Archives For Charles Spurgeon

In a world of “noise” it can be difficult to step up and say something unique. That act risks rejection. It involves vulnerability, humility, courage and honesty.

The key to interaction, we’re told, is more interaction. We’re encouraged not to limit ourselves to just one media arena. Build followers, “friends” and establish a “market presence”, in a market overloaded with sell, sell, sell.

Twitter is a fast-paced, here one minute, gone the next platform and Instagram isn’t much different. Blogs are in the plenty and are always a step away from losing what little readers they do attract to the next biggest thing that can hold the already dwindling internet attention span of the masses.

Facebook has it’s usefulness, but as someone said to me in a conversation last night, it’s a two-edged sword. It should be wielded wisely.Pick your fights, sheath the thought. This is juxtaposed with its algorithms, which by default, push new posts to the bottom of the pile, only displaying those with the most responses. Social media is largely a popularity game that few will ever really win.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt to make our own contribution. We can’t just wish away the responsibility to speak into that overloaded arena. As the aptly named axiom goes: “don’t compare yourself to others, just stay in your own lane”.

Or as Spurgeon stated:

‘If you, my Brother and Sister, have a little company of about a hundred people to deal with, be perfectly satisfied. Or if, my Sister, you have a class of ten or a dozen girls to teach, be content with that number and do the best you can to glorify God in your own proper place. Depend upon it, if you exchanged your burden for mine, you would not be able to bear it– and if I had yours, I dare say it would not fit my back so well as my own does!’
(Lowly Service, circa 1870s) [i]

Stay in your own lane. Speak with your own voice. Make your own contribution.

Yes, think before sharing. We should ask ourselves if whether or not what is being shared further pads the “noise”; pads our own egos or irresponsibly invites strife. We shouldn’t give up or give in there. Refine thought, argument and lofty opinion, “taking them captive to obey Christ” (2. Cor. 10:4-5). Then under conviction or consolation, either jettison it or seek a way to speak it.

For Christians, what guides this process is God’s eternal redemptive spiritual and physical presence; His voice spoken through Spirit and Son. One that pierces darkness and sheds light onto an otherwise difficult to see front line.

It’s His authority that we rest on. It’s His voice that will linger because in the end that which is wished forgotten, doesn’t serve the downtrodden.

‘Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it in many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth […] He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.’
(Ecclesiastes 11:1-4, ESV)

Therefore brothers and sisters:

‘The altar must never lose the glow and heat of its holy fire and the lamp of the sanctuary must never be permitted to go out, so these sufferers, as they lie, night after night, watching the long and weary hours, keep the lamp of prayer brightly burning and the incense of intercession perpetually ascending to the Most High. And so the earth is never without the sweetening influence of saintly supplication.’
(Spurgeon, ibid) [ii]

The poem featured below is a little on the heavy side, but it isn’t without redemption.

[For those interested in the creative process:  It takes about 3-5 hrs to put these tunes together; just me, God, my guitars, an amp and audacity. Another 2-3 for mixing and then creating the video.My most liked part of this weeks art project is the high-end lead parts and the bass. The lead for this was all done on a semi-acoustic.]


References:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H. 1870s,  Lowly Service [online version available here]

[ii] ibid, Lowly Service

Flint & Steel

April 8, 2016 — 4 Comments

Our old church had a hall, which would have had to have been built in the 70’s. It had wooden floors and an old style wooden stage with an unmistakable wooden smell. It’s the hall my wife’s parents generously hosted our wedding reception in. The look of it gave out a charm difficult to put into words.

Our church’s worship practice sessions would begin at 3pm and lead up until the 5pm service started. Led by Pastor Beel, with his acoustic guitar, a list of original tunes and a bunch of young musicians, brought together not just by talent, but by a love for God and an affection for music.

It’s with this in mind that I took to layering the song to the hilt. The sound is part reminiscence, part tribute to the Jesus Music of the ‘70’s. An era that church hall has always reminded me of.

My aim was to create an “atmospheric” jam: try to imagine a bunch of musicians rocking up at an old Church hall; all slowly finding their spot, and then settling in to jam out a “Jesus Music” tune.

The atmosphere would be electric; the whole scene powered by joy and the eclectic.

The title comes from the Rev. Charles Spurgeon.

It’s located in his small book, ‘Flowers From a Puritan’s Garden.’ I’m slowly moving my way through it and this week’s read was about prayer and perseverance.

To me, the music reflected the lyrics, which wasn’t planned. So, I figured that I’d include part of the text that grabbed me in the video and post the text in its entirety here:

 “God’s seasons are not at your beck. If the first stroke of the flint doth not bring forth the fire, you must strike again.”
That is to say, God will hear prayer, but he may not answer it at the time which we in our own minds have appointed; he will reveal himself to our seeking hearts, but not just when and where we have settled in our own expectations.
Hence the need of perseverance and importunity in supplication. In the days of flint and steel and brimstone matches we had to strike and strike again, dozens of times, before we could get a spark to live in the tinder; and we were thankful enough if we succeeded at last. Shall we not be as persevering and hopeful as to heavenly things?
We have more certainty of success in this business than we had with our flint and steel, for we have God’s promise at our back.
Never let us despair. God’s time for mercy will come; yea, it has come, if our time for believing his arrived.
Ask in faith, nothing wavering; but never cease from petitioning because the king delays to reply. Strike the steel again. Make the sparks fly and have your tinder ready: you will get a light before long.[1]

 

The things I’m particularly happy with, is how the title fits the music; being able to draw a connection between the song and Spurgeon tops the “too cool” list.  Next would be the bass riff, the piano and the wah.

Jesus music lives.


 

*Side note: this is the first song I’ve added piano. It also happens to be the first time I’ve ever played piano on a track.

Music and images are mine. (RL2016)

Source:

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1883). Flowers from a Puritan’s garden, distilled and dispensed (pp. 181–182). New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

Selling Out Header

If looked at hard enough Spurgeon can be seen to be correcting some of the more over-the-top Valentine’s day perspectives:

“The story goes, that the Roman Senate, hearing of the miracles in Judea, decreed divine worship to Christ; but Tiberius the emperor crossed it, when he heard that He would be worshipped alone.
There is the edge of the controversy between Christ and the world.
The Christian religion interferes with no man’s liberty, but leaves every conscience free and accountable only to God; and yet it has no tolerance for false doctrine, and enters upon no compact or truce with error. It does not claim to be one form of truth which exists side by side with a dozen others, but it reveals Christ as “the truth.”
We do not believe in many ways to heaven, for we know that there is only one way, and we do not acknowledge two foundations for faith, for we know Christ to be the one and only foundation, and we dare not say otherwise.
Christ is not one among many Saviours, he is the only Redeeemer of humanity. The popular fiction of “comparative religions” is a delusion; there is but one truth, and that which does not agree with it is a lie.
In my heart, great Lord, many lords have had dominion aforetime, but now thy name alone shall bear rule over my nature. Let me never insult thee by enduring a rival; let me never ruin myself by dividing my allegiance.[i]

If listened to carefully enough, Cooper’s lyrics are a warning:

If applied, Jesus’ words call for a revolution that is informed by both :

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
– (Jesus, Matthew 6:24, ESV)

Source:

[i] Spurgeon, C. H. 1883 Flowers from a Puritan’s garden, distilled and dispensed: The Roman Senate and Christ. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.  (pp.176–177).

IMG_5720Jesus’ stated, ‘…you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.’ (Matthew.10:22; Mark 13:13).

Not hated because we reflect the light, but because, although, we were ‘at one time darkness, we are now, light in the Lord.’ (Paul, to the Church in Ephesus, 5:8). Therefore, we ‘walk as children of the light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.’ (Eph.5:11).

It’s where this:

‘A summer’s sun, even when beclouded, yields more comfort and warmth to the earth than a winter’s sun that shines brightest.’
(Charles Spurgeon, FPG)

Reminds me of G.K Chesterton’s,

“the moon gives off light, but not life. It is a cold, morbid light. It is light without heat ; a secondary light, only a dim reflection from a dead world.” (Orthodoxy, p.18 paraphrased)

From there, Plato’s cave (The Republic, 360 BC) comes to mind. Three men. Prisoners, shackled in darkness since birth. Their only knowledge of life is obtained from flickers of light, reflecting shadows on the wall. Each image mesmerises them. Birthed into deception, they are stopped from noticing the bright light beaming in from the cave’s entrance. Until the chains are removed from one of the men, who then proceeds to move outside.  Believing shadows to be more real than the things he now sees, at first he is disoriented and confused – ‘looking straight at the light, brings pain to his eyes.’ (ibid, p.131). After some time passes the freed man begins to see the shadows for what they are, a counterfeit reality – only ‘the shadows of true existence; false notions’.

He returns to the cave to spread this news and free the others. Instead, he is met with violence, ridicule and aggression, because:

 ‘it was better not even to think of ascending [out of the cave]; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.’ (ibid, p.132)
Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderment of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.’ (ibid, p.133)

The pre-“Christendom” Christians, namely the disciple, John, point to a dichotomy between a spirit of truth and the spirit of error (deception); of combating this by ‘walking in love and truth’ (2 John.4), of ‘speaking truth in love’ (Paul, Eph.4:6).

In Christ, we are called [and called to be, what and who we already are in Christ] children of the light, not a morbid, ineffective, static, dim and cold, secondary light. When a light offends our eyes, we don’t turn the light off. We wait for our eyes to adjust and navigate from there.

Let Christ shine bright; walk the talk – ‘let us love not in word or talk but in deed and in truth’ (1 John.3:18), – taking into account prayer, wisdom and discernment – even if it means people are offended; or like the prisoners of Plato’s cave, in their state of happy ignorance, act out of their offended-ness accuse falsely, and ‘hate us without cause’ (John 15:18 –  16:1-3).

 


Sources:

Chesterton, G.K. 1901 Orthodoxy Relevant Books

Plato, The Republic

Spurgeon, C. 1883 Flowers From a Puritan’s Garden Funk & Wagnalls Publishers

IMG_2219As a ship before a reef is directed by a lighthouse, so must we find ourselves directed. Who we allow to do the directing is a matter of choice and faith.

This is, however, counter to the logic of advocates who aggressively serve an ideology of absolute freedom; who, in turn deny absolutes and inadvertently also deny freedom.

The outcome is the theft of freedom under the guise of promising freedom.

The few assert themselves as lords over the many because some form of direction is ultimately necessary for survival.[i] Necessary for freedom to remain freedom.

Accordingly, the act of being confronted by a lighthouse is repressive, and unfairly restrictive.

Following this logic, it’s an anachronistic social construct of a by-gone era.

Something to be denied its right to speak.

Something to be denied its right to confront us.

Something to be silenced by put-downs and ridiculed into submission.

Something that no longer has a right to exist or the freedom to shine?

That is until the unmovable brunt of a reef rips apart the hull and this charade of freedom-without-limitation is shattered upon its concealed jagged surface.

Unveiled, this hidden danger now leaves a trail of debris, terror, chaos and destruction in the wake of what is an observable and reasoned, natural intolerance.

The reef could have been avoided, but it wasn’t.

Consequently, the pride and cheering stop. The celebrity promotions, hype, progressive optimism, associated propaganda, ad hominem, and ticket tape parades are instead replaced by mourning, blame, loss and emptiness.

An unhealthy fear of offending or demands of compensation for being offended by the offensive posturing of the lighthouse no longer matter. All that was has been sacrificed to the abyss. Behind the veil of universal niceness, true freedom is regrettably lost.

Like most ships, who on seeing the warm and graceful signal fires of a steadfast lighthouse, do not stay ignorant; or choose to remain on its own wilful course. So it is, that although an ‘educator may teach a child, the student must take pains to get an education. There is a difference between merit and means. There is moreover a difference between cause and effect…Wisdom’s dole is dispensed at wisdom’s gate’ [ii]

Or, in the brilliant words of the late Dallas Willard,

‘grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.’ [iii]

Karl Barth might meet this with a resounding, “yes! this is our response to God because He loves in freedom; chooses to be responsibly involved.” He grants us permission to know what He expects of us. We are not abandoned to fallible perilous assumptions. We are not left alone, having to choose between what is the equivalent of Scylla and Charybdis.

God is free. In His freedom he acts. In His love we hear His “yes and no” spoken for our benefit. Not because we deserved it, but because it is God’s will-to-rescue us from a corrupted will-to-power; He directs us towards Himself.

Our response, (our effort?) then, is to be one of ‘prayer and gratitude’; or as Barth simply puts it, ‘grateful obedience.'[iv]

For him this is because ‘the truth of humanity, [in our being confronted by grace; Jesus Christ] is that we are directed towards God.’ [v]

Spurgeon, himself, appears to have grasped this, stating:

‘There is no merit in seeking the Lord; but we may not hope to find him without it. The cup must be held under the flowing fountain or it will not be filled, yet the cup does not create the water or purchase it’ [vi]

A summary of this might be as simple as saying that grace affords our gratitude.

In the end perhaps, Abigail Adams says it best:

‘I wish our gratitude may be in manner and way, proportionate to our benefit.’ [vii]

Which in turn means:

‘blessed is the one who hears instruction and responds wisely to it’ – (Proverbs 8:33-34)

 

 


Sources:

[i] My tentative conclusions here rest on those of Albert Camus. To paraphrase, ‘therefore, absolute freedom is ultimately a lie.’ (The Rebel)

[ii] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883 Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden,  Electronic Ed. p.78

[iii] Willard, D. 2006 The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship, Monarch Books, United Kingdom

[iv] Barth, K. 1940, The Limits of The Knowledge of God CD. II/1 p.218-229 Hendrickson Publishers, T& T Clark Ltd, 1957

[v] ibid, p.121

[vi] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883 Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden,  Electronic Ed. p.78

[vii] Adams, J & A. The Letters of John & Abigail Adams, #81, 10th December 1775

‘There is no safety if we venture an inch over the boundary line; indeed, little allowances are more dangerous than greater compliances, since conscience does not receive a wound. Yet we are undone, and fall little by little.’
– (Charles H. Spurgeon, 1883) [i]

Slippery Slope

 

 


Source:

[i]Spurgeon, C.H. 1883, ‘Flowers from  Puritan’s Garden:Augustine’s Story’ p.68

Image credit: Photo is mine. It is of a river walk nearby.

Gratia Veritas Lumen: Spurgeon FPG

Since reading these words I’ve wondered what Spurgeon would have thought of today’s musical milieu and the classics it is built on.

His 19th Century, British historical context aside. Were Spurgeon here today, the good Reverend may have been more likely to tune in to some of it. Rather than just churn out a blanket critique against all of it.

Outside hymns and a few modern worship songs. There are not a whole lot of lyrics which could be universally wrapped around the notion of existing solely as a battle cry for poets, pastors, philosophers and theologians.

This said, P.O.D’s song, ‘Sleeping Awake’ seems to be among the few that would fit well.


Source:

Spurgeon, C.S. 1883,  Flowers From a Puritans Garden

For a real take on Spurgeon ”Behind-the-scenes”, I highly recommend: The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray.