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.

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Links & Quotes

I came across a passage from a blog post I wrote 10 years ago, but it is still so timely for today: “Pastors, we can become so focused on the next sermon, the next appointment, the next Board meeting, the next outreach that we are actually worshiping the ministry instead of worshiping God through our ministry. When we are more focused on the work than on God, we can easily begin to feel over-worked and under-appreciated.”

“Stay with your Lord, however long the night, for only in Him have you hope of the morning!” —Charles Spurgeon

“I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.” —Clyde Kilby

Sean McDowell has an informative conversation with Titus Kennedy on the archeological evidence for the people and places in the Bible.

Jonathan Edwards wrote words that resonate with my message about pastors following the example of the Great Shepherd Jesus. “The ministers of Christ should be persons of the same spirit that their Lord was of: the same spirit of humility and lowliness of heart; for the servant is not greater than his Lord. They should be of the same spirit of heavenly-mindedness and contempt of the glory, wealth, and pleasures of this world: they should be of the same spirit of devotion and fervent love to God: they should follow the example of His prayerfulness; of whom we read from time to time of His retiring from the world, away from the noise and applauses of the multitudes, into mountains and solitary places, for secret prayer, and holy converse with his Father….” —Jonathan Edwards

“Wonderful things are told in this book [Daniel]. To those who find it difficult to believe these things, we say: let us remember that for one thousand years God had been nurturing the Hebrew nation for the purpose of establishing, through that nation, in a world of idol-worshiping nations, the idea that God is God. Now God’s nation had been destroyed by a nation that worshiped idols. That was plain evidence to all the world that the gods of Babylon were more powerful than the God of the Jews. It was a crisis in God’s struggle with idolatry. If ever there was a time when God needed to do something to show who He is, it was during the Babylonian exile. Strange indeed it would have been if nothing unusual had happened. Hard as it may be to believe these miracles, it would be harder to believe the rest of the story without them.

“At least the Jews, who from the very beginning had always been falling into idolatry, were now at last, in the Babylonian exile, convinced that their own God was the true God. These miracles also had a powerful influence on both Nebuchadnezzar and Darius (3:29; 6:26).” —Halley’s Study Bible

The Importance Of Margin

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 Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis and Dace Clifton. 

Jesus demonstrated an important principle for all leaders: In order for us to lead effectively over a long period of time, leaders must be healthy. Jesus showed us His mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health. 

In my discussion with Kyle and Dace, we talked about the value of creating margins in our life to keep us at our full potential.  

I have five chapters in my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter where I dive deep into how leaders can work on being wholly healthy. I encourage you to check it out. You can also check out a short clip from a recent Craig And Greg Show episode where we discuss the importance of self-care.  

I’ll be sharing more clips from this Thriving In Ministry 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? ◀︎◀︎

The Confident-Humble Tension

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 Thriving In Ministry podcast with Kyle Willis and Dace Clifton. 

When I was trying to explain to my friends why I was writing Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, I found that many were quite intrigued by the idea of the confident humility—or the humble confidence—that Jesus so perfectly demonstrated for us. 

Almost every leader I’ve met tends to be naturally wired as either a confident leader or a humble leader. Our effectiveness as a shepherd leader comes in allowing the Holy Spirit to help us maintain a healthy tension between those two poles. Jesus did this perfectly, and we are to follow His example. 

I have two chapters in my book discussing this tension. Here’s how I introduce the topic in the chapter “A confident leader’s attitude adjustment: 

God has created each of us uniquely—implanted with the temperament, talents, and personality He wanted each of us to have. God made you on purpose, and He made you for a purpose. But that being said, shepherd leaders are almost never perfectly balanced. If you’ve ever taken a temperaments assessment or any other kind of personality test, you know that you had some attributes that were more prominent than others. God never gives us weaknesses, but our areas of strength can become a self-imposed weakness if we rely on our strength instead of on our Strength Giver. 

Leaders tend toward two poles: confidence or humility. God made us this way on purpose. But to be the best shepherd leader, we each must allow the Holy Spirit to help us learn to lead in a more balanced way. If we lean too much toward confidence, we can come across as arrogant and even tyrannical. But if we lean too much toward humility, we can appear to be weak, indecisive, and unsure of our leadership direction. None of us will be perfect in this at every single moment, but with the proper attitude adjustments, we can learn to more consistently stay at the balanced point of being humbly confident or confidently humble. 

I’ll be sharing more clips from this interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is now available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? ◀︎◀︎

You Are A Unique Masterpiece

The Bible uses two phrases that we don’t typically use today: “the horn of the wicked” and “the horn of the righteous.” 

A horn in Hebrew literature is a symbol of strength. The wicked blow their own horn—trumpeting how they are self-made people. Obviously, this God-ignoring arrogance isn’t something God can bless! 

What about “the horn of the righteous”? Is there a way to blow our horn so that God is glorified? In a word: Yes!

Check out this short 2-minute video to hear how I describe the right and wrong ways to honor your uniqueness by blowing a righteous, God-honoring horn…

Always remember this—You are God’s grace gift to the world, so you must always strive to blow a God-honoring horn! 

If you would like to check out some of the other thoughts I shared about our horns, please click here. 

