The Dancing Puritan

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Resolving to Fight Depression

Christian, leaving the Slough of Despond

On the Lord's Day evening, April 4th, 1886, Charles Spurgeon looked up from his pulpit,  into the eyes of his vast congregation, and confessed his depression. This was not the first, nor would it be the last time, that he openly shared his struggle with soul-darkness. However, Spurgeon did not speak on that evening with an air of defeatism about his situation. Nor did he imagine that he was resigned to a life of unhappiness. He looked to Christ, sought the help of God's Spirit, and he resolved to fight again with God-ordained weaponry.

What a help it is to a Christian man to be glad in the Lord!  I know what it is to be depressed; I do not suppose there is any person in this place who knows what it is to be cast down so low as I sometimes am. Then I feel that there is no help for me, and no hope of living and working, except I can get out of that sad condition, and get glad in the Lord; and I cry, 'My heart, my heart, what art thou at? Why are thou cast down, O my soul And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.' There is no way of getting right out of the Stygian bog of the Slough of Despond like rejoicing in the Lord. If you try to rejoice in yourself, you will have a poor reason for joy; but if you rejoice and be glad in the Lord, you have the real, abiding, unchanging source of joy; for he who rejoices in Christ rejoices in him who is 'the same yesterday, today, and forever'; and he may always rejoice in him. Come, then, and for your own good hang up the sackbut, and take down the psaltery; put away the ashes. What if men do call this season 'Lent?' We will keep no Lent tonight; this is our Eastertide, our Lord has risen from the dead, and he is amoung us, and we will rejoice in him. 

Think of what you just read about Spurgeon:

1. He knew what it was to be depressed. Charles Spurgeon, one of God's choicest servants in all of history, knew depression. You are not alone. Many of God's faithful servants have suffered as you may be suffering.

2. He imagined that no one in his church had been cast down as low as he sometimes was.
The beloved Spurgeon, with raw honesty, laid his soul bare before his congregation. How they must have been helped to know that Spurgeon was not immune from the trials of life. Learn from your heroes but don't imagine that they were shielded from trouble. They were, like you are, frail and feeble.

3. Sometimes Spurgeon felt helpless and despaired of life itself. Let that percolate in your heart for a moment and then read on. One might despair even of life itself, yet they must not quit. Keep reading!

4. He felt hopeless unless he could get out of that "sad condition and get glad in the Lord." Spurgeon, though sometimes depressed, nevertheless looked for a godly exit out of the slough of depression and an entrance into the gladness of the Lord. Though you make walk through great darkness, look for a biblical way out of your heart-sadness.

5.  He cried out to God by praying the Psalms (42-43). Here is a biblical remedy. Have you ever prayed the Psalms? Jesus did (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22). If I might be honest with you for a moment, I do not think that I would survive if there were no Psalms. If I woke up one morning and someone had removed the Psalms from the Bible, it is hard for me to see how I would carry on. Every morning, I open Psalms and pray God's Word back to him. Jesus did and so did Spurgeon.

6. He recognized that rejoicing in God was essential to getting out of the "Slough of Despond." Certainly he didn't feel like rejoicing but, acting against his sadness, he purposefully rejoiced. You are a Christian and you are not to allow your feelings to rule over you as a hard master. Against your feelings, rise up and rejoice!

7. He encouraged his congregation to put away the ashes of Lent, to take up the psaltery, remember that Jesus has risen from the grave, and to rejoice.
His name should be so deeply engraved on our hearts that we cannot forget him. Let us remember his love, for surely, if there is anything that we ought ever to remember, it is that undying love which is our choicest portion on earth, and which will be the main constituent of our highest bliss in heaven. 
For this to be true for you, you must take up your Bible and read, study, and meditate deeply. Paul wrote: "Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel" (2 Timothy 2:8). Purposefully remember the Gospel and let such remembrance stir you up to sing.

8. He stirred up his congregation to connect their rejoicing to their remembering of the love of Jesus. In another sermon he exhorted his people:
What wondrous love is there! Oh! then, let us have Christ's love in the cup, the love that we may daily drink, the love that we may personally drink just now at this moment, the love which shall be all our own, as if there were no others in the world, and yet a love in which ten thousand times ten thousand have an equal share with ourselves.
Humbly, prayerfully, and purposefully seek to know God and His love for you through Jesus our Savior. Are you a Christian? Jesus loves you. He loves you. He loves you. No one or nothing can separate you from his love (Romans 8). Drink deeply from the love of Christ.

Spurgeon often felt the cold rain of depression saturating his weary heart, however, he skillfully wielded deliberate rejoicing and remembering as a weapons in his fight against heart-sadness.

You may be one who is often depressed. You must fight! Don't raise the white flag of surrender and declare, "That's just the way that I am. I am prone to depression, I must accept it." No! Though many godly people struggle with depression, if you know Christ, you can "fight the good fight of faith." How? Resolve to be glad and rejoice. Resolve to remember God's love.

We will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine. (Song of Solomon 1:4).

*Are you depressed? Look to Christ. Purposefully remember His love and rejoice. Seek counsel from your pastors. Make sure that you vist your doctor for a regular physical, including blood-work. Learn from Spurgeon's example. His honesty with his congregation allowed them to join in his struggle by praying for and encouraging him. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why God Gave Perfume

Chateau Elan

The rain is falling. It is cold outside. I am sitting at a cafe in Cleveland, GA. Country music is playing over the loud speaker. It is small town Georgia. Everyone that walks by greets me. Georgia folks are friendly.

Since I am not at home this morning I had to deliver my Song of Solomon letter to Lori via email.

Why have I not been often writing letters to my dearest friend, prior to the last eight days? I have no good answer. You know.

Perhaps the eight days will lead to twenty-one days, will lead to sixty days, and the good thing of letter writing will become a habit. Letter writing to Lori should happen till death us do part. Let me rephrase that. Letter writing to Lori can happen. I get to write letters to her. It is a delight.

Eight days of letters has also meant eight days of The Song of Solomon (SOS). Why did God give us a book about kissing, perfume, wine, flowers, fruit, vineyards, gardens, and apple-trees? Why a book that provides graphic detail about how a man feels, thinks, and sees his beloved? Our English versions of the Bible do not really capture the graphic nature of SOS. Why a book that gives us, what we might imagine, should have been the private thoughts of a woman in love?

I know the answer. It is simple. God is good. God is generous. God is kind. God is not stingy. He gives good gifts.

His gifts are to glide over lips and teeth (7:9). Taste buds are for tasting, eyes are for seeing, ears are for hearing, and air is for breathing.

God did not create the world as a museum for tourists to press face to display windows and nod their heads while encountering foreboding signs that read, Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch.  No! God gave flowers, fields, streams, mountains, valleys, milk, honey, perfume, wine, and fruit so that we can handle, taste, and touch. God is not glorified when all that we do is admire his gifts and then walk away.  Imagine giving your wife a lovely necklace and she simply says, It is beautiful, but no thanks. What an offense.

God is glorified when we kiss our spouse with the kisses of our mouth. He is glorified when a wife purposefully puts on perfume to draw her husband to her side. He is glorified when we swirl the wine of love all around our palate. His gifts are to be received, savored, and enjoyed.

There is a form of religion that consists of man-made regulations.  It focuses on the exterior while leaving the heart unchanged. It appears to be wise. The adherent of such a piety is admired for his rigor, his discipline, and his soberness. However, such a person has not tasted the goodness of God. He has not really smelled and enjoyed the sweet perfume of his wife. He may have sniffed at her the way a beast does his prey —but he has not really smelled. He does not know how to say, You have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.  How much better is your love than wine. Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue... (4:9-11)

The person focused merely on externals sees flowers, hears background music, and then passes by the vineyard. But he is convinced that a serious believer is one who fights the urge to feast. He nibbles at the plate but leaves the meal largely untouched. Or he devours the meal as a savage and fails to savor the spices. His regulations or his thoughtlessness forbid true enjoyment.

In a world of toil, sorrow, and grief, God gives the music of Solomon. He reminds us that though this world is fallen and groaning for final redemption—that it still reflects his glory, his beauty, and his goodness.

In the midst of sickness, death, birth, marriage, gain, loss, and the duties of life—God paints with color, he offers song, he provides smell, and he sets a table for his children in the banquet hall of love.

We glorify him when we drink, when we eat, when we taste, and when we enjoy his gifts. The gifts are not the end-all. The gifts glorify the gift-giver. They are not to be refused. They tell us that God is great and God is good.

Yes, God gave perfume because God is great and God is good. Enjoy life to His glory!

Ray Rhodes, Jr. is president of Nourished in the Word Ministries, pastor of Grace Community Church and the author of several books. Mostly, he is a husband, daddy, and grandaddy. To schedule Ray to speak for your next event friend/message on FB Contact Ray

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Margin: A Review.

Swenson, Richard. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.  Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 2004.

Ray Rhodes

It is appropriate that a physician wrote Margin. If anything, Margin is a diagnosis and a cure for an “affliction” that is common to many people in modern day America. Margin is space, extra space.
Do you have margin in your life? Many people do not. They are running behind, running late, and running on empty.  Swenson writes:

Marginless is being thirty minutes late to the doctor’s office because you were twenty minutes late getting out of the bank because you were ten minutes late dropping the kids off at school because the car ran out of gas two blocks from the gas station —and you forgot your wallet. (13)

Perhaps that picture is painfully familiar to you. Swenson clarifies: “Margin, on the other hand, is having breath left at the top of the staircase, money left at the end of the month, and sanity left at the end of adolescence.” (13) Swenson’s words offer hope to the weary. The possibility of breathing more freely in the midst of a busy life sounds refreshing.

Swenson lists several axioms that apply to every person. Axiom three argues: “All humans have physical, mental, emotional, and financial limits that are relatively fixed.” (27) It is obvious that we often do not practically live as if there are limits. Many of us take on more physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially than we are able to bear.

A major adversary in the war against margin is the rapid increase of progress. Swenson asserts: “The profusion of progress is on a collision course with human limits. Once the threshold of these limits is exceeded, overload displaces margin.” (27) The problem is that in the past 25 years the movement of progress has risen upward exponentially at an “incomprehensible” rate. (41)

A major factor is, that in the midst of a seemingly limitless potential for progress, that few of us recognize, in a tangible way, that we have limitations. Theoretically we believe that we are limited but we live as if we have no limitations. The result is felt emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially. Swenson’s analysis: “Margin, the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits was an early casualty. When you reach the limits of your resources or abilities, you have no margin left.” (42) What happened? “So as history and progress picked up speed we hit limit after limit. Slowly, margin began to disappear. Then when exponentiality took over the controls, margin vaporized.” (42)

Swenson wonders why in the midst of such prosperity and so many “time-saving” devices that we enjoy, do we have such loss of margin? The simple answer is that with every moment captured, a thousand other things quickly fill in the gaps. Examples abound, especially regarding technology. Our not-to-distant forefathers worked hard but they had time and space. They could pull up a chair and talk when a neighbor needed help. A distressed person, on the other hand, displays the symptoms of brokenness and burnout. Those symptoms are classified under headings of psychological, physical, and behaviora.l (51) In everything from depression, to rashes, to irrational behavior, unhealthy stress manifests itself. (51) The remedy is to take “a dose of margin against the pain.” (52) Swenson asserts, “It is God the Creator who made limits, and it is the same God who placed them within us for our protection. We exceed them at our peril.” (57)

The analysis is sobering. Many of us have acted as if we can carry the world on our backs and not feel the pain emotionally, physically, or otherwise. Part of the problem may be that we do not have a good practical theology of rest and renewal. It is the design of Margin to change that, and to give relief to an overloaded life. None of us can “tolerate (an) ever-escalating overload without eventually feeling its painful weight.” (58) That weight will manifest itself in anxiety, hostility, or resentment, but it will be manifested. (58) The result: “Activity overload takes away the pleasure of anticipation and the delight of reminiscence.  It also takes away the ability to enjoy the moment.” (61)

In Margin, Swenson offers helps for recovering space. He asserts: “We must learn the art of setting limits. We must learn to accept the finality and nonnegotiability of the twenty-four-hour-day. We must learn not to overdraw on our account of emotional energy. And we must learn to respect such limits in others.” (65) Furthermore, he declares: “To be healthy, we require margin in at least four areas: emotional energy, physical energy, time, and finances.” (78)

The good news is that “margin grants freedom and permits rest.” (69) According to Swenson: “It nourishes both relationship and service. Spiritually, it allows availability for the purposes of God. From a medical point of view, it is health enhancing.” (69) Margin is restorative!  What exactly is margin? According to Swenson, “Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond what is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.” (69)

Prescriptions offered in Swenson’s work include helps to restoring margin in emotional energy, physical energy, time, finances and time (79-148). Regarding emotional energy, Swenson writes that we need to ‘cultivate social supports.” We need friends. Concerning the need for physical energy he proposes that we need good sleep, good eating habits, and a good exercise routine. Regarding time, Swenson writes, “The clock and Christ are not good friends.” (121) What he means by that is that Christ was not driven by a schedule. He was not looking down at his watch as he served people. He never seemed to be in a hurry.  How different we are.  In dealing with margin and finances he discusses everything from budgeting to destroying credit cards (144-45).

What Swenson is aiming for, is health (149). Health is cultivated by contentment, simplicity, balance, and rest (151-204). Swenson writes as a Christian. None of the remedies offered are isolated from the Bible.

Margin us a helpful book. It is not always an enjoyable read because it has a way of exposing sin, crushing pride, and offering counter-cultural solutions. However, even with Swenson’s remedies, he leaves us hanging a bit. I was looking for more specific help in maintaining margin in a truly overwhelmed life. For example, how do we maintain space if we work numerous jobs to pay the bills, or if we have a sick relative hundreds of miles away that needs help? How do we keep margin when we are closed in by various and legitimate responsibilities?  I wish that Swenson had given more detailed prescriptions for people who are staggering under the heavy load of necessary responsibilities? However, reading Margin will stir up ideas as you seek to make practical application to your particular situation.

Margin is convicting, encouraging, and instructive. Margin will help you to live in a way that focuses on the greatness and generosity of a rest-providing God (Psalm 127).  Margin aims at the root of our problems and then offers solid solutions.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Peace on Earth

Abigail Faith Rhodes at 1 month

The photograph above, of our daughter Abigail, was sent to me on December 23, 2011. I was in a hospital room in Augusta, GA where my dad was near the end of his battle with cancer.  My wife Lori and our daughters were three hours away at our home in Dawsonville. As life slipped away from dad, and the walls of the hospital closed in, Abigail's picture arrived. It represented life, even as death lurked nearby.

Abigail was born on November 14th and my dad died on December 25th. Our daughter Rachel's wedding was December 31st. Almost immediately after preaching dad's funeral on the 28th, I returned home for a dinner to meet Rachel's soon-to-be in-laws. Three days later, I conducted Adrian and Rachel's wedding service. Abigail's birth brought fresh life to our family. Dad's death reminded us of the fragility of life. Rachel and Adrian's wedding service was the start of their new life together. Poignant pictures are etched on my heart as I reflect on those days.

My father's favorite passage was Psalm 23. Fittingly, that psalm was a part of my Bible reading this morning. What a wonder it is that when life is hardest, God, our Shepherd, has "green pastures" and "still waters" and "paths of righteousness" for us.  However, he must make us lie down in those pastures. He puts us to bed, sings us a lullaby, and restores us before setting us on our way again. From dark woods deep in the valley, surrounded by troubles that threaten to undo us, we come to the place of rest. God leads us there. If he doesn't, there is no peace.

If we could, we would flank every valley and perpetually live in lush fields. We would build our house near calming waters and from there we would never venture out. What then? Most certainly we would grow soft, lazy, and turn inward. Instead of finding rest, our restlessness would intensify. God's gifts cannot sustain us without God himself. God must lead us to rest if we are to truly rest. God must give us peace or there is no peace. It is tempting to run from the valley and seek to hide from trouble. For too many folks, "peace" is sought through pills, liquor, recreation, or just by checking out and avoiding tough duties. Left to ourselves, we will seek our rest in places that leave us empty.  There are simply no shortcuts to rest. 

How are we sustained in the valley and how can we be restored "beside still waters?" How can we have peace when all around us a war is raging? There is only one way. Into a world of darkness, God came. God brought peace for broken people who are just as dependent as Abigail was on December 23, 2011. 

Today I am reminded of a hard valley five years ago. It was sometimes difficult to see then, but God gave rest. One of the ways that he sustained me was through the baby in the photograph. It reminded me that there was new life, just a few hours away. She was waiting for me. Yes, God came near through a baby. That's the way it has always been. A baby was promised in Genesis 3. A baby was born in Luke 2. Life came. Hope arrived. Peace was delivered to Bethlehem's manger and was solidified when Jesus died and was raised. Peace is offered to those with whom God is well pleased.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1)

Ray Rhodes, Jr. is president of Nourished in the Word Ministries. He is the author of several books including, Family Worship for the Christmas Season. Send a message here to schedule Ray to speak for your next event or to order one of his books.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Love Your Family Like a Puritan: Don't Be Chicken-Hearted

To the most wonderful husband & father two girls could ever have--We Love You! Lori and Rachel: Christmas 1991 (inscription in A Quest for Godliness).

Christmas Day, 1991 my wife Lori and our two-year-old daughter Rachel gave me a copy of J.I. Packer's masterpiece, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life. I cannot think of any book that I have turned to more in the past 25 years than Packer's classic. In this work Packer compares the English Puritans to the California Redwoods which are "the biggest living things on earth." To Packer the Puritans are giants in godliness. He argues:
As Redwoods attract the eye, because they overtop other trees, so the mature holiness and seasoned fortitude of the great Puritans shine before us as a kind of beacon light, overtopping the stature of the majority of Christians in most eras, and certainly so in this age of crushing urban collectivism, when Western Christians sometimes feel and often look like ants in an anthill and puppets on a string. Behind the Iron Curtain and in the starving, war-torn lands of Africa the story may well have been different, but in Britain and America, the parts of the world that I know best, affluence seems for he past generation to have been making dwarfs and deadheads of us all. In this situation, the teaching and example of the Puritan giants have much to say to us. (12).

Lori's inscription in my copy of Quest was written from her heart. Like the beloved in Solomon's Song, she viewed (and views me) as the best-of-the best. However, when I read the Puritans (or about the Puritans) I feel very much like a dwarf. I often feel dwarf-like in my role as a husband and father. However, this dwarf wants to grow and I know that the Puritans can help me in my "quest for godliness."

Packer is a prolific writer and it is sometimes difficult to get beyond one of his introductions in the many books that he has written. It is not because of poor writing that working through one of his introductions is so difficult, but because his words sting with conviction. If you don't believe me read his introduction in the Banner of Truth edition of Baxter's The Reformed Pastor.  What follows is a selection about the family from chapter 1 of Quest. Read it and then repent in sackcloth and ashes.

Steadily Love Your Spouse as Your Best Friend
The Puritan ethic of marriage was to look not for a partner whom you do love passionately at this moment, but rather for one whom you can love steadily as your best friend for life, and then to proceed with God's help to do just that.
Train up and Care for Your Children. 
The Puritan ethic of nurture was to train up children in the way they should go, to care for their bodies and souls together, and to educate them for sober, godly, socially useful adult living. The Puritan ethic of home life was based on maintaining order, courtesy, and family worship. Goodwill, patience, consistency, and an encouraging attitude were seen as the essential domestic virtues.
Family Life is a School of Character Developed Through Suffering 
In an age of routine discomforts, rudimentary medicine without pain-killers, frequent bereavements (most families lost at least as many children as they reared), an average life expectancy of just under thirty years, and economic hardship for almost all save merchant princes and landed gentry, family life was was a school for character in every sense, and the fortitude with which the Puritans resisted the all-too-familiar temptation to relieve pressure from the world by brutality at home, and laboured to honor God in their families despite all, merits supreme praise.At home the Puritans showed themselves mature, accepting hardships and disappointments realistically as from God and refusing to be daunted or soured by any of them.
Share the Gospel at Home First 
Also it was at home in the first instance that the Puritan layman practised evangelism and ministry. 'His family he endeavored to make a Church,' wrote Geree,  '. . . labouring that those that were born in it, might be born again until God.'
Don't be a Chicken-hearted Spouse Who Looks for the Exit 
In an era in which family life has become brittle even among Christians, with chicken-hearted spouses taking the easy course of separation rather than working at their relationship, and narcissistic parents spoiling their children materially while neglecting them spiritually, there is once more much to be learned from the Puritans' very different ways.
Charles Spurgeon died with 7,000 (out of 12,000 total) volumes on his shelves that were either by or about the Puritans. Perhaps you would benefit from reading a Puritan volume or two. Packer's Quest will get you excited about reading and benefiting from the Puritans.

Ray Rhodes, Jr. is President of Nourished in the Word Ministry. He leads Bible conferences, marriage retreats, and various other events. Message him on Facebook to schedule an event.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Encouragement for the Afflicted and Those Who Minister to Them

What is a Christian to do when confined to the sick-bed of affliction? I remember visiting a church member a number of years ago. Due to physical affliction she was unable to attend church. I detected a note of discouragement as she spoke to me. She wished that she could do more for the church but her condition squelched her abilities. She said: "About all that I can do is pray." I took the opportunity to remind her of the great gift and power of godly prayer. I sought to encourage her that when she prayed for the church, she was calling on the King of Heaven to visit His people with His power, and that was no small thing.

Charles Spurgeon had a great heart for those who were confined to their dwelling due to sickness. Many of his sick friends, though unable to attend church service, nevertheless read Spurgeon's sermons. His words are encouraging to those who are afflicted and are instructive to all who minister to them.

Sick saints, what a delight I feel in ministering to you! Shut out from the sanctuary and the sound of the Word, you find a solace in reading what others have crowded to hear. Accept my tenderest sympathy in your affliction, while I breathe the prayer that He who suffers in you, may abide with you. The Great Captain of the host has called you to glorify Him on your beds; it may be you could never have done this in active service; what a mercy is it that a sick chamber affords you opportunities to honour Him. Your patience, holy resignation, and joyous faith, make you invaluable teachers to those believers who visit you, and even your ungodly friends may be greatly blessed by your means. Little do you dream how well your words are remembered, and how powerful they will be even when you have fallen asleep in Jesus. From the green mound in the cemetery your loving voice shall sound in their ears. Those very persons who now seem so indifferent, may be the first to be converted by your testimony. Speak well of your Lord; you see Him often, let His name be ever in your mouth. He makes your bed; let your bosom be a pillow for Him. Let your chamber be a sanctuary, your bed a pulpit, your living loving experience of divine grace the constant sermon. We cannot do without you in the Lord's battles. Your power for good is wonderful; forget not your advantageous position, but lift up the banner of your Lord on high. Let no persons retire from your bedside without being enriched by some affectionate admonition. In the night-watches, when your eyes are held walking so that you cannot sleep, plead for the Church, the world, your minister, your friends, and do not omit the unworthy brother who now writes to you. What showers of mercies your intercessions may bring down. The golden keys of heaven are at your girdle, open the treasury and bless us all. 'As the sufferings of Christ abound in you, so may your consolation also abound by Christ.

Sick saints . . .
1. Read the Bible and read godly literature.
2. Recognize your unique opportunity to glorify God from your sick bed.
3. Your patience and joy under trial is an example to fellow believers.
4. Unbelievers are blessed by your testimony of grace.
5. Your Christian witness will live on after you are dead.
6. "Speak well of your Lord" as you rest in Him. Let your bed be a pulpit.
7. Remember that your fellow believers who are not confined "cannot do without you in the Lord's battles."

To those who minister to the sick . . .

1. Do not fail to remember them in prayer.
2. Make sure that your sick friends have access to sermons (a manuscript, your notes, audio/video).
3. Visit the sick regularly and write to them often words of encouragement.
4. Let them know, how much you need for them to pray for you.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Spurgeon's Counsel: Don't Think about Preaching

Many pastors find it difficult to read the Bible without thinking of sermon preparation. Spurgeon shared with his congregation how he delighted in Jesus by not considering preaching. He wrote:
When I take my Bible, and want to feed on it for myself, I generally get thinking about preaching upon the text, and what I should say to you from it. This will not do; I must get away from that, and forget that there is a Tabernacle, that I may sit personally at Jesus' feet. And, oh, there is an intense delight in being overshadowed by Him! He is near to you, and you know it. His dear presence is as certainly with you as if you could see Him, for His influence surrounds you.

When you read your Bible, are you able to feed on it for yourself? Certainly Spurgeon spent time in sermon preparation. However, he knew that sermons best grew in soil that had been cultivated through personal Bible reading. For Spurgeon this was to "sit personally at Jesus' feet" and to know the "intense delight in being overshadowed by Him."

Quotes are from C.H. Spurgeon, Till He Come: Communion Meditations and Addresses (London: Marshall Brothers, n.d.), 44.