Links & Quotes

One of the last pictures I took with my Mom ♥

“Love of the Word appears preeminently in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He read it publicly. He quoted it continually. He expounded it frequently. He advised the Jews to search it. He used it as His weapon to resist the devil. He repeatedly said, ‘The Scripture must be fulfilled.’ Almost the last thing He did was to ‘open their minds so they could understand the Scriptures’ (Luke 24:45). I am afraid that man cannot be a true servant of Christ, who has not something of his Master’s mind and feeling towards the Bible.” —J.C. Ryle, Bible Reading 

“The character of our praying will determine the character of our preaching. Light praying will make light preaching. …The preacher must be preeminently a man of prayer. His heart must graduate in the school of prayer. In the school of prayer only can the heart learn to preach.” —E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer 

I have blogged several thoughts about the historicity of the Bible. Here’s a post on Breakpoint about yet another archeological discovery that once again vindicates the Bible’s trustworthiness.

“Some pastors and preachers are lazy and no good. They do not pray; they do not read; they do not search the Scripture. … The call is: watch, study, attend to reading. In truth you cannot read too much in Scripture; and what you read you cannot read too carefully, and what you read carefully you cannot understand too well, and what you understand well you cannot teach too well, and what you teach well you cannot live too well. … The devil … the world … and our flesh are raging and raving against us. Therefore, dear sirs and brothers, pastors and preachers, pray, read, study, be diligent.” —Martin Luther

Looking at God’s awesomeness brings a peace that nothing else can.

A very thought-provoking Q&A with Sean McDowell and Dr. Stephen Meyer: Does Science Point to God?

Sermon Prep 101

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

Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you My message (God speaking to Jeremiah).

Jesus was masterful in using visual illustrations—common, everyday things—to illustrate the biblical truth He wanted to teach. God does the same thing with Jeremiah. 

God instructs Jeremiah to simply go to the potter’s house and watch. Jeremiah obeyed: “I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working” (v. 3). It was after taking in this scene that God could speak to Jeremiah a sermon illustration. Jeremiah says, “Then the word of the Lord came to me” (v. 5). 

Not only did God help Jeremiah prepare his sermon with a visual illustration, but God also prepared Jeremiah for the follow up conversation. God knew how the people would respond to Jeremiah’s message, and He again gave him the words to speak ahead of time (vv. 12-17). 

God knows His sheep better than we do. He knows what they need to hear, and how best to make His message stick. Jesus said, 

“I have never spoken on My own authority or of My own accord or as self-appointed, but the Father Who sent Me has Himself given Me orders concerning what to say and what to tell. And I know that His commandment means eternal life. So whatever I speak, I am saying exactly what My Father has told Me to say and in accordance with His instructions.” (John 12:49-50 AMP) 

We pastors and evangelists dare not try to prepare a message on our own! 

Samuel Johnson prayed something that I pray every time I sit down to prepare a sermon: “Almighty God, my Heavenly Father, without Whose help labor is useless, without Whose light search is in vain, invigorate my studies.” 

Seeking God’s help in our sermon preparation should be our very first action every single time. 

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An Appeal To Preachers

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

…They have turned their backs to Me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say, “Come and save us!” (God in Jeremiah 2:27) 

In so many ways the USA today resembles ancient Israel. Abortion, prostitution, idolatry, envy, greed, atheism, dirty politics, self-serving church leaders. Our culture calls itself “Christian” but we live anything but. 

God is not allowed to be mentioned in our schools, but the moment there is a school shooting, people cry, “Where was God?! Why didn’t He stop this?!” 

God is banished from the town square, but as soon as a tornado or hurricane or flood levels the town, the people yell, “How could God let this happen?!” 

This was exactly the same lifestyle and same response in Jeremiah’s day. 

When these painfully tragic things happen, there should be a different response: “Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you have forsaken the Lord your God and have no awe of Me” (v. 19). 

Typically, this considering takes place post-tragedy. But it really should be considered before disasters strike. Four times in this chapter God calls us to consider “the word of the Lord” (vv. 1, 4, 5, 31). In order for that considering to take place, loving pastor-shepherds need to hold up the mirror of God’s Word to the ungodly lifestyles people are living.

To all of my fellow pastors, I appeal to you to boldly and lovingly proclaim the full counsel of God’s Word. Not just the “pleasant” parts that speak of God’s blessings, but also the calls to repentance that will allow your people to avoid God’s righteous judgment. And don’t wait to only speak about these topics post-tragedy, but make this message a consistent part of your teaching. 

Pastor, if you don’t speak these truths to your flock, how will they know how to live in the way that pleases God? I am praying that God will help you in this. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—A Word To Preachers

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

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

A Word To Preachers

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) 

     Paul is a laborer, Apollos is a laborer, Cephas is a laborer, but not so much as a foot of the farm is Paul’s, nor does a single parcel of land belong to Apollos, or the smallest allotment to Cephas. ‘You are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s’ (1 Corinthians 3:23). The fact is that in this case the laborers belong to the land and not the land to the laborers, ‘for all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas’ (3:21-22). … 

     Brothers, a laborer may work very hard at a whim of his own and waste his labor, but this is folly! Some discourses do a little more than show the difference between a Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and what is the use of that? … 

     All God’s laborers must go to Him for their seed, or else they will scatter tares. All good seed comes out of God’s granary. If we preach, it must be the true word of God or nothing can come of it. … A sermon is vain talk and dreary word spinning unless the Holy Spirit enlivens it. … 

     Here we have mention of a personal service and a personal reward: ‘Each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.’ The reward is proportionate, not to the success, but to the labor! Many discouraged workers may be comforted with that expression. You are not to be paid by results, but by endeavors.

From Farm Laborers

My dear preacher friend, God sees you. He has placed you in the field where He needs you to be, and He has given you the skills you need to have to labor for Him. Never doubt that! 

You may be the one breaking up hard ground, or the one sowing seed, or the one watering, or the one bringing in the harvest. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, rely on the strength God gives you. He will illuminate His Word to your heart first so that you can share a timely word with those under your care. Then He will send the Holy Spirit to enliven all that you preach. 

God has given you the tools and skills, now you must diligently supply the effort. Don’t become discouraged by what seems to be a lack of “success.” As God tells us through Paul, He will reward your faithful labor in His field. 

My book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter elaborates on this point. The thoughts in this book will remove from you the burden of trying to live up to any unbiblical metric of “success” in your ministry. I hope you will get a copy of this book! Check out ShepherdLeadershipBook.com for more details.

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Poetry Saturday—Sunday Choice (Complaint #1)

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

I’d shut down once the text is read,
and wish I’d just stayed home instead.
What do they teach these guys in school?
Must boredom be their guiding rule?
When insipid’s their claim
to weekly homiletic fame,
and sin can sit at ease, unfazed
with all the rest whose eyes are glazed,
while humor or some story take
the place of exposition—wake
me when it’s over, if you please.
The devil’s tools are such as these.
Before them lies the Word of Life:
It should dissect us like a knife
and cause our sin-sick souls to howl
to be exposed so dark and foul.
We should be ushered through the gate
of glory, crushed beneath its weight
and, listed by a skillful hand,
there made with joy to safely stand
before our Savior’s beaming face,
secure in His redeeming grace,
and all astounded to be seen
in His eyes loved, forgiven, clean,
and fitted to His bidding do.
Instead, we are subjected to
some moral exhortation in
the name of Him who died for sin,
which most accept too readily
since it requires no change, you see,
but serves to reassure them that
God’s fine with them right where they’re at.
The Church thus weekly sermonized
is steadily more marginalized.
The Kingdom’s coming waits until
those called to preach their calls fulfill
with courage and consistency,
to vaunt Christ, with humility. —T.M. Moore

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Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully (book review)

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

Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully is, in my mind, a grand slam! It features one of my favorite poets (George Herbert), possibly the most prolific evangelist of history (George Whitefield), my all-time favorite author (C.S. Lewis), all tied together by my go-to theologian (John Piper). Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully is part 6 in Piper’s series called “The Swans Are Not Silent.” 

George Herbert was a pastor of a small country church and a prolific poet who wrote almost all of his poems uniquely. “Of the 167 poems in The Temple, 116 are written with meters that are not repeated,” which even modern poets find astounding. George Whitefield spent more hours of his life preaching than he did sleeping, and he spoke with such a captivating style that he was quite possibly the first celebrity of the American colonies. C.S. Lewis wrote everything from history to fantasy, autobiography to poetry, theology to children’s novels. Peter Kreeft says of him, he “was not a man: he was a world.” 

