Poetry Saturday—Praise II

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King of Glorie, King of Peace,
      I will love Thee:
And that love may never cease,
      I will move Thee.

Thou hast granted my request,
      Thou hast heard me:
Thou didst note my working breast,
      Thou hast spar’d me.

Wherefore with my utmost art
      I will sing Thee,
And the cream of all my heart
      I will bring Thee.

Though my sinnes against me cried,
      Thou didst cleare me;
And alone, when they replied,
      Thou didst heare me.

Sev’n whole dayes, not one in seven,
      I will praise Thee.
In my heart, though not in heaven,
      I can raise Thee.

Thou grew’st soft and moist with tears,
      Thou relentedst:
And when Justice call’d for fears,
      Thou disentedst.

Small it is, in this poore sort
      To enroll Thee:
Ev’n eternitie is too short
      To extoll thee. —George Herbert (**spelling is 1663 English**)

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Sabbathing For Health

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I had a great time on the Ailbe Podcast with Rusty Rabon. 

Rusty wanted to dig a little deeper into the five chapters I wrote about a shepherd’s health. Quite simply, we cannot give to others what we do not possess ourselves, so if the shepherd isn’t mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally healthy, he cannot give health to the sheep under his care. 

Rusty and I specifically chatted about what Jesus did to remain at optimal physical health, because as I point out, without physical health it’s hard to be healthy in any of the other areas.  

As I mentioned, in Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter I take five chapters to unpack all of the various aspects of a leader’s health, along with some practical steps anyone can take. I’d also encourage you to check out this post on how Jesus practiced sabbathing during His earthly ministry. 

I’ll be sharing more clips from this interview soon, so please stay tuned. If you would like to check out the other clips I have already shared, they are located here, here, here, and here. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

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Links & Quotes

I came across a passage from a blog post I wrote 10 years ago, but it is still so timely for today: “Pastors, we can become so focused on the next sermon, the next appointment, the next Board meeting, the next outreach that we are actually worshiping the ministry instead of worshiping God through our ministry. When we are more focused on the work than on God, we can easily begin to feel over-worked and under-appreciated.”

“Stay with your Lord, however long the night, for only in Him have you hope of the morning!” —Charles Spurgeon

“I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.” —Clyde Kilby

Sean McDowell has an informative conversation with Titus Kennedy on the archeological evidence for the people and places in the Bible.

Jonathan Edwards wrote words that resonate with my message about pastors following the example of the Great Shepherd Jesus. “The ministers of Christ should be persons of the same spirit that their Lord was of: the same spirit of humility and lowliness of heart; for the servant is not greater than his Lord. They should be of the same spirit of heavenly-mindedness and contempt of the glory, wealth, and pleasures of this world: they should be of the same spirit of devotion and fervent love to God: they should follow the example of His prayerfulness; of whom we read from time to time of His retiring from the world, away from the noise and applauses of the multitudes, into mountains and solitary places, for secret prayer, and holy converse with his Father….” —Jonathan Edwards

“Wonderful things are told in this book [Daniel]. To those who find it difficult to believe these things, we say: let us remember that for one thousand years God had been nurturing the Hebrew nation for the purpose of establishing, through that nation, in a world of idol-worshiping nations, the idea that God is God. Now God’s nation had been destroyed by a nation that worshiped idols. That was plain evidence to all the world that the gods of Babylon were more powerful than the God of the Jews. It was a crisis in God’s struggle with idolatry. If ever there was a time when God needed to do something to show who He is, it was during the Babylonian exile. Strange indeed it would have been if nothing unusual had happened. Hard as it may be to believe these miracles, it would be harder to believe the rest of the story without them.

“At least the Jews, who from the very beginning had always been falling into idolatry, were now at last, in the Babylonian exile, convinced that their own God was the true God. These miracles also had a powerful influence on both Nebuchadnezzar and Darius (3:29; 6:26).” —Halley’s Study Bible

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Your Daily Companion

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. 

Your Daily Companion

The words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times. (Psalm 12:6) 

     In this psalm our text stands in contrast with the evil of the age. The psalmist complains, ‘The godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men’ (12:1). It was a great grief to him, and he found no consolation except in the words of the Lord. So what if men fail, the Word of the Lord abides! … Live in communion with the Word of God, and even in the absence of Christian friends, you will not lack for company. …  

     Furthermore, the verse stands in fuller contrast still with the words of the ungodly when they rebel against God and oppress His people. They say, ‘With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own; who is Lord over us?’ (12:4). … 

     So, dear friend, if at any time your lot is cast where the truths you love so well are despised, get back to the prophets and apostles, and hear through them what God the Lord will speak. The voices of earth are full of falsehood, but the word from heaven is very pure. … Make the Word of God your daily companion…. 

     The Word of the Lord is so instinct with everlasting life and eternal freshness, that it is as vocal and forceful in the heart of the saint today as it was to the ear of Abraham when he heard it in Canaan, or to the mind of Moses in the desert, or to David when he sang it on his harp. … By the Holy Spirit the words of Scripture come to us with a present inspiration—not only has the Book been inspired, it is inspired. This Book is more than paper and ink, it talks with us. Was not that the promise, ‘When you awake, they will speak with you’ (Proverbs 6:22)? We open the Book with this prayer, ‘Speak, Lord; for Your servant hears.’ … May the Holy Spirit at this hour speak to you yet again!

From The Bible Tried And Proved

I cannot say, “Amen!” loudly enough to convey just how much I agree with Spurgeon’s thoughts about the Bible. It is—without a close second—my favorite Book! 

I spent a week blogging about this Book of books: how it helps us pray, and think, and be more creative and insightful than others, and how it helps us process our strong emotions. 

The Bible also helps us fight victoriously. Do you want to fight like Jesus? Then get the Word of God in your heart and mind, and wield it like a sword the way Jesus did! Whether it was satan, or scribes and Pharisees, or even His own doubting disciples, Jesus returned to the Scripture time and time again. 

Just as the Scriptures were to Jesus, let’s make the Word of God our daily companion! 

If you would like some Bible study ideas, check these out. Or take a walk through the Psalms with me. Or begin by reading one chapter in Proverbs, or one section of Psalm 119, every day for a month. I can promise you that the Bible is the best daily companion you will ever know!

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Highly Esteemed

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“Highly esteemed” is how two different angels addressed Daniel (Daniel 9:23, 10:11). This was a title they obviously heard from God Himself. At both instances, Daniel was in a time of intense and sustained prayer and fasting. 

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making request to the Lord my God for His holy hill … Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me…. (Daniel 9:20-21) 

At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all. (Daniel 10:2-3) 

Prayer was a regular habit for Daniel and prayer was also what Daniel turned to immediately in times of trouble (Daniel 2:18, 6:10). 

We see the same thing in the lives of two notable women in the New Testament. Elizabeth is described as an upright woman who observed all of God’s commandments blamelessly. She continuously prayed that she might get pregnant, and then Gabriel came to bring the good news of her upcoming pregnancy. Elizabeth responded by saying, “The Lord has done this for me.… He has shown me His favor” (see Luke 1:5-25). 

Mary was also a righteous woman who was steeped in Scripture (as we can see in her song of praise). When Gabriel appeared to her, he called her “highly favored” (see Luke 1:26-55). 

A righteous, prayer-filled lifestyle also brings favor and esteem with earthly kings. Daniel and his friends fasted and prayed, which led to King Nebuchadnezzar’s favor directed to them (Daniel 1:11-20, 2:48-49). After three days of prayer and fasting, Queen Esther found favor in the eyes of King Xerxes, which led to the salvation of all the Jewish people (Esther 4:15—5:3). And Nehemiah’s sustained prayer over four months won the favorable reply from King Artaxerxes (see Nehemiah 1:1—2:8). 

If you want to hear deep things from God, if you want to be called “highly esteemed” by the Most High, if you want to gain favor with earthly kings, you must be committed to the sustained work of prayer and righteous living. If you would like to dig into this deeper, check out 4 Thoughts To Help Prayer Become A Daily Habit.

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Podcast: Seasons Of Leadership

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

  • [0:17] Craig gives an important weather report 
  • [0:42] Organizations go through changes of seasons too
  • [1:43] How can leaders see a change of season approaching?
  • [2:44] Leaders need to check both their “thermometers” and “thermostats” in their organizations
  • [3:55] What is the leader senses a change of season but some teammates aren’t ready to change yet?
  • [5:26] Leaders need to talk to themselves about their seasons?
  • [6:53] What leaders can look for to help navigate their changing seasons
  • [8:10] How do leaders get their teams ready for changes?
  • [8:42] How do leaders handle change that is imposed upon them?
  • [10:00] Changing seasons can be a threat
  • [11:25] Change is inevitable, but growth is optional
  • [13:50] Every leader fears change going poorly
  • [14:27] Trying and failing is a natural part of the change process
  • [15:06] Sacred cows can be problematic when attempting to make changes
  • [17:03] How leaders lead through changing seasons is so crucial to success
  • [18:53] Our coaching huddles can help you with your season of change

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.

Sheepish Shepherds

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C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!’” Truly there is a special bond when we find someone who “gets” us—someone who not only knows what we’re feeling, but how to help us too. 

Jesus is described as One who went through all of the human suffering we will ever have to go through (Hebrews 2:14, 17-18). So no matter what you’re going through, Jesus “gets” you. He’s been through it and He knows exactly what you’re feeling and what help you need. 

In fact, He’s even given us the Holy Spirit to turn our sighs and groans into a beautiful prayer that the Shepherd of our souls understands. 

This is wonderful news for all of us! But isn’t it also comforting when we have a human companion that “gets” us too? One that will come alongside us through the challenging and painful times to help us? 

In His love for His sheep, Jesus has given us under-shepherds. These are sheep that He has called and equipped to care for His flock. He did this with David—

He chose David His servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of His people Jacob, of Israel His inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. (Psalm 78:70-72) 

David never forgot that his source of strength was the Chief Shepherd, and he penned a beautiful psalm of praise and reliance on Him (Psalm 23). David also made it a priority to point the sheep under his care to the Chief Shepherd. He prayed:

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him. The Lord is the strength of His people, a fortress of salvation for His anointed one. Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; be their Shepherd and carry them forever. (Psalm 28:7-9) 

David “got” the needs of the sheep and with skill and integrity he both shepherded them as he was strengthened by the Chief Shepherd, and he entrusted them into the care of the Chief Shepherd. 

In the foreword to my book Shepherd Leadership, Dick Brogden wrote, “God plucked David from the sheepfold. God chose a sheep to be a shepherd. And though we all are stupid sheep, when God plucks us out of obscurity to serve others, we can have the humble confidence for as long as we are asked to lead that God has chosen us. That confidence both faithfully drives us to our knees and fearlessly propels us against our giants.” 

If you have been called by the Chief Shepherd to be an under-shepherd, make sure you remain a sheepish shepherd—one that “gets” his or her sheep. Don’t be distant from the flock, but stay close by them in the pasture so that you can care for them, pray for them, and lead them to the Chief Shepherd. 

I adapted David’s beautiful 23rd Psalm into a prayer that I hope all under-shepherds will use to gain the strength they need for the work to which the Chief Shepherd has called them—

Because You are my Chief Shepherd, I lack nothing that is needed to care for the sheep You have placed under my care. 

Just as You provide food for me in green pastures, and quiet waters for my thirst, I am equipped to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. 

You continually refresh my soul, so I can offer refreshing hospitality to those who have been beat up along life’s journey. 

You guide me along the right paths for Your name’s sake, so I can show others the path into Your presence. 

Even when I walk through the darkest valleys, I never fear because You are with me; You comfort me and provide all that I need so that I can care for the sick, the downhearted, and the weary without ever lapsing into my own pity party. 

You continually prepare a table before me, even when I’m in the midst of enemies. You have anointed my head with oil and caused my cup of blessing to overflow, so I have more than enough to share with others. 

I am secure that Your goodness and Your love will follow me all the days of my life, so I am equipped to lead others to the place where they too will dwell in Your house forever. 

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The Gift Preached To The World

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Ever since Resurrection Day, we can continually celebrate the greatest Gift ever—the death and resurrection of Jesus! 

After making His bodily resurrection abundantly clear, Jesus ascended back to heaven. And now we await His second advent. But here’s an important question: If Jesus ascended back into heaven, where is our Gift now? Quite simply: If you have invited Jesus into your heart, YOU are the gift! 

Remember on Good Friday I talked about what Jesus perfectly completed when He said, “It is finished!” It was an inside job. He came to change us at our core—we have been brought into at-onement with God and we stand in His presence just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned. 

But there is one more step, an ongoing process called sanctification or as I like to say it, “saint-ification.” 

Even as we are in this process, Jesus commissioned all of His disciples to Go…preach (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20). That means “as you are going” or “wherever you go” tell everyone the good news of the greatest Gift ever. 

Jesus also told us that the Holy Spirit would empower us to be effective at this preaching (Acts 1:4-5, 8). Notice that in Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “You will BE My witnesses,” not you will do witnessing. The Holy Spirit empowers us to BE God’s gift to the world, and to use Christ’s authority properly. 

The apostle Paul echos this. He tells us how everyone can receive the Gift of Jesus. Paul then notes that people hear about this Gift because those who have received the Gift are preaching to them (Romans 10:8-15). 

We are all preachers or proclaimers of the Greatest Gift. Don’t confuse preaching with being a pastor. Preaching is a lifestyle for all Christians, whereas pastoring is an office that only some Christians are called to. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach always; if necessary, use words.” 

Here are three things that I think preach unmistakably. 

(1) Loving, practical service to those in need (John 13:34-35; Matthew 25:34-40)

Jesus said it pretty simply: If someone is hungry, give them something to eat. This practical love is an unmistakable sermon. 

(2) Loving, practical service to those you dislike—or who dislike you (Luke 6:27-36) 

Anyone can do loving things for people they like, but when you bless people who are mean to you, another unmistakable sermon is being preached. 

(3) Jesus-exalting fruitfulness (Galatians 5:19-25) 

Paul contrasts the fruit of those who haven’t invited Jesus into their hearts with those who have. Our fruits of kindness in an unkind world, or self-control in a hedonistic world also preach an unmistakable sermon. 

(check out all of the above Bible verses by clicking here)

If the Gift of Jesus is in you, then your life IS the sermon. Preach it well! 

You are God’s gift to the world IF you are revealing God’s Gift to the world in everything you say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find all of them listed here. 

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Poetry Saturday—Courage

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There is a courage, a majestic thing
     That springs forth from the brow of pain, full-grown,
     Minerva-like, and dares all dangers known,
And all the threatening future yet may bring;
Crowned with the helmet of great suffering;
     Serene with that grand strength by martyrs shown,
     When at the stake they die and make no moan,
And even as the flames leap up are heard to sing:

A courage so sublime and unafraid,
     It wears its sorrows like a coat of mail;
     And Fate, the archer, passes by dismayed,
Knowing his best barbed arrows needs must fail
To pierce a soul so armored and arrayed
     That Death himself might look on it and quail. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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From “Servant” To “Shepherd”

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

I had a great time on the 200churches podcast with Jeff Keady. 

Jeff asked me how I got started writing my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. As I’ve shared before, the best way to start writing is just to start writing. That’s what I’ve been doing for almost 13 years, racking up close to 5100 blog posts, numerous articles for other publications, and now a #1 selling book. 

In this clip, I explain how I went from writing a blog to writing a book, and how the working title of my book went from Servant Leadership to Shepherd Leadership.  

I’ll be sharing more clips from this interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is now available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

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