Thursdays With Spurgeon—Keep Moving Forward

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.

Keep Moving Forward  

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

     God does not say to us, ‘This is the way,’ and then stop. He says, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ We are always to be making advances. We are to be going from faith in its beginnings to faith in its perfections, from faith to assurance, from assurance to full assurance. And from there, we are to go to the full assurance of hope to the full assurance of understanding, always forward, waxing stronger and stronger. …  

     The Christian’s motto is ‘Upward and onward.’ Not as though he has already obtained, either is already perfect, he presses forward to the mark for the prize of his high calling in Christ Jesus. …  

     Can you perform the common activities of the household and the daily duties that fall to your lot in the spirit of faith? This is what the apostle means. He does not speak about running or jumping or fighting, but about walking—and he means to tell you that the ordinary life of a Christian is different from the life of another man—that he has learned to introduce faith into everything he does. 

From Faith Versus Sight

I have a t-shirt that says on the front, “Keep moving forward.” But the back of the t-shirt has the real-life challenge: “Crawling is acceptable. Falling is acceptable. Puking is acceptable. Crying is acceptable. Pain is acceptable. Quitting is not!” 

How true! 

I think the problem for many Christians is that they have an unrealistic expectation of growth. Somehow we’ve come to believe that our Christian growth is a constant upward trajectory to maturity, and that if there are ever any stumbles along the way, that means we’ve blown it. (By the way, Oswald Chambers has some helpful thoughts on our stair-step growth.)

But Paul tells us, “We walk”: We keep moving forward. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times of stumbling, or a plateau, or even a pause to catch our breath. Paul tells us that an important aspect of our walk is that we forget what’s behind us and we keep moving forward—keep walking—keep going. 

Every single day, let us say along with Paul, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14 NLT). 

My friend, keep moving forward in faith, believing that the Holy Spirit is with you—maturing you, strengthening you—on every single step on your Christian walk.

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Soul Watchers

I share T.M. Moore’s heartbeat for the role of shepherd leaders in the Church today. I highly recommend that every pastor subscribe to the newsletters that are available through the Fellowship of Ailbe. 

A recent article called “Soul Watchers” really caught my attention. Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite… 

Elders are called “overseers” and “shepherds” in their relationship to the congregations of the Lord (1 Peter 5:1-3). … Elders were charged with the responsibility of watching over the flocks of the Lord (Acts 20:28), preserving sound doctrine and right practice in the churches (Acts 15:1-6; Titus 1), and, in particular, keeping watch over the souls of God’s people (2 Corinthians 12:15; Hebrews 13:17). … 

The elders appointed to serve the churches of the New Testament were called to be shepherds, leading the Lord’s flocks into fuller realization of His Kingdom and promises. In fact, so vital were elders to the churches of the New Testament that Paul insisted that any church that didn’t have elders was to that extent not “in order” (Titus 1:3).

(Check out the bible verses T.M. references in this piece by clicking here.)

T.M. Moore wrote one of the endorsements for my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, and I recently appeared as a guest on his Ailbe Podcast.

God’s Signet Ring

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

God foretells that He will make governor Zerubbabel “like My signet ring.” This means that Zerubbabel would have God’s supreme authority—he could speak for God. 

How could this happen? Zerubbabel couldn’t do it himself, but God sovereignly placed him in the family lines of both Joseph and Mary. This family lineage of Jesus Christ carried BOTH the covenant-fulfilling, kingly authority that traced back to Abraham AND the satan-crushing promise given to Adam’s human line. 

Jesus joined these two promises through Zerubbabel the signet ring. Jesus became God’s Ultimate Signet Ring so that now every promise is “Yes” in Him. This mens every time we pray and claim promises in God’s Word, Jesus adds His stamp of authority—His “Amen!”—to our prayers (see 2 Corionthians 1:20). 

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Balanced Leadership

Many pastors limit their leadership effectiveness by clinging to either confidence or humility. The better option—and one that Jesus Himself demonstrated for us—is to be both confident and humble. 

I unpack this idea in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. It’s available in print, ebook, and audiobook. 

Get more info, or order a copy of my book for yourself, at ShepherdLeadershipBook.com. 

Shepherd Leadership (book review)

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

On average, I read and post book reviews on about 40 books per year, so I thought it was fitting to post a review of my own book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter.

Actually, I want to share with you what others have said about my book:

“If one is searching for an easily understandable road map to biblical leadership, you have an excellent resource in Pastor Craig’s new offering. … Pastor Craig translates deep spiritual truths to simple, attainable processes which will certainly achieve desired results and personal growth.” —Kurt 

“Owens has created a concise guide for pastors that will model how Jesus wants them to lead and serve. I highly recommend this book for not only pastors but those attending seminary.” —Anonymous

“After 23 years of Army service, and 17 of those years in a leadership role, I can tell you that this book would have helped me be a better leader back then. It is geared to help the Ministry Leadership; however, after reading it, I believe will help everyone.” —Daniel  

“This book is such a good resource, not only for leaders in ministry but any person who wants a refreshing look at leadership relationships in general.” —Anonymous 

“This is a great addition to the leadership library and is a must for those in nonprofit, ministry leadership, or considering going into those fields. … Having been led as a layperson in a church that had leaders who lacked humility and security in serving, and seeing the damage they did to people and the Church, this book really spoke to me.” —Steven

“I am so thankful to Craig for cutting through all the delusion and confusion of what ministry and leadership has become and taking us back to the simple reality of laying down our lives for others. Crucified shepherds are neither popular nor common, but they do look and live like Jesus.” —Dick 

“Craig does a great job of reminding us of some simple truths that far too often get lost in the world of leadership. As he calls us back to model our leadership after Jesus, he does so with practical advise and a shepherd’s heart.” —Kevin 

“Having served in executive leadership positions on two large church staffs and also on a non-profit paraministry, I can tell you from experience this book is a must-read.” —Steve 

“Craig provides a much needed guide, based on biblical principles, on how the church can regain its impact on the culture through more effective leadership.” —Stuart 

“Craig Owens describes his Biblical understanding of how leaders serve through humility and confidence, utilizing their mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. It is through this balance that effective leaders can honor God with their servanthood.” —Denise 

“This book is filled with practical ideas that challenge me to check my priorities. In a world that screams for more, more, more, this book asks me to identify what I want more of.” —Faye 

The reviews on Amazon currently have this book rated at 4.9 stars. 

I’m so humbled that this book is connecting with so many people! I loved writing it, and I still love talking to people about it. 

My book is available in print, ebook, and audiobook. If you’d like to know more about Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, or to pick up a copy for yourself, please go to ShepherdLeadershipBook.com.  

Sword Of God

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

Zechariah is the longest book of the minor prophets. His ministry overlaps Haggai the prophet, Ezra the priest, Zerubbabel the governor, and Joshua the high priest. I point all of this out because we need to always keep in mind that the Bible isn’t a collection of stories. It’s a verifiable (or falsifiable) record of real people at real moments in history. Many of the stories in the Bible confirm and even amplify each other. 

Let me remind you of what we learned from our study of the minor prophet Haggai:

  1. Hear the Word 
  2. Consider the Word 
  3. Obey the Word 
  4. Stand assured, encouraged, and unmovable on God’s Word 

Aren’t you more assured of a message that has a confirmation? Like if one person gives you a compliment that you hadn’t considered before, and then later on someone else notices the same attribute. I think we are more ready to receive the word when it has a confirmation like that. 

Haggai delivered a word directed to Zerubbabel the governor, which we saw was a prophecy pointing to and ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. God called Zerubbabel “My signet ring—a mark of God’s supreme authority. 

That might have been a difficult thing for Zerubbabel to accept, so Zechariah is given a confirming word two months after Haggai’s prophecy (Zechariah 4:1-9). This prophecy affirms the message given through Haggai, and also points to its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. 

But then Zechariah is also given an amplifying word, as he speaks a word from God to Joshua, the other “olive tree” in his God-given vision (Zechariah 3:1-9; 6:9-13). 

Zechariah confirmed and amplified Haggai’s message. And then Jesus fulfilled both of their prophecies! We have the benefit of seeing the prophecy and fulfillment, which should build our faith in ALL of the promises in God’s Word. 

The Word of God then become the (s)word of God in our mouths and hearts!  

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would wield the sword of God, and this is the same blessing we can claim today. Jesus defeated satan’s temptations with the sword of God, and so do the saints of God today (Isaiah 49:2; Psalm 149:6; Ephesians 6:13, 17; Luke 4:1-12; Revelation 12:11). 

Because of these specific prophecies that have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, we can now stand assured, encouraged, unmovable, and well-armed with the same sword of God. 

There isn’t a more effective sword or shield than God’s (s)word! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series discovering the major lessons in the minor prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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Poetry Saturday—Day By Day

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

Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Ev’ry day the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in eve’ry tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land. —Lina Sandell

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Whose Ladder?

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 Ailbe Podcast with Rusty Rabon.

Rusty quotes a section from the chapter “The Wrong Ladder” in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter: 

God frequently picks people we would consider the least qualified. He sometimes has one in an unglamorous position for years, and sometimes He catapults somebody immediately to the top. Sometimes God will keep His hand-selected individual in a prominent leadership position until death, and sometimes He will remove that person to a place of obscurity after only a short time. God’s ladder of success is nothing like ours! 

We discuss the American cultural ladder and how that may or may not square with what we read on the pages of the Bible. I use the example from the life of Philip to make my point that we would be wise to not try to set up our own ladder of success. 

 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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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Walking 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.

Walking Preachers  

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

     Walking is a position that…signifies activity. You would suppose from the way some Christians deport themselves, that their whole life was spent in meditation. It is a blessed thing to sit ‘with Mary at the Master’s feet.’ But we walk as well as sit. We do not merely learn, but we practice what we know. We are not simply scholars, but, having been taught as scholars, we go on to show our scholarship by working in the vineyard or wherever else the Master may be pleased to place us. …  

     You would gather indeed from what others say, that the whole life of a Christian is to be spent in prayer. Prayer, it is true, is the vitality of the secret parts of Christian life, but we are not always on our knees! We are not constantly engaged in seeking blessings from heaven. We do continue in prayer, but we are also engaged and showing forth to others the blessings that we have received and in exhibiting in our daily actions the fruits that we have gathered on the mountaintop of communion with God. We walk, and this implies activity. …  

     ‘We walk.’ This is more than some can say. They can affirm, ‘We talk. We think. We experience. We feel.’ But true Christians can say with the apostle Paul, ‘We walk.’ Oh, that we may ever be able to say it too! Here, then, is the activity of the Christian life.

From Faith Versus Sight

Edgar A. Guest captured this idea well in his poem “Sermons We See.” The first stanza says,

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear.
And the best of all preachers are the men who live their creeds.
For to see the good in action is what everybody needs.
 

Or as Francis of Assisi noted, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” 

So a fantastic question for every Christian to ask themselves is this: Do people know that I’m walking with Jesus even if I never open my mouth to tell them?

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You’re No Match For Sexual Sin

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

At the window of my house I looked out through the lattice. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in. Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. … 

With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter…. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7) 

Solomon tells us that we know the place—her corner, her street, her house. 

Solomon tells us that we know her goal—she came out to meet him with crafty intent. 

Solomon tells us that we know her strategy—speaking lies with a brazen face, speaking words that are seductive, persuasive, smooth, and with an outfit to match the vocabulary. 

Solomon tells us we know the outcome—her victim is brought down into the chambers of death. 

The Bible never counsels us to fight sexual sin, but it says we should flee sexual sin. Stronger people than me have been sucked into the quicksand of sexual temptation. 

It sounds innocent enough (“it’s just a little flirting”). It sounds harmless enough (“there’s no harm in looking”). It sounds tame enough (“who will ever know?”). But her slain are a mighty throng! 

Solomon also tells us the way to avoid sexual sin—keep God’s words close by, store up His commands in your heart, keep wise and God-fearing friends around you, and stay away from her corner, her street, her house. 

This is not a trivial thing. I’m no match for the silky seduction of sexual temptation! Flee! Run away! Don’t even get close to it! Jesus said that drastic steps may be needed—get rid of your computer, stop watching TV alone, get a new job. 

Don’t fight it—flee it! Your best strategy is to stay as far, far away as possible. Let me say it again: You are no match for the crushing power of sexual temptation, so FLEE! 

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