The Circle Of Love And Hate

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

Oh, how I love Your law! … Therefore I hate every wrong path (Psalm 119:97, 104). 

These bookend verses of the section called Mem form the conclusion of a logical argument, and in between are each step of the progression. Notice the word “for” (in vv. 98, 99, 100, and 102) and the words “so that” in v. 101. 

This progression forms a circle from love to hate, and back to love again. Check this out—

I love Your law so I meditate on it all day. 

Meditating on Your law makes me wiser than my enemies and my teachers. 

This wisdom helps me obey Your laws. 

Obedience keeps me on the right path. 

I stay on the right path because You Yourself teach me while I’m on that path. 

Because You are my Teacher, Your laws are sweet to me. 

Because Your laws are sweet, I hate anything contrary to Your laws. 

Hating everything that is not found in Your law helps me love Your law even more. 

[Back to the top] Since I love Your law, I keep on meditating on it all day. 

Far too often I believe Christians are known more for what they’re against than what they’re for. The author of Psalm 119 urges us over and over and over again to not only fall in love with God’s Word but to fall more deeply in love with the God revealed in His Word. When we are brimming full of love for God, we cannot help but show the world what we are for, and that is for everyone to have a personal relationship with this loving God for themselves. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Don’t Give In To Pseudo-Wisdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Plan Of The Cross

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.

The Plan Of The Cross

What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. (1 Corinthians 2:12) 

     The course of our fallen race has been a succession of failures. Whenever there has been an apparent rise, it has been followed by a real fall. Into ever-increasing darkness the human mind seems resolved to plunge itself in its struggles after a false light. When men have been fools, they have danced in a delirium of sin. When they have been sober, they have given themselves up to a phantom wisdom of their own that has revealed their folly more than ever. It is a sad story, the story of mankind! Read it in the light of God’s Word and it will bring tears from your very heart.

     The only hope for man was that God should interpose. And He has interposed, as though He began a new creation or worked a resurrection out of the kingdom of death. God has come into human history and here the bright lights begin. … See yonder avalanche rushing down the steep mountainside? Such is humanity left to itself. Lo, God in Christ Jesus throws Himself in the way. He so interposes as to be crushed beneath the descending rocks. But beloved, He rises from the dreadful burial. He stops the avalanche in its terrible path. He hurls back the tremendous mass and changes the whole aspect of history. … 

     The plan of the Cross is to conquer death by death, to remove sin by the endurance of the penalty, to work mightily by suffering terribly, and to glorify Christ by shame.

From Grace For Grace

This sermon reminds me of the poignant words from Isaac Watts—

When I survey the wondrous Cross 
On which the Prince of Glory died, 
My richest gain I count but loss, 
And pour contempt on all my pride. 
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, 
Save in the death of Christ my God! 
All the vain things that charm me most, 
I sacrifice them to His blood.
 

All of man’s attempts to control his universe, or determine his fate, or even make himself acceptable to God have been an abysmal failure. So God Himself stepped in, but He came in a way that no one could have imagined and no one could claim as their idea. The prophet Isaiah said it this way, “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so His own arm achieved salvation for Him, and His own righteousness sustained Him” (Isaiah 59:15-16). 

It is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone that we have hope of our salvation. And for that we give all glory to God alone. Sola Deo gloria!

 

Poetry Saturday—The Bible: The Light Of The World

A glory gilds the sacred page,
Majestic like the sun:
It gives a light to every age;
It gives, but borrows none.

The Hand that gave it still supplies
The gracious light and heat;
His truths upon the nations rise,
They rise, but never set.

Let everlasting thanks be Thine,
For such a bright display,
As makes a world of darkness shine
With beams of heavenly day.

My soul rejoices to pursue
The steps of Him I love,
Till glory break upon my view
In brighter worlds above. —William Cowper

Apples Of Gold In Pictures Of Silver (book review)

The title of this book comes from the King James Version of the Bible: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). A picturesque phrase for words that are challenging and uplifting. 

This book came to me from my Grandfather’s library. Originally published in 1889, my Grandfather had an autographed copy from 1901. The words in this book have stood the test of time. 

The first section of the book contains quotes, poems, and other life-guiding words to be read each day of the year. The subsequent sections are targeted to specific seasons of life. They are “Apples of Gold for…

  • … Children
  • … Youths 
  • … Lasses 
  • … Young Men 
  • … Young Women
  • … Early Married Life
  • … Middle-Aged 
  • … The Old
  • … Mothers 
  • … Dark Days 
  • … Bright Days” 

Each of these sections contains short stories, quotes, and poetry to both recover from a stumble and help the reader grow to new levels of maturity and success. 

I realize this book is out of print and probably unavailable to most, but there is an important principle from these types of books: Never stop learning. Find sources of wisdom that have stood the test of time, and let others’ hindsight be your foresight as you strive to keep on growing. In the case of Apples Of Gold In Pictures Of Silver, the editors approached this book from a biblical worldview, making sure that all of the counsel they printed aligned with God’s Word. 

I would encourage you to find these types of books to help you grow through life.

Philosophical Thoughts (book review)

C.S. Lewis once quipped, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” And there are very few people that have presented what I would call “good philosophy” like Lewis himself. The collection called Philosophical Thoughts is a prime example. 

Certainly, many of Lewis’ books would fall into the category of philosophy, or at the very minimum contain overt philosophical elements. This collection was different than many of his books because of the wide range of topics explored. Not only the topics but the “source material” as well. By that I mean, sometimes Lewis’ words are in the form of a conversation he had with a friend, some are from lectures he gave, and one is even Lewis sharing a very lucid dream that he had. All of them challenged the paradigms of my thinking. 

The word philosophy is a combination of two loanwords from Greek: philo and sophia. “Philo” is the love and appreciation of something, and “sophia” is wisdom. Have you ever heard the phrase, “He’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good”? That is the exact opposite of the definition of sophia. Sophia is a lofty wisdom that is highly practical. This perfectly describes the pondering of C.S. Lewis: elevated thoughts that can be immediately applied to our daily lives. 

I don’t believe this collection is available as a written book, but that’s just fine because listening to the mellifluous voice of Englishman Ralph Cosham was sort of like sitting in Lewis’ study and listening to him speak. A very enjoyable experience indeed! 

As A Man Thinketh (book review)

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,” said the wise King Solomon nearly 3000 years ago. James Allen picked up on this phrase and noticed how true it still was in his day, prompting him to pen some astute observations in his book As A Man Thinketh.

This is not an academic book, nor is it a self-help book. Mr. Allen states his rationale for writing on the opening pages: “This little volume (the result of meditation and experience) is not intended as an exhaustive treatise on the much-written-upon subject of the power of thought. It is suggestive rather than explanatory, its object being to stimulate men and women to the discovery and perception of the truth that—‘They themselves are makers of themselves.’” 

Just as the biblical book of Proverbs contains short observations that are intended to cause the reader to contemplate the outcome of particular life choices and thought patterns, Mr. Allen does the same thing for a contemporary audience. Although you could breeze through this short book quite quickly, I strongly urge you to take your time to ponder just how powerfully your patterns of thought contribute to your everyday actions. 

Metacognition is a psychological term meaning to think about what you think about. As A Man Thinketh will definitely stimulate some productive metacognition of your own. 

Start With The Heart (book review)

Dr. Kathy Koch has parenting insights that are unlike few others. Her ministry is called Celebrate Kids, and that’s exactly what she teaches parents and teachers to do in her book Start With The Heart.

Not only does Dr. Kathy lean into her formal training in education—as an elementary teacher, a middle school coach, and a university professor—but she supports all of her instructional insights with an unabashed reliance on the wisdom found in the Bible. This is a winning combination!

Dr. Kathy explains the rationale behind the title and message of her latest book, “Capturing your child’s heart and parenting to keep it may be more important than anything else you do. Your love for your children and your desire for them to trust Christ for their salvation matters greatly. For you to have motivational power to help them make that commitment, mature in their faith, and love God more fully, you must start with their heart.” 

Start With The Heart isn’t about manipulating children or coercing them into a more desirable behavior. The focus is on your child’s heart so that he or she will be internally motivated to make good choices even when you aren’t around. 

Every chapter introduces a new concept which is built on the chapter before it. As the book progresses, you will begin to see how each parenting principle is interdependent and reinforcing with all the other principles. The close of each chapter turns the mirror back on us parents as Dr. Kathy asks, “What about you?” She also shares some helpful “Things To Do” and “Things To Think About” bullet points to wrap up each chapter. 

I would recommend Start With The Heart for parents and teachers of younger children. And not just the book, but check out the Celebrate Kids website for ongoing insights from Dr. Kathy. 

I am a Moody Publishers book reviewer.

