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Posts Tagged “Charles Spurgeon”

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thess 5:18 (NIV)

Yesterday’s blog identified four benefits of regularly giving thanks:

  • We are being obedient to God’s will. Obedience is always honored by God.
  • It keeps us humble by regularly reminding us that we’re not the source of all the good things that happen in our lives.
  • It builds our faith by reminding us of God’s faithfulness and goodness to us.
  • It shelters us from the sin of ingratitude.

This last benefit might seem like a small thing, but read this verse from Romans. I’m including it in two translations:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Romans 1:21 (NIV)

 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. 
Romans 1:21 (NLT)

Two blogs ago, I wrote about the direct connection between an attitude of gratefulness and being made whole mind, body and spirit. We see the antithesis of that in this verse – that there is a direct connection between an ungrateful heart and a spiritual darkness that brings confusion and foolish actions.

When we discipline ourselves to consistently and regularly rejoice over what God has done in our lives, we reinforce in our minds (and spirits) truths about who God is and how He interacts with His people.

When we allow complaining and whining to take center stage, we reinforce lies that the enemy is whispering in our ears – God doesn’t love me, God won’t provide what I need, God isn’t interested in blessing me, God is not good to me. Our thinking becomes “futile” and we begin to think up “foolish ideas” about God, His character and His actions. Ultimately, our hearts and minds become “dark and confused.” That sounds a lot like depression to me. I’ve experienced serious depression. Dark and confused does a pretty good job of describing it. I didn’t like it.

I prefer the happy face of celebration. I’m not saying that all depression can be healed by giving thanks, but it’s a fantastic way to start…and I’m confident that some depression is healed through this spiritual discipline.

Why? Because when I am regularly reminded that all I have comes from God and that He is constantly faithful in my life, it develops a sense of contentment and peace in the very center of my being. And I like that. A lot.

So, friends, this Christmas season, what is at the forefront of your mind – the stress of the season, or the blessings from a God who gave up heaven so that we might one day gain it? Let’s agree to focus on the latter and to regularly give thanks for the innumerable ways He’s blessed us. It will significantly impact your Christmas season.

Let me leave you with this quote from Charles Spurgeon:

To be silent over God’s mercies is to incur the guilt of ingratitude…To forget to praise God is to refuse to benefit ourselves; for praise, like prayer, is one great means of promoting the growth of the spiritual life. It helps to remove our burdens, to excite our hope, to increase our faith. It is a healthful and invigorating exercise which quickens the pulse of the believer, and nerves him for fresh enterprises in his Master’s service.

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3 You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you,
whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Trust in the LORD always,
for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.

Isaiah 26:3-4

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

I woke up in perfect peace this morning. What a wonderful thing! I honestly can’t remember when the last time was that I slept so well and woke up in such peace. Which is a huge God thing because a little more than three weeks ago I had some routine tests that led to some less-than-routine tests that are leading to surgery to rule out some serious medical issues. There’s an 80% chance that I’ll be fine…and a 20% chance that I won’t be so fine.

And the very-cool-very-God-thing is that (for the most part), I have been able to not be anxious about it. No, it goes beyond that – I have had a supernatural peace surrounding me and filling me. Sure, I’ve had my less peaceful moments when I needed my husband to hold me and tell me he had a feeling everything would be all right! But there have been very few of those moments and in between them I have a strong confidence in my God who has promised so many things to me.

I’ve always wondered how to have this kind of peace! I know I don’t have all the answers and I don’t pretend to have it all together, but I am learning some things through the process that I’d like to share. God has been gracious enough to open my eyes to things I’m doing that help me experience what He’s doing in me – giving me peace beyond my wildest expectations! Maybe some of these things will help you keep the peace.

  • Purpose to pursue God in your situation. I remember as my husband and I were driving somewhere shortly after my second test. I looked at him and said, “I so want to do this well. I want to trust God in a way that I haven’t trusted him in the past.” God saw the desire of my heart and is giving it to me.

Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart

Psalm 37:4

  • Don’t be so proud – ask others to pray for you. I am absolutely certain that the prayers of faithful friends have a lot to do with my peace. I think it was in the same conversation when I said I wanted to do this well when a few minutes later I said something about not doing so well with all this. That’s when my husband reminded me that when I’m weak others will stand in the gap for me. His comment restored my peace. Share your needs with friends, and don’t ask them to pray just for healing. Ask them to pray for God’s presence to be manifest in your life.
  • Remind yourself of the promises of God. I wrote the blogs on Ephesians 1 shortly after I learned that more testing was needed. I have been so blessed when I meditate on Paul’s words that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms simply because I belong to Christ.
  • Have a rhema Word from God to hold on to. The Bible uses two different words that are translated “word” – logos and rhema. There is not complete agreement on the definition and use of these words: many evangelicals believe there is no difference; many charismatics believe there is a substantive difference. I fall into the camp of the charismatics on this one. Have you ever read the Bible and a specific passage came alive to you and seemed to have supernatural application to your life at that time? That is what would be called a rhema word. A rhema word is a word from God that has immediate and significant, even supernatural impact in your life at that time.

One of the characteristics of a rhema word is that it is life-giving. It is the word used in Matthew 4:4:

But he answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

Guess what! You and I can’t control God (for which I am quite thankful!). That means we can’t demand or manufacture a rhema word from God – He has to reach down and give it. But you can put yourself in a place where you are more likely to receive it. We all hear from God differently, so pursue God diligently in the way you are most likely to hear from Him:

    • If you most often hear from God through His Word, be especially diligent to study God’s Word.
    • If you hear from God most clearly during worship, add times of worship to your week. Listen to worship music, attend your church’s worship team’s practice session.
    • If you experience God most often while serving others, serve wholeheartedly.
    • In all these things, ask God for a word or promise to hold on to. God will speak to you.
  • Stay connected with the Body of Christ, particularly those people who tend to hear from God prophetically (or those who are prophetically gifted). My pastor prayed for me last Sunday and during the prayer he spoke prophetically that God was going to show me His goodness and grace in the coming months in a way that I haven’t known in the past. WOW! Does that mean my diagnosis will be the one I don’t want but He’ll walk through it with me, or does it mean I’ll be in the 80%, which would be showing wonderful goodness and grace to me? I don’t know. But I know He’s going to show me His goodness and grace beyond what I have known in the past and that’s a promise that fills me with hope and peace. It is a promise that makes me look forward to whatever God has for me in the coming months.
  • Limit yourself when it comes to learning about what might happen in the future. I’ve talked with doctors and they are very careful to only give you enough information to get you to the next test. The Internet, on the other hand is happy to let you spend hours reading about all the what-ifs that might come into your life. The doctors know what they’re doing in this regard. I’ve learned to recognize when I’m approaching that tipping point where information is about to rob me of my peace, joy and faith, and I back away from the edge. I’m not deceiving myself or not facing the truth. I am just acknowledging that dwelling on the details can quickly overwhelm me so I back off and run to my storm shelter. I know the truth about my situation and choose to dwell in the shadow of the Almighty instead of staring down the barrel of possibilities that may never materialize. To do the latter is to invite the enemy to wreak havoc with my peace.
  • Limit yourself when it comes to talking about your situation negatively. This is very similar to the point above. I process things verbally, so the temptation for me is to talk, talk, talk about it. Anytime someone says “how’s it going?” or “what’s new?” my mind immediately jumps to these tests which occupy the major portion of a couple of days each week. It doesn’t take many sentences, though, before I can hear the strain in my voice. There’s that tipping point again. Back away from the edge – most people don’t want that much detail anyway.
  • Throughout the day when my mind wants to dwell on the what ifs, I return to the rhema Word, other promises God has given me, and the goodness of the God who loves me and blesses me beyond my ability to comprehend.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9

I’m reading a book about grace. In it, I read that Charles Spurgeon, the famous British pastor, once described faith as:

“believing Christ is who He said He was and that He’ll do what He promised to do – and then living accordingly.”*

I want to live in such a way that people see that I serve a God I trust. Otherwise, why would they want to meet Him?

* Captured by Grace, No One is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God by Dr. David Jeremiah, Thomas Nelson, © 2006, page 36.

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 I hope you’re enjoying this “Heart of a Worshipper” series (HWS). We’re about half way through the series, so this blog begins with a review. You can click on any of the topics to go to the blog on that topic.

A Willing Heart

Time for review. When this series is completed, I’ll have written about seven characteristics of the heart of a worshipper. We’ve covered four so far. How many of them can you remember? Can you name them? Let me help. Reading about them interspersed with “life” can make it difficult to see the natural progression, so let’s review the first four.

  • A hungry heart – one that desires to know God more intimately. There are many scriptures we could look at that express this sentiment, but I like these two:

“Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.
          Isaiah 26:8-9

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”
          Psalm 42:1-2

  • A pursuing heart – one that follows hard after Jesus. Proverbs 16:26 says: “The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on.” So it is with God. Our desire for Him drives us to get to know Him better – the hungry heart becomes the pursuing heart
    In His book The God Chasers, Tommy Tenney explains his title like this: “A God Chaser is a person whose hunger for God exceeds his grasp…whose passion for God’s presence presses him to chase the impossible, in hopes that the Uncatchable might catch him.”
    And the wonderful thing about our God is that He promises to allow us to catch Him! Review these scriptures if you have any doubts: Deuteronomy 4:29, Jeremiah 29:13-14, Matthew 7:7-8, and Proverbs 8:17. (There are lots more, but these should give you a good start!)
  • A transparent or unveiled heart – one that allows the Light of Life (Jesus) to shine through it so that He can reveal to us what is hidden in it’s deepest, darkest corners. When our heart is transparent, we can say with David “All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.” (Psalm 38:9) Having a transparent heart allows God to reveal our sin to us.
  • A vulnerable heart is the logical extension of the transparent heart – it’s the heart that suppresses our “fight or flight” response as we sit at Jesus’ feet and allow Him to change us. It moves from allowing God to reveal our sin to allowing Him to transform us into the image of Christ. It also means total dependence on God – trusting Him to make the right choices for you. It means giving God the right to make the rules and put the ball in play. And it means giving up our right to say “No, I don’t want to be like that,” or “I don’t like those rules.”

A Willing Heart – The Second Half of the Equation 
A key phrase in the last paragraph is “put the ball in play.” In other words, having a vulnerable heart that allows God to change us is only the first half of the equation…we must also have a willing heart that allows God to use us.

Chapter 6 in Isaiah is a fascinating illustration of the vulnerable and willing heart of Isaiah. Let me do a quick outline of verses 1 through 11 for you

Verses 1 – 4: Isaiah is given a glimpse of the throne room of heaven

…I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs…And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty…” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

Verse 5-7: Isaiah experiences conviction for his sin

Woe to me!…I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips…

Verses 6 and 7: God demonstrates that Isaiah’s sin has been forgiven by having an angel take a coal from the altar and touch his lips with it

With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Verse 8: God makes a request and Isaiah enthusiastically responds

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Verse 9-10: God elaborates on the assignment, revealing that it won’t be a pleasant one

“Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes…”

Verse 11: Isaiah remains committed to carry out his task

Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged…”

There are no words in scripture to give us an idea of what inflection to put into Isaiah’s response, but we do know that the last thing he said was spoken with enthusiasm or passion: “Here I am! Send me!” It seems reasonable, then, that the next line would continue in a similar emotion. So even though the Lord has told him to go do this seemingly miserable task, his response is “For how long, Lord?”

 I don’t think Isaiah was dragging his feet and saying “Oh man, how long do I have to do this?” I think He was saying with eagerness “How long can I do this for you Lord?” or “I’m happy to do it as long as you want me to, Lord. How long?”

Isaiah sees worship in heaven and his first response reveals his transparent heart “Woe is me, I am undone.” His second response reveals his willing heart: “Here I am. Send me.”

Oh, that I might be as enthusiastic when I receive assignments from God. I’m tempted to pray here, “Lord, make my heart and spirit cry with enthusiasm, ‘Here I am, Lord, send me,’ even when Your assignments mean obscurity or unpopularity or drudgery.” And that would be a good thing…but you know, sometimes my heart isn’t really there!

It’s at those times that I am tempted to feel condemnation because I think my heart should be always willing, no matter what the circumstances or assignment. So I try to get my heart to the right place…yeah, right!

One thing I’ve learned is that I can’t manufacture a change in my heart any more than I could manufacture the heart itself! I cannot rely on myself for such things. Charles Spurgeon made this point well in a book called All of Grace.

If we trust to ourselves for our holding on [i.e., continuing in Christ] we shall not hold on. Even though we rest in Jesus for a part of our salvation, we shall fail if we trust to self for anything…Beware of mixing even a little of self with the mortar with which you build, or you will make it untempered mortar, and the stones will not hold together. If you look to Christ for your beginnings, beware of looking to yourself for your endings. He is Alpha. See to it that you make Him Omega also. If you begin in the Spirit you must not hope to be made perfect by the flesh. Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began…

In other words, don’t look to yourself, look to God.  Don’t trust yourself, trust God. 

Returning to our passage in Isaiah, we see that he didn’t work up his own obedience – it was a natural response to having seen the glory of God. So perhaps my prayer shouldn’t be “Lord, make my heart and spirit cry ‘Yes Lord’ with enthusiasm;” perhaps the secret lies in sitting at Jesus’ feet in worship and praying “Lord, give me a glimpse of Your glory as you gave to Isaiah.” And that brings us full circle – it all starts with having that heart which is hungry for God and it leads to the wonderful privilege of being used by Him.

If your response to God isn’t as whole-hearted as you’d like it to be or you’re feeling condemnation from the enemy for lacking enthusiasm for the things of God, let me encourage you to take time to sit at Jesus’ feet in worship. Just for a while, stop doing things for God and simply spend time with God. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you in a new way. He delights to do so!

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