Links & Quotes

The churches in my hometown have banded together to get food to students who need it for the weekend. Would you like to help us? We can use both your food donations and your financial support as we serve nearly 200 students every week.

Jesus said we are hypocrites when we give, pray, or fast only outwardly. He called our prayers “pagan” when we try to pray unnaturally. Jesus desires for our giving, praying, and fasting to be natural parts of who we are. This is a short clip of a full-length teaching called “Keepin’ it real” that I shared exclusively with my Patreon supporters. If you would like to sponsor me too for just $5/month, check out the details here.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” —Audrey Hepburn

“Astronomers are thrilled by the extraordinary images provided by the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)—but some of the data already contradict Big Bang expectations. … Creationists have long noted that the Big Bang suffers from the mature distant galaxy problem. Big Bang theorists assume that light from the most distant galaxies took more than 13 billion years to reach Earth. By Big Bang reckoning, we should be seeing these very distant galaxies, not as they are today, but as they were more than 13 billion years ago. Hence, these galaxies should look ‘unevolved’ and ‘immature.’ Yet this expectation is routinely contradicted, and preliminary data from Webb continues the trend.” Check out more from this ICR article.

“Our leadership will always be second to our followership of Jesus.” —Pastor Ben Stoffel

Have you ever been cursed out? Here’s how Jesus wants Christians to respond. It’s pretty easy to say something nice to someone who has done something nice for you. But Jesus tells us to say nice things to people regardless of how they have treated us.

“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself—that’s where it’s at.” —Jesse Owens

“Your walk walks, and your talk talks, but your walk talks more than your talk talks.” —Anonymous

The Proper Value Of Words

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

I once knew a businessman who was one of the most silver-tongued talkers I have ever met! He could persuade just about anyone to join him in one of his “can’t miss” business ventures. 

And even after they did miss (which was all of them that I was aware of) he could still convince many of his backers to continue. I never knew him to fulfill what he had promised. 

Eventually, this caught up with him. And so did the law, and he ended up serving a prison term. 

It has always been intriguing to me how much value we put on the words of leaders. It seems as if they can “talk a good game,” we feel a need to exalt them to a higher level. It’s not the one who gets things done, or the one who has the best ideas, or the one who can bring increased efficiency or effectiveness, but the one who can talk the most convincingly. 

I think about in my own profession as a pastor. Churches will select a pastor based on how he sounds from the platform. And yet the sermon is only a tiny fraction of a pastor’s work each week. 

The danger comes when the leader thinks that his highest value to the organization is the words he speaks. Inevitably, then, he will put more effort into what he says than into what he does. He will spend a lot of time figuring out the right words to say, and how to move people’s hearts. 

The apostle Paul told the Christians at Corinth, “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:4). And he told the Christians at Thessalonica, “For you remember what we taught you by the authority of the Lord Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:2), not Paul’s own authority. 

I don’t want people to be impressed with me. I don’t want my authority to come from my vocabulary. I simply want to be known for speaking the Word of God, and then living a life that matches the Word of God. 

As King Solomon said, “A truly wise person uses few words” (Proverbs 17:27). The wisest words are not mine but God’s. Then “your faith [is] not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:5). 

Words do have their place. But let’s always make sure that that place isn’t in place of God’s Word. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Walking 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.

Walking Preachers  

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

     Walking is a position that…signifies activity. You would suppose from the way some Christians deport themselves, that their whole life was spent in meditation. It is a blessed thing to sit ‘with Mary at the Master’s feet.’ But we walk as well as sit. We do not merely learn, but we practice what we know. We are not simply scholars, but, having been taught as scholars, we go on to show our scholarship by working in the vineyard or wherever else the Master may be pleased to place us. …  

     You would gather indeed from what others say, that the whole life of a Christian is to be spent in prayer. Prayer, it is true, is the vitality of the secret parts of Christian life, but we are not always on our knees! We are not constantly engaged in seeking blessings from heaven. We do continue in prayer, but we are also engaged and showing forth to others the blessings that we have received and in exhibiting in our daily actions the fruits that we have gathered on the mountaintop of communion with God. We walk, and this implies activity. …  

     ‘We walk.’ This is more than some can say. They can affirm, ‘We talk. We think. We experience. We feel.’ But true Christians can say with the apostle Paul, ‘We walk.’ Oh, that we may ever be able to say it too! Here, then, is the activity of the Christian life.

From Faith Versus Sight

Edgar A. Guest captured this idea well in his poem “Sermons We See.” The first stanza says,

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear.
And the best of all preachers are the men who live their creeds.
For to see the good in action is what everybody needs.
 

Or as Francis of Assisi noted, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” 

So a fantastic question for every Christian to ask themselves is this: Do people know that I’m walking with Jesus even if I never open my mouth to tell them?

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Really Bad News And Really, Really Good News

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

My cousin Dick Brogden wrote in his book Missionary God, Missionary Bible, “Since good news must often indeed rectify bad news, the gospel message is both warning and invitation.” This is so appropriate when reading the prophet Zephaniah: He wanted to share some really, really good news, but first, he must make us confront the really bad news. 

Zephaniah prophesied near the end of Judah’s decline toward exile. He saw the great revival in King Josiah’s day, and then watched his fellow Israelites once again turn their backs on God. If Jeremiah spoke to faithless Israelites, and Habakkuk spoke to faithful Israelites, then Zephaniah spoke to fake Israelites—those who appeared to be religious, but whose hearts were not actually devoted to God. 

This whole book looks backward in history and forward to soon-to-be-fulfilled prophecy. Most of the time when God speaks, He is asking us to look forward to what is unavoidably coming. Zephaniah then takes God’s words as a call for us to apply them to our lives today. 

In the first chapter, God’s forward-look is a warning of the judgment that most assuredly is coming. Built into His warning are two backward looks to the law of Deuteronomy (vv. 13 and 15 look back to Deuteronomy 28:29-30). 

Zephaniah uses this warning as a wake-up call for us, telling us to “seek the Lord” and “seek righteousness, seek humility” before the day of God’s judgment comes (2:1-3). 

The fact that God’s judgment would fall on godless people shouldn’t surprise anyone (2:4-15), but when Zephaniah says, “Woe to the city of oppressors” (3:1), he’s talking to the people of Judah! Zephaniah addresses his warning to the fake Israelites, the hypocritical people—those claiming God’s name but not God’s nature. 

The apostle Paul sounds a similar warning to New Testament Christians: 

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’ We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Corinthians 10:6-14) 

The really bad news is ALL of us have sinned and we have ALL fallen short of God’s righteous standard. As a result, ALL of us would stand guilty before God on Judgment Day. 

But the really, really good news is that Jesus allowed our penalty to fall on Him instead! So if we put our faith in Jesus, God’s judgment will be appeased in Christ instead of on us! 

Christians, then, take the name of Jesus Christ, but we need to make sure we also take His nature.  Fake—hypocritical—Christians are those who are “Christian” in name only. 

I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased part of the 1 Corinthians passage above—These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. (The Message) 

As we read those words, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall,” I’d like to suggest four action steps:

  1. Hear the Word of God to YOU—not your neighbor—but you personally. 
  2. After you hear the Word, examine yourself to see if you are truly living in God’s nature and not just using His name. 
  3. Respond like King Josiah did when he heard God’s Word: He made a public commitment “to follow the Lord and keep His commands, statutes and decrees with ALL his heart and ALL his soul” (2 Kings 23:3). 
  4. Stay diligent—Hebrews 2:1 tells us, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” 

Don’t delay—the Day of the Lord is closer today than it’s ever been before! Pay attention to the really bad news that Judgment Day is coming, but then make certain you are standing in the nature of Jesus Christ on that day so that God’s judgment will pass over you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the major lessons in the minor prophets, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

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The Best Leadership Manual

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

When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice… (Proverbs 29:2). 

I have read hundreds of leadership books and biographies of history’s most influential leaders. But no book even comes close to the leadership principles I discover on an almost daily basis in my Bible. Without a doubt, my Bible is my go-to leadership Book! 

A great place to start mining leadership principles is the book of Proverbs. Take time to study just one of the 31 chapters each day, and you will be astounded at the leadership insights you will have gleaned by the end of the month. 

Take Proverbs 29 as an example. Reading through this chapter, I’m reminded that:

  • righteous leadership causes people to rejoice 
  • a leader builds stability through consistent justice, but bribes or showing favoritism undermines a leader’s foundation 
  • leaders who speak up for those without a voice of their own will continue to exert influence long after their tenure is over 
  • wise leaders energize people when they share a compelling vision 
  • justice comes through a righteous leader, but ultimate justice come from God

I even read an important warning for leaders who make it their goal to lead righteously: Bloodthirsty men hate a man of integrity and seek to kill the upright (v. 10). 

But even on the heels of that warning I read this assurance to continue to lead righteously: Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe (v. 25). 

A mark of a godly leader is one who is continually finding new leadership principles in the Bible. 

Try it for yourself and see how applying God’s wisdom will increase your influence as a leader. 

This is part 58 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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Manly Men

I talked about the example of Boaz’s integrity on Father’s Day, and his example has still been working on me. Especially when I read this bold statement from Charles Spurgeon— 

“Christ Jesus was the Man of men, the model Man, the manliest Man in all respects, and yet He was, of all men, the most fully subordinated to the divine law and the most obedient in all things to the Father’s will! See your calling, my brethren! You, too, are not to be common men, nor to belong to the herd that run foolishly after their own lusts, but you are to be model men, manly and brave yet always submissive to the great Father of your spirits. We are to be such men that those who look upon us may wish that they were such as we are.”

Fellas, check out this 4-minute challenge I gave to Christian men on Father’s Day by clicking on the media player below… ↓ 

To check out the messages I shared on Boaz and Ruth, please click here. 

I’d also invite you to follow my daily podcast on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Ruth + Boaz—The Father’s Day Version

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

On Mother’s Day that we saw how Ruth’s obedience allowed her to realize God’s favor, part of that favor is being included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Of course, Ruth can’t give birth to her son Obed without there being a father, which makes Boaz’s part in this story just as important. 

[This whole story of Ruth + Boaz is just four short chapters, so I’d encourage you to take a couple of minutes to read it.] 

When we first meet Boaz, he is described as “a man of standing.” Some Bible translations say “a man of wealth,” which is an acceptable definition. In fact, the word can mean strength, wealth, valor, or prominence, but the root word means something brought forth out of travail and pain. That tells us that Boaz wasn’t born a man of standing, he became a man of standing by going through difficult times, not giving in to the downward slide of culture, and remaining true to God. 

Boaz had a steel-forged integrity! 

Believe me, it would have been easy for Boaz to compromise! This was a dark time of selfishness in Israel’s history. A time where just doing the bare minimum was acceptable because most of the Israelites were selfishly doing whatever would benefit them (Judges 21:25). 

The other description we read about Boaz is that he is a “kinsman-redeemer.” This same word is used in this verse: “Plead my cause and redeem me; revive me and give me life according to Your word” (Psalm 119:154). A redeemer is one who is close by to help, has the strength or resources to help, and is willing to help. Of course, the perfect example of a Kinsman-Redeemer is Jesus, who became our human kinsman so that He could rescue us (see Hebrews 2:14; Philippians 2:7-8). 

Boaz was given the opportunity to do this for Naomi and Ruth, and he seized the opportunity with gusto. Far from being a “bare minimum” man, Boaz always went the second mile to bless Ruth and Naomi:

  • he practiced the “hospitality clause” plus he protected Ruth and gave her more than was required 
  • he provided food for his workers plus he provided food for Ruth and Naomi 
  • he blessed his workers plus he blessed Ruth in the name of the Lord 

Ultimately, Boaz did indeed become the kinsman-redeemer for Naomi (by paying off all the debts of her deceased husband) and for Ruth (by marrying this non-Israelite woman and bringing her into the family line of Jesus). 

Boaz was King Solomon’s great-great-grandfather. When Solomon was completing the temple in Jerusalem, he erected two pillars at the entrance: one was named Boaz, and the other was Jakim (with means “God will establish”). Taken together these pillars proclaim the message: By His integrity and faithfulness, God establishes and makes firm. 

Boaz exhibited integrity at every opportunity, which is what forged his character and made him “a man of standing.” Boaz demonstrated that integrity is really faith in God plus faith-filled, second-mile, others-focused actions.

“Faith without works is just wishful dreaming.
Works without faith is just religious posturing.
Works with faith is God-glorifying!” —Craig T. Owens

Men of God, please remember this: 

  • Every Word of God that you read or hear is a test—will you obey Him or will you compromise? 
  • Every setback you go through is a test—will you learn and grow or will you sulk and shrink back? 
  • Every success you experience is a test—will you bless others or will you hoard your blessings? 
  • Every decision you make in a dark culture is a test—will you just have faith, just have bare-minimum works, or will you exhibit the steel-forged integrity that comes from putting your faith to work? 

God’s blessing on your life of integrity will show others a picture of Jesus. God’s blessing on your life of going the second mile will show others that it is God who establishes and makes firm. 

Don’t rob your family, don’t rob us, don’t rob future generations of the outpouring of God’s blessing because you are selfish or compromising. Stand strong, trust God, go the second mile, be the kinsman-redeemer for those in need, and then watch for God’s blessings! 

If you missed Ruth’s vital part in this story, please check that out by clicking here.

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Podcast: Leaders Pay Their Dues

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

  • I open with a fabulous quote from Greg
  • continuing to pay your dues increases your leadership influence  
  • if leaders begin to coast, they lose momentum and credibility
  • integrity is key
  • we pay more attention to our physical health as we get older, but why do we think we can pay less attention to our leadership health as we mature?
  • coasting means you are either plateaued or beginning to go downhill
  • leaders need to be very intentional about the dues they pay
  • it is easier to pay your dues when you have an abundance mindset 
  • leaders need to guard against an entitlement attitude 
  • we want to help you grow—instead of trying to figure it out all on your own, check out our coaching huddles

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.

Halfway Leaders Become Evil Leaders

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

Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly (2 Chronicles 25:2).

Notice the contradictions in Amaziah’s life and leadership: 

obeyed God’s law (v. 4)
🚫disobeyed God’s law (v. 14)

trusted that God would give success to the army of Judah (v. 5)
🚫supplemented his army with mercenaries from Israel (v. 6)

listened to the prophet God sent to him (vv. 7-10)
🚫ignored the prophet God sent to him (vv. 15-16)

trusted God (vv. 9-10)
🚫turned to idols (v. 14)

Sadly, the “not wholeheartedly” leader usually ends up just like other leaders that God calls “evil” (vv. 22-24, 27). 

Bottom line: there is no such thing as a halfway leader in God’s eyes. There is only following God or rebelling against God—all leaders must choose one or the other.

A mark of a godly leader is one who consistently chooses to follow God wholeheartedly.

This is part 55 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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Podcast: The Value Of Feedback

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

  • “Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” says Greg
  • giving and receiving feedback is a mark of a healthy leader 
  • why people don’t like feedback
  • whose feedback we should value
  • the best attitude for both giving and receiving feedback
  • we should view feedback as a tool to help people (including ourselves) get better  
  • how do we gain credibility that will better enable us to give feedback
  • my pet peeve about feedback and what Greg suggests to correct this
  • an important spiritual component of feedback
  • feedback is never intended to make clones of the leader, nor is it to make the leader superior over his/her teammates
  • why it is important to be both “do as I say” and “do as I do” leaders
  • our coaching huddles are an excellent place for leadership-lifting feedback

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.

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