Good Will Come

Good Will Come
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As a pastor, counselor, and seminary chancellor, I have often found myself in an unpopular spot. An individual who has come to me pours out his or her soul.

And God very clearly leads me to confront or point out a few specifics that the person finds rather painful to hear, not to mention accept.

Suddenly, I become the verbal punching bag.

Now understand, I didn’t write the Book, and I in no way view myself as the individual’s judge, even though the person may think I do.

Dealing with Disrespect and Resentment

Respect
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All of us pastors remember a man named Naaman, the high-ranking Syrian soldier. He was influential, wealthy, proud—a man of dignity, courage, patriotism, and military clout.

There was only one problem: the man had leprosy. Through a chain of interesting events, Naaman was led to Elisha for cleansing from his dread disease (2 Kings 5:1–14).

It fell to Elisha’s servant to be the bearer of news the Syrian officer did not want to hear. As we read in the account, the high-ranking soldier was offended. In fact, he became enraged.

And look who was caught in the crossfire—the servant! The dear guy didn’t generate the news, he just communicated it . . . and boom! The result? Feeling and hearing the verbal blows of disrespect and resentment. You probably know where I’m going with this.

Feeling Used and Unappreciated

servant
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When I think of someone who may have felt used and unappreciated, Gehazi comes to mind. He was the servant who worked alongside the high-profile, greatly respected prophet, Elisha.

After the Shunammite’s son suddenly died, Elisha dispatched Gehazi to the bedside of the mother’s son. We can be sure Gehazi’s heart was beating fast.

He must have anticipated an exciting response, as God would surely raise the lad from death. He would be involved in a miracle! But nothing happened. Not a thing changed.

Suddenly, Elisha burst on the scene, and phenomenal results occurred. A miracle transpired. The child was raised!

Some Common Misconceptions

Pastor
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Does it surprise you that being a pastor is perilous? I doubt it. You live with the reality of it each day. But to some who are not in the ministry, serving others sounds as safe and harmless as a poached egg on a plate.

What could possibly be perilous about it? Plenty.

As we examine Paul’s words in the fourth chapter of 2 Corinthians, I’d like to suggest several familiar misconceptions regarding serving God. Read the familiar words in verses four through seven carefully:

The Perils of a Servant

Man
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Nobody who was alive in the 1970s will ever forget Jonestown. At least, I hope not. That tragedy stands as a mute reminder of the awful results of a leader gone wild.

I shall never be able to erase from my mind the same horrible scene that appeared on one television newscast after another.

It was not just death but a mass suicide—over nine hundred bloated corpses in the steamy jungle of Guyana.

People lying there in rows, “looking like full-grown rag dolls,” was how one reporter described them. Except for a few defectors who managed to escape at the last minute, every soul in that cult compound gave up his or her life as the leader demanded.

Cultivating Enduring Companions

Friends
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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!

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

Christmas Tree
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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?

Listening to Them

Listen to Them
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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.

(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.

To Serve and to Give

Pastor
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We pastors are God’s true servants when we are like the Lord Jesus, who came not “to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

To serve and to give . . . that’s the ticket.

Pride wants strokes—lots of them.

  • It loves to get the credit
  • To be mentioned
  • To receive glory
  • To have people ooh and ahh

A Season for Humble Gratitude

Christmas
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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.

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.