Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Taste of Newton

Right now I'm getting back into the Letters of John Newton... and boy it's been good. Here's a letter that Newton wrote to William Wilberforce's wife.

"My dear Madam - I did not hear of your late illness till I was informed you were much better. I praise the Lord for your recovery, and hope you will have reason to praise him for all his chastisements, for surely they are sent in love, for the sake of the supports with which they are accompanied, and the fruits which (by his blessing) they produce; they deserve a place in the list of our own peculiar and covenant mercies. Of Mr. Thornton's recovery I had the pleasure to be informed by himself. May the Lord long preserve him and you for many years, for the comfort of your friends and the glory of His name. Your letter was truly welcome. All yours are so, and therefore I do not choose to remain longer in your debt than I can avoid, that I may have hope of hearing from you again. I observe your experience is a mixture of joy and complaint, and thus is must be till the Lord shall be pleased to put an end to our conflict with indwelling sin. Both are right. We have reason to mourn that there is such an opposition within us to all that is good; and we have reason to rejoice, for Jesus is all-sufficient, and we are complete in him. We cannot but mourn to find that our passage lies through fire and water; we ought to rejoice that this difficult way will lead us to a wealthy place, where joy will be unspeakable, glorious and endless. We may well mourn that our love to the Lord is so faint and wavering; but oh! what a cause of joy to know that his love to us is infinite and unchangeable. Our attainment in sanctification is weak and our progress slow; but our justification is perfect, and our hope sure. May we so look to the bright side of our case as not to be cast down and discouraged, and may we maintain such a sense of the dark side as may keep us from being exalted above measure. You say you are not as you once were. It is generally true that the time of espousals, the beginning of our profession, is attended with sensible sweetnesses and liveliness when we are led into a different dispensation. The young believer is like a tree in blossom. But I have a good hope that you seem to have lost in point of sensible affections you have proportionally gained in knowledge, judgment, and an establishment in the faith. You see more of your own heart than you did or could in those early days; and you have a clearer view of the wisdom, glory, and faithfulness of God, as manifested in the person of Christ. Tough the blossoms have gone off the fruit is found, and, I trust, ripening for glory. The Lord deals with us as children. Children, when they are young, have many changes and trials, and calls you to live more directly upon his power and promises in the face of all discouragements, to hope even against hope, and at times seems to deprive us of every subsidiary support, that we may lean only and entirely upon our beloved."

Hope this was helpful :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Being Barnabas

Joseph was an early church brother who had such a reputation for being encouraging that the apostles took to calling him by the name Barnabas (Acts 4:36). I think every Christian wants to be an encouraging brother or sister (a Barnabas). We may have heard it time and time again described as being arrows pointing to Christ. I think this is a right and good desire rooted in benefits we have derived from a Christian family member or friend. A person who had an impact on our lives for God's glory. Here is how the apostle Paul worded his own desire in this area:
"I long to see you that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine" Romans 1:11 
However, in my own life I have found myself seeking to be known as an encouraging brother rather than focusing on the act of encouraging itself. Seeking the name "Barnabas" rather than the building up of the Church. Here are some signs you might have fallen into this same way of thinking.

  • When you sin around people you are more disturbed with the feeling that you may have just been exposed as one who still struggles with sin rather than the sin itself. You may have been feeling pretty good about yourself thinking, "I am probably one of  the more encouraging people in this person's life" and now you are ashamed at the thought of going down in the rankings. Which brings me to the next sign.  
  • You have some kind of ranking system or framework which you are constantly trying to fit yourself and others into. You make imaginary gains and losses on this chart (which exists in no one's mind but your own) and you take your eyes off of Christ as the goal. 1 Philippians 3: 13-14
  • You are not being yourself. It is not wrong to have role models, but it can be wrong to compare yourself to them and try to mimic their personality and gifting. God has given His people a variety of gifts and yours may not be the same as your role model's. As such you may frustrate and confuse yourself trying to be someone you are not.1 Corinthians 12.
Let me reiterate that there is no sin in trying to be encouraging, but we (especially I) can fall into sin in seeking the title and office of "encourager". When we exhibit behaviors and attitudes like those above which is not an exhaustive list, the effects are twofold:

1. We will not be living up to out true potential to encourage others.
2. We will not be encouraged in the fullest way possible.

I worded those two results very carefully. Notice that we will still encourage Christians around us as we try and point them to spiritual realities and truths from God's word. We may also glean from these realities as we seek to share them with others. However, we can be missing out on the abundance of encouragement to be had in Christ because we insist on claiming some of the reward as our own. This can be in the form of coveting the thought of being called "encouraging" or that sinful pat on the back when we share a thought from the Word that blesses someone.

How then do we act? 

If our goal is to encourage the brethren we must realize that the best way to do this is by giving them the clearest and most unobstructed view of their beloved Savior, Jesus Christ. They are His sheep and when they hear His lovely voice, they are most blessed. Sometimes the most flashy arrow does more harm than good as it attracts more attention to itself than the object to which it points. The simple arrow points where all of the focus should be and delights in offering no distraction. The road signs we the need most long road trips are the clearest and simplest kind and we will probably never remember them. But they got us right where we wanted to be.

In order to have this effect we must be convinced in our own minds that Christ is the source for full encouragement in our own Christian walk. We must have a sense that being thought of as "encouraging"will never satisfy our souls like Christ can. We cannot build our houses with compliments on how encouraging we are. Compliment are nice and they let us know that we are on the right track, but by their very nature they have no substance in which to trust . The substance and shelter are Christ Himself. The house built upon our own merits and successes will always come crashing down on us when the floods come. My house has been swept away time and time again. So I sit in the rubble and thank God that by pointing people to Christ I am pointing them to a King's palace that is established and rooted firmly in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! And considering my house was just destroyed... I think I will join them on their way.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How a "lunch lady" taught Spurgeon

It doesn't get more 9 to 5 than being a school cook. And yet Mary Kings had a lasting effect on the spiritual life of Charles Spurgeon.

"The Prince of Preachers never forgot King and the formative role she'd played in his life. "A cook taught me theology!" he would often say. In fact, upon learning of her financial straits years later, the world-renowned pastor sent regular checks to support her from a distance.

After Spurgeon himself died in 1892, a professor in Belfast who'd known him wrote to The Christian World: '[Charles told me] it was 'Cook' who had taught him his theology. I hope I am not violating his confidence in mentioning this fact...'"

Here is the whole article from The Gospel Coalition