Jonathan Edwards and Thanksgiving

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“A man must first love God, or have his heart united to Him, before he will esteem God’s good his own, and before he will desire the glorifying and enjoying of God as his happiness.”

“When the first thing that draws a man’s benevolence to another is the beholding of those qualifications and properties in him, which appear to him lovely in themselves, and the subject of them, on this account worthy of esteem and good will, love arises in a very different manner than when it first arises from some gift bestowed by another or depended on from him, as a judge loves and favours a man that has bribed him; or from the relation he supposes another has to him, as a man who loves another because he looks upon him as his child. When love to another arises thus, it does truly and properly arise from self-love.”

“If men’s affection to God is founded first on His profitableness to them, their affection begins at the wrong end; they regard God only for the utmost limit of the stream of divine good, where it touches them and reaches their interest, and have no respect to that infinite glory of God’s nature which is the original good, and the true fountain of all good, the first fountain of all loveliness of every kind, and so the first foundation of all true love.”

“Thus Saul was once and again greatly affected, and even dissolved with gratitude towards David, for sparing his life, and yet remained an habitual enemy to him.”

“Again, a very high affection towards God may, and often does, arise in men from an opinion of the favour and love of God to them, as the first foundation of their love to Him.”

“When this is the case with carnal men, their very lusts will make Him seem lovely: pride itself will prejudice them in favour of that which they call Christ: selfish proud man naturally calls that lovely that greatly contributes to his interest, and gratifies his ambition.”

“The saint’s affections begin with God; and self-love has a hand in these affections consequentially and secondarily only.”

“True gratitude or thankfulness to God for His kindness to us arises from a foundation laid before, of love to God for what He is in Himself; whereas a natural gratitude has no such antecedent foundation.”

“And this is indeed the main difference between the joy of the hypocrite and the joy of the true saint. The former rejoices in himself; self is the first foundation of his joy: the latter rejoices in God.”

“Indeed, the saints rejoice in their interest in God, and that Christ is theirs, and so they have great reason, but this is not the first spring of their joy. They first rejoice in God as glorious and excellent in Himself, and then secondarily rejoice in the fact that so glorious a God is theirs.”

“As in their high affections they keep their eye upon the beauty of their experiences, and the greatness of their attainments, so they are great talkers about themselves. The true saint, when under great spiritual affections, from the fulness of his heart, is ready to be speaking much of God and His glorious perfections and works, and of the beauty and amiableness of Christ, and the glorious things of the gospel: but hypocrites, in their high affections, talk more of the discovery, than they do of the thing discovered; they are full of talk about the great things they have met with, the wonderful discoveries they have had, how sure they are of the love of God to them, how safe their condition is, and how they know they shall go to heaven, &c.”

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Who Can Serve?

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I was reading a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. entitled “The Drum Major Instinct” and was struck by a certain portion.  King quotes Jesus when he said, “The greatest among you shall be your servant.”  King goes on to say,

“That’s a new definition of greatness.  And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.  You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.  You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve.  You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve.  You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.  And you can be that servant.”

Isn’t it encouraging to know that God can redeem anybody by his grace and allow us to be actively involved, for his glory, in service to others!  Jesus said that he came to serve rather than be served.  If we have been served the saving grace of God through the servant Jesus then we are enabled to serve as well.  He wants us to serve up the grace of God to those in our church, in our family, in our workplace, and in our neighborhood.  You don’t have to be somebody else to serve.  The only thing you need is “a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love,” which comes  through faith in Jesus Christ.

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“Spurgeon: A New Biography” by Arnold Dallimore

There are few names from the 1800’s that easily flow from the memory and find themselves in conversations among Baptists today.  One name that is often recalled is the name of the great English pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The late Arnold Dallimore, in his book entitled Spurgeon: A New Biography, sought to introduce aspects of this legendary pastor’s life that were not brought out in the more accessible biographies of Spurgeon.  Dallimore begins by setting the context in the reign of Queen Victoria.  He then takes the reader on a journey beginning with the childhood of Spurgeon and quickly moves to his ministry as a pastor.    The majority of the book focuses on the character and ministry of Spurgeon.  This brief review of Dallimore’s work will look at what led Spurgeon to the pastorate, give an overview Spurgeon’s life and ministry and attempt to highlight the historical significance of this great pastor.

Spurgeon was born June 19, 1834 in the town of Kelvedon in Essex County (4).  Spurgeon came from a lineage of Christians of strong conviction and both his father and grandfather were congregational ministers.  It was in this spiritual legacy which proved to provide the mental and spiritual nutrition that would be absorbed by the uniquely gifted young Spurgeon.  Although Spurgeon’s mind feasted on theological works by the Puritans his soul was not converted until around the age of sixteen (18-20).  After his conversion, it was through the combination of the insatiable appetite his mind had for learning God’s Word and his desire to see the gospel of Jesus Christ clearly proclaimed that thrusted young Spurgeon into teaching and preaching.  His opportunities came one by one.  As each of these opportunities blossomed and began producing eternal fruit the vine of Spurgeon was clearly seen as unique and Spirit formed.  It was not long until a small Baptist church in the village of Waterbeach asked him to become their pastor.  Although currently enrolled in school, Spurgeon saw this as an opportunity to minister and use his God-given gifts.  Once Spurgeon began preaching regularly, the church grew rapidly from about forty to well over four hundred under the ministry of this “Boy Preacher” (35).  Even as this church and small town were experiencing nothing short of a revival they most likely knew that young Spurgeon would be placed on a larger stage.  In just a few short years, at the age of nineteen, he was tapped on the shoulder to consider filling the position of pastor for the New Park Street Baptist Church in London.  The stage was set and it would be in this position that he would remain until his death in 1892.

Once Spurgeon took the reigns of the ministry of New Park Street Baptist Church, the Holy Spirit began to unleash a work of God that would span both the world and time.  An overview of his life and ministry could include three main rails that characterized the track of Spurgeon’s life.  The first rail was his love for the Lord.  If there was only one reason that could be pointed to as to why this man was so effective it would be his willingness to be used by the Lord.  As he was emptied before the Lord the Holy Spirit took this man and through both the unique as well as the ordinary gifts He accomplished eternally significant things.  The evidences of grace that could be clearly seen in Spurgeon’s ministry were prayer, his love for the Lord and His Word, his concern for the lost and his gifts of communication.  Using these four threads, the Holy Spirit wove together a ministry that penetrated the darkness both then and now.

The second rail that ran alongside this great ministry was a special partnership with his wife, Susannah who complemented him in ways that were crucial and visa versa.  The third rail on Spurgeon’s track was his battle with his health.  His physical ailments, not limited to severe battles with gout, left him immobilized and in great pain on many occasions.  Although Spurgeon experienced great pain and trial, these three tracks somehow remained parallel enough to keep him moving forward to accomplish the work God had for him.

The significance of Spurgeon’s life and ministry is hard to measure.  Although numbers do not give us the complete picture, when coupled with what we know of Spurgeon we can be assured that these numbers represent fruit that remained.  The membership of Spurgeon’s church swelled to over 5000 which made it the largest Baptist church in the world (164).  While he was praised as an amazing orator his gifts of communication were not limited to his voice alone.  His voice may have been refreshing like the sound of rushing water but he was also a geyser of ink.  His hand produced 140 books (196).  Beginning in 1855 he edited and submitted a sermon for print every Monday until his death in 1892.  In addition he published a monthly magazine entitled The Sword and the Trowel.  His writings were making their way around the known world in his day and continue to travel today.

While seemingly continuously writing, he also began an orphanage, a pastor’s college, continued with many pastoral duties, funded the building of many churches, preached up to ten times a week and corresponded with others through hundreds of letters per week (197).  Everyone will agree that Spurgeon’s capacity was greater than most men and yet it must be acknowledged that what steered and fueled his capacity was his love for Christ.  It is how God used this man that makes his ministry significant even to this very day.  Through his example and his writing Spurgeon’s unique voice continues to significantly speak to the church today.

In this biography, Dallimore does a wonderful job at leading his reader through a variety of reflections of the great Charles Spurgeon.  As one reads about this great man of God you are left with a sense that there is so much more.  The reader is challenged not only by Spurgeon’s journey to the pastorate or the accomplishments in his life and ministry or by the historical significance of the impact of this great man.  The reader is challenged not only by the uniqueness of Spurgeon but more so by the greatness of his Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is through both the contemporary and historic community of Christians that great encouragement and strength can be found.  As their names are remembered, Christians today are still urged not only look to their example but in the words of Spurgeon through their example “to look to Christ” (230).  There are some that have never heard the name Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  However, after reading even this brief review you can be assured that the name of this legendary man will flow into your memory and etch itself there surely to be shared with others very soon.

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Ash Wednesday Without the Ash

For many Christians the pathway to the season of Lent becomes visible on Ash Wednesday.  Ash Wednesday is usually set approximately 40 days prior to Easter and marks off a special season of preparation.  Traditionally, this season has been highlighted and practiced for centuries by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans.  Among other denominations such as Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians this practice has been largely avoided.  However, this is not to say that some churches within these later denominations participate in Ash Wednesday.  Yet, I think it is safe to say that it would make for a more challenging scavenger hunt to locate them as opposed to the churches in the previous denominations mentioned.

With all that said, I have the opportunity to lead a service at The Hill Baptist Church this Ash Wednesday.  As I prepare for this special time of confession and prayer I will be incorporating many elements of Ash Wednesday services that will be present in many church services all across the western hemisphere.  There will be a time of confession of sin and repentance.  There will be a time of Scripture reading.  There will be singing.  There will be a time of prayer.  Even though the service this Wednesday will be woven with similar threads there will be one thread that will be missing.  There will be no ashes.  You may be asking, “Why would you leave out the ashes in an Ash Wednesday service?”  One of the reasons that I will be leaving out the ashes is that within our tradition there is a desire to be free of special days or holy symbols other than those explicitly prescribed in Scripture.  In theory this may be true but in practice there seems to be more flexibility.

There may not be an official “church calendar” that we follow in Baptist life but there is a rhythm that we sense as the year unfolds.  While Christmas and Easter rise as peaks in the twelve month terrain of time there are other days, events, cultural rhythms and seasons that lend their guidance to the life of the church.  Easter is clearly a time when the church’s eyes are focused in on the death and resurrection of Jesus.  When you desire to reach the peak of a high mountain you must first map out the trail that will lead you to your destination.  Since Easter is clearly a mountain peak in the yearly life of the church it seems appropriate to begin the ascent in a manner that will help bring the truths of Scripture and what Christ has done into clear view.

One may argue that Easter Sunday is no different than any other Sunday and technically I believe they are correct.  One may argue that by elevating a certain day you entertain the potential for the gospel to be compromised and I can see how that could be the case as well.  At the same time, the life of the Christian is to be one of constant renewal.  Our orientation to the gospel of Jesus Christ must continually be refreshed.  Our faith is refreshed through the reading of God’s Word, the fellowship of believers, prayer, participating in the sacraments and perhaps in many other ways.  Another way our faith may be refreshed is by corporately as well as individually entering a time or season of focused evaluation.  The season of Lent can be an opportunity for believers to voluntarily enter a season of prayer and fasting in order to see Christ more clearly and experience the gospel more deeply.  Therefore, as we gather this Ash Wednesday there will be no ashes.  But we will be reminded that we came from dust and we are a people that are always dependent on the goodness of God.  As we gather for this short time of corporate reflection we be challenged to consider how we will spend the next 40 days in order to better understand and experience the gospel of Jesus Christ and make Him known to the world!

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CRU @ ASU

The Jones family can now be considered official residents of Georgia.  We have unpacked all the boxes (or at least most of them).  We have even hung a few pictures.  There are a few rooms that are a different color due to our painting skills.  We are trying our best to make our house a home.  For those of you who know me it will not be a surprise to hear that I probably bit off a little more than I can chew over the past few months.  Nevertheless, we have been able to stay above water and the Lord seems to be working in the midst of it all.  Since arriving in Augusta back in August we have seen a number of great things happen.  We have been able to get CRU officially chartered at Augusta State University.  ASU is a university that is part of the University of Georgia system.  There are several thousand students that attend.  The one main difference is that there are no dorms on campus.  This makes gathering students a challenge.  ASU is very similar to the schools we worked with up in NYC over the past few summers.  Many of the schools in New York do not have dorms and students mainly commute to campus.  I guess the Lord was preparing us for this scenario.  We have seen a consistent group of about 15 students attend the CRU bible study on a weekly basis.  At times we have had as many as 30 students show up!  Our next step for the movement at ASU is to create a student missional team that will begin giving leadership to the group.  I hope to have this in place by the end of the spring semester.  Continue to pray with us that many at ASU will be reached for Christ, build up in Him and sent out for Him!

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The transition from Winston-Salem to Augusta

 Dear Friends,

We are in our final week of a six week mission project in New York City. I was assigned the privileged opportunity to lead a team of eighteen staff and students on a six week pioneering mission project that will come to a close on July 13th. We have spent most of our time on four New York City college campuses in hopes to see college students come to know Christ personally as well as raise up Christ-centered laborers that want to reach their campus for Christ in the fall. We have had many spiritual conversations and the gospel has been shared multiple times. Our students and staff have been stretched in their faith as they have had to learn how to engage with many different cultures, religions and worldviews here in the city. It has truly been a fruitful time! We will be sending you a more detailed update in a month or so. Meanwhile, we have some other big news to tell you about.

As friends and ministry partners you have been involved with our ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ in Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point N.C. We have been in the Winston area for over 11 years and have seen God do great things. We have seen the ministry grow from fifteen students on two campuses to over 400 students on eight campuses! We have seen many students come to know Christ, grow in Christ and be sent out for Christ. Over the years I have noticed that my strengths seem to reside in teaching, pioneering and in strategic thinking. Now that most of the college campuses in our area have been opened up I have been asking the Lord if He has another area that would be a good fit for me and my family. During that time of praying I was contacted by a church in Augusta, Georgia. This church has a desire to influence the Augusta area for Christ.

Many of you know that both Celia and I grew up around the Augusta area and most of our family still reside there. There is also no Campus Crusade ministry currently in the Augusta area yet there are a handful of college and universities. Over the past few months it has become clearer that Augusta could be that new territory. Here is a summary of what we will be doing. We will move to Augusta on August 1st. We will remain on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ so your continued prayers and financial support will continue to be crucial. We will be pioneering Campus Crusade movements on the college campuses in Augusta as well as linking arms with a local church and helping it to become more effective in serving and reaching the Augusta community for Christ. Please join us in praying for both the Triad area as well as the Augusta area as we make this transition. We will continue to send you more updates about this transition as well as what the Lord has done in New York City. Celia and I appreciate your friendship and your partnership with us in spreading the gospel!

In Christ,

Ron & Celia

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D. L. Moody quote about the City

“Cities,” he said, “are the centers of influence. Water runs downhill, and the highest hills in America are the great cities. If we can stir them we shall stir the whole country.”

The Shorter Life of D. L. Moody by Paul Dwight Moody, Arthur Percy Fitt 

 

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How Many…

I wonder how many churches/campuses we need in forsyth and davie county to put everyone in a relationship with a follower of Christ?

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Great Commission Resurgence Report

The much anticipated report laying out some possible changes to how Southern Baptists approach missions was posted yesterday.  To read the report or watch a brief video summary you can go to www.pray4gcr.com.

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Church Planting: Part 2

Personally, I enjoy starting new things and that is why being on staff on with Campus Crusade has been such a good fit for me.  We are actively involved in trying to start new movements where there is little or no gospel presence.  There may be some similarities with church planting.  I would think the reason for planting a church would be to place a gospel community among a segment of the population that has little to no gospel influence.  

This week I have enjoyed talking with a church planter who is seeking to plant a church in the Czech Republic.  It has been interesting to hear about the process, the day to day work, that goes into planting a church.  As you can imagine, this process is largely if not entirely based on your philosophy of ministry or you could say your vision for what the church should be.  What comes to mind when you think of the ‘local church’?  If you were a church planter this mental picture will be what you would seek to create.  One thing we could all benenfit from is asking this question and then evaluating our idea of the church with what we see in Scripture.  This could help us to avoid accomodating to the culture to the point of losing our identity as the church as well as avoiding clinging to our specific cultural or traditional markers that have been syncretized into our view of the church.  Church Planting is a fascinating topic.  I hope to be able to post a view more thoughts on this subject.

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