Don Sweeting http://donsweeting.com Reflections on theology, worship, culture, history and the church Mon, 03 Apr 2017 14:33:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.10 From Seminary to University: Accepting the Call to CCU http://donsweeting.com/2017/02/15/from-seminary-to-university-accepting-the-call-to-ccu/ Thu, 16 Feb 2017 03:24:13 +0000 http://donsweeting.com/?p=2749 DS new photoWhy give up being the president of a theological seminary to lead a Christian university?  That’s a question I’ve been asked a lot lately.  Mid-fall 2016 I finished my work as president and professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and began my new job as president of Colorado Christian University.  This week is my inauguration at CCU.

The bottom line answer to this question—I felt called to CCU.  Of course, that doesn’t ignore a season of prayer, drawing on the wisdom of others, a long careful thought process, and having compelling reasons for making the change.

I am very thankful for my time at RTS. It was a privilege to serve at a great seminary with a gifted team in the cause of training leaders for the church.  Christina and I thank God for our six wonderful years there.

Why change then?

Rewind with me to when I turned 50.  I was serving as a senior pastor of an EPC  church (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) in Denver.  My friends humbled me by giving me one of those  “Oh my, you’re turning 50 parties.”  I didn’t feel any older, but a new conviction arose in my heart as I hit the half-century mark.  I felt a compulsion to give more and more of my time to training the next generation of Christian leaders. As a result, I created an intern program while pastoring and began mentoring younger men preparing for the ministry.  With the move to RTS, I realized I could have a multiplying influence in a school setting since we focused mostly on pastors, counselors and missionaries.

It was in the seminary world while I was working on a book on “calling” that I was reminded how God calls people to many different vocations, not just missionaries and pastors. This, of course, is the opportunity of a Christian university. We are clearly training future pastors and counselors, but we’re also training future doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, lawyers, engineers, soldiers, statesmen, artists, business leaders, etc.—all these professions where one can serve under the lordship of Christ.  There is a “creation-mandate” breadth that one encounters in a Christian university and that breadth is refreshing.

In addition, I’ve always been enamored with the original vision of the Western university.  While teaching church history at RTS,  I  often lectured on “the rise of the university.”  Recall that the Western university was actually born out of a Christian vision.  The great universities of Europe emerged out of monasteries and cathedral schools.  Their intellectual foundation was based on the truthfulness of the Bible, the supremacy of Jesus Christ, and a Biblical worldview.  There was a conviction that Christ is the One “in whom all things hold together,” as Colossians 1.17 states.   In this vision, all subjects are connected and integrated by their relationship to Him.  The Christian university has a unifying center—Jesus Christ.  It also has a expansive breadth—all things under Christ, all honorable vocations for the glory of God and the blessing of people.

Of course, it’s pretty obvious that the modern secular university has lost this vision.  Allan Bloom, in his book, The Closing of the American Mind, told us in the 1980’s that relativism reigns on most American university campuses.  On today’s campus, radical autonomy is prized above all. The modern university is often characterized by an intellectual incoherence that comes from a loss of vision.  In fact, it is my contention that the university does not really work, and will not thrive, in a “post-truth” culture.

But again, this is the advantage of a Christian university that still embraces the classic vision—they have a moral, spiritual and intellectual coherence.  These schools unabashedly affirm goodness, beauty, and truth, because they know from whence they came!

Along with this, I am captivated by the scale and vast influence a Christian university has.  Next to the church, the Christian college or university has the second greatest influence in shaping and discipling the younger generation.  My desire as a minister has long been to raise up an army of young people who are passionate about serving Christ in all kinds professions.  I want to help build a solid foundation under their feet.  My new position at CCU allows me to do this.

It’s been said that the destiny of a nation depends on the training of its youth. It’s also been said that one of the greatest threats to our country these days is our colleges and universities because many of them have become hotbeds of political correctness, hostility to authority, relativism, anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, anti-Christianity, etc..

But what if instead a university could be a place of spiritual awakening?  What if a university returned to the source of its vitality and life—Jesus Christ?  Imagine the impact such a school could have on our churches, our culture, and our civilization.

I’ve had a long association with Colorado Christian University (CCU).  Since 2004 I have served on its Board of Trustees.  I believe in its mission, its doctrinal commitments, and its Strategic Objectives.  I’ve had the privilege of working closely with its former president—the late Senator William Armstrong.   I want to carry on his work and CCU’s mission.

So, for this next season of my life, I believe this is a great way to strengthen the church and engage the culture.  We are shaping a new generation of Christian leaders—what CCU calls “world changers.”  Our hope is that they really will “turn the world upside down,” just like those early Christians described in the book of Acts.  Some will go on to become pastors, counselors, or Christian ministry workers. They will impact the church.  Others will be serving the Lord in any number of professions, and will impact the wider culture.

Strengthening the church and engaging the culture:  this wonderful, double vision, coincides rather nicely with the two great commissions of Scripture—the commission in Genesis 1 and 2 to rule over creation and take care of it, and the Great Commission in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations.

That’s why a Christian university is so consequential, and that’s why I count it a privilege to take up this new calling at Colorado Christian University.

 

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A Christian Response to Homelessness : A President’s Forum Interview http://donsweeting.com/2016/08/25/a-christian-response-to-homelessness-a-presidents-forum-interview/ Thu, 25 Aug 2016 12:11:59 +0000 http://donsweeting.com/?p=2725 Back in April, I had the fantastic opportunity to interview the Rev.Dr. David Swanson of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando and Andrae Bailey, President, and CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. Both of these men are doing phenomenal work in addressing the issue of homelessness here in Central Florida. We discussed not only the problems we are facing here in our own backyard, but also ways that individual Christians and churches can get involved to help address this issue in their local communities. I hope you are encouraged and inspired by our conversation together.

RTS Orlando: President’s Forum “A Christian Response to Homelessness” from Reformed Theological Seminary on Vimeo.

The Rev. Dr. David D. Swanson is the Senior Pastor and Head of Staff at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando. Born and raised in Dallas, TX, Dr. Swanson received his Master of Divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. Swanson has served on the board of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness since 2013, is a member of the Executive Committee, and is now the Chair of the Chronic Homelessness Subcommittee. The Chronic Committee has implemented a plan to house 142 chronically homeless people in the next twelve months and is on track to end all Veterans Homelessness in our region by 2016.

Andrae Bailey has led and partnered with some of the most successful independent sector organizations throughout the United States, working in this field for almost two decades. His goal is to help leaders find collaborative and strategic approaches to creating change that impacts their communities and finds solutions to critical social issues. He is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, a Florida-based nonprofit organization. In 2015, Governor Rick Scott appointed Andrae to the Florida Council on Homelessness. Andrae graduated from Heritage University and Seminary, and received a Masters Degree in Pastoral Theology. He also completed the Rollins College Crummer School of Business mini MBA Program and is an instructor at the Edyth Bush Institute of Philanthropy.

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The Church Needs Relational Leaders : A President’s Forum Interview http://donsweeting.com/2016/06/21/the-church-needs-relational-leaders-a-presidents-forum-interview/ Tue, 21 Jun 2016 08:00:14 +0000 http://donsweeting.com/?p=2721 In October of 2015,  I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Dr. Ken Sande on the church’s need for relational leaders. The church needs to model healthy relationships. For more than 30 years Dr. Ken Sande has been helping churches and individuals preserve and transform relationships through Peacemakers Ministries. His ministry began by focusing on resolving conflict, but it has now developed into one that is working to prevent conflict through building healthy relationships. Dr. Ken Sande is the founder of Peacemaker Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360 (RW360). He is the author of The Peacemaker and has co-authored three related books. He has also helped produce numerous articles, video series, and training resources that are now being used to equip peacemakers around the world.

The Church Needs Relational Leaders Reformed Theological Seminary from Ken Sande on Vimeo.

 

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The New Hymns Movement and Indelible Grace : A President’s Forum Interview http://donsweeting.com/2016/06/18/the-new-hymns-movement-and-indelible-grace-a-presidents-forum-interview/ Sun, 19 Jun 2016 00:59:00 +0000 http://donsweeting.com/?p=2717 Hymns have been making a comeback, and partly through the influence of Kevin Twit and Indelible Grace music. In this interview, I had the opportunity to interview Rev. Kevin Twit. He seeks to answer the following questions: Why is this comeback happening? Is there something missing in the Contemporary Christian Music scene that is feeding into this?

The New Hymns Movement and Indelible Grace with Rev. Kevin Twit – October 29, 2014 from RTS Orlando on Vimeo.

Rev. Kevin Twit is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and Covenant Theological Seminary. He served as a Pastor at Christ Community Church for 8 years and has been the RUF Campus Minister at Belmont University since 1995. In 1999 Kevin began Indelible Grace Music with some of his students.

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The Twilight of the American Enlightenment : A President’s Forum Interview http://donsweeting.com/2016/05/31/the-twilight-of-the-american-enlightenment-a-presidents-forum-interview/ Wed, 01 Jun 2016 01:21:32 +0000 http://donsweeting.com/?p=2710 In November 2014, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. George Marsden about his book The Twilight of the American Enlightenment. In this book, Dr. Marsden explores the state of American culture and popular philosophy during the 1950s. He reappraises the debates of the time, showing how American culture continues to be shaped by the reactions of the left and the right from that era. This important book is sure to stimulate thoughtful conversation on a very important subject. 

Book Review of The Twilight of the American Enlightenment with Dr. George Marsden – November 5, 2014 from RTS Orlando on Vimeo.

Dr. George M. Marsden is the award-winning author of numerous influential books and articles in the fields of history and cultural analysis, including Jonathan Edwards: A Life, The Soul of the American University, and Fundamentalism and American Culture. With degrees from Haverford College, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Yale University, he has taught at Calvin College, Duke Divinity School, and the University of Notre Dame where he is currently the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus. You can purchase his book by clicking here

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The Magic of Ministry Multiplication – Leaders Training Leaders http://donsweeting.com/2016/05/24/the-magic-of-ministry-multiplication-leaders-training-leaders/ Tue, 24 May 2016 16:31:56 +0000 http://donsweeting.com/?p=2706 It’s been years since I was taught to memorize my multiplication tables.  But I’m still enamored by the power of multiplication.

You’ve heard about the dad who offered his two sons a choice.  He said,  “I’ll either give you one dollar a week for 52 weeks,  OR one cent the first week, and then the amount doubled the next week to just 2 cents and continuing for 52 weeks.” Which would you prefer?

So one son took the dollar. The other took the penny.  Who came out ahead? Well, the son who took the dollar had 52 dollars at the end of the year. But the other son who took the penny had $22,517,998,136,852.49 (that’s trillions)! Multiplication starts slower than addition. But its growth is exponential.

Recently, someone asked me:  “why on earth did you ever leave the pastorate to become a seminary president?”  My answer was quick and straightforward:  multiplication, exponential multiplication. 

 It’s like this, I said, when a seminary teacher looks into the eyes of a student, they are looking at hundreds and sometimes thousands of people that each pastor will impact.  The level of influence is staggering.  You train thousands; you reach millions. 

That’s one reason why I left pastoring for a while.  Something happened to me when I turned 50.  I became even more interested in multiplication, and in training leaders. Maybe it’s the fact that after turning 50 you realize that you are not going to live forever.  So you think, “how do I maximize the time I have left?  How can I have the most influence for Christ?” 

I like to put it this way.  How can I have MKI—maximum kingdom impact?  That’s the question I asked myself when I came to Reformed Theological Seminary. I became convinced that, at this point in my life,  I could have MKI  by training the next generation of pastors, counselors, teachers and leaders for the church.

Most of the leaders we train will have a multiplying impact on the local church.  Through discipling, church planting or church revitalization their ministries will touch millions.

Of course, I am not the first to think about this.  And seminary is not the only arena where this is done. I was reading the life of 18th-century evangelist, George Whitfield. He was one of the leaders of the America’s First Great Awakening, which became the impetus for the birth of many of our universities.  Whitefield wrote in his journals these words:   “That the University was the fountainhead; that every gownsman’s name was ‘Legion’ and that if I should be instrumental in converting one of them, it would be as much as converting a whole parish.” Whitfield was impressed with the power of spiritual multiplication. 

Jesus was as well. Jesus invited the many, but he invested in the few–especially in 12 disciples.  He chose them to be with him and poured his life into them (Mark 3.14). These disciples proclaimed the gospel and then poured their lives into others until they reached their known world (Col. 1.6, 23).  By the year 312, that is almost 300 years later, the Emperor of Rome himself converted to Christianity.  In other words, the impact of these 12 apostles was revolutionary through spiritual multiplication.

Think of Paul, who wrote to Timothy, “the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim 2.2). The teacher connects with his students and through them to his student’s students and then to their students.  This is spiritual multiplication with a four generation effect.  Paul kept this long range view of discipleship in mind.  Shouldn’t we?

If you are a lover of mathematics or investing, then you know the magical power of multiplication.  But if you are a careful student of the Bible, then you should be impressed by its power as well. 

That’s one of the blessings of having a writing and radio ministry as well.  You plant a seed by writing a book or recording a radio segment, you send it out, and even though you’ve moved on to other projects, that book’s or broadcast’s influence has a multiplying effect. 

What happens then when you train leaders who train leaders? All of a sudden, you have exponential influence for the sake of the gospel.

Since its founding, Reformed Theological Seminary has trained over 12,000 students who are serving in 80 countries.  But these are not mere graduates.  (That’s addition.)  Many of these graduates will be influencing countless others.  (That’s multiplication.)  Our graduates have started 23 seminaries around the world that we know of.  There may be more.   That’s leveraged influence.  And I can’t get over its compounding power.

This is why I am convinced that ministries like this are of such strategic importance for the future of the church, and why your prayers and support help us touch the world for Christ.  Thank you for investing in the students of RTS and the future of the church.

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The Unseen Epidemic: The Reality of Human Trafficking – A President’s Forum Interview http://donsweeting.com/2016/05/13/the-unseen-epidemic-the-reality-of-human-trafficking-a-presidents-forum-interview/ Fri, 13 May 2016 13:11:57 +0000 http://donsweeting.com/?p=2696 I recently had the opportunity to interview Christina Walker and Tomas J. Lares on the issue of human trafficking. We discussed this unseen epidemic both on a global level as well as what they are doing to fight this growing crisis here in Central Florida. To learn more about how you can get involved, check out their organizations below in their bios.  

RTS Orlando: President’s Forum “Human Trafficking: The Unseen Epidemic” from Reformed Theological Seminary on Vimeo.

 Christina Walker currently serves as the Executive Director of Samaritan Village, a ministry that provides safe housing and care for survivors of human trafficking through Ruth’s House. She is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional and Registered Mental Health Intern working on her licensure. Before graduating with her counseling degree, Christina worked as a mental health juvenile probation officer and community mental health liaison, in Texas. She has worked in Christian ministry for the past 8 years and has mentored women in recovery for over 10 years. To learn more about Samaritan Village visit their website http://samaritanvillage.net/

Tomas J. Lares is the Founder/Executive Director of Florida Abolitionist, Inc. and the Cofounder/Chairman of the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force, Inc. Lares has over 25 years of human services experience at the local, state and national level, managing and starting non-profit and public advocacy initiatives. In 2009 Lares initiated a newly formed non-profit called, Florida Abolitionist, Inc. an anti-human trafficking organization that networks and facilitates preventative and restorative solutions to ending modern-day slavery. In 2013, Lares cofounded the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force, Inc. To learn more about the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force visit their website http://gohttf.org/

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The Pastoral Debt Crisis http://donsweeting.com/2016/05/09/the-pastoral-debt-crisis/ http://donsweeting.com/2016/05/09/the-pastoral-debt-crisis/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 00:21:39 +0000 http://donsweeting.com/?p=2685 This month, thousands of men and women will walk across a stage and graduate from seminaries all over America. These students will have spent three or more years, often at a significant personal cost, to become shaped and prepared for ministry. They’ve decided to devote their lives to the spread of the gospel.

But within five years of graduation, nearly a third of them will call it quits, and start looking for better-paying jobs. Why? Much of the blame for this astonishing attrition rate lies with an unlikely suspect: debt—educational debt in particular.

Within five years of graduation, nearly 1/3 of graduates begin looking for better-paying jobs.

Student loans for seminary students have skyrocketed in recent years, and when combined with undergraduate debt it’s not unusual for seminary students to walk across the stage owing eighty to one hundred thousand dollars! Sadly, one in four seminary graduates has this kind of student debt.

While such high amounts of educational debt may be manageable in some professions, it can cause significant hardship for those in ministry. Few of these seminary grads will land well-paying positions in large, established churches. And smaller churches can’t afford more generous salaries to help them pay off their debt. Consequently, many seminary graduates are strapped with debt and smaller churches suffer from a real shortage of trained workers.

By the way, the same situation is faced by those preparing for world missions. Most missions agencies will not accept applicants with large outstanding educational debt.

It’s no wonder that so many seminary graduates grow discouraged and give up altogether on vocational Christian service. While we’re glad to have them in the marketplace, they are so badly needed in pulpits and other ministries around the world. So, there is a pastoral debt crisis. You could say that student debt is a silent killer of the Christian workers our world so desperately needs right now.

87% of RTS Students graduate without loan debt.

I’m grateful that the story is different here at RTS. At Reformed Theological Seminary, 87% of our students graduate without loan debt. In the past five years, only a handful of our students have graduated with more than forty thousand dollars in educational debt.

This is made possible because of the financial provision of the Lord’s people. We have a church partnership program in which a student’s home church helps them through seminary. We also have a very small but faithful group of donors who give generously to provide for student scholarships. This faithful group of supporters knows that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the news our world so desperately needs. They believe that supporting future pastors and Christian workers is the best investment they could ever make. All this helps pave the way for our students to graduate debt-free and ready to launch into lifetimes of ministry.

88% of RTS students receive a scholarship to pay for seminary.

At RTS, over 88% of our students receive a scholarship to pay for seminary. This gives our graduates the financial freedom to follow the Lord wherever he might call them. Five years after graduation, 91% of our graduates are still in ministry! This blows the national average out of the water. And it’s faithful supporters who make the difference by giving for student scholarships.

I care about preparing the next generation to serve the Lord because I care about who will shepherd my children and their children. Ask yourself: will it matter who trains your grandchild’s pastor? You bet it will. Long after I’m gone, I want them to be shepherded by people who love the Lord and his Word. That’s why I’ve decided to devote this season of my life to nurturing these young students and giving them everything they need as they launch into a lifetime of ministry. I want to leave a lasting legacy.

A few years ago, there was a study done of 95-year-olds in America. They were asked this question: “if you could do it over again what would you do differently?” Their answer was quite revealing. Three things stood out. First, they said, they would reflect more. Second, they said, that would risk more. And third, they said, they would strive to leave a legacy of impact!

91% of RTS graduates are still in ministry five years after graduation.

Our financial partners are building up the next generation, freeing men and women to focus on serving the Lord instead of serving a lender. Will you join us in this vital ministry? Visit http://www.rts.edu/site/giving/index.aspx to learn more about how your contributions can make a real, lasting difference.

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Why Study the Old Testament? – My Interview with Dr. Scott Redd http://donsweeting.com/2016/04/18/why-study-the-old-testament-my-interview-with-dr-scott-redd/ Tue, 19 Apr 2016 01:12:57 +0000 http://donsweeting.com/?p=2672 I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Scott Redd. Dr. Redd is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington D.C., as well as the Associate Professor of Old Testament. We talked specifically about why people should study the Old Testament.

 

Scott, I meet a lot of Christians who either don’t read the Old Testament, or they are afraid of it. Why is that?
That is a good question. One of the great joys of teaching at RTS is that I get to teach a part of the Bible that people don’t know much about. This means that I get to introduce them to it for the first time. The teachings of Christ are thick with Old Testament teachings. As a matter of a fact, the title “Christ” itself is not, as some people think, Jesus’ last name, but rather a title that refers to Jesus as the Messiah. We really don’t know what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah, to be the Christ unless we find out from the Old Testament. The Old Testament gives us the background. Not only the theological background but also the literary and the redemptive-historical background to the whole of the New Testament and the teaching, work, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When people read the Old Testament, they discover that its is full of gripping stories, powerful images, and moving poetry. But they also learn that it’s foundational for understanding New Testament theology. It introduces us to fundamental truths, such as—who is God, where do we come from, what is grace, what is law. We can’t fully understand our New Testaments without a grounding in the Old Testament, right?
It goes even beyond that. What is covenant? How is Jesus, our high priest? The author of Hebrews when he talks about Jesus being a high priest and the last and the final sacrifice that doesn’t need to be repeated, he is heavily quoting the Old Testament. The Old Testament was the scriptures for Jesus and the Apostles. When they opened their Bibles and did their quiet times, they were reading Psalms; they were reading the Pentateuch.

It’s important for Christians to realize that this was Jesus’ Bible! And if it was important to Jesus, it ought to be important to his followers. So, Scott, how should we understand the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament?
You know the image that I often use in class is that of a blueprint and a building. When you are building a building, you start with a blueprint. If someone says “what are you building?” you point at the blueprint. But once you have built the building, you don’t need to point to the blueprint anymore. Now you point at the building. However, you don’t get rid of the blueprint. You keep it around so that you can understand, where the pipe is laid, where the wires are run, where the elevators and stairways are. The Old Testament relates to the New Testament much the same way. It is in the Old Testament that we see the patterns and the structures of Christ’s redemptive work. Once Christ comes, he puts those things into action. He shows us why sacrifices are needed. Why there is a priest. Why we need a prophet and a king. We don’t understand those things unless we go back to the blueprint, the Old Testament, to see how Jesus fulfills these promises that God has made to us.

Even though there are two testaments, we can’t forget that it’s all one book. It’s all one story. So we simply pick and choose the testament we like the most, and ignore the other. There’s a fundamental unity to God’s Word that we can’t overlook.
That is absolutely right. It is one grand story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. We get to understand that when we read not only our New Testament but also the Old Testament, in which we find this whole wonderful redemptive-historical background. When you look at the apostle Paul, and he says to Timothy, read your Bible (2 Timothy 3:14-17), the word of God is inspired by God, it is useful for teaching, rebuking, training, and righteousness. When Paul says that, He is talking about the Old Testament. That is the scripture of Timothy’s day.

If we really want to have a mind for truth and a heart for God, then we have to make the reading and study of the Old Testament a priority. Thanks Scott for helping us see why the Hebrew Scriptures are so important.

 

Let me tell you about a great new resource to help get you started in your Old Testament studies, I encourage you to check out the forthcoming, A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised.  Dr. Redd, as well as other Reformed Theological Seminary professors, have contributed to this fantastic work.

OT Theology

Also, if you want to study the Old Testament in depth, or sense  God’s call to teach or preach, then consider enrolling as a student at RTS.  Visit our website http://www.rts.edu/seminary/ or call and speak with one of our admissions counselors (407) 366-9493.

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MORNING AND EVENING by C.H. Spurgeon, A Devotional Classic to Begin the Year With http://donsweeting.com/2015/12/31/morning-and-evening-by-c-h-spurgeona-devotional-classic-to-begin-the-year-with/ Thu, 31 Dec 2015 22:24:14 +0000 http://donsweeting.com/?p=2659 Christian bookstore shelves are crowded with devotional books. Most are new.  Many are faddish.  Few have longevity.  Among the few enduring devotional classics is C. H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. It was written to assist believers in their “private meditations” and to “aid the worship of families.”

Over 100 years after his death, people are still reading it and with great benefit. I am one of them. This past year it has been a regular source of encouragement and guidance in my own daily reading. Now, having finished it, I’d like to commend it to you.

Living long before the age of Twitter, Spurgeon, the Victorian preacher, who could be expansive with his words, (on average he preached 40 minute sermons at 140 words per minute with some 5,600 words per sermon), managed a marvel of compression. In 250 words or less he offered believers a series of devotional readings full of deep biblical insight, pastoral wisdom and encouragement.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1843-1892) was one of England’s most influential pastors and authors. Because of his amazing output and spiritual depth, he is church history’s most widely read preacher.

Spurgeon was the pastor of London’s New Park Street Chapel, later renamed the Metropolitan Tabernacle. He was an evangelical Calvinist and a Baptist. He ministered at this church for 38 years, with a congregation eventually numbering more than 6,000.  His sermons were so popular that the New York Times used to have their London office telegraph Spurgeon’s Sunday morning sermons so that they could print them in America on Monday.  They have since been collected into 63 volumes (some 20-25 million words).  Not without good reason, he has been called—“the prince of preachers.”

Morning and Evening was originally two volumes—Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening.  The two were combined into a single volume in 1869. It has been in print this way ever since.

The devotional practice of morning and evening prayers or readings is deeply embedded in Christian spirituality. It’s as ancient as the Scriptures themselves. The sons of Aaron would offer to the Lord every morning and evening burnt offerings and incense (2 Chronicles 13.11).  “Evening and morning and at noon” the psalmist uttered his prayers to the Lord (Psalm 55.17).  In this same pattern, early Christian monastics instituted a “daily office” which included morning, midday and evening prayers.  The Anglican Book of Common Prayer simplified the monastic hours with Thomas Cranmer’s services of morning and evening prayers.”

Spurgeon also believed that the start and the finish of the day were important spiritual moments. The morning, he said, is the gate or threshold of the day, and should be well-guarded with prayer. Spurgeon wrote. “It is one end of the thread on which the days’ actions are strung and should be well-knit with devotion. If we felt the majesty of life more, we would be more careful of its mornings. He who rushes from his bed to his business and does not wait to worship is as foolish as if he had not put on his clothes or washed his face. He is as unwise as one who dashes into battle without being armed.”

Likewise, Spurgeon said, at the end of each day “it is dangerous to fall asleep till the head is leaned on Jesus’ bosom. . . . He surely never prays at all who does not end the day as all men wished to end their lives—in prayer. . . . To breakfast with Jesus and to sup with him also is to enjoy the days of heaven upon the earth.”

Morning and Evening always begins with a verse or phrase from Scripture which Spurgeon then reflects upon. He will say things such as, “this verse is a diamond” and then turn it for us to let God’s truth shine out in many directions. Some of his readings are influenced by the calendar day or season (i.e. the beginning of Spring, Harvest, Christmas, the end of the year).  Spurgeon also touches on many relevant topics:  i.e. God’s glory and sovereignty, the power of Scripture, the greatness of Christ, abiding in Christ, the cross, justification, union with Christ, and being filled with the Holy Spirit.  There is much on prayer, faith, trials, and perseverance.  But also he writes on subjects such as spiritual barrenness, joy, battling sin, and the importance of resting in God’s promises.

Here are just a few of the nuggets that you will encounter as you read this book. Let it whet your appetite for more.

  • “Let January open with joy in the Lord, and December close with gladness in Jesus.” (January 1, PM)
  • “Let us sit at the feet of Jesus, and by earnest prayer call in His blessed aid that our dull wits may grow brighter, and our feeble understandings may receive heavenly things.” (January 19, PM)
  • “Christian, meditate much on heaven, it will help thee to press on, and to forget the toil of the way.” (February 7, AM)
  • “My unmoving mansion of rest is my blessed Lord. Let prospects be blighted; let hopes be blasted; let joy be withered; let mildews destroy everything; I have lost nothing of what I have in God. HE is my strong habitation whereunto I can continually resort. I am a pilgrim in the world but at home in my God. In the earth I wonder, but in God I dwell in a quiet habitation.” (February 27, AM)
  • “You must grow downwards, that you may grow upwards.” (April 5, PM)
  • “The Lord cannot deny His own declarations. Hold up the rod of promise (like Moses) and have what you will.” (April 16, PM)
  • Christ is the great master-key of all the chambers of God; there is no treasure-house of God which will not open and yield up all its wealth to the soul that lives near to Jesus.”(April 25 PM)
  • “The idea of strangeness in our trials must be banished at once and forever, for he who is head of all saints, knows by experience the grief which we think so peculiar….He was both the Lord’s Anointed and the Lord’s Afflicted.” (May 31 AM)
  • “The Scriptures are the swaddling bands of the holy child Jesus; unroll them and you find your Savior. The quintessence of the word of God is Christ.” (June 10 PM)
  • “Every lawful trade may be sanctified by the gospel to noblest ends.” (June 27 PM)
  • “Never try to live on the old manna or seek to find help in Egypt……Old anointings will not suffice to impart unction to thy spirit; thine head must have fresh oil poured upon it form the golden horn of the sanctuary, or it will cease from its glory.” (July 16 AM)
  • “Public usefulness must not injure private piety; church work must not push family worship into a corner. It is ill to offer God one duty stained with the blood of another.” (July 18 PM)
  • “He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God.” (July 19 AM)
  • “Your piety is worthless unless it leads you to wish that the same mercy which has been extended to you may bless the whole world.” (August 6 PM)
  • “Jesus is a greater Savior than you think Him to be when your thoughts are at the greatest.” (August 22 PM)
  • “What is my barrenness? It is the platform for his fruit-creating power. What is my desolation? It is the black setting for the sapphire of His everlasting love.” (August 28 PM)
  • “The best of men are conscious above all others that they are men at best.” (August 29 AM on William Carey)
  • “Happy storm that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! O blessed hurricane that drives the soul to God and God alone!” (August 31 AM)
  • “A Christian man should so shine in his life, that a person could not live without him a week without knowing the gospel” (September 6 AM)
  • “Some are spared to a long evening of green old age; if such be my case, let me use such talents as I still retain, and to the last hour serve my blessed and faithful Lord. By His grace I will die in harness, and lay down my charge only when I lay down my body.” (September 20 PM)
  • “We are all like trees marked for the axe, and the fall of one should remind us that for every one, whether great as the cedar, or humble as the fir, the appointed hour is stealing on apace. I trust we do not, by often hearing of death, become callous to it.” (September 26 PM)
  • “Meditate on the exceeding greatness and faithfulness of divine love this evening, and so go to thy bed in peace.” (October 2, PM)
  • “The heart is as insatiable as the grave till Jesus enters it, and then it is a cup full to overflowing.” (October 6 AM)
  • “Do not be afraid to dwell upon this high doctrine of election. When your mind is most heavy and depressed, you will find it to be a bottle of the richest cordial. Those who doubt the doctrines of grace, or those who cast them into the shade, miss the richest clusters of Eschol; they lose the wines on the lees well refined, the fat things full of marrow. There is no balm in Gilead comparable to it.” (October 28 AM)
  • “A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness.” (November 8)
  • “The more you know about Christ, the less will you be satisfied with superficial views of Him; and the more deeply you study His transactions in the eternal covenant, His engagements on your behalf as the eternal Surety, and the fullness of His grace which shines in all His offices, the more truly will you see the King in his beauty.” (November 16 PM)
  • “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.” (November 17 AM)
  • “A holy anointing is the soul and life of piety, its absence the most grievous of all calamities….May we never venture upon hallowed exercises without sacred anointings.” (November 29 PM)
  • “The same God who directs the earth in its orbit, who feeds the burning furnace of the sun, and trims the lams of heaven, has promised to supply thee with daily strength.” (December 22 AM)
  • “What a satisfaction will it be in that day to have had a share in the fight, to have helped to break the arrow of the bow, and to have abided in winning the victory for our Lord. Happy are they who trust themselves with this conquering Lord, and who fight side by side with Him, doing their little in His name and by His strength.” (December 24 PM)

How could Spurgeon write so much good stuff and come up with gem after gem? For two reasons, I think: first, because he was so saturated in the Scriptures, and second, because he was uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit. That is why Spurgeon still speaks.

Although, never forget that, like every believer, he is both a man of his age, and deeply flawed man at that. He was the first to admit that he needed a savior!

As you read Morning and Evening you will discern Spurgeon is a Victorian, influenced by the currents of his time.  You may even wince, as I did, when he occasionally expounds on a verse while ignoring its context and original meaning.  And you will also see a few time-bound references, such as remarks on the battles of his own day (April 20) or the men who beg for bread in Peru and California (April 21).  But overlooking these, you will most usually find Spurgeon’s words rich and life-giving for your faith.

If you skip a reading or fall behind, catch up on Sunday, or just jump forward to the current day’s reading.

You can find online editions of Morning and Evening.  There are also Morning and Evening apps!  But if you like to mark up your book for future reference, as I do, you will want your own hardback copy.  You might consider Crossway’s new edition of Morning and Evening edited by  Alistair Begg and keyed to the ESV.   Or you might find the pocket sized, leather-bound edition by Christian Focus Publications more suitable to stuff in a backpack or a briefcase.

It should not surprise you that Morning and Evening ends on an evangelistic note, holding forth Jesus Christ as “the fount of hope.”  The entries for December 31 are, in fact, the only two readings in the whole book where Spurgeon goes over his word limit by a half a page each; but he does so for good reason.

The morning reading ends with Jesus’ appeal:  “if any many thirsts, let Him come unto me and drink.”  The evening reading is more somber, warning us of the “dread possibility” of everlasting destruction in hell.  Writes Spurgeon, “O see to it that this year pass not away, and you, an unforgiven spirit. Let not the new year’s midnight peals sound upon a joyless spirit! Now, Now, NOW believe, and live.”

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