Thursdays With Spurgeon—Our Tricky Tongues

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Our Tricky Tongues

I said, “I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.” I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good; and my sorrow was stirred up. My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned…. (Psalm 39:1-3)

     Tongue sins are great sins; like sparks of fire ill words spread and do great damage. ‘I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue’ (v. 1). If believers utter hard words of God in times of depression, the ungodly will take them up and use them as a justification for their sinful courses. If parents’ own children rail at them, no wonder if their enemies’ mouths are full of abuse. 

      Our tongue always wants watching, for it is fidgety as an ill-broken horse, but especially must we hold it in when the sharp cuts of the Lord’s rod excite it to rebel. 

     David was not quite so wise as our translation would make him; if he had resolved to be very guarded in his speech, it would have been altogether commendable. When he went so far as to condemn himself to entire silence, ‘even from good,’ there must have been at least a little sullenness in his soul.

From Spurgeon And The Psalms

Oh, how often our tongues trip us up! More times than we would like to admit, our tongues completely undo the good example we have previously shown. James spends almost an entire chapter talking about the fire our tongues can kindle, concluding that our tongues are “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:1-18)! 

Part of David’s solution was to notice who was around him so that his words would not add fuel to their skepticism about God. But notice that he went too far because he didn’t speak out the good that he should have spoken. 

Clearly, there is a time to speak and a time to be silent. David’s son Solomon talked about the wisdom of speaking the appropriate words at the appropriate time (see especially Proverbs 10).  

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis talks about a valuable discipline: A personal review of our words and actions at the end of the day. After all, it’s hard to correct something of which we are unaware. Here’s what Lewis wrote—

“When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to mind is that the provocation was so sudden or unexpected. I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself…. Surely what a man does when he is taken off guard is the best evidence of what sort of man he is. Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth. If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness did not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows what an ill-tempered man I am.” 

We would do well to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to show us the rats in our cellar—evil words spoken that shouldn’t have been uttered, and helpful words left unspoken at the moment they should have been said. If we will humbly listen, the Holy Spirit will help us mature in this vital area of taming our tricky tongues. 

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The Christmas Carols

During the Advent seasons of 2014-2019, I shared a series of messages called The Carols Of Christmas. I was concerned at how many “old familiar carols” we hear so often Christmas after Christmas until the words have almost lost their meaning. If we’re not careful, any song repeated too often can lose the richness of its original intent. And so we went on a journey to (re)discover the beautiful Advent messages in these old familiar carols.

To make it a little more convenient, I wanted to group all of the messages here for you. In the list below you will find both the title I gave to my message and the title of the Christmas carol in italics.

Forgive Like You’ve Been Forgiven

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

Jesus said that the devil’s agenda was to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). We see this on full display in the aftermath of the first sin in the way relationships humans had with each other changed. 

God said to Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). Dr. Henry Halley commented, “The last two lines of this verse could be paraphrased, ‘You will now have a tendency to try to dominate your husband and he will have the tendency to act as a tyrant.’” And to Adam, God said that he would now have to work harder than ever before to harvest the food he needed for survival, which undoubtedly caused stress in his relationship with Eve. In the very next chapter, the strained relationship between Cain and Able resulted in the first homicide (Genesis 3:17-19, 4:1-8). 

In these relationships, intimacy was stolen, closeness was killed, and life was destroyed. 

An irreplaceable tool for avoiding this heartache and destruction that sin causes in our relationships is forgiveness. 

Peter asked Jesus, “How many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21). In reply, Jesus told a story about a man who owed the equivalent of 20 years of a day laborer’s wages and a man who owed about three months of a day laborer’s wages. The first man who owed so much was forgiven entirely of his debt, but he wouldn’t forgive the paltry amount that was owed to him by the second man. 

To the forgiven but unforgiving man, Jesus said, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (see Matthew 18:22-35). 

That should be our standard: Not how others treat me, but how God has treated me! Not how much others owe me, but how much God has forgiven me!

Do I want God to put a quota on how many times I can be forgiven? Do I want there to be a limit on how big of an offense God will forgive in me?

Of course not!

That’s my standard. I must show the same mercy to others as I have been shown by God. 

If my forgiven sins are forgotten sins (and they are), then I need to treat my brother and sister the same way. This is why Jesus told Peter to stop counting the number of offenses. We are to treat every offense as though it was the first and only offense.

The man who owed so much money asked for more time to repay his debt. But the master did more than that: He forgave the debt—he wiped it off the books completely, as though it had never happened! 

When God forgives our sin, He separates our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. He keeps no record of the offense ever having occurred (Psalm 103:10-12). 

This is to be our standard too. We are to forgive others as God has forgiven us. Forgiveness will restore intimacy, closeness, and life to our relationships. 

This is difficult to do. As Peter pointed out, a brother or sister—someone close to his heart—had sinned against him. But this is why Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12). Or as Eugene Peterson paraphrases that verse in The Message, “Keep us forgiven with You and forgiving others.” 

May the Holy Spirit help us in this important work of ongoing, complete, and restoring forgiveness!

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The Great Shepherd

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

God delights to show up when the situation seems hopeless from any human standpoint. When He does what no one else can do, He alone is glorified!

A very notable dark time took place in Israel about 700 BC as the nation was surrounded by enemies. Micah prophesied the arrival of the Messiah. But he also prophesied that before He came, there would be dark days. He talks about the siege of enemies surrounding them, Israel’s ruler being stuck on the cheek with a rod, not to mention the strongholds, witchcraft, and idolatry that plagued the nation within its own borders (Micah 5:1, 11-13). 

But whenever it seems darkest, God is not the least diminished! He always gets the final word, the decisive word, the best word. 

So into this inky darkness, Micah prophesies a ray of light—“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be Ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). 

I’m sure many people thought that Bethlehem was too small of a village for anyone of significance to be born there.

The Last Battle is the final book in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. This story also portrays a similar dark time. Shift the ape has convinced Puzzle the donkey to wear an ill-fitting lion skin to pretend to be the great king Aslan. Through tricks, sleight of hand, deception, and the plans of some evil schemers, many of the Narnians come to believe that Puzzle is Aslan. But it’s confusing because this “Aslan” is not the kind, strong king they believed in, so many begin to just look out for themselves. 

In a fitting setting, Puzzle is being hidden inside an old stable. A great battle takes place with the true Narnians ending up inside the stable, and yet once inside they discover not a dark stable, but a sunlit land spreading farther than their eyes can see. Lord Digory observes, “Its inside is bigger than its outside.”  

But I love this line from Queen Lucy, “In our world too a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” 

Inside that Bethlehem stable was born the Great Shepherd! Who was inside that stable and what He would accomplish became so much grander and more beautiful than any human had ever imagined! 

Jesus is our Great Shepherd—He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth (Micah 5:4). 

Jesus is strong, majestic, and great (John 10:10-15). 

Jesus equips us to be victorious (Hebrews 13:20-21). 

Jesus walks with us every step of the way (Psalm 23:1-6). 

And Jesus takes us Home to be with Him forever (1 Peter 5:4). 

(Check out all of these passages by clicking here.) 

Our faith is not rooted in some mysterious thing with an uncertain history. It is a faith rooted in real historical events. The Great Shepherd being born in the town that was prophesied 700 years beforehand is one more proof that God is in control, that God loves you, and that God always gets the final word, the decisive word, the best word! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Advent series Bethlehem Is Proof, you find the full list by clicking here. 

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Links & Quotes

“But friendship is precious; not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life.” —Thomas Jefferson

“People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” —Abraham Lincoln

“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue.” —Augustine

When you praise God, despite your surroundings, you magnify Him. And when you magnify God, you invite others to magnify Him with you!

“Manhood first and then gentleness.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have blogged quite a bit about the historicity of the Bible. The Bible Archeology Report has a very informative post of the top 10 historical references to Jesus outside the Bible. These sources are from the first or second century AD, and specifically mention Jesus of Nazareth, not just Christians.

Dan Reiland wrote, “Church leadership always carries with it seasons of success and setbacks, momentum and grind, joy and discouragement. Yet, we all do better through those seasons when we have learned the rhythms of resilience—the lifelines we need.” Check out the 6 sustaining lifelines for leaders that he shared.

The Institute for Creation Research reported, “Two separate studies claim massive tsunamis and earthquakes from an asteroid impact profoundly affected the rock record. … [Yet] these global phenomena are better explained by the global Flood described in Genesis.”

“Anger makes dull men witty, but it keeps them poor.” —Francis Bacon

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Beware Of Grumblers

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Beware Of Grumblers 

     None is so wise as the man who knows nothing. His ignorance is the mother of his impudence and the nurse of his obstinacy; and though he does not know a bee from a bull’s foot, he settles matters as if all wisdom were at his fingers’ ends—the pope himself is not more infallible. Hear him talk after he has been at a meeting and heard a sermon, and you will know how to pull a good man to pieces if you never knew it before. He sees faults where there are none; and if there be a few things amiss, he makes every mouse into an elephant. … 

     Those who know nothing are confident in everything; hence they are bullheaded beyond measure. Every clock and even the sundial must be set according to their watches. … Venture to argue with them, and their little pots boil over in quick style; ask them for a reason, and you might as well go to a sandpit for sugar. … 

     Faultfinding is dreadfully catching: One dog will set a whole kennel howling, and the wisest course is to keep out of the way of a man who has the complaint called the grumbles. … Dogs, however, always will bark; and what is worse, some of them will bite, too. But let decent people do all they can, if not to muzzle them, yet to prevent them from doing any great mischief.

From John Ploughman’s Talks of Plain Advice For Plain People

Charles Spurgeon—the prince of preachers—could also use a sarcastic tone to a great effect when it was needed! This whole book was supposed to be a sort of “shop talk” to the everyday working man. These are not flowery sermons, but straight-shooting for decent people. 

I have just completed a short series of messages on the distinct ways grateful people stand out from the crowd. But isn’t it just as true that those who constantly grumble about anything and everything also stand out from the crowd? 

Spurgeon was right that grumbling and faultfinding are dreadfully catching! King Solomon says that we waste our time trying to reason with such foolish people who believe themselves to be smarter than the rest of us. So Solomon’s advice is to simply leave them alone. 

Indeed, the best way to avoid catching the contagion of grumbling is to stay away from grumblers. If you have the misfortune of living with a grumbler or perhaps working next to a grumbler, the best way to “walk away” is to simply not engage in their faultfinding “barking.” Maybe you could even answer their complaint by pointing out something for which you are grateful. 

Let’s all make sure we’re not the grumbling, barking, growling dogs that Spurgeon identifies in this passage, and then let’s do all we can to keep the contagion of a grumbler contained. To paraphrase the apostle Paul, “Don’t be overcome by grumbling, but overcome grumbling by walking away or with gratitude” (Romans 12:21).

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Bethlehem Is Proof

The prophet Micah foretells that the Messiah will arrive in dark times. Enemies will surround Israel, and Israel’s ruler will receive a nasty punch to the jaw. Demonic strongholds, witchcraft, and idolatry will appear to be gaining the upper hand. 

And then Micah turns his attention to a small village just south of Jerusalem—a village so small that it is often overlooked—a village from which no one would expect Israel’s Deliverer. 

And yet, Micah writes, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be Ruler over Israel, Whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2). 

Jesus the Deliverer was born in the little town of Bethlehem, and His birth there 700 years after Micah foretold it is our proof that God always gets the last word, the decisive word, and the best word! 

Please join me this Sunday for our Advent series Bethlehem Is Proof! I would love to have you join me in person, but you can also watch the sermons on Facebook or YouTube.

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, check them out here:

God Chose Me For This

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

Did God really call me to this position? Did I hear God correctly when I made that big decision? Now that times are tough, is that an indication that it may be time for me to move on, or am I supposed to persevere through this? 

I have experienced this myself, and I have walked with many other leaders who have experienced this same thing. A situation arises in your organization that makes you question whether you are truly the leader for this time, or whether it may be time for someone else to step in. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership, I share a story from my leadership journey where I had to wrestle with the thought of whether I truly heard from God or not. Check out how I shared my story with some ministry interns…

Because of this incident, and many like it, I am a huge proponent of journaling. I have found it so comforting to be able to return to thoughts, answered prayers, Scriptures that have been revealed to me, and confirmations from friends. To read what God spoke to me on specific dates has helped to renew my confidence in His call for my life. I would highly recommend that you take up this discipline of journaling as well, especially during the times that you are contemplating a big decision.

I would also humbly recommend that you check out Shepherd Leadership, particularly two chapters where I talk about a leader’s confidence and a leader’s humility. When these are correctly balanced, we can make much better decisions during the questioning times. My book is available in print or ebook and as an audiobook.

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Podcast: Change Isn’t a Four-Letter Word

Listen to the audio-only version of this podcast by clicking on the player below, or scroll down to watch the video.

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

  • [0:30] Change is a four-letter word for some people.
  • [2:05] What holds people back from embracing change?
  • [4:39] How does a leader’s pride play into successful change?
  • [5:50] People don’t buy-in to change overnight, which is why a change catalyst is needed.
  • [9:00] Improvement committee can work well to help an organization make changes.
  • [10:49] The unselfishness of leaders is key for making effective changes.
  • [12:22] Who should be on your improvement committee?
  • [14:34] The benefit of diversity on your teams.
  • [16:55] The right and wrong ways to roll out changes.
  • [19:59] Give and get lots of feedback during the change process.
  • [21:14] What is unacceptable for a leader in the arena of change?
  • [23:16] How can leaders overcome the fears that your teammates have about changes?
  • [27:13] We can help you with changes in your organization.

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.

Amazed At Jesus (Or Not)

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

The word “amazed” shows up numerous times throughout the Gospels, almost always associated with something Jesus said or did. He would heal someone, calm a storm, silence His detractors, or teach persuasively. And the people marveled! 

But there are two instances where Jesus Himself is amazed, where the Bible says He marveled at what someone said.

The first is when a centurion asked Jesus for help, but said he didn’t need Jesus to be personally present. He told Jesus that just a word from Him would be more than enough to heal a sick servant. Jesus was amazed at this man’s faith, and as a result, the servant was healed (Matthew 8:10; Luke 7:9)! 

The second time that Jesus was amazed was when He was visiting His hometown and the people with whom He grew up didn’t believe He was who He claimed to be. As a result, Jesus was amazed and the Bible says He was unable to do many miracles there (Mark 6:6). How sad! 

It’s still true today. Either Jesus will be amazed at our faith or He will be amazed at our unbelief. When we have faith in Him—when we stand amazed and in awe and in expectation of His power—He is amazed and can perform miracles. But when we push Jesus away and say, “We can take care of this ourselves,” Jesus is also amazed. But this type of amazement results in Jesus being unable to unleash His miraculous power on our behalf. 

Let’s learn this amazing lesson, and always stand amazed at who Jesus is and what Jesus can do. When we are amazed, and our faith grows stronger, Jesus will be amazed at our faith and will move on our behalf in amazing ways! 

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