4 Posts from January 2014

Answer the Charge

Paul wrote with urgency, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:1–2). In other words, stick with the preaching plan God has promised to bless and use: preaching the Word. Deliver the biblical goods! Be a man of the Book!

Did you notice something here? This exhortation is not addressed to the hearer; it’s for the speaker. The one who is to obey this command is the one proclaiming the message. That’s you. That’s me. That’s all who are called to stand and deliver.

We’re to be ready to do it in season and out of season. Being ready implies being prepared both mentally and spiritually. Don’t try so hard to be so creative and cute that folks miss the truth. No need for meaningless and silly substitutes for God’s Word. They may entertain but rarely convict the lost or edify the saved. Teach the truth.

In essence, Paul says, “Don’t be lazy. Do your homework. Don’t stand up and start with an apology that you didn’t have adequate time to prepare. That doesn’t wash.” And prepare your work faithfully—when it’s convenient and when it’s not.

Sadly, in an alarming number of churches today, God’s people are being told what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. They are being fed warm milk, not solid meat. A watered-down gospel will attract large crowds (for a while), but it has no eternal impact. I’ve not been able to find any place in the Scriptures where God expresses the least bit of concern for increasing numbers. Satisfying the curious, itching ears of our postmodern audiences is an exercise in futility.

The task of ministry is to deliver truth. Frankly, I intend to continue doing just that, by God’s grace, until the day He calls me home. I believe that’s your passion as well. That’s why you became a pastor. Thankfully, there is an ever-increasing body of believers who long for nourishing messages based on the Word of God, not human opinion.

Will you answer the charge?

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations. . . . And surely I am with you always” (Matthew 28:19–20 NIV). There is no greater challenge and no more comforting promise. Believe it. Trust it. And by the grace of God, just do it!

I’m right there with you.


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. (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.

When you have a sense of humor, and you can add a little barb with a touch of cynicism or sarcasm, you can usually get a better laugh. But usually there’s one who’s not laughing down inside. That person receives the brunt of the joke. In years past, that person was my wife, Cynthia. My critic who had witnessed this in me cared enough to say something. In some ways, he saved my marriage.

For ten years Cynthia and I went through difficult, difficult times. She didn’t feel I valued her. It weakened my relationship with my wife, mainly because I wasn’t teachable. I didn’t realize what a treasure I had in this woman who was not only my wife but also my wisest counselor and my best friend.

In the years that have followed, I cannot tell you the times that I have been grateful for those times I listened to my wife. And I cannot tell you the times I have regretted when I didn’t.

Who else is more in my corner than the woman I’ve married? Who more than her wants to see me succeed? Who else has put up with sixty years of me? Nobody.

So why do I sometimes think she’s not in my corner? The adversary occasionally tries to convince me of that. And he does the same to you, I’m sure.

Don’t go there, guys.

Some of the brightest people on the planet are the people we’ve married. They know us better than anybody. We need to value them . . . which means, listening to them.


To Help You Counsel

Suffering is a universal experience. No matter what language we speak . . . no matter what ethnic or economic background we represent, each of us knows heartache. In fact, Joseph Parker, a great preacher of yesteryear, once said it this way to a group of young ministers:

Preach to the suffering and you will never lack a congregation. There is a broken heart in every pew. —Joseph Parker

I know I don’t need to convince you of that. You hear variations on that theme countless times each week as you interact and counsel with people who need direction and encouragement from God’s Word.

For us, the question is obvious: “In light of my demanding schedule as a pastor, how do I adequately prepare in order to point my counselees toward healing and hope?”

We at Insight for Living Ministries ask ourselves this question too . . . because people continually turn to us asking for answers to their own tough questions. And so, through years of intensive, elbow-deep study of God’s Word and continual involvement with people, we created a resource especially to help the busy pastor.

Counseling Insights touches on 50 of the issues you'll deal with most in your counseling ministry. Issues related to marriage, the family, the Christian life, as well as personal and emotional issues. You will be able to:

  • Prepare for counseling sessions by giving you a case study and sample questions to ask
  • Understanding the issue being considered from a biblical framework with Scriptures specifically related to that issue
  • Counsel with “tried-and-true” wisdom to help the counselee through the correction, healing, and restorative processes necessary for lifelong emotional and spiritual maturity
  • Download instantly any or all of the 50 PDFs related to the issue you need for your upcoming session. No waiting!

In this helpful counseling resource, you will not find simplistic clichés or quick-fix solutions but biblically based principles that equip you to offer assistance to those struggling through life’s deepest hurts. See the topics addressed.

My prayer is that Counseling Insights will become a tool that genuinely assists you as you minister to others. You can instantly download individual topics or the entire set at our Counseling Insights store page.

I highly recommend it for your pastoral ministry.


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. 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. 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. All of that takes time and effort, both of which will cost you productivity on the job. Consider it a priceless sacrifice . . . a permanent investment.

Disintegrating families have parents who refuse to face the severity of their children’s actions. Eli knew how horrible his sons had become, yet did nothing! I’ve seen parents in such denial that they cannot bring themselves to admit that their child has a serious problem with drugs or pornography or sexual promiscuity or stealing—behavior that most others would consider a red flag. Yet they act as though the crisis will resolve itself if given a little patience. Wrong.

If you have children who are young, you have those around you who are impressionable. Now’s the time to make your most important investment in them. If you wait until they’re as tall as you, you will have already allowed them to sow seeds of self-destruction.

If your children are nearly adults, take responsibility for your part in their poor choices, then do whatever is necessary to save them. Because you’ve waited so long, there are few options that don’t have grave consequences. So consider the long term, and do what you must.

It is never too late to start doing what is right.