Thursdays With Spurgeon—Cutting The Root Of The Weed Of Sin

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. 

Cutting The Root Of The Weed Of Sin

I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah. (Psalm 32:5) 

     We must confess the guilt as well as the fact of sin. It is useless to conceal it, for it is well known to God; it is beneficial to us to own it, for a full confession softens and humbles the heart. I will confess my transgressions to the Lord. Not to my fellow human beings or to the high priest, but to Jehovah. … 

     When the soul determines to lay low and plead guilty, absolution is near at hand; hence we read, “And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Not only was the sin itself pardoned, but so was the iniquity of it; the virus of its guilt was put away at once, as soon as the acknowledgment was made. God’s pardons are deep and thorough: the knife of mercy cuts at the roots of the ill weed of sin.

From Spurgeon And The Psalms

I notice again the Selah at the end of this verse. That word means to pause and deeply consider the previous words. I shared a sermon about the weight that is lifted and the freedom that is restored if we will just confess our sin to God! 

But the devil loves to condemn us, to whisper the lie that we’ve sinned one too many times for God to forgive us again. This is truly a lie because a forgiven sin is a forgotten sin. So in essence when we ask God to forgive us for our most recent sin, He views it as our only sin! 

In my book Shepherd Leadership, I challenged pastor-shepherds to make good use of confession: 

     When your reactions aren’t Christlike, admit it. Someone might want to push back, “But if I say I was wrong, then I may lose some leadership credibility.” I would agree that you will lose credibility if you believe you are a self-made leader and if you are climbing up a career ladder that you designed. But if you are truly living and leading as a servant that God has equipped and placed among this flock, admission of an un-Christlike action or reaction triggers something extraordinary: God’s help. Peter said it this way: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). 

     Did you catch that? God stands back from the proud person who will not admit his error nor ask for help, let alone ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, God lavishes His grace on the humble one who admits both his error and his need for help. Admission of an inappropriate action or reaction brings God’s help! 

     Friends, the mark of a maturing shepherd is not one who never misspeaks or never makes a mistake. No, the mark of a maturing shepherd is the one who is closing the gap between his mess up and his confession, and one who is experiencing fewer mess ups over time because the Holy Spirit is helping him get healthier and more mature. —an excerpt from chapter 12 of Shepherd Leadership

Don’t listen to the devil’s lies, but hear the loving voice of the Holy Spirit calling you to confess your sin and receive immediate absolution from it. As Spurgeon said, “God’s pardons are deep and thorough: the knife of mercy cuts at the roots of the ill weed of sin.” 

If you would like to know more about Shepherd Leadership, please click here.

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A High And Holy Calling

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

When God spoke to the “princes of Israel,” He was speaking to those in leadership positions. They were men who had wealth, position, and a high level of influence. God called them to live up to their title as “prince” because leadership is a high and holy calling given by God. 

Leaders are to set an example for others. They are to provide what is lacking so that others can live up to their own God-given potential as well. Here’s the way God describes His leaders in Ezekiel 45-46:

They are to be peacemakers, never men of violence nor oppression (45:9). 

They are to be fair, consistent, and impartial in their interactions with others (45:10). 

They are to generously provide for the people under their care (45:15-17, 22; 46:13-14). 

They are to have a “get to do it” attitude toward their duties, not a “have to do it” attitude” (46:5, 7, 11). 

They are to be among their people, not aloof nor isolated from them (46:10). 

They are to provide for their family without impoverishing the people under their care (46:18). 

Since God calls leaders, He will also call them to account. Jesus made it clear that there are only one-of-two assessments that leaders will hear from God:

  1. Well done, good and faithful servant 
  2. You wicked, lazy servant

Let me say it again: Leadership is a high and holy calling. So…

A mark of a godly leader is one who joyfully and faithfully fulfills God’s leadership call. 

This is part 67 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life (book review)

Baseball was the first organized sport I learned to play and appreciate, largely due to Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey’s radio broadcast of the Detroit Tigers. I would sneak my small transistor radio under my pillow during the summer to listen to the games each night. Not only did I learn about the current Tigers, but I began to develop an appreciation for the Tigers of the bygone era. 

One of the notable names to appear on the Tigers’ scorecard for a dozen seasons was “Hammerin’” Hank Greenberg. His story is told in his autobiography Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life. 

Tigers fans lost four-plus seasons of this dominant ballplayer when Hank served in the armed forces during World War II. And then the Tigers lost out again when a rift between two-time American League MVP Greenberg and Tigers owner Walter Briggs saw Hank traded to Pittsburg for the final year of his career. 

Greenberg was not the first Jewish ballplayer in the Major Leagues, but he was the first one who was almost perpetually in the spotlight. From the moment he stepped on the field, he vaulted to the top of nearly every offense category. 

My Patreon supports can get exclusive access to the quotes I have shared from this book by clicking here

In 1938, Hank was chasing Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record, and many feel he didn’t break it because many pitchers didn’t want to see a Jew steal The Babe’s record, so they didn’t give him anything to hit. The previous year, Hank was chasing Lou Gehrig’s RBI record and ended up knocking in 184 runs (just one shy of Gehrig’s record), again in spite of the lousy pitches he was seeing. 

Hank’s career stats are all the more amazing considering the four-plus seasons he missed during his military service. His enlistment period was actually up two days before Pearl Harbor was bombed. On hearing that news, Hank said, “That settles it for me, I am reenlisting at once,” making him the first Major Leaguer to enlist in the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

Thankfully for Tigers fans, Greenberg returned to the lineup in time to help the team win the World Series in 1945. In four World Series appearances, he had a .318 batting average, with 5 homers, and 22 RBIs. 

After leaving the playing field, Hank moved into the front office with the Cleveland Indians and then the Chicago White Sox. He revolutionized the way teams used their minor league farm system, while still battling and overcoming the antisemitism that was so present even in the ranks of baseball team owners. Jackie Robinson was grateful for the encouragement and advice that Greenberg gave him while he faced very similar ugly treatment when he broke into the Major Leagues. 

If you are a Detroit Tigers fan, this is an excellent book to add to your library.

Faith Over Fear

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

I am always interested when I see contrasts in the Bible. Things like:

  • Live this way, not that way
  • These people are blessed, these people have trouble 
  • If you do this, you won’t have this 

So an interesting contrast caught my eye in the story where Jesus calms the storm (Matthew 8:23–27). Jesus is sleeping peacefully in the middle of a storm that is described as “furious [where] the waves swept over the boat.” The disciples were anything but peaceful—they thought they were going to drown—so they yelled for Jesus to wake up. 

Before Jesus calmed the storm, He says, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” 

That’s the phrase that caught my attention. Notice the contrast between “little faith” and “so afraid.” In other words, small faith means big fear! 

Strong’s Greek dictionary defines “little faith” as “dread (by implication) faithless.” So it appears there is an inverse proportion between faith and fear. 

The word that Jesus used for “afraid” is only used here and in the same story in Mark 4:40, and in Revelation 21:8 which lists people who will be excluded from entrance into heaven.

The phrase “so afraid” (or “O ye of little faith” in the King James Version) is just one word in Greek: olgiopistos. The root word pistos is faith, but I find the prefix oligos very descriptive. It means: 

  • small in quantity 
  • short in time 
  • slight in intensity 

In other words, it is faith that is immature, or hasn’t been used much, or hasn’t been applied to a particular circumstance. This word olgiopistos is used five times in the New Testament, and only used by Jesus. 

In addition to this story, it is used in Matthew 6:30 and Luke 12:28 when Jesus tells us not to worry about the things that God will provide for us—things like food, clothing, and shelter. Jesus uses this word for Peter when he began to sink in the water after walking a few steps toward Jesus. And Jesus uses it in Matthew 16:8 when He warns His disciples about the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Sadducees that can creep into their hearts and spoil their faith. (Check out all of these verses here.)

In mathematical circles, this relationship between faith and fear is one that would be called inversely proportional. When our faith is high, our fear is low; when our fear is high, our faith is low. I also think it is very eye-opening that the mathematical symbol for inverse proportionality (∝) is the same symbol called ichthus that the early church used to represent Jesus.

Faith and fear cannot coexist in the same heart. Sometimes our faith is small in quantity because we haven’t fed our faith with God’s promises. Sometimes our faith is short in time because we want things done on our time schedule. And sometimes our faith is slight in intensity because we are unsure if God can “come through” in this particular situation. 

Whatever the case, when we feel any fear, we need to ask for faith. We need to return to God’s Word and be assured that His promises are applicable regardless of the situation we are in. As our faith grows, our fear has to diminish! 

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Eternally Satisfied

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

We see a pattern throughout the history of the Israelites in the Old Testament: They wanted to have all their bases covered, so they kept up the pretense of worshiping Jehovah, but they also added the idolatrous practices of the nations around them. It got pretty vile (see Jeremiah 2:23-25 as an example). 

These cravings for more than God had provided led to their punishment. As we quoted last week from Isaiah, they lost their “matchless, unbroken companionship” with God (Isaiah 30:18 AMP).

Craving for our self-created idols creates anxiety in our hearts that shows up in three nagging questions. 

(1) What will others think of me if they have things I don’t have?

Worrying about what others think of us has always been a trap. We play games, posture, and frequently hide the truth so that we “look right” to others. But this dishonesty only hurts us in the long run.

Dr. Tony Evans noted, “satan uses our legitimate need for acceptance in an illegitimate way that can result in us living under a false identity.” Jesus warned us not to show off to try to get others to think well of us (Matthew 6:1) and He lived this out in His own life. He said, “I receive not glory from men—I crave no human honor, I look for no mortal fame” (John 5:41 AMP). 

To avoid this trap remember: Recognition from God > Recognition from men. We should be living to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21, 23). 

(2) Will I have enough to survive?

Because the things of this earth pass away, it is natural to think that our supply may just <poof!> be gone in an instant. So we can crave the security of having our shelves fully stocked for the future. 

Jesus twice tells us that our Heavenly Father knows what we need (Matthew 6:8, 32). Then over a span of ten verses, Jesus tells us four times, “Do not worry” (Matthew 6:25-34). He can assure us of this because of this rock-solid reality: Heaven’s provisions > Earth’s provisions. 

(3) Will God accept me?

Just as satan tried to get Jesus to doubt that He was the Son of God, the devil will also try to get you to doubt whether or not you measure up in God’s sight. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasizes the Fatherhood of God thirteen times—usually calling Him “your Father.” 

This tells me that we can cling to this: Being accepted by your Father > Being accepted by anyone else. Paul uses a wonderful description in Ephesians when he tells us we are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV). 

Isaiah told us that God longs to be gracious to us, and Jesus emphasizes that idea when He says, “Only aim at and strive for and seek His kingdom, and all these things shall be supplied to you also. Do not be seized with alarm and struck with fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!” (Luke 12:31-32 AMP) 

Just as God craves to bless you, so you are to crave your fulfillment in what He alone can supply. You must crave the only One Who can eternally satisfy you, Who longs to reward you, and Who delights to give you the inestimable rewards of His kingdom! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Craving series, check them out by clicking here. 

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Links & Quotes

Immature people only want to do the bare minimum, but mature people want to do more than is expected of them. Jesus called these people those that went the second mile. That was a topic in my most recent Monday Motivation series.

I am a big fan of The Babylon Bee. If you haven’t checked out their satirical wit, please do so! One post that caught my eye this week is called What Your Favorite Book Of The Bible Says About You. Wow, did this one make me laugh! If you would like to check out some real Bible studies, I have some here and here.

Cold-case detective and Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace discusses how Jesus impacted other world religions—

The drought in north Texas has revealed some more dinosaur tracks, raising some new questions about these massive animals that roamed Earth.

The devil loves to try to pervert the conviction of the Holy Spirit into condemnation. Here is the freeing truth we can stand on: There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Sean McDowell elaborates on the dangers of pornography.

My Church Hasn’t 10x’d

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 Leading From Alignment podcast with Jim Wiegand and John Opalewski. 

Jim asked me to share the motivation behind my book Shepherd Leadership. I especially wanted to highlight why we used the subtitle “The metrics that really matter.” Check this out…

As Jim pointed out, far too many pastors get frustrated because “my church hasn’t 10x’d in the last 10 years” and so they feel like a failure. Nowhere is this type of measurement for church effectiveness found in the New Testament. Instead, pastors are called to faithfulness and excellence. 

If you are a pastor, please pick up a copy of my book. I have recently been joining church staff meetings as they use Shepherd Leadership as a discussion starter. If you would like me to join you either in person or via a Zoom meeting, please get in touch with me. 

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

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Delightful Judgments

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. 

Delightful Judgments

My soul is consumed with longing for Your laws at all times. (Psalm 119:20) 

     Search God’s Word and you will have before your eyes the ultimate judgment of unerring truth, the last decree from the supreme authority from which there is no appeal! The Bible contains the verdict of the Judge of all the earth, the judgments of God who cannot lie and cannot err.

     Thus, God’s Word is rightly called His ‘judgments.’ It is a Book not to be judged by us, but to be our judge—not a word of it may be altered or questioned. But to it we may constantly refer as to a court of appeal whose sentence is decisive. … 

     Our judgments must be daily more and more conformed to the judgments of God that are laid down in Scripture. And there must be in our spirit a longing after holiness until we delight in the Law of the Lord and meditate therein both day and night. We will grow to the likeness of that which we feed upon, heavenly food will make us heavenly minded! The Word of God received into the heart changes us into its own nature and, by rejoicing in the decisions of the Lord, we learn to judge after His judgment and to delight ourselves in that which pleases Him. 

From Holy Longings

The 119th Psalm is an amazing chapter—176 verses arranged as a love letter to both God’s Word and the God who gave us His Word. Every one of these verses extol the value and beauty of God’s commands, decrees, precepts, statues, law, and judgments. 

As Spurgeon pointed out, “judgment” does not mean a sentence of guilt pronounced against us, but a standard for determining the rightness or lawlessness of something. God’s Word is the final judgment on sin and righteousness. 

The psalmist who penned this beautiful prose more than likely had only the first five books of our Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—and yet he finds such delight in these words because of the awesome God they reveal. Look at his delight…

  • I delight in Your decrees (v. 16) 
  • Your statues are my delight (v. 24) 
  • I delight in Your commands (v. 47) 
  • I delight in Your law (v. 70)
  • Your commands give me delight (v. 143) 

As Spurgeon said, the more we delight in God’s Word, the more we will meditate on it; the more we meditate on it, the more it will change our hearts to make lifestyle judgments that are pleasing to God. 

No matter whether you’ve never really studied the Bible, or you are an “old pro” with a well-worn Bible close at hand, may we all continue to grow in our delight of God’s Word and our reverence of the God revealed to us in the Word. 

If you would like some Bible studies to help get you started, check out:

And you can also check out a previous post were I shared three steps to better Bible studies.

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Optimal Spiritual Health

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 and I spent a good chunk of our time talking about the health of pastors. I think it is very important for shepherd leaders to be wholly healthy because we cannot give to our flocks what we don’t possess ourselves. 

One of the things that is very interesting to me is the parallels between maintaining our physical health and maintaining our spiritual health. When it comes right down to it, our physical health can be optimized by getting a handle on four key elements: (1) proper diet, (2) regular exercise, (3) appropriate rest and recovery, and (4) regular times of evaluation and adjustment. 

Our spiritual health is optimized with these same four elements. 

As my friend Josh Schram reminded me, “Health is not just a big one-time choice. Health is small daily choices.” Jesus made these daily choices to eat well, exercise regularly, rest when needed, and make the adjustments His Father spoke to His heart. He set us an example for healthy spiritual growth that will keep us in a place to grow our shepherd leadership capacities. 

I have found that we are much more likely to make and stick to a plan to get physically healthy when we have a workout friend or someone who is holding us accountable. The same is true for our spiritual health. So pastor, don’t try to get and stay healthy on your own, but get a trusted friend or two working out alongside you. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership, I have five chapters that focus on a leader’s mental, physical, spiritual, and relational health. I hope you will pick up a copy to help you operate at peak healthiness. 

If you want to catch up on some of the other clips I’ve already shared from this interview, you can find them here, and I’ll be sharing more clips from this 200churches interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Podcast: Motivated Leadership

Listen to the audio-only version of this podcast by clicking on the player below, or scroll down to watch the video.

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

  • [0:48] What does the dictionary say about motivation? What do we say about motivation? 
  • [2:03] Motivation comes in “different packages”
  • [3:48] How can we individualize motivation?
  • [5:53] How does coachability mesh with motivation?
  • [7:20] Is 100% self-motivation possible?
  • [7:49] Greg’s story about a leader’s frustration with unmotivated people 
  • [9:44] Does yelling ever motivate people?
  • [12:52] A teammate’s love language can give you insight into how to motivate them.
  • [13:56] How do leaders “call out” what’s in our team members?
  • [16:01] A leader’s self-assessment is key to how well we motivate others.
  • [18:23] Are company-wide benefits demotivating? How can we switch this up?
  • [20:30] Does the carrot-or-stick method of motivation actually work?
  • [21:10] Greg shares a quote about how dreams can help motivation.
  • [22:51] Great leaders don’t assume, but they ask important questions.
  • [23:53] Our coaching huddles can help you individualize your leadership motivational skills and practices.

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.

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