12 changes the pastor should make occasionally for his mental health

“…that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

Like everyone else on the planet, we preachers get in ruts.  That’s not all bad, because sometimes we need to put it on automatic and not to have to make critical decisions about mundane things.  The morning ritual of showering and dressing, the drive to the office, and such should not require our undivided attention.

But from time to time, we need some variety. Our outlook needs refreshing. Our output needs sharpening. Our spirits need an uplift.  Our days could use a new perspective.

Here are some quick fix-its for the pastor’s mental health….

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Favorite pastime: Hedging our mortality

In the opening of Tim Keller’s new book, “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering,” he quotes a writer in The New York Times Magazine during the time of the Beltway Sniper, a fellow who was shooting people at random throughout the Washington, D. C. area.

Ann Patchett wrote:
“We are always looking to make some sort of sense out of murder in order to keep it safely at bay: I do not fit the description; I do not live in that town; I would never have gone to that place, known that person. But what happens when there is no description, no place, nobody? Where do we go to find our peace of mind?

“The fact is, staving off our own death is one of our favorite national pastimes.  Whether it’s exercise, checking our cholesterol or having a mammogram, we are always hedging against mortality.  Find out what the profile is, and identify the ways in which you do not fit it. But a sniper taking a single clean shot, not into a crowd but through the sight, reminds us horribly of death itself.  Despite our best intentions, it is still for the most part, random. 

And it is absolutely coming.”

In the early 1990s after we moved to New Orleans, I tried to assure my mother that she should not be concerned about our safety in this part of the metro area. “The murder rate in Jefferson Parish is about the same as in Jasper,” the nearest town of any size to our Alabama farmhouse.

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I know Whom I have believed. And a few other things.

“For this reason I suffer these things, but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).

Some things you know and you know that you know them, and there is no need for anyone to say otherwise.

Try to convince me that, say, Lois Kilgore McKeever never existed. In spite of the incredible arguments you might mount and the truckloads of old records you might haul from the courthouse annex, I remain unconvinced and for a good reason.

I know her. She’s my mama.  She birthed me and did ten thousand other things for me until God called her to Heaven nearly 2 years ago.

Some things are settled forever and to debate their existence, at least for us personally, is an exercise in foolishness.

Imagine someone trying to convince a Christ-follower there is no God simply because he has never met him! Sheer foolishness.

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The wonderful power of soft answers

“A soft answer turns away wrath; but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

Someone is angry at you all out of proportion to the situation.  Their energy in attacking you catches you off guard and your first reaction is to strike back in self-defense.

What to do.

My friend Bobby started ministry as a musician, then became a missionary and later a pastor of several churchs. These days, he and I are both doing retirement ministries. Our friendship is a half-century old.

Recently Bobby was telling me of a time during his church musician period when he was going to a program in another church. To get there, he had to meet friends at the junction of a couple of roads.  He arrived early and pulled off the highway, stopped in front of a house, and killed the engine. A few minutes later, a man burst out of that house, waving his fists and shouting all kinds of profanity.  He ran to the car and around to the driver’s side, still hurling his threats.

Bobby rolled down his car window and let the man finish.  Then he said calmly, “You don’t remember me?”

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When the roll is called up yonder, it won’t be a list!

“I am mindful of…your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice….” (2 Timothy 1:5)  “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermnogenes” (2 Timothy 1:15). 

A pastor friend sent a copy of his resume’ which I am passing along to a couple of preacher-hunting churches.  At the top, he posted a lovely picture of his family, and inside introduced their children in an interesting way: “Elizabeth the writer, Silas the Shooter, and Sarah the craft queen….”

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, which became the final epistle from his long ministry, he remembers certain individuals and is rather specific as to why.

Timothy he remembers as “my beloved son.”  These two men, the old mentor and the young protege, have a history.  In Acts 16:1 they meet and quickly bond spiritually.  Timothy accompanies Paul and Silas for the balance of their “second missionary journey.”  At various times as Paul writes to churches, Timothy is alongside him (2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1;Colossians 1:1; and the two Thessalonian letters).

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The Kingdom: No place for cowards

“For God has not given us the spirit of cowardice, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Carolina Panther fans call their coach “Riverboat Ron” because he has become a risk-taker.

Ron Rivera admits he had been too conservative in his play-calling.  When facing a fourth-down and two or three yards, he would instruct the team to punt, which turns the ball over to the other team. So, he began “going for it on fourth down,” which is a risky maneuver. If it works–if you gain the requisite yards and make a first down–the coach looks like a genius.  If it fails, you are the goat. Do that enough and your job is in jeopardy.

Rivera was willing to take some risks.  Since the team won its division this year, fans and sportswriters agree his decision paid off.

The coward will take no risk.

Bible students recall the bond-servant in Jesus’ parable who said, “I was afraid and went away and buried your talent in the ground. And here it is!”

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For preachers only: Determining when an illustration works

“Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ And He told them this parable…”.(Luke 15:2-3).

Ask Jesus a question and it reminded Him of a story.  Charge Him with something and it reminded HIm of a story.  Criticize Him and He thought of a story.

“He never spoke to them without telling stories” (Mark 4:34).

One thing about our Lord’s stories, they were never inappropriate, ill-chosen, or out of place.

They always fit perfectly.

That’s unlike the ones I sometimes tell and I’m guessing you also.

It’s hard to get these things just right.

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I believe in Earth. The rest is easy.

“When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers….what is man, that Thou dost take thought of him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)

The greatest proof of Heaven is Earth.

From all our scientists are learning every day, we find ourselves overwhelmed by the vast distances of space, the intricate and specific requirements necessary to produce and sustain life on any planet, and the mind-blowing odds that such a place as Earth could exist anywhere in the universe.

And yet, here we are, calmly discussing football playoffs, whose turn it is to buy the next King cake, and repeating the amazing things our grandchildren have said.

Friend, if Earth can exist, Heaven is a cinch. A lay-up. A gimme.  A no-brainer.

Think of what is required in order to have life on this small planet.  A scientist would smile at my small list and no doubt could add a dozen more elements to it, but some of the requirements for life to exist on Earth (or any other planet) must include:

–Light from the sun.

–Just the right distance from the sun, so there is not too much nor too little light.

–Rotation of the earth, in order to expose all sides to the warmth and light.  Just the right speed, and the ideal tilt on the axis.

–A breathable atmosphere.

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Thank you, Father, for the pain

“No suffering for the present time seems joyful but grievous; nevertheless, afterward….it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).

“And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Timothy 3:12).

I hated the pain at the time, Lord.

It’s no fun hurting, lying awake at night hoping for sleep that will not come, wishing for relief and seeing none on the horizon.  At those times I knew why some turn to drink or drugs or worse, but that issue was settled decades ago, Lord, that I would not be bypassing, shortcutting, or tranquilizing whatever you send me in this life.

Remember that time back in the 1960s when a few unhappy people were stirring up matters in your church, saying that I was pushing integration and was going to destroy their church?  Remember that?  I do too.  Oh, how I do.  That was no fun.

As though it were their church. That’s a laugh.  They’re long off the scene and Your church is still there. And integrated, too, I imagine. (smiley-face goes here)

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10 ways some preachers undermine confidence in God’s Word

“All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable….” (Second Timothy 3:16)

We pastors love the Word of God.  We read it, study it, devote our lives to learning and teaching and preaching its riches.  It is our sole authority for what we believe and teach.

And yet.

We sometimes do things that undermine the confidence of our congregations in God’s Word.  By our (perhaps) well-intentioned attempts to communicate what we have learned and believe, we may actually do more harm than good. The result of that is to discourage God’s people from reading it on their own and feeding their souls upon its nourishment.  And when we do that, we are betraying them, dishonoring the Lord, and playing right into the hands of the enemy.

Here are 10 ways we sabotage the confidence of our people in Holy Scripture…

1) The pastor stands to preach without reading Scripture at all.

He says by his omission that Scripture doesn’t matter, that what counts is what he has to say.

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