22 May 2016

“Small rain"


Image result for charles haddon spurgeon


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 We Endeavour, pages 118-119, Pilgrim Publications.
"Time is a great ingredient in success."

We are all to be teachers of the gospel, according to our ability; and the way to do it is to be “as the small rain upon the tender herb.” (Deuteronomy 32:2) Perhaps, dear friend, you say, “Well, I should be small rain, without any great effort, for I have not much in me.” Just so, but yet that small rain has a way of its own by which it makes up for being so small.

How is that, say you? Why, by continuing to fall day after day. Any gardener will tell you that with many hours of small rain there is more done than in a short period with a drenching shower. Constant dropping penetrates, saturates, and abides.

Little deeds of kindness win love even more surely than one bounteous act. If you cannot say much of gospel truth at a time, keep on saying a little, and saying it often. If you cannot come out with a waggon-load of grain for an army, feed the barn-door fowls with a handful at a time.

If you cannot give the people fulness of doctrine like the profound divines of former ages, you can at least tell out what the Lord has taught you, and then ask Him to teach you more, As you learn, teach; as you get, give; as you receive, distribute. Be as the small rain upon the tender herb.

Do you not think that in trying to bring people to Christ we sometimes try to do too much at once? Rome was not built in a day, nor will a parish be saved in a week. Men do not always receive all the gospel the first time they hear it. To break hearts for Jesus is something like splitting wood; we need to work with wedges that are very small at one end, but increase in size as they are driven in.

A few sentences spoken well and fitly may leave an impression where the attempt at once to force religion upon a person may provoke resistance, and so do harm. Be content to drop a word or two to-day, and another word or two to-morrow. Soon you may safely say twice as much, and in a week’s time you may hold a long distinctly religious conversation.

It may soon happen that where the door was rudely shut in your face you will become a welcome visitor, whereas had you forced your way in at first you would have effectually destroyed all future opportunity.



15 May 2016

“We are ourselves to blame"


Image result for charles spurgeon

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 We Endeavour, pages 29-30, Pilgrim Publications.
"If the work of God be hindered in our midst, may there not be some secret sin with us which hinders the operation of the Spirit of God? May He not be compelled by the very holiness of His character to refuse to work with an unholy or an unbelieving people?"

Have ye never read, “He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief”? May not unbelief be turning a fruitful land into barrenness? The Spirit Himself is not straitened in His power; but our sin has made Him hide Himself from us.

The want of conversions is not His doing: we have not gone forth in His strength. We shake off with detestation the least trace of a thought that should lay any blame to the Spirit of the Most High. Unto us be shame and confusion of face as at this day. But it is also said that there is a want of power largely manifested by individual saints.

Where are now the men who can go up to the top of Carmel and cover the heavens with clouds? Where are the apostolic men who convert nations? Where are the heroes and martyr spirits of the better days? Have we not fallen upon an age of little men, who little dare and little do?

It may be so; but this is no fault of the great Spirit. Our degeneracy is not His doing. We have destroyed ourselves, and only in Him is our help found. Instead of crying to-day, “Awake, awake, O arm of the Lord,” we ought to listen to the cry from heaven which saith, “Awake, awake, O Zion; shake thyself from the dust, and put on thy beautiful garments.”

Many of us might have done great exploits if we had but given our hearts thereto. The weakest of us might have rivaled David, and the strongest among us might have been as angels of God. We are straitened in ourselves; we have not reached out to the possibilities of strength which lie within grasp.

Let us not wickedly insinuate a charge against the good Spirit of our God; but let us in truthful humility blame ourselves. If we have not lived in the light, can we marvel that we are in great part dark? If we have not fed upon the bread of heaven, can we wonder that we are faint?

Let us return unto the Lord. Let us seek again to be baptized into the Holy Ghost and into fire, and we shall yet again behold the wonderful works of the Lord. He sets before us an open door, and if we enter not, we are ourselves to blame.

He giveth liberally and upbraideth not, and if we be still impoverished, we have not because we ask not, or because we ask amiss.

12 May 2016

Faithfulness and Evangelical Celebrity

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 February 2012. Phil used Paul exhortations to Timothy as a way to show how the culture of Evangelical Celebrity is at odds with pastoral faithfulness.


As usual, the comments are closed.
Second Timothy 3 begins with a stern, prophetic warning: "But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty." And then Paul gives a dead-on job description for the typical 21st-century celebrity: "People will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."

But get this: When Paul says "People," he is not talking about People magazine or the secular celebrities that grace the cover of that periodical. He is predicting a time when those traits will be characteristic of church leaders. Notice that the people he is describing "hav[e] the appearance of godliness, but [deny] its power" (v. 5).

We are living and ministering in a time such as Paul described. Watch today's rock-star pastors on their YouTube channels and you will see every characteristic Paul listed played out in vivid detail on the church stage.

So what are Paul's instructions to Timothy? Should he mentor these guys, invite them for Elephant-Room-style dialogue, become a headliner in their conferences, or publicly embrace and encourage them in the hope that he can harness their popularity and perhaps influence them for good? Not at all.

With regard to pastors and church leaders who promote and model innovative, worldly, self-loving ministry philosophies, "reckless [church leaders], swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure"—Paul wants Timothy to be a separatist: "Avoid such people" (v. 5). In fact the Greek term is active, aggressive: "from such turn away."

Paul then reminds Timothy of his singular duty to be both a student and a herald of the Word of God: "As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed . . . . All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (vv. 14-17).

This has been a repeated theme in Paul's counsel to Timothy. First Timothy 4:6: "put these things before the brothers." What things? "the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed." Verse 11: "Command and teach these things." Verse 13: "Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching." Chapter 6, verses 2-4: "Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing." Second Timothy 1:13: "[Hold fast] the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me." Chapter 2, verse 15: "Present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth."

New Testament pastors are called to be simple and single-minded in the carrying out of a single task. Yet, amazingly, the straightforward clarity of Paul's charge to Timothy seems utterly lost on many 21st-century church leaders. They have been blinded to it by the quest for celebrity and a worldly standard of success.      

08 May 2016

A mother's double worth


Image result for charles spurgeon

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 37, sermon number 2,215, "Young man! A prayer for you."
"Oh, you who have no experience, and little discretion, hear the voice of warning!"

Satan has cunning servants about him, that hunt for the precious life with double diligence. Our Lord Jesus has about him servants who too often slumber; but the devil’s servants are not slothful in their dreadful business.

You will find them waylay you in the streets without, and press around you in the haunts of pleasure within. They are everywhere, and they leave no stone unturned that they may entrap the unwary. And what if this blind young man is put down in the midst of all these blood-suckers?

They will devour him if they can: what if he is left to be their victim? It is like turning out a sheep among a pack of wolves. “Lord, open the eyes of the young man, that he may see!” We pray this prayer for some of you, because you are going away from those who have hitherto watched over you, and this is a dangerous change for you.

Your mother—ah! we can never tell what a blessing a godly mother is to a young man—your mother parts from you with great anxiety. Will you ever forget her tender words? Our fathers are all very well—God bless them!—and a father’s godly influence and earnest prayers are of untold value to his children; but the mothers are worth two of them, mostly, as to the moral training and religious bent of their sons and daughters.

Well, I say, you are going right away from your mother’s holy influence, and from your father’s restraining admonitions. You will now have nobody to encourage you in the right way. You will miss your sister’s holy kiss, and your grandmother’s loving persuasions.

You are going out of the hothouse into a night’s frost: well may we pray concerning you, that you may carry with you well-opened eyes, to see your way, and look before you leap. The young man is now to walk alone: “Lord, open his eyes, that he may see!” If he does not look before he leaps, he will soon be in the ditch; and who shall pull him out?

05 May 2016

The Importance of Seeing Ourselves as Disciples

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 October 2012. Dan addressed common misconceptions about it means to be a disciple.


As usual, the comments are closed.
Decades back, I used to ask groups I came to teach whether anyone could define the word "disciple." As a rule, folks were fairly confident, and completely wrong. They'd never been taught about it. Probably the most common answer was "follower." After that came "apostle," or "disciplined person." None of which is true.

The Greek word translated disciple is perfectly straightforward and uncontroversial. It is μαθητὴς (mathētēs), and it means "student, pupil, learner."

That's it.

What, you're waiting for some deeply-spiritual, mystical sense? There isn't one. And I think that in itself is really terribly important.

The way I've seen many folks approach Christianity in general, and church-selection and church-involvement in particular, has convinced me that they have no clue about this element. They do not see themselves as disciples, which is to say they do not see themselves as students, learners, pupils of Jesus Christ.

Christians simply do not see themselves as students who are expected (by God!) constantly to learn and grow, and never to graduate. So when it comes to picking a church, the thought of selecting a church which above all teach them the Word of God simply is not a priority, or perhaps not even a factor. When they evaluate a church, its music or furnishings or programs or a thousand other elements are central, but its effectiveness in teaching them God's Word is not.

But once they have selected a Bible-teaching church, even then this concept seems to fall by the wayside. They sit and stand, sing and pray; they watch the pastor. They go home, they have lunch. They've already forgotten what happened. So how were they disciples? Surely, if they seriously saw themselves as disciples, they would have taken some steps to make sure that the service contributed to their growth as disciples?

Perhaps someone is thinking, "I don't see the Bible making the big deal about this that you're making." No? How about this?
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
"Make disciples" (mathēteusate) is the lone imperative verb in the Greek text, so it is the anchor-thought. The rest supports this activity. The presence of Jesus is guaranteed to the church as it engages in this activity — making disciples, pupils, students, learners.

"Oh, huh," you say. "I always thought that was about evangelism." Evangelism is included, but it's just the introduction to the whole enchilada, the discipleship enchilada.

But did you know that Jesus defined, in so many words, what it meant to be a genuine disciple? He did in a number of ways, but in our connection one passage stands out: John 8:31-32
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Break it down:
  • The path to freedom lies in knowing the truth.
  • The path to knowing the truth lies in being a genuine disciple/student.
  • The path to being a genuine student is in continuing in Jesus' word.
Straightforward, eh?

Spread the word. Make it loud, plain, and inescapable: if you're a real Christian, you're a student. Your priority is to get taught, and to learn. It is to learn the words of God.

And if you're not being a student, you're not being a Christian.

It's definitional.

Not optional.

And it should affect how we approach church selection, organization, and involvement.

01 May 2016

Stir, song, and swagger?

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 "Only a prayer meeting!" page 18, Pilgrim Publications.
"See how the families of many professors are as dressy, as gay, as godless as the children of the non-religious! How can we hope to see the Kingdom of our Lord advance when His own disciples do not teach His Gospel to their own sons and daughters?"

Image result for charles spurgeon
I would sooner have the doctrines of grace revived, individual piety deepened, and family religion increased, than I would watch a frantic crowd parading the street with noisy music, and harsh clamour. I see no special virtue in drums and tambourines.

Make what noise you will to attract the careless if you afterwards give them sound instruction in the truth, and make them to know the meaning of the Word of the Lord; but if it be mere stir, and song, and swagger, what is the good of it?

If Gospel truth is not taught, your work will be a building of wood, hay, and stubble, soon to be consumed. Quick building is seldom permanent. Gold, silver, and precious stones are scarce material, not easily found; but then they endure the fire.

What is the use of religion which comes up in a night, and perishes as soon? Ah, me! what empty bragging we have heard!

The thing was done, but then it was never worth doing; soon things were as if it never had been done; and, moreover, this sham way of doing it made it all the harder toil for the real worker.

O Christian men and women, be thorough in what you do, and know, and teach! Hold truth as with an iron grip; let your families be trained in the fear of God, and be yourselves “holiness unto the Lord;" so shall you stand like rocks amid the surging waves of error and ungodliness which rage around you.



28 April 2016

More than "just the facts"

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 October 2012. Frank contrasted Jonah and the Apostle John to show how to properly understand the statement "God is Love."


As usual, the comments are closed.
We've been reading Jonah to better understand what it means to say that God is Love in the same way that God is Holy or God is Just. When the Apostle John wants to talk about this,  he says, “God is love.”  He actually says a lot more than that in 1 John 4:7-11.

God is Love, and we know what love is because of God loves through a person – through his own Person.  This is what we mean when we say, “[the love of God] may be defined as that perfection of God by which he is eternally moved to self-communication.”  We mean:  God wants to tell us about himself, and while the telling is important, and gracious, good in a moral sense, it turns out that it is also something more.  It is the way God is made personal to us and for us – initially by words and stories, but finally, and perfectly in Jesus Christ.

For John, the only way to know God, and to know love, is to know what Christ has done.  That is: God loved us, and sent Christ to be the propitiation of our sin.  That’s a perfectly fine theological word there, “propitiation.”  But what John means is that God sent Jesus to deal with our sins because he loves us, and in order to make God content with us – to overcome wrath for the sake of God’s contentment with us.

What is at stake in the question of God’s love, then, is not merely factual information.  What is at stake is whether or not we actually know God, whether or not we actually can relate to God, and whether or not we have any hope in God.

Jonah, unfortunately, doesn’t get it. (Jonah 4:5-11)

In God’s view of this, what’s at stake here is that Jonah not just know the words.  Jonah can say the words, “you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”  Jonah can understand them well enough to run away from what they mean. What is at stake here is that God self-communicates to Jonah so that Jonah will know who God is. What is unfortunate for Jonah is that when he meets this God in the salvation of his enemies, he is angry at God.  He would rather die than know this God.

Think about what a different book the book of Jonah would have been if, rather than the Chapter 4 we receive it instead said, “and when Jonah looked upon the city, and upon his own salvation from death in the belly of the fish, he worshipped God and gave praise to him for his lovingkindness.  And God was with him.”  It could have been a story utterly foreshadowing the New Testament, utterly proof of the kind of faith Abraham had, in which God is both trusted and loved and believed for the best. Jonah could have been a friend of God.  Instead it is a book which spells out for us in detail the difference between the kind of love Men as capable of contrasted with the kind of Love God brings into the world.

There is nothing unorthodox about Jonah’s confession – but when he finds God actually being full of Love, Loving with patience, Loving to the point of forgiveness, he is enraged.  He thinks he has himself been wronged even though he is also himself a benefactor of such things.  When John sees the love of God, his reaction is different.  What John knows about God is superior to what Jonah knows about God – even though they have the same words for it.

Jonah has seen what God has done – and would die for both shame and anger.  John has seen it, and he is overcome by it for joy.  Jonah wants to repudiate God’s work to sake the lost, and John sees it as his only hope – the only way to even know what love is.

I think both men would know all the words to the children’s song about this rudimentary doctrine. “Jesus Loves Me.  This I know, for the Bible Tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong – they are weak, but He is strong.  Yes!  Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so!”  The question, it seems, is which one believes it.