Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

Brilliant in the Basics – Part 1

In my early ministry years, I put together a list of “basic” biblical truths that I needed to remind myself of regularly.

I titled it Brilliant in the Basics.

No matter how much we learn or grow spiritually, there will always be certain ‘basics’ we need to regularly revisit which form the foundation of our walk with Christ and keep us centered on God and His glory.

Below are the first five (15 total) of these briefly listed “basics” that I return to over and over:

  1. The foundation for effective Christian living is thinking rightly and biblically about who God is. What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. Satan’s number one goal is to deceive us about who God is (Genesis 3:1-7; Isaiah 40:25-26; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Matthew 4:1-11; John 1:1; Colossians 1:16-17; 1 Timothy 1:17).
  2. Pursuing God with a passion is the beginning point of life’s most incredible journey. It is to be a mark of the normal Christian life. We are to seek the face of God as for silver or hidden treasure (Proverbs 2:4-5; Psalm 27:4-5; Psalm 37:4-5; Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 63:1; Psalm 84:10-11; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Matthew 6:33).
  3. God is our loving Father. He has compassion on us. We are His children… His heirs. He knows the number of hairs on our head. He bottles our tears. He will never leave us nor will He ever forsake us (Psalm 55:22; Psalm 56:8; Psalm 103:13,14; Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 41:9-10; Zephaniah 3:17; Romans 5:8; Romans 8:15-17, 31-32, 38-39; Galatians 4:6,7; Ephesians 3:17-19; Hebrews 13:8).
  4. God calls us to walk by faith, not by sight. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Romans 4:20-21; Hebrews 11:1, 3, 6, 24-27).
  5. Nothing comes into our lives as believers that has not first passed through the hand of God. Everything that comes into your life has been allowed by God for your good and His glory. Because of what they are producing in us, we can welcome trials and problems as friends. We don’t have to resent them. We can rejoice when they come. Maturity will not come without problems, trials and difficulties (Job 1:6-12; Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6,7).
*The accompanying Scriptures are not meant to be exhaustive, but simply a brief representation of what Scripture says on this subject.

Summer Quotes to Note – Part 2

Paul Madson

“Lord Jesus, if you were prejudiced, you not only would not have died for people from every tongue, tribe, and nation, but you wouldn’t have come to human beings at all! When I am tempted to look down at ‘that type,’ help me to remember your unprejudiced, free grace for me. Amen.” (Timothy Keller)

“The difference between responding and reacting is a choice. When you react, they’re in control. When you respond, you are.” (Henry Cloud)

“Jesus’ kingship is not like human kingships, for it wins influence through suffering service, not coercive power.” (Timothy Keller)

“Legalism A: I earn a relationship with God by my works and holiness.
Legalism B: I keep a relationship with God by my works and holiness.
The Gospel: I trust in Jesus’ life of perfect obedience and his death on the cross to put and keep me in relationship with God. He is my holiness.” (Scotty Smith)

“We have no idea how busy God’s hands are even when His mouth seems closed. Where God is concerned, silence never equals slumber.” (Beth Moore)

“Nothing you did today made God delight in you more. Nothing you did diminished his love for you. This doesn’t mean God is indifferent. Rather, he is tenaciously consistent, steadfast in his love, and abounding in grace, He made Jesus your righteousness, not your second chance.” (Scotty Smith)

“You do what is good in God’s eyes because he loves you, not with the hope that if you do good, he will love you.” (Paul Tripp)

“Christ’s love towards us, and not our love towards Christ, is the true ground of expectation, and true foundation of hope … To look inward to our love towards Christ is painfully unsatisfying: to look outward to Christ’s love towards us is peace.” (J.C. Ryle – 1816-1900)

Summer Quotes to Note – Part 1

“God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God’s refusals are always merciful — ‘severe mercies’ — at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our heart’s desire except to give us something better.” (Elisabeth Elliot)

“Painfully, suffering is almost a prerequisite if we are going to be of much use to other people. It makes us far more compassionate.” (Tim Keller)

“We trust (our eternal Father) so much that we do not doubt he will provide whatever we need for body and soul, and he will turn to our good whatever adversity he sends us in this sad world. He is able to do this because he is Almighty God; he desires to do this because he is a faithful father. Nothing can separate us from his love.” (Heidelberg Catechism)

