Archives For Shepherding


Oftentimes problems with the fruit on a tree are not because of problems with the fruit on the tree. Below the soil’s surface, there is usually a sickness present. Things like fungus, poor nutrient content in the soil, insufficient watering, and pests can plague the roots and subsequently damage the tree. So goes the root, so goes the fruit. Neglect the root, neglect the fruit.

Imagine an orchardist who addressed sickly trees by only addressing the fruit. He approaches the sickly lemon tree, puts up his ladder, and inspects the lemons. Some of the lemons are flaccid, some shrunken, and others cracked open and rotten. Then, imagine, that he breaks out a syringe with store-bought lemon juice and injects the emaciated lemons to fill them out a bit. To repair the sickly, split lemons, he breaks out some band-aids and closes up those holes. Finally, he notices some fruitless branches. So, he breaks out his duct-tape and tapes some nice-looking, store-bought lemons to the branches. He steps back and notices that, for the moment, the tree looks fruitful. For the moment.

Often in our lives, we approach personal change and sanctification like that orchardist.

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Every movement and organization has their sayings. They can be helpful when they are accurate and memorable. But they can also be destructive when they are inaccurate and memorable. Such sayings float around a bit in Christendom.

Thus, it behooves us to evaluate things we say against Scripture so that we accurately represent the faith. Oftentimes newer or mis-shepherded Christians will latch onto sayings, get swept down the stream of error, and cause others to do the same.

Here are a few such Christian sayings that ought to be buried.

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April 27, 2016

Love & Bragging

by Eric Davis
INDIO, CA - APRIL 13: DJ Moby performs onstage during day 2 of the 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 13, 2013 in Indio, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Coachella)

It was early on in our church planting endeavors. Our sapling church was hardly standing. Many had come and even more had gone. It was a painful time for me. But not always for righteous reasons. I ached that the sapling was so small, numerically. I sorrowed over so few staying. Church-planting and ministry friends would ask the dreaded question: “So how is the church plant going?” “Uh, fine. Sort of.” Which lead into the next, more-dreaded question: “How many people are attending now?” “Uh, well, at one point we had, like, 50ish.”

As I look back on those days, I have to ask myself, “Why were those such dreaded questions?” For me, there was really one reason: I wanted to brag. I craved crowing over numbers and ministry results. I wanted to boast in “what the Lord was doing” and “how humbled I was that the Lord had brought so many.” But I didn’t want to boast in the Lord. I wanted a triple-digit number to brag about to our supporters. I wanted to boast in me. I wanted the spotlight.

“Love does not brag” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Among other things, the Corinthians were boasting about the supposed supernatural spiritual experiences that they were having, hence Paul’s correction. “Brag.” The word has the idea of self-glorification, boasting, and a superficial self-applauder. It speaks of someone who vaunts, displays, and praises self.

Why is love antithetical to bragging? Bragging is an expression of self-worship (over and above God) and self-love (over and above others). All love and glory is channelled to self.

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HDR_BrokenFence-800x300It was a few months after surgery and the bills started arriving. Thirty thousand for this, forty for that. My medical bills were racking up. Thankfully, the co-op to which I belong (and my godly wife) had a handle on things and were coming through in the clutch. But there was one reimbursement that was absent, and it was a big one. A check from a co-op member in the sum of about $20,000 was supposed to come in to pay the hospital, but it was late. One month. Then two. I lost my cool on more than on occasion. “Where is that check?!” “Who is this person keeping us hanging like that?” “What is their problem? Don’t they know that we have six-figure bills here?”

Then my wife got the letter. Along with the check was an apology from the individual. “I am so sorry that this is late. I have cancer and am going through rounds of chemotherapy right now, and, because of that, have been experiencing memory loss.”

Bronson Caves in Griffith Park.

I wanted to crawl into a cave and never return. The Holy Spirit necessarily and lovingly crushed me with conviction. The judgmental spirit. The speed with which I assumed the worst. It was sinful. And it’s something I have struggled with far too often.

“Love…believes all things” (1 Cor. 13:4, 7). Love believes the best about one another.

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Insurance companies amaze me sometimes. Something like one little speeding ticket or a minor fender-bender, and everything changes. Your monthly payment sky-rockets. They no longer trust you. Simply for doing the human thing of making a mistake, you henceforth are placed on insurance detention. They not only record the minor mishap, but your previously good relationship with them goes sour from merely one mistake. One little blunder results in a tarnished relationship.

Too often we can be the same way in our relationships with one another. Someone commits a few small sins against us and look out; like the graceless insurance company, the relationship gutters. We place them on our spiritual detention list for relational prosecution. We are no longer trusting, but suspecting. We are no longer caring, but gossiping. We are no longer inviting, but ignoring. We are no longer loving, but judging. And we are sinning.

“Love…does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Cor. 13:5).

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Amusing sheep stories abound. Some of my moments of more rigorous chortling have been in response to real-life sheep tragi-comedies. One of the more recent involves what is called the “Draad Kruiper,” which I heard from my good friend, Pastor Anton Van Straaten. “Draad Kruiper” is Afrikaans for, “fence crawler.” The story goes like this: Continue Reading…


It’s inevitable. People are going to hurt us. Even those close to you. In fact, perhaps especially those close to you.

With every hurt, there is the potential to wake the bitterness monster. He’s a light sleeper. And he’s more clever than we think. Even a small relationship scuffle is enough to arouse him into action. We mustn’t underestimate him.

Bitterness: hurt incurred from either real or perceived offense, gone unchecked, and allowed to continue by failure to apply biblical principles and thinking to the hurt, resulting in hatred and resentment.

Bitterness is the quick fix for the flesh. Dealing biblically with conflict and hurt becomes too much work. So, like a spiritual pusher, bitterness offers a quick high. But, though it delivers for a moment, it destroys in the long run.

To be sure, real hurt occurs far too often through atrocities such as abuse and criminal acts. In these cases, fighting bitterness can be excruciating. Even and especially so, God extends comforting and transforming grace for the greatest of life’s hurts (cf. Gen. 50:20).

But often, bitterness slips in and sows it seeds in the thousands of smaller moments and battles of normal life. For that reason, we must be on guard. Christian, we have got to resist this one. And repent. It is a killer.

Here are a few ways that I have been helped in my own battles with bitterness:

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You have to do one thing to ensure a run-in with misery: exist. In a fallen world, it’s inevitable. And, for many, it’s unbearable.

Misery: a state of dissatisfaction, unfulfillment, and emptiness. It is the consequence of pursuing something other than the biblical Christ for salvation, satisfaction, and/or stability. Though it may deceitfully appear as happiness in the short-term, it eventually returns with a vengeance, and, in some cases, eternally. Often, the longer it delays its experiential effects, the worse it will be when its numbing smoke and mirrors are removed.

But much of misery begins and is compounded in the heart. It’s often a spiritual issue at its root. And certain lines of thinking can pour fuel on misery’s fire. Which means we ought to discern how it works.

Here are several ways to ensure your own spiritual misery:

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It’s inevitable. Like every year, this is going to be a year where relationship struggle will not be absent. While we are here on earth, it will not be heaven, which also means that there will be not-so-heavenly people around you. Whether a relationship with a spouse, kids, other family, co-workers, church members, fellow-leadership, or neighbors, you are going to encounter battles in your relationships. It’s just a part of life.

Are we ready to handle those? If someone were to ask us, “What is your theology for how to handle relational disappointment?” how would you respond? What is your plan? No plan is a bad plan. And avoiding people will not do.

One of the greater, and unnecessary, complicating factors in such struggles is an insufficient theology for facing disappointment in relationships. It’s unnecessary, because our God has equipped us thoroughly with the tools from his word to adequately face the inevitable disappointment of human relationships. So, since we are going to frequently disappoint and irritate each other this side of heaven, we must have a response-plan in place which honors God by aligning with his word.

Here are a few responses to prepare us for a right handling of inevitable relational struggles:

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Happy New Year 2016 replace 2015 concept on the sea beach

Without knowing what the future holds, we can safely say that there is one thing we will need for 2016: godliness. To stably and safely weather all of the we’re-not-in-heaven-yet things coming from this new year, we will need a high dose of christlikeness and, if you’re like me, an increase thereof. So, sanctification should be a dear friend as we turn a calendar year (and as we enter each day, for that matter).

Sanctification: God’s work of progressively conforming the Christian into christlikeness from the time of spiritual birth (regeneration) until we see Jesus (glorification), through the Spirit, our effort, the means of grace, and any number of circumstances. Sanctification is not the means of salvation, but the consequence of it.

But oftentimes, we can have a myopic, low view of sanctification. For example, it really only occurs when I sit down for my daily quiet time or during the Sunday sermon. Yet sanctification involves much more than that because God the Father is much more involved than that in the lives of believers.


Putting sanctification in its appropriately high place will position us for the kind of people we need to be for the new year. A high view of sanctification involves two ideas. First, it sees God as big, his love as involved, and his sovereignty as limitless. Second, with those things in mind, a high view of sanctification means we are more occupied by seeing God’s sanctifying work in our lives through struggle than we are irritated by the struggle; the particular means (e.g. difficult people, jobs, family, health trials) which he uses to sanctify us.

Similarly, a high view of sanctification involves these four tenets:

  1. God’s work in every Christian is to continually and progressively conform them into the image of Christ.
  2. God uses all sorts of circumstances (especially difficult ones) to accomplish our progressive formation into christlikeness.
  3. God is sovereign over all things; us, every detail of our lives, the lives of those around us, and everything else.
  4. Therefore, an accurate view of my life, as a Christian, involves seeing how, not if, God is using every circumstance—big and small, difficult and less difficult—to accomplish my sanctification.

With that, here are a few reasons to be armed with a high view of sanctification so as to position ourselves for a good 2016, no matter what the year is like:

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