The Fame Of God’s Name

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

In You, Lord, I have taken refuge … Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:1, 24). 

The bookend verses of Psalm 31 speak to the security we have when we are IN God: “IN You and all you who hope IN the Lord.” 

Jesus taught us to pray for Our Father’s name to be hallowed—for His fame to be as great on earth as it is in heaven. Those who are called CHRISTians literally carry the name of Christ IN themselves everywhere they go. Granted, there are some who will carry the name but not the character of Christ. To those people, Jesus will one day say, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.”  

But for those Jesus does know—those who carry IN themselves both the name and the character of Christ, those who have made their place IN God their utter dependence—there are amazing blessings that hallow God’s name. David lists blessings like:

  • being free from shame
  • answers to prayer
  • guidance 
  • deliverance from entrapments 
  • stores of abundantly good things 
  • protection from slander
  • preserved for all of eternity

God will cause His name to be hallowed and glorified through those who remain IN Him. We are not only recipients of His favor, but we also become conduits of His favor that make His name as great on earth as it is in Heaven! 

Thanks be to Jesus who has made us accepted in the Beloved, and has taken us IN Himself so that we can remain IN the Father (Ephesians 1:6; John 14:20)! Father, I pray that You will always find me IN You so that You can glorify Your name THROUGH me. Amen! 

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Podcast: Apathy Vs. Passion

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

  • the first in our series of leadership builders and killers
  • Craig goes negative right away!  
  • the danger with apathy is that you don’t know that you don’t care—Greg says apathy is a nebulizer
  • the value of an honest, loving friend
  • it takes a lot more energy to get to a boiling point than it does to keep your passion at the boiling point  
  • apathy is “have to” but passion is “get to”
  • Greg likes to exchange heartstorming for brainstorming
  • Craig talks about the warning signs for leaders, and how to build passion-fueling activities into our daily agendas 
  • good feelings follow good actions
  • leaders need to be the thermostats for their team

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.

His Last Bow (book review)

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

They say all good things must come to an end, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! Arthur Conan Doyle had attempted many times to stop writing Sherlock Holmes stories, but the reading public kept clamoring for more. At last, Doyle brought them an epilogue entitled His Last Bow. 

Readers of my blog may recall that I seldom read fiction books, but there are two notable exceptions to that rule: One of them is Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Although I hated to come to the end of these great stories, Doyle did some unusual things in this set of memoirs that I hadn’t read before, so it really kept me on my toes. 

For instance, in one story, Holmes solves the entire case while lying sick in his bed. And in the final story, Doyle uses a device never before seen in his great detective stories: he told the story not as he usually does in first person through Dr. John Watson, but in third person through an unnamed observer. There are a couple of other twists in these stories that careful Sherlock Holmes readers will probably catch as well. 

All in all, His Last Bow was a very enjoyable final send-off for the world’s greatest detective. 

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“Dear Woman”

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

The crucifixion of Jesus lasted about six hours. This was mercifully short compared to what typically happened to crucifixion victims. It was hard enough for Jesus to get enough air just to breathe, let alone enough air to talk, so His words are few but precious! From 9:00 until about noon, He speaks three times; from noon until about 3:00, He has no recorded words; at 3:00 there are four final statements that come pretty close together. 

As Jesus speaks His final declaration before wordlessly suffering for the next three hours, let’s take a look at who was there. They were people who deeply cared about Jesus, and people about whom Jesus deeply cared: His mother, His aunt, the mother of one of His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and His beloved disciple John. 

Also notable was who wasn’t present on Golgotha: none of Christ’s siblings or other close relatives. 

This last word from Jesus before His long silence was an incredibly loving word. As the oldest of His siblings, and with His earthly father Joseph dead, Jesus had head-of-the-household responsibilities, especially the care of His mother Mary. 

When Jesus speaks to her, He says, “Dear woman.” This is a term of kindness, respect, and endearment. To both His mother and to John, there is a Greek word that is omitted in some English translations of the Bible: Behold. Since Christ’s words were at a premium, this word was Jesus saying, “Listen very closely. Pay careful attention to this important word I’m about to speak.” 

To His mother, Jesus says, “Dear woman, behold your son.” Jesus was saying, here is one on whom you can depend. And to His dear friend Jesus says, “Behold your mother.” Literally, Jesus was asking John to care for Mary as though she were his own biological mother. 

Think about the dying declarations we’ve already heard. To those who treated Him so horribly, Jesus said, Father, forgive them.” This was a word of forgiveness that required agape love. To the hardened criminal crucified next to Him, Jesus said, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” This was a word of salvation that also required agape love. 

Agape love is only possible in a regenerated heart. It’s an utterly selfless love that Jesus described this way: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). To forgive the unforgivable, to grant salvation to a lifelong criminal, takes the other-worldly agape love. We expect this from Jesus. 

But there are two other loves in this scene. When Jesus says, “Dear woman,” He is expressing this natural love of son to mother. This Greek love is labeled storgé. C.S. Lewis calls this “the most natural, emotive, and widely diffused of loves.” To His dear friend John, Jesus speaks a word of philos love. C.S. Lewis says philos is “the love between friends as close as siblings in strength and duration [and] the least natural of loves.” 

Jesus cared deeply for His mother and He deeply trusted His friend John. This tells me an important truth: Jesus doesn’t just care about spiritual things. 

In fact, there isn’t anything that you care about that Jesus doesn’t feel too: “He had to be made like [us] fully human in every way” (Hebrews 2:17). 

Sadly, I think we frequently hold on to some cares because we think they are too small or too insignificant—or maybe “unspiritual”—so we think they are unworthy of Christ’s attention. Let me say it again: There isn’t anything that you care about that Jesus doesn’t feel too! 

Jesus intercedes before the Father’s throne of grace on our behalf. He knows exactly what to ask for because He experienced all of our earthly pains Himself. Then the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit into our hearts to give us the love and strength we need (see Hebrews 4:14-16; Romans 5:5). 

When Jesus showed us His full love—storgé, philos, and agape—He made it possible for us to fulfill His command: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). 

Jesus showed every kind of love so that we can live every kind of love! As we live as love-filled people, we show others the path to Christ’s love for their own love-starved hearts. 

Jesus spoke this loving declaration from the Cross to show us that His love covers any need that we have to encounter. Let me repeat it again so that you don’t forget it: There isn’t anything that you care about that Jesus doesn’t feel too!

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series on the dying declarations of Jesus from the Cross, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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Poetry Saturday—Easter

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Break the box and shed the nard;

Stop not now to count the cost;
Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;
Reck not what the poor have lost;
Upon Christ throw all away:
Know ye, this is Easter Day.

Build His church and deck His shrine,
Empty though it be on earth;
Ye have kept your choicest wine—
Let it flow for heavenly mirth;
Pluck the harp and breathe the horn:
Know ye not ‘tis Easter morn?

Gather gladness from the skies;
Take a lesson from the ground;
Flowers do ope their heavenward eyes
And a Spring-time joy have found;
Earth throws Winter’s robes away,
Decks herself for Easter Day.

Beauty now for ashes wear,
Perfumes for the garb of woe,
Chaplets for dishevelled hair,
Dances for sad footsteps slow;
Open wide your hearts that they
Let in joy this Easter Day.

Seek God’s house in happy throng;
Crowded let His table be;
Mingle praises, prayer, and song,
Singing to the Trinity.
Henceforth let your souls alway
Make each morn an Easter Day. —Gerard Manley Hopkins

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Joyful Journey To Realization

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 Joyful Journey To Realization

And [Abram] believed in the Lord, and [God] accounted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) 

     Brothers and sisters, this everyday faith is the faith of God’s elect! There are persons who imagine saving faith to be a barren conviction of the truth of certain abstract propositions, leading only to a quiet contemplation upon certain delightful topics, or separating ourselves from all sympathy with our fellow creatures. But it is not so! Faith, restricted merely to religious exercise, is not Christian faith. It must show itself in everything. … 

     There may be some of you here today who have been called by divine grace from darkness into marvelous light. You have been led to look to Jesus and you believe you have received pardon of your sin, and yet, for lack of knowledge, you know little of the sweet meaning of such words as these: ‘accepted in the Beloved’ (Ephesians 1:6); ‘perfect in Christ Jesus’ (Colossians 1:28); ‘complete in Him’ (Colossians 2:10). You are doubtless justified, though you scarcely understand what justification means. And you are accepted, though you have not realized your acceptance. And you are complete in Jesus Christ, though you have, today, a far deeper sense of your personal incompleteness than of the all-sufficiency of Jesus. … 

     But there will come a time, beloved, when you who are called will clearly realize your justification and will rejoice in it! It will be intelligently understood by you and will become a matter of transporting delight—lifting you to a higher platform of experience and enabling you to walk with a firmer step, sing with a merrier voice, and triumph with an enlarged heart!  

From Justification By Faith

I was once asked, “If you could have a superpower, what would it be?” After a moment’s thought, I answered, “I’d like the power to just go <poof> for someone and they would be able to fully comprehended God’s love for them, or they would instantly realize how to live out their Christian faith.” 

Alas, there is no such superpower. But you and I have something far, far better: the Holy Spirit! 

Abram (who would later become Abraham) obediently followed God, even though the Bible said he didn’t fully grasp where he was going nor how God was going to give him many descendants. But he followed, and he trusted, and he listened, and slowly God began to reveal more and more to him. 

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. He didn’t say, “The Holy Spirit will go <poof> and you will immediately and fully understand everything.” Like Abram, we believe what God says about us, we follow, we trust, we listen, we obey, and the Spirit will begin to illuminate God’s Word to us. We’ll discover more each day what He’s asking of us, and we will notice that both our joy in Him and our effectiveness for the Kingdom of God are increasing along the journey! 

Don’t bail out early! Stick with it! I promise you that the joy still to be revealed along this journey is beyond compare with anything which would tempt you to stay behind to acquire.

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Soul-Calming Peace

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

…the Lord blesses His people with peace (Psalm 29:11). 

Please forgive me for the use of so many exclamation points in this post, but it’s the only way I can even begin to come close to portraying the awesomeness of our God!  

What brings peace to God’s people? David says it is the glimpse of God’s awesome power—

  • the God of glory thunders! 
  • His voice is powerful! 
  • His voice is majestic! 
  • His voice splits cedar trees! 
  • lightning and thunder cannot compare to His voice! 
  • His voice shakes the deserts! 
  • His voice twists oak trees and strips forests! 
  • He is enthroned as the King over all forever and ever!

Count all of the ways God is awesome! Give Him praise that is equally great! Tremble at His weighty, majestic holiness! Be filled with the awe of His strength! And let this bring you peace.

Why? 

Because this awesome, glorious, omnipotent, majestic, powerful, unrivaled, holy God wants to be in a relationship with you! He cares about you! He will unleash His power against any enemy that comes against you! What brings peace to your trembling soul? A glimpse of this awesome God! 

The awesome strength of your God IS your soul-calming peace! 

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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 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: 2 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: 1 donation 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: 3 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. 

Whom To Fear

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When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. … In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord whose word I praise—in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4, 10-11). 

Have you ever been afraid of someone? Have you ever experienced the fear of God?

Interestingly, it’s the same Hebrew word (yaré) for both. This word can mean either something that causes me to fight or flight, or it can mean reverential respect. David is saying, “When I begin to feel the fear of man, I instead turn to the fear of God, and I am no longer afraid.”

Or to put it another way: “When I think I have to fight or flight on my own, I instead choose to reverence God and He takes care of my fear.” 

In both verses 4 and 10, the word “praise” is the Hebrew word for “Hallelujah!” When David feels fear of man creeping in, he looks to God’s Word, finds a promise on which to stand, and reverentially begins to worship God: “Hallelujah! With this promise, I no longer need to fear man!” The Amplified Bible says, “On God I lean, rely, and confidently put my trust; I will not fear.” 

There is one other difference in the Hebrew language that is not readily apparent in the English translation. In verse 4, David uses the name Elohiym for God. This means the Mighty God who is Supreme over all. In verse 10, he uses God’s covenant name Yahweh or Jehovah. To me, this sounds like David knew that the fear of God could combat everything from general fears of human philosophies to a specific fear of a specific mortal. His conclusion is a good one: What can man—a mere mortal—or any of his worldly philosophies do to rattle me? Absolutely nothing because I am secure in God! 

We all become fearful at times. If we choose to fight or flight the fear, we do it in our own strength. This may result in temporary relief, but the fear will come back around again. However, if we decide to fear God—to say “Hallelujah!” to His promises—He is able to completely remove our fear. 

The choice is ours: fear man or fear God. 

To paraphrase the declaration of Joshua: “Choose this day whom you will fear. As for me, I choose to fear God!” 

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“Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise”

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Dying declarations are powerful statements!

As Jesus was nailed to the Cross, His first dying declaration prompted such a change of heart in a hardened criminal that the criminal’s own dying declaration caused Jesus to say, “Amen!” The story is found in Luke 23:32-43.

But first, we need to ask, why were criminals crucified alongside Jesus? An obvious answer is that it fulfilled a First Testament prophecy—He poured out His life unto death, and He let Himself be regarded as a criminal and be numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). 

How did this come about? Maybe…

  • Pilate was trying to justify his actions? 
  • the Sanhedrin had used these criminals as “evidence” that Jesus was stirring up a rebellion against the crown? 
  • a Roman centurion suggested, “Let’s kill three birds with one stone”? 

Whatever the case, they couldn’t have been very happy about this, especially since Barabbas (a fellow criminal) had just been released. They probably blamed Jesus for their awful predicament, so they naturally joined in the mockery. 

And what cruel mockery it was! 

  • the people stood watching these crucifixions and, since Luke uses the word for a sports spectator, it appears they were cheering the bloodshed they were observing
  • the Pharisees and Sadducees derided Jesus
  • the Roman soldiers continued the inhuman mockery and abuse that they had begun hours before 
  • the criminals crucified on either side of Jesus blasphemed Him 

Luke kindly records that only one criminal was hurling insults at Jesus, but Matthew and Mark make it clear that both criminals were blaspheming Jesus (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32). 

It appears that one criminal, although at first a blasphemer, had a change of heart. 

Perhaps it was because He heard this Jesus, who was being so horribly mistreated, ask His Father to forgive His tormentors instead of asking for retribution. The apostle Peter says that when we follow Christ’s example in this it can actually make people become ashamed of their slander against us (1 Peter 2:23; 3:14, 16). 

Or perhaps this criminal had been in the crowd earlier that week on Monday when Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God all day. If he was, he would have heard Jesus talk about the rewards for the righteous and the punishment for the wicked, and he would have heard Jesus talk about how even criminals like himself could be allowed into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 21:28-32). 

All of this was working on him until his own slander against Jesus stuck in his throat and he rebuked his companion for his blasphemy. He said, “We are guilty and deserve this death sentence. But this Man is totally innocent!” 

Then turning to Jesus, he delivers his faith-filled declaration, “LORD Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He called Him Lord, asked for a reward, and acknowledged that Christ’s Kingdom was not of this earth. This dying declaration was more faith-filled than even the disciples of Jesus could make, since all but one of them had fled in fear!

Jesus is so moved by this man’s declaration that His first word to him is Amen: “I tell you the truth [literally: Amen!], today you will be with Me in paradise. 

King David taught us that the sacrifice that God accepts is a broken heart, and the apostle Paul agrees by saying that it is the heart change and the confession of our mouth that brings our salvation (Psalm 51:16-17; Romans 10:4-11). 

My friend, Jesus has opened the way to Paradise for you by His death on the Cross. When our humbled hearts speak the truth about God’s Kingdom, Jesus says, “Amen!” and God welcomes us into His presence for ever and ever! Don’t wait another day, but cry out to Jesus today: tell Him that you are guilty, but you believe He has paid for your sins. He will then say the same word to your heart: “Amen! You will spend eternity in Paradise with Me!” 

If you would like to follow along as we look at all seven of the dying declarations Jesus made from the Cross, please click here. 

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