Sure And Secure

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We have looked at all of the psalms with a Selah pause, but there is one bonus message that we need to consider, and I think it’s a perfect wrap up to this series. 

Outside the book that bears his name, there is no other mention of Habakkuk anywhere else in the Bible. The author himself gives us no biographic information, nor does he give us dates as most of the other prophets do. However, there is enough information inside his short book that allows us to make some solid inferences:

  • based on his instructions in 3:19 we can infer he is a Levite and a worship leader—notice that he says “my instruments” 
  • we know for certain he is a song writer and a prophet (1:1; 3:1) 
  • he is a prophet with a heavy message—the word oracle in in the opening verse is probably better translated a “burden” 
  • he is a contemporary of Jeremiah, who spoke to backsliders, but Habakkuk speaks to the godly remnant to help them make sense of what’s happening in their crumbling culture 

Habakkuk does something that isn’t seen anywhere in the Bible except in the Psalms: he calls godly people to Selah—not once, but three times! 

In our look at the Selahs of Psalm 55 we noted how David’s Selahs almost came as an interruption of his anxious thoughts. Habakkuk’s Selahs follow this same theme. That’s because Habakkuk’s culture (like ours today) was increasingly unrighteous, unstable, and unsure. This prophetic worship leader wants righteous people trying to stand strong in their unrighteous culture to know that our surety and stability must come from our unshakable relationship with our righteous God. 

We’ve said that one of the definitions for Selah is “pause and calmly think of that,” but for Habakkuk’s Selahs I want to modify it slightly: Pause to interrupt your doubtful thoughts and consider this…. What he wants us to consider, I believe, comes from the opening words of his song in chapter 3—

Lord, I have heard of Your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy (v. 2). 

We are to pause to consider that God has already shown His unrivaled power in the past, and then we stand firm to see Him move again “in our day, in our time” so that the unrighteous will have an opportunity to repent and turn to Him. 

The first Selah is after v. 3 in which Habakkuk references Mount Paran. How did God show His fame there? Moses recorded it this way: 

The Lord came from Sinai and beamed upon us from Seir; He flashed forth from Mount Paran, from among ten thousands of holy ones, a flaming fire, a law, at His right hand. (Deuteronomy 33:2)  

Selah—pause to interrupt your doubtful thoughts and consider this: God did this before and He can do it again. His glory will cover the heavens, His praise will fill the earth, His power will be so evident that the earth will quake and nations will tremble (vv. 4-6). All of this to reassure the righteous and arrest the attention of the wayward unrighteous.  

The second Selah is after v. 9 where Habakkuk is still describing all that God will do personally to rescue His righteous ones. Selah—pause to interrupt your doubtful thoughts and consider this: God did this before—see the almost identical language David uses in Psalm 18:3-17—and He can do it again. All of this to reassure the righteous and arrest the attention of the wayward unrighteous. 

The final Selah is at the end of v. 13 where Habakkuk describes what God will do to the enemies of His people. He uses words of decisive victory—crushed, stripped, pierced, trampled. 

Once again, Selah—pause to interrupt your doubtful thoughts and consider this: God did this before and He can do it again. More specifically, Jesus is the Decisive and Ultimate Victor over sin and death! Check this out: 

Then the end will come, when [Jesus] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:24-26) 

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross. (Colossians 2:15) 

Do not be afraid. I [Jesus] am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17-18)

When our culture is becoming increasingly unrighteous, unstable, and unsure, what an unshakable surety and security we have standing on Christ the Solid Rock. As the old hymn reminds us—when all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay!

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

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Poetry Saturday—All People That On Earth Do Dwell

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All people that on earth do dwell,
sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;
Him serve with fear, His praise forth tell,
come ye before Him and rejoice.

The Lord ye know is God indeed;
without our aid He did us make;
we are His folk, He doth us feed,
and for His sheep He doth us take.

O enter then His gates with praise,
approach with joy His courts unto;
praise, laud, and bless His name always,
for it is seemly so to do.

For why? The Lord our God is good,
His mercy is forever sure;
His truth at all times firmly stood,
and shall from age to age endure. —William Kethe

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Poetry Saturday—Praise II

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King of Glorie, King of Peace,
      I will love Thee:
And that love may never cease,
      I will move Thee.

Thou hast granted my request,
      Thou hast heard me:
Thou didst note my working breast,
      Thou hast spar’d me.

Wherefore with my utmost art
      I will sing Thee,
And the cream of all my heart
      I will bring Thee.

Though my sinnes against me cried,
      Thou didst cleare me;
And alone, when they replied,
      Thou didst heare me.

Sev’n whole dayes, not one in seven,
      I will praise Thee.
In my heart, though not in heaven,
      I can raise Thee.

Thou grew’st soft and moist with tears,
      Thou relentedst:
And when Justice call’d for fears,
      Thou disentedst.

Small it is, in this poore sort
      To enroll Thee:
Ev’n eternitie is too short
      To extoll thee. —George Herbert (**spelling is 1663 English**)

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The Incomparable Jesus

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C.S. Lewis, like many atheists, wondered if the God of the Bible might be an egomaniac because He is always encouraging people to praise Him. In his book Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis wrote a thoughtful response to this after he had become a Christian: 

“Just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it. ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ … I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. … This is so even when our expressions are inadequate, as of course they usually are. But how if one could really and fully praise even such things to perfection—utterly ‘get out’ in poetry or music or pain the upsurge of appreciation which almost bursts you? Then indeed the object would be fully appreciated and our delight would have attained perfect development. The worthier the object, the more intense this delight would be.” 

His phrase, “our expressions are inadequate” is especially true when we are attempting to appreciate and praise the Infinite, the Eternal, the Omnipresence, the Omnipotence of our God and Savior! But the biblical authors call for Christians to mature in this—we want to keep praising, keep expressing, until we finally find the perfect fulfillment in His presence. 

Paul talks about the maturing nature of love—when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child (1 Corinthians 13:11)—but then he prays for us to grow in both our understanding and our expressions of our Savior’s love (Ephesians 1:17-19). 

I like the wording of Ephesians 1:19 in the King James Version: the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward. The word “exceeding” means God pours out in a way that is beyond human imagining. The Greek word that Paul uses for “greatness” is only used here, and it reinforces the truth that God is beyond our full comprehension. And then Paul adds that this overflowing, incomparable power is directed “to us-ward”! 

Paul then prays for us to be able to understand ever-increasing new dimensions of this transcendent power and ability that God directs to us through His Son Jesus, and for us to be able to express it (Ephesians 3:14-19). In other words, we are to grow in our experience of Jesus so that we can grow in our praise to Jesus. 

The incomparable Jesus means at least four things for us. It means Jesus is…

  1. …beyond comparison. Isaiah, God Himself, and the psalmists ask rhetorically, “Who is like God? Who could ever compare to Him?” (Isaiah 40:13-14, 18, 25; Psalm 89:5-8).  
  1. …matchless in His power. Isaiah 40:12 says God holds the waters of the world in the hollow of His hand. How much water is this? Scientists estimate the Earth’s water supply to be 326 quintillion gallons of water (that’s 326 followed by 18 zeros)! Not only does God hold all of the water, but He directs its activities on behalf of His children (Exodus 15:11-13). 
  1. …unequaled in knowledge. Isaiah 40:12, 26 tell us that all of the stars in our universe fit onto God’s outstretched hand, and that He knows all of the stars by name. How many stars is this? Astronomers calculate the heavens to contain 10 septillion stars (that’s 10 followed by 24 zeros)! Not only does God know each star by name, He knows each human by name, and the smallest of details about each of them (Isaiah 49:16; Matthew 10:29-31). 
  1. …inimitable in His care. We humans can get to the end of our strength, but God never does. He cares for us unlike anyone else or anything else ever can (Isaiah 40:28-31). The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles (Psalm 34:17). 

Knowing we have a Savior like this, why would you ever settle for anything less The Genuine?! 

Our incomparable Jesus wants us to pray in His incomparable name so that our incomparable Father can answer in a way that brings Him incomparable glory! We’re helped, He’s lifted up, and others are drawn to Him. 

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If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series on prayer, you can find a list of all of the messages by clicking here. 

Poetry Saturday—All For Jesus

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All for Jesus! All for Jesus!
All my being’s ransomed power;
All my thoughts and words and doings;
All my days and all my hours.

Let my hands perform His bidding;
Let my feet run in His ways;
Let mine eyes see Jesus only;
Let my lips speak forth His praise.

Worldlings prize their gems of beauty,
Cling to gilded toys of dust;
Boast of wealth, and fame, and pleasure;
Only Jesus will I trust.

Since mine eyes were fixed on Jesus,
I’ve lost sight of all beside—
So enchained my spirit’s vision,
Looking at the Crucified.

Oh what wonder! How amazing!
Jesus, glorious King of kings,
Deigns to call me His beloved,
Lets me rest beneath His wings. —Mary Dagworthy James

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Poetry Saturday—My Heart Is Resting

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My heart is resting, O my God—
I will give thanks and sing;
My heart is at the secret source
Of every precious thing.
Now the frail vessel Thou hast made
No hand but Thine shall fill
For the waters of the Earth have failed,
And I am thirsty still.

I thirst for springs of heavenly life,
And here all day they rise—
I seek the treasure of Thy love,
And close at hand it lies.
And a new song is in my mouth
To long-loved music set
Glory to Thee for all the grace
I have not tasted yet.

Glory to Thee for strength withheld,
For want and weakness known—
And the fear that sends me to Thy breast
For what is most my own.
I have a heritage of joy
That yet I must not see;
But the hand that bled to make it mine
Is keeping it for me.

There is a certainty of love
That sets my heart at rest—
A calm assurance for today
That to be poor is best—
A prayer reposing on His truth
Who hath made all things mine,
That draws my captive will to Him,
And makes it one with Thine.

I will give thanks for suffering now,
For want and toil and loss—
For the death that sin makes hard and slow,
Upon my Savior’s Cross—
Thanks for the little spring of love
That gives me strength to say,
If they will leave me part in Him,
Let all things pass away.

Sometimes I long for promised bliss,
But it will not come too late—
And the songs of patient spirits rise
From the place wherein I wait;
While in the faith that makes no haste
My soul has time to see
A kneeling host of Thy redeemed,
In fellowship with me.

There is a multitude around
Responsive to my prayer;
I hear the voice of my desire
Resounding everywhere.
But the earnest of eternal joy,
In every prayer I trace;
I see the glory of the Lord:
On every chastened face.

How oft, in still communion known,
Those spirits have been sent
To share the travail of my soul,
Or show me what it meant!
And I long to do some work of love
No spoiling hand could touch,
For the poor and suffering of Thy flock
Who comfort me so much.

But the yearning thought is mingled now
With the thankful song I sing;
For Thy people know the secret source
Of every precious thing.
The heart that ministers for Thee
In Thy own work will rest;
And the subject spirit of a child
Can serve Thy children best.

Mine be the reverent, listening love,
That waits all day on Thee,
With the service of a watchful heart
Which no one else can see—
The faith that, in a hidden way
No other eye may know,
Finds all its daily work prepared,
And loves to have it so.

My heart is resting, O my God,
My heart is in Thy care
I hear the voice of joy and health
Resounding everywhere.
“Thou art my portion,” saith my soul,
Ten thousand voices say,
And the music of their glad Amen,
Will never die away. —Anna Laetitia Waring


Poetry Saturday—How Firm A Foundation

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How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And Sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”

“E’en down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when grey hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.”

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake!” —Richard Keene

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4 Ministries Of Healthy Churches

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In the Foreword to my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, Dick Brogden observes, “God plucked David from the sheepfold. God chose a sheep to be a shepherd. And though we all are stupid sheep, when God plucks us out of obscurity to serve others, we can have the humble confidence for as long as we are asked to lead that God has chosen us. That confidence both faithfully drives us to our knees and fearlessly propels us against our giants. It is good to be a sheep; it is good to be an under-shepherd. Just remember you are stupid, chosen by the Wise One, and as long as you serve as a shepherd, you and your flock will be safe.” 

How true it is that all of us are sheep. The role of the shepherd is to care for the sheep and create a healthy environment for them. The role of healthy sheep is to reproduce more sheep. In this, both shepherds and sheep are ministers—we all minister to those God has placed around us. 

God calls all Christians to be ministers. The Church is the sheepfold that equips us, but then we must go out to minister in a way that will bring lost sheep to a personal relationship with Jesus. 

Our foundational truth statement about church ministry says: A divinely called and scripturally ordained ministry has been provided by our Lord for the fourfold purpose of leading the Church in evangelism, worship, sanctification, and compassion. 

(1) Evangelism. When we looked at the foundational belief about the Church, we noted that it’s not either-or—evangelism or discipleship—but it’s both-and. Christians are being the Church when they are intentionally living in a way that makes Jesus known (Matthew 10:1, 7-8; 28:18-20). 

(2) Worship. We shouldn’t have the mindset of, “Let’s go to church to meet with God.” Instead, we need to live in a way where we are always abiding in God’s omnipresence. This worship-centric lifestyle empowers our evangelism, changes our hearts, and fuels our compassion (John 4:23-24; Romans 12:1; Acts 2:46-47). 

(3) Sanctification. Remember that we are all in-process of becoming saints (I like to remember this by calling it saint-ification). We need each other to do this, which is why God gives gifts to bring out Christ-like maturity in us (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16). 

(4) Compassion. Compassion is feeling turned into action. This opens the door for evangelism, creates more opportunities for worship, and matures Christians (Mark 6:34-37; Luke 10:33; Acts 2:45).  

Notice that each of these ministries are interdependent with all the other ministries. 

In a blog post nearly 10 years ago, I questioned: “How do we know if our church is successful?  The apostle Paul uses two words to help answer these questions: Quality and Faithfulness (1 Corinthians 3:13, 4:2). 

So here are two important questions we need to ask ourselves: (1) Am I doing quality work? (2) Am I faithfully doing my work? 

To help answer those questions, I like this thought from Leonard Sweet’s book I Am A Follower: “The most important metrics we must rely on, the crucial ‘deliverables’ we can present, must focus on the newly formed lives of the disciples we are making, the followers who are following Christ into a place of serving Him by serving others. The most important measure of our faithfulness to Christ must be the extent of transformation into the living image of Christ Himself. … The quantifiable fruit of our church is not found in the number of people we can gather on a weekly basis. What counts is what is happening in the lives of those who have gathered. 

These are questions we should all ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us: 

  • What is happening in my life? 
  • Am I telling others about Jesus? 
  • Am I worshipping God so consistently that everyone can see it? 
  • Am I maturating as a saint and am I helping other saints mature? 
  • Is my faith seen in my compassionate actions? 

Our individual answers to those questions will determine the success of our individual churches, which will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the global Church of Jesus Christ. I hope you will take some time to consider these questions for yourself. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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Poetry Saturday—Clasping Of Hands

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Lord, Thou art mine, and I am Thine,
If mine I am: and Thine much more,
Then I or ought, or can be mine.
Yet to be Thine, doth me restore;
So that again I now am mine,
And with advantage mine the more,
Since this being mine, brings with it Thine,
And Thou with me dost Thee restore.
         If I without Thee would be mine,
         I neither should be mine nor Thine.

Lord, I am Thine, and Thou art mine:
So mine Thou art, that something more
I may presume Thee mine, then Thine.
For Thou didst suffer to restore
Not Thee, but me, and to be mine,
And with advantage mine the more,
Since Thou in death wast none of Thine,
Yet then as mine didst me restore.
         O be mine still! still make me Thine!
         Or rather make no Thine and Mine! —George Herbert


Poetry Saturday—The Wond’ring World Inquires To Know

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The wond’ring world inquires to know
Why I should love my Jesus so:
What are His charms,” say they, “above
The objects of a mortal love?”

Yes! my Beloved, to my sight
Shows a sweet mixture, red and white:
All human beauties, all divine,
In my Beloved meet and shine.

White is His soul, from blemish free;
Red with the blood He shed for me;
The fairest of ten thousand fairs;
A sun amongst ten thousand stars.

His head the finest gold excels;
There wisdom in perfection dwells,
And glory like a crown adorns
Those temples once beset with thorns.

Compassions in His heart are found,
Hard by the signals of His wound:
His sacred side no more shall bear
The cruel scourge, the piercing spear.

His hands are fairer to behold
Than diamonds set in rings of gold;
Those heav’nly hands, that on the Tree
Were nailed, and torn, and bled for me!

Though once He bowed His feeble knees,
Loaded with sins and agonies,
Now on the throne of His command
His legs like marble pillars stand.

His eyes are majesty and love,
The eagle tempered with the dove;
No more shall trickling sorrows roll
Through those dear windows of His soul.

His mouth, that poured out long complaints,
Now smiles and cheers His fainting saints
His countenance more graceful is
Than Lebanon with all its trees.

All over glorious is my Lord
Must be beloved, and yet adored;
His worth if all the nations knew,
Sure the whole earth would love Him too. —Isaac Watts

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