The Bond of Peace

Peace . . . it’s often hard to find in the world we live in today, but then it’s always been hard to find. I ran across a small paperback book yesterday by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) titled, The Power of the Blood,” (for half price!) and as I was looking it over I thought to myself that it’s not very often anymore (unless you’re in seminary or you are a pastor or in some other position in a church or Christian institution) that we read what the “old guys” had to say who paved the way for us today. Charles Spurgeon was not known for having “soft and easy” ways when it came to proclaiming the cross of Jesus Christ; however, at the time of his death at the age of 57, it was said that “in January 1892, London went into mourning. Nearly 60,000 people came to pay homage during the three days his body lay in state at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Some 100,000 lined the streets as a funeral parade two miles long followed his hearse from the Tabernacle to the cemetery. Flags flew at half-staff and shops and pubs were closed” (quote source here).

Spurgeon’s performance was fiery at times. Here is a brief background on him taken from Christianity Today:

Spurgeon was born in Kelvedon, Essex, to a family of clerics. His father and grandfather were Nonconformist ministers (meaning they weren’t Anglicans), and Spurgeon’s earliest memories were of looking at the pictures in Pilgrim’s Progress and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

His formal education was limited, even by nineteenth-century standards: he attended local schools for a few years but never earned a university degree. He lived in Cambridge for a time, where he combined the roles of scholar and teaching assistant and was briefly tutored in Greek. Though he eschewed formal education, all his life he valued learning and books—especially those by Puritan divines—and his personal library eventually exceeded 12,000 volumes.

At age 15, Spurgeon broke with family tradition by becoming a Baptist. He attributed this conversion to a sermon heard by “chance”—when a snowstorm blew him away from his destination into a Primitive Methodist chapel. The experience forced Spurgeon to re-evaluate his idea on, among other things, infant baptism. Within four months he was baptized and joined a Baptist church.

His theology, however, remained more or less Calvinist, though he liked to think of himself as a “mere Christian.” “I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist,” he once said. “I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist, but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, ‘It is Jesus Christ.'”

Preaching Sensation

Still a teen, Spurgeon began preaching in rural Cambridgeshire. He quickly filled the pews in his first pastorate in the village of Waterbeach. He had a boyish appearance that contrasted sharply with the maturity of his sermons. He had a good memory and always spoke extemporaneously from an outline.

His energy and oratorical skills and harmonious voice earned him such a reputation that within a year and a half, he was invited to preach in London, at the historic New Park Street Chapel. The congregation of 232 was so impressed, it voted for him to preach an additional six months. He moved to the city and never left.

As word spread of his abilities, he was invited to preach throughout London and the nation. No chapel seemed large enough to hold those who wanted to hear the “the preaching sensation of London.” He preached to tens of thousands in London’s greatest halls—Exeter, Surry Gardens, Agricultural. In 1861 his congregation, which kept extending his call, moved to the new Metropolitan Tabernacle, which seated 5,600.

At the Center of Controversy

Spurgeon did not go unnoticed in the secular press. On the one hand, his sermons were published in the Monday edition of the London Times, and even the New York Times. On the other hand, he was severely criticized by more traditional Protestants. His dramatic flair—he would pace the platform, acting out biblical stories, and fill his sermons with sentimental tales of dying children, grieving parents, and repentant harlots—offended many, and he was called “the Exeter Hall demagogue” and “the pulpit buffoon.”

Spurgeon replied, “I am perhaps vulgar, but it is not intentional, save that I must and will make people listen. My firm conviction is that we have had enough polite preachers.”

Not only his style, but his convictions created controversy as well. He never flinched from strong preaching: in a sermon on Acts 26:28, he said, “Almost persuaded to be a Christian is like the man who was almost pardoned, but he was hanged; like the man who was almost rescued, but he was burned in the house. A man that is almost saved is damned.”

On certain subjects, he was incapable of moderation: Rome, ritualism, hypocrisy, and modernism—the last of which became the center of a controversy that would mark his last years in ministry.

TheDown-Grade Controversy,” as it came to be known, was started in 1887 when Spurgeon began publicly claiming that some of his fellow Baptist ministers were “down grading” the faith. This was the late-nineteenth century, when Darwinism and critical biblical scholarship were compelling many Christians to re-evaluate their understanding of the Bible. Spurgeon believed the issue was not one of interpretation but of the essentials of the faith. He proclaimed in his monthly,The Sword and the Trowel,” “Our warfare is with men who are giving up the atoning sacrifice, denying the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and casting slurs upon justification by faith.”

The controversy took its toll on the denomination (which censured Spurgeon) and upon Spurgeon, whose already delicate health deteriorated even more during the year-long affair (he suffered from, among other things, recurring depressions and gout).

Spurgeon’s contributions were larger than his pulpit, however. He established alms houses and an orphanage, and his Pastor’s College, opened in 1855, continues to this day. He preached his last sermon in June 1891 and died six months later. (Quote source here.)

With that brief background on Spurgeon, there are two brief sections from the book by Spurgeon mentioned at the beginning of this post from Chapter 5 titled, “True Unity Promoted” (pp. 135-160), titled “Keeping the Unity” and “The Bond of Peace” (pp. 147-151): Remember as you are reading that it was written in the 19th Century:

Keeping the Unity

Now we know that there is a unity of the Spirit [the Holy Spirit] worthy to be kept. I want to point out that it needs to be kept. It is a very difficult thing to maintain for several reasons. First of all, our sins would, very naturally, break it. If we were all angels, we would keep the unity of the Spirit and not even need the exhortation to do so. But alas, we are proud, and pride is the mother of division. Diotrephes, who loves to have preeminence (see 3 John 1:9), is very sure to head a faction. How envy, too, has separated good friends! When I cannot be satisfied with anything that is not hammered on my workbench, when another man’s candle grieves me because it gives more light than mine, and when another man troubles me because he has more grace that I have–oh, there is no unity in this case. Anger–what a deadly foe that is to unity! When we cannot overlook the smallest disrespect, when the slightest thing turns our faces red, when we speak unadvisedly with our lips–surely then there is no unity. But, I do not need to read the long list of sins that spoil the unity of the Spirit, for it is lengthy. Oh, may God cast them out of us, for only then can we keep the unity of the Spirit.

But, beloved, our very virtues may make it difficult for us to keep this unity. Luther [Martin Luther, 1483-1546] was brave and bold, hot and impetuous; he was just the man to clear the way for the Reformation. Calvin [John Calvin, 1509-1564] was logical, clear, cool, precise; he seldom spoke rashly. It was not natural for Luther and Calvin to agree. Their very virtues caused them to argue. Consequently, Luther, in bad temper, called Calvin a pig and a devil. And although Calvin once replied, “Luther may call me what he will, but I will always call him a dear servant of Christ.” Yet John Calvin knew how to pierce Luther under the fifth rib when he was angry.

In those days the courtesies of Christians to one another were generally of the iron glove kind, rather than the naked hand. They were called to war for the sake of the truth, and they were so intent on their task that they were even suspicious of their fellow soldiers. It may be the same way with us: the very watchfulness of truth, which is so valuable, may make us suspicious where there is no need for suspicion. And, our courage may take us where one should not go, like a fiery horse that carries a young warrior beyond where he is intended to go, where he may be taken prisoner. We must watch–the best of us must watch–lest we fight the Lord’s battles with Satan’s weapons and thereby, even from love to God and His truth, violate the unity of the Spirit.

The unity of the Spirit ought to be kept, dear friends, because Satan is so busy trying to mar it. He knows that the greatest glory of Christ will spring from the unity of His church.

That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. ~John 17:21

There is no church happiness where there is no church unity. If a church is divided, the schism is death to all sacred fellowship. We cannot enjoy communion with each other unless our hearts are one. How feeble is our work for God when we are not in agreement!

The enemy cannot desire a better ally than strife in the midst of our camp. “Can you not agree,” said a warrior of old, “when your enemy is in sight!” Christians, can you not agree to keep the unity of the Spirit when a destroying Satan is ever on the watch, seeking to drag immortal souls down to perdition? (See 1 Peter 5:8). We must be more diligent in this matter. We must purge ourselves of everything that would divide us, and we must equip our hearts with every holy thought that would unite us. When I join a Christian church, I should not say, “I am sure I will never break this church’s unity.” I am to suspect myself of tending toward that evil, and I am to watch with all diligence that I keep the unity of the Spirit.

The Bond of Peace

In order to keep the unity of the Spirit, there is a bond provided–the bond of peace. Beloved, there should be much peace, perfect peace, and unbounded peace among the people of God. We are not strangers; we are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). Realize your fellow citizenship, and do not treat Christian people as foreigners; then this common bond of citizenship will be a bond of peace.

Men may be fellow citizens and still be enemies, but you are friends. You are all friends to Christ, and in Him you are all friends to one another. Let that be another bond. But, your relationship goes even deeper. You are not just friends, you are brothers [and sisters], born of the same Parent, filled with the same life. Will this not bind you together? “See that you do not become troubled along the way” (Genesis 45:24). Do not contend with one another, for you are brothers [and sisters]. (See Acts 7:26.)

But, this is not all. You are even closer then brothers [and sisters], for you are members of the same body! Will this mysterious union fail to be a bond of peace to you? Will you, being the foot, contend with the eye? Or will you, being the eye, content with the hand and say, “I have no need of you” (1 Corinthians 12:21)? The joints and bones in a person’s body do not disagree. If it is really true that we are members of Christ’s body, let it never be said that the various parts of Christ’s body would not work together but instead battled one another. What a monstrous thing to be said!

I believe I have brought out the meaning of the text. There is a unity of the Spirit that is worthy to be kept. We ought to keep it. We must try to keep it in the bond of peace. (Quote source, Power in the Blood,” pp. 147-151.)

I had to smile when I read about the confrontations between Luther and Calvin as it is so like what we do today. We seem to always be able to find a way to “get even” with someone with whom we disagree whether by overt or covert means. It is at the very core of human nature, but is it totally disruptive to genuine unity and peace.

In a sermon preached in the same time period (it was preached on February 9, 1851), by the famed English preacher Frederick W. Robertson, titled Unity and Peace,” he opened his sermon with the following words:

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”Colossians 3:15.

There is something in these words that might surprise us. It might surprise us to find that peace is urged on us as a duty. There can be no duty except where there is a matter of obedience; and it might seem to us that peace is a something over which we have no power. It is a privilege to have peace, but it would appear as if there were no power of control within the mind of a man able to ensure that peace for itself. “Yet,” says the apostle, “let the peace of God rule in your hearts.”

It would seem to us as if peace were as far beyond our own control as happiness. Unquestionably, we are not masters on our own responsibility of our own happiness. Happiness is the gratification of every innocent desire; but it is not given to us to ensure the gratification of every desire; therefore, happiness is not a duty, and it is nowhere written in the Scripture, “You must be happy.” But we find it written by the apostle Paul, “Be ye thankful,” implying therefore, that peace is a duty. The apostle says, “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts;” from which we infer that peace is attainable, and within the reach of our own wills; that if there be not repose there is blame; if there be not peace but discord in the heart, there is something wrong.

This is the more surprising when we remember the circumstances under which these words were written. They were written from Rome, where the apostle lay in prison, daily and hourly expecting a violent death. They were written in days of persecution, when false doctrines were rife, and religious animosities fierce; they were written in an epistle abounding with the most earnest and eager controversy, whereby it is therefore implied, that according to the conception of the Apostle Paul, it is possible for a Christian to live at the very point of death, and in the very midst of danger — that it is possible for him to be breathing the atmosphere of religious controversy — it is possible for him to be surrounded by bitterness, and even take up the pen of controversy himself — and yet his soul shall not lose its own deep peace, nor the power of the infinite repose and rest of God. Joined with the apostle’s command to be at peace, we find another doctrine, the doctrine of the unity of the Church of Christ. “To that which ye are called in one body,” in order that ye may be at peace; in other words, the unity of the Church of Christ is the basis on which, and on which alone, can be built the possibility of the inward peace of individuals. (Quote source and the entire sermon is available at this link.)

Unity and peace . . . and it starts with us! I’ll end this post with the words from Romans 12:18 . . .

If it is possible . . .

As far as it depends on you . . .

Live at peace with everyone . . . .

YouTube Video: “If We Are the Body” by  Casting Crowns:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Advertisements

Top Ten Psalms

I must confess that this blog post comes from another blog post published in 2012 titled, Top 10 Psalms(the author also has a Twitter page which is located at the following Twitter account: @biblesummary). The author notes on his blog post that Psalm 23 came in at #1 which was no surprise, but Psalm 121 was a very close 2nd as it came in only one vote behind Psalm 23 in popularity. He also stated that most of the “Top 10” contain famous and quotable verses, and he noted that the main surprise he found regarding the top ten list is Psalm 138 that came in at #3. The psalms are listed below in order of popularity from #1 to #10. You can click on the link for each psalm listed below to read the entire psalm (in NKJV).

Top 10 Psalms

Psalm 23
The LORD is my shepherd. He leads me in paths of righteousness. I will fear no evil. I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills; my help comes from the LORD. He who keeps you will not slumber. The LORD will keep you from all evil.

Psalm 138
I give you thanks, O LORD! All the kings of the earth will praise you. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life.

Psalm 62
My soul waits for God alone. He alone is my rock and my salvation. Trust in him at all times, O people. Power and love belong to God.

Psalm 46
God is our refuge. We will not fear, though the earth give way. The nations rage, kingdoms fall. “Be still and know that I am God.”

Psalm 117
Praise the LORD! For great is his love towards us.

Psalm 37
Do not be envious of evildoers, for they will fade like the grass. The righteous will inherit the earth. The LORD is their stronghold.

Psalm 1
Blessed is the man who does not walk with the wicked, whose delight is in the law of the LORD. He is like a tree planted by the water.

Psalm 40
I waited patiently for the LORD. He drew me up from the pit. I delight to do your will, O God. My heart fails me, but you are my help.

Psalm 84
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD! A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. For the LORD is a sun and shield. (Quote source here.)

Enjoy!!!

YouTube Video: “Praise You In This Storm” (some of the words are taken from Psalm 121) by Casting Crowns:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Overwhelming Conviction

}{

“I have been many times
driven to my knees
by the overwhelming conviction
that I had nowhere else to go.”

~Abraham Lincoln
16th President of the United States
He abolished slavery.

}{

“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything.
I will not refuse to do something
that I can do.”

~Edward Everett Hale

}{

“A ship in the harbor is safe,
but that is not
what ships are built for.”

~John A. Shedd

}{

“No one is useless in this world
who lightens the burden of it
for anyone else.”

~Charles Dickens

}{

“I believe in Christianity
as I believe that the Sun has risen,
not only because I see it,
but because by it
I see everything else.”

~C.S. Lewis

}{

The quotes above have been taken from the book, Earth Psalms: Reflections on How God Speaks Through Nature (2016) by Francine Rivers.

This post has been written on my smartphone and if I can get my laptop to stay on long enough I will come back in later and provide more links… ☺

UPDATE 10-17-17: I have a new laptop! And that’s a very good thing!!! 

Photo credit here

Like a Moth to Light

shutterstock_110099045.jpg
Whatever man loves, that is his god.

For he carries it in his heart;
he goes about with it night and day;
he sleeps and wakes with it,

be it what it may–wealth or self,
pleasure or renown.

~Martin Luther

I’m currently experimenting on my smartphone with the WordPress app. It’s not nearly as easy to write a post on my smartphone as it is on my laptop, but due to my laptop issues that are still unresolved I thought I’d give this a shot… 😁

Please enjoy the Martin Luther quote!

Photo credit here

The Power of Words

In an article titled, The Power of the Spoken Word,” by Dr. Hyder Zahed, published in Huffington Post, Dr. Zahed states:

Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”

Considering the ‘powerful force’ of the words we utter, we must discipline ourselves to speak in a way that conveys respect, gentleness and humility. One of the clearest sign of a moral life is right speech. Perfecting our speech is one of the keystones of mature people. Before speaking take a few moments to contemplate what you will say and how you will say it; while considering the impact they will have on the listener/s. Be kind to all and speak words that are beacons of inspiration, enthusiasm and encouragement to all. Kind and sweet words are always music to the ears of the listeners.

Many people are compelled to give voice to any passing feeling, thought or impression they have. They randomly dump the contents of their mind without regard to the significance of what they are saying. When we talk about trivial matters as in gossiping about others, our attention is wasted on trivialities.

When we speak we should speak with mindfulness, in a way to solidify peace and compassion in our characters. Not only do our words matter, but also the tone which we use has a huge impact. There are certain rules that should guide all our communications with others. Always speak the truth, avoid exaggerations, be consistent in what you are saying, don’t use double standards in addressing people, don’t use your words to manipulate others, and most importantly do not use words to insult or belittle anyone.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a contemporary Buddhist monk and global peace worker and writer in his book, “Being Peace” states “speaking honestly in any negotiation between individuals or groups is necessary. Speaking the truth in a loving way is also necessary.” Hahn recommends only “loving speech” even when we are communicating about our differences and disagreements. We must be ‘lovingly honest’; we must discipline ourselves to speak in a manner that conveys respect, gentleness, and humility’.

Gary Chapman in his book, “Love as a Way of Life” uses the vivid metaphor for words as being either ‘bullets or seeds’. If we use our words as bullets with a feeling of superiority and condemnation, we are not going to be able to restore a relationship to love. If we use our words as seeds with a feeling of supportiveness and sincere good will, we can rebuild a relationship in positive and life-affirming ways.

When we need to talk candidly about something difficult with another person, we must focus on the conversation with keen attention and purpose. During the conversation, we must listen patiently, speak tactfully, and tell the truth as we understand it. We must align our words, voice inflection and tone, eye expression, body language, and actions with our inner awareness in an honest exchange. (Quote source here.)

GotQuestions.org makes the following statement about the power of words from a biblical perspective:

Words are not simply sounds caused by air passing through our larynx. Words have real power. God spoke the world into being by the power of His words (Hebrews 11:3), and we are in His image in part because of the power we have with words. Words do more than convey information. The power of our words can actually destroy one’s spirit, even stir up hatred and violence. They not only exacerbate wounds but inflict them directly. Of all the creatures on this planet, only man has the ability to communicate through the spoken word. The power to use words is a unique and powerful gift from God.

Our words have the power to destroy and the power to build up (Proverbs 12:6). The writer of Proverb tells us, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21). Are we using words to build up people or destroy them? Are they filled with hate or love, bitterness or blessing, complaining or compliments, lust or love, victory or defeat? Like tools they can be used to help us reach our goals or to send us spiraling into a deep depression.

Furthermore, our words not only have the power to bring us death or life in this world, but in the next as well. Jesus said, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36–37). Words are so important, that we are going to give an account of what we say when we stand before the Lord Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). In this passage, Paul is emphasizing the positive over the negative. The Greek word translated “unwholesome” means “rotten” or “foul.” It originally referred to rotten fruit and vegetables. Being like Christ means we don’t use foul, dirty language. For some reason, many people today think it is macho or liberating to use vulgar humor, dirty jokes, and foul language, but this kind of talk has no place in the life of a Christian. Paul continues: “. . . but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” This is reminiscent of his words to the Colossians: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6; see also Colossians 3:16).

There is a remarkable parallel between Ephesians 4:25, lying; Ephesians 4:28, stealing; and Ephesians 4:29, unwholesome talk. In each case Paul is urging us to be a blessing to those with whom we have daily contact. Paul is emphasizing that merely refraining from telling lies, stealing, or unwholesome speech is not enough. The truth is that Christianity is not a mere “don’t” religion. As followers of Christ we should emulate the example of Jesus whose words were so filled with grace that the multitudes were amazed (Luke 4:22).

Jesus reminds us that the words we speak are actually the overflow of our hearts (Matthew 12:34–35). When one becomes a Christian, there is an expectancy that a change of speech follows because living for Christ makes a difference in one’s choice of words. The sinner’s mouth is “full of cursing and bitterness” (Romans 3:14); but when we turn our lives over to Christ, we gladly confess that “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9–10). As condemned sinners, our mouths are silenced before the throne of God (Romans 3:19), but, as believers, our mouths are opened to praise and glorify God (Romans 15:6).

Christians are those whose hearts have been changed by the power of God, a change reflected in our words. Remember, before we were saved, we lived in spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1-3). Paul describes those who are dead in sin: “Their throats are open graves” (Romans 3:13). Our words are full of blessing when the heart is full of blessing. So if we fill our hearts with the love of Christ, only truth and purity can come out of our mouths.

Peter tells us, “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Let the power of our words be used of God to manifest the power of our faith. Be prepared to give the reason for why we love the Lord—at any time, to anyone. Our words should demonstrate the power of God’s grace and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives. May God enable us to use our words as an instrument of His love and saving grace. (Quote source here.)

NOTE: Again, I’m having a lot of issues keeping my laptop’s power source on which makes it difficult to complete a blog post. I am able to do some stuff on my smartphone, but it is very limited compared to what I can do on my laptop. Please check back later to see if I have been able to resolve this issue with my laptop and complete this post. Thanks!

YouTube Video: “Speak Life” by TobyMac:

Photo #1 credit here