Thursdays With Spurgeon—Delightful Judgments

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. 

Delightful Judgments

My soul is consumed with longing for Your laws at all times. (Psalm 119:20) 

     Search God’s Word and you will have before your eyes the ultimate judgment of unerring truth, the last decree from the supreme authority from which there is no appeal! The Bible contains the verdict of the Judge of all the earth, the judgments of God who cannot lie and cannot err.

     Thus, God’s Word is rightly called His ‘judgments.’ It is a Book not to be judged by us, but to be our judge—not a word of it may be altered or questioned. But to it we may constantly refer as to a court of appeal whose sentence is decisive. … 

     Our judgments must be daily more and more conformed to the judgments of God that are laid down in Scripture. And there must be in our spirit a longing after holiness until we delight in the Law of the Lord and meditate therein both day and night. We will grow to the likeness of that which we feed upon, heavenly food will make us heavenly minded! The Word of God received into the heart changes us into its own nature and, by rejoicing in the decisions of the Lord, we learn to judge after His judgment and to delight ourselves in that which pleases Him. 

From Holy Longings

The 119th Psalm is an amazing chapter—176 verses arranged as a love letter to both God’s Word and the God who gave us His Word. Every one of these verses extol the value and beauty of God’s commands, decrees, precepts, statues, law, and judgments. 

As Spurgeon pointed out, “judgment” does not mean a sentence of guilt pronounced against us, but a standard for determining the rightness or lawlessness of something. God’s Word is the final judgment on sin and righteousness. 

The psalmist who penned this beautiful prose more than likely had only the first five books of our Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—and yet he finds such delight in these words because of the awesome God they reveal. Look at his delight…

  • I delight in Your decrees (v. 16) 
  • Your statues are my delight (v. 24) 
  • I delight in Your commands (v. 47) 
  • I delight in Your law (v. 70)
  • Your commands give me delight (v. 143) 

As Spurgeon said, the more we delight in God’s Word, the more we will meditate on it; the more we meditate on it, the more it will change our hearts to make lifestyle judgments that are pleasing to God. 

No matter whether you’ve never really studied the Bible, or you are an “old pro” with a well-worn Bible close at hand, may we all continue to grow in our delight of God’s Word and our reverence of the God revealed to us in the Word. 

If you would like some Bible studies to help get you started, check out:

And you can also check out a previous post were I shared three steps to better Bible studies.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Aids Of Self-Judgment

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. 

Aids Of Self-Judgment

My soul is consumed with longing for Your laws at all times. (Psalm 119:20) 

     Spiritual desires are the shadows of coming blessings. What God intends to give us, He first sets us longing for. Therefore, prayer is wonderfully effective because it is the embodiment of a longing that is inspired by God because He intends to bestow the blessing prayed for! What are your longings, then, my hearer? Do you long to be holy? The Lord will make you holy! Do you long to conquer sin? You will overcome it by faith in Jesus! Are you pining after fellowship with Christ? He will come and make His abode with you! Does your soul thirst, yes, even pant after God as the hart for the water brooks? Then you will be filled with all His fulness…. 

     I say not that it is so with all human wishes, for ‘the sluggard desires and has nothing’ [Proverbs 13:4] and many a man has such evil cravings within his heart that it were contrary to the purity of God for Him to grant them. But where there are intense, heartbreaking earnings of a holy order, depend upon it, they are tokens of good things to come! 

     Where the grace of God reigns in the soul, it makes a man become a stranger among his fellows…. Worldly men care nothing for the judgments of God. No, they care nothing for God Himself! But when a man becomes born anew, a citizen of heaven, there grows up within his spirit a spiritual appetite of which he had felt nothing before—and he longs after God and His Holy Word. See to it, brothers and sisters, whether your souls cry out for God, for the living God, for again I say, by your longings you may test yourselves—by your heart’s desires you may forecast the future—and by your hungering and thirsting you may judge whether you are men of this world or citizens of the world to come. With such aids to self-judgment, no man ought to remain in doubt as to his spiritual condition and eternal prospects.

From Holy Longings

I am currently teaching a series of lessons called Craving. We are learning in these sermons that God created our souls to long intensely, to have cravings. But we go astray when what we crave are things that will merely last during this world. 

John told us, “This world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever” (1 John 2:17 NLT). So by its very definition, worldly things will never satisfy our cravings because the world is temporary. Only an eternal God can give us eternal satisfaction. 

As Spurgeon teaches us here, examining our longings is the best aid of self-judgment and will help us determine our future. Craving God’s presence will bring God’s blessing and His eternal fulfillment of our cravings. Craving anything else will lead to frustration and eternal disappointment. 

God longs to bless us (Isaiah 30:18) as long as we are craving Him!

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Father Sergius (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Those who regularly follow my book reviews have probably noticed that I read very few fiction books. If I do read fiction, I want it still to be something that engages my brain as well as my heart. Leo Tolstoy’s Father Sergius definitely hit those marks! 

This is a story about a spiritual journey that started out anything but spiritual. Stepan Kasatsky becomes a monk not because he wanted to pursue God, but because he wanted to run away from carnal heartache. 

Kasatsky’s journey started out just as escapism from the world. In fact, Tolstoy describes it as, “Our feet have reached the holy places, but our hearts may not have done so.” Yet somewhere along the way, Father Sergius (as Kasatsky now called himself) discovered true piety. 

Father Sergius’ spiritual “success”—if it can be called that—resulted in carnal pride. His journey that had become spiritual now became corrupted by pride. Sergius realized he had lost his way, and yet he struggled with giving up the popularity and acclaim he had now acquired. 

The book closes with Sergius rediscovering humility and true spirituality from a peasant woman he had mocked and belittled when they were both children. 

There is something in Kasatsky’s journey that can both warn and encourage all of us spiritual people on our journeys. 

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What Do We Mean By “Grow”?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I had a great time on the 200churches podcast with Jeff Keady. 

Jeff asked me how the challenges of the last couple of years affected the thoughts that went into writing my book Shepherd Leadership. I explained to him how my conversation with a local pastor actually created the subtitle of the book: The Metrics That Really Matter.  

In another recent conversation on The Craig And Greg Show, I talked about a comical conversation I had with a church board about their definition of the word “grow.”

In Shepherd Leadership, I wrote, 

Growth and success may need to be redefined in your church or ministry. If you’ve been thinking that success is a steadily upward climb in attendance or donations, or a bigger facility, or more people on staff, then it would appear that the ministries of Philip, Paul, and even Jesus were highly unsuccessful. We’ve already seen that Philip went from a large revival in Samaria to one person in the desert. Paul came to the end of his life telling Timothy how many of his companions had abandoned him. And Jesus started His public ministry with twelve emerging leaders, only to see one betray Him, nine run away when He was arrested, and one deny that he even knew Him. When we come up with our plans to “grow” our ministry, or we say “success” is all about what we can count, aren’t we really just self-promoting? 

Godly shepherd leaders need to make sure that they are concentrating not on more sheep, but on greater health. Remember: the shepherd doesn’t give birth to sheep, but the shepherd creates a healthy environment for the sheep to reproduce.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this 200churches interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Keep Moving Forward

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.

Keep Moving Forward  

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

     God does not say to us, ‘This is the way,’ and then stop. He says, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ We are always to be making advances. We are to be going from faith in its beginnings to faith in its perfections, from faith to assurance, from assurance to full assurance. And from there, we are to go to the full assurance of hope to the full assurance of understanding, always forward, waxing stronger and stronger. …  

     The Christian’s motto is ‘Upward and onward.’ Not as though he has already obtained, either is already perfect, he presses forward to the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus. …  

     Can you perform the common activities of the household and the daily duties that fall to your lot in the spirit of faith? This is what the apostle means. He does not speak about running or jumping or fighting, but about walking—and he means to tell you that the ordinary life of a Christian is different from the life of another man—that he has learned to introduce faith into everything he does. 

From Faith Versus Sight

I have a t-shirt that says on the front, “Keep moving forward.” But the back of the t-shirt has the real-life challenge: “Crawling is acceptable. Falling is acceptable. Puking is acceptable. Crying is acceptable. Pain is acceptable. Quitting is not!” 

How true! 

I think the problem for many Christians is that they have an unrealistic expectation of growth. Somehow we’ve come to believe that our Christian growth is a constant upward trajectory to maturity, and that if there are ever any stumbles along the way, that means we’ve blown it. (By the way, Oswald Chambers has some helpful thoughts on our stair-step growth.)

But Paul tells us, “We walk”: We keep moving forward. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times of stumbling, or a plateau, or even a pause to catch our breath. Paul tells us that an important aspect of our walk is that we forget what’s behind us and we keep moving forward—keep walking—keep going. 

