Monthly Archives: August 2012

I love the will of my God?

Discussion point at the end of the day…

That friend of ours would finish his prayer in this way: “I love the Will of my God and that is why, abandoning myself completely into his hands, I pray that he may lead me however and wherever he likes.”  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 374-376). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

That is a hard statement to say – especially for me these days.  I think of several of my friends, for who the journey of the moment is scary, it not only causes them great anxiety and fear, but it causes me to be anxious, to try and analyze and research and find ways to encourage them.  I think of a friend who just started his “formal” formation to the pastorate today, knowing the challenges he will face, even as his families undergoes a number of other life transitions.  Another friend who will walk beside him the next four years – and faces different challenges along the same road.  A young seminarian I met, who I have a gut level instinct that he is something special, but his road will not be the norm as many other pastors.

How can each be encouraged to simply trust, to simply abandon their own desire and let a God who is here, but not always easily seen and felt, take them into His loving hands.  How can we love the will…that we aren’t sure we like?

How can I, even as I look to the future as a pastor, and see where God would do the same thing – not just with me, but with a congregation of people I love.  (Knowing that some may struggle with what God is planning for us, even as we abandon ourselves into His hands…

Luther would say this is a First Commandment issue – will we trust that He is our God, our Father, our Almighty, Everlasting, Wise Counselor, One who creates a kingdom of peace – in the midst of our messed up broken lives.  That is a level of trust that is foreign to us today, hard, difficult, risky,….


We can’t play God anymore.  We can’t pretend to have strength that we don’t have.  We need to find the rest that comes only when we get into the passenger seat, and let someone else pilot our lives.  For there, in letting God reign, and rule, we find the rest and peace to hear His voice, to feel His presence, the stillness to have peace and know… to experience, to have revealed to us that He is our God.

Lord, this evening, help me to abandon myself to you… help my heart rejoice in being Your child, in letting You guide the way of my friends, to bless the path of Vicars Mark and Eduardo, to help the people I shepherd know Your love and hear your voice….and may we all pray the same prayer that start this blog…

I love the Will of my God and that is why, abandoning myself completely into his hands, I pray that he may lead me however and wherever he likes.”



Defending the Faith? Do we have to?

Discussion thought of the day!

In the Princess Bride, there is a class line by the classic swordsman Montoya.  His boss keeps on using this word, “inconcievable”.  Finally, fed up with hearing it over and over, used about things proved very possible, he confronts the man saying, ” I do no think you know what this word means!”  (or something to that effect- it’s been a long week!)

Perhaps part of it has to do with the rich history of the crusades, and our understanding of the church militant, and how many of our seminaries look like ancient castles and fortresses!  But the church militant’s opposition isn’t those who challenge its beliefs – they are our objective, the people we need to liberate.  Paul tells us so clearly that we are not at war with them, but with satanic forces, the powers and principalities that hold those people in hostage, and blind them to the grace of God.

That’s where the swordsman’s quote come’s into play.  The word is apologetics – and most of the apologetics books and training I have seen recently treat the one hearing our faith as the opposition, or at least as the prosecuting attorney.  They talk of defending our faith – as if the battle is too defend a treasure.

But apologia – the word used in 1 Peter 3:15 isn’t about defending the faith – it is about giving the logos – the reasoning, the logic which leaves us not defeated, not broken, not without hope, but with great hope.  Hear is one of my favorite translations of the passage:

3:15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)

It is that “be ready to explain it ( Our hope that we have in Christ) that is apologia.  It brings us back to the cross, and the fact that we only have hope because He endured it (see Heb 12:2)  and rose again, and is returning for us.  That’s not defensive, its not competitive, it is simple revealing the truth as it was revealed to us.

We don’t need to defend our faith – we don’t need to go into a philosophical and doctrinal war.  God is big enough to defend himself – and His word does that as it opens their heart – and calls them to life  They really don’t need us to be at war with them – instead they need to know the hope and love that is found as GOd gifts us with them..  Invite them on the journey, explain why you have found healing and joy, even in the midst of the deep dark valleys that cause anxiety and fear. and shame…yet which we turn over to the Lord who already defeated them… and walks with us, keeping us safe – our hearts, and minds… for we live in Him, and He in us..

God’s peace!

The Need for Spiritual Discipline/Formation/Growth

May you realize that you live in God’s Kingdom, and desire greatly to see its beauty!

I am on the road this morning, with a friend as he begins his journey towards being ordained into the ministry.  During the journey by planes, (although it seemed we walked nearly that far!) I came across this in my reading.

It is quite common to find, even among apparently responsible and devout Catholics, the error of thinking that they’re only obliged to carry out their familial and religious duties. They seldom want to hear any mention of civic duties. The problem is not selfishness; it’s simply a lack of formation.”    de Prada, Andres Vazquez (2011-04-18). The Founder of Opus Dei: Volume III, The Divine Ways on Earth (The Life of Josemaria Escriva) (Kindle Locations 9415-9417). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It started my mind wandering on this idea of formation.  Surely there is a great benefit to the normal route of ordination, and in the “alternate” routes which are simply adaptations of the norm.  There are a few differences as well between my friends over on the other side of the Tiber, and those of us who are Lutherans.

But Spiritual Formation is, in my opinion, critical, and in these days, critically overlooked.  It’s been that way for a while.  Hear the writer of Hebrews comment:

5:11 There is much we have to say about this matter, but it is hard to explain to you, because you are so slow to understand. 12 There has been enough time for you to be teachers—yet you still need someone to teach you the first lessons of God’s message. Instead of eating solid food, you still have to drink milk. 13 Anyone who has to drink milk is still a child, without any experience in the matter of right and wrong. 14 Solid food, on the other hand, is for adults, who through practice are able to distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:11-14 (TEV) 

We see it there as well – as the author notes the inability of these people to get their butts of their spiritual couches and serve (by teaching) others.  Instead the would rather take it easy, and simply re-digest the same simplistic lessons.  They should be able to share the incredible blessings they have received, the basics of their faith.  Yet… they can’t

I love the comment by Escriva’s position on this – it isn’t because they are weak, selfish, and self-centered!  It is because they haven’t been formed.  They haven’t been discipled.  The very things that they need to learn, need to be shared, modeled.  The depth of God’s love isn’t just “He saved me from my sins”, it is an incredible thing, long planned out – every step taken toward the cross, and away from the empty grave.

And the deeper you go, not into academia, but into living in that grace, rejoicing in it, seeing it revealed to you in the words of scripture, being comforted in prayer, even in things like making sacrifices, little ones for sure, in order that others may see God.  As we live in Christ, as we are clothed in His righteousness, that overcomes what might appear to be selfish and infantile faith.

And we begin to share with others this glorious thing we’ve found.  A last thought, describing maturity in Christ:

1Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now God’s salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven. 11 They won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the truth which they proclaimed; and they were willing to give up their lives and die.
Revelation 12:10-11 (TEV)

That, my friends, is a description of us, the mature believers who trusted in the God who comes to them –  not a bunch of selfish, infantile believers.

May Mark and Eddie and the rest of the seminarians that start this week be so formed… may our churches have the same attitude, may I as well.

Godspeed this day….

The Danger of Sinsheimers

(please note:  by no means am I dismissing the severity of those who suffer from alzheimers, or the suffering of those who journey at their side )

I was discussing with a friend, how my sermon came across today, and I came up with an interesting concept.  The danger of suffering from “sinsheimers”, something I think many of us, myself included suffer from.  I highly recommend reading the sermon first -it’s here on the blog, and is entitled:  Cleanliness is next to Godliness – Right?

Please go read it – then come back.


Welcome back!

My friend asked me a few questions, specifically about an illustration on the cover, which I adlibbed into my greeting, then into the sermon.  It pictured a kitchen full of dirty dishes.  (think of the first apartment you had, or the kitchen the first your folks left you alone for the weekend… Same thing!

We all be pharisees at times my friends, those convinced that we can clean up our acts by ourselves, and like a 14 year old doing dishes, well, let’s just say no one would eat off them after we got done cleansing them.  Matter of fact, the health department should shut the kitchen down, as a toxic waste supersight.  We have the dirty dishes, and we need to call in the pros.  Well, the PRO.

SO my friend was thinking about the dirty dishes, and wondered how it works, do the “dishes” of our lives always stay dirty, or do we just get them washed by Jesus at the next feast?  ( The idea really worked when inviting people to the feast celebrating Jesus cleansing our “dishes”  ANd if we rejoice in His cleansing them each time we commune, we don’t have to stress, my friend asked.  “or is it not that we’re always dirty, but that we’re always clean, as the thoughts were processing.

And that’s where I came up with Sinsheimers.

A state of confusion, and inability to remember whether we are cleansed or not, and the fog that sin can cause in the life of the one who trusts in Jesus.

Are we cleansed, why does it still look like there are dirty dishes, didn’t Jesus promise to cleanse us?  did He?

You see – the imprint of the dirty dishes, our sins in thought, word and deed is fairly deep – and it is hard to overcome.  We trust in God.  We think one thing, we see another.  We trust that God did clense us, but then we heard the words we use, and the way we use those words, and there is a massive dissonance, a confusion, and the memory of what God promised us is lost in the fog, and we even struggle to discuss it with anyone.  Our confusion grows, and the struggles continue, as we wonder why sin’s bondage isn’t broken.  The more confused, the more distant we believe we get, the more anxiety builds… then anger…

Are we horrible sinners, or miraculous saints?

As my friend said, :I think I get it now but understanding it is one thing and actually feeling it is another…

yeah – I understand, for I too suffer from this, a  struggle that usually ends up with me resembling the pharisees – acting the role, saying the right words, but is my heart behind them, or not?  Am I nothing but a actor, a pretender?
I suffer from Sinheimers.  BIG TIME

Unlike  Alzheimer’s, which I daily pray they find a cure for, Sinsheimers does have something very effective to stop its effect.  A strong dose of Word, and Sacrament, and Worship and Praise.

Word and Sacrament, because there God strengthens my confidence in His work, cleansing me (and you!) as hearing His promises, seeing them demonstrated in the logos revealed on every page, creates by the power of the Spirit a level of trust – an expectation of how we know that God is working in our lives, even if we cannot see it.  Hebrews 11 tells us that faith/trusting in God is being absolutely sure of the things we expect, and to have every expectation that what we can’t see (but God promised) is true.
Like His poured over the head of someone cleanses them of sin – because He promised He would do that when He washes us (see Ez. 36:25 again)

Like that bread and wine – yeah, it is really His precious Body and Blood, a gift freely given to you,,which guarantees the forgiveness of sins!

That a bunch of us, whose lives resemble a 2bedroom apartment with 8 guys living it, have had the Son of God, cleanse us, set us free, and call us into a relationship with Him, even thought we can’t always feel, or realize we are.

That is where worship is so… important.  FOr the more we express praise and thanks, the more we become aware of His work, the more we are in awe…. awe that sinheimers is revealed to be nothing but smoke.

An awe that wipes away the clouds and brings site to the blind, that helps the deaf here, and brings healing and wholeness to His people.

So go – and worship the Lord who freed you, who cleanse you, whose presence is always there!

Cleanliness is next to Godliness… right?

                Cleanliness is next to Godliness?  Really?

Mark 7:1–13 


In Jesus Name


May we recognize the gifts of mercy and love, that God the Father pours out on us, His children, as He cleanses us and sets us apart in Christ Jesus!


The Men Who Would Be Clean!

They were men driven by a noble desire, a singular focus that was admired by those they led, by those they were accountable to God to guide, to advise, to shepherd.

Even the named they were labeled with spoke of their devotion, their holiness, the fact their lives were separated from the world’s concerns, to spend all time in pursuit of holiness, and in trying to guide others into living lives that would be acceptable to God.

They were men who desired to be clean before God, and they desired that God’s people – all of them, would also be clean and righteous before a God that demanded of the people He chose and called His own

Except that label thee wore, the title granted to them, is known more today negatively, derisively, mockingly….

Pharisee…scribe…now synonymous with hypocrite, not holy man.

We see them in a way that is quite negative, hollow because of how we read scripture, and how we see them confronted.  Somehow, we miss that Jesus is trying to show them a different way.   In doing so, we become like one Pharisee, who in the temple thanked God that he wasn’t like “those” sinners.

