Come To God And Keep Walking With Him

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

I have been so grateful for the insights of Dr. Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages. I have found this book to be of immense value in helping couple prepares for marriage, and in helping married couples get beyond a place where intimacy has become stuck. 

In short, the five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. The goal of learning the other person’s love language—and learning to speak it consistently and fluently—is an increased level of intimacy. In the book of Amos, God asks, “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (Amos 3:3 NLT), and speaking the right love language definitely helps people agree! 

The whole reason we come to God in prayer as a Father, as a Brother, and as a Counselor is so that we can hear Him speaking our love language and we can continue to walk in deeper intimacy with Him. 

When my then-girlfriend Betsy and I first met, we spent hours and hours getting to know each other. We would ask questions, share stories, and tell things we did and didn’t enjoy. This is the epitome of intimate conversation: getting to know the other person’s heart as you open up your heart to them as well.

I’ve shared this analogy before, but intimacy grows stale and can eventually disappear altogether if those in a relationship are no longer walking together. It doesn’t work if I say, “Betsy, I’m looking forward to spending an hour with you each week,” or even if I say, “I’ll give you 15 minutes each morning.” Instead, our relationship needs to be one of continual walking. 

It’s the same thing for us as Christians: we cannot only give God an hour at a church service on Sunday mornings, nor is intimacy going to increase if I only walk and talk with my Savior for a few minutes in my morning devotions. 

Walking closely with Him is what God has desired right from the beginning. He walked with Adam and Eve each evening. This phrase “walking with God” is used consistently throughout the Bible of those who had an intimate relationship with their Father, Brother, and Counselor—Noah, Abraham, Isaac, the people of Israel (Genesis 3:8, 6:9, 17:1, 48:15; Leviticus 26:12). And even as the New Testament era dawns, we read, “And they [Zechariah and Elizabeth] were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6 NKJV). 

But I’m especially intrigued by the story of Enoch in Genesis 5:21-24. Twice in four short verses, we read “Enoch walked with God.” Remember that verse in Amos—“Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”—so Enoch and God had to be in agreement. In fact, that’s exactly what we read about Enoch in the Book of Hebrews: 

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:5-6)

If you’ve taken Dr. Chapman’s love language assessment, you probably found that you were pretty lopsided: maybe you scored very highly in one love language and then barely registered in another. We may be lopsided in our love language skill, but God speaks every language perfectly! 

  • Words of affirmation—Hosea 2:14; Isaiah 40:2 
  • Quality time—Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 23:3-4
  • Gifts—James 1:17; 2 Peter 1:3
  • Acts of service—Philippians 2:13; Romans 8:28
  • Physical touch—Psalm 139:13-15; Luke 24:39 

(Click here to check out all of those verses.) 

Dr. Chapman noted that when our love language is being spoken to us sincerely and consistently, our love tank is filled, and all of the love languages begin to become more meaningful. 

Just as God walked with Enoch until the day He brought him Home, so He wants to walk with us. 

  • Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper. (Deuteronomy 5:33) 
  • The Lord will establish you as His holy people, as He promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to Him. (Deuteronomy 28:9) 
  • May He turn our hearts to Him, to walk in obedience to Him and keep the commands. (1 Kings 8:58) 
  • Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to Him. (Psalm 128:1) 
  • And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love. (2 John 6) 

When we walk in loving intimacy with Him, our intimacy grows deeper and more mature. Sometimes they will say of couples who have been married for a long time and walk in increasingly deeper intimacy with each other, “They seem to know each other’s thoughts.” That’s because they know each other’s hearts—and that’s what God wants to do with us. He did it with Enoch, and He will do that with us too (Jude 14; Jeremiah 33:3; Habakkuk 3:19). 

