Thursdays With Spurgeon—Navel-Gazing?

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.

Navel-Gazing?

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     It can never be wrong to look up; we are often bid to do so, and it is even a holy saying of the psalmist: ‘My voice you shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up’ (Psalm 5:3). And again, ‘I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help?’ (121:1). If it is right to look up into heaven, it must be still more right to look up while Jesus rises to the place of His glory! …  

     The truth is, there’s nothing wrong in their looking up into heaven. But they went a little further than looking—they stood gazing. A little excess in right may be faulty. … There is a gazing that is not commendable. This is when the look becomes not that of reverent worship but of an overweening curiosity; when there mingles with the desire to know what should not be known, a prying into that which it is for God’s glory to conceal. … 

     Thus certain things that you and I may do appear right and yet we may need to be chided out of them into something better—they may be right in themselves but not appropriate for the occasion, not seasonable or expedient. They may be right up to a point and then may touch the boundary of excess.

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

The word gazing reminds of another word: navel-gazing. The dictionary defines this as “excessive absorption in self-analysis or focus on a single issue.” This “excessive absorption” is, I believe, what caused the angels to chide the disciples of Jesus.  

Jesus was always on the move. Even His times of rest and recovery were strategic so that He could engage in ministry refreshed and refilled to do spiritual warfare effectively. The Gospels never show us a picture of Jesus wondering what to do next, or concerned about what people thought of Him, or even strategizing over His next ministry opportunities. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit to move forward. 

And this same forward momentum is exactly what Jesus commanded His disciples to undertake. “You will move forward into all the world, telling people about Me, baptizing them, and commissioning them to also be forward-looking to their mission field.” This mission was to be preceded by the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which was a 2-mile walk away from were the disciples were now gazing up into the heavens. 

The angels essentially said, “Your curiosity is on the verge of becoming procrastination. It’s time to head back to Jerusalem to wait for the empowerment that you will need to fulfill the mission on which Jesus sent you.” 

What about us? What “looking” can become unhealthy “gazing” for us? What excuses might we be making for our navel-gazing? What’s keeping us from being on-mission for Jesus? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we have anything less than forward momentum for the sake of the Kingdom of God! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Are You Gazing Or Going?

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.

Are You Gazing Or Going?

     The resurrection of Christ is the morning star of our future glory! Equally delightful is the remembrance of His ascension. …

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11) 

     It is not the Lord’s will that [His disciples] should long remain inactive—the reverie is interrupted. They might have stood there till wonder saddened into fear. As it was, they remained long enough, for the angel’s words may be accurately rendered, ‘Why do you stand gazing up into heaven’? … 

     As they had once said to the women, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!’ (Luke 24:5-6), so did they now say, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’ …

     They do not need twice telling, but hasten to Jerusalem. The vision of angels has singularly enough brought them back into the world of actual life again, and they obey the command, ‘Tarry in the city of Jerusalem’ (Luke 24:49). They seem to say, ‘The taking up of our Master is not a thing to weep about. He has gone to His throne and to His glory, and He said it was expedient for us that He should go away. He will now send us the promise of the Father….

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was incarnated in human flesh so that we could know the way to Heaven. 

Jesus died on a Cross so that we could have our sins forgiven and go to Heaven. 

Jesus ascended into Heaven so that He could go to prepare a place for us. 

Jesus wants us to be empowered by the Holy Spirit so that we can take others to Heaven with us. 

Let us not imitate the disciples’ first reaction and simply gaze into Heaven hopefully and longingly after the ascended Jesus. Instead, let us imitate their next reactions: Waiting for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost so that we can take the Good News of salvation everywhere we can!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Jesus Gives His Bride Good Gifts

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.

Jesus Gives His Bride Good Gifts

     Our Lord Jesus Christ has nothing that He does not give to His church. He gave Himself for us and He continues, still, to give Himself to us. He receives the gifts, but He only acts as the conduit through which the grace of God flows to us. It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell, and of His fullness have we all received. …  

     These gifts, given in the form of men, are given for men [Ephesians 4:8-13]. Churches do not exist for preachers, but preachers for churches. … My brothers and sisters in the church, we who are your pastors are your servants for Christ’s sake. Our rule is not that of lordship, but of love. …  

     See how wonderful, then, was that ascension of our Lord in which He scattered down mercies so rich and appropriate among the sons of men! From His glorious elevation above all heavens He sends forth pastors, preachers, and evangelists, through whom the Holy Spirit works mightily in those who believe. By them He gathers the redeemed together and builds them up as a church to His glory!

From Our Lord’s Triumphant Ascension

Both the apostle Paul and King David from whom he quotes (see Psalm 68:18-19) see God’s victories as our victories. In the same letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul says that Jesus gave up everything for His Bride—the Church.

To bring His Bride into the fullness of her radiance, Jesus gave gifts to the Church in the form of people—apostles, pastors, evangelists, teachers, and servants that will help build up the Church and bring her into full maturity. 

Don’t ever downplay the important role that you, dear Christian, play in His Bride. YOU are a gift from Jesus and a gift to His Bride!

Where’s God Today?

Transitions are always hard things. We are leaving the known for the unknown. Even if the known is unhealthy or painful, it’s still hard to go to the unknown. 

Why are these transitions so difficult? Perhaps it’s because I’ve learned how to cope with the known, or I’ve gotten used to this “normal” life, or even I’ve simply learned to navigate any dysfunctional areas.

But is that really living? Am I managing my life or is God? When I’m against transitions, aren’t I really saying that I’ve put God’s plan for my life in my box?

Those questions trigger even more questions in my mind: Where’s God in all of this? Why can’t He just make my known better? Why is He leading me (or maybe even pushing me) into this unknown? 

Jesus didn’t endure the unimaginable horrors of the Cross just so you could cope with life. Jesus came to bring us abundant life—not a barely-getting-by life or just a coping life!

How does He bring us into this abundant life? By leading us through transitions. And where is He in all our transitions? Closer than you think! 

Moses sang a song to conclude his sermon in Deuteronomy. In that song, he mentions God taking care of His people the way an eagle cares for its eaglets.

Adults eagles build their extremely large nests in the highest point they can find. Their nests are made of massive branches. In fact, they build some of the largest nests of all birds, and build them in the most inaccessible of places. Before their eggs are laid, the adult eagles will soften their nest with feathers pulled from their own body. From the time the eggs are laid until the eaglets leave the nest, they are never without a parent present—while one parent hunts, the other watches. 

Eaglets first test their stumpy wings by jumping around in the nest, mimicking their parents. Eventually they will start “branching”—jumping to nearby branches—and then “fledging”—taking their first short flights from the nest. All under the watchful eye of the parents. Finally, the adult eagles will “stir up” their nest by blowing away all of the comforts of their plucked feathers, encouraging the eaglets to soar. 

Moses said that this is how God cares for His children. First by shielding and guarding us, and then by stirring up our nest and encouraging us to soar! 

Much like when Jesus ascended back to Heaven. He was going to physically leave His disciples, but He knew He had adequately trained his “eaglets” to soar without Him with them in bodily form. 

But Jesus never leaves us spiritually. He said that His ascension back to heaven would allow for the Holy Spirit to be resident in each of His followers (see John 16:7-15). It is the Holy Spirit that continues to guide us, teach us, empower us, correct us, and lead us to SOAR into abundant, God-honoring, Christlike living. 

There are many, many times of transition as we soar, but He never leaves us. The Holy Spirit is our constant Counselor. God shows His love for us by caring for us. God also shows His love for us by making us uncomfortable with the status quo. 

May the times of transition cause us to rely even more on the very present help of the Holy Spirit.

Continue to follow along with me in a new series of posts looking at how the Holy Spirit helps us to soar!

Poetry Saturday—Beyond The Glittering, Starry Skies

Beyond the glittering starry skies,
Far as th’ eternal hills,
There, in those boundless worlds of light,
Our great Redeemer dwells.

Legions of angels strong and fair,
In countless armies shine,
At His right hand with golden harps,
To offer songs divine.

“Hail, Prince!” they cry, “forever hail!
Whose unexampled love
Moved Thee to quit those glorious realms,
And royalties above.”

While He did condescend on earth
To suffer rude disdain,
They cast their honors at His feet,
And waited in His train.

Through all His travels here below
They did His steps attend!
Oft gazed and wondered where at last
This scene of love would end.

They saw His heart transfixed with wounds,
His crimson sweat and gore,
They saw Him break the bars of death,
Which none e’er brake before.

They brought His chariot from above,
To bear Him to His throne,
Clapped their triumphant wings and cried,
“The glorious work is done!” —James Fanch

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Freed From Captivity And Fear

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.

Freed From Captivity And Fear

…The Lord has come from Sinai into His sanctuary. When You ascended on high, You took many captives; You received gifts from people, even from the rebellious—that You, Lord God, might dwell there. Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, Who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death. Surely God will crush the heads of His enemies… (Psalm 68:17-20). 

     The Lord Jesus, by His glorious victory here below, has subdued all our adversaries, and in His going up on high, He has triumphed over them all, exhibiting them as trophies. The imagery may be illustrated by the triumph of Roman conquerors. They were known to pass along the Via Sacra and climb up to the capitol, dragging at their chariot wheels the vanquished princes with their hands bound behind their backs. Christ has vanquished all those powers that held you captive. Whatever form your spiritual slavery took, you are fully delivered from it, for the Lord Christ has made captives those whose captives you were. ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you’ (Romans 6:14). … 

     True, the flock of the Lord is too feeble to force its way. But listen, ‘The one who breaks open will come up before them; they will break out, pass through the gate, and go out by it; their king will pass before them, with the Lord at their head’ (Micah 2:13). Easily may the sheep follow where the Shepherd leads the way! We have but to follow those heavenly feet that once were pierced and none of our steps will slide! Move on, O soldiers of Jesus, for your Captain cries, ‘Follow Me!’ … 

     How often we groan because the battle does not go as we would desire it! Yet there is no reason for dismay. God is in no hurry as we are. He dwells in the leisure of eternity and is not the prey of fear as we are. … He knows what He is going to do and we may lay our heads upon His bosom and rest quietly.

From Our Lord’s Triumphant Ascension

When we follow Jesus—The Ultimate Victor—we need fear NOTHING!

Listen to our Conquering God’s promise—You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves Me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name. He will call on Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.” (Psalm 91:13-19) 

As I’ve said before, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that to be a Christian and to be fearful is a sin. A fearful Christian gives God no praise, robs Him of glory, and paints God in a bad light. A happy, secure Christian knows the Lord is his strength, his comfort, his supply. A happy Christian lifts God high and invites others to know this All-Good, All-Happy King too!

Live in Christ’s victory today—and every day!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Assurance In Christ’s Ascension

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.

The Assurance In Christ’s Ascension

     Our Savior descended when He came to the manger of Bethlehem, and further descended when He became ‘a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3). He descended lower still when He was obedient to death, even the death of the Cross—and further yet when His dead body was laid in the grave. … Long and dark was the descent. There were no depths of humiliation, temptation, or affliction that He did not fathom. …  

     The time came for our Lord to continue His homeward, upward journey and return to the glory from which He had come down. From the Mount of Olives, ‘while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight’ (Acts 1:9). The rest of His upward progress we cannot describe. Imagination and faith step in and conceive of Him as rising beyond all regions known to us, far above all imaginable height. … 

     How high He ascended after He passed the pearly portal Paul cannot tell us, save that he says God ‘seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion’ (Ephesians 1:20-21). He describes our Master as ‘dwelling in unapproachable light’ (1 Timothy 6:16). The Man Christ Jesus has gone back to the place from where His Godhead came! …

     We are sure that the purpose of His love is secure or He would not have returned to His rest. The love that brought Him here would have kept Him here if all things necessary for our salvation had not been finished. …

     Remember that His assent to the Father is representative. Every believer rose with Him and grasped the inheritance. When He rose up, ascending on high, He taught our feet the way. At the last His people will be caught up together with the Lord in the air, and so will they be forever with the Lord. He has made a stairway for His saints to climb to their bliss, and He has traveled it Himself to assure us that the new and living way is available for us. In His ascension He bore all His people with Him.

From Our Lord’s Triumphant Ascension

Jesus told His Father that He had completed everything He was sent to complete (John 17:4). John also says that Christ’s “It is finished” cry from the Cross also marked the completion of everything that had been prophesied about Jesus (John 19:28-30). 

Such amazing love brought Jesus to earth! And His steadfast love also made sure that He left absolutely nothing undone that was needed for our salvation! 

There’s now no reason for us to live fearful or anxious or skeptical about what is coming next. When Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” and when He promises that He has gone to prepare a place for us to bring us to be with Him, He has demonstrated His authority to make these claims in His death, resurrection, and ascension. 

Oh my friends, live every day in that glorious assurance!

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