Tag Archives: spirituality

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

Morning “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul.” / Lamentations 3:24

It is not “The Lord is partly my portion,” nor “The Lord is in my portion”;

but he himself makes up the sum total of my soul’s inheritance. Within the

circumference of that circle lies all that we possess or desire. The Lord is

my portion. Not his grace merely, nor his love, nor his covenant, but Jehovah

himself. He has chosen us for his portion, and we have chosen him for ours. It

is true that the Lord must first choose our inheritance for us, or else we

shall never choose it for ourselves; but if we are really called according to

the purpose of electing love, we can sing–

 

“Lov’d of my God for him again

With love intense I burn;

Chosen of him ere time began,

I choose him in return.”

 

The Lord is our all-sufficient portion. God fills himself; and if God is

all-sufficient in himself, he must be all- sufficient for us. It is not easy

to satisfy man’s desires. When he dreams that he is satisfied, anon he wakes

to the perception that there is somewhat yet beyond, and straightway the

horse-leech in his heart cries, “Give, give.” But all that we can wish for is

to be found in our divine portion, so that we ask, “Whom have I in heaven but

thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Well may we

“delight ourselves in the Lord” who makes us to drink of the river of his

pleasures. Our faith stretches her wings and mounts like an eagle into the

heaven of divine love as to her proper dwelling-place. “The lines have fallen

to us in pleasant places; yea, we have a goodly heritage.” Let us rejoice in

the Lord always; let us show to the world that we are a happy and a blessed

people, and thus induce them to exclaim, “We will go with you, for we have

heard that God is with you.”

 

Evening   “Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty.” / Isaiah 33:17

The more you know about Christ the less will you be satisfied with superficial

views of him; and the more deeply you study his transactions in the eternal

covenant, his engagements on your behalf as the eternal Surety, and the

fulness of his grace which shines in all his offices, the more truly will you

see the King in his beauty. Be much in such outlooks. Long more and more to

see Jesus. Meditation and contemplation are often like windows of agate, and

gates of carbuncle, through which we behold the Redeemer. Meditation puts the

telescope to the eye, and enables us to see Jesus after a better sort than we

could have seen him if we had lived in the days of his flesh. Would that our

conversation were more in heaven, and that we were more taken up with the

person, the work, the beauty of our incarnate Lord. More meditation, and the

beauty of the King would flash upon us with more resplendence. Beloved, it is

very probable that we shall have such a sight of our glorious King as we never

had before, when we come to die. Many saints in dying have looked up from

amidst the stormy waters, and have seen Jesus walking on the waves of the sea,

and heard him say, “It is I, be not afraid.” Ah, yes! when the tenement begins

to shake, and the clay falls away, we see Christ through the rifts, and

between the rafters the sunlight of heaven comes streaming in. But if we want

to see face to face the “King in his beauty” we must go to heaven for the

sight, or the King must come here in person. O that he would come on the wings

of the wind! He is our Husband, and we are widowed by his absence; he is our

Brother dear and fair, and we are lonely without him. Thick veils and clouds

hang between our souls and their true life: when shall the day break and the

shadows flee away? Oh, long-expected day, begin!

That Long-Expected Day

Your eyes will behold the king in his beauty.    Isaiah 33:17

The more you know about Christ, the less will you be satisfied with superficial views of Him; and the more deeply you study His transactions in the eternal covenant, His engagements on your behalf as the eternal Security, and the fullness of His grace that shines in all His offices, the more truly will you see the King in His beauty. Learn to look at Him this way. Long increasingly to see Jesus.

Meditation and contemplation are often like windows of gold and gates of silver through which we behold the Redeemer. Meditation puts the telescope to the eye and enables us to see Jesus in a better fashion than we could have seen Him if we had lived in the days of His earthly sojourn. Our conversation ought to be more in heaven, and we should be more taken up with the person, the work, the beauty of our incarnate Lord. More meditation, and the beauty of the King would flash upon us with more splendor.

Beloved, it is very probable that we will have such a sight of our glorious King as we never had before when we come to die. Many saints in dying have looked up from amidst the stormy waters and have seen Jesus walking on the waves of the sea and heard Him say, “It is I—do not be afraid.” Yes, when the building begins to shake, and the mortar falls away, we will see Christ through the studs, and between the rafters the sunlight of heaven will come streaming in. But if we want to see the King face to face in all His beauty, we must go to heaven for the sight or the King must come here in person.

If only He would come on the wings of the wind! He is our Husband, and we are widowed by His absence; He is our fair and faithful Brother, and we are lonely without Him. Thick veils and clouds hang between our souls and their true life: When will the day break and the shadows run away? Let the long-expected day begin!

Family Reading Plan       Amos 5        Luke 1:1-38

Victory Over Guilt

John 3:16-17

At times, people are bound by guilt long after the feeling should have been resolved. Some rightly live with it because they refuse to give up the sin that brought it on. Meanwhile, others suffer the weight of false guilt because they harbor shame that doesn’t belong to them. Whatever the root cause of your condemnation, the battle plan remains the same.

Victory over guilt begins with understanding that Jesus took our shame to the cross and paid our penalty. There is no way that we can pay for our own sin. But we do need to honestly identify the source of our guilt and confess before God. That means we agree with His perspective on what we’ve done. In other words, we admit when we’re wrong. Repentance goes a step further: we turn away from the wrong and choose to do right.

Confronting guilt in this way replaces the weight of shame in our heart with peace and joy, which are far lighter and more freeing. And an amazing side effect is that we have wisdom to share. Openness about our past mistakes, resulting consequences, guilt burdens, and forgiveness can reveal the Lord to those in our sphere of influence. Through our witness, God may reach others who need their guilt chains broken.

The battle to overcome guilt is one that should not be delayed. The feeling won’t just go away. Whether your condemnation is true or false, it needs to be dealt with quickly. Stop running, and face the source of your guilt. It’s time to end your captivity and start walking in the joy of God’s blessing.

Reflections on X

 

There are two ways to look at a mirror. This fairly unoriginal thought crossed my mind as I stood before my bathroom mirror focused on the spots I was wiping away, when my gaze suddenly shifted to a dark smudge under my eye. With one hand still cleaning the spots on the mirror, I tried to remove the spot under my eye with the other. It didn’t work; or at least, as I attempted to do both, I didn’t do either job well. You can’t look in a mirror and at a mirror at the same time.

Because the Christian scriptures are compared (among other striking images) to a mirror, the illustration seemed to be one worth contemplating. But instead of being stirred with thoughts and theology, I was caught off guard by the stirring of my own conscience.

Earlier that day, as I was reading a passage I can’t remember now, I thought to myself with a self-assured sigh:  “If only [so-and-so] were reading these verses, they would see their situation more clearly, and the thing they’re completely overlooking.” It is little wonder why I can’t remember the verses; I wasn’t looking in the mirror. My eyes had shifted elsewhere.

Jesus once asked, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” His question at once uncovers a familiar behavior, exposing our tendency to focus on the faults of others while remaining blind to our own. Jesus isolates the motive we disguise as concern—like a sword dividing bone and marrow. It obviously made an impression on the ones who first heard him say it; all four gospel writers make note of Jesus’s words.

In an essay titled “The Trouble With ‘X’”, C.S. Lewis writes candidly of this all too common human trait: the ability to see clearly “X” and “X’s” flaws while having a harder time with our own. “X” is whomever we find in our lives with characteristics that annoy or even grieve us. Each of us can readily name people with traits that keep them in the miserable state they’re in, even as they claim they want out. Or we can easily describe a person who is just generally difficult or moody or dishonest. Lewis’s rejoinder to our ability to state clearly the trouble with the many “X’s” in our lives is similar to Christ’s:  Realize that there are similar flaws in you. There is most certainly something that gives others the same feeling of despair that their flaws give you. Writes Lewis, “You see clearly enough that nothing […] can make ‘X’ really happy as long as ‘X’ remains envious, self-centred, and spiteful.” Be sure, he warns, that there is something also inside of you that, unless given to God to be altered, will remain similarly unscathed and unmoved.

The unique promise of a God who speaks into the world is that chaos is moved to order. Of course, this may mean first that chaos is simply revealed. God speaks and shows us our reflections, exposing the areas we are blind to and piercing our hearts with truth only a mirror can reveal.  But like a mirror, God’s words can also be looked at in more than one way. As I read the Bible that morning, my intentions were good—or at least nearly good—I thought. The verses made me think of someone important to me; a common occurrence, I suspect, amongst us all. Nonetheless, it was a moment like my experience at the bathroom mirror. I had shifted my eyes to someone else’s spots. I was looking to see something other than me. And examining God’s words for someone else is like looking at a mirror and seeing in all the spots a reflection other than your own.

To approach a speaking God with eyes searching and ears listening for everyone but ourselves is to cease to hear and see as God intended. “Anyone who listens to the word,” writes James, “but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (1:23-24). The choice is crucial. Of all the spotted reflections around us, there is only one you can really examine and see changed. Putting ourselves, and our spots, in God’s able hands is the most urgent use of the mirror.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Understanding Guilt

John 8:1-11

Guilt over doing something that violates the conscience is a normal emotion. However, living under a cloud of remorse for no discernible reason is not. The Lord designed feelings of culpability and regret to serve as a reminder that a person has done wrong and needs to repent. But Satan twists those emotions to imprison men and women: those living in shame are uncertain of God’s love and often lack self-confidence.

Good guilt–the Lord’s effective tool for prompting repentance–is a gift that helps us find the right path. However, the Devil encourages false guilt, which involves taking responsibility for things outside our control and then suffering self-condemnation for not changing the outcome. This unhealthy type of guilt is also a widespread problem for those in legalistic churches or lifestyles–certain behaviors or thoughts are labeled as wrong, and then people feel ashamed for doing or thinking those things.

Self-condemnation stunts a relationship with Jesus. Instead of enjoying the peace of God, people who are trapped by shame fear His rejection and feel driven to prove their worth. Trust is nearly impossible because they are waiting for God’s judgment to rain down. Their guilt even colors how they see themselves: rather than saying, “My action is wrong,” they say, “I am bad.”

Jesus did not come to accuse or condemn us. Christ restored our souls and made us righteous before God so that our guilt is removed. If our Savior forgave the woman caught in an adulterous relationship, just imagine how ready He is to take your shame away too (John 8:11).

The Faith of Friends

 

My friend Sylvia is a paraplegic. She has not been able to use her legs since she was a high school girl. A horrible accident took away her ability to walk or to run, and left her without any discernible feeling in the lower half of her body. Her spine severed, the nerves do not receive the necessary information to register sensation or stimulation.

Prior to her accident, Sylvia was an aspiring athlete. Without the use of her legs, this aspiration would be put on hold, but not permanently. Though she is paralyzed in body, she is not paralyzed in spirit. And she eventually competed in several World Championships and in the Paralympic Games. Her determination to excel at world-class competitions, despite her injury, and her intention to live a full-life has been an immense inspiration to me.

Sylvia uses a term for people like me who have the use of our legs. We are “TAB’s”—Temporarily Able Bodied. Every day I wake up with a new ache or pain, or I see my stamina waning, I recognize the truth of her naming me a “TAB.” I truly am temporarily able bodied; at some point in my life, I will need assistance in many of my daily tasks.

Sylvia is not one to ask for help; she drives, works at least a forty hour week, and has traveled the world. She has mastered the art of navigating the world in a wheelchair. Yet, there are times when even this accomplished athlete needs some assistance. She is grateful for the technology that has developed excellent, lightweight wheelchairs. She is grateful for friends who can reach for the pan in the high cabinetry when we have gathered for home-cooked meals. And she is grateful when helped out of her wheelchair on the dock to swim in the lake on a beautiful summer day. She welcomes the kind of assistance that develops her abilities in spite of her disability.

While I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to be physically paralyzed like my friend Sylvia, I certainly understand the emotional, spiritual, and psychological paralysis that results from trauma or duress. After suffering my own form of paralyzing accident, I experienced a numbing paralysis. While my body functioned, my mind and heart were paralyzed. I could not create any momentum to move me past the questions that imprisoned me or the doubts that bound me. Initiative fled away, drive and determination left me. I was stuck and unable to move. All that had propelled me forward in the past stalled, stopped, and froze. I was immobile.

I know that my emotional, psychological, and spiritual paralysis doesn’t compare to my friend Sylvia’s being a paraplegic. But it did help me understand what it must feel like to lack the freedom I to move and to have a sense of being able.

The gospels are filled with stories about paralytics. But the story that always gets my attention occurs in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus was teaching in Capernaum in a house that was filled to capacity with listeners. There was not any more room for anyone, let alone a paralytic being carried on a cot by four friends. Yet, the crowded house would not deter these determined friends. They were so determined to get their friend to Jesus that they got up onto the roof of the house with their paralyzed friend, removed the portion of the roof above where Jesus was teaching, and lowered their friend down on his pallet.

I’m not sure how the owners of the house felt when part of their roof was removed, but Jesus, the gospel tells us, saw their faith—faith that went to extraordinary lengths to bring their friend to him. As a result of their faith, Jesus declared that the paralytic’s sins were forgiven. To demonstrate his authority to forgive sins, Jesus then heals him and tells him to “rise, take up your pallet and go home.” And immediately, the paralytic jumps up (perhaps for the first time) and went out before everyone so that “they were all amazed and glorified God.”

In periods of paralysis, we are forced to depend on others, perhaps even relying on the faith, courage, and strength of those who see our abilities even through our disability.  Something very beautiful and healing occurs when we allow others to offer us assistance. In my own paralysis, friends gathered around me to help me. They now did the things I could not do any longer. They said the prayers on my behalf; they believed on my behalf. When I slowly began to move again, they held my arms and steadied my legs. I came to experience a kind of healing because of the assistance and help of my friends. Their faith inspired movement in me towards the God who heals. Indeed, those who are willing to carry the cots of their paralyzed friends embody God’s healing love and care.

There will always be times in life that inhibit forward movement—or any movement at all. In those times, we can be thankful for those who help carry us and care for us. And when we are moving along, perhaps with such momentum that we could miss those lying in cots along our path, might that thankfulness bring us to demonstrate the same kind of care and determination as those who carried their friend into the presence of Jesus.

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

Mysterious Exchange

English mystery writer Agatha Christie is treasured for the detective stories that got her dubbed the “queen of crime.” Waxed moustache and all, Hercule Poirot, the professional sleuth who appears in more than thirty of her books, is considered one of the most enduring characters in fiction. He is remembered as the egotistical Belgian detective who solved multifaceted cases with the help of his “little grey cells”; he is also an amusing source of useful quotations. In one of his meticulous investigations, Poirot tells his sidekick, “There is nothing so dangerous for anyone who has something to hide as conversation! A human being, Hastings, cannot resist the opportunity to reveal himself and express his personality which conversation gives him. Every time he will give himself away.”(1)

If words betray the inmost secrets of our hearts, prayer is the conversation in which hidden things—and the one hiding—are most laid bare (but hardly in the same sense as Poirot imagined). God does not find things revealed as we speak; our words are not inspected for God’s own sake. The conversation is more of a mystery than this. God is the revealer; our own anemic words, God translates to ourselves.

In a poem simply titled “Prayer,” C.S. Lewis explores the mysterious exchange between human hearts and God when we pray.

Master, they say that when I seem

To be in speech with you,

Since you make no replies, it’s all a dream

—One talker aping two.

 

They are half right, but not as they

Imagine; rather, I

Seek in myself the things I meant to say,

And lo! The wells are dry.

 

Then, seeing me empty, you forsake

The Listener’s role, and through

My dead lips breathe and into utterance wake

The thoughts I never knew.

 

And thus you neither need reply

Nor can; thus, while we seem

Two talking, thou are One forever, and I

No dreamer, but thy dream.(2)

 

The Christian story purports a God who not only hears but also speaks on our behalf. Likewise, Paul writes, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.

In prayer, as in a deep well, God probes the depths of us. As we grow in faith and conversation, we learn to put before God what is in us (and not what should be in us), unable to resist the opportunity to reveal ourselves and so be revealed. “God searches the sources of the rivers” said Job, “and brings hidden things to light” (28:11). Hinted at beyond our words are the sources of the rivers within us. Sometimes slowly, sometimes torrentially, these waters God makes known, plunging into areas that have grown stagnant, dredging streams and renewing life within us.

Moving among our words, whether unuttered or expressed, God shows us not only what we mean, but more importantly, the one who gives us meaning. Taking our broken thoughts and fragile lives, God stirs within the prayers of God’s own, searching hearts, revealing what is hidden, and showing us Father, Son, and Spirit.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Agatha Christie, The ABC Murders, 1936.

(2) Poems, Ed. Walter Hooper (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964), 122-123.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

 

Morning    “The trial of your faith.” / 1 Peter 1:7

Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is

likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never

prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her

trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea,

spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a

slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too. Let the winds rush howling forth, and

let the waters lift up themselves, then, though the vessel may rock, and her

deck may be washed with waves, and her mast may creak under the pressure of

the full and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway towards her

desired haven. No flowers wear so lovely a blue as those which grow at the

foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam so brightly as those which glisten

in the polar sky; no water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the

desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in

adversity. Tried faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own

weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would

never have known God’s strength had you not been supported amid the

water-floods. Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more

it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious

too.

 

Let not this, however, discourage those who are young in faith. You will have

trials enough without seeking them: the full portion will be measured out to

you in due season. Meanwhile, if you cannot yet claim the result of long

experience, thank God for what grace you have; praise him for that degree of

holy confidence whereunto you have attained: walk according to that rule, and

you shall yet have more and more of the blessing of God, till your faith shall

remove mountains and conquer impossibilities.

 

Evening    “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray,

and continued all night in prayer to God.” / Luke 6:12

If ever one of woman born might have lived without prayer, it was our

spotless, perfect Lord, and yet none was ever so much in supplication as he!

Such was his love to his Father, that he loved much to be in communion with

him: such his love for his people, that he desired to be much in intercession

for them. The fact of this eminent prayerfulness of Jesus is a lesson for

us–he hath given us an example that we may follow in his steps. The time he

chose was admirable, it was the hour of silence, when the crowd would not

disturb him; the time of inaction, when all but himself had ceased to labour;

and the season when slumber made men forget their woes, and cease their

applications to him for relief. While others found rest in sleep, he refreshed

himself with prayer. The place was also well selected. He was alone where none

would intrude, where none could observe: thus was he free from Pharisaic

ostentation and vulgar interruption. Those dark and silent hills were a fit

oratory for the Son of God. Heaven and earth in midnight stillness heard the

groans and sighs of the mysterious Being in whom both worlds were blended. The

continuance of his pleadings is remarkable; the long watches were not too

long; the cold wind did not chill his devotions; the grim darkness did not

darken his faith, or loneliness check his importunity. We cannot watch with

him one hour, but he watched for us whole nights. The occasion for this prayer

is notable; it was after his enemies had been enraged–prayer was his refuge

and solace; it was before he sent forth the twelve apostles–prayer was the

gate of his enterprise, the herald of his new work. Should we not learn from

Jesus to resort to special prayer when we are under peculiar trial, or

contemplate fresh endeavors for the Master’s glory? Lord Jesus, teach us to

pray.

Christ’s Example

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

Luke 6:12

If ever a man might have lived without prayer, it was our spotless, perfect Lord, and yet no one ever prayed as much as He! His love for His Father was such that He loved to be in communion with Him. His love for His people was such that He desired to be regularly interceding for them.

The fact that Jesus placed such importance on prayer is a lesson for us—He has given us an example that we may follow in His steps. The time He chose was admirable—it was the hour of silence when the crowd would not disturb Him, the time of inaction when everyone else had stopped work, and the season when sleep made men forget their difficulties and stop applying to Him for relief. While others found rest in sleep, He refreshed Himself with prayer. The place was also well selected. He was alone where none would intrude, where none could observe: And so He was free from Pharisaic ostentation and vulgar interruption. Those dark and silent hills provided a suitable prayer chapel for the Son of God. Heaven and earth in midnight stillness heard the groans and sighs of the mysterious Being in whom both worlds were blended.

The continuance of His pleadings is remarkable: The passing hours were not too long; the cold wind did not chill His devotions; the grim darkness did not cloud His faith or loneliness prevent His persistence. We fail to watch with Him for one hour, but He never fails to watch for us night and day. The occasion for this prayer is notable; it was after His enemies had been enraged. Prayer was His refuge and solace; it was before He dispatched the twelve apostles. Prayer was the gate of His enterprise, the herald of His new work. Should we not learn from Jesus to resort to special prayer when we are under peculiar trial or considering new ventures for the Master’s glory? Lord Jesus, teach us to pray.

Family Reading Plan        Amos 1       Psalm 144

The Effects of Unforgiveness

Matthew 18:21-22

One of the most dangerous things a person can do is to hold onto resentment. Clinging to unforgiveness has far-reaching and often unexpected consequences.

Although bitterness takes root in the mind, it doesn’t stay contained. Acrimony can spread into every aspect of a person’s life. For example, the hostility a man feels toward his father can color his relationship with his wife, his willingness to perform at work, and his involvement in church.

It’s probably not surprising to hear that resentment impacts the mind and spirit, but you may not have realized what a physical toll it can also take on us. An attitude of bitterness ratchets up tension and anxiety, which can affect everything from muscles to chemical balance in the brain. Over time, that kind of mayhem weakens the body.

Because unforgiveness is a violation of God’s law, it also causes spiritual turmoil that hinders a believer’s growth. Prayer is stifled because of harbored sin that should be confessed. And worship is dry and hypocritical because it’s difficult to effectively honor the Lord while trying to justify or hide a wrong attitude. What’s more, a resentful person’s witness is damaged, as others are prevented from seeing God’s glory shining through him.

Forgiving someone means giving up resentment and the right to get even with him or her, even though you were wronged. God insisted this was the only way to go through life. One reason He commands us to forego hostility and vengeance is that these things cause so much damage to our own lives.