John Piper finds in all three of these men a common thread: They all were able to not only see the beauty of God in everything, but they were able to express it in a beautiful way that drew in others to see the beauty of God for themselves. Pastor John calls this “poetic effort.” 

Pastor John also wrestles with how the profound creativity and eloquence of his three subjects meshes with the apostle Paul’s admonition that human eloquence could drain the Cross of Jesus of its power (see 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5). He concludes that poetic effort for the sake of exalting the speaker or poet does turn people’s eyes to man and away from God. But that poet, evangelist, or author that uses the beauty in God’s creation to point people to the Creator is doing so in a way in which God is supremely exalted. This, Pastor John says, is exactly what Herbert, Whitefield, and Lewis have done, and done so well that their poetic efforts are still fruitful and God-glorifying long after their deaths. 

Seeing Beauty And Saying Beautifully is a wonderful book for those who enjoy biographies, theology, or the craft of skilled artisans. If you don’t know about the poems of George Herbert, the preaching of George Whitefield, or the vast library of literature of C.S. Lewis, let this book be your doorway to a rich new world of discovery, enjoyment, and God-glorification. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—An Exhortation To Preachers

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

An Exhortation To Preachers 

He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:14-15) 

     Ah, brothers, the Holy Spirit never comes to glorify us, or to glorify a denomination, or, I think, even to glorify a systematic arrangement of doctrines! He comes to glorify Christ! If we want to be in accord with Him, we must preach in order to glorify Christ. May we never have this thought: ‘I will put that bit in. It will sound well….’  No, no! 

     I would say, ‘Brother, though it is a very delightful piece, strike that out, because if you have had a thought of that kind about it, you had better not put yourself in the way of temptation by using it.’ … 

     Well then, it may be very admirable, and further, it might be a very right thing to give them that precious piece; but if you have that thought about it, strike it out! Strike it out ruthlessly! Say, ‘No, no, no! If it is not distinctly my aim to glorify Christ, I am not in accord with the aim of the Holy Spirit and I cannot expect His help!’ … 

     How then does the Holy Spirit glorify Christ? It is very beautiful to think that He glorifies Christ by showing Christ’s things. If you wanted to do a honor to a man, you would, perhaps, take him a present to decorate his house. But here, if you want to glorify Christ, you must go and take the things out of Christ’s house ‘the things of Christ.’ … 

     Again, I think that the blessed Spirit glorifies Christ by showing us the things of Christ as Christ’s. Oh, to be pardoned! Yes, it is a great thing, but to find that pardon in His wounds, that is a greater thing! Oh, to get peace! Yes, but to find that peace in the blood of His Cross! … That it came from Christ is the best thing about the best thing that ever came from Christ! …  

     He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.’ Yes, it does glorify Christ for the Holy Spirit to show Christ to us. … Since it is for the honor of Christ for His things to be shown to men, He will show them to us, that we may go and show them to other people.

From Honey In My Mouth

My fellow pastor, I cannot add anything to these wise words except this simple exhortation: Read these words again and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can more accurately live this out in your sermon preparation and preaching. 

God bless you, my friend!

Things That Diminish Pastoral Ministry

Horatius Bonar pulls no punches when he talks to pastors! Words To Winners Of Souls is a compilation of sermons Bonar preached to fellow pastors. 

These are a list of things that Bonar said would diminish a pastor’s ministry: 

“Seldom in secret prayer with God, except to fit for public performance; and even that much neglected, or gone about very superficially. 

“Glad to find excuses for the neglect of duties. 

“Neglecting the reading of Scriptures in secret, for edifying ourselves as Christians; only reading them in so far as may fit us for our duty as ministers, and oft-times neglecting that. 

“Not given to reflect upon our own ways, nor allowing conviction to have a thorough work upon us. …

“Not guarding nor wrestling against seen and known evils, especially our predominants. … 

“Not praying for men of a contrary judgment, but using reservedness and distance from them; being more ready to speak of them than to them or to God for them. …  

“The matter we bring forth is not seriously recommended to God by prayer, to be quickened to His people. 

