Via Dolorosa – The Way of Suffering

Good Friday

Down the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem that day
The soldiers tried to clear the narrow street
But the crowd pressed in to see
A Man condemned to die on Calvary
He was bleeding
from a beating, there were stripes upon His back
And He wore a crown of thorns upon His head
And He bore with every step
The scorn of those who cried out for His death
Down the Via Dolorosa called the way of suffering
Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King,
But He chose to walk that road out of His love
For you and me.
Down the Via Dolorosa, all the way to Calvary.
Por la Via Dolorosa, triste dia en Jerusalem
Los saldados le abrian paso a Jesus
Mas la gente se acercaba
Para ver al que llevaba aquella cruz
Por la Via Dolorosa, que es la via Del dolor
Como oveja vino Cristo, Rey, Señor
Y fue El quien quiso ir por su amor
Por ti y Por mi
Por la Via Dolorosa al Calvario y a morir
The blood that would cleanse the souls of all men
Made its way to the heart of Jerusalem.
Down the Via Dolorosa called the way of suffering
Like a lamb came the Messiah, Christ the King
But He chose to walk that road out of His love
For you and me
Down the Via Dolorosa, all the way to Calvary.
Songwriters: Miklos Rozsa
Via Dolorosa lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Pray For Your Preacher

Preachers can be odd birds. I know, because I are one and I know a lot of them. Having spent a good bit of time listening to preachers and communicating with them, I can tell you that most preachers aren’t the blustering self-assured three-point personas you’ve gotten used to seeing in the pulpit. OK, a few of them are. But most people in the congregation never really get to see their preacher as a real person. Our current frantic lifestyles leave little time for ‘preacher visits’ and given the constant pressure of moving ahead to the next event or series, most preachers have little time for social visits any more. If your preacher is a praying man (and we hope he is), he is praying for you. I wonder how many congregants are praying for their preacher?

Many years ago a friend and church elder, Jim Ingram, told me, “John, I pray for you every single day.” I would feel confident that he prays for his current preacher every day now. I can’t recall how long ago that was, but I still remember how that made me feel and the knowledge of his prayers stuck with me. 

Over and over the Apostle Paul appealed for Christians to pray for him.

Romans 15:30 Brothers and sisters, I urge you, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggles in your prayers to God for me.

2 Corinthians 1:10b-11a We have set our hope on him that he will rescue us again, since you are helping with your prayer for us.

Colossians 4:4 Pray that I might be able to make it as clear as I ought to when I preach.

1 Thessalonians 5:25 Brothers and sisters, pray for us.

How can you pray for your preacher?

*Pray for His Studies. There are so many things expected of preachers these days that do not relate to their teaching and preaching. However, here is one primary duty that is incumbent upon preachers and that is to spend time in the Word. Vance Havner said, “It’s not our business to make the message acceptable, but to make it available. We are not to see that they like it, but that they get it.” Preachers accept the burden of attempting to translate their studies into messages that reach the daily journey of all.

*Pray for His Spiritual Life. Separate from studies for lessons, the minister must maintain a vigilant spiritual life. Like everyone else, there is a world of distraction and the urgent duties and details of life. E. M. Bounds wrote, “A prepared heart is much better than a prepared sermon. A prepared heart will make a prepared sermon.”  Just because preachers spend a lot of time studying the Bible doesn’t mean they are spending a lot of time with God. To know that there are prayer warriors standing strong with the preacher brings renewed zeal and encouragement.

*Pray for His Family. Preachers aren’t alone in this, but ministry is one career that encompasses the whole life. Often times the wives and children of ministers are neglected because the preacher makes the mistake of believing that he has a call that surpasses all earthly ties. But it’s a tragic mistake to ignore the family God has given him. In addition, minister’s wives often bear up under the duel weight of hearing the criticism of her husband and serving in the roles she is expected to fill because of the identity of her husband. Both of those are unfair consequences of being married to the minister. In some cases preachers move frequently and so the loss of friendships over time can begin to weigh heavily.

*Pray for His Spirit. Ministry can be challenging. There are the needs of each day and the weekly teachings that have to be accumulated and considered. In addition there is the weight of criticism – sometimes deserved, but often delivered in a crass manner. Some preachers get ‘anonymous letters’, given more attention than they deserve (all such should be immediately placed in the garbage can). Whatever opinions are expressed from the outside, none are more crushing than the inward reflections to which all preachers are subject. The self-comparisons to other preachers, the unanswered questions as to why members quit or move to other churches, the casual ease with which ‘church friends’ seem to no longer be interested in being friends, and the failed efforts at outreach all feed into the minister’s psyche. I doubt much of this is considered when someone blurts out some complaint about some insignificant issue. Having been in ministry for over 30 years I have seen ministers toughen up to the point that they don’t listen any longer (which isn’t good) and I’ve seen them try to please everyone (which they can’t). I’m not trying to say that preachers are so sensitive that we need to coddle them, but I do think it’s fair for us to be considerate of their spirit and do what we can to balance complaints and encouragements.

