Be The One

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

John Maxwell was right: “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” 

As the leader goes, so goes the family, the neighborhood, the business, the church, the country. Just as Israel’s leaders fell into sin and took the people down with them, so too the religious and political leaders in America are leading people to sin. 

God told Ezekiel, “See how each of the princes of Israel who are in you uses his power to shed blood” (Ezekiel 22:6). These ungodly leaders were described as:

  • disintegrating the family 
  • mistreating orphans and widows 
  • despising God’s holiness 
  • slandering the righteous 
  • promoting idolatry 
  • living lewdly
  • winking at sexual depravity 
  • being dishonest in their business dealings
  • defrauding their neighbors 
  • treating people like possessions 
  • pursuing immoral gain
  • whitewashing evil (vv. 6-12, 25-28)

The bottom line: God says, “You have forgotten Me” (v. 12). 

This kind of evil must be punished by an All-Righteous God. 

But God is still merciful. He is still looking for just one who will turn away from the sins of the culture and live righteously. He is looking “for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before Me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it” (v. 30). 

God is looking for just one leader who will seek God’s glory and not personal gain, who will stand for righteousness even if he has to stand alone. 

Will you be that one? 

I pray I may be that one! 

I pray for godly leaders to stand up! “Holy God, may we stand for You in this evil culture. May Your Holy Spirit strengthen us to stand unmoved against the onslaught of depravity. Strengthen us against the evil one and against evil people, knowing that greater are You in us than the evil that is in the world. May we be the ones that refuse to bend our knee to anyone or anything but You. In the powerful name of Jesus, I pray this. Amen!” 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Encouragement For 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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Encouragement For Preachers

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     We preach because ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ It would not be worth our while to speak what Isaiah had spoken if in it there was nothing more than Isaiah’s thought—neither should we care to meditate hour after hour upon the writings of Paul, if there was nothing more than Paul in them. … The true preacher, the man whom God has commissioned, delivers his message with awe and trembling because ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ … 

     Woe unto us if we dare to speak the Word of the Lord with less than our whole heart and soul and strength! Woe unto us if we handle the Word as if it were an occasion for display! If it were our own word, we might be studious of the graces of oratory. But if it is God’s Word, we cannot afford to think of ourselves. … Because the mouth of the Lord has spoken the truth of God, we therefore endeavor to preach it with absolute fidelity. …  

     Believing that ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken,’ it is my duty to repeat God’s Word to you as correctly as I can after having heard it and felt it in my own soul. It is not mine to amend or adapt the gospel. …  Again, dear friends, as ‘the mouth of the Lord has spoken,’ we speak the divine truth with courage and full assurance. Modesty is a virtue, but hesitancy when we are speaking for the Lord is a great fault. …  

     We preach not the gospel by your leave. We do not ask tolerance nor court applause. We preach Christ crucified, and we preach boldly as we ought to speak because it is God’s Word not our own. … We cannot use ‘ifs’ and ‘buts,’ for we are dealing with God’s ‘shalls’ and ‘wills.’ If He says it is so, it is so. And there is the end of it. Controversy ceases when Jehovah speaks [Jeremiah 1:17-19].

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

Preaching God’s Word is not for the faint of heart. It takes one who is confidently humbled—confident that God has spoken and humbled that He would choose someone like me to speak His Word to His people. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter I wrote: 

Check this out: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). Who wrote the book of Numbers? If you answered “Moses,” you are correct. Doesn’t that sound a bit brash to declare that you are more humble than anyone else on the earth? Yet, God allowed Moses to pen those words, making that a Holy Spirit-inspired statement of fact. Humility is a double-edged sword: it can serve a leader well when it is balanced with appropriate confidence, but it is a detriment to an organization’s health if it is self-de-basing humility that undercuts a leader’s credibility. 

The God-honoring preacher gets his message from the mouth of the Lord, and then confidently endeavors “to preach it with absolute fidelity.” Whether others praise of criticize, the humble leader says, “I am only God’s servant speaking God’s Word.” 

Preachers, let’s make sure that everything we confidently and humbly share from our pulpits is the whole counsel of what has been spoken by the mouth of the Lord.

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Prayer Expectations

Many of our prayers could be much bolder and much more specific than they are. Why is that? Because how we view God is going to determine what we pray and what we expect after we pray.

When we pray, we approach an All-Loving Father, and we approach an All-Powerful God. I have found that typically people get warmed by the idea of Father and get scared by the idea of God. They say things like: “What if my prayers don’t hallow God’s name? What if He’s mad at me? What if I pray an improper prayer?” 

God wants us to come to Him in prayer, so He makes Himself very accessible! The Father is both Father and God; the Son is both Friend and King; the Spirit is both Comforter and Convictor. We get ALL of this in One God. 

Charles Spurgeon had this word of encouragement: “If You are my Father, then You love me. If I am Your child, then You will regard me, and poor though my language is, You will not despise it.” Jesus came to earth fully God and fully man, making Him our perfect intermediary (see Job 9:32-35; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:25). And the Holy Spirit helps interpret our groaning prayers (Romans 8:26-27). 

Have you ever noticed that neither the prophets of the Old Testament, nor Jesus in the Gospels, nor the apostles in the New Testament ever prayed, “God, if this is Your will please do such-and-such”? They simply prayed. Or more accurately, they prayed so boldly and specifically it almost sounded like a command: “Stand up” or “Be clean” or “Go, your prayer has been answered.” 

When you and I are praying to an All-Loving and All-Powerful Father, with Jesus interceding for us, and the Spirit helping us, we too can pray these bold and highly specific prayers. 

After all, if you don’t pray specifically and expectantly, how will you know when your prayer is answered? 

I find John Piper’s acrostic very helpful in praying these bold and expectant prayers. He calls it APTAT: 

  • A—Admit I can’t do anything without Christ. This hallows His Name. 
  • P—Pray for help to do it. 
  • T—Trust a specific promise of God to help me (two general promises are found in Isaiah 41:10 and Romans 8:32). 
  • A—Act. Do the things I need to do: apply for the job, ask forgiveness, schedule a meeting. 
  • T—Thank Him when I’m done. 

Two final thoughts—

  1. Make prayer more of a listening relationship than a talking relationship. 
  2. Give yourself some grace as you are maturing; don’t expect immediate perfection. Start praying and then let the Father, the Son, and the Spirit help you mature in your prayer life. 

I hope you can join me this Sunday as we continue to work on our plans to pray.

Are You Available?

Have you ever had someone walk into your life—even if it was just for a moment—and say something you needed to hear? You might not have liked what they had to say, but it was definitely something you needed to hear. 

My hunch is that those timely messengers were not necessarily “experts” in the area in which they talked to you. They may have been a doctor talking about a medical need, or it may have been a friend talking about some health issues. Most of the time our valuable messengers are just everyday people. 

God loves using “everyday people”! 

  • You don’t have to be a trained pastor to minister to people. 
  • You don’t have to be a trained theologian to tell people what you believe about God.
  • You don’t have to be a trained counselor to encourage someone.

You just have to be who God created you to be. And you have to be available. Like Amos. 

Amos was simply taking care of his farm and his herds when God called him to deliver a timely message to His people.

Amos introduces himself as just one of the shepherds of Tekoa (1:1) and tells another priest that he was simply minding his own business when God said, “Go, prophesy to My people” (7:10-15). 

Amos’ name means burden-bearer—he had a burden for his kinsmen. He saw their sin and knew what defiance of God would mean for them. This burden made him available to hear God’s voice say, “Go.” 

“But I’m not a trained prophet,” Amos could have said. “You are telling me to ‘prophesy’ but all I really know is farming and shepherding.” 

God said, “Say what you know.” 

What did Amos know?

  1. Amos knew God’s voice—In this short book, 43 times(!) Amos uses phrases like says the Lord, declares the Lord, or hear the word of the Lord. 
  2. Amos knew his business—This book is filled with language about sheep and shepherds, farmers and farm equipment, gardens and vineyards. 
  3. Amos knew God had told him “Go and speak” so Amos had boldness. 

You can put your name in all three of those places that say Amos. You can know God’s voice through the Bible, you know your “business” (whether it’s parenting, or coaching, or your own profession), and you can hear God saying, “Go, tell people about Me.” 

God wants to use you for His glory. He just needs your availability. Will you be open to being that person? 

Join me next week as we continue to learn the major lessons from that the minor prophets teach us. 

A Life Worthy Of The Gospel

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ… (Philippians 1:27).

The apostle Paul wanted the Philippians’ living to be their preaching. Much like Francis of Assisi said years later: “Preach always; if necessary, use words.”

The big question is—what does conduct “worthy of the gospel of Christ” look like? I believe Paul identifies at least 15 characteristics in just the next 20 or so verses

  1. It is not a people-pleasing lifestyle. It is a God-honoring, Spirit-lead, Christ-glorifying lifestyle.
  2. It is steadfast, which means it perseveres even through the trials and difficulties.
  3. It is a heart and mind unified with other Christians.
  4. It is bold—“without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” 
  5. It is strengthened in Christ and it is in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit. 
  6. It overflows with loving comfort, affection, and mercy to those around it.
  7. It humbly serves others while confidently refreshing itself in Christ.
  8. It strives to live as Jesus did, seeking always for God to be glorified.
  9. It is obedient to the conviction and direction of the Holy Spirit.
  10. It finds pleasure in doing God’s will.
  11. It doesn’t complain.
  12. It is a blameless and harmless life.
  13. It shines a light that attracts others to God’s love.
  14. It holds fast to the Word of life for the long haul.
  15. It is a rejoicing, contented lifestyle.

Heavenly Father, may it always be said of my life that it is one that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. May I always be sensitive to the nudges of the Holy Spirit to keep my life aligned in this way. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen! 

If We Can Dare, God Will Do

“Here and there we meet with one to whom it is given to believe in God with mighty faith. As soon as such a man strikes out on a project, or sets about a work that none but men of his mold would venture upon, straightway there arises a claimer: ‘The man is overzealous,’ or he will be charged with an innovating spirit, rashness, fanaticism, or absurdity. Should the work go on, the opposers whisper together, ‘Wait a little while, and you’ll see the end of all this wildfire.’ What said the sober semi-faithful men to Luther? The monk had read in the Scriptures this passage: ‘A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 2:16). He went to a venerable divine to ask him about it, and at the same time he complained of the enormities of Rome. What was the good but weak brother’s reply? ‘Go to your cell, and pray and study for yourself, and leave these weighty matters alone.’ Here it would have ended had the brave reformer continued to consult with flesh and blood. But his faith enabled him to go forward alone, if none would accompany him. He nailed up his theses on the church door and showed that one man at least had faith in the gospel and in its God. Then trouble came, but Luther minded it not, because the Father was with him. We also must be prepared, if God gives us strong faith, to ride far ahead, like spiritual light cavalry, who bravely pioneer the way for the rank and file of the army. It were well if the church of God had more of the fleet-footed sons of Asahel—swifter than eagles in their Lord’s service—men who can do and dare alone till laggards take courage and follow in their track. These Valiant-for-Truths will pursue a solitary path full often, but let them console themselves with this thought: ‘I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me’ (John 8:16). If we can believe in God, He will never be in arrears with us; if we can dare, God will do; if we can trust, God will never suffer us to be confounded, world without end. It is sweet beyond expression to climb where only God can lead, and to plant the standard on the highest towers of the foe.” —Charles Spurgeon, in his Autobiography (emphasis added)

Everyday Evidence

Last week we learned that speaking in tongues was one of the most noticeable and consistent characteristics of those who were baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

Speaking in tongues as the Spirit enables you is the unmistakable, objective, outward, initial physical evidence. The Bible makes clear that continuing to pray in tongues has huge benefits for both our personal prayer lives and for the corporate church body. But don’t stop there! 

The initial, outward evidence is primarily for the individual Christian—it’s a way of knowing that you know that you have indeed been baptized in the Spirit. But there also needs to be some everyday evidence for others that testifies to them that something is different about your life. 

Consider the disciples of Jesus before and after being baptized in the Holy Spirit…

Their vocabulary

Before being baptized in the Spirit they said stupid things because they didn’t know what to say (Mark 9:5-6) But after being baptized in the Spirit there was no more foot-in-mouth disease. Just as the Holy Spirit enabled them to praise God in an unlearned tongue, He also empowered their natural dialect. The same Greek word is used in Acts 2:4 (enabled by the Holy Spirit), 2:14 (Peter addressed the crowd), and 26:25 (what I am saying is true and reasonable). 

Their spiritual power

Before it was limited, and often thwarted, but afterward, it was limitless and effortless (Mark 9:17-18; Acts 3:1-8; 5:15; 6:8).

Their understanding of servanthood

Before they argued about who was the greatest. Afterward, they gladly gave all that they had to others (Mark 9:33-34; Acts 2:44-45). 

Their boldness in the face of adversity

Before they abandoned Jesus, ran away, and hid in locked rooms. Afterward, there was no intimidating or silencing them (Acts 4:8, 13, 18-20). 

Their understanding of Scripture

Before they had virtually no understanding of Scripture’s application. Afterward, they understood how to apply God’s Word in almost every situation (Acts 2:16, 33-35; 4:24-26). 

Jesus promised that the baptism in the Holy Spirit would empower us TO BE His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Not just to do things for Him. There’s nothing wrong about doing Jesus-glorifying things, but in themselves, they are too short-sighted. Jesus doesn’t want us empowered to do things, but TO BE a living, breathing, walking, talking witness of a life transformed by His power. That’s the reason why I say to you again and again: Don’t stop at salvation. Press on and press in to be baptized in the Holy Spirit so that you can BE an empowered, transformed and transforming witness for Jesus!

If you missed any of the messages in this series, you can access the full list of messages by clicking here

5 Lessons From An Amazing Mother

There is a Pentecostal Christian woman that we first meet in the Book of Acts, and then we see her name scattered throughout Paul’s letters. She may be the most prominent woman among all of the Apostle Paul’s companions and probably is responsible for spreading the Gospel more and farther than any other woman recorded in the Bible. 

Scripture doesn’t tell us if she had children of her own but she is certainly the spiritual mother of more Christians than we will ever be able to count!

Prisca is her birth name. She is a Jew, and most likely a freeborn Roman (just as Paul was). She is from the prominent Acilius family, so combined with Prisca her name is called Priscilla. She married Aquila and they both worked as leather makers (also known as tentmakers). 

Let’s take a look at Priscilla’s travel itinerary—

Pricilla left Rome because of Emperor Claudius’ decree in 49 AD and traveled to Corinth, where she met Paul (Acts 18:1-3, 11, 18-19). 

After spending almost 2 years with Paul in Corinth, they traveled to Ephesus with Paul, where she met and mentored Apollos (Acts 18:24-26). Apollos became a trusted friend to Paul; in fact, Paul calls him a synergos (where we get our English word for synergy). In other words, Paul thought his ministry was more effective because of his partnership with Apollos, but that is all thanks to Priscilla’s involvement! 

Priscilla returned to Rome sometime after Claudius’ death in 54 AD. She probably returned home to prepare the way for Paul’s visit there (Romans 1:10-11; 15:23-24; 16:3). 

And at some point she returned to Ephesus, probably to help Timothy as he pastored the church there (2 Timothy 4:19). 

Here are 5 lessons we can learn from Priscilla’s life—

  1. Be baptized in the Holy Spirit. This is what she taught to others, so it is undoubtedly how she lived as well. 
  1. Use the gifting God has given you. Except for one place, Priscilla is always listed first ahead of her husband. This is unprecedented anywhere else in the New Testament. That tells us that despite what the Greco-roman culture tried to enforce, Priscilla was the predominant teacher/preacher in her family.
  1. Work hard. Priscilla had to be fairly well-to-do to be able to travel to at least three major cities and to host churches in her home, and yet we see her working with her hands to provide for her family and for the church. 
  1. Be bold. Jesus said the baptism in the Holy Spirit would give us boldness, and Priscilla demonstrated that powerfully (Romans 16:4). 
  1. Be synergistic. Paul also called Priscilla a synergos. Paul used this word sparingly for people who had put everything on the line for the sake of the Gospel. He used synergos for people like Apollos, Timothy, Titus, and Luke. Priscilla is the only woman who gets this invaluable term.  

We don’t know if Priscilla was a biological mom, but she was definitely a spiritual mom. She was empowered by the Holy Spirit, and probably is responsible for spreading the Gospel more than any other woman recorded in the Bible. You can follow in her footsteps! 

If you missed any of the messages in this series, you can access the full list of messages by clicking here. 

The Impossible Prayer

We have been looking at some bold pray-ers in the Bible, but today’s example takes it to a whole new level by praying an “impossible” prayer! Here are 4 valuable lessons we can learn from the prayer of Joshua. 

When this story opens, the city of Gibeon is calling on the Israelites to help them. Five Amorite kings have all ganged up on Gibeon because of the treaty they made with Israel, and they intended to crush them into oblivion! 

Joshua—without any debate, consultation, or hesitation—mobilizes his forces. Notice that there are no half-measures or hedging his bets. Joshua marches out with the entire army, including all of his elite warriors to rescue Gibeon. 

Joshua’s troops marched all night to cover the 21-miles to get to Gibeon by daybreak. Modern-day military experts say that an army can cover about 20-25 miles before they are at the point of total exhaustion, so Joshua took his men right up to this point. But this all-night march surprised the five attacking armies, so much so that the Bible says God threw those enemies into a panic and God even fought for them, raining hailstones down on the Amorites that killed more men than the Israelites did in their attack! 

After an all-night march and an all-day battle, the Amorites are on the run. This is when Joshua prays his “impossible” prayer. He asks God to let the earth stop rotating so that the sun and moon in the sky will give the Israelites enough light to complete their victory!!

AND GOD DOES IT!! 

How could Joshua pray such an “impossible” prayer like this? 

  1. He had already seen God do the “impossible” like drying up the Jordan River and knocking down the supposedly impenetrable walls of Jericho.
  2. God already told Joshua, “I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.” Joshua didn’t put an asterisk on God’s word—if God said every enemy would be defeated, that’s what Joshua was claiming. 
  3. Joshua was already moving forward in faith. He wasn’t sitting around waiting for God to do something. He was letting his marching be his praying. 
  4. By publicly praying this “impossible” thing, Joshua was ensuring that God would receive all the glory. The Bible says that Joshua prayed “with all Israel listening.” 

The sun stopped in its tracks in mid-sky; just sat there all day. There’s never been a day like that before or since—God took orders from a human voice! Truly, God fought for Israel (v. 14, The Message).

What about you? Does it feel like your problems are ganging up on you like a bunch of bullies? You, too, can pray an “impossible” prayer like Joshua did—

  1. Get God’s Word—what promise will you stand on? Don’t put any asterisks in there! 
  2. Know God’s peace—God told Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them.” 
  3. Watch God confuse your enemies—when the Israelites showed up God “threw them into confusion,” which literally means He discombobulated them so they couldn’t coordinate their counter-attack on Israel. 
  4. Publicly pray an “impossible” prayer while you fight! Tell others what your “impossible” prayer is so that God gets all the glory.

Join me this Sunday as we learn from another bold pray-er from the pages of Scripture. 

People Are Watching 👀

 “…they watched Him closely… (Luke 14:1). 

The skeptics were always watching Jesus. As with our Master, so with us.

They wanted to find an inconsistency with which they could discount all that Jesus stood for. Thankfully, they found none! May the same be said of you and me.

May our lives and speech (or silence) never cause skeptics to discount the Gospel or—even worse—blaspheme God, nor may our lives cause a weak Christian to doubt or stumble.

This requires from us—

  • Self-awareness … I have to know my tendencies and avoid those things that cause offense.
  • Boldness … to speak the truth in love.
  • Knowledge of the Scripture … and its correct application.
  • God-confidence … so that we’re not intimidated by man’s disapproval.
  • Humility … to not seek things for our own benefit.
  • Charity … as we demonstrate our faith in loving action.
  • Focus … on eternity and on the greater treasure in Heaven.

Holy Spirit, empower us to live like our Master every day. “Adam’s likeness now efface, stamp Thine image in its place.” May people see and hear Jesus in us. No matter how closely they watch us, may they see no inconsistencies.

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