Category Archives: Devotionals

What Deep Faith Looks Like:

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

9 He made no difference between us and them; he forgave their sins because they believed. 10 So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? 11 No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.” Acts 15:9-11 GNT

Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by how easily it works. Most of what we call a struggle of faith is really the struggle to act as if we had faith when in fact we do not.

Imagine a jacket lying on the ground. If someone picks up the garment holding it from the end of one of its sleeves, or from one of its pockets, the result would be a considerable mess. You have to take the jacket from the shoulders to hang it properly.
Something similar happens with worship: to adore is to take life by the shoulders and not by the sleeve. Anyone who puts God at the top of the values of their existence, notes that ‘everything else’ happens to occupy the place it should. By worshiping God one learns to relativize all things which, although important, should not be at the centre, that do not relate to it.

I recently was told I was “a man of great faith.” I am not sure what the person meant by that, but to be honest, in my understanding of it, I am not.

That is not saying I don’t aspire ot be a man of great faith, o how I wish I was. But I am like the father, who told Jesus, “I believe! Help me in my lack of belief.”

This morning, I came to the three readings I copied and pasted above, and it reinfoces the need to discuss what great faith is, or even having faith.

The middle one resonates as true – faith – a deep dependence of God, is so much of who we are that to operate depending on God is easy, it is natural. If I am questioning my faith, and asking if I have enough, then what I really need to be doing is asking God to strengthen my faith, to undergird it, to help me depend on the Holy Spirit more than I depend on my own reason, my own will, my own power.

Deep faith means we act in prayer, knowing that God has answered Paul’s prayer in 2 Thes 1:11 – giving us the desire and completing the the He causes us to do, by faith. It happens, and we even sometimes act without realizing it, as we minister to those people who are the least of these.

That kind of deep faith is taking the God at His word, at what He’s promised to do, and depending on it. That is what the final quote discusses, hanging up the jacket the right way. When we worship God because of what He’s revealed at the cross, at the altar, in the word, everything else takes its place relative to it. Life comes together, like a plan in the old ATeam series – though it often doesn’t come together in the manner we think it should. But as our faith deepens, as we come to depend on God more and more, the more that becomes a cause for joy.

You see this in the quote from Acts, the apostles and early church, struggling with what the Gentiles beocming part of the church meant, kept God’s work at their focus. They joy was not in the agreement they “brokered” but in the very knowledge that God had worked in others, bringing them to the greatest challenge of faith.

Depending that God has saved us, that He has forgiven us sll of our sins. There is faith at it hardest challenge, the most illogical thing, even the most foolish thing that we believe in as His people. (see Proverbs 17:18) Yet, that is where faith begins.

To know that God loves us enough to do something foolish – to be responsible for all of our debt, all of our sin. To depend on Him to restore us from the brokeness that sin creates in our lives.

This is where faith struggles the most, right at the beginning, To truly live life knowing and depending on our sin being forgiven, depending on the renewal and reconciliation that happens as God does this miracle, is life changing. To know that my sins, my thoughts, words and deeds of which I am ashamed (or should be ashamed) are taken care of by God.

It is at that moment, as we realize this, that our faith soars, that our praises rise, that we are in awe of God. It is there we find the Holy Spirit revealing to us through word and sacrament this wonderful, glorious, marvelous love of God.

And it is then that we can dive deeply into this relationship, not fully understanding why God would do this..

This is the deepest moment of dependence of God, and the moment when HIs love for us overwhelms us.

Lord God, even as we have to depend on You in the daily struggles of our lives, help us depend on the acts in which You draw us into Jesus Christ, cleanse us of sin, and restore and heal us. Help us know that love which does all this – and then walks us through each day. We pray this in Jesus Name! AMEN!

Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Aguirre, J. I. M. D. (2012). Eucharistic Adoration and Sacred Scripture. In A. Reid (Ed.), From Eucharistic Adoration to Evangelization (p. 109). London; New York: Burns & Oates.

Why asTheologians We Need to Re-learn Common English

Devotional Thought of the Day:

6 Think, friends: If I come to you and all I do is pray privately to God in a way only he can understand, what are you going to get out of that? If I don’t address you plainly with some insight or truth or proclamation or teaching, what help am I to you? 7 If musical instruments—flutes, say, or harps—aren’t played so that each note is distinct and in tune, how will anyone be able to catch the melody and enjoy the music? 8 If the trumpet call can’t be distinguished, will anyone show up for the battle? 9 So if you speak in a way no one can understand, what’s the point of opening your mouth? 10 There are many languages in the world and they all mean something to someone. 11  But if I don’t understand the language, it’s not going to do me much good. 12 It’s no different with you. Since you’re so eager to participate in what God is doing, why don’t you concentrate on doing what helps everyone in the church? 13 So, when you pray in your private prayer language, don’t hoard the experience for yourself. Pray for the insight and ability to bring others into that intimacy. 14 If I pray in tongues, my spirit prays but my mind lies fallow, and all that intelligence is wasted. 15 So what’s the solution? The answer is simple enough. Do both. I should be spiritually free and expressive as I pray, but I should also be thoughtful and mindful as I pray. I should sing with my spirit, and sing with my mind. 16 If you give a blessing using your private prayer language, which no one else understands, how can some outsider who has just shown up and has no idea what’s going on know when to say “Amen”? 17 Your blessing might be beautiful, but you have very effectively cut that person out of it.
1 Corinthians 14:6-17 (MSG)

He (Luther) had labored hard to put the word of God into the everyday language of the German people so that hearing and reading the scriptures would inform their biblical spirituality. He considered the gospel more as an oral message (mundhaus) than as a literary text (federhaus).

I read a lot of books.

From a lot of different genre’s, from a lot of different sources.

A lot of them are novels ( I love 18th-19th-century naval historical fiction) and a lot of them are religious works. Some are written very technically, with a vocabulary that often causes me to pull out my dictionaries or a Biblical Encyclopedia (or a Greek, Hebrew, Latin lexicon) Those are more challenging, yet they have their place. But they are a different language.

Their place is not in worship, or in Bible Study with my people.

Maybe in a class or individual study, maybe in a gathering of pastors, but it is not necessary for the people of God.

We don’t need to speak in “another tongue” when we lead worship or preach, or when we teach. And yet, far too often, we do that very thing.

That is what Luther is getting at when he speaks of the gospel as more an oral message than a literary text. It is a message that is to be communicated, not just analyzed. It is something that speaks to the soul of a person, not just their intellect. It is something that gives them hope, peace, and joy, even when they are in the midst of trauma.

That is what Luther wanted to do, he wanted to make his work, trying to reveal the love and grace of God to the people he was entrusted to care for, and to those who didn’t have shepherds, or whose shepherds didn’t do their work.

So we need to examine what language we use, in our sermons, in our lessons, in our liturgies, and whether those words are in common language. Not just vocabulary, but the style in which we write. It has to be common English, words that affect and encourage their walk with God.

As St. Paul says, “Pray for the insight and ability to bring others into that intimacy.”

The intimacy to walk with God, to revel in His love, to find rest in His peace, to savor what it means to be forgiven.

This isn’t just about teaching them “our language.” This is about pastors ensuring we explain and reveal God’s love in a language they understand and giving them the ability to praise God in words that mean something, that resonates with them.

Imagine a church, where people we able to be still, to be quiet and just know that God is our God and that we are His people. That is what the prayer that Paul instructs us in has as its goal.

Not that they would be able to diagram the communication of magisterial attributes of Jesus…

But rather that they would burst into tears of joy when they hear, “The Lord is with you!”

Abba Father, Lord Jesus, help us to be so overwhelmed by Your love and mercy that we have the insight and ability and desire to bring others into a relationship with You that leaves them in awe. Help us to speak clearly, and rejoice as we see this happen. Send Your Spirit to inspire us, and guide us in this we pray. AMEN!


Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. KLrey, Trans.) (p. 119). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

“And Therefore,” A New Easter Tradition…that I highly recommend!

Concordia Lutheran Church – Cerritos, Ca , at dawn on Easter Sunday

Devotional Thought of the Day”

51 Listen to this secret truth: we shall not all die, but when the last trumpet sounds, we shall all be changed in an instant, as quickly as the blinking of an eye. For when the trumpet sounds, the dead will be raised, never to die again, and we shall all be changed.
53 For what is mortal must be changed into what is immortal; what will die must be changed into what cannot die. 54  So when this takes place, and the mortal has been changed into the immortal, then the scripture will come true: “Death is destroyed; victory is complete!”
1 Corinthians 15:51-54 (TEV)

12 For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ through your faith in the active power of God, who raised him from death. Colossians 2:12 (TEV)

4 By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life. 5 For since we have become one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. Romans 6:4-5 (TEV)

Christ is risen! In old chronicles we read how the faithful in Russia used to embrace each other with this greeting. They had undergone tangible renunciation during the period of Lent, and now that this period was over, they experienced a real, immense overflowing of joy. By entering into the rhythm of the Church’s year they knew quite tangibly that life had triumphed and that life was beautiful. We still celebrate Easter today, of course, but the grey veil of doubt has spread over the heart of Christendom, robbing us of joy. So is Easter obsolete, a word powerless to inspire hope?

A few years ago, I wrote an Easter sermon called “So what”. And as I took the church through the Easter Acclimation, I asked them to respond one more time:

Pastor: Alleluia! Christ has Risen!
Church; HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!!!
Pastor: And therefore…
Church: WE ARE RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

The concept worked well, and with Great energy, they responded. It worked so well, we used that call and response for the rest of Easter (which is celebrated for 7 weeks in our church)

But what I would have never expected happened the next year, when I was planning on only doing the traditional Acclimation, and one of my elders, seeing me pause, enthusiastically and loudly proclaimed the “And therefore” and the entire church responded with the “We are Risen Indeed!”

It is now tradition!

And some poor pastor 30 years from now will have to consider whether it is a tradition he is willing to pay the price of changing!

But I love it. It helps drive the meaning of Easter home. In a world where, as Pope Benedict notes, Easter has become obsolete ( You rarely see church attendance go up on Easter anymore, when it was once the only day some would show up) this little tradition is making a difference.

It makes people realize the Resurrection is personal, they have a major stake in it. THeir role in the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Jesus is talked about throughout scripture, and especially in Paul’s writings (there are more than the ones above)

And what we now know as a promise, and see hints of here and there, it is guaranteed. We will be changed, we are immortal, and our bodies will one day resemble this. We dwell in the presence of God, and death’s defeat is sure.

Easter matters, and however it takes to make that something we realize, for ourselves and can teach with conviction to those who follow is a not a bad tradition to have.

With Christ, you have risen indeed. Alleluia! 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. 126). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

The Purpose of Real Power…

Devotional Thought for the Day:

3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power; he knew that he had come from God and was going to God. 4 So he rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist. 5 Then he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. John 13:3-5 GNT

860         As soon as you truly abandon yourself in the Lord, you will know how to be content with whatever happens. You will not lose your peace if your undertakings do not turn out the way you hoped, even if you have put everything into them, and used all the means necessary. For they will have “turned out” the way God wants them to.

There is a video going around of a basketball coach, who is seemingly striving to empower other women. While we have a long way to go to make sure opportunities and pay are equal for people of both genders, there is an underlying message that I struggle with.

The search and focus on gaining power and influence without knowing the direction that power will be used to achieve. Power can be used for good or bad, and we need to develop people as much on how to use power, as we do to encourage them to grab all they can. Will we look to develop people spiritually and morally (there is a difference) to use power properly, even as we teach them to seek it out?

I look to the reading from the Bible in red this morning, and something struck me that I hadn’t really noticed before. This is one of my favorite stories, it is the basis for one of my favorite songs (Michael Card’s “The Basin and the Towel”) I know it inside and out, and just like every year, it will be part of the reading on Maunday Thursday.

This year, I saw that beginning phrase, “Jesus knew that the Father had given Him all power.” It goes on to talk that Jesus knew where he was coming from, where He was going (the cross). SO …. he serves. He takes the role that is humiliating as any, even though he was the guest of honor.

That is what he does in the context of having just some power, but all of the power. He uses it to serve, to teach, to benefit others. Jesus uses what power He has not to avoid the cross but to embrace it, because of His love for them, because of His love for us.

This is what power is for, not to increase fame, or wealth, or personal standing. Not ot get a kick “playing” with those you have power over. Rather it is to benefit those people you have been made responsible for, for power is only a tool of responsibility.

So teach our daughters and sons to strive to do their best, to find places to serve in where they can make the greatest impact. Where they can affect many, helping them learn to love. Help them achieve things that would take great effort, but always remind them of why they are there.

To love their neighbors who they can see, empowered by the presence, the mercy and love of God they can’t see, but can perceive.

For in his presence, there is peace, and contentment… and we are safe there, our hearts nd minds protected by Jesus. AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3526-3528). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Church must live in the midst of controversy

In the midst of perscution and darkness, the church is still the place of mercy

Devotional thought of the Day

When they heard this, they all left, one by one, the older ones first. Jesus was left alone, with the woman still standing there. 10 He straightened up and said to her, “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she answered.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.”
John 8:9-11 GNT

The Church will be persecuted in the measure of her fidelity to the gospel.
The testimony to this fidelity bothers and enrages the world, making it kill and destroy, as it happened in the case of Stephen, the first among the disciples to shed his life for Christ.

Pope Francis’s words sound ominous, and they should.

