Go Deep—The Fruit Of The Spirit

We have been studying the different sets of gifts listed in the New Testament. These gifts are to bring maturity and health to the church. Previously we have looked at:

In this lesson, we discover how the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5) shows our Christian maturity.

You may download the participant’s study guide here → Go Deep – fruit of the Holy Spirit handouts

Near the end of this lesson, I shared something that I hadn’t included in the handouts, but I promised to share it—

LOVE for God fill us with love for others → there is JOY in knowing His nearness → PEACE comes in the face of anxiety-causing tribulations → which gives me PATIENCE with others who are anxious without God → then I can have KINDNESS to draw them to God → and GOODNESS that is expressed in kind deeds → and my FAITHFULNESS that creates a sense of stick-to-it-iveness → and GENTLENESS that gives me courage to stand up for what’s right → my SELF-CONTROL keeps the fruit of the flesh in-check → which gives me greater LOVE for God and others… 

Links & Quotes

“This is one of the rewards of reading the Old Testament regularly. You keep on discovering more and more what a tissue of quotations from it the New Testament is; how constantly Our Lord repeated, reinforced, continued, refined, and sublimated the Judaic ethics, how very seldom He introduced a novelty.” —C.S. Lewis, Reflections On The Psalms 

I have shared quite often about the historicity of the Bible. Here is some additional evidence for that: Top 10 discoveries related to the Book of Daniel.

The folks at Fight The New Drug provide excellent research on the dangers of pornography as well as many helpful resources for folks to break free from a porn addiction. Pornography often attracts people when they are emotionally drained, but viewing porn actually increases feelings of loneliness and isolation.

If we ever start to think the Church is one or two ministers and a whole bunch of parishioners, it really won’t be a Church. According to Ephesians 4, all Christians should be ministers. 

You can check out the full message that this clip is from by clicking here.

Here is a word of encouragement for anyone in a time of spiritual warfare—

Check out my regular Monday Motivation series.

Wow, this post from T.M. Moore on how we respond to God’s “call” is a much-needed reminder. In the post, he wrote,

“Probably most Christians treat the calling of God as a kind of punctuated equilibrium. He breaks into their lives to ‘call’ them to some activity or task, but only from time to time, and only for that activity or task. He ‘calls’ us to believe the Gospel, and we do. He ‘calls’ us to this or that church, and we go. He ‘calls’ us to some ministry or other Christian activity, and so we participate. He ‘calls’ us to make a special gift, go on a mission trip, send a note of encouragement to a friend, and so forth. Our lives run on their own schedules, so whenever God ‘calls’ us to do something, we’ll try to get it done.

“But most of the time, other things have prior claims on our lives. We have jobs, families, friends, responsibilities, things we like to do or must do. We can’t respond to every calling from God because, well, there just isn’t enough time. We say, when friends press us to consider this or that Christian opportunity, ‘If God calls me to it, I will.’ But aren’t we just using the language of piety to relieve the discomfort of pressure to do something we’d rather not do?

“We are called of God. Of this there is no doubt. But for most Christians, the way they understand God’s calling is not the same as the way God issues it. And they have not yet learned to value His calling as He intends, as the defining and guiding value of our lives.”

Go Deep—The Operational Gifts In Orderly Operation

We have been studying the different sets of gifts listed in the New Testament. These gifts are to bring maturity and health to the church. Previously we have looked at the motivational gifts in Romans chapter 12, the operational gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12-13, and the leadership gifts in the church in Ephesians 4.

In this lesson, we learn how the operational gifts of the Holy Spirit must be supported by the leadership gifts that are given to the church. 

You may download the participant’s study guide here → Go Deep – operational gifts in orderly operation handout

If you would like to join us in person for our next class, here is where you can find us.

Go Deep—Leadership Gifts For The Church

We have been studying the different sets of gifts listed in the New Testament. These gifts are to bring maturity and health to the church. Previously we have looked at the motivational gifts in Romans chapter 12 and the operational gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12-13. 

In this lesson, we look at the five leadership gifts that are given to help the church grow into deeper unity and maturity. 

You may download the participant’s study guide here → Go Deep – leadership gifts for the church

If you would like to join us in person for our next class, here is where you can find us.

It’s What Shepherds Do

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

T.M. Moore shares my heartbeat for pastors to align their minds, hearts, and wills to leading as shepherds. T.M. graciously wrote one of the endorsements for my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter by saying, 

“The combination of Craig’s Biblical understanding, practical insights, and consistent personal practice make this a book every pastor should read. Unless our goals and practices in ministry line up with those Jesus taught and exemplified, we cannot expect Him to bless us with world-uprighting power.”

In a recent blog post, T.M. shared these poignant words—

     “Many pastors today seek to model themselves and their ministries along the lines of whichever pastor and whatever church seem to be the most ‘popular’ or ‘successful’ in attracting people. The result is, increasingly, worship services are starting to look alike, and pastors are starting to preach alike. And those who aren’t are wondering what they might do to become more like everybody else.

     “We ought not model ourselves on our contemporaries, be they ever so ‘successful.’ Such comparing and adjusting, Paul suggested, is not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12). Jesus is our great model for ministry, and we should look to Him to wash, shape, enliven, empower, and employ every aspect of our lives and ministries for His glory.

     “In his sermon, ‘Christ the Example of Ministers,’ Jonathan Edwards offered a concise summary of the reason people submit themselves for ordination to ministry: ‘The work and business of ministers is as it were that of servants, to wash and cleanse the souls of men: for this is done by the preaching of the Word, which is their main business, Ephesians 5:26. “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word.” … It is the duty of ministers of the gospel, in the work of their ministry, to follow the example of their great Lord and Master.’ 

     “Elsewhere Paul talked about spending and being spent for the souls of God’s people (2 Corinthians 12:15). The challenge that faces us who have accepted the call to ministry is to follow the example of Paul (1 Corinthians 11:1) and strive to see Jesus, become like Jesus, work and serve like Jesus, lay down our lives like Jesus, and trust in Jesus to make our labors fruitful for His glory.” 

I wholeheartedly agree! 

Pastors, let’s get back to the shepherding model the Scriptures show us. This is truly the heartbeat of my book. You can get more information on Shepherd Leadership by clicking here. 

If you feel my book would benefit you (or your pastor) I would be happy to send you the ebook version free of charge. Just email me to let me know. 

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Who Can Claim God’s Promises?

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

It’s a bit scary to me to realize how many people have a scarcity mindset. As a result, far too many people are trying to figure out how to get their piece of the pie, but they don’t really want others to have their piece too. This should never be the mindset of a Christian! Our God has an unlimited supply, so we should be the most generous and abundance-minded people. 

Sadly, sometimes I still encounter Christians who think that only some people can claim some of God’s promises. 

This is part 5 in our series “Is that in the Bible?” 

Statement #5—Old Testament promises are for the Jews, New Testament promises are for the Christians. Is that in the Bible? No! 

First of all, this assumes a dichotomy between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Second, it reveals a lack of understanding of what Jesus has done for everyone who places their faith in Him. 

Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to do away with or undo but to complete and fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17 AMP). 

Plato told a story about people chained in a cave in such a way that they could only see the shadows on the wall. He said that if the chains were unlocked, some would turn toward the opening of the cave, see the solid figures that had been creating the shadows, and move out of the cave. Plato also said that some would see the reality and choose to stay trapped in the cave—they would prefer shadows over reality. 

Both John and the writer of Hebrews describe how Jesus came as the incarnate Reality of God. Jesus reveals that He is the Substance behind all of the shadows of worship in the First Testament (Hebrews 1:1-2; John 1:1-14). 

Look at the worship practices of the tabernacle, specifically the practices on the Day of Atonement. Two goats or lambs were brought into the outer court on that day—one had all of the sins of the people transferred to it and was sent into the wilderness as the scapegoat, and the other was sacrificed so its blood could make atonement for the sins of the people. The high priest would take this blood past the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, and would sprinkle it on the atonement cover (also called the mercyseat) of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. 

John said that Jesus came to make His dwelling among humans. The word John uses for “dwelling” is the same word for “tabernacle.” Jesus Himself became not only our High Priest, but every single item the earthly high priest used on the Day of Atonement. Jesus is the…

  • scapegoat—Leviticus 16:20-22; John 1:29 
  • sacrificial lamb—Leviticus 16:15; 1 Peter 1:18-19
  • curtain in front of the Holy of Holies—Hebrews 10:22 
  • mercyseat—Exodus 24:8; Leviticus 4:6, 5:9; Hebrews 4:16

(Check out all of the above references by clicking here.)

By His life, death, and resurrection the shadows became Substance through Jesus. Hebrews 10:1-14 describes this, but especially note verse 12: “But when this High Priest [Jesus] offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.” 

Look again at the picture of the tabernacle and note that there are no chairs. That was because the earthly priest’s work was never done. But our fully human, fully divine High Priest completed everything that needed to be done, so He could sit down. 

This High Priest not only sits down in God’s presence, but He takes us with Him into the Holy of Holies: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6)! 

So now ALL God’s promises are for ALL who are in Jesus! “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

I like how the Personalize Promise Bible turns that verse into this prayer: “My heavenly Father is faithful to His every Word. No matter how many promises He has made, in Jesus, He makes good on every one. I have God’s Word; therefore, I have God’s will. Every time that I pray in line with His Word, the answer is guaranteed.” 

My friend, if you have placed your faith in the completed work of Jesus, then EVERY promise in the Bible is a promise you can claim for your life. Hallelujah! What an amazing thing God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ! 

If you’ve missed any of the topics we have covered in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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The Incomparable Jesus

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

C.S. Lewis, like many atheists, wondered if the God of the Bible might be an egomaniac because He is always encouraging people to praise Him. In his book Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis wrote a thoughtful response to this after he had become a Christian: 

“Just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it. ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ … I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. … This is so even when our expressions are inadequate, as of course they usually are. But how if one could really and fully praise even such things to perfection—utterly ‘get out’ in poetry or music or pain the upsurge of appreciation which almost bursts you? Then indeed the object would be fully appreciated and our delight would have attained perfect development. The worthier the object, the more intense this delight would be.” 

His phrase, “our expressions are inadequate” is especially true when we are attempting to appreciate and praise the Infinite, the Eternal, the Omnipresence, the Omnipotence of our God and Savior! But the biblical authors call for Christians to mature in this—we want to keep praising, keep expressing, until we finally find the perfect fulfillment in His presence. 

Paul talks about the maturing nature of love—when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child (1 Corinthians 13:11)—but then he prays for us to grow in both our understanding and our expressions of our Savior’s love (Ephesians 1:17-19). 

I like the wording of Ephesians 1:19 in the King James Version: the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward. The word “exceeding” means God pours out in a way that is beyond human imagining. The Greek word that Paul uses for “greatness” is only used here, and it reinforces the truth that God is beyond our full comprehension. And then Paul adds that this overflowing, incomparable power is directed “to us-ward”! 

Paul then prays for us to be able to understand ever-increasing new dimensions of this transcendent power and ability that God directs to us through His Son Jesus, and for us to be able to express it (Ephesians 3:14-19). In other words, we are to grow in our experience of Jesus so that we can grow in our praise to Jesus. 

The incomparable Jesus means at least four things for us. It means Jesus is…

  1. …beyond comparison. Isaiah, God Himself, and the psalmists ask rhetorically, “Who is like God? Who could ever compare to Him?” (Isaiah 40:13-14, 18, 25; Psalm 89:5-8).  
  1. …matchless in His power. Isaiah 40:12 says God holds the waters of the world in the hollow of His hand. How much water is this? Scientists estimate the Earth’s water supply to be 326 quintillion gallons of water (that’s 326 followed by 18 zeros)! Not only does God hold all of the water, but He directs its activities on behalf of His children (Exodus 15:11-13). 
  1. …unequaled in knowledge. Isaiah 40:12, 26 tell us that all of the stars in our universe fit onto God’s outstretched hand, and that He knows all of the stars by name. How many stars is this? Astronomers calculate the heavens to contain 10 septillion stars (that’s 10 followed by 24 zeros)! Not only does God know each star by name, He knows each human by name, and the smallest of details about each of them (Isaiah 49:16; Matthew 10:29-31). 
  1. …inimitable in His care. We humans can get to the end of our strength, but God never does. He cares for us unlike anyone else or anything else ever can (Isaiah 40:28-31). The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles (Psalm 34:17). 

Knowing we have a Savior like this, why would you ever settle for anything less The Genuine?! 

Our incomparable Jesus wants us to pray in His incomparable name so that our incomparable Father can answer in a way that brings Him incomparable glory! We’re helped, He’s lifted up, and others are drawn to Him. 

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If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series on prayer, you can find a list of all of the messages by clicking here. 

Irresistible

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

And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which [Stephen] spoke. (Acts 6:10) 

Luke the historian doesn’t give us very many details about Stephen, but one common thread is the obvious help the Holy Spirit gave him: 

  • Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people 
  • they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke 
  • all who sat in the council…saw his face as the face of an angel 
  • when they heard these things they were cut to the heart 
  • being full of the Holy Spirit, [Stephen] gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God 

Jesus lived this way too. Near the end of His public ministry He said, 

“I have never spoken on My own authority or of My own accord or as self-appointed, but the Father Who sent Me has Himself given Me orders concerning what to say and what to tell. And I know that His commandment means eternal life. So whatever I speak, I am saying exactly what My Father has told Me to say and in accordance with His instructions.” (John 12:49-50 AMP) 

Jesus said this same Holy Spirit who directed His vocabulary, and Who gave Stephen his irresistible words, would do the same thing for us too. The apostle Paul asked for the Ephesian Christians to pray for him like this, “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19). 

When we are yielded to the Holy Spirit we can say with assurance…

A mark of a godly leader is his irresistible, Spirit-led vocabulary. 

This is part 60 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—“All” Means All

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.

“All” Means All  

Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32) 

     We pass on to observe what it is that we are told in the text has been done for us and to us, for Christ’s sake: ‘God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.’ … Have you put your trust in the atoning sacrifice? Then God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. You have not begun to be a Christian, I hope, with the idea that one day, at some future period, you may obtain forgiveness. No. ‘God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.’ … Pardon is not a prize to be run for, but a blessing received at the first step of the race. If you have believed in Jesus, your sins are all gone—all gone. All your sins have been erased from the records of the past, never to be mentioned against you forever! …  

     I have sometimes heard it said that we were so forgiven when we first believed that there is no need to ask for further forgiveness. I will reply, we were so completely forgiven when we first believed that we ought continually to ask for the perpetuity of that one far-reaching act, that the Lord may continue to exert toward us that fullness of forgiving grace that absolved us perfectly at the first, that we may continue to walk before Him with a sense of that complete forgiveness, clear and unquestioned. … 

     O you believers, think of this, for the ‘all’ is no little thing. It includes sins against a holy God, sins against His loving Son, sins against gospel as well as against law, sins against man as well as against God, sins of the body as well as sins of the mind, sins as numerous as the sands of the seashore and as great as the sea itself, and all are removed from us as far as the east is from the west!

From Forgiveness Made Easy 

Let me drive home Charles Spurgeon’s point with two passages of Scripture and a stanza from an old hymn. 

[God] does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:10-12) 

For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. (Hebrews 8:12) 

When satan tempts me to despair 
And tells me of the guilt within, 
Upward I look and see Him there 
Who made an end of all my sin. 
Because the sinless Savior died, 
My sinful soul is counted free; 
For God the Just is satisfied 
To look on Him and pardon me, 
To look on Him and pardon me. (Charitie Lees Bancroft) 
 

So I think this is a good conclusion—In this freedom Christ has made us free and completely liberated us; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery which you have once put off. (Galatians 5:1 AMP)

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Love So Amazing

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.

Love So Amazing  

Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32) 

     The first phrase to think about is ‘for Christ’s sake.’ We use these words very often, but probably we have never thought of their force. … All the good things that God has bestowed upon us have come to us ‘for Christ’s sake.’ But especially the forgiveness of our sins has come ‘for Christ sake.’ …  

     It is His very love as well as His holiness and His justice that, if I may use such a term, compels Him to severity of judgment so that sin cannot and must not be blotted out till atonement has been presented. There must, first of all, be a sacrifice for sin, that, mark you, the great Father, to show His love, supplies, for it is His own Son who is given to die! And so the Father Himself supplies the ransom through His Son, that Son is one with Himself by bonds of eternal unity, mysterious but most intense. If God demands the penalty in justice, He Himself supplies it in love. … 

     I want you to consider, for a moment, how readily God may now blot out sin since Christ has died. … God, for Christ’s sake, has accepted us in Him, has forgiven us in Him, and looks upon us with infinite love, changeless in Him. This is how all our blessings come to us, in and through Christ Jesus. And if we are indeed in Him, the Lord does not only forgive us our sins, but He bestows upon us the boundless riches of His grace in Him. In fact, He treats us as He would treat His Son. He deals with us as He would deal with Jesus! … 

     And you, big evil sinner, if you will go to God at this moment and say, ‘Lord, I cannot ask You to forgive me for my own sake, but do it out of love for Your dear Son,’ He will do it…. Christ took the shame that He might magnify His Father, and now His Father delights to magnify Him by blotting out the sin.

From Forgiveness Made Easy 

I’ve lost track of the number of times someone has told me, “I’ve messed up for so long—I’ve done such atrocious things—there is no way God could forgive me.” This is one of satan’s lies that keeps people from accepting God’s forgiveness. 

Jesus took your penalty, He paid the price for your sin! The moment you believe that, you are clothed in Christ’s righteousness. So now when the Holy God looks at you, He says, “You look like My Son. I love to bless My Son. I love to do what He asks of Me. For His sake, I have forgiven you. Not only forgiven, but I’ve forgotten everything I’ve forgiven!” 

Don’t wait another moment: If you haven’t asked God to forgive you “for Christ’s sake,” do it right this very minute! I’d love to chat with you about this, so reach out to me and let’s talk more about this amazing new relationship you now have with Almighty God because you are forgiven for Christ’s sake. 

This reminds me of a song by Chris Tomlin—

He became sin Who knew no sin
That we might become His righteousness
He humbled Himself and carried a Cross
Love so amazing!
 

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