Links & Quotes

The seed your weakened hand is sowing
May ripen to a harvest broad,
Which yet may help, without your knowing,
To fill the granaries of God! —Margaret J. Prescott

My friend and podcast partner Greg Heeres talked about growing and learning through change. You can check out the rest of this episode of The Craig And Greg Show here.

Sometimes the prophetic language in the Bible can be a bit confusing. Like the phrase: “A time, times, and half a time.” Here is how Dr. Henry Halley unpacks this—

“It denotes the duration of the other horn of the fourth beast (Daniel 7:25). It denotes the period from Daniel to the time of the end (Daniel 12:6–7). It is used in Revelation 12:14 as identical to 42 months and to 1260 days (Revelation 11:2–3; 12:6, 14; 13:5), the period of time the Holy City was trampled, the two witnesses prophesied, the woman was in the wilderness, and the revived beast was on the throne. 

“The word ‘time,’ in the phrase ‘a time, times, and half a time’ is generally taken to mean year; the phrase thus means three and a half years, which is 42 months, or 1260 days. 

“By some, this is taken to refer to a literal three and a half years. Others, on the year-day interpretation (Numbers 14:34; Ezra 4:6), take it to be a period of 1260 years. Still others look upon the figures, not as defining time limits or periods, but as being symbolic: 7 Is the symbol of completeness, while three and a half, which is half of 7, represents incompleteness—that is, the reign of evil will be only temporary.” —Halley’s Study Bible (check out all of the biblical references in this quote by clicking here)

“Ambivalence toward the Law of God is troubling. Theologians discard the Law, and pastors either reject or neglect it. Jesus said that keeping and teaching the Law of God was a mark of Kingdom greatness (Matthew 5:17-19). Apparently that’s not a goal many of us aspire to. He also said that when the Law of God is neglected, love grows cold (Matthew 12:24). The ubiquitous lack of love in our world today is undoubtedly related to our failure to teach and live according to the Law of God. … 

“Pastors have three main resources for the work and business of ministry: The Word of God, prayer, and their personal example (Acts 6:4; 1 Peter 5:1-3). If any of these fails, their ministry will as well. Especially must pastors be seen to be men zealous for the Law of God, to obey all the counsel of the Lord in His Word and to resist the devil and overcome every temptation. Jesus did. Paul did. John said this is the way love flourishes (1 John 5:1-3). Throughout this generation, failures of obedience on the part of highly visible pastors have contributed to the Church’s becoming an object of scorn by many unbelievers, while believers have been largely silent about their failings. We must be diligent in obeying Christ if we would teach others to do so and thus fulfill our calling to the Kingdom and glory of God.” —T.M. Moore

New wide-angle X-ray scattering (WAXS) analysis dates the Shroud of Turin to the first century.

Not all viruses need to be eliminated. A study has discovered 5500 new RNA viruses on the ocean, finding “an entire phylum, the Taraviricota . . . found all over the oceans, which suggests they’re ecologically important.” The Creator knew what He was doing!

Links & Quotes

I came across a passage from a blog post I wrote 10 years ago, but it is still so timely for today: “Pastors, we can become so focused on the next sermon, the next appointment, the next Board meeting, the next outreach that we are actually worshiping the ministry instead of worshiping God through our ministry. When we are more focused on the work than on God, we can easily begin to feel over-worked and under-appreciated.”

“Stay with your Lord, however long the night, for only in Him have you hope of the morning!” —Charles Spurgeon

“I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.” —Clyde Kilby

Sean McDowell has an informative conversation with Titus Kennedy on the archeological evidence for the people and places in the Bible.

Jonathan Edwards wrote words that resonate with my message about pastors following the example of the Great Shepherd Jesus. “The ministers of Christ should be persons of the same spirit that their Lord was of: the same spirit of humility and lowliness of heart; for the servant is not greater than his Lord. They should be of the same spirit of heavenly-mindedness and contempt of the glory, wealth, and pleasures of this world: they should be of the same spirit of devotion and fervent love to God: they should follow the example of His prayerfulness; of whom we read from time to time of His retiring from the world, away from the noise and applauses of the multitudes, into mountains and solitary places, for secret prayer, and holy converse with his Father….” —Jonathan Edwards

“Wonderful things are told in this book [Daniel]. To those who find it difficult to believe these things, we say: let us remember that for one thousand years God had been nurturing the Hebrew nation for the purpose of establishing, through that nation, in a world of idol-worshiping nations, the idea that God is God. Now God’s nation had been destroyed by a nation that worshiped idols. That was plain evidence to all the world that the gods of Babylon were more powerful than the God of the Jews. It was a crisis in God’s struggle with idolatry. If ever there was a time when God needed to do something to show who He is, it was during the Babylonian exile. Strange indeed it would have been if nothing unusual had happened. Hard as it may be to believe these miracles, it would be harder to believe the rest of the story without them.

“At least the Jews, who from the very beginning had always been falling into idolatry, were now at last, in the Babylonian exile, convinced that their own God was the true God. These miracles also had a powerful influence on both Nebuchadnezzar and Darius (3:29; 6:26).” —Halley’s Study Bible

Thursdays With Spurgeon—No Other Name

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. 

No Other Name

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! (Philippians 3:20—4:1). 

     What is it to be in the Lord? Well, brothers and sisters, we are in the Lord vitally and evidently when we fly to the Lord Jesus by repentance and faith and make Him to be our refuge and hiding place. Is it so with you? Have you fled out of self? Are you trusting in the Lord alone? Have you come to Calvary and beheld your Savior? … There is no shelter for a guilty soul but in His wounded side! Have you come there? Are you in Him? Then stay there. You will never have a better refuge! In fact, there is no other. No other name is given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved [Acts 4:12]. I cannot tell you to stand fast in the Lord unless you are there. Hence my first inquiry is, are you in Christ? Is He your only confidence? In His life, His death, and His resurrection, do you find the grounds of your hope? Is He Himself all your salvation and all your desire? If so, stand fast in Him.

From The Watchword For Today: “Stand Fast”

I am reminded of two of the stanzas from a Charles Wesley hymn:

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease—
’Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
’Tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the pow’r of canceled sin,
He sets the pris’ner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

If you do not know this Savior for yourself, don’t wait another minute to invite Him into your heart! If you do know Jesus as your Savior, stand fast in Him no matter what life may throw at you!

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The Roots Of Endurance (book review)

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

I always glean so many valuable lessons when I read the autobiographies or biographies of notable people of history. The Roots Of Endurance is the third installment in John Piper’s excellent series “The swans are not silent.” 

This book looks at the lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce. Unlike the other books in this series, these men were all contemporaries and all of them had at least a passing relationship with each other. In fact, their lives and accomplishments were an encouragement to each other. 

Pastor John makes the case in this book that in order to endure through difficult times successfully, we must have a deep root into the joy of the Lord. This root nourishes our hearts to persevere successfully through long trials. These three men exhibit this endurance beautifully. John Newton had to endure his own struggles with his past, Charles Simeon contended with an obstinate congregation, and William Wilberforce battled pro-slavery forces in Parliament for years before the abolition of the slave trade was enacted.

All three of these men endured successfully because they trusted God so deeply. These roots of trust went deep and helped them to persevere for God’s glory.

As I have mentioned in my other book reviews from the series, anyone who enjoys biographies of godly leaders or the study of church history will thoroughly enjoy The Roots Of Endurance. 

If you would like to check out the other books in this series that I have previously reviewed, please click here, here, or here.

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T.A.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Poetry Saturday—A Nation’s Strength

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

What makes a nation’s pillars high
And its foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.

And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at His feet.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor’s sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly…
They build a nation’s pillars deep
And lift them to the sky. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Joyful Journey To Realization

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.

The Joyful Journey To Realization

And [Abram] believed in the Lord, and [God] accounted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) 

     Brothers and sisters, this everyday faith is the faith of God’s elect! There are persons who imagine saving faith to be a barren conviction of the truth of certain abstract propositions, leading only to a quiet contemplation upon certain delightful topics, or separating ourselves from all sympathy with our fellow creatures. But it is not so! Faith, restricted merely to religious exercise, is not Christian faith. It must show itself in everything. … 

     There may be some of you here today who have been called by divine grace from darkness into marvelous light. You have been led to look to Jesus and you believe you have received pardon of your sin, and yet, for lack of knowledge, you know little of the sweet meaning of such words as these: ‘accepted in the Beloved’ (Ephesians 1:6); ‘perfect in Christ Jesus’ (Colossians 1:28); ‘complete in Him’ (Colossians 2:10). You are doubtless justified, though you scarcely understand what justification means. And you are accepted, though you have not realized your acceptance. And you are complete in Jesus Christ, though you have, today, a far deeper sense of your personal incompleteness than of the all-sufficiency of Jesus. … 

     But there will come a time, beloved, when you who are called will clearly realize your justification and will rejoice in it! It will be intelligently understood by you and will become a matter of transporting delight—lifting you to a higher platform of experience and enabling you to walk with a firmer step, sing with a merrier voice, and triumph with an enlarged heart!  

From Justification By Faith

I was once asked, “If you could have a superpower, what would it be?” After a moment’s thought, I answered, “I’d like the power to just go <poof> for someone and they would be able to fully comprehended God’s love for them, or they would instantly realize how to live out their Christian faith.” 

Alas, there is no such superpower. But you and I have something far, far better: the Holy Spirit! 

Abram (who would later become Abraham) obediently followed God, even though the Bible said he didn’t fully grasp where he was going nor how God was going to give him many descendants. But he followed, and he trusted, and he listened, and slowly God began to reveal more and more to him. 

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. He didn’t say, “The Holy Spirit will go <poof> and you will immediately and fully understand everything.” Like Abram, we believe what God says about us, we follow, we trust, we listen, we obey, and the Spirit will begin to illuminate God’s Word to us. We’ll discover more each day what He’s asking of us, and we will notice that both our joy in Him and our effectiveness for the Kingdom of God are increasing along the journey! 

Don’t bail out early! Stick with it! I promise you that the joy still to be revealed along this journey is beyond compare with anything which would tempt you to stay behind to acquire.

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Poetry Saturday—Selections From “The Pilgrim’s Progress”

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

The hill, though high, I covet to ascend,
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here.
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear;
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe. —John Bunyan’s Christian, in The Pilgrim’s Progress

He that is down needs fear no fall;
   He that is low, no pride:
He that is humble ever shall
   Have God to be his Guide.
I am content with what I have,
   Little be it or much:
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
   Because Thou savest such.
Fullness to such a burden is
   That go on pilgrimage:
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
   Is best from age to age. —John Bunyan’s Mr. Great-heart, in The Pilgrim’s Progress

10 Quotes From “The Screwtape Letters”

C.S. Lewis gives us fantastic insight into the temptations the devil tries to use against Christians. You can read my full book review here. Just as a reminder: When Screwtape talks about “the Enemy” he is referring to God and when he says “our Father” he is talking about satan. 

“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.” 

“Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell—though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express—no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.” 

“Let his inner resolve be to bear whatever comes to him, but to bear it ‘for a reasonable period’—and let the reasonable period be shorter than the trial is likely to last. It need not be much shorter…. The fun is to make the man yield just when (had he but known it) relief was almost in sight.”

“Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.” 

“Our Enemy is a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or only like foam on the seashore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures forevermore.’ Ugh! … He has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least—sleeping, washing, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.” 

“You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” 

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By Jove! I’m being humble,’ and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt. … You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character.” 

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One it to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” 

“Even of his sins the Enemy does not want him to think too much: once they are repented, the sooner the man turns his attention outward, the better the Enemy is pleased.” 

“Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.” 

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