Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Assurance Of God’s Love

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.

The Assurance Of God’s Love

Tell me, O you whom I love, where you feed your flock, where you make it rest at noon. For why should I be as one who veils herself by the flocks of your companions? (Song of Solomon 1:7)

     It is well to be able to call the Lord Jesus Christ by this name without an ‘if’ or a ‘but.’ A very large proportion of Christian people can only say of Christ that they hope they love Him. They trust they love Him, but this is a very poor and shallow experience to be content to stay here. It seems to me that no one ought to give any rest to his spirit till he feels quite sure about a matter of such a vital importance. We are not content to have a hope of the love of our parents, or of our spouse, or of our children! We feel we must be certain there. And we are not to be satisfied with a hope that Christ loves us and with a bare trust that we love Him. … 

     ‘I know whom I have believed,’ says Paul (2 Timothy 1:12). ‘I know that my Redeemer lives,’ says Job (Job 19:25). ‘You whom I love,’ says Solomon in the Song as we have it here. Learn, dear friends, to get that positive knowledge of your love to Jesus, and be not satisfied till you can talk about your interest in Him as a reality that you have made infallibly sure by having received the witness of the Holy Spirit and His seal upon your soul by faith that you are born of God and belong to Christ. …  

     Why do we love Jesus? We have the best of answers: because He first loved us! … Why do we love Him? Because before this round earth was fashioned between the palms of the great Creator, before He had painted the rainbow or hung out the lights of the sun and moon, Christ’s delights were with us. He foresaw us through the glass of His prescience. He knew what we should be….

From The Church’s Love To Her Loving Lord

God wants you to know how much He loves you. He went first because we didn’t have any way to approach Him. But Jesus made it possible for us to come close to God through His substitutionary death on the Cross for our sins. And now the Holy Spirit is speaking clearly to your heart to trust that this is absolutely, irrevocably true: GOD LOVES YOU! 

As Spurgeon said, don’t be content with merely thinking this is true, but ask the Holy Spirit to help you know this is true! 

Listen to these words—This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. … This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. … We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:9, 13-14, 19)

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Don’t Give In To Pseudo-Wisdom

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

Dr. Craig Bartholomew wrote, “Wisdom is deeply experiential.” In other words, we can’t just have head knowledge and call it “wisdom,” but we have to have an experience in which we have learned a lesson in order for it to truly be called wisdom. 

In the three wisdom books of the Bible—Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes—the wisdom that is shared is hard-won by people who personally experienced what they shared with us. Even if we consider the wisdom in the poetic books of Psalms and the Song of Solomon, we are still reading first-person, firsthand experiences. True wisdom can never be dispensed by someone who hasn’t “been there, done that” and learned a valuable lesson from that experience. 

In Job, we meet three of his friends who claim to have wisdom but don’t meet the criteria of personal experience. This pseudo-wisdom always comes in the form of, “I’ve heard that…,” or “It’s obvious from my observations…,” or “Everyone knows that….” 

That means that satan’s tactics fall into this pseudo-wisdom category too: he has no personal, first-hand experience of human situations that result in hard-won wisdom! The best he can offer is secondhand observations. 

Jesus, on the other hand, fully entered into the human experience. Jesus IS Wisdom. As a human He had first-hand experiences, and as God He doesn’t just see fragments of lessons, but He sees the whole, eternal picture into which all lessons fit. 

This is why Solomon wrote, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” This holy respect and willingness to heed the words of Wisdom Himself is the starting point and the conclusion of wisdom. This is also why the writer of Hebrews wrote that Jesus knows every situation that we are going through. He knows how to help us because He has personal, first-hand, experiential wisdom.

satan’s temptations are only suppositions. He can never say, “I know from personal experience.” Look at his temptations of Adam and Eve, Job, Jesus, and the apostle Paul:

  • Did God really say?
  • Does this suffering even make sense?
  • Doesn’t the Scripture tell us…?
  • I don’t think you deserve the thorn in the flesh. 

Don’t give in to the pseudo-wisdom that satan pushes!

Jesus was tempted in every human way possible. He learned wisdom by this personal experience. Jesus alone is qualified to be the only source of Wisdom that you and I need to successfully handle trials and temptations. 

