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Posts Tagged ‘Charles Spurgeon’

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While skimming through my grandmother’s Bible, I came across a notation she made next to Jeremiah 31:33.

First, the verse:

 “I will put my law in their minds

And write it on their hearts.

I will be their God,

And they will be my people.”

 

Perhaps a bit of context would be helpful.

Jeremiah was a prophet of Judah for over forty years. He was instructed by God to speak strong judgment against the people because of their sin. They were following worthless idols and had become worthless themselves (2:5). God promised disaster from the north, even terrible destruction (4:6).

Babylon, the empire from the north, did attack in 586 B.C. and Jerusalem was destroyed.

But Jeremiah offered great hope, recorded in chapters thirty and thirty-one. The verse in bold print above makes clear two glorious assurances.

Assurance #1

“It is God’s work.” (That’s what my grandmother wrote in the margin of her Bible next to Jeremiah 31:33.)

See the phrase “I will” used twice in the verse?  It is our Heavenly Father who initiates the work of transformation in our minds and hearts. We couldn’t make ourselves godly no matter how hard we tried. It is his Spirit who enlivens the instruction of God’s Word to our hearts.

A friend of mine accepted Jesus into her life as an adult. M. once told me that before becoming a Christian, she had tried to read the Bible, but it didn’t hold her attention and didn’t make much sense. But after coming to Jesus? Oh, my! What a difference! Suddenly M. became a ravenous reader of God’s Word. Every word spoke wisdom and encouragement to her heart.

You see, what God provided for my friend (and for all of us who seek him) is a miraculous, spiritual heart transplant.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you,” God says.  “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

God is not saying he will force us into surgery.   We can accept or reject his offer of a new heart and spirit.

When you receive an appealing offer, how do you decide whether to accept or not? Do you consider the reliability of the person or company making the offer? Probably so.

And when you are given advice to follow, do you consider the source? No doubt.

So let’s consider the One making the offer of a new heart and a new spirit–God Almighty himself.   His love for us is limitless.  He is the all-knowing, all-wise God of the universe. We can trust that his instructions are for our good, that following them will bring peace, contentment, joy, and more.

(Tell me again why we rebel?!)

Assurance #2

He will be our God.

 “When this is fulfilled, you are the possessor of all things,” Spurgeon said.

Think of it: innumerable blessings are ours, beginning with a precious, personal relationship with the King of the universe.

His comforting presence, 24/7.

His guidance and provision for every day of our earthly lives.

And the glory of heaven assured.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

We praise you, holy God, the One who has informed us through your Word, who transforms us by your Spirit, and conforms us, day by day, to be like Jesus. Praise you for the privilege to be yours, guided and cared for by an all-wise, all-powerful God!

(Photo credit:  www.wallpaper4god.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(As most of you know, Steve is retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. Very shortly we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons and their families. If our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks. But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 5-16-13.)
220px-E-W-Wilcox

“With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see”

(Ella Wheeler Wilcox, author and poet, 1850-1919).

Observation #1:

We never know when a small deed may plant a seed of faith or encouragement. We never know when that seed will reap a bountiful harvest in the life of someone else.

Live attentively to the fact that every deed is a seed. The people around us are watching and listening. Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of a church elder who once led a worship service for two. It happened over 150 years ago in England. A blizzard on Saturday night made it impossible for villagers to get to the church—including the pastor.

 

Oakwood_Park,_London_N14_-_snow_storm_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1146589

 

The elder almost sent home the two individuals who had come, an older man and a young boy. But something (Someone?) compelled him to speak. Later he confessed his words came out rather jumbled and brusque.

But. The elder planted a seed that immediately took root. The young boy accepted Jesus as his Savior that day. His name? Charles Spurgeon—preacher and author extraordinaire, whom God used mightily. People are still impacted by his writings to this day. (For an example of Dr. Spurgeon’s God-given genius, see the post, “Not Length But Strength,” from May 9, 1913).

 

Observation #2:

Our responsibility is the planting of “deed seeds”; the harvest is up to God.

The same principle that works in the physical realm works in the spiritual realm: A farmer may plant, fertilize, and water, but the germination of each seed is a miracle only God can bring about. Don’t become tightly focused on results.

The elder who led Charles to the Lord that snowy, wintry day, had no idea the boy would grow up to have such a profound effect on the world. The gentleman may not have lived long enough to see the results of his deed that morning. But we know, and we marvel.

 

Observation #3:

The true harvest is not measurable in physical terms, and it’s hidden from view in the spiritual realm.

Only now and then does God give us a glimpse of what our small deeds are accomplishing. Perhaps God planned it that way so pride and self-gratification do not taint the glory of the harvest.

Imagine the joy that elder continues to experience every time a saint comes through the gates of heaven–fourth and fifth generation Christians, who have been influenced by Charles Spurgeon, whose ancestors accepted Jesus because of him. In addition, thousands  have been influenced and encouraged by the preacher’s writings.

And it all began with that faithful elder.

You see, the positive influence of a man or woman of God never dies.

 

4 T

 

Such a possibility should translate into enthusiastic motivation for planting seeds wherever we go.

 

(Art and photo credits:  www.wikimedia.org and http://www.wikipedia.org.)

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Years ago in my hometown, when the community pool was built, Dad often took my brother and me swimming.  I marveled at the way my father could slice the water with a smooth dive, roll over on his back, and float.  Without even moving his arms and legs, he could remain on top of the water.  Amazing!

When I tried it, I sank–immediately.

“Daddy!  Show me how to float!” I cried.

First, he helped me to lie flat-out on top of the water.  His hand gently supported the middle of my back.  And then Dad said the strangest thing.

“Now, relax.”

What?!  Every fiber of my being was tense.  I just knew that if I relaxed, my nose would instantly fill up with heavily chlorinated water.

But I trusted Dad.  He wouldn’t trick me into a catastrophe.  So I tried to relax.

Easier said than done.  Try as I might, my body would not relax.  My focus was more on the possibility of sinking than it was on the one thing that would keep me afloat.

“That’s OK,” Dad probably said.  “This is just your first try.  Keep practicing, and all of a sudden you’ll get the feel of it.  That’s how it happened for me.”

This experience came to mind as I read Charles Spurgeon’s comment on an excerpt from Isaiah 30:15.

First, the scripture-excerpt:  “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”

And now, the Spurgeon quote:  “We are sinking by our struggles when we might float by faith.”

But learning to relax in the spiritual realm is just as difficult as it was to relax on my back in that swimming pool.  It is so much easier said than done–at least for me.

Why is fretting and worrying my default mode?  It’s so pointless.  Resting in God is the only way to hope and peace (Psalm 62:5).

The big question is how.  How can I relax into quiet confidence that will be my strength, and keep me afloat?

Perhaps the answer is in that word practice.  As I reaffirm over and over God’s glorious attributes, as I review His wonderful promises, my focus will change and my spirit will learn how to rest.

What attributes might be wise to focus on?  King David included a number of them in his glorious psalm of thanksgiving, found in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36:

  • Power (vs. 9, 12, 14) – He is able to work wonders.
  • Integrity (v. 15) – He is totally trustworthy.
  • Holiness (v. 29) – He is absolutely pure and righteous, totally set apart from anyone else in the universe.
  • Goodness (v. 34) – His blessings to us are bountiful and frequently displayed.
  • Love (v. 34) – Not based on our paltry deeds, but on his kind and gracious nature.

And what promises would build my confidence?  Here are three for a good start:

  • “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.  He is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).
  • “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
  • “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).

Notice:  He promises protection, provision, and guidance.  Everything we might face is covered.

Thinking back to those summer days at the community pool, I’m reminded of two things that happen when we float:  1) Our eyes are focused upward.  2) Our ears cannot hear very well, situated as they are beneath the surface.  Noise is silenced.

Those two things need to happen in the spiritual realm if we’re to float by faith.  Our eyes need to be focused upward on our powerful, loving, promise-keeping God, and our ears need to be stopped to the voices of worry.

The former will undoubtedly take care of the latter.

(Photo credits:  www.sciforums.com ; www.dailyencouragement.net ; www.flickr.com ; www.confessionsofasmowflake.com )

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Back in the 1970s I saw Helen Hayes in a made-for-TV movie.  Some of you may recognize her.  She was known as the “First Lady of the American Theater,” beginning her career on Broadway in 1905, when she was only five years old.  In the 1930s, Helen expanded her stardom to films, and finally to television.

The reason she comes to mind now and then is the impression she made upon me, as an energetic, sparkly eyed senior citizen.  I remember thinking, “When I get old, I want to be like that!”

Poof.  Four decades have passed, and I am indeed getting old!  I don’t feel like it, but that doesn’t stop the incessant turning of the calendar pages.

So I was delighted to come across these verses from Psalm 92 that cast aging in a positive light:

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him” (vs. 12-15).

Palm trees do indeed flourish, living up to 100 years.  Withstanding heat, drought, and high winds, these trees stand tall and strong; their leaves fresh and green all year long.

 

What a perfect picture of an energetic, sparkly eyed senior citizen! 

How do we achieve such age-defying qualities? 

First, notice that the righteous will flourish.  When our faith is grounded in God, when we follow his principles for a prosperous life, we flourish.

Like the palm tree that grows straight up toward heaven, the righteous reach for the God of heaven.  That’s how they’re able to stand strong through the winds of change and difficult circumstances.

The psalmist then continues:  “The righteous will…grow like a cedar of Lebanon.”

Majestic cedar trees grow to 120 feet in height and up to 30 feet in circumference.  They provide the perfect picture of a firm, stable person.  Just as the cedar’s roots go deep into the soil, so the righteous person is rooted and grounded in God’s love (Ephesians 3:17).  From those roots comes the nourishment needed to remain strong and spiritually healthy.

Second, notice where these trees are planted:  in the house of the Lord.  They flourish in the courts of our God.

Charles Spurgeon, that eloquent preacher and writer of the 1800s, had this to say about those who dwell in habitual fellowship with God:  “They shall become men [and women] of full growth, rich in grace, happy in experience, mighty in influence, honored and honorable.”  Now that sounds like a very satisfying way to live—so much better than the opposite!

Think of a complaining oldster whose mouth turns down from constant disgruntlement.  His bottom lip protrudes from perpetual pouting, and his brow is permanently lowered into a frown because anger often rules his emotions.  All this negativity has stunted the growth of his maturity.  He’s unhappy much of the time, and is not held in high regard by others.  Do you suppose he ever considers that his way of life is terribly unsatisfying?   

However!  When our lives are centered upon worship of God, as we express gratitude for his blessings, praise for his attributes, contentment for where he’s placed us, and joy in the midst of trials, we become those admirable men and women Dr. Spurgeon described above:  mature, gracious, and happy.

Dr. Spurgeon also added “mighty in influence and honored.  God rewards the righteous aged with “fruit.”  In other words, we may still bring glory to God by our words and actions—well into old age.

We can be:

  • Energetic—with the power of the Holy Spirit
  • sparkly-eyed—with the indwelling of God’s peace
  • grace-filled—with continual demonstrations of God’s love to others
  • joyful—with hearts focused on God’s blessings

These kinds of saints provide a powerful example of God’s faithfulness—through pleasant times and challenges, through plenty and want, year after year.

May we continue to grow deep and stand tall—all the days of our lives.

(photo credits:  www.pachd.com, www.captainkimo.com, www.forestertreeservice.com, www.centrifueleadership.com, www.seniors.ovetoknow.com)

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English: Portrait of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Fron...

English: Portrait of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Frontispiece from her book of poems “Three Women” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

                                                                                                                                              

“With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see.”

–Ella Wheeler Wilcox, author and poet (1850-1919)

Observation #1:

We never know when a small deed may plant a seed of faith or encouragement that will reap a bountiful harvest in the life of someone else.

Live attentively to the fact that every deed is a seed. The people around us are watching and listening.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of a church elder who once led a worship service for two. It happened over 150 years ago in England. A blizzard on Saturday night made it impossible for villagers to get to the church—including the pastor.

English: Oakwood Park, London N14 - snow storm...

The elder almost sent home the two individuals who had come, an older man and a young boy. But something (Someone?) compelled him to speak. Later he confessed his words came out rather jumbled and brusque.

But. The elder planted a seed that immediately took root. The young boy accepted Jesus as his Savior. His name? Charles Spurgeon—preacher and author extraordinaire, whom God used mightily. People are still impacted by his writings to this day.

(For an example of Dr. Spurgeon’s God-given genius, see the post, “Not Length But Strength,” from last week, May 9).

Observation #2:

Our responsibility is the planting of “deed seeds”; the harvest is up to God.

The same principle that works in the physical realm works in the spiritual realm: A farmer may plant, fertilize, and water, but the germination of each seed is a miracle only God can bring about. Don’t become tightly focused on results.

English: Seedling

English: Seedling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The elder who led Charles to the Lord that snowy, wintry day, had no idea the boy would grow up to have such a profound effect on the world. The gentleman may not have lived long enough to see the results of his deed that morning. But we know, and we marvel.

Observation #3:

The true harvest is not measurable in physical terms, and it’s hidden from view in the spiritual realm.

Only now and then does God give us a glimpse of what our small deeds are accomplishing. Perhaps God planned it that way so pride and self-gratification do not taint the glory of the harvest.

Imagine the joy that elder continues to experience every time a saint comes through the gates of heaven, who has been influenced by Charles Spurgeon—fourth and fifth generation Christians, whose ancestors accepted Jesus because of Dr. Spurgeon. Others have been influenced and encouraged by the preacher’s writings.

The positive influence of a man or woman of God never dies.

Ivan Grohar: The Sower. The motif from this pa...

Ivan Grohar: The Sower. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Such a possibility should translate into enthusiastic motivation for planting seeds wherever we go.

 

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C. H. Spurgeon, "The Prince of Preachers&...

C. H. Spurgeon, “The Prince of Preachers” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charles Spurgeon, that well-known British minister of the 1800s, was called the “prince of preachers.” Not only did he speak and write eloquently, he packed a great deal of meaning into few words. Large crowds flocked to hear him speak—some historians estimate the total to approach 10,000,000 people. Add to that sum the vast number of readers, impacted by Spurgeon’s writings since his death, and it’s clear his powerful influence has had far-reaching results.

Here’s an example of his God-given genius, the topic being prayer:

Short prayers are long enough. There were but three words in the petition which Peter gasped out [“Lord, save me,” found in Matthew 14:30], but they were sufficient for his purpose. Not length but strength is desirable. A sense of need is a mighty teacher of brevity. If our prayers had less of the tail feathers of pride and more wing they would be all the better. Verbiage is to devotion as chaff to the wheat (from “Sinking Times are Praying Times”).

Note the italicized phrase in the middle of that paragraph. It is not the length of our prayers that matters; it is the strength. That statement begs the question: What does strong prayer look like? Even from Dr. Spurgoen’s brief text (Matthew 14:30), we can find three components of strong prayer.

One, a strong prayer is one of urgency and energy. Peter was no doubt very serious and passionate as he pleaded with Jesus save him. Now I may not be drowning, but such passion in prayer does seem appropriate. Why should I expect God to pay attention to ho-hum prayers? Conclusion #1 becomes clear: Consider the seriousness of my requests and pray fervently.

St Peter Walking on the Water

St Peter Walking on the Water (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Second, Peter’s first word is, “Lord.” He didn’t use his master’s name, Jesus. He called him, “Lord,” instinctively focusing his attention on God the Son, in whom he had placed all his faith. I also must be mindful to whom I pray: my all-powerful, all-wise, triune God. Just as Peter placed his trust in Christ, so must I. Conclusion #2: My prayers need to be characterized by reverence for and confidence in the Lord of the universe.

Third, Peter had no time to string together lovely, impressive words. All he spoke of was his need. Conclusion #3: Simple, heartfelt, humble prayers are best.

Photo credit:  flickr

These are the elements of praying with strength:  passion, simplicity, and faith.

Help me, Lord, to embrace them.

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Minnesota Blizzard 10 - 22609

Minnesota Blizzard 10 – 22609 (Photo credit: DavidErickson)

Maria felt compelled to make a big pot of lamb stew one winter morning. By afternoon she knew why. A blizzard paralyzed city traffic. Right down the street from her home a bus load of passengers became stranded. Maria perked coffee for them—pot after pot–and invited them into her home for the lamb stew. Gratefully and incredulously they came, about half a dozen or so at a time. The driver was the last to be served, with the remaining spoonfuls from the bottom of the pot. Maria never even got a taste! But it didn’t matter. Her heart was filled with gratitude that God had prompted her to make that stew. He enabled her to help twenty-plus stranded commuters and show them the love and grace of God.

Gordon burned his hand severely—so badly the doctor said he’d probably have to amputate several fingers. But Gordon’s mother and many others prayed, and day by day the hand got better—not worse. Today, you have to look close to even find the scar.

Nita often wears a favorite pair of gold earrings, given to her by her children. One day while golfing with her husband, she lost one those precious earrings. Nita was heartsick. A few days later, these avid golfers were again on the course. Nita prayed. “Father, I don’t know where that earring is, but you do. Please help me find it.” On the twelfth green, when Nita walked up to where her ball had landed, she saw something glinting in the grass. Not one foot from where her ball landed, there was her earring.

These stories are just three of many, recently shared by members of the Bible study I attend.  Maria, Gordon, and Nita are in that group.  No doubt you’ve heard stories like theirs, too. In fact, you’ve probably experienced a few miraculous situations yourself. It’s important we share our God-stories as encouragement for our faith. Our God-stories prove:

1) God’s Word is true. God is loving, gracious, faithful, and powerful.

2) We are never without hope.

3) God keeps his promises.

4) God continually blesses his children.

5) Christianity works.

Do all of these facts mean we can expect God to intervene in every difficult circumstance? No. We’d become very spoiled children if he did. But the number of times God does provide miracles goes beyond coincidence. They are indeed God-incidents.

Yet we cannot ignore the times God does not answer our prayers as we’d wish. Sometimes he does not step in to provide and protect. He does not always solve our problems for us. It’s in those situations that God works a different set of miracles: patience and perseverance (James 1:2), growth in godliness and spiritual strength, his compassion and mercy (James 5:11).

Such statements might sound glib to someone recently bereaved of a loved one, or an innocent person suffering unfair circumstances. But there are powerful God-stories from suffering saints as well.

G. lost her husband recently and was terribly insecure about living on her own. But God revealed his presence to her in a powerful physical sensation of warmth through her whole body. Although still grieving, G. has felt surrounded by God’s peace and empowering presence.

K. had always dreamed of getting married, creating a home, and raising several children. Then came her fortieth birthday. It appeared that dream was not going come true. Depression seeped into the corners of her life, even though she was a woman of strong faith. But day by day, the truths of God’s Word fed her spirit and hope began to grow again. Not the hope of marriage and a family, but hope in God’s plan to prosper her, to give her a future (Jeremiah 29:11)—albeit in a different direction.

In the final analysis, these miracles are the most wondrous of all. They are miracles of transformed hearts.

“Our troubles have always brought us blessings, and they always will. They are the black chariots of bright grace” – Charles Spurgeon.

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