Poetry Saturday—The Neglected Pattern

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

A weaver sat one day at his loom,
Among the colors bright,
With the pattern for his copying
Hung fair and plain in sight.

But the weaver’s thoughts were wandering
Away on a distant track,
As he threw the shuttle in his hand
Wearily forward and back.

And he turned his dim eyes to the ground,
And his tears fell on the woof,
For his thoughts, alas! were not with his home,
Nor the wife beneath its roof.

When her voice recalled him suddenly
To himself, as she sadly said:
“Ah! woe is me! for your work is spoiled,
And what will we do for bread?”

And then the weaver looked and saw
His work must be undone;
For the threads were wrong, and the colors dimmed
Where the bitter tears had run.

“Alack, alack!” said the weaver,
“And this had all been right
If I had not looked at my work, but kept
The pattern in my sight!”

Ah! sad it was for the weaver,
And sad for his luckless wife;
And sad it will be for us if we say,
At the end of our task in life,

The colors that we had to weave
Were bright in our early years;
But we wove the tissue wrong, and stained
The woof with bitter tears.

We wove a web of doubt and fear—
Not faith, and hope and love,
Because we looked at our work, and not
At our Pattern up above. —Phoebe Cary

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Word To Preachers

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.

A Word To Preachers

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) 

     Paul is a laborer, Apollos is a laborer, Cephas is a laborer, but not so much as a foot of the farm is Paul’s, nor does a single parcel of land belong to Apollos, or the smallest allotment to Cephas. ‘You are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s’ (1 Corinthians 3:23). The fact is that in this case the laborers belong to the land and not the land to the laborers, ‘for all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas’ (3:21-22). … 

     Brothers, a laborer may work very hard at a whim of his own and waste his labor, but this is folly! Some discourses do a little more than show the difference between a Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and what is the use of that? … 

     All God’s laborers must go to Him for their seed, or else they will scatter tares. All good seed comes out of God’s granary. If we preach, it must be the true word of God or nothing can come of it. … A sermon is vain talk and dreary word spinning unless the Holy Spirit enlivens it. … 

     Here we have mention of a personal service and a personal reward: ‘Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.’ The reward is proportionate, not to the success, but to the labor! Many discouraged workers may be comforted with that expression. You are not to be paid by results, but by endeavors.

From Farm Laborers

My dear preacher friend, God sees you. He has placed you in the field where He needs you to be, and He has given you the skills you need to have to labor for Him. Never doubt that! 

You may be the one breaking up hard ground, or the one sowing seed, or the one watering, or the one bringing in the harvest. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, rely on the strength God gives you. He will illuminate His Word to your heart first so that you can share a timely word with those under your care. Then He will send the Holy Spirit to enliven all that you preach. 

God has given you the tools and skills, now you must diligently supply the effort. Don’t become discouraged by what seems to be a lack of “success.” As God tells us through Paul, He will reward your faithful labor in His field. 

My book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter elaborates on this point. The thoughts in this book will remove from you the burden of trying to live up to any unbiblical metric of “success” in your ministry. I hope you will get a copy of this book! Check out ShepherdLeadershipBook.com for more details.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Simple Christianity

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

What does it mean to be a Christian? Or maybe I should ask it this way: what do Christians do to show that they are indeed a Christian?

Lots of people have come up with must-do and must-not-do lists, but is this the way Jesus lived? 

I love the simple summary of the life of Jesus that Peter gave: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Jesus was so overflowing with love and the Holy Spirit that He couldn’t help but make a difference wherever He went. 

It’s simple, but not easy. Look at how people lashed out at Jesus even while He was healing, teaching, loving, and forgiving. 

Or what about the simple description Jesus gave of an activity that brought applause from our Master: “You saw someone who was hungry and you fed him” (see Matthew 25:34-40). 

Simple, but not easy. Look at the logistical challenges in buying food, preparing it, and getting it to those who are indeed hungry. 

The churches of the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association are trying to live out this simple Christianity through a program called Hand2Hand. Nearly half of the students in our school district are eligible for free or reduced meals, which means they are having breakfast and lunch provided to them at school Monday through Friday. 

That also means that they are in need of food on the weekends. This is where Hand2Hand steps in. We provide healthy breakfast, snack, and dinner items for these students to eat during the weekend. 

It’s simple, but it’s not easy. 

We need lots of help—from food and financial donations, to shoppers, to shelf stockers, to small teams who prepare breakfast and snack packs, to larger teams who assemble the whole weekend’s supply, to those who deliver the food to the school buildings. There are so many places to get involved. 

If you live in West Michigan, would you please help us? We have set up a separate website to keep people updated on current food needs and volunteer opportunities. We also have a link for online financial gifts. If you would like to make a recurring donation, just $20 per month will provide healthy food for a student for the whole month. Whatever you can do with your time or financial support will be a blessing to so many! 

Let’s take advantage of this simple way to show the love of Jesus to these families in our community.

Podcast: Freedom Vs. Liberty

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

  • how does freedom differ from liberty [0:47]
  • I explain that we cannot have liberty without freedom, but we can have so much freedom that we can lose liberty [1:23] 
  • guardrails are extremely helpful for people to be succcessful [2:27]
  • liberty protects us from things that can be dangerous to a leader and his team [3:35]
  • how do controls and guardrails feel to a leader? how can leaders help their team with these feelings? [4:20]
  • why it is important to moderate our freedoms [6:00]
  • what is the difference between unity and conformity, and how do leaders promote the right thing [7:20]
  • we need to help independent people choose to be interdependent [8:27]
  • we unpack a quote Greg shares about trading doing what we want to do for doing what we ought to do [8:54]
  • we don’t want to be told what to do unless we understand why we need to do it—helping a team grasp this is how leaders get buy-in [10:23]
  • Greg shares a quote from Francis of Assisi about living out what we are talking about [12:00]

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.

Known And Unknown Threats

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

I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me (Psalm 120:1). 

What power and love is packed into this short verse! “I call…He answers.” There’s nothing else I need to do—just called to my God. There is no delay or deliberation on His part—He answers me. 

Distress” comes from the root word that can mean a tight spot, or it can mean a hard pebble. The distress we face may be a full frontal assault or it may be a nagging, almost indefinable, annoyance. Since Psalm 120 is a Psalm of Ascent, whatever the distress is, the psalmist feels like it is keeping him from going up into God’s presence. He lists three known distresses: 

  1. Deceit—people around him were lying or distorting the truth. 
  2. Separation—he wants to ascend into God’s presence but feels held back by those among whom he lives. 
  3. Turmoil—he’s looking for peace, but everyone around him wants to stir up trouble and controversy. 

What about those annoying, hard-to-identify distresses? In the next Psalm of Ascent the call is for us to trust God and to not worry. But in this psalm, there’s no calling to God for help because no specific threats have been identified. Still we learn that our Heavenly Father, who does not slumber, perpetually watches over us. Our Father knows our needs before we can even perceive them, and He is fully prepared to handle them. 

So we are promised: 

  • I can sleep securely
  • I can travel safely
  • I can work each day confidently
  • I can pass through the night unharmed
  • I can move around without having to look around
  • The LORD will watch over my coming and going both today and forevermore! 

Father, may any distresses I experience today send me ascending into Your presence. Whether I know what the threats are or not, I know that You are watching over me and will answer me whenever I call to You. I thank You for this confidence that I have both today and forevermore! 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

The Story Isn’t Over Yet

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

One of the things I enjoy about my Apple Watch is the connection I have with others who also use an Apple Watch. For instance, I get notified when my wife has finished a workout, and one of the pre-set replies I could choose is, “I’ve got questions!” That’s a funny way of me saying, “How did you complete that workout?!” 

In Psalm 75 and Psalm 76, Asaph tells us how God will deal with the wicked. But then Psalm 77 begins with Asaph using words like, “My soul refused to be comforted, my spirit is overwhelmed,” and then he launches into the tough questions like: “How long is this going to last? Has God forgotten me? Have I fallen out of favor with God? Has His mercy dried up? Can God keep what He has promised? Is God angry with me?” When I read all this, I feel like saying, “Asaph, I’ve got questions!” 

Yet, these complaints of Asaph ring true to real life. Like when a friend called me last week and started our conversation by asking, “Why can’t things just go easy for me?”

Here’s the simple answer: The Story isn’t over yet. We are in a battle, and the enemy of our soul is still trying to take us out, or at least shut us up. 

In Psalm 77, Asaph tells his story to Jeduthun (a Levite worship leader whose name means praising) in four chapters, with a Selah for each of the breaks between the chapters. 

Chapter 1—Distress (vv. 1-3)

The word distress means confronted by an adversary. Ever been there? Every follower of God has been, so Asaph invites us to Selah: pause to contemplate things like (a) Is this distress causing me to reevaluate the foundation on which I stand? (b) What is it God is shaking in my life? When God shakes things up, it is to cause us to remember and muse about the ONLY sure foundation that can withstand any storm (see Matthew 7:24-27). 

Chapter 2—Questioning (vv. 4-9) 

Notice the words Asaph uses: thought, remembered, mused, inquired. He is asking those tough questions, but he is asking them in a way that he can carefully consider the answers. That means he is really taking a Selah pause with each question. I think he has come to this conclusion: “Aren’t all these really just rhetorical questions? And isn’t the answer to all of them a resounding ‘NO!’?” If you aren’t sure the answer to all of these questions is no, please read Romans 8:31-39.

Chapter 3—Recalling (vv. 10-15) 

Notice the continuation of the words: thought, remember, meditate, consider. He also asks another question in v. 13 which he then answers in the next two verses. His call to Selah here is another pause to reflect: “Has God lost His power? Has He changed His mind?” And once again the answer is a loud and clear, “NO!” (see Isaiah 59:1; Hebrews 13:8) 

One of the important takeaways from this stanza of Psalm 77 is this: Looking back in gratitude at what God has done allows me to look forward in hope to what He is still going to do. My remembering what God has done in the past leads to: 

  1. Release from the darkness 
  2. Renewed praise 
  3. Recovered strength 
  4. Refocused outlook 

Chapter 4—Hope (vv. 16-20) 

Asaph says, “Look what God did! And since He is the same today as He was yesterday, guess what He’s still able to do!” We know this because the Bible says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

Remember I said earlier that God isn’t done telling His story yet? God isn’t done yet, He knows His Story, and His Story is still being told. But He’s also already told us how His story will end (see Revelation 21:4-6). And the end of His story is really just the beginning of the Real Story! 

C.S. Lewis said it this way in the closing words of The Last Battle:

“And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter 1 of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.” 

When you find yourself saying, “I’ve got questions: How long is this going to last,” Selah to remember that the Story isn’t over yet. The Storyteller knows how it ends, and He promises us: But what of that? For I consider that the sufferings of this present time—this present life—are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us! (Romans 8:18 AMP)

If you have missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find the complete list by clicking here.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Poetry Saturday—The Church A Garden

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

Christ hath a garden walled around,
A Paradise of fruitful ground,
Chosen by love and fenced by grace
From out the world’s wide wilderness.

Like trees of spice His servants stand,
There planted by His mighty hand;
By Eden’s gracious streams, that flow
To feed their beauty where they grow.

Awake, O wind of heav’n and bear
Their sweetest perfume through the air:
Stir up, O south, the boughs that bloom,
Till the beloved Master come:

That He may come, and linger yet
Among the trees that He hath set;
That He may evermore be seen
To walk amid the springing green. —Isaac Watts

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Thursdays With Spurgeon—We Are All Laborers

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.

We Are All Laborers

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) 

     Remember that the ablest ministers, the most powerful evangelists, the most profound teachers are, after all, nothing but laborers together with God. Let your mind be set upon the Master and not upon the servants! Do not say, ‘We are for this man because he plants,’ or ‘We are for the other because he waters,’ or ‘We are a third party for nobody at all.’ But let us join in ascribing all honor and praise to God, Who works all our works in us, since every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, to Whom be glory world without end! … 

     The church is God’s farm.… In the margin of the Revised Version, we read, ‘You are God’s tilled ground….’ 

    We begin by considering that the church is God’s farm. The Lord has made the church of His sovereign choice to be His own by purchase, having paid an immense price for it. ‘For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance’ (Deuteronomy 32:9). Because the Lord’s portion was under mortgage, therefore the only begotten Son laid down His life as the purchase price and redeemed His people to be the Lord’s portion forever and ever. Henceforth it is said to all believers, ‘You are not your own. For you were bought at a price’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Every acre of God’s farm cost the Savior bloody sweat, yes, the blood of His heart! He loved us and gave Himself for us; that is the price He paid! … 

     The Master’s commission is not ‘sit still and see the Spirit of God convert the nations,’ but ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15). 

     Alas, the loiterers are many, but the laborers are few.

From Farm Laborers

It’s sad how much time Christians spend on non-essential things. We church shop to find the pastor or the music that suits our tastes; we claim ownership over ministries and only allow others to work under us, but never alongside us; or we attend church and give our tithes and offerings and expect the pastor to do all of the ministry. 

All of this is not only unbiblical but none of this is focused on eternity. And as C.S. Lewis said, “All that is not eternal is eternally useless.” 

Jesus paid too high a price for us to keep the good news to ourselves, or claim that our ministry is superior to someone else’s, or to simply loiter and watch others do the work. All Christians are laborers in God’s field. God made an invaluable investment in the work Jesus did on the Cross, so He wants to see a return on His investment that will last for all eternity. 

It’s time for us to stop squabbling, stop protecting our turf, and stop loitering. We must get to the work because the time is short and the Master is looking for eternal results.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

The Circle Of Love And Hate

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

Oh, how I love Your law! … Therefore I hate every wrong path (Psalm 119:97, 104). 

These bookend verses of the section called Mem form the conclusion of a logical argument, and in between are each step of the progression. Notice the word “for” (in vv. 98, 99, 100, and 102) and the words “so that” in v. 101. 

This progression forms a circle from love to hate, and back to love again. Check this out—

I love Your law so I meditate on it all day. 

Meditating on Your law makes me wiser than my enemies and my teachers. 

This wisdom helps me obey Your laws. 

Obedience keeps me on the right path. 

I stay on the right path because You Yourself teach me while I’m on that path. 

Because You are my Teacher, Your laws are sweet to me. 

Because Your laws are sweet, I hate anything contrary to Your laws. 

Hating everything that is not found in Your law helps me love Your law even more. 

[Back to the top] Since I love Your law, I keep on meditating on it all day. 

Far too often I believe Christians are known more for what they’re against than what they’re for. The author of Psalm 119 urges us over and over and over again to not only fall in love with God’s Word but to fall more deeply in love with the God revealed in His Word. When we are brimming full of love for God, we cannot help but show the world what we are for, and that is for everyone to have a personal relationship with this loving God for themselves. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

You Are A Unique Masterpiece

The Bible uses two phrases that we don’t typically use today: “the horn of the wicked” and “the horn of the righteous.” 

A horn in Hebrew literature is a symbol of strength. The wicked blow their own horn—trumpeting how they are self-made people. Obviously, this God-ignoring arrogance isn’t something God can bless! 

What about “the horn of the righteous”? Is there a way to blow our horn so that God is glorified? In a word: Yes!

Check out this short 2-minute video to hear how I describe the right and wrong ways to honor your uniqueness by blowing a righteous, God-honoring horn…

Always remember this—You are God’s grace gift to the world, so you must always strive to blow a God-honoring horn! 

If you would like to check out some of the other thoughts I shared about our horns, please click here. 

%d bloggers like this: