Thursdays With Spurgeon—Wart Warning

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.

Wart Warning  

     At the instigation of his wife, Abraham adopted means that were not justifiable in order that he might obtain the promised heir [see Genesis 16]. He used means that may not be so vicious to him as they would be in men of modern times, but that were suggested by an unbelieving policy and were fraught with evil. He takes Hager to wife. He could not leave it to God to give him the promised seed. He could not leave it with God to fulfill His promise in His own time and justifies himself in turning aside from the narrow path of faith to accomplish, by doubtful methods, the end that God Himself had promised and undertaken to accomplish! How shorn of splendor is Abraham seen when we read, ‘And Abraham heeded the voice of Sarah’ (Genesis 16:2). That business of Hagar is to the patriarch’s deep discredit and reflects no honor at all upon either him or his faith. 

     Look at the consequences of his unbelieving! Misery soon followed. Hager despises her mistress. Sarah throws all the blame on her husband. The poor bondwoman is so harshly dealt with that she flees from the household. … One marvels that such a man as Abraham allowed one who had been brought into such a relationship with him to be heedlessly chased from his house while in a condition requiring care and kindness! 

     We admire the truthfulness of the Holy Spirit that He has been pleased to record the faults of the saints without extenuating them. Biographies of good men in Scripture are written with unflinching integrity—their evil recorded as well as their good. These faults are not written that we may say, ‘Abraham did so-and-so; therefore we may do it.’ No, brothers and sisters, the lives of these good men are warnings to us as well as examples, and we are to judge them as we should judge ourselves—by the laws of right and wrong.

From Consecration To God

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I also talk about the faults that we see in God’s leaders. In looking at David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba, Elijah’s slide into depression, and Peter’s denial of Jesus, I see something similar: They were alone. 

David stayed in Jerusalem while his army went to fight, Elijah left his servant behind and went into the wilderness alone, and Peter was separated from his fellow disciples. Just like with Abraham, all of these other men were brought back into close fellowship with God. But all of these men now have a “wart” on their biography. 

“God designed us to be in relationship with others. His statement to Adam in some of the earliest words of the Bible—‘It is not good for you to be alone’—are words for us still today. As I mentioned earlier [in my book], you will not find the word ‘saints’ in the singular in the New Testament. Instead, you will find such phrases as ‘one another,’ ‘each other,’ and ‘all together’ prominently displayed throughout the New Testament church. Let me say it again: God designed us to be in relationship with others. If you want to go far in your shepherding, you cannot try to go alone.” —from the chapter in Shepherd Leadership called ‘Going Farther’ 

Let’s be forewarned by these examples. Stay close to God, but also stay close to godly friends that will help you in the hard times. Don’t let a wart blemish your record.

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“Dear Woman”

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

The crucifixion of Jesus lasted about six hours. This was mercifully short compared to what typically happened to crucifixion victims. It was hard enough for Jesus to get enough air just to breathe, let alone enough air to talk, so His words are few but precious! From 9:00 until about noon, He speaks three times; from noon until about 3:00, He has no recorded words; at 3:00 there are four final statements that come pretty close together. 

As Jesus speaks His final declaration before wordlessly suffering for the next three hours, let’s take a look at who was there. They were people who deeply cared about Jesus, and people about whom Jesus deeply cared: His mother, His aunt, the mother of one of His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and His beloved disciple John. 

Also notable was who wasn’t present on Golgotha: none of Christ’s siblings or other close relatives. 

This last word from Jesus before His long silence was an incredibly loving word. As the oldest of His siblings, and with His earthly father Joseph dead, Jesus had head-of-the-household responsibilities, especially the care of His mother Mary. 

When Jesus speaks to her, He says, “Dear woman.” This is a term of kindness, respect, and endearment. To both His mother and to John, there is a Greek word that is omitted in some English translations of the Bible: Behold. Since Christ’s words were at a premium, this word was Jesus saying, “Listen very closely. Pay careful attention to this important word I’m about to speak.” 

To His mother, Jesus says, “Dear woman, behold your son.” Jesus was saying, here is one on whom you can depend. And to His dear friend Jesus says, “Behold your mother.” Literally, Jesus was asking John to care for Mary as though she were his own biological mother. 

Think about the dying declarations we’ve already heard. To those who treated Him so horribly, Jesus said, Father, forgive them.” This was a word of forgiveness that required agape love. To the hardened criminal crucified next to Him, Jesus said, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” This was a word of salvation that also required agape love. 

Agape love is only possible in a regenerated heart. It’s an utterly selfless love that Jesus described this way: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). To forgive the unforgivable, to grant salvation to a lifelong criminal, takes the other-worldly agape love. We expect this from Jesus. 

But there are two other loves in this scene. When Jesus says, “Dear woman,” He is expressing this natural love of son to mother. This Greek love is labeled storgé. C.S. Lewis calls this “the most natural, emotive, and widely diffused of loves.” To His dear friend John, Jesus speaks a word of philos love. C.S. Lewis says philos is “the love between friends as close as siblings in strength and duration [and] the least natural of loves.” 

Jesus cared deeply for His mother and He deeply trusted His friend John. This tells me an important truth: Jesus doesn’t just care about spiritual things. 

In fact, there isn’t anything that you care about that Jesus doesn’t feel too: “He had to be made like [us] fully human in every way” (Hebrews 2:17). 

Sadly, I think we frequently hold on to some cares because we think they are too small or too insignificant—or maybe “unspiritual”—so we think they are unworthy of Christ’s attention. Let me say it again: There isn’t anything that you care about that Jesus doesn’t feel too! 

Jesus intercedes before the Father’s throne of grace on our behalf. He knows exactly what to ask for because He experienced all of our earthly pains Himself. Then the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit into our hearts to give us the love and strength we need (see Hebrews 4:14-16; Romans 5:5). 

When Jesus showed us His full love—storgé, philos, and agape—He made it possible for us to fulfill His command: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). 

Jesus showed every kind of love so that we can live every kind of love! As we live as love-filled people, we show others the path to Christ’s love for their own love-starved hearts. 

Jesus spoke this loving declaration from the Cross to show us that His love covers any need that we have to encounter. Let me repeat it again so that you don’t forget it: There isn’t anything that you care about that Jesus doesn’t feel too!

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series on the dying declarations of Jesus from the Cross, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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Discovering True Friends

Last week I shared that a mark of a maturing saint is one who when he realizes he is in a trough begins to praise God in anticipation of the blessings which are coming! I believe a keyword in this statement is realizes. Once we realize that we are in a trough, what will help us turn our mourning into praise? In a word: meditation. 

Notice Asaph’s words at the beginning of Psalm 77. Twice he says he “cried out” to God. This literally means that he called aloud, not caring who heard him. It wasn’t a whimper, but Asaph said he was “distressed.” As soon as he realized the distressed state he was in, notice the words of meditation in the next four verses: 

  • remembered (2x) 
  • mused (2x) 
  • thought 
  • inquired 

Asaph also began to ask himself questions, all of which have the obvious answer “NO”:

  • Will the Lord reject me forever? NO! 
  • Will He never show His favor again? NO!
  • Has His unfailing love vanished forever? NO!
  • Has His promise failed for all time? NO! 
  • Has God forgotten to be merciful? NO! 
  • Has He in anger withheld His compassion? NO! 

Again, Asaph meditates (notice the words thought, remember, meditate, and consider once again in the next three verses). His conclusion leads him not to self-pity, but to praising God.

Asaph taught us that when we get our eyes off ourselves we can see what God is doing in us, around us, and through us. 

One lesson I learned in a very dark night time of my life: Who my true friends are. When all my “fans” stopped cheering and started jeering, I ended up in a very dark place. But as soon as I realized the valley I was in and began to meditate on God’s presence even in this dark place, I began to see what was happening around me. One of the things I saw were two men who stood up for me against all the foes attacking me. They stepped in when all my “fans” stepped away. 

The apostle Paul had the same realization in the dark night of his Roman prison cell. He stated, “at my first defense no one came to my support.” But he also saw those who stood by his side: Luke, Timothy, and Mark.

Dark times can quickly lead us to self-pity UNLESS we will realize we are in a dark place and begin to meditate on all that God says in His Word about His faithfulness. Once we get our eyes off ourselves and onto Him, we will begin to see the lessons God is teaching and the amazing things He is accomplishing. 

I can be thankful IN the night because the dark nights have shown me my true friends. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, you can find them all by clicking here. 

Knowing God’s Will

My dear friends Josh and Judy are moving. They feel like God has been calling them to Nebraska, and I affirm that God is directing them into this new chapter for their lives. I will miss them dearly, but I know God has indeed called them. 

During times like this many people will often ask, “How do I know that God is directing me?” 

In the Bible we see God speaking to people in several ways: 

  • An audible voice 
  • Through His prophets 
  • Sending an angel 
  • In a dream or vision 
  • One time God’s finger wrote a message on a wall
  • One time God spoke through a donkey 

But most often God speaks through the inner voice of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a Person. He is described as having a mind, a will, and emotions. Although He doesn’t have a physical body, He is still a Person. Just like any person you could get to know, you can get to know the Holy Spirit more and more personally, becoming increasingly more acquainted with His voice. 

All of us are unique individuals. God has never, ever duplicated a person. Your combination of genes, talents, personality, and personal experiences make you a one-of-a-kind in all of human history. That means that God speaks uniquely to each of us. 

Even though the exact manner God will speak to us will be unique, there are some clear principles that we can know from the Bible. 

1. Humbly listen for God’s voice.

Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Let me unpack three key phrases:

  • lean not on your own understanding really means humbly exchanging an “I know best” posture for a “God, You know best” posture. 
  • acknowledge Him is the Hebrew word yada. This word means knowledge that comes from personal experience. This is where you act on something you think the Holy Spirit is saying to you and then evaluate it. It’s how you get to know the Person of the Holy Spirit better and better. 
  • He will make straight your paths might be better stated, “He will make your paths agreeable to His will.” In other words, you begin to feel in-sync with the Holy Spirit. The opposite of this would be grieving the Holy Spirit, where you feel out-of-step with God. 

2. Consult with godly friends. 

In Acts 16, the apostle Paul and his companions are attempting to go into new territories to share the good news about Jesus but Luke records twice that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow them. Perhaps they felt out-of-sync with the Spirit when they attempted to make their plans. Ultimately, God did open a door for them to move forward and Luke writes, “Concluding that God had called us.” Notice that word “us.” Paul shared his heart with his godly friends and they affirmed God’s voice, much as I affirmed the call on Josh and Judy’s lives in their move. 

3. Don’t be overly concerned about making a mistake. 

In Romans 8, Paul reminds us that God is working all things together for your good and for His glory. “All things” means even your mistakes—like not noticing that the Spirit was prompting you to move, or perhaps temporarily heading down a wrong path. The Holy Spirit can help you look back and see how these experiences have prepared you for your present moment. Even those missteps can be used for God’s glory. But most importantly, those missteps have never diminished God’s love for you! 

Your journey will be unique from everyone else’s journey, but these three principles are applicable to everyone who wants to walk in the paths God has set for them. 

Poetry Saturday—Thanksgiving

We walk on story fields of white
And do not see the daisies, 
For blessings common in our sight 
We rarely offer praises. 
We sigh for some supreme delight 
To crown our lives with splendor, 
And quite ignore our daily store 
Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way 
Upon our thought and feeling; 
They hang about us all the day, 
Our time from pleasure stealing. 
So unobtrusive many a joy 
We pass by and forget it, 
But worry strives to own our lives, 
And conquers if we let it.

There’s not a day in all the year 
But holds some hidden pleasure, 
And, looking back, joys oft appear 
To brim the past’s wide measure. 
But blessings are like friends, I hold, 
Who love and labor near us. 
We ought to raise our notes of praise 
While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise 
Of worry or of trouble; 
Far-seeing is the soul, and wise, 
Who knows the mask is double. 
But he who has the faith and strength 
To thank his God for sorrow 
Has found a joy without alloy 
To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad thanksgiving; 
The hours and days a silent phrase 
Of music we are living. 
And so the theme should swell and grow 
As weeks and months pass o’er us, 
And rise sublime at this good time, 
A grand thanksgiving chorus. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Poetry Saturday—Thanksgiving

We walk on story fields of white
And do not see the daisies, 
For blessings common in our sight 
We rarely offer praises. 
We sigh for some supreme delight 
To crown our lives with splendor, 
And quite ignore our daily store 
Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way 
Upon our thought and feeling; 
They hang about us all the day, 
Our time from pleasure stealing. 
So unobtrusive many a joy 
We pass by and forget it, 
But worry strives to own our lives, 
And conquers if we let it.

There’s not a day in all the year 
But holds some hidden pleasure, 
And, looking back, joys oft appear 
To brim the past’s wide measure. 
But blessings are like friends, I hold, 
Who love and labor near us. 
We ought to raise our notes of praise 
While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise 
Of worry or of trouble; 
Far-seeing is the soul, and wise, 
Who knows the mask is double. 
But he who has the faith and strength 
To thank his God for sorrow 
Has found a joy without alloy 
To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
Of happy, glad thanksgiving; 
The hours and days a silent phrase 
Of music we are living. 
And so the theme should swell and grow 
As weeks and months pass o’er us, 
And rise sublime at this good time, 
A grand thanksgiving chorus. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

What’s The Best That Could Happen?

I’ve had a good friend recommend a musical artist to me and I haven’t enjoyed the music.

I’ve had a good friend take me to a restaurant I haven’t liked.

I’ve had a good friend tell me how wonderful a certain movie was, and I thought it was a dud.

And I’m sure some of my good friends could say the same thing about my recommendations.

But you know what? All of these folks are still my friends.

I’ve never had one person say to me, “Your restaurant suggestion was awful. I’m unfriending you on Facebook and blocking your number from my phone. I never want to see or hear from you again!”

Yet sometimes I think church-going Christians feel like this might happen if they invite a friend to come to their church.

Seriously?!

Let’s consider the odds—

  • How likely is it that if you invite a friend to church and they say “no” that they are also going to say, “Get out of my life forever”?
  • If they do accept your invitation, but find that your church wasn’t a good fit for them, how likely is it that they’re going to say, “We can never hang out again”?

I think you would agree with me that both of these responses are highly unlikely!

But consider the other side—what if you invite them to your church and they say “yes”? What if after attending your church they like it? And what if by attending your church they enter into a personal relationship with Jesus?

If that happens, you’ve changed the course of their eternal destiny! 

Instead of focusing on the worst-case scenarios (which seem highly unlikely), we should be focusing on the best-case scenario!

If you’re still uneasy about inviting someone to your church, or even trying to have a conversation with them about your personal faith, here is a simple phrase to consider: Come and see.

Invite them to come and see your lifestyle that seeks to glorify Jesus (see Matthew 5:16). Let them see that you live your life like Jesus: doing good (Acts 10:38).

Invite them to come and see the Creator behind the creation (see Psalm 66:5). Whenever there is a discussion about the weather, or nature, or a medical science breakthrough, ask them, “Have you ever thought that if there is such a beautiful design there must also be an intelligent Designer?”

Christian, you have the best news ever! Don’t keep it to yourself. Invite those around you to come and see what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is all about. Who knows? You may be a part of changing someone’s eternal destiny.

I ❤️ My Church Family

We have so much fun together!

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If you live near Cedar Springs and don’t have a church family, I would love for you to join us! Click here to get all the details, or leave me a comment if you have questions.

The Truth About Wise Counsel

proverbs-12-1Pastor Josh Schram shared with us the lessons he’s appreciated about receiving wise counsel from those around him. One of Josh’s opening remarks really hit home with me, because it’s something I still struggle with at times: I have to get beyond thinking that those who are trying to speak into my life are somehow trying to meddle in my life!

A couple of other thoughts that really made me pause and reflect were—

“Ignorance may be bliss, but it won’t last.” How true! I may cover my eyes and ears to the truth, but my ignorance will ultimately lead to my downfall.

“People who will speak truth into my life care more about me than about my feelings.” As Proverbs says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (27:6).

Josh closed with these challenging questions:

  • Am I open to correction from wise counsel?
  • When I am corrected, do I feel like I must defend myself?
  • Are my ears open and am I really listening?

Check out this helpful message for yourself…

I Love My “Job”

I cannot even begin to tell you how thrilled I am when I get to baptize folks in water who have made the decision to follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Today it was even sweeter when I got to baptize a father and son!

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