lunes, agosto 31, 2009

your Spurgeon for the day

from Morning and Evening

Morning, August 31

“On mine arm shall they trust.”
Isaiah 51:5

In seasons of severe trial, the Christian has nothing on earth that he can trust to, and is therefore compelled to cast himself on his God alone. When his vessel is on its beam-ends, and no human deliverance can avail, he must simply and entirely trust himself to the providence and care of God. Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone! There is no getting at our God sometimes because of the multitude of our friends; but when a man is so poor, so friendless, so helpless that he has nowhere else to turn, he flies into his Father’s arms, and is blessedly clasped therein! When he is burdened with troubles so pressing and so peculiar, that he cannot tell them to any but his God, he may be thankful for them; for he will learn more of his Lord then than at any other time. Oh, tempest-tossed believer, it is a happy trouble that drives thee to thy Father! Now that thou hast only thy God to trust to, see that thou puttest thy full confidence in him. Dishonor not thy Lord and Master by unworthy doubts and fears; but be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Show the world that thy God is worth ten thousand worlds to thee. Show rich men how rich thou art in thy poverty when the Lord God is thy helper. Show the strong man how strong thou art in thy weakness when underneath thee are the everlasting arms. Now is the time for feats of faith and valiant exploits. Be strong and very courageous, and the Lord thy God shall certainly, as surely as he built the heavens and the earth, glorify himself in thy weakness, and magnify his might in the midst of thy distress. The grandeur of the arch of heaven would be spoiled if the sky were supported by a single visible column, and your faith would lose its glory if it rested on anything discernible by the carnal eye. May the Holy Spirit give you to rest in Jesus this closing day of the month.

lunes, agosto 24, 2009

When wickedness increases...

Psalm 36

To the choirmaster. Of David, the servant of the LORD.
1Transgression speaks to the wicked
deep in his heart;
there is no fear of God
before his eyes.
2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes
that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
3The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit;
he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
4He plots trouble while on his bed;
he sets himself in a way that is not good;
he does not reject evil.

5Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments are like the great deep;
man and beast you save, O LORD.

7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.

10Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
11Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12There the evildoers lie fallen;
they are thrust down, unable to rise.

It wasn't in my scheduled reading, but this Psalm became my passage of the morning. I was struck by how David transitions from such horrible depravity at the beginning, to the rapture of "How precious is your steadfast love, O God!" Why these extremes?

For answers I went to The Treasury of David, Spurgeon's masterful compilation of commentary on the Psalms. Here I encountered another surprise. Spurgeon quoted William Sedgwick, a 17th century pastor. And though I knew Sedgwick was commenting on the depravity of his own century, I sensed so many echos of it in our day. Read it for yourself, apply Mr. Sedgwick's words to the 21st century, and see if you can hear the echos too:

This Psalm doth fitly set forth unto us the estate and condition of these times, wherein wickedness increaseth: and so in the former part of the Psalm is a discovery of wickedness, verse 3. And what should we do when there is such wickedness in the earth? In the fifth verse, Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. God is gathering up all goodness, mercy, and peace from man to himself; and though there is cruelty, mischief, and wickedness in the world, in the earth, yet there is mercy, truth, and faithfulness in the clouds; and it's good that wisdom, goodness, truth, and righteousness leave the world, and cleave to God, that so we may follow it; and that what goodness, mercy, truth, and faithfulness we formerly enjoyed in man, we may enjoy it in God. And when wickedness increaseth, righteousness increaseth likewise: Thy righteousness is like the great mountains: when the world tears and breaks itself in pieces, then is the righteousness of God a great mountain. Thy judgments are a great deep; when the whole world is become one sea of confusion, then are the judgments of the Lord a great deep, where not only man, but beasts may rest safely. Thou preservest man and beast. And though this time is a time of growing and spreading wickedness in man, yet it is a time of sweetest admiration and love in God; and when men that sin do cry out, O woeful man! they that enjoy God, cry out, O happy man! And though men that live in the earth cry out, O miserable! what times are here? men that live in heaven cry out, How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! The Lord makes all things naked and bare, that we only may have him to be our safety.

I can't help but think that I'm going to encounter part of this moral dearth today as I begin graduate school in earnest. For all of their professed wisdom, there is much darkness and wickedness in our universities. Sedgwick said it well, What should we do when there is such wickedness in the earth?

I believe the answer goes back to that contrast that baffled me earlier. Yes, we must look at wickedness, in the earth and in our own hearts, and admit that it is hideous, sinister, and gravely deceptive. But it is David's heart (through Christ) that reacts rightly. When the world is sinking further into the abyss, he doesn't rage against the darkness, he sees that God's love is simply brighter by contrast!! Amidst the surge of wickedness, he is able to exclaim,
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Oh Lord, may I be of the same heart this morning, and in a world of wickedness be able to dwell on your steadfast love today.

martes, agosto 18, 2009

The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Romans 13:12

martes, agosto 11, 2009

charm and beauty

So this is the week of Amy and Joshua's wedding - woo! Somehow it seems like a lot of the preparations really are falling into place, there are just so many details that go into such an event!

For example, it seems like there's been an all out multi-week project on getting together the right dresses, shoes, hair, and makeup for the big day (and that's just my and Mom's efforts, I can't imagine all the decisions that Amy has had to make in this area!). And for those of us (like me!) who tend to go with a more quick natural look anyways, this is no small task! Countless trips to various stores, days of experimenting in front of the mirror (where I've practically memorized those hair magazines!), and no end of gels, creams, and sprays later we've arrived at a state of... well, not Hellenic beauty, but at least of satisfaction with how our exterior shall be.

Tonight it was mascara, eye liner, and eye shadow (pale and dark green were a promising combination). But as I ooed and awed over my reflection at the end of the day, somehow the words of King Lemuel's mother came haunting back over me, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." (Prov 31:30)

Bam. There it is, a straight needle thrust into the big balloon of earthy beauty. And I bet that it burst King Lemuel's bubble on some occasions as well. Here was perhaps a most eligible bachelor on a career path towards a throne, and I'm sure some very lovely ladies crossed his wake during the process. This one had such pretty eyes, and that one, such a sweet winning smile. And when Lemuel's heart began to race, I can just hear his mother's voice sweeping in over his fancies,
"Charm is deceitful, Lemuel, beauty is vain. Don't look at her eyeshadow, son, or that wonderful smile. If that's all you love about her, it will not last. Just a few years and her face will age, and with it all the charm and beauty that you like now so well. But let me tell you, my son, what is a lasting quality you should look for in a wife - godliness, a woman who fears the Lord. Take it from me, that wife will do you good and not harm her whole life."

Phew! We're not told how Lemuel initially swallowed those words, but they're not always easy for me to get my head around either. Against the screams of this culture to be a woman of gels and creams and sprays, a woman of exteriors, King Lemuel's mother shifts the focus in the exact opposite direction. The only kind of woman that ultimately matters is the woman of a certain interior quality - the one who fears God. No curler, or makeup, or hairspray can even touch it.

And amidst these meditations, I do believe there truly are seasons for special adornment. If a wedding is indeed to be a living picture of the great wedding to come (where the bridal party will be resplendent beyond imagination!) then surely it is right for earthy brides and attendants to celebrate with beauty and comeliness.

Yet I hope that this weekend amidst satin and diamonds, and beauty and charm, that the guests come away with something more than just pictures of prettiness. I hope they catch a special glow around the bride and groom that only grace can give. Amy and Joshua are two beautiful people, but the saving grace that surrounds their lives is something more altogether: piercing, dazzling, divinely beautiful.

For that day, as Joshua takes his bride, they will both be God's bride too. And when He looks at His spouse and sees them through Christ, He looks on them with love and His words are immeasurably sweet,
"You are altogether beautiful, my love
there is no flaw in you." (Song of Songs 4:7)

viernes, agosto 07, 2009

from Spurgeon's Faith's Check Book:

Behold, the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee: go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath said unto thee; fear not, neither be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 1:21)

There is a heritage of grace which we ought to be bold enough to win for our possession. All that one believer has gained is free to another. We may be strong in faith, fervent in love, and abundant in labor; there is nothing to prevent it; let us go up and take possession. The sweetest experience and the brightest grace are as much for us as for any of our brethren; Jehovah has set it before us; no one can deny our right; let us go up and possess it in His name.

The world also lies before us to be conquered for the Lord Jesus. We are not to leave any country or corner of it unsubdued. That slum near our house is before us, not to baffle our endeavors, but to yield to them. We have only to summon courage enough to go forward, and we shall win dark homes and hard hearts for Jesus. Let us never leave the people in a lane or alley to die because we have not enough faith in Jesus and His gospel to go up and possess the land. No spot is too benighted, no person so profane as to be beyond the power of grace. Cowardice, begone! Faith marches to the conquest.