Our Glorious King

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I had just finished playing three games of full-court basketball and it was time to leave for work. A young kid challenged me to stay for another game by making some comment about my old(er) age, which give me a fresh motivation to play another game. I told him I would play one more game on one condition: he had to guard me. I scored all 15 of our team’s points. One of my teammates said to that kid after the game, “You shouldn’t have made Craig angry.”  

Last week Asaph told us about the boastful who say, “Hallelujah!” to themselves, and he continues with that theme in Psalm 76 by saying, in essence, “You shouldn’t have made God angry!” 

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, had defeated Babylon and Egypt and had now turned his eye toward Jerusalem. He sent Lachish, his general, to deliver some stinging insults against the people of Judah and even against God Himself.  

I know the Israelites had strayed from God, but the Assyrians made no pretense whatsoever to honor Yahweh, so why was God allowing them to get away with this? Doesn’t it seem sometimes like God is waiting too long to deal with these wicked insulters? 

Many scholars feel that Psalm 76 was written after Sennacherib’s defeat. And make no mistake about this: it was a decisive defeat—God struck down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers while they slept! Asaph’s song of victory contains two Selah pauses, both of them intended for us to consider the greatness of Yahweh: 

  • one Selah is after verse 3—pause and remember that God is Sovereign and Resplendent in glorious victory 
  • the second Selah is after verse 9—pause and reflect that God’s wrath defeats His enemies and brings forth praise from His people 

The Old Testament gives us actual historical events, but these physical events point to an ultimate spiritual fulfillment. Sennacherib’s physical threats against God’s people are still seen in the devil’s boastful threats against God’s people today.

Look at two attacks against Jesus— 

  • Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. (Luke 16:13-14) 
  • Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at Him. They said, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” (Luke 23:34-35) 

These are the only two times in the New Testament that this Greek word for “sneer” is used. It means to deride, scoff, or mock. But in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) the same word that Luke used for sneer is used when God Himself says to Sennacherib, “The Virgin Daughter Zion despises you and mocks you” (see 2 Kings 19:20-28). 

Sennacherib thought he was insulting God’s people, but God said, “You are really insulting Me!” Yikes—you shouldn’t make God angry! 

Psalm 76 gives us the same reminder that we read in Revelation 12:10-11—“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” 

We defeat the enemy of our soul not by facing him but by facing our King! 

When we are confronted by the ungodly insults from snarling, scoffing, wicked people, we must Selah to remind ourselves that Yahweh is—

Alpha
Known and Renown
Invincible
Majestic
Awesome
Holy
The Final Judge
Irrefutable
Glorious
Omniscient
Omnipotent
Unrivaled
Undefeated
King of kings
Lord of lords
Sovereign Ruler
Omega
THE Decisive Word

Let me say it again: We defeat the enemy of our soul not by facing him but by facing THIS King of kings!

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

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That Hideous Strength (book review)

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That Hideous Strength is the conclusion of C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy. Although this was written almost 70 years ago, it sounds ominously like our culture today. 

I mentioned in a previous book review that the first two books of this trilogy—Out Of The Silent Planet and Perelandra—should be read together. Those who have read these first two books will definitely have a greater appreciation of the themes which come to their conclusion in this capstone book. But That Hideous Strength is such a well-told story and culture commentary that it may be read by itself and still be highly enjoyable. 

It’s amazing to me how much foresight Lewis had into the hideous ways the spirit of the antichrist can insinuate itself into our day-to-day culture and ultimately into our politics. This book is really a behind-the-scenes look at both how evil people propagate their evil plans, and how godly people stand in God’s strength to combat those plans. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t read the last chapters of the Bible yet: Evil always loses because Jesus Christ is the undefeated Champion even over the darkest of evil forces. 

As I’ve mentioned in a previous C.S. Lewis book review, this space trilogy is probably not the best place for first-time Lewis readers to jump in. This trilogy is more of a graduate-level course in seeing biblical themes portrayed in ways only a mastermind like Lewis could imagine. But for those who are already well steeped in Lewis’ writings, all three books of this trilogy are must-reads! 

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Perelandra (book review)

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Perelandra by C.S. Lewis is the second book in Lewis’ space trilogy. Of all the books in this series, this is the only book that I would recommend reading the first book—Out Of The Silent Planet—first, so that you can fully appreciate the story. 

Out Of The Silent Planet took place on Malacandra (or Mars) where our protagonist Dr. Elwin Ransom learns the Old Solar language and clashes with the antagonist Dr. Edward Weston. Perelandra (or Venus) is the setting of this second book, which essentially picks up right from the conclusion of book one. 

Although C.S. Lewis had much stricter definitions for terms like “allegory” or “parable,” his fantasy stories in both this space trilogy and his Narnian books clearly are telling a much grander and more real Story than merely the fictional accounts in these books. This concept is on full display in Perelandra. 

In the biblical account of the temptation of Eve, the whole affair is covered rather quickly. The devil says, “Eat the fruit,” to which Eve replies, “We’re not supposed to.” And then the devil says, “Nothing bad will happen to you if you do eat it,” and she does it. In Perelandra, C.S. Lewis takes us back to that scene and imagines the debate that might have happened, with Ransom counseling the Lady of Perelandra to obey, and Weston (or at least Weston’s body) trying to convince her to bravely disobey. The interplay between these three characters is quite fascinating. 

This story is a very enjoyable read on its own, but I found that the backstory of Out Of The Silent Planet increased my enjoyment in reading this book again. Whenever you choose to read this book, you are in for—with all due apologies to C.S. Lewis—a lovely allegory! 

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Out Of The Silent Planet (book review)

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I truly believe that leaders are readers. But leaders need to also be discerning in the books they choose. I almost exclusively read non-fiction, but I make an exception when a fictional piece of literature is a mind-expanding book. As I am re-reading C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, I’m reminded again how this master storyteller can pack so much into a few pages. Book one in this trilogy is Out Of The Silent Planet. 

In its simplest form, this book is about a trip to Malacandra (or Mars), but as with any fantasy work written by Lewis, the story tells a far deeper and more substantial Story. In this book, we go behind the scenes to witness the aftermath of the battle in heaven when Lucifer and his fallen angels attempted to usurp God’s throne. In the Malacandrian language, Lucifer is “the bent one,” having deviated away from God’s loving design, so those who have allowed themselves to be influenced by him are also called “bent.” The three Earthlings who have arrived on Malacandra show their level of straightness or bentness as this story unfolds. 

Another fascinating part of this book is the subtle change in language. The main protagonist is a philologist named Dr. Elwin Ransom. Watching how Lewis shows Dr. Ransom progressively learning the language of the inhabitants of Malacandra, contrasted with the way the bent men continue to speak it in “baby talk” is amazing. Ransom slowly learns more of the planet’s culture and the nuance of the language becomes more precise as he does so. And Lewis keeps pace by showing us the evolving vocabulary as the story moves along. 

If you are already a C.S. Lewis fan, this is a great book to continue your journey into his vast mind. But if you haven’t been exposed to much of Lewis’ writings yet, I would suggest holding off on this book until you have a better grasp of his more accessible works. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Three Pieces Of Evidence

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.

Three Pieces Of Evidence

     Many who believe in the name of Jesus are not sure that they have eternal life. They only hope so. … I speak affectionately to the weaker ones who cannot yet say that they know they have believed. I speak not to your condemnation but your consolation. Full assurance is not essential to salvation, but it is essential to satisfaction. May you get it at once. At any rate may you never be satisfied to live without it. You may have full assurance. …  

     Do you love God? Do you love His only begotten Son? You can answer those two questions surely. … If I love Him, I know it is because He first loved me [1 John 4:19]. Love to God in us is always the work of God’s love toward us. … Love to Jesus is an effect that proves the existence of its cause. …

     John goes on to give another evidence: ‘By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments’ (1 John 5:2). … The Holy Spirit tells us that if we love the brethren, we have passed from death to life. You can tell whether you love the brethren, as such, for their Master’s sake and for the truth’s sake that is in them. And if you can truly say that you thus love them, then you may know that you have eternal life [1 John 3:14]. … 

     Our apostle gives us this further evidence: ‘This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome’ (1 John 5:3). Obedience is the grand test of love. … Do you feel that you love the ways of God, that you desire holiness and follow after it joyfully? Then, dear friends, you have eternal life and these are the sure evidences of it. Obedience, holiness, delight in God, never came into a human heart except from a Heavenly Hand. …

     To me the fact that the mouth of God has spoken it stands in the place of all argument, either for or against. If Jehovah says so, so it is. … If your faith stands in the wisdom of men and is based upon the cleverness of a preacher, it will fail you. But if it stands on the sure Word of the Lord, it will stand forever.

From The Blessing Of Full Assurance 

These pieces of evidence are why I stressed last week that you make reading the Bible a regular practice: God tells us that faith comes through hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). One of the favorite tactics of the devil is to try to get people to doubt or misapply God’s Word—he asked Adam and Eve, “Did God really say…” and then he quoted the Psalms out of context to Jesus to try to get Him to doubt (Genesis 3:1; Luke 4:10-11). 

So when doubts about your secure standing in God’s sight creep in, you can return to the Scripture to say, “I have these three pieces of evidence that make me confident of God’s favor: I love Him because He first loved me, I love others because His love is in me, and I delight to obey all that my Father has told me.” 