Ultimate Wisdom

Last week I posted a quote on some of my social media channels that simply stated: “Our opinions don’t matter if they don’t square with God’s Word on the matter.” This seemed to me to be a fairly uncontroversial statement, but one anonymous reader really took me to task for using the hashtag #objectivetruth. Apparently, he thinks there is no such thing. 

But don’t we all rely on objective, external standards all the time? For instance, a gallon of gasoline is a gallon regardless of where you buy it, or whether you feel like it’s a gallon or not. And when you go to pay for your gasoline, the price isn’t based on how the gas station attendant is feeling at that moment, but on the objective amount posted. 

Psalm 49 is somewhat unusual in that it is a “wisdom psalm.” This psalm feels a lot more like something we would read in Proverbs or Ecclesiastes than it does a prayer or song in the Psalms. 

For instance, the first four verses of this Psalm sound a lot like the opening verses of the Book of Proverbs. And verses 5-13 of the Psalm echo what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 2. 

This psalmist—like Solomon—wants us to understand how important it is to get wisdom. So we are urged to listen intently to those who have hard-won insight, to those who have “been there, done that” so that we don’t have to repeat their folly. 

What is that wisdom? It can be broken down into two profound statements:

(1) Everyone dies. 

That can be a really depressing truth IF your focus is building your own kingdom. If all there is to life is what you can earn and build before you die, only to realize that your “kingdom” ends at your last breath, that can be very depressing. 

However, this realization that everyone dies can be a very liberating truth IF your focus is on the eternal kingdom that is awaiting you in Heaven. When you realize that Jesus is preparing a place for you to experience ultimate joy and unending pleasure forever and ever, then you will live here for what’s coming next! 

(2) Our eternal destination after we die is determined before we die.

If someone told me that he had discovered the secret to immortality, and then he died and came back to this life to tell me that his theory was correct, it would be wise listen to him. 

That’s exactly what Jesus did for us!

He told us that He would die on a Cross and that He would be raised back to life. AND HE DID IT! His hard-won insight, His “been there, done that” wise words to us are this—“Believe in Me. I died to pay the penalty for the sins that will keep you out of Paradise. So place your faith in what I did, and ask my Father to forgive your sins. Then I promise you that you will spend forever and ever with Me in Paradise!” 

THIS objective truth determines everything else about our lives. 

So I’ll repeat it again—

“Our opinions don’t matter if they don’t square with God’s Word on the matter.” —Craig T. Owens

Join me next Sunday as we continue our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms. 

Walk This Way

In his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, Paul uses the word “walk” seven times to instruct them how to follow the path Jesus laid down for us. 

In Greek, the word for “walks” (peripatēo) means something that regulates my life, or something that keeps me on the right path. It’s my lifestyle that is kept in proper boundaries by something outside of me. 

First of all, notice how Paul tells Christians how not to walk. DON’T WALK THIS WAY…

…following pop culture (2:2)—Living a certain lifestyle because “everyone” is doing it, or because some popular people are living that way. 

…without thinking about why you’re walking the way you are (4:17)

…without comparing your walk to truth (5:8)—Living a life because it feels good to me is a dangerous way to live. I must make sure there is an objective truth that is keeping me on a proper path.

…foolishly (5:15)—To be foolish is either (a) not knowing the truth, (b) not applying the truth I have been shown, or (c) choosing to disregard the truth I’ve been given. 

Instead, Paul tells Christians to WALK THIS WAY

…knowing I am God’s workmanship, created for a great purpose (2:10)—It may take me some time to discover my purpose and my talents, but I keep at it. 

…worthy of my vocation (4:1)—Once I have discovered my talents, I develop them into strengths that will benefit others. 

…lovingly (5:2)—Just as Jesus did! 

…in the light of God’s truth (5:8)—This is the exact opposite of foolishly walking. It means I seek the truth and I apply the truth to my life. 

…circumspectly (5:15)—Not wasting my moments, but making sure I am giving 100 percent every single day.

When I WALK THIS WAY people will inevitably notice that I’m motivated not by popularity with people, but by intimacy with God (5:2-7). They will see that my path is bordered by the principles in God’s Word (5:8-14; Psalm 119:105). And they will notice that my life has purpose and is productive (5:15-20). 

All Christians should ask themselves:

  • Is Jesus pleased with the path I’m on today?
  • Can others follow my footsteps toward their own relationship with Christ? 

If you can answer “yes” to those questions, then Jesus will be pleased that you WALK THIS WAY! 

[You can check out the Scriptures I referenced in this post by clicking on DON’T WALK THIS WAY and WALK THIS WAY above.]

%d bloggers like this: