Don’t Putrefy Your Leadership

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

King Solomon nailed it pretty succinctly with this verse: Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor. (Ecclesiastes 10:1) 

As a Christian leader, I always have mixed emotions when I hear of another prominent Christian leader who has stumbled. Part of me is angry because I know that all Christian leaders will get painted with the same brush. Another part of me is incredibly sad to hear of a brother or sister who has squandered the trust that was placed in them. Finally, part of me becomes quite self-reflective, because I don’t want to repeat their mistakes. 

Tom Peters said, “There are no minor lapses of integrity.” King Solomon would agree. And so do I. 

Godly leadership can be such a beautiful thing, but just a couple of dead flies can putrefy the whole thing! 

Here are four things that I have seen in the lives of those leaders who haven’t finished well. These are the things all of us need to watch carefully in our own lives.

(1) They compromised in “the little things.” None of them started off by saying, “I’m going to completely ruin my reputation as a godly leader.” But they allowed themselves to indulge in things that were just “little things” in their minds. Perhaps they thought, “It won’t hurt if I indulge in this one little thing.” The apostle Paul warns us, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). 

(2) Pride crept in. They thought they were better than others. Peter said it this way: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). I addressed this topic in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter like this—

     Did you catch that? God stands back from the proud person who will not admit his error nor ask for help, let alone ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, God lavishes His grace on the humble one who admits both his error and his need for help. Admission of an inappropriate action or reaction brings God’s help! 

     Friends, the mark of a maturing shepherd is not one who never misspeaks or never makes a mistake. No, the mark of a maturing shepherd is the one who is closing the gap between his mess up and his confession.

Pride will keep us from confessing the “little sins” and keep us from God’s help. But humility quickly admits the smallest of slip-ups and therefore receives God’s grace and help. 

(3) They lowered their standards. If anything, leaders should raise their standards as they become more successful. Think of it this way: when I was young and immature, I didn’t give much thought to my diet or my exercise routine. As I became older (and hopefully more mature), I became much more tuned-in to these things. Physically, the older I get, the more I need to pay attention to my health. The same thing is true in our leadership: maturity should lead to higher standards and higher levels of scrutiny. 

(4) They stopped listening to others. The combination of little compromises, pride, and lowered standards doesn’t easily invite accountability nor transparency. The track record is pretty consistent among those who have fallen short: they stopped listening to people who tried to correct them.

I want to finish well. I don’t want a leadership stumble in my life to rob God of glory, nor to cause others to stumble in their Christian walk. I am committed to living my life in a way that will allow Jesus to say to me at the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

I pray that all Christian leaders will join me in this.

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11 Quotes From “The Nehemiah Code”

All of us have opportunities where we need to rebuild something that has fallen apart. O.S. Hawkins uses the example of Nehemiah in the Bible to teach us highly applicable rebuilding principles. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“One never rebuilds until he personally identifies with the need and weeps over the ruins. … Sadly, there are many who are simply not grieved or burdened about the walls in their lives that are broken and in need of rebuilding. It has been far too long since some of us have ‘sat down,’ much less ‘wept, and mourned for many days.’” 

“Those who play the blame game never get the task of rebuilding completed.” 

“True rebuilders identify with the fears and failures of those around them. They take personal responsibility for the situation—even if the problems didn’t begin with them.” 

“Opportunities most often come our way when we are knocking on the door and not simply waiting for an opportunity to knock.” 

“Nehemiah was able to convince the people to adopt his vision because he followed three vital rules in goal setting: they were conceivable, believable, and achievable.” 

“Note the repetition of the plural personal pronouns in his challenge: ‘we … us … we’ (Nehemiah 2:17). Nehemiah was smart enough to incorporate a lot of plural pronouns. He was subtly motivating his people to work with him and not for him.” 

“Nehemiah left us a stellar example to follow by laying out five important principles that are essential to the delegation process: set clear objectives with specific tasks, pick the right person for the right job, be an example yourself, hold others accountable, and be generous in giving genuine pats on the back.” 

“When it comes to personal relationships, we all need someone to whom we are accountable. Someone who will remind us of God’s standards and give a gentle nudge—or shove—when we stray from those standards. Without such a friend, the result is often self-reliance, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency, and self-centeredness, rather than God-centeredness.” 

“The fatigue factor is often at the root of our own failures. We simply give out and become too tired to go on, so we are then tempted to give in and to give up. When fatigue sets in during the rebuilding process, it brings along with it a loss of perspective, and little things often become much bigger than they really are. …Fatigue pulled their focus from their goal and placed it upon the rubbish, which led to frustration.” 

“People have a way of rallying around a cause if they are convinced that God is in the midst of it. Which voice do the troops hear from your mouth? Is it the voice of Sanballat and ‘We won’t’? Is it the voice of Judah and ‘We can’t’? Or is it the voice of Nehemiah and ‘God will!’?” 

“At last, the goal was in sight. The finish line. ‘Mission Accomplished’ just ahead. But be warned: this is the most dangerous point in any rebuilding process. This is when the enemy comes along with one final attempt to divert us from our goal. …It is not so much how long our personal race may be, nor even how difficult the obstacles we face along the way, but it is how we finish that matters most.” 

Links & Quotes

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“The busyness of duties will knock us out of relationship to God more quickly than the devil.” —Oswald Chambers

“The moment I come into possession of something which my neighbor or my fellow man has not, I become a debtor to that fellow man! … It is to God, then, that in the first place Paul feels himself an infinite debtor in the fullest sense [Romans 1:14]. To God Himself he cannot pay this debt directly, but he can indirectly, by pouring out the God-given treasure upon others.” —Horatius Bonar

“To lose temper, and call names, is a common sign of a defeated cause. … The true Christian in the present day must never be surprised to find that he has constant trials to endure from this quarter. Sinful human nature never changes. So long as he serves the world, and walks in the broad way, little perhaps will be said against him. Once let him take up the cross and follow Christ, and there is no lie too monstrous, and no story too absurd, for some to tell against him, and for others to believe. But let him take comfort in the thought that he is only drinking the cup which his blessed Master drank before him. The lies of his enemies do him no injury in heaven, whatever they may on earth. Let him bear them patiently, and not fret, or lose his temper. When Christ was reviled, ‘He reviled not again’ (1 Peter 2:23). Let the Christian do likewise.” —J.C. Ryle

I like hearing this: Senator Ted Cruz points out how Congress can end abortion without the Supreme Court.

Rev. Tim Dilena shares a video message of how to finish well: Fighting The Reprehensible Thing.

Are you infringing on someone’s copyright? Check out this infographic from ChurchMag.

10 Ways To Pastor Like Paul

Apostle PaulI don’t think anyone who has studied the New Testament would argue that Paul was a premier pastor, evangelist and missionary. In his farewell address to the elders from Ephesus, Paul used his life as an example—“you know how I lived the whole time I was with you” (Acts 20:18).

Here are 10 things Paul demonstrated as a pastor:

  1. Great humility (v. 19)
  2. Preached the “hard messages” they needed to hear (v. 20a)
  3. Preached publicly and house to house (v. 20b)
  4. Made our Lord Jesus the central message of his sermons (v. 21)
  5. In constant contact with the Holy Spirit (vv. 22-23)
  6. Desired to finish the race and complete the task God had given him (v. 24)
  7. Lived innocently (v. 26)
  8. Always proclaimed the whole will of God, not just select topics (v. 27)
  9. Didn’t covet a luxurious lifestyle, but supplied my own needs by working as a tentmaker (vv. 33-34)
  10. Worked hard to be charitable to everyone (v. 35)

Because Paul lived like this, he had the moral authority to call these elders to live a similar lifestyle. He challenged the Ephesian pastors to:

  • Keep watch over yourselves
  • Keep watch over the flock
  • Stay in tune with the Holy Spirit’s oversight
  • Shepherd the Church
  • Remember the Church is the Bride of Christ (v. 28)
  • Be on your guard! (v. 31)

If you are a pastor, pay attention to these words!

If you love your pastor, help him or her stay true to these words!

Links & Quotes

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“Long-term studies have measured the substantial impact of marriage on financial stability, as well as relationship longevity and health outcomes.” Read more in 5 Facts About Cohabitation You May Not Know.

“Since the beginning of the war on poverty, marriage has declined sharply. In 1964, 7 percent of U.S. children were born outside marriage. Today, the number is 41 percent. Society is dividing into two castes. In the top half, children are raised by married couples with college education; in the bottom half, children are raised by single mothers with a high-school degree or less. When compared to children in intact married homes, children raised by single parents are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; be expelled from school; and drop out of high school.” Read more in How The Welfare State Penalizes Parents Who Marry.

Parents, check this out: A Letter To My Children About Fifty Shades Of Grey.

“Do you desire God and His way and His promises more than anything, and do you believe that He can and will honor your faith and obedience by being unashamed to call Himself your God, and to use all His wisdom and power and love to turn the path of obedience into the path of life and joy? That is the crisis you face now: Do you desire Him? Will you trust Him? The Word of God to you is: God is worthy and God is able.” —John Piper

“But this is the badge of a true child of God: that a man endures to the end.” —Charles Spurgeon

Kids with Down Syndrome aren’t likely to be singers, as the strain on vocal chords and fine motor skills to move their mouth isn’t usually possible. But Madison defies the odds. And the song she picked to memorize and sing is perfect. Click this link to read more behind-the-scenes information, and then watch this―


Jehu, the king of Israel, said, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord!” Wow, this guy was so fired up about doing great things for God! He got rid of all of King Ahab’s idol-worshipping family, he removed all of the court officials who supported Ahab, and he even cleared all of the priests of Baal out of Israel.

God was so pleased with Jehu and his zeal for holiness that God said, “Well done! Because of what you have done, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel for the next four generations.”

What a God-fearing man Jehu was! How on fire for God!

Unfortunately, Jehu’s passion fizzled.

Aristotle famously said, “Well begun is only half done.” Jehu started well, but his zeal for God fizzled in the end.

In fact, the very next verse after God says, “Well done!” begins with a very telling word: Yet.

Jehu didn’t continue his walk with God. He began to fall away, and so the Bible adds this sad note: In those days the Lord began to reduce the size of Israel. Yes, Jehu and his descendants still sat on the throne, but Israel became smaller and smaller.

I want to start well and finish strong.

I don’t want to hear God say, “Well begun.” I want to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I don’t want to be “king” of a smaller and smaller sphere of influence.

I don’t want to fizzle—I want to keep on burning bright for God!

Ernie Harwell

Ernie Harwell taught me baseball. I would lay awake at night with my transistor radio under my pillow listening to the legendary voice of the Detroit Tigers. I didn’t know which player was on which team, but as I listened night after night, summer after summer, I learned everything I needed to know about baseball from Ernie Harwell.

Ernie Harwell taught me storytelling. He didn’t just broadcast a game, he painted a picture. His descriptive phrases told so much:

  • “He digs in at the plate waiting for this 3-2 pitch. Bent at the knees, his two-toned bat waving behind his right ear.”
  • “The lanky right-hander goes into the wind up and delivers.”
  • “There’s a fly ball to deep left field. It’s loooooong gone!”
  • The Tigers didn’t just turn a double-play, they “got two for the price of one.”
  • A batter didn’t just look at a called third strike, he was “called out for excessive window shopping” or “he stood there like the house by the side of the road and watched that one go by.”

Ernie Harwell taught me graciousness. After 30 years of serving as the Tiger’s play-by-play voice, he was unceremoniously fired in 1991. What did Mr. Harwell say? “The Tigers had plans that didn’t include me. I’ll always be grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend with such a fine organization.” And after the public outcry restored him to his broadcast booth position the following season, he never once gloated.

Ernie Harwell taught me how to finish well. He finished his career well. He died last night with his wife of 69 years sitting by his side. When he announced last year that he had inoperable cancer, he said he was ready for the next great adventure. He loved Jesus, but never flaunted his personal relationship with Christ. He simply lived it out every single day. I can’t imagine that anyone has an unkind thing to say about this great man.

The radio voice may be silenced, but his lessons will continue to live on in me.

Finishing Well

Asa started so well, accomplished so many things, was known for his greatness, won an unbelievable victory, made the tough choices that the people loved, and then faded into disrepute.

Starting well is important; finishing well is so much more important. After we’re gone, people usually remember us for how we went out.

Asa was a great king of Judah (see 2 Chronicles 14-16). He began to clean out all of the false gods and pull down the places where these idols were worshipped. The people were so unified behind Asa that none of their enemies even dared to attack them. And Asa recognized this. He said, “The land is ours and is at peace because we have sought God; we’ve sought Him and He’s given us peace everywhere.”

An army from Cush (modern-day Sudan and Libya) marched up to challenge Asa in battle. The Cushites came with an army too large to even count, while Asa had about 500,000 fighting men. Asa and his men called on God, and God helped them win an incredible victory. In fact, they inflicted such heavy casualties on the Cushites that they never returned to their former strength.

Then something happened.

Baasha, the king of Israel, began fortifying the city of Ramah. This wasn’t hostile in itself, but it did look to Asa like the build-up to war. Israel’s army wasn’t nearly the size of the army of Cush that Asa had just seen God help him defeat. But instead of calling on God, Asa bribed Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, to break his treaty with Israel. This political turnabout caused Baasha to quit building up Ramah to move his forces to protect himself from Aram.

At first glance, it looks like Asa won. He was the clever one. He did it himself. And there’s the problem: he did it himself—he didn’t rely on God.

Why did Asa do this? Why did he abandon God? Why didn’t he seek God as he did before?

The prophet Hanani came to ask Asa these very questions. Hanani told Asa it was foolish of him to turn his back on God. Instead of this prompting Asa to recognize he had slipped away from God, he got angry and threw Hanani in prison. Then in his guilt-provoked rage, Asa began to oppress his own people.

A short time later Asa contracted some sort of disease in his feet. The Bible says, “Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.”

Asa started out so well, yet finished so poorly. Starting well is important; finishing well is so much more important.

The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you (2 Chronicles 15:2).

What are you doing today to make sure you finish well? The best thing you can do is seek God with all your heart. Do that and you will finish well. People usually remember us for how we go out.

Finish well.

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