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.” 

Learning Perseverance

I have shared three lessons I learned going through dark times in my life (you can check them out here, here, and here), but we aren’t even close to exhausting all of the lessons that can be learned in the night. I want to teach you one principle that will allow for lifelong learning and application of these nighttime lessons. 

The apostle Paul shared how he had matured during his times of struggle. He told the Corinthians he realized that God had delivered him in the past, was delivering him now, and would continue to deliver him in the future (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-11). The key is to hang in long enough to actually see how God brings about the deliverance and teaches the lessons. 

Paul told the Corinthians, “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 (1 Corinthians 10:13). And the writer of Hebrews said, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to PERSEVERE so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36). 

The Greek word translated “persevere” means keeping focused on the goal despite the struggles that it takes to get there. Jesus used this same Greek word at the conclusion of His parable of the sower: “The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the Word, retain it, and by PERSEVERING produce a crop”; a crop that Jesus said was a hundred times more than what was sown (see Luke 8:5-15). 

I love riding my bike on the White Pine Trail by my house. My long rides have a really fun stretch where I am flying downhill! But as fun as that part is, I’m not really building anything of lasting value. However, when I am coming back uphill and I want to quit because my legs are burning and I can hardly breathe, that becomes a valuable struggle. I cannot build endurance by any other way than to push myself just a little bit farther each time. When I want to quit, I pedal just a few more feet. Gradually, the uphill becomes less daunting. 

A friend gave me a t-shirt I like to wear on my rides. When I put it on the blue-lettered message on the shirt says, “Do It!” but as I struggle uphill and the sweat begins to pour off my body, a new message emerges: “Don’t Quit!” 

I have learned that easy roads teach very few valuable lessons. 

So here are three thoughts to help you persevere in your struggling times: 

  1. Keep your eyes on Jesus and on His eternal rewards (Hebrews 12:1-3; James 1:2-4, 12) 
  2. Keep persevering friends close by—notice the “let us” phrases the writer of Hebrews uses 
  3. On your worst day, don’t quit but commit to going one day longer (Romans 5:3-4) 

[check out all of the verses by clicking here]

Remember that as you struggle and persevere, you are not only building your own endurance, but you are strengthening yourself to be able to help others. So we can be thankful IN the night because God is building our endurance for the next night, and our endurance for our friend’s next night. 

If you have missed any of the other lessons in this series called Thankful In The Night, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

Poetry Saturday—Hope

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops—at all

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea
Yet—never—in Extremity,
It asked a crumb of me. —Emily Dickinson

Seeking God

…David sought the face of the Lord… (2 Samuel 21:1). 

בָּקַשׁ פָּנִים יְהֹוָה

The Hebrew phrase is baqash paniym YHWH: 

  • baqash is to ask for, beg, desire “specifically in worship or prayer.” It’s a “searching as done by touching.” 
  • paniym literally means the face, but it carries the idea of being in someone’s presence.
  • YHWH (Yahweh) is Jehovah God. 

David repeatedly asked, sought, and begged through both prayer and worship that he might be in God’s presence. “Almighty God, I want to be with You. I want to know your heart intimately. I want to see Your face. I’m not seeking help from any other source, but I am resolutely seeking You alone.” 

Perhaps Jesus had this in mind when He told us, “Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. You will get an answer, you will find what you’re seeking, the door to God’s presence will be opened to you. Your Father—YHWH, God Almighty—longs to reveal Himself to you.” 

Q: How long did David seek the face of the Lord? 

A: Until God spoke, until God delivered, until God opened the door. 

Q: How long am I willing to keep on seeking the face of the Lord? 

A: I hope I can say until God speaks, until God delivers, until God opens the door.

Poetry Saturday—A Man With An Aim

Give me a man with an aim,
   Whatever that aim may be,
Whether it’s wealth or whether it’s fame,
   It matters not to me.
Let him walk in the path of right,
   And keep his aim in sight,
And work and pray in faith alway,
   With his eyes on the glittering height.

Give me a man who says,
   “I will do something well,
And make the fleeing days
   A story of labor to tell.”
Though the aim he has be small,
   It is better than none at all;
With something to do the whole year through,
   He will not stumble and fall.

But satan weaves a snare
   For the feet of those who stray,
With never a thought or care
   Where the path may lead away.
The man who hath no aim
   Not only leaves no name
When life’s done, but ten to one
   He leaves a record of shame. 

Give me a man whose heart
   Is filled with ambition’s fire;
Who sets his mark in the start,
   And keeps moving it higher and higher.
Better to die in the strife,
   The hands with labor rife,
Than to glide with the stream in an idle dream
   And lead a purposeless life. 

Better to strive and climb
   And never reach the goal,
Than to drift along with time
   An aimless, worthless soul.
Ay, better to climb and fall,
   Or sow, though the yield be small,
Than to throw away day after day,
   And never to strive at all. —Anonymous

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