Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Spending and Increase

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Spending and Increase

Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84:5-7

“They go from strength to strength. So far from being wearied they gather strength as they proceed. Each individual becomes happier, each company becomes more numerous, each holy song more sweet and full. We grow as we advance if heaven be our goal. If we spend our strength in God’s ways we shall find it increase.

Every one of them in Zion appeareth before God. This was the end of the pilgrim’s march, the centre where all met, the delight of all hearts. Not merely to be in the assembly, but to appear before God was the object of each devout Israelite. Would to God it were the sincere desire of all who in these days mingle in our religious gatherings. Unless we realise the presence of God we have done nothing; the mere gathering together is nothing worth.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon in The Treasury of David (notes on verse 7). Special thanks to one of my prayer partners, Linnea Baney, for alerting me to this Psalm today.

Though this journey that I am on right now is long, I feel I am spending myself and increasing in strength by God’s grace. He seems to supply more richly only as I go along in deeper dependence. Notice that the rains fill the pools that can only be accessed from the road while on the journey.

It reminds me of the first disciples sent out by Jesus with no purse or bag. They had to learn by experience that God would supply. The pilgrims in these verses found this to be true. God supplied along the way. Despite traversing desert country, they always had sufficient water.

What’s the connection to us today and for our generosity?

Sometimes we traverse deserts when moving toward God’s presence. It’s hard. But with fellow pilgrims our hearts can find refreshment along the way as we trust in Him and make the journey. We go from strength to strength. It does not mean we won’t suffer. It means we will be sustained until we meet God.

Read all of Psalm 84 for abundant nourishment for your journey.

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Andrew Murray: Our Highest Liberty

“And whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:27-28

“We all know what the character of a faithful servant or slave implies. Devotion to the master’s interests, thoughtful study and care to please him, delight in his prosperity and honor and happiness. There are servants on earth in whom these dispositions have been seen, and to whom the name of servant has never been anything but a glory. To how many of us has it not been a new joy in the Christian life to know that we may yield ourselves as servants, as slaves to God, and to find that His service is our highest liberty, the liberty from sin and self?

We need now to learn another lesson, that Jesus calls us to be servants of one another, and that, as we accept it heartily, this service too will be a most blessed one, a new and fuller liberty too from sin and self.

At first it may appear hard; this is only because of the pride which still counts itself something. “If once we learn that to be nothing before God is the glory of the creature, the spirit of Jesus, the joy of heaven, we shall welcome with our whole heart the discipline we may have in serving even those who try to vex us. When our own heart is set upon this, the true sanctification, we shall study each word of Jesus on self-abasement with new zest, and no place will be too low, and no stooping too deep, and no service too mean or too long continued, if we may but share and prove the fellowship with Him who spake, ‘I am among you as he that serveth.’”

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) in Humility: The Beauty of Holiness (Abbotsford: Aneko, 2016) 22-23

Today I get to speak at a CMA Governance Forum in Sydney related to The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance. In short, I will remind them that service to God and one another is our highest liberty.

I will walk through four spiritual practices for boards: Scripture, Silence, Sharing, and Supplication. When we do them together, these rhythms help block out pride, deliver us from ourselves, and preserve this liberty.

Are you serving in an oversight role? Like the Council of Moses in Numbers 11:16-17 and like Jesus in today’s Scripture take a standing and listening posture so that you service reflects both liberty and generosity.

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Augustine of Hippo: Conduct and Charity

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. Psalm 96:1-3

“Sing with your voices, sing also with your hearts sing with your mouths, sing also with your conduct…His praise, you see, is not to be found in the synagogues of the Jews, nor in the madness of the pagans, nor in the errors of the heretics, nor in the applause of the theaters. You ask where it is to be found? Look at yourselves, you be it. His praise is in the Church of the saints…Submit yourselves, my dear brothers, to a thorough interrogation, turn out your innermost closets and cupboards. Take careful stock of how much you have of charity, and increase the stock you find. Pay attention to that sort of treasure, so that you may be rich within.”

Augustine of Hippo in Sermon 34.6-7 in Sermons 20-50 on the Old Testament, translation and notes by Edmond Hill (Brooklyn: New City, 1990) 168.

In the stillness of the morning hours, I can almost hear Augustine preaching this sermon.

“Sing with your mouths… sing also with your conduct… turn out your innermost closets and cupboards. Take careful stock of how much you have of charity, and increase the stock you find. Pay attention to that sort of treasure, so that you may be rich within.”

What message am I singing among the nations (or in Sydney this week)? Am I rich in charity? How about you?

Our lives sing whatever we cherish in the innermost closet and cupboard of our hearts. Augustine rightly charges us to make one thing most important. The thing the Apostle Paul labeled the greatest of all thing, charity. It’s love seasoned with grace.

Once we have charity we can live with generosity. Then we are rich within and resourced to sing His praise in word and deed.

God, fill me with charity. Like I stuff my suitcase for travels, fill the innermost closets and cupboards of my heart with charity, so that I may generously proclaim the truth with grace in Australia. Do this for everyone reading this so our voices and conduct sing Your praise to the nations. Amen.

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Richard Baxter: Work and Wages

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16

“Christians, doth it not now stir up your love, to remember all the experiences of His love? Doth not kindness melt you, and the sunshine of divine goodness warm your frozen hearts? What will it do then, when you shall live in love, and have all in Him, who is all? Surely love is both work and wages.”

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) in The Saints Everlasting Rest (Grand Rapids: CCEL) 17.

I have made it safely to Sydney the first of three cities on my ninth visit to this amazing country, Australia. I am a bit tired and glad I planned to rest today.

What do you rely on to sustain you? I want to suggest that physical rest is insufficient. Focus on the love of God. Perhaps listen to the song “How He Loves” by David Crowder.

And don’t miss the point of today’s short and sweet meditation. It’s work to do this, but there is reward or wages that come with the effort.

As ‘kindness’ is my word for the year, I am moved that as I do this, His kindness melts me and divine goodness warms my frozen heart.

So, as I rest today coming off a full set of meetings in New Zealand, I am giving thanks for God’s love and letting it restore me and refill me.

This will, by God’s grace, refresh me for generous service in Australia in Sydney
(9-13 Sept), Brisbane (14-16 Sept), and Melbourne (17-21 Sept).

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Jeremiah Burroughs: Gracious or Carnal Heart

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

“The men of the world seek after wealth, and think if they had thus much, and thus much, they would be content. They do not aim at great things; but if I had, perhaps some man thinks, only two or three hundred a year, then I should be well enough; if I had but a hundred a year, or a thousand a year, says another, then I should be satisfied.

But a gracious heart says that if he had ten hundred thousand times so much a year, it would not satisfy him; if he had the quintessence of all the excellences of all the creatures in the world, it could not satisfy him; and yet this man can sing, and be merry and joyful when he has only a crust of bread and a little water in the world. Surely religion is a great mystery! Great is the mystery of godliness, not only in the doctrinal part of it, but in the practical part of it also.

Godliness teaches us this mystery, Not to be satisfied with all the world for our portion, and yet to be content with the meanest condition in which we are… A little in the world will content a Christian for his passage… A carnal heart will be content with these things of the world for his portion; and that is the difference between a carnal heart and a gracious heart.

But a gracious heart says, ‘Lord, do with me what you will for my passage through this world; I will be content with that, but I cannot be content with all the world for my portion.’ So there is the mystery of true contentment. A contented man, though he is most contented with the least things in the world, yet he is the most dissatisfied man that lives in the world.

A soul that is capable of God can be filled with nothing else but God; nothing but God can fill a soul that is capable of God. Though a gracious heart knows that it is capable of God, and was made for God, carnal hearts think without reference to God. But a gracious heart, being enlarged to be capable of God, and enjoying somewhat of him, can be filled by nothing in the world; it must only be God himself.”

Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust) 24.

Do you have a gracious or a carnal heart? How can you tell? Figure out what satisfies you and you will find your answer. If you are satisfied with some portion of wealth from the world, then you are aiming far too low. Especially if your aim then is to be generous from that supply.

Someone asked me this question recently. What inspires you to ask God for nations? Of course my reply was that Psalm 2:8. Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. God invites us to ask Him for much more than the carnal heart desires.

The paradox of the gracious heart and the contented life is not to be satisfied with anything the world can offer, but only to be satisfied with God as his or her portion. That makes us, in view of those around us the most dissatisfied people on the planet. I perceive this may puzzle you.

The contented person appears dissatisfied because he or she has tasted the only thing that satisfies. All the world is rubbish next to that one thing. It’s God Himself. Discover this and the generosity of your gracious heart will know no limits. Miss it and your carnal heart will know perpetual emptiness and dissatisfaction.

I am teaching in Auckland, New Zealand, today at the Governance and Accountability Forum. Pray  that God works in the carnal hearts to make them receptive and that the truth takes root and bears fruit in gracious hearts. Afterwards, it’s onward to Sydney, Australia. It’s a stunning city, but the people are even more amazing.

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Oswald Chambers: Remember to keep right at the Source

Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:38

“A river touches places of which its source knows nothing, and Jesus says if we have received of His fullness, however small the visible measure of our lives, out of us will flow the rivers that will bless to the uttermost parts of the earth. We have nothing to do with the outflow…

A river is victoriously persistent, it overcomes all barriers. For a while it goes steadily on its course, then it comes to an obstacle and for a while it is baulked, but it soon makes a pathway round the obstacle. Or a river will drop out of sight for miles, and presently emerge again broader and grander than ever. You can see God using some lives, but into your life and obstacle has come and you do not seem to be of any use.

Keep paying attention to the Source, and God will either take you round the obstacle or remove it. The river of the Spirit of God overcomes all obstacles. Never get your eyes on the obstacle or on the difficulty. The obstacle is a matter of indifference to the river which will steadily flow through you if you remember to keep right at the Source.

Never allow anything to come between yourself and Jesus Christ, no emotion, or experience; nothing must keep you from the one great sovereign Source… If you believe in Jesus, you will find that God has nourished you in mighty torrents of blessing for others.”

Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1963) reading for 6 September. Special thanks to Daily Meditations reader and Aussie mate, Josh Reid, for sharing today’s post with me! He added, “good one for people feeling stuck or useless” as I know some people in that spot.

The picture of the river fits for where I am at in New Zealand. There are many rivers here. Some are small and other large. Chambers tells us that rivers are “victoriously persistent” because of the abundance of the Source. We can find that same persistence when remember to keep right at the Source.

What are your rhythms for making sure your flow is from God and not from yourself? Do you spend time in prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, or other disciplines? This shapes our generosity because it makes sure that our flow springs not from a place of scarcity but from abundance. This abundance overcomes all barriers.

Consider the implications of this idea: “We have nothing to do with the outflow.” Feeling stuck or useless today? Fret not. Keep right at the Source, and let God take care of the obstacles and the outflow. Let God nourish you to be a blessing to others.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Thankful Recipients for the Gift of Fellowship

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:3

“Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily. And is not what has been given us enough?”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (New York: Harper One, 1954) 28.

I have had the most amazing retreat with four dear co-workers between our GTP governance and accountability meetings in New Zealand. Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables (pictured above) were stunning! It felt like “The Fellowship of the Ring” enjoying the gift of “The Fellowship of the King.”

As you worship God this weekend, thank God for the gift of fellowship with Him through Jesus Christ and praise Him for the related gift of community with brothers and sisters. Together, we have everything we need in Jesus Christ, so we can be a generous community obedient to our calling, united by forgiveness, and strengthened by promise.

In Christ we have all we have ever needed and will ever need, and we can trust Him daily for our bread and everything else because He is enough. Rest in that profound truth today. Let it saturate your soul. We have fellowship! Enjoy it as a gift and show that you have received it by living thankfully, openhandedly, and generously.

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Anthony the Great: The Land of the Meek-hearted

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Luke 12:33

“Let the desire of possession take hold of no one, for what gain is it to acquire these things which we cannot take with us? Why not rather get those things which we can take away with us — to wit, prudence, justice, temperance, courage, understanding, love, kindness to the poor, faith in Christ, freedom from wrath, hospitality? If we possess these, we shall find them of themselves preparing for us a welcome there in the land of the meek-hearted.”

Anthony the Great (251-356), perhaps the earliest Christian monk, from Egypt, in The Life of St. Anthony, 17, by Athanasius of Alexandria (New Advent).

What will welcome you in the Land of the Meek-hearted?

After meetings in Christchurch, Gary Williams, Steve Kerr, Murray Baird and me, like four Hobbits, and Ereny Monir, like Arwen, made our way through “middle earth” to Queenstown for a weekend retreat. We shot the header photo at Edoras (a.k.a. Mt. Sunday).

The New Zealand scenery was stunning and made me think of it as “the Land of the Meek-hearted.”

Hobbits, the fictional creatures in the classic writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, are meek-hearted creatures. They are willing to sacrifice and show kindness regardless of the magnitude of the deeds or the depth of the danger, because they must do what is right and good.

Do we live with the same wit and willingness?

As the early church was starting to grow strong, it shifted from focusing on people to possessions in the early 300’s. That led to the launching of the monastic tradition. Deeply committed Christ followers, like Anthony, left the church because it was not a building, it’s a body.

What should the body of Christ be doing with its resources?

Live, give, serve, and love generously! Stop acquiring what you cannot take with you. Prepare for a place of wonder, like “middle earth” that is beyond all estimation and comprehension. The time to prepare for that place is now.

Use all you’ve got to acquire what you can take with you!

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Bernard of Clairvaux: Convert the Soul

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7

“One praises God because He is mighty, another because He is gracious, yet another solely because He is essential goodness. The first is a slave and fears for himself; the second is greedy, desiring further benefits; but the third is a son who honors His Father. He who fears, he who profits, are both concerned about self-interest. Only in the son is that charity which seeketh not her own (I Cor. 13.5). Wherefore I take this saying, ‘The law of the Lord is an undefiled law, converting the soul’ (Ps. 19.7) to be of charity; because charity alone is able to turn the soul away from love of self and of the world to pure love of God. Neither fear nor self-interest can convert the soul. They may change the appearance, perhaps even the conduct, but never the object of supreme desire. Sometimes a slave may do God’s work; but because he does not toil voluntarily, he remains in bondage. So a mercenary may serve God, but because he puts a price on his service, he is enchained by his own greediness. For where there is self-interest there is isolation; and such isolation is like the dark corner of a room where dust and rust befoul. Fear is the motive which constrains the slave; greed binds the selfish man, by which he is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed (James 1.14). But neither fear nor self-interest is undefiled, nor can they convert the soul. Only charity can convert the soul, freeing it from unworthy motives.”

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), French abbot and reformer among the Benedictine monks, in his classic work, On Loving God, excerpt from chapter 12.

Three people can be celebrating the might, grace, and goodness of God, yet two may have completely impure motives so they miss communion with God and get instead only bondage or isolation. Where are my motives today? Where are yours? Sit with me here for a moment.

This is both sobering and enlightening as Bernard, a Benedictine monk, points the way for us to convert the soul. Notice how we can be living generously or serving in ministry but simultaneously held captive to fear and self-interest. Only His charity can free us from these unworthy motives.

God, hear my prayer for myself and readers today. Teach us to make you the object of our supreme desire. In your charity, cleanse us of all greediness and self-interest. Convert our souls so that our service results not in bondage or isolation but communion with You. Amen.

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John of the Cross: Clouds and Ladders

Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of Him who has perfect knowledge? Job 37:16

“The steps and footprints which God is imprinting upon the souls that He desires to bring near to Himself, and to make great in union with His wisdom, have also this property, that they are not known. Wherefore in the Book of Job mention is made of this matter. By this are understood the ways and roads whereby God continually exalts souls and perfects them in His wisdom, which souls are here understood by the clouds. It follows, then, that this contemplation which is guiding the soul to God is secret wisdom…This secret wisdom is likewise a ladder. With respect to this it must be known that we can call this secret contemplation a ladder for many reasons. In the first place, because, just as men mount by means of ladders and climb up to possessions and treasures and things that are in strong places, even so also, by means of this secret contemplation, without knowing how, the soul ascends and climbs up to a knowledge and possession of the good things and treasures of Heaven.”

John of the Cross (1542-1591) in Dark Night of the Soul, translated by E. Allison Peers, 85-86. John was a Carmelite monk who is know for this famous work.

On a recent flight I was wondering “how the clouds hang” in the sky. Every wonder this? We don’t understand most of what goes on around us. That’s especially true with perfection or spiritual growth.

A person very close to me is going through a bit of a dark night of the soul. In mining John of the Cross in search of generous wisdom to pass on to that person, I come up with one thought after digging

We can’t fully understand the ways of God so we must trust the goodness of God. But how? Look at the clouds and get a different ladder. Climb not for things but for treasures of Heaven.

This is the tricky part, especially for those in a dark and discouraging place, which may be why John tends to use the word ‘secret’ a lot. You don’t figure this out until you lean into it.

To see the clouds we have to look up. Know anyone who is down? Encourage them to keep looking up. The God who holds those clouds holds them too. Don’t let them forget it.

And, tell them to go get a ladder, a different ladder than the one all their friends are using. This latter actively fills their minds with knowledge and true riches which can help set them free.

Or if they are struggling to ascend that ladder or too weak and weary, just love them generously. Maybe sit and look at the clouds with them. Though alone, I did today from my hotel room after the storm broke in Auckland.

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