Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. 2 So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God’s word in order to handle finances. 3 So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter. 4 We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching.” 5 The whole group was pleased with the apostles’ proposal, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch who had earlier been converted to Judaism. 6 The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them.
Acts 6:1-6 (TEV)
The pastoral work of our parishes should involve reflection, logistics, planning, etc., but only in order to dedicate more quality time to the important task: works of charity.
From the earliest days of the church, there was a priority set upon the time of those who shepherd God’s people.
A priority on prayer, and being in the word of God, of preaching and teaching about the Christ who has come to make His home among us. (John 1:14 NLT) To train up people to serve each other, (Eph 4:12)
Those were the priorities of the early church –
A question I have today is that our priority still? Is this were we want them spending their time. Or have we turned them into visionaries and managers, men who are skilled in managing all the work of the church as an organization?
Yes, logistics and planning are necessary, being good stewards of what the church has been entrusted with temporally is important. But only as it sets the church up to do its actual ministry – and to walk with God.
The members of a church and its leadership need to take this seriously. Out of the fifty to sixty hours a week he works, how many are spent in prayer? How many are spent in teaching and preaching and preparing for it?
How many are spent in meetings covering the administration of the church, and/or its school? Is it possible to free him up of some of that, so whe can dedicate himself as the apostles do? Is it possible to have him train others to do the work of service? Is it possible to create an environment where the talents of people can be harnassed? How many of our pastors have to be property managers, business officers, plumbers, and a thousand other roles.
Give him time to pray and spend time meditating on God’s word. – serious amounts of time. Give him time to prepare to teach and preach as well. for this work is necessary. Invest his time in training people to know the word so well that they can serve others, and while doing it, share Christ’s love. And give him time to get used to this freedom!
Be a good steward of his life… and time.
The blessing will be yours!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 104). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Devotional Thought of the Day
During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had
seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:9-10
Why don’t we try to live and transmit the priority of non-quantifiable values: friendship, the ability to simply celebrate the good moments of life, sincerity that encourages peace, confidence and trust? It may be easy to say, as poetic as these values may sound, but extremely demanding to live them, since it requires that we stop worshiping the god of “efficiency-at-all-cost”, so deeply rooted in our post-modern mindset.
In the last 50 years, the church has struggled with becoming “missional”, to take up the “apostolate” and get back to the work the church has been placed in the world to do. The work Paul summarized in Colossians this way, “to present everyman perfect in Chrsit Jesus.”
In the process, we have gotten quite pragmatic. We have taken models of efficient business practices and adapated them to the church. We’ve developed experts and consultants to evaluate our churches based on models and metrics.
In the process we’ve made our goal the replication of what works, and idol of pragmatic, reproducable ministry. You see it in the early days of Evangelism Explosion, (aka the Kennedy model) which had similar models adapted to their own denominational doctrine.) We see it as pastors buy books and try to replicate the best practices of whatever is working, even if it being in a different culture or demographic.
Pope Francis has it right, we’ve become so enamored with pragmatism and efficiency that we will choose them over peace, confidence, and trust. We choose it over friendship and deep fellowship, Those things are less focused upon, because the investment to see them come to fruition is too high, to vague, to unable to be truly measured.
One would even wonder what would happen if we were given a vision of people from Macedonia begging us to come, to assst them. Would we respond to the vision? Would we allow the Spirit to drive us to a place where the gospel is needed? Or would we dismiss the vision, for it dosen’t fit into our vision plan, and it can’t be measured to see if it is a viable mission.
I am not saying we completely fly by the seat of our pants, that we set aside anything that is pragmatic, that we don’t evaluate our ministry’s efficiency. We doo need this, and yet, we need to balance it, spending time in meditation, lsitening to God, growing so intimate with Him that we recognize His voice, and know when we are to follow Him.
Even when it doesn’t make logical sense.
Even when it calls for great courage, great sacrifice, and in the end only changes one or two lives…
Remember, God’s ways are beyond ours.
So walk with Him, stay close, and be amazed at how He leads you.
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 100). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
You might just get it!
† In Jesus Name! †
May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ sustain you in the midst of life, drawing you under His wings, where you can find rest and restoration!
