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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Godly Leaders Do God’s Justice

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

How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? (Psalm 82:2)

It’s been said that those who attain a position of authority or leadership will make it their sole focus to retain that position of leadership, even to the point of judging unjustly or showing partiality to the wicked. 

In my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I wrote, “When God uses the word ‘Woe!’ we should definitely take that seriously. He uses that very word to warn shepherd leaders who were shirking their responsibility when He said, ‘Woe to those shepherds who only take care of themselves’ (Ezekiel 34:2).” 

God is the Ultimate Judge, yet while we are here on earth He chooses to allow men and women to be leaders and judges. We can do this in a God-honoring way only when we lead and judge like God. 

In this psalm, God Himself calls out the ungodly practices that self-serving leaders employ to keep themselves popular and in their positions of leadership: 

  • partiality = wickedness 
  • biases = wickedness 
  • apathy = wickedness 
  • injustice = wickedness 
  • ignoring = wickedness 
  • seeking earthly applause = wickedness 
  • taking advantage of others = wickedness 

Instead, God calls on leaders to lead according to the principles He both exhibits Himself and lists for us in the Bible. Things like…

  • defending the poor 
  • serving as a father to the fatherless
  • dispensing justice to the disempowered 
  • speaking up for the voiceless
  • standing up to the wicked 
  • and doing all of these things in a way that God is glorified 

I must always remember why I am in any position of leadership: God chose me for that position and placed me there to do His justice in the world. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who is doing God’s justice in God’s way.

This is part 57 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

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Craig And Greg Talk Shepherd Leadership

I have known Greg Heeres for almost 30 years. During that time we have grown as close as brothers, partnering on numerous projects, both personally and professionally. One of our shared passions is developing leaders. Out of this passion we began a video and audio podcast called The Craig And Greg Show. 

We switched up our format just a bit in a recent episode so that Greg could interview me about my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter. 

I was also thrilled to receive an endorsement from another church leadership blogger that I greatly admire: 

“In his new book, Shepherd Leadership, Craig T. Owens gets to the heart of pastoral ministry and caring about people with great wisdom. Jesus sets the example for us as the good shepherd, and Craig delivers practical principles for healthy leadership that allows you the opportunity for freedom as God intended, joy in serving, and ultimately experiencing the full blessing of God.”Dan Reiland, Executive Pastor, 12Stone Church, Lawrenceville, GA

You may listen to the audio-version of Greg’s interview of me on the player below, and I’ve also shared the link to watch the video of this interview.

The Source Of A Leader’s Moral Authority

Samuel said to all Israel… (1 Samuel 12:1-25). 

A mark of a godly leader is one who leads with God’s moral authority. 

Samuel had always been a public person: accessible and visible to all. Now he calls all Israel together to challenge them to point out where he may have taken a bribe or used his position to his own advantage. All Israel was silent on this—no one could speak a word against him (v. 4). This gave him the moral authority to speak a hard word to the people. 

Samuel reminds Israel that God is sovereign:

  • God appoints leaders
  • God overrules evil plans
  • God fulfills all His purposes

Samuel had to “confront [them] with evidence” (v. 7) that they had not acted like those things were true about God. A prophet frequently has to say, “Here is God’s standard, and here is where you are falling short of His standard.” But a shepherd’s voice quickly adds, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right” (v. 23). 

This prophet-shepherd is attested to by God Himself. God will sometimes thunder His thunder (vv. 17-18), but God will always make sure that none of His servant’s words fall to the ground (3:19). This moral authority is gained by both fearing God and delighting in Him.

Fear of God brings the prophet’s voice forward. Delighting in God brings the shepherd’s voice forward. God’s effective leader needs both voices to lead with moral authority.

This is part 47 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Poetry Saturday—The 23 Psalme

The God of love my shepherd is,

             And He that doth me feed:
While He is mine, and I am His,
             What can I want or need?

He leads me to the tender grasse,
             Where I both feed and rest;
Then to the streams that gently passe:
             In both I have the best.

Or if I stray, He doth convert
             And bring my minde in frame:
And all this not for my desert,
             But for His holy name.

Yea, in death’s shadie black abode
             Well may I walk, not fear:
For Thou art with me; and Thy rod
             To guide, Thy staff to bear.

Nay, Thou dost make me sit and dine,
             Ev’n in my enemies sight:
My head with oyl, my cup with wine
             Runnes over day and night.

Surely Thy sweet and wondrous love
             Shall measure all my dayes;
And as it never shall remove,
             So neither shall my praise. —George Herbert

Poetry Saturday—Taladh Chriosda

The Lord my shepherd is and I 
shall not want. He makes me lie 
in green pastures, leads me by 
refreshing waters, still.

Restore my soul, Lord, day by day.
Lead me in Your righteous way 
for Your Name’s sake, Lord, I pray 
according to Your will.

And though through death’s dark vail I go,
I no fear of evil show, 
for Your rod and staff, I know, 
shall guard and comfort still.

A table You before me spread 
in the midst of those I dread, 
and with oil anoint my head.
My cup You overfill.

Thus goodness e’er shall follow me, 
mercy all my path shall see,
Your house shall my dwelling be 
forever after still. —T.M. Moore, in Bricks And Rungs

Leading Like A Shepherd

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them (Psalm 78:72). 

The most powerful king Israel ever had is applauded for leading his people with integrity and skill like a shepherd. Not as a warlord, not as a kingdom builder, not as a musician and songwriter; but a lowly, unassuming shepherd. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who leads like a shepherd.

A shepherd is known for these qualities—

—shepherds don’t see their sheep as a mass, but know each and every individual by name. 

—shepherds lead their flock by walking in the middle of the group so that they can be as close to as many sheep as possible. 

—shepherds are attentive to the particular needs of the young, the sick, and the elderly.

—shepherds lay down in the dirt to protect any places vulnerable to a predator’s attack. 

—shepherds find the best food and water possible for their sheep. 

—shepherds search for any sheep who have strayed away. 

—David shepherded the people of Israel just as he himself had been shepherded by God.

This is an invaluable lesson every leader should learn! 

This is part 30 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

UPDATE: This post was one of the seed thoughts that went into fashioning my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter.

11 Quotes From “The Heart Of A Leader”

As the title hints, Ken Blanchard makes the case that the heart of great leadership is a leader’s great heart. You can check out my full book review of The Heart Of A Leader by clicking here.

“Remember, the best leaders are those who understand that their power flows through them, not from them.”

“Many well-intentioned leaders wait to praise their people until they do things exactly right, complete the project, or accomplish the goal. The problem here is that they could wait forever. You see, ‘exactly right’ behavior is made up of a whole series of approximately right behaviors. It makes more sense to praise progress.”

“An effective leader will make it a priority to help his or her people produce good results in two ways: making sure people know what their goals are and doing everything possible to support, encourage, and coach them to accomplish those goals.”

“If you don’t take time out to think, strategize, and prioritize, you will work a whole lot harder, without enjoying the benefits of a job smartly done.”

“Nice guys may appear to finish last, but usually they are running in a different race.” —Ken Blanchard and Norman Vincent Peale

“Being too hard on yourself is counterproductive. Don’t expect instant perfection. Though self-criticism is healthy, it should not be destructive. It’s unfair to be hard on yourself the first time you attempt something new. It is also unfair to expect others to meet such an unrealistic expectation. Keep in mind that it’s unnecessary to do everything exactly right the first time.”

“Here’s a great rule for doing business today: Think more about your people, and they will think more of themselves.”

“When you ask people about the best leader they ever had, one quality is always mentioned: they are good listeners. These leaders have learned to ‘sort by others.’ When someone says, ‘It’s a beautiful day,’ they respond by keeping the focus on the speaker. For example, they’ll respond, ‘It sounds like you’re pretty happy today.’ Poor listeners ‘sort by self.’ If you express a concern you have, they will express a concern they have.”

“Leading people is the opposite of trying to control them; it’s about gaining their trust through your integrity, developing their potential through your partnership, and motivating them through your affirmation.”

“Consistency does not mean behaving the same way all the time. It actually means behaving the same way under similar circumstances. … When you respond to your people in the same way under similar circumstances, you give them a valuable gift: the gift of predictability.”

“Remember that the primary biblical image of servant leadership is that of the shepherd. The flock is not there for the sake of the shepherd; the shepherd is there for the sake of the flock.”

12 Blessings While Going Through A Valley

Watch overValley times come to all people. Even Christians.

The Songs Of Ascent in the Psalms imply this, since the pilgrims are ascending from a valley to the place of worship in Jerusalem. But this idea of going through a valley is especially seen in Psalm 121.

The song starts by saying I lift my eyes up to the hills. He then sings that he found his help in God. This idea of help is not what we think of in today’s world. It’s not like dialing 9-1-1, reporting our need, and waiting for help to arrive. It’s not even like driving to a hospital, checking into the emergency room, and waiting for a doctor to see us.

The idea of help in the Bible is a picture of surrounding. It’s not something we have to wait to arrive, but something—or should I say Someone—Who is already right there!

In verses 4-8 the phrase watch over is used five times. This too gives us the idea of the closeness of our help. The Hebrew word translated watch over has four powerful word pictures:

  1. A Gardener carefully watching over his precious garden.
  2. A Soldier dutifully guarding a valuable treasure.
  3. A Watchman diligently scanning the horizon for any approaching enemies.
  4. A Shepherd lovingly attending to his flock.

I especially like the picture of shepherd, because of another valley reference. The opening words to Psalm 23 are, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Then we read what the Good Shepherd does for His sheep when they are in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Our Shepherd…

  1. Gives us His confidence so we will fear no evil
  2. Reveals His close, intimate presence
  3. Protects us with His rod
  4. Guides us with His staff
  5. Brings comfort to our hurts
  6. Provides us with food
  7. Anoints us with His blessings
  8. Pours out His overflowing blessings
  9. Allows His goodness and love to always follow us
  10. Gives us the assurance of eternal life

Then adding a couple of more blessings from Psalm 121, we see He…

11.  Never lets our foot slip (121:3)

12. Never sleeps or slumbers, so that we can rest securely (121:3-4)

Remember these songs of ascent are sung by those coming out of the valley. They are sung to remind us of God’s deliverance, they are also sung as encouragement to those still in the Valley.

Keep singingJesus went through the darkest Valley anyone has ever gone through. It wasn’t just the valley of the shadow of death, He went through death, hell and the grave. He overcame for you and me! He now walks with us in our valleys. He says to us, “I’ve been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it. I will never leave you or forsake you. I know this valley. I know how to get you out of this valley. Trust Me!”

We, too, who have been through the valleys and are now singing the song of ascent, need to sing loudly for those who are still in the valleys. We need to sing songs of assurance to them: “I have been in that same valley. I know how dark it is. But I know God watched over me and brought me safely through. Now I have a much better vantage point. And I say to you, trust Him! He is watching over you too. He will not let your foot slip. He will not sleep or slumber. He will protect you, and anoint you, and feed you, and give you His own dear presence. Don’t stop walking!”

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, you can access the complete list by clicking here.

Worry Unlearned

We started a new series yesterday called The Stranglehold Of Worry. The word worry originated with shepherds. When a wild dog or a wolf had killed a sheep by grabbing it by its throat and choking it to death, the shepherds said that sheep had been worried to death.

In modern times, researchers at Purdue University found that worrying can chop 16 years off of someone’s life. Not only does worry rob your life of years, but it can also rob your years of life.

What exactly is worry? Fear is our natural response to real threats, like a car heading toward you in your lane of traffic. Worry is our response to perceived threats (to unseen things), like the car that may head toward your kids’ car when they are driving.

Get this clear: worry is being fearful of the unseen.

Compare that to the Bible’s definition of faithNow faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Worry and faith both operate in the unseen dimension.

Fear is innate, but worry is learned.

Faith is worry unlearned.

Worry tells your brain a story about bad things that may happen.

Faith tells your brain a story about good things that should happen. Based on what you’ve already experienced of God’s power, what you’ve already seen in God’s provision, or what you already know of God’s promises, your faith in God can help you unlearn your worry.

The prophet Jeremiah tended to be a worrywart. Maybe that’s why he’s been called the “weeping prophet.” But in the middle of his worrying, he unlearns his worry by using his faith to tell a different story about God’s provision, power, and promises:

I well remember [the bad things], and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.”

Did you notice that Jeremiah talked to himself? He wrote, “I say to myself.” If you have a tendency to worry, it’s time to start talking to yourself and telling yourself a different story. Instead of being fearful of the bad things you cannot see, why not be hopeful of the good things of God you can see?

Let your faith in God help you unlearn your worry. You can overcome worry and anxiety by telling yourself a new faith-filled, hope-oriented story. You can recall God’s faithfulness in the past, and apply it to your current circumstance.

What stories are you telling yourself today? Share with others how you overcame, or are in the process of overcoming worry now. Your faith story will help others overcome and unlearn their worry too.

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