“The Lord calls us to love all people, including those who are enemies of the gospel and those who blaspheme. This may not be comfortable, and it may not be easy, but this is the gospel of Christ, for He loved His enemies so much that He died to save us.” (Francis A. Schaeffer)

“We will love our neighbors well (and our enemies) to the degree we believe the gospel is true, the throne of heaven is occupied, and Jesus will return to finish making all things new.” (Scotty Smith)

“I’m learning that my job is to simply give what little I have to God –  my not nearly enough – and let Him do ‘the impossible thing’.” (Sally Lloyd-Jones)

“Anxiety is our agitated soul fighting for control.” (Beth Moore)

“It is always possible to be grateful for what is given rather than resentful over what is withheld. One or the other will become a way of life.” (Elisabeth Elliot)

Spring Quotes to Note – Part 2

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“The cross is the single most significant symbol of forgiveness in history. Made by men, used by God, it is the hallmark of man at his worst and God at His best.” (Tim Kimmel)

“Hell will be populated by people who insist they were good enough for heaven. Heaven will be populated by people who insist they were bad enough for hell.” (Josh Howerton)

“The church endures, rolling along on while competing forms of religion and nonbelief rise, wane, and are forgotten. Christianity faithful to God’s Word will last until the end of time and beyond (Matthew 16:18).” (Timothy Keller)

“God’s love was intended to be demonstrated, not dictated. Our job is not to manipulate or induce others to agree with us… Our charge is to both proclaim and embody the gospel so that others can see, hear, and feel God’s love in tangible ways.” (Richard Stearns)

“Love is never primarily defined in the Bible as a feeling. At its foundation, love is at least a commitment and a promise.” (Timothy Keller)

“Genesis 3: Death is born.
Matthew 28: Death is defeated.
Revelation 21: Death is dead.”
(Matt Smethurst)

“Remember every day is a war of worship, that is, a battle for the rulership of your heart. Pray today for grace to see clearly, fight faithfully and to remember you’re never alone in the battle.” (Paul David Tripp)

“Wise key influencers are devoted to knowing what they don’t know. They act boldly on facts they have right now, but search for signs they are wrong – seeking a healthy balance between courage and humility.” (Robert I. Sutton)

“God often waits until we’re out of ideas before He lets us know His plans. He competes for our hearts, not our attention.” (Bob Goff)

“The good news of the gospel is not, ‘Relax, you rock!’ The good news says to believing sinners, ‘You deserve to be humiliated and condemned for your sin, but God sent his Son to be humiliated and condemned in your place.” (Kevin DeYoung)

“Relationships are costly. Whatever it will cost you to be with God is nothing compared to what it cost Him to be with you.” (Timothy Keller)

“It is erroneous to think that slippery slopes only ‘slip’ toward a licentious, anything goes, lawless direction. They can also ‘slip’ toward a strident, mean-spirited, graceless direction. Jesus cracks down on both, but especially the latter.” (Scott Sauls– from his book Irresistible Faith)

“The average 3-year old laughs 40 times a day. The average 40-year old laughs 3 times a day.” (Psychology Today)

Quotes to Note – Spring 2019

Photo by Johannes Plenio

“How can you boast in your blue eyes, in your intelligence, in your height, in your race or ethnicity, in your birth place, in your birth order, in your attractiveness, or in the shape of your nose? What do you have that wasn’t a gift? Way too many of us were born on third base and we think we hit a triple.” (D. Wilson, Partakers of Grace)

“Most of the noise in our souls is generated by our attempts to control the uncontrollable.” (David Powlison)

“Prayer is not the flare gun of the desperate or room service for the indulgent. It is the confidence of the adopted.” (Sam Allberry)

“Worry is a conversation you have with yourself about things you cannot change. Prayer is a conversation you have with God about things that He can change.”

“Do not be afraid to tell God exactly how you feel (He’s already read your thoughts anyway). Don’t tell the whole world. God can take it – when others can’t. Then listen for His answer.” (Elisabeth Elliot)

“Not until history has run its course will we understand how ‘all things work together for good.’ Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” (Philip Yancey)

“Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” (Jim Elliot)

“Abraham waited 25 years. Moses waited 40 years. Jesus waited 30 years. If God makes you wait, you are in good company.”  (Nicky Gumbel)

“Always leave things better than you found them. Especially people.” (Dr. Henry Cloud)

“We are your beloved children – with a forgiven past, a graced present, and a guaranteed future. You’re not an absentee landlord, but an engaged Father – not a hiding Lord, but a ruling King. We don’t have to like your timing, understand your ways, or pretend about anything. But because of what you’ve done for us in Jesus, we can totally trust you.” (Scotty Smith)

“There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” (Richard Sibbs)

“When we say, ‘I can’t believe in a God who would ________,’ we’re saying we don’t really want a God beyond our comprehension.” (Tim Keller)

“The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” (Hubert H. Humphrey)

Escaping Moralism

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As I worked on refreshing my teaching notes for a homiletics course (how to preach and teach God’s Word) in Ethiopia next month, I re-read Tim Keller’s excellent book on preaching.

In chapter 2, Keller addresses the dangers of moralism. In it, he writes about:

1) how the whole Bible points ultimately to Jesus (Luke 24:27), and
2) why we must make Christ and the Good News of the Gospel central to all we teach and preach.

Here are a few excellent quotes from this chapter…

“Any sermon that tells listeners only how they should live without putting that standard into the context of the gospel gives them the impression that they might be complete enough to pull themselves together if they really try hard.

“Ed Clowney points out that if we ever tell a particular Bible story without putting it into the Bible story (about Christ), we actually change its meaning for us.

“It becomes a moralistic exhortation to ‘try harder’ rather than a call to live by faith in the work of Christ.

“There are, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: Is it basically about me or basically about Jesus? In other words, is it basically about what I must do or basically about what he has done?” 

(Page 60, Preaching by Timothy Keller)

 

“The moralistic way of living feels like being on the end of a yo-yo. If I feel I am reaching my goals and meeting my standards, I become self-righteous, entitled, less patient and gracious with others.

“If I am failing in any way, I fall into self-loathing, because my very identity is based on my image of myself as a better person than others.”

(Page 61, Preaching by Timothy Keller)

 

“Only if we hammer home the gospel, that we are loved sinners in Christ – so loved that we don’t have to despair when we do wrong, so sinful that we have no right to be puffed up when we do right – can we help our listeners escape the spiritually bipolar world of moralism.” 

(Page 62, Preaching by Timothy Keller)

Sorrow and Joy

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“… as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” (2 Cor. 6:10)

“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4)

Recently I was re-reading the book Hot Tub Religion: Thoughts on Christian Living in the Material World by J.I. Packer. I read it back in the late 80’s (when it first came out) and it had several excellent chapters on various aspects of Christian living.

Chapter six, in particular, stood out. In it, Packer deals with the subject of “Joy: A Neglected Discipline.”

Here are a few great quotes from this chapter:

“Christians are not victims and prisoners of either the past or the present. The powers of forgiveness and new creation are at work in their lives. Before them lies a sure and certain hope of deliverance, transformation, and glory. Joy will someday be theirs in fullest measure, and they should not give way to the black feeling that life will never be better for them than it is now.

Christians have, so to speak, larger souls than other people; for grief and joy, like desolation and hope, or pain and peace, can coexist in their lives in a way that non-Christians know nothing about. Grief, desolation, and pain are feelings triggered by present situations, but faith produces joy, hope, and peace at all times.

This does not mean that grief, desolation, and pain cease to be felt (that idea is inhuman); it means that something else is experienced along with the hurt. It becomes possible for Christians today, like Paul long ago, to be ‘sorrowful, yet always rejoicing’ (2 Cor. 6:10).”

 

“Joy is not an accident of temperament or an unpredictable providence; joy is a matter of choice. Paul is directing his readers to choose to rejoice (Phil. 4:4), because it is in and through the activity of rejoicing that joy becomes a personal reality.”

 

“Paul can choose to rejoice in one aspect of a situation of which other aspects are calculated to depress: he rejoices that Christ is being preached and refuses to brood on the bad motives of the preachers or to indulge in self-pity because he is not able to do what they are doing (Phil. 1:15-18).

This, more than anything else, makes it clear that joy is a choice; one chooses to focus one’s mind on facts that call forth joy. Such is the secret of ‘rejoicing in the Lord always,’ namely, to choose what you think about. It is as simple – and as difficult! – as that.

Controlling and directing one’s thoughts is a habit, and the more one practices it the better one becomes at it.”

 

“The secret of joy for believers lies in the fine art of Christian thinking… Joy – that is, rejoicing in the Lord – is thus a basic discipline of the Christian life, essential to spiritual health and vitality.”

February Quotes to Note

Rina Kroes, www.challies.com

“There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me.” (J.I. Packer)

“The cross declares for all time and eternity that we are bankrupt and have no currency to buy the favor of heaven.” (John Stott)

“If you were a hundred times worse than you are, your sins would be no match for his mercy.” (Tim Keller)

“The more spiritually alive and mature we are, the more we recognize how far short we fallof the glory of God. The closer we get to a mirror, the more clearly we perceive our imperfections. The mirror for Christians is Christ. Therefore, it should not surprise us that those who have known Him best have been most aware of their imperfections and most appreciative of His love and grace.”  (from Extreme Righteousness: Seeing Ourselves in the Pharisees– by Tom Hovestol)

“Even doubting thoughts and feelings that border on sin are better laid out before the gracious eyes of the Lord than nursed in our hearts. God will not be shocked! He knows our inmost thoughts anyway!” (Iain Duguid)

Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God. ‘He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep’ (Psalm 121:4). But we will. For we are not God. Once a day, God sends us to bed like patients with a sickness. The sickness is a chronic tendency to think we are in control and that our work is indispensable.
To cure us of this disease, God turns us into helpless sacks of sand once a day. How humiliating to the self-made corporate executive that he has to give up all control and become as limp as a suckling infant every day.
Sleep is a parable that God is God and we are mere men. God handles the world quite nicely while a hemisphere sleeps. Sleep is like a broken record that comes around with the same message every day: ‘Man is not sovereign… Man is not sovereign… Man is not sovereign.’
Don’t let the lesson be lost on you. God wants to be trusted as the Great Worker who never tires and never sleeps. He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps.” (John Piper)

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” (Martin Luther)

Three Quotes from Dawson Trotman

Dawson Trotman, Founder of the Navigators

(1906 – 1956)

A few weeks ago, I was thumbing through a biography (“The Navigator”)that I had read back in the early 1980’s.

It was about Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators Ministry.

God used that book (and Dawson’s life) to inspire and challenge me as a young 20-something in profound ways.

Here are three quotes (of the dozens I had highlighted) almost 40 years ago.

“Do you know why I often ask Christians, ‘What’s the biggest thing you’ve asked God for this week?’ I remind them that they are going to God, the Father, the Maker of the Universe. The One who holds the world in His hands. What did you ask for? Did you ask for peanuts, toys, trinkets, or did you ask for continents?

“I want to tell you, young people, it’s tragic! The little itsy-bitsy things we ask of our Almighty God. Sure, nothing is too small – but also nothing is too big. Let’s learn to ask for our big God some of those big things He talks about in Jeremiah 33:3: ‘Call unto Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you do not know.”  

(Dawson Trotman– page 26 from The Navigator)


“I don’t think time has much to do with whether God hears me or not. But I do believe that time has everything to do with whether my faith is built up as I pray and as I stretch out in asking. I don’t believe that God will ever give those great and mighty things of Jeremiah 33:3 to those who just have their little conscience-easers or some quick prayers before jumping into bed for the night.

“I don’t think God has anything big for you if you can’t take 1/48th of your day to be alone with your Almighty God and Father. I rather doubt whether He is going to do very much for you.”

(Dawson Trotman– while speaking at Mount Herman Christian Conference Center in Santa Cruz, CA – page 30 from The Navigator)


“We [the early Navigators Ministry]started out on the battleships of the United States Navy, getting men to spend time in the Bible. By the time the war was over, we had fellows on a thousand ships and on scores of bases throughout the world, faithfully serving and witnessing for the Lord.

“I suppose there was no greater secret than that these men were in the Book and the Book was in them. The Word of God is the mighty force within, that enable men to do whatever it says. I am absolutely convinced that the Bible completely changes the lives of men and women… It has completely changed my life. I’ll never be the same again since I was introduced to God’s Holy Word, the Bible.”

(Dawson Trotman– page 78 from The Navigator)

Five Ways to be a More Effective Leader in 2019

I’ve always learned a great deal over the years from Ed Stetzer. Ed holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College. He also serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton and is executive director of the Billy Graham Center.

As we move into this new year, here are five ways that Stetzer suggests can help all of us be more effective leaders (whether you are a leader in your church, your business or at home… these principles apply to all of these spheres).


Five Ways to Be a More Effective Leader in 2019

Some food for thought as you reflect on where God has you and who he has under your care.
By Ed Stetzer

As another year begins, we all have resolutions of things we’d like to change or start. We make many promises to ourselves and sometimes others. One of the things I want to commit to is being a better leader in 2019.

As I’ve considered what this means, I want to share with you five ways I think all of us can be more effective and Christ-honoring as we begin our leadership service this year. I hope these will provide you some food for thought as you reflect on where God has you and who he has under your care.

First, make that hard decision.

For most of us, there are things that we’ve been knowing we should do and we haven’t done them, or maybe we’ve been putting off making the decision. One of the things I’ve learned is that good leaders tend to lean into pain in a way that makes them a better leader.

For a lot of people, their inability or avoidance of a painful decision causes a cascading effect. Maybe you don’t make the right decision so something else isn’t getting done well. Maybe there’s an opportunity cost. Maybe we will lose integrity as those around us watch and say, “Well, you’re just not making the hard calls.”

So not only can your inability to make hard decisions impact other people’s ability to see you as a leader, but not making hard decisions can also drag YOU down. There’s a freedom in being on the other side of a hard decision.

Second, stop doing some things.

Almost every person I know (including me) is spending too much time doing things that don’t have the maximum impact. This ‘maximum impact’ looks different to different people—only you will know what that looks like for you as a leader. Sometimes this actually means less ‘bigness’ and more one-on-one time with people.

I’ve actually been thinking about that in a few areas of my own life. My dad is getting older and I am asking myself how I can spend more time with him.

But I have to stop doing something so I can have the freedom to do something else.

We all want to say “yes” to everything that comes our way. We want to meet with everyone who asks and respond quickly and kindly to all who email or call. But it’s simply not possible. My carte blanche yes is ineffective and harmful to what God has called me to do. I think that’s true for all of us.

I understand saying no is hard, particularly in Christian ministry. But your no could be the best decision you make in 2019.

Third, invest in younger leaders.

If you make the hard decision you didn’t make and stop doing some things, you can then have the time to invest in some younger leaders.

As I consider my own 2018, I’ve been frustrated.

I haven’t had time to invest in many leaders, young or old. I’ve decided to make some hard decisions and stop doing some things so I can have more time to invest in them. I’ve got good leaders and I need to invest in them and develop them so that they can be the leaders that God has called them to be. This requires me to say no and to have a plan for how to strategically step into mentoring and investing in the many leaders under my care.

Fourth, decide to last.

This is legacy. It’s having the long view in mind. I had a friend who challenged me on this, asking, “How are you deciding to last as a leader? How is Ed Stetzer going to be here in 10 or 20 years?”

The new year is a good time to commit to (1) taking care of yourself so that you can be a more effective leader and (2) do the things that will live on for years to come.

For me, part of my ‘lasting’ has to do with some physical things. I’ve got to take better care of myself physically and spiritually so that I can still be ministering and leading in 10 or 20 years.

Finally, be a better learner.

Keep learning—and re-learning.

Commit to reading books and watching videos that will help you be a more effective leader, friend, and servant in this world. All of us must acknowledge that what we know is only a drop in the bucket of all the knowledge in the world. No matter if you are 25 or 85, there is still much to know.

As we all live into these five tips, I believe God will do much in and through us in 2019.

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, serves as Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

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