All things? Including a death threat?
God has made many promises in scripture.
One of the promises that is one of the hardest to believe, but also is one of the most amazing is found in Romans 8. **
“And God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according His purpose for them.”
I don’t know about you, but that is a promise that I sometimes struggle with in my life.
From my point of view, looking at the brokenness in my own life, I sometimes wonder whether that promise was made to me. Because I can’t always see how God can make some of the stuff I’ve done, and some of the things that happen to me work for good, at least my good.
But they do, even as we will see this morning, as we consider the desires of two men, desires that seem to be unlikely to be fulfilled, and one of which, cannot possibly be good, because it calls for someone to die.
But could it?
We shall see….and it is amazing!
Two Men, Two Desires
Herod’s (and Everyman’s desire)
Lets start with Herod first. **
His desire is that Jesus would die.** The scriptures don’t declare why he wanted Jesus dead, simple that the Pharisees indicated that he did. These normal adversaries of Jesus are so concerned that they warn Jesus of it.
It’s a case of “the enemy of my enemy must be my friend.”
**It could be because he feared Jesus was going to haunt him, as John the Baptist did. Some were even saying Jesus was John returned, a though that would have scared Herod. After all, Herod was manipulated into killing John, chopping his head off at the request of his daughter and wife.
As the guilt added to his already massive amounts of guilt, the more he would want to get rid of any Godly influence in his life.
**You know that feeling, when you are dealing with guilt and shame, and instead of running to God, you want to run away? Instead of seeking forgiveness, you try to bury the guilt and shame? You try to find a way to avoid it, and what better way than killing the person who is God’s messenger?
So Herod’s desire is delayed, and for the moment He can’t get what he has asked for..
Which leads us to Jesus, who speaks of a desire, the purpose that He is working towards, that he relentlessly pursues. The goal of gathering the people of God together, to ensure their safety, to care for them.
But they won’t let Him. Just like so many in the world today, including, at times, you and I.
Yet this is Jesus focus, to bring us all into a place where we are cared for, where our souls find peace and healing from the ravages of sin. The sins of the world, and our own. For the damage is great, the brokenness that steals away life. Yet that is the life we cling to for some reason.
While Jesus is trying to draw us into a life that is abundant, and free.
How He longed to do that to the people of Jerusalem then, how He longs to lift us up now!
They both got what they wanted
Only God could grant both
there desires and work it out so that as they are fulfilled, every one who
loves God, everyone called according to His purposes.
Jesus will die as Herod wants, and even as Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all to Himself!
Both desires met. Both would get exactly what they wanted, and more.
You can’t read these chapters in Luke, from the transfiguration to the cross and not know it is coming. Herod couldn’t see that, nor how his desire to be rid of the prophets who confronted his sins would provide the solution to the sin which so easily traps us. He knew the answer to his guilt and shame would be found in the shedding of Jesus’ blood. But how it was solved, the solution that would cleanse anyone of sin, was beyond His thoughts!
Jesus knows that His death, his being raised from the dead will bring people in, that they will find the forgiveness they need, that they will be able to no longer fear God, but revel in His love.
That is why He is willing to die, to see us be drawn into His death, that we may share in His love. Hear again Paul’s words,
12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
Colossians 2:12 (NLT2)
So God made both of these thing,
turning the death of Christ, which Herod so wanted, into a blessing beyond
imagination as He gathered people together in the cross of Christ.
As He will do with everything in your life, and mine, and as He reveals His love for us, as we explore its breadth and width, its height and depth, the more we will be assured of this. Assured of it, we will rest, knowing His peace.
Devotional Thought of the Day!
23 Whatever you do, work at it with
This is the definition of a vocation! A vocation is an encounter with God’s love, which gives a new horizon and a decisive direction to one’s life. A vocation is a concrete path of loving, a concrete and fundamental response, a choice of love, of making the sincere gift of self. It is the way we are to beget—to generate life, to give abundant fruit—as Jesus calls us in the Gospel of St John, chapter 15.
Therefore, a vocation is always an orientation of the human heart to find the fullness of love and to dedicate oneself to the service of love. A vocation will always imply the free and total response to love, the total giving and surrender of self for the cause of the beloved and to find the full realization of self in this free and total donation of self. Love is a fundamental decision. Love is our vocation, our dignity, our gift, and our task. ‘Love is now no longer a mere command, it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us’ (Deus
Many people are not satisfied with their lot in life.
They might not like their job or their role in their family. They might fight their role at church unfulfilling, They may find the people they interact with tiresome, antagonistic, boring. They may tire of the repetitive nature of their work or the constant changes they endure.
We change jobs, or desire too, hoping the next job will bring about the happiness we think is our right. We do the same thing with marriages, with our friendships, with our churches and the other groups we play a part in, which cannot satisfy.
We look to these outside influences to provide us what we need, and we miss the inner life, the place where peace and joy find their origin, as we walk with God. It is there, where the breath of the Holy Spirit not only brings us to life but refreshes and sustains us, that we begin to realize that one can find contentment, peace, even joy in the midst of anything we are involved in, even in our own martyrdom.
That is why we are told by Paul to see God ss the final benefactor of our work, of our toil, Joy comes when we have poured out all we are before God, submitting it all to Him, allowing Him to guide each effort, to heal each brokenness.
That is how we respond to His love, which is beyond measure> We let Him love us, and transform us. He builds in us the ability to trust Him, to depend on Him, and as we do, everything we are is transformed. And in everything we do, we know His hand is there.
So we love in return, showing that love in our families, in our work, in our churches, and as we take Christ into our communities.
You want contentment, you want joy?
Find it all in your first vocation, your first calling,
For you are a child of God.
Galindo, A. (2012). Loving Jesus in the Eucharist with Mary: The Foundation of Religious Life. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 42). London; New York: Burns & Oates.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! 2 From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, 3 for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. 4 Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!
Psalm 61:1-4 (NLT2)
How, then, can I learn what it means to be human? What must I do? In his question the teacher of the law mentions a prerequisite that we seldom consider nowadays: if my life in this world is to be successful, I must view it as a stepping-stone to eternal life.
There are days in my life that are dark.
Just like most of you.
We hide from those days, we try to ignore them, and if we can’t, we try to anesthetize ourselves from the pain and emptiness they bring.
Days when I seem lost, when life doesn’t make sense, or when it gets in the way of what I want to do. Especially when what I want to do is serve God? To be with His people? It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t seem that I am doing what I have been put here to do, and that dissonant feeling is horrid.
For me, those days have been a major part of life. Recovery from surgeries that left me isolated for months, asthma as a kid (one year I was in school only 40 days more than I was not!) and even the odd flu bug that knocks me out of church, like it did yesterday. Never mind all the fun things with my son and wife that I miss out on, because of health concerns.
Life can suck at times.
Into those thoughts, invading them comes these readings from this morning. First the psalmist, whose words I skim over at first, tacitly and religiously agreeing with them, Yep, I want that, that’s where I should be, there in the presence of God. What is next to read, oh yeah, proverbs?
A couple of readings later, I come to Pope Benedict’s one-year devotion. It’s become a favorite of mine. And his words make me go back to the Psalm and read it again.
My life doesn’t revolve around this mortal life. It revolves around my life with God. An eternity with Him, dwelling in His presence, not just in the stadium, like watching a rock star from the nosebleed seats. But interacting with Him, sharing the joy that comes from knowing the depth of His love.
This life isn’t the end, not even close, it is the dance lessons for our eternal dance with God.
That is exactly what I need to remember in these dark days. What I so missed my people telling me yesterday, as I missed church. What they fire back with me with conviction, as I tell them the Lord is with them
His presence here and now is a start.
And it’s only a start!
Lord Jesus, help us realize that your ministry to us was not just to make us right and holy, but to have a relationship with us, one that will last forever. Lord, help us to dwell with you, in peace! AMEN!
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 87). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
The Joy of Finding Refuge
† I.H.S. †
May this Lent be a time of deep self-evaluation that leads you to recognize how incredible the grace of God is, as it provides to us a refuge in Jesus. AMEN!
Groaning to God
The season we call Lent begins tonight. It is the darkest of seasons in the church year.
