Category Archives: Rest

Help from Spurgeon

I was feeling a bit beat down this evening.

I came come from my evening of teaching a men’s seminar, fully convinced that I had done more to confuse than to clarify, concerned that I have not spent adequate time with my bride and son lately, worried that my doctoral term paper will not be completed in time, and disappointed that my weight has not fallen for yet another week (This week’s TWOB post is forthcoming). So, I sat down to read sermon from Charles Spurgeon and was refreshed by these words:

“Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace in the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.” (From “The Immutability of God” in The New Park Street Pulpit)

Big Sky: Day 2

dsc04681.jpgAs I write, I am deeply enjoying the first hints of the sunrise, coming up over the Beartooth range to the east (pictured is the view out of our bedroom window). I am enjoying fellowship with the Father and Son already as I admire his handiwork and praise him silently, sipping coffee and enjoying his word.

I began today with this beautiful and very fitting prayer from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, called “The Broken Heart”:

“No day of my life has passed that has not proved me guilty in thy sight.
Prayers have been uttered from a prayerless heart;
Praise has been often praiseless sound;dsc04688.jpg
My best services are filthy rags.

Blessed Jesus, let me find a [shelter] in thy appeasing wounds.
Though my sins rise to heaven, thy merits soar above them;
Though unrighteousness weighs me down to hell, thy righteousness exalts me to thy throne.
All things in me call for my rejection,
All things in thee plead my acceptance.
I appeal from the throne of perfect justice to thy throne of boundless grace.

Grant me to hear thy voice assuring me:
that by thy stripes I am healed,
that thou was bruised for my iniquities,
that thou hast been made sin for medsc04692.jpg
that I might be righteousness in thee,
that my grievous sins, my manifold sins, are all forgiven,
buried in the ocean of thy concealing blood.
I am guilty, but pardoned,
lost, but saved,
wandering, but found,
sinning, but cleaned.

Give me perpetual broken-heartedness,
Keep me always clinging to thy cross,
Flood me every moment with descending grace,
Open to me the springs of divine knowledge,
sparkling like crystal,
flowing clear and unsullied
through my wilderness of life.”

The sunrise is filling the room now and is deeply stirring my affections for my Creator.

Gratefully Dependent

We haven’t gotten much sleep lately.

Every new parent dreams of having one of those (sadly mythical) newborns who sleep through the night within a matter of days, but we are not among them. Owen provides all sorts of entertainment in the wee small hours of the morning, my favorite trick being the one where he needs to be changed 15 minutes after we finally have fallen back to sleep, and as we’re changing him he takes a leak on himself (or on the closet door, which is a good 3 feet away), or forcefully dispenses mustard-poo onto the changing table, which is usually followed closely by him yakking used milk onto said table. A few times I have almost fallen onto the floor laughing in the middle of the night, astounded at my son’s excretory prowess.

At any rate, Leslie and I have been given a fresh opportunity to cherish God’s good gift of sleep. I’ve been trying to fight my grumpiness about a lack of consistent sleep with C.J. Mahaney’s excellent counsel from his book, Humility: True Greatness: “Don’t just fall asleep but seize the moment to weaken pride and cultivate humility by acknowledging that you are not self-sufficient, you are not the Creator. Sleep is a daily reminder that we are completely dependent upon God.”

It is all too easy for me to begin to think of myself as autonomous when I have everything I need. It is easy for me to begin to think of myself as my own ultimate provider; that I am self-sufficient. It is easy to begin to play lip-service to God, only half-heartedly thanking him for “providing this meal” because I am too cognizant of the fact that I paid for it and my wife prepared it, when in reality God provides my income and my ability to earn it. And He provided Leslie with everything she needed to prepare the food, including an able mind, body, and servant heart.

But when something I need (like sleep) is temporarily removed, my thanksgiving can become authentic again because I fully realize that “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and that “He upholds the universe [including my frail, dependent body] by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3).

I give thanks to God that He has made me utterly dependent on him, and that He is utterly dependable. I thank Owen for reminding me of that.

Q Day: The King of Ages

(see July 5th post)

My plan, on Q Day, was to read all the way through 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus in the morning, and Owen’s Of Temptation in the afternoon. I succeeded at the latter. I failed miserably at the former. I actually didn’t even make it all of the way through 1 Timothy 1 – only the first 17 verses, in fact. I was led to spend a few minutes memorizing 1 Tim. 1:5 and then to think about it for a good hour (see yesterday’s post). I then read on a little further, and felt as though the Spirit was prompting me to memorize verses 12-17 as well.

It took me a bit longer to memorize those six verses, and it took me even longer to meditate on them thoroughly, which occupied me for the rest of the morning until lunch. What was so arresting to me about this passage is that I can read every word in the first person without imagination and with perfect authenticity:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of Ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

I now recite this passage every morning when I wake up, before I do anything else, as something of a spiritual autobiography, and as a confession of my brokenness and unworthiness, and as an act of thanksgiving for the ministry that has been given to me, and as worship of the One who has shown so much mercy.

The only problem with thinking of this passage as an autobiography is that this passage is not really about me. It’s not even about Paul. Ultimately, it is about the King of Ages. He is the protagonist. He is the character in the story who does everything good and everything of significance: giving strength, judging, appointing to service, granting mercy, overflowing grace, saving sinners, displaying perfect patience, and receiving glory.

So I sing, “To the King of Ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Q Day: The Aim of Our Charge

(see July 5 post)

Ministry is demanding, it’s busy, it’s grinding, and often times it is very administrative. That is, I’m finding (along with other young pastors I know) that if a pastor does not learn early on to recruit and train competent laypeople and to delegate areas of ministry to them, the pastoral ministry can end up becoming a lot of paper shuffling, schedule keeping, and organizational management.

This seems a far cry from the characterization of pastoral ministry that Paul articulates for his pastoral apprentice Timothy in 1 Tim. 1:5, a text God led me to dwell on during my Q Day: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” In other words, the charge or “calling” of a pastor is to cultivate in the people whom God has entrusted to him love. What sort of love?

First, love that issues from a pure heart. That is, love that flows from a sanctified heart. Pastors ought to be working to lead and encourage their people in holiness; in developing and increasing distaste for the allurements of the world; in wholehearted devotion to Christ and his Kingdom. Pastors ought to be out in front of the flock in holy living, leaving in their wake people who are not only holier, but begin personally to develop a thirst for deeper holiness in themselves.

Second, pastors must develop in people love that issues from a good conscience. That is, a conscience that clearly discerns good from evil and that compels its owner to “abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good” (Rom. 12:9), to “approve what is excellent” (Phil. 1:10), and to set his thoughts on honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy things (Phil. 4:8). Pastors must also develop in their people strong consciences as opposed to weak consciences (i.e. those who treat as law things that are matters of Christian liberty [e.g. social drinking]).

Third, pastors must develop in people love that issues from a sincere faith. Lip-service faith will not bring about a life that treasures Christ and changes lives. All lip-service faith is good for is giving people confidence that they are on their way to heaven as they stumble toward hell. Pastors need to work for the sincerity of people’s faith and to that end, when necessary, must separate out the wolves from the sheep.

So, my call to my pastor friends who read this blog (and in case any are wondering – I desperately need to heed this counsel myself) is: Pull others into your ministry who can serve the church by taking on the sorts of tasks and duties that prevent you from fulfilling the charge that Paul gives us in 1 Timothy 1:5, even if you think that they might not do certain things as well as you. Everyone needs to do in order to learn to do well. I think we might find that, given the chance, most laypeople will thrive and end up surpassing us in their ability to achieve result precisely because they may have more time to do it well. We pastors need to do this not only for our own sanity, but for the good of our people. And to the laypeople that read: Free your pastors up to do 1 Timothy 1:5 ministry. Do not view them as the doers of ministry and yourselves as the receivers of ministry. Ask them how you can help them. Do not wait for them to ask you for help. Make ministry a joy for them. Make yourself a joy to pastor (cf. Hebrews 13:17).

Lord willing, the result will be an entire people marked by love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.