Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday with Spurgeon: Reflections from the book "Spurgeon Gold"

I have decided that I would borrow an idea from my brother over at Pyromaniacs (, and publish something of Spurgeon weekly.  I didn't actually think to do this as a result of reading Pyro, but after being given "Spurgeon Gold" by my 12-year old for Christmas.  As I read the first entry from the book, I thought "this would be great to share with people."  I then followed that thought to its logical end and here we are.  Many of you are familiar with Charles Haddon Spurgeon and know of God's using this man in a major way during his lifetime.  One of my favorite Christian MC's, shai linne, wrote a song that gives a brief synopsis of the life of the "Prince of Preachers."  Hear that here .   Anyway, this is now what you can expect to see on Streams of Thought each Friday; an entry from Spurgeon Gold.  Well, at least till that particular book is exhausted.  I'm thinking to make at least 2 theme days per week.  Maybe one day, I'll feature poetry or something like that. Actually, feel free to suggest what you might like to see sometime, and I'll definitely consider it.  Meanwhile,  enjoy the first entry from Spurgeon Gold:

Some People's Eyes
I shall never forget one summer afternoon, when I was preaching in a village chapel about the joys of Heaven, that an elderly lady sitting on my right kept looking to me with intense delight.  Some people's eyes greatly help the preacher.  A telegraph goes on between us.  She seemed to say to me, "Bless God for that.  How I am enjoying it!"  She kept  drinking in the truth, and I poured out more and more precious things about the eternal kingdom and the sight of the Well Beloved, till I saw what I thought was a strange light pass over her face.  I went on, and those eyes were still fixed on me.  She sat still as a marble figure, and I stopped and said, "Friends, I think that yon sister over there is dead."  They said that it was even so, and they bore her away.  She had gone.  While I was telling of Heaven, she had gone there; and I remember saying that I wished that it had been my case as well hers.  It was better not, perhaps, for many reasons; but oh, I did envy her!  I am always looking for the day when I shall see her again.  I shall know those eyes, I am sure I shall.

My Short Reflection on this Entry:
Well, I just loved that story from the first time I read it (yesterday lol).  In terms of reflections I have two to mention.  First, the prospect of dying, and having family and friends to be confident that Heaven is my home.  In other words, confident that I am a true believer in the Savior, Jesus Christ.  That is something I have actually thought about on a number of occasions.  Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says that we do not grieve as those who have no hope.  Of course, in the context of that passage, he was dealing with the misunderstandings of the Thessalonian Church around what happens to those who died as believers when Christ returns.  The key in that passage as it relates to my reflection is "died as believers" or as the passage says, "died in Christ."  The lady in Spurgeon's  account died, and it's apparent from reading the account that at least Spurgeon thought her to be a believer.  This lead to his excitement, joy, and understanding that he'd see her again.  This indeed is a different perspective than he would have had if she had been a known unbeliever.  My point is, I pray my life and the fruit the Lord chooses to bear in my life allow those in my life to mourn as if they mourn one "who died in Christ."  So like Spurgeon about this lady, my family can say, "he went there, and I'll see him again."  
My 2nd reflection on this piece is that Spurgeon was preaching on the joys of heaven.  I would just like to remind you that the Lord tells us in numerous places in Scripture that the hope of His coming is to be encouraging to us.  That the longing for our place in Heaven and among our brethren ought to motivate us to pure living.  The thought of being in the Lord's presence ought to be a "pick-me-up" for the believer.  Are you encouraged by the truth that our Lord is returning?  The thought that to  "live is Christ and to die is gain" is one that can become much clearer as we meditate on the "joys of heaven," and spend time reading God's word as it relates to us what it will be like.  New Heaven, New Earth, New Bodies, Presence of Sin GONE!!!! And most importantly, we'll see Him who was pierced FOR us Face to Face!!!!!!!!  Hallelujah!!  It's during those meditations that we cry out "MARANATHA!!!!"  Come quickly, Lord.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How Ought We to Plan?

Since I was a youngster, I've enjoyed the game of Chess. My uncle taught it to me when he came home from prison. I think I was around 10 years old at the time. Chess is a cool game, because all you really need to learn is how the pieces can move. Once you know that, the strategy part is up to you. Doesn't that sound like a great game? Yeah, that's part of why I like it so much. As you begin to learn the moves you can make, you simultaneously learn which moves your opponent can make. This is where a healthy dose of forethought comes in. You have to anticipate the moves your opponent will make, in response to your move. Eventually, that will stretch to a point where you can anticipate the opponent's move farther and farther removed from where the game currently is. That is, you can and should be able to think 3-5 moves ahead at a moderate level of play. Experts, or masters, can see even further ahead (some 10 or more moves and various scenarios ahead). Wow, right?!?!!? Some of you already are asking, "what is your point, man???" My answer is this: since I began playing Chess, I have been taught and have practiced a certain type of planning ahead. Planning as if the only things to consider were my moves, and how others would respond to them. In Chess, there is no "what if I'm not able to move after my opponent does?" In other words, there is no thought that I may die before this game ends. There is simply the assumption that I move, then he, then I move, then he. Therefore, my plans during the game were based on the assumption that "no circumstance will stop this game, save Checkmate or Stalemate." Certainly not something as sudden and final as, say, death. Under such conditions, good planning ahead ALWAYS netted the desired result-a good game. This type of blind foresight, if you will, was seen as a noble characteristic among my friends and family, because I was able to anticipate what would come next on the Chessboard of life. I was ALWAYS asking the "what if this happens" question. I would answer myself, "if that happens, then I'll do this, or that or the other." When one move didn't prove fruitful, plans B, C, and D were always on deck and ready to be implemented. Never a thought of the potential inability to enact the plans of my own mind; but Chess and life are not the same.


Jas 4:13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"--
Jas 4:14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
Jas 4:15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." Here, James is not condemning the making of plans, but the making of plans without regard for what the will of God is concerning our life itself. Chess player or not, we can all acknowledge that some planning is a part of a conscientious life. Afterall, we all make grocery lists, budgets, and use our DVR's to record what we PLAN to watch later :). The question is, do we realize during our planning that every plan WE make is contingent on the preordained plans our LORD has for us? I know, I know, you say "Lord willing" before every statement about your future, right? And if so, what exactly do you mean by that? In the James passage, the point is made that we are just mists that appear and then vanish. The times I have said "Lord willing," I have meant something like this: "Lord willing, I will DO this or that," or "Lord willing I will be in such and such a place on time." James is dealing with the frailty of LIFE itself, however. My position has always been (before now), that I have plans and if the Lord wills, my plans will come to fruition. LOL. What about you? James is stating that we ought to say "If the Lord wills, I WILL LIVE........" Wowzers!! Now that's certainly different than simply saying, if it's the Lord's will, I'll do what I want to do. Our lives, and the length or brevity of them is in God's hands alone, and so we ought not to cease planning; but begin to plan more soberly. It has been asked many times, "If you knew you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do?" In light of our individual answers to that question, perhaps our planning ahead should take on a different complexion? How would your plans change if you knew how long the Lord has for you on this Earth? Well, we may not know to the date how long we have, but this we do know: Our lives are but mists, vapors that will certainly vanish. How then ought we to plan?


If we prioritized our plans around the promised brevity of life, what would the new priority list look like? I have taken it upon myself to jot down a few things I'd like to do as a believer, based on the 24 hour principle: (Not in any particular order of importance)
1. I would want to clearly share the Gospel with all friends I could contact ASAP.
2. I would capitalize fully on every spare moment to love my wife and point my children Godward. This would include sharing the Gospel with them with both urgency and love.
3. I would get things in order in such a way that my wife would know where all finances stand, and the proper way to handle all affairs of the home that are currently under my care.
4. I would call many of my loved ones just to see how they were, tell them I love them, and give them the Gospel.
As I said, this is just a few things I'd like to do. As I look at this list, I grieve because only a few of these things are top of mind daily for me now. What does this say?
As I come to truly believe the Scriptures about the shortness of my time here, I should begin to seriously contemplate my priorities. Should there be this great chasm between how I plan now, and how I would plan if my time were limited? Surely some difference is to be expected, as we don't plan like we will actually die tomorrow. Yet, the knowledge that time does not belong to us to begin with should cause us to delight in God's mercy. His mercies are new every morning, and that partly because it's only His mercy that allows us to rise. It is the Lord's will that we are here today, and we will only be here tomorrow if it is His will we be. May I start my days now recognizing that all that I accomplish I owe to Him, for it is He who gives me life. May I plan as a man who knows that this life is not my own and that my chief end is to Glorify God. May we all begin to rethink our priorities in light of eternity as opposed to the temporal. Then, as Paul to the Romans,
May our Lord by His Spirit grant me the grace to do the same.
Grace and Peace

