Ephraim on Trial (A Poem on the Justice & Mercy of God)

hammer-719066_1280Ephraim on Trial

I sat in the courtroom
Waiting for the Judge.
The air, thick with tension.
The mood, somber.

He walked in
And everyone stood.
The atmosphere changed.

The Judge was present, yet unseen.
His presence, overwhelming.
Invisible, yet manifest.

As he sat on the throne
A banner was unfurled above him.

It read:
“I, the LORD, love justice.”
Isaiah 61:8

We could not see his face
But his voice we could hear.

He declared:

“Hear, O mountains, the LORD’s accusation;
Listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.
For the LORD has a case against his people;
he is lodging a charge against Israel.”
Micah 6:2

“Hear the word of the LORD, you Israelites,
because the LORD has a charge against you.”
Hosea 4:1

An angel appeared and said to the Judge:
“What are the charges?”

The Judge spoke again:

“Israel’s arrogance testifies against them;
the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin;
Judah also stumbles with them.”
Hosea 5:5

“Israel’s arrogance testifies again him,
but despite all this he does not return to the LORD his God or search for him.”
Hosea 7:10

The angel spoke:
“And what is the evidence?”

The Judge opened a book
And gave it to the angel
Who then handed it to me.

The book contained everything
I had ever said, done or thought.
It was the story of my life.
Filled with pride on every page.

The Judge spoke again.

“The defendant is charged with arrogance
And innumerable other offenses.
The list is long.
Theft, lying, lust,
Greed, selfishness, idolatry,
Murder of the heart.
A complete record of all wrongdoing done by this man.
May the court take note that all these transgressions
Are the outgrowth of but one sin.

I then realized the truth.
I am Ephraim.
I was on trial.

I was suddenly filled with panic.
Fear dominated my heart.
Despair consumed me
As my life flashed before me.

The angel asked, “And what is the verdict?”

“Guilty as charged”, said the Judge.

“And what is the penalty?”

“Eternal death in the fire of hell
Where there is weeping
And gnashing of teeth
For all who do not believe.

Things were happening quickly now.
The trial was coming to its end.
And I stood naked before the One
Who knows all.

The angel spoke:
“Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Genesis 18:25

The Judge gave instructions
Regarding the fate of the defendant.
My fate.

“Take him away, far away.
I do not want to see this man
Ever again.”

Another Man entered the courtroom.
Like the Judge,
His presence was staggering.
He took our breath away.
Look at his face!
He is the perfect Man.
The God/Man.
Everything that man could be,
Ought to be,
But unable to be,
He is.

The God/Man spoke:

“I have come to defend this man.
And to pay the penalty for his sin.
I will speak to the Judge on his behalf
For I am his defense attorney.
And his sentence-bearer.

“I am here to save him
From the lake of fire.
Where the worm does not die.
And the fire is not quenched.”

This was unbelievable.
I did not understand why
This God/Man would do such a thing.

I cried out.
“But what did I do to deserve this?”

“Nothing,” said the God/Man.

“You deserve to be punished.
Your sins are many.
And they are vile.
If you spend eternity in hell,
Justice will be served.
For you have sinned against Almighty God,
Creator of heaven and earth
And all that is in them.

“The Holy One cannot look at sin.
And your life is filled with filth.
You cannot stand in His presence.
You must be banished forever.

“For it is written:
‘If you kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?’
Psalm 130:3

“But Almighty God,
The Holy One of Israel,
Is also the merciful One.
He is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger,
Abounding in love.
He will not always accuse
Nor will he harbor his anger forever.
Psalm 103:8-9

“The Judge has made a way
For your sins to be pardoned,
Your slate to be clean.

“He decreed that
When I died on the cross
My death became your death.
When I died,
I received your punishment.

“I took your place.

“I myself bore your sins in my body on the tree.
1 Peter 2:24

“On the cross,
You and I trade places.
I die your death.
And the wrath of God against your sin
Is poured out on me.
Because I suffered for you,
God’s holy indignation is satisfied.
His anger is spent
And justice is served.

“For I am the One, the only One,
Who can turn aside
God’s tsunami-like anger
By absorbing it.

“I died for sins, once for all,
The righteous for the unrighteous
To bring you to God.
1 Peter 3:18

The gospel was the best news
I had ever heard.
With the gift of repentance in my heart
I cried out,
“Lord, I believe!”

The God/Man took my hand.

“Come, my son.
You can now stand in his presence.
Justified, sanctified, glorified.
Because you are clothed
In my righteousness.

“For it is by grace
You have been saved
Through faith
In me alone.
Ephesians 2:8

“The Father no longer sees your sins,
Nor holds them against you.
For they have been cast
Into the deepest sea.

“When he looks at you
He sees my righteousness
Credited to your account.

“You are,
Now and forever,
Treated as one who is blameless,
Because my holiness has been given to you.

“Come into the presence of the Holy One of Israel
And drink from the river of the water of life
For I have drunk the cup of the wrath of the Judge.”


NOTE: This is one of a serious of posts on the book Knowing God by J.I. Packer. To read the other posts in this series, click here.

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What’s So Good About Good Friday?

Today we commemorate the death of Jesus Christ.

To say that Jesus died on “Good Friday” is an understatement. The day Christ died is arguably the best day in the history of the world, for this is the day that God provided salvation to all those who would repent of their sins and believe in His Son.

The death of Jesus is a recurring theme in Scripture that begins in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:15, where the seed of the Gospel of Christ’s death was first planted) and ends in the book of Revelation, where the apostle John writes, “I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain . . . “ (Revelation 5:6).

John continues his account by giving us the words to a hymn that is being sung in heaven:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

Angels join the celebration, and they are singing these words:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” (Revelation 5:12).

So in heaven we will be continually reminded of the death of Jesus, for even there He is described as “the Lamb who was slain.”

Aren’t you glad Jesus was slain?

His death brought you countless blessings, the blessing of salvation: forgiveness, justification, redemption, reconciliation, adoption – all these incredible gifts are possible because Jesus was willing to suffer and die.

Please take time today to join the angels in heaven in a song of praise to our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

When you think of Jesus today, remember the words of John the Baptizer, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

I can never learn enough about the meaning of the death of Christ. To that end, here’s a book I’ve been reading by R.C. Sproul entitled The Truth of the Cross. It’s free today in the Kindle version and you can get your copy here:



And may this Good Friday be the best one you’ve ever had.

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My Favorite Bible Study Resource on the Psalms

I continue to be amazed and oh-so-thankful for the countless free resources available online to enrich our time in the Word.

spurgeon-portraitUndoubtedly my favorite book about The Book is Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on the Psalms, The Treasury of David. As I read the psalms, I love to read the insights of Christianity’s most prolific author.

To give you a taste, here are a few short by powerful snippets from Spurgeon’s thoughts on Psalm 145:1-4.

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
“David as God’s king adores God as his King. It is well when the Lord’s royalty arouses our loyalty . . . To bless God is to praise him with a personal affection for him . . . Our praise of God shall be as eternal as the God we praise.”

Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.
“Whatever the character of the day, or of my circumstances and conditions during the day, I will continue to glorify God . . . Our love to God is not a matter of holy days: every day is alike holy to holy men . . . Praise is not to be discharged by proxy: there must be your very self in it, or there is nothing in it.”

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.
“In some beings greatness is but vastness of evil: in God it is magnificence of goodness . . . When we meditate most, and search most studiously, we shall find ourselves surrounded by unknowable wonders . . . His deserved praise is still above and beyond all that we can render to him . . . He is past finding out.”

One generation shall commend your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts.
“Let us see to it that we praise God before our children and never make them think that His service is an unhappy one . . . The praise of the Lord enlarges the heart and as it grows upon us our minds grow with it.”

You can access Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David for free here:

It’s also available in print and Kindle formats on Amazon.com.


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How to Sin by Reading the Bible


Is it possible to read the Bible and sin against God by doing so? Absolutely.

It’s an example of what John MacArthur calls “Christian legalism” – the idea that I must engage in certain behaviors in order to earn God’s approval.

Rather than living by faith, “Many Christians still live by works. They believe if they do certain things, God is obliged to keep score and say, ‘That’s wonderful. You went to a Bible study, had a quiet time in the Word today, did something nice for your neighbor, and went to church.’ If those things are done in the overflow of one’s love for Jesus Christ as acts of devotion, that’s great. But there are many Christians who think they are meriting God’s favor that way. Instead of Jewish legalism, it’s Christian legalism.” (Source: Anxious for Nothing: God’s Cure for the Cares of Your Soul, p. 65).

I urge you today to take a close look at your motive for reading the Bible. Do you read the Word as a demonstration of your love for King Jesus, or is it merely one more thing on your “things to do list” to somehow earn the blessing of God?

Oh, may we all take time to examine our hearts!

I’ve written an article on this subject that I pray you’ll find helpful: “7 Deadly Sins of Bible Reading: How to Avoid Them Like the Plague.” What MacArthur calls “Christian legalism” is what I refer to as Bible Reading Sin #5: “Reading without believing – the sin of self-righteous legalism.” You can check it out here:

7 Deadly Sins of Bible Reading (How to Avoid Them Like the Plague)

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A Fantastic Book About The Book (Product Review)

self-guided-tour-of-the-bibleI’m a big fan of books about The Book, especially well-written books that present the big picture of the world’s best-selling book of all time. Self-Guided Tour of the Bible is one of the best books I’ve read in this genre. Christopher Hudson has done a marvelous job of taking the reader on a tour of the Word of God in all its glory.

There is a boatload of resources here for Bible readers of all levels. Whether you are new to the Bible or have been reading the Word for decades, this book will enrich your understanding of and love for Holy Scripture.

I enjoyed every chapter, but I found two chapters especially beneficial. I commend the author for including Chapter 8, “Heaven, Hell and Eternity” because he actually provides a biblical explanation of not only heaven (which Christians should love to do) but also hell (which Christians have become increasingly reluctant to do). And Chapter 9, “Summarizing the Message: Major Themes in the Bible” gave me much delight. The author has identified eight “central ideas that permeate the Bible.” This list alone is worth the price of the book. If you read the Bible carefully and completely, you’ll find these eight themes taught repeatedly throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. I love that the author included this section, and it is a wonderful demonstration of his gift of teaching.

I give this book my highest recommendation. If you want to deepen your love for God by reading and studying His Word, this book will help you to accomplish that, for the glory of King Jesus.

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Does Reading the Bible Make a Difference?

bible-notebookHere are some questions worth asking and answering:

“Why should we read the Bible every day? Does it make a difference? Is it just something good Christians do? Or is it a legalistic habit that’s unnecessary to a healthy walk with God?”

Find out how blogger Kelly Needham answers these questions, for in this article you’ll find five compelling reasons to spend time in the Word, or what she calls “analogies to bring to life the purposes of a consistent, daily study of God’s Word.”

5 Ways Daily Bible Reading Impacts Your Life

I love Kelly’s post. It’s a quick read, but packed with insights that will motivate you and thrill your soul with the promises of God. Enjoy!

And if you can’t find at least one good reason to spend more time in the Word from Kelly, here’s 10 more: my Top 10 Reasons to Read the Bible Today (the Kindle version is free on Amazon).

Again I say, Enjoy!

And consider yourself warned (and blessed) by the simple fact that daily Bible reading has been known to change people’s lives and fill your heart with the unspeakable joy of King Jesus.

Of these 15 reasons, which ones are most precious to you?


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How to Read the Bible in 2017

bible-john-426132__180Happy New Year to you and yours!

Have you given any thought to how you’ll go about reading the Bible in 2017?

If you’re looking for help, read on . . .


There are many worthwhile ways to read the Bible, and if you desire to read the Bible in its entirety, free online resources abound to help you simplify the process and keep track of your progress.

Ligonier Ministries has one of the best collections of Bible reading plans I’ve found online. For the serious Bible reader, you are sure to find something to your liking:

How I’m Reading the Bible in 2017
At the beginning of 2016, I decided to read through the Bible in 2 years – the Old Testament in 2016 and the New Testament in 2017. By the grace of God, I finished the Old Testament in late December 2016 and I’ve just begun my journey through the New Testament.

For details on this 2-year plan, please check out my blog post:

Even if you didn’t read the Old Testament in 2016, you are welcome to join me in reading the New Testament in 2017. Here’s the plan I’ll be using for that:

What do you say? If you’re interested, let me know by leaving a comment below.

Enjoy! And may you draw closer to the living Word by spending time in the written Word.

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Got Food? (A Thanksgiving Message)

turkey-532962__340It’s the 4th Thursday in November, Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.A., a day set aside as a national holiday to give thanks for our many blessings.

For the Christian, of course, every day is a good day to thank God for all He is and all He has done. Amen?

Psalm 136 provides a wonderful expression of gratitude to God:

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of Gods.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of Lords.
His love endures forever.”
Psalm 136:1-3

The psalmist then recounts many of the great works of God: creation, the Exodus, the parting of the Red Sea, the military victories of the Israelites as they journeyed to Canaan, the conquest of the Promised Land.

I love this psalm. The goodness and power of God are on display. His might acts in history are remembered, and each verse ends with one of the most comforting statements in all of Scripture: “His love endures forever.”

I especially like verse 25. We are to give thanks “to the one who gives food to every creature.”

For me, food has become a special way to remember the goodness of God.

In 1983 I turned my back on God and decided that I wanted nothing to do with Him, His Word, or His people. I was determined to be the master of my fate and the captain of my soul.

For the next 20 years I lived as if God didn’t exist. For all practical purposes, I became an atheist. The only god I believed in was myself.

I stopped reading the Bible and attending church services. And I stopped praying.

For 20 years, I never thanked God for anything, including food.

Let’s run the numbers on that, shall we? Let’s quantify my life of rebellion.

3 meals a day X 365 days = 1,095 meals each year. 1,095 meals X 20 years = 21,900 meals.

Over a 20-year period, I ate 21,900 meals and never gave thanks to God for any of them.

And during that time, what did God do, every day, 3 times a day, without fail?

Give me more food.

Incredible, isn’t it? This is the goodness of God on display, is it not? This is living proof of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:45, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

This is what theologians call “common grace,” God’s undeserved favor toward those who could care less about Him.

Oh, may I never again take God’s gift of food for granted! Instead, may this be my prayer:
“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:15-16)

No matter what country you live in, may we stop and give thanks to God today for His gracious gift of food.

Not only has God provided the food needed to sustain physical life, but He has also provided the food needed for spiritual life. “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Without physical food, we grow weak and eventually die. And without the Bread of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ, we will die in our sins and spend eternity in hell.

May the words of Jesus resonate in our famished hearts today:

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

Got food? Then give thanks to God for the physical food on your table and the spiritual food in your Bible. Without the goodness of God, you’d have neither.

Today, and every day, may this be your testimony:

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15:16).

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How to Become More Like Jesus

Here’s a verse that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)

This passage teaches that we become more and more like Jesus (“transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another”) by doing one simple thing: beholding the glory of the Lord.

This is why I’ve been spending more time this year focusing on the attributes of God in my Bible study. I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, looking for the answer to this question: “What does this passage teach me about God?”

God’s glorious attributes are on display repeatedly throughout Scripture – some passages more than others, of course.

But if you are reading the Bible with this goal in mind – to better understand and know the God of the universe – you will not be disappointed!

One passage that especially demonstrates the glory of God is Isaiah 6. I recently came across a great resource that dives into this passage with wonderful insight and clarity. It’s a Bible study by R.C. Sproul entitled “The Holiness of God.”

It’s available for free here:

rc-sproulThis study includes 6 sermons and a 70 page PDF.

The PDF contains the Bible study. I’ve completed the first lesson, and I gotta tell you, I loved it! There’s an outline of the sermon, some reading material, and well-written questions that take you deep into the meaning of the text.

If you listen to the sermons and diligently answer the questions, with a humble attitude and sincere dependence on the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your heart, I believe strongly that you will behold the glory of God, and as a result, be transformed into the image of Christ, from one degree of glory to another.

If you’re looking for a good Bible study that focuses on the character of God, I give this one my highest recommendation.

Here’s what Jerry Bridges has to say about it:

“If it were proper to speak of one attribute of God as being more central and fundamental than another, the scriptural emphasis on the holiness of God would seem to justify its selection. Today we are inclined to emphasize the love of God, but we can never begin to appreciate His love as we should until we understand something of His holiness.

A person’s concept of God determines more than anything else what kind of life that person will live. Since an understanding of the holiness of God is so important to a right concept of God, the study of the holiness of God should be one of our highest priorities. This series of lectures by R.C. Sproul is designed to help you gain a true biblical concept of the holiness of God, to understand how His holiness affects each of us, and how we should respond in our daily lives to His holiness.”

By the way, Dr. Sproul’s website is packed with God-centered resources. You’ll find a boatload of excellent articles, sermons and Bible studies – most of them for free, and some for purchase.


Do yourself a favor and check it out today.

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What Does Genuine Worship Look Like? (Thoughts on Psalm 33)

praise-choir-hands-lifted-upWhat does genuine worship look like? When we attend a “worship service,” how do we know that what we are doing is the real deal and not an exercise in hypocrisy or a meaningless ritual? I believe that Psalm 33 can help us answer that question, specifically with regard to the singing of hymns.

First and foremost, true worship is directed toward God. I’m stating the obvious, but please take note: the anonymous writer of Psalm 33 thought it important enough to include these self-evident instructions in the opening lines of this great hymn.

Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the LORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully and shout for joy.
Psalm 33:1-2

I find it most significant that the psalmist not only repeats the familiar command to “Praise the LORD” by immediately tell us to also “praise him,” but on three occasions he emphasizes that God must be the object of our praise by using the preposition “to.” We are to sing joyfully to the LORD. We are to make music to Him. And again he reiterates that we are to sing to Him.

When you are engaged in the act of worshipping in song, individually or corporately, who is the object of your attention? I think this is especially critical when we are in corporate worship, for the temptations of distraction can abound.

The couple sitting behind me is having a conversation. Or John and Mary, who normally sit in the row in front of me, aren’t here. Where are they? A baby nearby is throwing a temper tantrum. The worship leader opened with a joke rather than a call to worship. Any number of things can happen in a worship service to get in way of our sincere attempt to focus on King Jesus.

And then there is the ongoing battle that rages in the hidden recesses of our mind. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the One I love.” That can be true at any given moment, and it can even happen when we gather for the express purpose of praising our Creator on Sunday morning.

I have experienced this countless times: the song is over, and as I reflect on what was just happening in my own heart, I can hardly call it worship. I find myself repenting of my sin of a wandering mind and vow to become more engaged during the next song.

What can the owner of a restless spirit do?

Here are three practical tips:

  1. I find that closing my eyes can help, assuming I know the words to the song. If I block out the visual distractions, that can help me focus on the task at hand, or should I say, on the Person seated on the throne.
  2. I sit as close to the front of the room as possible. There is a sad irony here: I do this to minimize the distractions caused by my inability to block out the distractions caused by the other worshippers in the room. I must be brutally honest, but sometimes the presence of other believers gets in the way of my attempt to focus on God.
  3. I’m convinced that this is the most important thing I can do to have a meaningful, distraction-free worship experience on Sunday morning: be sure to engage in genuine individual worship during the week. A.W. Tozer says it well: “If you do not worship God seven days a week, you do not worship Him on one day a week. There is no such thing known in heaven as Sunday worship unless it is accompanied by Monday worship and Tuesday worship and so on.”

This has certainly been true for me. The more I worship God during the week, the easier it is to worship Him on Sunday, no matter what is going on in the sanctuary.

How about you? Do you sometimes find it difficult to actually worship during a worship service? If so, you are not alone. May we seek His help in this matter, and take our desire to experience a more meaningful worship experience to Him in prayer during the week.

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How to Drink from the Fountain of Life

The Word of God never ceases to amaze me. God has seen fit to reveal Himself, in all His glory, through the pages of holy Scripture.

Immersing ourselves in the written Word, in order to know the living Word, is a life-changing privilege. Oh that we would not take this Book for granted!

God has also seen fit to raise up godly men and women to help us understand the Bible. Over the years I’ve benefitted greatly by sitting at the feet of competent Bible teachers who, by the grace of God and the power of the Spirit, serve King Jesus by “making it [the Word of God] clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read” (Ezra 8:8).

Truly this is my testimony:

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
turning a person from the snares of death.”
Proverbs 13:14

How about you? Are you drinking from this fountain?

Alistair Begg is one of these “wise” Bible teachers. I recently came across his website and wanted to encourage you to check it out. It’s jam-packed with great resources.


I also wanted to tell you about one particular resource that I’ve found especially helpful — “Crossing the Barriers: Communicating the Good News in Your World.” This is a series of 12 messages, available as a free download, along with a free PDF study guide, in which one of the Bible’s most important themes — evangelism — is unpacked and explained with great insight.

Here’s what Mr. Begg’s blog has to say:

“Evangelism. The word alone produces a tightness in the stomach and anxiety in the hearts of many Christians, creating a barrier that hinders sharing the Good News of Christ. Misunderstanding the biblical directives of evangelism may incline us to shy away from sharing our faith, thinking we do not have the gift of evangelism or do not know enough to be effective, leaving the task to others.

In Crossing the Barriers, Alistair Begg equips us to understand what evangelism truly is, helps us to be certain our message and motives are correct, prepares us to face challenges, and enables us to effectively cross the barriers that keep us from presenting Christ and preventing others from believing the message. Much like the herald who conveys the news from the king, we are not to express our own opinions or ideas, but faithfully deliver the message the King has given to us and trust God to do His work.”

Do yourself a favor and dive into this study today! It’s ideal for both individuals or a small group.


If you find his teachings helpful, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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