Excellent devotional from Spurgeon on Joel 2:13 “Rend your heart, and not your garment” from the heartlight website
GARMENT-RENDING and other outward signs of religious emotion, are easily manifested and are frequently hypocritical; but to feel true repentance is far more difficult, and consequently far less common. Men will attend to the most multiplied and minute ceremonial regulations-for such things are pleasing to the flesh-but true religion is too humbling, too heart-searching, too thorough for the tastes of the carnal men; they prefer something more ostentatious, flimsy, and worldly. Outward observances are temporarily comfortable; eye and ear are pleased; self-conceit is fed, and self-righteousness is puffed up: but they are ultimately delusive, for in the article of death, and at the day of judgment, the soul needs something more substantial than ceremonies and rituals to lean upon. Apart from vital godliness all religion is utterly vain; offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven.
HEART-RENDING is divinely wrought and solemnly felt. It is a secret grief which is personally experienced, not in mere form, but as a deep, soul-moving work of the Holy Spirit upon the inmost heart of each believer. It is not a matter to be merely talked of and believed in, but keenly and sensitively felt in every living child of the living God. It is powerfully humiliating, and completely sin-purging; but then it is sweetly preparative for those gracious consolations which proud unhumbled spirits are unable to receive; and it is distinctly discriminating, for it belongs to the elect of God, and to them alone.
The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour’s voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation.
If you are considering reading through the bible in 2015 then you may be interested in the “Every Day with Jesus One Year Bible” which takes the reader through the whole bible in 365 days.
In a similar way to many other reading plans each day includes an Old and New Testament passage, and some verses from the Psalms and Proverbs. The readings start on 1st January from Genesis 1, Matthew 1, Psalm1 and Proverbs 1 and then proceed forward throughout the year. In addition to the daily readings each day also has a devotional thought taken from Selwyn Hughes’ Every Day with Jesus writings.
The advantage of reading the bible in the method described above is that it gives variety to the readings each day. It’s not unusual for someone to pick up their bible and read straight through from Genesis and then start to struggle when they reach the later part of Exodus and the book of Leviticus. This reading plan should hopefully avoid that happening as the reader will be reading from four separate parts of the bible each day.
The readings generally do not last longer than 15 minutes and so what seems a tough target, reading the bible through in one year, is very manageable with this plan.
The version of the bible used for this reading plan is the New International Version.
John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. In his preaching and proclamations he was pointing to Jesus. Whenever we proclaim God’s word we should be doing the same as John.
We should not be pointing people to the church. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging someone to attend church. We hope as they see God’s people meeting together that they might encounter Christ there. However the church should not be where we point people.
Likewise we should not be pointing people to the bible. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging someone to read the bible. We hope that they encounter Christ whilst reading it. However the bible should not be where we point people.
First and foremost we point to Jesus. He is the one who we wish others to meet. The call is not “come to church” or “come to the bible“ but rather “come to Jesus”.
I recently wrote a post about examining our motives. In that post I asked the question: Whose glory am I seeking God’s or mine?
I’ve been reminded of that post this week as I have read some advent devotions which focused on John the Baptist and his call to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Mark 1:3 ESV)
As John came to challenge his hearers to be ready for the appearing of the Lord his focus was on pointing to Christ and not himself. John did not want people to follow himself but to instead follow God’s chosen One.
When John’s disciples came to him concerned about everyone following Jesus instead of John he told them: “He must increase but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 ESV)
What incredible words! John was happy that people were deserting him and following Jesus instead.
John was truly seeking God’s glory and not his own in his ministry otherwise he would never have uttered those words. He knew that his role was to be a signpost pointing people to the one who was to come, the Lord Jesus.
What a challenge for us. So often we can seek our own glory rather than God’s. We want to have loads of people following us on Twitter. We want people to think we write great blog posts and hope that they get shared around the internet.
John the Baptist was not like this though. He was not interested in self-promotion. His desire and motive were simply “He must increase but I must decrease.”
Sometimes we can have the completely wrong attitude about attending church. I expect we have all heard someone say “I didn’t get much out of the service today.” If we are being totally honest I expect we may have said that ourselves!
To those of us who have said those words may I ask the following question: “What did you give to your church service today?”
I’m not talking about how much money you placed in the collection bag. Instead I’m talking of how much of yourself did you give to God in the service. Did you worship God wholeheartedly during the service? Did you fix your eyes on Him as you joined in the singing or were you inwardly criticising the musicians or singers?
When the sermon was being preached were you praying for the preacher or were you wishing they would hurry up and finish? Did you have your ears open to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice through the sermon or did you switch off because you disagree with one small minor point of their theology?
After the service did you go home and moan about the fact that no-one spoke to you at church or did you make the effort to speak to others?
Obviously no church is perfect because it contains humans and none of us are perfect. However if we all approached church with the attitude of “What can I give to the church service today?” we might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome!
I was listening to a sermon in church a couple of weeks ago in which the preacher challenged us to examine our motives and ask ourselves “Why do I do, what I do?”
Whenever I hear a question like that I often feel uncomfortable. I know it’s so easy to do things for the wrong reasons. We might be engaging in an activity or task which is perfectly wholesome but nevertheless have completely the wrong motive for doing it?
Personally speaking there are certainly times when my motives concern me. Do I do what I do for God or am I really doing it for me? Whose glory am I seeking God’s or mine?
Even as I write this blog post do I secretly hope that thousands of people will read it and repost it or am I happy if no-one reads it apart from myself? I know what the answer should be but deep down in my heart what do I really hope happens?
Interestingly the morning after I heard this sermon I was reading Spurgeon’s daily devotion, which was based on Romans 11:36 “To whom be glory for ever.” The following quotes are taken from it:
“To whom be glory for ever.” This should be the single desire of the Christian. All other wishes must be subservient and tributary to this one. The Christian may wish for prosperity in his business, but only so far as it may help him to promote this-“To him be glory for ever.” He may desire to attain more gifts and more graces, but it should only be that “To him may be glory for ever.” You are not acting as you ought to do when you are moved by any other motive than a single eye to your Lord’s glory. As a Christian, you are “of God, and through God,” then live “to God.” Let nothing ever set your heart beating so mightily as love to him. Let this ambition fire your soul; be this the foundation of every enterprise upon which you enter, and this your sustaining motive whenever your zeal would grow chill; make God your only object.
The rest of the devotion can be found here.
I can across this tweet last night which I would do well to heed!
Our church is struggling at the moment to attract young people and the majority of people who currently attend are over 60 years old. This is something that concerns me and I would like to see a significant increase in the number of young people who come every week.
I was thinking about this the other day and by chance came across a book review of Seasons of my Soul which has been published by the Church of England and the Methodist church. This book aims to encourage Christians to celebrate and affirm the “Second half of life”.
The following quote from the book review caught my attention:
“Often when we talk about the demographic of church attendance, we concern ourselves more with those who are not within our church communities than with celebrating and resourcing those who are”, added Doug Swanney, Connexional Secretary for the Methodist Church.
Whilst I still want to see more young people coming to our church this quote reminds me not to forget those who are currently attending. These are the ones who God has sent along to us and therefore they are the ones we should be looking to bless and encourage.
You may be aware that this week Microsoft released a patch that fixes what is described as a critical bug in its software. For those who follow closely the monthly updates that Microsoft release this news would not come as a surprise. However this patch is not addressing a recently discovered security problem but one that has existed for 19 years! According to IBM this bug has been present in every version of Windows since 95.
I’m not sure how these bugs occur but I guess somewhere many years ago something was missed or a mistake was made in some coding by someone. This mistake has taken 19 years to surface but eventually it came to light.
I wonder how many of us made mistakes in the past that have yet to be discovered by anyone? Perhaps we are unaware of the mistakes we have made or maybe we are aware but are trying desperately to hide them from coming to light!
If you are trying to hide something there is an important factor that you need to consider: God sees everything. Nothing can be hidden from Him.
From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; (Psalm 33:13)
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13)
What’s the answer? Turn to Christ and confess your sins and receive His forgiveness for your past.