Poetry Saturday—Selections From “The Pilgrim’s Progress”

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The hill, though high, I covet to ascend,
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear;
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe. —John Bunyan’s Christian, in The Pilgrim’s Progress

He that is down needs fear no fall;
   He that is low, no pride:
He that is humble ever shall
   Have God to be his Guide.
I am content with what I have,
   Little be it or much:
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
   Because Thou savest such.
Fullness to such a burden is
   That go on pilgrimage:
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
   Is best from age to age. —John Bunyan’s Mr. Great-heart, in The Pilgrim’s Progress

9 Quotes From “To The Work!”

D.L. Moody passionately and persuasively dismantles all of the hesitations Christians have to being active and outspoken about their relationship with Jesus. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“I have often said that if I had to convict men of sin I would have given up the work long ago. That is the work of the Holy Ghost. What we have to do is to scatter the good seed of the Word, and expect that God will bless it to the saving of men’s souls.” 

“One of the great obstacles in the way of God’s work today is this want of love among those who are the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. … To address men well they must be loved much.” 

“Those who have been greatly used of God in all ages have been men of courage. If we are full of faith we shall not be full of fear, distrusting God all the while. That is the trouble with the Church of Christ today—there are so many who are fearful, because they do not believe that God is going to use them. What we need is to have the courage that will compel us to move forward.” 

“If you cannot engage in any active work yourselves you can do a good deal by cheering on others.” 

“Let us not be discouraged, but let us use all these wonderful opportunities, and honor God by expecting great things. If we do we will not be disappointed. God is ready and willing to work, if we are ready and willing to let Him, and to be used by Him.” 

“A good many people are afraid of the word enthusiasm. Do you know what the word means? It means ‘In God.’ … People say that if we go on in that way many mistakes will be made. Probably there will. You never saw any boy learning a trade who did not make a good many mistakes. If you do not go to work because you are afraid of making mistakes, you will probably make one great mistake—the greatest mistake of your life—that of doing nothing. If we all do what we can, then a good deal will be accomplished.” 

“When God wanted to bring the children of Israel out of bondage, He did not send an army; He sent one solitary man. So in all ages God has used the weak things of the world to accomplish His purposes.” 

“If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced it must be done by men and women of average talent. After all there are comparatively few people in the world who have great talents. … I do not believe, either, that all God’s work is going to be done by ministers, and other officers in the Churches. This lost world will never be reached and brought back to loyalty to God, until the children of God wake up to the fact that they have a mission in the world.” 

“Philip was called away from a great work in Samaria to go and speak to one man in the desert. Christ’s great sermon on Regeneration was addressed to one man; and that wonderful discourse by our Lord on the Water of Life was spoken to one poor sinful woman. I pity those Christians who are not willing to speak to one soul; they are not fit for God’s service. We shall not accomplish much for God in the world, if we are not willing to speak to the ones and twos. … The Lord expects us to do what we can. We can all do something.”

Two Joys

…joy… (Nehemiah 8) 

Although the word in English is “joy,” there are two different Hebrew words used here. Think of them this way—one is the root and the other is the flower. 

In verse 10, the Hebrew word chedvah is only used twice in all of the Old Testament (it’s also used in 1 Chronicles 16:27). This word describes the source of joy—or the root—which is found exclusively in God’s presence. 

In verses 12 and 17 the word for “joy” is simchah. This word essentially becomes the outward expression—or the flower—because it is nourished by the chedvah root. 

Here’s how it plays out in the book of Nehemiah. Because the people had heard and been given understanding of God’s Word, they joyfully celebrated. And because God helped them complete the wall around Jerusalem and reestablish worship at the temple, they also happily celebrated. God was the chedvah root of their joy, and their outward celebration was the simchah flower. 

God alone is the Root—the Source—of chedvah. My simchah celebration both glorifies Him as the Source and points others to Him. My simchah flower will make others desirous for the chedvah root that has brought about this outward joyful expression from me. 

To be a joyless Christian is a contradiction of terms. To not express simchah means either I am not abiding deeply in the root of chedvah, or that I don’t believe it is worthwhile enough to share with others. But of course, if I have truly been to the Source, I will want others to enjoy this relationship with God as well.

Two questions for me to ask myself: (1) Is my heart abiding deeply in God as my Source of joy? And (2) Is my outward joy a making others desirous to know this Source of joy for themselves? 

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

10 Quotes From “The Screwtape Letters”

C.S. Lewis gives us fantastic insight into the temptations the devil tries to use against Christians. You can read my full book review here. Just as a reminder: When Screwtape talks about “the Enemy” he is referring to God and when he says “our Father” he is talking about satan. 

“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.” 

“Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell—though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express—no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.” 

“Let his inner resolve be to bear whatever comes to him, but to bear it ‘for a reasonable period’—and let the reasonable period be shorter than the trial is likely to last. It need not be much shorter…. The fun is to make the man yield just when (had he but known it) relief was almost in sight.”

“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.” 

“Our Enemy is a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or only like foam on the seashore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures forevermore.’ Ugh! … He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least—sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.” 

“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” 

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By Jove! I’m being humble,’ and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt. … You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character.” 

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One it to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” 

“Even of his sins the Enemy does not want him to think too much: once they are repented, the sooner the man turns his attention outward, the better the Enemy is pleased.” 

“Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.” 

The Screwtape Letters (book review)

Sun Tzu taught, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” With that maxim in mind, if you read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, you will gain insight into the enemy’s tactics, unlike perhaps any other source. 

Lewis said this book was an easy book for him to write, but it gave him no joy to write it. Exposing the dark strategies of satan and his ugly cohort is indeed a joyless business. But even the apostle Paul tells us that we shouldn’t be unaware of the devil’s schemes. 

If you are a Christian and you read this book, you need to reverse your thinking. This book is a series of letters from Screwtape, a more experienced demon, to his nephew Wormwood who has just been given his first “patient” to seduce into hell. Whereas Christians call God their Father, in this book Screwtape refers to satan as “our Father” and God as “the Enemy.” 

Perhaps the most insightful part to me of this amazing book is the subtlety of the temptations which are employed to trip up Christians and keep seekers away from the truth. In fact, at several points Screwtape warns Wormwood that he is trying too hard to use something huge to bring down his patient when only the smallest of things will do the trick. 

I would encourage newer Christians to wait a while to read this book. In the meantime, read the Bible as much as you can—get to know the Real before you read about the counterfeit. For more mature Christians, however, this is an important book to read. 

(As a brief aside, in reading The Screwtape Letters this time through, I listened to the audiobook narrated by Joss Ackland and he delivered a phenomenal performance!) 

Controlled By The Holy Spirit

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21) 

Jesus wanted His followers to be His missionaries throughout the world, but not until they were empowered with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The new Testament writers elaborate on concepts that boil down to a Christian being controlled by the Spirit. What does that entail? I think these words from J. Oswald Sanders are well worth consideration—

“What does this apostolic injunction in Ephesians 5:18 mean? It is not an invitation to realize a privilege but a command to fulfill an obligation. … The clear teaching of Scripture is that we are filled with the Spirit when our human spirit is mastered and controlled by the Holy Spirit. The idea behind the command ‘be filled with the Spirit’ is not so much that of an empty vessel passively waiting for something to be poured into it, as water into a glass [here is a 3-minute video where I illustrate this idea]. It is rather the concept of a human personality voluntarily surrendered to the domination the Holy Spirit. … The Spirit’s control is not automatic but voluntarily and constantly conceded. 

“The fullness of the Spirit does not obliterate personality, as does hypnotism. In fact, the person who is filled with the Spirit only then realizes and discovers his true personality. It is not obliterated but released. We will never know the possibility of our redeemed personality until we definitely yield ourselves in full and undeserved surrender to His control. … 

“Paul’s personality was not obliterated by [Christ’s] indwelling. ‘I live,’ he said, ‘yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ He did not become any the less Paul because he was indwelt by Christ. Indeed, he became more and more the Paul God intended him to be; the ideal Paul who was a chosen vessel to the Lord. We need not fear the fullest surrender to Christ, for He enhances and ennobles personality. He imports qualities which are absent and brings into activity powers and possibility which were latent. He became a different Paul, but a greater and better Paul. Apart from the indwelling and mastery of Christ, the world would probably have heard little of him. Instead his influence has been one of the dominating features of the last two millennia.” —J. Oswald Sanders, in Cultivation of Christian Character (emphasis mine) 

If you would like to review some of the thoughts I have already shared in this current series, please click here and scroll down to the list of posts listed on that page.

A Graphical Look At Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2:11-21

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the Cross, by which He put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone.21 In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.

 

The Holy Spirit Keeps Christians “Oscar Mike”

Military squads dispatched to achieve an objective will receive a briefing, be given the resources they need to complete the mission, and then they will launch out to complete the task. They will report back to HQ: “We are Oscar Mike”—which means “we are on the move” or “we are on mission.”  

Jesus was always Oscar Mike while He was on earth, and He has also called His followers to remain Oscar Mike with the objective He has given us. 

Christians need to remember that our mission isn’t a destination and it’s not a one-time accomplishment. Without the Holy Spirit’s help, this is a difficult concept to keep in mind. 

Jesus told His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, which they probably interpreted as the place where He would say, “Mission accomplished.” They were thinking in terms of Jesus reestablishing Israel as God’s HQ. So we can understand how baffled they were when Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him, insult Him and spit on Him; they will flog Him and kill Him.” In fact, Luke records, “The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what He was talking about.” 

They obviously became more confused when a blind beggar stopped Jesus, and when Jesus stopped to eat at the house of a notorious tax collector. Jesus sensed their misunderstanding so “He went on to tell them a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” 

Christ’s parable challenged His followers to stay Oscar Mike. He explained how they were to keep on investing in people. This is exactly what Jesus was doing: using the proper verb tenses, Jesus explained that “the Son of Man came to keep on seeking and to keep on saving the lost”(see Luke 18:31-19:13).

Don’t get so focused on the destination that you lose sight of the mission. 

Earth is not the Christian’s home. We are just passing through and we must remain Oscar Mike as we do. 

Jesus said that being baptized in the Holy Spirit would help us stay Oscar Mike because the Holy Spirit will give us…

  1. … vital information  
  2. … ongoing communication
  3. … real-life application of God’s Word to our circumstances

(check out John 16:12-13; 1 Corinthians 2:10, 16; Isaiah 30:21; Romans 8:26-27; Acts 10:9-15, 28; 15:28)

If Jesus was so reliant on the Holy Spirit while He was on earth, what would make us think that we should be any less reliant?

You and I need the Holy Spirit! 

Stay on mission until God calls you home. Then you can say with the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn what it means to be a Pentecostal Christian. 

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!

10 Quotes From “Coronavirus And Christ”

John Piper has given us a book that is so spot-on timely for this unusual time we are going through. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“I am a sinner. I have never lived a day of my life—not one—without falling short of God’s standards of love and holiness. So how can this be? How can God say, ‘You, John Piper, will be with Me—live or die’ [1 Thessalonians 5:9-10]? God didn’t even wait for the question before He answered. It’s because of Jesus.” 

“To be God is to cause His own counsel to stand—always. God does not just declare which future events will happen; He makes them happen. He speaks His word, and then He adds, ‘I am watching over My word to perform it’ (Jeremiah 1:12).” 

“Jesus expresses the sweetness of God’s sovereignty for His disciples as beautifully as anyone: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows’ (Matthew 10: 29–31). Not one sparrow falls but by God’s plan. Not one virus moves but by God’s plan. This is meticulous sovereignty. And what does Jesus say next? Three things: you are of more value than many sparrows; the hairs of your head are all numbered; fear not.” 

“Christians get swept away in tsunamis. Christians are killed in terrorist attacks. Christians get the coronavirus. The difference for Christians—those who embrace Christ as their supreme treasure—is that our experience of this corruption is not condemnation.” 

“God put the physical world under a curse so that the physical horrors we see around us in disease and calamities would become a vivid picture of how horrible sin is. In other words, physical evil is a parable, a drama, a signpost pointing to the moral outrage of rebellion against God.” 

Physical pain is God’s trumpet blast to tell us that something is dreadfully wrong in the world. Disease and deformity are God’s pictures in the physical realm of what sin is like in the spiritual realm.” 

“Jesus wants us to see the birth pains (including the coronavirus) as reminders and alerts that He is coming and that we need to be ready [Matthew 24:44].” 

“What God is doing in the coronavirus is showing us—graphically, painfully—that nothing in this world gives the security and satisfaction that we find in the infinite greatness and worth of Jesus.” 

“Paul does not view this experience of desperation as satanic or random [2 Corinthians 1:8-9]. It is purposeful. And God is the One whose purpose is mentioned: this life-threatening experience ‘was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.’” 

“Jesus taught His followers to ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16). What is often not noticed is that being the salt of the earth and the light of the world in this way was the more salty and the more bright because the good deeds were to be done even in the midst of suffering. …

“It is nor mere good deeds that give Christianity its tang and luster. It is good deeds in spite of danger.”

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