Sing New Songs . . . with Old Truths

Amazing Grace
(Image from FreeImages)

Without wanting to be misunderstood, let me say unashamedly that I love the grand old hymns. Throughout my Christian life, I have treasured their historic statements of the church’s faith, having committed many of them to memory.

They have been my dearest companions in dark hours of loneliness and discouragement and my greatest encouragers in times of celebration and adoration.

And while I’m the first to admit that while there’s nothing holy about a hymnal per se, hymns remain an important part of our Christian heritage. Why?

The Ministry of Marriage

Marriage
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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.

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?

Discerning God’s Best

Choices
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How do you make a choice when all your choices are good? How do you tell the difference between what’s good and God’s best? I’m not talking about making a decision between a morally right path and a morally wrong path.

We know the way we should go in that case. Rather, I’m referring to those times when we must decide between two equally good alternatives. Which do we choose? Which way is God leading? Which way is best?

Initially, it helps me to determine priorities by asking pointed questions like:

The Narrow Way

Narrow Path
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Christ’s claim to be the only way to God is a hard pill to swallow for many people. Even in some Christian circles, people choke on His words.

Is Jesus the only way to heaven? Will a loving God really confine someone to eternal punishment for rejecting Christ?

It’s a current debate . . . but it’s not a new one. The issues have been argued for centuries. In fact, Jesus Himself was asked a similar question:

God’s Decreed Will

Peace
(Image from Pixabay)

God is at the helm of His creation. Not fate, not chance, not some impersonal force of nature but the Lord alone is in full command of your life.

He is the sovereign ruler of the universe, and His decrees govern what happens in His world.

God’s decrees are:

How to Hang in There When Life Gets Hard

Marriage
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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!

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
(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.

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.