People often complain about angry preachers. I don’t like them either, and I agree that if a person mixes a sermon with hateful language (or if he believes God has called him to picket other churches) he’s in the wrong profession. Yet today we’ve jumped to the opposite extreme. Now we are afraid to confront sin.
We can’t preach about materialism because we might offend rich people in the audience—as well as the poor people who buy Lotto tickets every week. We can’t preach about fornication because there are people in the church who are living together. We can’t preach about domestic violence because there are deacons who sometimes hit their wives. We can’t preach about homosexuality because our culture says it’s hateful to call that a sin.
I recently spent a couple thousand dollars cutting down and stump-grinding nine trees that I spent hundreds of dollars planting 10 years ago. Seems dumb, I know. But sometimes, that’s what it takes.
Perhaps you’ve seen these trees—they are called Cryptomeria. They grow extremely fast and easily reach 35 to 40 feet and more with a 20-foot spread at the bottom. They are similar to the Leyland Cypress but typically seem to grow larger, more lush, and are deeper green in color.
Pastor Andrew closed the door to his study and leaned against the hard wood, letting out a long breath. A ball of anxiety grew inside his mind, threatening to shut down all functions.
There are times when that ball of anxiety threatens to overwhelm us. It might be because we have overwhelming responsibilities or because people problems loom. The anxiety can also grow from bills or that feeling that we are missing something.
Have you ever noticed how fear takes over your brain? What starts as a niggling feeling in the back of your mind soon has you comatose in front of the television, hoping to drown out the cacophony of "what ifs."
Simeon was righteous and devout. What distinguished him from other people who were righteous and devout was that the Holy Spirit was with him. This seemingly ordinary man was living a supernatural life simply because the Holy Spirit was on Him:
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him”(Luke 2:25).
Gilian made the point that the Bible makes no reference to the word supernatural. He said that the supernatural was simply a byproduct of the presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. It is the same Holy Spirit that supernaturally impregnated a normal teenager named Mary. It was also the Holy Spirit who visited the ordinary and normal men and women on that fateful day of Pentecost.
The pastor had been called from his rural church to another part of the country. He was excited about the new challenge, as he well should have been. In a parting comment to a friend, he assessed the state of spirituality of the church members he was leaving behind:
“There is enough ignorance in this county to ignorantize the whole country.”
What happens when a pastor gets called to a church like that? A church where the members and leaders alike do not know the Word of God and have no idea of how things should be done (what Paul called “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God,” 1 Tim. 3:15) or why it all matters?
Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them. — Ezra 5:2
The term guru has become a description of a person so knowledgeable on a subject that people seek him or her out for advice. These individuals are often depicted as sitting alone on a mountaintop, waiting for someone to stop by for some wisdom. And when the time comes to share, their answers are brief and filled with multiple levels of understanding.
However, leadership does not come from dispensing mysterious advice. Nor, to be more exact, does it come from acting in isolation. God created people to be creatures of community, and within that network of relationships come opportunities to allow others to challenge and encourage each other regardless of title or distinction.
Zerubbabel learned this while attempting to rebuild the Temple after the exiles returned to Jerusalem. Some of the Levites were distraught and wept when the foundation was laid, knowing this version wouldn't be as magnificent as the one Solomon built. Meanwhile, Israel's enemies wanted to help with the building, but when Zerubbabel told them no, they used their power and persuasion to stop construction for sixteen years.
During this time, Zerubbabel could have given up on the whole project. However, two individuals offered him advice and help: the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Not only did they prophesy to the people, but they also helped get the project back on track again. Their advice and encouragement helped Zerubbabel and the people to complete the Temple despite all the opposition.
Not only do leaders need to be able to encourage others, but they also need to find their own consistent sources of encouragement. This doesn't mean that a "guru" needs to be found. Instead, a leader needs to find trusted people who will listen, pray, and offer advice as God directs them to. Leaders flourish under consistent counsel. Now that's good advice!