternal Light

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Even though Jesus explicitly told His followers about His crucifixion, it was clear on that Friday on Golgotha that they didn’t fully grasp what was going on. 

We see the same thing in Heman’s maskil of Psalm 88: The faint hope that his Savior would rescue him from death, but still not fully grasping what was happening. Just as Jesus cried out, “It is finished” and His disciples thought the darkness had fallen, Heman ends his psalm with, “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:18). 

There is the reality of darkness in this world—but it is only temporary darkness. This is why I entitled our look at Psalm 88 as “The reality of temporary darkness” because, in the second part of this couplet of maskil psalms, Ethan moves right into the light of Resurrection Sunday: “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever” (Psalm 89:1). 

Consider this Good Friday-to-Resurrection Sunday thought from Jesus: “…In the world you will have tribulation; BUT be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This tells us of both the temporary darkness and the conquering Light. But also notice that Jesus said our peace would come from knowing that both darkness and light are realities: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.” Whether we are in temporary darkness or looking forward to the eternal light, our peace is only found in Jesus. 

When the followers of Jesus came to His tomb on Sunday morning, the angels asked them a penetrating question, “Why are you looking for a living Person in a place where there are dead people?” Then they began to stimulate their memory to get them to recall Christ’s words. Finally, we read, “THEN they remembered” (Luke 24:5-8). Then they had to choose to obey the word of God. 

Ethan recalls God’s words and uses his “will” three in the opening two verses. 

The disciples also could bank on Christ’s words, just as Ethan chose to bank on Jehovah’s words. The central part of Psalm 89 is God speaking: Check out His assurance in the “I will” statements within the quotation marks in verses 19-37. Then we are called to Selah to let that soak in. 

Notice what radiates out from this foundational assurance:

  • Ethan uses the pronouns You/Your 20 times in reference to God to assure us that God is in sovereign control (vv. 8b-14). Then he tells us of the blessings of God’s favor on our obedience to His word (vv. 15-18). 
  • On the other side of the central quotation from God, Ethan again uses the pronouns You/Your 13 times in vv. 38-45, but then he tells us of the blessing of God’s discipline on our disobedience.
  • Radiating out further, Ethan asks seven questions—much like his brother Heman did in Psalm 88—in verses 5-8 and 46-48. 
  • Finally, we see the psalm both opening and closing with praising God as we remember His covenant word (vv. 1-4, 49-52). 

Remember we said the darkness cannot prevail. The darkness is temporary (Romans 8:18) but Ethan repeatedly reminds us of God’s foreverness (vv. 1, 2, 4, 29, 52). 

  • The Selah after v. 4 is to pause in wonder at God’s words and break into rejoicing!
  • The Selah after v. 37 is again to pause after remembering God’s covenant, and to reflect on our own obedience or disobedience. 
  • The Selah after v. 45 is a pause to mourn and repent from our disobedience. 
  • The Selah after v. 48 is to pause to reflect on the forgiveness purchased on Calvary and the eternal light and life that bought. 
  • Finally, v. 52 harkens back to v. 1 as the praise is restored and the cycle begins all over again. In fact, the praise of God’s light continues forever! 

Heman and Ethan both remind us of this important truth—

My dark days are meant to get my attention. Are they dark because I live in an evil world, or because I have sinned? In either case, my only remedy is to rely on God’s covenant promise fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find a complete list by clicking here.

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The Reality Of Temporary Darkness…

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A father came home from work and noticed a note addressed to him taped to his teenage son’s door:

Dear Dad, 

Jason and I borrowed Mom’s car to go to Taco Bell. I know I didn’t have permission, but I thought we’d be back before you and Mom got home. Unfortunately, I hit a pothole and blew out the front right tire. 

We jacked up the car to put on a spare tire, but the jack slipped and the car rolled backward into the ditch. 

Bill came with his pickup to pull us out, but the tow strap pulled off the front bumper and the car rolled further down the hill and sunk in the pond. 

I bought a bus ticket to get out of town and go enlist in the Army. Give Mom a hug and I’ll see you both in about 2 years. 

Love, your son

P.S. None of the above is true. Mom took her car to Aunt Jan’s house and I rode my bike to Jason’s house. However, I hope the fact that none of these bad things actually happened will help you put in perspective the D+ on my report card. 

We like to manage expectations, don’t we? We frequently deliver bad news with the good news close by. 

Psalms 88 and 89 are written by brothers: both of them are called Ezrahite, and both of them were worship leaders in the tabernacle. And until Solomon, these guys were considered the wisest in the land (1 Chronicles 2:6; 15:19; 1 Kings 4:29-34). 

I believe these two psalms form a couplet. They make up the last two psalms of Book III in the Psalter, with Psalm 89 ending with, “Amen and Amen.” Both of them label their psalms a maskil which means “a poem of contemplation” (NKJV). And look how Psalm 88 leaves us in the dark, while Psalm 89 shines a light in the dark.

In Psalm 88, Heman soberly prepares us for his two-Selah psalm in his introductory remarks. He uses a phase mahalath leannoth which means someone who is so physically weak from emotional grief that they are now battling depression. The NLT calls it “the suffering of affliction.”  

Heman is describing a reality: We will all experience pain in this life. Maybe even for our entire earthly life—from my youth I have been afflicted and close to death (v. 15). Heman’s reality is seen in his words in the first five verses of this psalm. 

His first Selah is breathtaking because he wants us to pause to realize that God has allowed all of this (notice the pronoun You in vv. 6-8, 16-18). But still, Heman knows God saves because he has made a decision to continue to praise Him even in the dark times (vv. 1-2, 9, 13).  

Heman’s second Selah comes in the middle of a series of five questions (vv. 10-14) that sound a lot like both questions Jesus asked in Gethsemane and from the Cross, and the reality of the temporary darkness He was facing (Psalm 22:1-2; Luke 22:53; John 19:11). 

Even the way Heman closes his psalm foreshadows the darkness surrounding the death of Jesus: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? 

Jesus tasted all of this darkness for us so that He could be our perfect and empathetic High Priest (Hebrews 5:7, 4:15-16). 

Psalm 88 shows us the reality of temporary darkness (like Good Friday), but Psalm 89 points us to the certainty of eternal light (like Resurrection Sunday)! 

So when you are battling your dark times, let me give you these assurances: 

  1. This darkness is only temporary (Romans 8:18) 
  2. Jesus walks with us in our dark times (Romans 8:26-39)
  3. The darkness cannot prevail—Jesus tasted all of this temporary darkness for us so that He could be our eternal High Priest!

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can check them out by clicking here. Please join me on Sunday when we will look at Ethan’s words in Psalm 89 about the certainty of the eternal light. 

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God Bless America?

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On this 4th of July weekend, is it right for us to pray for God’s blessing on America? I have blogged before about being careful with our terms that are biblical, unbiblical, or non-biblical. Clearly, the phrase “God bless America” is non-biblical—that is, this phrase doesn’t explicitly appear in the Scripture. But are there principles in the Bible that can make that phrase biblical? 

Yes, I believe so IF we recognize why we have been blessed by God. 

In God’s perfect timing, the next psalm in our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms is one that addresses this topic. 

Notice the very first word in Psalm 87 is the personal pronoun “He.” There is an assumption the sons of Korah make that their readers will know that “He” is The Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. In fact, they see God as the Prime Mover in this psalm, putting His words at the very middle of the psalm (v. 4). 

Just before these quotation marks, we are invited to Selah—pause and carefully listen to God. He announces heavenly citizenship for age-old enemies of Israel: Rehab, Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, Cush. Peoples from all of these nations are identified as: “those who acknowledge Me” and three times He says they are “born in Zion” (vv. 4-6). 

God desires that none should perish. He wants people from every nation, tribe, and language to enjoy His presence forever in the eternal Zion. 

The sons of Korah remind us of just how blessed Zion truly is (vv. 1-3) and how God establishes all who have Zion citizenship (v. 5). God does this so that all people will see God’s blessing on those people who acknowledge Him as their Lord and King. 

So let’s return to my earlier question: Is it right and biblical for Christians to pray for God to bless America? 

Let me ask it another way: Has God blessed America? I believe He has and we should be eternally grateful. I believe this nation was founded on biblical principles, and recognized as a place where people could have the freedom to worship God.

Will God continue to bless America? Psalm 87 says the blessing will last only as long as we Americans acknowledge, “All my fountains are in You” (v. 7). This is a call for us to continually recognize God as our Foundation and Source. We also have to remember that the blessing is only to us so that it can flow through us to all peoples, languages, and tribes. 

The blessing stops when we dig our own wells, or we try to hoard the blessing. 

There are two phrases in this psalm that stand out to me as prophetic. 

  1. Selah (listen to this) and then “I will record” (vv. 3-4) 
  2. The Lord will write in the register” (stop to celebrate) Selah (v. 6)

God keeps perfect records of those who are citizens of Zion because they have acknowledged Jesus as the One who paid the price for their sins to be forgiven. So when John gives us a glimpse of the eternal Zion, he tells us about the rejoicing over those who are there “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9-10, 7:9-10, 21:22-27). 

Just as Revelation records spontaneous praise to God, the sons of Korah build in those Selah pauses to worship too:

  • Glorious things are said of God—praise Him! 
  • He has blessed us by His presence in our midst—praise Him! 
  • People from all tribes are entering Zion—praise Him! 

