Thursdays With Spurgeon—Froth Or Substance?

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Froth Or Substance?

     Many of you will read a novel from beginning to end, and what have you got? A mouthful of froth when you have done. But you cannot read the Bible—that solid, lasting, substantial, and satisfying food goes uneaten, locked up in the cupboard of neglect, while anything that man writes, as a catch of the day is greedily devoured. ‘I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing’ [Hosea 8:12].

From The Bible

The Bible is the most important book anyone can read, contemplate, and apply to their lives. Yet far too many people say, “I just don’t have enough time to sit down to read the Bible.” Sadly, these same people take a lot of time on much less meaningful activities. 

One thing that has been immensely helpful to me is the Urgent/Important grid Stephen Covey talks about in his book The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. Your Bible reading is never urgent—that is, an alarm will not go off to tell you it is time to read. However, your Bible reading is hugely important. 

Covey discusses how we can put all of our activities into one of the four quadrants in this chart:

Your Bible reading time is definitely a Quadrant II activity, and the best place to find time for this activity is by eliminating things in Quadrant IV—the activities Spurgeon would call froth. In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I discuss how leaders can use this grid to increase their leadership effectiveness. 

The bottom line: We all must make sure we are eliminating the froth so that we have time for the great Substance that can only be found in God’s Word. 

You can download Covey’s Urgent/Important grid here → Urgent Important [Covey quadrants]

And then check out chapter 10 in Shepherd Leadership—“Can’t, Won’t or Don’t”—to learn how to use this grid to help you make the time for those important Quadrant II activities.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Fire Of Greatness

“It is not wrong to aspire to greatness. The warning here is to be careful to never confuse fame with greatness. Otherwise, you may be aspiring to what is not really greatness at all. Fame is what you do for yourself; greatness is what you do for others. Jesus has unveiled to us how greatness is achieved in His kingdom. To be great, you must serve. So don’t give up on your ambition to be great; instead, change your definition of what it means to be great and how greatness is achieved. … 

“The words samurai and deacon have the same core meaning. They both mean ‘servant.’ … Too often we have confused humility with powerlessness. Humility cannot be achieved from a posture of powerlessness. As long as we see ourselves as victims, humility does not come from a position of strength. True humility can be experienced only when we have come to know our power and use it for the good of others and not for ourselves. … 

“Greatness is never found; it is gained. Greatness never comes easy; it’s always the outcome of great discipline and hard work. If you’re comfortable with where you are, if you’re complacent, you will never discover the greatness that lies within. Complacency is like pouring water on coals. It is so important not to misunderstand the words of Jesus. Remember, He never said, ‘Don’t be great.’ In fact, His invitation was for only those who aspire to greatness: ‘Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.’ You will never know the power of servanthood until you know the fire of greatness.

“Whatever God has placed within you that could ever be described as great was never meant for you, anyway. It’s a stewardship that has been given to you. Greatness never belongs to the one who carries it; it belongs to the world that needs it.” —Erwin McManus, The Way Of The Warrior (emphasis mine)

You can read other quotes from The Way Of The Warrior here and here.

Thursdays With Oswald—Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Difficult Times Reveal Our Habits 

     Practice means continually doing that which no one sees or knows but ourselves. Habit is the result of practice, by continually doing a thing it becomes second nature. The difference between men is not a difference of personal power, but that some men are disciplined and others are not. The difference is not the degree of mental power but the degree of mental discipline. If we have taught ourselves how to think, we will have mental power plus the discipline of having it under control. Beware of impulse. Impulsiveness is the characteristic of a child, but it ought not to be the characteristic of a man, it means he has not disciplined himself. Undeterred impulse is undisciplined power.

     Every habit is purely mechanical, and whenever we form a habit it makes a material difference in the brain. The material of the brain alters very slowly, but it does alter, and by repeatedly doing a thing a groove is formed in the material of the brain so that it becomes easier to do it again, until at last we become unconscious of doing it. When we are regenerated we can reform by the power and presence of God every habit that is not in accordance with His life. … We have to learn to form habits according to the dictates of the Spirit of God. The power and the practice must go together. … If we keep practicing, what we practice becomes our second nature, and in a crisis we will find that not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also. The practicing is ours not God’s and the crisis reveals whether or not we have been practicing. [See Matthew 5:31-37.]

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

All of us have blind spots. These are typically habits that we have left in place, unchallenged and unchanged. That “groove” in our brain is operating on auto-pilot, but those blind-spot habits aren’t serving us well. 

The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian is to help us notice these habits in which we are unconsciously incompetent. But once the Spirit of God points these out, then we must practice, and practice, and practice until the new healthy habit has overwritten the old groove of the unhealthy habit. 

Then we will find, as Chambers points out, that in a time of crisis “not only does God’s grace stand by us, but our own nature also.” 

Times of difficulty will reveal habits—both the unhealthy and the healthy. The question then becomes: what are you going to do about the unhealthy habits? 

The Scriptures And Our Temperament

“We naturally tend to interpret Scripture in the light (or shadow) of our own temperament and let our peculiar mental cast decide the degree of importance we attach to various religious doctrines and practices. …

“The minister above all others should look deep into his own heart to discover the reason for his more pronounced views. It is not enough to draw himself up and declare with dignity that he preaches the Bible and nothing but the Bible. That claim is made by every man who stands in sincerity to declare the truth; but truth has many facets and the man of God is in grave danger of revealing only a limited few to his people, and those the ones he by disposition favors most. …

“The Scriptures, critical self-discipline, honesty of heart and increased trust in the inward operations of the Holy Spirit will save us from being too greatly influenced by temperament.” —A.W. Tozer, in Man—The Dwelling Place Of God

Religious Boredom

“Those Christians who belong to the evangelical wing of the church (which I firmly believe is the only one that even approximates New Testament Christianity) have over the last half-century shown an increasing impatience with things invisible and eternal and have demanded and got a host of things visible and temporal to satisfy their fleshly appetites. Without Biblical authority, or any other right under the sun, carnal religious leaders have introduced a host of attractions that serve no purpose except to provide entertainment for the retarded saints.

“It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments. …

“Any objection to the carryings on of our present golden-calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, ‘But we are winning them!’ And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course the answer to all these questions is no.

“We are paying a frightful price for our religious boredom. And that at the moment of the world’s mortal peril.”

—A.W. Tozer, in Man—The Dwelling Place Of God

Stop Yawning!

A challenging quote from Oswald Chambers—

“We have to treat the body as the servant of Jesus Christ: when the body says ‘Sit,’ and He says ‘Go,’ go! When the body says ‘Eat,’ and He says ‘Fast,’ fast! When the body says ‘Yawn,’ and He says ‘Pray,’ pray!”

I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

Wow! Time for me to redouble my efforts to Go, Fast, and Pray.

Necessary Or Additional?

In listing the sacrifices that the Israelites were to bring to the tabernacle, a repeated phrase kept jumping out at me:

…in addition to the regular burnt offering…

There was one daily offering that was necessary every day, then there were other offerings that were additional.

Here’s the principle:

The additional should never take the place of the necessary if the additional is crowding out the necessary.

There are some things that are necessary for me every day: my devotional time, my personal prayer life, time with my wife, time with my kids, and a few other necessaries.

There are some things that are additional for me: a church project, a community event, a committee or club. You get the idea.

There is nothing wrong with the additional UNLESS the additional is crowding out the necessary.

What is necessary for you? What are the additional things you have added?

Always remember: The additional should never take the place of the necessary. If your additional is crowding out your necessary, it’s time to make some changes.

The Hard Word

We all like “Yes.” That’s a nice word. But here’s the problem: By saying “Yes” to too many things we’re really saying “No” to many of the things we previously said “Yes” to.

Confused?

Let me try it this way. We all have only 24 hours in a day. No more; no less. We can all do a finite number of things during that 24-hour period. Some may be able to do slightly more, but even the most efficient people have a limit.

When we keep saying “Yes” over and over and over again, eventually our mouths are saying “Yes” but we cannot deliver. We’re out of time, out of resource, out of open places on our To Do list, out of patience, out of energy, out of money.

Perhaps the best way to make your “Yes” mean “Yes” is to say “No.” To truly evaluate what is important, how much time you have, or how much money you have. And then say “No” to the things that you cannot truly commit to.

It’s hard to say “No.” But saying “No” more often will make your “Yes” so much more doable. Otherwise, your verbal “Yes” becomes an “I’ll try,” which eventually is a “Not really,” which in reality is a “No” anyway. So just say “No” upfront.

And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, “I’ll pray for you,” and never doing it, or saying, “God be with you,” and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say “yes” and “no.” When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong. — Jesus

How many different ways can you say it?

  • No
  • Nyet
  • Nein
  • Nee
  • Jo
  • He
  • Non
  • Δεν
  • לא
  • Nei
  • いいえ
  • Không
  • קיין
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