Soul Friends

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

I had a great time on the Ailbe Podcast with Rusty Rabon. 

Rusty referred to a chapter in my book called ‘Going Farther,’ where I talk about the importance of a shepherd leader having strong, godly friends close by.  

I learned a long time ago that there is a reason that the word “saints” is always in the plural—never in the singular—throughout the New Testament. I also share a couple of notable Old Testament examples of leaders who stumbled when they tried to go alone. 

In Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter I wrote, “You will not only extend your leadership by having other servant-hearted shepherds around you, but you will also have a guard against the aloneness that led to such ugly warts on the biography of otherwise powerful leaders such as David, Elijah, and Peter.” 

I’ll be sharing more clips from this interview soon, so please stay tuned. If you would like to check out the other clips I have already shared from this podcast, please check them out here. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

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Sheepish Shepherds

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 said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!’” Truly there is a special bond when we find someone who “gets” us—someone who not only knows what we’re feeling, but how to help us too. 

Jesus is described as One who went through all of the human suffering we will ever have to go through (Hebrews 2:14, 17-18). So no matter what you’re going through, Jesus “gets” you. He’s been through it and He knows exactly what you’re feeling and what help you need. 

In fact, He’s even given us the Holy Spirit to turn our sighs and groans into a beautiful prayer that the Shepherd of our souls understands. 

This is wonderful news for all of us! But isn’t it also comforting when we have a human companion that “gets” us too? One that will come alongside us through the challenging and painful times to help us? 

In His love for His sheep, Jesus has given us under-shepherds. These are sheep that He has called and equipped to care for His flock. He did this with David—

He chose David His servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep He brought him to be the shepherd of His people Jacob, of Israel His inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. (Psalm 78:70-72) 

David never forgot that his source of strength was the Chief Shepherd, and he penned a beautiful psalm of praise and reliance on Him (Psalm 23). David also made it a priority to point the sheep under his care to the Chief Shepherd. He prayed:

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him. The Lord is the strength of His people, a fortress of salvation for His anointed one. Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; be their Shepherd and carry them forever. (Psalm 28:7-9) 

David “got” the needs of the sheep and with skill and integrity he both shepherded them as he was strengthened by the Chief Shepherd, and he entrusted them into the care of the Chief Shepherd. 

In the foreword to my book Shepherd Leadership, Dick Brogden wrote, “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.” 

If you have been called by the Chief Shepherd to be an under-shepherd, make sure you remain a sheepish shepherd—one that “gets” his or her sheep. Don’t be distant from the flock, but stay close by them in the pasture so that you can care for them, pray for them, and lead them to the Chief Shepherd. 

I adapted David’s beautiful 23rd Psalm into a prayer that I hope all under-shepherds will use to gain the strength they need for the work to which the Chief Shepherd has called them—

Because You are my Chief Shepherd, I lack nothing that is needed to care for the sheep You have placed under my care. 

Just as You provide food for me in green pastures, and quiet waters for my thirst, I am equipped to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. 

You continually refresh my soul, so I can offer refreshing hospitality to those who have been beat up along life’s journey. 

You guide me along the right paths for Your name’s sake, so I can show others the path into Your presence. 

Even when I walk through the darkest valleys, I never fear because You are with me; You comfort me and provide all that I need so that I can care for the sick, the downhearted, and the weary without ever lapsing into my own pity party. 

You continually prepare a table before me, even when I’m in the midst of enemies. You have anointed my head with oil and caused my cup of blessing to overflow, so I have more than enough to share with others. 

I am secure that Your goodness and Your love will follow me all the days of my life, so I am equipped to lead others to the place where they too will dwell in Your house forever. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

True Friends

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

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy (Proverbs 27:6 NLT). 

Proverbs 27 may have more wisdom about our friends than any other chapter in this book. But sprinkled throughout the entire book of Proverbs is outstanding wisdom about our closest relationships. Allow me to share just a few observations with you.

(Click here to see all of the verses I reference below.)

In a previous post where I noted the conjunctions “but” and “and,” I see this—The righteous choose their friends carefully, BUT the way of the wicked leads them astray (12:26). Righteous friends keep me on the right path. 

Friends love me through my worst moments (17:17) because they have committed to stick closer than a brother to me (18:24).

I must be careful not to make friends with a hot-tempered person (22:24), and to be cautious of people who want to be friends with me only for what I can give them (19:4). 

My true friends will wound me in love to help me become the best that God intended me to be (27:5-6, 9, 17), so I must never forsake these friends (27:10). 

False friends will gossip to me and about me, but my true friends will guard my secrets and guard my reputation (16:28; 17:9). 

In order to have true friends, I first have to be a true friend.

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I noted how true friends will help us go farther and avoid the stumbles that could cut short our leadership influence. 

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 adulterous 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. —from the chapter “Going Farther” 

We need true, God-fearing friends close to us. Ask God to bring those friends around you, and ask the Holy Spirit to make you into that kind of friend for those He does bring around you. 

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Podcast: Leaders And Friends

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • some people wear the cliche “It’s lonely at the top” like a badge of honor, but it’s not [0:40] 
  • the best leaders are always developing new leaders [1:25] 
  • do people say, “It’s lonely at the top” because they don’t want others alongside them or because they don’t know how to develop people? [1:55]
  • some people are talented in leading but not talented in friending … what kinds of friends do leaders need? [2:52]
  • what are the differences and similarities between friends, peers, and colleagues? [4:57]
  • a huge leadership challenge in a new position or a new organization is quickly identifying your allies [6:00]
  • a teammates’ participation in team sports can give a leader great insights into that teammates’ leadership potential [7:00]
  • leaders that try to fly solo set themselves up for failure … what are the common traits of leaders who successfully raise up new leaders? [8:08]
  • Greg confesses a leadership mistake he had to correct in himself [9:20]
  • character is vital in emerging leaders [10:59]
  • compassion is valuable in emerging leaders [11:44]
  • consistency helps emerging leaders develop into solid leaders, and it helps the team leader to excel … great insight from Patrick Lencioni about being present [12:15]
  • teams must embrace diversity and find commonality [13:08]
  • I elaborate on Greg’s point about a leader’s presence and consistency [14:10]
  • the team leader has to take the initiative in identifying and raising up new leaders [15:47]
  • leaders need to continue to replenish themselves [17:22]
  • Greg shares a great leadership example from the life of Moses [17:50]
  • we are here to encourage you—check out information on our leadership huddles [18:20]

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Why We Need Loving Friends

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

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! 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

Podcast: Talking About “The Shawn Effect”

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • Greg’s booked called The Shawn Effect
  • what leaders look like [1:14] 
  • leaders make friends easily [2:53]
  • how you can get a free copy of The Shawn Effect [3:53]
  • Shawn’s parents set him up for success [5:15]
  • leaders get informed so they can interact with others and stay relevant [6:28]
  • Shawn demonstrated chivalry and trained young men to be gentlemen [7:53]
  • leaders don’t need a platform or a big following to be an influencer [8:40]
  • Shawn shows how leaders love [10:33]
  • leaders are encouragers [11:37]
  • leaders are readers and appliers [12:27]

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Discovering True Friends

Last week I shared that a mark of a maturing saint is one who when he realizes he is in a trough begins to praise God in anticipation of the blessings which are coming! I believe a keyword in this statement is realizes. Once we realize that we are in a trough, what will help us turn our mourning into praise? In a word: meditation. 

Notice Asaph’s words at the beginning of Psalm 77. Twice he says he “cried out” to God. This literally means that he called aloud, not caring who heard him. It wasn’t a whimper, but Asaph said he was “distressed.” As soon as he realized the distressed state he was in, notice the words of meditation in the next four verses: 

  • remembered (2x) 
  • mused (2x) 
  • thought 
  • inquired 

Asaph also began to ask himself questions, all of which have the obvious answer “NO”:

  • Will the Lord reject me forever? NO! 
  • Will He never show His favor again? NO!
  • Has His unfailing love vanished forever? NO!
  • Has His promise failed for all time? NO! 
  • Has God forgotten to be merciful? NO! 
  • Has He in anger withheld His compassion? NO! 

Again, Asaph meditates (notice the words thought, remember, meditate, and consider once again in the next three verses). His conclusion leads him not to self-pity, but to praising God.

Asaph taught us that when we get our eyes off ourselves we can see what God is doing in us, around us, and through us. 

One lesson I learned in a very dark night time of my life: Who my true friends are. When all my “fans” stopped cheering and started jeering, I ended up in a very dark place. But as soon as I realized the valley I was in and began to meditate on God’s presence even in this dark place, I began to see what was happening around me. One of the things I saw were two men who stood up for me against all the foes attacking me. They stepped in when all my “fans” stepped away. 

The apostle Paul had the same realization in the dark night of his Roman prison cell. He stated, “at my first defense no one came to my support.” But he also saw those who stood by his side: Luke, Timothy, and Mark.

Dark times can quickly lead us to self-pity UNLESS we will realize we are in a dark place and begin to meditate on all that God says in His Word about His faithfulness. Once we get our eyes off ourselves and onto Him, we will begin to see the lessons God is teaching and the amazing things He is accomplishing. 

I can be thankful IN the night because the dark nights have shown me my true friends. 

