Thursdays With Spurgeon—Walking Preachers

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.

Walking Preachers  

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

     Walking is a position that…signifies activity. You would suppose from the way some Christians deport themselves, that their whole life was spent in meditation. It is a blessed thing to sit ‘with Mary at the Master’s feet.’ But we walk as well as sit. We do not merely learn, but we practice what we know. We are not simply scholars, but, having been taught as scholars, we go on to show our scholarship by working in the vineyard or wherever else the Master may be pleased to place us. …  

     You would gather indeed from what others say, that the whole life of a Christian is to be spent in prayer. Prayer, it is true, is the vitality of the secret parts of Christian life, but we are not always on our knees! We are not constantly engaged in seeking blessings from heaven. We do continue in prayer, but we are also engaged and showing forth to others the blessings that we have received and in exhibiting in our daily actions the fruits that we have gathered on the mountaintop of communion with God. We walk, and this implies activity. …  

     ‘We walk.’ This is more than some can say. They can affirm, ‘We talk. We think. We experience. We feel.’ But true Christians can say with the apostle Paul, ‘We walk.’ Oh, that we may ever be able to say it too! Here, then, is the activity of the Christian life.

From Faith Versus Sight

Edgar A. Guest captured this idea well in his poem “Sermons We See.” The first stanza says,

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear.
And the best of all preachers are the men who live their creeds.
For to see the good in action is what everybody needs.
 

Or as Francis of Assisi noted, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” 

So a fantastic question for every Christian to ask themselves is this: Do people know that I’m walking with Jesus even if I never open my mouth to tell them?

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Holy Familiarity

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.

Holy Familiarity  

     All these thirteen years, so far as Scripture informs us, Abram had not a single visit from his God. We do not find any record of his either doing anything memorable or having so much as a single audience with the Most High. Learn from this that if we once forsake the track of simple faith, once cease to walk according to the purity that faith approves, we strew our path with thorns, cause God to withhold the light of His countenance from us, and pierce ourselves through with many sorrows. 

     But mark, beloved, the exceeding grace of God: The way to recover Abram from his backsliding was that the Lord should appear to him…. This brings to my remembrance the words in the book of Revelation concerning the church in Laodicea: ‘You are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth’ (Revelation 3:15-16)—a very solemn declaration. But what follows? ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me’ (Revelation 3:20). That means just this: For recovery out of a horrible state of languishing and lukewarmness there is no remedy but the coming of Jesus Christ to the soul in near and dear communion! …

     Distance from God’s presence always means sin. Holy familiarity with God engenders holiness. The more you think of God, the more you meditate on His works, the more you praise Him, the more you pray to Him, the more constantly you talk with Him and He with you by the Holy Spirit, the more surely are you on the road to thorough consecration to His cause!

From Consecration To God

I’ve often said that one of the most powerful prayers we can pray is simply, “God, help!” In those two words we acknowledge our helplessness and His omnipotence, our sin and His forgiveness, our shortcomings and His desire to restore us. 

The devil lies! He loves to whisper the condemning words of, “You’ve messed up one too many times. You’re too far away for God to rescue you now. This time you exhausted God’s mercy.” 

Once again, by simply crying out, “God, help!” you are calling out satan’s lies. Jesus paid too high of a price for Him to ever let you go. Near the end of this sermon, Charles Spurgeon spoke a powerful reminder: “The blessings of grace are not given today to be taken back tomorrow, but are eternal blessings [Genesis 17:7, 13, 19].” Amen! 

My friend, cry out to God today—He loves you and He’s longing to restore you!

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Wart Warning

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.

Wart Warning  

     At the instigation of his wife, Abraham adopted means that were not justifiable in order that he might obtain the promised heir [see Genesis 16]. He used means that may not be so vicious to him as they would be in men of modern times, but that were suggested by an unbelieving policy and were fraught with evil. He takes Hager to wife. He could not leave it to God to give him the promised seed. He could not leave it with God to fulfill His promise in His own time and justifies himself in turning aside from the narrow path of faith to accomplish, by doubtful methods, the end that God Himself had promised and undertaken to accomplish! How shorn of splendor is Abraham seen when we read, ‘And Abraham heeded the voice of Sarah’ (Genesis 16:2). That business of Hagar is to the patriarch’s deep discredit and reflects no honor at all upon either him or his faith. 

     Look at the consequences of his unbelieving! Misery soon followed. Hager despises her mistress. Sarah throws all the blame on her husband. The poor bondwoman is so harshly dealt with that she flees from the household. … One marvels that such a man as Abraham allowed one who had been brought into such a relationship with him to be heedlessly chased from his house while in a condition requiring care and kindness! 

     We admire the truthfulness of the Holy Spirit that He has been pleased to record the faults of the saints without extenuating them. Biographies of good men in Scripture are written with unflinching integrity—their evil recorded as well as their good. These faults are not written that we may say, ‘Abraham did so-and-so; therefore we may do it.’ No, brothers and sisters, the lives of these good men are warnings to us as well as examples, and we are to judge them as we should judge ourselves—by the laws of right and wrong.

From Consecration To God

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I also talk about the faults that we see in God’s leaders. In looking at David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba, Elijah’s slide into depression, and Peter’s denial of Jesus, I see something similar: They were alone. 

David stayed in Jerusalem while his army went to fight, Elijah left his servant behind and went into the wilderness alone, and Peter was separated from his fellow disciples. Just like with Abraham, all of these other men were brought back into close fellowship with God. But all of these men now have a “wart” on their biography. 

“God designed us to be in relationship with others. His statement to Adam in some of the earliest words of the Bible—‘It is not good for you to be alone’—are words for us still today. As I mentioned earlier [in my book], you will not find the word ‘saints’ in the singular in the New Testament. Instead, you will find such phrases as ‘one another,’ ‘each other,’ and ‘all together’ prominently displayed throughout the New Testament church. Let me say it again: God designed us to be in relationship with others. If you want to go far in your shepherding, you cannot try to go alone.” —from the chapter in Shepherd Leadership called ‘Going Farther’ 

Let’s be forewarned by these examples. Stay close to God, but also stay close to godly friends that will help you in the hard times. Don’t let a wart blemish your record.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Faultless

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.

Faultless  

To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 24-25) 

     I would rather turn to the blessings of which Jude speaks. He seems to ascribe in this doxology three blessings, at least, to the power of the Lord Jesus. The first is the ability to keep you from stumbling, and for this, I am sure, the highest praise is due when you consider for a moment the dangerous way. In some respects, the path to heaven is very safe. It is so as God made it. But in other respects, there is no road as dangerous as the road to eternal life. It is beset with difficulties. … One false step (and how easy it is to take that if divine grace is absent), and down we go! …  

     Only Christ has the power to take us into heaven. … Christ preserves His people though they have offended God and daily provoke His justice. And He does more, for He presents them to the King of kings in the high court of heaven itself! …  

     We proceed to notice the condition in which the saints are to be when presented—they are to be faultless—for our Lord never stops short of perfection in His work of love. … Our Savior will carry His people through this life, safe from falling, and He will present them, how?—faultless! … The righteousness of Jesus Christ will make the saint who wears it so fair that he will be positively faultless! Yes, perfect in the sight of God!

From Christians Kept In Time And Glorified In Eternity

Reading these stirring words from Charles Spurgeon, I cannot help but recall the equally stirring lyrics of this Edward Mote hymn:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay

When He shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Is The Great Worker

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.

God Is The Great Worker

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) 

     God Himself is the Great Worker. He may use what laborers He pleases, but the increase comes only from Him. Brothers, you know it is so in natural things—the most skillful farmer cannot make the wheat germinate, grow, and ripen. … And in the spiritual farm it is even more so, for what can man do in this business? … We can tell out the truth of God, but to apply the truth to the heart and conscience is quite another thing. … 

     Well said our Lord, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). What is the effect of all this upon your minds? Briefly I would draw certain practical lessons out of this important truth of God. (1) The first is, if the whole farm of the church belongs exclusively to the great Master Worker and the laborers are worth nothing without Him, let this promote unity among all whom He employs. … 

     (2) Next, notice that this fact ennobles everybody who labors in God’s husbandry. … 

     (3) But lastly, how this should drive us to our knees! Since we are nothing without God, let us cry mightily to Him for help in this, our holy service!

From Farm Laborers

I learned long ago of both the confidence and the humility in reminding myself that God chose me to work in His field. Here’s how I describe that in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter

     There is nothing wrong about aspiring to a leadership position. The apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy, “This is a trustworthy saying: ‘If someone aspires to be a church leader, he desires an honorable position’” (1 Timothy 3:1 nlt). Yet this desire needs to be tempered by Jeremiah’s words to his scribe Baruch, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them” (Jeremiah 45:5). Taken together, a shepherd leader’s passion for greater leadership should be to gain greater things not for himself but for others. 

     Shepherd leaders need to remind themselves frequently of this simple statement: God chose me. The confidence comes from remembering “God chose.” If God has chosen me, then He has also equipped me. He foresaw the needs of this organization, and He has prepared me to step into this role for such a time as this. The humility comes from remembering “God chose me.” Who am I that God would think so highly of me? Of all the people on Earth that God could have placed here, why did He pick me? This confident humility will do two things for us: keep us confident to continue to lead when doubts or naysayers arise, and keep us humble to continue to serve people when pride or applause arises. (except from chapter 2 “Secure To Serve”) 

How important it is to remind ourselves that God makes things grow—not us. Our role is to perform the highest-quality labor possible, and to remain faithful at our post until God gives us a new assignment.  

This isn’t true just for church leaders, but for every member of the Body of Christ

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Unity Not Uniformity

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.

Unity Not Uniformity

And the glory that You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are One: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (Jesus, in John 17:22-23)

     Beloved, those in whom Christ lives are not uniform, but one. …  

     As I have remarked, it is not uniformity. Of this our Lord says nothing. Though we are one body in Him, yet all the members have not the same office. The eye is very different from the ear, and the foot has not the same form as the hand. Neither does He speak of any formal organization by which unity is to be secured. How many have tried to create a mechanical union and have made confusion worse confusion! Their eagerness for unity has threatened to dash everything to shivers! The very first step toward a visible unity of the church is, with most men, that they will fix a standard of what the church ought to be and cut off everybody who will not conform to their idea! …  

     Christ lives in His people, and we are to act so, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that onlookers will say, ‘Surely Christ lives again in that man, for he acts out the precepts of Jesus. Did you notice how he bore the insult? Did you notice how he laid himself out to oblige and to serve? Did you observe how, without introducing religious talk, he gradually steered the conversation toward that which is to edification?’ …

     Brothers and sisters, if you and I are living for the same design that our Lord lived for, and if the very life that quickens us is the life of Jesus, then, since Jesus lives always for the same thing that God proposes and works out, surely there is a grand unity, the likes of which are not found in the universe! … 

     ‘That the world may know that You have sent Me.’ How will they know it? Why, when they see such characters as I have so feebly tried to paint! When they see men who are no longer selfish, hard, and ungenerous—when they see men no longer governed by their passions, no longer earthbound—when they see loving men, men who desire that which is holy, just, and good! When they see men living for God, the world will say, ‘Their Master must have been sent of God.’

From The Glory, Unity, And Triumph Of The Church

Several years ago I was meeting with a group of pastors from various denominations. Although the meeting was friendly, I still sensed some “walls” between us. At one point I asked, “By a quick show of a raised hand, how many of us believe that salvation from the penalty of our sin comes only through the work that Jesus did for us on the Cross?” Every pastor in the room raised a hand. “Great,” I said, “let’s just focus on that!” 

Some Christians are Calvinist, and some are Arminian; some take Communion one way, and some another way; some are charismatic, and some more liturgical; some baptize one way, and some baptize differently. Jesus wasn’t looking for uniformity, but He did pray for unity. 

We can all be unified around the love of Christ, and the unity of the family of Christ. 

If we will set aside the petty denominational differences and simply love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, we will present a witness for Him that is unmistakable and irrefutable! We need each other to bring out the saintliness in all of us. When the world sees this vibrant saintliness—regardless of which church those saints attend on Sundays—it will capture their attention and draw them to Jesus. 

Charles Spurgeon concluded the sermon I just quoted from with a prayer, to which I sincerely hope all of us Christians can add our own Amen: “Oh, for grace so to live to God in Christ Jesus that the world will never be able to answer the argument of our lives! Help us, O Spirit of the Lord! Amen.”

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Podcast: Leaders Vs. Loneliness

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • the winner of last month’s winner of our drawing  
  • busyness can actually lead to loneliness 
  • how leaders can guard against loneliness  
  • insight from Josh McDowell on how coronavirus impacts feelings of loneliness  
  • some strategies to eliminate busyness  
  • how leaders can empower others to overcome isolation
  • the importance of a leader’s presence
  • the New Testament only uses “saints” in the plural because we need each other
  • Greg tries to get me to name names
  • leaders need to boldly initiate even with people who seem closed off
  • the new coaching page on our website
  • more ways to be entered into our January drawing

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and iTunes.

Words To Winners Of Souls (book review)

Horatius Bonar has given us a collection of sermons preached to pastors, which have been collated in a book under the title Words To Winners Of Souls. 

Although these were words by a pastor to pastors, this shouldn’t be a book exclusively read by pastors. Anyone who wants to successfully share their Christian testimony with unsaved friends and loved ones can find much to digest in these sermons. That being said, this is still a must-read (and I don’t say that very often) for those in pastoral ministry. 

