For many ministers, Sunday evenings are hard.

You finally go home after an exhausting day. If you are not careful, your mind and emotions can take you places that are not good.

You wonder, am I really making a difference? What’s the use?

You think about those biting words of criticism. At the time, the words and tone stung. Now, hours later you find yourself rehearsing these words over and over in your mind.

You may be focused on a sermon that just didn’t go well. You butchered a name. You mangled a sentence. You forgot to tell an important story.

Tonight, it seems that everyone else in the congregation has gone about their business. Getting ready for work tomorrow. Leaving for vacation later this week. For many, it is business as usual. Life just goes on.

For you Sunday evenings may be a time when you question your purpose, your self-worth, and the effectiveness of your ministry.

Yet, the following may be helpful to many of us.

1. Know that your life really matters. Your work matters. It doesn’t matter what you are doing and how you are serving, God will work through you.

2. Know that you really have no idea just how much good you are going. This is true for all of us. When you allow God to use you, know that this work goes way beyond what any of us might be able to see.

3. Know that the evil one would love to create self-doubt, discouragement, and ultimately defeat.

Trust God with your life, whatever you do. You matter. Your work matters. God is alive.

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Far too many men are actually boys who have never grown up. The following are characteristics of men who seem to display an immaturity that ultimately impacts those around them.

1. A man who is a bully (toward women or men) is still an immature boy. 
2. A man who perpetually lies to his girlfriend or wife is still a boy. The words of real men mean something.
3. A man who is rude, crude, and doesn’t show a bit of courtesy toward others is still a boy.
4. A man who is more concerned about his appearance and image than reality hasn’t grown up. He is still a boy.
5. A man who knows nothing about promise keeping, honoring a commitment, or loyalty to another, is still a boy.
6. A man who thinks it is funny when another is embarrassed, humiliated, or shamed is no man — just a boy who needs to grow up.
7. A man who belittles women, other men, those of other races and others unlike himself, is no real man. He is a boy who needs to grow up.
8. A man who manipulates and schemes in order to get his way is not displaying maturity. Such a man is small, self-centered, and often promises far more than he can deliver. He is someone who needs to grow up.
9. A man who thinks he is the smartest person in the room usually is not. Such a man may think he is one of the few who really “gets it.” He probably needs to grow up.

Far too many women settle for such men. Some men become someone’s project. “He really has a good heart. He’s going to change. He told me so.” Yet, never put your life in the hands of someone’s potential. Instead, pay close attention to their history. Potential may be what is in front of them. Their history, however, will tell you much about their decision making, their character, and the way they treat others.

The good news is that many, many men are passionately pursuing integrity, authenticity, and character. These are men who treat others right — even when no one else seems to be looking.

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Charlotte and I made a very important decision many years ago. We made this decision when we married and then repeated it a number of times. The decision we made was that we would enjoy wherever we lived.

In our married life, we have lived in a number of places.

  • Florence, Alabama
  • Pulaski, Tennessee
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Hawley, Texas
  • Florence, Alabama
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Waco, Texas
  • Memphis, Tennessee

These places are very different from one another. In one place we lived for a few months (our first stint in Florence, Alabama) and then returned to live almost eight years. We lived in Waco, Texas for twenty years! We lived in cities known for barbecue such as Kansas City and Memphis. We also lived in Texas known for Tex-Mex and barbecue beef. We lived in Hawley, Texas which is just outside of Abilene.

Before we moved to each place, we decided prior to moving that we would enjoy living in that city and that we would look for the good in that place. I have seen far too many people move to a new place and then spend the entire time there comparing it negatively with their last home. Often they would compare congregations, sports events, etc. The city where they presently lived would typically be lacking in something.

After years of moving with a more positive mindset, I can honestly tell you that we have found moments of great joy in every place where we have lived. Yes, there were aspects of previous towns/cities that we did not especially enjoy. However, we were looking for the good in each place instead of becoming obsessed with what was lacking. We miss aspects of almost every place we have lived. However, there are also wonderful benefits of being right where we are.

So when someone asks me, “How do you like Memphis?” My answer is, “We like Memphis a lot! There is so much about Memphis that we enjoy.” This answer is rooted in a decision we made a long time ago and has brought us much joy.

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The best ministers I know understand that they are first servants. In fact, the best mothers, fathers, friends, I know are first servants. People who are genuine servants have discovered the essence of what serving Jesus really is.

Servants are not always looking for the advantage.

Servants are not always reciting their resume.

Servants do not play silly mind games with others.

Servants do not see themselves as the only ones who “get it.”

Servants do not have to retaliate.

Servants do not keep score.

Servants do not look for ways to communicate just how important they are (at least in their own mind).

So what do servants do?

Servants show up.

Servants respond to a cry for help (even if it isn’t their “gift.”)

Servants can give, work hard, and contribute without having to receive the credit.

Servants seek to put others at ease.

Servants are focused on others instead of themselves.

Servants bless others and do not have to be the center of attention.

Servants don’t refer to themselves as a servant and then seek status, credit and exaltation. That is confusing at the very least.

No matter who you are. No matter how old you are. Single. Married. With or without children. You and I can be a servant of Jesus. We may be surprised at just how refreshing this is to others.

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Today is a special birthday.  Today is Christine’s birthday.  A month ago, we celebrated Jamie’s birthday, which was also a very special birthday.  These two women are our daughters.  They are now in their thirties.  They are mothers to our grandchildren.  Jamie is married to our wonderful son-in-law, Cal.

I remember so well, the evening that Charlotte went into labor.  We hurried to the hospital, excited and scared.  We had prayed for Christine’s birth.  She was our first child.  Some years later, we would have another daughter.  We wanted, more than anything, to invest in our children so that they would grow up loving God, putting their faith in him, and living a life of obedience to him.  We didn’t quite know how to do this but this focus was where we would put our energy, time, and prayer for decades.  Now, many years later, we invest in our grandchildren as well.

In many ways, I am still learning about how to be a parent (now to adult women!).  Yet, I am especially learning more about God.  As I wrote in a post recently, “Being a dad or mom will help you understand how God must feel at times.  As a parent you may experience great joy, great satisfaction, great disappointment, and even great pain through your children. This may be just a taste of what God experiences in us (you and me), his children.”

So today, I think about how much I love our daughters.  I also think about how much I have learned about being a parent.  More importantly, I have learned so much about God and what it means to be his child.

You never stop being a parent.  Our love and affection for our children continues to this day.   God never stops being our father.  “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).

 

 

 

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Are you a father or mother? I have learned much and am still learning. A few things I have learned:

1. Being a dad or mom will help you understand how God must feel at times. As a parent you may experience great joy, great satisfaction, great disappointment, and even great pain through your children. This may be just a taste of what God experiences in us (you and me), his children.

2. Decisions you make can impact your children whether they know what you’ve done or not. Even “secret” sin in a parent’s life is shaping the person who is rearing their child. Likewise, making the decision to live a holy life impacts them powerfully, as well.

3. It is awfully hard to raise children to love, serve, and obey God, when their mother or dad is living in disobedience and not taking the Father seriously.

4. Perhaps one of the most wonderful gifts you can give to your children is to pray for them, regularly and consistently. If you aren’t praying each day for your children, who is?

5. Know that when you are a disciple of Jesus, treasuring God’s word, and seeking to rear your children in the Lord, you are giving your children such a great gift.

6. Think about the people who you bring into your home and into your lives. They are also impacting the lives of our children. Choose people whose lives are worth imitating. Our children are watching.

7. Pay now or pay later. You can invest in the lives of your children right now or you can let things slide. However, certain behaviors and attitudes may be far more difficult to address later.

8. The best thing you can give your children is to be a mother or dad who loves God deeply and who lives in daily obedience. Yes, tutoring can help them academically. A camp may help them athletically. However, if our children are going to grow up to serve the Lord, you and I must be willing to stay focused.

9. The most real, genuine parents are those who are living as they were to created to live. This mom/dad are teaching their children how to really live.

10. I knew a dad who was single. His wife died and he was left alone to raise their children. Yet, he kept his focus. He wanted to raise them to serve and love God. May all of us as parents do the same!

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It is so important to live right NOW if you want to be ready for the next chapter of life. Now is the time to take the right step. Today I have been thinking about the people who I was with this past weekend (the men of the CrossPoint Church of Christ, Florence, Ala.; the Cherokee, Ala. and the Millington churches.)

1. Do you want to have a godly marriage? Start with a godly dating relationship. A relationship with sexual sin and a focus on the flesh is not good preparation for the next chapter of life. Start now to have a godly dating relationship where God is honored every step of the way.

2. Do you want to raise godly children? Start by having your life’s purpose in place BEFORE you have children. If dad and mom (or you as a single parent) are each focused on glorifying God, you will have much more clarity when you begin to raise your children.

3. Do you want to one day serve God and make a real difference in the world? Maybe you dream of making a significant difference in meeting a particular need in your community. Start now by taking advantage of today’s opportunity.

4. Do you want to make a real kingdom difference after you get out of school? Start now while you are still in school. Look for seemingly small ways to serve in your congregation or at the university.

Bottom line: We make a mistake by focusing on someday. Today is the day you and I have been given. What I do with today, how I behave today, will shape and form what my “someday” will look like.

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Perhaps you’ve said or thought these words before. “But God.” I am almost certain that I have. Sometimes, it was at a time of disappointment over a situation that went bad. Perhaps I had prayed that someone might get well. Instead, that person died. I have asked at times, “But God, why did this have to happen?”

There are some, however, who may use these two words at they grapple with decision making. Perhaps the issue is ethical or moral. Sometimes the issue may simply be, “I know what God says in Scripture but I just don’t want to do this.”

“I know what God says about lying, but I don’t see what is so wrong with not telling the truth in this transaction, it could cost me money.”

“I know what God says about sex outside of marriage, but this is what I want to do.”

“I know what God says about stealing, but God knows I am really a good person and have a good heart.”

“I know what God says about hatred, revenge, etc. but after after what she said about me, this is what I am going to do.”

It occurred to me one day as I grappled with a decision that sometimes the issue is the place of Jesus as Lord. Paul even reminds us, “For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” As a Jesus follower, I am called to put these decisions in the context of Lordship faith. Is this a decision that pleases the Lord Jesus? Does this decision reflect my surrender to him as Lord?

My own pride may say, “I know better” or “I know what I am doing” or even “I know what is right but this is what I am going to do anyway.” Yet, I may need to ask if my decision reflects my pride (in thinking I know what is best) or does it reflect my confidence in the Lord Jesus (trusting his goodness and character)?

These decisions can be hard — really hard. Yet, it may be helpful to remember our baptism. It may be helpful to remember confessing Jesus as Lord, and dare to trust him with all of life.

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  • Why do I drive on the Interstate at 80 mph while I look at Facebook on my phone?
  • Why do I ignore the misbehavior of my child and then expect her to do better?
  • Why do I gripe and complain throughout the day and then wonder why I feel so lousy?
  • Why do I not take care of my car and then wonder why it is now falling apart?
  • Why do ignore my health and then wonder why it is now catching up with me?

Have you ever asked yourself these questions?  Have you ever looked at a behavior, a habit, or a way of life and asked, “Why on earth do I keep doing this?”  Sometimes we do things that don’t make sense.  In fact, particular behaviors can be unwise and even foolish.

Recently as the New Year was approaching, I began to ask myself various questions about the way I used my time.   I looked at the way I used my time in light of what I need to get done.  What do I need to do in terms of my work and my ministry?  I looked at my calendar in light of the kind of person I want to be.  I looked weeks of appointments, commitments, habits, and general time use.  What does this say about me?  If I continue to use time like I did in 2018, what kind of person will I be at the end of the year, 2019?

I pray about this and believe that small changes, even baby steps, can be powerful!  I am looking for the next-right-step in the various arenas of my life.  Perhaps you would find this helpful.  It has certainly been helpful to me.

 

 

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1. Today, I can choose to stop trying to be the perfect parent. Instead, I can choose to respond to these children with the energy and wisdom that God provides.

2. Today, I can choose to stop wishing for the perfect Christmas. I don’t have to spend my energy being resentful of the Christmas that others seem to be experiencing. Instead, I can make the most of the Christmas that I do have with the people who I am with.

3. Today, I can choose to lower my expectations of what can be done or accomplished today. Instead, I can be kind to myself (and others) by doing what I can and accepting this. All of us have limitations. That is a part of being human.

4. Today, I can choose to not be curt and abrupt with others. Instead, I can be a bit kinder and more gracious to others who, like me, have been created in the image of God.

5. Today, I can choose to not focus on my situation, my problems and my trials. Instead, I can open my eyes to others around me who have heartaches and may also be in pain.

6. Today, I can choose not to be on edge and demanding. Instead, I can be a less anxious presence among my family and friends. After all, it is the comforting presence of God in my life that allows me to a less anxious self.

Today will last for 24 hours and then it is over. This day is a gift from the Father. I cannot control what others say or do. By the grace of God, however, I can control my response.

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