Lifelong Preparation

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I had a great time on the Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis and Dace Clifton. 

Dace asked me what I wished I had learned earlier on in my pastoral career. The answer that sprang quickly to my mind is this: God takes me through things on purpose. 

At the time we may not be able to see what God is teaching us, but He wastes no opportunities. Everything we have gone through has a purpose.

How true it is: God doesn’t prepare the path for me, but He prepares me for the path. 

The same is true for you, my friend! You may not know why during the time of your difficult trial, and you may not even know why on this side of Heaven. But God’s Word assures us that He is using every single thing to prepare us and to bring Him glory. 

My book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is proof of this! I never thought God would call me to pastor a church—let alone write a book about pastoral leadership—but as I wrote the book, the Holy Spirit brought back to my remembrance so many lessons that I learned along the way. 

I’ve already shared several clips from this Thriving In Ministry interview which you can find by clicking here, and I’ll be sharing more clips 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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Is That In The Bible?

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

A meme that makes me chuckle every time I see it is a “quote” attributed to Abraham Lincoln in which he says, “The problem with quotes found on the internet is that they are often not true.” 

(Not to spoil the joke for you, but unless Lincoln knew how to time travel to the future, I don’t think he knew about the modern internet! 😂) 

I love this meme because it captures something that so many people fall into: a quick acceptance of a statement without verifying its source or thinking through the implications of the statement’s truthfulness. 

Some insightful comments sound Shakespearean, but William never wrote them. 

Some pieces of wisdom sound Socratic, but Socrates never taught them. 

Some religious maxims sound godly, but the Bible never recorded them. 

I would like to invite you to join me as we relaunch this series called Is That In The Bible? I think you may be surprised to discover just how many phrases we call biblical aren’t, and how many phrases there are that we never realized are actually in the Bible. 

By the way, if you have a phrase that you would like to have us explore in this series, please leave it in a comment below. If you would like to check out the questions we addressed previously, please click here

In this installment of this series we asked: Is this in the Bible…

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Standing Firm

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. 

Standing Firm 

     Superficial brilliance is always afraid of fire, but gold is not. The paste gem dreads to be touched by the diamond, but the true diamond fears no test. People who have a kind of confectionery godliness will wish to be preserved from temptations, for they cannot endure them. But the Christian counts it all joy when he falls into different trials, knowing that ‘tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us’ (Romans 5:3-5). My dear friends, if your faith is only a sunshiny faith, get rid of it! … 

     So our gracious God, beloved, glorifies Himself by permitting His people to be subjected to trials and by enabling them to endure the strain. We would never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched. We would never enjoy the juice of the grape if it were never trod in the winepress. We would never discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten. And we would never know the warmth of fire if the coals were not utterly consumed. The excellence of the Christian is brought out by the fire of trouble. The wisdom of the great Workman and the glory of His skill and power are discovered by the trials through which His vessels of mercy are permitted to pass. … 

     Depend upon it, beloved, those who suffer as I have described are the children of God, for they show it. They show it by the way in which they bear their trials. In the worst times there is always a clear distinction that marks them as separate from other men. If they cannot shout, ‘Victory!’ they bear patiently. If they cannot sing to God with their mouth, yet their hearts bless Him. There is a degree of light even in their worst darkness…. If they get into the mire, they do not perish there. They cry for help when their woes surround them, and in the very nick of time, when everything appears to be lost, their heavenly Father hastens to their aid.

From The Believer Sinking In The Mire

I shared a series of messages called Thankful In The Night. Another psalmist wrote, “Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me” (Psalm 42:8). 

Notice that this psalmist was praising God IN the night, not praising Him FOR the night. Many people have gone through what has been called “the dark night of the soul.” I don’t think anyone has ever given thanks because of being in a dark time, but certainly they have given thanks afterward because of the lessons learned in that dark time. 

Quite simply put, there are some things God wants to teach us that we can learn in no other way than to go through a dark night. So we can learn to be thankful even IN those nights. IN those nights, we can learn to say, as Spurgeon did, “I believe in my Lord because He is a God who cannot lie. He is faithful and true to His every word and, therefore, let the whole creation go to rack and ruin, my faith will not waver or give up its confidence.” 

Amen! Let us stand firm in that confidence.

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A Teaching Tip For Leaders

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

In Proverbs 25–26 Solomon uses the word “like” 18 times. This small word gives leaders a huge teaching lesson. 

Good leaders are constantly conveying to their team the vision that God has given them. We see this throughout the Bible, where past history is connected to the future promise God has given. Unless leaders are able to consistently, and frequently, refocus their people on the vision, the people “cast off restraint” and go their own way (Proverbs 29:18). 

