Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Patience Of God

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.

The Patience Of God

     But why are His chariots so long in coming? Why does He delay? The world grows gray, not only with age, but also with iniquity, and yet the Deliverer comes not. We have waited for His footfall at the dead of night and looked out for Him through the gates of the morning. We have expected Him in the heat of the day and reckoned that He might come before yet another sun went down. But He is not here! He waits. He waits very, very long. Will He not come?

     Long-suffering is that which keeps Him from coming. He is bearing with men. Not yet the thunderbolt! Not yet the riven heavens and the reeling earth! Not yet the great white throne and the Day of Judgment, for He is full of pity and bears long with men! Even to the cries of His own elect, who cry day and night to Him, He is not in haste to answer, for He is very patient, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. …

From the sermon God’s Long-Suffering

As a young child, I frequently heard my parents and grandparents say, “Jesus could return at any moment. His Second Coming is closer today than ever before.” My grandparents have all died and are with Jesus in Heaven, but I’m still here. 

Yet, I still believe it’s true: Jesus could return at any moment. His Second Coming is closer today than ever before.

Why does God delay Christ’s return? I believe the apostle Peter says it best—The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (see 2 Peter 3:3-15). 

That’s why Spurgeon concludes this sermon with this impassioned call to Christians: 

“God calls upon us, until the world is utterly destroyed with fire, to go on saving men with all our might and main. Every year that passes is meant to be a year of salvation. We rightly call each year the year of our Lord. Let us make it so by more earnest efforts for the bringing of sinners to the Cross of Christ.” 

Let’s continue to look for Christ’s soon return, but let’s be busy telling everyone about a God who loves them, who is patient with them, and who wants them to come to repentance and spend eternity with Him! 

Favorable Influence

Twice the 80th psalm declares—Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make Your face shine upon us, that we may be saved (Psalm 80:19). 

But if we are already a Christian that has been saved from the penalty of our sin and saved to an eternal reward, then that also means that God’s face IS already shining on us, He HAS already restored us, and He HAS already given us His favor. 

I like how the Amplified Bible renders this verse: Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; cause Your face to shine in pleasure, approval, and favor on us, and we shall be saved! 

What we have received is too wonderful for us to keep to ourselves, so we must let His pleasure, approval, and favor now shine out of us! 

“If the result of our experience of God does not compel and propel us into global mission, it is doubtful whether we have really encountered the God of the Bible.” —Dick Brogden 

Jesus stated His mission simply and then sent us out on the exact same mission (Luke 4:18-19; John 20:21). We do this best by living closely among people so they can also see us shine with God’s favor.

Paul called us to shine as well: Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people (Philippians 2:15). I believe this is a perfect definition of the word influence. The origin of the word meant the supposed flowing of ethereal fluid from the stars thought to affect the actions of men. Christians that let their good deeds shine in the darkness can influence the entire culture around them!

“Radical Christianity is not going on a missions trip or a big conference. Radical Christianity is staying steady for decades.” —Mike Bickle 

Being a person that shines with favorable influence requires staying involved for the long haul so that you can build trustworthiness. It’s being in visible places not to get glory, but to let people see God’s glory. When they see His glory shine on you and out of you, they will want what you have too!

Solomon said, By the blessing of the influence of the upright and God’s favor—because of them the city is exalted (Proverbs 11:11). So, my fellow Christian, let me ask you: 

  • Has God shined on you?
  • Are you letting Him shine out of you? 
  • Are you living a noteworthy, trustworthy, visible life in your dark community? 

“It’s your choice: You can be a part of your city’s elevation or its deterioration.”

—Craig T. Owens

The Unborn, Unchallenged, And Unreached

“The Lord of life will not tolerate senseless death whether through abortion or neglect of our missionary commission. Both rebellious sins result in billions dying. The killing of unborn babies and the reluctance to spend ourselves that the unreached may be born again are equal and connected evils: both would rather others die, unprotected or unwarned, than be inconvenienced. If we do nothing about the unborn and the unreached, if we do not respond to God’s command to fight for life, then we break covenant with Him, scoff at His messengers, and the wrath of God will rise until there is no remedy. With the blood of 50 million unborn on our hands and the blood of 3.15 billion unreached on our heads, surely wrath is nigh and remedy runs out. 

“The enemy is most vile in his demonic success when he succeeds in getting us to kill our own. How many future missionaries lie buried in tiny graves? How many unreached will die because a ‘Christian’ nation aborted our own missionaries? A less decried corporate murder, another abortion campaign, is the emasculation of men. Men were born to fight, and the spirit behind homosexuality denies masculinity and seeks to kill the warrior spirit. If the enemy can get us to kill our own children and emasculate our own men, he can sit back in demonic satisfaction as we destroy ourselves and no one lives so that the nations may not die. There are on average seven single missionary women for every one single missionary man. Where are the missionary men? Have we killed them in the cradle of the womb or the cradle of culture, media, and caricature? 

“What if there is a deeper core to the travesties of abortion and homosexuality? What if the implications are so much bigger than our ‘rights,’ ‘convenience,’ or ‘pleasure’? What if these issues are about the nations and the glory of God among all peoples? What if by getting us to kill our children and neuter our men, the devil knows he can hold unreached people captive and death will reign both at home and abroad? Maybe there is yet one last remedy for wrath. Maybe the fate of the unborn, unchallenged, and unreached are all connected. Perhaps as we fight for the abolition of abortion, the warrior masculinity of men, and the glory of God among all peoples, God will have mercy on our land and hold back the winepress of His wrath.” —Dick Brogden, in Missionary God, Missionary Bible (emphasis mine)

Missionary God, Missionary Bible (book review)

Technically speaking, Missionary God, Missionary Bible by Dick Brogden is a pre-book. It is being released through 2019 as a daily email and then it will be published as a book next year. But I urge you to jump in on these stirring thoughts today! 

God is a missions-minded God, so it makes sense that the Bible would be a missions-centered text, speaking to the hearts of both those who don’t know Jesus as Savior yet, and to the hearts of those Christians who should be missional in their lives. 

Dick is a veteran missionary, and he brings his decades of ministry experience to this monumental work. Dick is using The Chronological Study Bible to take us through the Bible in one year and to look at every text through a missionary lens. The Chronological Study Bible is a fascinating read in itself, as it places the biblical texts in the order in which the events happened, but then when Dick’s insights are added to those historical events, something even more powerful stirs in my heart. 

Each day’s devotional also includes a prayer focus for an unreached people group, along with the vital statistics about these precious people who need to hear the Good News of Jesus. 

This study Bible, read alongside Dick’s missional insights, and then combined with a prayer for a group that needs to receive the Gospel, makes for a life-changing devotional time. You will definitely want to get the book when it is published, but please don’t wait until then to begin to have your missionary heart enlarged and engaged in this fantastic daily study. 

You can subscribe to the daily emails by clicking here.

My Going Is Your Calling

BibleThis morning I shared some cool thoughts on Luke 10:1-3

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

Are you following me on Periscope? My username is @craigtowens. If you subscribe, you can see these types of broadcasts live. But, not to worry, I have uploaded it here as well…

14 Quotes From “Pentecost”

Pentecost

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Pentecost by Robert P. Menzies, and learned quite a bit. You can read my full book review by clicking here. Here are a few quotes that stood out to me.

“It’s because Pentecostals fuse the biblical and contemporary horizons that we link baptism in the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues, since that’s what Acts 2 does. It’s why we associate Spirit-baptism with empowerment for mission rather than with spiritual regeneration. And it’s why we expect God to perform ‘signs and wonders’ and to manifest spiritual gifts in worship services. All these things happened in the first Pentecostal community, and their story is our story.” 

“At its heart, the Pentecostal movement is not Spirit-centered but Christ-centered. The work of the Spirit, as Pentecostals understand it, centers on exalting and bearing witness to the Lordship of Christ.”

“Pentecostals are ‘people of the Book.’ Although Pentecostals certainly encourage spiritual experience, they do so with a constant eye to Scripture.”

“So, the stories of Acts are our stories, and we read them with expectation and eagerness: stories of the Holy Spirit’s power, enabling ordinary disciples to do extraordinary things for God. … The hermeneutic of the typical Pentecostal believer is straightforward and simple: the stories in Acts are my stories—stories that were written to serve as models for shaping my life and experience.”

“In Luke’s view, every member of the church is called (Luke 24:45–49; Acts 1:4–8/Isaiah 49:6) and empowered (Acts 2:17–21; cf. 4:31) to be a prophet. Far from being unique and unrepeatable, Luke emphasizes that the prophetic enabling experienced by the disciples at Pentecost is available to all of God’s people. … Through his two-volume work, Luke declares that the church, by virtue of its reception of the Pentecostal gift, is nothing less than a community of prophets. It matters not whether we are young or old, male or female, rich or poor, black or white; the Spirit of Pentecost comes to enable every member of the church, each one of us, to fulfill our prophetic call to be a light to the nations.” 

“Not long ago a Chinese house church leader commented, ‘When Western Christians read the book of Acts, they see in it inspiring stories; when Chinese believers read the book of Acts, we see in it our lives.’”

“Luke’s theology of the Spirit is different from that of Paul. Unlike Paul, who frequently speaks of the soteriological dimension of the Spirit’s work, Luke consistently portrays the Spirit as a charismatic or, more precisely, a prophetic gift, the source of power for service.” 

“Luke crafts his narrative so that the parallels between Jesus’ experience of the Spirit (Luke 3–4) and that of the disciples on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1–2) cannot be missed. Both accounts: 1. Are placed at the outset of Luke’s Gospel on the one hand, and the book of Acts on the other; 2. Associate the reception of the Spirit with prayer; 3. Record visible and audible manifestations; 4. Offer explanations of the event in the form of a sermon that alludes to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.”

“Luke’s understanding of baptism in the Holy Spirit, I have argued, is different from that of Paul. It is missiological rather than soteriological in nature. … The tendency in Protestant churches has been to read Luke in the light of Paul. Paul addresses pastoral concerns in the church; Luke writes a missionary manifesto.” 

“Bold witness for Jesus is recognized as our primary calling and the central purpose of our experience of the Spirit’s power. Missions is woven into the fabric of our DNA.”

“I do not wish to minimize in any way the significance of the great doctrinal truths of Paul’s writings. I merely point out that since Paul was, for the most part, addressing specific needs in various churches, his writings tend to feature the inner life of the Christian community. His writings, with some significant exceptions, do not focus on the mission of the church to the world. … It is probably fair to say that while Paul features the ‘interior’ work of the Spirit (e.g., the fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5:22–23); Luke features His ‘expressive’ work (Acts 1:8). Thus, by appropriating in a unique way the significant contributions of Luke-Acts, Pentecostals have developed a piety with a uniquely outward or missiological thrust.”

“The clarity of the Pentecostal message flows from the simple, straightforward manner in which we read the Bible. As I have noted, Pentecostals love the stories of the Bible. We identify with the stories that fill the pages of the Gospels and Acts, and the lessons gleaned from these stories are easily grasped and applied in our lives. For Pentecostals, the New Testament presents models that are to be emulated and guidelines that are to be followed. It should be noted that our approach to doing theology is not dependent on mastering a particular set of writings, say, the works of Luther; or coming to terms with a highly complex theological system. Pentecostals also do not worry much about cultural distance or theological diversity within the canon. We do not lose sleep over how we should understand the miracle stories of the Bible or how we might resolve apparent contradictions in the Bible. Our commitment to the Bible as the Word of God enables us to face these questions with a sense of confidence.”

“We must remember that whatever we do, God is measuring the work we do for Him in a qualitative, not quantitative way. … Only the work which is done by the power of the Holy Spirit can be acceptable in the Kingdom of God.” —David Yonggi Cho

“Some will still remain skeptical. They will ask: Is not this approach to church life, with its emphasis on ecstatic experience, emotional response, and spiritual power, filled with inherent dangers? Might it not encourage us to feature emotionally manipulative methods and to focus on superficial matters? Yes, undoubtedly, there are dangers. However, there is more danger in an approach that fails to make room for the full range of human experience, including the emotions, in our encounter with God.”

Flexibility

I am working through a fascinating devotional book called Live Dead. It’s not just a book, but a challenge to live differently. I strongly encourage you to purchase this book, and then take the Live Dead challenge. With the permission of the book’s editor, I am reproducing Day 22’s challenge.

Flexibility: God’s Music, Written In Three Flats by Bob McCulley

Some of the most dangerous times in our life and ministry are when we lock our dreams and hopes in concrete, when we become so focused on what we are planning to do that we cannot see what God is trying to do. One day, while serving among the Maasai people of East Africa, I was running late for an appointment to meet with the village elders in a place called Mbirikani, which was about an hour away from our home. The purpose of the meeting was to appeal for a site where we could build a church in that village. My planned departure was delayed and my wife, Murriell, tried to soothe my anxiety with the words, “God has everything under control.”

I drove my four-by-four vehicle quickly up the road and was making good time until I got a flat tire, which I hurriedly changed. A few minutes later, I had a second flat and again made a tire change that would make a pit crew proud. Deep in the bush and well off the road, I had a third flat tire, and my third and final spare had to be removed from the luggage rack. In the process of getting it off the roof, it rolled away from me and down the hill into a large clump of thorn brush. By the time I retrieved it, my clothes were torn and my face and arms were bleeding from multiple scratches.

As I was preparing to mount the third spare tire, a Morani, a Maasai warrior, came walking out of the forest and greeted me. I did not wish to have a conversation because I was dirty from changing the flats and was now very late for what I thought was a critical appointment. His greeting was congenial and correct, while mine was harsh and abrupt. But I had good reason: I was late, dirty, bleeding, and angry. His next words stopped me. He knew my name. He had heard me preach a few weeks before, and that morning on awakening had decided to go to town to find me and to ask me to help him receive Christ. He had set off before sunrise to walk about 15 miles to town to find me and only halfway there, had found me on the roadside. I stopped changing the tire, cleaned my hands, and got my Bible out. Soon we were sitting under a thorn tree, reading and praying together as he became a newborn follower of Jesus.

When we were done, he thanked me and disappeared back into the forest, and I sat in wonder of the way God schedules our lives. By then I knew I had been right on time for the only appointment God had scheduled for me that day. I had no spare tires left, so I finished mounting the third spare and turned the truck around and headed home. Days later, I learned that the meeting had been postponed until the following day and our appeal had been granted. The community had given us 10 acres of ground on which to develop the ministry.

Our plans and dreams are often far removed from what God has in mind for us, and a lack of flexibility may cause us to miss Him and to be broken in the missing.

Live Dead Challenge — Look for a way you can be flexible today. Anticipate an interruption and welcome it as an opportunity, an event God has scheduled for you — even if it makes you late or it means that something you planned does not happen. In the days to come, look for ways you can be flexible. In service opportunities down the road, commit to flexing — dying to your plan and schedule that you might live to the surprises God injects in your daily life.

You can order the Live Dead book and other resources by clicking here.

And, for those of you who live in or near Cedar Springs, join us for a series of messages and a free copy of Live Dead in February.

%d bloggers like this: