Doing Too Much . . . Smiling Too Little

Smiling Man
(Image from Pixabay)

The Christian worker is a strange breed. He or she often wants it to look as if the work is terribly hard. In fact, the more difficult and strained the look, the better.

Christian workers are notorious for what I call the “tired blood” look, better known as the outdated “missionary image.” Or, better stated, the exhausted, overburdened “religious image.”

They usually carry an old, worn-out Bible and walk with a slump, listing to port. They seldom smile—sort of a “please pity me” image. Makes me want to gag!

It’s About Character

Character
(Image from Pixabay)

Our culture is overly impressed with the externals. You must look good on TV to win the political race. It’s the image you need to polish. Spin it just right.

But we all know—and all have seen—that a leader without character is a tragedy getting ready to happen.

As pastors, we know about the importance of character, of course. But knowing it isn’t our assignment. Your congregation requires your character. Your role is filled because character is present, or it decreases if it is absent.

It’s the same with me. The church where I serve as senior pastor has a respect for me and appreciates my efforts (all my weaknesses not withstanding).

But this respect hangs on the fact that I’m committed to modeling character, and I’m not going to let it slip away in the stuff of leadership.

I remember the day my dad drove home and the front windshield of our car was broken. He had blood running down his face and I thought, He’s been mugged!

Remember Your Marching Orders

Soldier
(Image from Pixabay)

Christians have a lot more in common with soldiers than we might think. Soldiers don’t serve to protect themselves but to guard the interests of their homeland.

There is simply no room for ego or grandstanding among soldiers during the heat of battle. What matters is obeying the leader’s commands. I can’t help but think of Paul’s words to his young protégé, Timothy:

Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. (2 Timothy 2:3–4 NASB)

Of course, there’s also an intangible longing that keeps a soldier going: the desire to go home. The soldier isn’t just a military man or woman . . . but a . . . 

Sing New Songs . . . with Old Truths

Amazing Grace
(Image from FreeImages)

Without wanting to be misunderstood, let me say unashamedly that I love the grand old hymns. Throughout my Christian life, I have treasured their historic statements of the church’s faith, having committed many of them to memory.

They have been my dearest companions in dark hours of loneliness and discouragement and my greatest encouragers in times of celebration and adoration.

And while I’m the first to admit that while there’s nothing holy about a hymnal per se, hymns remain an important part of our Christian heritage. Why?

The Ministry of Marriage

Marriage
(Image from Unsplash)

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?

Discerning God’s Best

Choices
(Image from Unsplash)

How do you make a choice when all your choices are good? How do you tell the difference between what’s good and God’s best? I’m not talking about making a decision between a morally right path and a morally wrong path.

We know the way we should go in that case. Rather, I’m referring to those times when we must decide between two equally good alternatives. Which do we choose? Which way is God leading? Which way is best?

Initially, it helps me to determine priorities by asking pointed questions like:

The Narrow Way

Narrow Path
(Image from Unsplash)

Christ’s claim to be the only way to God is a hard pill to swallow for many people. Even in some Christian circles, people choke on His words.

Is Jesus the only way to heaven? Will a loving God really confine someone to eternal punishment for rejecting Christ?

It’s a current debate . . . but it’s not a new one. The issues have been argued for centuries. In fact, Jesus Himself was asked a similar question:

God’s Decreed Will

Peace
(Image from Pixabay)

God is at the helm of His creation. Not fate, not chance, not some impersonal force of nature but the Lord alone is in full command of your life.

He is the sovereign ruler of the universe, and His decrees govern what happens in His world.

God’s decrees are:

How to Hang in There When Life Gets Hard

Marriage
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

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
(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 . . .