Thursday, February 25, 2010

O How the Grace of God Amazes Me

O how the grace of God
Amazes me!
It loosed me from my bonds
And set me free!
What made it happen so?
His own will, this much I know,
Set me, as now I show,
At liberty.

My God has chosen me,
Though one of nought,
To sit beside my King
In heaven’s court.
Hear what my Lord has done
O, the love that made him run
To meet his erring son!
This has God wrought.

Not for my righteousness,
For I have none,
But for his mercy’s sake,
Jesus, God’s Son,
Suffered on Calvary’s tree—
Crucified with thieves was he—
Great was his grace to me,
His wayward one.

And when I think of how,
At Calvary,
He bore sin’s penalty
Instead of me,
Amazed, I wonder why
He, the sinless One, should die
For one so vile as I;
My Savior he!

Now all my heart’s desire
Is to abide
In him, my Savior dear,
In him to hide.
My shield and buckler he,
Covering and protecting me;
From Satan’s darts I’ll be
Safe at his side.

Lord Jesus, hear my prayer,
Your grace impart;
When evil thoughts arise
Through Satan’s art,
O, drive them,
King of my heart.

Come now, the whole of me,
Eyes, ears, and voice.
Join me, creation all,
With joyful noise:
Praise him who broke the chain
Holding me in sin’s domain
And set me free again!
Sing and rejoice!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Spurgeon on the icy heart

The following excerpt from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon caught my attention today. Probably because it has been so cold outside. I have to admit that my heart grows a little colder this time of year. I shorten only to conserve space here, but you may read the entire sermon at The Spurgeon Archive.

A Sermon
(No. 456)
Delivered on Sunday Evening, May 25th, 1862, by
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

"I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh."—Ezekiel 36:26.
"Can aught beneath a power divine
The stubborn will subdue?
'Tis thine, eternal Spirit, thine,
To form the heart anew.
To chase the shades of death away
And bid the sinner live!
A beam of heaven, a vital ray,
'Tis thine alone to give."

But while such a thing would be impossible apart from God, it is certain that God can do it. Oh, how the Master delighteth to undertake impossibilities! To do what others can do were but like unto man; but to accomplish that which is impossible to the creature is a mighty and noble proof of the dignity of the Creator. He delighteth to undertake strange things; to bring light out of darkness; order out of confusion; to send life into the dead; to heal the leprosy; to work marvels of grace and mercy, and wisdom, and peace—these, I say, God delighteth to do; and so, while the thing is impossible to us, it is possible to him. And more, its impossibility to us commends it to him, and makes him the more willing to undertake it, that he may thus glorify his great name.

According to the Word of God, man's heart is by nature like a stone; but God, through his grace, removes the stony heart and gives a heart of flesh. It is this prodigy of love, this miracle of grace, which is to engage our attention to-night. I trust we shall speak now, not of something that has happened to others only, but of a great wonder which has been wrought in ourselves. I trust we shall talk experimentally, and hear personally, and feel that we have an interest in these splendid deeds of divine love.
Two things we shall talk of to-night. First, the stony heart and its dangers; secondly, the heart of flesh and its privileges.
I. Some few words upon THE STONY HEART AND ITS DANGERS. Why is the heart of man compared to a stone at all?
1. First, because, like a stone it is cold. Few persons like to be always treading upon cold stones in their houses, and hence we floor our habitations; and it is thought to be a part, of the hardship of the prisoner if he has nothing to sit down or rest upon but the cold, cold stone. You may heat a stone for a little season if you thrust it into the fire, but for how short a time will it retain its heat; and though it glowed just now, how very soon it loses all its warmth and returns again to its native coldness. Such is the heart of man. It is warm enough towards sin; it it grows hot as coals of juniper, towards its own lusts; but naturally the heart is as cold as ice towards the things of God. You may think you have heated it for a little season under a powerful exhortation, or in presence of a solemn judgment, but how soon it returns to its natural state! We have heard of one who, seeing a large congregation all weeping under a sermon, said, "What a wonderful thing to see so many weeping under the truth!" and another added, "But there is a greater wonder than that—to see how they leave off weeping as soon as the sermon is over, concerning those things which ought to make them weep always and constantly." Ah, dear friends, no warmth of eloquence can ever warn the stony heart of man into a glow of love to Jesus; nay, no force of entreaty can get so much as a spark of gratitude out of the flinty heart of man. Though your hearts renewed by grace should be like a flaming furnace, yet you cannot warm your neighbour's heart with the divine heat; he will think you a fool for being so enthusiastic; he will turn upon his heel and think you a madman to be so concerned about matters that seem so trivial to him: the warmth that is in your heart you cannot communicate to him, for he is not, while unconverted, capable of receiving it. The heart of man, like marble, is stone-cold.
2. Then, again, like a stone, it is hard. You get the hard stone, especially some sorts of stone which have been hewn from granite-beds, and you may hammer as you will, but you shall make no impression. The heart of man is compared in Scripture to the nether millstone, and in another place it is even compared to the adamant stone; it is harder than the diamond; it cannot be cut; it cannot be broken; it cannot be moved. I have seen the great hammer of the law, which is ten times more ponderous than Nasmyth's great steam hammer, come down upon a man's heart, and the heart has never shown the slightest signs of shrinking. We have seen a hundred powerful shots sent against it, we have marked the great battery of the law with its ten great pieces of ordnance all fired against the heart of man, but man's heart has been harder even than the sheathing of the iron-clad ships, and the great shots of the law have dropped harmlessly against a man's conscience— he did not, he would not feel. What razor-edged sentence can cut your hearts? What needle-warning can prick your consciences? Alas, all means are unavailing! No arguments have power to move a soul so steeled, so thoroughly stony, hard, and impenetrable. Some of you now present, have given more than enough evidence of the hardness of your hearts. Sickness has befallen you, death has come in at your windows, affliction has come up against you, but like Pharaoh, you have said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I will not bow my neck, neither will I do his will. I am my own master, and I will have my own pleasure and my own way. I will not yield to God." O rocks of iron and hills of brass, ye are softer than the proud heart of man!
3. Again, a stone is dead. You can find no feeling in it. Talk to it; it will shed no tears of pity, though you recount to it the saddest tales; no smiles will gladden it, though you should tell it the most happy story. It is dead; there is no consciousness in it; prick it and it will not bleed; stab it and it cannot die, for it is dead already. You cannot make it wince, or start, or show any signs of sensibility. Now, though man's heart is not like this as to natural things, yet spiritually this is just its condition. You cannot make it show one spiritual emotion. "Ye are dead in trespasses and sins," powerless, lifeless, without feeling, without emotion. Transient emotions towards good men have, even as the surface of a slab is wet after a shower, but real vital emotions of good they cannot know, for the showers of heaven reach not the interior of the stone. Melancthon may preach, but old Adam is too dead for him to quicken him. Ye may go down into the grave where the long sleep has fallen on humanity, and ye may seek to revive it, but there is no power in human tongue to revive the dead. Man is like the deaf adder which will not be charmed, charm we never so wisely. Tears are lost on him; threatenings are but as the whistlings of the wind, the preachings of the law, and even of Christ crucified—all these are null and void and fall hopelessly to the ground, so long as the man's heart continues what is by nature—dead, and hard, and cold.

II. Secondly, and briefly, A HEART OF FLESH AND ITS PRIVILEGES. "I will take away the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." In many—very many who are present to-night my text has been fulfilled. Let us join in praying for others whose hearts are still stony, that God would work this miracle in them, and turn their hearts to flesh.
What is meant by a heart of flesh? I means a heart that can feel on account of sin—a heart that can bleed when the arrows of God stick fast in it; it means a heart that can yield when the gospel makes its attacks—a heart that can be impressed when the seal of God's word comes upon it; it means a heart that is warm, for life is warm—a heart that can think, a heart that can aspire, a heart that can love—putting all in one—a heart of flesh means that new heart and right spirit which God giveth to the regenerate. But wherein does this heart of flesh consist; wherein does its tenderness consist? Well, its tenderness consists in three things. There is a tenderness of conscience. Men who have lost their stony hearts are afraid of sin, even before sin they are afraid of it. The very shadow of evil across their path frightens them. The temptation is enough for them, they flee from it as from a serpent; they would not dally and toy with it, lest they should be betrayed. Their conscience is alarmed even at the approach of evil, and away they fly; and in sin, for even tender hearts do sin, they are uneasy.; As well might a man seek to obtain quiet rest on a pillow stuffed with thorns, as the tender conscience get any peace while a man in sinning. And then, after sin—here comes the pinch—the heart of flesh bleeds as though it were wounded to its very core. It hates and loathes and detests itself that ever it should have gone astray. Ah, stony heart, you can think of sin with pleasure, you can live in sin and not care about it; and after sin you can roll the sweet morsel under your tongue and say, "Who is my master? I care for none; my conscience does not accuse me." But not so the tender broken heart. Before sin, and in sin, and after sin, it smarts and cries out to God. So also in duty as well as in sin, the new heart is tender. Hard hearts care nothing for God's commandment; hearts of flesh wish to be obedient to every statute. "Only let me know my Master's will and I will do it." The hearts of flesh when they feel that the commandment has been omitted, or that the command has been broken, mourn and lament before God. Oh! there are some hearts of flesh that cannot forgive themselves, if they have been lax in prayer, if they have not enjoyed the Sabbath-day, if they feel that they have not given their hearts to God's praise as they should. These duties which hearts of stone trifle with and despise, hearts of flesh value and esteem. If the heart of flesh could have its way, it would never sin, it would be as perfect as its Father who is in heaven, and it would keep God's command without flaw of omission or of commission. Have you, dear friends, such a heart of flesh as this?
I believe a heart of flesh, again, is tender, not only with regard to sin and duty, but with regard to suffering. A heart of stone can hear God blasphemed and laugh at it; but our blood runs cold to hear God dishonoured when we have a heart of flesh. A heart of stone can bear to see its fellow creatures perish and despise their destruction; but the heart of flesh is very tender over others. "Faith its pity would reclaim, and snatch the firebrand from the flame." A heart of flesh would give its very life-blood if it might but snatch others from going down to the pit, for its bowels yearn and its soul moves toward its fellow sinners who are on the broad road to destruction. Have you, oh, have you such a heart of flesh as this?
Then to put it in another light, the heart of flesh is tender in three ways. It is tender in conscience. Hearts of stone make no bones, as we say, about great mischiefs; but hearts of flesh repent even at the very thought of sin. To have indulged a foul imagination, to have flattered a lustful thought, and to have allowed it to tarry even for a minute is quite enough to make a heart of flesh grieved and rent before God with pain. The heart of stone says, when it has done great iniquity, "Oh, it is nothing, it is nothing! Who am I that I should be afraid of God's law?" But not so the heart of flesh. Great sins are little to the stony heart, little sins are great to the heart of flesh—if little sins there be. Conscience in the heart of stone is seared as with a hot iron; conscience in the heart of flesh is raw and very tender; like the sensitive plant, it coils up it's leaves at the slightest touch, it cannot bear the presence of evil; it is like a delicate consumptive, who feels every wind and is affected by every change of atmosphere. God give us such a blessedly tender conscience as that. Then again, the heart of flesh grows tender of God's will. My Lord Will-be-will is a great blusterer, and it is hard to bring him down to subject himself to God's will. When you have a man's conscience on God's side, you have only half the battle if you cannot get his will. The old maxim—

"Convince a man against his will
He's of the same opinion still."

is true with regard to this as well as regard to anything else. Oh! there are some of you that know the right, but you will do the wrong. You know what is evil, but you will to pursue it. Now, when the heart of flesh is given, the will bends like a willow, quivers like an aspen leaf in every breath of heaven, and bows like an osier in every breeze of God's Spirit. The natural will is stern and stubborn, and you must rend it up by the roots; but the renewed will is gentle and pliable, feels the divine influence, and sweetly yields to it. To complete the picture, in the tender heart there is a tenderness of the affections. The hard heart does not love God, but the renewed heart does. The hard heart is selfish, cold, stolid. "Why should I weep for sin? Why should I love the Lord? Why should I give my heart to Christ?" The heart of flesh says—

"Thou know'st I love thee, dearest Lord,
But oh! I long to soar
Far from this world of sin and woe,
And learn to love thee more."

O may God give us a tenderness of affection, that we may love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves.
Now, the privileges of this renewed heart are these. "'Tis here the Spirit dwells, 'tis here that Jesus rests." The soft heart is ready now to receive every spiritual blessing. It is fitted to yield every heavenly fruit to the honour and praise of God. Oh! if we had none but tender hearts to preach to, what blessed work our ministry would be. What happy success! What sowings on earth! What harvests in heaven! We may indeed pray that God may work this change if it were only that our ministry might be more often a saviour of life unto life, and not of death unto death. A soft heart is the best defence against sin, while it is the best preparative for heaven. A tender heart is the best means of watchfulness against evil, while it is also the best means of preparing us for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall shortly descend from heaven.
Now, my voice fails me, and in your hearts I certainly shall not be heard for my much speaking. Great complaints have been brought against somebody's sermons for being too long, though I hardly think they could have been mine. So let us be brief, and let us conclude; only we must press this enquiry home—Has God taken away the heart of stone and has he given you the heart of flesh. Dear friend, you cannot change your own heart. Your outward works will not change it; you may rub as long as ever you like outside of a bottle, but you could not turn ditch-water into wine; you may polish the exterior of your lanthorn, but it will not give you light until the candle burns within. The gardener may prune a crab tree, but all the pruning in the world won't into an apricot; so you may attend to all the moralities in the world, but these won't change your heart. Polish your shilling, but it will not change into gold; nor will your heart alter its own nature. What, then, is to be done? Christ is the great heart changer. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be be saved." The Holy Spirit gives faith, and then through faith the mature is renewed. What sayest thou, sinner? Dost thou believe that Christ is able to save thee? Oh, trust him then to save thee, and if thou doest that thou art saved; thy nature is renewed, and the work of sanctification which shall begin to-night, shall go on until it shall come to its perfection, and thou, borne on angel's wings to heaven, "glad the summons to obey," shalt enter into felicity and holiness, and be redeemed with the saints in white, made spotless through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Brother's Keeper- Mike T.

A few days back I was feeling the way we all do from time to time when someone we care about lets us down. Sometimes it's easy to idolize or put upon a pedestal those we admire and look up to. When we do we will eventually come to the realization that they are simply human and sinners, no different than our selves. In this case the disappointment led to discouragement and doubt and mistrust and feelings of animosity. As I drove to work I put on a CD and tried to return to the sure source of strength and hope and security, Jesus Christ. The songs played and slowly my spirit began to warm. Then a song called "My Brother's Keeper" started. I had heard these words a hundred times before, but this time the words struck me somehow in a fresh way. Friendships are yet another means by which God helps to stir us to Love and Glorify Him. Frail people with faults, sins, hang-ups, weaknesses, selfish motives, hypocritical actions and all the crazy things that make up each one of us are joined together as a family under Christ.

"Now the plumber's got a drip in his spigot
The mechanic's got a clank in his car
And the preacher's thinking thoughts of the wicked
And the lover's got a lonely heart
My friends ain't the way I wish they were
They are just the way they are

And I will be my brother's keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won't despise him for his weakness
I won't regard him for his strength
I won't take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will ~ I will be my brother's keeper

Now this roof has got a few missing shingles
But at least we got ourselves a roof
And they say that she's a fallen angel
I wonder if she recalls when she last flew
There's no point in pointing fingers
Unless you're pointing to the truth

And I will be my brother's keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won't despise him for his weakness
I won't regard him for his strength
I won't take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will ~ I will be my brother's keeper

I will be my brother's keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won't despise him for his weakness
I won't regard him for his strength
I won't take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will ~ I will be my brother's keeper"

Written by: A Beaker; Richard Mullins

The Bible reminds us of the unique bond that all who are part of the church experience. One of my favorite passages is found in Colossians. There Paul outlines the key tools for the members of Christ's body to hold to. It is important to notice that he starts by reminding us that we have been created in a new image and we should aspire to look like our Father and no longer behave in the way we used to. It begins by learning who we are (being renewed in knowledge) so that we know the attributes and characteristics of Christ. To know them we have to be familiar with Christ and with His Word. As we learn about Him we will recognize those things that His children should grow in. Summed up God's children recognize that they are part of the same family and all share the common experience of being called, chosen and reborn by God who made them holy and part of His beloved family. There is no need to dwell on ethnic backgrounds, skin color, social status, heritage and circumstances for all come into God's family by the calling of God who creates this new life in them. This should lead our hearts to be filled with compassion, kindness, humility, patience and forgiveness. Thanksgiving and a desire to share Christ with one another and worship Him are the natural effect on the members of His family. Teaching and admonishing one another in wisdom learning more about Him and growing in maturity and reflecting Him.

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col 3:9-18 ESV)

It all comes down to recognizing that you and I, each member of the church are indeed brothers and sisters adopted and called into a family, reborn to a new life. It is this calling and this faith that we share in Christ that uniquely defines who we are. In this capacity we lock arms to serve, worship and reflect Christ for God's glory. This life is a battle full of snares, trials, tribulations and a thousand things that divert us from the goal. I can do nothing more important than help my friends to stand up, press on and serve the Master. When I get diverted to pointing my finger at them when they are down or help to knock them down I contribute to the enemies cause. When my friend falls, I must pick him up and even carry him on in the battle. He will do the same for me. God desires that and gave us one another to carry the load for His glory and praise. AMEN!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Christians are like several flowers ... Bunyan

Christians are like the several flowers in a garden that have each of them the dew of heaven, which, being shaken with the wind, they let fall at each other's roots, whereby they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of each other.

John Bunyan
Online Library

Friday, February 5, 2010

Technology and Church Attendance

Can we replace actual church attendance with a quick sermon download from the Internet? Can't we fellowship on FaceBook? Does technology pose a danger to the church?
Technology and Church Attendance

Being Thankful For The Christian Life with Other Christians- Mike T.

The more I come to study this topic the more I am convicted that we do not thank God enough for our church family. It is certainly one of the major blessings and signs of His grace on the lives of His children to be able to gather together as a body of believers. The fellowship we share in Christ can never be taken for granted.

To fail to associate ourselves in a lasting and committed way with the Head of the church by joining his body is surely a sign of ingratitude, whether from an uninformed or a dull heart. We who have the privilege of living in countries where we may freely join a local church should keep this admonition from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in mind:

“It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing. They remember, as the Psalmist did, how they went ‘with the multitude . . . to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday (Ps. 42:4) … Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living in common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren. Note 1

Footnote: 1) What Is A Healthy Church Member by Thabiti M. Anyabwile, pp. 70-71

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Better is One Day In Your House - Mike T.

The words of a worship song, "Better is One Day In Your House, than Thousands Elsewhere" come to mind as I read this little excerpt from a Discourse of Delight in Prayer by Stephen Charnock. I will share more from this wonderful work in future posts. I can not say anything that will add to this... Do we find delight in prayer itself.

A Christian’s heart is in secret ravished into heaven. There is a delight in coming near God, and warming the soul by the fire of his love.
The angels are cheerful in the act of praise; their work is their glory. A holy soul doth so delight in this duty, that if there were no command to engage him, no promise to encourage him, he would be stepping into God’s courts. He thinks it not a good day that passeth without some intercourse with God. David would have taken up his lodgings in the courts of God, and regards it as the only blessedness, Psalm 65:4. And so great a delight he had in being in God’s presence, that he envies the birds the happiness of building their nests near his tabernacle. A delight there is in the holiness of prayer; a natural man under some troubles may delight in God’s comforting and easing presence, but not in his sanctifying presence. He may delight to pray to God as a store-house to supply his wants, but not as a refiner’s fire to purge away his dross. “Prayer, as praise, is a melody to God in the heart,” Eph. 5:19. And the soul loves to be fingering the instrument and touching the strings.

If you want to find the whole work go to Fire and Ice at PuritanSermons.Com.