It Takes Grace . . .

Sarcastic infighting. Negative putdowns. Stinging stares. Volatile explosions of anger. Doors slamming. Desperate feelings of loneliness. Awkward silence.

Grace
(Image from Unsplash)

Those descriptions portray the marriages in many homes and families. And also, in many parsonages.

We are not immune, are we? It is possible that you have gotten to the place where you look for excuses not to be home. Or to be there as little as possible.

It’s easy in the ministry to justify our absence, isn’t it? Even in our own minds.

For more years than I care to remember, I was so insecure and fearful it wasn’t uncommon for me to drill Cynthia with questions—petty, probing questions that were little more than veiled accusations.

Listen to the One You Married

Honestly, I will never forget one man’s criticism of me that helped me as much as anything I have ever heard. I was just about to graduate from seminary.

Listen
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I had completed the finest courses in theology . . .

  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Homiletics

You know, I was fully prepared for life and ministry. (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,

The Ministry of Marriage

Marriage is one of God’s greatest tools for ministry. For example, consider the impact of Priscilla and Aquila’s marriage. Somewhere in the streets of Corinth, they stumbled across a man down on his luck.

Marriage
(Image from Unsplash)

Paul was . . .

  • Weary
  • Homeless
  • Alone
  • Fresh off a demoralizing trip in Athens
  • He needed a place to stay

They cleared out a room. Not for one night, not for one week, but until Paul was called to move on.

Then an up-and-coming young evangelist breezed into town. After his eloquent sermon, Priscilla and Aquila invited him over for dinner.

Acts 18:24–25 states that Apollos was gifted and passionate. Though he was accurate in his teaching, he was incomplete in his theology. This couple corrected his doctrine without quelling his desire.

Priscilla and Aquila simply opened up a room for Paul and a seat at the table for Apollos. Through their hospitality and instruction, they impacted two of the greatest early church leaders.

What about us? Who could we impact that may in turn impact the world?

God Has No Grandchildren

God has no grandchildren. He only has children. As much as we would love it, there is no automatic transfer of God’s truth to others. Everyone must make his or her own spiritual journey.

Grandparents
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Moses knew this truth. The mighty leader of one of history’s greatest journeys spent his last words encouraging the Israelites to pass on God’s truth to their children.

To get the full impact of his words recorded in Deuteronomy 6:1-9, understand where the Israelites were. After wandering for 40 years, they stood on the banks of the Jordan River . . . at the very edge of the Promised Land.

Their children and grandchildren would grow up in the new territory before them.

At the beginning of this new life for God’s people, Moses gave a number of directives. I want to highlight one in particular for us:

God Is Not Surprised

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.

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

The Healing Power of Genuine Forgiveness

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?

Struggling
(Photo courtesy of Pexels)

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.

How to Turn That Frown Upside Down

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.

Frowning Man
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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 . . .

Whatever is in First Place

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.

First Place
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

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.

Rescuing Your Children

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.

Father & Son
(Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com)

We don’t have to look any further than the first book of the Bible to see it.

Give Your Presence This Year

Do you feel the tightening squeeze this time of year brings?

cookies
(Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com)

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?

—Chuck