Poetry Saturday—Before The Throne Of God Above

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Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart,
No tongue can bid me thence depart. 

When satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me,
To look on Him and pardon me. 

Behold Him there! The risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless righteousness;
The great unchangeable “I AM,”
The King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God,
With Christ, my Savior and my God. —Charitie Lees Bancroft

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Poetry Saturday—The Lord Will Provide

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Though troubles assail
And dangers affright,
Though friends should all fail
And foes all unite;
Yet one thing secures us,
Whatever betide,
The Scripture assures us,
The Lord will provide.

The birds without barn
Or storehouse are fed,
From them let us learn
To trust for our bread:
His saints, what is fitting,
Shall ne’er be denied,
So long as ‘tis written,
The Lord will provide.

We may, like the ships,
By tempest be tossed
On perilous deeps,
But cannot be lost.
Though satan enrages
The wind and the tide,
The promise engages,
The Lord will provide.

His call we obey
Like Abram of old,
Not knowing our way,
But faith makes us bold;
For though we are strangers
We have a good Guide,
And trust in all dangers,
The Lord will provide.

When satan appears
To stop up our path,
And fill us with fears,
We triumph by faith;
He cannot take from us,
Though oft he has tried,
This heart-cheering promise,
The Lord will provide.

He tells us we’re weak,
Our hope is in vain,
The good that we seek
We ne’er shall obtain,
But when such suggestions
Our spirits have plied,
This answers all questions,
The Lord will provide.

No strength of our own,
Or goodness we claim,
Yet since we have known
The Savior’s great name;
In this our strong tower
For safety we hide,
The Lord is our power,
The Lord will provide.

When life sinks apace
And death is in view,
This word of His grace
Shall comfort us through:
No fearing or doubting
With Christ on our side,
We hope to die shouting,
The Lord will provide. —John Newton


Poetry Saturday—Praise To The Redeemer

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Prepare a thankful song
To the Redeemer’s name
His praises should employ each tongue
And every heart inflame!

He laid His glory by,
And dreadful pains endured;
That rebels, such as you and I,
From wrath might be secured.

Upon the Cross He died,
Our debt of sin to pay;
The blood and water from His side
Wash guilt and filth away.

And now He pleading stands
For us, before the throne;
And answers all the Law’s demands,
With what Himself hath done.

He sees us, willing slaves
To sin, and satan’s pow’r;
But, with an outstretched arm, He saves,
In His appointed hour.

The Holy Ghost He sends.
Our stubborn souls to move;
To make His enemies His friends,
And conquer them by love.

The love of sin departs,
The life of grace takes place,
Soon as His voice invites our hearts
To rise and seek His face.

The world and satan rage,
But He their pow’r controls;
His wisdom, love, and truth, engage
Protection for our souls.

Though pressed, we will not yield,
But shall prevail at length,
For Jesus is our sun and shield,
Our righteousness and strength.

Assured that Christ our King,
Will put our foes to flight;
We, on the field of battle, sing
And triumph, while we fight. —John Newton

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Sword Of God

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Zechariah is the longest book of the minor prophets. His ministry overlaps Haggai the prophet, Ezra the priest, Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest. I point all of this out because we need to always keep in mind that the Bible isn’t a collection of stories. It’s a verifiable (or falsifiable) record of real people at real moments in history. Many of the stories in the Bible confirm and even amplify each other. 

Let me remind you of what we learned from our study of the minor prophet Haggai:

  1. Hear the Word 
  2. Consider the Word 
  3. Obey the Word 
  4. Stand assured, encouraged, and unmovable on God’s Word 

Aren’t you more assured of a message that has a confirmation? Like if one person gives you a compliment that you hadn’t considered before, and then later on someone else notices the same attribute. I think we are more ready to receive the word when it has a confirmation like that. 

Haggai delivered a word directed to Zerubbabel the governor, which we saw was a prophecy pointing to and ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. God called Zerubbabel “My signet ring—a mark of God’s supreme authority. 

That might have been a difficult thing for Zerubbabel to accept, so Zechariah is given a confirming word two months after Haggai’s prophecy (Zechariah 4:1-9). This prophecy affirms the message given through Haggai, and also points to its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. 

But then Zechariah is also given an amplifying word, as he speaks a word from God to Joshua, the other “olive tree” in his God-given vision (Zechariah 3:1-9; 6:9-13). 

Zechariah confirmed and amplified Haggai’s message. And then Jesus fulfilled both of their prophecies! We have the benefit of seeing the prophecy and fulfillment, which should build our faith in ALL of the promises in God’s Word. 

The Word of God then become the (s)word of God in our mouths and hearts!  

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would wield the sword of God, and this is the same blessing we can claim today. Jesus defeated satan’s temptations with the sword of God, and so do the saints of God today (Isaiah 49:2; Psalm 149:6; Ephesians 6:13, 17; Luke 4:1-12; Revelation 12:11). 

Because of these specific prophecies that have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, we can now stand assured, encouraged, unmovable, and well-armed with the same sword of God. 

There isn’t a more effective sword or shield than God’s (s)word! 

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

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You’re No Match For Sexual Sin

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At the window of my house I looked out through the lattice. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in. Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. … 

With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter…. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7) 

Solomon tells us that we know the place—her corner, her street, her house. 

Solomon tells us that we know her goal—she came out to meet him with crafty intent. 

Solomon tells us that we know her strategy—speaking lies with a brazen face, speaking words that are seductive, persuasive, smooth, and with an outfit to match the vocabulary. 

Solomon tells us we know the outcome—her victim is brought down into the chambers of death. 

The Bible never counsels us to fight sexual sin, but it says we should flee sexual sin. Stronger people than me have been sucked into the quicksand of sexual temptation. 

It sounds innocent enough (“it’s just a little flirting”). It sounds harmless enough (“there’s no harm in looking”). It sounds tame enough (“who will ever know?”). But her slain are a mighty throng! 

Solomon also tells us the way to avoid sexual sin—keep God’s words close by, store up His commands in your heart, keep wise and God-fearing friends around you, and stay away from her corner, her street, her house. 

This is not a trivial thing. I’m no match for the silky seduction of sexual temptation! Flee! Run away! Don’t even get close to it! Jesus said that drastic steps may be needed—get rid of your computer, stop watching TV alone, get a new job. 

Don’t fight it—flee it! Your best strategy is to stay as far, far away as possible. Let me say it again: You are no match for the crushing power of sexual temptation, so FLEE! 

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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.

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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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