Really Bad News And Really, Really Good News

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

My cousin Dick Brogden wrote in his book Missionary God, Missionary Bible, “Since good news must often indeed rectify bad news, the gospel message is both warning and invitation.” This is so appropriate when reading the prophet Zephaniah: He wanted to share some really, really good news, but first, he must make us confront the really bad news. 

Zephaniah prophesied near the end of Judah’s decline toward exile. He saw the great revival in King Josiah’s day, and then watched his fellow Israelites once again turn their backs on God. If Jeremiah spoke to faithless Israelites, and Habakkuk spoke to faithful Israelites, then Zephaniah spoke to fake Israelites—those who appeared to be religious, but whose hearts were not actually devoted to God. 

This whole book looks backward in history and forward to soon-to-be-fulfilled prophecy. Most of the time when God speaks, He is asking us to look forward to what is unavoidably coming. Zephaniah then takes God’s words as a call for us to apply them to our lives today. 

In the first chapter, God’s forward-look is a warning of the judgment that most assuredly is coming. Built into His warning are two backward looks to the law of Deuteronomy (vv. 13 and 15 look back to Deuteronomy 28:29-30). 

Zephaniah uses this warning as a wake-up call for us, telling us to “seek the Lord” and “seek righteousness, seek humility” before the day of God’s judgment comes (2:1-3). 

The fact that God’s judgment would fall on godless people shouldn’t surprise anyone (2:4-15), but when Zephaniah says, “Woe to the city of oppressors” (3:1), he’s talking to the people of Judah! Zephaniah addresses his warning to the fake Israelites, the hypocritical people—those claiming God’s name but not God’s nature. 

The apostle Paul sounds a similar warning to New Testament Christians: 

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’ We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:6-14) 

The really bad news is ALL of us have sinned and we have ALL fallen short of God’s righteous standard. As a result, ALL of us would stand guilty before God on Judgment Day. 

But the really, really good news is that Jesus allowed our penalty to fall on Him instead! So if we put our faith in Jesus, God’s judgment will be appeased in Christ instead of on us! 

Christians, then, take the name of Jesus Christ, but we need to make sure we also take His nature.  Fake—hypocritical—Christians are those who are “Christian” in name only. 

I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased part of the 1 Corinthians passage above—These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. (The Message) 

As we read those words, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall,” I’d like to suggest four action steps:

  1. Hear the Word of God to YOU—not your neighbor—but you personally. 
  2. After you hear the Word, examine yourself to see if you are truly living in God’s nature and not just using His name. 
  3. Respond like King Josiah did when he heard God’s Word: He made a public commitment “to follow the Lord and keep His commands, statutes and decrees with ALL his heart and ALL his soul” (2 Kings 23:3). 
  4. Stay diligent—Hebrews 2:1 tells us, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” 

Don’t delay—the Day of the Lord is closer today than it’s ever been before! Pay attention to the really bad news that Judgment Day is coming, but then make certain you are standing in the nature of Jesus Christ on that day so that God’s judgment will pass over you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the major lessons in the minor prophets, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Complaining To God

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

One of the things I love about the minor prophets is the reminder of the historicity of the Bible. Habakkuk, and the other prophets, lived in an actual moment of history. Check out some of the key dates during the ministry of Habakkuk: 

  • 605 BC—Nebuchadnezzar invades Judah and carries off Daniel and his friends 
  • 597 BC—the Babylonians attack Judah again and take 10,000 exiles back to Babylon, including the prophet Ezekiel 
  • 586 BC—Judah is besieged and defeated, and all remaining residents are exiled to Babylon 

Jeremiah, a contemporary of Habakkuk, preached to faithless Israelites, imploring them to return to God, while Habakkuk attempted to encourage faithful Israelites to continue to trust Jehovah. 

Habakkuk recognized that he was delivering a heavy word. When he opens this book by saying this is “the oracle” that he received from God, that word is better translated “burden.” Part of this burden may have been due to the fact that Habakkuk had something on his heart that we often have: a complaint. 

Can we complain to God? 

Habakkuk complained to God—twice!—and God doesn’t reprimand him, so there must be a right way to vent about our frustrations and confusions. Here’s what we can learn from Habakkuk’s two complaints: 

  1. Instead of making accusations, ask questions. Habakkuk asks God eight questions in his two complaints. I think this is an attitude issue. Complaints are saying, “God I disagree with what You’re doing,” while questions seem to be more like, “God, I don’t understand what You’re doing.” 
  2. Desire God’s glory to be seen. At the conclusion of both of Habakkuk’s complaints he uses the word “therefore” (1:4, 16). His conclusion is something along the lines of, “God, if You let this continue, it appears that Your glory is being obscured by the activities of wicked people.” 
  3. After your complaint, close your mouth and open your eyes and ears. After Habakkuk’s first complaint, God tells him to “look” at all He is going to do. And after the second complaint, God tells him to “write down the revelation” God gives him and then “wait for it” to be fulfilled” (2:2, 3). 

Then Habakkuk does something that isn’t seen anywhere else in the Bible outside of the book of Psalms: he calls for us to Selah pause three times! 

Habakkuk shows us that our best response to what God reveals to us should be worship: 

  • Selah (3:3)—pause to consider what God has done 
  • Selah (3:9)—pause to stand in awe of His very present glory 
  • Selah (3:13)—pause in anticipation of His righteous justice and awesome glory that will be revealed 

Key phrases from Habakkuk are quoted in the New Testament, and at least three of them are directly tied to these Selah pauses:

  • The earth WILL be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” (2:14), is echoed in the way all of humanity will see the glory of the risen Jesus.  
  • The righteous WILL live by his faith” (2:4), is quoted as a Christian’s ongoing interaction with the indwelling Holy Spirit. 
  • I WILL rejoice in the Lord my God … I WILL be joyful in God my Savior” (3:17-18) figures prominently in Mary’s song after she realizes that she is pregnant with the soon-to-be-born Savior. 

(Check out all of the above biblical references: Habakkuk 2:14, 2:4, 3:17-18; Revelation 1:5-8; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:37-39; Luke 1:46-47, 54-55) 

Can you air your complaints to God? Yes, but do it the right way. Then silently listen, patiently wait, and then eagerly tell others about the coming judgment that they can avoid by having their sins forgiven through faith in Jesus our Savior. Only then can we also echo the “I will” statements of Habakkuk that are echoed in the New Testament—I will live by faith, I will look forward to the glory of God being fully revealed, I will continue to rejoice in God my Savior every day, and I will tell others how they, too, can live this way themselves! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the major lessons we find in the minor prophets, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets (concluded)

Sometimes the naming of things gives us an inaccurate picture of the thing being named. For instance, many people think the “old” in Old Testament means outdated or perhaps updated by the “new” in the New Testament. When in fact, both Testaments are needed to give us the full picture of God’s love and glory. 

A similar thing happens with the headings “major prophets” and “minor prophets.” It makes it sound like the major prophets have something major to say to us, while we could take or leave the minor messages of the minor prophets. 

In reality, they were given these headings simply because of the volume of writing—the five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of their writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power! 

Join me this Sunday as we rejoin this highly informative series.

If you have missed any of the messages in this current session, check them out here:

4 Ministries Of Healthy Churches

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

In the Foreword to my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, Dick Brogden observes, “God plucked David from the sheepfold. God chose a sheep to be a shepherd. And though we all are stupid sheep, when God plucks us out of obscurity to serve others, we can have the humble confidence for as long as we are asked to lead that God has chosen us. That confidence both faithfully drives us to our knees and fearlessly propels us against our giants. It is good to be a sheep; it is good to be an under-shepherd. Just remember you are stupid, chosen by the Wise One, and as long as you serve as a shepherd, you and your flock will be safe.” 

How true it is that all of us are sheep. The role of the shepherd is to care for the sheep and create a healthy environment for them. The role of healthy sheep is to reproduce more sheep. In this, both shepherds and sheep are ministers—we all minister to those God has placed around us. 

God calls all Christians to be ministers. The Church is the sheepfold that equips us, but then we must go out to minister in a way that will bring lost sheep to a personal relationship with Jesus. 

Our foundational truth statement about church ministry says: A divinely called and scripturally ordained ministry has been provided by our Lord for the fourfold purpose of leading the Church in evangelism, worship, sanctification, and compassion. 

(1) Evangelism. When we looked at the foundational belief about the Church, we noted that it’s not either-or—evangelism or discipleship—but it’s both-and. Christians are being the Church when they are intentionally living in a way that makes Jesus known (Matthew 10:1, 7-8; 28:18-20). 

(2) Worship. We shouldn’t have the mindset of, “Let’s go to church to meet with God.” Instead, we need to live in a way where we are always abiding in God’s omnipresence. This worship-centric lifestyle empowers our evangelism, changes our hearts, and fuels our compassion (John 4:23-24; Romans 12:1; Acts 2:46-47). 

(3) Sanctification. Remember that we are all in-process of becoming saints (I like to remember this by calling it saint-ification). We need each other to do this, which is why God gives gifts to bring out Christ-like maturity in us (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16). 

(4) Compassion. Compassion is feeling turned into action. This opens the door for evangelism, creates more opportunities for worship, and matures Christians (Mark 6:34-37; Luke 10:33; Acts 2:45).  

Notice that each of these ministries are interdependent with all the other ministries. 

In a blog post nearly 10 years ago, I questioned: “How do we know if our church is successful?  The apostle Paul uses two words to help answer these questions: Quality and Faithfulness (1 Corinthians 3:13, 4:2). 

So here are two important questions we need to ask ourselves: (1) Am I doing quality work? (2) Am I faithfully doing my work? 

To help answer those questions, I like this thought from Leonard Sweet’s book I Am A Follower: “The most important metrics we must rely on, the crucial ‘deliverables’ we can present, must focus on the newly formed lives of the disciples we are making, the followers who are following Christ into a place of serving Him by serving others. The most important measure of our faithfulness to Christ must be the extent of transformation into the living image of Christ Himself. … The quantifiable fruit of our church is not found in the number of people we can gather on a weekly basis. What counts is what is happening in the lives of those who have gathered. 

These are questions we should all ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us: 

  • What is happening in my life? 
  • Am I telling others about Jesus? 
  • Am I worshipping God so consistently that everyone can see it? 
  • Am I maturating as a saint and am I helping other saints mature? 
  • Is my faith seen in my compassionate actions? 

Our individual answers to those questions will determine the success of our individual churches, which will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the global Church of Jesus Christ. I hope you will take some time to consider these questions for yourself. 

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

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Abiding In God’s Omnipresence

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

Why do Christians say things like, “Let’s go to church” or “Let’s go meet with God”? 

Do we forget that Jesus said He would never leave us, or that He sent the Holy Spirit to be our constant Companion, or that our very heart is the temple of God’s presence (Matthew 28:20; John 14:16; 1 Corinthians 3:16)? We are naturally self-focused creatures. It takes discipline on our part to keep reminding and re-reminding ourselves that God is always with us. 

Psalm 84 and its two Selahs is one way of re-reminding ourselves of God’s abiding presence. The Selahs are reminders to pause and consider, “Where am I?” and to know that the answer can always be, “Surely I am in God’s presence!” 

This psalm is divided into three 4-verse stanzas. Stanzas 1 and 2 end with the call to Selah, and all three stanzas feature a powerful name for God: LORD Almighty. When we see LORD in all capital letters, that is God’s covenant name: Yahweh or Jehovah, which means that He is the “I AM that I AM.” Almighty signifies that He is the invincible, un-defeatable Captain of angel armies. 

In these two combined titles, we have the personal intimate God of love and the unstoppable God of limitless power! If He were just the God of love, we may not be able to trust His power. If He were just the God of power, we may not be able to approach Him. He is the All-Loving, Ever-Approachable Power. 

Another important recurring theme in Psalm 84 is the word blessed. It’s used three times in this psalm, more than in any other single psalm. This word means God’s unmerited favor, and the word either begins or ends each of the three stanzas.  

In stanza 1 (vv. 1-4), twice we have that combined title of LORD Almighty. But we must always remember that our God is not distant and unapproachable, but the sons of Korah call Him “my King” and “my God.” At the end of this first stanza, we are invited to Selah—a pause to praise our glorious King! 

Stanza 2 (vv. 5-8) begins with that reminder that we are blessed. The psalmists tell us that God’s blessings flow even in my Valley of Baca (or weeping). With God’s presence surrounding me, I can go fromstrength to strength” because the LORD Almighty hears my prayer and responds to my prayer! So at the end of this stanza, we are again invited to Selah—this time it’s a pause to pray to our listening God. 

In stanza 3 (vv. 9-12), another important word is featured that reminds us that our God is not a stingy King, but One who delights in His children and wants to lavishes them with His blessings: the word is favor. We read, “look with favor on Your anointed one” and “the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” God’s favorable blessings flow toward us as eternally as He exists! 

This psalm is circular: it begins as it ends, so it invites us to continue to praise, continue to pray, and continue to abide in His presence. We’re called not just to know about God’s presence, but to rejoice in His presence. 

It’s one thing to know about God’s omnipresence, but it’s an entirely different thing to abide in God’s omnipresence! 

This isn’t something that happens overnight. Brother Lawrence reminds us that this is a progressive revelation for Christians: “One does not become holy all at once. … The more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love of God were great we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures.” 

I encourage you to Selah frequently so that you can move from mere head knowledge of God’s presence to becoming intimately aware of His closeness! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms, you may find the full list by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Perspective On Persecution

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

Around the world we hear of Christians being persecuted for their faith in Jesus: Afghanistan … N. Korea … China … even in the USA, Christians like Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman are being persecuted for standing up for what they believe. 

Here’s an important principle to keep in mind: In times like these, we need to remember there have always been times like these. Especially because the psalmist Asaph, Jesus, and the apostle Paul all forewarned us about persecution (Psalm 83; Mark 13:9, 12-13; 2 Timothy 3:12-13). 

Jesus said that our persecution should only come “on account of Me.” And Asaph notices the same thing in his prayer, using phrases like “Your enemies,” “Your foes,” “they conspire against Your people,” and “they form an alliance against You.” 

Asaph also recognized that times like these call for a Selah pause—a pause to calmly consider. 

I think the first thing we need to consider is our part in bringing on the persecution. I need to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal if I may have been the trigger to the anger of these wicked people. If I have done something, I need to repent, ask forgiveness, and see what I can do to make restitution. 

Next, we need to Selah to consider this: It might look desperate, but God has handled these kinds of evil people before. Asaph mentions several enemies of God’s people whom God decisively defeated in the past. Our Selah pause will help us recall that God is the same today as He was yesterday—He is more than able to handle these persecutors. 

With all of these bullies ganging up on Israel, you can understand why Asaph cries out for God’s strong action against them. But I want you to notice that the call for judgment is NOT vindictive but redemptive. Asaph asks for punishment “so that men will seek Your name, O LORD” and that they may “know that You, whose name is the LORD—that You alone are the Most High over all the earth. 

In other words, this isn’t a “Get ‘em, God” prayer, but a “Save ‘em, God” prayer! 

We’re not looking for relief for ourselves—that’s only temporary—but we’re looking for glory for God—that’s eternal!

Jesus and the apostle Peter both tell us that God’s desire is for no one to perish apart from a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:9). 

The reason we need to Selah and ask that introspective question about our words or actions triggering our persecutor’s anger is because God will use our righteous response to persecution as a testimony. 

Jesus said our persecution should be because of Him, but He also told us that there would be a blessing in it (Matthew 5:11-12; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17-19). And Paul tells us that this reward isn’t just a silver lining to a dark cloud, but a reward beyond compare (Romans 8:18). 

Asaph went to prayer when Israel was attacked, and that should be our first response too. 

But let’s Selah in that prayer to make sure we’re not the trigger, and then may our prayer be more for God’s eternal glory than it is for our temporary relief. 

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

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Judging Like God

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

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. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Listening To Obey

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

Have you ever been confronted by someone claiming, “The Bible is full of contradictions”? 

How about this one: God says, “I tested you at the waters of Meribah” (Psalm 81:7) vs. at Meribah…[the Israelites] tested the LORD (Exodus 17:7)? 

Whenever we see a possible contradiction, remember this: Context is king. We have to look at these two accounts in their proper context. 

In the Exodus account, the Israelites have just been delivered out of slavery in Egypt and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. The pursing Egyptian army tried to follow them, but the waters closed back over them and they drowned. Three days later we find the Israelites grumbling over a lack of drinkable water, which God miraculously supplies. A month after that they are complaining about their food supply, which God miraculously supplies. And right on the heels of that they are again complaining about not having water to drink, which God miraculously supplies (see Exodus 15-17). 

It is after this second miraculous supply of water that we read that phrase we are considering: the Israelites tested God. The Hebrew word for “tested” is nasa which equates to, “Oh yeah? Prove it!” or “I’ll believe it when I see it!” or as The Message paraphrase puts it, “Is God here with us, or not?” 

In Psalm 81, God Himself is speaking in vv. 6-16, so He is the One who claims, “I tested them at Meribah.” The Hebrew word for “tested” in this instance is bahan. This means to investigate closely, to spot and bring out the impurities in fine metals. God not only makes the claim, “I tested them,” but He is also the One who tells us to Selah—pause and calmly consider. 

Consider what? After the first instance of grumbling about water in Exodus 15, we read, “There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there He tested them. He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians’” (Exodus 15:25-26). 

Notice the words decree, law, and commands. Asaph says something similar in Psalm 81:4, “This is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. He established it as a statute for Joseph when He went out against Egypt.” 

God is talking about laws before the Ten Commandments are given. What is the law He desires to be obeyed above all else? In a word: Listen. 

  • If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes (Exodus 15:25). 
  • I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah. Hear, O My people, and I will warn you—if you would but listen to Me, O Israel! (Psalm 81:7-8) 

God brings us to these moments of tests to see how we will respond. He doesn’t need to know, but we need to know how we will respond. When we find ourselves wringing our hands, or grumbling, or saying, “Is God here with us, or not?”, what does that tell us about our own heart? He wants us to be wholly His, so He has to bring out the impurities. That same word bahan is used when God speaks this word: “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zechariah 13:9). 

Asaph uses the Hebrew word for “listen” five times in Psalm 81. This word means listening with an attitude to obey. In order for us to hear God’s voice, we have to listen with an attitude toward obedience. This is not, “Oh yeah? I’ll believe it when I see it!” but “Oh yeah! I will obey it so I will see it!” 

As I pondered this, the Holy Spirit dropped these questions on my heart which I encourage you to ponder as well: 

  • God is always speaking to me. Am I making quiet time to listen to His voice?  
  • God sometimes has to discipline me. Am I open to His purifying? 
  • God has wise counsel for me. Am I obeying it?
  • God knows the best path for me. Am I walking in it?
  • God wants to subdue my enemies. Am I asking Him to do it?
  • God has abundant blessings for me. Am I listening to obey?

God will only speak a new word to me when I have obeyed His previous word to me.

When I am in distress, I need to train myself to Selah so that I can say, “God has brought me to this test, what do I need to learn? Am I listening to God’s voice with an attitude to obey?” 

May our heart’s posture always be, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening and ready to obey whatever You speak to me.” 

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

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Three Pictures Of The Church

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

When you’ve been at a church service have you ever asked yourself, “What are we doing here? What exactly is ‘church’? What are we supposed to be doing?”  

 Some people think church is saints going out to tell people about Jesus, and some people think church is saints coming together to hear about Jesus (see Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:18). I think this is an either-or trap. 

I think a better way of looking at this is “both-and” and “so that”: BOTH coming to a gathering of believers so that we can be equipped to go out AND going out to tell people about Jesus so that we can bring new disciples into the church. 

Our foundational truth statement says: The Church is the Body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit, with divine appointments for the fulfillment of her great commission. Each believer, born of the Spirit, is an integral part of the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn, which are written in heaven. 

To help us see where we play a vital role in all of this, the Bible gives us three pictures of the church:

  1. A Body
  2. A Building
  3. A Bride

(see Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26; Ephesians 2:19-22; John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:21-33)

All of these pictures speak of multiple parts making up one unified, healthy whole. Remove any part or any function, and the whole thing is diminished. All of these pictures also speak of intentionality. No one becomes healthy by accident, or builds a sound structure by accident, or enjoys a fulfilling marriage by accident. Health, soundness, and fulfillment all result from being intentional about our choices and interactions. 

I believe these three pictures also help us see what the church isn’t and is. 

  • A healthy church isn’t about numbers  
  • A healthy church isn’t about the day of the week that we meet
  • A healthy church isn’t about an “order of service” (there is no such thing listed in the New Testament!)
  • A healthy church is about Jesus being the focal point. As Jesus said, “I will build My Church.”   
  • A healthy church is about being intentional in everything we do 
  • A healthy church is about doing everything we can to glorify Jesus, both when we come together and when we go out into the world

(see Matthew 18:20; Romans 14:5; Matthew 16:18; Acts 10:38; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Hebrews 10:23-25) 

The first Church in the New Testament showed us how they followed the example of Jesus. Before trying to fulfill the Great Commission of going into all the world, they first obeyed the directive from Jesus to stay in Jerusalem until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. Then we see an intentionality, and an empowerment, and a complete reliance on the Holy Spirit in everything they undertook from that point on. 

(see Acts 1:8; 2:42-47; 4:29-35; 6:1-7; 8:4, 26; 10:19-20; 13:1-3; 15:1-29)  

It’s not about going to “my church” or going to “your church.” It’s about being the Church (with a capital “C”)—the Body of of Christ, the Building of Christ, the Bride of Christ. 

Bottom line:

Christians are being the Church when they are intentionally living in a way that makes Jesus known. 

This is a part of our ongoing series looking at our foundational truths. If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Word To Preachers

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 iTunes or Spotify.

A Word To Preachers

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) 

     Paul is a laborer, Apollos is a laborer, Cephas is a laborer, but not so much as a foot of the farm is Paul’s, nor does a single parcel of land belong to Apollos, or the smallest allotment to Cephas. ‘You are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s’ (1 Corinthians 3:23). The fact is that in this case the laborers belong to the land and not the land to the laborers, ‘for all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas’ (3:21-22). … 

     Brothers, a laborer may work very hard at a whim of his own and waste his labor, but this is folly! Some discourses do a little more than show the difference between a Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and what is the use of that? … 

     All God’s laborers must go to Him for their seed, or else they will scatter tares. All good seed comes out of God’s granary. If we preach, it must be the true word of God or nothing can come of it. … A sermon is vain talk and dreary word spinning unless the Holy Spirit enlivens it. … 

     Here we have mention of a personal service and a personal reward: ‘Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.’ The reward is proportionate, not to the success, but to the labor! Many discouraged workers may be comforted with that expression. You are not to be paid by results, but by endeavors.

From Farm Laborers

My dear preacher friend, God sees you. He has placed you in the field where He needs you to be, and He has given you the skills you need to have to labor for Him. Never doubt that! 

You may be the one breaking up hard ground, or the one sowing seed, or the one watering, or the one bringing in the harvest. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, rely on the strength God gives you. He will illuminate His Word to your heart first so that you can share a timely word with those under your care. Then He will send the Holy Spirit to enliven all that you preach. 

God has given you the tools and skills, now you must diligently supply the effort. Don’t become discouraged by what seems to be a lack of “success.” As God tells us through Paul, He will reward your faithful labor in His field. 

My book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter elaborates on this point. The thoughts in this book will remove from you the burden of trying to live up to any unbiblical metric of “success” in your ministry. I hope you will get a copy of this book! Check out ShepherdLeadershipBook.com for more details.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

%d bloggers like this: