To The Work! (book review)

Dwight Moody wasn’t a trained theologian nor a polished orator. He was a former shoe salesman-turned-preacher who spoke the common language of his parishioners. To The Work: Exhortations to Christians perfectly captures his voice and style. 

The definition of exhortation means to persuade, inspire, or encourage, but it usually carries the idea that those things are being delivered with some urgency. Perhaps the one being exhorted is moving too slowly, or too recklessly, or too immaturely. The exhortation is intended to get their attention and get them back on track. 

This book is a collection of addresses to folks in the church. Moody exhorts them to get to the work of telling others about Jesus. In address after address, he dismantles all the excuses folks have used through the years. Things like: I’m not skilled, I am afraid, I don’t know very many people, why would anyone listen to me, is my life even making a difference? Moody’s exhortation is consistent: You are empowered and commanded by Jesus to get to the work! 

This is an excellent book to use as a means of encouraging both yourself and fellow Christians to fully embrace the mandate that Jesus gave to all of us: Go into ALL the world and preach the Gospel! 

Book Reviews From 2020

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.” 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Not Carried Away

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.

Not Carried Away

He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14-15) 

     [The Holy Spirit] does not aim at any originality. … The Spirit takes of the things of Christ and of nothing else. Do not let us strain at anything new. The Holy Spirit could deal with anything in heaven above or in the earth beneath—the story of the ages past, the story of the ages to come, the inward secrets of the earth, the evolution of all things, if there is an evolution. He could do it all! Like the Master, He could handle any topic He chose, but He confines Himself to the things of Christ and therein finds unutterable liberty and boundless freedom. …  

     When, therefore, anybody whispers in my ear that there has been revealed to him this or that, which I do not find in the teaching of Christ and His apostles, I tell him that we must be taught by the Holy Spirit. … If we do not remember this, we may be carried away by quirks, as many have been.

From Honey In My Mouth

How many arguments have devastated people, how many friendships have been lost, how many churches have split because of a clinging to doctrines which aren’t found in the Bible?! How this must break our Father’s heart! 

Quite simply put: we argue and take sides over things on which the Word of God makes no distinction. Oh, foolish pride! 

The Holy Spirit never reveals a unique or private or exclusive word to anyone. He only makes clear what has already been revealed in the Word of God. Does that mean we cannot have an opinion on something? Of course not!

But love for Christ and for His Bride means that my opinions must never become my doctrines. 

Holy Spirit, help me to listen to Your voice alone as You illuminate what has already been inspired. Jesus, may Your love for the Church be my love for the Church. Root out this accursed pride in my heart that makes me fight for my opinions. Father, may You be glorified in Your Church as we are unified around Your revealed truth.

Jesus Says

Jesus says, “I will… 

…make you fishers of men” (Matthew 7:23; Mark 1:17) 

…acknowledge in Heaven those who acknowledge Me on earth” (Matthew 10:32-33) 

…give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) 

…build My church” (Matthew 16:18) 

…give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 16:19) 

…show you whom you should fear” (Luke 12:5) 

…drive out demons and heal people” (Luke 13:32) 

…never drive away those who come to Me” (John 6:37) 

…give My life for your life” (John 6:51) 

…rise again from the dead” (Matthew 27:63; Mark 14:28; John 2:19) 

…raise up believers to eternal life” (John 6:40, 44, 54) 

…come back to take you to be with Me forever” (John 14:3) 

…do whatever you ask in My name” (John 14:13, 14; 16:28) 

…not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18) 

…ask the Father to give you an Advocate” (John 14:18) 

…give you words and wisdom that are irresistible” (Luke 21:15) 

…see you again and give you eternal joy” (John 16:22)

Oh, what a Savior!

Poetry Saturday—Brothers And Sisters The Same

Look around at the sign of the times,
churches are closing their doors.
Is it because God has left them
or because of internal wars?

There‘s people trying to find the Savior
but they don’t know where to go.
One says, “This church is a good one,”
another says, “No, it ain’t so.”

What happens when the doors lock?
What happens to the lost soul?
Is this what Jesus was all about?
Was fancy carpet His real goal?

Does anyone know where God truly is?
Did He tell you while deep in prayer?
Does He need stained glass windows
for Him to be present there?

If Jesus Himself came to your church
do you think that they’d let Him in?
Or would they say, “That‘s outrageous,
the people He’s with commit sin!”

Do you think that you’ve overcome,
that you‘re a sinner no more?
If that’s what you think, I’m sorry,
Jesus has something for you in store.

We all are sinners each and everyone.
None of us are innocent and pure;
if you think that you are different,
I don’t think that you are so sure.

So before you go pointing your finger,
before you go laying the blame,
remember what it says in the Bible:
we are brothers and sisters the same. —Barney Fritcher

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!

8 Quotes From “Warnings To The Churches”

This hard-hitting, no-pulled-punches book is directed primarily at pastors and other church leaders. However, I think anyone who loves Christ and His Bride will find much to ponder in Warnings To The Churches by J.C. Ryle. You can read my full book review by clicking here. 

“Go forward, beloved brethren, and fear not the adversary. Only abide in Christ and the victory is sure. Marvel not at the hatred of the gates of hell. ‘If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own’ [John 15:19]. So long as the world is the world, and the devil is the devil, there must be warfare, and believers in Christ must be soldiers! The world hated Christ, and the world will hate true Christians as long as the earth stands. As the great reformer, [Martin] Luther, said, ‘Cain will go on murdering Abel so long as the Church is on earth.’” 

“He who cannot lie has pledged His royal word that all the powers of hell shall never overthrow His Church. It shall continue, and stand, in spite of every assault. It shall never be overcome.” 

“Weak as this true Church may appear to the eye of man, it is an anvil which has broken many a hammer in times past, and perhaps will break many more before the end. He who lays hands on it is touching the apple of God’s eye!” 

“We corrupt the Word of God most dangerously when we throw any doubt on the absolute inspiration of any part of Holy Scripture.” 

“We corrupt the Word of God when we make defective statements as doctrines. We do so when we add to the Bible the opinions of the Church or of the Church Fathers, as if they were of equal authority. We do so when we take away from the Bible for the sake of pleasing men. We do so when from a feeling of false liberality, keep back any statement which seems narrow, or harsh, or hard. We do so when we try to soften down anything that is taught about eternal punishment or the reality of hell. We do so when we bring forward doctrines in their wrong proportions.” 

“May we never care what men say of us so long as we walk in the light of God’s Word! May we strive and pray to be wholly independent of, and indifferent to, man’s opinion, so long as we please God!” 

“Chosen as believers are by God the Father, justified as they are by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, sanctified as they are by the Holy Spirit, believers are still only men—they are still in the body and still in the world. They are ever near temptation. They are ever liable to misjudge, both in doctrine and in practice. Their hearts, though renewed, are very feeble; their understanding, though enlightened, is still very dim. They ought to live like those who dwell in an enemy’s land, and every day to put on the armor of God. The devil is very busy: he never slumbers or sleeps.” 

“Like the fruit of which Eve and Adam ate, at first sight it looks pleasant and good, and a thing to be desired. ‘Poison’ is not written up on it and so people are not afraid. Like counterfeit coin it is not stamped ‘bad.’ It passes for the real thing, because of the very likeness it bears to the truth. Let us be on our guard against the very small beginnings of false doctrine.” 

Warnings To The Churches (book review)

J.C. Ryle died in 1900, placing his writings two centuries before our own. And yet his Warnings To The Churches sound an alarm that is just as relevant to the Church and her leaders as if it were written last week! 

Bishop Ryle spoke and wrote with an authority that sounded much like the Old Testament prophets thundering, “Thus saith the Lord!” And at the same time, you can also hear his ardent love for Christ’s Bride as tenderly as the beloved disciple John, who called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Taken together, that means Ryle’s words are steeped in authoritative, loving Scripture. 

He pulls no punches in pointing out how even Church leaders have bought into a definition of “church” that doesn’t quite line up with the way Jesus defined it. He reminds pastors of their heavy responsibility to preach the Word of God in all its purity. Just like Jesus, Ryle warns church leaders of the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And he calls for loving confrontation of those leaders who have succumbed to the “leaven” just as Paul confronted Peter. 

This is a challenging book to read simply because of the gut-level honest introspection that it will require. I certainly couldn’t read through this book thinking I’ve got my act together, and I doubt few others will be able to either. If you are a church leader and you would like Ryle’s iron to sharpen your iron, Warnings To The Churches is a definite must-read for you.

Proper Correction

…to the church of the Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:1). 

This short letter from the apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica is a masterpiece on how to correctly correct fellow Christian brothers and sisters. 

The entire letter follows this pattern: 3 Cs surrounded by prayer—

  1. Compliment
  2. Prayer
  3. Clarify
  4. Prayer
  5. Correct
  6. Prayer

(And then repeat, if necessary.) 

Compliment and encouragement—“We are bound to thank God always for you…because your faith grows exceedingly” (1:3). Paul complimented their love for each other, their patience and endurance in persecution, and their future glorification. He encouraged them that Jesus IS coming, and He will deal with their persecutors and take the righteous into glory with Him (1:3-10). 

Prayer—And then he prays for them to be equipped to endure to the end and finish well (1:11-12). 

Clarify misunderstandings—“Let no one deceive you by any means” (2:3). Paul reminds them of what he taught them about the end times and the Second Coming of Christ, clarifying that watchful Christians will by no means miss out on the signs (2:1-12). 

Prayer—Paul again praises their acceptance of the gospel and launches into another prayer for them to finish well (2:13-3:5). 

Correct errors of understanding—“But we command you” (3:6). There were those who were departing from the faith, growing slack in their work ethic, being disorderly, and meddling as busybodies. Paul said, “We command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ” that you knock it off! He even told the church to “not keep company” with such people (3:6-15). 

Prayer—Finally, Paul closes with a prayer for God’s peace to be with his brothers and sisters (3:16-18). 

This is such a masterful pattern for all of us in church ministry to follow! 

If you are in a leadership role, I hope your ongoing prayer would be the same as mine: “Holy Spirit, in all my interactions with my fellow saints, remind me of this godly, practical plan for confrontation, and help me to live it out for God’s glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.” 

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