Every single day, let us say along with Paul, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14 NLT). 

My friend, keep moving forward in faith, believing that the Holy Spirit is with you—maturing you, strengthening you—on every single step on your Christian walk.

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Full Of Gratitude And Prayer

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly. (Ephesians 1:16)

Paul didn’t pray just a one-and-done prayer, but every time he thought of his friends he was grateful and prayerful. 

The mark of a godly leader is one who is grateful and prayerful of those around him.

What a prayer Paul prayed! He didn’t want his friends just barely eking out an existence, but he desired for their lives to experience explosive growth and joy! 

He prayed for them to experience…

  • … the full weight of God’s glory
  • … the vast knowledge of God’s revelation wisdom 
  • … an ever-increasing understanding of just who God is
  • … an enlightened mind to grasp God’s nature
  • … an unshakable hope in God
  • … the immeasurable richness of an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ
  • … God’s power working both in them and through them 
  • … the rock-solid security they have in Jesus
  • … their inestimable value they were to God
  • … their indispensable place in the Body of Christ 

I like the way Eugene Peterson captures this prayer in The Message:

That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him—endless energy, boundless strength!

Spiritual leaders should be working for and praying for the ever-growing maturity of those under their care. When they see that growth, they should burst out into grateful prayer. And if they don’t see the growth they anticipated, they should pray in faith believing that maturity will soon be visible. 

Let me say it again: The mark of a godly leader is one who is grateful and prayerful of those around him.

This is part 40 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

When Faith Fails (book review)

Have you ever had your legs knocked out from under you? Ever felt like what you used to believe in doesn’t seem real anymore? Ever been screaming out for real answers? Good! That means you are growing and maturing beyond the pat answers of the past. Dominic Done has given us a great guide book through these times of questions: When Faith Fails—Finding God in the Shadow of Doubt.

I grew up in a Christian home as a fourth-generation Christian. I was in church during my formative years almost more than I was anywhere else. But at some point I had to confront my Christian faith—I had to ask myself, “Do I believe this just because my parents and grandparents believed it? Or do I believe it because it’s really true?” 

Maybe your story is similar to mine. Or maybe you are a first-generation Christian and the storm you are navigating right now is making you wonder if you were sold on an idea that just doesn’t hold up in “the real world.” All of these things can be classified as a crisis of faith, a questioning of just what is true. 

What do you do at this time? Dominic identifies three possibilities— 

“One option is to demonize your doubt: in this narrative, doubt is labeled as the nemesis of faith, and those who doubt are judged and marginalized. … The second option is to idolize your doubt. … I can’t help but wonder if there is a third way, one that doesn’t demonize or idolize doubt but recognizes doubt for what it is: an opportunity for authentic and vibrant faith. That is why I wrote this book. I wrote this book because you need to know that your doubts aren’t a sign of spiritual collapse but of a faith that is screaming out for substance and truth.”

Dominic leads us on a journey of discovery by sharing his own personal struggles with doubt, and by helping us see doubt in a whole new light. Doubts are normal. Doubts can be healthy. Healthy?! Yes, because, as Dominic points out, “Doubts aren’t just an obstacle; they’re an opportunity. Uncertainty can lead us into the beautiful mystery we call God.” 

Whether for yourself or for your friend who may be struggling with doubt, please pick up a copy of When Faith Fails. I promise you that you will understand more clearly what doubt really is. You’ll also understand that your doubts are a normal part of your maturation process. You’ll also see that God is waiting to reveal Himself to you through your times of doubting. This is a great book!

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer. 

No Spiritual Gains Without Pains

“Sanctification, again, is a thing which depends greatly on a diligent use of scriptural means. When I speak of ‘means,’ I have in view Bible-reading, private prayer, regular attendance on public worship, regular hearing of God’s Word, and regular reception of the Lord’s Supper. I lay it down as a simple matter of fact, that no one who is careless about such things must ever expect to make much progress in sanctification. I can find no record of any eminent saint who ever neglected them. They are appointed channels through which the Holy Spirit conveys fresh supplies of grace to the soul, and strengthens the work which He has begun in the inward man. Let men call this legal doctrine if they please, but I will never shrink from declaring my belief that there are no spiritual gains without pains. I should as soon expect a farmer to prosper in business who contented himself with sowing his fields and never looking at them till harvest, as expect a believer to attain much holiness who was not diligent about his Bible-reading, his prayers, and the use of his Sundays. Our God is a God who works by means, and He will never bless the soul of that man who pretends to be so high and spiritual that he can get on without them.” —J.C. Ryle

8 Quotes From Gordon MacDonald In “Ordering Your Private World”

In the quiet solitude of our inner lives is where real growth takes place. Or said another way: if we won’t make time to order our private world, our public world will be limited in its scope and effectiveness. Gordon MacDonald unpacks some fantastic principles to help us in his newly updated and expanded book Ordering Your Private World. Check out my full book review by clicking here, and then enjoy these quote from Gordon MacDonald.

“There is a busyness that reflects a plan of activity, a pattern of priorities, and a sense of purposefulness. It is a good and satisfying busyness through which one grows and increases competence. But there is also a busyness (a destructive busyness, actually) that reflects a chaotic way of life—a way of doing in which one is simply responding to the next thing in the day. The next thing! It makes no difference whether it has significance; it’s just the next thing, and one does it because it’s there to do.”

“A soul—our spiritual space—is empty when one tries to do soul-based things but makes little or no effort to keep that soul filled.”

“Driven people boast of their drivenness. They have forgotten how to play. Spiritual activity seems a waste of time. They are usually too busy for the pursuit of ordinary relationships in marriage, family, or friendship, or even to carry on a relationship with themselves—not to speak of one with God. Because driven people rarely think they have accomplished enough, they seize every available minute to attend more meetings, to study more material, to initiate more projects. They operate on the precept that a reputation for busyness is a sign of success and personal importance. Thus, they attempt to impress people with the fullness of their schedules.”

“Our careers, our assets, our natural and spiritual gifts, our health—are these things owned, or merely managed in the name of the One who gave them? Driven people consider them owned; called people do not. When driven people lose those things, it is a major crisis. When called people lose them, nothing of substance changes. The private world remains the same, perhaps even stronger.”

“It is worth taking time to ask how Our Lord’s command of time is demonstrated. … The first thing that impresses me is that Jesus clearly understood His mission. … A second insight into Jesus’ personal organization of time is that He understood His own limits. … Jesus included a third important element in His strategy of time budgeting, for He set time aside for the training of the Twelve.”

“Unmanaged time flows toward my weaknesses. Unmanaged time comes under the influence of dominant people in my world. Unmanaged time surrenders to the demands of all emergencies. Unmanaged time gets invested in things that gain public acclamation.”

“The unthinking Christ-follower does not realize it, but he is dangerously absorbed into the culture about him. Because his mind is untrained and unfilled, it lacks the ability to produce the hard questions with which the world needs to be challenged. The private world of a Christ-follower will be weak, defenseless, and disorganized if serious attention has not been given to this sector of intellectual growth.”

“We do not develop our intellects merely for our own personal advancement, but we put our thinking power to work for the use of others. … As my mind grows, it may make possible the growth of others.”

Ordering Your Private World (book review)

You can look all neat and tidy on the outside, you can talk a good game and even have some short-term success. But if you aren’t growing on the inside, all that good looking outside stuff will eventually come crashing down. This is exactly what Gordon MacDonald addresses in his revised and updated book Ordering Your Private World.

MacDonald shares a quote from Ezra Pound which captures the theme of this book: “If a (person) has not order within him, he cannot spread order about him.” Amen!

Here’s what I love about Gordon MacDonald’s heart. This book is a revised and updated version of his original work. The first edition sold more than a million copies! MacDonald could have sat back and collected his royalty checks, but instead, he has kept growing, kept learning, kept on ordering his own private world, and wasn’t content until he could share his ever-growing insights with a whole new generation.

MacDonald is quite candid about the collapse of his own inner world, and how he had to work to restore and rebuild that. Throughout this book you will read more of his personal stories, as well as accounts from historical people (both famous and relatively unknown), and you will learn from numerous biblical examples as well.

Ordering Your Private World will help you reassess your priorities, learn how to take control of your time, help you find the best supports for your inner world, see through a biblical lens, and learn what it truly means to take a rest.

This book will be beneficial for everyone who wants to ensure their inner world is strong enough to support their outer world, but I would especially recommend this book to those in leadership positions. Leaders tend to be much more hard-charging and results-oriented people, and as such may neglect their own inner world. But whoever you are, this book will be a valuable part of your life.

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

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