You Don’t Feed Sheep Like Your Llama

By Mike Leake

I’m confident that I’ll lose whatever cool points I’ve accumulated when I admit that I still love Napoleon Dynamite and will on occasion quote the classic flick. (Also, I think anyone who refers to something like “cool points” is definitely not cool). I do love the movie, and in particular I love the scene where Napoleon goes out with a dish of ham and yells at his pet llama, Tina, to come eat. “Tina, ham, eat!”

Who doesn’t love a great llama scene?

I thought about that llama the other day when I was discussing expository preaching with some folks. It seems to me that there is a way in which we can equate expository preaching with plopping a spoon fool of ham out onto the grass and telling our llama to come eat. What I mean is that expository preaching is far more than just standing before people and saying, “this is what the text says, come eat.”

Jesus, the Great Shepherd, certainly didn’t teach this way. He sovereignly and unfailingly knew the hearts of men and his preaching corresponded to this knowledge. Consider how he oriented his teaching around what the disciples were “ready for”. We under-shepherds are not infallible in our discernment of our sheep but nevertheless we need to truly know them in order to properly feed them.

I’m happy about the resurgence of biblical theology and sharing how each passage of Scripture fits into the grand narrative. I’m even more ecstatic that a growing segment of pastors are moving away from beginning with felt needs and moving towards beginning and ending with the text. I thank God for the resurgence of expository preaching. And yet I’m convinced that such a movement will be dashed on the rocks of irrelevancy if we aren’t shepherd enough to place our people in that grand narrative of Scripture.

Don’t hear me wrong. The Bible is always relevant. We don’t have to doctor the Scriptures up or add a bunch of gloss and flash in order to make it appealing or palatable. But this truth does not resolve us of our responsibility to labor in understanding not only what the text says but also what the text says to our sheep. Anybody can grab a spoon full of ham, find a field, yell at a llama, and throw ham on the ground. But that’s not shepherding.

[ Being a llama breeder and packer I know Mike knows little about feeding a real llama, but his point is good to onder. Llamas are strickt vegetarians. ]


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What I Think We’re Missing In Philippians 1:19-26

It’s always a bit troublesome to me whenever I see something in a text that others aren’t seeing. That’s usually how heretics are made. But I’m absolutely convinced that what I’m seeing in Philippians 1:19-26 is completely orthodox and more importantly it’s there in the text.

This isn’t a major point but I think it helps us to understand more the meaning of what Paul is doing here in the text. When most people preach/teach on Philippians 1:19-26 the emphasis is on Paul’s conundrum and his very quotable statement, “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” That’s incredibly easy to preach. Can you say that for you to live “is Christ” and can you say that if you died today it would be “gain”. That’s the sermon—tie a bow on it, give some response time and call it a day.

I’m convinced there is something going on underneath of this passage that is often overlooked. Why has the Spirit of God inspired Paul to “think out loud” here? What’s he doing? Why give them his conundrum?

Because Paul is modeling for us here.

Consider Philippians 1:9-11. This is Paul’s prayer for the church at Philippi. He is praying that they’ll have a grounded love so that they will choose what is excellent and so live in such a way that they won’t be ashamed when they stand before Christ. The picture is of a person having a million choices and a stamp which can only deem one thing necessary at any given time. Paul is praying that love would motivate that selection. And if it does you can guarantee that one will not waste their life.

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The American Church Has Got Talent But What It Really Needs Is…


There are a couple of heroes in the book of Acts that model for us what we need. This couple sat under the preaching of a dynamic speaker. But they realized he was missing something; namely, Jesus. (Or a full understanding of Christian baptism if you want to go that route). So they took him under their wing. They loved him and taught him and then sent him back out.

The dynamic speaker was Apollos. And that precious couple was Priscilla and Aquila.

The American church has got talent but what we really need are more Priscilla and Aquila’s. Think of all the Apollos’ who are leading ministries. Great speakers. Knowledgeable. Passionate. Fervent. Gaining a following. Writing books. Headlining conferences. Missing something vital.

I’m reading an excellent book, The Mentoring Church, by Phil Newton. In the first chapter he outlines the goal of the mentoring relationship: being, doing, believing, teaching. He also outlines the method for doing this: doctrine, praxis, and sending. Do you notice anything there? Doing is connected with praxis. Believing is connected with doctrine. And teaching is connected with sending. BUT there is nothing connected with being.

This isn’t an oversight on Newton’s part. He is correct. Being isn’t something you can teach in a seminary class or necessarily read in a book. It’s only crafted through…being. It’s forged in the context of a life lived out in the local church. You can’t fake it. You can’t test out of this one. It takes another person pouring the life of Christ into another person.

A New or Old Problem?


4 Tips For Helping A Doubting Friend

~ Mike Leake

One of my favorite scenes from The Office involves Andy Bernard pretending to be a mechanic. He and his co-worker (Dwight) are trying to help their boss (Michael) with his encounter with a suspected mob boss who is trying to sell him life insurance. In order to be “undercover” Andy dresses up as a mechanic. At one point Andy is called out to help a woman whose car will not start. This is what happens:

Andy wasn’t really a mechanic. He didn’t really have the answers needed but he pretended like he did and it didn’t turn out so well. We do this same thing when our friends express serious doubts and we find ourselves over our heads. We want to help. Just as Andy had on a mechanic’s uniform and so had expectations upon him, so also when we are known as Christians there is an expectation upon us. And in these times we are tempted to be like Andy Bernard and pretend like we know what we are doing.

Os Guinness has a helpful book called In Two Minds. The book is about the nature of doubt and also has a helpful section for those wanting to help others work through their doubts. Guinness gives four tips for what to do when we find ourselves not able to help a doubting person:

1. If we are unable to help we should say so. Guinness notes that by admitting our inability to help we have “localized the problem”. But if we pretend to know what we are talking about and end up playing the fool, then we are perhaps unwittingly communicating that this is the answer that Christianity has.

2. If we are unable to help we should clarify what this means. What Guinness means here is that we should help the doubter see that this simply means that we do not have an answer at the moment. We are not dismissing these doubts but we are “putting them in the deep-freeze” and bring these doubts out at a different time.

There is a definite place for verification in Christian faith, but if Christianity is true it is not because it is instantly, totally verified at every moment or even at any moment. No human knowledge is of this order of certainty. (230)

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What Does It Mean That “Those Who Have Suffered In The Flesh Have Ceased From Sin?”

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, –1 Peter 4:1

I’ve suffered in the flesh. My tonsillectomy was painful. So was the recovery. But I still sin. What in the world is Peter talking about here when he says that those who’ve suffered have ceased from sin?

A wrong understanding of this passage could lead to some jacked up asceticism where we beat ourselves and put ourselves in the path of suffering in order to rid ourselves of sinfulness. I’m convinced that’s not what Peter has in mind. But what does he mean? What does he mean by suffering in the flesh? What does he mean by “ceased from sin”?

First, notice the “therefore”. In 3:18-22 Peter outlined the suffering of Christ and how it ultimately led to his victory. So now in response to this we believers should “arm ourselves with the same way of thinking”. In other words, we need to develop a robust theology of suffering and then not be surprised when we have to actually use it.

Suffering is the path to glory. It cleanses the dross. Notice the “for”. This means, “here is why you do this thing”. You do this thing (arm yourselves with a good theology of suffering) because whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.

So what does he mean by ceased from sin? There are a few options.

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One Part Of Your Bible Which Isn’t Inspired

Despising God’s Word Might Not Mean What You Think It Does

“Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.” –Proverbs 13:13

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What Our Longing For Heaven Says About Our Engagement In Warfare

Normally the lad whines about bed time. He still has energy left in the tank and wants to fight for every moment of wakened life that he can. But on this particular day he happily collapses into his bed at 7:30pm. Why? Because he has spent the entire day doing manual labor which has left him exhausted.

Do you long for heaven?

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All Is Found In Christ

10 Things I Learned From 2 Corinthians

~ Leake

Here are 10 things:

  1. The most valuable commentaries to me in preaching through 2 Corinthians were Scott Hafemann’s work in the NIV Application Commentary and R. Kent Hughes’ work in the Preaching the Word Series.
  2. Understanding “his power & our weakness” is the key to understanding all of 2 Corinthians. This was the message the false teachers denied, the message the Corinthians failed to grasp, and the cornerstone of Paul’s ministry.

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