Are You Ready for a Fresh Gust?

Have you ever been in a sailboat when it seemed there was absolutely no breeze? While experienced sailors somehow can catch the wind when there is no wind, amateurs like me often find ourselves dead in the water, going nowhere.

Sailing is such an apt metaphor for life. Winds come and go, blowing from one direction or another. But no matter what winds we encounter, we must resolutely set our sail and rudder toward our desired destination.

Yet this is a mystery in some ways. Even Solomon, known for his great wisdom, admitted he didn’t understand how ships can stay on course, even amid adverse winds (Proverbs 30:18-19).

So here’s a question to ask: Which way are the winds blowing in your  life today? Are you experiencing pleasant breezes or fierce, unrelenting windstorms? Or perhaps you find yourself wearily praying for a “second wind” or a gust to help you get unstuck from your present doldrums.

From time to time, we all need a fresh gust of wind. Whether in our family, our finances, our ministry, or our career, things get pretty stale if no wind is blowing.

Although I’ve tended to shy away from sharing “prophetic” impressions in my blogs, recently I sensed God speaking to me through the metaphor of sailing. Even though the past few months have been fantastic in many ways, I sense that they’ve just gotten me ready for what’s ahead.

As I was praying about these things, I felt that God was saying quite distinctly, “Get ready for a gust  in August!” I took that as very good news. I’ve never liked to drift listlessly in the water, so it was great to hear that a new blast of wind was on the way!

However, I’ve also experienced times in my life when God sent a fresh gust of His Spirit and I wasn’t prepared. A strong breeze does a sailboat no good if the sail isn’t ready and the rudder isn’t set. Even worse, it can capsize the boat if the sailor isn’t paying attention!

Will God truly send “a gust” in Au-gust? We will find out soon! But one thing is for sure: It’s best to be ready.

Sailboats are a lot like eagles, for both rely heavily on wind currents to supply their propulsion. We’re promised in Isaiah 40:31, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

The message here for eagles, sailboats, or Christians is clear: Continually needing new strength and inspiration, we must wait expectantly for God to send a new gust of His divine wind. And based on Isaiah’s promise, we can expect a gust of God’s Spirit anytime, and any month, we’re willing to wait for it.

So now’s the time to prepare our hearts to be ready when it comes!

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When Your Life Grows Stale

potato-chips

I wasn’t prepared for what God spoke to me as I prayed with a friend recently. It was just a single word, with no explanation given or needed.

“STALE.”

I wish I could tell you that this word from God was meant for my friend. But I knew it was an arrow pointed directly at me.

Everyone knows what staleness is like. The cracker or potato chip that once was crisp and tasty is now bland and tasteless, somewhat like eating cardboard.

Ordinarily people simply throw things away that have become stale. “This product is past the expiration date,” they say, “so I’m just going to toss it.”

Dictionaries give lots of interesting descriptions of staleness: dry, hardened, flat, musty, stagnant, boring, tedious, or having lost novelty, interest, or freshness.

Have you ever become stale in some area of your life? Perhaps stale in your relationship with the Lord, your marriage, your career, or your ministry?

Unless the proper precautions are taken, things that once were tasty and appealing can become unpalatable and disgusting as time goes by.

Surely I’m not the only one this has ever happened to.

Thanks to The Message paraphrase, I have a Biblical reference on the subject of staleness. Jesus told the Christians in Laodicea:

“I know you inside and out…You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant (Revelation 3:15-16).

What a sad condition these believers found themselves in. Jesus said they were lukewarm, neither cold nor hot. They were existing at room temperature—pretty much like a corpse!

And when we become lukewarm, we inevitably end up stale and stagnant as well. Life loses its zest, and everything begins to taste like a stale potato chip.

Sometimes stale potato chips, crackers, or nuts can regain freshness when you put them in the oven for a while. In the same way, God has ways to make stale things fresh again. He can bring revival to your spiritual life and new vitality to your marriage, your job, or your dreams.

One day every bit of our staleness will be remedied by the one who says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). But the good news is that we don’t need to wait until Jesus returns to experience “newness of life” (Romans 6:4, 7:6).

Don’t give up. You haven’t reached your expiration date yet. Today can be the day when your life starts becoming crisp and tasty once again.

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Spotting True & False Contrition

contrition-2

I’m writing this on the Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and I can’t help thinking about a Biblical word that’s been in the news a lot lately: contrition. While this isn’t meant to be a political blog post, I think it’s important to read today’s headlines with an understanding of the nature of true repentance and contrition.

I recognize that dealing with this issue can easily lead to Phariseeism, as if others have been guilty of false contrition, while I’ve managed to escape such foibles. And even though the Bible provides many telltale signs of false contrition, I admit that it’s always dangerous to judge another person’s heart.

Contrition never comes easily. None of us enjoys humbling ourself and contritely acknowledging our sins and shortcomings. And, as Jesus pointed out, it’s all too easy to notice the speck in our neighbor’s eye, while excusing the plank in our own eye (Matthew 7:3).

The story of true and false contrition begins in the Garden of Eden, so it’s no wonder these are such deeply ingrained tendencies, not easily shaken. Yet if we don’t deal with the blind spots in our own lives, there is certainly no hope for repentance on a national or international level.

Although an entire book could be written on the nature of true contrition, here are some highlights of what we can learn from the Scriptures:

  1. True contrition does not include finger-pointing and blame-shifting. When God came to Adam and confronted him about his disobedience, Adam gave the classic response, “The woman whom You gaveto be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). In essence, Adam said it was all the woman’s fault. And since the Lord was the one who had given him the woman, it ultimately was God’s fault as well. And of course, Eve had a great line too, basically saying, “The devil made me do it” (Genesis 3:13).

King Saul was a master at this kind of blame-shifting. When rebuked by the prophet Samuel for impatiently offering a burnt offering, Saul claimed it was Samuel’s fault for not arriving on time (1 Samuel 13:1-14). False contrition always finds some lame explanation or pins the blame on someone else.

In light of this, it’s interesting that when Donald Trump apologized for his inappropriate sexual banter 11 years ago, he couldn’t resist adding that Bill Clinton’s sins were certainly much worse than his.

And who could forget Hillary Clinton blaming “the vast rightwing conspiracy” in the 1990s when the news media asked about her husband’s infidelities?

Seems like not much has changed since the Garden of Eden.

  1. True contrition doesn’t minimize our offense. Hey, I used to be an attorney, so I know all about how to plea bargain, only admitting guilt to lesser charges. Notice that Donald Trump explained his lewdness as mere “locker room talk,” as if that somehow made it better.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton says it was just a “mistake” to do State Department business on a private email server in her home—even though the mistake potentially exposed the nation and its covert operatives to great danger if her emails were hacked.

Once again, Saul was a prime example of how not to show true contrition. He consistently minimized or explained away his offenses. After he disobeyed God’s instructions in 1 Samuel 15:1-29, he offered the “religious” explanation that he was merely keeping back the best of the sheep to sacrifice to the Lord. When he realized Samuel wouldn’t buy that spiritual-sounding argument, he essentially said, “Okay, I have sinned. But now let me get on with what I was doing.”

With Saul oblivious to the seriousness of his actions, Samuel told him the shocking news, “The Lord has rejected you from being king” (vs. 24-26). False contrition typically expects to suffer no consequences from our sins, but there will be consequences nevertheless.

  1. True contrition doesn’t quibble about words and definitions. In the course of his impeachment testimony, Bill Clinton famously argued that his statement “there’s nothing going on between us” had been truthful. His rationale was that he didn’t have any ongoing relationship with Monica Lewinsky at the time he was being questioned. Clinton said, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is…If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement.” Wow. Spoken like a true lawyer.
  1. Although rare, true contrition happens best when it’s not just because we got caught. Waving his finger at the press, Bill Clinton adamantly claimed, “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” His story only changed when it came to light that his semen was still on the blue dress she had saved.

Likewise, Hillary persistently claimed she never sent or received classified government information on her email service—until the FBI found otherwise.

But this certainly isn’t an issue confined to politicians of just one party. Remember Nixon’s attempted cover-ups during Watergate? And do you think Donald Trump would ever confess offenses that weren’t caught on video?

Even King David seemed prone to denial and cover-up. Somehow he avoided remorse over his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband until he was confronted by Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 12).

Yet once his sin was exposed, David responded quite differently than Saul. His repentance was both deep and complete (Psalm 51). No minimizing. No rationalizing. No blaming of others. No plea bargaining.

In stark contrast to Saul, David recognized the severity of his sins and his desperate need for the mercy and forgiveness of God. And rather than just showing contrition in order to rehabilitate his imagine or gain respectability in the eyes of people, David sought something much deeper: a clean heart and right standing again with the Lord.

Isn’t it stunning how easily we can excuse and explain away the sins of the politicians we like—those of our own party or political philosophy—while harshly judging those we think should be defeated. Morality and righteousness have been put on a sliding scale, depending on the outcome we desire, rather than on God’s unchanging truth.

We should all be thankful we’re not running for President, because it would be brutal to have our own sins and dirty laundry exposed in the glaring light of the media. As the psalmist correctly noted, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).

You see, contrition is not just something our nation needs—it must start with you and me. And thank God, we have every reason to be honest about our sins rather than try to hide them (Proverbs 28:13, 1 John 1:9). Because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, we have a Defense Attorney who can truly forgive and erase our misdeeds (1 John 2:1-2).

Before we decide who to vote for, let’s ask God to search our own hearts and expose our wicked ways (Psalm 139:23-24). He promises to dwell with those who have “a contrite and humble spirit” (Isaiah 57:15), and we still seem a long way from that now.

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The Only Thing That Will REALLY Make America Great Again

Abraham-Lincoln

It is abundantly clear that no political candidate can “make America great again.” But that doesn’t mean all is lost.

As every student of history knows, America was in crisis in 1863. Despite Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves in January of that year, the Civil War raged on, with no end in sight.

Today America is in crisis again. The symptoms aren’t yet as obvious as in Lincoln’s day, and some people are in denial that anything is wrong. We will never correct our course unless we are willing to acknowledge that our course has been faulty.

While presidential candidates may promise to make America great again, they offer solutions that fail to recognize what made America great in the first place. Their faulty premise is that greatness will return if we have better trade deals, more jobs, a more equitable tax structure, or a stronger military.

We can argue about whether such things are an improvement. But none of them will make America great again.

In stark contrast to what is being promised today, on March 30, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation “Appointing a Day of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer.” Calling the nation to repentance and a spiritual awakening, he pointed to our need for God’s grace and favor. In support of this, he paraphrased Psalm 33:12, saying, “Those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord”:

Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord…

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness…

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or follower of some other political philosophy, I hope you will grasp the power of Lincoln’s message. We need more than better politicians or better policies. We need a spiritual awakening that begins with you and me.

In addition to Abraham Lincoln’s diagnosis of our need for national repentance and revival, the words of nineteenth-century historian Alexis de Tocqueville are amazingly prophetic today: “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Forgive us, Lord. We need more than a good President. We need to once again acknowledge You as our King.

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It’s What’s Under the Hood That Counts

Sonata

My 2011 Hyundai Sonata looks exactly the same as it did a month ago. On the surface it’s the same 100,000-mile car as it was then.

Yet here’s the strange story of why my car is worth more now than it was several weeks ago…

I got a big surprise when I took my Sonata to the dealer for some routine recalls. “You need a new engine!” the service rep told me, to my shock.

In the seconds that followed, I groaned at the thought of having to pay around $7,000 for a new engine.

But then came the amazingly good news: “The new engine is at our expense, with absolutely no charge to you,” they assured me.

As one more fortunate outcome, they said it would take about a month to get the new engine to the dealership. In the meantime, I got to drive a free, brand-new Toyota Camry from Hertz. And this was great timing, since I was about to embark on a weeklong ministry trip in Ohio.

When I got my car back, I found myself looking for the spiritual lessons in this story…

My Sonata is still a 2011 model, five years old. The body still has 100,000 miles of wear and tear, but overall is in pretty good shape. With a new engine, the car can be expected to run at least 100,000 miles more, probably a lot farther than that. The odometer hasn’t changed, but my car has a new lease on life.

I think there are some parallels between my Sonata and the contrast between our outer body and our inner spirit, which is the “engine” or driving force of our lives. Although people tend to dwell on outward appearances, it’s really what’s “under the hood” that counts (1 Samuel 16:7).

The apostle Paul contrasted the aging of our bodies with the renewal of our spirits: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV). In other words, even though we may not be able to keep our body from aging, God can renew our spirit and give us a new “engine” on the inside.

We’ve all met elderly people who are full of youthful joy and vitality on the inside. But there also are many people who have allowed their internal “engine” to age prematurely. Even though their body is still relatively young, they have lost their joy, their creativity, and their zest for life.

Are you a candidate for new engine—a new heart and spirit? If so, God offers a stunning “recall” you should take advantage of: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV).

That’s an offer too good to pass up, don’t you think? But as with my Hyundai Sonata, the new engine is only offered by the manufacturer. The One who made you in the first place is the One who now offers to renew you (Psalm 51:10-12).

And all you have to do is ask.

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Finding the Fountain of Youth–at Any Age!

Grandpa Buchan

It has been nearly six months since my dad passed away at age 94, and I find myself reflecting on his amazing ability to stay young at heart his entire life. Meanwhile, I’ve been noticing lately that people’s chronological age is often quite different from how they seem. Some people already seem quite old in their 40s and 50s, while others have youthful zest for many decades after that.

Here are 5 of my dad’s secrets to uncommon youthfulness—secrets for experiencing the Fountain of Youth no matter how old you are:

  1. Keep active (Don’t neglect your PHYSICAL health). In his 60s, Dad was still playing handball, tennis, and golf. And in his 80s he would go to the local Walmart or Sam’s Club, not to shop but to walk around and get some exercise. He understood the old maxim, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” and he did his very best to take care of his body.
  1. Keep learning (Don’t neglect your MENTAL health). If Dad were still alive today, we would be having lively conversations about the latest news on the Presidential candidates or the economy. And he would be absolutely ecstatic that BOTH the Ohio State Buckeyes and Carolina Panthers are undefeated at this point in their seasons. You see, Dad was a lifelong learner, never tiring of reading another book or newspaper to find out what’s happening in the world.
  1. Keep dreaming (Don’t neglect your EMOTIONAL health). One important lesson I gleaned from Dad was that he always made sure to have something to look forward to. It might be a cruise, a trip here to Charlotte or back to Ohio, or simply a concert or musical he wanted to see. Even on the days when not much was going on in his life, he found hope and excitement as he contemplated the coming events on his calendar. So here’s a new maxim I’ve come up with to explain this wise practice: Life is DREARY when you quit DREAMING! God says He has plans to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11), and that perspective is a critical component of our emotional health.
  1. Keep loving (Don’t neglect your SOCIAL health). My dad’s last 25 years turned out to be some of the happiest, most joy-filled times of his life. There may have been a number of reasons for this, but number one on the list would surely be the love he shared with his wonderful wife Delores. Their relationship was a fantastic testimony that you can still be “in love” even in your final decades. Countless medical studies have proven that if you don’t have anybody to love, you’re bound to age more rapidly. In fact, if you’re no longer loving, you’re already dying. But what if you don’t have a spouse to share your love with? In addition to his relationship with Delores, Dad continually reached out in love to my brother and I and the grandchildren—and he was still offering us his wise counsel until just weeks before his death.
  1. Keep praying (Don’t neglect your SPIRITUAL health). Dad was puzzled that so few of the seniors in his community had any interest in spiritual matters or church. He and Delores rarely missed a Sunday, and their deep faith was an important ingredient in their vitality. Whenever I have birthday, I find myself claiming the Bible’s promises in Psalm 103:4-5 MSG: He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown. He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal. He renews your youth—you’re always young in His presence.”

I encourage you to take another look at this passage in Psalm 103 and claim its promises for your  life today. No matter what you may have gone through in the past, God wants to crown you with love and mercy. And although He wants you to take good care of your physical body, He also offers you something much more important: “beauty eternal.”

So, my friend, there really IS a Fountain of Youth available to you. God can renew your youth each day, because “you’re always young in His presence.”

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The Power of Full Dis-Engagement

One of the top concepts in the corporate world these days is “the power of full engagement.” It’s a paradigm for managing your personal or organizational energy, and I think you would find it very helpful.

But recently I’ve been learning about the flipside of that concept: the power of full DISENGAGEMENT.

Let me explain why this is so important…

My baby blue 1976 Fiat was the favorite car I’ve ever owned. With 5-speed manual transmission and a responsive engine, it was a complete blast to drive.

But sometimes my Fiat was so much fun that I forgot to press the clutch before changing gears. The result was a horrible grinding sound, not to mention considerable embarrassment on my part. And occasionally my failure to press the clutch even resulted in the engine stalling.

Lately I’ve realized that God is getting me ready for a new season in my life, and I’ve thought about the lesson I learned years ago with that old Fiat: If you’re going to make a smooth transition from one gear (or season) to the next, you’d better press the clutch first.

In many ways, this seems a great paradox. In order to be fully engaged with the next gear, you must first take time to be fully disengaged  from your present gear. Shortcuts simply don’t work. In fact, shortcuts will eventually cause permanent damage to the gears.

No one modeled the power of disengagement better than Jesus. When He saw that His disciples were facing burnout because of never-ending activity, He instructed them to “come apart” to a quiet place and get some rest (Mark 6:31 KJV). Then and now, those who don’t intentionally disengage from their daily grind on a regular basis will eventually “come apart” (i.e., fall apart) in unpleasant, unintentional ways.

Jesus realized the POWER in disengagement, especially when we use that time to better engage with our Heavenly Father. We repeatedly see Him disengaging from the crowds, and even from His disciples, to go pray in the wilderness or on top of a mountain. What was the result of such times? Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14).

Isn’t that beautiful? After Jesus purposefully disengaged for a while, He was able to reengage with new strength and power.

Today, do you find yourself anticipating a new season in your life, but unsure how to get there? Or perhaps you feel stuck in “second gear,” unable to move on. Or maybe you keep hearing a loud screeching sound every time you try to move from one gear to the next.

If you can relate to any of these symptoms, I encourage you to discover—or rediscover, like I have—the power of full disengagement. Leave your friends and family for a few days. Disconnect from your work responsibilities, your smart phone, and your social media. Find a place to quiet your heart and rest.

As you take time to disengage and be still, you’ll experience the powerful message of Psalm 46:10: He is God—and you’re not! That is really, really good news, isn’t it?

———————————

I would love to preach at your church or conference, be a consultant to your leadership team, or help your organization navigate the waters of transition. You can reach me at info@JimBuchan.com.

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Ponce de León’s Mistake

According to a popular legend, sixteenth-century Spanish explorer Ponce de León discovered Florida while searching for the Fountain of Youth . Many people are still looking for the Fountain of Youth in Florida today, but that’s not the subject of this blog.

Many explanations have been offered for what motivated this wild-goose chase. One historian speculated that the adventurous conquistador mistook the natives’ word “vid” (vine) for “vida” (life), which transformed their “fountain vine” into an imagined “fountain of life.”

In some ways, we probably should give Ponce de León kudos rather than ridicule. If you thought you could experience a Fountain of Youth, wouldn’t you do just about anything to find it?

But the folly of his pursuit was in thinking there’s some kind of external substance that can ensure never-ending youth and vitality. In contrast, Jesus told the woman at the well in Sychar, “The water that I shall give…will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Do you see the difference here? Instead of providing us with a life-giving fountain to swim in, Jesus says the living water will be IN us, springing up into eternal life.

The beauty of the gospel is that it transforms us from the inside out. There’s no need to find an external fountain, whether in Florida or somewhere else. Instead, we can find this fountain anywhere you are. And rather than just being a Fountain of Youth, the fountain Jesus offers is a fountain of eternal life.

However, despite the availability of this amazing eternal transformation, many people today are still making the same mistake as Ponce de León. They’re trying to preserve their youthfulness through external remedies—things like money…sex…power…friends…fitness…and fun. But while the Lord may indeed give us such things, at best they provide only a very limited Fountain of Youth.

Meanwhile, God offers us something much better than outside-in solutions. The Bible describes how we can go from weakness to strength and weariness to renewal through the transforming power of the Spirit:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint
(Isaiah 40:28-31).

Youthfulness, like just about any other issue of life, is primarily a matter of your heart, not your skin. As King David discovered, one of the benefits of worshiping the Lord from your heart is that “your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1-5).

So the choice is yours. Will you follow in the footsteps of Ponce de León and focus your attention on outward appearances? Or will you become radiantly renewed in the presence of the Lord, giving priority to the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:4)?

In Revelation 21:6 we’re given a glimpse of those who will drink of “the fountain of the water of life” at the end of time. Thirst  is their key trait, which is good news if you’re thirsty today. You don’t have to search the world for something to make you happy and keep you young. You just need to come into God’s presence and drink.

 

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When a Preacher Doesn’t Feel Like Preaching

I love preaching even more than I like breathing, eating, or taking a walk on the beach. So it was very strange recently when I found myself having absolutely no desire to preach.

What could the problem be?

Of course, some pastors preach every Sunday and are simply burnt out. I could never keep that kind of schedule again. But since I haven’t preached in several months, burnout clearly isn’t my problem.

Another part of my melancholy over the issue is the fact that things didn’t go well the last time I preached. Every pastor has faced this at one time or another. Your sermon is a dud on Sunday, and by Monday you’re thinking of switching careers.

At other times, a preacher may simply be experiencing spiritual dryness. It’s horrible trying to preach a message to others when you yourself feel empty and disconnected with God.

And a similar phenomenon occurs when there’s some kind of emotional trauma going on in your personal life—such as a trial in your health, finances, family, or relationship with church members. It’s no wonder you don’t feel much like preaching when you’re bleeding inside.

Whatever the cause may be, it sure helps if you have a friend or two to share your angst with. With some prayer, wise counsel, and encouragement, your perspective usually can be restored much quicker than you think.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on Jeremiah’s decision to quit preaching and prophesying. It’s hard to blame him, really. He was delivering lots of bad news to the people of Judah, and all he got in return was ridicule and rejection.

Finally, Jeremiah decided he couldn’t take it anymore. Why waste his words on people who responded with such contempt?

However, when he considered taking a preaching vow of silence, that didn’t go well for him either:

If I say I’ll never mention the Lord
    or speak in his name,
his word burns in my heart like a fire.
    It’s like a fire in my bones!
I am worn out trying to hold it in!
    I can’t do it! (Jeremiah 20:9 NLT)

What a dilemma this mighty prophet faced. When he boldly declared God’s message, no one responded in a positive way. Instead, he became a laughingstock.

But when he determined to simply shut up, he found himself in even more agony. God’s Word inside him was like FIRE in his bones! After becoming utterly worn out when he tried to hold it in, he finally said in exasperation, “I can’t do it!”

I don’t know what you are going through today. Perhaps you are tired of speaking out. Maybe you’ve given up making any real difference in people’s lives.

Yet my prayer is for God to ignite such fire in your bones that you won’t be able to remain silent. No longer will you hold back. No longer will you just go through the motions.

If you are dealing with burnout, I pray you will get the rest and renewal you need. If you’ve been wounded, I pray you will discover God’s healing balm. And whatever it takes, may the Lord restore the joy of your salvation and passion for your calling (Psalm 51:10-13).

May you feel the FIRE again, my friend. We need to hear God’s Word from your lips.

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