Poetry Saturday—Selections From “The Pilgrim’s Progress”

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

The hill, though high, I covet to ascend,
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear;
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe. —John Bunyan’s Christian, in The Pilgrim’s Progress

He that is down needs fear no fall;
   He that is low, no pride:
He that is humble ever shall
   Have God to be his Guide.
I am content with what I have,
   Little be it or much:
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
   Because Thou savest such.
Fullness to such a burden is
   That go on pilgrimage:
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
   Is best from age to age. —John Bunyan’s Mr. Great-heart, in The Pilgrim’s Progress

12 Lessons From The Good Samaritan

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

Dwight Moody was passionate about telling others how they could have a relationship with Jesus. In his book To The Work! he encourages other Christians to share this passion with him, and he counters any hesitations that Christians have to this work. Using the story Jesus told about the good Samaritan, Moody made these noteworthy observations: 

“Some people seem to think that all the world needs is a lot of sermons. Why, the people of this land have been almost preached to death. What we want is to preach more sermons with our hands and feet—to carry the Gospel to the people by acts of kindness. … 

“The Jews considered that the Samaritans had no souls; that when they died they would be annihilated. Their graves would be so deep that not even the sound of Gabriel’s trump would wake them on the resurrection morning. He was the only man under heaven who could not become a proselyte to the Jewish faith, and become a member of the Jewish family. …  

“You observe there are twelve things mentioned in the narrative that the Samaritan did. We can dismiss in a word all that the priest and the Levite did—they did nothing.

(1.) He ‘came to where he was.’ 

(2.) He ‘saw him;’ he did not, like the priest, pass by on the other side. 

(3.) He ‘had compassion on him.’ If we would be successful winners of souls we, too, must be moved with compassion for the lost and the perishing. We must sympathize with men in their sorrows and troubles, if we would hope to gain their affections and to do them good. 

(4.) He ‘went to him.’ The Levite went toward him, but we are told that he, as well as the priest, ‘passed by on the other side.’ 

(5.) He ‘bound up his wounds.’ Perhaps he had to tear up his own garments in order to bind them up. 

(6.) He poured in oil and gave some wine to the fainting man. 

(7.) He ‘set him on his own beast.’ Do you not think that this poor Jew must have looked with gratitude and tenderness on the Samaritan, as he was placed on the beast, while his deliverer walked by his side? All the prejudice in his heart must have disappeared long before they got to the end of their journey. 

(8.) He ‘brought him to an inn.’ 

(9.) He ‘took care of him.’ … 

(10.) When he departed on the morrow, the good Samaritan asked the host to care for him. 

(11.) He gave him some money to pay the bill. 

(12.) He said: ‘Whatever thou spendest more, when I come again I will repay thee.’ …  

“Do you want to know how you can reach the masses? Go to their homes and enter into sympathy with them; tell them you have come to do them good, and let them see that you have a heart to feel for them. When they find out that you really love them, all those things that are in their hearts against God and against Christianity will be swept out of the way.” 

To read my full book review of To The Work!, please click here. You can also check out some other quotes that I have shared from this book by clicking here. 

Podcast: Thoughts On Setting Goals

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

  • Greg and I follow up on the last episode where we talked about how leaders need to be healthy in every area of their lives  
  • repetition and habits are a leader’s friends 
  • we need specific goals  
  • Greg tosses his Mt. Dew can (literally!)
  • it’s more challenging to set goals in the areas of mental, emotional, and social health than it is for physical health
  • as leaders get healthy, it encourages their teammates to get healthy  
  • small goals done daily have a huge cumulative effect
  • leaders need to be around other leaders that can invest in them
  • on our website we have added a new page about our coaching huddles 
  • leaders should set only 1-2 goals per area of their lives—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual 
  • leaders need to think about their nutritional “diet” in every area 
  • an accountability friend will help you stick with your goals 
  • I unpack Stephen Covey’s Urgent/Important quadrants and how to find the time necessary to make necessary changes
  • Greg and I discuss what helps us decompress

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 iTunes.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Wants To Bless You

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.

God Wants To Bless You

     It delights God to bestow His goodness. The cost was paid long ago on Calvary’s Cross, and that is over. Since the great sacrifice has been presented, God freely gives all the blessings of divine grace to us with a willingness that shows that His heart goes with them. …  

     Come along with you, you needy saint or sinner. The more you can take in, the better pleased will the Lord be with you. … The Lord desires you to open your mouth wide and He will fill it—it is easier for Him to give than for you to open your mouth. He encourages and requests you to bring large petitions with you when you come before His mercy seat. …  

     ‘How can I apprehend these blessings and make them my own?’ … ‘The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:14). The power to receive the things of God lies not in high gifts or attainments. … Do not sit down and say, ‘I am a poor stupid man and cannot be taught of God.’ Or, ‘I am a humble countryman, or a poor woman keeping house for others. I cannot know these precious things.’ It is not so. Read the words of Paul in the first chapter of this Epistle: ‘For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called’ (1 Corinthians 1:26). The power to receive the blessings of God does not lie in talent at all, but it lies in the Spirit of God. …

     Grace is not tied to the rare gifts of genius, nor to the precious acquirements of experience, nor to the high attainments of learning. … The power to receive is still of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit does not find good in us but brings it to us.

From Grace For Grace

I truly believe that God wants to bless us more than we want to receive God’s blessings. Far too many times I encounter people who want to talk themselves out of their worthiness to receive anything from God. 

But remember this verse: Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else? (Romans 8:32). If God the Father would give up His Son to make it possible for you to be reconciled to Him, why would He hold anything back from you. 

God’s doesn’t want to blast you, He wants to bless you!

Please, my friend, let Him bless you. His blessings aren’t because of anything you or I have done to deserve them. The definition of “grace” is an undeserved gift. God gives and He enables us to receive. Let Him pour out His blessings on you today!

Godly Anger

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

…his anger was aroused… (Job 32:5).

Throughout the story of Job, there is very little insight from the story’s narrator. Other than the first two chapters which set up the story, and the epilogue in the last chapter, the narrator barely utters a word.

That is until a fourth man, who has been on the scene the whole time Job and his friends have been debating, finally cannot help but speak out. His name is Elihu. 

Elihu has been present the whole time Job has been speaking with his other friends, but because Elihu is the youngest, he has held his tongue, awaiting an opportunity to speak. Now the narrator tells us that Elihu “became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him. … When he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused. 

The phrase “anger was aroused” is used 31 times in the Bible. Every single instance refers to God’s anger except here. In fact, God uses the same phrase in chapter 42 that Elihu uses here. 

Two things seem to arouse the anger of both God and Elihu (whose name, but the way, means “He is my God”): 

  1. Job justifying himself rather than God 
  2. Job’s friends condemning Job without evidence; in other words, they put themselves in the place of God the Judge  

Here’s what Elihu knew—

To not get angry at the things that anger God is itself a sin.

I need to pay attention to my anger, and I need to express my anger in a respectful, appropriate way. It is wrong to ignore or suppress godly anger, but it is equally wrong to sin in the way that I express godly anger. Remember that the apostle Paul doesn’t say, “Don’t get angry,” but he says, “When you get angry, do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). 

When God finally speaks in this story, He expresses His anger at the same things Elihu addressed. Interestingly, God says to the oldest friend Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends,” but God doesn’t call out Elihu for any of his words.  

God gets angry, perhaps more than anyone else in the Bible does, but He never sins in the expression of His anger. We need to make sure that what makes us angry is also what makes God angry. And we need to make sure that our anger is never expressed sinfully. 

The Craig T. Owens Audio Blog

Welcome to the Craig T. Owens Audio Blog with my blog posts in audio format to go!

My blog is now a podcast so you can listen wherever you are and whatever you are doing. You can subscribe on Spotify or Apple, and you will also find my podcast on Amazon Music.

You will notice that all of my new blog posts now have an embedded audio player at the top for you over-achievers who want to both listen and read at the same time.

A huge thank you to…

  • my wife Betsy who proofreads my posts and helps me spot my typos
  • my son-in-love Ian who gave me the crash course in podcast technology
  • my friend Indi Martin who wrote the music on my podcast
  • and my friend Kevin Richards whose inimitable voice is the announcer you will hear on the broadcast

Check out the podcast introduction and don’t forget to subscribe on either Spotify or Apple!

The Pilgrim’s Progress (book review)

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

Charles Spurgeon said of John Bunyan, “Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.” Although this can be said of all Bunyan’s books and sermons, it is abundantly clear in The Pilgrim’s Progress. 

In my mind it’s easy to classify this book as “a classic” because of its enduring message. The journey through life for pilgrims like Christian, Hopeful, Faithful, Christiana, and you and me resonate with readers all over the world. In over the nearly 350 years since this book was first published, the pilgrimage has connected with Christians and seekers alike because it is the pilgrimage we are all on. 

In The Pilgrim’s Progress it’s not hard to identify the biblical messages because Bunyan literally names them for what they are, using names like Talkative, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, the Giant Despair, Mr. Great-heart, the Interpreter, and many more. Some biblical stories are portrayed in this book just as they are in the Bible, while others are fairly easily seen for all modern-day pilgrims to learn their lessons. 

As I’ve said before about this book, it’s an excellent one for parents to read aloud to their children. Then as their kiddos get a bit older, there is an easy-to-read version called Little Pilgrim’s Progress for them to read on their own. But I still highly recommend the original version of Bunyan’s classic in its 17th-century English. To me, the Old English in a story like this makes it feel like an epic adventure story, which, in fact, it is because it is every Christian’s story still to this day. 

I can’t urge you enough to make The Pilgrim’s Progress a friend that you visit often.

The Prayerful Heart Of Our Testimony

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

The best way to be a first responder in prayer is to work on making prayer a habit. Prayer needs to come first. Remember: I can do more than pray, but I shouldn’t do anything until I have prayed. 

King David showed us his nearly-identical “bookend prayer” that he prayed both at the beginning of his reign as king and again just before he died. We can pray similar bookend prayers when we begin with a petitionary prayer—“God, please help me”—and finish with a thankful prayer—“God, thank You for helping me.” We can also try to expand those bookends toward the middle, allowing us to live as the apostle Paul admonished in 1 Thessalonians 5:17: 

  • Pray without ceasing 
  • Pray continually 
  • Never stop praying 

Jesus gave us a model prayer at the heart—the very middle—of His Sermon on the Mount. This sermon has 107 verses of Christ’s words, making the middle verse Matthew 6:6, which starts, “When you pray….” Notice the model Jesus gave us: 

  • Hallowing God—Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name
  • Bringing our petitions—Give us our daily bread, help us forgive, deliver us from evil
  • Worshiping God for His answers and for Who He is—Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen!

Surrounding this prayer is a Christ-centered life that is:

  • Blessed (the beatitudes) 
  • God-glorifying—so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven
  • Perfect—be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect
  • Compassionate—when you give to the needy

—Model Prayer—

  • Disciplined—fasting, handling your treasures 
  • Anxiety-free—do not worry
  • Fruitful—every good tree bears good fruit
  • Secure—your foundation is on the rock

You see: Prayer helps us live out a God-honoring testimony, and that God-honoring testimony is empowered by prayer. Prayer is both the bookends AND at the heart of a Christ-centered life. 

The heart of a God-honoring prayer is to live out a God-honoring testimony.

David’s bookend prayer follows the same model Jesus gave us: hallowing God, making petitions, and then worshipping God. 

Christians need to be BOTH first responders in prayer AND continual responders in prayer—prayer at the beginning, prayer at the heart, and prayer at the end. This way, when God does answer, there is no doubt that He was the One who answered, and it wasn’t just because of something we did. 

Prayer fuels our testimony. Our testimony glorifies God. At the heart of this testimony, our answered prayers glorify our heavenly Father and point others to Him. 

Let me say it again: The heart of a God-honoring prayer is to live out a God-honoring testimony.

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called Be A First Responder, you can access the full list by clicking here.

Poetry Saturday—The Lovetobutcants

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I have a disease called
The “lovetobutcants”—
I think it’s time I told it.
I’d love to help with that garbage can
But my fingers just can’t hold it.
Hand me a bag of groceries and
My wrists just turned to jelly.
Cuttin’ grass and hedges
Gives me flutters of the belly.
The smell of paint will make me faint,
Sweat makes my eyes start itchin’.
Dishwater on my little hands
Will start ‘em shaky-twitchin’.
Pickin’ clothes up off the floor
Would paralyze my shoulder.
I must not try to close the door,
At least not till I’m older.
So though I’d love to join the work—
Till this disease is done,
I’ll have to lie here in the shade
While you have all the fun. —Shel Silverstein

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Greatest Gift

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 this post as a podcast by clicking here:

The Greatest Gift

Come…buy wine and milk without money and without price. … The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord…. (Isaiah 55:1; Romans 6:23) 

     The free grace of God would be insulted by being put up for auction or set forth for sale. … It is a gift and not a prize. There are heavenly prizes to be run for, to be fought for, and to be obtained by divine help. There is a recompense of reward to which we are to look and a crown for which we are to strive, but the divine grace that forgives sin and works faith is no prize for exertion but rather a gift for those without strength. ‘It is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy’ (Romans 9:16). … 

     The blessings of salvation are freely given us of God; therefore they are not a loan, handed to us for a time and to be one day recalled. Our heavenly heritage is not held on lease, upon terms of annual payment. It is an unencumbered freehold to every man who has by faith put his foot upon it. … When He has given it, the deed is done outright and can never be reversed. O believer, if your sin is blotted out, it can never be written in again! God has declared that He has forgiven our transgressions. And then He adds, ‘Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more’ (Hebrews 10:17). … 

     God is unchangeable, and therefore what He has given He will give again. ‘Still there’s more to follow’ is a popular way of putting a great truth. The stream that has begun to flow will never cease flowing. The more the Lord gives, the more we may expect. Every blessing is not only in itself a mercy, but it is a note for more mercies.

From Grace For Grace

I shared a series of messages on God’s favor—His free gift that we call grace—that was one of the most downloaded and watched of any series I have presented. It almost seems inconceivable to people that God would give so freely and lavishly without expecting some sort of payment in return. 

Why would God “not spare even His own Son but [give] Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32)? Because if you feel distant from Him, how can you glorify Him? If you feel disconnected from His love, how will you draw others to Him? If you feel like your relationship with Him is hanging by a thread, how can you happily abide in His presence? 

Knowing God’s favor—His free gift—is the key to living the abundant life Jesus purchased for you on the Cross!

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