Helpful Articles: Spurgeon Meditation-Beyond Circumstances

Friday, April 08, 2011

This Evening’s Meditation

C. H. Spurgeon

http://www.spurgeon.org/daily.htm

BEHOLD, how independent of outward circumstances the Holy Ghost can make the Christian! What a bright light may shine within us when it is all dark without! How firm, how happy, how calm, how peaceful we may be, when the world shakes to and fro, and the pillars of the earth are removed! Even death itself, with all its terrible influences, has no power to suspend the music of a Christian’s heart, but rather makes that music become more sweet, more clear, more heavenly, till the last kind act which death can do is to let the earthly strain melt into the heavenly chorus, the temporal joy into the eternal bliss! Let us have confidence, then, in the blessed Spirit’s power to comfort us. Dear reader, are you looking forward to poverty? Fear not; the divine Spirit can give you, in your want, a greater plenty than the rich have in their abundance. You know not what joys may be stored up for you in the cottage around which grace will plant the roses of content. Are you conscious of a growing failure of your bodily powers? Do you expect to suffer long nights of languishing and days of pain? O be not sad! That bed may become a throne to you. You little know how every pang that shoots through your body may be a refining fire to consume your dross—a beam of glory to light up the secret parts of your soul. Are the eyes growing dim? Jesus will be your light. Do the ears fail you? Jesus’ name will be your soul’s best music, and His person your dear delight. Socrates used to say, “Philosophers can be happy without music;” and Christians can be happier than philosophers when all outward causes of rejoicing are withdrawn. In Thee, my God, my heart shall triumph, come what may of ills without! By thy power, O blessed Spirit, my heart shall be exceeding glad, though all things should fail me here below.

Post-Christmas Musing: The Essentials of The Way-Faith, Hope & Love

My mind has been going back and forth over what to write in relation to the Christmas Holiday this year.  The celebration has come and gone.  Now I recognize that the Christmas season is definitely a mix. By tradition and works of Church we celebrate the Incarnation alongside the celebrations of the world.  Boundaries get blurred, things get mixed, and perspective can shift from God’s Holy work to that which is of self and our own desires.  In fact at times, the season can be about getting what we want. The reality is that the focus should be to grow more and more in alignment with walking in what God wants, living in surrender.

As previously stated, this Christmas season has been a strange one for me and my family. There is an ongoing mix of grief and hope.  My sister-in-law suffered the loss of her mother in the past year.  My step-mother is quickly slipping away while hope remains that God will bring restoration of her health.   My mother continues to cope with her loss of vision, which continues to fade. My wife hopes to receive word on Monday of being promoted to a Service Manager position at her employer but prepared for the potential disappointment. And for me, there is my ongoing care and love for all of the above as well as thoughts, plans, dreams to transition to a functioning private practice.  In all these circumstances God is bringing the three essential elements of the Way to mind: Faith, Hope, and Love. 

It is worth noting that these essential elements are NOT about having desires met. Rather, it is about growing in each aspect through God-centered surrender.  It is always all about God, yet we can easily make it all about self. In each of the essential elements there is a risk, much like this season, can be a mix. There can be self-focused or Christ-focused faith, hope, and love. The key difference is where is the attention drawn, the actions or acts or benefit to self or the ongoing pointing to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Now that being said, let us examine each element of The Way a little closer. 

Faith: It is a word quickly spoken and easy misused.  There are many who make proclamations that faith is some self-actuated behavior that if the right words or thoughts are engage in, then what want will happen.  However, such thoughts are more about self-assurance and gratification then about growing in dependence on God.  Rather, Godly faith is faith that remains when all seems darkest. Godly faith is such that  “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:” Job 13:15a (KJV).  Faith is keeping focus on God and His ways knowing that “He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23b (ESV). Faith is always keeping focus on what God has laid forth at all costs and without any visible evidence. Recently on December 21st there was a solar eclipse on the longest night of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere.) Now we know that the darkness will fade and morning comes but if we did not know that fact when the darkness comes and light is blocked, there would be much fear.  The struggle here is always to be focused on what God says even when things look worst, or things are very difficult.  Walking in faith is having full assurance in God, that no matter what the appearance, He will remain faithful.  And His faithfulness are not about the appearance in certain results or turning things to our desires in our time or fashion. Rather, it is always about His way, His time, and His actions that bring glory to Him. 

Hope: We all have hopes and dreams. We have desires. However, these hopes, dreams and desires can be for much apart from God and His will.  The true hope is when our hope is focused on the things of God.  Such hope is not easily swayed by the vagaries of life. Rather, such hope rests on the knowledge and surety of who God is.  Yet, we are always torn between having the hope  “built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” and hope that all will fall in line with our desires while at the same time knowing we don’t always get what we want. Yet, when there is true hope, hope that is founded on Jesus blood and righteousness, hope that is based on the surety of God and his promises and plans, the hope always is right.  For God and his hope and faithfulness are not based on what is visible, what is seen as many have gone to their graves without seeing the fullness of God’s promise yet received and walked in it daily.  There is a great could of witnesses. So our hope, when in God never disappointments even if things to not appear to match how we think it will work out. As God does things His way which more often than not does not match what is expected, for what He does is far greater than any of our expectations for His ways are perfect.  So, the key is to have more and more our desires and our hopes to match what God is doing which is always about untangling the twists that come from a sinful world and being shaped and restored back to what God intends.  Ultimately, the true hope is to be fully restored and in line with God.  And, true hope is resting in knowing that God meet our desires and needs in his way. He knows us intimately so our hope can be sure that God will give from His abundance, in accordance with His will, as we walk His path.  And His ultimate gift, the ultimate hope, the ultimate gift is that which endures: His love.  In His love is all, and in His love is life everlasting. So whatever we hope for, whatever we want, whatever we desire the point of it all in God’s time and frame is drawing us closer to Him. For with God, all things are possible and He moves us ever toward that which is beneficial and draws us in alignment with Him.  And it is resting in the hope based on Him that can carry us through the dark times, knowing that God keeps His promises in His way and that His ways are not our ways.  True hope is hope in who God is and that regardless of circumstances for good or bad, God has the best in mind.

Love: Ultimately, we all long for pure love. We want to be valued, be safe, and secure. We want to know we matter.  Yet, in this life we can often focus on our lack of being loved. Fact is none of us live up to God’s standard of loving, and we all want to be loved as God loves us.  We all have hurts and pains that get us twisted up and in turn we act in ways that hurt others, in turn twisting them up. We lack being loved wholly, leaving us not only broken but resistant even to true love, for the pain results in fear.  So we grasp on to what we know. God’s love is beyond that which he grasp. God’s love is greater than the “something other than” love to which we cling.   God’s love always brings us to restoration and wholeness.  God’s love never changes.  God’s love endures forever. Yet, we often fail to grasp God’s love, twisted by the varied bits of harm that comes, concluding that love falters, but not grasping true love.  We exchange our limited love for limited love; self for self.  Yet, the love of God is shown in love for others.  The love of God is shown in giving up that which is adored and valued for the benefit of others.  True love comes with great cost.   True love is found in surrender to the point of surrendering our very lives.  Living in love is working to the good of others and pointing them to the truth, so the sins of self and others caused wounds and twists and distortions, can be made right.    Now it is important to note, that while our love is faulty and frail, every action we take that reflects God’s love results in lasting reverberations that have long lasting impact. However, that impact has it limits as our love in not ever enduring, but it lasts far beyond our scope or vision.  He action of moving beyond self, of considering others better than self points to the one True way which is Jesus.  He that set aside his divinity, became a servant and suffered in every way yet remained untwisted and whole, and set aside His life so that all who come may live.  Oh, what marvelous love that is beyond our perception in every way for we only really know limited, self-focused love that falters.  We can taste God’s love, know that it is good but our experienced is distorted and partial for God’s love is far greater than comprehension. 

Now taking these thoughts back to reality, back to life on this earth as currently know it.  Again pointing to surrender as watch those I love hope, struggle, heal, slip away, suffer, grow, and live whatever God has come their way.  There is one sure foundation in all, that no matter what happens and however what happens is perceived, that God is working to draw me into ever deeper understanding of Him and growing my ability to walk in true faith, hope, and love. And this is the essence of “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13 (ESV) which is that God the enables what we are unable, so in all these circumstance the possibilities and direction belong to God and God alone.  Whether blessing or sorrow; mourning or dancing, it is all in His hands and for His will for no matter what, He is faithful and His love endures forever, blessed be His name. All Glory to the King of Kings! Hallelujah! Amen

Post Thanksgiving Day Musings- Being Truly Thankful

Thanksgiving has come and gone. It is a National Day set aside as a day of gratitude. For most people it is a time for food, fellowship, and football. Some may actually take time to express gratitude; others go about the day enjoying what has brought benefit. Others it is a day of respite from ongoing struggles. If you examine Abraham  Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation you will note that the proclamation came following the Civil War. It followed a time of national suffering and sought to bring honor to God for deliverance and blessing. It also advised the care of those who as a result of the events were not doing well. The celebrated first Thanksgiving was after a time of great suffering with loss of life with aide offered that helped all to survive. There was great hardship and the blessing of a fruitful harvest that was then celebrated. It was a celebration of survival and living life before God.

Somehow today, our view of Thanksgiving seems to be more a celebration of what we have, the good things in our life, the success we have made toward our achievements. We celebrate with those we care about, see to it that our hunger gets addressed, and engage in partaking in entertainment. The pattern is to really feel good and happy and thankful over whatever the gain or progress. Then that day is followed by what is now known as “Black Friday” the biggest day for engaging in consuming more, of purchasing for self and others, ever expanding and meeting varied wants and desires. It is essence a celebration of self.

There are for some a different attitude and approach. Some treat Thanksgiving as a time to give glory to God. Rather than celebrating the kingdom of self, it is moving beyond self. It is a recognizing not only of the good, but of the struggle. It is walking in gratitude. It is easy to be grateful for the good. It is even easy to be grateful when great suffering has been endured and triumphed over. It is very difficult to be grateful in the midst of suffering. The most difficult and painful Thanksgiving Holiday was the one in which my maternal Grandmother was in the hospital with death impending. We spent a lot of time at the hospital. The meal was some nearby restaurant. There was no desire to be entertained. It was simply a day to endure. Yet, each of us to the core had faith in God Almighty, not regarding whether she lived or died, but rather that God was in control and everything has time and purpose. At that time, it was a period of deep mourning, for loss was coming that was not of our will. We each were grateful to God, even if it was not evident at the time, even in the course of great pain.

True Thanksgiving comes from living in gratitude in the midst of whatever suffering we encounter. It is rejoicing in Jesus the Messiah through whom we receive eternal life. We rejoice for the sufferings of this world are but temporary. We rejoice because God is good and all good things flow from Him. We rejoice for without Jesus there is no hope and no light for any. Many miss this opportunity, not only on this National holiday, but in the day to day living of life. Walking in true Thanksgiving and gratitude is daily, moment by moment rejoicing in the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for all that is of self is filth. The concern is not about the blessings or sufferings, but the focus is on God regardless of circumstance for it is in God alone and in right relationship with him that any ability to be truly blessed comes, for it is in God alone that all things are possible.

Ongoing trials

Well the announcement of getting back on track was really a bit premature.  The intent was there but the health was not.  The viral infection turned into my first ever experience with bronchitis.  The cough seems to have slowed only gradually but some energy has returned.  Currently reflecting on patience through affliction and the the need to look to and depend on God for strength just as need to rely on doctors for aid with what is needed to combat the cause of the infection.  The focus on patience is because the suffering and difficulty continue. It is an ongoing persistent suffering that can be very draining, but it to will come to an end. In this, in my mind I know that God is using this time to refine and build me up for what is ahead.  Yet, in the moment and the emotion it is difficult and many things suffer.  Yet, I know that God will show me and teach me what he wants me to learn in the midst.

Musing on the fragility and unpredictability of life

No matter how long we are in this world life is short. Life is filled with twists, turns, ups, and downs. There is good, bad, painful, difficult, ugly, joyous, beautiful, and painful as the Bible states in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 there is a time and season for everything. Recent life events have thoughts musing about the fragility and unpredictability of life on this earth. One day a person can have freedom the next a sudden acceleration can kill some people and a person can end up wrongly imprisoned as was the case of Koua Fong Lee who spent two years in prison but was recently released in light of the evidence of problems with Toyota’s and sudden acceleration. Joseph one day was serving Potipher the best he could and the next minute accused of trying to rape his wife resulting in many years in prison. The fact is difficult and extremely painful things can happen to any of us at anytime. They can range from minor irritations like viral infections to more severe forums of suffering.

It Matthew 5:45b (ESV) Jesus states: For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. The good and difficult things that happen in life, happen. The question for each believer is how we deal with both the good and bad. What does mean to be truly at peace and what can bring the perceived peace into question. It is during the difficult and tough times that test how we stand in pain when things are not going well. In the good times, when everything goes well the question is really is how much is the good taken for granted or seen as a byproduct of self? Paul stated in Philippians 4:13 (ESV) that the secret to any situation any season in life is: I can do all things through him who strengthens me. We can say it easily enough, but do we grasp what it means, or is it a nice phrase that can be put on a plaque on the wall?

So what does that phrase really come down to? Well examining the words a little closer it really comes down to the ability to be at true peace and wholeness comes not from our own effort but in surrender and dependence on the Messiah. It really points for the need to surrender. Times of plenty and times of pain are difficult times to surrender. One it is easy to place a lot of emphasis on self, the other to focus on the pain and suffering. Both can lead to a focus on self. Here it is really a true turning from self and resting in Jesus so that what God puts before us we are able to do regardless of season of life.

God only knows what will happen in each of our lives. We can face tests like Koua Fong Lee or Joseph with wrongful imprisonment. We can face choices to serve God and give up what appears to be good for self? We can be asked to give up what God has promised like Abraham. The fact is we will all face times of testing of one form or another. Some testing is short, some are longer, but when you surrender to God, he works to His good purpose. As the Bible states in Romans 8:28 (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Now each of us may never know what was the good brought in difficult times. God simply asks us to surrender and trust him regardless. It is real easy to lose focus and sight of what God is doing. Honestly there are many times in my life where focus was lost. There are times of great anger and sin that came from circumstances in my life not matching my hopes and expectations and God not bringing things about according to my will. Ultimately the process becomes about bringing my will in alignment to his and living in surrender. For it is only in surrender of self and alignment of my will to God’s where there is any peace and wholeness.

Two Essential Worldwide Values: Cultural Musing

In attending to what people throughout the world establish as important the world over regardless of value system there are two noticeable threads. One thread pertains to what is of the greatest evil and one thread the highest good. Neither of these world cultural values are held by this writer and intend on sharing comments on both. First, will examine what people consider the greatest evil and then examine the value that seems to be the highest good.

Suffering is seen as the greatest evil in the world. We set up plans and goals to eliminate the various form of suffering. Something about seeing another human suffer and being aware of the suffering touches the core of humanity. When suffering is know, it even often allows for improved generosity. There are philosophical or religious symptoms built around the premise of reduction of suffering. In the world, the big, bad, evil things are things that create the most suffering. These big bads include poverty, disease, and disaster. Ultimately, we all suffer.

The existence of suffering is even a huge barrier for people understanding God has loving. Suffering has long been the world’s villain. The mindset is often if only the suffering could be reduced then everyone would be at peace. That concept is faulty. For lack of peace has nothing to do with suffering. A person can be whole and still suffer; rather it comes from selfishness and selfism. A lot of the suffering that occurs in the world is directly related to some ones self-directed choices.

The highest good is in stark contrast. The highest good essentially is in having and tending to children. Granted it is not the highest value for everybody, but having and raising children is the primary business of the world. One reason for the high value on raising children is that in a sense it is a way to pass on part of self. This is particularly true for those who believe this life is all there is. You live, die, eat, drink, be merry, and reproduce. The value to the world is found in your legacy which is most lived out by the children you bring into the world.

Recently have notice that people can be quick to comment or criticize others who they do not believe are focusing the proper attention on children. Argument have been made that people who help others and choosing temporary separation from their own children are neglecting or perhaps even traumatizing their children. Such an attitude really reflects the attitude that your children are to be the highest value, even over attending to the suffering of others.

Now producing and raising children are a blessing and certainly something that needs high priority. But the value is elevated way to high. Children should not be the most important aspect of living. People live and die by the success their children do or do not have sometimes. Rather, for this writer the things of greatest value are loving God and loving others. Now, granted raising children are part of that, but only a part of that dynamic.

Suffering is difficult, raising children is important but the balance in world cultural place on both are skewed. Do you agree or disagree with those thoughts? Where does suffering and raising children fight in your view of life? How does either influence your view of God?

The Greed Effect: Positive and Negative Consequences

     Well recent news certainly has brought greed and it’s consequences to the forefront. Greed is part and partial to many events in the world today. Most people are looking for continually more.  American culture pushes the lust for for and feeds greed.  It is all around us. And when greed is rampant, eventually there comes a crash, it is inevitable because that which is driven by greed will eventually be exposed.

      There are already famous greed crashes. We have the original stock market crash in 1929 and the infamous black Monday in 1987. More recently,  there is the NASDAQ crash in 2000 and scandals like Enron in 2001.  Today, we have the crash of the real estate markets and the ripple effects going out to multiple financial institutions like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, and AIG.  Today there are many signs of huge financial instability.  What got us to this point is at the core greed and the subsequent consequences.

     Now not all consequences of greed are bad. Greed can result in quality work being done, and work being done quickly to meet some reward. For example, in Minnesota the completion of the I-35 W bridge was done with a bonus for early completion. The hired company put out all stops to meet the significant bonus, and reached it.  The natural inclination of achieving for gain is a central component at times for facilitating behavioral change.  However, most change dependent on reinforcement only lasts as long as the gain is meaningful.  Also the effects of greed can result in a robust economy, as people always seek for the newer and better.  However, those positives are often short lived.

     As already mentioned, anything that is driven by greed will reach a limit.  Humans have limited capacity and as such, there is never unlimited growth.  When the limits of growth are reached, you will find what is happening today.  First of all areas of corruption and exploitation are exposed.  Then those dependent on the money derived from corruption and exploitation find that they did not stick to sound principles and essentially it all becomes a house of cards. So when falls happen the question always is how to get it restarted. In the past those driven by greed simply finding another area to seek the continual more in.  Eventually though, there is no place left for the greed seekers to go.

     We also see that when money gets easy, and the quest for more continues, that people readily take shortcuts.  Why work for to get more, if you can find a quick way to get it.  Many scams and con men gain much all related to people’s greed. 

    Make no mistake though, greed will be seen as a problem, and is seen as a problem globally. Being anti-greed is part of an underpinning to communism. It takes the truth that when people share it is benificial and twists it into some form of forced sharing that ultimately only benefitted the elite, who in turn displayed there greed.  There will come a time, perhaps soon, when folks will be pointed to global sharing as the answer.  There will be promotion of interdependence and global sharing. And while the concept sounds and looks good on the surface, it is not founded on the truth. Sharing doesn’t negate the selfishness at the root of greed.  It doesn’t address anything about the basic essence of humanity.  Sharing does have a benefit, but to focus on sharing without the foundation of the gospel and surrender of self to the messiah, it is faulty.  It is just taking the principle found in the prosperity gospel and extending it. If all share, all prosper will be what is promoted.  For example, the show Oprah’s big give whole concept was ultimate prosperity comes through sharing.

    So, how does one really combat greed.  It all has to start with the Gospel. It has to start with the answer of our selfishness and moving beyond our own self-interest and toward surrender to the King of Kings.  It involves accepting where God has us in life.  God’s word states in I Timothy 66-12(NIV):  6.But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7.For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8.But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9.People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.10.For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.11.But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.12.Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

   Contentment is clearly a biblical key to individual dealing with greed.  We all need to rest in being able to manage all things through the strength of Jesus, not our own strength as shown in Phillipians 4:12-13 (NIV):   12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.13: I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

    Now we are called to share and be generous (2 Corinthians 9) and doing so is contrary to the principles of greed. It is not a compulsion with true giving being a response tothe recognition of the gift of grace, not for ultimate gain. When we are truely generous, God is pleased, because true generosity is giving from beyond our self. We are each incapable of giving beyond our own selfishness without living in surrender to Jesus the Messiah.