Links & Quotes

I love the humanitarian work of Convoy of Hope wherever there is a need. They are on the front lines of Ukraine right now. If you are looking for a good organization to support financially, please check out their current efforts and click the Donate button on their page.

Dr. Roy Spencer always brings clarity to the climate change debate. Here is a post looking at the numbers behind the claims that climate change is largely man-made.

I love following the archeological and paleontological discoveries as they come to light. The Institute for Creation Research shares some enlightening news that comes from the discovery of a human vertebra.

Dan Reiland shares about 5 enemies of the soul that hurt your church.

Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace talks about the evidence that makes the resurrection of Jesus a reasonable conclusion:

“For the diligent the week has seven todays, for the slothful seven tomorrows.” —Anonymous

In light of all the uncertainty around us, this quote is a good reminder. “I want you to pray about world events and pursue peace as you are able. However, it’s crucial to recognize what you can change and what you cannot. Fretting about things that are beyond your control will drain your energy and discourage you. Instead of this hurtful focus, endeavor to fix your thoughts on Me. … Remember that I am a God of justice and I know everything. Eventually I will right all wrongs. So be still in My presence—trusting in Me with a steadfast heart while waiting for Me to act.” —Sarah Young, in Jesus Always

Links & Quotes

In 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul writes, “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop [overseer], he desires a good work.” T.M. Moore commented on this verse—

“The Greek word for ‘bishop’ translates literally to ‘overseer.’ Overseers—pastors, elders, anyone in a leadership role in the congregation—is charged with watching over the souls of God’s people for good (Hebrews 13:17; Acts 20:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). While the primary duty of watching over the Lord’s flock falls on pastors and elders, all who serve with them function in a role of overseeing, that all the members of the congregation might benefit from the continuous care and shepherding of those who lead them.”

I am so grateful for T.M.’s endorsement of my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter in which I expound more on this 1 Timothy verse, and talk about how shepherd leaders should be raising up more leaders around them.

Our church purchased a building to use as our new homebase for ministry in our city. I am super excited about the possibilities!

Tiny bacteria declare loudly the genius of the Creator. This new study on the ability of bacterium to protect its own DNA from mutations is fascinating!

Dan Reiland says, “Good character takes a lifetime to build and a moment to destroy.” Dan shares 5 practices that build leadership character to last for a lifetime.

Amenhotep I was the second pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, and ruled from ca 1525-1504 BC during the time the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. Using 3-D CT scans, Amenhotep has been unwrapped for the first time in over 3000 years!

How are you supposed to follow God when obedience feels impossible? John Piper explains in this post

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Hypocrites Who Hurt The Church

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. 

Hypocrites Who Hurt The Church

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27 KJV). 

     Dear friends, I might just continue, for the subject is a very wide one. But I stop because, unhappily for me, though perhaps happily for your patience, my time has gone. Having just indicated what the Christian life ought to be, I must, in a few words, plead with you that by the power of God’s Holy Spirit you will seek to make your lives such. I could mention many reasons, but I will only give you one or two. 

     The first is, if you do not live like this, you will make your fellow members who are innocent of your sin, suffer. … It is very hard when [skeptics] can say to you, ‘Look at So-and-So, he is a church member! Look at what he did. You are all a parcel of hypocrites!’ … 

     And then, remember, dear friends, unless your conversation is such, you will pull down all the witness that you have ever borne for Christ. … Oh, the great thing the church needs is more holiness! The worst enemies of the church are not the infidels. … No, the worst enemies of the church are the hypocrites, the formalists, the mere professors, and the inconsistent walkers. …  

     May the Eternal Spirit, Who still winnows His church, blow away the chaff and heave only the good golden wheat upon the floor! And if you know yourselves to be living in any sin, may God help you to mourn over it, to loathe it, to go to Christ about it….

From The Gospel’s Power In A Christian’s Life

I have defined a hypocrite as a Christian who carries the name of Jesus Christ but not the nature of Jesus Christ. 

I remember once when a man who was virtually a stranger to me—but apparently knew that I was a pastor—walked up to me and said, “What do you think about your boy So-and-So?” The So-and-So he mentioned was a prominent pastor in another state who had just been caught doing some very sinful and embarrassing things. This stranger quickly painted me with the same brush! 

The phrase “one another” is so prominent in the New Testament, which means that we truly are all in this together. That’s why Charles Spurgeon warns us that a hypocritical lifestyle is not only damaging to the hypocrite’s life, but to the entire Christian community as well. 

So I also call for every Christian to “examine themselves” (1 Corinthians 11:28) for both known and hidden sins. We ought to regularly ask the Holy Spirit to point them out so that we can repent of them, make restitution, and strengthen the testimony of all Christians everywhere! 

Let me close with a final word from Dwight Moody, “The world finds plenty of difficulties on the way; let us see that we Christians do not add more stumbling-blocks by our un-Christlike walk.” 

To that I add a heartfelt “Amen!”

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Christian Lifestyle

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. 

The Christian Lifestyle

Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27 KJV). 

     The text says we are to ‘let our conversation be such as becomes the gospel.’ What sort of conversation, then, will we have? In the first place, the gospel is very simple. It is unadorned. No meretricious ornaments to clog the pile. It is simple and ‘not with persuasive words of human wisdom’ (1 Corinthians 2:4). … The Christian man ought always to be simple in all respects. I think wherever you find him, you ought not to need a key to him. He should not be like certain books that you cannot make out without having somebody tell you the hard words. He should be a transparent man like Nathaniel, who was ‘an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit’ (John 1:47). … 

     The Christian’s lips should speak truth when falsehood drops from the lips of all other men. A Christian man should never need to take an oath, because his word is as good as an oath. His yes should be yes, and his no, no. … 

     The gospel of Jesus Christ is a very fearless gospel. … As the gospel is very fearless in what it has to say, so let the Christian always be. It strikes me that a living that becomes the gospel of Christ is always a bold and fearless kind of living! … 

     But again, the gospel of Christ is very gentle. Hear it speak: ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28). Here is its spirit in its Founder: ‘A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench’ (Matthew 12:20). Moreover, bad temper, snapping off of people’s heads, making men offenders for a word—all this is quite contrary to the gospel. … If you have a lion’s heart, have a lady’s hand. Let there be such a gentleness about your carriage that the little children may not be afraid to come to you and the publican and harlot may not be driven away by your hostility, but invited to goodness by the gentleness of your words and acts. …  

     The world ought to point to us and say, ‘See, how these Christians love one another? Not in word only, but in deed and truth!’ … 

     The gospel of Christ is mercy, generosity, and liberality. It receives the beggar and hears his cry! It picks up even the vile and undeserving and scatters lavish blessings upon him, and it fills the bosom of the naked and of the hungry with good things. Let your conversation be such as becomes the gospel of Christ!

From The Gospel’s Power In A Christian’s Life

We’ve had a tagline at our church for years: Come and see why so many people around here say, “I ♥ my church!” I believe Christians can—and should—live in such a way that everyone in their communities would sit up and take notice of the positive changes. 

Let’s all examine our lifestyle. Is it simple, truthful, bold, gentle, loving, merciful, generous, and hospitable? If not, what changes do we need to make? But if it is all these things, God’s blessing is sure to follow this lifestyle that so clearly portrays the gospel of Jesus Christ! 

I’ve shared some other posts about a church’s reputation here, here, and here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Useful To The Master

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.

Useful To The Master  

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21)

     On the vessels of honor, you can see the hallmark. What is the hallmark that denotes the purity of the Lord’s golden vessels? Well, He has only one stamp for everything. When He laid the foundation, what was the seal He put upon it? ‘The Lord knows those who are His, and, everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’ (2 Timothy 2:19). That was God’s seal! That was the impress of the great King upon the foundation stone. Do we find it here? Yes, we do. ‘Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work’ (2 Timothy 2:21). Do you see, then, that the man who is the golden or silver vessel departs from all iniquity, and that is the token of his genuine character. …  

     Brethren, I count it an honor to be useful to the meanest child of God, but I confess that the honor lies mainly in the fact that I am thereby serving the Master Himself. Oh, to be used by God! This is to answer the end of our being. If you can feel that God has used you, then you may rejoice indeed! 

     There are some Christians whom the Lord cannot much use because, first of all, they are not cleansed from selfishness. They have an eye to their own honor or aggrandizement. The Lord will not be in complicity with selfish aims! Some men are self-confident—there is too much of the ‘I’ about them, and our Master will not use them. He will have our weakness but not our strength!

From The Great House And The Vessels In It

The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of many members. The Bible uses pictures of a body, a building, and a bride to describe how all of the parts work together to bring strength and vitality to the whole. But Jesus is always the central object: He is the Head of the body, the Chief Cornerstone of the building, the beloved Bridegroom to the bride. 

Everyone in the Church is placed there by God Himself to fulfill a vital role. It is incumbent upon every single Christian to yield themselves to the sanctifying, maturing work of the Holy Spirit so that we can all be “made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” 

Don’t let either the extremes of selfishness of self-abasement limit the good work you were created to do in making the body of Christ, the building of Christ, and the bride of Christ something radiantly God-glorifying!

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4 Ministries Of Healthy Churches

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

In the Foreword to my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, Dick Brogden observes, “God plucked David from the sheepfold. God chose a sheep to be a shepherd. And though we all are stupid sheep, when God plucks us out of obscurity to serve others, we can have the humble confidence for as long as we are asked to lead that God has chosen us. That confidence both faithfully drives us to our knees and fearlessly propels us against our giants. It is good to be a sheep; it is good to be an under-shepherd. Just remember you are stupid, chosen by the Wise One, and as long as you serve as a shepherd, you and your flock will be safe.” 

How true it is that all of us are sheep. The role of the shepherd is to care for the sheep and create a healthy environment for them. The role of healthy sheep is to reproduce more sheep. In this, both shepherds and sheep are ministers—we all minister to those God has placed around us. 

God calls all Christians to be ministers. The Church is the sheepfold that equips us, but then we must go out to minister in a way that will bring lost sheep to a personal relationship with Jesus. 

Our foundational truth statement about church ministry says: A divinely called and scripturally ordained ministry has been provided by our Lord for the fourfold purpose of leading the Church in evangelism, worship, sanctification, and compassion. 

(1) Evangelism. When we looked at the foundational belief about the Church, we noted that it’s not either-or—evangelism or discipleship—but it’s both-and. Christians are being the Church when they are intentionally living in a way that makes Jesus known (Matthew 10:1, 7-8; 28:18-20). 

(2) Worship. We shouldn’t have the mindset of, “Let’s go to church to meet with God.” Instead, we need to live in a way where we are always abiding in God’s omnipresence. This worship-centric lifestyle empowers our evangelism, changes our hearts, and fuels our compassion (John 4:23-24; Romans 12:1; Acts 2:46-47). 

(3) Sanctification. Remember that we are all in-process of becoming saints (I like to remember this by calling it saint-ification). We need each other to do this, which is why God gives gifts to bring out Christ-like maturity in us (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16). 

(4) Compassion. Compassion is feeling turned into action. This opens the door for evangelism, creates more opportunities for worship, and matures Christians (Mark 6:34-37; Luke 10:33; Acts 2:45).  

Notice that each of these ministries are interdependent with all the other ministries. 

In a blog post nearly 10 years ago, I questioned: “How do we know if our church is successful?  The apostle Paul uses two words to help answer these questions: Quality and Faithfulness (1 Corinthians 3:13, 4:2). 

So here are two important questions we need to ask ourselves: (1) Am I doing quality work? (2) Am I faithfully doing my work? 

To help answer those questions, I like this thought from Leonard Sweet’s book I Am A Follower: “The most important metrics we must rely on, the crucial ‘deliverables’ we can present, must focus on the newly formed lives of the disciples we are making, the followers who are following Christ into a place of serving Him by serving others. The most important measure of our faithfulness to Christ must be the extent of transformation into the living image of Christ Himself. … The quantifiable fruit of our church is not found in the number of people we can gather on a weekly basis. What counts is what is happening in the lives of those who have gathered. 

These are questions we should all ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us: 

  • What is happening in my life? 
  • Am I telling others about Jesus? 
  • Am I worshipping God so consistently that everyone can see it? 
  • Am I maturating as a saint and am I helping other saints mature? 
  • Is my faith seen in my compassionate actions? 

Our individual answers to those questions will determine the success of our individual churches, which will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the global Church of Jesus Christ. I hope you will take some time to consider these questions for yourself. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Is The Great Worker

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.

God Is The Great Worker

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

     God Himself is the Great Worker. He may use what laborers He pleases, but the increase comes only from Him. Brothers, you know it is so in natural things—the most skillful farmer cannot make the wheat germinate, grow, and ripen. … And in the spiritual farm it is even more so, for what can man do in this business? … We can tell out the truth of God, but to apply the truth to the heart and conscience is quite another thing. … 

     Well said our Lord, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). What is the effect of all this upon your minds? Briefly I would draw certain practical lessons out of this important truth of God. (1) The first is, if the whole farm of the church belongs exclusively to the great Master Worker and the laborers are worth nothing without Him, let this promote unity among all whom He employs. … 

     (2) Next, notice that this fact ennobles everybody who labors in God’s husbandry. … 

     (3) But lastly, how this should drive us to our knees! Since we are nothing without God, let us cry mightily to Him for help in this, our holy service!

From Farm Laborers

I learned long ago of both the confidence and the humility in reminding myself that God chose me to work in His field. Here’s how I describe that in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter

     There is nothing wrong about aspiring to a leadership position. The apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy, “This is a trustworthy saying: ‘If someone aspires to be a church leader, he desires an honorable position’” (1 Timothy 3:1 nlt). Yet this desire needs to be tempered by Jeremiah’s words to his scribe Baruch, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them” (Jeremiah 45:5). Taken together, a shepherd leader’s passion for greater leadership should be to gain greater things not for himself but for others. 

     Shepherd leaders need to remind themselves frequently of this simple statement: God chose me. The confidence comes from remembering “God chose.” If God has chosen me, then He has also equipped me. He foresaw the needs of this organization, and He has prepared me to step into this role for such a time as this. The humility comes from remembering “God chose me.” Who am I that God would think so highly of me? Of all the people on Earth that God could have placed here, why did He pick me? This confident humility will do two things for us: keep us confident to continue to lead when doubts or naysayers arise, and keep us humble to continue to serve people when pride or applause arises. (except from chapter 2 “Secure To Serve”) 

How important it is to remind ourselves that God makes things grow—not us. Our role is to perform the highest-quality labor possible, and to remain faithful at our post until God gives us a new assignment.  

This isn’t true just for church leaders, but for every member of the Body of Christ

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Three Pictures Of The Church

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

When you’ve been at a church service have you ever asked yourself, “What are we doing here? What exactly is ‘church’? What are we supposed to be doing?”  

 Some people think church is saints going out to tell people about Jesus, and some people think church is saints coming together to hear about Jesus (see Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:18). I think this is an either-or trap. 

I think a better way of looking at this is “both-and” and “so that”: BOTH coming to a gathering of believers so that we can be equipped to go out AND going out to tell people about Jesus so that we can bring new disciples into the church. 

Our foundational truth statement says: The Church is the Body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit, with divine appointments for the fulfillment of her great commission. Each believer, born of the Spirit, is an integral part of the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn, which are written in heaven. 

To help us see where we play a vital role in all of this, the Bible gives us three pictures of the church:

  1. A Body
  2. A Building
  3. A Bride

(see Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26; Ephesians 2:19-22; John 3:29; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:21-33)

All of these pictures speak of multiple parts making up one unified, healthy whole. Remove any part or any function, and the whole thing is diminished. All of these pictures also speak of intentionality. No one becomes healthy by accident, or builds a sound structure by accident, or enjoys a fulfilling marriage by accident. Health, soundness, and fulfillment all result from being intentional about our choices and interactions. 

I believe these three pictures also help us see what the church isn’t and is. 

  • A healthy church isn’t about numbers  
  • A healthy church isn’t about the day of the week that we meet
  • A healthy church isn’t about an “order of service” (there is no such thing listed in the New Testament!)
  • A healthy church is about Jesus being the focal point. As Jesus said, “I will build My Church.”   
  • A healthy church is about being intentional in everything we do 
  • A healthy church is about doing everything we can to glorify Jesus, both when we come together and when we go out into the world

(see Matthew 18:20; Romans 14:5; Matthew 16:18; Acts 10:38; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Hebrews 10:23-25) 

The first Church in the New Testament showed us how they followed the example of Jesus. Before trying to fulfill the Great Commission of going into all the world, they first obeyed the directive from Jesus to stay in Jerusalem until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. Then we see an intentionality, and an empowerment, and a complete reliance on the Holy Spirit in everything they undertook from that point on. 

(see Acts 1:8; 2:42-47; 4:29-35; 6:1-7; 8:4, 26; 10:19-20; 13:1-3; 15:1-29)  

It’s not about going to “my church” or going to “your church.” It’s about being the Church (with a capital “C”)—the Body of of Christ, the Building of Christ, the Bride of Christ. 

Bottom line:

Christians are being the Church when they are intentionally living in a way that makes Jesus known. 

This is a part of our ongoing series looking at our foundational truths. If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here.

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Poetry Saturday—The Church A Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—We Are All Laborers

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

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

We Are All Laborers

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Farm Laborers

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

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

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

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

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