Thursdays With Spurgeon—Heart’s Desire

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Heart’s Desire

Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:1-4) 

     There is no room for fretting if we remember that God is ours; there is every incentive for sacred enjoyment of the most elevated and ecstatic kind. Every name, attribute, word, or deed of Jehovah should be delightful to us, and in meditating on it our souls should be as glad as the epicurean who feeds delicately with a profound relish for his dainties. 

     A pleasant duty is here rewarded with another pleasure. People who delight in God desire or ask for nothing but will please God; hence it is safe to give them carte blanche.

From Spurgeon And The Psalms

When we only have eyes for our God, when our heart craves for only what our Savior can provide, when we have ears that tune out all but what the Holy Spirit whispers to us, then we are living in a place where our hearts are continually delighted with what God provides. 

We have to trust the One who gave us His unshakable promises—Be delighted with the Lord. Then He will give you all your heart’s desires (v. 4 TLB). Be delighted with Him and He will—not “may” or “hopefully He will” but He will—give you ALL your heart’s desires! That’s because your desires align with His. 

There is an ultimate reward in Heaven but there are incredibly satisfying rewards along the journey to Heaven as well. Take time every day to meditate on the boundless love that God has toward you, and let your heart be transformed so that you only crave the very best that your Heavenly Father has for you!

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Savoring The Meal

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Jesus told us twice, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8, 32). He knows the good we need. 

When we were children, our parents tried to give us good-for-you food, but sometimes it wasn’t necessarily good. It might have given us nutrients, but perhaps it wasn’t as tasty as we would have liked. Let’s be honest: most junk food tastes really, really good—probably better than the good-for-you food. As a result, sometimes we eat just to eat. We eat because we have to. We choke down the vegetables just so we can get to the dessert.  

As parents, we want our kids to have good-for-you food. God wants that too, but He wants more than that for us: He wants it to be savory as well. Jesus talked about how evil parents knew enough to give good things to their children, but then He reminded us how much more does God want to give us (Luke 11:11-13)! 

It usually takes much longer to prepare food than it does to eat it. This is especially true for more savory gourmet meals. When we gulp down our food, we don’t really appreciate or savor the tastes, the subtle hints the chef has mixed in, and certainly not the time involved to prepare such a lovely feast. 

When we gulp down our food without savoring it…

  • …we don’t honor the one who prepared the food 
  • …we don’t savor the goodness so we don’t appreciate the goodness
  • …we move on to dessert (or junk food) before our body is ready for it 

In Psalm 106 we read a history lesson of Israel’s ups-and-downs—the trouble they were in and the deliverance God prepared for them. The psalmist directly connects their lack of savoring God’s good things to their rebellion and their carnal, godless cravings. Instead of slowing down to be grateful for what God had given them, they just wanted to move on to the next dessert. That attitude may have been what was behind the spoiled girl named Veruca Salt in the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” who sang the song “I Want It NOW! 

David gives us the antidote for this tasteless gulping of God’s good and good-for-us food: “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:8a). This deliberate tasting allows us to see how excellent the things of God are, better than anything else the world has to offer!  

David concludes his counsel with these words, “Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing” (Psalm 34:8b). 

In the New Testament, the apostle Peter gives us a similar word: “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness” (1 Peter 2:2-3 NLT). 

It’s this savoring that will help us appreciate the sweet and the bitter. It’s this appreciation that brings glory to God and keeps us craving more of the ultimate good that only He has for us. 

If we will slow down to savor God’s Word, if we will delight to spend time in prayer, if we won’t rush through the good-for-you trials, we will taste and see that there is nothing that can satisfy like our Savior! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called Craving, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Guided For God’s Sake

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Guided For God’s Sake 

In You, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in Your righteousness. Turn Your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since You are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of Your name lead and guide me. Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for You are my refuge. Into Your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. (Psalm 31:1-5) 

     To lead and to guide are two different things very like each other, but patient thought will detect different shades of meaning, especially as the last may mean ‘provide for me.’ The double word indicates an urgent need—we require double direction, for we are fools and the way is rough. 

     Lead me as a soldier, guide me as a traveler! Lead me as a babe, guide me as an adult; lead me when You are with me, but guide me even if You are absent; lead me by Your hand, guide me by Your Word. The argument used is one fetched from the armory of free grace: not for my sake, but ‘for the sake of Your name’ guide me. 

From Spurgeon And The Psalms

When we let God lead us and guide us, we are never “put to shame.” It’s my own attempts at guiding myself that end up in shame and failure. This is why Jesus taught us to pray for God’s name to be glorified as His will is done. Part of that leading and guiding provides our daily bread and an escape from falling in the face of temptation. 

