Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Amidst Us Our Belov'd Stands

Amidst us our Belov’d stands,
And bids us view His pierc’d hands;
Points to His wounded feet and side,
Blest emblems of the Crucified.

What food luxurious loads the board,
When at His table sits the Lord!

The wine how rich, the bread how sweet,
When Jesus deigns the guests to meet!

If now with eyes defiled and dim,
We see the signs but see not Him,
Oh, may His love the scales displace,
And bid us see Him face to face!

Our former transports we recount,
When with Him in the holy mount,
These cause our souls to thirst anew,
His marr’d but lovely face to view.

Thou glorious Bridegroom of our hearts,
Thy present smile a heaven imparts:
Oh, lift the veil, if veil there be,
Let every saint Thy beauties see!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Communion Hymn (Published in Till He Come)

Think About What You're Reading

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

I read a silly amount of books every week/month/year, and I’ve realized something:

The ones I enjoy the most are the ones with discussion questions.

Recently my men’s small group has been working our way through The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard (it’s a great book, by the way), and one of the most helpful things about it—even more than the content itself—is the discussion questions and application activities.

It’s really easy to read a book (or scan it in some cases) and say, “Yep, I’ve got it. Next!” Especially for me.

I read very quickly, I retain a lot… but if I don’t dwell on the content, it just sits in my head and doesn’t affect my life.

I find that I have to make the time for application. Discussion questions force me to do that, to dwell on the content and chew on its implications.

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul is a great one for that, as is Doctrine by Driscoll & Breshears. Both of these contain great questions that are beneficial to personal study or small groups.

Now, there are some things that don’t require discussion guides, obviously. If you’re reading Amish Vampire Romance End-Times books, for example—okay, that might require some discussion (but not of the book itself).

Rescuing Ambition, which I reviewed yesterday, had a lot of questions within the text, which was great. It made me stop and think about the book.

I also appreciate how Francis Chan periodically writes, “Okay, stop reading this book, go watch this video here, read this passage of Scripture and look at what it says about XYZ.” That’s smart; it pushes the reader to interact with the text and not just let it wash over him or her.

So what do you do with a book that doesn’t have any questions?

Ask your own!

As a general rule, I have a few questions for every book I read:

  1. What is the main idea the author is trying to convey?
  2. How does the author support his/her idea(s)? Scripture, tradition, history, illustrations from real life examples…
  3. Do I agree with the author’s main idea? Why or why not? And can I support my position with appropriate Scripture? (Questions two and three are essential for anything labeled “Christian Living,” “Spiritual Growth,” or “Theology,” I’ve found.)
  4. If these ideas are true, what is one practical way I can apply this truth today?

A great book is one that doesn’t just challenge the way you think, but challenges you to think.

Ask questions. Enjoy discussion.

And think about what you’re reading.

Evangelistically Challenged

Something I’ve been praying for, fairly consistently, is the opportunity to share our faith with our family. A while back, we used to hope for kind of an “afterschool special” moment; that one day, Emily’s parents or my parents would sit us down and say, “Gee, you’re really different. Why is that?” And then we could share our story, present the gospel and see them get saved. That day.

Too lofty a goal? Maybe.

Anyway, as I’ve been praying, occasionally little opportunities to put something out there pop up. Sometimes I end up taking them, but… a lot of the time, I hesitate or I misread the situation.

Sunday afternoon, for example, I realized in hindsight that there was a prime opportunity and I dropped the ball. My mother-in-law asked me how my preaching went last weekend, which gave me an opening that—I didn’t take.

But I should have, I realized as we were driving home.

I talked a  bit about how it went, but didn’t get into the content of the message too much. While she might not have been all that interested (and even though I’ve sent a link to the audio), I totally blew that opportunity.

What I’m realizing in this is that I’m kind of evangelistically challenged, at least when it comes to family.

I think there’s still a part of me that wants to think that pure “relational evangelism”—that somehow, people are going to ask, “Gee, Aaron, I’ve noticed you don’t drink; could you tell me how to get saved?”—that that’s actually going to work.

But I’m sure, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that it just doesn’t.

Paul writes in Romans 10:14-17:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Getting over being evangelistically challenged means being willing to speak up, even at the risk of offending someone with the truth.

I guess the question for me is, am I willing to get over myself to do it?

John Calvin: Knowing Yourself Begins with Knowing God

[M]an never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.

For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also —He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced.

[S]ince we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure… So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods.

But should we . . . begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is . . . what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity.

Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God.

When we see those who previously stood firm and secure so quaking with terror, that the fear of death takes hold of them . . . [we see that] men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God. Frequent examples of this consternation occur both in the Book of Judges and the Prophetical Writings; so much so, that it was a common expression among the people of God, “We shall die, for we have seen the Lord.”

Hence the Book of Job, also, in humbling men under a conviction of their folly, feebleness, and pollution, always derives its chief argument from descriptions of the Divine wisdom, virtue, and purity. Nor without cause: for we see Abraham the readier to acknowledge himself but dust and ashes the nearer he approaches to behold the glory of the Lord, and Elijah unable to wait with unveiled face for His approach; so dreadful is the sight…

[T]he knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, [but we must] treat of the former in the first place, and then descend to the latter.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.1.2-3

Eschatology Matters (Even if We Don’t Want it To)

Does anyone else think charts and graphs when they hear "eschatology"?

Eschatology is a weird thing (and a weird word). Too often when I think of the end times, immediately images of complicated charts and graphs (possibly drawn in crayon) and/or the thought of being “left behind” with an earnest Kirk Cameron come to mind…

What about you?

Does the idea make you want to curl up into the fetal position?

When people talk about the Rapture, are you secretly hoping they’ll just be raptured right then? (To borrow a joke.)

I dont’t have an eschatological position locked yet. I’ve not done enough study.

But I need to.

Last week, C.J. Mahaney posted an excerpt of Jeff Purswell’s closing message to the Next 2010 conference, reminding us that eschatology isn’t something to be ignored, but rather it’s the crown of our theology. Purswell puts it this way:

Eschatology is not intended to be an add-on to your theology. In many ways eschatology is the crown of theology. It answers questions that other doctrines raise.

And so we believe in God’s good providence. Where is God’s providence leading? We know Jesus paid for our sin, and he’s helping us battle that sin. But how will sin finally be overcome? We know that Jesus triumphed on the cross. What will it look like when he finally triumphs over all things? How will the Holy Spirit finish his work in us? What will the church ultimately look like?

Eschatology answers all these questions. If your eschatology is unformed, your doctrine—your beliefs—will be unformed as well. [Read more...]

Should Christians Read the Writings of Other Religions? It Depends…

Have you ever been asked to read the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon or the Bhagavad Gita after encouraging a non-Christian to read the Bible?

If so, should you?

John Piper provides some interesting insights into why one should our should not read the “holy” books of other religions.

The edited transcript follows:

If I want people of other religions to consider the message of the Bible, should I be willing return the favor and read their holy books as well?

I think it depends on how serious they are and how serious you are. It also depends on what kind of person you are. Not everybody is gifted or called to be an analyzer of other people’s religious literature. I think it could be dangerous—especially if the other person is just provoking you. [Read more...]

Problems with Premillenialism by Matthew Svoboda

I used to go back and forth between Amillennialism and Historic Premillennialism… Now, because of many of the reasons below I am seeing any form of Premillennialism as less and less of a viable option. I know that highly offends some people, but let’s be graceful and deal with the points I raise below.

1. Premillennials insist on a “literal interpretation” of Eschatological/apocalyptic literature. It is my belief that not only is this wrong, but they cannot even hold true to their own convictions. Premillennials want to take some of Revelation (chapter 20 for instance) literally, while they easily allow for other parts of Revelation to be interpreted symbolically. Revelation should have a balance of literal and symbolic- but it seems silly to me to be someone who always harps and insists on “literal” when, at times, you don’t think twice about interpreting symbolically. How about some consistency? According to biblical and non-biblical apocalyptic literature the genre demands symbolism. Most Premillennials simply do not do justice to Revelation when they insist on all of the literalism (especially since they don’t necessarily follow through on their own claims). To be fair- this isn’t every Premillennial. If someone is absolutely convinced that Revelation 20 occurs after Christ’s return I suggest Dr. Grant Osbornes commentary- he at least does justice to the symbolic nature of the book of Revelation.

As I will demonstrate in a few points below- when I deal with certain texts- that Premillennials want the “plain, straightforward, literal interpretation of Revelation 20,” yet, they reject a plain, straightforward, literal interpretation of many other New Testament texts that deal with Eschatology. So, Premills insist on a literal interpretation on apocalyptic literature, which is meant to be symbolic, and yet reject a straightforward reading of texts that are not apocalyptic. Obviously, no Premill will say that is what they do, but as I will demonstrate it seems to me that is exactly what they do. [Read more...]

Sermon Audio: Spiritual Poverty and the Worship of God

On Sunday, July 25, 2010, I had the privilege of preaching a message called Spiritual Poverty and the Word of God at Brussels Community Bible Chapel in Brussels, Ontario. This message from Psalm 63 looks at our need to be satisfied and comforted by God’s presence as we seek Him in His worship.

An MP3 of this message is available here.

The original sermon notes follow: [Read more...]

Matt Chandler on Leading Your Church Through Suffering

A few quotes, pulled by JT:

“Lauren asked the doctor, ‘What’s best-case scenario and what’s worst-case scenario?’ He said: ‘Best-case scenario is that God heals you. . . . Worst-case scenario, honestly, is that you get killed in a car wreck on your way home today.’

“He was the first one to say to me out loud, ‘Nothing’s really changed for you—you just get to be aware that you’re mortal. Everyone is, but they’re just not aware of it. The gift that God’s given you is that you get to be aware of your mortality.’

“So if this goes bad for me, if my MRI scan shows that . . . I have a short amount of time, I can talk to my wife, talk to my children, shoot videos. . . . Most guys who die in their 30’s kiss their wife goodbye in the morning and never come home. . . . At least once a year, for the rest of my life, I get the anxiety of ‘Am I going to hear today that I only have a couple years to live?’ . . . It is a gift.”

HT: Z

A Caution to the Young, Restless and Reformed

John Piper offers the following caution to the New Reformed/New Calvinist Movement:

The edited transcript follows:

Would there be any cautions that you would have for the New Reformed/New Calvinist Movement you referenced earlier?

Yes. [Read more...]

Job and the Purpose of Suffering by Chris Canuel

Today’s guest blogger is Chris Canuel. Chris is a really thoughtful guy who describes himself as “a man blessed beyond my wildest dreams.” He and his wife Meredith have four kids and his first book, Testimony, is available for sale. You can also connect with him on Twitter here.


“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.

Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

~Job 1:6-22 ESV~

I have now been a Christian for about 5 years. To be perfectly honest over these 5 years I have been extremely blessed, and have had very few real trials. Like Job at the beginning of this book, I have suffered very little. For many, this is their picture of the Christian life, one of perpetual blessings, whether it be health, wealth, prosperity, etc. I don’t believe as we read the Bible however, that is the perspective we get.  The Christian life and the lives of the people of God are indeed lives filled with suffering. Look at Christ, how much did he suffer? Look at Paul, how much did he suffer? Look at the prophets, read through the Psalms. The Bible is filled with suffering. I’m sure we even know Christians ourselves, who right now are really struggling in some aspect of their life. If not our neighbors, it’s not hard to see how much other Christians are struggling and being persecuted in other parts of the world. [Read more...]

“Who Am I that I Should Have Been the Object of His Mercy?”

C.J. Mahaney is the founding pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland and the author of several books including Humility: True Greatness.

His testimony is a powerful testimony to God’s grace in saving the ill-deserving.

Small Groups: A Beautiful Mess by Ben Reed

Today’s guest post is by Ben Reed. Ben  is the small groups pastor at Grace Community Church in Clarksville, TN. He blogs regularly at Life and Theology, wrestling through subjects such as small groups, parenting, leadership, social networking, and counseling…all from a distinctively biblical point of view. You can follow him on Twitter HERE or on Facebook HERE.


Ever been in a relationship of any kind? Then you know what I’m about to say is true: relationships are messy.

Because of the Fall (Genesis 3), try as we may, building meaningful relationships with others is one of the most difficult things we will try to do. Because it’s not just us that we have to work on.

If our problem is, let’s say, lying, we can work on that. We spend time in prayer. Read books about how lying is a sin. Write little encouraging notes to ourselves on our bathroom mirror and on sticky notes that get lost.  Read books that talk about how the Truth has set us free from lying. Bring others into our story, let them know our struggles, and have them call us to the carpet when we lie.

But building relationships isn’t all about us. You can try all you want, but the fact that you’re trying to build a relationship with a fellow sinner complicates the game. Because it’s not just you that has to deal with a sinner…the other person has to as well. Trying to line up two sinful hearts is an unbelievably difficult task.  So many of us find ourselves gravitating towards isolationism, where we run from relationships. It’s much easier than pursuing them.

But this doesn’t please Christ. For whom did Christ die?

The Church.

And who is the Church?

A body of believers. 

Which means that you, in and of yourself, are not the church. You need others. And they need you.  [Read more...]

John Calvin: True Religion Begins with Heavenly Teaching

[I]n addition to the proper doctrine of faith and repentance in which Christ is set forth as a Mediator, the Scriptures employ certain marks and tokens to distinguish the only wise and true God, considered as the Creator and Governor of the world, and thereby guard against his being confounded with the herd of false deities.

[W]hile it becomes man seriously to employ his eyes in considering the works of God, [. . .] his special duty is to give ear to the Word, that he may the better profit. Hence it is not strange that those who are born in darkness become more and more hardened in their stupidity; because the vast majority instead of confining themselves within due bounds by listening with docility to the Word, exult in their own vanity.

If true religion is to beam upon us . . . it is necessary to begin with heavenly teaching. [I]t is impossible for any man to obtain even the minutest portion of right and sound doctrine without being a disciple of Scripture. Hence, the first step in true knowledge is taken, when we reverently embrace the testimony which God has been pleased therein to give of himself. For not only does faith, full and perfect faith, but all correct knowledge of God, originate in obedience. And surely in this respect God has with singular Providence provided for mankind in all ages.

For if we reflect how prone the human mind is to lapse into forgetfulness of God, how readily inclined to every kind of error, how bent every now and then on devising new and fictitious religions, it will be easy to understand how necessary it was to make such a depository of doctrine as would secure it from either perishing by the neglect, vanishing away amid the errors, or being corrupted by the presumptuous audacity of men.

It being thus manifest that God [. . .] has given the assistance of his Word to all whom he has ever been pleased to instruct effectually, we, too, must pursue this straight path, if we aspire in earnest to a genuine contemplation of God;—we must go, I say, to the Word, where the character of God, drawn from his works is described accurately and to the life; these works being estimated, not by our depraved Judgment, but by the standard of eternal truth.

If [. . .] we turn aside from it, how great soever the speed with which we move, we shall never reach the goal, because we are off the course.

We should consider that the brightness of the Divine countenance [. . .]  is a kind of labyrinth,—a labyrinth to us inextricable, if the Word do not serve us as a thread to guide our path; and that it is better to limp in the way, than run with the greatest swiftness out of it. Hence the Psalmist [. . .] introduces God as reigning; meaning by the term, not the power which he possesses and which he exerts in the government of universal nature, but the doctrine by which he maintains his due supremacy: because error never can be eradicated from the heart of man until the true knowledge of God has been implanted in it.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.6.2-3