Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Christian’s Waiting Activity

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.

A Christian’s Waiting Activity

They were looking intently up into the sky as He [Jesus] was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

     Despisers tell us nowadays, ‘Your cause is done for! Christianity is spun out! Your divine Christ is gone! We have not seen a trace of His miracle-working hands, nor of that voice that no man could rival.’ Here is our answer: We are not standing gazing up into heaven. We are not paralyzed because Jesus is away. He lives, the great Redeemer lives, and though it is our delight to lift up our eyes because we expect His coming, it is equally our delight to turn our heavenly gazing into an earthward watching and to go down into the city and there to tell that Jesus is risen, that men are to be saved by faith in Him, and that whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life! We are not defeated! Far from it—His ascension is not a retreat, but an advance! His tarrying is not for lack of power, but because of the abundance of His long-suffering. …  

     It is clear that He has not quit the fight nor deserted the field of battle. Our great Captain is still heading the conflict! He has ridden into another part of the field, but He will be back again, perhaps in the twinkling of an eye [Revelation 22:12; Matthew 25:21]. … 

     Brothers and sisters, do not let anybody spiritualize away all this from you! Jesus is coming as a matter of fact—therefore go down to your sphere of service as a matter of fact. Get to work and teach the ignorant, win the wayward, instruct the children, and everywhere proclaim the sweet name of Jesus! … Jesus is not coming in a sort of mythical, misty, hazy way. He is literally and actually coming—and He will literally and actually call upon you to give an account of your stewardship. Therefore now, today, literally not symbolically, personally and not by deputy, go out through that portion of the world that you can reach and preach the gospel to every creature according as you have opportunity, for this is what the men in white apparel meant—be ready to meet your coming Lord. … 

     If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness! 

From The Ascension And The Second Advent Practically Considered

Jesus was about His Father’s business the whole time He was on earth. As He ascended to heaven, He promised us His authority and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit so we too could be about our Father’s business. 

In one of His parables about stewarding our Master’s gifts and resources until He returned, Jesus said, “Occupy until I return” (Luke 19:13). I love Spurgeon’s remind: “If you would meet Him with joy, serve Him with earnestness!” 

Yes, we are waiting for Jesus to return, but our waiting is an active waiting. With one eye toward the heavens and one eye toward earth, we actively tell others about our soon returning King. Occupy! Stay active! Stay alert! Meet Him with joy! 

7 Quotes From David Livingstone

The Daring Heart Of David Livingstone by Jay Milbrandt is an amazing account of this man’s heroic and history-altering life. Check out my full book review by clicking here. Below are a few quotes that Milbrandt shared in his biography. 

“It is something to be a follower, however feeble, in the wake of the great Teacher and only model missionary that ever appeared among men.” —David Livingstone 

“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger now and then with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.” —David Livingstone 

“I shall hold myself in readiness to go anywhere, provided it be forward. … Our duty is to go forward … I have observed that people who have sat long waiting have sat long enough before they saw any indication to go.” —David Livingstone 

“As they are experts with the spear I don’t know how it missed, except that he was too sure of his aim and the good hand of God was upon me.” —David Livingstone, after surviving two spears thrown at him during an ambush 

“The Gospels reveal Jesus, the manifestation of the blessed God over all as minute in His care of all. He exercises a vigilance more constant, complete, and comprehensive, every hour and every minute, over each of His people than their utmost selflove could ever attain. His tender love is more exquisite than a mother’s heart can feel.” —David Livingstone 

“If the good Lord permits me to put a stop to the enormous evils of the inland slave-trade, I shall not grudge my hunger and toils. I shall bless His name with all my heart. The Nile sources are valuable to me only as a means of enabling me to open my mouth with power among men. It is this power I hope to apply to remedy an enormous evil [in the East African slave trade]. Men may think I covet fame, but I make it a rule never to read aught written in my praise.” —David Livingstone 

“I am a missionary, heart and soul. God had an only Son, and He was a missionary and a physician. A poor, poor imitation I am or wish to be. In this service I hope to live, in it I wish to die.” —David Livingstone 

Controlled By The Holy Spirit

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21) 

Jesus wanted His followers to be His missionaries throughout the world, but not until they were empowered with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The new Testament writers elaborate on concepts that boil down to a Christian being controlled by the Spirit. What does that entail? I think these words from J. Oswald Sanders are well worth consideration—

“What does this apostolic injunction in Ephesians 5:18 mean? It is not an invitation to realize a privilege but a command to fulfill an obligation. … The clear teaching of Scripture is that we are filled with the Spirit when our human spirit is mastered and controlled by the Holy Spirit. The idea behind the command ‘be filled with the Spirit’ is not so much that of an empty vessel passively waiting for something to be poured into it, as water into a glass [here is a 3-minute video where I illustrate this idea]. It is rather the concept of a human personality voluntarily surrendered to the domination the Holy Spirit. … The Spirit’s control is not automatic but voluntarily and constantly conceded. 

“The fullness of the Spirit does not obliterate personality, as does hypnotism. In fact, the person who is filled with the Spirit only then realizes and discovers his true personality. It is not obliterated but released. We will never know the possibility of our redeemed personality until we definitely yield ourselves in full and undeserved surrender to His control. … 

“Paul’s personality was not obliterated by [Christ’s] indwelling. ‘I live,’ he said, ‘yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ He did not become any the less Paul because he was indwelt by Christ. Indeed, he became more and more the Paul God intended him to be; the ideal Paul who was a chosen vessel to the Lord. We need not fear the fullest surrender to Christ, for He enhances and ennobles personality. He imports qualities which are absent and brings into activity powers and possibility which were latent. He became a different Paul, but a greater and better Paul. Apart from the indwelling and mastery of Christ, the world would probably have heard little of him. Instead his influence has been one of the dominating features of the last two millennia.” —J. Oswald Sanders, in Cultivation of Christian Character (emphasis mine) 

If you would like to review some of the thoughts I have already shared in this current series, please click here and scroll down to the list of posts listed on that page.

The Holy Spirit Keeps Christians “Oscar Mike”

Military squads dispatched to achieve an objective will receive a briefing, be given the resources they need to complete the mission, and then they will launch out to complete the task. They will report back to HQ: “We are Oscar Mike”—which means “we are on the move” or “we are on mission.”  

Jesus was always Oscar Mike while He was on earth, and He has also called His followers to remain Oscar Mike with the objective He has given us. 

Christians need to remember that our mission isn’t a destination and it’s not a one-time accomplishment. Without the Holy Spirit’s help, this is a difficult concept to keep in mind. 

Jesus told His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, which they probably interpreted as the place where He would say, “Mission accomplished.” They were thinking in terms of Jesus reestablishing Israel as God’s HQ. So we can understand how baffled they were when Jesus said, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him, insult Him and spit on Him; they will flog Him and kill Him.” In fact, Luke records, “The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what He was talking about.” 

They obviously became more confused when a blind beggar stopped Jesus, and when Jesus stopped to eat at the house of a notorious tax collector. Jesus sensed their misunderstanding so “He went on to tell them a parable, because He was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” 

Christ’s parable challenged His followers to stay Oscar Mike. He explained how they were to keep on investing in people. This is exactly what Jesus was doing: using the proper verb tenses, Jesus explained that “the Son of Man came to keep on seeking and to keep on saving the lost”(see Luke 18:31-19:13).

Don’t get so focused on the destination that you lose sight of the mission. 

Earth is not the Christian’s home. We are just passing through and we must remain Oscar Mike as we do. 

Jesus said that being baptized in the Holy Spirit would help us stay Oscar Mike because the Holy Spirit will give us…

  1. … vital information  
  2. … ongoing communication
  3. … real-life application of God’s Word to our circumstances

(check out John 16:12-13; 1 Corinthians 2:10, 16; Isaiah 30:21; Romans 8:26-27; Acts 10:9-15, 28; 15:28)

If Jesus was so reliant on the Holy Spirit while He was on earth, what would make us think that we should be any less reliant?

You and I need the Holy Spirit! 

Stay on mission until God calls you home. Then you can say with the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn what it means to be a Pentecostal Christian. 

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.”

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