“Neglect of prayer after the Word is preached, that it may receive the first and latter rain; and that the Lord would put in the hearts of his people what we speak to them in his name. … 

“Choosing texts whereon we have something to say, rather than those suited to the conditions of souls and times, and frequent preaching of the same things, that we may not be put to the pains of new study. … 

“Not making all the counsel of God known to His people. … 

“Continual employment in the most solemn duties of our office, such as dealing with souls in private about their immortal welfare, or guiding the meditations and devotions of God’s assembled people, or handling the sacramental symbols—this, gone about often with so little prayer and mixed with so little faith, has tended grievously to divest us of that profound reverence and godly fear which ever ought to possess and pervade us.” —Horatius Bonar 

To my fellow pastors, may we especially heed Bonar’s fourth warning and ask the Holy Spirit to help us “reflect upon our own ways” and if necessary to allow Him to bring a “conviction to have a thorough work upon us.” 

Words To Winners Of Souls (book review)

Horatius Bonar has given us a collection of sermons preached to pastors, which have been collated in a book under the title Words To Winners Of Souls. 

Although these were words by a pastor to pastors, this shouldn’t be a book exclusively read by pastors. Anyone who wants to successfully share their Christian testimony with unsaved friends and loved ones can find much to digest in these sermons. That being said, this is still a must-read (and I don’t say that very often) for those in pastoral ministry. 

Bonar was a no-pulled-punches preacher! He spoke candidly and forcefully, but he also spoke out of a love for the Body of Christ and its ministers. Early on in this book he says, “We take for granted that the object of the Christian ministry is to convert sinners and to edify the body of Christ. No faithful minister can possibly rest short of this. Applause, fame, popularity, honor, wealth—all these are vain. If souls are not won, if saints are not matured, our ministry itself is vain.” Wow: “our ministry itself is vain”—you cannot get more gut-level honest than that! 

In this collection of messages, Bonar helps us diagnose what may be hindering our soul-winning practices, and he also proposes the remedy for those shortcomings. These words are honest and often hard to hear, but they are so needed for everyone who desires, as Jesus does, “that none should perish but all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 

Pastors, please read this book! 

Parishioners, please get a copy of this book for your pastor and then offer to prayerfully read through it with him or her. I promise you: this book will pay eternal dividends. 

UPDATE: I have shared some quotes from this book here.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Seeds Of Revival

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.

Seeds Of Revival 

     How did Jesus Christ save souls in olden times? By the foolishness of preaching. And if you will look down through church history, you will find that, wherever there has been a great revival of religion, it has been linked with the preaching of the gospel! … Ah, my dear friends, the world will never be saved by Methodist doctors, or by Baptist doctors, or anything of the sort! But multitudes will be saved, by God’s grace, through preachers! It is the preacher to whom God has entrusted this great work! Jesus said, ‘Preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15). 

     But men are getting tired of the divine plan. They are going to be saved by the priest, going to be saved by the music, going to be saved by the theatricals, and who knows what! Well, they may try these things as long as they like, but nothing can ever come of the whole thing but utter disappointment and confusion—God dishonored, the gospel travestied, hypocrites manufactured by thousands, and the church dragged down to the level of the world! Stand to your guns, brothers, and go on preaching and teaching nothing but the Word of God, for it still pleases God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save those who believe! And this test still stands true: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ …  

     Well, you may try to do without prayer meetings if you like, but my solemn conviction is that, as these decline, the Spirit of God will depart from you and the preaching of the gospel will be of small account. …  

     The Holy Spirit works all the good that is ever done in the world, and as the Holy Spirit honors Jesus Christ, so He puts great honor upon the Holy Spirit. If you and I try, either as a church or as individuals, to do without the Holy Spirit, God will soon do without us. Unless we reverently worship Him and believingly trust in Him, we will find that we will be like Samson when his locks were shorn. He shook himself as he had done before, but when the Philistines were upon him, he could do nothing against them. Our prayer must always be, ‘Holy Spirit, dwell with me! Holy Spirit, dwell with Your servants!’ We know that we are utterly dependent upon Him. Such is the teaching of our Master, and ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.’

From The Unchangeable Christ 

Charles Spurgeon is exactly right. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ can change our world today. For this message to go out in all of its life-changing power requires three things: 

  1. Pastors who will preach the Word of God. Music, opinions, and theatrics will not change lives. 
  2. Prayer. Both those in the pulpit and those in the seats of the church must be praying. 
  3. Reliance on the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, we won’t be effective at all. 

Do you want to see a revival? Encourage your pastor to preach well, keep on praying, and keep on asking for the Spirit’s empowerment!

 

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