Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Final, Authoritative Word

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. 

The Final, Authoritative Word

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     It would not be worth our while to speak what Isaiah had spoken if in it there was nothing more than Isaiah’s thought—neither should we care to meditate hour after hour upon the writings of Paul, if there was nothing more than Paul in them. … 

     It is not mine to amend or adapt the gospel. What? Shall we attempt to improve upon what God has revealed? The Infinitely Wise to be corrected by creatures of a day? Is the infallible revelation of the infallible Jehovah to be shaped, moderated, and toned down to the fashions and fancies of the hour? God forgive us if we have ever altered His Word unwittingly. … 

     One Word of God is worth more than libraries of human lore. ‘It is written’ is the great gun which silences all the batteries of man’s thought.

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

As Solomon neared the end of his writings in the Book of Ecclesiastes, he made this observation, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body” (12:12). How true that is. Have you walked through a bookstore lately?! There is no end to the opinions that people want to share with you. 

But there is one thing that all of the books in all of the bookstores and all of the libraries have in common: not one of them is given to us by “the mouth of the Lord.” 

There are certainly many, many books that are saturated in Scripture, but they are still the opinions of man. We need to make sure that everything we read, or every wise person that we listen to, or even every conversation that we have with ourselves are all proven to be true or false based on what God has spoken.

Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would remind us of everything God’s mouth had spoken to us (John 14:26), and that He would guide us into all truth (John 16:13). 

So go ahead and search out wise, godly books and wise, godly counselors. But remember that their word is not the final word—only the words that come from the mouth of the Lord are the authoritative words you should apply to your life.

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Poetry Saturday—As We Think

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The thought manifests the word;
The word manifests the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character.
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let them spring forth from love
Born out of compassion for all beings.
As the shadow follows the body, as we think,
So we become. —Juan Mascaro

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—When God Seems Distant

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. 

When God Seems Distant 

     You may possibly be in such a condition that every promise scowls at you as though it were transformed into a threat. When you turn over the pages of the Book once so full of comfort to you, it seems withered into a howling wilderness. … 

     Even those promises that you have been accustomed to offer to others in their time of need appear to shut their doors against you. ‘No admittance here,’ says one promise. Unbelief puts its burning finger right across another. Past sin accuses you and cries, ‘You cannot claim this word, for your transgression has forfeited it.’ So you may look through the whole Bible and find nothing upon which your souls may rest. … The fault is not in the promise but in us. …  

     Why does our gracious God permit this? Perhaps it is because you have been living without Him, and now He is going to take away everything upon which you have been in the habit of depending. Another reason may be that He wishes to drive you to Himself. … The prodigal was never safer than when he was driven to his father’s bosom, because he could find sustenance nowhere else. And, brothers and sisters, I think our Lord favors us with a famine in the land that it may make us seek after the Savior more. …

     When everything goes well with us, we frequently run a long way from God, but as soon as we are overtaken by trouble or see a lion in the way, we fly to our heavenly Father. I bless God for the mire and for my sinking in it, when it makes me cry out, ‘Deliver me, O my God, out of the deep mire, and let me not sink.’

From The Believer Sinking In The Mire

David said, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8). And in another psalm he elaborated on this by saying, 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:6-8) 

God allows shaking so that we will recognize that He is the only sure foundation. The only things that shake and prove themselves to be untrustworthy are those things not standing on God. So if God seems distant, ask the Holy Spirit to show you if there are any idols in your heart. If there are, repent from trusting those and return to God alone. 

After this, the next step is to silence the voice of the enemy. Jesus said satan’s native language is lies and slander. As Spurgeon said, the enemy of your soul would love to tell you that God’s promises aren’t for you—that somehow you are disqualified from claiming them. 

We need to take every thought captive, and if those thoughts don’t line up with God’s Word we tear them down with the truth in Scripture. Once again, the Holy Spirit is our Counselor to remind us of the truth and assure our hearts that the promises are still for all of God’s children. 

As the words of the old hymn remind us:

Standing on the promises that cannot fail
When the howling storms of doubts and fear assail
By the living Word of God I shall prevail
Standing on the promises of God

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Poetry Saturday—Mental Depression

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Depressed and weary sank the mind in gloom, 
Gloom deep as night in which there is no moon; 
      Times rushing down its darkening cloisters past
      Conflicting thoughts, unhindered, blast on blast,
Until the very brain did shriek and rave in turn,
Reason’s control in madness by it spurned.
      Sudden it ceased, one mighty wrench, then fled
      And stillness o’er the whole its silence spread;
Whilst from the fullness of the immortal soul
Deep tender music did its charm unroll.
      Lifting the burden from the anguished heart
      Sent forth its floods and healed the inward smart;
So! in the midst is heard the Saviour’s voice,
Soulfully sweet, inviting to rejoice;
      And there resounds divinely full and free,
      “Sad, weary heart, be still and come to Me.”
Soon in the soul the sound of quiet rest
Breathes real and low and draws us to His breast,
      Where Jesus, looking in our faces smiled,
      Soothes us to sleep because He loves His child. —Oswald Chambers
 

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People Of The Word

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Haggai appears on the historical scene for just five months, but what a bright light he shines! He is the first of three post-exilic prophets to encourage the Israelites who have returned to Jerusalem.

Before we talk about Haggai’s ministry, we need a brief grammar lesson. Specifically, let’s look at two prefixes: un- and non-. Both of them ultimately mean “not,” but there is a distinction that we need to consider when it comes to the Bible: 

    • unbiblical would mean something contrary to the teaching of the Bible 
    • non-biblical is something that may or may not be correct, but it’s not specifically mentioned in the Bible 

Let me give you an example from my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. Chris asked me whether I preferred the title senior pastor or lead pastor. This is a non-biblical issue; that is, it doesn’t really matter to me because neither of those titles are found in the Bible. Technically, the word pastor isn’t in the Bible either. The word that is usually translated “pastor” is really a herdsman or a shepherd. 

The problem is that if we put too much focus on non-biblical things, those things can end up becoming unbiblical pursuits. Like when Jesus took the Pharisees to task for their focus on traditions over Scripture (see Matthew 15:1-6). I wrote Shepherd Leadership mainly to get pastors and church leaders to spot non-biblical metrics which may have sneakily turned into unbiblical pursuits, so that they could return to pure biblical principles. In the Preface of my book, I wrote—

“My larger concern is that churches, parachurch organizations, and nonprofit ministries that are largely founded to fulfill a biblical mandate are straying from the simple, freeing truths found in the Bible. Or maybe I should say that they are adding things to their ministries that aren’t in the pages of Scripture. Whichever way you want to say it, the result is the same: We are using the wrong metrics to define ‘success’ for our ministries. I fear that in our focus on unbiblical practices, we are missing the joy of really doing ministry.”

Haggai calls God’s people to return to God’s Word. This is the second-shortest book in the Old Testament (at just 38 verses long), yet Haggai says something like “this is what God says” 28 times in these 38 verses! 

Haggai also records five times that God says, “Give careful thought to your ways.” This phrase literally means to take a strong hold on each thought and examine it intensely. This idea is always connected to a phrase like, “This is what the Lord Almighty says” (1:5, 7; 2:14-15, 17-18). In other words, we are to thoughtfully examine our lifestyle with God’s Word being THE standard of measurement. 

Paul made a similar connection in the New Testament: We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). 

Jesus did this too. When speaking to the religious leaders, He said, “You are wrong because you know neither the Scriptures nor God’s power” (Matthew 22:29). And even with His own disciples, He had to open their minds to see how the Scriptures pointed to Him and were fulfilled in Him (Luke 24:25-27, 44-45). 

Indeed, the phrase “it is written” is used 75 times in the New Testament! 

That’s why Haggai’s words still ring true to us today: “Give careful thought” to how you live in light of how God says you should be living. Christians need to…

  1. Hear the Word of God every day 
  2. Consider their lives in light of the Word of God
  3. Obey what the Word of God is saying to us 

(check out Acts 17:11; Psalm 139:23-24; 1 Samuel 15:22) 

We must become people of the Word of God or else we run the very real risk of letting our non-biblical decisions spiral downward into a sinful, unbiblical lifestyle that grieves the heart of God. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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Poetry Saturday—Affliction IV

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

Broken in pieces all asunder,
                      Lord, hunt me not,
                     A thing forgot,
Once a poore creature, now a wonder,
               A wonder tortur’d in the space
               Betwixt this world and that of grace.

My thoughts are all a case of knives,
                     Wounding my heart
                     With scatter’d smart,
As watring pots give flowers their lives.
               Nothing their furie can controll,
               While they do wound and prick my soul.

All my attendants are at strife,
                     Quitting their place
                     Unto my face:
Nothing performs the task of life:
               The elements are let loose to fight,
               And while I live, trie out their right.

Oh help, my God! let not their plot
                     Kill them and me,
                     And also Thee,
Who art my life: dissolve the knot,
               As the sunne scatters by his light
               All the rebellions of the night.

Then shall those powers, which work for grief,
                     Enter Thy pay,
                     And day by day
Labour Thy praise, and my relief;
               With care and courage building me,
                Till I reach heav’n, and much more, Thee. —George Herbert (**spelling is 1663 English**)

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Biblical Mindfulness

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

I have always been mindful of Your unfailing love…. (Psalm 26:3).

The dictionary defines “mindful” as simply being aware. Unfortunately, many psychologists today have constricted this term to mean simply being aware of the present moment, especially one’s own emotions in the present moment. 

In the New Living Translation, this verse has David saying to God, “I am always aware of Your unfailing love.” God’s unfailing love is an eternal attribute of God, and David says he is perpetually contemplating this attribute. But notice how David applies mindfulness not just to his present moment, but to his past and future as well. In fact, David invites God to examine his heart and mind to verify that David is always properly mindful of God’s love.

Notice the past, present, and future tenses David uses—

Past (v. 1):

  • I have led a blameless life 
  • I have trusted in the Lord without wavering 

Present (vv. 3, 7, 11):

  • Your love is ever before me 
  • I walk continually in Your truth
  • I proclaim aloud your praise
  • I lead a blameless life

Future (v. 12):

  • In the great assembly I will praise the Lord

Notice that between David’s claim that he has led a blameless life and that he is still leading a blameless life, we read his request for God to, “Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” David was perpetually mindful of God’s awareness of both his thoughts and his lifestyle.

Being mindful of God’s love means looking back in gratitude to recall God’s past provision, looking around in worship to see God’s ongoing involvement, and looking ahead in hope to anticipate God’s unending grace. 

Unlike modern-day psychology which tells us mindfulness is a narrowing of our thoughts, biblical mindfulness is an expanding of our thoughts. Biblical mindfulness sees God’s past work and His future grace, and brings those to bear on our present circumstances. 

You Have A Choice

“While we may not be able to take every thought captive in every situation we face every day, we can learn to take one thought captive and, in doing so, affect every other thought to come. So what is the one thought that can successfully interrupt every negative thought pattern? It’s this: I have a choice. 

“When we’re spiraling in noise or distractedness, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through stillness. When we’re spiraling in isolation, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through community. When we’re spiraling in anxiety, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through trust in His good and sovereign purposes. When we’re spiraling in cynicism, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through worship. When we’re spiraling in self-importance, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through humility. When we’re spiraling into victimhood, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through gratitude. When we’re spiraling in complacency, we have a choice to shift our minds back to God through serving Him and others.

“If you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior, you have a God-given, God-empowered, God-redeemed ability to choose what you think about. You have a choice regarding where you focus your energy. You have a choice regarding what you live for. You are not subject to your behaviors, genes, or circumstances. You are not subject to your passions, lusts, or emotions. You are not subject to your thoughts.

“No fixation exists outside God’s long-armed reach. Because we are a ‘new creation,’ we have a choice.

“When we think new thoughts, we physically alter our brains. When we think new thoughts, we make healthier neural connections. When we think new thoughts, we blaze new trails. When we think new thoughts, everything changes.” —Jennie Allen, from the YouVersion reading plan Get Out Of Your Own Head

9 Quotes From “A Spiritual Clinic”

J. Oswald Sanders gives Christians just the check-up we need in his hard-hitting and highly practical book A Spiritual Clinic. You can read my full book review by clicking here. 

“The greater our weakness, the greater glory will be God’s as we work in His power.” 

“We are busier than God intends us to be if we are too busy to take time for relaxation.” 

“It is characteristic of the earthly mind that it always covets the service of others: it desires to avoid toil and drudgery. This is one of the factors which makes wealth so desirable—it can secure the service of others. The mind of Christ manifested itself in His words: ‘I am among you as He that serves’ (Luke 22:27). ‘The Son of Man came not to be ministered to, but to minister’ (Matthew 20:28). It was His delight to be servant of all.” 

“How are we to obtain the mind of Christ? … Is not the secret hinted at in the exhortation, ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’? It is the work of Another. Is not the supreme work of the Holy Spirit to reproduce in the yielded believer the inner disposition of Christ? What is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) but the mind of Christ? As we willingly consent to the crucifixion of the earthly mind and purposefully yield to the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, He will perform the miracle. Our minds will be transformed in ever-increasing degree by the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” 

“Nothing so tends to inflate a man with a sense of his own importance as the possession of great gifts of intellect and the enjoyment of special and unusual experiences. And there is nothing which more surely disqualifies from spiritual usefulness than spiritual pride.” 

“It will be recalled that the favored three disciples were not permitted to encamp on the Mount of Transfiguration. They must exchange the vision glorious for the convulsions of a demon-possessed boy. So must Paul descend into the valley if he is to be God’s messenger to a distraught humanity. He must learn that the mountain is only as high as the valley is deep. The higher he ascends in spiritual experience, the more deeply must he be identified with his crucified Lord.” 

“Even God’s honored servants cannot break His physical laws with impunity, nor are they immune from the onslaught of despondency. … We must seek physical and spiritual renewal if we are not to be put to flight by our enemy. If we shift our center from God to self, even for a period, we lay ourselves open to this malady of the spirit.” 

“Discouragement over the apparent failure of our best efforts, if not met with the shield of faith, will react disastrously on our spirits and degenerate into self-pity and despair.” 

“We seldom give God time to deal with us radically and deeply. Even when we experience conviction of failure and sin, we do not allow the Holy Spirit to work in us so strongly that we are brought to hate the sin. We lightly assent to our sinfulness without seriously and permanently dealing with it. We act as though new results would take the place of heart repentance and renunciation. [see Hosea 6:4] 

Think On This…

Here’s the seed thought for this episode of Think On This

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

Think on this: God has forgotten every sin of mine that He has ever forgiven!

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