Quotes from Spurgeon’s Autobiography – Vol. 1, Chapter 6

The following quotations from Vol. 1, Chapter 6 of Spurgeons Autobiography, Incidents of Home and School Life, begins with the following short introduction:

“No man can write the whole of his own biography. I suppose, if the history
of a man’s thoughts and words could be written, scarce the world itself
would contain the books, so wonderful is the tale that might be told. Of my
life at home and at school, I can only give a few incidents as I am able to
recall them after the lapse of forty or fifty years.”

The childhood memories Spurgeon recounted seem to be those from which the young Spurgeon drew a lesson for Christian living. Here are a few of those incidents that captured my attention. The short titles are of my own invention.

Of Gardens and Prayer

“When we were small children, we had a little plot of garden-ground, and we put our seeds into it. I well recollect how, the day after I had put in my seed, I went and scraped the soil away to see if it was not growing, as I expected it would have been after a day or so at the very longest, and I thought the time amazingly long before the seed would be able to make its appearance above the ground. “That was childish,” you say. I know it was, but I wish you were as childish with regard to your prayers, that you would, when you have put them in the ground, go and see if they have sprung up; and if not at once, — be not childish in refusing to wait till the appointed time comes, — always go back and see if they have begun to sprout. If you believe in prayer at all, expect God to hear you. If you do not expect, you will not have. God will not hear you unless you believe He will hear you; but if you believe He will, He will be as good as your faith. He will never allow you to think better of Him than He is; He will come up to the mark of your thoughts, and according to your faith so shall it be done unto you.”

Houses, and Horses, and Trees

“When we used to go to school, we would draw houses, and horses, and trees on our slates, and I remember how we used to write “house” under the house, and “horse” under the horse, for some persons might have thought the horse was a house. So there are some people who need to wear a label round their necks to show that they are Christians at all, or else we might mistake them for sinners, their actions are so like those of the ungodly.”

The Religious Juggler

“I have seen, when I was a boy, a juggler in the street throw up half-a-dozen balls, or knives and plates, and continue throwing and catching them, and to me it seemed marvelous; but the religious juggler beats all others hollow. He has to keep up Christianity and worldliness at the same time, and to catch two sets of balls at once.To be a freeman of Christ and a slave of the world at the same time, must need fine acting. One of these days you, Sir Juggler, will make a slip with one of the balls, and your game will be over. A man cannot always keep it up, and play so cleverly at all hours; sooner or later he fails, and then he is made a hissing and a by-word,and becomes ashamed, if any shame be left in him.”

Persecution and Prayer

by Jonathan Master

Christians have always been persecuted.  Peter reminded his readers of this in the earliest days of the church: “…knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by the brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:9b).  But it does seem as if the suffering of Christians – whether at the hands of Muslims, Hindus, or totalitarians of another stripe – has been in the news more lately.  The testimonies of our brothers and sisters in these places are sobering; but often they are also encouraging examples of grace-fueled perseverance.

I sometimes wonder how I would feel or pray if I was faced with serious persecution.  Would I be self-pitying?  Vengeful?  What are the key theological truths which need to be grasped most tightly during these times?

In Acts 4, we read about a prayer meeting which follows right on the heels of intense persecution.  Peter and John had just been released by the temple officials, but they had been ordered not to speak about Jesus any more.  The threat of suffering and death was real, and they had just experienced a foretaste of it.  So what did they pray upon their release?  What would you pray?

There are four main truths they meditated on in their prayer – four key teachings about God which they held tightly.

The first is that God is the sovereign creator: “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and everything in them” (Acts 4:24).  The truth of God as creator is revealed to us in the very first chapter of the Bible.  It is foundational to everything that follows.  God’s authority and his work as creator insured that he was over and above anything else that might come against them.  What a comfort in times of persecution!

The second main truth is that God had promised judgment for those who opposed him.  This is found in verses 25-26, and is mainly encapsulated in a quotation from Psalm 2.  Psalm 2 begins with a rhetorical question about human rulers: Why do they oppose God, since it is ultimately in vain?  God’s response to their opposition is laughter and anger and he promises swift judgment upon them.  In our day, we shy away from affirming the judgment of God, but when facing God’s enemies, God’s righteous judgment is not an embarrassment, but a great comfort.  God will make all things right; he will judge those who oppose him.  Their ultimate end is in his hands.

Thirdly, these early persecuted Christians focused on the fact that God predestines.  Specifically, they affirm his predestination in the death of Jesus Christ.  Although those who killed Jesus are held responsible for their sin, yet nonetheless God had predestined for it to occur.  If that was true of the most wicked injustice in all of history, how much more was it true of whatever unfair persecution they or we might undergo?  Once again, we shy away from this doctrine of predestination and of God’s perfect plan.  But when we are faced with persecution, it becomes a sweet and significant truth.

Finally, these Christians knew that not only had God worked in creation, not only had he promised judgment, not only had he predestined that which takes place, but, in addition to all these things, he was at work even in their own day.  We know this because in verse 30 the Christians pray for God’s continued work: “…while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  God had not left these disciples on their own.  He was not sitting distantly aside, merely watching what transpired in their persecution.  No.  He was still at work through his church.  This persecution, painful as it was, did nothing to thwart God’s work at all.

In the midst of all this, the earliest Christians prayed for boldness (29), and we should pray for this today as well.  We need to be bold and clear in our presentation of the gospel.  But as we pray for boldness, let us remember these four doctrines which meant so much to them.  They are truths much maligned today, but they are vital to our lives as pilgrims here on earth; and to those of the brotherhood around the world who are suffering even now, they are simply indispensable.

____________________

Jonathan Master (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of theology and dean of the School of Divinity at Cairn University. He is also director of Cairn’s Center for University Studies. Dr. Master serves as executive editor of Place for Truth and is co-chair of the Princeton Regional Conference on Reformed Theology.

Does America have a prayer?

by Jerry Newcombe

Thursday, May 2, 2013, is the National Day of Prayer. Yet things are not right in the land. We pray, “May God bless America.” But perhaps it should be, “May God have mercy on America.”

As we survey the modern American landscape, we see many examples that things are not right: more than 55 million abortions in America since 1973, rampant pornography, mass shootings, promotion of “gay marriage,” dissolution of marriage in general, runaway debt that will enslave our children and grandchildren, threats to our religious liberty like never before.

And yet our national motto is still “In God We Trust.” I always remember the sign in the ice cream shop (by the cash register) that said: “In God we trust. All others pay cash.”

Prayer is deep in the American tradition – even national prayer. We can see multiple examples of this in Bill Federer’s great book, “America’s God & Country.” During the days of the American War for Independence, the Continental Congress often put out the word for all the citizens to pray and fast, such as May 17, 1776 – a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer.

On that day, the Congress prayed, “that we may with united hearts confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by a sincere repentance and amendment of life appease God’s righteous displeasure, and through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ obtain His pardon and forgiveness.”

At Valley Forge, Gen. George Washington gave this order on April 12, 1778 (speaking of himself in the third person): “The General directs that the day [April 22, 1778] shall be most religiously observed in the Army; that no work shall be done thereon, and that the several chaplains do prepare discourses suitable to the occasion.”

Even some of the less religious Founding Fathers, like Ben Franklin, saw the importance of prayer. He made an impassioned plea during the constitutional convention that they pray, and a variation of his request was adopted. He once said, “Work as if you were to live 100 years; pray as if you were to die tomorrow.”

Samuel Adams, the lightning rod for American independence, later became the governor of Massachusetts. On Oct. 14, 1795, he declared a day of fasting and prayer, which included this petition: “That God would be pleased to guide and direct the administration of the Federal government, and those of the several states, in union, so that the whole people may continue to be safe and happy in the constitutional enjoyment of their rights, liberties and privileges, and our governments be greatly respected at home and abroad. …”

John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and second president of the United States, in proclaiming a national day of prayer asked that God “would smile on our colleges, academies, schools, and seminaries of learning, and make them nurseries of sound science, morals, and religion …” (National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer, March 6, 1799).

John Jay, co-author of the Federalist Papers and first Supreme Court chief justice, said, “The most effectual means of securing the continuance of our civil and religious liberties is, always to remember with reverence and gratitude the Source from which they flow” (June 29, 1826).

James Madison, co-author of the Federalist Papers, fourth president of the United States, who was a major player at the Constitutional Convention, issued a national day of prayer (July 9, 1812) during our second war with Great Britain (the War of 1812).

Madison proclaimed that a day “be set apart for the devout purpose of rendering the Sovereign of the Universe and the Benefactor of mankind the public homage due to His holy attributes; of acknowledging the transgressions which might justly provoke the manifestations of His divine displeasure; of seeking His merciful forgiveness, and His assistance in the great duties of repentance and amendment. …”

Various presidents have often declared national days of prayer and of thanksgiving to God. Abraham Lincoln said of prayer: “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

Since the Truman administration, there has been a National Day of Prayer. Ronald Reagan made it the first Thursday of each May. President Reagan once said about our nation and prayer: “We can’t have it both ways. We can’t expect God to protect us in a crisis and just leave Him over there on the shelf in our day-to-day living.”

Of course, there are many today who scoff at the notion of prayer, corporate or individual. Some view it as accomplishing absolutely nothing. Liberal activist Saul Alinsky said as much.

But prayer can be very hard work. Besides, prayer is not nor should ever be an excuse for doing nothing. It’s not an either/or. It’s a both/and.

Many times in many municipalities we find that at noon on the National Day of Prayer, right outside of city hall, various people of good will gather to pray. Sometimes the mayor will even join the participants. All are welcome.

Of course, we should pray without ceasing – not just on one day of the year. But it’s nice to have an annual reminder on the National Day of Prayer of our great need for God’s help, all year round.

My wife has a needlepoint she made hanging up in our front hall. It sums it all up: “Life is fragile. Handle with prayer.”

__________

Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is the co-host of "Truth That Transforms with D. James Kennedy" (formerly "The Coral Ridge Hour")

Where’s The Prayer?

During a morning workout (stationary bicycle) this morning I came across a Facebook post that pointed to a blog post purporting to be a ‘discernment’ ministry. Like many I come across these days, it seemed to be more about pointing out how this and that evangelical leader are ‘heretical’ peas in a pod, their cousins, and the heretical ‘ministries’ they belong to than pointing out specific truth and error, with a view to correcting error and restoring truth.

Sadly, I see a lot of that these days. When I come across that sort of ‘tearing down’ I am reminded that the gift of discernment, as well as all spiritual gifts, are given for the building up of the church. I am also reminded that even when we do encounter that which is rightly defined as heresy, the real enemy is not people:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Eph 6:12

What is most disturbing in some of these blogs is the noticeable lack of anything but the tearing down of ‘people’. No compassion for other believers who might be in error (often they are just false allegations), nothing resembling a burden for the church, and no call to prayer – for God’s people or the church. All I see are self-righteousness attack dogs. masquerading as ‘truth-tellers’.

If that doesn’t make us weep, we are in trouble.

Food for thought on a Friday morning.

Eisegesis Unplugged – Track #15

Exegesis and eisegesis are two conflicting approaches in Bible study. Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text.

The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.

Obviously, only exegesis does justice to the text. Eisegesis is a mishandling of the text and often leads to a misinterpretation. Exegesis is concerned with discovering the true meaning of the text, respecting its grammar, syntax, and setting. Eisegesis is concerned only with making a point, even at the expense of the meaning of words.

The Passages

Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

“And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:12)

The above two passages are foundational for the practice of what is widely known contemplative prayer, which focuses on becoming silent and emptying the mind of distractions that might hinder hearing the ‘still small voice’ of God, and thereby experience God more fully than is possible through inductive Bible study. Such Bible study, along with commentaries is actually discouraged. We are to enter the silence and listen for the ‘still small voice’.

That being said, given that the topic of contemplative prayer is a subject unto itself, and the analysis thereof not the intent of this short article, we will merely examine the ‘foundational’ passages quoted above and their meanings in context.

Psalm 46

1God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

The phrase “Be still, and know that I am God.” is in the last of three sections of the Psalm, and is followed by a summary of the entire Psalm, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”, an echoing of the very first verse “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Between the first verse’s declaration that ‘God is our refuge and strength’ and the summary that ‘the God of Jacob is our fortress’ we find things that could bring great fear into our hearts; earthquakes, raging storms, trembling mountains, terrible wars and nations toppling. We are then told how to respond in such times. We are told specifically ‘not’ to fear because God is our refuge and strength. In other words, ‘be still’, means ‘remain calm’ in the midst of the storms of life. Someone might say in today’s parlance, “Take a chill pill, dude!”

1 Kings 19:12

“And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” (KJV)

While our passage in Psalm 46 “…be still…” is used to ‘prove ‘listening in complete silence, our 1 Kings passage is used to ‘prove’ the practice of waiting to hear ‘a still small voice’. But is that what the passage is teaching? Again, we examine the context:

The scenario:

The prophet Elijah, with a death sentence hanging over his head, courtesy of Queen Jezebel, was in a serious E&E (escape and evasion) mode and had petitioned God to go ahead and take his life, thinking he was the only prophet left, was given these divine instructions:

“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

Elijah then heard the voice of the Lord, and once again complained that he was the only prophet left in Israel. The Lord gave him a new OPORD (Operations Order), reminding him that He had preserved 7,000 prophets! The wise prophet that he was, Elijah continued on his new mission.

Placed back into its context we discover that the ‘still small voice’ merely referred to the manner with which God spoke to the prophet on that particular occasion. It is not teaching that listening to the still small voice of God is required to experience the true fullness of God.

So does the Bible teach us anything about meditation?

Most definitely! However, Biblical meditation is always about ‘filling’ our minds and hearts, not emptying them, whether in a season of prayer, or as a lifestyle. Here are just a few examples:

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8)

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

“When I remember Thee on my bed, I meditate on Thee in the night watches,” (Psalm 63:6)

“I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old.” (Psalm 77:11)

“They did not remember His power, The day when He redeemed them from the adversary,” (Psalm 78:42)

“Thy word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against Thee. I will meditate on Thy precepts, And regard Thy ways.” (Psalm 119:11, 15)

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Thy doings; I muse on the work of Thy hands.” (Psalm 143:5)

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. (Php 4:8)

May God richly bless you as you read His Word, hide it in your hearts, and grow in grace!

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Do Not Be a Prayerless Christian!

“If Jesus is to save you, you must pray. If your sins are to be forgiven, you must pray. If the Spirit is to dwell in your heart, you must pray. If you are to have strength against sin, you must pray. If you are to dwell with God in heaven, your heart must talk with God upon earth by prayer. Oh! do not be a prayerless Christian, whatever others may think right. Begin to pray this day if you never prayed before. Remember if you and I are to meet each other with joy at Christ’s appearing, you must pray.”

~ J.C. Ryle

Tract: I Have Something to Say unto You

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The Weapon of Prayer–E. M. Bounds

“GOD’S great plan for the redemption of mankind is as much bound up to prayer for its prosperity and success as when the decree creating the movement was issued from the Father, bearing on its frontage the imperative, universal and eternal condition, “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thy inheritance and the uttermost part of the earth for thy possession.”

In many places an alarming state of things has come to pass, in that the many who are enrolled in our churches are not praying men and women. Many of those occupying prominent positions in church life are not praying men. It is greatly to feared that much of the work of the Church is being done by those who are perfect strangers to the closet. Small wonder that the work does not succeed. While it may be true that many in the Church say prayers, it is equally true that their praying is of the stereotyped order. Their prayers may be charged with sentiment, but they are tame, timid, and without fire or force. Even this sort of praying is done by a few straggling men to be found at prayer-meetings. Those whose names are to be found bulking large in our great Church assemblies are not men noted for their praying habits. Yet the entire fabric of the work in which they are engaged has, perforce, to depend on the adequacy of prayer. This fact is similar to the crisis which would be created were a country to have to admit in the face of an invading foe that it cannot fight and have no knowledge of the weapons whereby war is to be waged. In all God’s plans for human redemption, He proposes that men pray. The men are to pray in every place, in the church, in the closet, in the home, on sacred days and on secular days. All things and everything are dependent on the measure of men’s praying. Prayer is the genius and mainspring of life. We pray as we live; we live as we pray. Life will never be finer than the quality of the closet. The mercury of life will rise only by the warmth of the closet. Persistent non-praying eventually will depress life below zero.” –E. M. Bounds, The Weapon of Prayer

A PDF file of the book, The Weapon of Prayer, can be found online here.

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