As most of you know, I love to teach. I love standing in the pulpit and preaching a g-o-o-d (hear a sarcastic and jovial voice) sermon! However, just to be fair, if I am ever invited to preach in your church, sometimes it is difficult for me to remain behind the pulpit. I like to move among the congregation and address specific people.
Also, if I am speaking to a new group of people, I have to give them a warning: I only have two speeds: full bore or a dead stop. And as Ray Arnold cautioned, “Hang onto your butts!” (You have to be a fan of Jurassic Park to understand that one).
I bring all this up because sometimes, before I preach, I need to ask how my heart is. I mean, I may be able to “wow” the congregation, but if my heart is troubled; two-sided; torn by inner conflicts, my message will not possess any life. And that should never be allowed to happen. As a Pastor it is my responsibility to care for the welfare of those I am leading, and the call to pastor is a calling that God puts on your heart, and will never be erased.
And this is important because our lives are complicated on so many levels. We face so many challenges and in my own human power I have nothing to offer. But the great news is that I can point you to Jesus. Through the help of the Holy Spirit, He can breathe hope into our situations. And it will do not good for a Pastor to come in on a Sunday morning after yelling at the kids or having an argument with his wife. He gets up and does his thing without anyone asking him how he was feeling and where his heart is. It is so easy to fake it and paste on a “spiritual” smile. You may even have occasional services where the Holy Spirit moves in the lives and hearts of the congregation, but if those leading the service are a mess and their relationship with the Father very distant, it will hinder the ability of the Holy spirit.
In my own life, I had moments where it seemed that instead of leaning on the Spirit of God, I was leaning on my own understanding. But one day I found myself in my office just sitting and not saying anything to the Lord. In fact, I still find myself doing this a lot. I just sit in His presence (which is a good place to be) and wait . . . wait to hear His voice. But that morning in my office, I didn’t hear an audible voice, but just that sense that He was pleased with me and that He loved me no matter how talented I was. When I worshiped, He didn’t care what I sang or how I sang it. His only concern was that I was a mess inside. All He said was, “You’re a good son. You are called to Pastor and to teach, and that is what you do. It is not who you are; you are My son.”
Every time I remember that morning, I hear Phillips, Craig and Dean sing Benny Hester’s song, “When God Ran:
When I hear the part about 4 minutes in, where he sings, “He lifted my face; wiped the tears from my eyes, with forgiveness in His voice He said, ‘Son . . .’ and then as if a bright light of realization suddenly bursts in the heart of the prodigal! “I was lost and a reprobate, but with forgiveness in His voice, ‘He called me son!'” I almost lose it. If it was possible, I would flood my room with tears!
It was that morning when I finally realized that we are first and foremost His sons and daughters and nothing we do, right or wrong, will ever change how He thinks about us. Maybe some of you learned that way before I did, but it was a new and refreshing revelation, for me. Now I have come to realize that no matter what circumstances we are facing, there is a God who is never surprised by any of it. Everything around us is topsy-turvy. You look on the news and there is ISIS, economic issues, domestic abuse, marriages in trouble and so many horrible things happening. You can start feeling like, ‘Man, this world is really messed up,’ and in many ways it is, but the Holy Spirit is able to have believers look up as Isaiah did, and see the Hope of Victory. The Lord is high above it all. And it is something that we need to be continually reminded of.
Leviticus 6:12 talks about the Lord giving Moses instructions on the altar and how the fire burning was to be always burning:
“The fire must always be burning on the altar. It must never go out. The priest will burn wood on it every morning. He will lay the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offering.”
The point of this is that our Lord so longs to be with His people that He was willing to go to great measures to be surrounded by our praise. The altar was a place of offering and the offering was an act of worship. In fact, we need to realize that every act, as soon as we wake in the morning, it should be an act of worship. The key to keeping the fire on the altar burning was the fuel, the act of a priest, and the love and commitment of a creator to His creation.
This was confirmed for me when our Pastor sent us a quote from William Temple. Temple was a bishop in the Church of England and served as Bishop of Manchester, Archbishop of York and Archbishop of Canterbury, and declared:
“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of the imagination by His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable, and therefore the chief remedy of that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin ‘ ~William Temple, 1881 – 1944
Everyday, we are to become the fuel for his fire, we have to become his burning ones. We have an obligation. NO! A command to lift up the glorified Christ in our lives and worship. When you pastors and those of you who lead worship, stand before your churches and lead them into the thrown room of the Most High God, and stand with pure hearts and clean minds! You parents, realize that your children belong to Christ and you were given the task of leading and guiding them to honor and love the Lord. Whatever vocation you are involved in, realize that you are not merely an employee. You are the Lord’s ambassador to your employer and to the customers you deal with. Nothing is insignificant or menial.
Just as the priest did in Leviticus 6, will you commit to never allow the fire of His Holy Spirit to go out? Will you host His presence and step out of the way and allow him to do what He needs to do? Just begin to ask yourself, “How is my heart?
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list. However, you can also find these messages at: Thought For The Day)