Enoch walked intimately with God for 365 years. Let us walk intimately with God for 365 days a year, for as many years as He gives us until God takes us away with Him forever! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our prayer series called Intimate Conversation, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Our Tricky Tongues

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Our Tricky Tongues

I said, “I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.” I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good; and my sorrow was stirred up. My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned…. (Psalm 39:1-3)

     Tongue sins are great sins; like sparks of fire ill words spread and do great damage. ‘I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue’ (v. 1). If believers utter hard words of God in times of depression, the ungodly will take them up and use them as a justification for their sinful courses. If parents’ own children rail at them, no wonder if their enemies’ mouths are full of abuse. 

      Our tongue always wants watching, for it is fidgety as an ill-broken horse, but especially must we hold it in when the sharp cuts of the Lord’s rod excite it to rebel. 

     David was not quite so wise as our translation would make him; if he had resolved to be very guarded in his speech, it would have been altogether commendable. When he went so far as to condemn himself to entire silence, ‘even from good,’ there must have been at least a little sullenness in his soul.

From Spurgeon And The Psalms

Oh, how often our tongues trip us up! More times than we would like to admit, our tongues completely undo the good example we have previously shown. James spends almost an entire chapter talking about the fire our tongues can kindle, concluding that our tongues are “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:1-18)! 

Part of David’s solution was to notice who was around him so that his words would not add fuel to their skepticism about God. But notice that he went too far because he didn’t speak out the good that he should have spoken. 

Clearly, there is a time to speak and a time to be silent. David’s son Solomon talked about the wisdom of speaking the appropriate words at the appropriate time (see especially Proverbs 10).  

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis talks about a valuable discipline: A personal review of our words and actions at the end of the day. After all, it’s hard to correct something of which we are unaware. Here’s what Lewis wrote—

“When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to mind is that the provocation was so sudden or unexpected. I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself…. Surely what a man does when he is taken off guard is the best evidence of what sort of man he is. Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth. If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness did not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows what an ill-tempered man I am.” 

We would do well to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to show us the rats in our cellar—evil words spoken that shouldn’t have been uttered, and helpful words left unspoken at the moment they should have been said. If we will humbly listen, the Holy Spirit will help us mature in this vital area of taming our tricky tongues. 

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The Best Laid Plans

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

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” 

This is a line from a poem written by Robert Burns in 1785 called To A Mouse. The story behind the poem is Burns had been plowing his field and destroyed a nest that a mouse had been working all day to build. His poem was written as an apology. The famous line from the Scottish poet actually is written like this—

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
     Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
     For promis’d joy!

That phrase “gang aft agley” means often go awry. 

Do you ever feel this way? Like your perfectly planned agenda got derailed before you even finished breakfast? Or that your To Do list never quite gets “To Done” by the end of the day?  

I had a great time on the Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis while his podcast partner Dace Clifton was on sabbatical. We had planned to discuss how to help pastors get some rest so they could be at their optimal health, but our best laid plans definitely “gang aft agley”! We had multiple technical issues before we could even start recording, and then just as we talked about how pastors could find a way to rest, well, this happened…

Ah yes! Plans gone awry, indeed! 

But here is an important principle for all of us to remember. The Bible says this: We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps (Proverbs 16:9). That means the thing that I call “an interruption” may be something or someone God has sent my way. 

I used to really struggle with this, saying things like, “My plans never work out.” Until one day I heard the distinct voice of the Holy Spirit ask me, “Whose plans?” 

Right—I plan, but God directs. 

And He directly perfectly. 

So now I write the initials I.T.L.W. on the top of my well-crafted daily To Do list. That is shorthand for “If the Lord wills” which I took from this passage—

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15) 

Pastor, look at the life of Jesus. He often tried to get away for a time of rest, but people with needs showed up. His well-laid plans appeared to go awry. But He had compassion on them because He viewed them “like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34). Jesus then found time to sabbath later. 

Don’t view people with needs as an interruption or as something that derails your plans, but thank God for sending them your way. Then listen to the Holy Spirit showing you how and when you can get the rest you need to be energized to accomplish the rest of the items on your agenda.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry interview soon, so please stay tuned. 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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Created To Crave God

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

I was playing golf with a pastor and a missionary when the starter asked if a single player could join us to make a foursome. We happily agreed. About 4-5 holes into our game, our guest asked what we did. My pastor friend started out, “I’m a pastor, and this guy is a missionary, and—” 

Our guest interrupted and blurted out, “You guys are Christians?! I’ve never had so much fun! I always heard Christians were boring.” 

When did it come about that people thought of Christians as boring—or even worse, as sourpusses and killjoys? Sadly, too many Christians have helped cement this idea in people’s minds. I think this is largely because those Christians are misinformed and frustrated. This frustration, I believe, comes from the mistaken idea that Christians are supposed to squelch any urges or cravings that we have.  

But check out this Q&A from the Westminster Catechism—

Q: What is the chief end of man? 

A: To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. 

Glorifying God is supposed to result in enjoyment—enjoying both God’s presence and the life He has given us. We are created to crave the fuel of His Spirit that satisfies and energizes us. 

Just as your car would at best under-perform if you attempted to run it with anything else but gasoline, so our lives will under-perform and feel like drudgery if we are trying to fuel our cravings with anything other than God. 

The dictionary defines “craving” as a great or eager desire, or a yearning. But I believe the Bible defines God-honoring craving as the longing for an intimate relationship with God that is implanted by God Himself. 

The people of Judah had gone astray from God and were trying to satisfy their urges with foreign gods and pagan idolatry. When King Asa called these backsliders back to God, here’s how he did it—

[Asa] commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers—to inquire of and for Him and crave Him as a vital necessity—and to obey the law and the commandment. (2 Chronicles 14:4 AMP) 

Contrast this with the temporary cravings of earth—

But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish, useless, godless, and hurtful desires… (1 Timothy 6:9 AMP) 

This world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever (1 John 2:17 NLT). 

Nowhere are godly cravings and earthly cravings better contrasted than in James 4:1-6. 

In this passage, the Greek word for desires (v. 1) and pleasures (v. 3) is hedone. This is where we get our English word “hedonism.” There is nothing wrong with pleasure—for God Himself takes pleasure—but it’s what pleasures we are craving that can make them ungodly. James rightly points out that the wrong hedonism is a craving to fulfill “your desires,” “your pleasures,” and to desire “friendship with the world” (v. 1, 3, 4)

Jesus talked about worldly cravings—using the same word hedone—when He said, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures [hedone], and they do not mature” (Luke 8:14). 

Notice the same thing in Isaiah 58:2 where God declares that people “seem eager” to delight in God, but it’s only a show for them to satisfy fleshly cravings. John Piper noted, “God means they are delighting in their business and not in the beauty of their God. He does not rebuke their hedonism. He rebukes the weakness of it. They have settled for secular interests and thus honor them above the Lord.” 

Instead, notice the fulfilled cravings when we seek God: “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13-14). 

I like that reminder that “the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” The origin of the word craving is the Old Norse word krefja, which means to lay claim on something because of a promise. God has promised, and so we can claim it. 

James assures us that the spirit God implanted in us envies intensely (James 4:5). We were made to crave God’s presence, we were made to find ultimate satisfaction in His presence, we were made to find eternal delight in knowing Him more intimately! 

The proud person says, “God, I know what I want. Give it to me.” The humble person says, “God, I know Your presence is the only thing that will satisfy me. Give it to me.” 

The craving in our spirit can be redirected from earthly yearnings to God-honoring yearnings by yielding to the Holy Spirit. I would humbly suggest that our prayer should be something like this—

“Father, grant that my cravings are for Your name to be hallowed, Your kingdom to be made visible, and Your will to be done. Let the enjoyment I have in Your presence shine out of me in a way that invites others to be dissatisfied with their earthly cravings and find their ultimate satisfaction in a personal relationship with You through Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, continue to refine and redirect all of my cravings away from earthly things to eternal pleasures. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” 

If you would like to follow along with all of the messages in this series called Craving, you can find all of the sermons by clicking here. 

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Directed Steps

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

Jesus was constantly cognizant of His mission. We see it at the beginning of His ministry and all the way through to the very end. At the beginning, He makes a decision where to live and base His ministry “to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah” (Matthew 4:12-16). At the end, He knows “that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled” He makes a final request (John 19:28). 

So “when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He withdrew to Galilee…and lived in Capernaum…in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali.” This residency fulfilled Isaiah’s prophetic word. 

Jesus knew He had to go to this region. The event of John’s imprisonment prompted His move to Capernaum. 

My sovereign God makes no mistakes; nothing is random nor inconsequential. I should develop the habit of praying, “Now that this has happened, what would You have me do?” I believe this is how Jesus lived. 

My life, just like Jesus’ life, has a purpose. Just as the Holy Spirit directed the movements of Jesus, He will direct my steps as well, if I will only listen for His voice.

I think we would be wise to form a daily prayer something along these lines—

Father, in my heart I may have planned a course for today, but I trust You to direct my steps. I will not stubbornly nor thoughtlessly lean on my own understanding, but at every moment I will listen for Your wise and perfect counsel. Jesus, just as You lived dependent on the Holy Spirit, I want to live this way as well. In Jesus’ name, Amen. (see Proverbs 16:9, 3:5-6; James 4:13-15) 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Mouth Of The Lord Has Spoken

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 AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The Mouth Of The Lord Has Spoken

…For the mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 1:20).

     However this sacred Book may be treated nowadays, it was not treated contemptuously, nor negligently, nor questioningly by the Lord Jesus Christ, our Master and Lord. It is noteworthy how He reverenced the written Word. The Spirit of God rested upon Him personally, without measure, and He could speak out of His own mind the revelation of God, and yet He continually quoted the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms…. I am sure, brethren, we cannot be wrong in imitating the example of our divine Lord in our reverence for that Scripture, which cannot be broken. … 

     The New Testament writers sit reverently down before the Old Testament and receive God’s words as such without any question whatever. You and I belong to a school that will continue to do the same, let others adopt what behavior they please. As for us and for our house, this priceless Book will remain the standard of our faith and the ground of our hope so long as we live.

From The Infallibility Of Scripture

As I have discussed before, the 39 books of the Old Testament were called “Scripture” by Jesus and those living in that same era. The New Testament writers saw Jesus as the fulfillment of those Old Testament Scripture, and what they wrote for us then became Scripture also (Luke 4:18-21; 24:27, 44-45; John 2:22, 17:12; Acts 1:16, 8:35; Galatians 3:8, 16, 22; James 2:8, 23, 4:5-6; 1 Peter 2:6; 2 Peter 3:16). 

When we read the Bible, we are reading words from the mouth of God Himself! 

This Book is the measure of truth, the guide for our lives, and the blessed assurance we need as we anticipate the second advent of Jesus. We need to be much in this Sacred Book!

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Overwhelmed?

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

Have you noticed some people just say, “Morning,” but not “Good morning”? Almost as if they are waiting to see if it’s actually going to be good. I think many people wake up overwhelmed before their feet hit the floor. If the cliche says, “When it rains it pours,” to them it seems like it’s always pouring! 

In our series, we’ve been asking if certain statements are in the Bible. Statement #7 is God won’t give you more than you can handle. Is that in the Bible? Well, kinda. 

Many people would say, “Yes, it’s in the Bible” based on 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 

Remember that context is king, so we need to look at the whole setting. For this verse, I would suggest going back to the beginning of the chapter (1 Corinthians 10:1-14). Paul is telling us that Israel’s bad examples are a warning for us. What’s the warning? It boils down to not becoming overconfident in our own abilities—“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (v. 12). 

