A Season for Humble Gratitude

It’s baaaack! The age-old yuletide season is about to slip in the door once again. Better not shout, better not pout, for the malls will be playing “Jingle Bells” several thousand times between now and December 25.

Christmas
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If you’re not careful, the crowds and commercialism will weigh you down like that fourth helping of stuffing at Thanksgiving dinner.

And there’s nothing worse than a jaded attitude that resists the true spirit of the season.

Although this has been a challenging year in numerous ways, we have a practical reason to look back over it with gratitude for God’s protection and grace.

This reflection sets in motion the ideal mental attitude to carry us through the weeks ahead.

The Integrity Assault

Our jobs as pastors are not without work-site hazards. We don’t wear hard hats, of course, but maybe we should!The hazards I’m speaking of are those within our hearts.

Pastor
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One of the greatest of these is what I call “the integrity assault.”

I believe our integrity is assaulted when we yield to the temptation to allow our position—and the privileges that come with it—to lower our standard and to weaken our witness.

God’s Promises for His Servants from Revelation

Among the best-loved promises Christians have as their ultimate hope, two are found in the book of Revelation. Here’s the first set of promises:

Promises from God
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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1–4)

The second set of promises is equally inspiring:

Postponed But Not Forgotten

Based on 1 Corinthians 3:10–14, I see three facts about our eternal rewards for serving God. Let’s review the first two facts I mentioned last week, and then I’ll complete the list with the third.

Man Reading Bible
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First, most rewards are received in heaven, not on earth.

Second, all rewards are based on quality, not quantity.

Here’s the third: no reward that is postponed will be forgotten. Make no mistake about it, the Bible clearly teaches that each of us “will receive a reward” (1 Corinthians 3:14).

The Dark Side of Serving Others

We pastors have received a priceless treasure (the glorious gospel) in a very frail and perishable container (our weak bodies). There is a reason.

Man
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So nobody will have any question about the source of power, which must be of God and not of any human origin.

Read the words of the apostle Paul—an honest, humble, transparent servant of God:

A Season for Humble Gratitude

Sometimes it can be a challenge to give God daily praise, even when we possess the knowledge of His love and faithfulness. If you find yourself in this situation, the Psalms are often a great source to get you back on track.

Reading Bible
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Psalm 116 is an extraordinary expression of love—addressed to God. “How do I love Thee, God?”

It reminds me of Browning’s poem: “Let me count the ways.” In counting the ways, the psalmist sets forth several magnificent truths about God’s goodness and deliverance.

God’s Promises Regarding His Faithfulness

Someone once counted all the promises in the Bible and came up with an amazing figure of almost 7500. Among that large number are some specific promises servants can claim today.

Promises from the Bible
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I have discovered that there are times the only hope to keep you going will be in something God has declared in His Word, promising that your work is not in vain.

Isaiah 41:10 has often encouraged me:

Bringing It Home

What is it going to take to convince us that the last will be first and the first will be last? For some it will take a lifetime, for others only a few semesters in seminary.

Ministry
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Each May, at the end of the spring term at Dallas Seminary, we have the joy of listening to the school’s top preachers. They’re nominated and selected by pastoral-ministry professors.

One year a talented young man preached on that pivotal passage in John 13 where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet.

After a compelling exposition of that simple text, the young senior class preacher leaned low into the microphone, looked across the faces in Chafer Chapel, and asked his fellow students, “Do you want to have a great ministry . . . or do you just want to be great?”

Words I Needed to Hear

I’ll never forget the day a friend dropped by my study. We spoke for a while, and just before he left, he had that look of unfinished business on his face.

On the phone
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He couldn’t leave without looking at me squarely in the eyes and saying some hard things.

“I don’t know how I should say these things, Chuck. But I can’t just ignore them either. The fact is, I’m concerned.”

That stung a little. “Concerned about what?” I probed.

Time Is Very Short

In the early 1950s, I served as an apprentice in a machine shop. For months, one of my jobs was to work an intricate piece of equipment called a tracer lathe.

Manual worker
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I was always told, “Chuck, before you change the tool that cuts the aluminum, make sure to turn off the machine. Otherwise you could hurt yourself. You could even kill yourself.”

Sure enough, one day I was rushing to make my production quota, and I failed to turn off the lathe. The wrench I used to loosen the tool slipped . . . and my hand lurched in and out of the spinning chuck.

The bone that led to my little finger was now in a place it shouldn’t be—outside my skin.