Don’t passively listen to your doubts and the devil’s lies, but actively talk back to them! Get into God’s Word and let God’s Word get into you so that you can speak the truth to every doubt.

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Poetry Saturday—Standing On The Promises

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Standing on the promise of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God. —Russell Kelso Carter

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“My God, My God”

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Jesus has been hanging on the Cross silently for three hours. And now He gathers His strength for four final statements that all come in pretty close proximity. His first three dying declarations have been declarations of love:

But now comes a word of sheer, unparalleled agony. A word from a heart that is experiencing the depths of betrayal and pain that has never been known—or even approached—in all of human history: Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani! (Matthew 27:45-46; Mark 15:33-34)

Does this sound like a good Friday message: My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? 

This is the only one of the seven dying declarations of Jesus that Matthew and Mark record, and they do it nearly identically: 

  • It’s spoken in the everyday language of the people: Aramaic 
  • It’s translated into the worldwide language of business and literature: Greek 
  • It’s a direct quotation of Hebrew Scripture 

This is a word for everyone: Jews and Greek, nobles and commoners, religious people and pagans. 

This dying declaration comes from words taken directly from Psalm 22. David wrote this psalm 1000 years before the crucifixion of Jesus, but note the amazing accuracy in the despicable treatment of Jesus, gambling for Christ’s clothes, even the crucifixion itself (which was unknown in David’s time), and then there’s the heart-wrenching cry My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?  

Matthew and Mark say Jesus “cried out.” This can mean a cry of joy or a cry of pain. They also record that He cried out with “a loud voice.” The Greek words here will sound very familiar even to English ears—“loud” is the word megas, and “voice” is the word phoné. Literally: Jesus raised a megaphone voice to make sure everyone heard His cry! 

Remember that cried out can either be a cry of joy or of pain? Which one was it? You could make the case that it is both of these meanings. But there is a third way of using this word: a cry for help. 

Jesus is about to take a plunge. He is about to descend deeper than anyone else ever has. He is about to voluntarily go into Hell itself. This megaphone cry is His battlecry before storming the gates of Hell! 

Christ’s megaphone battlecry was heard in Hell and in Heaven as Jesus descended to decisively defeat hell, death, and the grave! Make no mistake, Jesus undoubtedly won that battle! That same descriptive word megas is also used for… 

  • …the stone in front of His grave is a megas stone 
  • …the earthquake that rolled away that stone on Resurrection morning was a megas earthquake 
  • …the joy of Christ’s friends at seeing the tomb empty was a megas joy 
  • …the trumpet sound at Christ’s Second Coming when He returns to earth as the Conquering King will be a megas blast, and His shout a megaphone cry (Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16)! 

Jesus went to the deepest depths to take us to the highest heights! 

His megaphone declaration from the Cross on Good Friday was a cry of pain over our sin, a battlecry as He stormed the gates of Hell, and a cry of joy over His coming victory! 

So now we can say, “Where, O Death, is your victory? Oh yeah, you don’t have one because my Savior has totally defeated you!” 

If you’ve missed any of the other dying declarations of Jesus from the Cross, you may access the full list by clicking here.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Our Daily Doctrine Of Experience

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.

Our Daily Doctrine Of Experience 

[God] alone is my rock and my salvation (Psalm 62:2).

     Doctrine is nothing unless it is proved in our experience. Most of God’s doctrines are only to be learned by practice—by taking them out into the world and letting them bear the wear and tear of life. …  

     Think how many enemies you have. How many rivers you have to cross, how many mountains to climb, how many dragons to fight, how many lions’ teeth to escape, how many fires to pass through, how many floods to wade. … Can your salvation be of anything except God? … 

     I beseech you, remember this. I hope you know it by experience in the past, but try to remember it in the future—wherever you go, ‘Salvation is of the Lord.’ Do not get to looking at your heart; do not get to examining to see whether you have anything to recommend you; just remember, salvation is of the Lord. ‘He alone is my rock and my salvation.’ … 

     I say, Christian, your highest and noblest experience is not to be groaning about your corruption, is not to be crying about your wanderings, but is to say, ‘With all my sin and care and woe, His Spirit will not let me go.’ ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). …  

     Now we must have the great duty. The great duty is this: If God only is our rock and we know it, are we not bound to put all our trust in God, to give all our love to God, to set all our hope upon God, to spend all our life for God, and to devote our whole being to God? … Trace your mercies to God and say perpetually, ‘He alone is my rock and my salvation.’

From God Alone The Salvation Of His People

If you will look through the pages of the Bible, you will see that people struggled when they forgot what God had done for them and therefore they began to take matters into their own hands. In the Old Testament, the prophets called this idolatry and adultery; in the New Testament, Jesus called this a lack of faith. 

An old hymn reminds us:

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, Oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above (Robert Robinson, Come Thou Fount)

I think this is the reason why Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” We need to be perpetually reliant on God’s grace—a perpetual debtor. This posture reminds us, “He alone is my rock and my salvation,” and guards us against the spirit of self-reliance that would lead us astray. 

Let our doctrine be proven in our daily experience of coming to God as our one and only Source again and again and again.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Security

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.

Security 

[God] alone is my rock and my salvation (Psalm 62:2).

     I do not reckon that is salvation that regenerates me and then puts me in such a position that I may fall out of the covenant and be lost. I cannot call that a bridge that only goes halfway over the stream. I cannot call that salvation that does not carry me all the way to heaven, wash me perfectly clean, and put me among the glorified who sing constant hosannas around the throne. … 

     Do I live to God a holy life? It is not I, but Christ who lives in me. Am I sanctified? I did not sanctify myself. God’s Holy Spirit sanctifies me. Am I weaned from the world? I am weaned by God’s chastisements. Do I grow in knowledge? The great Instructor teaches me.

From God Alone The Salvation Of His People

 

A few months ago I began designing a series of graphics under the heading, “Says who?” I took some of the lies of satan and put them side-by-side with the truth from God’s Word. 

When God is our Savior, we are secure. The devil would love to make us think that our salvation is hanging by a thread, that we have to work harder to make sure we don’t miss out, that a single sin can disqualify us from God’s favor, and a hundred other lies. But they are all just that: lies! 

We have to learn to capture each of these thoughts, and if they are thoughts that don’t align with God’s Word, then we need to confront them with the truth. I have found it very helpful to speak these truths out loud. To see some of the ways I suggested thinking differently about the devil’s lies, check out this post on reversing your thinking.

As the old hymn says, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.” You don’t have to earn your salvation or make your position secure—your salvation has been paid-in-full and you are perfectly secure! Now what you owe to Jesus is to allow Him to take you safely home. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Talking Back To Your Old Family

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.

Talking Back To Your Old Family

     When a man is adopted into a family and comes thereby under the regime of his new father, he has nothing whatever to do with the old family he has left behind and he is released from subjection to those whom he has left. And so, the moment I am taken out of the family of satan, the prince of this world has nothing to do with me as my father and he is no more my father. I am not a son of satan; I am not a child of wrath. 

     …When the law comes to a Christian with all its terrible threats and horrible denunciations, the Christian says, ‘Law! Why do you threaten me? I have nothing to do with you. I follow you as my rule, but I will not have you to be my ruler. I take you to be my pattern and mold, because I cannot find a better code of morality and of life, but I am not under you as my condemning curse.’ …  

     If one man adopts another child into his family, he cannot give it his own nature as his own child would have had. And if that child whom he will adopt should have been a fool, it may still remain so. He cannot make it a child worthy of him. But our heavenly Father, when He comes to carry out adoption, gives us not only the name of children, but the nature of children, too. He gives us a nature like His well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

From Adoption

Charles Spurgeon was called “the prince of preachers” for good reason! His word pictures are so biblically-accurate and so easy to recall, that anyone can grasp the concepts he shares from the Scripture. I have two takeaways from this portion of his sermon: 

First, we need to talk back to our old family. The name “satan” means accuser: he accuses, condemns, slanders, and does his best to separate. When a Christian has been adopted into God’s family, there is no condemnation for the one who now calls God, “Abba Father” (see Romans 8:1-17). 

This is where we need to call out satan’s lies. I mean literally call them out. We need to talk back to the devil and tell him the truth, just as Spurgeon said in his example of talking back to the Law. Let me say it again: literally speak the truth out loud. The devil needs to hear it and your own ears need to hear it too: “I am no longer subject to your jurisdiction. You have no say over me any longer. I am a child of God. My sins have been forgiven and forgotten; therefore, there are no grounds left for any condemnation!” 

Second, we need to talk back to our old nature. After being adopted into God’s family, the Holy Spirit undertakes a process to conform us to the image of Jesus. This process is called sanctification, but I like to call it saint-ification. 

This is where we call out what we used to be. And, again, I challenge to literally speak these words out loud. Don’t say, “I’m so impatient,” but tell yourself (out loud!), “I am becoming the patient saint Jesus wants me to be.” Don’t say, “I’ll never get this right,” but tell yourself, “I am learning more and more about Christ’s nature with each attempt.” Talk back to these old habits from your old family, and tell them about the new saintly habits the Holy Spirit is developing in you. 

The book of Revelation tells us that the saints overcame the slanderous devil by the blood of Jesus and by the words of their testimony. Speak out those life-affirming words every time that slanderer tries to make you forget into whose family you have been adopted!

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