Bonar was a no-pulled-punches preacher! He spoke candidly and forcefully, but he also spoke out of a love for the Body of Christ and its ministers. Early on in this book he says, “We take for granted that the object of the Christian ministry is to convert sinners and to edify the body of Christ. No faithful minister can possibly rest short of this. Applause, fame, popularity, honor, wealth—all these are vain. If souls are not won, if saints are not matured, our ministry itself is vain.” Wow: “our ministry itself is vain”—you cannot get more gut-level honest than that! 

In this collection of messages, Bonar helps us diagnose what may be hindering our soul-winning practices, and he also proposes the remedy for those shortcomings. These words are honest and often hard to hear, but they are so needed for everyone who desires, as Jesus does, “that none should perish but all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 

Pastors, please read this book! 

Parishioners, please get a copy of this book for your pastor and then offer to prayerfully read through it with him or her. I promise you: this book will pay eternal dividends. 

UPDATE: I have shared some quotes from this book here.

The Closed Ear

“How much we lose by the closed ear! … Other speakers may win the ear of the multitude, but it is to God the Lord that the saint listens. His voice is powerful. Its tones are penetrating; its words attractive. God speaks as One entitled to be heard, expecting to be heard. He speaks with authority, waiting for our obedience to the heavenly voice.

A saint then is one who has listened to God; who has heard the words of peace from His lips; who has believed them; who has been reconciled; and who knows that he is so. Therefore he seeks to be holy. He hates his former folly. He does not return to it. He does not make his free pardon a reason for returning to it.

“Brethren, be consistent! Beware of sin, folly, unholiness of every kind. Be Christians out and out. Show that the peace you have received is a holy peace.” —Horatius Bonar, in Light & Truth—The Old Testament

A Praying Family

Not one word in Scripture is wasted: not one word is redundant or replaceable. When Jesus taught us to pray to a Heavenly Father, He taught us to say, “OUR Father.” That means we are all His children, with His Holy Spirit helping us to grasp this—The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that WE are God’s children. Now if WE are children, then WE are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ… (Romans 8:16-17). 

Did you know that the word saints never appears in the singular in Scripture? No one person is singled out for his or her saintliness. Because we are saintS, praying together to OUR Father, this means accountability. For some people, accountability is a bad word. It seems to them to feel like someone is looking over their shoulder or checking up on them. But Christians should never feel this way! I like how Ken Blanchard defines this: “Accountability means: We owe each other for something we’ve agreed upon.” 

What have the saints of God agreed upon? That God is our Father, that Jesus is His Son and our Brother, and that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. We’ve agreed that if we are brothers and sisters in God’s family, we are mutually accountable to one another. 

In the context of the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, being mutually accountable means: 

  1. Power in our prayersgive US today our daily bread. Jesus talks about the power in agreement, and the apostle Paul emphasizes how the Holy Spirit helps believers harmonize in prayer with each other and with God’s will (Matthew 18:19-20; Romans 8:27). 
  1. Strengthening of our characterforgive US our debts, as WE also have forgiven our debtors. Jack Hayford points out that, “The believer’s best defense against self-deception is through mutual accountability to one another.” In order for our character to be strengthened, we have to allow others to speak into our lives—even the lovingly painful words (Proverbs 27:17, 6). 
  1. Protection from falling to temptationlead US not into temptation, but deliver US from the evil one. Samson became entangled with a prostitute when he was all by himself; Elijah became depressed when he sent his servant away; David fell into sin when he was alone; Peter denied Christ when all of the other disciples had run away. That’s why the writer of Hebrews counsels us to stick close to our Christian family members (Hebrews 10:21-25). 

In an earlier post, I noted that how we view God is going to determine what we pray and what we expect after we pray. Coming together and praying together will help us see God better. Just as the angels around the throne are always crying out to each other “Holy! Holy! Holy!”, when we come together we can show our fellow saints what we’ve learned about our holy Father’s love and power. This is both an encouragement to others and allows others to be an encouragement to us too. Then together we can pray more boldly and expect great things in response to our prayer. 

Being mutually accountable to the saints in prayer…

  • hallows God as our Father

  • glorifies Jesus as our Brother

  • honors the Spirit as our Helper

God never intended that you would have to walk through life alone. He wants us to share the journey with fellow saints—His family made up of our brothers and sisters. This praying family truly honors God’s name! 

Join me on Sunday as we continue to learn more about prayer. 

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