I mean we don’t always say it exactly this way, but sometimes we come across this way…

“Thank you Lord that I am not like those hypocritical, hyper-legalistic Pharisees!

Even as we say it… we become that which we dislike…and like them, we need to remember their desire, a good and Godly desire: that we would be Men (and Women) who would be clean…

the difference being, we’ve come to understand how that happens.

We have to grasp what they overlooked, what they didn’t hear.

Is Cleanliness Next to Godliness?


Finish this old proverb: Cleanliness is next to….

While it is an old proverb, it is not as old as some would think.  Made famous in its present form by John Wesley in a 1791 sermon, it was a modification of this statement by Francis Bacon two centuries before:

“ ‘Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.”


It does sound though, like such a saying at least represents the ideas of the Pharisees.  It talks of their desire, and their concern to ensure that Jesus wasn’t teaching false doctrine.  They had the traditions, the teaching, the writings, the books of prayer, the manuals, and yet, did they really hear of what the scripture talked about, when it talked of being clean?  For example, this passage from Ezekiel:

I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your filth and of all your foul idols. 26 I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. 27 I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws, and respect and practise my judgements.   Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NJB)

and from Isaiah,

33:8 I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. 9 And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them.
Jeremiah 33:8-9 (ESV)


Yet somehow, those who were entrusted with teaching the word of God to His people didn’t hear that God would do the cleansing, their ears were deafened, the eyes blinded, and they didn’t teach what the scriptures taught, what people were to praise God for revealing.

They taught we had to cleanse ourselves, and buying into that lie that appeals to our pride, they made so many rules for people to live by, so that they would appear clean – that they could play the part. Bursting with pride, they would claim they were holy, and many of them even believed their words, because they were based on what they were taught.  Which was wrong.  In Greek, the word hypocrites describe them so well.  It means to act, to pretend, to have no connection to the words you say, but to say them with incredible force, hoping to deceive, or at least get people to go along with the act.

That is why God says their lips praise Him, yet their hearts are fixed somewhere else – their devotion and dependence belong somewhere else. Like the Temple of that day, it was all an act.  There was no real dependence on God, and the shallowness of their system was revealed…


But are we any different today?  Do we do the right things, but with the idea that because we go to church, because we go to Bible Study, because we pray, we are somehow safe?  Many of the things the Pharisees recommended were indeed good things.  Personally, I like my hands and dishes and mugs and hands clean, as I start eating dinner.  I would love to see each of us with the first five books of the Bible, and the Psalms committed to memory.  Not the titles, but the entire texts.

But do we do them to impress God, to convince those around us that we are holy?

Or do we do them, to rejoice in the God who reveals that He comes to us, to love us, to comfort us, to heal us?

True Cleanliness, True Holiness


What the Pharisees needed to hear again, needed to see in scripture, was that it wasn’t their responsibility to cleanse themselves.  That the people of God were to find their confidence, not in their own work, but in the God who always responded to the cry of “Lord have mercy upon us!”  Who kept on calling to them, wanting them to hear…

In today’s Old Testament reading, it was put this way,

14 Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites with amazing wonders. The wisdom of the wise will pass away, and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear.”

I love a God who deals with those who put on an act, not by writing them off – but by proving He is God, and a loving and merciful God.  Even though people, even though we sometimes talk about religion and god being man-made, like the pottery claiming to have created the Potter.  Jesus dismisses that silliness – by rising from the dead – something so amazing that it silences all those whose pride was in their own works.

Amazing miracles!  Not just amazing because of the overcoming of nature, but amazing because the death and resurrection of Jesus did what the Pharisees so desired to do by their own strength and reason – it provided for their cleanliness they worked for…and failed.

Their commands could not create a life that was beautiful and abundant, but what God commissioned did.  We’ll talk about those two words a bit in Sunday School, but what is amazing about the cross and resurrection is what Paul said occurred there…


2:10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.
Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)

The Power of the Cross


Paul will refer to that cleansing again in our Epistle reading today.

just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

What the Pharisees, what those who pretend to be holy, so want to convince themselves and others of – provided – no effort on their part, simply to revel in the love, to be in awe at the work of God, done in our lives!  How amazing!

It’s not our responsibility to get er done – He’s done it. He’s brought His love and mercy to bear on lives marred by every kind of sin, by every kind of unrighteousness washed away in a flood, cleansed by a blood.

Our lives, so completely unclean now described, all of us as a glorious people – without anything that mars us!. Completely Holy and without fault!

Let’s read Isaiah’s prophesy of our lives,,, there in the verse 18.

18 In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. 19 The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the LORD. The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

I love that phrasing – we are filled with fresh joy, and we shall rejoice – as we see and hear… Him!

Life changing, amazing, never will we be the same – because the God who would court us, and create a church that is His holy and precious and glorious bride cleanses us! Even if cleanliness were next to Godliness, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we are found Godly!

And our life, even in the midst of that would try to mar it, would be lived in Him, fully cleansed, fully at peace… for we walk with Him! 


Familiarity Breeds ….. Awe!

As always – feel free to comment/discuss:

There is an old saying – which cam to mind while discussing yesterday’s devotion on the Trinity.  A good friend of mine indicated that he feared reducing his faith to that of the country/gospel songs where Jesus is described as a friend/pal – almost as if he will raise a mug of Coors or Bud with us.  ( blech) .  I get that, there is a point where we can make God our ole bud and then take him for granted.  (as we sometimes do with our best friends)

It’s what the old phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” so aptly describes.   THe idea that the longer we spend with someone, or with something, the more we take it for granted.

We have to admit – most of us take God for granted, and treat Him contemptuously from time to time.  🙁

I wonder though, is our taking Him for granted just based in our being too close? That we only take Him for granted when we think of Him as friend as a familiar part of our lives?  Or do we take Him for granted when we think we related to Him as the Creator, and we are just a speck of the Creation?  I would suggest its both.

So let’s look again at a familiar passage..

15:11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. 13 The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. 14 And you are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17 This, then, is what I command you: love one another.
John 15:11-17 (TEV) 

It is in realizing that Jesus, Lord of Lords, King of Kings shares with us what the Father entrusted Him with, that we are no co-heirs of Christ, adopted children of God.  That level of familiarity, that yes, does include the entire Trinity, that is amazing!  A common sinner like me (and yes you as well) welcome into the presence of God, not as a servant/slave, as one indebted (yet we owed a great debt) but as family, is too me something I desire not to take for granted, not to treat contemptuously, and yes, it hurts and sickens me when I realize that I have.  How it should crush us, for a moment, as we realize that we have forgotten the Holy Spirit, who abides with us, the incredible gift of our baptism.

We are His people,….I am His own.  He has called us by name – His name….

He became common – that He could be with us… that we would share in His glory, as we abide in Him, and He abides in us…

May this familiarity continue to breed such awe..that my life responds in worship and praise!


The Triune God…revealed

Devotional thought of the Day:

A Catholic priest once wrote:

“God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration. Jesus is my intimate Friend (another rediscovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart. The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road. Consider this often: you are God’s… and God is yours”       Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 237-242). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

It is a beneficial thing to contemplate on the trinity.  From an Academic standpoint, the creeds, those incredible statements summarizing the work of the Trinity – they are great!  Pretty good for contemplation as well, as we focus in on why we have confidence, why we trust in God, Father Son and Spirit.  A lot of weight in these statements that we have had handed down to us!

Escriva’s words, taken in conjunction with those creeds reminds us that there is more to the Trinity than academic and theological insight.  There is an intimacy with God, what some of the guys I work with reluctantly once, now playfully refer to the “r” word – the relationship. And that’s what Escriva’s words help us to remember – all those incredible things – all the creation, all the word redeeming us, all the work in making us holy, making us saints – proof that God is with us.   The challenge, when we are talking about the Trinity, is to realize that They keep us in their conversation, that They are One, yet call us into that dance, that call us to share in that love, that dance with joy as the people that are called by Their name… realize that very truth.

Rejoice my friends, the Triune GOd loves you!

Post 100! A Challenge..rejoice in trials

Devotional thought of the day:

Wow, it’s post 100, averaging some 20 hits, plus those 40 that are subscribed by email.  Every continent has seen my blog  – including countries that are amazing to me.  Some blogs have gotten a ton of hits – the most about my death 20 years ago, some have have only received 3 or 4.   I guess, as I look back – some were good (praise God for those) and some…well sucked. (Blame me.)  What to talk about on #100?  The following quote stuck out in some reading yesterday.
“To follow Christ—that is the secret. We must accompany him so closely that we come to live with him, like the first Twelve did; so closely that we become identified with him…. But do not forget that being with Jesus means we shall most certainly come upon his cross. When we abandon ourselves into God’s hands, he frequently permits us to taste sorrow, loneliness, opposition, slander, defamation, ridicule, coming both from within and from outside. This is because he wants to mold us into his own image and likeness. He even tolerates that we be called lunatics and be taken for fools.”     de Prada, Andres Vazquez (2011-04-18). The Founder of Opus Dei: Volume III, The Divine Ways on Earth (The Life of Josemaria Escriva) (Kindle Locations 7632-7638). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

There are days I wish that our Lord wouldn’t permit so many trials in the lives of the people I pastor (whether they are part of my congregation or those…that would be..yet…) TO be honest, it can get very tiring to watch, to spend time in prayer for, to try and stand by their side, (when they let me know they are going through it.)  While our confidence is in God, it is in such times that such confidence is shaky, not in God, but in us.   Yet the closer we are to Him, the more dependent it seems the more burdens we have to endure, the more challenges we come across…..

As I serve and observe people going through such times, as my heart breaks for them, I have found something out.  Theologically speaking, this becomes a “first commandment issue”.  Can we let God be God?  Can we give to our Father the recognition that He does reign over us, but to accept that in His reigning, it is His responsibility to make these things a blessing, something good for us, even as we do not see it?  Can we say, not my will, but thine, realizing that it means we are not just ceding what we are going through, but as well – ceding complete control over how it works out?

That is what Jesus had to do at the cross – ultimately – in His humanity He had to entrust Himself to the Father, and know that it was the Father’s plan to do something wonderful.

In trusting the Father, in the midst of trials, in hearing the Holy Spirit’s comforting voice, in realizing we have been united with Christ’s death and resurrection, the outcome of the trial is one thing we don’t have to concern ourselves with.

And trusting in the Father, knowing His promises, we can dwell in His joy and in His peace…

Knowing that He has promised us life, we can cry, “Lord have mercy!”… and rest in the sure knowledge of His love.

God’s Commands, or God’s Commission?

Devotional Thought of the Day.

It’s amazing the difference a word makes, or just a few letters ending words starting with “comm”.  TO be precise  “and” versus “ission”.

As I prepared my studies for this weeks sermon, the difference glares out to me.  The word in Greek has, very definitely, the nature of commission.  Yet over and over we translate it command.  With that translation, we create a load of issues that are not really there.

If you commission something, a piece of art, a building, a musical piece ( I think of Mozart’s Requiem) any project, you give the scope of the work, what your expectations are when it is completed.  It draws the boundaries of the work and brings definition to it.  It is a project something that takes on beauty over time.  And if the work is fulfilled, the one who commissioned it has caused a masterpiece to be created.  It is about the end product, and the formation of it  – a masterpiece.

A command is something with even harder definitions – I always think of an execute order in computer program.  Print X,  the sum of 3+4.  Or the directive that is specific and immediate.  Don’t do this, do that, go here, and that which is commanded must do what is to be done.  The command executed, the project finished, then what?

When it comes to God, and what He would have us do, He is commissioning something, He is describing the parameters and vision for a project that is underdevelopment all our lives.  His goal is a masterpiece, without flaw, something that will endure, and br praiseworthy and glorious.  It’s far more than a moment by moment execution in blind obedience, its being formed and shaped and there is a goal.  The goal is simply defined by one word – a relationship.  The relationship we recognize when we see that He is our God, and when we also recognize that by His work, we are His people.

Indeed a masterpiece!

Yet how many times would we get in the way of that – would we decide to ignore that which He commissioned – to draw outside the lines, the parameters that a common to the commissioning.   (SOme refer to this as disobedience – but its more – the is is that it is an attempt to destroy the masterpiece God commissioned – to ignore or mar His plan with what we want.  It is like spraying grafitti over the artwork in the St Peter’s Basilica,  it is like having someone “sit in” and overdub “Dust in the Wind” with a Kazoo.

Using commission brings a whole different understanding to why God draws the parameters for our lives the way He does.  It reflects on that great verse of Paul in Eph 2:10.  2:10 We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.”  Ephesians 2:10 (NJB)   

So to does commission create a more vivid picture of sin, as we destroy a masterpiece in the making, as we ignore the beauty that God would see in us…so that we create the havoc we think is …

Luckily we aren’t the one who holds the commission – that responsibility is belong’s to the Artist – to the One Isaiah calls the Potter, the One in Whom we are created.  And in Christ, somehow, miraculously, that artwork we once thought was destroyed, is restored, brought back to life and beauty, healed and made whole.  That was His commission – and the giftedness it took, literally was an investment of His life.

Thank God for that mercy, shown to us.

His people, His work.

May as we cry out Lord have mercy, respond with our lives, lived within that which He has commissioned.


My Most Unpopular Post…EVER

Devotional Thought of the Day:

It’s amazing how much a five year old reflects the behavior of a society, and even more amazing, the people who make up God’s church in America.  ( I don’t know about other countries – yet…)

I happen to have a brilliant five year old.  He reads well, he can do 2 and 3 digit addition, but he has a major issue with patience, and sometimes a complete lack of awareness of that which is going on around him.  A chip off the old block in many ways (okay – he get’s the brilliance from his mom)  Most repeated lesson these days, get what you need to done, without the whining.   I tell you – there are times I wish he was a teenager – and had matured past the whining part.  (please don’t disillusion me!)

I see in myself, and in churches and among church leaders, the same impatience.  We want everything fixed right away, we want to see our people go from just baptized to having the faith of Moses and David and John right away.  (we have to remember that John was once a “son of thunder” and I don’t think his transformation was immediate either.)

We whine about the fact that others don’t mature, and that we can’t “go on” or we decide to “go on” without them.   If this is in the church – we devalue each other, saying that our personal growth and maturity is more important than the growth of the entire community in their faith.  Tough call, very tough call here, but we see the evidence of it in the incredibly high “church shopping” movement.  People don’t see their needs being met – even in the mega-churches – and they mvoe to the next one, to the next place that is hopping – and then try to drag their friends there as well.

We see it in the movement today – in those that look at the 25 year studies of churches and note that the “common” thing is for decline ( while we over look the stat in the same study that says this is easily addressed by re-committing to the vision of the church, or adapting it) and that “true” growth occurs fastest in “church plants”.    IMHO – that attitude will prove to result in more danger as good – about 20 years from now – as those people see that they created a self-fulfilling prophecy.   But it is also there in the movement that has little patience with those who are so excited to discover the grace of God, that they want the world to know!  More whining, more complaining, more impatience.

Please hear me – I as much as anyone – want to see people grow in their trust in God, and mature in how that is expressed.  And I struggle with the plodding that sometimes is evident, as people don’t see a need to grow  – and our content where they are at – stagnant it seems.

But spiritual maturity is a process of endurance, not sprints – it needs to last generations, not just years and perhaps a decade.  It has to show the characteristic that we see in God,

3:9 The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9 (NJB)

I used to think the patience in this passage, was talking about those that hadn’t rbeen brought to repentance yet – but Peter is addressing the people that are believers already.  Could it be that God’s patience is with His kids?  The ones who whine and complain about others, the ones who are to be about planting seeds, the workers in the harvest, the church that has been gifted and given the vocation of being the light in the darkness?   I think that we have to be careful and to discern the difference between tolerating stagnation, and knowing when to be patient with the slow and steady growth that must occur in the church – the patience that knows that endurance in the ministry means being able to guide people from where they are at, to a greater and greater dependence on God.

It means realizing and ministering to people in their brokenness – and making sure they grasp the wonder of God’s presence in their life, and the need of that presence in the lives of those around them.  It means slowing some down to savor God’s presence and rest  – while still bringing hope and healing to those around them.  It means sticking to the place where God has gathered you – and encouraging each other continually to look to Christ, to reflect His glory.

It’s not easy, its not always popular, but the discipline is that which reflects God’s love to you…. as you work with people, enduring, patient – longsuffering, and as they work with you.

Know this – where you are at – there God’s presence is… learn that it is enough – and that is the maturity that really matters.





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