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
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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.

Wiggling Free from the Clammy, Cold Fingers of the Blahs

Good Communication—Be Interesting
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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.

It’s Time for Some Pastoral Laughter for a Change

old_man_laughing
By BerLin (Nikon) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I know, I know—“ministry is serious business.” If I hear that one more time, I think I’ll gag. I fully realize that too much humor can be irritating, even offensive.

I recognize that it can be taken to such an extreme that it is inappropriate. But doesn’t it seem we have a long way to go before we are guilty of that problem?

I think so.

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.

2 Tips for Living Victoriously (After You’ve Blown It)

Victory
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Picture for a moment the barrenness and bleakness that happens in a life when compromise occurs. It doesn’t come immediately. At first, there’s some zip, a little excitement; there’s a measure of thrill and pizzazz.

But inevitably the fleshly investment starts to yield its carnal dividends. And when that happens, you suffer as you’ve seldom suffered before.

Perhaps the words very low paint a picture of bleakness that describes you at this moment. Even in ministry, the burden of struggle takes it toll. You have ignored God’s warnings and pushed your strong convictions aside as you trafficked in unlived truth.

But now you are at the end of your rope. You’re discouraged. You have failed miserably. You’re thinking, What a terrible way to live!

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?