“I say to myself—’Preacher, preach your Master more; preach Him more after His own sort, and endeavor to be more like Him.’ Live nearer to the cross. With all your study of doctrine—and you do well to study it thoroughly—make Jesus Christ the first. Believe in Him. Let Him be your creed”

~ C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon Commentary: 1 Peter (Bellingham, Washington,: Lexham Press)

A Misplaced Thanksgiving

(Luke 18:9-14)

A Misplaced Thanksgiving

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(Luke 18:9-14 ESV)

“Hope from Psalm 71 Pt. 2”
by Pastor Jeff Ling

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A message of hope from David’s “midlife” Psalm 71

“Hope from Psalm 71, Part 1”
by Pastor Jeff Ling

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Hope from Psalm 71, Part 1


Here’s part one of our message on hope in Psalm 71. Let it encourage you today!

Jeff Ling, From a Letter to a Friend

The goal of good gospel preaching is to ground an individual in the finished work of Christ in such a manner that they are gratefully liberated from the bondage of performance and merit, not for the opportunity to live as they please, but to live lives for the glory of the Redeemer they love.

On Psalm 119, Part 2

In the last post we identified two practices that enhanced the psalmist’s love and commitment to God’s Word:

  • First: He asks for it – He asks God to shape His heart and life around His Word
  • Secondly: He engages with it purposefully in reading, meditating, memorizing and sharing with others.

So what happens when we prayerfully engage? What should we anticipate? We could suggest many things but let’s focus on just 5.

1) God’s Word invites us to re-discover our conscience.

  • I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. (Psalm 119:7)
  • Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! (Psalm 119:29)

The psalmist was purposeful about his engagement with God’s Word. He wanted to encounter it fully and without reservation. That meant being willing to let it confront him with reality. Winston Churchill said: “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.”

The psalmist wasn’t hurrying past truth in God’s Word.

I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
(Psalm 119:102-104 ESV)

The psalmist wasn’t just an observer,he was a partaker, He let the Word work on him. He knew the truth expressed in Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” 

The reformer, Martin Luther, said: “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.”

We can expand that, can’t we? We can say that the Bible has eyes. It’s a book that reads me, that holds a mirror up to my life and invites me to repent and say a deeper yes to God’s pursuing love.

When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.
(Psalm 119:59-60)

As the psalmist reflects on God’s Word he finds the need to repent and turn his feet toward a new direction.

2) God’s Word Invites us to settle our convictions.

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. v.97-104

What the psalmist is arguing here is not for arrogance when he says “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies.”
He is not arguing for intolerance when he says “I have more understanding than all my teachers,”
He is not suggesting disrespectfulness when he says “I understand more than the aged”

What he is saying that there is an issue of worldview here – a worldview that begins with God as the one who created all things and speaks with authority.

Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day,
for all things are your servants. v.89-91

That is a significant starting point, a point that demands humility and affects everything! When we say that God is the creator who speaks, it has a significant implication – namely that he has a right to His creation and that he is to be listened to! As the psalmist says, “all things are your servants.”

This is NOT a popular conviction in our day! Recently, Bill Nye the Science Guy said the following on a YouTube video:

“And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that’s fine. But don’t make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems.”

Bill has a worldview that sees science as a closed system that eliminates the reality of a God who created all things. He is suggesting that if you want to live in fantasyland, that’s fine, just don’t hold back progress by teaching that stuff to your children. In other words… DON’T live by your convictions by teaching them to your children. But this is not an option for people who worship the living God – the one who has revealed Himself in creation, in His Word and ultimately in Jesus Christ.

We forget at our peril that there is a Creator we are responsible to!

“And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure, when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice can not sleep forever.” – Thomas Jefferson

The psalmist understands this when he writes:

I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.
You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.
Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.
Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!
You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain.
All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.
My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.
v. 113-120

This should be our settled conviction and communication to the world. God is the creator and He has spoken! Ignore Him at your peril!

3) The Word provokes courage in our hearts.

It’s one thing to have convictions but we also need the courage of our convictions in a wicked day! You see this in the psalm:

Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law.
Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning. v. 53-54

When is the last time “hot indignation” over wickedness or blasphemy seized you? If our temperature over evil remains cold, we need to ask God for some help back at the conscious level!

4) The Word promises comfort to us.

In a world that’s hard and in which the battle against God honoring conviction is real, we’re going to need some comfort to encourage our hearts.

My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! v.28

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. v. 50

My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word.
My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.
In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth. v. 81-82; 87-88

There’s a great story about the actor Jimmy Stewart. Before he became the celebrated actor, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was being shipped overseas into battle and his Father wrote this note to him:

My dear Jim boy. Soon after you read this letter, you will be on your way to the worst sort of danger. Jim, I’m banking on the enclosed copy of the 91st Psalm. The thing that takes the place of fear and worry is the promise of these words. I am staking my faith in these words. I feel sure that God will lead you through this mad experience. I can say no more. I only continue to pray. Goodbye, my dear. God bless you and keep you. I love you more than I can tell you. Dad.

Stewart became a colonel and returned home a decorated war hero. He had survived at least 20 combat missions. He reports that during the height of battles, he found comfort and strength in the words of his tattered copy of Psalm 91. He was especially drawn to verses 1 and 2: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Stewart would later tell his father: “What a promise for an airman. I placed in his hands the squadron I would be leading. And, as the psalmist promised, I felt myself borne up.”

5) God’s Word offers us counsel for our lives.

Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. v.24

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. v.130

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. v.105

We all face countless decisions in our lives but we don’t face one of them apart from a God who loves us and longs to impart His wisdom and insight to us. Spurgeon said: “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.” How we need His counsel! And He will be faithful to lead us as we engage His Word.

Let’s ask God for a greater love for His Word. Let’s engage it with purpose – reading it, meditating on it, memorizing and sharing it. Let’s let the Word of God revive our conscious, settle our convictions, fill us with courage, heal us with comfort and light the way of our steps by its counsel.


On Psalm 119, Part 1

Some notes from my message on Psalm 119

This Psalm, the longest in the Scripture, is in the form of an acrostic. Each of the 22 stanzas is formed around a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. While we can’t appreciate it in our English translations, in the Hebrew, each line in a stanza begins with the letter that stanza. So, for instance, verses 1-8 are a stanza called “Aleph,” the first letter of the alphabet. Each of verses begin with the letter A or “aleph” as well. It’s really a beautifully constructed Psalm.

I find myself challenged because of the way that the psalmist talks about God’s Word:

“I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.
I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law.
Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments.
My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.
(Psalm 119:162-168 ESV)

He loves it, he’s passionate about it, he wants to obey it, he longs to walk in it’s ways.

Perhaps you, like me, feel deflated – even ashamed a bit – when you read something like this Psalm. If we were just dead honest, many of us would admidt that our hearts don’t reflect this level of honor and love of God’s Word in our lives.

And it’s especially tragic when you consider how much more we have to explore than the psalmist did! He writes these words about the first five books of the Bible (Imagine being passionate about the Book of Numbers!) But we have so much more. The Psalms of David and others, the wisdom of Proverbs the hope and warnings of the prophets, the life of our Lord Jesus and His very words, the story of the early church, the rich epistles and the promise of Revelation – and yet our hearts and minds often find no rise, no heart longing to pursue His Word.

Let me suggest two things that I see over and over in this psalm that might tell us something about why the psalmist is as passionate as he is:

  • First: He asks for it! He asks God to shape His heart and life around His Word

Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! v. 17-19

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. v. 33-37

Do you see this? What the psalmist claims to posses, He is constantly asking for. Teach me, give me, lead me. Incline my heart and turn my eyes. How infrequently are our prayers along these lines? What if we made these prayers a part of our regular praying? I’m betting this is the kind of prayer our Heavenly Father loves to answer.

  • Second: He engages with it.

Hows does he? We can find at least 4 important ways in verses 9-16

1) He’s purposeful. How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! v.9-10 He’s not haphazard he is purposeful in pursuing God’s Word. Many of us wander to the scriptures and wander away. We make half-hearted commitments and we’re easily distracted – the  psalmist was purposeful, it was a non-negotiable part of his routine.

2) He memorizes. I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. v.11  He commits God’s word to memory – he stores it up so that when temptation comes or bad counsel – he has that storehouse that the Spirit can draw from and bring to his remembrance. If you’d like a good plan for scripture memory and a great app to assist with it, check out Fighter verses.

3) He talks about God’s truth with others. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes. (Ask!) With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. v. 12-13 One of the things we value at Clear River and try to impart is the necessity of speaking truth with one another. Eph. 4:11-16 tells us that one of the ways we mature as believers and avoid the winds of false doctrine is by speaking the truth to one another in love. If we genuinely love one another then we want to make rich deposits in each other’s lives by speaking of God’s truth together.

4) He meditates on God’s Word  In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. v. 14-15  I love Spurgeon’s words on this subject from his sermon on Psalm 1:

 He takes a text and carries it with him all day long; and in the night-watches, when sleep forsakes his eyelids, he museth upon the Word of God. In the day of his prosperity he sings psalms out of the Word of God, and in the night of his affliction he comforts himself with promisesout of the same book. “The law of the Lord” is the daily bread of the true believer.

 He takes a text and carries it with him all day long. That is what mediation is about – drawing upon a passage throughout the day. 

 Look at verse 16 and we’ll sum this up:

I will delight in your statutes;  I will not forget your word. v.16

This verse sums up both our earlier suggestions of why the psalmist has such a love for God’s word:

I will delight – Why? Because he is continually asking God to fill his heart with that delight.
I will not forget – Why? He is purposefully engaged with reading, memorizing, mediating and sharing God’s Word.

Are you ready to pray, engage and fall in love with God’s Word in a whole new way?


Soaked with the Blood of Jesus, Singed with the Fire of Hell

“God did not ordain the cross of Christ or create the lake of fire in order to communicate the insignificance of belittling his glory. The death of the Son of God and the damnation of unrepentant human beings are the loudest shouts under heaven that God is infinitely holy, and sin is infinitely offensive, and wrath is infinitely just, and grace is infinitely precious, and our brief life — and the life of every person in your church and in your community — leads to everlasting joy or everlasting suffering. If our preaching does not carry the weight of these things to our people, what will? Veggie Tales? Radio? Television? Discussion groups? Emergent conversations?God planned for his Son to be crucified (Revelation 13:82 Timothy 1:9) and for hell to be terrible (Matthew 25:41) so that we would have the clearest witnesses possible to what is at stake when we preach. What gives preaching its seriousness is that the mantle of the preacher is soaked with the blood of Jesus and singed with fire of hell. That’s the mantle that turns mere talkers into preachers. Yet tragically some of the most prominent evangelical voices today diminish the horror of the cross and the horror of hell — the one stripped of its power to bear our punishment, and the other demythologized into self-dehumanization and the social miseries of this world.4

Oh that the rising generations would see that the world is not overrun with a sense of seriousness about God. There is no surplus in the church of a sense of God’s glory. There is no excess of earnestness in the church about heaven and hell and sin and salvation. And therefore the joy of many Christians is paper thin. By the millions people are amusing themselves to death with DVDs, and 107-inch TV screens, and games on their cell phones, and slapstick worship, while the spokesmen of a massive world religion write letters to the West in major publications saying, “The first thing we are calling you to is Islam . . . It is the religion of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil with the hand, tongue and heart. It is the religion of jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah’s Word and religion reign Supreme.”5 And then these spokesmen publicly bless suicide bombers who blow up children in front of Falafel shops and call it the way to paradise. This is the world in which we preach.

And yet incomprehensibly, in this Christ-diminishing, soul-destroying age, books and seminars and divinity schools and church growth specialists are bent on saying to young pastors, “Lighten up.” “Get funny.” “Do something amusing.” To this I ask, Where is the spirit of Jesus? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24–25). “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22). “Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:44). “Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). “Some of you they will put to death . . . But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:16-19).

Would the church-growth counsel to Jesus be, “Lighten up, Jesus. Do something amusing.” And to the young pastor: “Whatever you do, young pastor, don’t be like the Jesus of the Gospels. Lighten up.” From my perspective, which feels very close to eternity these days, that message to pastors sounds increasingly insane.”

John Piper – Why Expositional Preaching Is Particularly Glorifying to God (2006).

With thanks to Truth Matters

HT: Desiring God Blog