T.A.

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

I was recently reading a book about the “electrificiation” of America, which included biographies of Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla. 

From this book I learned that Thomas Edison’s most-used notation in his journals documenting his experiments was “T.A.” That stood for “try again.” This requires a certain amount of perseverance, or what I like to call stick-to-it-iveness. 

I have a whole chapter in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter entitled Stick-to-it-iveness. Here are a couple of excerpts from that chapter—

Let’s be honest: caring for sheep is frequently a thankless role. Just as soon as they are brought to a green pasture, some of them decide they don’t like this particular pasture, or the water is too cold, or they would rather be with another shepherd. The long hours that shepherds put in are only rarely recognized by the sheep, and often the sheep ask why the shepherd wasn’t available more. 

This is the reason why shepherd leaders need to be secure in our simple statement: ‘God chose me.’ If God chose you for this role, He also equipped you for this role. And if He equipped you for this role, He also expects a return on His investment. This security of God’s calling and equipping and the weighty understanding of bringing to God a return on His investment should be our motivators to help us stick with our joyful responsibility. … 

One of the things that is extremely helpful to the stick-to-it-iveness of shepherd leaders—especially in those times we may be battling a pity party—is to remember that we are under-shepherds who are accountable to the Good Shepherd. This means that we don’t have to figure out on our own how to care for the sheep, because the Good Shepherd knows them better than we do, and He will share His insight with us. Neither do we need to learn the shepherding ropes on our own, because both God the Father (the Shepherd of Israel) and Jesus the Son have already demonstrated for us all that we need to do, and the Holy Spirit will continually impart to us the ways we can apply those practices to our particular sheepfold. 

I close this chapter with an attitude-correcting, security-building prayer that I wrote using Psalm 23 as my guide. 

Leaders especially need to be T.A. people—try again, and try again, and try again. Stick with it, and with God’s help you will be successful. 

I invite you to check out my book for yourself. You can read some reviews and additional excerpts by going to ShepherdLeadershipBook.com. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Present Communion With Jesus

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.

Present Communion With Jesus

     The desire of a renewed soul is to find Christ and to be with Him. … Past communion with Christ is very well: ‘Therefore I will remember Thee from the land of Jordan…’ (Psalm 42:6). But these are only stale meats, and a loving soul wants fresh food every day from the table of Christ. … 

     A true loving soul, then, wants present communion with Christ. So the question is, ‘Tell me where You feed. Where do You get Your comfort from, O Jesus? I will go there. … Where do You feed Your flock? In Your house? I will go there, if I may find You there. In private prayer? Then I will not be slack in that. In the Word? Then I will read it night and day. Tell me where You feed; wherever You stand as the Shepherd, there will I be, for I want You. I cannot be satisfied to be apart from You. My soul hungers and thirsts to be with You.’

From The Church’s Love To Her Loving Lord

There are so many pictures in the Bible about our continual reliance on God’s presence—from the manna that was only good for each day, to Jesus teaching us to pray for “our daily bread,” to the vivid example of Christians being as dependent on Jesus as a branch is dependent on the vine (see Exodus 16:4-5, 14-17; Matthew 6:11; John 15:1-8).  

All of these mean that we need to constantly abide with our Savior. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I spend two chapters talking to leaders about the need to rest—or sabbath. In fact, I call it sabbathing to give it the emphasis on the ongoing nature of this activity. I wrote—

“Without building in sabbath breaks, we run down emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically, which means loving God becomes a chore, not a delight (Mark 12:30). This then means loving your neighbor becomes nearly impossible (Mark 12:31). Ultimately, this means that we aren’t able to be the compassionate, wise, strong shepherds that the sheep under our care need us to be. … 

“The goal of sabbathing is to infuse more vitality into the shepherd leader for the purpose of pasturing the sheep under that leader’s care. You cannot give hope to others unless you are hope-filled; you cannot give health to others unless you are healthy; you cannot consistently speak wisdom to others unless you are growing in wisdom. All of this healthy growth for the shepherd leader takes place while sabbathing….” 

To reiterate what Pastor Spurgeon said: “A true loving soul, then, wants present communion with Christ.” I hope you will always seek that for yourself.

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Praising God In The Troughs

Some people mistakenly think that the maturity of a Christian is a steady climb, and anything short of that is not God-honoring. They feel the graph has to always be moving up and to the right. In reality—if we zoom in—we will see lots of peaks and troughs that are in the climb. 

For instance, we read the worship leader of Psalm 42 saying, “By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life,” and we think, “Yeah, that’s what I expect from a saintly psalmist!” 

But let’s get the context. In the opening verses, this same worship leader talks about his profound thirst, his tears, and the taunts of his enemies. Twice in this psalm, he laments, “Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” 

Many people have gone through what has been called “the dark night of the soul.” I doubt anyone has ever given thanks because of those dark times, but they have learned to give thanks during those dark times.

Consider David’s beautiful words in Psalm 23. He points out that the Good Shepherd leads us into green pastures AND into dark valleys, beside quiet waters AND into the presence of enemies. 

But notice this: the Shepherd of our soul provides what we need in both daytime AND nighttime. He pours out blessings in the presence of our enemies, and as my grandfather wrote in the margin of his Bible next to verse 4, “Where there is shadow there must be light.” 

Consider the example of Paul who wrote to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4). He wrote this to the church that was birthed by Paul’s miraculous deliverance from prison, while Paul and Silas were doing just that: Praying and singing hymns to God! 

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis gives us insight into how the demons view the temptation of Christians. Uncle Screwtape wrote to his nephew, “It may surprise you to learn that in God’s efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. … It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that the human is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best.” 

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! 

Don’t feel like you need to praise God FOR your troughs, but you can and should praise Him BECAUSE of His presence even in your driest, darkest trough. God is doing something in this trough time that He could accomplish in no other way. As David said, our Good Shepherd leads us in both sunlit and dark paths “for His name’s sake”—He will be glorified and you will be rewarded! 

Be sure to follow along on this series Thankful In The Night.

Poetry Saturday—The 23 Psalme

The God of love my shepherd is,

             And He that doth me feed:
While He is mine, and I am His,
             What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grasse,
             Where I both feed and rest;
Then to the streams that gently passe:
             In both I have the best.

Or if I stray, He doth convert
             And bring my minde in frame:
And all this not for my desert,
             But for His holy name.

Yea, in death’s shadie black abode
             Well may I walk, not fear:
For Thou art with me; and Thy rod
             To guide, Thy staff to bear.

Nay, Thou dost make me sit and dine,
             Ev’n in my enemies sight:
My head with oyl, my cup with wine
             Runnes over day and night.

Surely Thy sweet and wondrous love
             Shall measure all my dayes;
And as it never shall remove,
             So neither shall my praise. —George Herbert

Shepherding God’s Flock (book review)

T.M. Moore founded the Fellowship of Ailbe, a ministry patterned after the example of the Irish Christians who kept the spread of the Gospel alive during history’s dark times. A key component of the Fellowship’s ministry is the equipping of pastors for their tasks, and Shepherding God’s Flock masterfully lays out the role of pastors like few other resources. 

Throughout the Scriptures, God uses the picture of a shepherd caring for his sheep as a consistent image of how God cares for His people, and how He desires for pastors/elders to care for those under their care as well. God has stern warnings for shepherd-leaders who misuse or abuse their positions, but He also showers His blessings on those shepherd-leaders whose hearts beat with God’s heart. David talked lovingly of the Lord being our Shepherd, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd, and the Apostle Peter called for elders in the church to shepherd the flock under their care. 

Shepherding God’s Flock helps pastors work through the practicalities of their shepherding role. And I do mean work through these concepts. This book is as much a workbook as it is a textbook. T.M. Moore gives valuable insights for pastors, but he intersperses penetrating discussion questions throughout his teaching. You will also need to keep your Bible handy while reading Shepherding because Moore will send you to passage after passage to undergird the principles he is teaching. 

I can’t recommend this book highly enough to both current pastors and those preparing to enter into pastoral ministry. It would probably be a good idea for lead pastors to read this book alongside their elder/deacon boards. 

As Moore notes in his closing words, “Shepherding is the work God has chosen for the care and nurture of His flocks. We’ve neglected this ministry for too long. Let us resolve to bring the work of shepherding to bear on the task of building Christ’s Church.” 

To that, I add my hearty “Amen!”

The Means And The End

Jesus made a lot of amazing I AM statements. But there are two linked together in John 10 that I find fascinating. He said,

I am the gate … I am the good shepherd. (John 10:1-16)

The sheep have to get to the shepherd by passing through the gate.

Jesus is both the means and the end.

I come to Jesus by Him.

He draws me to Himself.

He creates the desire and He satisfies the desire.

He is the way and the goal.

He is the quest and the prize.

He is Savior (gate) and Lord (shepherd).

Jesus is the Answer for the world today
Above Him there’s no other
Jesus is the Way

He is the Answer and the Way to get to the answer!

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