The Healing Power of Genuine Forgiveness

Struggling
(Photo courtesy of Pexels)

Let me ask you a tough question: Is there someone you need to forgive? Someone in your family? A parent . . . a sibling . . . your spouse? Or possibly someone in your congregation . . . an elder or deacon?

What keeps you from taking the initiative and making things right?

How long have you allowed the resentment to fester? My friend, you and I both know that harboring bitterness can have lasting and devastating effects on you, your family, and your ministry.

Understanding the Urgent and the Important

The White House
By Юкатан (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When America’s thirty-fourth president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, began his administration, he instructed his aides and his executive assistant that there should be only two stacks of papers placed on his desk in the Oval Office.

The first would be a stack of those things that were urgent, and only the extremely urgent. The other was to be a stack of the important, and only the extremely important.

He said years later that it was interesting to him how rarely the two were one in the same. He was right.

The conflict between the urgent and the important is inescapable. How easy to get the two confused! Staying busy and working hard can make us feel as if we’re managing the important. But that’s not necessarily the case.

A Chance to Start Over This Year

New Year
(Photo courtesy of Pexels)

One of the most encouraging things about a new year is the word new. It means “unfamiliar . . . made or become fresh . . . different from one of the same category that has existed previously,” says Webster.

Simply put, it’s a place to begin anew.

Starting over requires knowing where you are. Honestly admitting your present condition. Facing the music.

Remember Jonah? Somewhere down the line, he got his inner directions cross-wired. He wound up, of all places, on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea bound for a place named Tarshish. That was due west.

But God had told him to preach to Nineveh. That was due east.

Jonah never got to Tarshish, as you remember. Through a traumatic chain of events, Jonah was forced to get his head together in the digestive tract of a gigantic fish.

How to Turn That Frown Upside Down

Frowning Man
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Too often, we pastors tend to wear our smiles upside-down. The burdens of ministry—especially during the busy holidays—often cause our joy to droop into deep-wrinkled frowns.

The remedy? We need to reflect on God’s good gifts to us. And often!

In case you need a little help with this assignment, read through this psalm . . .

My Advice to You This Christmas

Christmas

If I may borrow from Charles Dickens’s famous opening line, Christmas can be “the best of times, and the worst of times.” As pastors, we have them both, don’t we?

Who hasn’t cringed in September as stores drag out and display the artificial Christmas trees? Who hasn’t felt uneasy about the obligatory exchange of gifts with individuals you hardly know?

Something about those annual experiences can make them seem like “the worst of times.”

But they don’t need to be.

Learn to be a Servant, Not a Celebrity

Cleaning
(Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Exactly what does our heavenly Father want to develop within us as pastors? Well, rather than getting over my head in tricky theological waters, I believe the simple answer is found in Christ’s own words.

Read His declaration of His primary reason for coming:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

No mumbo jumbo. Just a straight-from-the-shoulder admission. He came to serve and to give. It makes sense, then, to say that God desires the same for us.

After bringing us into His family through faith in His Son, the Lord God sets His sights on building into us the same quality that made Jesus distinct from all others in His day. God is engaged in building into His people the same serving-and-giving qualities that characterize His Son.

Nothing is more refreshing than a servant’s heart and a giving spirit, especially when we see them displayed in a person many would tag as a celebrity.

Humbled Not Haughty

Years ago, my wife and I attended the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Washington, D.C., where one of the main speakers was Colonel James B. Irwin, a former astronaut who was part of the Apollo 15 crew that had made the successful moon walk.

He spoke of the thrill connected with leaving this planet and seeing it shrink in size. He mentioned watching earthrise one day . . . and thinking how privileged he was to be a member of that unique crew. And then he began to realize en route back home that many would consider him a “superstar,” an international celebrity.

Humbled by the awesome goodness of God, Colonel Irwin shared his true feelings, which went something like this:

As I was returning to earth, I realized that I was a servant—not a celebrity. So I am here as God’s servant on planet Earth to share what I have experienced, that others might know the glory of God.

God allowed this man to break loose from the small cage we call Earth, during which time God revealed to him a basic motto all of us would do well to learn: a servant—not a celebrity.

Life in the Fast-Lane

Caught up in the fast-lane treadmill of the twenty-first century . . .

  • Making mad dashes through airports
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Being responsible for big-time decisions
  • Coping with the stress of people’s demands mixed with our own high expectations

It’s easy to lose sight of our primary calling as Christians (and pastors), isn’t it?

What do you think? What keeps you humble when others applaud you? You can tell me by clicking here.

Wiggling Free from the Clammy, Cold Fingers of the Blahs

Good Communication—Be Interesting
(Photo by Photodune)

In the ministry, monotony and mediocrity often mesh like teeth in gears. One spawns the other, leaving us yawning, bored, and adrift. In referring to monotony, I do not have in mind a lack of activity as much as a lack of purpose.

Even as pastors, we can be busy yet bored, involved yet indifferent. Ministry can become . . .

  • Tediously repetitious
  • Dull
  • Humdrum
  • Pedestrian

In a word, blah.

It’s Time for Some Pastoral Laughter for a Change

old_man_laughing
By BerLin (Nikon) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I know, I know—“ministry is serious business.” If I hear that one more time, I think I’ll gag. I fully realize that too much humor can be irritating, even offensive.

I recognize that it can be taken to such an extreme that it is inappropriate. But doesn’t it seem we have a long way to go before we are guilty of that problem?

I think so.

Flexibility and Fighting Through the Flatland Fog

Flexibility
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Are you open to change? People who make a difference can be stretched, pulled, pushed, and often changed. You heard it from me: traditionalism is an old dragon, bad about squeezing the very life out of its victims.

So never stop fighting it. Watch out for those age-old ruts!

Let’s be careful to identify the right opponent. It isn’t tradition per se; it’s traditionalism. I’m not trying to be petty, only accurate. The right kind of traditions gives us deep roots—a solid network of reliable truth in a day when everything seems up for grabs.

Among such traditions are those strong statements and principles that tie us to the mast of truth when storms of uncertainty create frightening waves of change driven by winds of doubt.

Whatever is in First Place

First Place
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

If some ministry position is the god of your life, then something terrible occurs within when it is no longer a future possibility. If your ministry, however, is simply a part of God’s plan and you keep it in proper perspective, you can handle an unwanted dismissal just as well as you can handle a promotion.

It all depends on who’s first and what’s first.

Breaking the magnet that draws things ahead of God is a lengthy and sometimes painful process. But God loves us enough to wrench from our hands everything we love more than Him.