Monday, December 22, 2008

Indwelling Sin-Present in us, Absent in our Lord

In one of the most well-known descriptions of the angst caused by indwelling sin in Scripture, the Apostle Paul writes:
Rom 7:15  For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 
Rom 7:16  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 
Rom 7:17  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 
Rom 7:18  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 
Rom 7:19  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 
Rom 7:20  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 
Rom 7:21  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 
Rom 7:22  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 
Rom 7:23  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 
Rom 7:24  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 
Rom 7:25  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 

As I read this passage of Scripture, I began to wonder aloud:
Paul states that his inability to do the good that he desires to do is caused by the sin that dwells in him.  Doubtless, all of us who are now in Christ can relate to this inner turmoil.  The desire to do the will of our Lord and the battle that continually rages between that desire and our "flesh."  The "I must pray," tempered by the, "but I'm so tired."  The "my response in this situation necessarily needs to be gracious," tempered by the "but I am offended, and feel justified in angrily lashing out."  These examples obviously do not encompass the most hideous and heated battles between what we would do and what we actually do, but we can all see truth in them nonetheless.  Think on this though; Christ had NO SIN in Him.   No such thing as indwelling sin for the Savior.  The "temptation" of Christ was not like what we face as believers, since we actually find some aspects of what tempts us appealing.  Christ didn't even have the ability to give in to temptation!!!!  What are the implications of THIS truth?
Well,  I started compiling Scriptures for this post, and came across Phil Johnson's blog over at  Phil actually deals with the subject of the nature of our Savior's sinlessness beautifully.  I set out to treat this on my own, but will rely on the Body of Christ as I don't think I could state it any better than my brother.  I would really encourage you to check it out at this link: Pyromaniacs: Back to bidniss
For me, some of the truths concerning the complete perfection and sinlessness of our Savior actually challenged some of my presuppositions.  I thank God for that, and hope you too will be both challenged and edified.  Grace and Peace 

Saturday, December 20, 2008

All For God's Glory

Great observations from Piper's "Pierced by the Word" this morning.  Scripture is replete with the truth that we exist primarily for the Glory of God and we do well to meditate on such truth from time to time.  Man's chief end is to Glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Exhibits below show why we have:
A.  Redeemed Sexuality-"Flee from sexual immorality....You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body," 1 Corinthians 6:18,20
B. Eating and Drinking-"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God," 1 Corinthians 10:31
C. Answered Prayer-"Whatever you ask the Father in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son," John 14:13
D. Actual Good Deeds-"Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven," Matthew 5:16
What does this mean for how we ought to live?

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Biggest Loser, HCR Style

Ahhhhhhhhh...........Seems I'm not the only one feeling a certain way about these temples the Lord gave us. Some of my brethren over at HCR have started a "Biggest Loser" competition to begin in January. January 1st to be exact. The great day of resolution for the world. I intend to participate in this contest, of course, especially based on my last blog post. I mean, I've been searching for proper motivation to get up and do something active. It sort of smacked me in my face as I was reading on the message boards, and really I have no reason not to do it. My question is, should a contest be the reason I do what I am now being compelled to do anyway? I would say yes in my case, and maybe no in others. Let's face it, someone having a contest to see who can read the most Scripture in a 6-month period would be futile. There should be an inner motivation towards that exercise by virtue of the Holy Spirit within us. So I'm not advocating "motivation by contest" willy nilly. However, for some of us, it's been our deep look into the mirror of Scripture that has prompted us to want to be better stewards of what God has given us. In this case, it's our bodies. Clearly, Scripture tells us that we have been bought with a price, and that our bodies are not our own (I Corinthians 6:19,20). Such being the case, we should seek to glorify God with our bodies, Paul goes on to say. Now I realize that the context of that passage was sexual purity. In no way would I strip this verse from its original context to suit my need to lose weight here. However, I don't think it a stretch to say that the bottom lines are two. 1. God created us, and gave us these bodies, and 2. If we are believers, He caused His Holy Spirit to dwell in these bodies. Meditation on these two facts have caused a desire to take better care of what God has given me on a number of fronts. Physically, I was motivated as of yesterday; this motivation led me to pray that the Lord in His grace would help me along in what's easy for my mind/spirit, but hard for my flesh. Voila! I'm reading one of my favorite sites and there is the post by my Brother. The burst of mass that happened to me over the last few years had also befallen him!!!! I was not alone in the outcome of overrelaxing and apathy towards my weight. As the post gathered readers, he and I knew WE were not alone. Now there's a group of us that want to do something about it, but realize the support of the brethren is vital. Hence, HCR's Biggest Loser contest. See, the Bible says that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. Not that He will give us what we want, but that He will by His Spirit INFORM us of what we want. Cyclical prayer is what I call it. A. We seek God through His Word and Prayer (John 15:7, Psalm 119:105, Phil. 4:6 among others) B. Our time in the Word shapes our worldview and perspectives (Romans 12:2, Psalm 119:9, etc) C. God in His grace draws closer to us as we are drawn to Him through relationship (James 4:8, Psalm 145:18, etc) D. Our affections are changed to reflect more of Him through that relationship (again, Rom. 12:2, Ezekiel 36:26 and more) E. We pray according to those changed affections and WOOP WHAM!!! F. God answers the prayer that He Himself motivated and shaped within you. (Psalm 37:4, Psalm 21:2, Psalm 145:19, etc) I say all that to say that as I searched the Scriptures, I found within myself one more of many shortcomings. Namely, the lack of proper stewardship over the body that the Lord blessed me with. The temple in which He has made His Holy Spirit to dwell in. The body that does not belong to me, for I am bought with a price. My mind changed from, "why does it matter, it's APPOINTED every man to die anyway," to "Lord I want to please you in the way I take care of the things you give me. I don't want to take your selfless sacrifice for granted. I don't want to treat your gifts like they don't mean anything." As my mind changed, I realized that I didn't know how I could motivate myself to exercise, or change my diet or anything. Then along comes my brother Teddy P with the answer. To that I say, Thank you Lord. Soooooooooooooooo, in this case, a contest motivating me to exercise is actually an answer to prayer. I'll let you know how I do come January. Pray for me.

Grace and Peace

My Belly's Conscience, Part I

When it comes to fitness, exercise, dietary restriction and all things similar, I am known as a "bahhhh humbug" type of guy. I mean don't get me wrong, it's not like I sit around eating deep-fried donuts and sleeping 13 hours a day. 1. I'm a very busy man. 2. I work from home. 3. There's really not enough time in the day for me to work out regularly. 4. I believe that God allowed us the ability to enjoy the foods we eat for a reason. If He wanted, He could've made us machine-like creatures for whom eating was simply like "gassing up" a Honda. Simply giving us fuel for the sake of energy. No taste, no emotional attachment, no nothing (that's right I said no nothing). You'll notice that the preceding few sentences were numbered. That's because those are just a few of the excuses I have skillfully utilized over the past few years. Years that have seen my weight bubble (lol) from 155lbs to where I am now, a whopping 235lbs!!! There have been intermittent periods of exercise and even periods of careful eating. My wife will remember the week or so that I decided to eat a salad with every meal. Oh, and a portion of meat no bigger than the size of a man's hand. The sad thing is, during these times, I have ALWAYS felt better. I had more energy, I was more alert throughout the day, my memory even increased (I think). Somehow though, these periods always faded, lasting no more than 2 consecutive weeks. Why is that???
Well, it's easier to do what I feel like doing than what I don't feel like doing. It could be as simple as that. As I got up this morning and thought about this subject, I asked myself "what does the Bible say?" Not about how fat I am, but specifically about exercise; and whether I should do it. Now some of you may be thinking, "if you think you're overweight then just exercise dude," and you may be right. However, that line of thinking has been utterly fruitless in motivating me to hit the gym again. I'm thinking I need Biblical exhortation, but is it to be found? The first place I found myself looking was 1 Timothy. This is because this is where we are as a local body. My Pastor is walking us through this book verse by verse (known as expository preaching). It's amazing, and those of you who attend Churches that teach this way can likely vouch for the fruit the Lord bears as a result. Anyhow, as we travel through chapter 4, we see Paul dealing with the false teachers who will come in and lead folks astray. I mean, they're going to try to forbid marriage and promote abstaining from certain foods as a means of attaining right standing with God. There is a lot in the first few verses of I Tim 4 that could be dealt with in light of this discussion here, but I want to just look at verse 8. "for bodily exercise is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for al things........." This is a verse that I have actually used in defense of my not exercising! The all-important question to be asked by anyone doing the same is, "what does the verse say?" Well, first we note that in the context here, Paul was addressing those who were teaching that one could commend himself to God through intentional abstinence from things that were normal and typically appealing. Again, marriage and foods were expressly mentioned. Paul says in verses 3 and 4, however, that these things were created by God as good things, to be shared in by those who believe and know the truth. So in light of this, we understand that the teaching (false) that was going around was that one way one could please God was by not doing things that God intended believers to do. This type of abstinence took a type of discipline that was seen as profitable by those espousing it. In verse 8, we see Paul stating just the opposite. "Bodily exercise (the ESV translates it discipline) is only of little profit." Paul didn't say there was no profit in physical discipline. Look at what he contrasted physical discipline with. He goes on to say "but Godliness is profitable for ALL things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." Now, I get it. So the parallel that Paul draws indicates that physical discipline is indeed profitable, yet only temporarily. My being disciplined in body makes a difference here, but not in eternity. This was step one for me, realizing that this verse does not disregard physical exercise (or restraint, or even abstinence from some foods), but simply puts them in their proper perspective. None of these things serve to make me righteous in the sight of God. In fact, there are a lot of things that are in and of themselves "good," yet doing them does no more to get me favor with God than not doing them. So if I participate in any of these things, I'd better have the right expectation of outcomes. So exercise is good, just not eternally so. Exercise profits me in some ways, just not in ways that will cross over from this life to my next (MARANATHA). This is a good understanding for me to have come to, because next I'll examine the ways exercise could profit. Along with that examination, I'll take a look at some of the implications of not exercising physically and how that could relate to the spiritual discipline we are commanded to seek (I Timothy 4:7). For now, I have one less excuse to use in my slothfullness. The excuse that "the Bible says bodily exercise profits little," has become a motivation. More to come.........

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bent Outta Shape: Biblical?

Wowzers!!!  My first *real* day of blogging has me just about overwhelmed.  If you've ever seen say, my parents with an iPod you'd know about how I feel right now.  As technically saavy as I'd once thought myself to be, I am humbled by this new experience.  For one, I originally had this blog hosted on wordpress, partially because I saw a few others there and said, "this looks easy."  Wrong, I tell ya.  Wrong, altogether wrong.  Now, just as I was getting frustrated, I thought back to a recent convo I had with my brother in Christ.  We were discussing the Bible's view on the acceptability of frustration as a normal Christian response to difficulty.  The fact is, we discovered, frustration is actually a fruit.  In other words, frustration is the reflection in a mirror; the reality of which is anger.  As I thought about my frustration with this blog thing, I began to chip away at the facade and boil down to the truth.  I was angry-angry because A.  I was not having my expectations met when it came to putting this blog together, and B.  My pride told me that I was smart enough to have this thing whipped together in 5 minutes.  Well I called it frustration, justified it as proper and acceptable, and was just about to move on.  Then I thought about our Lord.........Did Jesus ever exhibit frustration in the way that we do?  I mean, there were plenty of situations He was found in that if it had been me, I would've been FRUSTRATED (read, angry). The disciples continuing to ask Him about things He'd explained, and REexplained, etc....... See, the truth is that there are some instances that frustration would appear to be warranted. However, Scripture does not give a believer an out when it comes to our responses to adversity.  During this ordeal, I'm realizing that frustration=anger=anxiety, all of which we should depend on the Lord to rid us of.  In simple terms, this is an opportunity for growth for me.  I have gone sooooo long thinking that to be frustrated is  OK, and I've allowed that false belief to lead to justification for the more heinous manifestations of that frustration.  Some of these have been argument, raised voice, silent treatment, irritability, and the distancing of myself from the Body of Christ.    I have to look at any emotion that has produced such foul fruit as those I just described as bad, not good or acceptable unto the Lord.  Philipians 4:6-7 says this:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your
requests be made known to God.   7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
This, by no means, is the only text in the Word that deals with this issue.  However, it does strike a deadly blow to my response to this particular difficulty.  When will the peace of God guard my heart and mind?  When I turn my anxiety/worry/frustration into prayer with thanksgiving unto God.  The next time I'm at work on this blog and I feel frustration creeping in, I'll pray.  God's wisdom and grace are promised to those who humble themselves and seek it.  (James 1:5 and  James 4:6) 

Here I Go Again, For the First Time

Well everyone, here I am.  I've entered the thickly populated world of blogging.  I thought long and hard about doing this; in fact, I created 3 blogs before this.  Come to think of it, they probably all still exist.  For good reason, I won't link you to them or even share their titles.  Each time I started a new blog,  I thought, "this is it!"  This is it, as in no more will I be lazy and not write regularly.  No longer will I say, "Awwww, noone wants to know about that."  Well, this time is different.  Don't ask me why or how it's different, it just is.  I feel it in my "spirit."  That brings me to one of the topics you'll probably see me blog about often.  Spiritual things;  because, well I'm a Christian.  So expect that, along with a plethora of other topics that get me moving in some direction, emotional or otherwise.  The reason I've chosen to call this blog "Streams of Thought" is because that's exactly what it is.  From my mind to this page.  Regularly and candidly. I pray it brings something to this well-attended table known as the blogosphere.

Grace and Peace,