Do these things promptly…
- Confess sins. “Keep short accounts with God,” it’s called.
- Write thank you notes.
- Write notes of appreciation. “Great song Sunday.” “I hear great things about your class.”
- When inspiration for a sermon or an article comes in the middle of the night, it must be recorded then or, count on it, you’ll never remember it. Keep a pad by the bedside.
- When you agree to do a friend a favor–write a letter of recommendation, call on a patient in a hospital, whatever–do it immediately or you will never do it.
- Jot down a story, illustration, or thought for a sermon that occurs to you. If you’re in the car alone, look for an exit and get off the highway so you can write this down. I’ve sometimes asked my wife to make a note for me as we drove.
- Pray for someone when prompted by the Spirit. When I spot someone who reminds me of a person I knew years ago, I take that as an impulse to pray for them.
And these things, too–
- Pray for someone when you are asked to pray. Stop right then and do it
- Forgiving offenses. Whether they ask for it or not.
- Tell your wife how lovely she looks. Don’t wait for her to ask if that dress looks all right. Every time you think of it, tell her she is lovely.
- Give your kids a hug. Let them know how special they are to you, with no condition or strings attached.
- Worship God. In your spirit, in a few words. If possible, say it out loud.
But do not do these things promptly. Take it slow and reconsider these the next day…
- Write a letter of reprimand or rebuke. Someone once published an entire book of letters President Truman wrote but never sent. Obviously, he must have dropped the letters into some kind of a file. I’m remembering the time a deacon was harassing me because I would not put him on our staff. (Yep, true story.) When I tried calling him, he would not talk to me. So, I made the mistake of writing him a letter. That fellow took that around to his buddies in the church, showing it to them, and using it as evidence that I was unfair, unChristian, and a lot of other things. I actually knew not to put negative stuff in a letter, but got a painful reminder that time!
- Give someone a negative recommendation. Think long and hard about this. When asked to recommend someone whom I knew to be a lousy candidate for that or any other church, I learned to say something like, “Let me just say this, sir. If I were you, I think I’d keep looking. I can honestly say I would not want that person on my staff.” And that’s all you need to say.
- Get something off your chest. Speak the truth in love. It’s difficult, I know. But if you serve as a pastor for decades there will be moments when you decide that you simply must express yourself. My suggestion: Talk to your spouse, and if she even hesitates to approve, don’t proceed without a lot more talk with the Lord. And I hope you have a mentor, a veteran of many years in the Lord’s service whom you can run this by.
- Buy something expensive without telling your spouse. This needs no explanation.
- Cross an invisible line in a relationship. In many cases, this means speaking or touching in an intimate way. Not a good idea. I have lots of pastor friends, of course, and you’d be surprised how many have told me the trouble they got into when they crossed that line. My suggestion–for you who have never been so tempted–is to plan ahead. And when you find yourself in a moment of temptation, do what you had planned to do. And I hope that means to get up and walk out. Flee temptation!
Here’s a great verse of Scripture–
I’ve prayed Psalm 141:3 a few hundred times, and have even developed a variation for it. “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”
The variations go like this…
Set a guard, O Lord, over my mind; keep watch over the door of my thoughts.
Set a guard, O Lord, over my eyes; keep watch over the door of my sight.
Set a guard, O Lord, over my ears; keep watch over all that I hear.
Set a guard, O Lord, over my home; keep watch over each member of my family.
Set a guard, O Lord, over my church; keep watch over our shepherd and members.
I appreciate your post so much. There is excellent advice in it, even for non pastors!
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