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The best study Bible

11 May

Frequently, I am asked which study Bible I recommend.  If you want to dig into the Word, then a good study Bible is the best investment you can make. The best study Bibles are like a commentary on the entire Bible, along with informative maps, charts, and articles.  In a good study Bible, the cross references alone are worth the price of the Bible. Personally, even though I have a 4000 volume theological library that I use in my study, I still utilize a number of study Bibles on a regular basis.  To be fair, I haven’t tried all of the study Bibles available, but I have tried enough to be able to provide some insight. Here are my rankings of the best study Bibles.

THE BEST AVAILABLE

First of all, please know that my endorsement of any study Bible doesn’t mean I agree with everything in it. The Bible itself is the only inerrant, infallible book on earth. Study Bible’s are not inerrant or infallible. Some take a more Reformed view than I personally have, but I still get great benefit from them. There are four study Bibles that seem to be head and shoulders above the rest.  While they each have different strengths, you won’t go wrong with any of these…

The Jeremiah Study Bible – With notes personally written by iconic Bible teacher Dr. David Jeremiah, this study Bible wins my “Best in Class” award.  Most substantive study Bibles have an academic feel to them – not surprising since they tend to be written by seminary professors. The Jeremiah Study Bible feels more personal and has tremendous theological depth while being a little more succinct in key places. The special articles on key concepts are extremely well done.  If I could only have one study Bible, this would be it.

The MacArthur Study Bible – It’s hard to believe this classic is now more than twenty years old. Dr. John MacArthur has provided a great gift to the church with this work. There really isn’t a weakness – it’s solid through and through with maybe the best overall notes at the bottom of each page. Those notes have the best cross references of the bunch and frequently cover terms and verses that others skip over. Another highlight is the introductory articles that cover such subjects as “How we got the Bible” and “How to study the Bible.”

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible – This massive study Bible is one of the newest on the market. Edited by Dr. Don Carson, one of the preeminent conservative evangelical theologians of our day, this study Bible has the most academic feel of any I have used. However, the advantage of this trait is the wealth and depth of information. One of the highlights of this Bible is the articles at the end on various theological subjects such as “sin” “the kingdom of God” and “holiness.”  This study Bible is also the most visually appealing of them all with some extremely well done charts and maps integrated throughout.  One limiting factor is that this study Bible is tied to the 2011 NIV version.

The ESV Study Bible – A favorite of many, particularly those who prefer a more Reformed look at theology. Based on the excellent ESV translation, this study Bible is solid all around, but the introductions to each book of the Bible are superior to those in other study Bibles.  This Bible also does a good job of summarizing different evangelical views of key passages, such as the different interpretations of the millennium in Revelation 20.

 VERY HELPFUL

The CSB Study Bible – The newest entrant into this field is a solid choice that really has no weaknesses.  It’s just that no part of this Bible is better than all of the others.  Every aspect of it is very good, but not the best. Perhaps the best reason to purchase this study Bible is because it is based on the excellent CSB translation – a translation that I hope grows in popularity.

The Henry Morris Study Bible – I had never heard of this study Bible until some church members gave me one as a gift last year. Focusing on Dr. Henry Morris’s steadfast commitment to young earth creationism and apologetics, it doesn’t claim to be as exhaustive as the others. Nevertheless, there is a wealth of solid, unique material here for those looking to dive into those issues.

The Ryrie Study Bible – A longtime classic for four decades, Dr. Charles Ryrie was a legendary professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.  Although it isn’t as extensive as some others, this study Bible is an excellent presentation of dispensational pre-millenial theology. I am a fan!

There you have it: Corbin’s list of the best study Bibles.  From this list, which is the best study Bible for you?  The one you will read!

 

 

 

 

 

Needed: LEADERS

4 May

Psalm 78 is a type of history lesson for the people of God, recounting God’s faithful guiding of His people in spite of their consistent failure and unfaithfulness.  Then at the very end of the Psalm attention turns to how God raised up David to lead the people.  By any measure, David was a tremendously effective leader. He was a warrior, administrator, and visionary leader of a nation. One verse sums up David’s leadership…

So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them with his skillful hands.” (Psalm 78:72, NASB95)

This one verse is a tremendous summation of effective leadership. First of all, effective leadership flows from who we are – our integrity.   This statement in no way implies perfection. All of us have feet of clay. All of us have blind spots. We know David even went through a time when he fell into terrible sin. However, the “norm” of David’s leadership was integrity.  All leaders need to remember that people ultimately don’t follow our position – they ultimately follow US.  Those we lead must see our integrity.

Leadership also flows from our leadership skills and practicing effective leadership.  “His skillful hands” means that David made leadership decisions that were wise and produced results.  It isn’t enough just to be loved as a leader. It isn’t enough for people to hold us in high esteem. We must lead people somewhere. We must benefit others and our organizations because we are in the positions we hold.

There it is. The two wings of the leadership airplane:  the integrity of our heart and the skillfulness of our hands.  Everywhere we look people are suffering due to a lack of leadership.  Families are suffering. Churches are suffering.  Businesses and organizations are suffering. Government is suffering.  There is an abundance of problems and a dearth of leaders.

Let me share with a little known fact:  almost everyone is a leader.  Why do I say that?  Almost everyone influences someone else. You may not be a Senior Pastor or a CEO, but you are a leader if you are influencing even one person.  Be a leader in your marriage. Be a leader in your friendships. Be a leader on your team. Be a leader at your school. Be a leader at your workplace. Be a leader in your church. Be a leader your neighborhood. Remember, there is an abundance of problems and a dearth of leaders.

Lord, give us leaders who will guide people with the integrity of their hearts and the skillfulness of their hands.

 

Lord, take over a worship service again.

6 Apr

Once a church reaches a certain point, the services must be planned and prepared for in a greater way.  In order to have a quality choir and orchestra, the music they share in worship must be planned and prepared ahead of time. In order to have the audio-visual elements that are now standard in many churches, all of those elements must be prepared ahead of time.  Certainly, preaching is better if it is prepared ahead of time!  None of this means that we don’t pray and ask the Lord to lead us in our worship services. We do that every week at our church.  I would hope that every church does that, no matter how many or how few they may have in worship.  However, the end result for most churches is that our services are planned and prepared in advance, many times we print an “order of service” but, even if we don’t, we know what songs we will sing.  We know when we will take up the offering, and we know what message we are going to preach. Nothing wrong with that. God is honored in excellence.  We should always have the highest quality possible in our worship services.  However, wouldn’t it be wonderful if God moved so powerfully in a service that we threw our plans out the window?

In a recent conversation with my wife, we were talking about people responding in a worship service, and I made the statement “In my entire ministry, I have seen the Lord take over a worship service on two occasions.”  Then I proceeded to share with her about those two occasions.  Since that I day, I have prayed several times, “Lord, take over a worship service again.”  Let me make it clear: I am not talking just about people responding to an invitation at the end of the service – as wonderful as that is! I am talking about occasions when the Holy Spirit of God moves so strongly that it interrupts the order of service and things happen that aren’t in the bulletin.  I am talking about occasions when people are so moved by the Spirit that they MUST respond on the spot.  In 24 years as a pastor, I have seen this happen on two occasions.  Let me share them with you.

The first happened in 2005 when I served as Senior Pastor of Cropwell Baptist Church in Pell City, Alabama. A man named Kenny and his wife had visited our church a few times and I had visited in their home. Kenny was a good man, but he was not a believer.  I shared the gospel with him in his living room, but he did not give his life to Christ.  Then came one Sunday morning I would describe as “just a normal Sunday.”  No special emphasis. No indication that God was about to move in a great way. We sang congregational songs. We took up the offering.  Andy Hadley was leading our great choir in singing the song “Bow the Knee.”  The service was going exactly as planned. I was on the front pew ready to step up when the choir finished and begin my message.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement.  I looked up and saw Kenny coming down the aisle weeping – right in the middle of the choir special.  He knelt down on the steps in front of the pulpit and began crying out for the Lord to save him.  I knelt down beside Kenny to pray with him. The choir finished the song and then the church continued to sing and pray.  Finally, Kenny finished praying, looked up at me and said, “Pastor, I am sorry I messed up the service, but I couldn’t wait.”  As we embraced, I told Kenny, “You didn’t mess up the service, you made the service!”   To be very honest, I do not even remember the rest of that service. I don’t remember if I preached my planned sermon or not.  I just remember the overwhelming sense of God’s presence in that service and the visible, tangible rejoicing of God’s people.  The Lord took over that service.

The second occasion happened six years later on October 17, 2011 at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville, where I was serving as Associate Pastor.  Our Senior Pastor, Dr. Jimmy Jackson, had invited an evangelist named Ron Herrod to come for what we promoted as “A Day of Prophecy.”  Like the day in Pell City six years earlier, this day was “normal” and even “average.”  Our attendance was about average.  We met with Ron Herrod before the service and had prayer with him. The worship service and the music went “as planned” with our choir and orchestra doing their customary wonderful job. It was a good, solid Sunday, but there was no special air of excitement or special feeling. Ron Herrod got up to preach and his message was from the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 – “What to Do If You Miss the Rapture.”   It was a good, solid message delivered by a good, solid man of God but his delivery and content were nothing extraordinary.  From my vantage point on the front pew, there was no hint of what was about to happen.

Those of us who have heard very many sermons know the signs when a preacher is about to move into the invitation.  I was on the front pew and sat up in my seat because I could tell that Ron Herrod was about to move into the invitation and I would be the point man down front to receive people.  As I looked up at him, I noticed a change come over his countenance. I noticed his voice strengthen as he spoke with even greater clarity and power.  It might not have been noticeable to the rest of the audience, but it was tangible from my seat. It was like the Lord took over Ron Herrod in those moments as he finished his message and extended an invitation.

The invitation music started and I stood down front along with other staff members to receive those who responded – and respond they did!  Immediately folks began coming down the aisle – most of them adults. “I want to be saved.”  “I need to be baptized.”  “We want to join this church.”  They kept coming.  The invitation was extended and people kept responding. In fact, the rooms that we normally used for decision counseling overflowed into the hallways and we eventually moved everyone who responded to the choir room in order to have room.  Our second worship service was going while we were dealing with this group who responded in the first service.  It took almost the entire time. Finally,  I realized that I needed to be back in the worship center to receive people responding in the second service and I raced back there with my eyes blurry with tears and my heart overwhelmed with joy at what I had just seen happen.  We saw a similar type of response at the end of the second service.  It was nothing short of incredible. The next Sunday we baptized a BUNCH of people, and then more in the coming Sundays – all of whom made decisions on that day. The overwhelming majority of them were adults.  The Lord took over that service on October 17, 2011.

In the years before and since these two days, I have certainly been part of many great worship services.  I have seen many people saved and baptized.  Many others have joined the church.  I have seen the altar filled with people praying after I preached.  It’s been wonderful to see many people respond to the Lord’s leadership over the years. However, these two occasions are different from all of the others.  It wasn’t planned. God just moved.  It was powerful.  It was convicting. It was encouraging. It was eye opening. It was joyful.  We could do nothing but weep tears of joy and give God praise because there was no question that He alone did this.  God took over the service. Period.

I told Becky that I was praying for the Lord to do it again.  Oh, how I long to see the Lord take over a service again. It’s been almost seven years.   No matter where you attend church, let’s all pray and come to church on Sunday expectant.  This Sunday might be the next time the Lord takes over the service.

 

 

The Day of a Godly Person’s Death

8 Sep

Our church family at Lakeside has been touched profoundly by death this week. First of all, a beloved 33 year-old member of our church died after six months in the heart transplant unit at UAB hospital. On Wednesday, a wonderful 37 year old teacher at one of our local schools passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. She was (and had been) the teacher of several of our Lakeside children. I do not write this blog post because I have answers. I do not. Only the Lord knows why. Tonight my mind went to a little known sermon by a well known preacher.

Jonathan Edwards was a preacher the Lord used mightily. He is most famous for his well known sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. However, my personal favorite sermon   from Edwards is a sermon on death.  It’s good to share it for many of us this week…

“The Day of a Godly Person’s Death Is Better Than the Day of Their Birth”
Ecclesiastes  7:1

A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1, NASB95

1.  They receive a better and more blessed life.

“Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”” (John 6:49–51, NASB95)

For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”” (1 Corinthians 15:53–55, NASB95)

2.   They enter into a better world.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”” (Revelation 21:1–4, NASB95)

Listen to Edward’s own words on this point…

The world that a man comes into on the day of his birth is a world of low, earthly, and mean enjoyment. But the world that the soul of a godly man is born into on the day of his death is a world of spiritual and divine enjoyments. This is a world of fading, vanishing pleasures but that is a world of substantial, durable joys and delights. There are pleasures forevermore.

 The world that men come into on the day of their birth is a world of sin and vanity and trouble. But the world that a godly man enters into on the day of his death is a world of perfection and holiness, of light and joy without any mixture of sin and sorrow.

 On the day of a person’s birth, he is born into a world that is under a curse and has no guard against it; but on the day of his death he enters into a world that is blessed of God, where there is no curse, but only joy and happiness, a world that is blessed continually with the glorious presence of God and the perfect manifestation and full enjoyment of God’s love. It’s a world filled with the boundless love of God which doth as a river of life satisfy all the inhabitants thereof.

3.   They are received by a better parent.

“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18, NASB95)

4.   They receive a better inheritance.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3–5, NASB95)

At the end of the message, Edwards urges us to make some important applications…

  • This truth should help the grief of those who have lost friends and loved ones.

 

  • This truth should inspire us all to prepare spiritually for death

 

  • We should rejoice because we need not fear death.

 

 

When You are in a Busy Season

1 Sep

No blog post in two months. Sad. To be very honest, July and August were a blur for me. Those two months may have been the busiest two months I have had in life and ministry.  Even taking a vacation with the family didn’t slow things down!  As I looked at my calendar today and saw September 1st, I couldn’t help but reflect on some things that God has taught me and reminded me of during the last two months. Perhaps you are going through a very busy season.  Maybe you are drained physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Read on.

God is at work in this busy season.  When we get busy and tired, we tend to focus on all of the work that we are doing. It’s so easy to forget that our Lord is at work.  In fact, He is at work even while we were catching a few hours of sleep…

He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121:3, NASB95)

When you came home dead tired, God was up all night working. Just because you may be “at your wits end” doesn’t mean that God is anywhere near His.

A busy season can overstate problems and make us numb to blessings. When we are tired and worn out, we tend to get frustrated more easily.  As a result, problems often feel larger and more hurtful than they really are. Problems are magnified. Remember, when you look at something through a magnifying glass, it’s not really bigger – it just looks bigger!  When we magnify our problems, that also means that we cannot see the bigger picture of God’s blessings.

A busy season forces us to evaluate priorities. There is only one you.  One of two things is true: you are too busy because circumstances you don’t control have added to your load or you are too busy because you have added things you do control to your load. Either way, some things must go or be curtailed. You decide. It is biblical to evaluate how we spend our time…

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15–16, NASB95)

Evaluate priorities and make adjustments. Define what matters most and do those things. It’s OK if something doesn’t get done. It’s OK to say no. There is only one you. If you don’t do it, no one will do it for you.

There is hope even in the most busy of seasons.  You are not a hamster on an endless wheel. This too shall pass. Tears endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. In fact, scripture speaks of growing weary doing good things. At the end of weary is hope.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6:9, NASB95)

 

 

 

The Inerrancy & Authority of the Bible

13 May

It seems like the issues just keep coming. In 2015 the issue was marriage; now in 2016 the issue is bathrooms. I shutter to even think of what the 2017 issue could be.  There is pressure to compromise on every side.  Increasingly, leaders in many areas of our culture insist that all must get on board with the new moral revolution even if “sincerely held religious beliefs” are in conflict with it. We are basically being told, “If your religion goes against the program, then you need to change your religion and get with the program – or else.” As usual, there are churches and denominations surrendering on these issues by the droves. As usual, there are voices even within evangelicalism who advocate “moderating” positions in order to be more acceptable. All of this leads to two very logical questions…

Why have many “Christian” churches and denominations already surrendered to the new moral revolution? 

Why is our church/denomination so strongly insisting it will never surrender on these issues?

The answer to these questions is really surprisingly simple and straightforward: the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. We either believe the Bible or we don’t. We either live by what the Bible says or we don’t.  Here is what the church I serve and our denomination (Southern Baptist Convention) believe about the Bible…

I. The Scriptures

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21.

We believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God to mankind. Therefore the Bible is authoritative for all issues of living and believing in this world. The inerrancy and authority of the Bible are intertwined.  If we do not believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, the logical conclusion is that it is not authoritative and we can make it mean whatever we wish to make it mean in order to “fit with the times.”  However, if we do believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then the logical conclusion is that it is authoritative and we live by what it teaches – no matter if it’s cultural acceptable or not.

It is no coincidence that the churches/denominations who have (or soon will) surrender to the new moral revolution long ago surrendered on the issue of inerrancy. Their seminaries trained generations of pastors in the “modern” approaches to the Bible. The result was increasing numbers of pastors in the pulpit who really didn’t believe the Bible; soon we had churches filled with people who didn’t believe it either. Once the Bible wasn’t viewed as the inerrant Word of God, it was no longer really authoritative.  The resulting state of so much of mainline Protestantism is the direct result of the long ago loss of Biblical inerrancy and Biblical authority. Once that is gone, surrender to the new moral revolution is really the only option.

There is also another line of attack we are seeing today: the Bible doesn’t really say what it plainly says.  Knowing that many evangelicals hold to Biblical inerrancy as a core belief, some very smart voices have arisen to argue that we have misunderstood the Bible. For instance, they argue that Romans 1:26-27 isn’t referring to homosexual relationships as we know them today.  This enables people to say, “I believe the Bible is the Word of God and I support same-sex marriage.”  Arguments such as these do not hold up to serious theological scrutiny. These arguments undermine the authority of scripture just as much as saying the Bible isn’t true. They are simply attempts to find a way around what the Bible says so that one does not have to live according to what the Bible says.

Here is the absolute bottom line…

and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:15–17, NASB95)

Why is our church/denomination so insistent that we will NEVER compromise to the new moral revolution?   The innerancy and authority of the Bible. We believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. We believe that it means what it plainly says. We believe that Christians are obligated to believe what it says and live as it says.

The inerrancy and authority of scripture is at the core of what we believe as Christians. It isn’t something that we can just discard because everyone says we should. It isn’t something that we can change because we are made to pay a price for our beliefs. This is what the cultural elites do not understand. They look at Bible believing Christians and believe that we will inevitably cave in when enough pressure is brought to bear. They do not understand that the inerrancy and authority of the Bible is the very core of who we are.

We either believe the Bible or we don’t. We either live by what the Bible says or we don’t. We are quickly finding out who does.

Don’t worry. Be Faithful.

1 Apr

“This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25–34, HCSB)

Today as I was doing my daily Bible reading, I found myself struggling to focus and concentrate.  To be very honest, even while I was reading my Bible, my mind was dwelling on a couple of issues that I am dealing with.  It was like the Holy Spirit reminded me of the verses above. After finishing my daily Bible reading, I hurredly turned to the Sermon on the Mount and read these famous words. Most Christians struggle with worry from time to time – some more than others. It was a blessing to revisit this passage I have read so many times. I was reminded of the great truths it teaches….

1.  God is concerned with every need in our lives – not just the “spiritual” stuff.

2.  God knows our needs better than we do.

3.   God is faithful to supply our needs, not our greeds.

4.   Worry accomplishes nothing and leads us away from faithful trust in the Lord.

5.    We must chose to seek the Lord rather than worry.

6.    We do not have any need so great that the Lord cannot meet it.

Don’t worry.  Be faithful.

Why I have a picture of Spurgeon in my office

15 Mar

spurgeon_chair

Not long ago, a pastor friend of mine was surprised to see a portrait of the great English pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon on the wall of my office near my desk. “You’re not a Calvinist, why do you have a picture of Spurgeon?”  It was a good question. It was also my joy to explain to him why I have his picture in my office even though I am not a Calvinist. Spurgeon was a famous pastor in London who died in 1892. His sermons and books are still in print today and influencing hundreds of thousands of people around the world. While pursuing my doctoral studies, I was required to do an academic paper on an evangelism and revival leader. The professor distributed a list of famous names like Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, W.A. Criswell, and Bill Bright – urging us to choose one.  I chose Spurgeon because he was the one on the list I knew the least about even though I saw him quoted constantly.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I read five biographies of Spurgeon and wrote a thirty page paper on his life and ministry. To say that was transformative in my life and ministry would be an understatement. Every time I look at the picture of Spurgeon in my office, I am reminded of the reasons why I so admire him and why he has impacted my life and ministry so greatly.

1.  Spurgeon is a great example of love for Christ and exalting Christ in preaching. That is the one characteristic that stands out most to me about Spurgeon; if anyone has ever loved Christ, it was Charles Spurgeon. His love for Christ bleeds through in every sermon. I don’t believe I have read a Spurgeon sermon that did not explicitly and clearly call people to place their faith in Christ.  He once described his preaching style as “starting at any text and running to the cross.”

2.  Spurgeon is a great example of faithful Bible preaching. Week after week from the pulpit of his church, Spurgeon opened his Bible and preached. As he grew older, his sermons grew in Biblical and theological depth.

3.  Spurgeon is a great example of soul winning and evangelism. He literally wept for souls and was not satisfied if people weren’t coming to Christ. He was willing to lead his church to change in order to reach people. For instance, when the original facility of his church became inadequate, he lead the church to move its services to a theater – a very controversial decision at that time.

4.  Spurgeon is a great example of pastoral leadership and hard work. He visited his flock. He organized ministries. He met needs. He led the leaders. He answered inquirers. He traveled and preached extensively. He invested in young preachers. He lead his church to send out missionaries. He read six books per week. Yet, he never neglected the pulpit ministry at his church.

5.  Spurgeon is a great example of love for people and encouragement. He loved his church. He loved the people in the city of London. He loved fellow Christians and pastors even if they didn’t agree on every issue.

6.  Spurgeon is a great example of being willing to stand for truth at great personal cost. In his early years, Spurgeon was a phenomenon. In his latter years, he was an outcast among many.  His warnings of theological drift during what became known as the Downgrade Controversy proved prophetic, but they largely fell on deaf ears and earned him the scorn of many. When it came to his convictions, Spurgeon would not bend.

7.  Spurgeon is a great example of perseverance during great personal stress. At the height of his popularity, his ministry endured a great tragedy that Spurgeon never completely got over. After the birth of their twin sons, his wife was largely homebound and was never well again. Yet, by all accounts Spurgeon remained a faithful husband and father. Spurgeon developed health problems himself and suffered greatly during the last two decades of his life. The only thing worse than his physical suffering was his emotional suffering. Spurgeon struggled with depression for many years and spent many days in the depths of despair even though he had an undeniably strong faith in Christ.

On June 7, 1891 the mighty preacher took to the pulpit for the last time. Wracked with physical pain and the weakest he had ever been, Spurgeon ended his last sermon with these words. These are the last words Spurgeon spoke from a pulpit. They capture his heart….

Those who have no master are slaves to themselves. Depend upon it, you will either serve Satan or Christ, either self or the Saviour. You will find sin, self, Satan, and the world to be hard masters; but if you wear the livery of Christ, you will find him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls. He is the most magnanimous of captains.

“There never was his like among the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold he always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on his shoulders. If he bids us carry a burden, he carries it also. If there is anything that is gracious, generous, kind, and tender, yea lavish and superabundant in love, you always find it in him. These 40 years and more have I served him, blessed be his name! and I have had nothing but love from him. I would be glad to continue yet another 40 years in the same dear service here below if so it pleased him. His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once! God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day! Amen.”

For more information about Spurgeon visit http://www.spurgeoncenter.com

It’s well worth your time to watch this great film about his life…http://www.throughtheeyesofspurgeon.com/

 

Our God never forsakes us

4 Mar

This morning I stood and prayed at a hospital bedside with a family facing a very serious health crisis. As I prayed with them, one verse echoed in my mind…

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” (Hebrews 13:5, NKJV)

It’s the last phrase of that verse that really spoke to me today. Certainly, we can be content with what we have because we know we have the Lord. However, the fact that He never leaves us or forsakes us is relevant to our hearts in so many situations. Actually Hebrews 13:5 is quoted from four different occurrences in the Old Testament.  If you look at the verse in the original language, the emphasis is even more clear. The Holy Spirit inspired the writer of Hebrews to stack the negatives in order to make the point. Basically, Hebrews 13:5 says something like “I will never, no never, no never, under any circumstances leave you or forsake you.”

Our God hasn’t left us. No matter how you feel in this moment, He has not forsaken you. He has not forsaken your finances. He has not forsaken your marriage. He has not forsaken your family.  Hold tight to this great promise from scripture, even if you cannot see how God is at work in your situation. He has not left you, and He will not leave you under any circumstances.

Jesus: the great example in prayer

5 Feb

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and He told His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and horrified. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow —to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.” Then He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:32–36, HCSB)

This week during my personal Bible reading time, I was blessed to have a familiar scripture speak to me in a profound way.  Jesus has just finished the last supper with his disciples. In a few short hours, he would be hanging on the cross – bearing the sins of us all. In these verses from Mark 14, we have a great window into the full humanity of Jesus. Please understand, the Bible teaches that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. He was deity clothed with humanity, but he did not cease being divine.  The Word became flesh and lived among us.

In his humanity, Jesus suffered terribly.  He knew the horror of being crucified. He knew the incalculable burden of bearing the sins of us all. He knew what was ahead, and, in his humanity, it seemed unbearable.  So Jesus prayed.  Jesus prayed an honest prayer reflective of how he felt in that moment.  Jesus asked not to have to drink the cup of suffering. It’s like Jesus is saying, “Father, if there is any way, don’t make me go through this.”  The gut wrenching honesty of that prayer is there on the pages of God’s Word for all to see.

Nevertheless, Jesus was submissive to the Father’s will. After that excruciatingly honest prayer born out of excruciating anguish of spirit, Jesus said, “I willingly accept your plan.”  Jesus would not argue or resent what was to come. He would go through it and accept it as the Father’s will.

Don’t miss the pattern of Jesus’ prayer right here.  Be honest with your feelings and requests before the Father.  Be submissive to the Father’s sovereignty, trusting that His plan is best even if it means excruciating pain.  In one single sentence, our Redeemer shows us the way to avoid both bitterness and numb fatalism…”Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”  There is no conflict between respecting God’s will and honestly praying for God to change a situation.  Jesus does both in one sentence.

What does this mean for us today who read this blog?  It means that it is perfectly OK to be honest with the Lord and pray hard in the face of tough situations.  Honesty before the Lord is not an affront to Him.  It also means we can face unbearable burdens knowing that our Heavenly Father’s plan is for our good and His glory. Honest prayer with humble submission in the end.

On the day of our worst pain, we can follow the example of our Redeemer.