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!

Don’t Give In To Pseudo-Wisdom

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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

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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.

10 Quotes From “The Screwtape Letters”

C.S. Lewis gives us fantastic insight into the temptations the devil tries to use against Christians. You can read my full book review here. Just as a reminder: When Screwtape talks about “the Enemy” he is referring to God and when he says “our Father” he is talking about satan. 

“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.” 

“Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell—though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express—no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.” 

“Let his inner resolve be to bear whatever comes to him, but to bear it ‘for a reasonable period’—and let the reasonable period be shorter than the trial is likely to last. It need not be much shorter…. The fun is to make the man yield just when (had he but known it) relief was almost in sight.”

“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.” 

“Our Enemy is a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or only like foam on the seashore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures forevermore.’ Ugh! … He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least—sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.” 

“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” 

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By Jove! I’m being humble,’ and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt. … You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character.” 

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One it to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” 

“Even of his sins the Enemy does not want him to think too much: once they are repented, the sooner the man turns his attention outward, the better the Enemy is pleased.” 

“Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.” 

The Screwtape Letters (book review)

Sun Tzu taught, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” With that maxim in mind, if you read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, you will gain insight into the enemy’s tactics, unlike perhaps any other source. 

Lewis said this book was an easy book for him to write, but it gave him no joy to write it. Exposing the dark strategies of satan and his ugly cohort is indeed a joyless business. But even the apostle Paul tells us that we shouldn’t be unaware of the devil’s schemes. 

If you are a Christian and you read this book, you need to reverse your thinking. This book is a series of letters from Screwtape, a more experienced demon, to his nephew Wormwood who has just been given his first “patient” to seduce into hell. Whereas Christians call God their Father, in this book Screwtape refers to satan as “our Father” and God as “the Enemy.” 

Perhaps the most insightful part to me of this amazing book is the subtlety of the temptations which are employed to trip up Christians and keep seekers away from the truth. In fact, at several points Screwtape warns Wormwood that he is trying too hard to use something huge to bring down his patient when only the smallest of things will do the trick. 

I would encourage newer Christians to wait a while to read this book. In the meantime, read the Bible as much as you can—get to know the Real before you read about the counterfeit. For more mature Christians, however, this is an important book to read. 

(As a brief aside, in reading The Screwtape Letters this time through, I listened to the audiobook narrated by Joss Ackland and he delivered a phenomenal performance!) 

Our Most Effective Shield And (S)word

…with Your mouth You have promised and with Your hand You have fulfilled it… (2 Chronicles 6:15). 

I rest solely on what God says—He says it and He fulfills it. 

I can live on “every Word” He speaks (Deuteronomy 8:3).

“Every Word” of God is flawless and is a protection for me (Proverbs 30:5).

None of God’s Word ever fail (Isaiah 55:11).

God gives us His Word to speak (Jeremiah 26:12; John 12:49; Luke 21:15).

We defeat our enemies by God’s Word in our mouth (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; Revelation 12:11).

Every Word of God gives life because of the Holy Spirit’s anointing on it (John 6:63).

Every Word of God is a sword (Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15). Or as my friend Sasha reminds me God’s Word is our S(word)! 

There isn’t a more effective shield against enemies, there isn’t a more deadly weapon against temptation, there isn’t a more sure foundation in storms than the Word spoken and fulfilled by God! 

[check out all of the above passages for yourself by clicking here] 

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