Books, Discipleship, Prayer, Spurgeon, Uncategorized

Sulphur Mixed with Our Incense​

November 1, 2022

Sulphur Mixed with Our Incense

Flowers from a Puritan Garden

“How often do we mingle sulphur with our incense!”

A strong expression, but most sadly true. When we offer prayer, is there not at times a sorrowful mixture of self-will, petulance, and impatience? Does not unbelief, which is quite as obnoxious as brimstone, too often spoil the sweet odor of our supplications? When we offer praise, is it all pure spices after the art of the heavenly apothecary? Do not self-laudation and pride frequently spoil the holy frankincense and myrrh? Alas, we fear that the charge must lie against us, and force us to a sorrowful confession.

As the priests of God, our whole life should be the presentation of holy incense unto God, and yet it is not so. The earthly ambitions and carnal lustings of our nature deteriorate and adulterate the spices of our lives, and Satan, with the sulphur of pride, ruins the delicate perfume of perfect consecration. What grace the Lord displays in accepting our poor, imperfect offerings!

What rich merit abides in our Lord Jesus! What sweet savor beyond expression dwells in him, to drown and destroy our ill-savors, and to make us accepted in the Beloved! Glory be unto our glorious High Priest, whose perfect life and sin-atoning death is so sweet before the Divine Majesty that the Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake, and accepts us in him with our sweet savor.

Communication, Culture, Evangelism, Life Lessons

“No You Don’t”

September 26, 2022
Inside an airplane.

I boarded a plane for Boston this morning and witnessed something that grabbed my attention. A man, we’ll call him Wisdom, came down the aisle and stood by the man, we’ll call him Foolish,  seated directly in front of me. Foolish stood up to let Wisdom into the row whereupon Wisdom politely said, “I have the seat you’re in.” Foolish quickly replied “No you don’t.”  

Foolish could have responded in a number of ways. He could have chuckled and said, “well, it’s possible!” He could have said, “really? Let me check my boarding pass.” Instead he simply and confidently replied, “No you don’t” Foolish was wrong. He was in the wrong row. To his credit he apologized and promptly moved.

It made me think of how I often exert my opinion with great confidence only to find I’ve misjudged a situation, an argument, a person. I see this happen in some things I post on Facebook or Twitter. People respond with great certainly:

“You’re an idiot.”
You call yourself a Christian?”
“How can you possibly think that?”
“God, (the Bible, the church, etc..) disagrees with you!”

And on and on. 

I want to be wise. I want to be willing to engage people who challenge my position (my seat) and rather than just immediately disagree or pass judgment on their views, offer something different:

“I don’t understand but I’m willing to listen.”
“That’s challenging, let me explore it some more and we can talk again.”
“How would you respond to this other way of seeing it?”

One of my favorite passages of scripture as it relates to ministry is this one:

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” – 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (ESV)

Obviously the thought is going one way in that passage. Correcting, others coming to their senses, escaping the devil’s snare, etc… But the important words that stand out to me? Not quarrelsome, kindness, patience, gentleness. It’s only as we open our lives to others with respect and welcome that we can engage in a winsome and winning way. And who knows? Perhaps doing so might lead us to repent of a few mindset snares of our own.

Gospel, Quotes

Mercy triumphs over Judgment

September 22, 2022

“‘Mercy triumphs over Judgment’
Mankind’s sentence now appealed;
From the holy God offended,
Righteousness has been revealed!

Glory to the Justifier!
Praise His great and gracious plan;
Bless the holy love of God,
Who gave His Son to ransom Man!”

– Kevin Hartnett, Mercy Triumphs over Judgement (1998)

Preaching, Theology

“There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.”

September 17, 2022

“. . . If it is true that where sin abounded grace has much more abounded, well then, ‘shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound yet further?’

First of all, let me make a comment, to me a very important and vital comment. The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel. Let me show you what I mean.

If a man preaches justification by works, no one would ever raise this question. If a man’s preaching is, ‘If you want to be Christians, and if you want to go to heaven, you must stop committing sins, you must take up good works, and if you do so regularly and constantly, and do not fail to keep on at it, you will make yourselves Christians, you will reconcile yourselves to God and you will go to heaven’. Obviously a man who preaches in that strain would never be liable to this misunderstanding. Nobody would say to such a man, ‘Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?’, because the man’s whole emphasis is just this, that if you go on sinning you are certain to be damned, and only if you stop sinning can you save yourselves. So that misunderstanding could never arise . . . . . .

Nobody has ever brought this charge against the Church of Rome, but it was brought frequently against Martin Luther; indeed that was precisely what the Church of Rome said about the preaching of Martin Luther. They said, ‘This man who was a priest has changed the doctrine in order to justify his own marriage and his own lust’, and so on. ‘This man’, they said, ‘is an antinomian; and that is heresy.’ That is the very charge they brought against him. It was also brought George Whitfield two hundred years ago. It is the charge that formal dead Christianity – if there is such a thing – has always brought against this startling, staggering message, that God ‘justifies the ungodly’ . . .

That is my comment and it is a very important comment for preachers. I would say to all preachers: If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examine your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you are really preaching the salvation that is offered in the New Testament to the ungodly, the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are enemies of God. There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones



As in that Upper Room You Left Your Seat

September 16, 2022

As in that upper room you left your seat
and took a towel and chose a servant’s part,
so for today, Lord, wash again my feet,
who in your mercy died to cleanse my heart.

I bow before you, all my sin confessed,
to hear again the words of love you said;
and at your table, as your honored guest,
I take and eat the true and living Bread.

So in remembrance of your life laid down
I come to praise you for your grace divine;
saved by your cross, and subject to your crown,
strengthened for service by this bread and wine.

—Timothy Dudley-Smith (1993), from A HOUSE OF PRAISE: COLLECTED HYMNS 1961-2001, © 2003 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission. ISBN 0-916642-74-7.


John Stott on Propitiation

September 4, 2022

“It is God himself who in holy wrath needs to be propitiated, God himself who in holy love undertook to do the propitiating, and God himself who in the person of his Son died for the propitiation of our sins. Thus God took his own loving initiative to appease his own righteous anger by bearing it his own self in his own Son when he took our place and died for us. There is no crudity here to evoke our ridicule, only the profundity of holy love to evoke our worship.”

~ John Stott
The Cross of Christ, pg. 175


Eucharist / Communion, Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Pulpits May Fail, the Table Does Not

August 17, 2022

“The breaking of the bread and the pouring or the drinking of the wine are a representation of our Lord’s broken body, His shed blood. That is the primary thing that is signified by this action and in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul specifically tells us to do this because in that way we are declaring our Lord’s death.

And, again, let me underline something we considered earlier. Do we not see here a wonderful provision made by the Lord Himself? For there have been periods in the history of the Church when the Lord’s death has scarcely been preached at all from the pulpits. It has been denied; it has been misrepresented and abused. Yes, but our Lord had given this commandment—as Paul says, ‘for I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you’ (1 Cor. 11:23)—and He commanded the other apostles in the same way (Luke 22:19–20).

Though the pulpit may have failed, the Lord’s Supper has still gone on declaring, proclaiming, preaching the Lord’s death and often there has been a great incongruity, not to say contradiction, between the preaching of man and the preaching of the bread and the wine upon the communion table.”

– from Great Doctrines of the Bible, Volume 3: The Church and the Last Things by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Books, Church, Quotes, Worship

Robert Webber On Ancient-Future Worship

August 15, 2022

“God instituted the church on the day of Pentecost and even though it has grown like a bramble bush with numerous branches, there is only one trunk and one set of roots that go back to God’s involvement in history authoritatively recorded in scripture.  There is also that common core of universal teachings established in the early centuries of the faith, such as the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed.  My call is to help us recover these common roots of faith and worship.  For these traditions have been received from the Apostles and handed down in the church for centuries. So, if you want a definition of ancient-future worship, it is this:  ‘the common tradition of the church’s worship in Word, Table, and song, practiced faithfully and communicated clearly in every context of the world.’

What stands at the very center of worship is Word and Sacrament through which we do God’s vision for the world; it is proclaimed and enacted. What contextualizes this worship more than anything else is its music.  Music is the vehicle that communicates worship in the language of the people.  Music is also the vehicle of our personal response to the story of God’s work in history.  We also proclaim God’s story in hymn and song, but nowhere in scripture, nor in the history of the church have hymns and songs ever been held as a replacement for Word and Table.  Word and Table remain the God ordained way to remember God’s saving deeds in history and anticipate his final triumph over all that is evil and death. So if you want to do ancient-future worship learn God’s story and do it in Word and Table and use hymns and songs for responses not only from the great treasury of the church through the centuries, but also from music that is current.” – Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Worship

Gospel, Hebrews, Quotes, Spurgeon

Listen to the Blood!

August 13, 2022

Hebrews 12:24 “…and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (ESV)

“Listen to the Blood!
Listen to the blood that speaks! It says, “Sinner, I am full of merit: why bring your merits here?” You say, “But I have too much sin.” Listen to the blood: as it falls, it cries, “from many trespasses, to justification” (Rom 5:16).

You say, “But I know I am too guilty.” Listen to the blood! “Even though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white like snow; even though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isa 1:18).

You say, “But I have such a poor desire, I have such a little faith.” Listen to the blood! “He will not break a broken reed, and he will not extinguish a dim wick” (Isa 42:3).

You say, “But I know He will cast me out if I do come.” Listen to the blood! “Everyone whom the Father gives to me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never throw out” (John 6:37).

You say, “But I know I have so many sins that I cannot be forgiven.” Now, hear the blood once more, and I will be done. “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). That is the blood’s testimony, and its testimony to you. “The Spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are in agreement” (1 John 5:8), and behold the blood’s witness is, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Come, poor sinner, cast yourself simply on that truth. Away with your good works and all your trustings! Lie simply flat on that sweet word of Christ. Trust His blood, and if you can put your trust alone in Jesus, in His sprinkled blood, it shall speak in your conscience better things than that of Abel.”

C. H. Spurgeon
Commentary on Hebrews

Eucharist / Communion, Worship

The Ultimate Goal

August 11, 2022

The Christian life is defined first and foremost by union with Christ. Thus three things call for special emphasis:

Evangelical, Sacramental, and Pentecostal: Why the Church Should Be All ThreeThe Christian life is defined first and foremost by union with Christ. Thus three things call for special emphasis:

First, the animating dynamic of the Christian life is not a Christological principle or a doctrine about Christ, however important it is for us to have an understanding of Christ Jesus that is faithful to the Scriptures and to the Christian tradition. Rather, what defines us, animates us, not merely informs but transforms us, is Christ himself who in real time dwells in our midst and in our lives.

Second, it is therefore very important to stress that the heart and soul of the Christian existence is not ultimately about being Christlike, however much that might be a good thing. It is rather that we would be united with Christ. So much contemporary reflection on the Christian life speaks of discipleship as becoming more and more like Jesus. There are two potential problems with viewing this Christlikeness as the Christian ideal and the goal of the church. On the one hand, this is problematic because Christlikeness is derivative of something else, namely, union with Christ. And to pursue it on its own actually distracts us from the true goal of the Christian life. And then also, when Christlikeness is the goal, we get caught up in debates about what Christlikeness looks like and so easily the church descends to a less than subtle form of legalism as we impose on the church a vision of what it means to be “like Christ.”

And then third, so much piety, especially in evangelical circles, presents what might be called a transactional understanding of Christian spirituality – that Christ has “transacted” something on our behalf. While Christ has definitely acted on our behalf, it was to an end; his actions, notably his death, were not an end in themselves. The purpose of the cross was not merely about a transaction, effected for us and for our salvation. The cross had a purpose, an intended outcome: namely, union with Christ.

Taken from: Evangelical, Sacramental, and Pentecostal: Why the Church Should Be All Three  by Gordon T. Smith