Overconfidence exposes us to temptation. James does a really good job of defining temptation as our own evil desires that have met an opportunity to give in (James 1:13-14). When the pressure is on, perhaps I’m tempted to…

  • …cut corners 
  • …water down the truth 
  • …tell a little white lie 
  • …justify helping myself to something that isn’t mine 
  • …excuse my unforgiveness

I like some of the insights we get from the Amplified Bible on 1 Corinthians 10:13. 

One phrase reminds us that “no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted” to us. God is helping us grow through those tempting times. 

Another phrase from this verse says that God “can be trusted not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure.” God knows the perfect time and temperature of our trials to remove the impurities from our lives. 

Paul’s conclusion—his “therefore”—is found in the next verse: “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). “Flee” means we are to take hold of ourselves to stay away from dangerous places, and “idols” are anything we put in place of God. 

Notice the verse says, God…will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Sometimes I set myself up to stumble when I’m…

  • …physically tired 
  • …hangry 
  • …spiritually drained 
  • …emotionally frazzled 

Even in these things God will give us wisdom if we ask Him (James 1:5), but we must apply the wisdom He gives us. 

So God tests me to purify and strengthen me. God will never overwhelm me or set me up for failure, but I may overwhelm myself and set myself up for failure if I’m not being careful about the idols I set up in my life. 

So If you are feeling overwhelmed, if you are feeling like there’s too much, if you feel like you’re giving in to temptations, ask yourself: 

  • Am I getting enough sleep? 
  • How’s my diet? 
  • Have I made Bible reading and prayer a priority this week? 
  • Are there any relationships that are draining me? 
  • Have I confessed my shortcomings? 
  • Have I asked God for wisdom? 
  • Have I obeyed what God has already shown me? 

God will never give me more than I can handle in His tests, but sometimes I give myself more than I can handle. It’s time to remove those idols and stumbling blocks from my life.  

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Is That In The Bible?, I’ve shared links to all of the messages here. 

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Judgment Must Start With The Leader

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

Ezekiel 9 is a sobering chapter for anyone, but especially for those in leadership. Listen to the opening verses—

Then I heard [God] call out in a loud voice, “Bring the guards of the city here, each with a weapon in his hand.” And I saw six men coming from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each with a deadly weapon in his hand. With them was a man clothed in linen who had a writing kit at his side. They came in and stood beside the bronze altar.

Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”

As I listened, He said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at My sanctuary.” (Ezekiel 9:1-6)

It is no small thing to be called a leader. God calls leaders and expects them to represent Him well in their leadership assignment. That’s why God’s judgment always starts with those who are called by God to be leaders. 

It starts with me. 

Why? Because as a leader goes, so go the people. The smallest of sins that the leader tolerates in his own life give license to the people to sin even more. So it is right that God’s judgment begins at the top. It is right that God’s judgment on leaders be even more severe (James 3:1). 

Ezekiel reports that God’s glory moved from the temple to the east gate, and then from the east gate to the mountain outside the city (9:3; 10:4, 18-19; 11:23). God was still speaking clearly and distinctly (10:5), but the leaders were so blinded by their sin that they neither noticed God’s glory moving away from them and repented of their sin, nor did they call the people to repentance. 

The only ones who were spared from God’s judgment where those who were grieving and lamenting all the sins of the city. 

If God is going to continue to use me as his leader—if He is going to give me His Word to speak to others—I must be sensitive to His searching of my heart. I must grieve over my own sin first and repent from it. Then I must be a willing servant to speak God’s Word of both judgment and salvation to whomever He sends me. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who grieves and quickly repents over his revealed sins.

It starts at the top. It starts with me. Leaders must be held to the highest of standards.

I hope all godly leaders will join me in this prayer: Father God, may I be usable by You. May I be sensitive to the prompting of Your Holy Spirit, and grieve over my sins. May I be quick to repent and receive Your restoration, so that I can continue to lead other people into an intimate relationship with You. 

This is part 62 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Active Love

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.

Active Love

     True love next shows itself in obedience. … ‘Tis love that makes our willing feet in swift obedience move.’ We can do anything for those we love, and if we love Jesus, no burden will be heavy, no difficulty will be great. We should rather wish to do more than He asks of us and only desire that He was a little more exacting that we might have a better opportunity of showing forth our affection. …

     The apostle says, ‘Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:18). Actions speak louder than words, and we will always be anxious to tell our love in deeds as well as by our lips. The true disciple asks continually, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ (Acts 9:6). He esteems it his highest honor to serve the Lord. …  

     I believe in an active love that has hands to labor and feet to run as well as a heart to feel, eyes to glance, and ears to listen.

From The Church’s Love To Her Loving Lord

Those who love Jesus obey Him (John 14:15). 

Those who love Jesus serve others out of that love (Matthew 25:31-40). 

Those who love Jesus put action to their faith in Him (James 2:14-18). 

Those who love Jesus continually ask Him, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” 

Love for Jesus isn’t just something we feel, it’s who we are and it’s how we act and speak and serve every single day.

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An Unmistakable Response

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When something goes wrong, the response from most people is pretty predictable, isn’t it? Some try to ignore the problem, some complain about it, many get quite angry, and most people try to find someone or something to blame. 

These responses don’t sound very Christian-like, do they? What many people think the Christian response should be is something closer to the opening words of Rudyard Kipling’s poem—“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you….” 

And yet, though this sounds Christian-like, it still misses the mark for Spirit-baptized Christians. Remember that a couple of weeks ago I described the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a “distinctive doctrine.” There is nothing distinct about a Christian responding predictably like everyone else does. 

A Spirit-baptized Christian is distinguished by the miraculous ways God confirms His presence in that person’s life. What really honors God is not a predictable response or even a learned response, but an unpredictable, miraculous response: A Spirit-baptized Christian’s response to bad news should be peace and joy. 

I believe the Holy Spirit can so transform our hearts that our response becomes an unmistakable testimony of the power of God. We may experience the initial pang of regret and pain but our next response turns all the focus off of us and on to God.  

The Holy Spirit uses trials to transform our hearts and minds into Christlike thinking and action. 

Our Heavenly Father’s desire is for everyone to come into a close, personal relationship with Him. Before Jesus came this was first pictured for us in the operations of the temple and its sacrifices. Yet man’s attempts to control this hijacked what God intended. This is why we see Jesus acting in righteous anger to clear out the temple of merchants and money-changers (John 2:12-17; Luke 19:45-48). 

Oswald Chambers noted the similarities between what Jesus did in the physical temple and what the Holy Spirit does in our hearts: 

“Immediately the Spirit of God comes in we begin to realize what it means—everything that is not of God has to be cleaned out. People are surprised and say, ‘I asked for the Holy Spirit and expected that He would bring me joy and peace, but I have had a terrible time ever since.’ That is the sign He has come, He is turning out the ‘money-changers,’ that is, the things that make the temple into a trafficking place for self-realization.” 

The Holy Spirit has to disturb our man-made peace so that His peace can take its place. Or as Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). 

Jesus told us that the indwelling Holy Spirit would bring about this heart and mind transformation in His followers. The Holy Spirit doesn’t teach us how to respond in a learned, predictable way, but He transforms us to respond in an unmistakably unpredictable way (John 16:12-15, 20-22; 14:26-27). 

The transformed response of the Spirit-baptized Christian is joy in place of anger, and peace in place of frustration (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5). I like how the Amplified Bible defines “blessed” in the Beatitudes Jesus lists in Matthew 5: “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of [the] outward conditions.” 

This transformation brings God glory and is exactly what Jesus prays for us (John 17:13-18), which is why I keep on saying: Don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit! 

Your unpredictable, unmistakable peace and joy in the face of trials becomes a testimony to a watching world. 

If you’ve missed any of the posts in our series on the empowerment that comes from being baptized in the Holy Spirit, you can find the full list by clicking here.

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