Because He Himself in His humanity has suffered in being tempted, tested and tried, Jesus is able immediately to run to the cry of—to assist and relieve—those who are being tempted and tested and tried…. (Hebrews 2:18 AMP)

Learning Life’s Lessons

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

Have you heard the cliché, “Experience is the best teacher”? I don’t think that’s really true. I’ve known a lot of people who have had some huge experiences but haven’t learned a single lesson from them. Honestly this is the better statement: Evaluated and recalled experience is the best teacher. 

Many of my “life lessons” have cost me money. For instance, I was told numerous times by my parents, grandparents, and my driving instructor not to speed, but I didn’t learn that lesson the easy way. It cost me financially. I recovered from that, and I’ve only had one speeding ticket in the 40 years that followed! 

Most of us can recover from a financial loss. But other life lessons cost us more dearly: our broken physical health, lost intimacy in a relationship, a damaged reputation, or missed opportunities. Then we walk around with the weight of guilt, baggage, second-guessing, and regret. Jesus didn’t die on a Cross for us to live weighed down like this! 

God wants to help us! So why do we wait to call on Him until after we’ve tried to do it ourselves? Or until after we’re so deep in trouble or weighed down with baggage? Perhaps we think, “This is such a tiny thing. I can handle it myself.” 

  • Solomon said it was the tiny things that brought ruin 
  • God told Cain that it was the sin that was crouching at his door that wanted to take him down 
  • The devil prowls around and looks for the most opportune time to pounce on us 
  • Which is why Paul tells us to put on all of God’s armor and prayer all the time (see Song 2:15; Genesis 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8; Luke 4:13; Ephesians 6:10-11, 18) 

Portia Nelson summed it up well in her short story that I think all of us can relate to…

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
   I fall in.
   I am lost… I am helpless. It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
   I pretend I don’t see it.
   I fall in, again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place. But it isn’t my fault.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
   I see it is there.
   I still fall in… it’s a habit… but my eyes are open, I know where I am.
It’s my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
   There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
   I walk around it.

Chapter 5
I walk down another street.
    —Portia Nelson

Prayer helps us avoid the holes in our sidewalk, the crouching sin at our door, the prowling devil, and the lurking temptations. But more than that, prayer puts us on the right path to avoid all of these things in the first place (see Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 30:21; 2 Samuel 22:34, 37)! 

God doesn’t have to get ready to help us; He’s already ready to help us. He’s just waiting for us to ask for His help. 

No matter how little or big the challenges, with God I can overcome! 

No matter how obvious or hidden the hole is, with God I can go down the right street! 

No matter how many times I fall in the hole, God can get me out! 

No matter how much the devil wants to bring me down, with God I can live righteously! 

No matter how many times sin pounces on me and I give in to it, God can forgive me! 

Don’t wait a moment longer to call on your heavenly Father in prayer. Let Him hear your voice early and often—He loves to hear from you and respond to you! 

If you’ve missed any of the other posts in this series on prayed called Be A First Responder, you can find the full list by clicking here.

The Wisdom Of God (book review)

A.W. Tozer takes us deep into the classic Hebrew understanding of Wisdom in this never-before-published collection of sermons entitled The Wisdom Of God. 

Rev. James L. Snyder has done the maturing Christian a great service in compiling these Tozer sermons into this powerful collection. Most people think of wisdom as an attribute of God, but the Hebrews understood Wisdom to be the Person of God. Wisdom isn’t just something you gain; it’s Someone you get to know more and more intimately. 

In his introduction, Rev. Snyder writes, “‘There are known knowns—things we know we know,’ Donald Rumsfeld once famously said. And there are known unknowns—things we do not know. ‘But there are also unknown unknowns,’ the former U.S. Secretary of Defense added, ‘the ones we don’t know we don’t know.’ Dr. Tozer would have said Amen to that most enthusiastically. As soon a person admits he does not know everything, he is in a position to learn something. What many people do not understand is that the unknown unknowns can and do sabotage lives.”

Dr. Tozer helps us realize these unknown unknowns about Wisdom, not only to keep us from sabotaging our lives but also so that we can soar into the fullness of an intimate relationship with Wisdom. Digging deep into the Hebraic wisdom literature, Dr. Tozer will help you see Wisdom in a light you may have never realized before. 

For any Christian who wants to go deeper into their relationship with God, The Wisdom Of God is a welcomed collection. 

I am a Bethany House book reviewer. 

True Beauty vs. Pornography

God’s design for sex is truly the most beautiful thing that exists between two people. Its counterfeit is called pornography. Porn is simulated, imitated, and purchased; but no price tag can ever buy true beauty.

God demonstrates the purest love in Himself, when one part of the Godhead is the Lover and the other parts of the Godhead are the Beloved. The Lover is constantly discovering the beauty in the Beloved, and then praising that beauty. The Beloved then reciprocates back to the Lover. It’s a love dance! 

Humans are created in God’s image. We are first created to be God’s beloved. Then we are designed to be both lover and beloved in the bonds of marriage. True beauty—real, lasting beauty that pleases God—is discovered. It’s something that starts inside and radiates outside. A true lover takes the time to discover who the beloved truly is.

To see this in action, just look at some of the compliments between husband and wife in the Song of Songs—How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! … How handsome you are, my lover! Oh, how charming! … Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens. … My lover is mine and I am his. … All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you.

True love that sees this kind of beauty cannot be imitated, purchased or simulated. If someone attempts to, it’s called pornography.

The dictionary gives this definition of pornography: sexually explicit materials whose purpose is to elicit sexual arousal. In other words, porn tries to imitate and simulate true beauty at a purchase price.

Jesus identified this sell-out of true love with the Greek word porneia (see Mark 7:14-23). This word means any sexual involvement outside the marriage between a husband and wife. Porneia comes from words that fill out its definition: things like prostitution, idolatry, and slavery.

Your body was not made for porneia but for God (1 Corinthians 6:13). You were made in His image: to be His Beloved, and He your Lover, and then to have a marriage relationship with another image-bearer of God, where you are both lover and beloved, and where you focus on true beauty.

Anything else is imitated, purchased, and simulated. It’s pornography. It’s idolatry.

Christians are told to fight many temptations, but there are only two that we are told not to fight, but to flee: pornography (1 Corinthians 6:18) and idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). So our prayer for the purity and enjoyment of God’s true beauty should be: Turn my eyes away from worthless things (Psalm 119:37).

Don’t sell out to the fake beauty in pornography. Discover true beauty exclusively in your spouse!

We’ll be looking at more relationship builders and killers, and I’d love to have you along for this journey of discovery.

10 Quotes From “Cherish”

As I said in my book review of Gary Thomas’s Cherish, this is a must-read for married couples, those about to be married, and those who counsel married couples. Please check out my review, and then enjoy a few quotes from this book.

“Learning to truly cherish each other turns marriage from an obligation into a delight. It lifts marriage above a commitment to a precious priority.”

“In one sense, love is the nurturing aspect of marriage, while cherish is the ‘tasting’ aspect of marriage. Love meets the need; cherish tickles the tongue.”

“If you want to be fully satisfied in your marriage, if you want your wife to feel cherished, then mentally treat your wife like Eve. Let her be, in your mind, in that way, the only woman in the world. Say with King Solomon, ‘My dove, my perfect one, is the only one’ (Song of Songs 6:9 ESV).” 

“You’ve already made your choice. In your ideal world, you have no intention of ever starting over with someone else, so why not put your energy into and your focus on guarding that choice, building on the strengths of that choice, and making yourself ever more grateful that you made that choice?”

“At some point, if you want marital happiness, if you want to learn how to cherish a real man instead of longing for an imaginary composite, some ‘Frankenstein’ husband who somehow has it all, then you have to own your choice and even learn to cherish your choice. ‘My vineyard, my very own, is for myself’ (Song of Songs 8:12 NRSV).”

“The call to cherish isn’t to appreciate being pleasured by your spouse but to take pleasure in the pleasure of your spouse.”

“If we want to cherish our spouses, we must learn to take an active interest in what interests them.”

“Cherishing is expressed, or it’s not. Intimacy is built, or it is assaulted, even in the most mundane marital conversations.”

“The act of consistently noticing and honoring our spouses cultivates and maintains a certain kind of relationship, and it shapes our hearts. Noticing and honoring sustain the force and power of cherishing. When we stop noticing and stop honoring our spouses in the little things, the relationship starves.”

“Active cherishing—noticing and then expressing the excellence you see—is a way to shape our attitudes and to generate feelings of closeness and well-being. When we do what the Bible tells us to do, we will be doubly blessed—our spouses will be happier, increasing the joy in our marriages, and we’ll become happier psychologically as well. Cherishing our spouses literally makes us feel better. So cherishing means waging war on contempt and going on the offense with gratitude.”

I will be sharing more quotes from Cherish soon. If you’d like to be notified when these quotes are posted, simply enter your email address in the field in the right column and click “Sign me up!” You may also want to follow me on Twitter and Tumblr for other quality quotes I post every day.

10 Quotes From “The Christian In Complete Armour”

the-christian-in-complete-armourChristian, are you ready to do spiritual battle? You need to make sure you are properly equipped with all the armor God has for you. Check out my review of William Gurnall’s The Christian In Complete Armour by clicking here, and then enjoy this first set of quotes.

“Christ’s blood is the only wine which gladdens God’s heart and satisfies His justice at the same time. … No grape of our own harvest is pressed into this sweet cup. It is as if Christ says, ‘When [God] comes to comfort you with the forgiveness of your sins, He will take of mine, not anything of yours. I purchased your peace with God with My blood, not by your tears of repentance or morning for your sins.’”

“Unbelief is a sin-making sin. … It is a sin which holds out last on the battlefield, the one which the sinner is least aware of, and which the saint ordinarily conquers last. It is one of the chief fortresses to which the devil retreats when other sins are routed.”

“Do you take pleasure in choosing Christ? Do you go to Him not only for safety but also for delight? As the lover said of her bridegroom, ‘I sat down under his shadow with great delight’ (Song of Solomon 2:3). This must be a deliberate choice, wherein the soul seriously weighs the covenant Christ offers and then chooses Him.”

“Faith puts forth an assisting act in prayer. … It assist the soul with persistence. Faith is the wrestling grace. It comes up close to God, reaches out to Him, and will not easily take a denial. … Never before could the Christian know what to do with a promise in prayer until faith teaches him to press in to God with it, humbly yet boldly. … Prayer is the very breath of faith.”

“If a group of men and children were to wade through a brook no deeper than a man’s head, the men would have a definite advantage over the children. But if they tried to cross the ocean, the men as well as the children would need a ship to carry them. And only the insane would try to wade through without the help of a ship just because they are a little taller than the rest.”

“Beware of opposing the Spirit. Does He beam light from His Word into your understanding? Be careful what you do with this candle of the Lord that lights your mind; do not pride yourself in this new insight, or it may be snuffed out in an instant. If the Holy Spirit confirms the light in your understanding so that it sets your conscience on fire with the awareness of sin, do not resist Him. … satan longs for you to quench the Spirit by trying to calm your own conscience.”

“Christian, there are many delights which saints traveling to heaven meet on their way there, besides what God has for them at the journey‘s end. It is the Christian whose faith is strong enough to act upon the promise who finds and possesses these pleasures.”

“A person should no more sit down and be content in his unresolved doubt than one who thinks he smells fire in his house would go to bed and sleep. He will look in every room and corner until he is satisfied that everything is safe. … In spite of his doubts the true believer leans on and desires still to cling to Christ. While Peter’s feet were faltering beneath the water he was lifting up prayer to Christ.”

“Have you ever freely given yourself up to Christ? Everybody professes this, but the presumptuous soul, like Ananias, lies to the Holy Ghost by keeping back the most important part of what he promised to lay at Christ’s feet. The enjoyment of lust is entwined about his heart and he cannot persuade himself to deliver it up to God’s justice. His life is bound up in it, and if God will have it from him He must take it by force; there is no hope of gaining his consent. Is this the picture of your faith? If it is, you have blessed yourself in an idol; you have mistaken a bold face for a believing heart.”

“Faith strips away the veil from the Christian’s eyes so he can see sin in its nakedness before satan disguises it with flattering costumes. Faith enables the soul to recognize not only the nature of sin void of all true pleasure, but also the temporal quality of its frivolous elation. Faith persuades us not to give up God’s sure mercies for satan’s transient thrills.”

I will be sharing more quotes from this book soon. To be notified as soon as those quotes are posted, be sure to subscribe to my blog. In the meantime, every day I share inspiring quotes on Twitter and Tumblr, so make sure you follow me there too!

Thursdays With Oswald—A New Look At Some Old Bible Studies

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

A New Look At Some Old Bible Studies

     It is important to notice the difference between the Wisdom of the Hebrews and the Wisdom of the Greeks. The Wisdom of the Hebrews is based on an accepted belief in God; that is, it does not try to find out whether or not God exists, all its beliefs are based on God, and in the actual world of things as they are, all its mental energy is bent on practical living. The Wisdom of the Greeks, which is the wisdom of our day, is speculative; that is, it is concerned with the origin of things, with the riddle of the universe, etc., consequently the best of our wits is not given it to practical living.

     The value of the Book of Job is not in what it teaches, but that it expresses suffering, and the inscrutability of suffering. In the Book of Psalms, Wisdom is applied to things as they are and to prayer. The Book of Proverbs applies Wisdom to the practical relationships of life, and Ecclesiastes applies Wisdom to the enjoyment of things as they actually are; there is no phase of life missed out, and it is shown that enjoyment is only possible by being related to God. 

     The record of the whirl of things as they are is marvelously stated in these books of Wisdom: Job—how to suffer; Psalms—how to pray; Proverbs—how to act; Ecclesiastes—how to enjoy; Song of Solomon—how to love. … 

     Solomon sums up the whole thing as follows: If you try to find enjoyment in this order of things, you will end in vexation and disaster. If you try to find enjoyment in knowledge, you only increase your capacity for sorrow and agony and distress. The only way you can find relief and the right interpretation of things as they are it is by basing your faith in God, and by remembering that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Jesus Christ is the One Who can transmute everything we come across.

From Shade Of His Hand

Sometimes the “wisdom” books of the Bible can be difficult to understand in our modern day, Western culture. But perhaps you may be able to read them differently with these insights that Oswald Chambers shares.

Why not try giving a new look at some old Bible studies, and then comment below on how it worked for you.

Countercultural Marriage

my-thoughts-or-gods-thoughtsThe Apostle Peter uses an appropriate term for Christians living on Earth: “Aliens and strangers.” This means that those who call Jesus their Lord are to live a counter-cultural lifestyle. Not a lifestyle that changes with the popular culture, but one that stays true to God’s Word.

There probably has never been a more controversial subject in any day or culture than marriage and the relationship between the sexes. Why are these terms “controversial”? I suspect it is because we are naturally bent toward being pragmatic people.

In pragmatism, the outcome determines meaning. If I find something easy to do, convenient for me, and I seem to get applause from those around me, then what I did must be right. However, if it’s challenging to stick with something, and seemingly only a few people approve of how I do it, then it must be wrong. That is letting culture determine morality, instead of letting God determine it.

As Peter begins to address the topic of marriage, and the interaction between spouses, he uses two similar phrases—“Wives, in the same way … Husbands, in the same way (vv. 1, 7).”

In the same way as what? Actually, if you look at the five verses that come before this you will see that it’s not what but Whom. Those verses are talking about our example in Jesus. Peter points out that Jesus showed:

  • submission to God’s purpose—His prayer was, “Not My will, but Yours be done.
  • longsuffering—He did not retaliate nor threaten His persecutors, but for the joy set before Him, He endured the shame of the Cross.
  • servant-leadership—At the last meal He had with His followers before being crucified, He washed their feet, and told them He had given them an example of how they were to serve others.
  • respectful behavior—Jesus willingly suffered the penalty for the world’s sin. He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which said He remained silent before His accusers.
  • mercy—This always means not getting the penalty we deserve. Jesus came to save us when we were the least worthy of His love.
  • forgiveness—As the spikes were being driven through His wrists, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.

Pragmatism looks at God’s design and says, “Yes, I understand that, but….” Pragmatism tries to find an “out” or a “loophole” that let’s someone change a definition or skip out on doing something God’s way.

If anyone ever had the authority to say, “Yes, Father, I know what You want Me to do, but look how they’re treating Me” it was Jesus.

A wife with a difficult husband may want to say, “Yes, I know I’m supposed to submit to my husband, but….” A husband with a nagging wife may say, “Yes, I know I’m supposed to treat my wife with consideration and respect, but….”

But Peter says, “Wives and husbands, exhibit the same submission, longsuffering, servant-leadership, respectful behavior, mercy and forgiveness toward your spouse as Jesus exhibited toward you!” 

So the question we need to ask is: Am I thinking about marriage—a husband’s role, a wife’s role—in counter-cultural biblical terms or in popular cultural terms?

If I find I am thinking culture’s thoughts, am I willing to try God’s way?

Join me next Sunday as we look at this passage again, and see how a wife and husband can love and serve each other in a God-honoring, counter-cultural way.

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