Links & Quotes

Immature people only want to do the bare minimum, but mature people want to do more than is expected of them. Jesus called these people those that went the second mile. That was a topic in my most recent Monday Motivation series.

I am a big fan of The Babylon Bee. If you haven’t checked out their satirical wit, please do so! One post that caught my eye this week is called What Your Favorite Book Of The Bible Says About You. Wow, did this one make me laugh! If you would like to check out some real Bible studies, I have some here and here.

Cold-case detective and Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace discusses how Jesus impacted other world religions—

The drought in north Texas has revealed some more dinosaur tracks, raising some new questions about these massive animals that roamed Earth.

The devil loves to try to pervert the conviction of the Holy Spirit into condemnation. Here is the freeing truth we can stand on: There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Sean McDowell elaborates on the dangers of pornography.

Go Deep—The Fruit Of The Spirit

We have been studying the different sets of gifts listed in the New Testament. These gifts are to bring maturity and health to the church. Previously we have looked at:

In this lesson, we discover how the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5) shows our Christian maturity.

You may download the participant’s study guide here → Go Deep – fruit of the Holy Spirit handouts

Near the end of this lesson, I shared something that I hadn’t included in the handouts, but I promised to share it—

LOVE for God fill us with love for others → there is JOY in knowing His nearness → PEACE comes in the face of anxiety-causing tribulations → which gives me PATIENCE with others who are anxious without God → then I can have KINDNESS to draw them to God → and GOODNESS that is expressed in kind deeds → and my FAITHFULNESS that creates a sense of stick-to-it-iveness → and GENTLENESS that gives me courage to stand up for what’s right → my SELF-CONTROL keeps the fruit of the flesh in-check → which gives me greater LOVE for God and others… 

Go Deep—The Operational Gifts In Orderly Operation

We have been studying the different sets of gifts listed in the New Testament. These gifts are to bring maturity and health to the church. Previously we have looked at the motivational gifts in Romans chapter 12, the operational gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12-13, and the leadership gifts in the church in Ephesians 4.

In this lesson, we learn how the operational gifts of the Holy Spirit must be supported by the leadership gifts that are given to the church. 

You may download the participant’s study guide here → Go Deep – operational gifts in orderly operation handout

If you would like to join us in person for our next class, here is where you can find us.

Go Deep—Leadership Gifts For The Church

We have been studying the different sets of gifts listed in the New Testament. These gifts are to bring maturity and health to the church. Previously we have looked at the motivational gifts in Romans chapter 12 and the operational gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12-13. 

In this lesson, we look at the five leadership gifts that are given to help the church grow into deeper unity and maturity. 

You may download the participant’s study guide here → Go Deep – leadership gifts for the church

If you would like to join us in person for our next class, here is where you can find us.

My Unique History

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

I had a great time on the 200churches podcast with Jeff Keady. 

Jeff and I talked about my unique background and how that contributed to not only the book I wrote but also to the activities in which I am presently involved.

God took me on a long journey before I came to be a shepherd in Cedar Springs, MI. There were times in my younger life when I questioned why my path didn’t look like a straight line that was heading toward a career or vocation, but God showed me the truthfulness of the promise in Romans 8:28—He is using ALL THINGS to accomplish what He needs for me and for His Kingdom. (Check out the short video below where I share a bit of my autobiography.)

I hope this is a word of encouragement for you too. God IS directing every single one of your steps, He IS using all of your education and experiences to accomplish His purpose. Don’t bail out of this process, and don’t ever get discouraged that your path seems different than those around you. God is being as unique with you as He is with everyone else. 

If you are a church leader, I encourage you to pick up a copy of my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. I believe you will find many more encouraging thoughts that will keep you engaged in the work to which God has called you.

I’ll be sharing more clips from this 200churches 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. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Giving Preference To Others

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

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10). 

What does it mean to give preference to a friend or loved one? Here are a few suggestions to get the ball rolling. 

Giving preference means I am…

  1. …speaking their “language.” I am a classic Doer, which means my style is, “Ready, Fire! aim.” I need to give grace to those who move a bit slower than me.
  1. …moving at their “speed.” My temperament is highly choleric, so I get fired up quickly and attack situations head-on. I need to give grace to those temperaments that are less emotional and want to handle things more strategically. 
  1. …sensitive to their “fears.” It’s insensitive for me to say, “It’s no big deal” about something that troubles them. Empathy is important so I can see and feel things like they see and feel them. 
  1. …helping them battle their “demons.” Perhaps viewing pornography isn’t a temptation for me, but it may be for someone else. So I need to seek out resources and accountability to help them fight this battle like I was fighting my own battle. 
  1. …avoiding their “stumbling blocks.” Perhaps I can watch certain genres of movies without compromising my Christian testimony, but it may cause my brother or sister a lot of grief. If I am going to prefer them in love, I will avoid talking about those movies in their presence, and I certainly won’t try to get them to “lighten up” to see things my way. 

Agape love is never selfish—it doesn’t want “my way” but it wants others to be edified. So, ultimately, what it means to give preference to another is to only promote those things that will build them up. Remember: saints is always plural in the New Testament, so we must build each other up to bring out the saintliness in all of us. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

…The Certainty Of Eternal Light

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

Even though Jesus explicitly told His followers about His crucifixion, it was clear on that Friday on Golgotha that they didn’t fully grasp what was going on. 

We see the same thing in Heman’s maskil of Psalm 88: The faint hope that his Savior would rescue him from death, but still not fully grasping what was happening. Just as Jesus cried out, “It is finished” and His disciples thought the darkness had fallen, Heman ends his psalm with, “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:18). 

There is the reality of darkness in this world—but it is only temporary darkness. This is why I entitled our look at Psalm 88 as “The reality of temporary darkness” because, in the second part of this couplet of maskil psalms, Ethan moves right into the light of Resurrection Sunday: “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever” (Psalm 89:1). 

Consider this Good Friday-to-Resurrection Sunday thought from Jesus: “…In the world you will have tribulation; BUT be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This tells us of both the temporary darkness and the conquering Light. But also notice that Jesus said our peace would come from knowing that both darkness and light are realities: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.” Whether we are in temporary darkness or looking forward to the eternal light, our peace is only found in Jesus. 

When the followers of Jesus came to His tomb on Sunday morning, the angels asked them a penetrating question, “Why are you looking for a living Person in a place where there are dead people?” Then they began to stimulate their memory to get them to recall Christ’s words. Finally, we read, “THEN they remembered” (Luke 24:5-8). Then they had to choose to obey the word of God. 

Ethan recalls God’s words and uses his “will” three in the opening two verses. 

The disciples also could bank on Christ’s words, just as Ethan chose to bank on Jehovah’s words. The central part of Psalm 89 is God speaking: Check out His assurance in the “I will” statements within the quotation marks in verses 19-37. Then we are called to Selah to let that soak in. 

Notice what radiates out from this foundational assurance:

  • Ethan uses the pronouns You/Your 20 times in reference to God to assure us that God is in sovereign control (vv. 8b-14). Then he tells us of the blessings of God’s favor on our obedience to His word (vv. 15-18). 
  • On the other side of the central quotation from God, Ethan again uses the pronouns You/Your 13 times in vv. 38-45, but then he tells us of the blessing of God’s discipline on our disobedience.
  • Radiating out further, Ethan asks seven questions—much like his brother Heman did in Psalm 88—in verses 5-8 and 46-48. 
  • Finally, we see the psalm both opening and closing with praising God as we remember His covenant word (vv. 1-4, 49-52). 

Remember we said the darkness cannot prevail. The darkness is temporary (Romans 8:18) but Ethan repeatedly reminds us of God’s foreverness (vv. 1, 2, 4, 29, 52). 

  • The Selah after v. 4 is to pause in wonder at God’s words and break into rejoicing!
  • The Selah after v. 37 is again to pause after remembering God’s covenant, and to reflect on our own obedience or disobedience. 
  • The Selah after v. 45 is a pause to mourn and repent from our disobedience. 
  • The Selah after v. 48 is to pause to reflect on the forgiveness purchased on Calvary and the eternal light and life that bought. 
  • Finally, v. 52 harkens back to v. 1 as the praise is restored and the cycle begins all over again. In fact, the praise of God’s light continues forever! 

Heman and Ethan both remind us of this important truth—

My dark days are meant to get my attention. Are they dark because I live in an evil world, or because I have sinned? In either case, my only remedy is to rely on God’s covenant promise fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find a complete list by clicking here.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

The Reality Of Temporary Darkness…

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

A father came home from work and noticed a note addressed to him taped to his teenage son’s door:

Dear Dad, 

Jason and I borrowed Mom’s car to go to Taco Bell. I know I didn’t have permission, but I thought we’d be back before you and Mom got home. Unfortunately, I hit a pothole and blew out the front right tire. 

We jacked up the car to put on a spare tire, but the jack slipped and the car rolled backward into the ditch. 

Bill came with his pickup to pull us out, but the tow strap pulled off the front bumper and the car rolled further down the hill and sunk in the pond. 

I bought a bus ticket to get out of town and go enlist in the Army. Give Mom a hug and I’ll see you both in about 2 years. 

Love, your son

P.S. None of the above is true. Mom took her car to Aunt Jan’s house and I rode my bike to Jason’s house. However, I hope the fact that none of these bad things actually happened will help you put in perspective the D+ on my report card. 

We like to manage expectations, don’t we? We frequently deliver bad news with the good news close by. 

Psalms 88 and 89 are written by brothers: both of them are called Ezrahite, and both of them were worship leaders in the tabernacle. And until Solomon, these guys were considered the wisest in the land (1 Chronicles 2:6; 15:19; 1 Kings 4:29-34). 

I believe these two psalms form a couplet. They make up the last two psalms of Book III in the Psalter, with Psalm 89 ending with, “Amen and Amen.” Both of them label their psalms a maskil which means “a poem of contemplation” (NKJV). And look how Psalm 88 leaves us in the dark, while Psalm 89 shines a light in the dark.

In Psalm 88, Heman soberly prepares us for his two-Selah psalm in his introductory remarks. He uses a phase mahalath leannoth which means someone who is so physically weak from emotional grief that they are now battling depression. The NLT calls it “the suffering of affliction.”  

Heman is describing a reality: We will all experience pain in this life. Maybe even for our entire earthly life—from my youth I have been afflicted and close to death (v. 15). Heman’s reality is seen in his words in the first five verses of this psalm. 

His first Selah is breathtaking because he wants us to pause to realize that God has allowed all of this (notice the pronoun You in vv. 6-8, 16-18). But still, Heman knows God saves because he has made a decision to continue to praise Him even in the dark times (vv. 1-2, 9, 13).  

Heman’s second Selah comes in the middle of a series of five questions (vv. 10-14) that sound a lot like both questions Jesus asked in Gethsemane and from the Cross, and the reality of the temporary darkness He was facing (Psalm 22:1-2; Luke 22:53; John 19:11). 

Even the way Heman closes his psalm foreshadows the darkness surrounding the death of Jesus: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? 

Jesus tasted all of this darkness for us so that He could be our perfect and empathetic High Priest (Hebrews 5:7, 4:15-16). 

Psalm 88 shows us the reality of temporary darkness (like Good Friday), but Psalm 89 points us to the certainty of eternal light (like Resurrection Sunday)! 

So when you are battling your dark times, let me give you these assurances: 

  1. This darkness is only temporary (Romans 8:18) 
  2. Jesus walks with us in our dark times (Romans 8:26-39)
  3. The darkness cannot prevail—Jesus tasted all of this temporary darkness for us so that He could be our eternal High Priest!

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can check them out by clicking here. Please join me on Sunday when we will look at Ethan’s words in Psalm 89 about the certainty of the eternal light. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Completing The Body

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

One of the miracles we talked about last week was the Holy Spirit giving gifts to people that evangelize the sinner and edify the saint. Let me be more specific: YOU are God’s gift to the world if you are using God’s gift to glorify God in the world. 

You are a one-of-a-kind creation. God is infinitely creative so He never has to duplicate any of His creative works. He saw your life and implanted in you what you need to glorify Him (Psalm 139:13-18). But we need to think about this uniqueness the right way. 

Lucifer, an archangel, became satan, the Christian’s archenemy, because of his oversized pride. Pride is what turned Lucifer into satan, and it’s a tactic he still uses today on God’s creations. His other tactic is slander: attempting to get us to think we are insignificant and have no real purpose in the world. 

Just like Jesus did, we overcome satan’s lies with the truth in God’s Word.  

In Romans 12, Paul talks about our lives being used as a living, breathing, God-honoring sacrifice. But Romans 12:1 begins with the word “therefore,” so we need to back up a few verses. The final four verses of chapter 11 are a beautiful doxology that is praising God for His wisdom and sovereignty. Paul then offers this conclusion: Therefore we need to think correctly about our place in the world, allowing the Holy Spirit to transform our thoughts. 

Paul uses the word “think” twice in this passage. The root word is the same in each place (phroneo in Greek), but the prefix is what sets them apart from each other. The first has the prefix hyper-. That means it’s overly-analyzed thinking, overly self-concerned thinking, or self-focused.

The second time the prefix is soph- (which means “wise”). This is sound thinking, big-picture thinking, or others-focused. The Holy Spirit wants to give us sophroneo thinking to reveal our God-implanted gifts and talents that are to be used to benefit others—in fact, to benefit the whole Body of Christ.

In Romans 12, Paul uses the phrase “one body” twice as he talks about our spiritual gifts. He uses the same “one body” praise three times in 1 Corinthians 12 as he again talks about spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 20). 

All of our spiritual gifts are to be used in love and to build up others (1 Corinthians 12:31—13:3; 14:1, 12, 26, 40). 

The Holy Spirit gives gifts to individuals so that individuals can edify the whole Body of Christ. It’s not competing with one another but completing one another. 

Remember: Saints is always plural in the New Testament! I need you to bring out the saintly qualities in my life, as much as you need me to bring out the saintly qualities in your life. 

This summer I will be offering an in-depth teaching on the spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament. We’ll take some assessments and discuss how these gifts can best be invested in the Body of Christ. I hope you can join me for an hour of learning on Wednesdays. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series exploring our Pentecostal roots, you can find all of those messages by clicking here.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Expecting Miracles

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

Last week we saw the in-ness of the Holy Spirit guiding us, teaching us, and empowering us to overcome evil. For what purpose? Why does the Holy Spirit lead us this way? Because the Spirit desires to draw everyone into this in-ness. His work in and through our lives is always unmistakable and irrefutable. 

A good word to describe the unmistakable and irrefutable work of the Spirit is: Miracles. 

Miraculous signs characterized the earthly ministry of Jesus, and they also should to the hallmark of Spirit-baptized Christians today who are sharing the Gospel with others (Acts 10:38; 2:43; Mark 16:20). 

Some may ask, “Why don’t we see as many miracles today?” And some skeptics even point to a decrease in miracles as proof of their cessationist paradigm. But consider this: Has God’s power been diminished? Have all needs been met? Are there no more sickness or unsolvable problems of human suffering? Is everyone free of the power of the devil? 

No, of course not! 

So that would mean if there is any diminishment in miracles, the diminishment would seem to be in us! Particularly I think it is that we no longer expect miracles to happen.

Not only should we expect miracles, but we should also expect to be the vessel through which the Holy Spirit demonstrates the miracle. 

Here are 8 miracles that we should be expecting:

  1. Minds opened that were blinded to the Gospel message—2 Corinthians 4:4-6 
  2. Thoughts transformed—Romans 12:2-3; Philippians 2:5 
  3. Invincible words spoken by us to others—Acts 6:10 
  4. Love tangibly expressed through our spiritual gifts—John 13:34-35; 1 Corinthians 12:1, 31—13:3 
  5. Gifts of the Spirit used constructively in the church to both evangelize the sinner and edify the saint—1 Corinthians 14
  6. Compassionate actions constantly initiated to address areas of human suffering—Philemon 4-7, 17
  7. Powerful prayers prayed and answered—Acts 3:6, 4:31, 13:2-3 
  8. Miracles consistently seen as authenticating the Gospel message—Acts 10:38, 19:11-12 

(Check out all of the above scripture verses by clicking here.) 

Don’t limit the Supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in you to only natural expressions. Constantly expect miracles! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, you can find them all by clicking here.

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

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