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

Friendship Is…

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!’” —C.S. Lewis 

Friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine.” —Thomas Jefferson 

Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” —Aristotle 

Friendship is not a way of accomplishing something but a way of being with another in which we become more authentically ourselves.” —Eugene Peterson 

“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” —Emerson 

“If the first law of friendship is that it has to be cultivated, the second law is to be indulgent when the first has been neglected.” —Voltaire

Friendship is agreement with kindliness and affection about things human and divine.” —Cicero 

“The light of friendship is seen plainest when all around is dark.” —Grace Noll Crowell 

“For spiritual friendship, which is what we mean by true friendship, should be desired not with a view to any worldly good, nor for any reason extrinsic to itself, but from the worthiness of its own nature, and the feeling of the human heart, so that it offers no advantage or reward other than itself. … For in this true friendship one makes progress by bettering oneself, and one bears fruit by experiencing the enjoyment of this increasing degree of perfection. And so spiritual friendship is born among good people through the similarity of their characters, goals, and habits in life.” —Aelred of Rievaulx 

“The quickest way to initiate friendship is to give people freedom to be themselves.” —Andy Braner

Alien Friendships

As Peter wraps up his letter, he reminds us of his purpose in writing to us aliens and strangers

  • encouraging you = speaking encouraging words to your heart.  
  • testifying that this is the truth = speaking thoughtful words to your head. 

But Peter also says that he wrote this letter “with the help of Silas”—some translations even say “by Silas”—indicating that Peter needed someone to come alongside him with words of encouragement and strength, as much as he needed to deliver those words to fellow Christians. 

Peter mentions three people that were alongside him. These folks are instructive for us too:

  1. Silas 

Peter called Silas a faithful brother. The Greek word he uses for brother is adelphos, a word which usually meant someone who shared the same parents. But Peter modifies this to mean a Christian brother whose heartbeat with the love of Jesus the way his did; someone who shared the same Heavenly Father.  

Silas was a recognized church leader and a companion of Paul (Act 15:22, 30-32, 40). He had quite an extensive and impressive resume, and he also had the full endorsement for such notable people as James, Paul, and Peter. 

  1. She who is in Babylon

Babylon is a code word almost universally agreed to be Rome, but there is some debate as to whom the “she” is. Some think this is the church-in-exile in Rome, and some think this is Peter’s wife (Matthew 8:14; 1 Corinthians 9:5). 

Whether the church or Peter’s wife, they/she are anonymous servants of God, but never for a moment forgotten by God, nor is their reward going to be lacking (Matthew 6:1, 4). 

  1. Mark

Peter calls Mark my son. Again, he takes a word that originally meant “my offspring” and changes it to mean Mark was his protegé. 

Mark had traveled with Paul, then left Paul mid-journey, and was eventually reconciled to Paul (Acts 13:5, 13; 15:36-41; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11). 

Mark listened to and recorded Peter’s accounts of Christ’s earthly ministry and wrote the first Gospel that was produced. His Gospel became one of the main reference documents that Matthew and Luke referred to in writing their Gospels. 

Here’s the point—There are no dispensable people in the Church! 

You may be like Silas with many talents and an impressive resume and references. Or you may be like the “she” who is an anonymous helper to others. Or you may even by like Mark who made mistakes but was given a second chance to make good on your commitment. 

You need a Silas, a she, and a Mark in your life. And you just may need to be one of those to someone else. 

“You can deceive yourself with beautiful thoughts about loving God. You must prove your love to God by your love to your brother; that is the one standard by which God will judge your love to Him. If the love of God is in your heart you will love your brother.” —Andrew Murray 

So let me ask you to consider something vital: Are you remaining faithful to your Christian family? 

If you’ve missed any messages in this series, you may find the complete list by clicking here.

Saturday In The Proverbs—The Blessings Of Integrity (Proverbs 19)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

…integrity… (Proverbs 19:1).

Integrity is wholeness—it brings its own blessings because a person of integrity…

  • …is wise (vv. 1, 8, 20, 27)
  • …doesn’t fall into the haste-makes-waste trap (v. 2)
  • …is at peace with God (v. 3)
  • …knows true friendship (vv. 4, 6, 7, 19)
  • …is never punished for lying (vv. 5, 9, 28, 29)
  • …gets promoted to leadership (v. 10)
  • …preserves relationships (vv. 11, 12, 13, 14, 25, 26)
  • …is satisfied with his work (vv. 15, 23, 24)
  • …guards his soul (v. 16)
  • …serves others without an agenda (v. 17)
  • …disciplines only in love (vv. 18, 25)
  • …walks in God’s ways (vv. 21, 23)
  • …is kind to others (v. 22)

“With integrity you can experience freedom. Not only are you less likely to be enslaved by the stress that comes from bad choices, debt, deceptiveness, and other negative character issues, but you are free to influence others and add value to them in an incredible way.” —John Maxwell

How true: Integrity = Freedom to live a satisfying life!

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