Why We Need Loving Friends

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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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Voice Of A Prophet (book review)

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I’ve always appreciated A.W. Tozer’s prophetic voice. By that I mean, his unabashed call for Christians to live up to the Christlike standard given to us in the Scriptures. But in Voice Of A Prophet, Tozer hits a little closer to home for me (and for all of us who are in ministry positions) as he specifically calls on pastors to live up to the prophetic standard given to us in the Bible. 

Sometimes people misunderstand the title “prophet” to be one who foretells future events. At times, that is the function of a prophet, but primarily the prophet is more of a forthteller than a foreteller. The prophet is called upon to boldly proclaim God’s truth and tell forth where godly people are falling short. Prophets are God’s messengers to God’s people, usually sent to reawaken His people to truths that they have forgotten or strayed from. 

Tozer calls modern-day pastors and preachers—those he calls “the sons of the prophets”—to look to the prophetic fathers of the Scripture. He calls us to live up to the God-fearing standard of the prophets like Elijah, Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus. He forthtells how too many have succumbed to the voice of culture instead of adhering to the voice of their Lord, and how they have traded “Thus saith the Lord” for “Thus saith me.” 

The opening chapter of Voice Of A Prophet reprints a prayer that Tozer wrote out when he was ordained in 1920. Part of that prayer for himself should remain a prayer for all who are called by God to be pastors today: “Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven.”

Voice Of A Prophet is an important read for those in pastoral ministry. FAIR WARNING: You will be challenged and convicted by Tozer’s timeless words! But if you will heed those words, God will be pleased to bless your efforts. I would also recommend this book to anyone who would like to know how they can better support and pray for their pastor, as I think they will find valuable insights in this book. 

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Yea Or Nay

“One of the greatest curses of the modern evangelical movement, in my opinion, is that we are somehow becoming ‘popular.’ Just as soon as you become popular, something goes out of your life, or more accurately, something has gone out of your life before you get popular.

“Historically, the Christian had to be emphatic. He had two words: yea or nay. When God was talking to him, he said yes, and when the devil was talking to him he said no. When God said, ‘Do this,’ he said, ‘Yes, Lord.’ When sinners tempted him to stray, he said an emphatic no.

“The trouble with us now is that we are double-minded. That is why we are weak. Scripture speaks of the double-minded man. He is ‘unstable in all his ways’ (James 1:8). Elijah illustrated this when he said, ‘How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him’ (1 Kings 18:21). We need to be on one side or the other. Wholly committed to our high calling in Christ Jesus.” —A.W. Tozer, in The Wisdom Of God

A Double Portion

“I am convinced that we don’t get a double portion of God’s Spirit by watching Elijah walk away while standing at Jericho. When we choose to remain behind, we also leave behind all that God desires to do in us and for us and through us. If we want to inherit a double portion of the spirit of Elijah, we need to walk in the steps of Elijah until he leaves no more footprints. …

“Don’t wait to be asked—volunteer. Volunteer to go forward. Volunteer to go further. Volunteer to go harder. You cannot pioneer out of obligation. It is not an adventure if it is not your choice. You have to want it. You have to want more. If you are going to be greedy, this is the right place to be greedy. Want everything God has for you. Want more than others think you can obtain. Why settle for a single portion if a double portion can be yours for the asking? …

“Perhaps the reason so few of us have received a double portion of God’s Spirit is that the lives we have chosen require so little of God because they require so little of us. … I want to live the kind of life that cannot be lived without the fullness of Christ in my life.” —Erwin McManus, in The Last Arrow (emphasis added)

7 Bible Study Ideas From D.L. Moody

Pleasure & ProfitAs I read D.L. Moody’s book Pleasure & Profit In Bible Study, I made note of several ideas that could stimulate a great Bible study. Check out my review of this book by clicking here, then check out these great study-starters:

“If you are impatient, sit down quietly and commune with Job. If you are strong-headed, read of Moses and Peter. If you are weak-kneed, look at Elijah. If there is no song in your heart, listen to David. If you are a politician, read Daniel. If you are getting sordid, read Isaiah. If you are chilly, read of the beloved disciple. If your faith is low, read Paul. If you are getting lazy, watch James. If you are losing sight of the future, read in Revelation of the promised land.” —Richard Baxter 

“Every chapter [of Mark] but the first, seventh, eighth and fourteenth begins with ‘And,’ as if there was no pause in Christ’s ministry.”

“Matthew begins with Abraham; Mark with Malachi; Luke with John the Baptist; but John with God Himself. Matthew sets forth Christ as the Jew’s Messiah. Mark as the active worker. Luke as a man. John as a personal Savior.”

“[In John’s Gospel] the word repent does not occur once, but the word believe occurs ninety-eight times.”

“Dr. A. T. Pierson says: Let the introduction cover five P’s; place where written; person by whom written; people to whom written; purpose for which written; period at which written.” 

“Some time ago a man wanted to take my Bible home to get a few things out of it, and when it came back I found this noted in it:

  • Justification, a change of state, a new standing before God.
  • Repentance, a change of mind, a new mind about God.
  • Regeneration, a change of nature, a new heart from God.
  • Conversion, a change of life, a new life for God.
  • Adoption, a change of family, new relationship towards God.
  • Sanctification, a change of service, separation unto God.
  • Glorification, a new state, a new condition with God.”

“I was wonderfully blessed by taking the seven ‘Blesseds’ of the Revelation. … Or you may take the eight ‘overcomes’ in Revelation…. I have been greatly blessed by going through the ‘believings’ of John. Every chapter but two speaks of believing. … Take the six ‘precious’ things in Peter’s Epistles. And the seven ‘walks’ of the Epistle to the Ephesians. And the five ‘much mores’ of Romans 5. Or the two ‘receiveds’ of John 1. Or the seven ‘hearts’ in Proverbs 13, and especially an eighth. Or ‘the fear of the Lord’ in Proverbs.” 

“No scripture is exhausted by a single explanation. The flowers of God’s garden bloom, not only double, but seven-fold: they are continually pouring forth fresh fragrance.” —Charles Spurgeon

Thursdays With Oswald—Solitude

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

Oswald Chambers

Solitude 

     Solitude with God repairs the damage done by the fret and noise and clamor of the world. … The disaster of shallowness ultimately follows the spiritual life that takes not the shining way upon the Mount of God. Power from on high has the Highest as its source, and the solitudes of the Highest must never be departed from, else that power will cease. 

From Christian Disciplines 

We live in a go, go faster, then go some more world. Everything is urgency and immediacy. It is vital for Christians to find times of solitude to tune out the clamor and tune in to God’s Voice.

The prophet Elijah was one who learned that God was not in the noise, but in the still, small Voice (see 1 Kings 19:1-13). Are we quieting ourselves enough to hear His Voice? If we don’t, we run the risk of spiritual burnout, just as Elijah experienced. Find Make some time for solitude this week.

Bible-Taught Or Spirit-Taught

A.W. Tozer“We must be willing to obey if we would know the true inner meaning of the teachings of Christ and the apostles. I believe this view prevailed in every revival that ever came to the church during her long history. Indeed a revived church may be distinguished from a dead one by the attitude of its members toward the truth. The dead church holds to the shell of truth without surrendering the will to it, while the church that wills to do God’s will is immediately blessed with a visitation of spiritual powers. Theological facts are like the altar of Elijah on Carmel before the fire came, correct, properly laid out, but altogether cold. When the heart makes the ultimate surrender, the fire falls and true facts are transmuted into spiritual truth that transforms, enlightens, sanctifies. The church or the individual that is Bible taught without being Spirit taught (and there are many of them) has simply failed to see that truth lies deeper than the theological statement of it.” —A.W. Tozer

What do you think, pastor? Is your church Bible taught, or Spirit taught? Is there a difference? If so, how can you move your church into this deeper place?

Painful Love

Sometimes pastors don’t want to say “No” to someone in their congregation because they don’t want to hurt them. Sometimes pastors don’t confront someone in their sinful choices because it seems “mean spirited” to do so.

David Wilkerson

David Wilkerson

Love must be tough. Love sometimes inflicts pain.

“Love inflicts pain, even as it does no harm (Romans 13:10). True love repeatedly disappoints, hurts, confronts, refuses, and disciplines. This is certainly how God has loved us, and we should not expect to love others without hurting them. Love hurts but does not harm. God’s minister bears the sword, but not in vain (v. 4) and with the hope that long-term health will come from short-term faithful wounds.” —Dick Brogden

“Elijah’s hatred for the sins of Israel sprang out of his very strong love for God’s people. He was not a people hater, only a sin hater. He was not a man of revenge, but rather a man whose heart yearned for Israel’s return to the Lord.” —David Wilkerson 

How Are You Running?

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

Ever noticed how often we use the word run in our everyday clichés?

  • I gotta run a few errands
  • I’m running the kids to soccer practice
  • Our funds are running a little low
  • We’re running a bit late
  • I’m running out of energy
  • My patience is running thin
  • Can’t talk now, I have to run

My question is: how are you running?

Elijah ran twice. Once in the power of God, and once in fear.

When he ran in fear, he became completely exhausted to the point where he became depressed and suicidal. When he ran in God’s power, there was no tiredness.

When he ran in fear, he forgot God and focused totally on his own needs. When he ran in God’s power, only God was exalted.

So how are you running today? Are you running in fear of disappointing someone … dropping the ball … losing the job … falling short … losing face?

Or are you running in God’s power … doing the things that draw you closer to Him … running to bring others to Christ … exalting God?

You will be running this week. The bigger question is how are you doing it?

Do It Quickly

Sometimes when you read about an incredible prophet like Elijah, don’t you think, “I wish God would use me like that?” I mean, why not? Was there something different about him? Even James said in the New Testament that Elijah was “just as human as we are.”

So why could use God use him so powerfully? Why not me?

I think the key is in how quickly Elijah responded when God spoke. Check this out:

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah…. So he did what the Lord had told him.

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath….” So he went to Zarephath.

The word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Go present yourself to Ahab….” So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.

See the pattern? God speaks, and in the very next verse, Elijah acts.

No delays.

No excuses.

No planning.

No extra prayer.

No companions.

Just obedience.

The next time you read your Bible and you hear the word of the Lord speak, act on it immediately.

The next time your pastor speaks the word of the Lord to you on Sunday, put it into action on Monday.

As James also said, let’s not just be hearers of the word of the Lord, let’s be immediate doers of the word.

Do it quickly and watch God begin to work through your life powerfully.

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