Can You Name Five?

Laughing
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Time once was when our homes and offices buzzed with loud laughter. As family members and coworkers, we interacted with each other in houses and hallways . . .

  • By the water cooler
  • In the kitchen
  • At the fireplace
  • Sitting on front porches
  • In a plaza.

Ideas were shared, and gestures were freely expressed. Feelings of affirmation were punctuated through smiles and handshakes. Hugs, frequent touches, and arms around each other’s shoulders were commonplace.

No longer.

Meet Me in the Library

lonely
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On a lonely Greyhound bus in January of 1958, a young Marine slumped in his seat with his head down. His heart ached for the wife he’d left behind and feared for the place he was headed.

In his hands. he held Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Through Gates of Splendor. As he turned the pages, his life was turned around forever . . .

That was me.

I had no idea what God had in store for me when I boarded that bus. It turned out to be one of my life’s defining moments, and it came to me through a book.

God used Elisabeth Elliot’s volume to rearrange my attitude, my thinking . . . my entire future.

Hearing God in the Silence

Silence
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When you pray, do you ever feel like you’re standing at the bottom of a long stairway looking up. The light is off, and even though you knock and call out for a response, nothing happens.

You are not alone. Many a soul struggles at this very moment with divine silence. You likely know the story by heart. A calamity comes.

We cry out and expect relief, but instead of answers, we hear nothing.

A mate who has been there for years suddenly walks out. The one who is left alone to face what seems to be endless responsibilities turns to God for His intervention—for His comforting reassurance—only to be met with silence. That awful silence!

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?

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,

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?

Two Searching Questions

Change Direction
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Let me ask you two pointed questions—from one pastor to another. First: What makes you afraid of taking a risk? Walking with the Lord is a risky path, and everything within us, when we lean on our own understanding, screams . . .

Just keep it like it is. Just leave it alone. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But sometimes things need to be rearranged even though they aren’t broken.

Sometimes we need a major change of direction, not necessarily because we are going in an evil direction—it’s just not the direction God wants for us.

Now, here’s my second question:

God’s Decreed Will

Peace
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God is at the helm of His creation. Not fate, not chance, not some impersonal force of nature but the Lord alone is in full command of your life.

He is the sovereign ruler of the universe, and His decrees govern what happens in His world.

God’s decrees are:

Unidentified Inner Promptings

Inner Promptings
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Do you ever have those unidentified inner promptings? (Don’t worry; Swindoll hasn’t lost his marbles—at least, not yet!) I’m talking about when the Spirit of God urges your spirit in a very specific direction.

The book of Jude offers a wonderful example of the powerful prompting of the Holy Spirit: