Pastoral Discouragement

Discouragement
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While reading Psalm 5, I see that David is just plain discouraged. He prays to the Lord, “pay attention to my groaning” (Psalm 5:1 NLT). Unless I miss my guess, he sang these lyrics while hearing dissonance in his mind.

So many pastors I meet play out their entire lives in the dissonance of discouragement. There is the grinding dismay that follows unachieved goals or failed relationships.

Some are discouraged over their marriages which began with such promise but now seem weak, borderline hopeless.

Lingering ill-health can discourage and demoralize its victims, especially when the pain won’t go away. And who can’t identify with those ministers who gave it their best shot yet took it on the chin from a few self-appointed critics?

Sing New Songs . . . with Old Truths

Amazing Grace
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Without wanting to be misunderstood, let me say unashamedly that I love the grand old hymns. Throughout my Christian life, I have treasured their historic statements of the church’s faith, having committed many of them to memory.

They have been my dearest companions in dark hours of loneliness and discouragement and my greatest encouragers in times of celebration and adoration.

And while I’m the first to admit that while there’s nothing holy about a hymnal per se, hymns remain an important part of our Christian heritage. Why?

It Takes Grace . . .

Grace
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Sarcastic infighting. Negative putdowns. Stinging stares. Volatile explosions of anger. Doors slamming. Desperate feelings of loneliness. Awkward silence.

Those descriptions portray the marriages in many homes and families. And also, in many parsonages.

We are not immune, are we? It is possible that you have gotten to the place where you look for excuses not to be home. Or to be there as little as possible.

It’s easy in the ministry to justify our absence, isn’t it? Even in our own minds.

For more years than I care to remember, I was so insecure and fearful it wasn’t uncommon for me to drill Cynthia with questions—petty, probing questions that were little more than veiled accusations.

Listen to the One You Married

Listen
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Honestly, I will never forget one man’s criticism of me that helped me as much as anything I have ever heard. I was just about to graduate from seminary.

I had completed the finest courses in theology . . .

  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Homiletics

You know, I was fully prepared for life and ministry. (Yeah, right!) But I still had something essential to learn.

I’ll never forget this man’s words. He looked me in the eye and said,

The Ministry of Marriage

Marriage
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Marriage is one of God’s greatest tools for ministry. For example, consider the impact of Priscilla and Aquila’s marriage. Somewhere in the streets of Corinth, they stumbled across a man down on his luck.

Paul was . . .

  • Weary
  • Homeless
  • Alone
  • Fresh off a demoralizing trip in Athens
  • He needed a place to stay

They cleared out a room. Not for one night, not for one week, but until Paul was called to move on.

Then an up-and-coming young evangelist breezed into town. After his eloquent sermon, Priscilla and Aquila invited him over for dinner.

Acts 18:24–25 states that Apollos was gifted and passionate. Though he was accurate in his teaching, he was incomplete in his theology. This couple corrected his doctrine without quelling his desire.

Priscilla and Aquila simply opened up a room for Paul and a seat at the table for Apollos. Through their hospitality and instruction, they impacted two of the greatest early church leaders.

What about us? Who could we impact that may in turn impact the world?

God Has No Grandchildren

Grandparents
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God has no grandchildren. He only has children. As much as we would love it, there is no automatic transfer of God’s truth to others. Everyone must make his or her own spiritual journey.

Moses knew this truth. The mighty leader of one of history’s greatest journeys spent his last words encouraging the Israelites to pass on God’s truth to their children.

To get the full impact of his words recorded in Deuteronomy 6:1-9, understand where the Israelites were. After wandering for 40 years, they stood on the banks of the Jordan River . . . at the very edge of the Promised Land.

Their children and grandchildren would grow up in the new territory before them.

At the beginning of this new life for God’s people, Moses gave a number of directives. I want to highlight one in particular for us:

Focus on Worship

man
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The conflict between the urgent and the important is inescapable. How easy to get the two confused! It is common for us to think that by staying busy and working hard we’re dealing with the important things.

But that is not necessarily the case. Those things most urgent rarely represent things that are most important. And therein lies the reason so many people today feel such a lack of satisfaction after working so hard and for so many hours each day.

Not only is that frustration true in the world in which we live, it is all-the-more true in the church. When we substitute the urgent for the important in the church of Jesus Christ, we emphasize . . .

Remember Your Roots

Roots
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How refreshing it is to come across individuals who realize they have their parents to thank for so much of what they have in life. Marian Anderson was one of those individuals.

She had a magnificent contralto voice that gave her worldwide acclaim.

On one occasion, a reporter asked her to name the greatest moment in her life. Those in the room hearing the question wondered what she would say.

There were so many great moments, like the night Arturo Toscanini said publicly,

Discerning God’s Best

Choices
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How do you make a choice when all your choices are good? How do you tell the difference between what’s good and God’s best? I’m not talking about making a decision between a morally right path and a morally wrong path.

We know the way we should go in that case. Rather, I’m referring to those times when we must decide between two equally good alternatives. Which do we choose? Which way is God leading? Which way is best?

Initially, it helps me to determine priorities by asking pointed questions like:

The Secret of Stability

Decisions
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You may be facing what could be an unsolvable problem. You alone know what it is. If so, let me encourage you this week. Often the situations with no human answers form the basis upon which God does some of His best work—even in the lives of His messengers.

This is illustrated beautifully in the life of Job.

I know, I know . . . we’ve all preached on Job. Personally, as pastors, we tend to flip the page when his name comes up. We’re too familiar with his story.

The account of his misery has become common and—may I say it?—boring. I mean, what else does this sad, suffering saint have to teach us?