Poetry Saturday—You-er Than You

Today you are you, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is you-er than you.
Shout aloud, I am glad to be what I am.
Thank goodness I’m not a ham, or a clam,
or a dusty old jar of gooseberry jam.
I am what I am, what a great thing to be.
If I say so myself, happy everyday to me! —Dr. Seuss

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Unique And Purposeful

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.

Unique And Purposeful

     You cannot tell from where the wind comes [John 3:8]. You know it blows from the north or from the west, but at what particular place does that wind start on its journey? Where will it pause in its onward flight? You see that it is blowing to the east or to the west, but where is it going? From where did these particles of air originate that rush so rapidly past? Where are they going? By what laws are they guided in their course, and where will their journey end? …  

     All the true operations of the Spirit are due in no sense whatever to man but always to God and to His sovereign will. … There is arbitrariness about the wind. It does just as it pleases, and the laws that regulate its changes are unknown to man. … So is the mighty working of God! … 

     There are times when all is still and calm, when everything is quiet and you can scarcely detect the wind at all. Now just so it is with the Spirit of God. To some of us He came like a rushing mighty wind. … To others He comes so gently they cannot tell when first the Spirit of God came. … The Spirit of God, as a sovereign, will always choose His own way of operation. … 

     The wind not only differs in force, but it differs in direction. … Perhaps there never were two winds that did blow exactly in the same direction. … Now, the Spirit of God comes from different directions. … God causes the wind to blow just that way He wills. He works, also, through different texts of Scripture. You were converted and blessed under one text; it was quite another that was made useful to me. … God never repeats Himself. … Every Christian is a distinct work of divine grace on God’s part that has in it some originality, some portion distinct from all others.

From The Holy Spirit Compared To The Wind 

You are unique, a one-of-a-kind creation. God knew exactly what He was doing when He made you the way He did. God made you on purpose and for a unique purpose. 

Since you are unique, don’t expect God to speak with you like He did with someone else. He will speak with you in a unique way that is only for you. The Bible gives us many implicit principles for hearing God’s voice, but it never gives us explicit practices for hearing Him. 

God created you to do unique things that will bring Him glory, so don’t try to copy someone else. You be you. That is how God is most glorified through you!

 

Think On This…

Here’s the seed thought for this episode of Think On This

My t-shirt from To Write Love On Her Arms that says, “You make today better.”

Think on this: Am I being intentional about making other people’s today better? Am I expressing my gratitude to those who are making my today better?

Knowing God’s Will

My dear friends Josh and Judy are moving. They feel like God has been calling them to Nebraska, and I affirm that God is directing them into this new chapter for their lives. I will miss them dearly, but I know God has indeed called them. 

During times like this many people will often ask, “How do I know that God is directing me?” 

In the Bible we see God speaking to people in several ways: 

  • An audible voice 
  • Through His prophets 
  • Sending an angel 
  • In a dream or vision 
  • One time God’s finger wrote a message on a wall
  • One time God spoke through a donkey 

But most often God speaks through the inner voice of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a Person. He is described as having a mind, a will, and emotions. Although He doesn’t have a physical body, He is still a Person. Just like any person you could get to know, you can get to know the Holy Spirit more and more personally, becoming increasingly more acquainted with His voice. 

All of us are unique individuals. God has never, ever duplicated a person. Your combination of genes, talents, personality, and personal experiences make you a one-of-a-kind in all of human history. That means that God speaks uniquely to each of us. 

Even though the exact manner God will speak to us will be unique, there are some clear principles that we can know from the Bible. 

1. Humbly listen for God’s voice.

Solomon wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Let me unpack three key phrases:

  • lean not on your own understanding really means humbly exchanging an “I know best” posture for a “God, You know best” posture. 
  • acknowledge Him is the Hebrew word yada. This word means knowledge that comes from personal experience. This is where you act on something you think the Holy Spirit is saying to you and then evaluate it. It’s how you get to know the Person of the Holy Spirit better and better. 
  • He will make straight your paths might be better stated, “He will make your paths agreeable to His will.” In other words, you begin to feel in-sync with the Holy Spirit. The opposite of this would be grieving the Holy Spirit, where you feel out-of-step with God. 

2. Consult with godly friends. 

In Acts 16, the apostle Paul and his companions are attempting to go into new territories to share the good news about Jesus but Luke records twice that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow them. Perhaps they felt out-of-sync with the Spirit when they attempted to make their plans. Ultimately, God did open a door for them to move forward and Luke writes, “Concluding that God had called us.” Notice that word “us.” Paul shared his heart with his godly friends and they affirmed God’s voice, much as I affirmed the call on Josh and Judy’s lives in their move. 

3. Don’t be overly concerned about making a mistake. 

In Romans 8, Paul reminds us that God is working all things together for your good and for His glory. “All things” means even your mistakes—like not noticing that the Spirit was prompting you to move, or perhaps temporarily heading down a wrong path. The Holy Spirit can help you look back and see how these experiences have prepared you for your present moment. Even those missteps can be used for God’s glory. But most importantly, those missteps have never diminished God’s love for you! 

Your journey will be unique from everyone else’s journey, but these three principles are applicable to everyone who wants to walk in the paths God has set for them. 

God’s Unrivaled Pencil

Not a flower
But shows some touch in freckle, streak or stain
Of His unrivaled pencil. He inspires
Their balmy odors, and imparts their hues,
And bathes their eyes with nectar.
Happy he
Who walks with Him! —William Cowper







all photos (c) Craig T. Owens 2020

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