The Principle of the Open Hand

There is a dynamic that each of us must learn by experience that has the power to transform our understanding of the Christian life. I call it the principle of the open hand.

I have tried to determine who first enunciated this concept. Apparently, it traces to Martin Luther, who stated: “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”

Apparently, Corrie Ten Boom—one of the great Christian heroes who arose through the horrors of the Holocaust—loved that quote and added her own twist, saying: “I have learned to hold all things loosely, so God will not have to pry them out of my hands.”

A variation on this theme is that God will only dispense His blessings into an open hand, never a clenched fist.

It seems to me that all of these precepts are true and work together, but I would actually add one more layer to them. You see, anytime I close my fist to clutch God’s blessings, He does not even have to pry them away from me. They simply crumble and vanish like the dust.

However, when I hold those treasures that He lends for my oversight carefully, but lightly—with my hands open toward heaven, displaying faith—they somehow remain secure. Not only that, He seems to reward my posture. Sometimes He will even:

… open for (me) the windows of heaven
And pour out for (me) such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it. (Mal. 3:10)

1298 reads

Young adults, including Christians, have complicated relationships with money

"An AdelFi study conducted by Lifeway Research found that having a Christian worldview impacts the way young adults (ages 25-40) manage their money, which is most evident in that Christians give nearly three times as much money as non-Christians." - C.Index

508 reads

To My Surprise, I Love My Work

In 2013 I was pretty sure I’d never love my work, ever again. I’d served as a full time pastor since 2001, and though I kept some small side jobs going for fun and a little income, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else as a vocation and finding it satisfying.

That perspective was emotional, not theological. Circumstances led to my leaving ministry, and though I made the decision, I didn’t make it happily. The transition to “a normal job” was dramatic, frightening, and depressing. Being just a bit into middle age at the time, I wrestled with the feeling that my best days were over, and my remaining years were going to be a relatively meaningless glide to the grave.

It didn’t help that my first post-pastoral work opportunity was mindless, repetitive, emotionally draining work (though with unexpectedly good compensation).

At one point, I tried to get into a dispatch job with the Wisconsin State Police. I don’t know how close I came to getting the job, but I’m so thankful now it didn’t pan out. Talk about emotionally draining work! I was not, at the time, fit to be making quick decisions with people’s very lives immediately at stake.

Sometimes grace is a closed door!

I ended up doing work that was far less interesting than dispatch would have been, but it wasn’t going to kill anyone—besides me, very slowly.

So for a while I thought everything I did after pastoring was going to be like that: sufficiently lucrative, but uninteresting, and relatively low skill.

1437 reads

Is Self-Care Selfish? Stewarding Your Personal Life for Long-Term Ministry (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

A Biblically-Based Perspective of Self-Care

Does self-care have any place in a pastor’s life? Viewed solely from a worldly perspective, it’s questionable. But through a biblical lens, self-care resembles the biblical concept of stewardship.

Viewed biblically, self-care is stewardship of our personal resources and priorities. It is managing the resources God has entrusted to us for eternal benefit. Several Bible texts containing either instructions or examples come to mind.

The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 teaches us to invest the resources entrusted to us for the benefit of the Master.

According to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20,

Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit … you are not your own. For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Our physical bodies are a means of glorifying God. We should treat them accordingly.

Peter exhorts,

As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (1 Peter 4:10)

Each of us is to use our gifts not only in a way that benefits others, but as good stewards of what God has graciously entrusted to us.

Jethro guided Moses to radically alter his leadership style or he would burn out and hurt the people he was supposed to be helping (Exodus 18:13-23).

1462 reads

Is Self-Care Selfish? Stewarding Your Personal Life for Long-Term Ministry (Part 1)

Self-care sounds like man-centered psychobabble. It feels inherently selfish, contradicting biblical concepts such as self-denial and self-sacrifice. Why would a ministry-minded Christian pay special attention to himself or herself?

Let’s learn what self-care is, then see if any part aligns with Scripture. Perhaps it belongs on the trash pile of worldly philosophies. Or possibly common grace has made mankind instinctively conscious of a healthy practice.

Understanding Self-Care

A helpful definition of self-care is “the self-initiated behaviour that people choose to incorporate to promote good health and general well-being.”1 Simply stated, self-care is taking responsibility for your personal health and well-being.Areas usually in focus are physical well-being – diet, exercise, and sleep; mental/psychological well-being, especially how one deals with stress; and relational well-being – harmony and satisfaction with family, friends, and others. As Christians, we add one more, spiritual well-being – communion with God and spiritual formation.

The Need for Something Like Self-Care

Two questions arise when relating self-care to people in ministry, particularly pastors. Does pastoral life increase the need for self-care? And is self-care a legitimate pursuit for a Christian in ministry?

1333 reads

What Is the Meaning of Life? Stewardship

A study by LifeWay Research several years ago found that 75% of the general population agreed with the statement, “There is an ultimate purpose and plan for every person’s life.” That number still seems surprisingly high to me. The same study found that 50% of those who never attend church services said there is no purpose or plan for human lives.

Though Christians are usually clear that there is purpose and meaning in life, many seem confused as to what exactly that purpose is. So my aim here is to answer what is really a pretty simple question:

What is the meaning of life?

A good place to research the meaning of life in Scripture is its beginning. When we look to Genesis, we find that our stewardship includes four things.

1. We’re stewards of ourselves.

We can infer much from the account of the creation of man.

[T]hen the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (ESV, Genesis 2:7)

The intimate act of God’s breathing into the first man to give him life, along with the revelation he was made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26), combine to teach us that were made to provide visible expression of some of what God is. We were made to make Him known.

This is where we see the first hint that we exist for God’s “glory.” His glory is His cavod (Heb.)—His weight, His true character.

958 reads