Why We Need Loving Friends

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

Check out this excerpt from chapter 13 of my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter

David was the gold standard for every king of Israel who followed him. Numerous times throughout the history of Israel, we will see a note that a certain king either followed God like David, or turned from God unlike David. Yet there exists a wart on David’s portrait: an adultrous affair with the wife of a man in his inner circle, and then subsequent lies and a murder to cover up the affair. “The thing David had done displeased the Lord” (see 2 Samuel 11). 

But I’d like to turn your attention to when this affair occurred: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war … David remained in Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1). He was without his usual comrades. The men who knew David best, who could probably sense if something was amiss, weren’t around to warn him. When David tried to find out the identity of the bathing beauty on the roof next door to his palace, an unnamed attendant tried to remind him, “Isn’t that Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah?” but David dismissed him. 

Elijah was arguably the most forceful and fearless prophet in Israel’s history. Not only did he stand up to the evil kings of Israel, but he spoke out against the kings of surrounding nations, too. In answer to Elijah’s prayer, God brought a drought on the land, and again in answer to Elijah’s prayer, God sent rain. Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of the god Baal and the 400 prophets of the goddess Asherah to a duel to the death, which ended up in a decisive victory for Yahweh. Yet, shortly after this massive victory, Elijah was depressed to the point that he wanted to die. 

What led to Elijah’s depression? Something very similar to David’s slide into adultery: He was alone. Elijah ran away from Queen Jezebel’s death threat, left his servant behind, and proceeded all by himself into the desert. It was when he was without a comrade that he prayed to God, “I’ve had enough. Take my life” (see 2 Kings 17–19). 

And what about Peter? He boldly claimed his loyalty to Jesus, even to the point of wielding a sword at the guards who came to arrest his Master. But when Peter was alone, after the other disciples fled, he denied three times that he knew Jesus (Matthew 26:33, 51, 69–75). 

God designed us to be in relationship with others. His statement to Adam in some of the earliest words of the Bible—“It is not good for you to be alone”—are words for us still today. 

In a recent episode of “The Craig And Greg Show,” Greg and I discussed one of our favorite verses in the Bible: Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses (Proverbs 27:6). 

If you want to go far, don’t try to go alone. If you want an accountability partner that can keep warts away from your leadership legacy, don’t go alone. If you want to extend your leadership influence, don’t go alone. If you want to honor God’s investment in you, don’t go alone. Get those friends around you who love you enough to speak the truth! 

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Think, Do, Evaluate, Propose

The seed thought for me was this quote from John Maxwell: 

“Nothing you do will be perfect, so embrace the reality and benefits of failure by releasing yourself from the burden of not making mistakes.” 

Here’s what I am endeavoring to implement: Think, Do, Evaluate, Propose, Repeat. 

THINK—It’s important to put some thought into what you want to do before you do it, but we cannot camp-out here forever. I like to think in terms of goals I want to accomplish, whether those are for me personally or for organizations I lead. 

DO—At some point, I must launch out. Many people point out that Peter began to sink under the waves when he took his eyes off Jesus and began to look at the storm. But let’s not forget that Peter was the only one of the disciples who actually got out of the boat and walked on water! I often remind people who are hesitant to begin something that you cannot steer a parked car. We have to get moving first. 

EVALUATE—Let’s remove all doubt: you will make mistakes. But those mistakes are beneficial because it gives you something on which to work. Get some wise friends around you that can help you evaluate your mistakes. And always remember I failed ≠ I am a failure. 

PROPOSE—After evaluating your mistakes or shortcomings, you now have evidence that can be processed for your next attempt. This evidence can be taken back into the laboratory of the “Think” box as you prepare to try again, except now you are more informed than you were in your first attempt. 

Leaders, walk through this process with your team members. Help guide their thinking, and then move them to action. Let them know that mistakes are okay because they have given you some invaluable feedback you can use as you make your proposals for your next attempt. 

NO ONE is an overnight success. It is a continual cycle through the Think-Do-Evaluate-Propose cycle that moves you to success. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Unity Of Scripture

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.

The Unity Of Scripture

He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14-15) 

     Let us never allow anybody to divide between the word of the apostles and the word of Christ! Our Savior has joined them together. ‘I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word’ (John 17:20). And if any begin rejecting the apostolic word, it will be outside the number for whom Christ prays. …  

     Such a doctrine that we are sometimes taunted about as being not revealed by Christ but by His apostles were all revealed by Christ, every one of them! They can all be found in His teaching, but they are very much in parabolic form. It is after He has gone up into glory and has prepared a people, by His Spirit, to understand the truths of God more fully that He sends His apostles and says, ‘Go forth, and open up to those whom I have chosen out of the world the meaning of all I said.’ The meaning is all there, just as all the New Testament is in the Old! … [Jesus Christ] is the Old Testament to which the Epistles come in as a kind of New Testament, but they are all one and indivisible. They cannot be separated. …  

     Remember that the quickest way into a text is praying in the Holy Spirit. Pray the chapter over! I do not hesitate to say that if a chapter is read upon one’s knees, looking up at every word to Him who gave it, the meaning will come to you with infinitely more weight than by any other method of studying it. ‘He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.’ He will redeliver the Master’s message to you in the fullness of its meaning!

From Honey In My Mouth

Augustine wrote, “Scripture is the unus sermo Dei—the one sermon of God.” 

There is one consistent message in the Bible from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21, and the Holy Spirit wants to reveal that message to us. He is our Helper that will illuminate to our lives what has already been inspired in the Scripture. 

Jesus is Jehovah God from beginning to end. He is the “one sermon of God” that we can read and understand. Think about this: the same Spirit who inspired the pens of the biblical writers is the same Spirit in you who can help you understand and apply those words to your life. More than that, the Holy Spirit wants to make the Word of God clear to you. 

God is glorified and you are edified when Scripture comes alive in your heart and mind. 

Peter wrote this about Paul, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand….” But if we don’t take the time to wrestle with that passage, Peter says this is what happens next: “…which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). So, as Spurgeon suggests, begin your Bible reading time in prayer. Then if you come to a difficult text, don’t rush past it and don’t turn too quickly to what another human has written in a commentary, but ask the Holy Spirit to help. (I shared a 5-step process I use for these challenging passages here.) 

Pray, read, pray, apply, pray. The Holy Spirit WILL help you! “Remember that the quickest way into a text is praying in the Holy Spirit.”

 

The Lord Has Provided

At different times when people encountered Jehovah God in a profound way, they would give Him a name that was representative of what He did. The first instance of this is when God miraculously provided a substitute sacrifice for Issac, prompting Abraham to call God Jehovah Jireh. This name means the One who foresees perfectly and knows just what to provide to meet the need. God’s provision is perfectly proportioned and perfectly timed. 

God’s perfect provision is seen at least five times in the story of Jonah. 

  1. Jehovah sent a great wind on the sea. It was a perfectly proportioned and perfectly timed storm that caused pagan sailors to fall on their knees in worship of the one true God. 
  2. Jehovah provided a great fish to rescue Jonah. It was a perfectly proportioned and perfectly timed vehicle of rescue that caused Jonah to acknowledge salvation only comes from God. 
  3. Jehovah provided a uniquely-prepared prophet. He became a perfectly prepared and perfectly timed messenger of God’s mercy. Prior to Jonah’s visit, Nineveh had experienced two plagues (765 and 759 BC) and a solar eclipse (763 BC), which put the people in a state of heightened expectation. When Jonah arrived in the city, he was a whale-bleached prophet[*] of Jehovah which showed up with a message of God’s impending judgment unless the people repented. The response: the Ninevites believed God. 
  4. Jehovah provided a vine that shielded Jonah from the sun, even though Jonah was waiting for God’s judgment to fall on Nineveh. 
  5. Jehovah provided a worm to destroy the vine and get Jonah’s attention. 

I believe this story gives us three important lessons and three introspective questions—

  1. God is sovereignly in control of everything—storms, fish, prophets, plants, worms, astrological events, and agricultural calamities. God foresees perfectly and knows just what to provide to meet the need or to get someone’s attention.  

Question: Will I let Jehovah Jireh be Jehovah Jireh for others, or will I try to tell Him what to do and when to do it?

  1. God is supremely merciful—God cares about everyone, as the apostle Peter reminds us.

Question: As Peter asked, “What kind of people ought you to be?” Will I allow God to extend as much mercy as is necessary to others, just as He extended it to me? 

  1. God’s saving grace is boundless and undeservedSalvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians 2:9 NLT) 

Question: I love that this book ends with an unanswered question from God Himself, because it is our question to answer today: Should I not be concerned about that great city? What will I do with the good news that Jehovah Jireh has gone the full measure to make His grace and mercy and love and forgiveness available to ALL people? 

I hope you will take the time to prayerfully consider these questions. 

[*] “Ambrose John Wilson in the Princeton Theological Review for 1927 mentions a case of a sailor on a whaling ship near the Falkland Islands who was swallowed by a large sperm whale. The whale was later harpooned, and when it was opened up on the deck the surprised crew found their lost shipmate unconscious inside its belly. Though bleached from the whale’s gastric juices, he recovered, though he never lost the deadly whiteness left on his face, neck, and hands.” —Walter Kaiser 

If you have missed any of the other messages in our series Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

Skilled In Scripture

Last week I shared how in a span of a month and a half Peter went from a man who crumbled before a little servant girl, to one who boldly stood up for Jesus before a huge crowd. Don’t you think that some of the other disciples that had spent the previous 3-plus years with Peter were thinking, “Who is this guy?! He’s preaching this amazing sermon that he didn’t even prepare for ahead of time!” 

That’s what the Holy Spirit does for us: He opens up God’s Word like we’ve never seen it before! It wasn’t just for Peter, or the original 12 disciples, or the first-century Church. This is still available to you and me today!  

Please note that it’s not just a relationship with Jesus that opens up the Scriptures to us. No one spent more time in the presence of Jesus than His disciples. And yet even after Jesus explicitly shared truth with them, we read, “His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into His glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about Him” (John 12:16). 

Notice those words “after…they remembered…and realized.” 

After what? After they were baptized in the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-16). In every setting after that we see their new understanding and correct application of the Scriptures (check out Acts 2:16, 25, 34; 2:42; 4:25-26; 8:35; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:21).

This is still available to you and me today! Jesus told us that He had more to say to us, and that’s why the Holy Spirit would come. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the Word of God is available today to illuminate it to us! 

R.T. Kendall made this observation about the teachings of Jesus, “[His teachings] cannot be truly understood until you see that it is our Lord’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It means we must embrace His interpretation of the Law and how it is fulfilled in us.” 

This is what God foretold through Ezekiel—I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws… (Ezekiel 11:19-20). In other words, God is saying, “When the Holy Spirit is in you, you will know how to apply My laws to your every-day life. You will become skilled in the correct and timely biblical application.”  

ALL Scripture is for ALL servants of God. ALL Scripture is applicable to ALL the circumstances we will ever face in life. But we need the illumination of the Holy Spirit in order to make the connection from the written Word to the real-life application. 

So don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

If you have missed any of the other lessons in this series, you may access them by clicking here. 

Stand-Up Christians

“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” —G.K. Chesterton 

It’s true that no statues have been erected to committees or groups, but groups of people have been allowed to stand up because just one strong leader stood up for them. And history has shown that never has been a greater servant leader—lifting and rescuing more people than we can count—than Jesus of Nazareth. 

Before He ascended back to heaven Jesus said to His followers, “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). He has called us to stand up as His representatives in the world. Jesus didn’t send His followers out under their own power, but He directed them to first be empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:7-8). 

Last week I shared how Hannah’s persistence in prayer led to a revival in Israel. Hannah’s physical barrenness was a picture of Israel’s spiritual barrenness. When Hannah prayed, we read a key phrase: Hannah stood up (1 Samuel 1:9). She was really saying, “God do something IN me that will turn people to You!” 

And God literally did something IN her: she became pregnant, and the son that came from her was the spiritual leader Israel needed. 

New Testament Christians can have a new life conceived IN them when they are baptized IN the Holy Spirit. They can then spiritually give birth to a revival, just as surely as Hannah’s son Samuel led a revival in Israel! Being baptized IN the Holy Spirit empowers us to be stand-up Christians.  

Consider the disciple Peter. On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter couldn’t stand up for Jesus, even though it was just two little servant girls who confronted him. Then Pentecost Sunday came, Peter was baptized IN the Holy Spirit, and this Spirit-empowered man now became a stand-up Christian (Matthew 26:69-72; Acts 2:1-4, 14). 

As Aimee Semple McPherson noted, “The Holy Spirit, when He endues you with power, puts a real ‘stand up for Jesus spirit’ within you, and removes your cowardice.” 

Peter not only stood up before a questioning crowd, he stood up to the same religious leaders who had Jesus crucified, and he stood up for the Gentiles who became Christians (Acts 4:5-10; 15:6-11).

In Peter’s first letter to the Church, he explained how Spirit-baptized Christians could…

  • stand up joyfully in trials (1:6-9; 4:7, 12-19) 
  • stand up for holiness in a wicked culture (1:13-16; 2:11-12)
  • stand up to be able to submit to and serve those in civic government positions (2:13-17)
  • stand up to serve your employer (2:18)
  • stand up like Jesus did to the people who revile and slander you (2:19-25)
  • stand up for your spouse’s salvation (3:1-7) 
  • stand up for your Church family (3:8-12) 
  • stand up to fear (3:13-14) 
  • stand up to give testimony to your faith in Jesus (3:15-17)
  • stand up to live counter-culturally (4:1-6)
  • stand up for the shepherds and the sheep in God’s family (5:1-5)
  • stand up to anxiety (5:6-7)
  • stand up against the devil’s growling (5:8-11) 
  • stand up for Jesus until the very end of life or until Jesus returns (5:12-14) 

All of this from a man who couldn’t stand up to a little servant girl! 

That’s why I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it—Don’t stop at salvation! There is SO MUCH MORE for those who will receive the baptism IN the Holy Spirit. If you want to stand up for Jesus and stand up for others who are being pushed around by the devil, you must be empowered with the stand-up-for-Jesus spirit that only comes from the Holy Spirit. 

Will you let the Holy Spirit put that stand-up spirit in you?

If you have missed any of the other messages in this series, please click here to access them.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Precious Jesus!

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.

Precious Jesus! 

Therefore, to you who believe, [Jesus] is precious. (1 Peter 2:7)

     It is important, while looking at these words of the apostle Peter, that we should lay our hands upon our hearts and ask, ‘Do I know what this means? Is Jesus more to me than gold or any other thing that can be desired? Can I truly say:

Yes, You are precious to my soul,
My transport and my trust:
Jewels to You are gaudy toys,
And gold is sorted dust’? … 

     Dear friends, if we can verify the statement, it is not only satisfactory to ourselves but glorifying to our Lord! …  

     Those who are actually trusting Him and us putting Him to the test are those who have the highest opinion of Him. … Usually men feel sadness at an increase of obligation, but in this case the more we are His debtors, the more we rejoice to be so. … 

     How do believers show that Christ is thus precious to them? They do so by trusting everything to Him. … Our affection flows toward Him as all our hope flows from Him. … We have deposited with our Lord everything that concerns us, and we have no secondary trust wherewith to supplement His power or love. … Our implicit faith in Him proves our high estimate of Him. …

     When saints have outward goods, they enjoy Jesus in them, and when outward goods are gone, they find them in Him. 

From Christ Precious To Believers

Have you learned how precious Jesus really is? 

The more you get to know Him, not only does His preciousness grow, but so does the hunger to know Him even more intimately! Don’t ever stop—let the Holy Spirit reveal more and more and more of this priceless Savior and Friend to you!

Praying The Word

The more consistently we pray on the ordinary days, the more prepared we will be to pray on the extraordinary days. But some people say, “I don’t know how to pray” or “I don’t know what to ask for.” That ignorance hinders a lot of people—even someone like Peter who not only spent huge amounts of time with Jesus but was with Him when He was in one of His most glorious states (Luke 9:28-33). As Jesus is transfigured before his very eyes, both Mark and Luke say this about the statement Peter blurted out: He did not know what he was saying. 

While Peter was still speaking from his ignorance, God the Father gave him (and us) some invaluable advice: This is My Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him. 

So when the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus didn’t reprimand them for asking. In fact, He told us how much He wants us to pray and how much His Father wants to answer our prayers (Luke 11:1-13; 12:32).  

There is a consistent theme about the “name” of God that permeates all that Jesus teaches about prayer. We see Him instructing us to address our prayer to our “Heavenly Father” and to pray “in My name” (Luke 11:2; John 14:13-14; 15:7; 16:23-24). This doesn’t mean that simply saying, “Dear Heavenly Father” at the beginning of a prayer or “in the name of Jesus, amen” at the end of a prayer makes our prayer magical. 

It’s about praying in the character of Jesus, directing our prayer to the only One who can help us, all with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

To help us do this, we have an invaluable prayer resource preserved for us in the pages of the Bible. The Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit—the same Holy Spirit that lives in a Christian and helps the Christian pray according to God’s will. The same Spirit who inspired the Word can illuminate the Word to us, so we need to get into the Word and let the Holy Spirit get the Word into us! 

No matter what you’re going through, you can apply God’s Word to your situation. Look through the prayers of the Psalms, read the prayers of other great saints throughout the Scriptures, check out the prayers the apostles prayed in the New Testament, and even read the prayers of Jesus Himself. Then make those prayers your prayers!

If you let the Holy Spirit show you how the Bible applies to your situation, you will NEVER again be at a loss of how to pray to your Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus!

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn how to to be ready to pray by making our plan to pray. 

How Foreigners Pray

I am a foreigner and stranger among you… (Genesis 23:4). 

Abraham and Peter remind us that God-fearing people are foreigners; they are not citizens of Earth. Christians are respectful of the people, laws, and customs of the land in which they sojourn, but they know that this land is not their home. 

Abraham wanted his son to have a wife who was of the same mindset—not attached to the place of sojourning but looking forward to Heaven. Abraham knew how an earthly–focused wife (like Lot’s wife) could distract her husband, so he sent his servant on a mission to find a heavenly-minded, godly woman for his son Isaac.

This servant was a godly leader in his own right. He was loyal and loving to Abraham’s family. Abraham gave him two simple boundaries: don’t take a wife from Canaan, and don’t take Isaac back to Mesopotamia (the land from which God had called Abraham). 

Notice how this godly leader undertook his mission:

  • He prayed a very specific prayer for success (24:12–14)
  • After praying, he “watched closely” (v. 21) to see how God would answer his prayer
  • He praised God when it appeared that his prayer has been answered (vv. 26, 27, 46)
  • He shared his answer to prayer with others to get confirmation (v. 50)
  • He quickly followed through with what God had provided (v. 56)

A mark of a godly leader is one who bathes his activities in prayer.

When God calls us to live in a certain way, it is fitting that He will answer our prayers that align with that way of living. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He told us to “ask for anything in My name.” 

This is part 42 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

The Day Of The Lord

All we know about the prophet Joel is that he is the son of Pethuel, and his name means Jehovah is God. He appears to be addressing the southern part of Israel (Judah/Jerusalem). 

What is interesting to note about Joel’s writing is a recurring theme that goes something like this: 

Foreshadowing (or prophetic foretelling) → Calling for a godly response → God’s blessing on a right response or God’s punishment on a wrong response → An outcome which foreshadows or foretells another more dire event → repeat…

For instance, in Joel’s prophesy the massive invasion of locusts was intended to get the Israelites to pay attention to their sins. Joel calls for fasting and repentance and warns (foreshadows/foretells) that an invading army at a later date would do even greater damage (1:2-14). 

Likewise, the invading army—which would do more damage than the invading locusts—should also call the Israelites to repentance and imploring God for His help. 

Jesus, just like Joel, taught that whether it was an evil man, an accident, or even a natural disaster, painful things should cause us to consider the state of our eternal soul (see Luke 13:1-5). And Jesus and Joel both foretell of the Day of the Lord when there will be no more opportunities for repentance. 

To prepare God-fearing people for this dreadful day of the Lord, Joel foretells if the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is the same empowering Spirit that Jesus said would equip His followers to take the message of salvation to all four points of the compass (Acts 1:4-8). And just as Joel foretold 800 years earlier, on the first Pentecost Sunday after Christ’s ascension back into heaven, the Christians were baptized in the Holy Spirit, prompting Peter to quote an extension passage from Joel (compare Joel 2:28-32 with Acts 2:14-21).

Joel’s final chapter talks about Judgment Day, and about the multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. Peter confronted his audience as well about the decision they should make to turn to Jesus as their Savior and Lord. 

The Day of the Lord could come at any moment and millions around the world are still in the valley of decision. I find these words quite sobering—

“Someone asked, ‘Will the heathen who have never heard the Gospel be saved?’ It is more a question with me whether we—who have the Gospel and fail to give it to those who have not—can be saved.” —Charles Spurgeon 

We are even closer to the Day of the Lord today than we were yesterday. What will you do?

Please join me this Sunday as we continue our series learning the major lessons from the minor prophets.

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