Leaders need to find fresh ways to make their messages stick. All of the Proverbs, but especially these two chapters, give us excellent lessons for this. Solomon makes memorable connections by starting with something that most people have experienced. Things like…

  • a beautiful piece of jewelry 
  • a refreshingly cool drink on a hot day
  • an injured body part 
  • the actions of nature and animals  

Then Solomon connects these observations to a timely piece of wisdom…

  • The right words, delivered at the right time, in the right way are LIKE a beautiful piece of jewelry. 
  • One who delivers timely and helpful words is LIKE a refreshingly cool drink on a hot day. 
  • Trying to move around on an injured foot is LIKE having to rely on someone inconsistent during times of trouble. 
  • Just LIKE honey is good for you in moderation, too much honey—and too much of any good thing—can make you sick. 

This is a great teaching lesson for every leader. We need to continually find new and memorable ways to help our people grasp the vision, mission, and values of the organization. This teaching tip from King Solomon can go a long way in helping our messages stick. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who is always finding new ways to teach the people around him. 

This is part 59 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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But And And

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

Proverbs 10 begins with these words, “The proverbs of Solomon…” (Proverbs 10:1). 

Over the next six chapters (184 verses) Solomon generously employs the contrasting conjunction “but” 144 times—that’s nearly 80 percent of these verses! He clearly tells us the blessings of trusting God’s wisdom contrasted with the pitfalls of trusting our own wits. 

I am also intrigued by the 21 verses where Solomon uses the amplifying conjunction “and.” These proverbs give us either the double advantage of leaning into God’s wisdom, or the double whammy of trying to do it our own way. 

I’ll let you read through these six chapters and notice the contrasting conjunction “but” for yourself, but in this blog post I want to especially direct your attention to some of the “and” statements. I’ve listed these in three categories.

(1) The double whammies—

  • malicious people cause grief to others AND ruin to themselves (10:10) 
  • trusting mortals is short-lived AND self-defeating (11:7) 
  • a quick-tempered person does foolish things AND is hated (14:17)

(2) The double blessings—

  • a generous person prospers AND is refreshed (11:25) 
  • a righteous life is a blessed life now AND an eternal life forever (12:28) 
  • fearing God brings security for you AND gives your children a sure refuge (14:26) 

(3) And these mixed proverbs using both a whammy and a blessing—

  • a righteous person is rescued from trouble AND it falls on the wicked instead (11:8) 
  • a prudent person is praised AND the one with a warped mind is despised (12:8) 
  • evildoers are trapped in their own evil AND innocent people escape evil (12:13) 

There is so much wisdom to be gleaned not only in these words of Solomon, but throughout the entire Bible. Take your time and soak it in as you read the Scripture for yourself. 

Here are some of the other posts I’ve shared that may help you in your Bible study time: 

I’ve also posted reviews on these study Bibles: 

However you do it, and whatever tools you may use, get into your Bible every single day, and then let the Word of God get into you too. I can promise you this: Your time in God’s Word will absolutely change your life! 

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Ongoing

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

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart (Proverbs 3:1). 

A better translation of this verse would be like this: My son, keep on not forgetting my teaching, but keep on keeping my commands in your heart. 

Or, as Jesus said it, “My Father is always working, and so am I” (John 5:17). 

Always workING. 

It’s a continuous action. We don’t make a one-time commitment and then coast through the rest of our life. To help us with this, in the third chapter of Proverbs, Solomon shows us God’s blessings on an “ING” lifestyle. That is, the blessings on the right kinds of “ING.” 

If I am keepING God’s commands, He is prolongING my life and bringING me peace (vv. 1, 2). 

If I am bindING love and faithfulness to my heart, I am winnING favor and a good name (vv. 3, 4). 

If I am trustING God and leanING on His wisdom, He is directING me onto the best paths (vv. 5, 6). 

If I am fearING God and shunnING evil, He is bringING health to me (vv. 7, 8). 

If I am honorING God with my firstfruits, He is continually fillING me to overflowing (vv. 9, 10). 

If I am not despisING God’s discipline, I am findING wisdom and gainING understanding (vv. 11-18). 

If I am preservING sound judgment and discretion, I am walkING in safety, sleepING sweetly, and experiencING no fear (vv. 19-26). 

If I am not withholdING good from those in need, not plottING harm against others, not accusING nor envyING my neighbor, then God is blessING my home, showING me favor, and making sure I am inheritING honor (vv. 27-35). 

The apostle Paul reminds us, “So let’s not get tired of doING what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9). 

When I keep on keepING on, so do God’s blessings! 

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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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Trainable

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

Blessed are the people of whom this is true… (Psalm 144:15). 

This is how David closes the 144th Psalm, but a good question for us to ask is, “Of whom what is true?” David explains that blessed people are those who are experiencing safety from their enemies, healthy, prosperous children, abundant harvests, and freedom.

Well, you might ask, how are these blessings to be obtained? David opened this psalm by thanking God this way: “Praise be to the Lord my rock, Who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” In other words: Thank You, God, for giving me victory! 

This raises yet another question for me: Did David win all of these blessings of victory, or did God? The answer is quite simply, “Yes!” 

David recognized that God trains, but he had to be trainable. So too for us today, we have to be trainable to learn to discern God’s voice. Sometimes God says, “Attack,” and sometimes He says, “Stand still and watch My deliverance,” but in all cases, God is the ultimate Source of our victory and the blessings that flow from that victory. 

The blessings of God our Trainer flow to the people who have made themselves trainable.Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” This blessing caused David to sing out in worship, as it still should for us today, “I will sing a new song to You, O God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to You, to the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers His servant David from the deadly sword. 

If you want to experience more of God’s blessings, you need to regularly ask the Holy Spirit, “Am I trainable today?” As this psalm makes abundantly clear: Those who are trainable are also bless-able! 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Context Is King

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.

Context Is King

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)

     Some words serve many uses and have many meanings. We are very apt to make mistakes if we give the same sense in all places to the same word. The word world throughout Scripture is used with a very remarkable variety of meaning, and one had need to have his wits about him and to read carefully in order to know what is the precise source of the term in each place where it occurs. …  

     I say again, the word world, therefore, has many shades of meaning ranging from that jet black meaning in which the world lies in the wicked one—‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world’ (1 John 2:15)—upward to the milder sense in John 1:10, ‘He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.’ And yet higher to the bright meaning, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ’ (Revelation 11:15). It is not in the worst sense that our text speaks of the world, but in the same manner as we find it used in such passages as these: ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29). ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). And again in 1 John 2:2, ‘And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.’ 

     It is certain that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16), and we cannot suppose that the great Redeemer would refuse to pray for those whom He was given. I understand in this particular place by the word world the whole mass of mankind upon the face of the earth who are not as yet converted. … 

     For the sake of the world, He would have the church in a high state of holy beauty and strength. May His gracious prayer be answered in all of us by the working of the Holy Spirit! … Our wish is to bring multitudes to the Savior and to conquer province after province of this revolted world for King Jesus. ‘Let the whole earth be filled with His glory’ (Psalm 72:19) is a prayer that we cannot, we dare not, we would not fail to pray! 

From The Glory, Unity, And Triumph Of The Church

When we are studying our Bibles, we must remember that context is so vital. We have to read each inspired word in its proper context so that we know how to believe, think, live, and pray. I urge you to slow down in your Bible reading—aim for better and richer comprehension than to just try to read a lot in one sitting. Sometimes in my own personal Bible study time, I may spend several minutes just thinking about one phrase, and that may be the only part that I read on that particular morning. 

I would also counsel you to use some trustworthy Bible study tools. I have a list here of 8 must-have Bible study tools, and you can find some new ways to use these tools in this post about three types of Bible studies you may not have considered before. 

However you read your Bible, make sure you are reading each part in its proper context. Pray before you begin reading and ask the Holy Spirit—Who inspired the Scriptures—to illuminate them to your heart and mind. These thoughtful Bible studies will do more to grow your spiritual maturity than simply rushing through your reading time.

Secrets Of Dynamic Communication (book review)

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

If you’ve ever seen Ken Davis speak, you will recognize instantly his ability to capture an audience’s attention and keep them engaged through his entire presentation. In Secrets Of Dynamic Communication, Ken has given us the step-by-step regimen he uses to prepare such enthralling presentations. 

Let me just state right up front that anyone who communicates with a group of people will need to get this book. I’m not talking about just those who speak to large groups of people, but even someone who runs a sales meeting or teaches a Sunday School class will benefit from the strategies outlined in this book. 

Ken has developed a whole course around the acrostic SCORRE. These are steps that have been battle-tested by Ken himself and refined over years of his public speaking. He has done a masterful job in distilling the basic structure of an engaging address, while still leaving ample room for every speaker to infuse their own unique style and personality. 

Each chapter ends with a review and practice section that will help you begin to learn and apply these steps. Ken also has some excellent tools in the Appendices that will jump-start your speaking craft. 

I’m so appreciative of Ken Davis’ willingness to open up his storeroom of speaking insights to share with all of us! 

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