*Pray for His Success. The best thing for everyone in the church is that when plans are made and there are efforts toward outreach that we all do what we can to make it a success. If the minister is successful in balancing his life spiritually, physically, and emotionally, then his ministry among the congregation will benefit. If the plans of the minister are met with enthusiasm and support, then the congregation will benefit. The preacher’s top three desires for his work are that (1) God is glorified, (2) the congregation is encouraged and (3) the lost are saved. When we all work toward the efforts that lead to those desires, the congregation as a whole benefits.

Everyone has challenges in life and I’m not suggesting that preachers have it worse. In fact, I hesitated to write this post lest it come off as whining or calling attention to myself. But who else besides a preacher can write a post like this? I am confident that people in my church are praying for me, but I know many ministers who do not share that confidence. Some are barely hanging on. Some will not only change churches, but leave ministry altogether. I wanted to urge Christians everywhere to keep their preacher in prayer and let him know it. The Enemy will certainly do all he can to discourage him.

God is looking for broken men who have judged themselves in the light of the cross of Christ. When he wants anything done, he takes up men who have come to the end of themselves, whose confidence is not in themselves but in God.” – Henry Ironside

Questions for Contemplation

*What actions can you take to include your preacher in regular prayer?

*How could you use the Scriptures above to assist you in composing your prayers?

*If you do not particularly like your preacher or have a hard time getting along with him, how can you use prayer to bridge the gap?

*What are some ways you can communicate to your preacher that you are praying for him?

*When can you ask your preacher what he most needs you to be in prayer for him?

*When is the last time you’ve prayed for your preacher’s family?

Links:

Six Prayers for Pastors 

Pray for Your Pastor – links to nine posts all dealing with praying for your preacher.

 

Book Review: When God Shows Up

When God Shows Up: Essays on RevivalWhen God Shows Up: Essays on Revival by Dave Butts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m always interested when Dave Butts speaks or writes. I love the way he speaks with such confidence in His Savior, the emphasis he has had in his life on prayer, and the inner urging he has to see the church come alive. So, I was very happy to pick up this book and read through the essays it contains. Right away one is challenged to do some soul searching to see where our confidence really is.

Christians seem to have more confidence in the power of political parties to change the nation than we have in the church to transform our culture.

There are many challenges to Christians in this book – serious faith challenges. And these are the kinds of challenges with which we need to be confronted. Revival is the theme and Dave spends much time trying to give us a picture of what it looks like when revival takes place within the church.

I believe that revival is the church waking up to the presence of Jesus in her midst.

When there is an awareness of the presence of Jesus, a feeling of awe comes upon us. If we realize that the Risen Savior is among us and we can see the evidence of His work in the lives of ourselves and others, we are moved to worship Him with our whole heart. Part of that response to Jesus is in the beauty of prayer. Dave and Kim Butts write and teach almost exclusively about prayer. They are great resources for this important subject.

There has never been a revival without a movement of prayer. God always calls His people to prayer in anticipation of revival

We also should be praying every day for the completion of the task of world evangelization, for revival, for our governmental leaders, for the unsaved. Those are kingdom-focused prayers.

Prayer, repentance, worship, a return to God, a dependence upon the Holy Spirit … these are themes that run through almost every chapter. Many of the chapters are rooted in the prayer book of the Bible, the Psalms.

The rediscovery of God’s Word is needed in our own culture today. In many lives, the Word has been lost. It has been unopened and unread. In many cases, even when it is read, it has not been revered, respected, believed, or obeyed. One of the key marks of a genuine revival from God is the restoration of the authority of the Bible.

One of my favorite quotes has to do with repentance … how our hearts can be like unplowed ground. I have not considered this before but it is a vivid picture. Which parts of our hearts are unplowed?

When we have broken up the unplowed ground in repentance and begin to seek the Lord with all our heart, then the promise comes. It is the Lord Himself Who comes in response to a repentant, seeking heart. He comes ready to shower His righteousness upon us.

Dave Butts’ book is not a very long one but it contains essays about revival that inform and inspire. Currently Dave is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and we pray that it is doing its work so that he can give many more years to the Kingdom of God. Our prayers are with Dave and Kim.

Heaven-sent revival is our only hope. We don’t have answers. We don’t know what to do. We don’t have any programs in our churches that are changing whole communities and our society. It’s just not happening. What we need is God.

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Book Review: Mondays With My Old Pastor

Mondays with My Old Pastor: Sometimes All We Need Is a Reminder from Someone Who Has Walked Before UsMondays with My Old Pastor: Sometimes All We Need Is a Reminder from Someone Who Has Walked Before Us by José Luis Navajo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can honestly say I wish I had read MONDAYS WITH MY OLD PASTOR when I was a young preacher. The wisdom contained in this book has blessed me tremendously. There are few chapters when my eyes did not shed tears. This is not just a sentimental book about an old pastor, but instead is a very rich resource of wisdom and strength that I feel has given me greater insights into what it means to be a preacher.

“Life doesn’t start when you’re twenty, or when you’re forty. Life starts at Calvary. And that’s where fruitful service begins as well. Let the cross be so present in you that it becomes your way of life and your rest.”

This book recounts a young minister’s twelve Mondays spent with an elderly pastor and the lessons and stories he heard while there. In every chapter the old pastor gives the young pastor a key to living life in the shadow of the cross while serving the God of the church. Enclosed in these chapters are some wonderful stories and truths that will enrich anyone who serves in the ministry of the church.

“God is not looking for celebrities, nor does He choose His servants consulting celebrity magazines; He prefers vessels of clay to administer His treasure … On a stage is where celebrities shine; on an altar is where God’s presence comes down. The two are incompatible; we will have to choose: human celebrities or godly impact.”

In one chapter the old pastor reveals the death of his son to his weekly visitor. The tenderness and grace with which this chapter was written was worth the whole book. Of course I resonated with this chapter.

“God draws near to us and wraps us and keeps us warm. The miracle of His presence fills the hole of any emptiness, even the most atrocious ones … even those losses that leave you adrift … I managed to understand that death is just a change in mission and that our little Joseph is more alive than ever, because if death weren’t a prelude to another life, then this present life would be a cruel joke.”

As I said earlier, I wish I had read this as a young minister. However, it’s possible that I wouldn’t have appreciated it in my younger years as much as I do now. I look forward to reading through this book again at a future date and gaining even more wisdom. Reading this book felt like I was the one who was spending Monday with My Old Pastor.

“Travel on the road of the cross until the end,” he told me. His eyes had a layer of water covering them, on which a smile was cradled. “Don’t give up. The cross has its price…but there is nothing more beautiful, or more worthy of embracing.”

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Book Review: A Light in the Darkness, Light of Loian

A Light in the Darkness, Light of LoianA Light in the Darkness, Light of Loian by Heather Sutherlin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Because I know someone who knows the author, I decided to read A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS. It is certainly not in the category of books I typically read, but I did enjoy it. It could be classified as Christian Fiction, but only in an allegorical sense. It would also classify as fantasy fiction, with ghostly figures, princes and kings, and mystical powers.

The story chronicles the development of Merrilyn from an orphaned girl into a powerful healer who has powers she did not know she had. One of the King’s sons has disappeared and his other son, Prince Justan, is charged with finding out what happened. Justan and Merrilyn grew up together and have a growing love interest. There is danger and intrigue as they battle the forces of darkness who are attempting to destroy Merrilyn because of her newfound abilities.

The reason I gave it a good rating was because the story was well written, enchanting, and engaging. The story moves along fairly rapidly but with enough detail that one is drawn into the imagery and begins to feel that we know the characters. As a 53 year old man, I would think that I’m not the core audience for a book such as this. But I suppose anyone can enjoy a good story. I think this would be a great story for a preteen through adult to read. It is free of profanity and graphic (or any) sexual content, which I appreciated.

I’d happily recommend it to a youngster who was looking for a good story and also to any adult who just enjoys a good story. This is the first in a series.

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Book Review: Food – A Love Story

Food: A Love StoryFood: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I tend to overload my reading with theology and devotional books. Occasionally I read through a fiction book. After reading Jim Gaffigan’s FOOD: A LOVE STORY I’m going to have to try to read more humor books.

Supposedly there are good fats and bad fats. I like to think of myself as a good fat. It helps my self-esteem when I look in the mirror.

Especially Jim Gaffigan. What I like about him both in writing and on stage is that his talk is not peppered with profanity (rarely) and graphic sexual content. He’s a dad and married to a devout Catholic and I think he really keeps his family in mind when he’s writing his material. They are there, present in all of his bits … and that tells me he’s not only a comic, but a husband and father who loves his family.

I struggled through my twenties and thirties, and then one day I looked in the mirror, saw my belly, and said, “I give up. It’s all over.” It wasn’t defeat as much as it was acceptance. I figured, I got a hot wife. If she leaves me for getting fat, that means she’s shallow. “Honey, do you think looks are important? No? Good. Now pass the gravy.

Another reason I enjoyed this book is that I’m as fanatical about food as Gaffigan is and his unabashed love affair with food had me laughing and agreeing all the way through.

These pompous responses are because no one admits they go to McDonald’s. McDonald’s sells roughly six billion burgers a day, and there are only three hundred million people in this country. I’m not a calculus teacher, but I figure some of these people are lying.

Yes, I believe we need to do a lot of serious reading but every once in a while it helps to just smile a little … enjoy an outright laugh … and realize the Scripture is true that laughter is good medicine.

I’d never want my last real meal to be a kale salad or a PowerBar.

I’m with Jim.

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