Our Joyful Burden

I shared last week that the judgment of God should be a cause for both fear and rejoicingboth regret and comfort—for those who have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. But for those who have no relationship with God, the judgment of God is a cause for only fear and regret. 

How did Nahum respond to this word of judgment God spoke through him? His opening words say, “The burden against Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite” (NKJV). The Hebrew word for “burden” is almost always associated with a word God has spoken. It’s a realization of God’s weighty glory; it’s never, ever something we should trivialize! 

Prophets don’t just prophesy future events, they also announce in the present tense where people have departed from a lifestyle that robs God of His glory and how they can be forgiven of sins. 

“The prophets foretell (speak to what will happen in the future) and forth-tell (speak to what we should be doing in the present), both in the light of God’s heart for His own glory among all peoples of the world.” —Dick Brogden 

God never makes idle threats nor empty promises. Truly His Word is His bond. Through Nahum, God foretold that Assyria would be utterly destroyed, twice saying, “I am against you” (Nahum 2:13-3:7). 

The world may rejoice at God’s justice on evil (3:19), but how does God feel about carrying out His judgment? Ezekiel records God saying, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Sovereign Lord. “Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23) 

And Jesus declared, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17)

The Bible shows that when I sin, God’s first response is not anger toward me but broken-hearted grief. This is the message that must be both foretold and forth-told by Christians. 

“But what can I do,” you might ask. “I’m just one person. I’m not a big-time evangelist.” That sounds a lot like Nahum. He was just a guy from Elkosh—no special family lineage, no large city to claim as his home. 

God is looking for just one that will speak out His words (Ezekiel 3:17-21). Just one who will be humble enough to search their own heart first and then both boldly and lovingly deliver a message of both judgment and escape (Matthew 7:1-5; James 5:20). 

Foretelling God’s judgment is a burden. Forth-telling God’s forgiveness is a joy. All Christians have been given the joyful burden of this both-and ministry! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series called Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, you can find the full list by clicking here

Words To Winners Of Souls (book review)

Horatius Bonar has given us a collection of sermons preached to pastors, which have been collated in a book under the title Words To Winners Of Souls. 

Although these were words by a pastor to pastors, this shouldn’t be a book exclusively read by pastors. Anyone who wants to successfully share their Christian testimony with unsaved friends and loved ones can find much to digest in these sermons. That being said, this is still a must-read (and I don’t say that very often) for those in pastoral ministry. 

Bonar was a no-pulled-punches preacher! He spoke candidly and forcefully, but he also spoke out of a love for the Body of Christ and its ministers. Early on in this book he says, “We take for granted that the object of the Christian ministry is to convert sinners and to edify the body of Christ. No faithful minister can possibly rest short of this. Applause, fame, popularity, honor, wealth—all these are vain. If souls are not won, if saints are not matured, our ministry itself is vain.” Wow: “our ministry itself is vain”—you cannot get more gut-level honest than that! 

In this collection of messages, Bonar helps us diagnose what may be hindering our soul-winning practices, and he also proposes the remedy for those shortcomings. These words are honest and often hard to hear, but they are so needed for everyone who desires, as Jesus does, “that none should perish but all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 

Pastors, please read this book! 

Parishioners, please get a copy of this book for your pastor and then offer to prayerfully read through it with him or her. I promise you: this book will pay eternal dividends. 

UPDATE: I have shared some quotes from this book here.

The Legacy Of Worship

As my friend Josh Schram led us through Psalm 66 in our Selah series, I was reminded how our worship of God—especially in our trials—can leave a godly legacy that crosses generations and continents. 

There are three Selahs in this psalm. Remember that Selah is a call to pause to consider the impact of what the inspired biblical text just said to us. The Selahs in this psalm are surrounded by praise to God, as well as the impact of that praise. 

“We don’t praise God because our circumstances are good. We praise God because our God is awesome!” —Josh Schram 

 Psalm 66 could be briefly outlined like this:

  • We say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds!” 
  • Selah—pause to ponder how awesome God is. 
  • We say to others, “Come and see the awesome things God has done!” 
  • Selah—pause to let our worship of God impact others. 
  • Others join with us in saying, “God is worthy to be praised!” 
  • Selah—pause and rejoice as their praise to God reverberates. 
  • Now we can say to an even larger audience, “Come and listen to the awesome things God has done!” 

Notice that our praise of God—despite the circumstances we’re in—makes all of the other steps possible. 

“Come and see my life of praise” (v. 3) precedes the opportunity to say, “Come and listen to my testimony” (v. 5). In other words, we live out our love for God and earn the right to speak out to others about our love for God. 

Look at the same pattern in Paul and Silas:

  • They are thrown in prison on sham charges and they still are about to sing through their physical pain, “How awesome is our God!” 
  • God sends an earthquake that breaks off their shackles and opens the prison doors. 
  • The jailer asks how he also can have this kind of relationship with Jesus. 
  • Paul and Silas have the opportunity to say to him and his family, “Come and listen.” 
  • The jailer and his family accept Jesus as their Savior. 

But it’s not just this jailer. Luke wrote that the other prisoners were also listening to Paul and Silas sing about their awesome God. Through the jailer and perhaps some of these prisoners, a church was started in Philippi. 

Later on, Paul would write to this church about their partnership in ministry, and he would write to the Corinthian church about the amazing missions generosity of the Philippian church (see Philippians 1:3-5; 2 Corinthians 8:1-2). That’s what I mean about leaving a godly legacy that crosses generations and continents. 

God is worthy to be praised! Let others hear you saying, “God is awesome” even in the midst of your painful trials, and you, too, will earn the opportunity to say to them, “Come and listen as I tell you how awesome it is to be in a relationship with God through His Son Jesus!” You can be a part of this godly legacy in your community. 

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

Thursdays With Spurgeon—In Pursuit Of Truth

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.

In Pursuit Of Truth 

     The disciples had been instructed concerning certain elementary doctrines by Christ, but He did not teach His disciples more than what we should call the ABCs of religion. He gives His reasons for this in the twelfth verse: ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now’ [John 16:12]. His disciples were not possessors of the Spirit. They had the Spirit so far as the work of conversion was concerned, but not as to the matters of bright illumination, profound instruction, prophecy, and inspiration. Jesus says, ‘I am now about to depart, and when I go from you, I will send the Comforter to you. You cannot bear these things now. Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth’ [John 16:13]. The same promise that He made to His apostles stands good to all His children. …  

     We think it is right that the Christian ministry should be not only arousing but instructing, not merely awakening but enlightening, that it should appeal not only to the passions but to the understanding. We are far from thinking doctrinal knowledge to be of secondary importance. We believe it to be one of the first things in the Christian life, to know the truth and then to practice it. …  

     What we call curiosity is something given us of God impelling us to search into the knowledge of natural things. That curiosity, sanctified by the Spirit, is also brought to bear in matters of heavenly science and celestial wisdom. … A true Christian is always intently reading and searching the Scriptures that he may be able to certify himself as to its main and cardinal truths. …  

     Depend on this: The more you know of God’s truth, all things being equal, the more comfortable you will be as a Christian. …  

     Knowledge of truth will make us very serviceable in this world. We will be skillful physicians who know how to take the poor distressed soul aside, to put the finger on his eye and take the scale off for him that heaven’s light may comfort him. … There is nothing like the real truth and the whole truth to make a man useful.  

From The Holy Spirit: The Great Teacher 

Throughout the public ministry of Jesus, the Gospels tell us of His apostles simply not understanding that Jesus was fulfilling Old Testament prophecy in all that He was doing. But all of that changed after the Day of Pentecost when then followers of Jesus were baptized in the Holy Spirit! 

Beginning with Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost and throughout the rest of the New Testament, we see how the Christians took Old Testament Scriptures and applied them in the new understanding the Holy Spirit gave them of the work of Jesus. As a result, radical changes began to take place not only within the Church but throughout society as well. 

As Spurgeon noted, “The same promise that He made to His apostles stands good to all His children.” That promise of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, illumination, creativity, and application of Scripture is still available for all Christians today! 

Don’t limit your Christian testimony or your effectiveness in the world by keeping the Holy Spirit relegated to some unknowable, mysterious work. Allow Him to be the driving force in all that you think and do! 

I have a whole series of messages on the power of Pentecostal Christians you can read by clicking here and here.

“Alas!” To “Aha!”

…oh no… (2 Kings 6:5, 15). 

The words “Oh no!” are actually a single word in the Hebrew language (Hebrew: ‘ahahh) that has been transliterated into English as “Aha!” 

But I think the old English translation is better in this context: ALAS! 

ALAS is usually a painful realization of the situation, not a cry of enlightened discovery. Here are the other times that this Hebrew/English word for ALAS! is used: 

  • Joshua said it after his army was defeated at Ai 
  • Gideon said it after realizing he had been face-to-face with God 
  • Jephtha cried it out after he knew that his daughter would have to be sacrificed
  • King Joram uttered this when he realized his troops and animals had no water in the desert 
  • Jeremiah said this to God after he was called to be a prophet, and after he was asked by God to speak countercultural words (he actually said ALAS! four times!) 
  • Ezekiel also cried out ALAS! four times when God asked him to do or to watch difficult things 
  • Joel cried it out when he saw the Day of the Lord quickly approaching 

(check out the above references by clicking here) 

In all of these ALAS! painful moments, these men were at their wits’ end, at the end of their own abilities—they couldn’t do anything to help themselves. 

In all of these ALAS! moments, they came to just one important realization: Only Yahweh can help me. That realization is truly the AHA! of an enlightened discovery! 

Calling on God turns a painful ALAS! moment into a God-glorifying AHA! moment. God alone can provide where no one else can.

Don’t despair in the ALAS! times, but cry it out loud to the only One who can help you, and then watch to see how He alone will turn your situation into a defining, God-glorifying AHA! testimony. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Be A Reflector

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.

Be A Reflector 

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6) 

     It is by the heart that we know God and Christ, and as our affections are purified, we become sensible of God’s presence in Christ. … Our beholding Him has purified the eyes that have gazed upon His purity. His brightness has helped our eyesight so that we see much already and will yet see more. …  

     Why did not everybody see the glory of God in Jesus Christ when He was here? It was conspicuous enough. Answer: It matters not how brightly the sun shines among blind men. … What, then, has happened to us? To eternal grace be endless praise! God Himself has shined into our hearts. That same God who said, ‘Light be,’ and light was, has shined into our hearts! … If you can delight in God in Christ Jesus, then remember, no man can say that Jesus is the Christ but by the Holy Spirit, and you have said it [Matthew 16:13-17]! …  

     You must not hoard up the light within yourself—it will not be light to you if you do. Only think of a person when his room is full of sunlight saying to his servant, ‘Quick, now! Close the shutters and let us keep this precious light to ourselves.’ Your room will be in the dark, my friend! … 

     A man of God, when he receives the light of Christ, can become so perfect a reflector that to common eyes, at any rate, he is brightness itself! … Scatter your light in all unselfishness. Wish to shine, not that others may say, ‘How great he is,’ but that they, getting the light, may rejoice in the Source from which it came to you and to them.

From The Glory Of God In The Face Of Jesus Christ

As the old hymn reminds us, “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.” It is by God’s grace alone that we have been given light to see Jesus and to place our faith in Him! 

That light continues to grow within us the longer we gaze at the glory of God in the face of Jesus. Immerse yourself in the Gospels. Don’t read your Bible just to know the Word of God, but read to get to know the God of the Word better. Let the Holy Spirit purify your vision. 

Then you will become a reflector of God’s glory. The love and light of God are too wonderful to hoard to yourself! Ask God to bless you with a greater capacity to reflect the light of His Son to a dark, groping world.

 

Be Ready

…430 years, to the very day… (Exodus 12:41). 

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of a sober mind so that you may pray. (1 Peter 4:7)

The Old Testament picture of slavery in Egypt is a picture of slavery to sin, with the Passover being the moment of salvation. 

But it is also a picture of the times in which we now live—people rely on their gods, not listening to the Word of God; a time that people live pleasing themselves, “living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry”; a time that the Judge is approaching and people are ignorant or apathetic about His arrival (see 1 Peter 4:1-6). 

The application of the blood of the sacrificial Passover lamb is a one-time choice (salvation), but the remembrance and lifestyle application is a series of ongoing, daily, even moment-by-moment choices. 

People will think it strange that Christians don’t join them in their worldly-focused lifestyle, but we must be alert and sober and prayerful. The Day is coming when God will fulfill everything “to the very day”—and no one can buy or bargain another moment. 

When God’s clock strikes, we must be ready! 

If you, dear Christian, are ready for The Day of the Lord’s appearing, then I plead with you to also be actively telling others to be ready to meet their King as well. May they be able to meet the very day with rejoicing because their beloved Savior has arrived, not with quaking fear because the All-Righteous Judge has arrived.

Linger In Gratitude

I just finished a series of messages at Calvary Assembly of God called Fading Gratitude. It was intended to give some practical thoughts that would stimulate our continual gratitude—not just thankfulness on a day called Thanksgiving.

Sarah Young does a masterful job speaking the words of Scripture as though it were Jesus speaking first-person to us. This word is so appropriate on the heels of this series and on the eve of our Thanksgiving celebration.

“I want you to linger in gratitude. This is a most delightful place—where the joy of My presence shines warmly upon you. 

“You often and pray fervently for something until you receive the answer you desire. When I grant your request, you respond joyfully and thankfully. But your tendency is to move on rather quickly to the next matter. I want you to remain for a while in an attitude of grateful joy. Instead of experiencing only a short-lived burst of gratitude, let this pleasure flow freely into the future by training yourself to recall what I have done. One way is to tell others about it. This blesses both them and you, and it pleases Me. Another way is to write down the prayer-answer someplace where you will see it again and again.

“Keep bringing your gratitude to Me. This thankfulness will bless you doubly—with happy memories of answered prayer and with the delight of sharing enjoy it with Me.” —Jesus (in Sarah Young’s Jesus Always, emphasis mine)

Are You Available?

Have you ever had someone walk into your life—even if it was just for a moment—and say something you needed to hear? You might not have liked what they had to say, but it was definitely something you needed to hear. 

My hunch is that those timely messengers were not necessarily “experts” in the area in which they talked to you. They may have been a doctor talking about a medical need, or it may have been a friend talking about some health issues. Most of the time our valuable messengers are just everyday people. 

God loves using “everyday people”! 

  • You don’t have to be a trained pastor to minister to people. 
  • You don’t have to be a trained theologian to tell people what you believe about God.
  • You don’t have to be a trained counselor to encourage someone.

You just have to be who God created you to be. And you have to be available. Like Amos. 

Amos was simply taking care of his farm and his herds when God called him to deliver a timely message to His people.

Amos introduces himself as just one of the shepherds of Tekoa (1:1) and tells another priest that he was simply minding his own business when God said, “Go, prophesy to My people” (7:10-15). 

Amos’ name means burden-bearer—he had a burden for his kinsmen. He saw their sin and knew what defiance of God would mean for them. This burden made him available to hear God’s voice say, “Go.” 

“But I’m not a trained prophet,” Amos could have said. “You are telling me to ‘prophesy’ but all I really know is farming and shepherding.” 

God said, “Say what you know.” 

What did Amos know?

  1. Amos knew God’s voice—In this short book, 43 times(!) Amos uses phrases like says the Lord, declares the Lord, or hear the word of the Lord. 
  2. Amos knew his business—This book is filled with language about sheep and shepherds, farmers and farm equipment, gardens and vineyards. 
  3. Amos knew God had told him “Go and speak” so Amos had boldness. 

You can put your name in all three of those places that say Amos. You can know God’s voice through the Bible, you know your “business” (whether it’s parenting, or coaching, or your own profession), and you can hear God saying, “Go, tell people about Me.” 

God wants to use you for His glory. He just needs your availability. Will you be open to being that person? 

Join me next week as we continue to learn the major lessons from that the minor prophets teach us. 

Poetry Saturday—Give Me The Love

Give me the love that leads the way, 
The faith that nothing can dismay, 
The hope no disappointments tire, 
The passion that will burn like fire.
Let me not sink to be a clod: 
make me Thy fuel, flame of God. —Amy Carmichael
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