|H.B. London Ministries|
|─ A Heart for Pastors ─|
This Thursday is the National Day of Prayer. Do you lead your people into participation in this observation each year? As we look around our nation and our world and see heartbreak, devastation, suffering, and evil on the rise, is there anything we Christians can do that would be more powerful and effective as prayer? If you are not making this a priority for yourself and your congregation, I would strongly urge you to do so. And a great place to start would be to participate in your community’s events associated with the National Day of Prayer. Click here for more information.
The prayer that we all turn to at this time of year is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 and concerns the dedication of the temple. Solomon had prayed a beautiful prayer in 2 Chronicles 6:14-40, and the Lord responded by filling the temple with His glory. He also made a promise: “My eyes and my heart will always be there” (2 Chronicles 7:16). This promise was a follow-up to a directive He had given Solomon and the people to call on His name, humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and repent. Those were the conditions for the healing of the land and forgiveness. In other words, God said, “It’s up to you.”
If we want the Lord to send revival, we need to practice what we pray. As Christians, stop fighting each other. As pastors, seek to rid congregations of sin within the leadership. Be humble. Realize that, without God, we are really nothing. Repent of pride, selfishness, and arrogance. Ask Him what He wants for us. Sometimes, rather than just pray 2 Chronicles 7:14, we need to put it into practice and just be obedient. Don’t ever stop praying!
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Charles “Chuck” Colson died Saturday afternoon. He was 80. Chuck became a great and influential evangelical leader after serving time in prison. However, his proclamations following his release that he was a new man ─ redeemed by his Christian faith ─ were met with more than skepticism by those angered at the abuses he had perpetrated as one of President Richard Nixon’s hatchet men.
But Chuck Colson spent the next 35 years steadfast in his efforts to evangelize to a part of society scorned just as he was. And he became better known to so many of us for his efforts to minister to prison inmates as for his infamy with Watergate.
I can’t help but see a remarkable similarity to the life of the Apostle Paul — a brilliant man whose zeal led him to persecute Christians before experiencing a majestic epiphany on the road to Damascus — an event that radically changed the direction of his life forever.
Near the end of his life, Colson felt a compelling need to teach fellow Christians about what he called a “biblical worldview.” He believed that too many were being influenced by the world and its attitudes and that people who follow Jesus need to think as He did and be “transformed by the renewing of their minds.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Kentucky) described Colson’s story as “a constant and necessary reminder to those of us in and out of public office of the seductions of power and the rewards of service.” Pastors, beware!
“His famous redemption story and tireless advocacy on behalf of the marginalized and the outcast have called all of us to a deeper reflection on our lives and priorities,” McConnell said. “He lives on as a modern model of redemption and a permanent rebuttal to the cynical claim that there are no second chances in life.”
How relevant for each of us. The gospel message is one of hope and grace and second chances. Jesus’ intent is not to condemn us, but to save us. Each of us can have a second chance.
Mistakes — though sometimes innocent — for those of us who serve the church can determine our legacy. While we extend grace to those who fail, it is a reminder that all of us really need to be careful about how we relate to others. I deal with clergymen all the time who made one “little” mistake in behavior or judgment that disqualified them for further service as pastor to their church.
The solution? Constant safeguards — building a hedge of protection around your life and ministry. I don’t mean to be simplistic, but this verse is a definite safeguard: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).
(P.S. Please don't forget to prepare your people to celebrate and participate in the National Day of Prayer next week.)
Every now and then, we Americans get an extra day or two before our tax returns are due. Such is the case this year. Because the traditional “tax day,” April 15, falls on a Sunday this year, our deadline for submitting our returns is delayed a day. However, because Washington, D.C., has a holiday on Monday, we receive another delay until midnight on Tuesday to deposit our returns at the post office (although, be careful, because I heard that post offices are not staying open past their normal business hours this year and you may have to seek out a special location they may have arranged in your local community).
As I’m sure you know, the Bible has a lot to say about money and how we handle it — more mentions than a number of other topics you might think would lead the list. Money is obviously something with which God wants us to be wise in our dealings.
Some pastors I see do nothing but talk about their financial holdings or businesses they have on the side. They do not talk much about their churches or their ministries. When I leave them, I feel empty.
Oh, I’m not saying you can’t receive gifts from your church family or even individuals in the church, but you must keep it in perspective. What will it cost you in the long run? Will you be indebted forever or will the lure of money take priority over the call of God in your life?
I remember once, many years ago, when members of my church came to me with a “can’t lose” business deal. “Don’t worry,” they said. “We will handle all of this for you.” Well, the deal went bad, and I had to go to my dad for help with the $10,000 I lost. I was duped, but had no recourse because these men were in my church. So, I just had to eat it.
Since that time, I have followed several guidelines:
- If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t chance it.
- If the search for financial gain becomes so strong it detracts from your ministry, it is wrong.
- Under no circumstances should you sign church checks or have access to church funds without dual signers.
- If you have a church credit card, it should have a limit and be paid off each month.
- Do not fall for get-rich schemes.
- The line between what’s legal and what’s ethical is thin. Be careful.
- If you pay taxes quarterly, save up! Don’t be hit unexpectedly with a last-minute tax bill.
These are common-sense suggestions you’ve heard before. But we can often let go of common sense when money is involved. Don’t be fooled.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Fresh out of the tomb, Jesus began to comfort those who loved Him most. He saw Mary crying at the entrance to His grave and comforted her. “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20: 18), she told the disciples. In one of my favorite biblical narratives, Jesus walked with two of His followers on the Emmaus Road. When they recognized Him, their hearts burned within them (Luke 24:32). He ate with His disciples and showed them the scars in His hands and feet. He comforted Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27). Thomas was overwhelmed.
Then, there was that marvelous moment on the beach when Jesus fixed their breakfast while Peter and his comrades were out fishing. In that life-changing moment, He reinstated the one who had denied Him three times. In simple words, He commissioned Peter to “follow me.” The fisherman never looked back. In the time before the Lord ascended into heaven, He encountered hundreds and hundreds of people. The reality of the resurrection would in time take over the world. It’s amazing what can happen in just a few days — from loneliness to exceeding great joy, from emptiness to fulfilled!
Well, Easter has come and gone. We know the story. We have been confronted with resurrection power. Now what? The church is in many ways impotent, but the power that amazed Jesus’ disciples the week following Easter is just as powerful today as it was then. Will we recognize it? Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). How about you? The aftermath of Easter’ is more powerful than ever! Are you ready for it?
As we approach the climactic moments of Easter, how are you doing spiritually, emotionally, physically? Are you “all together” as you face the challenges of this week? You need to be if you are going to do right by yourself, your people, and your God during this most important time of the year. You have a few days to prepare your people, to look deep within your own spirit, and to anticipate the climactic event. There is no greater event than the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection. May I suggest a working day off to “live” the Easter story?
Find a quiet place and begin by reading through the Gospels’ account of Easter week. Each day has documented significance with the exception of “silent” Saturday. In your mind, see the disciples as they journey up the hill to Jerusalem. After you have followed Jesus to the cross, concentrate on His seven last words. Imagine the circumstances that surround each phrase. Then pray for those who will assemble for Holy Week services. Pull the mantle of the Holy Spirit around you and let Him anoint you for the task ahead.
Finally, secure a copy of an Easter film. It might be The Passion of the Christ, or The Robe, or The Gospel of John. Sit back and soak in the sounds and sights of that unbelievable event. If you have been to the Holy Land, it might make sense for you to get out your pictures and relive your experience.
The better prepared you are to interject yourself into Passion Week, the better your people will relate to the awesome sacrifice that was made for them and the miracle of the resurrection.
I remind you that there will be people in your services who have never bowed their knee at the foot of Jesus. Please give them a chance to witness the transformation that comes when a person finds Jesus as his or her Savior.
Jesus said to His disciples, ‘‘As you know ... the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified” (Matthew 26:2).
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples” (Matthew 28:6).
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27)