Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Christian’s Waiting Activity

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.

A Christian’s Waiting Activity

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)

     Despisers tell us nowadays, ‘Your cause is done for! Christianity is spun out! Your divine Christ is gone! We have not seen a trace of His miracle-working hands, nor of that voice that no man could rival.’ Here is our answer: We are not standing gazing up into heaven. We are not paralyzed because Jesus is away. He lives, the great Redeemer lives, and though it is our delight to lift up our eyes because we expect His coming, it is equally our delight to turn our heavenly gazing into an earthward watching and to go down into the city and there to tell that Jesus is risen, that men are to be saved by faith in Him, and that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life! We are not defeated! Far from it—His ascension is not a retreat, but an advance! His tarrying is not for lack of power, but because of the abundance of His long-suffering. …  

     It is clear that He has not quit the fight nor deserted the field of battle. Our great Captain is still heading the conflict! He has ridden into another part of the field, but He will be back again, perhaps in the twinkling of an eye [Revelation 22:12; Matthew 25:21]. … 

     Brothers and sisters, do not let anybody spiritualize away all this from you! Jesus is coming as a matter of fact—therefore go down to your sphere of service as a matter of fact. Get to work and teach the ignorant, win the wayward, instruct the children, and everywhere proclaim the sweet name of Jesus! … Jesus is not coming in a sort of mythical, misty, hazy way. He is literally and actually coming—and He will literally and actually call upon you to give an account of your stewardship. Therefore now, today, literally not symbolically, personally and not by deputy, go out through that portion of the world that you can reach and preach the gospel to every creature according as you have opportunity, for this is what the men in white apparel meant—be ready to meet your coming Lord. … 

     If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness! 

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was about His Father’s business the whole time He was on earth. As He ascended to heaven, He promised us His authority and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit so we too could be about our Father’s business. 

In one of His parables about stewarding our Master’s gifts and resources until He returned, Jesus said, “Occupy until I return” (Luke 19:13). I love Spurgeon’s remind: “If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness!” 

Yes, we are waiting for Jesus to return, but our waiting is an active waiting. With one eye toward the heavens and one eye toward earth, we actively tell others about our soon returning King. Occupy! Stay active! Stay alert! Meet Him with joy! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—When A Natural Action Becomes A Disobedient Inaction

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.

When A Natural Action Becomes A Disobedient Inaction

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)

     Hearts are not to be argued with. Sometimes you stand by the grave where one is buried whom you dearly loved—you go there often to weep. You cannot help it; the place is precious to you, yet you could not prove that you do any good by your visits. Perhaps you even injure yourself thereby and deserve to be gently chided with the question, ‘Why?’ It may be the most natural thing in the world, and yet it may not be a wise thing. The Lord allows us to do that which is innocently natural, but He will not have us carry it too far, for then it might foster an evil nature. Therefore He sends an interrupting messenger…. 

     Notice, then, that the apostles were doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural, but that it is very easy to carry the apparently right and the absolutely natural too far. Let us take heed to ourselves and often ask our hearts, ‘Why?’ … We may, under the influence of great love, act unwisely. … The apostles would be wise to cease gazing, for nobody would be benefited by it, and they would not themselves be blessed. … 

     If you have a command from God to do a certain thing, you need not inquire into the reason of the command. It is disobedient to begin to canvas God’s will. But when there is no precept whatever, why persevere in an act that evidently does not promise to bring any blessing?

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Faith requires action (see James 2:14-26). Feelings may keep us inactive, or at the very least may make us feel active because we are “doing that which seemed to be right and what was evidently very natural.” 

Our natural emotional response may keep us inactive from the thing God has commanded us to do. In the case of these apostles, Jesus commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but wait there for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Their standing and gazing—though it seemed right and natural at first—was bordering on disobedience through omission. So God sent angels to ask, “Why are you still doing this? What will your continual gazing ultimately accomplish?” 

God still speaks those words to us today. Sometimes it’s through the prompting of the Holy Spirit and sometimes it’s through the loving voice of a friend: “What are you doing? This may have been right at first, but now it is keeping you inactive.” There is so much God wants to do through your life, but He cannot do it while you are standing still and gazing.

 

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!

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!

8 Quotes From Gordon MacDonald In “Ordering Your Private World”

In the quiet solitude of our inner lives is where real growth takes place. Or said another way: if we won’t make time to order our private world, our public world will be limited in its scope and effectiveness. Gordon MacDonald unpacks some fantastic principles to help us in his newly updated and expanded book Ordering Your Private World. Check out my full book review by clicking here, and then enjoy these quote from Gordon MacDonald.

“There is a busyness that reflects a plan of activity, a pattern of priorities, and a sense of purposefulness. It is a good and satisfying busyness through which one grows and increases competence. But there is also a busyness (a destructive busyness, actually) that reflects a chaotic way of life—a way of doing in which one is simply responding to the next thing in the day. The next thing! It makes no difference whether it has significance; it’s just the next thing, and one does it because it’s there to do.”

“A soul—our spiritual space—is empty when one tries to do soul-based things but makes little or no effort to keep that soul filled.”

“Driven people boast of their drivenness. They have forgotten how to play. Spiritual activity seems a waste of time. They are usually too busy for the pursuit of ordinary relationships in marriage, family, or friendship, or even to carry on a relationship with themselves—not to speak of one with God. Because driven people rarely think they have accomplished enough, they seize every available minute to attend more meetings, to study more material, to initiate more projects. They operate on the precept that a reputation for busyness is a sign of success and personal importance. Thus, they attempt to impress people with the fullness of their schedules.”

“Our careers, our assets, our natural and spiritual gifts, our health—are these things owned, or merely managed in the name of the One who gave them? Driven people consider them owned; called people do not. When driven people lose those things, it is a major crisis. When called people lose them, nothing of substance changes. The private world remains the same, perhaps even stronger.”

“It is worth taking time to ask how Our Lord’s command of time is demonstrated. … The first thing that impresses me is that Jesus clearly understood His mission. … A second insight into Jesus’ personal organization of time is that He understood His own limits. … Jesus included a third important element in His strategy of time budgeting, for He set time aside for the training of the Twelve.”

“Unmanaged time flows toward my weaknesses. Unmanaged time comes under the influence of dominant people in my world. Unmanaged time surrenders to the demands of all emergencies. Unmanaged time gets invested in things that gain public acclamation.”

“The unthinking Christ-follower does not realize it, but he is dangerously absorbed into the culture about him. Because his mind is untrained and unfilled, it lacks the ability to produce the hard questions with which the world needs to be challenged. The private world of a Christ-follower will be weak, defenseless, and disorganized if serious attention has not been given to this sector of intellectual growth.”

“We do not develop our intellects merely for our own personal advancement, but we put our thinking power to work for the use of others. … As my mind grows, it may make possible the growth of others.”

10 Quotes From “The Servant As His Lord”

Whenever I read an Oswald Chambers’ book, I know I’m going to get exceptional content that is really going to make me think. The Servant As His Lord lived up to my expectations! I have shared several passages from this book already in my weekly “Thursdays With Oswald” posts (more about that in a moment), but here are a few more quotes I wanted to pass along to you.

“I continually come across people with rusty ‘thinkers,’ they think about their business but about nothing else, and the forces within have become desperately weak; consequently when tribulation comes their minds are confused, and the result is that errors come into the life. If the forces within are strong and healthy they give us warning and enable us to crush in a vice on the threshold of the mind everything that ought not to come there. God can impart to a man the power to select what his mind thinks, the power to think only what is right and pure and true.”

“God has no favorites, but when we let Him have His right of way through us He begins to unveil something more of His purposes in our lives. … Is tribulation making you wilt? making you swoon for sympathy? making you stagnate? It is an easy business to want to get away from tribulation, but fighting makes us strong, gloriously strong.”

“God grant we may be so filled with the Holy Spirit that we listen to His checks along every line. No power can deceive a child of God who keeps in the light with God. I am perfectly certain that the devil likes to deceive us and limit us in our practical belief as to what Jesus Christ can do. There is no limit to what He can do, absolutely none. ‘All things are possible to him that believeth.’ Jesus says that faith in Him is omnipotent. God grant we may get hold of this truth.”

“Look at the world either through a telescope or a microscope and you will be dwarfed into terror by the infinitely great or the infinitely little. Naturalists tell us that there are no two blades of grass alike, and close inspection of a bee’s wing under a microscope reveals how marvelously it is made. What do I read in the Bible? I read that the God of heaven counts the hairs of our heads. Jesus says so. I read that the mighty God watches the sparrows so intimately that not one of them falls on the ground without His notice. I read that the God who holds the seas in the hollow of His hand and guides the stars in their courses, clothes the grass of the field. Through the love of God in Christ Jesus we are brought into a wonderful intimacy with the infinitely great and the infinitely little.”

“The great need today amongst those of us who profess sanctification is the patience and ability to work out the holiness of God in every detail of our lives.”

“We are only safe in taking an estimate of ourselves from our Creator, not from our own introspection.”

“There is no one in the world more easy to get to than God. Only one thing prevents us from getting there, and that is the refusal to tell ourselves the truth.”

“God does not do what false Christianity makes out—keep a man immune from trouble, there is no promise of that; God says, ‘I will be with him in trouble.’ … No matter what actual troubles in the most extreme form get hold of a man’s life, not one of them can touch the central citadel, that is, his relationship to God in Christ Jesus.”

“The afflictions after sanctification are not meant to purify us, but to make us broken bread in the hands of our Lord to nourish others.”

“If we are self-willed when God tries to break us and will do anything rather than submit, we shall never be of any use to nourish other souls; we shall only be centers of craving self-pity, discrediting the character of God.”

“Thursdays With Oswald” is a weekly feature where I share a longer section from an Oswald Chambers book, along with a thought or two of my own. You can subscribe to my blog and get notified each time I share one of these posts, or you can type Thursdays With Oswald in the search box.

You can read my review of The Servant As His Lordclicking here by .

12 Quotes From “The Place Of Help”

The Place Of HelpAs always, any Oswald Chambers book I read is thoroughly highlighted. There is always so much great content! On this blog, I have a weekly series called “Thursdays With Oswald” where I share quotes and thoughts from his book I’m currently reading. Be sure to check that out. Below are just a few of the quotes I noted from The Place Of Help. (By the way, you can read my review of this book by clicking here.)

“This is the age when education is placed on the very highest pinnacle. In every civilized country we are told that if we will educate the people and give them better surroundings, we shall produce better characters. Such talk and such theories stir aspirations, but they do not work out well in reality. The kingdom within must be adjusted first before education can have its true use. To educate an unregenerate man is but to increase the possibility of cultured degradation.”

“Not what the disciple says in public prayer, not what he preaches from pulpit or platform, not what he writes on paper or in letters, but what he is in his heart which God alone knows, determines God’s revelation of Himself to him. Character determines revelation (see Psalm 18:24-26).”

“Our Lord never gives private illuminations to special favorites. His way is ever twofold: the development of character, and the descent of Divine illumination through the Word of God.”

“The voice of the Lord listened to in darkness is so entrancing that the finest of earth’s voices are never afterwords mistaken for the voice of the Lord.”

“Jesus Christ distinctly stated that He came to do the will of His Father. ‘I must work the works of Him that sent Me.’ His first obedience was not to the needs of men, but to the will of God. He nowhere chose the altar of His sacrifice, God chose it for Him. He chose to make His life a willing and obedient sacrifice that His Father’s purpose might be fulfilled. … ’For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake,’ as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:5. We are the servants of men, says Paul, not primarily because their needs have arrested us, but because Jesus Christ is our Lord.” 

“If you become a necessity to a soul you have got out of God’s order, your great need as a worker is to be a friend of the Bridegroom. Your goodness and purity ought never to attract attention to itself, it ought simply to be a magnet to draw others to Jesus.”

“Suppose you talk about depending on God and how wonderful it is, and then others see that in your own immediate concerns you do not depend on Him a bit, but on your own wits, it makes them say, ‘Well, after all, it’s a big pretense, there is no Almighty Christ to depend on anywhere, it is all mere sentiment.’ The impression left is that Jesus Christ is not real to you.” 

“The highest Divine love is not only exhibited in the extreme amazement of the tragedy of Calvary, but in the laying down of the Divine life through the thirty years at Nazareth, through the three years of popularity, scandal, and hatred, and furthermore in the long pre-incarnate years (cf. Revelation 13:8).”

“The Cross is the supreme moment in Time and Eternity, and it is the concentrated essence of the very nature of the Divine love. … The Self-expenditure of God for His enemies in the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, becomes the great bridge over the gulf of sin whereby human love may cross over and be embraced by the Divine love, the love that never fails.” 

“Christian experience does not mean we have thought through the way God works in human lives by His grace, or that we are able to state theologically that God gives the Holy Ghost to them that ask Him—that may be Christian thinking, but it is not Christian experience. Christian experience is living through all this by the marvelous power of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost working in me does not produce wonderful experiences that make people say ‘What a wonderful life that man lives’; the Holy Ghost working in me makes me a passionate, devoted, absorbed lover of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“It is not the baptism of the Holy Ghost that changes men, but the power of the Ascended Christ coming into men’s lives by the Holy Ghost that changes men. The baptism of the Holy Ghost is the evidence of the Ascended Christ.” 

“There is only one Lover of the Lord Jesus and that is the Holy Ghost; when we receive the Holy Ghost He turns us into passionate human lovers of Jesus Christ. Then out of our lives will flow those rivers of living water that heal and bless, and we spend and suffer and endure in patience all because of One and One only.”

More quotes from this book coming soon…

Thursdays With Oswald—At Home With Jesus

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

At Home With Jesus

     Beware of the people who tell you life is simple. Life is such a mass of complications that no man is safe apart from God. Coming to Jesus does not simplify life, it simplifies my relationship to God. … 

     God’s idea is that individual Christians should become identified with His purpose for the world. When Christianity becomes over-organized and denominational it is incapable of fulfilling our Lord’s commission; it doesn’t “feed His sheep,” it can’t (see John 21:15-17). …  

     If my religion is not based on a personal history with Jesus it becomes something I suffer from, not a joyous thing, but something that keeps me from doing what I want to do. 

From Disciples Indeed

Jesus came to give us life to the full. He didn’t come to help simplify life or organize our religion. The key word for our relationship with Jesus is personal. He wants you, not your religious ideas or religious activities.

Jesus died for you. Jesus lives for you. And Jesus wants to live in and through you. Jesus replied, “All who love Me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and We will come and make Our home with each of them (John 14:23).

Will you let Him be at home with you?

Inner City Ministry

I am so proud of a group from our Sunday School class who went out into the cold, snowy streets to share the love of Jesus! Not content with merely talking about being disciples of Jesus, this group wanted to be disciples of Christ.

On New Year’s Day, they walked the streets of downtown Grand Rapids to find those who needed to keep warm. They handed out gloves, hats, blankets, candy, Bibles, hugs and prayer to those in need. After they returned home, my favorite comment from the group was this: “When can we do this again?” I love it!

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This group meets for their Sunday School class every Sunday morning at 9:30am. If you’d like to spend some time with a really great bunch of folks, this is the group for you!

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