Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Joyful Journey To Realization

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.

The Joyful Journey To Realization

And [Abram] believed in the Lord, and [God] accounted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) 

     Brothers and sisters, this everyday faith is the faith of God’s elect! There are persons who imagine saving faith to be a barren conviction of the truth of certain abstract propositions, leading only to a quiet contemplation upon certain delightful topics, or separating ourselves from all sympathy with our fellow creatures. But it is not so! Faith, restricted merely to religious exercise, is not Christian faith. It must show itself in everything. … 

     There may be some of you here today who have been called by divine grace from darkness into marvelous light. You have been led to look to Jesus and you believe you have received pardon of your sin, and yet, for lack of knowledge, you know little of the sweet meaning of such words as these: ‘accepted in the Beloved’ (Ephesians 1:6); ‘perfect in Christ Jesus’ (Colossians 1:28); ‘complete in Him’ (Colossians 2:10). You are doubtless justified, though you scarcely understand what justification means. And you are accepted, though you have not realized your acceptance. And you are complete in Jesus Christ, though you have, today, a far deeper sense of your personal incompleteness than of the all-sufficiency of Jesus. … 

     But there will come a time, beloved, when you who are called will clearly realize your justification and will rejoice in it! It will be intelligently understood by you and will become a matter of transporting delight—lifting you to a higher platform of experience and enabling you to walk with a firmer step, sing with a merrier voice, and triumph with an enlarged heart!  

From Justification By Faith

I was once asked, “If you could have a superpower, what would it be?” After a moment’s thought, I answered, “I’d like the power to just go <poof> for someone and they would be able to fully comprehended God’s love for them, or they would instantly realize how to live out their Christian faith.” 

Alas, there is no such superpower. But you and I have something far, far better: the Holy Spirit! 

Abram (who would later become Abraham) obediently followed God, even though the Bible said he didn’t fully grasp where he was going nor how God was going to give him many descendants. But he followed, and he trusted, and he listened, and slowly God began to reveal more and more to him. 

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. He didn’t say, “The Holy Spirit will go <poof> and you will immediately and fully understand everything.” Like Abram, we believe what God says about us, we follow, we trust, we listen, we obey, and the Spirit will begin to illuminate God’s Word to us. We’ll discover more each day what He’s asking of us, and we will notice that both our joy in Him and our effectiveness for the Kingdom of God are increasing along the journey! 

Don’t bail out early! Stick with it! I promise you that the joy still to be revealed along this journey is beyond compare with anything which would tempt you to stay behind to acquire.

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Surprised By Paradox (book review)

Many years ago, as I struggled with some of the either-or challenges of Christianity, I read C.S. Lewis’ wisdom that the safest course between two either-or extremes was a course straight between them. Jen Pollock Michel embraces this profound wisdom in her thoughtful book Surprised By Paradox—The Promise of And in an Either-Or World.

Jen wrestled with many of the same either-or struggles I wrestled with, which I actually found encouraging. The reason I find this encouraging is that it tells me that I’m not alone in my wrestling, and you aren’t either! So embracing the same C.S. Lewis wisdom that helped guide me, Jen opens up her heart to us in an intimate journey of discovery. 

Surprised By Paradox felt like I was getting a glimpse at Jen’s personal diary. Every chapter seemed like it could start out “Dear Diary…” with Jen sharing what prompted her wrestling thoughts, the alternatives she considered, and then the AND solution that God revealed to her. I could feel her growing in insight and confidence as I turned to each successive chapter. 

This book will cause you to question and ponder and wrestle as well. And that’s a good thing! To help you along the way, there are some very helpful discussion questions sprinkled throughout the book. Although these would be fine questions for you to answer on your own, I encourage to invite someone else alongside you on your journey. Surprised By Paradox will help you and your friends grow in your spiritual maturity. 

I am an IVP book reviewer. 

Poetry Saturday—In Light Or Darkness

img_1700If God says “Yes” to our prayer, dear heart,
And the sunlight is golden, the sky is blue,
While the smooth road beckons to me and you,
And the song-birds warble as on we go,
Pausing to gather the buds at our feet,
Stopping to drink of the streamlets we meet,
Happy, more happy, our journey will grow,
If God says “Yes” to our prayer, dear heart.

 

If God says “No” to our prayer, dear heart,
And the clouds hang heavy and dull and gray;
If the rough rocks hinder and block the way,
While the sharp winds pierce us and sting with cold;
Ah, dear, there is home at the journey’s end,
And these are the trials the Father doth send
To draw us as sheep to His Heavenly fold,
If God says “No” to our prayer, dear heart. —Jessie E. Schindle

Poetry Saturday—If We Could See Beyond Today

Field and sunIf we could see beyond today
As God can see;
If all the clouds should roll away,
The shadows flee;
O’er present griefs we would not fret.
Each sorrow we would soon forget,
For many joys are waiting yet
For you and me.

If we could know beyond today
As God doth know,
Why dearest treasures pass away
And tears must flow;
And why the darkness leads to light,
Why dreary paths will soon grow bright;
Some day life’s wrongs will be made right,
Faith tells us so.  

“If we could see, if we could know,”
We often say,
But God in love a veil doth throw
Across our way;
We cannot see what lies before,
And so we cling to Him the more,
He leads us till this life is o’er;
Trust and obey. —Norman J. Clayton

11 Quotes From John Maxwell In “Success 101”

Susscess 101John Maxwell’s 101-series of books are a great introduction to some of his other more in-depth books. As I like to explain it, the 101-level introduces you to the topic, and the 301- and 401-level classes/books take you deeper.

I am in the process of reading The Complete 101 Collection (I’ll post my review of this shortly). In the meantime, here are some quotes from Success 101 which I found thought-provoking.

“You cannot achieve what you have not defined. The problem for most people who want to be successful is not that they can’t achieve success. The main obstacle for them is that they misunderstand success.”

“What does it take to be a success? Two things are required: The right picture of success and the right principles for getting there.”

“Success is a journey rather than a destination. No matter how long you live or what you decide to do in your life, you will never exhaust your capacity to grow toward your potential or run out of opportunities to help others.” 

“Without a dream, we may struggle to see potential in ourselves because we don’t look beyond our current circumstances. But with a dream, we begin to see ourselves in a new light, as having greater potential and being capable of stretching and growing to reach it.”

“The bottom line in managing your emotions is that you should put others—not yourself—first in how you handle and process them. Whether you delay or display your emotions should not be for your own gratification. You should ask yourself, What does the team need? not, What will make me feel better?

“The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness.”

“Successful people face the danger of contentment with the status quo. After all, if a successful person already possesses influence and has achieved a level of respect, why should he keep growing? The answer is simple: your growth determines who you are; who you are determines who you attract; who you attract determines the success of your organization. If you want to grow your organization, you have to remain teachable.”

“Few things gain the appreciation of a top leader more quickly than an employee with a whatever-it-takes attitude. That is what successful people must have. They must be willing and able to think outside of their job description, to be willing to tackle the kinds of jobs that others are too proud or too frightened to take on. These things are what often elevate successful people above their peers.”

“Good leaders…find a way to succeed with people who are hard to work with.” 

“Successful people admit faults but never make excuses.”

“If you are successful where you are, I believe you will be given an opportunity to succeed at a higher level. … Leadership is a journey that starts where you are, not where you want to be.”

Purple Fish (book review)

Purple FishThere’s a quote from Becky Pippert right near the beginning of Mark O. Wilson’s book Purple Fish that sets the tone for the whole book: “Christians and non-Christians have something in common: we are both uptight about evangelism.”

My question is: why? And that’s Mark’s question as well. So Mark uses a candid look at his own journey of discovery, personal stories, thoughts from Scripture, and insights from others to slowly, surely change our paradigm about what “evangelism” really means for a Christian.

The idea of a “purple fish” relates to a fantastic treasure (but you’ll learn more as you read this fascinating book). Let me also add that Mark Wilson is a fisherman, and uses tons of fishing analogies that other sportsmen will really relate to. But whether you enjoy fishing or not, there is so much to appreciate in this book about how Mark makes Christians excited about sharing their faith every single day.

I’m looking forward to reading and discussing this book with lots of other folks!

JumpStart Your Leadership (book review)

JumpStart Your LeadershipJohn Maxwell always gives his readers a treasure-trove of helpful thoughts for personal growth! I would highly recommend anyone to grab any one of his books and dive in. But a good place to start may be JumpStart Your Leadership.

This book is setup as a 90-day journey of leadership growth. Whether someone is just beginning in a leadership position, or has been in a position of leadership for quite some time, this is a tremendous resource. Each day has a quote, a short teaching point from John Maxwell, and then a page to respond to the question of the day. After three months, I am confident you will feel your leadership surging forward.

Small book, big dividends. Get this book and get growing!

I am a Center Street book reviewer.

6 Quotes From “Lincoln’s Battle With God”

Lincoln's Battle With GodStephen Mansfield has given us a unique view of the life of Abraham Lincoln, through his struggle with coming to grips with who God was to him. It’s truly an amazing read! You can read my full book review of Lincoln’s Battle With God by clicking here. Below are a few quotes I highlighted in this book.

“A schoolteacher who knew him during these years recalled, ‘Abraham Lincoln was the most studious, diligent strait forward young man in the pursuit of a knowledge of literature than any among the five thousand I have taught in the school.’” —Stephen Mansfield 

“Through all, I groped my way until I found a stronger and higher grasp of thought, one that reached beyond this life with a clearness and satisfaction I had never known before. The Scriptures unfolded before me with a deeper and more logical appeal, through these new experiences, than anything else I could find to turn to, or ever before had found in them.” —Abraham Lincoln

“The fundamental truths reported in the four gospels as from the lips of Jesus Christ, and that I first heard from the lips of my mother, are settled and fixed moral precepts with me. I have concluded to dismiss from my mind the debatable wrangles that once perplexed me with distractions that stirred up, but never absolutely settled anything. I have tossed them aside with the doubtful differences which divide denominations—sweeping them all out of my mind among the nonessentials. I have ceased to follow such discussions or be interested in them. I cannot without mental reservations assent to long and complicated creeds and catechisms. If the church would ask simply for assent to the Savior’s statements of the substance of the law: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself,’ that church would I gladly unite with.” —Abraham Lincoln

“The fact is, I don’t like to hear cut and dried sermons. No, when I hear a man preach, I like to see him act as if he were fighting bees!” —Abraham Lincoln

“On Thursday of last week two ladies from Tennessee came before the President asking the release of their husbands held as prisoners of war at Johnson’s Island. … At each of the interviews one of the ladies urged that her husband was a religious man. On Saturday the President ordered the release of the prisoners, and then said to this lady, ‘You say your husband is a religious man; tell him when you meet him, that I say I am not much of a judge of religion, but that, in my opinion, the religion that sets men to rebel and fight against their government, because, as they think, that government does not sufficiently help some men to eat their bread on the sweat of other men’s faces, is not the sort of religion upon which people can get to heaven!’”  —From a newspaper article entitled “The President’s Last, Shortest and Best Speech”

“If I were not sustained by the prayers of God’s people, I could not endure this constant pressure. … It has pleased Almighty God to place me in my present position and looking up to Him for wisdom and divine guidance I must work my destiny as best I can.” —Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln’s Battle With God (book review)

Lincoln's Battle With GodI’m a big fan of the historical and biographical work of Stephen Mansfield. His books are thoroughly researched but they don’t read like scholarly works, but have a more storytelling feel to them. This is especially true in his book Lincoln’s Battle With God.

I have read several biographies about our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, but this is one of the most innovative angles of this great leader’s life. Mansfield tells the story of Lincoln as a boy growing up in an overly-strict, hyper-Calvinistic home where religious observance was demanded and oppressive. Lincoln’s father was distant and didn’t have satisfactory answers for his young son when life was painful.

This contributed to Lincoln as a young man who, while searching for answers, went the opposite direction of his father’s faith, and became immersed in rationalism and even agnosticism. Through it all as Lincoln searched for answers, he and his friends had to cope with Lincoln’s “hypo” (his word for deep, almost debilitating, depression).

When rationalism didn’t help him discover the answers he so desperately desired, Lincoln came full circle to begin to explore the tenants of Scripture once again. But this time he looked at the Bible through a different paradigm, being much more thoughtful and circumspect.

His journey to the White House where he had to deal with a nation torn apart by Civil War and the premature death of his young sons exposed him once again to events which would have caused the younger Lincoln to spiral into depression. But his faith in God now had grown rock solid and sustaining.

This book is a fascinating journey through Lincoln’s spiritual struggles, and it’s one that I think many will benefit from reading. Those who are admirers of Abraham Lincoln, those battling depression, and even those searching for life’s answers will find a lot to learn in these pages.

The Furious Longing Of God (book review)

Furious Longing Of GodBrennan Manning at times seems to tap into dimensions of our relationship with God that I had never considered before, and his book The Furious Longing Of God is a great example of this.

It is almost foreign in a Christian’s vocabulary, or even understanding of Scripture, to think of God furiously longing for a relationship with the people He has created. But God does long for this, and Manning pulls out those biblical passages and weaves them together with his own life story to create a hunger in us for more of God.

Each chapter builds on the previous chapter, creating in me a longing to experience God’s longing. This book is not difficult to read, but it is confronting. I doubt you can read Manning’s words are remain unmoved by God’s passionate, relentless, furious longing for you.

If you too long for a deeper relationship with your Creator, this is a great book to help you on that journey.

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