Maturing Reactions

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Jesus lived out the example of wholly healthy growth. The way Dr. Luke records it, the pinnacle of Christ’s health (and our health too) is seen in our relationships with other people.  

Why is relational maturity at the peak of the pinnacle? How else could you know whether you truly have mental, physical, and spiritual health unless it’s put to the test? And the ultimate test is how we react when we’re caught off guard. Our so-called Freudian slips can reveal an area of immaturity. C.S. Lewis reminds us that the suddenness of the provocation that caused the slip didn’t create our immature response, but it actually revealed what is really inside our hearts. Surely our unplanned reactions are a better indicator of our spiritual maturity than our planned actions! 

Jesus told us that our “slips” reveal what’s really inside (Matthew 15:19), but are these really unknown to us? If we’re really honest, how many times do we think unpleasant things without saying them or doing them? The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth—knows so well what’s on the inside (Psalm 139:1-4). 

When we experience one of these slip ups, the devil loves to pounce! Paul calls it “sin seizing an opportunity” (Romans 7:7-11). But even as sin pounces, Paul assures us, “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). 

What is the “therefore” there for? After the “therefore” the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Adoption reminds us we are in Jesus and children of God, and the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Intercession help us pray perfect, childlike prayers. So what comes before the “therefore” must be something that makes us feel unworthy, distant, and condemned. 

Paul explains that “we died to sin” (Romans 6:2). That word “died” means to be separated from one thing which brings about the destruction of the other thing. When we are separated from God by our sin we are dead, when are separated from our sin by God we are alive. At that moment of salvation, we stand before Almighty God justified—just as if I’d never sinned. That is irrevocable: God will never go back on that, we will never slip away from His grace. But that moment of salvation also begins a lifelong process of sanctification—or as I like to say it saint-ification. 

Remember that pyramid of growth Jesus demonstrated for us? Paul says, “I myself in my mind am a slave (Romans 7:25). The mind is where the Spirit of Truth begins His maturing, saint-ifying process in us. As our minds are transformed, then our bodies and our mouths can live out a Christlike lifestyle (see Romans 12:1-2). It’s this mind and body transformation that matures our spiritual health, which is then revealed in our relationships with others.  

Notice that it is after we have been through this transformation of mind, body, and spirit that Paul tells us the standard for God-honoring living. This is where we see even our unplanned reactions becoming more and more Christ-like (Romans 12:9-21). We cannot live out this Romans 12 mandate solely on our own willpower. We aren’t trying to become self-made people, but instead, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to make us transformed saints. Transformed saints that are known by their unplanned Christlike reactions. 

This is why I keep stressing for Christians to not stop at salvation, but to press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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Poetry Saturday—Upon A Life I Have Not Lived

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Upon a Life I have not lived,
Upon a Death I did not die,
Another’s Life; Another’s Death,
I stake my whole eternity.

Not on the tears which I have shed,
Not on the sorrows I have known,
Another’s tears; Another’s griefs,
On these I rest, on these alone.

O Jesus, Son of God,
I build on what Thy Cross has done for me;
There both my death and life I read,
My guilt, and pardon there I see.

Lord, I believe; O deal with me,
As one who has Thy Word believed!
I take the gift, Lord, look on me,
As one who has Thy gift received. —Horatius Bonar

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Two Perfect Prayers

Friends, I recently shared a message in which I talked about how the Holy Spirit helps us in our prayer life, specifically how the Spirit reminds Christians that we have been adopted into God’s family. 

In this clip from that sermon, I talk about the only two times that we can pray perfect prayers, and I make reference to two passages of Scripture: John 14:26 and Romans 8:26-27. Take a listen… 

The Spirit of Truth reminds us of everything God has said to us in His Word, and He helps us turn those promises into prayers (see John 14:26). 

The Spirit of Intercession gives us a prayer language unknown to our logical mind, whereby we pray in a language in which we have no control over the words being spoken (see Romans 8:26-27; 1 Corinthians 12:4-10). 

Only when we pray God’s Words directly back to Him, or when we pray in tongues as the Holy Spirit enables us, are we praying a perfect, unselfish, God-glorifying prayer.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Basis Of Our Hope

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

The Basis Of Our Hope

     If there is no resurrection, apostolic preaching fails. ‘If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty’ [1 Corinthians 15:12-22]. … If Christ was not raised, the apostles were false witnesses. When a man bears false witness, he usually has a motive for doing so. What motive had these men? What did they gain by bearing false witness to Christ’s resurrection? It was all loss and no profit to them if He had not risen. They declared in Jerusalem that He had risen from the dead, and straightway men began to haul them to prison and to put them to death! Those of them who survived bore the same testimony. They were so full of the conviction of it that they went into distant countries to tell the story of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead. … They were brought before Roman emperors again and again, and before the proconsuls, and threatened with the most painful of deaths, but not one of them ever withdrew his testimony concerning Christ’s resurrection! …  

     If Christ is not raised, your faith is in vain. If it is in vain, give it up! Do not hold on to a thing that is not true! I would sooner plunge into the water and swim or wade through the river than I would trust myself to a rotten bridge that would break down in the middle. If Christ did not rise, do not trust Him, for such faith is in vain! But if you believe that He did die for you and did rise again for you, then believe in Him, joyfully confident that such a fact as this affords a solid basis for your belief! …  

     If [Jesus] died for you and rose again for you, that is the groundwork of your confidence, and I pray you keep to it. … Go your way and sing, ‘The Lord is risen indeed,’ and be happy as all the birds in the air, till you are, by and by, as happy as the angels in heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From If There Is No Resurrection 

I shared a series of messages that said, “I know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of…” and each of the letters of ALIVE reminded us of a convincing proof of His resurrection. I would especially direct your attention to two of those letters. 

The “L” stands for lives changed. When someone has a complete about-face life change because of their interaction with Jesus, that is pretty strong proof that their encounter was with a living Savior. 

And the “E” stands for the engagement of Christ’s followers. It’s astounding to see how much of our world’s history has been positively impacted because of the influence of Christians. Their lives had become so radically different because of the life of Jesus in them that they could not help but change the culture around them. 

As I said last in the last Thursdays with Spurgeon installment, always remember that the one with a personal experience is never at the mercy of the one with an argument. If your life has been changed by personal and ongoing interactions with Jesus Christ, don’t keep that good news to yourself. Let that assurance you have be a bright and winsome witness to all who are around you.

I’m Writing A Book!

My cheering section (known as my parents and my wife) has been asking me for years, “When are you going to write a book?” My response has always been the same, “I wouldn’t even know where to start.” 

But Tom Freiling knew where I should start! This accomplished publisher contacted me and after several lengthy conversations, we decided the time was right. 

My book is entitled Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. It is a leadership book for pastors and leaders of nonprofit ministries. My prayer is that this book will liberate these leaders from the needless and unprofitable practices and measures of “success” that we’ve allowed to creep in to our ministries. The bottom line: Our focus has turned to unbiblical practices, and as a result, we are missing the joy of really doing ministry. I cannot wait to help these leaders learn the freeing principles of shepherd leadership! 

But in order to help these ministry leaders, I first need some help from you. 

Since I’m a first-time author, you can probably understand why my publisher wants me to cover some of the costs for this inaugural book. This is where I am humbly asking for your help. 

Would you consider being a sponsor of this book? 

If you would like to make a donation, please click here to donate via PayPal or Venmo. For your gift, I am making some special offers (while supplies last):  

  • For a donation of $35, you will get an advanced, pre-release copy of the ebook. You will be reading this book before anyone has it! 
  • For a donation of $75, you will not only get the pre-release copy of the ebook, but also an autographed copy of the pre-released print version of the book. [UPDATE: 5 donations received at this level]
  • For a donation of $150, you will get all of the above plus a free copy of the audiobook. [UPDATE: 2 donations received at this level]
  • For a donation of $250 or more, you will get all of the above, AND you will have access to the opening paragraphs of each chapter as they are written, as well as some behind-the-scenes video of the publishing and recording process.  [UPDATE: 6 donations received at this level] 

My blog has always used this prayer of John Newton’s as its focus: “Oh! that the power of God would set my heart and pen at liberty while writing, and fill your hearts while reading, that we may rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Now, more than ever, that is my fervent prayer for both this blog and now this new book on shepherd leadership. 

Thank you for your prayerful and financial involvement in this vital project. 

“They” Or “You”

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For they have devoured Jacob and devastated his homeland. (Psalm 79:9) 

This verse is at the middle of this psalm, which in Hebrew literature makes it the central theme of this psalm. Asaph describes something that is not a very pretty situation. 

Asaph says “they” have done this. But to whom have they done it? To the Israelites? Yes, but it goes deeper than that. Or should I say it goes higher than that? “They” have actually done these terrible things to God Himself—

  • Your inheritance is invaded 
  • Your temple is destroyed 
  • Your servants are attacked 
  • Your name is dishonored 
  • insults are hurled at You 

In the New Testament, Jesus said His followers should expect persecution. But notice that Jesus said this persecution was because of Him. “They” are not really attacking Christians, but “They” are attacking Jesus Himself. When Jesus revealed Himself to the persecutor of Christians named Saul of Tarsus, He said to him, “Saul, why do you persecute Me?” 

Asaph recognizes “They” are attacking God, so he also expects that God will deal with them—

  • may Your mercy meet us 
  • may Your name be glorified 
  • may Your strong arm be revealed 
  • may Your sheep be protected 
  • may You be praised forever 

When—not if—persecution comes our way, we must remember to shift our paradigm from “They” to “You.” “They” are not to be feared, but God is to be feared and reverenced. “They” don’t get the final word, but God, “You” get the final and decisive word. When the attacks come because you stand for Christ, take your eyes off of your persecutors and put them on your God. 

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Podcast: Talking About “The Shawn Effect”

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • Greg’s booked called The Shawn Effect
  • what leaders look like [1:14] 
  • leaders make friends easily [2:53]
  • how you can get a free copy of The Shawn Effect [3:53]
  • Shawn’s parents set him up for success [5:15]
  • leaders get informed so they can interact with others and stay relevant [6:28]
  • Shawn demonstrated chivalry and trained young men to be gentlemen [7:53]
  • leaders don’t need a platform or a big following to be an influencer [8:40]
  • Shawn shows how leaders love [10:33]
  • leaders are encouragers [11:37]
  • leaders are readers and appliers [12:27]

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Out Of The Silent Planet (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

I truly believe that leaders are readers. But leaders need to also be discerning in the books they choose. I almost exclusively read non-fiction, but I make an exception when a fictional piece of literature is a mind-expanding book. As I am re-reading C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, I’m reminded again how this master storyteller can pack so much into a few pages. Book one in this trilogy is Out Of The Silent Planet. 

In its simplest form, this book is about a trip to Malacandra (or Mars), but as with any fantasy work written by Lewis, the story tells a far deeper and more substantial Story. In this book, we go behind the scenes to witness the aftermath of the battle in heaven when Lucifer and his fallen angels attempted to usurp God’s throne. In the Malacandrian language, Lucifer is “the bent one,” having deviated away from God’s loving design, so those who have allowed themselves to be influenced by him are also called “bent.” The three Earthlings who have arrived on Malacandra show their level of straightness or bentness as this story unfolds. 

Another fascinating part of this book is the subtle change in language. The main protagonist is a philologist named Dr. Elwin Ransom. Watching how Lewis shows Dr. Ransom progressively learning the language of the inhabitants of Malacandra, contrasted with the way the bent men continue to speak it in “baby talk” is amazing. Ransom slowly learns more of the planet’s culture and the nuance of the language becomes more precise as he does so. And Lewis keeps pace by showing us the evolving vocabulary as the story moves along. 

If you are already a C.S. Lewis fan, this is a great book to continue your journey into his vast mind. But if you haven’t been exposed to much of Lewis’ writings yet, I would suggest holding off on this book until you have a better grasp of his more accessible works. 

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Powerful Childlike Prayer

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I was at a friend’s house and interacting with their two young children. Their son was very energetic and playful, but not very talkative. When the tikes climbed up to the kitchen counter for lunch, their mom asked them what they wanted to eat. The little girl placed her lunch order and then said, “He wants PB&J with milk.” I asked him, “Is that really what you want?” He smiled a big grin and nodded his head. Isn’t nice to have someone give us words when we are lacking in our own vocabulary? 

Last week we learned how the Spirit of Truth would help us speak truthful words to those who were antagonistic to the Good News of Jesus. If the Holy Spirit will do this when we are speaking to people who are enemies of the Cross of Christ, how much more so will He help us when we are speaking to our loving Heavenly Father! 

Here’s something we never have to doubt: God’s love for us. We don’t have to try to get our Father’s attention because He wants to lavish His love on us (Matthew 6:7-8; Luke 11:9-13; Ephesians 1:5). 

Jesus likens our coming to God as a child coming to its father. Sometimes we come with fears or tears, sometimes with hunger or thirst, or sometimes just to feel His closeness. The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Adoption, and He loves to keep on reminding us how much our Father loves us (Romans 8:14-17). 

“When our perplexed spirit is so befogged and beclouded that it cannot see its own need and cannot find out the appropriate promise in the Scriptures, the Spirit of God comes in and teaches us all things and brings all things to our remembrance whatever our Lord has told us. He guides us in prayer and thus He helps our infirmity. … He will write the prayers that I ought to offer upon the tablets of my heart, and I will see them there and so I will be taught how to plead! It will be the Spirit’s own Self pleading in me and by me and through me before the throne of grace!” —Charles Spurgeon 

Our loving Father is not looking for well-polished prayers; He’s looking for real, childlike prayers. Let’s be honest: Not even the most educated person in the world has a vocabulary sufficient enough to accurately communicate with The Almighty God! So He wants us to come to Him in simple, childlike anticipation. Jesus reminded us, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Our Father wants to answer our prayers, and He has given us His Holy Spirit to help us pray in a way that He can answer (Romans 8:26-27). 

The Holy Spirit turns our tearful, childlike prayers into powerful, poetic prayers!

Don’t try to spruce up your vocabulary before you come to God in prayer. Just come to God in prayer, trusting that the Holy Spirit will make a beautiful prayer even out of your childlike groanings! The Holy Spirit turns our groans into prayerful poetry in our Father’s ears! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called We Are: Pentecostal, I’ve shared the complete list here.

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Poetry Saturday—Affliction IV

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Broken in pieces all asunder,
                      Lord, hunt me not,
                     A thing forgot,
Once a poore creature, now a wonder,
               A wonder tortur’d in the space
               Betwixt this world and that of grace.

My thoughts are all a case of knives,
                     Wounding my heart
                     With scatter’d smart,
As watring pots give flowers their lives.
               Nothing their furie can controll,
               While they do wound and prick my soul.

All my attendants are at strife,
                     Quitting their place
                     Unto my face:
Nothing performs the task of life:
               The elements are let loose to fight,
               And while I live, trie out their right.

Oh help, my God! let not their plot
                     Kill them and me,
                     And also Thee,
Who art my life: dissolve the knot,
               As the sunne scatters by his light
               All the rebellions of the night.

Then shall those powers, which work for grief,
                     Enter Thy pay,
                     And day by day
Labour Thy praise, and my relief;
               With care and courage building me,
                Till I reach heav’n, and much more, Thee. —George Herbert (**spelling is 1663 English**)

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