I’m Third

couple
(Image from Pixabay)

Occasionally, when Cynthia and I attend a party, she’ll say to me, “Let’s not be the center of everything. Why don’t we just sit on the side and listen for a change?”

That’s a great reminder in our narcissistic culture, and especially for pastors who are expected to exhibit a servant’s heart.

This reminds me of a story that always makes me smile. Imagine the scene: James and John approached Jesus one day and asked Him to write them a blank check, to do whatever they asked of Him.

When Jesus inquired about what they wanted, they said, in effect, “We don’t want to be the center of Your kingdom, that’s Your place, but we want to sit right beside You, one on Your left and the other on Your right.” Can you imagine?

The Integrity Assault

Pastor
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Our jobs as pastors are not without work-site hazards. We don’t wear hard hats, of course, but maybe we should! The hazards I’m speaking of are those within our hearts.

One of the greatest of these is what I call “the integrity assault.” I believe our integrity is assaulted when we yield to the temptation to allow our position—and the privileges that come with it—to lower our standard and to weaken our witness.

With every privileged position comes trust. You may carry a church credit card. You are trusted to use that card with integrity. You may drive a car provided by the church.

That is a privilege. Your time and how you use it are at your discretion. Your board and congregation look to you to give a full day’s work for a full day’s wage.

You have a computer and, probably, a private study. A dangerous combination if you lack integrity. The statistics are maddening to me how many in ministry confess to viewing pornography on the Internet!

Sovereign Serendipities

Man
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In my more than 80 years on earth—more than 50 of them in ministry—I have made a trade. It’s been a wonderful trade. I’ve traded youth for truth. And I wouldn’t be years younger if I could make it happen.

I think more than anything else, it is the hardship, it is the difficulty, it is the dead-end street that shapes us.

It is the trial that occurs that makes us into the individuals God wants us to be (if the attitude is right and the learning is still on a willing curve).

It’s how we react, how we respond to the pains and the struggles.

For some, it’s . . .

Erosion

Grandfather
(Image from Pixabay)

When I was a little boy, we used to have our family reunions and vacations down at my grandfather’s cottage beside Carancahua Bay, near Palacios, Texas.

It was a sleepy, little spot that smelled like shrimp 24/7. We would seine for shrimp early in the morning, fish for speckled trout and redfish during the day, and go floundering at night. Wonderful memories, all!

My maternal granddad was the most influential adult in my life as I grew up. One day he said to me, “I want to explain something to you.” And he used a big word I had never heard before: erosion.

Why We Must Stay Sensible

Pastor
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When is the last time you thought about the character quality of sensibility? As pastors, we’re charged with the task, remember? “The overseer must be . . . sensible” (Titus 1:7-8).

Sophron is the term. It has in mind “thinking appropriately.” It means you’re not given to extremes. You’re able to see between the lines and apply some common sense.

We have some funny ducks in the Christian ranks . . . some real nutty people. Howard Hendricks says,

Where there’s light, there’s bugs.

It’s really true! They’re usually people who have big, thick Bibles and notebooks full of notes on everybody from Allen to Zuck. I mean, they’ve got all of this information, yet haven’t won a person to Christ in 50 years.

Feeling Overlooked

MAN
(Image from Pixabay)

As pastors, it is satisfying to know that we can make a lasting contribution and assist others in their need. Being in the swirl of activity, resourceful and responsive, we tend to think it’ll never end.

But it does. Sometimes ever so slowly through a chain of events or sometimes abruptly without warning, we find ourselves sidelined and no longer in demand.

A tiny blood clot in the brain can seize our usefulness and leave us in its devastating grip. Another factor is age . . . merely growing older can move us away from today’s main thoroughfares.

By being passed over for a promotion or by being benched because a stronger associate joins the team, we start feeling overlooked. It hurts.

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.

Meet Me in the Library

lonely
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On a lonely Greyhound bus in January of 1958, a young Marine slumped in his seat with his head down. His heart ached for the wife he’d left behind and feared for the place he was headed.

In his hands. he held Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Through Gates of Splendor. As he turned the pages, his life was turned around forever . . .

That was me.

I had no idea what God had in store for me when I boarded that bus. It turned out to be one of my life’s defining moments, and it came to me through a book.

God used Elisabeth Elliot’s volume to rearrange my attitude, my thinking . . . my entire future.

Hearing God in the Silence

Silence
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When you pray, do you ever feel like you’re standing at the bottom of a long stairway looking up. The light is off, and even though you knock and call out for a response, nothing happens.

You are not alone. Many a soul struggles at this very moment with divine silence. You likely know the story by heart. A calamity comes.

We cry out and expect relief, but instead of answers, we hear nothing.

A mate who has been there for years suddenly walks out. The one who is left alone to face what seems to be endless responsibilities turns to God for His intervention—for His comforting reassurance—only to be met with silence. That awful silence!

Pastoral Discouragement

Discouragement
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While reading Psalm 5, I see that David is just plain discouraged. He prays to the Lord, “pay attention to my groaning” (Psalm 5:1 NLT). Unless I miss my guess, he sang these lyrics while hearing dissonance in his mind.

So many pastors I meet play out their entire lives in the dissonance of discouragement. There is the grinding dismay that follows unachieved goals or failed relationships.

Some are discouraged over their marriages which began with such promise but now seem weak, borderline hopeless.

Lingering ill-health can discourage and demoralize its victims, especially when the pain won’t go away. And who can’t identify with those ministers who gave it their best shot yet took it on the chin from a few self-appointed critics?