Interestingly, Jesus prayed the same thing for Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not My will, but Yours be done.” And then Jesus could confidently use the same words from this Psalm as He hung on the Cross: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” We can pray with the same assurance when we are allowing the Holy Spirit to both lead and guide us every single day.

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The Supreme Jesus

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Last week here in wintry Michigan we had a couple of snow days (for those of you in non-snow states, that means the roads were too dangerous even for us Michiganders, so the schools were closed). Students and teachers too “work” very hard for snow days. By that I mean they try a bunch of tactics that are supposed to increase the likelihood of school being called off—like flushing ice cubes down the toilet, wearing their PJs inside-out, or even sleeping with a spoon under their pillow. 

But I’ve also noticed it’s not just praying for snow days where people employ some tactics they think will help things go their way. Like saying, “Pretty please with sugar on top” when trying to get special favor, or athletes not saying anything at all to a teammate who’s on the brink of something historic, or business people saying, “Wish me luck” before going into the big meeting. And even Christians who end their prayer with, “In Jesus’ name, Amen” to help make their prayer answerable. 

In case you haven’t noticed, just saying that phrase is not some magical, abracadabra formula for success (for some very notable examples of this check out Matthew 7:21-23 and Acts 19:13-16). 

But still, Jesus does specifically say, “And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). 

This is where context is king. In John 13-16, Jesus is giving His final instructions to His disciples before His arrest and crucifixion. They are clearly anxious about His departure because chapter 14 opens with the words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” 

In this passage of John 14, Jesus is giving the disciples the basis for their confident hope in Him. He tells them that He is THE way to the Father (they don’t have to look for another path), and He is THE revelation of the Father (He will make the Father’s will crystal clear to them). 

Jesus tells them that He has been doing His Father’s work, which is verified by the evidence of the miracles—or we could say the answers to His prayers (v. 10-11). Jesus wants His followers to pray this same way, live this same way, and see even greater things done in His name (v. 12). 

So we can infer from this that praying in the name of Jesus essentially means two things:

  1. We pray in harmony with the character of Jesus. That means that we pray prayers that Jesus Himself would pray. If you cannot imagine Jesus asking for what you’re asking for, then it’s not in alignment with His character. 
  2. We pray in faith in the supreme authority of Jesus to do what we ask. Jesus is Supreme over everything else. To pray in His name means we look for answers from no other source.

I think the key to understanding this is found in the small preposition Jesus uses 12 times in this passage: IN. 

Jesus is IN the Father, the Father is IN Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is IN us. This means that we are also IN the Father with Jesus! 

Which means we don’t have to try to be like Jesus or to merely imitate Him, but we let the Holy Spirit sanctify us into the character of Jesus. 

When I talk to my Dad I don’t have to remind myself that I am his son—I just am his son. I don’t have to carefully calculate how I’m going to make requests of him. I know his heart, and I know my inseparable relationship with him, so I just talk to him. 

Have you ever noticed in the Gospels that when Jesus does a miracle, He doesn’t pray the way that we typically pray? When the man with leprosy came to Jesus, He merely said, “Be clean.” I think we might have bowed our heads, closed our eyes, placed our hands on him and said something like, “Dear heavenly Father, if it’s Your will bring Your healing touch to our dear brother. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.” But Jesus knew the Father’s heart was to heal this suffering man, so Jesus simply spoke the words. His statement was a prayer that resonated with the heart of His Father, and that prayer was immediately answered. 

The Holy Spirit is sanctifying you to pray this same way: 

  • He wants to mold your heart to be passionate for the things of the Father—John 5:17
  • He wants to transform your mind to think the Father’s thoughts—John 16:13-14
  • He wants to soften your will to be yielded to the will of the Father—Matthew 26:36-44 
  • He wants to settle your emotions to be at peace in the Father—John 14:1
  • He wants to even change your vocabulary to the very words Jesus would use—John 12:49

(read the above verses by clicking here)

When your heart, mind, will, and emotions are being sanctified, the supremacy of Jesus will naturally be at the forefront of everything you feel, think, do, and say. Then you will be naturally praying in the name and character of Jesus for God’s glory to be seen. 

Praying in the name of the Supreme Jesus means that we pray IN God’s will FOR God’s glory. 

To see all of the messages in our series called Awesome: Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus, please click here. 

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Ongoing

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My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart (Proverbs 3:1). 

A better translation of this verse would be like this: My son, keep on not forgetting my teaching, but keep on keeping my commands in your heart. 

Or, as Jesus said it, “My Father is always working, and so am I” (John 5:17). 

Always workING. 

It’s a continuous action. We don’t make a one-time commitment and then coast through the rest of our life. To help us with this, in the third chapter of Proverbs, Solomon shows us God’s blessings on an “ING” lifestyle. That is, the blessings on the right kinds of “ING.” 

If I am keepING God’s commands, He is prolongING my life and bringING me peace (vv. 1, 2). 

If I am bindING love and faithfulness to my heart, I am winnING favor and a good name (vv. 3, 4). 

If I am trustING God and leanING on His wisdom, He is directING me onto the best paths (vv. 5, 6). 

If I am fearING God and shunnING evil, He is bringING health to me (vv. 7, 8). 

If I am honorING God with my firstfruits, He is continually fillING me to overflowing (vv. 9, 10). 

If I am not despisING God’s discipline, I am findING wisdom and gainING understanding (vv. 11-18). 

If I am preservING sound judgment and discretion, I am walkING in safety, sleepING sweetly, and experiencING no fear (vv. 19-26). 

If I am not withholdING good from those in need, not plottING harm against others, not accusING nor envyING my neighbor, then God is blessING my home, showING me favor, and making sure I am inheritING honor (vv. 27-35). 

The apostle Paul reminds us, “So let’s not get tired of doING what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9). 

When I keep on keepING on, so do God’s blessings! 

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Known And Unknown Threats

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I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me (Psalm 120:1). 

What power and love is packed into this short verse! “I call…He answers.” There’s nothing else I need to do—just called to my God. There is no delay or deliberation on His part—He answers me. 

Distress” comes from the root word that can mean a tight spot, or it can mean a hard pebble. The distress we face may be a full frontal assault or it may be a nagging, almost indefinable, annoyance. Since Psalm 120 is a Psalm of Ascent, whatever the distress is, the psalmist feels like it is keeping him from going up into God’s presence. He lists three known distresses: 

  1. Deceit—people around him were lying or distorting the truth. 
  2. Separation—he wants to ascend into God’s presence but feels held back by those among whom he lives. 
  3. Turmoil—he’s looking for peace, but everyone around him wants to stir up trouble and controversy. 

What about those annoying, hard-to-identify distresses? In the next Psalm of Ascent the call is for us to trust God and to not worry. But in this psalm, there’s no calling to God for help because no specific threats have been identified. Still we learn that our Heavenly Father, who does not slumber, perpetually watches over us. Our Father knows our needs before we can even perceive them, and He is fully prepared to handle them. 

So we are promised: 

  • I can sleep securely
  • I can travel safely
  • I can work each day confidently
  • I can pass through the night unharmed
  • I can move around without having to look around
  • The LORD will watch over my coming and going both today and forevermore! 

Father, may any distresses I experience today send me ascending into Your presence. Whether I know what the threats are or not, I know that You are watching over me and will answer me whenever I call to You. I thank You for this confidence that I have both today and forevermore! 

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Powerful Childlike Prayer

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I was at a friend’s house and interacting with their two young children. Their son was very energetic and playful, but not very talkative. When the tikes climbed up to the kitchen counter for lunch, their mom asked them what they wanted to eat. The little girl placed her lunch order and then said, “He wants PB&J with milk.” I asked him, “Is that really what you want?” He smiled a big grin and nodded his head. Isn’t nice to have someone give us words when we are lacking in our own vocabulary? 

Last week we learned how the Spirit of Truth would help us speak truthful words to those who were antagonistic to the Good News of Jesus. If the Holy Spirit will do this when we are speaking to people who are enemies of the Cross of Christ, how much more so will He help us when we are speaking to our loving Heavenly Father! 

Here’s something we never have to doubt: God’s love for us. We don’t have to try to get our Father’s attention because He wants to lavish His love on us (Matthew 6:7-8; Luke 11:9-13; Ephesians 1:5). 

Jesus likens our coming to God as a child coming to its father. Sometimes we come with fears or tears, sometimes with hunger or thirst, or sometimes just to feel His closeness. The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Adoption, and He loves to keep on reminding us how much our Father loves us (Romans 8:14-17). 

“When our perplexed spirit is so befogged and beclouded that it cannot see its own need and cannot find out the appropriate promise in the Scriptures, the Spirit of God comes in and teaches us all things and brings all things to our remembrance whatever our Lord has told us. He guides us in prayer and thus He helps our infirmity. … He will write the prayers that I ought to offer upon the tablets of my heart, and I will see them there and so I will be taught how to plead! It will be the Spirit’s own Self pleading in me and by me and through me before the throne of grace!” —Charles Spurgeon 

Our loving Father is not looking for well-polished prayers; He’s looking for real, childlike prayers. Let’s be honest: Not even the most educated person in the world has a vocabulary sufficient enough to accurately communicate with The Almighty God! So He wants us to come to Him in simple, childlike anticipation. Jesus reminded us, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Our Father wants to answer our prayers, and He has given us His Holy Spirit to help us pray in a way that He can answer (Romans 8:26-27). 

The Holy Spirit turns our tearful, childlike prayers into powerful, poetic prayers!

Don’t try to spruce up your vocabulary before you come to God in prayer. Just come to God in prayer, trusting that the Holy Spirit will make a beautiful prayer even out of your childlike groanings! The Holy Spirit turns our groans into prayerful poetry in our Father’s ears! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called We Are: Pentecostal, I’ve shared the complete list here.

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Poetry Saturday—The Mother’s Prayer

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Starting forth on life’s rough way,
   Father, guide them;
Oh, we know not what of harm
   May betide them;
‘Neath the shadow of Thy wing,
   Father, hide them;
Walking, sleeping, Lord, we pray,
   Go beside them.

When in prayer they cry to Thee,
   Do Thou hear them;
From the stain of sin and shame
   Do Thou clear them;
‘Mid the quicksands and the rocks
   Do Thou steer them;
In temptation, trial, grief,
   Be Thou near them.

Unto Thee we give them up;
   Lord, receive them.
In the world we know must be
   Much to grieve them—
Many striving, oft and strong,
   To deceive them;
Trustful in Thy hands of love
   We must leave them. —William Cullen Bryant

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Poetry Saturday—Eternal Spirit

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Eternal Spirit, we confess
And sing the wonders of Your grace!
Your power conveys our blessings down
From God the Father and the Son.
Enlightened by Your heavenly ray,
Our shades and darkness turn to day.
Your inward teachings make us know
Our danger and our refuge, too.
Your power and glory work within,
And break the chains of reigning sin,
Does our imperious lusts subdue,
And forms our wretched hearts anew.
The troubled conscience knows Your voice,
Your cheering words awake our joys;
Your words allay the stormy wind,
And calm the surges of the mind.

*Spurgeon used this poem as a conclusion to his sermon entitled Human Depravity and Divine Mercy. I was unable to find this poem attributed to anyone else, so I am assuming it was written by Spurgeon himself. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Simple Faith Is Still Powerful Faith

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.

Simple Faith Is Still Powerful Faith

     I would have you note that the faith that justified Abram was still an imperfect faith, although it perfectly justified him. It was imperfect beforehand, for he had prevaricated as to his wife and bid Sarai, ‘Say you are my sister’ (Genesis 12:13). 

     It was imperfect after it had justified him, for the next chapter we find him taking Hager, his wife’s handmaid, in order to effect the divine purpose, and so showing a lack of confidence in the working of the Lord. It is a blessing for you and for me that we do not need perfect faith to save us! ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’ (Matthew 17:20). If you have but the faith of a little child, it will save you. Though your faith is not always at the same pitch as the patriarch’s when he staggered not at the promise through unbelief, yet if it is simple and true, if it confides alone in the promise of God, it is an unhappy thing that it is no stronger, and you ought daily to pray, ‘Lord, increase my faith,’ but still it will justify you through Christ Jesus! A trembling hand may grasp the cup that bears a healing draught to the lip, but the weakness of the hand will not lessen the power of the medicine.

From Justification By Faith

A prayer that Jesus loved was simply this: “Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:14-27). The recognition that Jesus alone could help is the essence of faith. 

I’ve often said that the simplest, most powerful prayer we can pray is, “Lord, help!” In just those two words we are saying, “I cannot do a thing to help myself, but, Lord, I believe Your power is limitless to help me!” 

Small faith is still powerful faith—even faith as small as a mustard seed—because it can move mountains. Childlike faith touches the heart of God. I love how Spurgeon reminds us that the weakness of the hand that grasps the cup promise does not lessen the power of the medicine in the cup. 

The best way to learn to pray in faith is simply to pray in faith. A baby doesn’t wait until he has a fully-formed vocabulary to ask his father or mother for help. Just pray! The Holy Spirit can turn even your childlike prayers into pleasing sounds in your Heavenly Father’s ears. 

Maybe you could paraphrase that father who was in desperate need of Christ’s help, “Lord, I am praying; help me to keep on praying!

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