Listening to Them

Listen to Them
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I’ll never forget one man’s criticism of me that helped me as much as anything I’ve ever heard. I was about to graduate from seminary. I had completed the finest courses in theology, Greek, Hebrew, and homiletics—you know, I was fully prepared for life and ministry.

(Yeah, right!) But I still had something essential to learn.

I’ll never forget this man’s words. He looked me in the eye and said, “You know, Chuck, you’ve got a great sense of humor . . . but it’s often at someone else’s expense.”

That stung, but it was true.

When I Fell in Love with Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving
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My love affair with Thanksgiving takes me all the way back to my boyhood days. I had just turned 10 years of age and was in fifth grade at Southmayd Elementary School in East Houston.

As I recall, I was still going barefoot to school—and I combed my hair, maybe three times a week. Girls didn’t matter a lot to me when I was 10! It was on a Wednesday, the day before our Thanksgiving holidays began.

The year was 1944. Our nation was at war across the Atlantic into Europe as well as in the Pacific and far beyond.

Times were simple back then but they were also rugged. Everything was rationed. Framed stars hung proudly in neighborhood windows—and sometimes they were quietly changed to crosses.

Everyone I knew was patriotic to the core. Without television, we relied on “newsreels” that were shown at the movies, bold newspaper headlines, and LIFE magazine, which carried photos and moving stories of courage in battle and deaths at sea. Signs were posted inside most stores and on street corners, all of them with the same four words:

Authenticity and Action

Parenting
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The temptation of any child of vocational Christian ministers is to see the work of the ministry as just another thing, just a religious gig. Parent-ministers must break through the “stage show” perception of religious work if their children are to understand that this isn’t big business, a slick profession, or an entertainment arena where Mommy or Daddy puts on a performance.

The key word is authenticity. Not perfection, for no one gets it right all the time. But being real. Admit your faults, own them completely, ask for forgiveness, be quick to give it, allow children plenty of room to fail, and let them see you live your life behind the scenes with love, grace, and humor.

Accepting Others

Accepting Others
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One of the reasons I like to buy groceries where I do is because they hire those who are a little slower as baggers. Isn’t it neat to be around people like that?

One of them calls me, “Sonny.” I especially like that. There aren’t many people left today who say that to me! He’s about a 35 year old man, I’d guess. “How you doing, Sonny?”

I like choosing his checkout line because he and I always talk together. The other day I told him what a great job he was doing and tears came to his eyes. Isn’t that amazing? You’d think half the people who go through there tell the baggers they do a good job.

He said, “Man, I haven’t heard that in a year.” The manager of the store, who was standing about three feet away, said, “I told you that three months ago.”

Can You Name Five?

Laughing
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Time once was when our homes and offices buzzed with loud laughter. As family members and coworkers, we interacted with each other in houses and hallways . . .

  • By the water cooler
  • In the kitchen
  • At the fireplace
  • Sitting on front porches
  • In a plaza.

Ideas were shared, and gestures were freely expressed. Feelings of affirmation were punctuated through smiles and handshakes. Hugs, frequent touches, and arms around each other’s shoulders were commonplace.

No longer.

Take Time for Your Spouse

Take time for your spouse
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God gives a pastor a spouse for life, knowing full well that it will take time to cultivate that relationship. Unfortunately, we live in a day in which people think if our activity is not at the church, it lacks devotion to Jesus.

As pastors, we can fall for that lie if we don’t continually guard against it. Just the opposite is true.

When we give our time to our spouse, we are demonstrating devotion to Christ. I don’t think we’re missing out on anything God has for us to do at the church.

One of my cherished mentors, Dr. Howard Hendricks, once made a tremendous statement:

It Takes Grace . . .

Grace
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Sarcastic infighting. Negative putdowns. Stinging stares. Volatile explosions of anger. Doors slamming. Desperate feelings of loneliness. Awkward silence.

Those descriptions portray the marriages in many homes and families. And also, in many parsonages.

We are not immune, are we? It is possible that you have gotten to the place where you look for excuses not to be home. Or to be there as little as possible.

It’s easy in the ministry to justify our absence, isn’t it? Even in our own minds.

For more years than I care to remember, I was so insecure and fearful it wasn’t uncommon for me to drill Cynthia with questions—petty, probing questions that were little more than veiled accusations.

Listen to the One You Married

Listen
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Honestly, I will never forget one man’s criticism of me that helped me as much as anything I have ever heard. I was just about to graduate from seminary.

I had completed the finest courses in theology . . .

  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Homiletics

You know, I was fully prepared for life and ministry. (Yeah, right!) But I still had something essential to learn.

I’ll never forget this man’s words. He looked me in the eye and said,

The Ministry of Marriage

Marriage
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Marriage is one of God’s greatest tools for ministry. For example, consider the impact of Priscilla and Aquila’s marriage. Somewhere in the streets of Corinth, they stumbled across a man down on his luck.

Paul was . . .

  • Weary
  • Homeless
  • Alone
  • Fresh off a demoralizing trip in Athens
  • He needed a place to stay

They cleared out a room. Not for one night, not for one week, but until Paul was called to move on.

Then an up-and-coming young evangelist breezed into town. After his eloquent sermon, Priscilla and Aquila invited him over for dinner.

Acts 18:24–25 states that Apollos was gifted and passionate. Though he was accurate in his teaching, he was incomplete in his theology. This couple corrected his doctrine without quelling his desire.

Priscilla and Aquila simply opened up a room for Paul and a seat at the table for Apollos. Through their hospitality and instruction, they impacted two of the greatest early church leaders.

What about us? Who could we impact that may in turn impact the world?

God Has No Grandchildren

Grandparents
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God has no grandchildren. He only has children. As much as we would love it, there is no automatic transfer of God’s truth to others. Everyone must make his or her own spiritual journey.

Moses knew this truth. The mighty leader of one of history’s greatest journeys spent his last words encouraging the Israelites to pass on God’s truth to their children.

To get the full impact of his words recorded in Deuteronomy 6:1-9, understand where the Israelites were. After wandering for 40 years, they stood on the banks of the Jordan River . . . at the very edge of the Promised Land.

Their children and grandchildren would grow up in the new territory before them.

At the beginning of this new life for God’s people, Moses gave a number of directives. I want to highlight one in particular for us: