|H.B. London Ministries|
|─ A Heart for Pastors ─|
To borrow a line, “The best-laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry.” It happens and, in many cases, there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. Imperfect expectations!
As I have watched the beginning of the 2012 Olympic Games from London, I have been touched by the losers. So many of these young people have spent their entire lives practicing, working hard, and sacrificing for this one moment. They are as ready as they can be, yet something happens. Maybe something goes wrong in their performance that hasn’t before. Maybe someone else is just a little better on this particular day.
It used to be that those Olympians who had fallen short of their highest expectations could grieve and process their disappointment in quiet. However, with the technology we have today, the whole world is able to zoom in on the face of a teenager or twenty-something young person and watch the heartbreak that crosses their face and causes their body to tremble.
Very few of us live our lives as members of the clergy without disappointments and heartbreak. I think the question is, “What do you do when your dreams lie on the office floor like a scattered stack of newspapers?” I don’t have a fail-safe response, but one that I ask you to think about.
The sun will come up tomorrow. How you face the new day depends on how you finish this one. Consider the following suggestions:
- Confide in reliable people.
- Search your heart for any motivations that might appear selfish.
- Remember that, normally, your ministry does not rise or fall on one isolated event or circumstance.
- If you have made a mistake, apologize to the proper people or group.
- Don’t allow a perceived failure to drive a wedge between you and your family.
- Make your next move only after you have had some time to recover.
Bottom line: To those who love the Lord first and foremost, there will always be God’s way ... a better way. As Stan Toler and I said in The Minister’s Little Devotional Book, “He has chosen you to spread His Word! And whenever you do stumble, He will pick you up, brush you off, and set you back on track — brighter and smarter than when you started.”
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
Be blessed today, whatever disappointments you may have to face.
As you know by now, there has been another tragedy in Colorado. Very early Friday morning, a gunman entered a theater in Aurora, Colorado, and began shooting at movie patrons. Twelve people were killed and 58 others were injured. The ages of those who died ranged from six years old to 51. During the attack, James Holmes, 24, allegedly set off gas canisters and used a semiautomatic rifle, a shotgun, and a pistol to open fire, police said. Holmes also booby-trapped his apartment with an array of complex incendiary and explosive devices, designed to kill anyone who entered.
Once again, our nation is stunned. Once again, people cannot understand how something like this can happen. Christians and non-Christians alike are seeking answers.
“Why does God allow bad things to happen?” you may be asking yourself (or others may be asking you). In the Focus on the Family booklet, Why, God? Why?, Dr. Dobson points out, “‘Why’ will have to remain unanswered for the time being. We have been given too few facts to explain all the heartache in an imperfect, fallen world.”
Do we believe God is obligated to explain Himself to us? Trying to analyze His omnipotence is, as C. S. Lewis described, like attempting to teach physics to a four-year-old. Dr. Dobson adds, “Unless the Lord chooses to explain Himself to us, which He does not often do, His motivation and purposes are beyond the reach of mortal man.”
Our role as clergy is not to construct answers to a complex question, though we often attempt to do so and feel inadequate when we cannot.
Our role is to comfort people, to point them to life over death, to remind them of the brevity and uncertainty of life, and to encourage them to live each day with purpose and thanksgiving — to prepare them for eternity.
You know how to do that. I encourage you, my colleague, to help your people be ready for eternity with the saving knowledge of Jesus and His gift of life everlasting to us. Please don’t beat yourself over things God does not yet want us to understand. Concentrate on that in which we have our hope.
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
(I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.)
I don’t think I would have been comfortable being King Ahab. The Bible says in 1 Kings, chapter 16, that the king “did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those [kings] before him” (v. 30). It also says King Ahab “did more to provoke the LORD ... to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him” (v. 33). He must have really been something.
Now, just imagine that you were Elijah, the prophet, and that you had been chosen to confront this evil person with a word from the Lord that would displease him very much. That assignment would not be a walk in the park, would it?
As you know, Elijah was up to the task. He obediently did confront Ahab, contested the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, was threatened by Jezebel (which filled him with fear), was ministered to by the Lord under the broom bush, and eventually continued to stand firm for the Lord until Ahab was finally killed in battle.
Well, my friend, the assignment that Elijah accepted is similar to the task that our Lord has for you. You, as a kind of Elijah, have been consigned by our Lord to defend righteousness and confront evil. As the servant of God, it is your assignment to take a stand.
Taking a stand for the Lord is not always easy or safe. When a contemporary of Elijah, the prophet Micaiah, son of Imlah, was called upon to confer with Ahab, he was urged to prophesy in agreement with the 400 prophets of the king. But Micaiah courageously said, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me” (1 Kings 22:14).
Every day presents us with challenges — things we can take a stand for or against, issues that might not be too popular with some in the community, topics that might even stir up our congregants. Will you take a stand, even if your words and actions displease people? Will you have the courage of Elijah to speak truth even if you become a target for people’s hostility?
As pastors, we have to do what’s right rather than what’s popular! I pray that God will give you the courage.
“Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” (Psalm 94:16).
The Waldo Canyon Wildfire, which began June 23 on the western slopes of Colorado Springs, is now the most destructive fire in Colorado’s history. In just a few short days, it scorched 18,247 acres and caused the evacuation of more than 36,000 residents in the Colorado Springs area. It was responsible for killing two people, destroying 346 homes, and damaging 50 more. Miraculously, just two weeks after it started, the fire is now close to being fully contained.
As of July 3, the wildfire had generated a tab of $13 million for the various aspects and efforts of fighting it and had caused housing damages totaling $110 million.
At one point, thousands of firefighters found themselves working 20 hour shifts to help contain the fire, sleeping in makeshift camps on school lawns or on the roads themselves. Unbelievably, that number was reduced to just 117 by July 4.
If you search on the Internet, you will find photographs from this fire that will stagger you. It started as a single plume of smoke rising early Saturday afternoon against the mountainous backdrop. Then, on Tuesday night, with overwhelming quickness, it spread down a hill into a residential neighborhood and became a terrible threat to an entire community. There did not seem to be much hope at all that the firefighters and other agencies involved would be able to stop it or even slow it down before it became catastrophic for the whole city.
But American heroes once again showed their courage, ingenuity, toughness, and refusal to give in, even against such overwhelming odds. And they won.
As you drive through the area today, you can see a burn perimeter around a church that was saved. You see an empty field that was destroyed across the street from a residential neighborhood that still stands. You see one home that was burned to the ground beside six or seven that escaped harm. It is eerie and chilling.
Being overwhelmed is something we all experience at one time or another. How we handle it can tell a lot about us and our trust in the One who centers us.
I realize that, when it comes to the role you play in the pastorate, some of you are “underdogs and undersized.” Some people do not give you much of a chance, and you don’t play in the same league as the “big boys,” but every day you lace ’em up, get out on the playing field, and give it your all. That is why you are a winner. You do not sit around and whine about your situation, but you see every day as an opportunity to give God the glory and to be more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37). I salute you!
Yet, there are others of you who, for some reason, have underestimated your value. You have diminished the significance of your assignment. Let me tell you something important — where you are is where your challenge is. The battle is before you.
A lot of pastors I talk to have given up on the church, the culture, their goals, and even their own effectiveness as leaders in the church. Not me! We may go down to defeat in some battles, but if we do, those who defeat us will bleed before they win. And the Bible tells us that we will eventually win the war! That is why we are called “more than conquerors.” So, hold your head up, my colleague. Balance the good and the bad, and never forget who your leader is — and “what a mighty God we serve!” Be a hero.
“No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
There’s a popular song sung by Lee Greenwood entitled “God Bless the USA.” Some of the lyrics go like this:
And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free ...
And I’d gladly stand up next to you
and defend her still today.
This song will be sung a lot during Independence Day week this year. Are you proud to be an American? I know I am.
Oh, there are things I am not so proud of:
- I agonize over the issue of same-sex marriage. Why would we, as a nation, ever want to destroy the institution of marriage defined as a union between a man and a woman?
- I worry about the easy availability of pornography over the Internet. I see its hold on so many men and women — even in the clergy. I wish our laws in America were stricter.
- I still can’t believe that abortion is legal and that it is such a powder keg of opinion. Why is it that the school requires parental consent to give a child an aspirin, but the same child can get an abortion without notifying a parent?
- I see racism growing in America. If we would only take seriously Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech! But folks still seem to make too many decisions based on the color of one’s skin.
- I wish politics in our country were not so dirty. The science of getting elected has become more about what’s wrong with a person than what they believe.
- It bothers me that there are so many people in poverty, that we import so much oil, that church attendance is declining, and that our education system is lacking.
But I’m proud to be an American because I'm free to say what I just said, and you can say what you want to say. That, as a country, we care for others who are less fortunate. And that we do have a faith-based heritage and a democracy that gives all men and women an opportunity to become what they want to be. I’m blessed by the fact that our United States House and Senate open their sessions with prayer, and that we support our troops who serve in harm’s way. I’m proud when we sing our national anthem and offer a pledge to the flag. I love it that we have a National Day of Prayer and print “In God We Trust” on our currency.
I am proud to be an American because it is my country and I have inalienable rights as its citizen. I can vote, and so can you. And it would be a shame if we did not take advantage of our freedom. This Independence Day, celebrate your freedom. Be proud to be an American. I know I am.
“Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16).