It is a season to cry out to God, in much the same manner as the psalmist did. Here the beginning of his cry again,
O LORD, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. 2 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. 3 Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly
How many of you have groaned to God today?
How many people are willing to communicate
with God the way they post comments on Social Media? Or the way groan when
talking with friends over a beer, or over coffee and doughnuts?
How many of us groan about the absolute wickedness we see in the world, the sins that are so blatant, the pride that causes men and women to say the scriptures are wrong, and what they are doing is not murder, is not adultery, is not gossip, that what they think is not based in jealousy?
Pleasure in wickedness,
We want to rejoice in the psalm because it says that God destroys those who lie, that He hates those who hurt others, who will deceive people.
And the Psalmist prays that such people will be caught in their own traps.
Hmmm. Wait a second! do we really want to pray that? If we prayed that all sinners, all who rebel against God be driven away, we better examine ourselves.
Because some of you lied today.
and some of you wanted someone to get what’s coming to them, and you wanted revenge.
Some of you had a problem with thoughts of adultery. That you wished you had a romantic, fulfilling life like those people on television or in that book.
Others of you had a problem with authority,
not want to pray that God bless them, and perhaps you even asked God to strike
them dead, or damn them, or at least get them out of authority, to get them out
of our lives.
We need to evaluate our own lives, we need to see the depth of our sin, and grieve over it. Really grieve, because we realize the pain our sin causes God, because we realize the position we place Him in, where He has to punish the sin, He has to condemn it.
And therein is the problem that Lent is made for, a time to take seriously our lives, to examine them, and see our need to change, our need to repent.
Yet we can sing… we are safe, protected and because
At the same time, our sorrow is not without hope, it is Godly sorrow. Godly in the way that the Holy Spirit is convicting us of our sin, and yet guiding us to a confession of that sin that will lead us into a period of great joy The ashes we wear, they are not without hope, for the mark you are marked with, the sign of the cross, testifies to the end of lent. The cross where Jesus would hang by His wrists and His ankles, because of the joy set before him.
For in His death, as we are drawn into Him, we find refuge, we find peace, we find joy.
For as He dies, the power of sin dies as well, and we are finally set free.
Lent is about looking at our sins with Good Friday and Easter there, a time when realizing our brokenness results in realizing our healing.
When realizing that we approach the altar for forgiveness, and find we are drawn back, to share in Christ
And so like Jesus, we look to the joy that is set before us, and endure the cross, for it transforms us, it gives us refuge, it brings us peace.
Devotional Thought of the Day
12† Any who love knowledge want to be told when they are wrong. It is stupid to hate being corrected. Pr 12:1 GNT
Man wants to be himself the instrument by which history achieves its goal. Because he does not believe in God, he feels obliged to guide the course of history himself and, in doing so, acts as he imagines a God would act.
One of the biggest challenges in my life is discerning between intelligence and wisdom. The difference between being able to recall tons of trivial data, and actually being able to help someone else endure the challenges of life.
And as someone who has a bit of intelligence, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that knowing “it all” is
But what I have to know, well, that is a challenge. Know thyself was the cry of Socrates, a man that would run circles around the intellectuals of our day, just as he did in his own. ( Side note, I highly recommend Peter Kreeft’s series “Socrates meets ….” books that use a
To “know thyself” is a challenge, to be both the observer and the observed, to be able to judge yourself, who you are, who you really are, is challenging.
For you are more than the biological material, you are more than your gifts, abilities, sins, and weaknesses. To know those things, that is good, and yet they still do not define you. And if you focus on them as your identity, you will never allow God to correct you.
To know thyself is only possible in knowing Jesus. Then, correction is simply cutting away what isn’t you. It is freeing you to be you, a child of God, someone who dances in HIS presence.
By defining ourselves in relationship to God, we stop playing God, sitting in judgment over our lives (as well as the lives of others). We stop seeing life as we think, in all our imperfection, He sees it. We end the self-deception! What ends up defining us is God, who has made it that He sees us as holy and righteous as Jesus. Jesus, who died on the cross to free us from sin, and who rose, giving us life in this relationship with God.
