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Eli participated in his sons’ godless behavior. We know this because Eli got fat on the food his boys had stolen from the altar (1 Samuel 3:19–21).

Faithful
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As for Samuel, the boy who heard God’s voice, the closing words of this episode tell us that the sleepy, spiritual indifference that had lulled Israel into complacency was about to come to a screeching halt.

A man of action was on the scene, and Israel’s spiritual drift was about to end. Even as a little boy, he not only heard the Lord, but he obeyed His voice.

Make or Mar Your Ministry

I don’t think the Lord gives mates to us pastors to frustrate us. God gives a pastor a wife for life, knowing full well that it will take time to cultivate that relationship.

Marriage
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In fact, when we give our time to our spouse, we are demonstrating devotion to Christ. I don’t think we’re missing out on anything God has for us to do at the church.

Disintegrating Families

The temptation of any child of vocational Christian ministers is to see the work of the ministry as just another thing, just another religious occupation.

Family
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Breaking through the wall of “public religion” must be the intense responsibility of the parent-minister if his or her children are to understand that this isn’t big business, a slick profession, or an entertainment arena where Mommy or Daddy puts on a performance.

The key word is authenticity. Not perfection, for no one gets it right all the time.

Cultivating Enduring Companions

As I scan the lives of those I most admire in Scripture, I quickly discover that very few of them were loners. Not long ago, I spent almost a year studying the aging apostle John—a man who was still active in his mid-nineties!

Friends
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I’ve logged numerous hours perusing his first letter, which is filled with terms of endearment, like “little children” and “beloved” and his most-frequent exhortation, “love one another.”

John’s life remained intertwined with others. He never “outgrew” his need for people.

And believe it or not, when we get into that major work we call Revelation, which he wrote while all alone on the rugged island of Patmos, John isn’t halfway into chapter one before he identifies himself to his readers as,

Give Your Presence This Year

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 . . .

Christmas Tree
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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?

Listening to Them

I’ll never forget one man’s criticism of me that helped me as much as anything I’ve ever heard. I was about to graduate from seminary. I had completed the finest courses in theology, Greek, Hebrew, and homiletics—you know, I was fully prepared for life and ministry.

Listen to Them
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(Yeah, right!) But I still had something essential to learn.

I’ll never forget this man’s words. He looked me in the eye and said, “You know, Chuck, you’ve got a great sense of humor . . . but it’s often at someone else’s expense.”

That stung, but it was true.

Authenticity and Action

The temptation of any child of vocational Christian ministers is to see the work of the ministry as just another thing, just a religious gig. Parent-ministers must break through the “stage show” perception of religious work if their children are to understand that this isn’t big business, a slick profession, or an entertainment arena where Mommy or Daddy puts on a performance.

Parenting
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The key word is authenticity. Not perfection, for no one gets it right all the time. But being real. Admit your faults, own them completely, ask for forgiveness, be quick to give it, allow children plenty of room to fail, and let them see you live your life behind the scenes with love, grace, and humor.

Accepting Others

One of the reasons I like to buy groceries where I do is because they hire those who are a little slower as baggers. Isn’t it neat to be around people like that?

Accepting Others
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One of them calls me, “Sonny.” I especially like that. There aren’t many people left today who say that to me! He’s about a 35 year old man, I’d guess. “How you doing, Sonny?”

I like choosing his checkout line because he and I always talk together. The other day I told him what a great job he was doing and tears came to his eyes. Isn’t that amazing? You’d think half the people who go through there tell the baggers they do a good job.

He said, “Man, I haven’t heard that in a year.” The manager of the store, who was standing about three feet away, said, “I told you that three months ago.”

Can You Name Five?

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 . . .

Laughing
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  • 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.

Take Time for Your Spouse

God gives a pastor a spouse for life, knowing full well that it will take time to cultivate that relationship. Unfortunately, we live in a day in which people think if our activity is not at the church, it lacks devotion to Jesus.

Take time for your spouse
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As pastors, we can fall for that lie if we don’t continually guard against it. Just the opposite is true.

When we give our time to our spouse, we are demonstrating devotion to Christ. I don’t think we’re missing out on anything God has for us to do at the church.

One of my cherished mentors, Dr. Howard Hendricks, once made a tremendous statement: