Thursdays With Spurgeon—Church On Fire

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Church On Fire

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. (Acts 2:1-3) 

     We are poor, empty things by nature, and useless while we remain so. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Some people seem to believe in the Spirit of God giving utterance only, and they look upon instruction in divine things as of secondary importance. Dear, dear me! What trouble comes when we act upon that theory! How the empty vessels clatter, rattle, and sound! … Where the Spirit of God is truly at work, He first fills and then gives utterance—that is His way. …  

     Full! Then they were not cold, dead, and empty of life as we sometimes are. Full. Then there was no room for anything else in any one of them! They were too completely occupied by the heavenly power to have room for the desires of the flesh! Fear was banished; every minor motive was expelled! The Spirit of God, as it flooded their very beings, drove out of them everything that was extraneous. They had many faults and many infirmities before, but that day, when they were filled with the Spirit of God, faults and infirmities were no more perceptible! They became different men from what they had ever been before. Men full of God are the reverse of men full of self! …  

     The next Pentecostal symbol was utterance. … When the Spirit of God really comes upon a man, he does not wait till he has gathered an audience of the size that he desires, but he seizes the next opportunity! He speaks to one person. He speaks to two. He speaks to three—to anybody. …  

     When the Spirit of God fills a man, he speaks so as to be understood. … The crowd not only understood, they felt. There were lancets in this Pentecostal preaching, and the hearers ‘were pricked in their heart’ (Acts 2:37). … Those are the two effects of the Holy Spirit—a fullness of the Spirit in the ministry and the church, and next, a fire ministry and a church on fire, speaking so as to be felt and understood by those around!

From Pentecostal Wind And Fire

Oh, how I want this today! 

Let’s seek the fullness and the utterance that can only come through the baptism in the Holy Spirit! Let’s be set on fire so that we can impact the world around us! 

Foundation Stones

foundation-stonesAny architect will tell you: You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation.

This is just as true in the spiritual realm, which is why John Calvin warned, “Those who are strong only in fervor and sharpness, but are not fortified with solid doctrine, weary themselves in their vigorous efforts, make a great noise…[and] make no headway because they build without foundation.

We have had on the Calvary website since Day 1 a link to “What we believe,” but more than just having them listed there, it is important to discuss them.

So the first Sunday of each month through the rest of 2021, we will be exploring our strong doctrinal foundation. I promise you that this won’t be “dry” theology or doctrine, but it will be an exciting journey of discovery of the foundation upon which we stand.

Please join me this Sunday as we look at our next Foundation Stone.

Here are the topics we have covered so far:

Book Reviews From 2020

Which Hand Is On You?

…the hand of God … the hand of foreign kings… (Ezra 7-9 and Nehemiah 1-2).

The picturesque language of someone’s hand being on another person signifies who is in control and to whom one is giving their allegiance. Ezra and Nehemiah boil it down to God’s hand or the hand of foreign leaders.

God’s hand brings:

  • favor with foreign kings
  • safety
  • courage 
  • coworkers
  • protection from bandits 

A foreign king’s hand brings:

  • a sword
  • captivity
  • pillage
  • humiliation 

Ezra explains, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to Him, but His great anger is against all who forsake Him” (8:22). So God’s hand prevents the hand of a foreign king from doing anything outside of God’s will. 

Here are two irrefutable and unchangeable principles: (1) I can only have one hand on my life at a time, and (2) I get to choose which hand it will be: God’s or a foreign leader. 

Year-End Review (2020 Edition)

I have the privilege of pastoring Calvary Assembly of God. One of the things I am honored to do is share a message from God’s Word with our church each week. Sharing the messages is one thing, but reminding folks of what has been shared is another. This is something that resonated with both the apostle Peter and the apostle Paul. 

Peter wrote, “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking” (2 Peter 3:1). And Paul not only told the Romans that “I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again” (Romans 15:15), but he also taught his protege Timothy to “keep reminding God’s people of these things” (2 Timothy 2:14). 

With that backdrop, here is a listing of the sermon series that I presented this year. Clicking on each series title will take you to a list of all of the sermons in that series. 

Prayer Plan—A Christian’s strategy is worked out in the prayer closet. John Piper noted, “Why do God’s children so often fail to have consistent habits of happy, fruitful prayer? Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the reasons is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.” These messages taught us to have a plan to pray. 

Where’s God—We’ve all asked that question. Something happens that rocks our world, and we wonder where in the world God is. We call out to God and He seems silent. We search our hearts to see if we can discern something we’ve done wrong, and seeing nothing amiss we cry out again, “God, where are You?” So where is God in our heartache? In our abandonment? In our sorrows? In our distress? In death? Believe it or not, God may be closer in His silence than you’ve ever perceived before. 

We Are: Pentecostal—Pentecost for over 1500 years was a celebration in Jerusalem that brought in Jews from all over the world. But on the Day of Pentecost that came just ten days after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the meaning of Pentecost was forever changed! Followers of Jesus—now empowered by an infilling of the Holy Spirit—began to take the good news of Jesus all over the world. These Spirit-filled Christians preached the Gospel and won converts to Christ even among hostile crowds, performed miracles and wonders, stood up to pagan priests and persecuting governmental leaders, and established a whole new way of living as Christ-followers. We, too, can be Pentecostal followers of Jesus Christ today. 

Selah—The word Selah appears nearly 70 times in the Bible, almost exclusively in the Psalms. Although it is primarily a musical term, it applies beautifully to our summer series. It means a pause. Throughout the Psalms, Selah appears at the end of a verse, at the end of the psalm, or sometimes even mid-sentence. But each one of them is perfectly placed by the Spirit-inspired authors to get us to take a breath and deeply contemplate what we just read or sang. 

Major Lessons From Minor Prophets—Sometimes the naming of things gives us an inaccurate picture of the thing being named. For instance, many people think the “old” in Old Testament means outdated or perhaps updated by the “new” in the New Testament. When in fact, both Testaments are needed to give us the full picture of God’s love and glory. A similar thing happens with the headings “major prophets” and “minor prophets.” It makes it sound like the major prophets have something major to say to us, while we could take or leave the minor messages of the minor prophets. In reality, they were given these headings simply because of the volume of writing—the five major prophets consist of 182 chapters, whereas the 12 minor prophets only have 67 chapters. The volume of their writing may be minor, but their content carries major messages of meteoric power! 

Thankful In The Night—The psalmist wrote, “Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me” (Psalm 42:8). Notice that the psalmist was praising God IN the night, not praising Him FOR the night. Many people have gone through what has been called “the dark night of the soul.” I don’t think anyone has ever given thanks because of being in a dark time, but certainly they have given thanks afterward because of the lessons learned in that dark time. Quite simply put, there are some things God wants to teach us that we can learn in no other way than to go through a dark night. So we can learn to be thankful even IN those nights. 

Do Not Be Afraid—There are more angels sent by God concerning one event than anywhere else in the Bible—the Advent of Jesus. Clearly, this is a big deal: The coming to earth of God Himself! You would think this would be an occasion for great joy. But all four of the angelic appearances around the birth of Jesus have the same message: Do not be afraid. Why are people so afraid? It’s because fear invites us to make a decision to trust God completely. People remain crippled by fear when they try to deal with fear by themselves. But when they learn to fear God instead, there is an almost inexpressible joy and freedom that explodes in our hearts! 

We will be returning to a couple of these series in 2021, and we’ll be launching some brand new ones as well. In either case, if you don’t have a home church in the northern Kent County area, I would love to have you join us! 

Poetry Saturday—The Nativity

Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
   Give me an ox’s strength.

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
I see my Savior where I looked for hay;
So may my beastlike folly learn at least
   The patience of a beast.

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baa-ing nature would win thence
   Some wooly innocence! —C.S. Lewis

Shadows And Light

Have you ever been afraid? Even scared half to death? Once there was the biggest, lumpiest, scariest monster hunched in my room just waiting to pounce on me! My mouth was so dry that I couldn’t even call out for help. Finally, I got enough moisture in my mouth to be able to yell out, “DAD!!” When my Dad came into my room and turned on the light, the monster disappeared. But right where he had been waiting to pounce on me was my desk chair with a hoodie hanging on the back. 

Sometimes we’re scared because of what we don’t see clearly or can’t fully understand because there’s not enough light for us to make out the details. 

On the night Jesus was born, an angel announced the news of His birth to some nearby shepherds. The angel was coming with good news, but Luke writes that the shepherds were terrified! I like the picturesque language of the King James Version that says they were “sore afraid,” as if they shook so much it made them sore!  

Why were they so terrified? I think it’s because they knew that when angels show up that means God Himself is close by! In fact, Luke emphasized that it was an angel of the Lord who shone with the glory of the Lord. 

For their entire lives, these shepherds had been trying to live by the law. They had been told that this is what would make them acceptable to God. The law told them how to live, and how to make things right with God if they broke a law. If they didn’t make things right, God would punish them. So perhaps they were sore afraid because they weren’t ready to meet God. 

But the angel told them something unexpected: Today your Savior has been born! A Savior, not a Judge! 

This is what God promised through one of His prophets: “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel. I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  

The writer of Hebrews said all of the laws were just a “shadow of what is in heaven” (Hebrews 8:5). This shadow was the source of fear, but now Jesus had come as the Light of the world and as our Savior. Jesus came to take away the penalty of sin: Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant (Hebrews 9:15). 

In The Pilgrim’s Progress, Faithful told how a man came and beat him because he had broken the law. Even when Faithful begged for mercy the man said, “I don’t know how to show mercy to anyone.” This man was Moses the Lawgiver. 

Faithful explained what finally gave him relief: “He would have finished me off, but then one came by, and told him to stop. I did not know Him at first, but as He went by, I saw the holes in His hands and in His side and I concluded that He was Jesus.” 

The Advent of Jesus was to let the punishment for breaking the law fall on Him instead of us! 

The Law says, “Clean yourself up first and then you can come to God. But if you miss anything, God will bring down the hammer of His judgment!” Jesus says, “Come to Me just as you are. If you ask Me, I will forgive your sins. I’ll clothe you in My robe of righteousness so you can stand faultless and unafraid before God” (see Romans 8:1; Galatians 3:26-27).  

This is very Good News indeed! It means we can join in the song of the angels: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests. 

Why We Pray For Government Leaders

…the Lord filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel (Ezra 6:22).

King Darius didn’t just allow the Israelites to worship God at the temple, he assisted them in reestablishing worship at the temple! He did this because God changed his attitude. 

Nearly 60 years later, King Artaxerxes did the same thing for Ezra: “the king had granted him everything he asked for, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him” (7:6). Artaxerxes gave Ezra and the returning Israelite exiles…

  • … authority 
  • … provisions 
  • … tax exemptions (vv. 14, 20-22, 24) 

Ezra says again that this was all due to God putting this in Artaxerxes’ heart: Praise be to the Lord, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem this way (vv. 27-28).

Daniel declares that all of the world leaders are in that position of leadership because God placed them there. The apostle Paul teaches us that government officials are God’s servants and that we are to pray for them (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2). 

God can change the attitude of even the most hard-hearted, godless leader. Not just change their attitude, but give God’s people favor with that leader. 

Don’t become frustrated—pray. 

Don’t get discouraged—pray. 

Pray, pray, pray for all of God’s servants who are in leadership over us. God has a plan. All of history is His story, and He will change attitudes so that His servants fulfill His plan. 

The Valley Of Fear (book review)

I don’t often add fictional books into my reading rotation, but when I do I want something excellent. I’ve always been fond of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, but The Valley of Fear is a cut above! 

Doyle was a medical doctor. Probably because of my medical/science background, I’ve always found Dr. Doyle’s scientific observations through the eyes and brain of his first-rate detective to be quite intriguing. I also appreciate how Doyle gives his readers all of the same evidence that Sherlock Holmes observes so that the solution becomes an enlightening “Aha!” moment. 

The Valley Of Fear had an added dimension to it. The main part of the crime is solved fairly early in the story, but then one of the characters hands Dr. Watson a written narrative that turns out to be the backdrop to the commission of the crime. Dr. Watson then spends almost all of the remainder of the book telling the story that was given to him. So the crime is committed, the crime is solved, and then we read an in-depth account of what led to the crime. Just as with all of Doyle’s stories, all of the clues are readily available in this narrative, which makes the “Aha!” culmination of this behind-the-scenes narrative all the more satisfying. 

This book is a wonderful way to either start your Sherlock Holmes reading adventure or continue your enjoyment of these wonderfully-rich stories. 

Solving The Unsolvable Dilemma

When Gabriel told Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus, he said that “the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” Just before the angel showed up Luke noted that Mary was “pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David (Luke 1:27, 32).

At this time in history marriages were often arranged to preserve and strengthen family lines. Both Joseph and Mary could trace their family lineage through the royal line of Israel’s King David. 

Mary is betrothed to Joseph. Betrothal was considered as strong as a marriage with the only exception being that the couple didn’t yet live together nor sleep together. Betrothal usually lasted a year and would require a divorce to cancel it. 

Mary tells Joseph what Gabriel said to her and then she leaves to visit Elizabeth for the next three months! Joseph is left alone to consider his options. 

The word Luke uses for “consider” is not even close to what’s happening in Joseph’s mind. The word means to revolve around and around in your mind, like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. 

Consider Joseph’s options. If he divorces Mary—which was apparently his first reaction—Mary would be publicly embarrassed. Not to mention that Joseph knew that God hated divorce. 

If Joseph decided to proceed with the marriage, he would either have to confess he was the father of her child—which could result in both of them being stoned—or admit that she was pregnant by another man—which would be a permanent disgrace for Mary’s family. 

In either case, both families would be shamed! 

While Joseph was still considering all these unsavory options an angel says to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid.” By calling him by that title he is really saying, “I know how important your family heritage is to you. I know how important Mary’s family heritage is to her. But do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife because this all fits into God’s plan. 

Would it have been easier on Joseph and Mary and their families if God could have waited until after they were married? Of course! But then it wouldn’t fit into God’s miraculous plan, because 700 years earlier God promised that Jesus would be born of an unmarried virgin. 

Fearing what’s coming in the future means we have forgotten Who already knows the future. 

God knows YOUR future too! It’s a future He already saw as good and fruitful, if you will put your trust in Him (Psalm 139:16; Jeremiah 29:11; John 15:16).

If you seem paralyzed by a no-win dilemma like Joseph was, first DON’T do what Joseph did: pray! Then DO what Joseph did after hearing the angel: obey. 

Remember Who knows you and Who knows your future, and then take each step on your journey as God directs you. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series called Do Not Be Afraid, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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