May God continue to bless America so that we can use those blessings to tell the world about His love as we invite them into a personal relationship with Jesus! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find the full list by clicking here.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Accepting It For What It Is

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.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Accepting It For What It Is

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     In the Word of God the teaching has unique dignity. This Book is inspired as no other book is inspired, and it is time that all Christians avowed this conviction. …  

     Where are we if our Bibles are gone? Where are we if we are taught to distrust them? If we are left in doubt as to which part is inspired and what is not, we are as badly off as if we had no Bible at all. I hold no theory of inspiration. I accept the inspiration of the Scriptures as a fact.

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

I, too, accept the inspiration of the Scriptures as a fact. Every single word is perfectly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Even the order in which the words are spoken.

During the summer months, I like to lead my congregation through a study of the Book of Psalms. Currently, we are looking at the psalms that contain the word Selah. 

It is distressing to me to see how many “modern” translations of the Bible either relegate the word Selah to a footnote (like the NIV which says, “The Hebrew has Selah [a word of uncertain meaning] here”), or completely disregard this word (e.g. The Message, The Contemporary English Version, and The Living Bible, to name a few). 

Why? Do we think we are so much smarter now that we know which words the Holy Spirit truly inspired, and which ones we can leave out?

Once we start down this path, what is to stop us from modifying any word in the Bible? Many liberal-minded people want to tell us “what God really meant” in some passages, or to water down the inspiration so much to try to make it “culturally relevant” that they end up destroying its very meaning. This is not only a slippery slope, but it is something that God has already warned us against doing: 

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. (Revelation 22:18-19)

Let us accept the Word of God for what it is: Words that the mouth of Almighty God has spoken, not words that we think can be modified, improved, or eliminated. 

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The Path To Revival

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

As we rejoin our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms, let me remind you of the definition of Selah: (a) a pause to reflect—or “pause, and calmly think of that,” as the Amplified Bible says; (b) notice the contrasts; or (c) get ready for a crescendo. 

Psalm 85 is a longing for revival. Not only longing for it but giving us the path to revival. 

Many Christians say they want revival, but I’m not so certain they have the biblical definition in mind. When most people define revival, they use descriptions about exuberant worship, manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the church reenergized for ministry, and non-believers flocking to see what’s happening and then accepting Jesus into their hearts as a result. 

But those are actually the results of revival, not the revival itself. 

Take a look at this overview of Psalm 85: 

  • a look back (vv. 1-3) 
  • a look around (vv. 4-6) 
  • a look ahead (vv. 8-13) 

I am aware that I skipped verse 7 in that overview. That is the middle verse of this psalm, so it is presenting us with the main idea. It’s a longing to see the path forward, the path to revival. It’s not about “getting saved” again because verses 1-3 already thank God for His salvation. 

But let’s notice the Selah. It seems to come mid-thought in the backward look. I think this is both a pause to consider deeply, and also a pause to look at the contrasts. It’s almost as if the sons of Korah, who wrote this psalm, have their breath taken away as they consider the immensity of God’s love that covers our sins! 

That word “cover” means to cover our nakedness, conceal our shame, and hide us from our forgiven sins. The alternative is to live in fear of God’s righteous judgment on our unforgiven sin. 

The sons of Korah long for this again. They long for a crescendo of righteousness, which is why in the “look around” section we see the phrases “restore us again” (v. 4) and “revive us again” (v. 6). 

This Hebrew word for “restore” always means a turning:

  • men turning back from God (apostasy) 
  • men turning away from God (backsliding) 
  • men turning away from evil (repentance) 
  • men turning back to God (revival) 

The ball is in our court. God has remained faithful; we are the ones who have sinned and turned away from Him. God hasn’t gone anywhere; we have! 

So revival begins with the recognition of our sin and profound repentance from that sin. Revival is a recognition that I have turned back from God, and now I need to turn away from evil and turn wholeheartedly back to God. 

Immediately following that middle verse notice the personal, singular pronoun “I” in verse 8. Revival starts with my recognition of my sin and then my repentance of that sin quickly follows. 

The “show us the way” prayer of verse 7 is answered in verse 13: “Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway” (NKJV). God Himself shows us the way! His footsteps mark the path for us to walk! 

Just as Jesus told us He was the way (John 14:6). 

When we repent from following any other path, revival and restoration happen. The fruit of revival is then a life sustained, quickened, and equipped by God’s presence that will draw others to Him too! 

Let us SELAH—pause and consider the forgiving love of God, the need for my repentance, and then let us enjoy the crescendo of living in daily revival! 

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

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

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