Poetry Saturday—The True Aaron

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See Aaron, God’s anointed priest,
Within the veil appear;
In robes of mystic meaning dressed,
Presenting Israel’s prayer.

The plate of gold which crowns his brows,
His holiness describes;
His breast displays, in shining rows,
The names of all the tribes.

With the atoning blood he stands,
Before the mercy-seat;
And clouds of incense from his hands,
Arise with odor sweet.

Urim and Thummim near his heart,
In rich engravings worn;
The sacred light of truth impart,
To teach and to adorn.

Through him the eye of faith descries,
A greater Priest than he;
Thus Jesus pleads above the skies,
For you, my friends, and me.

He bears the names of all His saints,
Deep on His heart engraved;
Attentive to the state and wants
Of all His love has saved.

In Him a holiness complete,
Light and perfections shine;
And wisdom, grace, and glory meet;
A Savior all divine.

The blood, which as a Priest He bears
For sinners, is His own
The incense of His prayers and tears
Perfume the holy throne.

In Him my weary soul has rest,
Though I am weak and vile
I read my name upon His breast,
And see the Father smile. —John Newton [Levitcus 8:7-9]

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Giving Preference To Others

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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. 

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“Let Us” Be The Church

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

Jeff asked me what was different for our church during the pandemic shutdowns. I explained to him how our season of change had begun long before anyone was even talking about a coronavirus.

Of course one of the big things in my personal life during the last year was authoring a #1-selling book called Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. As I commented to Jeff, those “let us” phrases in the Book of Hebrews so struck me that I wrote about it in my book. 

     Have you noticed that the word “saints” in the New Testament is always in the plural, never the singular? That’s because we need each other to bring out the saintly qualities in each other. This is why the writer of Hebrews stresses the camaraderie of “let us” so many times (Hebrews 10:22–25). I’ve found that many shepherd leaders tend to isolate. They are so involved in their own pasture of ministry that they seldom make the time to interact with other shepherds. In fact, isolation is one of the devil’s favorite tactics. I encourage you to find friends—fellow saints—who are also committed to healthy spiritual growth and avail yourself of their friendship and insight. —an excerpt from the chapter ‘Four Elements to Optimal Spiritual Health’ 

“Let us” be the church wherever God places us and however He chooses to use us. 

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. 

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Completing The Body

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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.

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Soul Friends

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I had a great time on the Ailbe Podcast with Rusty Rabon. 

Rusty referred to a chapter in my book called ‘Going Farther,’ where I talk about the importance of a shepherd leader having strong, godly friends close by.  

I learned a long time ago that there is a reason that the word “saints” is always in the plural—never in the singular—throughout the New Testament. I also share a couple of notable Old Testament examples of leaders who stumbled when they tried to go alone. 

In Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter I wrote, “You will not only extend your leadership by having other servant-hearted shepherds around you, but you will also have a guard against the aloneness that led to such ugly warts on the biography of otherwise powerful leaders such as David, Elijah, and Peter.” 

I’ll be sharing more clips from this interview soon, so please stay tuned. If you would like to check out the other clips I have already shared from this podcast, please check them out here. 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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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Walking 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.

Walking Preachers  

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

     Walking is a position that…signifies activity. You would suppose from the way some Christians deport themselves, that their whole life was spent in meditation. It is a blessed thing to sit ‘with Mary at the Master’s feet.’ But we walk as well as sit. We do not merely learn, but we practice what we know. We are not simply scholars, but, having been taught as scholars, we go on to show our scholarship by working in the vineyard or wherever else the Master may be pleased to place us. …  

     You would gather indeed from what others say, that the whole life of a Christian is to be spent in prayer. Prayer, it is true, is the vitality of the secret parts of Christian life, but we are not always on our knees! We are not constantly engaged in seeking blessings from heaven. We do continue in prayer, but we are also engaged and showing forth to others the blessings that we have received and in exhibiting in our daily actions the fruits that we have gathered on the mountaintop of communion with God. We walk, and this implies activity. …  

     ‘We walk.’ This is more than some can say. They can affirm, ‘We talk. We think. We experience. We feel.’ But true Christians can say with the apostle Paul, ‘We walk.’ Oh, that we may ever be able to say it too! Here, then, is the activity of the Christian life.

From Faith Versus Sight

Edgar A. Guest captured this idea well in his poem “Sermons We See.” The first stanza says,

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear.
And the best of all preachers are the men who live their creeds.
For to see the good in action is what everybody needs.
 

Or as Francis of Assisi noted, “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.” 

So a fantastic question for every Christian to ask themselves is this: Do people know that I’m walking with Jesus even if I never open my mouth to tell them?

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Holy Familiarity

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.

Holy Familiarity  

     All these thirteen years, so far as Scripture informs us, Abram had not a single visit from his God. We do not find any record of his either doing anything memorable or having so much as a single audience with the Most High. Learn from this that if we once forsake the track of simple faith, once cease to walk according to the purity that faith approves, we strew our path with thorns, cause God to withhold the light of His countenance from us, and pierce ourselves through with many sorrows. 

     But mark, beloved, the exceeding grace of God: The way to recover Abram from his backsliding was that the Lord should appear to him…. This brings to my remembrance the words in the book of Revelation concerning the church in Laodicea: ‘You are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth’ (Revelation 3:15-16)—a very solemn declaration. But what follows? ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me’ (Revelation 3:20). That means just this: For recovery out of a horrible state of languishing and lukewarmness there is no remedy but the coming of Jesus Christ to the soul in near and dear communion! …

     Distance from God’s presence always means sin. Holy familiarity with God engenders holiness. The more you think of God, the more you meditate on His works, the more you praise Him, the more you pray to Him, the more constantly you talk with Him and He with you by the Holy Spirit, the more surely are you on the road to thorough consecration to His cause!

From Consecration To God

I’ve often said that one of the most powerful prayers we can pray is simply, “God, help!” In those two words we acknowledge our helplessness and His omnipotence, our sin and His forgiveness, our shortcomings and His desire to restore us. 

The devil lies! He loves to whisper the condemning words of, “You’ve messed up one too many times. You’re too far away for God to rescue you now. This time you exhausted God’s mercy.” 

Once again, by simply crying out, “God, help!” you are calling out satan’s lies. Jesus paid too high of a price for Him to ever let you go. Near the end of this sermon, Charles Spurgeon spoke a powerful reminder: “The blessings of grace are not given today to be taken back tomorrow, but are eternal blessings [Genesis 17:7, 13, 19].” Amen! 

My friend, cry out to God today—He loves you and He’s longing to restore you!

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Wart Warning

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.

Wart Warning  

     At the instigation of his wife, Abraham adopted means that were not justifiable in order that he might obtain the promised heir [see Genesis 16]. He used means that may not be so vicious to him as they would be in men of modern times, but that were suggested by an unbelieving policy and were fraught with evil. He takes Hager to wife. He could not leave it to God to give him the promised seed. He could not leave it with God to fulfill His promise in His own time and justifies himself in turning aside from the narrow path of faith to accomplish, by doubtful methods, the end that God Himself had promised and undertaken to accomplish! How shorn of splendor is Abraham seen when we read, ‘And Abraham heeded the voice of Sarah’ (Genesis 16:2). That business of Hagar is to the patriarch’s deep discredit and reflects no honor at all upon either him or his faith. 

     Look at the consequences of his unbelieving! Misery soon followed. Hager despises her mistress. Sarah throws all the blame on her husband. The poor bondwoman is so harshly dealt with that she flees from the household. … One marvels that such a man as Abraham allowed one who had been brought into such a relationship with him to be heedlessly chased from his house while in a condition requiring care and kindness! 

     We admire the truthfulness of the Holy Spirit that He has been pleased to record the faults of the saints without extenuating them. Biographies of good men in Scripture are written with unflinching integrity—their evil recorded as well as their good. These faults are not written that we may say, ‘Abraham did so-and-so; therefore we may do it.’ No, brothers and sisters, the lives of these good men are warnings to us as well as examples, and we are to judge them as we should judge ourselves—by the laws of right and wrong.

From Consecration To God

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I also talk about the faults that we see in God’s leaders. In looking at David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba, Elijah’s slide into depression, and Peter’s denial of Jesus, I see something similar: They were alone. 

David stayed in Jerusalem while his army went to fight, Elijah left his servant behind and went into the wilderness alone, and Peter was separated from his fellow disciples. Just like with Abraham, all of these other men were brought back into close fellowship with God. But all of these men now have a “wart” on their biography. 

“God designed us to be in relationship with others. His statement to Adam in some of the earliest words of the Bible—‘It is not good for you to be alone’—are words for us still today. As I mentioned earlier [in my book], you will not find the word ‘saints’ in the singular in the New Testament. Instead, you will find such phrases as ‘one another,’ ‘each other,’ and ‘all together’ prominently displayed throughout the New Testament church. Let me say it again: God designed us to be in relationship with others. If you want to go far in your shepherding, you cannot try to go alone.” —from the chapter in Shepherd Leadership called ‘Going Farther’ 

Let’s be forewarned by these examples. Stay close to God, but also stay close to godly friends that will help you in the hard times. Don’t let a wart blemish your record.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Faultless

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.

Faultless  

To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 24-25) 

     I would rather turn to the blessings of which Jude speaks. He seems to ascribe in this doxology three blessings, at least, to the power of the Lord Jesus. The first is the ability to keep you from stumbling, and for this, I am sure, the highest praise is due when you consider for a moment the dangerous way. In some respects, the path to heaven is very safe. It is so as God made it. But in other respects, there is no road as dangerous as the road to eternal life. It is beset with difficulties. … One false step (and how easy it is to take that if divine grace is absent), and down we go! …  

     Only Christ has the power to take us into heaven. … Christ preserves His people though they have offended God and daily provoke His justice. And He does more, for He presents them to the King of kings in the high court of heaven itself! …  

     We proceed to notice the condition in which the saints are to be when presented—they are to be faultless—for our Lord never stops short of perfection in His work of love. … Our Savior will carry His people through this life, safe from falling, and He will present them, how?—faultless! … The righteousness of Jesus Christ will make the saint who wears it so fair that he will be positively faultless! Yes, perfect in the sight of God!

From Christians Kept In Time And Glorified In Eternity

Reading these stirring words from Charles Spurgeon, I cannot help but recall the equally stirring lyrics of this Edward Mote hymn:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay

When He shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—God Is The Great Worker

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.

God Is The Great Worker

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) 

     God Himself is the Great Worker. He may use what laborers He pleases, but the increase comes only from Him. Brothers, you know it is so in natural things—the most skillful farmer cannot make the wheat germinate, grow, and ripen. … And in the spiritual farm it is even more so, for what can man do in this business? … We can tell out the truth of God, but to apply the truth to the heart and conscience is quite another thing. … 

     Well said our Lord, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). What is the effect of all this upon your minds? Briefly I would draw certain practical lessons out of this important truth of God. (1) The first is, if the whole farm of the church belongs exclusively to the great Master Worker and the laborers are worth nothing without Him, let this promote unity among all whom He employs. … 

     (2) Next, notice that this fact ennobles everybody who labors in God’s husbandry. … 

     (3) But lastly, how this should drive us to our knees! Since we are nothing without God, let us cry mightily to Him for help in this, our holy service!

From Farm Laborers

I learned long ago of both the confidence and the humility in reminding myself that God chose me to work in His field. Here’s how I describe that in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter

     There is nothing wrong about aspiring to a leadership position. The apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy, “This is a trustworthy saying: ‘If someone aspires to be a church leader, he desires an honorable position’” (1 Timothy 3:1 nlt). Yet this desire needs to be tempered by Jeremiah’s words to his scribe Baruch, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them” (Jeremiah 45:5). Taken together, a shepherd leader’s passion for greater leadership should be to gain greater things not for himself but for others. 

     Shepherd leaders need to remind themselves frequently of this simple statement: God chose me. The confidence comes from remembering “God chose.” If God has chosen me, then He has also equipped me. He foresaw the needs of this organization, and He has prepared me to step into this role for such a time as this. The humility comes from remembering “God chose me.” Who am I that God would think so highly of me? Of all the people on Earth that God could have placed here, why did He pick me? This confident humility will do two things for us: keep us confident to continue to lead when doubts or naysayers arise, and keep us humble to continue to serve people when pride or applause arises. (except from chapter 2 “Secure To Serve”) 

How important it is to remind ourselves that God makes things grow—not us. Our role is to perform the highest-quality labor possible, and to remain faithful at our post until God gives us a new assignment.  

This isn’t true just for church leaders, but for every member of the Body of Christ

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