The Confident-Humble Tension

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 Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis and Dace Clifton. 

When I was trying to explain to my friends why I was writing Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I found that many were quite intrigued by the idea of the confident humility—or the humble confidence—that Jesus so perfectly demonstrated for us. 

Almost every leader I’ve met tends to be naturally wired as either a confident leader or a humble leader. Our effectiveness as a shepherd leader comes in allowing the Holy Spirit to help us maintain a healthy tension between those two poles. Jesus did this perfectly, and we are to follow His example. 

I have two chapters in my book discussing this tension. Here’s how I introduce the topic in the chapter “A confident leader’s attitude adjustment: 

God has created each of us uniquely—implanted with the temperament, talents, and personality He wanted each of us to have. God made you on purpose, and He made you for a purpose. But that being said, shepherd leaders are almost never perfectly balanced. If you’ve ever taken a temperaments assessment or any other kind of personality test, you know that you had some attributes that were more prominent than others. God never gives us weaknesses, but our areas of strength can become a self-imposed weakness if we rely on our strength instead of on our Strength Giver. 

Leaders tend toward two poles: confidence or humility. God made us this way on purpose. But to be the best shepherd leader, we each must allow the Holy Spirit to help us learn to lead in a more balanced way. If we lean too much toward confidence, we can come across as arrogant and even tyrannical. But if we lean too much toward humility, we can appear to be weak, indecisive, and unsure of our leadership direction. None of us will be perfect in this at every single moment, but with the proper attitude adjustments, we can learn to more consistently stay at the balanced point of being humbly confident or confidently humble. 

I’ll be sharing more clips from this interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is now available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

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

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Holy Familiarity

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.

Holy Familiarity  

     All these thirteen years, so far as Scripture informs us, Abram had not a single visit from his God. We do not find any record of his either doing anything memorable or having so much as a single audience with the Most High. Learn from this that if we once forsake the track of simple faith, once cease to walk according to the purity that faith approves, we strew our path with thorns, cause God to withhold the light of His countenance from us, and pierce ourselves through with many sorrows. 

     But mark, beloved, the exceeding grace of God: The way to recover Abram from his backsliding was that the Lord should appear to him…. This brings to my remembrance the words in the book of Revelation concerning the church in Laodicea: ‘You are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth’ (Revelation 3:15-16)—a very solemn declaration. But what follows? ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me’ (Revelation 3:20). That means just this: For recovery out of a horrible state of languishing and lukewarmness there is no remedy but the coming of Jesus Christ to the soul in near and dear communion! …

     Distance from God’s presence always means sin. Holy familiarity with God engenders holiness. The more you think of God, the more you meditate on His works, the more you praise Him, the more you pray to Him, the more constantly you talk with Him and He with you by the Holy Spirit, the more surely are you on the road to thorough consecration to His cause!

From Consecration To God

I’ve often said that one of the most powerful prayers we can pray is simply, “God, help!” In those two words we acknowledge our helplessness and His omnipotence, our sin and His forgiveness, our shortcomings and His desire to restore us. 

The devil lies! He loves to whisper the condemning words of, “You’ve messed up one too many times. You’re too far away for God to rescue you now. This time you exhausted God’s mercy.” 

Once again, by simply crying out, “God, help!” you are calling out satan’s lies. Jesus paid too high of a price for Him to ever let you go. Near the end of this sermon, Charles Spurgeon spoke a powerful reminder: “The blessings of grace are not given today to be taken back tomorrow, but are eternal blessings [Genesis 17:7, 13, 19].” Amen! 

My friend, cry out to God today—He loves you and He’s longing to restore you!

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

 

The Heart Is The Heart Of The Matter

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

A heart that devises wicked schemes… (Proverbs 6:18). 

This is the item listed in the exact middle of the list “there are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him.” Check out the whole passage: 

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: [1] haughty eyes, [2] a lying tongue, [3] hands that shed innocent blood, [4] a heart that devises wicked schemes, [5] feet that are quick to rush into evil, [6] a false witness who pours out lies and [7] a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. (vv. 16-18) 

Now let’s follow this progression from the middle item outward: 

  • …it begins in a devious heart—[4] 
  • …it moves to the actions of the hands and feet—[3] and [5] 
  • …it is excused or justified by lies—[2] and [6] 
  • …it hardens into unrepentant pride that divides a community—[1] and [7]

The heart is the heart of the matter!

 Verse 18 is also the middle verse of this whole 6th chapter of Proverbs—

  • it is a heart issue that leads to making rash vows (vv. 1-5) 
  • it is a heart issue that causes a poor work ethic (vv. 6-11) 
  • it is a heart issue that prompts double-talk, equivocation, and a lack of integrity (vv. 12-15) 
  • it is a heart issue that takes a person spiraling down into adultery (vv. 20-35)

Let me repeat this principle: The heart is the heart of the matter! This is why Solomon told us in an earlier chapter, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23). 

But a wise person, who allows the Holy Spirit to correct sinful thoughts, can see a different outcome. With the Spirit’s help, it could look like this:

  • …it begins in a heart sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting—[4] 
  • …it moves to the actions of the hands and feet—[3] and [5] 
  • …it is demonstrated in truthful, loving words—[2] and [6] 
  • …it promotes the humility that unites a community—[1] and [7]

Let’s make this our prayer: Holy Spirit, help me to guard my heart today. No compromising, no justifying, but just a quick obedience to Your prompts to repent and soften my heart. 

Let it start in your heart and just watch what happens. The heart IS the heart of the matter! 

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

Don’t Quit

Easy roads teach us very few valuable lessons. In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I talk about how the Holy Spirit uses our challenging times to develop the leadership qualities that are necessary for us to grow. 

My friend, let me encourage you with two words: Don’t quit. If God has called you to your position of leadership, He will also train you to be successful. I really believe the principles I share in my book will help you, and I hope you will pick up a copy soon.

Abiding In God’s Omnipresence

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

Why do Christians say things like, “Let’s go to church” or “Let’s go meet with God”? 

Do we forget that Jesus said He would never leave us, or that He sent the Holy Spirit to be our constant Companion, or that our very heart is the temple of God’s presence (Matthew 28:20; John 14:16; 1 Corinthians 3:16)? We are naturally self-focused creatures. It takes discipline on our part to keep reminding and re-reminding ourselves that God is always with us. 

Psalm 84 and its two Selahs is one way of re-reminding ourselves of God’s abiding presence. The Selahs are reminders to pause and consider, “Where am I?” and to know that the answer can always be, “Surely I am in God’s presence!” 

This psalm is divided into three 4-verse stanzas. Stanzas 1 and 2 end with the call to Selah, and all three stanzas feature a powerful name for God: LORD Almighty. When we see LORD in all capital letters, that is God’s covenant name: Yahweh or Jehovah, which means that He is the “I AM that I AM.” Almighty signifies that He is the invincible, un-defeatable Captain of angel armies. 

In these two combined titles, we have the personal intimate God of love and the unstoppable God of limitless power! If He were just the God of love, we may not be able to trust His power. If He were just the God of power, we may not be able to approach Him. He is the All-Loving, Ever-Approachable Power. 

Another important recurring theme in Psalm 84 is the word blessed. It’s used three times in this psalm, more than in any other single psalm. This word means God’s unmerited favor, and the word either begins or ends each of the three stanzas.  

In stanza 1 (vv. 1-4), twice we have that combined title of LORD Almighty. But we must always remember that our God is not distant and unapproachable, but the sons of Korah call Him “my King” and “my God.” At the end of this first stanza, we are invited to Selah—a pause to praise our glorious King! 

Stanza 2 (vv. 5-8) begins with that reminder that we are blessed. The psalmists tell us that God’s blessings flow even in my Valley of Baca (or weeping). With God’s presence surrounding me, I can go fromstrength to strength” because the LORD Almighty hears my prayer and responds to my prayer! So at the end of this stanza, we are again invited to Selah—this time it’s a pause to pray to our listening God. 

In stanza 3 (vv. 9-12), another important word is featured that reminds us that our God is not a stingy King, but One who delights in His children and wants to lavishes them with His blessings: the word is favor. We read, “look with favor on Your anointed one” and “the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” God’s favorable blessings flow toward us as eternally as He exists! 

This psalm is circular: it begins as it ends, so it invites us to continue to praise, continue to pray, and continue to abide in His presence. We’re called not just to know about God’s presence, but to rejoice in His presence. 

It’s one thing to know about God’s omnipresence, but it’s an entirely different thing to abide in God’s omnipresence! 

This isn’t something that happens overnight. Brother Lawrence reminds us that this is a progressive revelation for Christians: “One does not become holy all at once. … The more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love of God were great we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures.” 

I encourage you to Selah frequently so that you can move from mere head knowledge of God’s presence to becoming intimately aware of His closeness! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the Selahs in the Psalms, you may find the full list by clicking here. 

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

My Theme Song

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

… my hands … my mouth … my lips … my heart … my head … my words … my eyes … (Psalm 141) 

David’s all-in attitude toward God reminds me of the words of Jesus: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30). 

Clearly, David wants God to have full access—no part of his life is exempt from God’s lordship:

  • hands lifted in worship
  • mouth and lips free from ungodly words 
  • heart not drawn to unrighteousness 
  • head receptive to godly correction 
  • words always well-spoken and God-pleasing 
  • eyes fixed steadfastly on God 

This is also what the Holy Spirit wants to do for me in the process of sanctification: Bringing me into the place where no part of my life is exempt from His lordship. This reminds me of the words of an old hymn, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.” 

May this ever be the theme song of my life! 

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

Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Word To Preachers

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.

A Word To Preachers

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) 

     Paul is a laborer, Apollos is a laborer, Cephas is a laborer, but not so much as a foot of the farm is Paul’s, nor does a single parcel of land belong to Apollos, or the smallest allotment to Cephas. ‘You are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s’ (1 Corinthians 3:23). The fact is that in this case the laborers belong to the land and not the land to the laborers, ‘for all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas’ (3:21-22). … 

     Brothers, a laborer may work very hard at a whim of his own and waste his labor, but this is folly! Some discourses do a little more than show the difference between a Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and what is the use of that? … 

     All God’s laborers must go to Him for their seed, or else they will scatter tares. All good seed comes out of God’s granary. If we preach, it must be the true word of God or nothing can come of it. … A sermon is vain talk and dreary word spinning unless the Holy Spirit enlivens it. … 

     Here we have mention of a personal service and a personal reward: ‘Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.’ The reward is proportionate, not to the success, but to the labor! Many discouraged workers may be comforted with that expression. You are not to be paid by results, but by endeavors.

From Farm Laborers

My dear preacher friend, God sees you. He has placed you in the field where He needs you to be, and He has given you the skills you need to have to labor for Him. Never doubt that! 

You may be the one breaking up hard ground, or the one sowing seed, or the one watering, or the one bringing in the harvest. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, rely on the strength God gives you. He will illuminate His Word to your heart first so that you can share a timely word with those under your care. Then He will send the Holy Spirit to enliven all that you preach. 

God has given you the tools and skills, now you must diligently supply the effort. Don’t become discouraged by what seems to be a lack of “success.” As God tells us through Paul, He will reward your faithful labor in His field. 

My book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter elaborates on this point. The thoughts in this book will remove from you the burden of trying to live up to any unbiblical metric of “success” in your ministry. I hope you will get a copy of this book! Check out ShepherdLeadershipBook.com for more details.

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

Eternal

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

Psalm 119 is divided into twenty-two 8-verse segments, with each verse of the segments beginning with its own Hebrew letter. Lamedh is found in verses 89-96, and lamedh is the tallest of all the Hebrew letters, so that means it stands out. 

Lamedh shows us big proportions. Words like eternal, boundless, established, enduring, and forever are prominent in these eight verses. The psalmist is inviting us to climb up into God’s Word and get a bigger view, a higher vantage point of who God is. 

Consider the opening verse of this section: Your Word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Eternal—think of the implications! If what God says—His Word—is eternal, then…

  • it continues through all generations (v. 90) 
  • it endures even when everything else fades away (vv. 90-91) 
  • it has no limits or frontiers (v. 96) 

At every single moment in my life, my eternal, enduring, limitless God knows the outcome or consequence of each option I could choose. His Word can so transform my mind that I can always choose the most Christ-glorifying option. The Spirit of Truth—my eternal Counselor—can guide me with God’s Word. 

I never have to be at a loss. I am never stumped. I always have access to eternal Truth. 

The psalmist got this: If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction (v. 92). 

Through God’s firmly-established Word I have—

  • Eternal Counsel 
  • Enduring Help 
  • Limitless Strength

And you have all of this, too, through God’s Word! 

Psalm 119 is a great place to start to make Bible reading a daily habit. Scientists tell us that you only need 21 days to make a new habit, and in Psalm 119 you have 22 days of daily reading that will transform your heart and mind. 

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

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Sent To Show Jesus To The World

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.

Sent To Show Jesus To The World

And the glory that You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are One: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (Jesus, in John 17:22-23)

     The essence and cause of the glory that the Father gave the Son was, first of all, that He endowed Him with the Holy Spirit. ‘God does not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand’ (John 3:34-35). The Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord in His baptism and abode upon Him so that in the power of the indwelling Spirit He lived, spoke, acted, and in all that He did, the Spirit of God was manifest. …  

     Now this glory, our Lord has given to all His disciples. Upon each true disciple, the Spirit of God rests according to his measure. If we have not the anointing to the fullest, it is either from lack of capacity or by reason of our own sin, for the Spirit of God is given to the saints—He dwells with us and will be in us always. My brothers and sisters, I would to God we realized this, that the glory of the Holy Spirit that was given to Christ is also given to us, so that it is ours to think, to feel, to speak, to act under His guiding influence and supernatural power! What are we apart from the Holy Spirit? How can we hope to convince even one man, much less the world, that God has sent His Son unless the Holy Spirit is with us? …  

     If men would see God, let them look at Jesus, for there is He to be seen! And with bated breath we add—let them look at Christ’s people, for there also is God revealed! It is the glory of the saints that they are the mirror of the divine character! … 

     Christ Jesus was sent to reveal the Father, sent to reclaim the wandering souls of men, sent to seek and to save the lost. And this is exactly what every true Christian is sent into the world to do. He is commissioned to reveal God in his every act and word. He is commissioned to win back rebellious hearts. He is commissioned to save the sons of men and bring them up out of the horrible pit into which their sins have cast them. …

     Jesus was the Son of God, and He overcame the world in the power of His Sonship. Now, this glory that the Father gave Him, He has given us, that we, too, may be accepted; that we, too, may have access; that we, too, may have prevalence in prayer; that we, too, may have the Spirit of Adoption; and that we, too, may trample upon sin and overcome the hosts of darkness. This is the glory that rests upon all the faithful!

From The Glory, Unity, And Triumph Of The Church

Jesus commissioned His followers to go into all the world as His witnesses, but He never intended for us to go in our own strength. As Spurgeon asked, “How can we hope to convince even one man, much less the world, that God has sent His Son unless the Holy Spirit is with us?” 

That’s why I always stress that Christians not be content with merely having received the salvation that comes with the forgiveness of their sins, but that they press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. It’s this empowerment that will allow us to be effective witnesses for Jesus.

Maturing Reactions

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

Jesus lived out the example of wholly healthy growth. The way Dr. Luke records it, the pinnacle of Christ’s health (and our health too) is seen in our relationships with other people.  

Why is relational maturity at the peak of the pinnacle? How else could you know whether you truly have mental, physical, and spiritual health unless it’s put to the test? And the ultimate test is how we react when we’re caught off guard. Our so-called Freudian slips can reveal an area of immaturity. C.S. Lewis reminds us that the suddenness of the provocation that caused the slip didn’t create our immature response, but it actually revealed what is really inside our hearts. Surely our unplanned reactions are a better indicator of our spiritual maturity than our planned actions! 

Jesus told us that our “slips” reveal what’s really inside (Matthew 15:19), but are these really unknown to us? If we’re really honest, how many times do we think unpleasant things without saying them or doing them? The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth—knows so well what’s on the inside (Psalm 139:1-4). 

When we experience one of these slip ups, the devil loves to pounce! Paul calls it “sin seizing an opportunity” (Romans 7:7-11). But even as sin pounces, Paul assures us, “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). 

What is the “therefore” there for? After the “therefore” the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Adoption reminds us we are in Jesus and children of God, and the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Intercession help us pray perfect, childlike prayers. So what comes before the “therefore” must be something that makes us feel unworthy, distant, and condemned. 

Paul explains that “we died to sin” (Romans 6:2). That word “died” means to be separated from one thing which brings about the destruction of the other thing. When we are separated from God by our sin we are dead, when are separated from our sin by God we are alive. At that moment of salvation, we stand before Almighty God justified—just as if I’d never sinned. That is irrevocable: God will never go back on that, we will never slip away from His grace. But that moment of salvation also begins a lifelong process of sanctification—or as I like to say it saint-ification. 

Remember that pyramid of growth Jesus demonstrated for us? Paul says, “I myself in my mind am a slave (Romans 7:25). The mind is where the Spirit of Truth begins His maturing, saint-ifying process in us. As our minds are transformed, then our bodies and our mouths can live out a Christlike lifestyle (see Romans 12:1-2). It’s this mind and body transformation that matures our spiritual health, which is then revealed in our relationships with others.  

Notice that it is after we have been through this transformation of mind, body, and spirit that Paul tells us the standard for God-honoring living. This is where we see even our unplanned reactions becoming more and more Christ-like (Romans 12:9-21). We cannot live out this Romans 12 mandate solely on our own willpower. We aren’t trying to become self-made people, but instead, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to make us transformed saints. Transformed saints that are known by their unplanned Christlike reactions. 

This is why I keep stressing for Christians to not stop at salvation, but to press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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

%d bloggers like this: