A Season for Humble Gratitude

Sometimes it can be a challenge to give God daily praise, even when we possess the knowledge of His love and faithfulness. If you find yourself in this situation, the Psalms are often a great source to get you back on track.

Reading Bible
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Psalm 116 is an extraordinary expression of love—addressed to God. “How do I love Thee, God?”

It reminds me of Browning’s poem: “Let me count the ways.” In counting the ways, the psalmist sets forth several magnificent truths about God’s goodness and deliverance.

God’s Promises Regarding His Faithfulness

Someone once counted all the promises in the Bible and came up with an amazing figure of almost 7500. Among that large number are some specific promises servants can claim today.

Promises from the Bible
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I have discovered that there are times the only hope to keep you going will be in something God has declared in His Word, promising that your work is not in vain.

Isaiah 41:10 has often encouraged me:

Bringing It Home

What is it going to take to convince us that the last will be first and the first will be last? For some it will take a lifetime, for others only a few semesters in seminary.

Ministry
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Each May, at the end of the spring term at Dallas Seminary, we have the joy of listening to the school’s top preachers. They’re nominated and selected by pastoral-ministry professors.

One year a talented young man preached on that pivotal passage in John 13 where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.

After a compelling exposition of that simple text, the young senior class preacher leaned low into the microphone, looked across the faces in Chafer Chapel, and asked his fellow students, “Do you want to have a great ministry . . . or do you just want to be great?”

Words I Needed to Hear

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.

On the phone
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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

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.

Manual worker
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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

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.

Man in Church
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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, 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.

Isolation
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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

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).

Coping
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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

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.

Answer Your Calling
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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

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.

Resting
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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: