29 November 2015

Perpetual motion

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 27, sermon number 1,607, "The swiftly running Word."
God did not create the world and then leave it, else had it crumbled back into the nothingness from which it came: “the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store.” 

Creation is not like a watch which God has made and wound up, to go by itself; but every movement of every wheel of the machinery of nature is dependent upon the constant outgoing of power through the word of God; for of him and through him are all things, and “by him all things consist.”

 Our wise men are continually talking of the laws of nature, and we know that there are such laws, or, in other words, it is a fact that God usually acts in such and such a way; but to suppose that there is any power in the mere laws of nature is absolutely absurd. You may make laws in your household that things are to be done in such and such a way; but unless somebody carries them out laws are nothing.

Locomotives obey certain laws of motion; but without steam to drive them the laws of motion will allow them to rust in the engine-house. There is a law of gravitation; but the force of gravitation comes not from the law, but from God. There is a law of growth; but the power by which plants and animals grow is an energy which flows from God.

 It may be a fact that force operates in such and such a manner, as a stream runs in a certain channel; but, as the channel is not the stream, so the rule of nature is not the power of nature. Man lives, and all nature exists, by the word of God, for, “none can keep alive his own soul.” It is of our Lord that we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews, “upholding all things by the word of His power.”

The word of power with which God made the world is still pulsing through space. When we saw the comet the other evening flaming through the sky we saw as much of the hand of God as did the angels when for the first time they beheld the morning star heralding the dawn!

The light of the stars which you and I have seen so many hundreds of times is as much the result of divine power as if for the first time those lamps of heaven were hung out in the midnight sky. The planets move in their mighty orbits with a force which is new every moment. The Lord of hosts orders their marching.

The fixed stars abide in their places because the hand which placed them in their sphere preserves them in it. Order is the result of the Lord’s might constantly put forth, else would all things run into a carnival of chaos and dissolve into destruction. As the bubble on the breaker bursts and is gone for ever, so were the universe dissolved at once and lost in nothingness wert thou not there, O God!

His word still operates and runneth swiftly, even as of old. The heavens and the earth would be dissolved were it not that his word upholds the pillars thereof. Well might they sing of old, “Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worship thee.”

22 November 2015

Toys for tots!

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Greatest Fight in the World, pages 10-11, Pilgrim Publications.
"Certain errant spirits are never at home till they are abroad: they crave for a something which I think they will never find, either in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth, so long as they are in their present mind." 

They never rest, for they will have nothing to do with an infallible revelation; and hence they are doomed to wander throughout time and eternity, and find no abiding city. For the moment they glory as if they were satisfied with their last new toy; but in a few months it is sport to them to break in pieces all the notions which they formerly prepared with care, and paraded with delight. 

They go up a hill only to come down again. Indeed, they say that the pursuit of truth is better than truth itself. They like fishing better than the fish; which may very well be true, since their fish are very small, and very full of bones. These men are as great at destroying their own theories as certain paupers are at tearing up their clothes. 

They begin again de novo, times without number: their house is always having its foundation digged out. They should be good at beginnings; for they have always been beginning since we have known them. They are as the rolling thing before the whirlwind, or "like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." 

Although their cloud is not that cloud which betokened the divine presence, yet it is always moving before them, and their tents are scarcely pitched before it is time for the stakes to be pulled up again. These men are not even seeking certainty; their heaven lies in shunning all fixed truth, and following every will-o'-the-wisp of speculation: they are ever learning, but they never come to the knowledge of the truth.

As for us, we cast anchor in the haven of the Word of God. Here is our peace, our strength, our life, our motive, our hope, our happiness. God's Word is our ultimatum. Here we have it. Our understanding cries, "I have found it"; our conscience asserts that here is the truth; and our heart finds here a support to which all her affections can cling; and hence we rest content.

19 November 2015

"Salt of the Earth, Light of the World"

by Phil Johnson

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Phil back in May 2008. It was the second of a 2-part post in which offered his thoughts on the Beatitudes.

As usual, the comments are closed.
The qualities Jesus blesses in the beatitudes are not the same attributes the world typically thinks are worthy of praise. The world glorifies power and dominion; force and physical strength; status and class. By contrast, Jesus blesses humility, meekness, mercy, mourning, purity of heart, and even persecution for righteousness' sake.

Collectively, those things are the very opposite of political clout and partisan power. Jesus is describing people who are willing to be oppressed and disenfranchised for the sake of true righteousness. They are peacemakers, not protestors; poor in spirit, not affluent and distinguished; people who are persecuted, not the pompous and the power mongers.

And yet, notice. These poor and oppressed people are the ones Jesus is addressing when he says in Matthew 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth"—and in verse 14, "You are the light of the world." He begins addressing them directly in verse 11: "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

To whom is he speaking? The believers in His audience, those who exemplify the traits He blesses in the beatitudes. Those who were persecuted for righteousness' sake. Those who were reviled for His Name's sake. They were for the most part simple, common people—everyday people from among "the multitudes" (v. 1).

Verses 13-14 are declarative: "You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world." The only imperative in this context is verse 16: "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

In other words, Jesus was not commanding His followers to be salt and light. He was saying that if you are a true believer, you are salt and light. He's urging us not to lose our savor or hide our light. Salt is what it is by nature. Light is what it is by nature. You can contaminate salt or hide light, but you can't make sand into salt or turn a stone into a candle. So He doesn't "command" us to "be salt"; He says we are salt and cautions against losing our savor. He doesn't command us to be light; He says we are light and forbids us to hide under a bushel.

And what is supposed to happen when we let our light shine before men? They see our good works and glorify God. This is not about wielding political clout. It's not about organizing protests against ungodliness. It's about how we live—the testimony of our lives. It's about exemplifying the same traits Jesus blessed in the beatitudes. That's how we let our light shine, and that's the saltiness we inject into an otherwise decaying and tasteless society.

Christ has made us different from the world, and we should simply be what we are. We're salt in a decaying and tasteless culture, and we're light in a dark world. If we give up (or cover up) what makes us distinctive, we lose our savor and forfeit our only real influence. If we have to squelch the heart of the message Christ has called us to proclaim in order to advance some political or moralistic agenda, we're guilty of hiding our light under a bushel. Those who think the church can have a greater influence by adopting a worldly strategy are actually undermining the only valid influence Christians can have on society.

15 November 2015

Sharp men wanted!

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from Words of Counsel, pages 58-58, Pilgrim Publications.
"Nothing in the harvest-field can be done without the sweat of the face, nor in the pulpit without the sweat of the soul."

The man whom God means to be a labourer in His harvest must not come with soft and delicate words, and flattering doctrines concerning the dignity of human nature, and the excellence of self-help, and of earnest endeavours to rectify our lapsed condition, and the like. Such mealy-mouthedness may God curse, for it is the curse of this age.

The honest preacher calls a sin a sin, and a spade a spade, and says to men, “You are ruining yourselves; while you reject Christ you are living on the borders of hell, and ere long you will be lost to all eternity. There shall be no mincing the matter, you must escape from the wrath to come by faith in Jesus, or be driven for ever from God’s presence, and from all hope of joy.”

The preacher must make his sermons cut. He is not to file off the edge of his scythe for fear it should hurt somebody. The gospel is intended to wound the conscience, and to go right through the heart, with the design of separating the soul from sin and self, as the corn is divided from the soil.

Our object is to cut the sinner right down, for all the comeliness of the flesh must be slain, all his glory, all his excellence must be withered, and the man must be as one dead ere he can be saved.

Ministers who do not aim to cut deep are not worth their salt. God never sent the man who never troubles men’s consciences.

Such a man may be an ass treading down the corn, but a reaper he certainly is not. We want faithful ministers; pray God to send them.

12 November 2015

"But I have a note from God..."

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in December 2012. Dan addressed the unBiblical idea of a "note from God," and the many ways that it is used to rationalize disobedience.

As usual, the comments are closed.
When I was a child, I had a pretty prodigious case of asthma. During the days when doctors made house calls, my parents would have to call the doctor occasionally to come and give blue-lipped gasping young me a shot of adrenalin to open up my lungs, so I could breathe again.

So later on in school I had a note from Mom, excusing me from physical activities such as track and the like. Running meant wheezing, and that wasn't good. So that note from Mom meant I didn't have to do what all the other kids had to do. Them, yes. Me, no.

That was a real note, a literal note, for a real reason. I didn't write it; my mother did. Behind her was the doctor. It had oomph. It was legit.

Throughout the 400 or so years of my Christian life, I have been astonished over and over at how many Christians imagine they have "a note from God." Unlike my mother's note, it isn't visible, it isn't readable by others, and it won't stand inspection. The oomph it has is supplied by their own imagination, and a complex series of accompanying diversions and rationalizations.

This phantom note excuses them from having to do what every other Christian in every other age and every other location on the globe (other than their little 2X2 spot) has been morally obliged to do.

Them, perhaps. Me, no. I have this note.

Such notes, and usually for such transparently flimsy reasons!

It is the characteristic of each note-holder that he will insist that his note is legitimate. He really does have a note from God, excusing him. He is the exception. Anyone not convinced by his rationalization "just doesn't understand," or worse.

But such note-holders need to remember: every unrepentant sinner is convinced that his sin is different. (See #15 here.) No exceptions. It's axiomatic.

Every one of us sinners insists that what we're doing is right — until we repent of it. So the person who refuses to get involved in a local church, refuses to treat his/her spouse as Christ commands, commits rape or murder or theft, refuses to love/respect his/her spouse, indulges homosexual desires, gossips, gripes, mopes as if he had no grounds for hope — they're all the same; and they're all the same in that each imagines he's different.

Repentance changes all that. Repentance puts God's finger on me, stops me dead, isolates me from everything, changes the issue to God and His Word and me, shatters all pretenses, and requires death and resurrection.

See, we tend to forget that the Gospel is radical and transformative. We tend to forget: when Jesus calls us to Himself, He calls us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow him. To deny myself is radical and transformative. It is to unseat myself as lord. To take up my cross is radical and transformative. It is to die to that life of rationalizations and excuses designed to cushion the pursuit of my own wants, needs and desires. To follow Jesus is radical and transformative. It calls on me to take my internal Canaan, city by city, and subject all of it to the Lordship of Jesus.

And we'll never make headway in any of that until we learn to shred every last one of our imagined "notes from God."

08 November 2015

No regrets

Your weekly Dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The New Park Street Pulpit, volume 4, sermon number 196, "A present religion."
"Would ye give up your religion for all the joys that earth calls good or great? Say, if your immortal life could be extinguished, would you give it up, even for all the kingdoms of this world?" 

Oh! ye sons of poverty, has not this been a candle to you in the darkness? Has not this lightened you through the dark shades of your tribulation? Oh! ye horny handed sons of toil, has not this been your rest, your sweet reposer; Have not the testimonies of God been your song in the house of your pilgrimage? 

Oh! ye daughters of sorrow, ye who spend the most of your time upon your beds—and your couch to you is a rack of pain—has not religion been to you a sweet quietus? When your bones were sore vexed, could ye not even then praise him on your beds? 

Speak from your couches to-day, ye consumptives, blanched though your cheeks; speak this day from your beds of agony, ye that are troubled with inumerable diseases, and are drawing near your last home. Is not religion worth having in the sick chamber, on the bed of pain and anguish? 

"Ah!" they heartily say,"we can praise him on our beds; we can sing his high praises in the fires." And ye men of business, speak for yourselves! You have hard struggles to pass through life. 

Sometimes you have been driven to a great extremity, and whether you would succeed or not seemed to hang upon a thread. Has not your religion been a joy to you in your difficulties? Has it not calmed your minds? When you have been fretted and troubled about worldly things, have you not found it a pleasant thing to enter your closet, and shut-to the door, and tell your Father in secret all your cares? 

And O ye that are rich, cannot you bear the same testimony, if you have loved the Master? What had all your riches been to you without a Saviour? Can you not say, that your religion did gild your gold, and make your silver shine more brightly? for all things that you have are sweetened by this thought, that you have all these and Christ too! 

Was there ever a child of God who could deny this? We have heard of many infidels who grieved over their infidelity when they came to die. Did you ever hear of a Christian acting the counterpart? Did you ever hear of any one on his death-bed looking back on a life of holiness with sorrow? 

We have seen the rake, with a wasted constitution shrivel into a corpse through his iniquities, and we have heard him bemoan the day in which he went astray. We have seen the poor debauched child of sin rotting with disease, and listened to her shriek, and heard her miserably curse herself that she ever turned aside, to what was called the path of gaiety, but what was really the path to hell. 

We have seen the miser too, who has gripped his bags of gold, and on his dying bed we have found him curse himself, that when he came to die, his gold, though laid upon his heart, could not still its achings and give him joy. 

Never, never did we know a Christian who repented of his Christianity. We have seen Christians so sick, that we wondered that they lived—so poor, that we pondered at their misery; we have seen them so full of doubts, that we pitied their unbelief; but we never heard them say, even then, "I regret that I gave myself to Christ." 

No; with the dying clasp, when heart and flesh were failing, we have seen them hug this treasure to their breast and press it to their heart, still feeling that this was their life, their joy, their all. Oh! if ye would be happy, if ye would be saved, if ye would strew your path with sunshine, and dig out the nettles and blunt the thorns, "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." 

Seek not happiness first; seek Christ first, and happiness shall come after. Seek ye first the Lord, and then he will provide for you everything that is profitable for you in this life and he will crown it with everything that is glorious in the life to come. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God."

05 November 2015

Steadfast Love in Persecutions and Afflictions

by Frank Turk

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Frank back in March 2013. It was the second of a 2-part post in which Frank focused on the practical out-workings of obedience to the Gospel.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Those of you who read this blog know this is my favorite subject: how the love of God, incarnate in the Gospel, ought to be demonstrated by the believers in the local church.  It tells us something about how the Real Gospel makes Real Believers out of us.  But the section we are in – the verses we are covering – make a different application of that truth.

Paul is writing to a church that, even though it has grown in faith and love, it is suffering.  It’s not suffering like a church in the English-speaking world “suffers.”  It’s not suffering because it doesn’t have a full pastoral staff, or because it lacks faithful leadership, or because it has a large mortgage or needs a bigger building.  It’s not suffering from the lack of teachers, or because the teachers are competing for attention.  It is suffering because this church is actually being persecuted, harmed by outsiders.  Paul says:
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
Just think about this for a minute: the Apostle Paul says that he “boasts about you in the churches of God.”  Whatever it is that’s happening there impresses the man who first evangelized the Gentile world.  And what impresses him is not just that they love one another: it is that they are “steadfast” in these things even though there are legitimately-bad things happening to them.

This, I think, is a challenge for the rest of us. Let’s face it: there are not many of us who have true afflictions and persecutions for the faith.  We are not imprisoned for our beliefs.  We are not deprived of property or employment because we are followers of Christ.  We are not people accused of all manner of depravity because we are hated by those who see us as a threat.  But as we see it, when we suffer under affliction and persecution, either we simply paste on our stoic and staid face to gut it out, or we hope for others to be extra-sensitive toward us so that our burdens aren’t any heavier.  We want to weather it out, and hope it passes.  But as Paul looks upon the Thessalonians, he says, “Listen: I already boast about your faith and love to everyone I meet, but when I see your faith and love as it is demonstrated under the worst of circumstances – when it is actually made the reason other people seek to harm you – Wow!  It’s something to boast about to all churches.”  The King James translates it: “We ourselves glory in you.”  Paul means it is a reason to rejoice.

We should think about this carefully, because this is the boast Paul is making about these people: “I taught them that God loves them enough to sacrifice his Son for them – to sacrifice his righteous son for their sinful selves – and these people really got it.  They started loving each other as if the offenses they might have had against each other were forgiven in a final way, an authoritative way.  But the more they love each other, the worse people outside of their camp considered them – it only made outsiders hate them more.  And that hatred caused them a lot of hardship – a lot of suffering for the sake of believing that God loves, and that God’s love can be real to people.  So I think they’re doing a great job of loving even though it only brings them shame and pain.”

I’m not sure that would be received as boasting by a lot of people – it sounds like one of the major complaints about the world as we know it: no good deed goes unpunished.  It certainly couldn’t be spun into a best-selling book about what your best life will look like, or what the purpose in your life will look like.

When you put it that way, it actually seems like God may be a little unjust – that maybe he has a dark sense of humor, or maybe he’s a cruel god who is really detached from your personal concerns.  It may actually seem to deny the idea that God is love and loving.

But Paul is not insensitive to this concern.  We can see this immediately as he continues:
This [your suffering] is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering …
That is: you Thessalonians are loving each other, and suffering for the sake of your love.