Thursdays With Spurgeon—Keep Moving Forward

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.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Keep Moving Forward  

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

     God does not say to us, ‘This is the way,’ and then stop. He says, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ We are always to be making advances. We are to be going from faith in its beginnings to faith in its perfections, from faith to assurance, from assurance to full assurance. And from there, we are to go to the full assurance of hope to the full assurance of understanding, always forward, waxing stronger and stronger. …  

     The Christian’s motto is ‘Upward and onward.’ Not as though he has already obtained, either is already perfect, he presses forward to the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus. …  

     Can you perform the common activities of the household and the daily duties that fall to your lot in the spirit of faith? This is what the apostle means. He does not speak about running or jumping or fighting, but about walking—and he means to tell you that the ordinary life of a Christian is different from the life of another man—that he has learned to introduce faith into everything he does. 

From Faith Versus Sight

I have a t-shirt that says on the front, “Keep moving forward.” But the back of the t-shirt has the real-life challenge: “Crawling is acceptable. Falling is acceptable. Puking is acceptable. Crying is acceptable. Pain is acceptable. Quitting is not!” 

How true! 

I think the problem for many Christians is that they have an unrealistic expectation of growth. Somehow we’ve come to believe that our Christian growth is a constant upward trajectory to maturity, and that if there are ever any stumbles along the way, that means we’ve blown it. (By the way, Oswald Chambers has some helpful thoughts on our stair-step growth.)

But Paul tells us, “We walk”: We keep moving forward. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times of stumbling, or a plateau, or even a pause to catch our breath. Paul tells us that an important aspect of our walk is that we forget what’s behind us and we keep moving forward—keep walking—keep going. 

Every single day, let us say along with Paul, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14 NLT). 

My friend, keep moving forward in faith, believing that the Holy Spirit is with you—maturing you, strengthening you—on every single step on your Christian walk.

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Jesus On Trial (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I love studying Christian apologetics and learning how to explain to skeptics and seekers the eternal value in the Bible as it points me to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. David Limbaugh has given apologetics a new slant in his book Jesus On Trial.

Mr. Limbaugh uses his personal story from a childhood church attendee, to a skeptic of Christianity, to a reluctant seeker of the truth, and finally to a vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus. But he also lets us see how he examined the evidence for the truth claims of the Bible through the eyes of a trained lawyer. 

Throughout this book you will discover legalese terms like rules of evidence, items of probative value, rules of logic, and expert testimony. Each chapter feels like another witness Mr. Limbaugh has called to testify, or another piece of evidence that needs to be weighed and evaluated, and we the readers are empaneled as the jury deciding the case. As witness after witness takes the stand, as more evidence piles up, and as Mr. Limbaugh delivers his closing argument, the preponderance of evidence seems to make an airtight case of the truth claims in the Bible. 

Whether you are looking for answers or hunting for evidence to use in discussions with your friends, Jesus On Trial is a reference book to which I believe you will repeatedly return. 

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10 Quotes From “Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

For any students of American history or of the role the Bible has played in affecting world affairs, Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers is an eye-opening book. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. Unless otherwise noted, quotes are from author Daniel Dreisbach. 

“Following an extensive survey of American political literature from 1760 to 1805, political scientist Donald S. Lutz reported that the Bible was referenced more frequently than any European writer or even any European school of thought, such as the Enlightenment or Whig intellectual traditions. Indeed, the Bible accounted for about one-third of all citations in his sample. According to Lutz, ‘Deuteronomy is the most frequently cited book, followed by Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws.’ … Saint Paul is cited about as frequently as Montesquieu and [William] Blackstone, the two most-cited secular authors, and Deuteronomy is cited almost twice as often as all of [John] Locke’s writings put together.”

“The founders often quoted the Bible without the use of quotation marks or citations, which were not necessary for a biblically literate society but the absence of which fail to alert a biblically illiterate modern audience to the Bible’s invocation.” 

“Increasing unfamiliarity with the Bible makes it harder and harder for Americans to understand their origins and their mores, or to put words to their experiences. … Lacking knowledge of the Bible, Americans are likely to be literally inarticulate, unable to relate themselves to American life and culture as a whole.” —Wilson Carey McWilliams

“Knowledge of the Bible and its place in the American experience, in short, helps Americans better understand themselves and their history.” 

“In regard to this Great Book [the Bible], I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.” —Abraham Lincoln 

“[T]he Bible has had a literary influence not because it has been considered as literature, but because it has been considered as the report of the Word of God.” —T.S. Eliot 

“[William] Tyndale, who was the first to translate the Bible into English from the original Hebrew and Greek, can be rightly called the father of the King James Bible. Approximately ‘eighty percent of his Old Testament and ninety percent of his New Testament’ were adopted by the King James translators. …  

“There is much truth in the remark that ‘without Tyndale, no Shakespeare.’ It is also true that ‘without Tyndale, no King James Bible.’ ‘Without the King James Bible,’ Alister McGrath observed, ‘there would have been no Paradise Lost, no Pilgrim’s Progress, no Handel’s Messiah, no Negro spirituals, and no Gettysburg Address. … Without this Bible, the culture of the English-speaking world would have been immeasurably impoverished.’” 

“The size of the vocabulary found in the King James Bible is not extensive. [William] Shakespeare, it is estimated, used between fifteen and twenty thousand different words. Milton’s verse draws on a lexicon of about thirteen thousand words. The Old Testament, in the Hebrew and Aramaic, has approximately fifty-six hundred words. The New Testament, in the Greek, has around forty-eight hundred words. In the entire King James Bible, by contrast, there are only about six thousand different words, according to one accounting.” 

“The opinion that human reason, left without the constant control of divine laws and commands, will preserve a just administration, secure freedom and other rights, restrain men from violations of laws and constitutions, and give duration to a popular government, is as chimerical as the most extravagant ideas that enter the head of a maniac. … Where will you find any code of laws, among civilized men, in which the commands and prohibitions are not founded on Christian principles? I need not specify the prohibition of murder, robbery, theft, [and] trespass. … Every wise code of laws must embrace the main principles of the religion of Christ.” —John Adams 

“Moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. These principles and precepts have truth, immutable truth, for their foundation; and they are adapted to the wants of men in every condition of life. They are the best principles and precepts, because they are exactly adapted to secure the practice of universal justice and kindness among men; and of course to prevent crimes, war and disorders in society. No human laws dictated by different principles from those in the gospel, can ever secure these objects. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. … For instruction then in social, religious and civil duties resort to the scriptures for the best precepts and most excellent examples of imitation.” —Noah Webster

Simple Christianity

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

What does it mean to be a Christian? Or maybe I should ask it this way: what do Christians do to show that they are indeed a Christian?

Lots of people have come up with must-do and must-not-do lists, but is this the way Jesus lived? 

I love the simple summary of the life of Jesus that Peter gave: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Jesus was so overflowing with love and the Holy Spirit that He couldn’t help but make a difference wherever He went. 

It’s simple, but not easy. Look at how people lashed out at Jesus even while He was healing, teaching, loving, and forgiving. 

Or what about the simple description Jesus gave of an activity that brought applause from our Master: “You saw someone who was hungry and you fed him” (see Matthew 25:34-40). 

Simple, but not easy. Look at the logistical challenges in buying food, preparing it, and getting it to those who are indeed hungry. 

The churches of the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association are trying to live out this simple Christianity through a program called Hand2Hand. Nearly half of the students in our school district are eligible for free or reduced meals, which means they are having breakfast and lunch provided to them at school Monday through Friday. 

That also means that they are in need of food on the weekends. This is where Hand2Hand steps in. We provide healthy breakfast, snack, and dinner items for these students to eat during the weekend. 

It’s simple, but it’s not easy. 

We need lots of help—from food and financial donations, to shoppers, to shelf stockers, to small teams who prepare breakfast and snack packs, to larger teams who assemble the whole weekend’s supply, to those who deliver the food to the school buildings. There are so many places to get involved. 

If you live in West Michigan, would you please help us? We have set up a separate website to keep people updated on current food needs and volunteer opportunities. We also have a link for online financial gifts. If you would like to make a recurring donation, just $20 per month will provide healthy food for a student for the whole month. Whatever you can do with your time or financial support will be a blessing to so many! 

Let’s take advantage of this simple way to show the love of Jesus to these families in our community.

The Circle Of Love And Hate

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Oh, how I love Your law! … Therefore I hate every wrong path (Psalm 119:97, 104). 

These bookend verses of the section called Mem form the conclusion of a logical argument, and in between are each step of the progression. Notice the word “for” (in vv. 98, 99, 100, and 102) and the words “so that” in v. 101. 

This progression forms a circle from love to hate, and back to love again. Check this out—

I love Your law so I meditate on it all day. 

Meditating on Your law makes me wiser than my enemies and my teachers. 

This wisdom helps me obey Your laws. 

Obedience keeps me on the right path. 

I stay on the right path because You Yourself teach me while I’m on that path. 

Because You are my Teacher, Your laws are sweet to me. 

Because Your laws are sweet, I hate anything contrary to Your laws. 

Hating everything that is not found in Your law helps me love Your law even more. 

[Back to the top] Since I love Your law, I keep on meditating on it all day. 

Far too often I believe Christians are known more for what they’re against than what they’re for. The author of Psalm 119 urges us over and over and over again to not only fall in love with God’s Word but to fall more deeply in love with the God revealed in His Word. When we are brimming full of love for God, we cannot help but show the world what we are for, and that is for everyone to have a personal relationship with this loving God for themselves. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Blessed To Be A Blessing

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.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Blessed To Be A Blessing

I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. (Ezekiel 34:26) 

     There are two things here spoken of. First, Christ’s church is to be a blessing. Second, Christ’s church is to be blessed. …  

     When God chooses any men by His sovereign electing grace and makes them Christ’s, He does it not only for their own sake, that they may be saved, but also for the world’s sake. Know you not that ‘you are the salt of the earth.… You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden’ (Matthew 5:13-14)? … Salvation is not a selfish thing. God does not give it for us to keep to ourselves, but that we may thereby be made the means of blessing to others. …  

     But there is constraint here. ‘I will make them a blessing.’ I will give them to be a blessing. I will constrain them to be a blessing. … And so it is with God’s people. As they go through their lives, wherever they have been made a blessing, they will find that God seems to have thrust them into the vineyard. …  

     God never makes useless things. He has no superfluous workmanship. I care not what you are. You have something to do. Oh, may God show you what it is and then make you do it, by the wondrous compulsion of His providence and His grace. … 

     I hope we will never be satisfied, as members of Park Street, until we are a blessing not only to ourselves but also to the places all around our hill.

From The Church Of Christ

The Church is made up of many members—every member is needed for the Church to be the Church. Let me be more specific: God has placed YOU in Christ’s Church on purpose. You have been gifted and blessed by God so that you can be a blessing to others. 

You have purpose. You have been made on purpose and for a purpose. That purpose, according to God’s own word, is to shine brightly that others can receive God’s love into their own hearts. 

I pray that each and every one of us can insert our own names or our own church name into the prayer Spurgeon offered for his congregation: “I hope we will never be satisfied, as members of [my family, my church, my school, my community], until we are a blessing not only to ourselves but also to the places all around our hill.” Amen, Pastor Spurgeon, Amen!

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Unity Not Uniformity

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.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Unity Not Uniformity

And the glory that You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are One: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (Jesus, in John 17:22-23)

     Beloved, those in whom Christ lives are not uniform, but one. …  

     As I have remarked, it is not uniformity. Of this our Lord says nothing. Though we are one body in Him, yet all the members have not the same office. The eye is very different from the ear, and the foot has not the same form as the hand. Neither does He speak of any formal organization by which unity is to be secured. How many have tried to create a mechanical union and have made confusion worse confusion! Their eagerness for unity has threatened to dash everything to shivers! The very first step toward a visible unity of the church is, with most men, that they will fix a standard of what the church ought to be and cut off everybody who will not conform to their idea! …  

     Christ lives in His people, and we are to act so, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that onlookers will say, ‘Surely Christ lives again in that man, for he acts out the precepts of Jesus. Did you notice how he bore the insult? Did you notice how he laid himself out to oblige and to serve? Did you observe how, without introducing religious talk, he gradually steered the conversation toward that which is to edification?’ …

     Brothers and sisters, if you and I are living for the same design that our Lord lived for, and if the very life that quickens us is the life of Jesus, then, since Jesus lives always for the same thing that God proposes and works out, surely there is a grand unity, the likes of which are not found in the universe! … 

     ‘That the world may know that You have sent Me.’ How will they know it? Why, when they see such characters as I have so feebly tried to paint! When they see men who are no longer selfish, hard, and ungenerous—when they see men no longer governed by their passions, no longer earthbound—when they see loving men, men who desire that which is holy, just, and good! When they see men living for God, the world will say, ‘Their Master must have been sent of God.’

From The Glory, Unity, And Triumph Of The Church

Several years ago I was meeting with a group of pastors from various denominations. Although the meeting was friendly, I still sensed some “walls” between us. At one point I asked, “By a quick show of a raised hand, how many of us believe that salvation from the penalty of our sin comes only through the work that Jesus did for us on the Cross?” Every pastor in the room raised a hand. “Great,” I said, “let’s just focus on that!” 

Some Christians are Calvinist, and some are Arminian; some take Communion one way, and some another way; some are charismatic, and some more liturgical; some baptize one way, and some baptize differently. Jesus wasn’t looking for uniformity, but He did pray for unity. 

We can all be unified around the love of Christ, and the unity of the family of Christ. 

If we will set aside the petty denominational differences and simply love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, we will present a witness for Him that is unmistakable and irrefutable! We need each other to bring out the saintliness in all of us. When the world sees this vibrant saintliness—regardless of which church those saints attend on Sundays—it will capture their attention and draw them to Jesus. 

Charles Spurgeon concluded the sermon I just quoted from with a prayer, to which I sincerely hope all of us Christians can add our own Amen: “Oh, for grace so to live to God in Christ Jesus that the world will never be able to answer the argument of our lives! Help us, O Spirit of the Lord! Amen.”

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The “Ologies”

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…God has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have wrought salvation for Him (Psalm 98:1 AMP). 

I like The Message paraphrase of this verse too: “Sing to God a brand-new song. He’s made a world of wonders! He rolled up His sleeves, He set things right! 

This psalmist happily extols all of the ways God the Creator has revealed Himself to mankind:

  • He has done marvelous things
  • the Lord has made His salvation known
  • He has revealed His righteousness to the nations
  • the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God
  • let the sea resound, and everything in it
  • let the world praise, and all who live in it
  • let the rivers clap their hands
  • let the mountains sing together for joy

This tells me how fitting it is for us to use all of the sciences—every “ology” to declare God’s greatness: biology, astronomy, cosmology, chemistry, psychology, anthropology, and even theology. All observations point to the glory of God. 

C.S. Lewis wrote, 

“If I swallow the scientific cosmology as a whole (that excludes a rational, personal God), then not only can I not fit in Christianity, but I cannot even fit in science. If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees. And this is to me the final test. … Christian theology can fit in science, art, morality, and the sub-Christian religions. The scientific point of view cannot fit in any of these things, not even science itself. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” 

The apostle Paul agreed with this psalmist, telling us that creation itself is enough proof that there is a God. But God went further: He gave us His word, He gave us prophets to remind us of His word, and ultimately, He sent His Son Jesus to earth. Paul concluded that “men are without excuse—altogether without any defense or justification” for refusing to believe in God. 

Don’t ever buy into the lie that science and Christianity are incompatible. All of the discoveries of science point to a Creator. We use all of these “ologies” because we never know which one may eventually get someone’s attention. 

Famed scientist Sir Isaac Newton noted, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.” 

Let’s join our minds, our hearts, and our voices in declaring the greatness of our Creator at every opportunity we have! 

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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. We can experience an anointing and an empowering in our lives that turns ordinary Christianity into extraordinary Christianity! 

Please join me this Sunday as we rejoin this series. You can check out what I taught in this series in 2019 by clicking here, and the topics I covered in 2020 are on this list.

Check out the messages in the 2021 series:

How Christianity Changed The World (book review)

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Alvin Schmidt claims, “No other religion, philosophy, teaching, nation, movement—whatever—has so changed the world for the better as Christianity has done.” And I quite believe him. He lays out the evidence to back up this bold claim in his book How Christianity Changed The World. 

A few years ago I presented a series of messages to make the case for the resurrection of Jesus. One of the pieces of evidence I presented was the cultural engagement of Christians whose lives had been transformed by a personal relationship with the resurrected Jesus Christ. Alvin Schmidt’s book is like taking this single point of mine and putting it on steroids! 

Using the reports of first-person observers from the first century all the way through present day, Mr. Schmidt shows how there is not a single part of the culture that hasn’t benefitted from the involvement of those who live out the Christian principles they have discovered in the Bible. From the care of the sick and elderly, to the elevation of women and marriage, to art, and architecture, and music, and medicine, and science, and education—every sphere of life has been improved by practicing Christians. 

I would highly recommend reading this book and then keeping it close at hand to share with those ignorant or skeptical of the claims of Christianity. As William Barclay noted, “Anyone who asks the question, ‘What has Christianity done for the world?’ has delivered himself into a Christian debater’s hands. There is nothing in history so unanswerably demonstrable as the transforming power of Christianity and of Christ on the individual life and on the life of society.” To that, I add a hearty Amen! 

Please get a copy of How Christianity Changed The World for your library. 

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