Words I Needed to Hear

On the phone
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I’ll never forget the day a friend dropped by my study. We spoke for a while, and just before he left, he had that look of unfinished business on his face.

He couldn’t leave without looking at me squarely in the eyes and saying some hard things.

“I don’t know how I should say these things, Chuck. But I can’t just ignore them either. The fact is, I’m concerned.”

That stung a little. “Concerned about what?” I probed.

Time Is Very Short

Manual worker
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In the early 1950s, I served as an apprentice in a machine shop. For months, one of my jobs was to work an intricate piece of equipment called a tracer lathe.

I was always told, “Chuck, before you change the tool that cuts the aluminum, make sure to turn off the machine. Otherwise you could hurt yourself. You could even kill yourself.”

Sure enough, one day I was rushing to make my production quota, and I failed to turn off the lathe. The wrench I used to loosen the tool slipped . . . and my hand lurched in and out of the spinning chuck.

The bone that led to my little finger was now in a place it shouldn’t be—outside my skin.

His Power, Our Preaching

Man in Church
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In the middle of the week not long ago I walked into our church’s sanctuary. The room was empty and quiet. In fact, it was dark except for the exit lights that never go out.

I came down the middle aisle and stood there with no one else in the room. You know what?

It wasn’t at all exciting or inspiring. Without the presence of God’s people and without the Spirit of God igniting the place with His power, there wasn’t a whole lot to it. It was just an empty, dark room.

I have learned that the same is true of the preacher.

Preventing the Accountability Breakdown

Isolation
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Isolation, loneliness, solitude. Though surrounded by scores of people, pastors know these feelings all too well. Our position as shepherds, separated from the flock in many ways, can cause us to become closed off to much of the world.

Living a private life in secrecy or inaccessibility leaves room for self-betrayal and, ultimately, to what I call an accountability breakdown.

To prevent that breakdown, we need the vulnerability that connecting with others provides. Recognizing our need for others means that we stay aware of any tendency to compromise. We also understand that we are not immune to a fall. We must be willing to open up and connect.

So how do we maintain genuine accountability as pastors?

Two Truths for Coping with Suffering

Coping
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I have found great help from two truths God gave me at a time in my life and ministry when I was bombarded with a series of unexpected and unfair blows (from my perspective).

In my darkest hours, these principles became my anchor of stability, my only means of survival.

  • Afflicted
  • Confused
  • Persecuted
  • Rejected

I claimed these two truths and held on to them. As wild waves, strong winds, and pounding rain in a sea of difficulty continued, I grabbed hold of the mast of God’s protective power.

He took me through the storm of consequences and kept me from becoming a bitter man.

About Our Calling . . . and Artichokes

Answer Your Calling
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If you’ve ever traveled up Highway 1 along the coast of California from Los Angeles to San Francisco, you have passed through the little town of Castroville.

Castroville is noted for one thing. Artichokes.

If you like artichokes, you’ll love Castroville. If you don’t like artichokes, well, there’s not much else to like in Castroville.

As you drive through the town, you think things like, Oh, I’m so grateful God has not called me to Castroville. And if you’re in the ministry, you always add, But I’m available, Lord! I’ll go if that’s where You would like me to serve.

We learn to say that, don’t we?

Make Sure You Rest

Resting
(Image from Pixabay)

Following the sixth day of creation, the Lord God deliberately stopped working. It wasn’t that there was nothing else He could have done. It certainly wasn’t because He was exhausted.

He hadn’t run out of ideas or energy. He could easily have made more worlds, created an infinite number of other forms of life, and provided multiple millions more galaxies beyond what He did.

But He didn’t. He stopped. He spent an entire day resting. He marked off this one day as special. Like none other. If I read this correctly, it seems that He made the day on which He rested a “priority” period of time.

I’m of the belief that we’re no longer bound by the Sabbath command (Romans 14:5; Colossians 2:16). But I don’t believe we can sidestep the principle to set aside a regular time of rest.

That includes us pastors. We need to stop regularly—and not because we’re done working. If we intend to “be imitators of God,” as Ephesians 5:1 commands, we, too, will need to make rest a priority. As pastors, this includes:

Three Timely Lessons for Pastors

Man
(Image from Pixabay)

In recent posts, I have written about God’s servants feeling used and unappreciated, experiencing undeserved disrespect and resentment, and having hidden greed—a desire to be rewarded.

From these very real and common perils, there emerge at least three timely lessons for all of us pastors to remember.

Lesson one: no servant of God is completely safe. A tough truth to accept! We who give and give become increasingly more vulnerable as time passes (read John 15:20).

Truth be told, there are times we’ll get ripped off. We will be used . . . even misused. We will feel unappreciated. But realizing ahead of time this will happen, we are better equipped to handle it when it comes.

A Self-Description of Jesus

Old Man and Sunset
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I’ve been involved in a serious study of Scripture for more than half of my life. In all that time I have found only one place where Jesus Christ—in His own words—describes His own “inner man.”

In doing so, He uses only two words. Unlike most celebrities, those words are not phenomenal and great. Jesus doesn’t even mention that He was sought after as a speaker.

Although it is true, He doesn’t say: “I am wise and powerful,” or “I am holy and eternal,” or “I am all-knowing and absolute deity.” Do you remember what He said?

Proud Hearts and Dirty Feet

muddy
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The gentle and humble lifestyle of the Savior is nowhere more evident than in the scene recorded in John 13 where He washed the feet of His friends, the disciples.

On that occasion He left us some timeless principles regarding serving God . . . principles we dare not ignore.