How to Hang in There When Life Gets Hard

Marriage
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I spent the first ten years of my marriage trying to turn Cynthia into me. (Can you think of anything worse than a female Chuck?) Finally, she’d had enough.

I’ll never forget when she said to me,

I don’t want you to keep telling people we’re ‘partners’ because we’re not partners. I bear your children, and I cook your meals, and I clean the house, but I’m not really your partner. You’ve never accepted me for who I really am.

Yes, I have.

No, you haven’t.

Yes, I have.

No, you haven’t!

How to Turn That Frown Upside Down

Frowning Man
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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
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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.

Flexibility and Fighting Through the Flatland Fog

Flexibility
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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
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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.

Committing to Excellence

Excellence
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Mediocrity is fast becoming the by-word of our times. Every imaginable excuse is now used to make it acceptable, hopefully preferred.

Things like . . .

  • Budget cuts
  • Time deadlines
  • Majority opinion
  • Hard-nosed practicality

These are outshouting and outrunning excellence.

Swimming Upstream

Those forces seem to be winning the race. Even for pastors. Incompetence and status quo averages are held up as all we can now expect. The tragedy is that more and more people have agreed.

  • Why worry over the small stuff?
  • Why bother with the genuine now that the artificial looks so real?
  • If the congregation buys it, why sweat it?

Are You Dreaming?

Dreams
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We dare not miss an important dimension to hanging tough. It is the thing that keeps you going. I call it a dream. I don’t mean those things we experience at night while we’re asleep.

No, by dream, I mean a God-given idea, plan, agenda, or goal that leads to God-honoring results.

Most pastors I know don’t dream enough. If someone were to ask you,

What are your dreams for this year? What are your hopes . . . your agenda? What are you trusting God for?

Could you give a specific answer? I don’t have in mind just ministry objectives or goals, although there’s everything right with those. But what about the kind of dreaming that results in character building, the kind that cultivates God’s righteousness and God’s rule in your life?

The Church: A Safe Place to Hurt

The Church
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Everybody hurts. But not everybody lives such honest and vulnerable lives that they admit the pain. Why? Because, most often, there isn’t a safe place to do so. The church should be that place (second only to the home). Regrettably, it isn’t.

I heard of a research study where psychologists discovered the top three places where average people “fake it.”

  1. We tend to put on airs when we visit the lobby of a fancy hotel.
  2. We typically fake our true feelings alongside the salesperson at a new-car showroom.
  3. Can you guess the third place we wear a mask? That’s right. In church!

Tragically, in church where authenticity should be modeled, we’ll paint on the phony smiles, slap backs, and shake hands, all the while masking what’s inside our hearts.

In reality . . . we’re hurting.

You Need 3 Individuals in Your Life

You Need 3 Individuals in Your Life
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A church as God intends it is not a gathering of people who sit back and listen to one person preach. Instead, one life touches the life of another, who then touches the lives of people in his or her sphere of influence—those whom the originator would never have known.

To make it even more exciting, those recipients, in turn, touch the lives of others also. That is a contagious ministry.

The medical profession models the idea of multiplication very well.