Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” – December 1, Evening — Theology Mix

“O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men.” -Psalm 107:8 If we complained less, and praised more, we should be happier, and God would be more glorified. Let us daily praise God for common mercies–common as we frequently call them, and yet so…

via Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” – December 1, Evening — Theology Mix

I know I just posted another Morning and Evening, but I really wanted to write a bit on this one too because this was honestly one of my favorite ones to record so far.  We in the USA just celebrated Thanksgiving, a tradition that we think of as going back to the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony and to later presidential declarations of such days, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

I was intending to do a sermon episode on it with this sermon, but with the time crunch as well as falling ill, that will probably be done next year around the same holiday, God willing.

The power of gratitude

I wanted to take a moment here and talk about why as Christians, this occasion should be particularly meaningful to us.  We should, as a natural course of living, be constantly thankful to God, and I believe it goes hand in hand with the biblical command to rejoice in the Lord in all things.  We should remember that our lives, our families and homes, our very existence, and most of all our salvation in Christ, is a gift of God’s goodness and love to us.  Certainly, however, it is appropriate for us in this season when we begin to close out the year and reflect on everything that has happened, to make time as a nation to stop and give special gratitude to God.

Gratitude is also one of the believer’s greatest weapons against the temptation to run to sin.  Someone who hopes in the cross and pours out his gratitude on the unending grace of God can endure the darkest pits.  My own experiences have only grazed the truth of this, but the goodness and grace of God is so very sweet after a deep draught of sadness and suffering, and a time of thanksgiving is all the more appropriate in that time.

I have said before that I believe two important commands we find in Scripture are “rejoice” and “do not fear,” both of which are tied into the idea of loving the Lord with every element of your self, and which overflow into loving your neighbor as yourself.  I am reminded most of all of this passage from Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.–Hebrews 12:1-2

Such an amazing picture of the strength we can find in God is seen here!  Christ set the example for all His people by enduring not just giving up His heavenly throne to live as a servant, but enduring the torment of death on a cross, doing so because He knew the joy that would come of it, of the coming perfect union between Christ and His church, was far more valuable than the shame meted out to him in such an ignominious death.

I am constantly holding myself up against this, and I fall so very short.  Yet even knowing that drives me to further gratitude, because the immense and glorious grace of God is more than enough to fill that gap, and to grow me up further.  I pray that I will always keep this weapon at hand, as I go forth into the next part of life and into whatever God has planned for me there.

Advertisements

Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” – November 30, Evening

“Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.” -Revelation 12:7 War always will rage between the two great sovereignties until one or other be crushed. Peace between good and evil is an impossibility; the very pretence of it would, in fact, be the triumph of the powers of…

via Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” – November 30, Evening — Theology Mix

I got a little sick over Thanksgiving weekend and got behind in these, I will be pushing to get them caught up and ahead so this doesn’t happen again around Christmas.  Follow the link to hear and subscribe to Theology Mix on your podcast catcher for the twice-daily feed.

Episode 41: A Prayer for the Church Militant

Read the sermon text at Spurgeon Gems

On November 5, a little over two weeks ago as of this writing, a man named Devin Kelley walked into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, and proceeded to murder almost half of the congregation.  Of the 50 attendees of that church, he killed 24 of them.  When this happened, I was worshiping with my own church in Denton, about five hours north, and the horror of the tragedy struck close to my heart.  Not because I was afraid someone was going to appear at our door next, though that thought certainly did cross my mind, but because of the immense pain that such wickedness brings to God’s people.  “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints,” and certainly many precious lives were lost that day, even as they were welcomed into glory.

The response of those around me was the response that any Christian should have to such acts: to cry out to our Father in grief, in seeking justice, and in need of the strength and wisdom to move to action.  Yet just as quickly as Christians moved to pray, the response that has been growing louder to that in popular culture came: sneering responses of “instead of just praying, why don’t you actually trying doing something.”  “I’m sick of thoughts and prayers.”  And so forth.

Life and death in Christ

The man who murdered those people took their lives, but he could never take them away from their Lord.  And a Christian who goes to God in prayer is not sitting in inaction, but is in fact performing the most important and primary action anyone who truly believes in Jesus as Lord should follow: going to God for direction, for strength, and for a reminder of Who truly rules even over the tragedies, Who will achieve His great purpose even when and even through man’s wicked acts, because no one can escape the will and design of God.  I wrote to my church in a request for prayer that day for FBC Sutherland Springs:

This is such a dark and wicked act, it is hard to think about how to react.  Anger and sadness both seem appropriate.  But I wanted to post this here and ask for prayer, and take a moment to talk about prayer in particular.  I am not a pastor or elder, but I don’t believe I am out of line to say that prayer is one of the most powerful weapons in the hands of the Christian.  The world sees “thoughts and prayers” and sneers at what they believe is inaction, but in fact we have taken one of the greatest actions a believer can take: going into the throne room of God and asking Him for intervention, for protection, for strength to act and wisdom to know how.

I hope we can all take time to pray for the people of this town, with 400 people living there and a church of 50 who just had almost half of those lost.  Prayer is not inaction, it is a deep and meaningful act Christians take to call upon the name of the Lord and seek the good mercies He pours out upon His children even in times of turmoil and hardship.

Doing all things

One of the most misused verses in the Bible is Philippians 4:13.  We’ve all seen it plastered on motivational posters, athletic t-shirts, and all kinds of places with the completely wrong understanding of what is being said.  We tend to take it in a “Yeah, you can do it, you can achieve anything!” sort of way.  Paul, however, is not using it in a “rah rah, let’s go team” sense.  He is giving thanks to the church of Philippi for their prayers, because it was those prayers which cried out to God to give Paul strength to endure much suffering, and it was through those prayers that God ministered to the hearts of both the apostle and the church.

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.–Philippians 4:10-13

No matter what the world may believe about prayer, about the power of God shown in weakness, we the church must persist.  I must persist, even as I am weak in my pursuit of holiness.  We must persist in seeking after the Lord, because in that we are putting our hands to the plow and stirring up the soil.  And when we are done praying, we must stand up, and go out into the world and serve, and love, and minister to the broken and downtrodden.

This is what frustrates me so much about the thoughts and behaviors that tend to typify American evangelicalism, because so much of it involves running from the world around us and hating it, not in a “I hate sin and how it destroys my life and therefore I will preach the gospel” way, but in a “I am more righteous than the world and don’t want to get my precious hands dirty touching it” way.  The former brings a drive to serve and love your neighbor.  The latter causes you to hate and hide from your neighbor.

I encourage you to hear the words of Charles Spurgeon, and cry out to God every day, whenever it comes into your mind, to strengthen the church, to feed His sheep, and to lead us to righteousness.  I ask you, my brothers and sisters, to obey Jesus in making Him first and foremost in your minds as you seek for answers to tragedy in a dark and sinful world.  And I encourage you: no matter what it is that you are facing, do not let yourself become discouraged, nor let yourself grow idle.  Walk through all of life looking to the cross of Christ knowing that He is the one all things come from, and to whom all things point.

Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” – November 11, Morning — Theology Mix

“Underneath are the everlasting arms.” –Deuteronomy 33:27 God–the eternal God–is himself our support at all times, and especially when we are sinking in deep trouble. There are seasons when the Christian sinks very low in humiliation. Under a deep sense of his great sinfulness, he is humbled before God till he scarcely knows how to…

via Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” – November 11, Morning — Theology Mix

Follow the link for the podcast and subscribe to the Theology Mix feed in your favorite podcast catcher for twice-daily updates.

Ep 40: The Precious Blood of Christ – A Reformation Day Special


Read the sermon text at Spurgeon Gems

I have been thinking for a while now about what an episode in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation would look like.  After all, there are so many things that can be discussed, and are being so discussed in churches, podcasts and blog posts around the world: the fives solas of the Reformation, the history of the church that led up to and resulted from the actions of the reformers, and the finer points of the theological debates that produced such massive change throughout Western civilization and the church worldwide.

I decided, however, to get down to what I see as the real “why” of the entire issue: What was so important that Martin Luther decided to pursue an open debate on the subjects that he did, 500 years ago?  What motivated so many people to buck against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and pursue the Scriptures without layering them with Vatican magisterial tradition and teachings?  It was the realization that peace with God lay not in the repetitious taking of the mass, not in plenary indulgences or penances performed, not in any deed a man can do, but in the perfectly atoning and transforming blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross of Calvary.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.–Hebrews 10:19-25

Hebrews 10 contrasts the constant working of the Israelite priests, with the finished work of Jesus.  The high priest of Israel entered the Holy of Holies once a year to perform the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, and even then before he entered he had to ensure that he had observed the sacrifices to cover his own sins, lest he fall down dead while in the holy place.  But when Jesus died the veil separating that holy place in the temple from everything else tore.  The types and shadows of the Old Testament that, as Hebrews says elsewhere, could not truly pay for a single sin, gave way to the weight of the real and final sacrifice of Christ Himself.

Because of that we can walk into that holy place ourselves–not simply wherever that place might have been on the planet, though the temple itself has long since fallen, but into the throne room of God.  We can speak with him in prayer.  We can trust in His providing hands to give perfect gifts to us in life.  And we can go to Him with our sins, fears, failures and weaknesses, because Jesus did exactly what He intended to do:

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.–Hebrews 9:24-28

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg castle church, he wasn’t challenging the authority of the pope, at least not yet.  He was acting on conviction of the words of Scripture, as he had been teaching through Galatians for the last year and had, as he had examined the Greek text, come to believe that certain traditions of the Roman Catholic Church did not seem to line up with them.  Indeed, the reality was that the Catholic Church had set aside its duty to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in and out of season and disciple its people, and instead had become a world power that held great authority over many kingdoms in Europe.

Luther wanted to see debate happen on these theses, these specific statements based on the conviction put on his heart through the Word of God.  He challenged the culture that was holding onto false, unbiblical ideas about the nature of our relationship with God, in this case over the issue of buying indulgences that can supposedly help free one from time spent suffering in purgatory before being able to go to heaven.  That was only the beginning, of course, but that was the spark that set off the firestorm of the Reformation across Europe.

And it is in that same spirit today that, as Christians, I believe the Reformation must continue.  The Reformation did not end when the last of the original reformers died, or when the pope stopped allowing the sale of indulgences.

The Reformation continues today, as we must still hold our cultures accountable to the testimony of the Scriptures.  There is a great deal of confusion and deception within elements of the church: the Roman Catholic Church still teaches as official doctrine that you can have right standing before God by taking part in their sacraments.  There are many counterfeits of the faith, such as Mormonism and the Watchtower Society’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, that attempt to use Christian lingo and Christian Scripture but use them to arrive at decidedly non-Christian ends.  And there are entire denominations that have been taken over by secular humanism and have no gospel to preach, ultimately to shrivel up and die.

Being a Reformed Christian is not simply about believing in the truth of the doctrines of grace or understanding the meaning and importance of the five solas of the Reformation, though certainly those are important and foundational.  Being a Reformed believer means you are living out and holding up the truths of Scripture against those inside and outside of the church that would draw us away and distract us from the mission to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the corners of the earth.

That spiritual battle continues, and we must persist exactly as the reformers did in calling for a return to the fundamental truths of Scripture as the ultimate rule of truth, and in pointing to the blood of Christ alone as the perfect and complete atonement for the sin of all who believe in His great Name.

I want to leave you with some recommended reading that I feel is very much on this theme.  Firstly, is an article at the Gospel Coalition called “Thank God for Flawed Heroes.”  It discusses some history about the reformers and the fact that God used very flawed and imperfect men to effect such a tremendous moment in the history of the church.  I also want to link to an article at Desiring God, called “Prisoner Number 2491: The Inspiring Story of the First Nazi Martyr.”  It is the story of Paul Schneider, a Christian pastor who stood firm in the heyday of Nazi rule over Germany and refused to bow to pressure to change his teaching of the Christian gospel.  As a result he was arrested, horribly beaten, and eventually died in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Schneider’s story reminds of many important truths, but for just a moment I want to mention this one: suffering will come, in one form or another, into the life of every Christian.  We know that is true because our Lord suffered, and if we are following after Him, we can very much count on the world and the enemy despising us and seeking to harm us.  Schneider, however, did not respond with vitriol.  He sought to live and love faithfully in line with the Word and with the example of Christ, and just like the reformers before him, he knew that eternity was so very close and so very much more important that this brief and troubled life.

So many today suffer in the same way.  My friends, my brethren, let us take this day of remembering the 500th anniversary of the Reformation not simply as an occasion to think of the job as being done back then, but to think how we can continue to pursue the same goal the reformers had in our own day.  Let us worship our King boldly and with all love.  Let us serve and love our neighbors faithfully, and seek to see the best for our cities.  And let us respond to hatred given by those who despise the word of the gospel of Jesus Christ with the same love and humility that Christ himself showed on the cross, trusting as the reformers did that God will accomplish His work perfectly as He has intended to since before the world was founded.

Read Dave’s article on sola fide at Theology Mix, and subscribe to the Theology Mix podcast feed for twice daily Morning and Evening devotional podcasts.

Check out the Norton Hall Band’s recording of There is a Fountain Filled with Blood on Youtube.

Morning & Evening: “I Count All Things As Loss”

“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”-Philippians 3:8 Spiritual knowledge of Christ will be a personal knowledge. I cannot know Jesus through another person’s acquaintance with him. No, I must know him myself; I must know him on my own account. It will be an…

via Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” – October 14, Morning — Theology Mix

Episode 39: Turn or Burn

Read the sermon text at Spurgeon.org

This sermon is a hard and harsh one, and understandably so.  And this is one of Charles Spurgeon’s earlier sermons, so it is perhaps a bit “rougher around the edges” than some later ones, after he has spent years experiencing the grace of God amidst the peaks and valleys of life.  But I read it because I find it immensely relevant, because God’s justice is a subject that must be discussed if the gospel is to have true meaning.

The justice of God is such a hard subject to talk about, and it is one that is unfortunately neglected in many places.  The simple reason is that there are many who fancy themselves teachers of the flock who believe, for one reason or another, that to speak at length on the holiness of God and His wrath against sin somehow dishonors the work and life of Jesus, or maims the testimony of God’s love.  But I want to take a few moments here and refute that idea, and speak to why it is just as important to do exactly what Brother Spurgeon here has done and speak boldly to the truth of the coming punishment for sin.

Firstly, because it is a reminder that though tragedy continues to infect our world, it is not so simple to look at death in any form or fashion today and say “This right here, this is God’s punishment for sin.”  Though death came into the world through sin and was defeated at the cross along with sin, tragic death is a reality of life in this sinful world and not something you can necessarily use to draw a straight line from Sin A to Death B.

It was a little over a year ago that a man shot up a nightclub in Orlando, and I wrote a few blog posts discussing issues related to that.  I also read a sermon based on a text that was read in this sermon, Luke 13:1-5:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Now let’s be clear: Jesus is not saying that if you repent, you will not die.  He is calling the hearers to prepare their hearts lest they experience their own tragedy, and denying the superstition of the day that said that one could clearly see who had sinned, by what ill befell them.  Jesus called His disciples to serve the brokenhearted, the sick and needy, the widows and orphans.  He commanded them to lift up the ones who were laid low, and to make themselves low to serve the ones who desperately needed it most.

All of that is tied in to the fact that God is a God of justice, just as much as He is a God of mercy.  He is a God of wrath against sin, as much as He truly is love.  And all of you who feel the deep pain of injustice in our world, I would point you to this truth: firstly, because there is absolutely hope of justice.  Secondly, because if you seek that justice apart from the truth of God,  then all will you do is create a new injustice in place of the old, one stamped with your image and one that will be burned up on the day of judgment as a structure built out of straw and twine.  And finally, because if you cannot right an injustice in your time but must endure, you can endure knowing that perfect justice will be done on the Day of Judgment.

Charles Spurgeon was a man who despised the injustices of his day and preached boldly against them.  Indeed, this sermon was recommended to me by someone as a sermon that upset Southern slave owners, perhaps because they felt the barbs of conviction pricking very deeply.  Of slavery Spurgeon once said,

By what means think you were the fetters riveted on the wrist of our friend who sits there, a man like ourselves, though of a black skin? It is the Church of Christ that keeps his brethren under bondage; if it were not for that Church, the system of slavery would go back to the hell from which it sprung…But what does the slaveholder say when you tell him that to hold our fellow creatures in bondage is a sin, and a damnable one, inconsistent with grace? He replies, “I do not believe your slanders; look at the Bishop of So-and-so, or the minister of such-and-such place, is he not a good man, and does not he whine out ‘Cursed be Canaan?’ Does not he quote Philemon and Onesimus? Does he not go and talk Bible, and tell his slaves that they ought to feel very grateful for being his slaves, for God Almighty made them on purpose that they might enjoy the rare privilege of being cowhided by a Christian master? Don’t tell me,” he says, “if the thing were wrong, it would not have the Church on its side.” And so Christ’s free Church, bought with his blood, must bear the shame of cursing Africa, and keeping her sons in bondage.

If you’ve listened to this podcast for more than thirty seconds, you know Spurgeon preached boldly and unapologetically against the evils of sin in his day and for repentence and faith in the grace of Jesus Christ.  My brothers and sisters, we must do the same.  We must be balanced and biblical in our judgments, we must model mercy and pour out love on those who hate us, but we must remember that love and truth are equal partners in the worship of the One True God.  Therefore we must preach the truth about the evils of our time, not because they win us political points (because often they won’t), not because we love to shame our neighbors (because apart from the grace of God we join in that shame), but because we love God and we love our neighbors, and we desire most deeply to see them know Christ and live.

Next episode: a special observance of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Visit TheologyMix.com to subscribe to this and may other podcasts, and to receive the daily Morning and Evening episodes.

Episode 38: Love Thy Neighbor

Read the sermon text at Spurgeon.org

I want to say thank you to everyone who has had kind words and continued prayers for me as I have been working through the divorce and all of the personal fallout that has been involved.  I want to especially thank Alex Humphrey of The Rugged Marriage and his wife Rachel, and I definitely recommend subscribing to their podcast if you don’t already.  They were a tremendous encouragement to me, along with many others in my church and around me who have helped counsel me through this.

I debated exactly how I wanted to deal with the ongoing podcast, and I decided I want to just jump back into it with both feet.  I have a few reasons: firstly, as I have said before, this exercise is as much a devotional for me as it is a desire to minister the gospel to others, and it does my heart good to be sitting under the teaching of a man like Charles Spurgeon in this manner, who himself was under a great deal of weight on his heart.

Secondly, I want to have my say, for whatever it’s worth, about what I see happening in the world and the way others are talking about it.  I invite dialogue, although I do require good behavior.  I will be saying things here that many will disagree with.  If you can disagree with me respectfully, I will publish and engage with your comments as best I can.  If you can’t engage with someone who disagrees with you without treating them as subhuman, I would suggest not wasting your time here.  Not because I hate you, but because if even the most fundamental foundation needed for discussion is absent and all you can do is snark and meme your way through a rant, you and I will not be getting very far.

Loving your neighbor, loving your enemy

I want to point out something very important about the concept of loving your neighbor, and to do that I want to look to Scripture:

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”–Luke 10:25-37

The first thing I want to point out about this: this is a command.  I’m not exactly breaking new exegetical ground here, but it is common for people to handle moral issues in the context of “Well, I may do X, but that guy, he’s a real jerk!”  We do that with everyone from our literal neighbors to people in the public eye we will probably never meet.  So, I want to do exactly what Charles Spurgeon did here: I want everyone to take this command and say to everyone, it is pointing squarely at you.  It points at me and you, reader, and each one of us will have to stand before God and account for our obedience to it.

Yet it seems that the primary emotion being demonstrated by many right now is fear, with a healthy backing of anger.  You have fearful liberals and fearful conservatives, fearful radical progressives and fearful alt-rightists who are so convinced that the other is going to destroy them and everything they hold dear.  There is no love for God or for neighbor in their thinking, but there is the thought that “As soon as the other guy is taken down a peg, or removed, or whatever, then the world will be sunshine and butterflies, the poor will have food and the oppressed will be free.”

I have news for you, my friends.  Fear and love are enemies.  “Perfect love casts out fear.”  And if you are a Christian and your reaction to another person who is outside of your camp is fear and anger, if it’s looking for a way to build a compound to hide in rather than to understand and engage with your neighbor, to serve their needs and love them where they are, then I have to put it to you that you are disobeying Jesus, and you need to repent and adjust your heart.  I have seen Christians behaving absolutely shamefully towards other Christians–and if your reaction to these words is defensiveness or finger-pointing then I guarantee that yes, I am talking about you.

But there’s no one I’m harder on in this regard than myself.  I am always looking to hold my thoughts and actions against the standard of righteousness here, and I am wanting.  Yet I do not despair, for two reasons: firstly, because I know that Christ’s sacrifice is enough to cover every sin I have, and that His righteousness will be mine on that day of judgment; and secondly, because I know that God is working in my life through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit to change me, bit by bit, into the image of Christ.  I want that, I want to represent Him in love and peace and joy through all things.  My friends, I pray that for each of you, you will know the desire for holiness in God in that simultaneous ache of longing and satisfaction of having Jesus.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Theology Mix RSS feed for daily Morning & Evening updates

Episode 37: The Novelties of Divine Mercy

I want to again thank all of you who have been patient through this last hiatus, and especially for those of you close to me who have been actively praying for and ministering to me during this time.  This was not a “I’m just really busy” hiatus.  I mentioned in the last episode that there was some turmoil ongoing, and unfortunately it ended in the worst possible way: my wife and I are no longer married.  I have no intention of divulging more information than that, but to answer the questions I know many of you concerned will have: yes, this is the end of a process that involved church elders and it is something that was not entered into lightly in any way.  I will not say more than that, out of respect for privacy.  Those of you who do know us, I appreciate your constant prayers and the loving support that you all have shared through this.

I’ve waited to continue this podcast and blog until after everything was officially finalized.  I plan to move forward continuing to trust God in my darkest times, continuing to pray for Jessica, and continuing to rely on the support of His people.  I am particularly grateful for the godly men and women who have gathered around me to minister to me through all this.

The fact is that this has been a deeply tragic event for me, and I have struggled with understanding it and with my own emotions, both in trying to figure out exactly how I should feel and think, as well as finding constructive ways to work through my deeper feelings.  I have been hurt down to my deepest parts, and I have lost my partner.  The pain I have had to endure, the sadness and anger, has been of a kind I can scarcely hope to describe meaningfully.

But as Paul said in 1 Thessalonians, I do not grieve as a person who has no hope.  Through all of this, God has held me steady and been true to His promise to provide a way of escape from the temptation to sin.  I picked this sermon because the chapter it is from, Lamentations 3, was a strength to me in this dark time.  It is a reminder that even though God ordains the darkness, it ultimately serves to the purpose of greater joy when the light comes.

I won’t say that the light has reached me yet, at least in this matter.  I will say that God is good, and God is gracious, and I will trust Him with each new step in life.  To my listeners who have similar struggles, I would say to you: Do the same.  Trust in the goodness and mercy of God.

I have had a few people talk with me about this that clearly expected me to have become embittered towards Jessica in particular, and towards the institution or concept of marriage in general.  But I have no intention of letting a root of bitterness grow down into my heart towards either, for several reasons: Firstly, because that would be an incredibly selfish position to take, that would make my marriage all about what I want and what I get out of it, rather than glorify God or honor my wife even in the aftermath of all this; secondly, because I am aware of the ways in which my own sinfulness has contributed to this regardless of other circumstances and such an attitude would be completely unrepentant and un-Christian on my part; and thirdly, because I have not become a different person as a result of this.  I still desire to represent Jesus with the way I live and work and speak.  I still want to grow in love, and in the grace and knowledge of God–even more now, I would say.  I still want to put my sin to death.

On a purely personal level…this has been the most tragic time I’ve walked through in my life.  I am deeply grateful to those who have gathered around me during this time, to hold me up in my weakness, to remind me of my true strength in Jesus, and to pour out love onto one who was feeling deeply unloved.  But this has been the darkest moment of my life, and I have had to continually turn to prayer and to the strength of my brothers and sisters to help me deal with the enormous weight I have felt upon my shoulders.  I have been wrestling day by day with the myriad ways I have sinned and contributed, and having to drag it to the foot of the cross each time.  There has been no time for self-pity.

All of this may seem very vague in a sense to many, and honestly it should.  Those who need to know more details of my and Jessica’s personal lives know them.  To the rest of the world, I would simply ask for prayer.  I intend to press forward into Jesus regardless of anything else.

To those listening who are facing darkness, for whom hard times come hard and fast, and who are feeling the weight of despair on their shoulders: I want to urge you, do not hesitate.  Do not hide in the dark, because there you will only find more of what afflicts you.  Turn to Christ, and run to Him.  Make yourself and your struggles known to His people, to those who can love you and gather close to minister to you in those times.  The reason the Scriptures are so full of good texts to apply to suffering is because suffering is something that all humans have in common as long as we live in this world.  Trust the goodness of God even in your darkest times, and do not hide your struggles.  Drag them to the light!  Leave them at the foot of the cross, and do it every day!  Trust to the renewed grace of God every morning, and never believe that God is tired of you, or that His church has better things to do.  This is what it is for: to weep with those who are weeping, and rejoice with those who are rejoicing.  We are called simply to trust Him in all things, and that is all I can do in this time of deep pain.

Sermon text

Episode 36: Joy In Place Of Sorrow

Thank you for being patient during my extended, unannounced absence here.  I won’t get into a lot of specifics, I’ll just say: it’s been a little crazy, and even the hour or two it takes to create one of these has been precious time that had to be directed elsewhere.  I am very grateful to those of you who have been praying for my wife and I as we’ve passed through a rather trying time.

And it’s actually what led me to pick this sermon, as the concept of joy, and more specifically the source of joy and its object, has really been on my mind lately.  When things are frustrating beyond reason, when it looks like darkness is all around or when things are simply out of your hands completely…what does it mean to obey a command like “Rejoice in the Lord always?”

I wanted to take a look at the whole passage:

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”–John 16:16-24

And there’s another passage that came to mind as well:

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.–Luke 12:22-34

What I see is that we have two sides of the same coin: Do rejoice in God, do not fear.  And I look at my life, I look at my thought process and the way I look at the way my heart quakes before uncertainty, or how quickly I can get angry when my best-laid plans are upset…and I find myself having to continually go to God and confess my great deficiency in this area.  I want to be able to lead my wife in such a way that demonstrates my complete trust in His providence.  I am a guy who can’t do anything except wake up in the morning, praise God for new grace, and go forward to see what the day holds.

And so we have the dual command: rejoice, and do not fear.  Praise God in all circumstances and times, because God is king of all; because God is the Author of our lives and faith; and because He has extended us mercy and grace far beyond our greatest understandings.  Do not fear, because God ordains all things, even the bad things, for the sake of His glory and our good; because when we look to God in even our most sorrowful and agonizing times He uses those to create in us a lasting and life-giving joy; and because in the eternity to come when we see Jesus and know Him fully, the darkest hours will not compare to the true fullness of that joy.

But it still is not unusual for us to look at our own troubles, our own fears, and feel like we are different.  “My circumstance is unique.  You may be able to just cast your fears away like nothing, but you can’t understand what it’s like for me.”  And you know, that is true in a sense, at least halfway: I can’t understand what your life is like, because it’s not my life.  I only have my own existence and my own testimony.

But to say that you are somehow so troubled and beyond help that you should cling to your troubles, that you should not obey this command with all urgency, is to be disobedient.  And that’s what I have to preach to myself: if you do not loosen your hands, give up this idol, this fear, this control over your life, what you’re saying is that God is not truly God.  You’re really God, and you know best.  I think we all know exactly how that will end.

So Mr. Spurgeon’s cry from Scripture is one that I utter often, and that I think is very appropriate for every believer to have at hand: “I believe, help my unbelief!”  I find myself even now, crying out to God those words.  I worry about what is to come, I buck against the fact that I cannot take situations in my hands and fix them to perfection and I have to trust God.  So I ask God to forgive my unbelief and fear, and I rejoice in the fact that in Christ I have a great high priest who both can sympathize perfectly with me, as well as has perfectly and completely covered my sin.  I want to rest in the throne room of God as a man who is made perfect by the completed work of Jesus, and I want to lead my wife lovingly by the hand behind me to joy.  I want to be a man that raises whatever children God blesses us with to become lovers of God, to see their own hearts filled with the overflowing joy of the Spirit ministering to them.  And I can rejoice in the fact that God hears my prayers, and that His perfect wisdom and mercy will be administered in exactly the right way.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.–Romans 8:28

Recommendations:

Check out the debate between Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, and Brother Joe Ventalicion from Iglesia ni Christo.  INC is an Arian cult that began in the Philippines, and they bear some resemblance to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in certain areas–namely, that Jesus is a created being rather than God, and denial of the Trinitarian nature of God.

Sermon text