Thursdays With Spurgeon—Holding Two Extreme Truths

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.

Holding Two Extreme Truths

     This is a deep, unsearchable mystery. Man walks without a leash yet treads in the very steps that God ordained him to tread in as certainly as though manacles had bound him to the spot! Man chooses his own seat, selects his own position; guided by his will, he chooses sin, or guided by divine grace, he chooses right. And yet in His choice God sits as sovereign on the throne, not disturbing but still overruling and proving Himself to be as able to deal with free creatures as with creatures without freedom. As able to effect His purpose when He has endowed men with thought and reason and judgment, as when He had only to deal with the solid rocks and with the imbedded sea.

     O Christians! You will never be able to fathom this, but you may wonder at it. I know there is an easy way of getting out of this great deep either by denying predestination altogether or by denying free agency altogether. But you can hold the two: You can say, “Yes, my consciousness teaches me that man does as he wills, but my faith teaches me that God does as He wills, and these two are not contrary the one to the other. And yet I cannot tell how it is. I cannot tell how God effects His end. I can only wonder, and say, ‘Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!’” (Romans 11:33). Every creature is free and doing as it wills, yet God is freer still and doing as He wills not only in heaven, but also among the inhabitants of this lower earth. 

From The Infallibility Of God’s Purpose

The debate has raged for years: predestination vs. freewill. 

People will sometimes ask me, “Are you a Calvinist (predestination) or an Arminian (freewill)?” And I always give the same answer, “Yes, I am a solid Cal-minian!” As with most things that are difficult for our finite, human minds to grasp about God’s nature, the answer is not either-or but it’s both-and.

C.S. Lewis captured the same sentiments as Spurgeon. Lewis always said the best course between two immovable ideas was right between them. He added, “Heaven will solve our problems, but not, I think, by showing us subtle reconciliations between all our apparently contradictory notions. The notions will all be knocked from under our feet. We shall see that there never was any problem” (emphasis mine).

Spurgeon would agree—there never was any problem, at least not with God. Any problems of understanding are in ourselves, not in Him. So far better than choosing one over the other, choose the both-and, and then stand in awe and wonder and worship that our infinite God is sovereign over all. Even over our puny, limited theologies and doctrines. 

Dangerous Prayers (book review)

Prayer changes things. That makes prayer dangerous and the pray-ers themselves a danger to anything that opposes the kingdom of God. Dangerous Prayers is a collection of powerful prayers and a brief biography of those who prayed them. 

Growing up, a constant refrain rang in my ears from my parents whenever I faced a problem: “Have you prayed about it?” I’m not sure why we make prayer our last resort instead of our first response, but it often seems that some of the most heartfelt, passionate prayers are offered up in the darkest of times. 

Dangerous Prayers offers a short biography of some world-changing people who changed the world in large part because of their desperate dependence on God’s help, as seen in the frequent and bold prayers they prayed. Many of these prayers were prayed in dark places—prisons, before the executioner, in the midst of war, in unimaginable poverty, or staring down the evils of slavery. These men and women repeatedly turned to God, and God repeatedly strengthened them to accomplish amazing things. Some of the answers to prayer came in their lifetimes, and some prayers were only answered long after they had died. 

Dangerous Prayers is an excellent coffee table book. By that, I mean it’s a great book to leave out in the open as a conversation-starter. Parents could read these short biographies and prayers with their children, and friends could use them as a bridge from past history to current events. But more than anything, keep Dangerous Prayers close at hand will—I sincerely hope—cause you to turn to prayer frequently and boldly. 

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer. 

11 Quotes From “How Great Is Our God”

Scholars, tradesmen, politicians, theologians, pastors, and martyrs—all have spoken or written about the greatness of God over the past two millennia. In How Great Is Our God we are treated to a sampling of these writings. Check out my full book review by clicking here, and then enjoy this first set of quotes.

“Oh, that everyone would strive to put down, in themselves, mastery and honor, so that the Lord of heaven and earth might be exalted!” —George Fox

“Those who are poor in spirit are men and women who have realized that things mean nothing, and that God means everything. …

“Poverty is not a good thing. Jesus would never have called blessed a state where people live in slums and do not have enough to eat, and where health deteriorates because conditions are all against it. It is the aim of the Christian gospel to remove that kind of poverty. The poverty which is blessed is the poverty of spirit, when people realize their own utter lack of resources to meet life, and find their help and strength in God. …

“So, the first beatitude means: O the bliss of those who have realized their own utter helplessness, and who have put their whole trust in God, for thus alone can they render to God that perfect obedience which will make them citizens of the kingdom of heaven!” —William Barclay

“Christ pronounces those to be happy who, chastened and subdued by afflictions, submit themselves wholly to God, and, with inward humility, turn to Him for protection.” —John Calvin

“Christ does not merely affirm that mourners are not unhappy. He shows that their very mourning contributes to a happy life, by preparing them to receive eternal joy, and by furnishing them with motives to seek true comfort in God alone.” —John Calvin

“Teach me to seek Thee, and reveal Thyself to me, when I seek Thee, for I cannot seek Thee, except Thou teach me, nor find Thee, except Thou reveal Thyself.” —Anslem

“I realize that I shouldn’t be surprised at God’s doing things that I can’t explain. I shouldn’t doubt His existence just because I find that I sometimes can’t understand why or how He has made something. I know that my nature is weak and limited and that God’s is limitless, incomprehensible, and infinite. From this, I can infer that He can do innumerable things for reasons that are unknown to me.” —René Descartes

“Truly the love of God and of this world may never be together in one soul, but whichever love is stronger puts out the other.” —Richard Rolle

“Two periods stand out in Christ’s life: His entrance into public ministry at His Baptism, and the culmination of it at His Passion. At both He had a fierce encounter with the devil. This should give you an idea of how the master tempter works. The more public your place, and the more eminent your service for God, the greater the probability that satan is at that very moment hatching some deadly scheme against you. If even the cadet corps need to be armed against satan’s bullets of temptation, how much more the commanders and officers, who stand in the front line of battle!” —William Gurnall

“Men should avoid taking their own vengeance, but avenge injury of God, with the intention to change. … Thus Moses, mildest man of all, killed many thousand of his people, for they worshipped a calf as they should worship God. And thus in our works of mercy lies much discretion….” —John Wycliffe

“God alone remits sin through Jesus Christ, His Son, and alone our Lord.

“Anyone who assigns this to creatures detracts from the honor of God and gives it to him who is not God; this is real idolatry.

“Therefore the confession that is made to a priest or neighbor shall not be declared to be a remittance of sin, but only seeking for advice.

“Works of penance coming from the council of human beings do not cancel sin; they are imposed as a menace to others.

“Christ has borne all our pains and labor. Therefore whoever assigns to works of penance what belongs to Christ errs and slanders God.” —Zwingli

“There is nothing better than to count up the worth of Christ; to take Him up and weigh Him again and again: and after this to have none other to court your love, and to woo your soul’s delight, but Christ.” —Samuel Rutherford 

Lots and lots of additional quotes are coming from this book. Some of them will be posted here, and several will be shared on my Tumblr and Twitter accounts.

Foundation Stones

foundation-stonesAny architect will tell you: You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation.

This is just as true in the spiritual realm, which is why John Calvin warned, “Those who are strong only in fervor and sharpness, but are not fortified with solid doctrine, weary themselves in their vigorous efforts, make a great noise… [and] make no headway because they build without foundation.

We have had on the Calvary website since Day 1 a link to “What we believe,” but just recently it occurred to me that we haven’t really talked about these foundational beliefs.

So the first Sunday of each month through the rest of the year, we will be exploring our strong doctrinal foundation. I promise you that this won’t be “dry” theology or doctrine, but it will be an exciting journey of discovery at the foundation upon which we stand.

Please join me this Sunday as we look at our next Foundation Stone.

Links & Quotes

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“Don’t dare to be different, dare to be yourself—if that doesn’t make you different then something is wrong.” —Laura Baker

“Real joy is to be found in the presence of God, with Jesus Christ, secure and loved forever and ever (Psalm 16:11). Knowing the presence of God is the unique privilege of all who have made the Kingdom turn. God never changes in His love for us, and Jesus Christ holds us fast forever, regardless of the outward circumstances of our lives. The result of experiencing this is joy.” —T.M. Moore

“We can do nothing unless by a supernatural grace of God. It is God who gives the will. It is God who gives the power.” —John Calvin

“How singularly does God, in political events, prepare men’s minds for the particular phase which His church assumes! … I cannot go into the question now, but every Christian student of history knows that the circumstances of the outward world have ever been arranged by God so as to prepare the way for the advance of His great cause.” —Charles Spurgeon

“There is no such thing as genuine knowledge of God that does not show itself in obedience to His Word and will.” —Sinclair B. Ferguson

Eric Metaxas reminds us why Darwinism cannot explain religion. Check out Saber-tooth Psychology.

New emails continue to show the tragedy that Benghazi is. Hold our leaders accountable!

Tim Elmore explains how leading and following must go hand-in-hand.

[VIDEO] John Maxwell challenges us to enrich other people’s lives—

Links & Quotes

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“The question, then, isn’t, ‘when am I going to get promoted?’ No, I think the question is, ‘will I grab these openings to become someone who’s already doing work at a higher level?’” Read more from Seth Godin’s post.

“Faith is not a distant view but a warm embrace of Christ.” —John Calvin

“The honest truth is that I have seen God do more in people’s lives during ten minutes of real prayer than in ten of my sermons.” Read more of Jim Cymbala’s post The Day Jesus Got Mad.

“Success is a tale of obstacles overcome, and for every obstacle overcome, an excuse not used.” —Robert Brault

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Wishing is not enough; we must do.” —Goethe

“The good news of the Bible is that God is not at all disinclined to satisfy the hearts of those who hope in Him. Just the opposite: The very thing that can make us happiest is what God delights in with all His heart and with all His soul. With all His heart and with all His soul, God joins us in the pursuit of our everlasting joy because the consummation of that joy in Him redounds to the glory of His own infinite worth.” —John Piper

You may need to bookmark this: 15 Scriptures on starting over.

60+ eminent legal scholars call on elected officials to not recognize the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision on homosexual “marriage.”

Another place to reject culture’s language is on the issue of abortion.

Jeff Jacoby has an important look at Christopher Columbus.

 

Links & Quotes

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John Maxwell says, “Most teams don’t naturally get better on their own. Left alone, they don’t grow, improve, or reach championship caliber. Instead, they tend to wind down.” Read more in 4 leadership styles that trigger peak performance.

“There are some things which I feel I might do, as far as I am concerned, which I believe I might do without suffering any personal hurt, but which I would not do for your sakes and which I dare not do for the sake of many who would take license from my example to do a great deal more than I would do, and would make me the horse on which they would put the saddle of their sin. … The ill example of a Christian is ten times worse than that of one who is not a Christian, for if I see a sinner commit sin, his example is poison, but it is labelled. The inconsistent life of a Christian is unlabelled poison, and I am very likely to be injured by it.” —Charles Spurgeon

Holy service of praise - Calvin“There are a thousand passages, and a thousand testimonies, all bearing on the one Cross, the one propitiation, the one Lamb of God, the one blood, the one sacrifice. Any one of these testimonies in the hand of the Holy Spirit can pour in gladness into the soul. … Gloom dishonors God; joy honors Him. It speaks well of Him, and shows man what a God of goodness and grace He is.” —Horatius Bonar

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