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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.
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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.
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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 . . .
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.
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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.
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Sin has a ripple effect in families. Even in pastor’s families. Propensity to prolong one particular sin might be handed from father to son genetically. One day science may prove or disprove this notion. However, we know for sure sins are passed from one generation to the next by example.
We don’t have to look any further than the first book of the Bible to see it.
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Do you feel the tightening squeeze this time of year brings?
On top of an already demanding schedule of preaching, teaching, counseling, and calling, you have had to add Christmas parties and programs, a creative Christmas series that you’ve never preached before—and still another eloquent sermon is coming up for the Christmas Eve service.
Such a schedule has a tendency to turn us into Scrooge-like characters, doesn’t it? (We secretly think: Humbug!) Work, work, work . . . nothing and no one will get in our way.
May I assume the role of one of old Scrooge’s ghosts for you? Let me escort you to your home. Peer into the window. Look closely. Is your chair empty at the dinner table?
Okay, that was a cheap shot.
We in ministry don’t like to talk about it, but too many of us sanctify workaholism. And the holidays can be the busiest time! We can allow ourselves to be so involved in “the Lord’s work” that our family is neglected. And I do mean “we.”
This may sound like heresy, but we have to learn to adopt the attitude: “I’m more committed to my home than I am to my ministry.” Try saying that out loud. I doubt any pastor’s final words will be—and I know mine won’t be—”I should have put more time into studying supralapsarianism for that sermon on election.” No way! But I will regret not spending more time loving and laughing with my wife, children, and grandchildren.
Are you feeling adequately guilty yet? Me too. So let me suggest some positive things for us to consider. Here are six rewards that represent huge dividends for yourself, your family, and even your ministry if you make your home your priority. You will enjoy:
- the sustained cultivation of a great character
- the continued relief a clear conscience brings
- the increasing personal delight of knowing God intimately
- the rare privilege of becoming a mentor
- the priceless treasure of leaving an unforgettable legacy
- the crowning reward of finishing strong
It took three ghosts and a sleepless night to convince old Ebenezer Scrooge that work without regard for others amounts to foolishness—and a wasted life.
I have a pastor-friend whose wife often tells him, “I don’t want your presents as much as your presence.” Let’s give ourselves to our families this week, okay?
As a follow-up from last week’s post, let me urge you to use this spring as an opportunity to get next to your children.
- To come to grips with the barriers that are blocking the flow of your love and affection (and theirs).
- To face the facts before the bruise leads to a permanent, domestic fracture.
We’re not Immune
Three biblical cases come to my mind:
- Rebekah—who favored Jacob over Esau . . . and used him to deceive his father, Isaac, which led to a severe family breakdown (Genesis 27).
- Eli—who was judged by God because of his lack of discipline and failure to stand firm when his boys began to run wild (1 Samuel 3:11–14). Eli especially stands out for us as pastors, because he was in the ministry!
- David—who committed the same sin against his son, Adonijah, by never restraining him or crossing him throughout his early training (1 Kings 1:5–6).
You see, no one is immune . . . not even Bible characters . . . not even pastors!
So then, let’s move ahead. Let’s refuse to pamper our parental negligence any longer.
Okay, let’s be honest. How’s it going with you and the kids? Maybe that question doesn’t even apply to you. You may have already raised your brood and had them leave the nest. But I have a hunch that many of you pastors are still in the process of training and rearing.
So—how’s it going?
At a recent pastors conference hosted by Insight for Living, one pastor’s wife asked me an insightful question. I’ll share her question with you, as well as my thoughts on it, so that you might pass it along to your wife, if appropriate. This woman asked, “What is the greatest contribution a wife can make to a man in ministry?”
Wonderful question. Let me respond directly . . . to your wife.