Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Commonplace Book II - Psalm 51

Dear Reader,

Tonight, the words of Matthew Henry in his Commentary on the Whole Bible as they relate to Psalm 51:

"...It is a pity indeed that in our devout addresses to God we should have any thing else to do than to praise God, for that is the work of heaven; but we make other work for ourselves by our own sins and follies: we must come to the throne of grace in the posture of penitents, to confess our sins and sue for the grace of God."

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Commonplace Book I - Rejoice Evermore!

Dear Reader,

I've just finished watching (for the second time) the HBO miniseries on John Adams that came out a couple years ago. I recommend it to anyone interested in a refreshingly accurate depiction of the life of one of our nation's Founders.

The final episode, entitled Peacefield, contains one of my favorite scenes in the entire series: Now an old man, Adams is walking with his son Thomas through a cornfield when he leans in close and says to Thomas, as though imparting a great secret, "I have seen a queen of France bedecked with eighteen million livre of jewels, and yet it is not fairer to me than that little shrub right there." and he points to a clump of ragweed. "Rejoice evermore!" he concludes. Thomas asks him what he means, and Adams repeats himself several more times: "Rejoice evermore!" finally chiding his son for not recognizing the quote from St. Paul.

In 1 Thess. 5 we find this quote in context: "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil." (1 Thess. 5:16-22 KJV)

That, I would say, pretty much says it all: What simple joys we choose to ignore, or overlook, in our quest for what we think will provide us satisfaction and happiness! What cause do we who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb have to spend our days in any other mood than a humble, thankful joy?

I pray that I might learn to live more in that mood of joyful gratitude. As John Adams said: "Oh, how I wish those words had been always in my heart and on my lips."

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Dear Reader,

Over the past week, I've come to find myself rather busy. I've taken on several volunteer activities, in addition to working fulltime and pursuing a Master's Degree. This week, of all things, we ended up being very busy at work, too.

I can't say I'm as busy as I've ever been, and certainly not that I'm the busiest person I know (Far from it!) but when I think of my level of activity and productivity today versus the long and boring evenings that characterized my life several months ago, I'm encouraged by this thought: When we pursue the things that God has called us to, instead of focusing on what we want to do, we are well equipped to take on every challenge that He throws at us. As with most things related to God and how we go about doing His will, if He has set forth a task for us, He will strengthen us to accomplish it.

What a comfort that is! Think about it: When we feel overwhelmed with tasks, we can ask ourselves which of those tasks are productive, God-given assignments, and which are things that we have assigned ourselves, or that are not focused on enabling us to pursue His calling for us? This forms the easiest way to prioritize our days! Not that there is anything wrong with doing things we enjoy, but not at the expense of our duties, and higher callings.

As I prepare in a couple hours to end this day, I pray that God will help me to properly prioritize my day tomorrow, that I may attend to His work first, and the needs of others second, and finally my own desires. I rest in confidence that, so long as my pursuits follow that pattern, He has promised to bless my endeavors, and to reward my labors with fruit and the satisfaction of accomplishment.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Every Morning

Dear Reader,

The words of an old friend brought to mind this passage:

"This I recall to mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul,
'Therefore I will hope in Him!'"
(Lamentations 3:21-24)

How easily I forget that God's mercy, His faithfulness, and His love for me are new every morning. How quickly I find myself thinking "oh, where is God now? He was just here, and now I feel alone again!"

Nothing could be farther from the truth. He's not only always present, but He's always present in a fresh and a new way every day. I can see God in places I didn't see Him yesterday, hear His voice in ways I didn't hear it yesterday. The truth is that God isn't just a trusted and faithful companion Who walks beside me when He feels like it. He is the undercurrent of life itself.

The reason the Bible talks (Ps. 63:1) about us seeking Him early in the morning is not so that we can prepare ourselves for a day-long session of trying to drag God kicking and screaming back into our lives after He's determined to be distant and aloof today. It is so that we can still our hearts, and prepare ourselves for each new day with Him showing us new and greater evidences of His mercy and grace.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Dear Reader,

At this point, I've probably read C.S. Lewis's "The Screwtape Letters" four or five times. It used to be one of my favorite books. Sometime between last night (when I started re-reading it) and this afternoon (when I finished it) it became my favorite book. Period. If you haven't read it, read it. If you have read it, but don't own a copy, I would suggest you go out and buy one. My copy is 172 pages long, and each page is PACKED with insight into temptation, and each page seemed to cry out to me with ways that I've been tempted and tried in the last few months! Oh, what a wealth of spiritual insight is in this little tiny book!

Monday, November 2, 2009


Dear Reader,

I've recently finished reading the book I told you about a little while ago, Alone With God by John MacArthur. As mentioned, the book is focused on prayer, and on the place that prayer should play in the life of a Christian. MacArthur also discusses the Lord's Prayer, breaking down for his readers the key petitions and their modern-day relevance.

The petition that stuck out particularly to me, and that I want to write about tonight, is "forgive us our debts". As MacArthur points out, to be forgiven requires confession. What do I mean when I say confession? MacArthur brings out several key points that I want to elaborate on tonight.

First, he makes the point that confession of sin, like the rest of the act of prayer, is a means for us to be drawn closer into the will of God. It is an alignment of our hearts with His. Like intercession (praying on behalf of someone else) and adoration (speaking to God about Himself, praising Him for who He is) and even supplication (praying for "our daily bread"--the needs that we have in our lives) confession is not primarily intended to affect God, but rather to affect us. When we pray to God for others, in praise, or for our needs, we aren't telling Him anything He doesn't already know. Rather, in the act of prayer, we are letting Him speak to us, we are focusing our attentions on Him, and we are meditating on His excellence in order to be drawn closer to Him. When we pray "Thy will be done," should we be surprised that our prayer is answered? When we pray "MY will be done" we are usually disappointed.

So it is with confession of sin in prayer. We aren't informing God of our sin--He who sees the inward heart of Man knows already, even sins that we have forgotten or dismissed as "unimportant." Rather, we are reminding ourselves of sin.

MacArthur makes an excellent point here: The very word "Confession" itself has become ill-used in modern evangelical thought. To "Confess" something does not mean to say we're sorry. It doesn't carry a pejorative connotation. Rather, confession is actually a term denoting agreement. Webster's defines confession as "acknowledgement, avowal, admission." or "A formal profession of belief." In fact, in Romans 10, Paul says "...if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." (10:9) Confession, then, is agreement, acknowledgement, and profession.

Therefore, seeing this, private confession to God is not telling Him of our sins. Rather, it is agreeing with Him that our sins are heinous, and offensive to Him. It is burdening our hearts with the weight of our sin, and with the consciousness of how desperately we need forgiveness.

Confession doesn't stop there, though. With that consciousness of our desperate situation comes, for the Christian, the awesome peace of knowing that we HAVE been forgiven, that our Savior has paid our price! Confession is a freeing experience, not a burdensome one for the Christian. Confession frees us from the weight of guilt, it does not add to that weight!

I would be faulty if I didn't here mention something of the difference between confession to God and confession to those we have wronged. As David says in Ps 51, our sin is primarily against God, and Him alone. However, we also live in a world of interactions, and our misdeeds do frequently cause hurt, grief, and pain to others. The key distinction between our confession to God and our confession to those we have hurt is this: With God, who knows all things, even before we speak, we are primarily focused on changing our hearts, and accepting the forgiveness that He has already paid for in the death of His Son. When we confess to those we have hurt, or to others who will keep us accountable, we are, in many cases, telling them something they don't already know, and we earnestly seek their forgiveness, without the certainty that it will be provided. We know that, as Christians, we are to imitate Christ and forgive as He forgave, but in the imperfection of our hearts, a confession of sin to another does not automatically grant forgiveness.

Yet, there are similarities. The freedom from guilt and shame is still there. The forgiveness should still be there, human frailty notwithstanding, and our relationship with our fellow man can be restored just as much as our relationship with God.

To close, let's look at 1 John 1:8-9: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm Back

Dear Reader,

As you may have noticed, I've been gone for awhile again. This time, it was the fault of my computer, which decided to die on me, and I've spent the last few weeks slowly rebuilding it. However, I'm now back up and running, so stay tuned for more!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Limiting God

Dear Reader,

Do you ever stop and ask yourself why it is that we, as Christians, seek to limit the ways in which God can bless us? On the one hand, we cry out to Him for protection, for prosperity, for needs to be met, and yet, at the same time, we treat Him like Santa Claus: "God, I know You want to bless me, because Your word says so, so here's what I'd like You to do for me...." God is not sitting up in heaven waiting for our list of petitions! He is the all-knowing Creator, Who knew us before we were conceived! How silly we are to think that He will only bless us in ways we ask, or even in ways we want.

This was born out to me today. For some time, I have been looking and praying for God to work mightily in one of my close friendships. I have been clinging to God's promises and looking for Him to bless this particular friendship, and I even thought I might have some suggestions for Him as to ways in which He might choose to do so. Was I wrong! God stretched out His hand and caused circumstances that I had never even thought to ask of Him! He showed me that, while it is the height of foolishness to doubt God's faithfulness, it is almost as ridiculous for us to try and "submit proposals" to God, for His review and consideration.

Dear reader, don't make the mistake of assuming that God won't act, or can't move into a situation, unless you line out for Him specifically what you want Him to accomplish and, oh by the way, here's some ways You might want to go about accomplishing it. God is a merciful Father, and like a Father, He knows what we need before we ask it. Note that the text (Matt 6:8) doesn't say "He knows what you were going to ask Him before you ask it." It says He knows what we need. There is a world of difference, sometimes, between what we need and what we were going to ask God for.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Dear Reader,

Let me recommend to you some things which God has used recently to impact my life. The first is the book Alone With God by John MacArthur. It's an older title, but profoundly relevant to today's environment when the church is rapidly succumbing to the world, rather than being a beacon to the world. The book itself is about prayer, and the ways in which we have lost the ability, in our current culture, to truly connect with God one-on-one. The larger picture, however, is this: As the church is made up of people, when those people lose their ability to connect with God, and so impact the culture, the church, as a whole, loses that ability. In that sense, this is a crucially important book, not just for the individual Christian, but for the community of faith as a whole.

Secondly, (and thirdly) let me recommend to your attention two of the blogs in my subscription list (they're all good, but I want to highlight these two for now). The Rebelution, as many of you know, is Alex and Brett Harris's blog. The younger brothers of I Kissed Dating Goodbye author Josh Harris, these two have an incredible ministry to teens and young adults that expanded almost overnight from a simple blog, like this one, to a book, conference tour, and Internet-wide network of fellow teens. What they have to say is, quite simply, not being said by hardly anybody else.

The other blog I would recommend is Voddie Baucham's blog. Attached to that blog is also a link to his biography, which will give you much more insight into his life and work, but for an uncompromising look at some of the ways in which the church and the biblical worldview as a whole is rapidly being surrendered to the temptations of our modern society, check his blog out.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Rebirth

Dear Reader,

Perhaps you wonder why I've written nothing in almost three months. The answer, simply, is because I embarked on a focused program of recreation. Not in the sense that we today define the word: having fun, but rather the true meaning: to create again. I set myself goals, to read through the entire Bible in 90 days, to maintain a focused and purposeful habit of daily prayer, and generally to remove as many distractions from my life as I could, in order that God would be able to speak to me and to work in me in ways that would have been impossible if I had not silenced the distractions as much as I could.

I am here to tell you that He has moved powerfully, and in profoundly unexpected ways! He has truly recreated me, into a person that I would have doubted I could become several months ago. He has proven Himself faithful to me time and time again, and He has given me a vision of what He can do, through me, to build His kingdom.

One of the avenues of this building work is this blog. While the original purpose of this blog (reflections on Morning and Evening by Spurgeon) was a sound one, and a beneficial one, God has shown me that this tool, the Internet, can be, and should be used for so much more than that! Indeed, what would the world be like if Spurgeon had been able to use the Internet? Somehow, I suspect he would not have been content with writing a few lines every couple of weeks.

This, then, is my recreated intent: To fill this blog with a wealth of God. Not merely restricted to one book, or even to books at all, but rather to allow the depth and breadth of Christianity to come through as much as possible. There is so much out there, in print, in the spoken word, even in other regions of the Internet, that it has become imperative for me to seek this out. And, through seeking, to do what little I can to facilitate others. Whether that is through a network of other blogs, or through continuing in the same vein as I started, by reflection on good books, my intent is not so much to change the purpose of this blog, as it is to expand and enlarge its focus.

So, dear reader, tell your friends. As God has worked powerfully in my personal life, it is my earnest prayer that He will work powerfully through this blog...that He will be clearly visible between the lines of my life, and the lives of all those who come in contact with this humble little blog.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

July 14th - Evening

When I read the devotional tonight, I was immediately convicted and humbled. So much of what Spurgeon writes in this book seems to be written directly AT me. Every line of this devotional spoke to my heart and rather than attempting to add anything to it, or to write out my thoughts on it, I will just let it speak for itself:

"Let us learn from Mary Magdalene how to obtain fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Notice how she sought. She sought the Savior very early in the morning. If you can wait for Christ and be patient in the hope of having fellowship with Him at some distant season, you will never have fellowship at all; for the heart that is fitted for communion is a hungering and a thirsting heart. She sought Him also with great boldness. Other disciples fled from the tomb, or they trembled and were amazed; by Mary, it is said, 'stood' at the tomb. If you would have Christ with you, seek Him boldly. Let nothing hold you back. Defy the world. Press on where others flee. She sought Christ faithfully--she stood at the tomb. Some find it hard to stand by a living Savior, but she stood by a dead one. Let us seek Christ after this mode, cleaving to the very least thing that has to do with Him, remaining faithful though all others should forsake Him. Note further, she sought Jesus earnestly--she stood 'weeping.' Those teardrops were as spells that led the Savior captive and made Him come forth and show Himself to her. If you desire Jesus' presence, weep after it! If you cannot be happy unless He come and say to you 'You are My beloved,' you will soon hear His voice. Lastly, she sought the Savior only. What did she care about angels? She turned herself back from them; her search was only for her Lord. If Christ is your one and only love, if you heart has cast out all rivals, you will soon enjoy the comfort of His presence. Mary Magadelene sought thus because she loved much. Let us arouse ourselves to the same intensity of affection; let our heart, like Mary's, be full of Christ, and our love, like hers, will be satisfied with nothing short of Himself. O Lord, reveal Yourself to us this evening!"

Friday, July 10, 2009

July 10 - Morning

The theme of both devotions today is Heaven. I couldn't help but marvel at the way in which Spurgeon, yet again, manages to dissect a passage in such a way that it reveals to us the meaning in a way that makes me want to slap my forehead and say "Why didn't I think of that?"

The passage for the morning's devotion is Eph. 2:19 - "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God..." (ESV) What Spurgeon reveals in this passage is something that I have missed in my readings, and I would say that a great many other believers have missed it as well. What Spurgeon focuses on is this: We are, as the passage says, ALREADY citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. Spurgeon calls us "citizens of heaven."

What does this mean? Citizens of heaven? It gave me pause, because like most people, I view heaven as the place Christians go when they die. The end goal of Christianity is heaven, right? The Christian walk is a journey through a foreign country on our way back home, isn't it?

This is all very true, but Spurgeon argues that many of the expected rights and privileges are already ours. He says, "The glory that belongs to beatified saints belongs to us, for we are already sons of God, already princes of the blood imperial; already we wear the spotless robe of Jesus' righteousness; already we have angels for our servants, saints for our companions, Christ for our Brother, God for our Father and a crown of immortality for our reward."

This, of course, throws a whole different perspective on the present Christian life, and my responsibilities, and rewards in it. It challenges me to live every day, not as a citizen of this world, certainly, but more than that, to live as one who has already had a place laid for him at the Lamb's feast. It challenges me to never forget that, not only am I journeying through this life on my way to heaven, but that I am already a citizen of the Celestial City. It encourages me to remember that I will not be greeted at the heavenly gates as a wanderer seeking to find rest, but as a returning prince, as a well-known member of the family of faith, as a companion of the saints and full-blooded child of God.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Tonight, I asked Him: "Lord, are You really always with me?"

He answered: "I AM with you even until the end of the age, until eternity beckons, and then, I AM there with you, too." (Matt. 28:20)

Tonight, I asked Him: "Lord, where do You go, then, in the times when it is so hard for me to find You?"

He answered: "I AM not gone, though I may hide Myself from you for a time so that, like the precious child you are, you may experience the joy of seeking and finding Me." (Matt. 7:7)

Tonight, I asked Him: "Lord, when I feel overwhelmed, when I am exhausted by the weight of the world, when I feel like I can't even summon the strength to move, how will I find You then?"

He answered: "I AM the One who comes beside you at your weakest moment and does not leave. (Prov. 18:24) I AM your traveling companion when you question life. (Luke 24:15) I AM the faithful watchman Who will meet you in Gethsemane and kneel beside you to pray. (Mark 14:38) And I AM the Good Shepherd Who will sooth your wounds (Ps. 23:3), set your feet on solid ground (Ps. 40:2), and, when you can find no solid ground to stand on, will summon My angels to lift you up as on eagle's wings (Is. 40:31)."

Tonight, I asked Him, and He answered me. Tonight, He reminded me of the beauty of Himself, that all my questions had but one answer, and that the answer He gave is perfectly complete and sufficient for all my problems:


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happiness and Holiness

June 13 - Evening

Why is it that we place such a limited scope of possibility on our personal happiness? Why do we so often say, as if we truly know, "Oh, to have such-and-such! Then, I would be truly happy!" The truth of the matter is that we Christians are just as guilty of it as our unredeemed neighbors, and possibly we are even guilty of a worse manifestation. We look on pharisaically when we see the neighbors spending all their time working to afford the bigger house, the better car, the nicer vacation and yet we sit comfortably in our pews week in and week out and express our discontent with the state of our "holiness"! Yes, we all know, as good Christians, that it is wrong to be discontented, but we do it all the time, and about areas that we have no business being discontented in!

How many times have you heard, during conversation with a brother or sister in Christ, a phrase similar to this: "Oh, if I just had more time to spend in the Word, then my faith would be so much stronger!" Or perhaps this one: "I would love to be able to find a way to devote myself more fully to serving the Lord, but I just haven't found the right outlet for ministry."

This is folly, and for two reasons. As Spurgeon reminds us tonight, the happiest Christian is also the holiest. The pursuit of holiness, for a child of God, is the pursuit of happiness! And yet, as I said before, we narrow our vision so much when we attempt to "analyze" our hearts and know our own souls. This is the first reason why the malcontent that we must fight against is so misleading. It is, first and foremost, an artificial set of conditions that we place on ourselves and our ability to let the Lord work in us. When we pray, asking God for more time to spend in the Word, thus making our faith stronger, we intentionally try to limit God's power. Why not ask, instead, simply that God would make our faith stronger? Let Him choose the ways, and the means. Granted, there is no way I would argue that a deeper study of God's Word would not bless any soul that attempts it, but rather my point is this: Why do we, who are warring constantly with ourselves and our indwelling sin, attempt to direct the work of the One who knows the very thoughts and desires of our hearts?

The second reason why this narrowing of our focus is so counterproductive is this: Discontent, and dissatisfaction, are two different entities. Dissatisfaction is a healthy state of mind that dispassionately views a problem, determines a solution, and then works with zeal to do what it may to change the situation and erase the problem. Dissatisfaction is being able to objectively view the world and say "this is not as God would have wanted it, therefore I make it my mission today to impact this world to bring it, so far as my feeble efforts will allow, to more closely resemble the original Design."

Discontent, by contrast, is nothing more than the weak and ineffectual whining of a heart not properly captivated. And, you may rest assured, Reader, that the devil dearly loves his discontented minions! Discontent is a fantastic weapon in the arsenal of the enemy, because it allows us to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are properly offended and frustrated with the world as it presently is, without giving us the heart, will and strength to go out and do something about changing it. As Spurgeon said, "no Christian is safe when his soul is lazy, and his God is far from him." Therefore, let us fight the inner discontentment that says to our souls "This is enough." And, furthermore, let us stop limiting the ways in which we allow God to work through our dissatisfaction to effect change both in us and in the world. It breeds discontent, because when we only allow God to come so far, and no farther, and then He chooses to ignore our prideful request, in favor of doing His own perfect will in our lives, regardless of what we want, we get offended and begin to question God: "I asked Him to help me spend more time in the Word, and instead He has put me in an office full of non-Christians who just bug me to death all day?" How would this scenario play out if the Christian realized that here, in another way, was indeed the answer to his prayer? Let us never forget that God works in mysterious ways, HIS wonders (not the wonders that we hope He'll allow us to be a part of) to perform.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Welcome to God Between The Lines. This blog will be used to share with the readers some of the messages and thoughts that I glean from reading "Morning and Evening" by Charles H. Spurgeon. I've been reading this particular devotional for about a month or so now, and I have many times paused and wished that I had the means to share with those who might be interested a particularly meaningful passage.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this book, I highly recommend it as a devotional. God is truly to be found between the printed lines of this book!

For those of you who are familiar with Spurgeon and his devotional, I am reading through an updated and revised edition, so if I quote a passage and it doesn't match your own copy of M&E, that's why.


June 8th - Evening

I have been wrestling personally lately with the desire for the praise of men (John 12:42-43). This is one of the constant battles in the Christian life, as the "old man" within us becomes gradually conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. I find myself almost instinctively looking to friends and family to comfort and encourage me when I am feeling down. Rather than turning my eyes to the only Person who can truly heal my hurts, and restore my peace, I reach out to those around me and get disappointed when they can't or won't help me the way I think I need to be helped. In fact, just today, I was discussing this very tendency with a close friend and wondering what I could do about it.

So I turn in my M&E to the entry for this evening and what should I discover but that Spurgeon has chosen to address this very topic! Here's what Spurgeon has to say:

"...does the Creator expect the creature to fulfill His promise for Him? No; He who makes the promise always fulfills it by His own unaided omnipotence. If He speaks, it is done...God has promised to supply our needs and we look to the creature to do what God has promised to do; and then, because we perceive the creature to be weak and feeble, we engage in unbelief."

Why, then, in the light of this promise, do we constantly (do I constantly) focus on others to provide solace when I'm done, or to give me confirmation when I do something good? Is it not, as Spurgeon said, basic unbelief?

I pray, tonight that the Lord will help my unbelief, and I pray that I would see, and come to know, the true meaning of finding my all in God. As God said to His people in the Book of Numbers: "Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not." And the resounding answer, based on God's goodness and neverending faithfulness, is that His word will ALWAYS come true for us!