Relax, know God is here, and find
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (I. Grassl, Ed., M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans.) (p. 85). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. Psalm 139:7-8 (NKJV)
Now when people have learned and become aware
Once upon a time, I was a non-denominational pastor. As such, I looked at Lent and Ash Wednesday with a negative eye. I thought it was all a bunch of hype, some innovative way to subject people, and steal from them the meager joys they have earned.
I had grown up Roman Catholic, and I had some good mentors in the faith. Fr. Alex and Sister Ursula made sure we understood why we did things, not just hearing that we had to do so. But even with that, I thought to take 40 days out to weep and grieve over our sins and my sins was a bit overkill. And to wear an ash cross on my forehead for a day? (Well at least that would stop an aunt or two from kissing my forehead!)
Yet, the older I get, the more experienced I get with my own guilt and shame, the more I need to spend that time, examining myself. Not to beat me down, or just to endure discomfort as if that can bribe God to keep me out of hell.
I need these forty days. I need to process the way I am when I set God aside.
Again, not to dwell in grief or shame indefinitely, but to remember what the psalmist said, You are there!
I can’t get away from the God who loves me, who loves me even “THERE.”
I need to know that even there I can go to Him, confess that I’ve sinned, that I’ve depended on other “gods”, that
I need to know that even in the midst of sin, God is there to bring healing and hope into my darkness. And let’s be honest, just because I am a Christian and a pastor doesn’t mean I still don’t struggle with the darkness of sin in my life.
Lent, and especially Ash Wednesday, is an awesome time. We can stop playing the hypocrite, we can stop pretending our sin is justifiable, we can grieve what we’ve
Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 74). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
22 After that, the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler—you and your descendants after you. You have saved us from the Midianites.”
23 Gideon answered, “I will not be your ruler, nor will my son. The LORD will be your ruler.” Judges 8:22-23
With those we lead in any way (sometimes we lead by simply asking the right questions), we are to be “the servant of all” (Mark 9:35), “eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you” (1 Peter 5:2-3). Redemptive mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21) is achieved in this way.
So much current religious work is not lined up with these scriptural injunctions. This is bound to be if those who lead try to control the flock through their own abilities to organize and drive, yet clothed in a spiritual terminology. They do not rely on Christ’s power. As their faith is, so shall their leadership be. It will be “my group,” “my ministry” and “my children”—and those who follow will never experience how completely God is Lord of each person.
Leadership is a tricky thing.
Especialy for those who serve Christ by serving the people of God as leaders.
Once upon a time, I was in management. Went to the seminars, did all the team building excercises. Especially loved the idea of the inverted triangle, that a leader is not at the top, but rather at the bottom of the structure. Learned about different styles and tempraments of leadership and had some excellent leaders who had authority over me, but saw it as responsibility for my work.
Dallas Willard’s comments are striking in this, that a leader that leads based in their own ability to organize and drive those that follow is not truly doing their job. They are neglecting the very reason for their being in leadership.
Willard describes what is missing as “those who follow will never experience how completely God is the Lord of each person.”
This is not about questioning the sincerity of those in leadership. Many of us sincerly want to do the best we can, and train and learn to be leaders of the people of God. We try to adapt what we know, but sometimes it falls short, simply because we forget that we aren’t leadiing to success, or to a short term goal. As a result, we often find ourselves manipulating people rather than guiding them. We get them to “do” rather than experience.
We need to remember that LORD is the way the Jewish people respectfully used a title instead of God’s name. The name, YHWH, simply means I AM. (rememer Moses and the burning bush?) That is what our people need to experience, that is what we are tasked with revealing to them, shepherding them in experiencing the love of God who is present.
My job as a pastor, the job of the elders and board members is to help people experience God’s mercy, His care, His presence in their lives. That is the role of every Christian leader.
And that is why so much of secular leadership strategy is challenging. Because if relies on us, because it doesn’t tale the attitude of Gideon, who points to them to the Lord (even though he was the most effective of the Judges)
“No, not me… look to God…” the same kind of leadership that John the Baptist, that the Apostle Paul and so many others have modeled for us.
So this day, I have a challenge for you who lead.
Your challenge is this, find someone to guide, and the place you need to guide them to is a place of stillness, a place of peace, a place where they know God is present, (and that you are not God!)
Go in His peace, and I pray you
Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.