God Is Not Surprised

God
(Image from Pixabay)

No doubt, you’ve run across people who believe that the One who created us is too far removed to concern Himself with the tiny details of life. But that is not the case. God’s plan is running its course right on schedule, exactly as He decreed it.

This world is not out of control, spinning wildly through space. Nor are earth’s inhabitants at the mercy of meaningless chaos.

Focusing on the Facts, Not the Fear

Pastor
(Photo courtesy of Pexels)

Thinking theologically can be a tough thing to do—even for us pastors. That’s because we focus most of our energy and attention on what I all “the horizontal” aspects of ministry. Thinking vertically is a discipline few have mastered.

We much prefer to live in the here-and-now realm, seeing life horizontally as others see it, dealing with realities we can . . .

  • Touch
  • Analyze
  • Prove
  • Explain

We are much more comfortable with the tactile, the familiar, the logic shaped by our culture and lived out in our times.

But God offers a better way to live—one that requires faith as it lifts us above the drag and grind of our immediate little world.

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!

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
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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.

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.