Archive by Author | Paul O'Brien

All His Benefits

“Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:2-5).

If we are to rightly praise the LORD then we must know the LORD. We must know things about Him. We must know things about what He has done. We must know and not forget all His benefits.

“All His benefits.” I like that phrase.

When someone is thinking about taking a job they consider what the benefits of the job are. “Will I get enough vacation? Is the health insurance good enough?”

Yet the Lord gives “all His benefits” for free! Not as payment for work. The LORD heaps benefits on all those “who fear Him” (v. 11) because God is a God of “steadfast love and mercy” (v. 4).

God does not pay us for our sins as we deserve (v. 10). If He did that would be bad news and we certainly wouldn’t get all the benefits we enjoy. Just like a good Father, however, God shows great compassion and care to all who fear Him (v. 13).

The LORD forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, satisfies, and strengthens (v. 3-5). The LORD is merciful and gracious and slow to anger (v. 6). The LORD’s love is vast beyond comprehension. It is high—higher than the heavens, it is vast—further than the east is from the west, and it is long—from everlasting to everlasting (v. 11, 12, 17).

So, praise the LORD! Praise the LORD because He shows mercy and withholds the punishment we deserve. Praise the LORD because He shows grace and heaps on all sorts of blessings we don’t deserve. Praise the LORD because of who He is and all He has done.

Why did Jesus flip over tables?

“And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple” (Mark 11:15-16).

Why did Jesus drive out those who sold and bought in the temple? Why did He flip over tables? That seems pretty extreme. Why was He so worked up? What was such a big deal? I mean in some ways the moneychangers actually helped people it would seem.

When I was in Germany, for instance, I had to go to the “moneychangers” to get euros. Without the moneychangers, after all, I would have had no schnitzel. Further, pigeons were sold. That is actually pretty convenient. Because who wants to have to haul a pigeon halfway across the known world? Not me. So, what was the deal with Jesus getting upset?

It seems that money was not the only issue. In fact, maybe not the biggest issue. Though, Jesus does mention that the moneychangers were essentially robbers (again, reminds me of the bank in Germany where I got my euros). But I think the bigger issue is what the Temple was intended to be and what it had become. It clearly was never meant to be “a den of robbers” but “a house of prayer.” A house of prayer “for all peoples,” it says.

The moneychangers were in the “Court of the Gentiles,” that’s basically equivalent to where Gentiles (non-Jews/”the nations”) would worship. As you can imagine that would obstruct worship. It would be a hindrance from Gentiles, “the nations,” from worshiping the Lord. This is the converse, as Jesus pointed out, of what Isaiah said: “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is. 56:7).

Jesus brings blessing and salvation to all peoples but at the temple people were hindered from worshiping. That is why Jesus was furious. And rightly so. May we never be worthy of Jesus’ wrath for that same sin. 

May we never prevent or hinder people from coming to the LORD, even if they are convenient or important things that we don’t want to give up. May we work to destroy unnecessary stumbling blocks. And may the church be a house and family that welcomes all people in!

We Harvest what we Plant

“If you sow to the flesh you will reap from the flesh, reap corruption. But if you sow to the Spirit you will reap from the Spirit, reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8).

Sowing and reaping are not things most of us are really familiar with, let alone sewing and weeping. So, what does it mean to sow? To sow means to plant seeds. 

What does it mean to reap? To reap means to gather, to harvest what was planted.

If a farmer plants corn what do they collect at the end? They gather corn. Whatever we plant we harvest. You can’t plant beans and expect wheat to grow. That’s not how things work.

In life it is the same way. What we plant we gather. Where we work is where we get paid. What we sow we reap.

In this verse, we see that in life there are only two types of seeds to plant. There are only two options of things that we can harvest at the end. 

We can plant towards the flesh, that is, we can just care about and live for our physical and material life. What, however, is the end of all physical life? It is death and decay. It is corruption. It is decomposition. If we live merely for the flesh we don’t get a very good return on our work.

If we plant towards the Spirit the harvest is much different. At the end, there will be eternal life. And because this is the case, we have huge motivation to continue planting towards the Spirit. Because we will reap at the appointed time if we don’t give up (Gal. 5:9).

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He is the Faithful God

“Know that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

How surprising and sad that we need to be reminded so often of God’s truth. And yet we do. I’m thankful that God accommodates to our forgetful ways. 

We are told to know something. Our knowledge is not to be merely intellectual. Though it is intellectual. We need to know actual things about God. In this verse, we are to grasp with our minds that the LORD God is actually God. 

It is not only that the LORD is really God but that the LORD your God is really God. There is a relational aspect to our knowledge of God. The LORD your God is the supreme being and Creator of the universe. The LORD is not distant and uncaring, He is not god, but our God. 

Wow. That’s a game-changer. 

It doesn’t stop there, though.

The supreme being and Creator of the universe that is our God is also faithful. Amazingly faithful. 

Deuteronomy 7:9 heaps good news upon good news. If you have the LORD as your God then that means that God—The supreme being and Creator of the universe—is your God. It means the Faithful One is your God. 

Our intellectual knowledge of God has a huge practical impact on our lives. It means we do not need to be afraid because the LORD our God is powerful (Deut. 7:18). 

So, fight forgetfulness. Work to remember and intimately know your faithful God. And don’t be terrified because the LORD your God, a great and awesome God, is among you (Deut. 7:21).

the primal lie

The primal lie
repeats
repugnant nausea
We crawl to the grave
again
One more riff
one more sniff
take in
sin
Let it soak deep with in
it pours
never snores
Gives you life
to take it
shake it
break it
down
to dirt
to the grave from where we came
disorder
the order
no reprieve
Feel the sleaze
spread
curse
no remorse
O’ the folly!
we maim ourselves

The ten most popular posts of 2019…

Photo by Evie S. on Unsplash

An Easter Devotional

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I wrote the blog series, “Psalms of our Suffering Savior,” to help us “remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” (2 Tim. 2:8)

 

 

A Brief Theology of Emotions

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We all have emotions. How often do we consider emotions from a biblical perspective though?… Yet, what better place to turn than God’s word! So, what does the Bible say about emotions?

 

Holding on to Hope: 10 Actions Steps to Fight Depression

Screen Shot 2019-12-29 at 9.20.06 PM1. Call out to God 

There are all sorts of Psalms in Scripture in which the psalmist calls out to God in distress. The Bible encourages us to call out to God and be real with Him about where we’re at

Read More…

20 of the best books I read in 2019

Here are twenty of my favorite books that I read in 2019. I think I only read three fiction books this year. I need to fix that. I plan to read quite a bit more fiction next year. Anyhow, here’s some of my favorites… (in no particular order)

  1. Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
    by Ravi Zacharias
  2. Safely Home by Randy Alcorn
  3. Apologetics at the Cross: An Introduction to Christian Witness by Josh Chatraw and Mark D. Allen
  4. Them: Why We Hate Each Other–and How To Heal by Ben Sasse 
  5. How Long O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil by D.A. Carson
  6. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
  7. Alienated American: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse
     by Timothy P. Carney
  8. Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story by Christopher Yuan
  9. Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope by Matthew McCullough
  10. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr by Clayborne Carson
  11. Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow’s Success by John C. Maxwell
  12. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
  13. Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller
  14. Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness by Jeffrey D. Arthurs
  15. An Unhurried Leader: The Lasting Fruit of Daily Influence by Alan Fadling
  16. Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis
  17. Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, wife of Charles H. Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr. 
  18. To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson
  19. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
  20. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Out of all the books I read last year, Remember Death by Matthew McCullough, is the one I would suggest you read over all the rest.  

Read it. 

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