But not because of the promise of persecution. That is something promised in scripture. We will be persecuted (see Mark 10:30, 2 Thes 1:4, 2 Titus 3:11-12, John 15:20) What is ominous to me is the idea that if we are not persecuted, than perhaps our fidelity, our faithfulness needs to be examined.

In other words, does the inverse of Pope Francis’s words hold true. Is the lack of persecution a testimony that we are not enraging the world, that something is missing in our lives given to Christ Jesus?

The story of the woman caught in adultery is a great example of the rage the Church, when She is the Church, can create in those who observe here.

Jesus causes controversy in forgiving the lady everyone knew was guilty. He did this by pointing out their sin, confronting them on the very evil that lurked within their hearts. Unable to face the confrontation, their wander off, leaving her with the God who loves her, who would restore her.

Rather than rejoice that someone is shown God’s mercy, rather than celebrate the love of God revealed to someone who thought they were too broken, the world walks away. (and yes, the church is often more like the world)

Such mercy could be shown to the terrorist (the apostle Simon the Zealot and the government lacky, Matthew the tax collector), it can be shown to the prostitute, the murderer, even to the one who kills the pastors and leaders of the church (St. Paul)

You don’t like Trump? Christ died for him. You don’t like those who are “pro-choice”? God is calling them into a relationship where He will forgive their sins. You don’t like the person who is Muslim, Jewish, White Supremacist, the gang-banger, the alien, the rapid right wing republican?

So what? Love them or realize this:

As you judge and condemn them, for the sins you think you’ve caught them in, remember this story of the woman caught in adultery. And wonder, who are you in the story. The ones crying our for murder, the lady, or are you to be like the Lord, who pronounces forgiveness.

Imitate Jesus… even if it means dying to reveal to them that God loves them, that He desires to show them mercy, to forgive their sins.

And if your friends, neighbors and fellow church members want to kill you, or just cut you off from them for being merciful, remember these words,

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom!Matthew 5:10 (MSG)

So go in peace, serve the Lord, bring mercy to those the world says don’t deserve it…because God says He desires them to come to repentance, even as He drew you to this blessed place! AMEN!

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 112). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Who am I? Why are We HERE? A Confession From the Dark Days…

God, who am I?

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.

Who am I? Know Thyself? How?

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

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 equivelant to being able to use what I know.

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 dialoge between Socrates and Jesus, Machiavelly, Jean Paul Satre – etc)

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 our who you are… His beloved.

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. 85). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

I need to find that God is THERE! (a thought about why I need Lent)

God, who am I?

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 from the commandments of their powerlessness, they become fearful as to how they will be able to satisfy the law. For the commandment must certainly be fulfilled, or they will be damned. They become completely humbled and reduced to nothing in their own eyes. They find nothing in themselves that might make them righteous. At this point, the other word, the divine promise and assurance, comes and speaks to them: “If you would like to fulfill all the commands, become free of all your covetous desires and your sin, as the commandments compel and require. Look here: believe in Christ, in whom I promise you all grace, righteousness, peace, and freedom. Believe, and you have it; don’t believe, and you won’t have it.17 For what is impossible to you through all the works of the commandments, which are so many but are of no use anyway, is quickly and easily done by faith. For I have placed all things in a compact form inside faith, so that whoever has faith has all things and is saved, and whoever does not have faith has nothing.”

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’ve not dealt well with wanting revenge, or feelings of lust, or wanting that which isn’t mine, I need to be free from the anxiety caused by not respecting those who God’s put into authority, and from the sin of gossip and trying to defame others.

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 done, while rejoicing in the mercy and love that cleanses us. In the midst of such meditation, in the midst of such honest evaluation, I find this, that God is there, responding to our need, and that brings about the greatest joy!

AMEN!

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.

How Do You Lead? How Are You Teaching People to Lead?

Leadership is like waiting tables

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 experience your LORD’s presence, and so in awe of that, help others know that He is with them!


Willard, D., & Johnson, J. (2015). Hearing god through the year: a 365-day devotional. Westmont, IL: IVP Books.

Is God Serious about this? He can’t mean this, can He?

Devotional Thought of the Day:

26† “Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well. Luke 14:26 GNT

676         Have you noticed how many of your companions know how to be very kind and considerate when dealing with the people they love, whether it is their girlfriend, their wife, their children or their family? Tell them—and ask it of yourself too— that the Lord does not deserve less. They must treat him that way! Advise them, besides, to continue practising that kindness and consideration, but do it with Him and for Him,and they will achieve, even here on earth, a happiness they had never dreamed of.

Is God really serious with this?

That I have to love Him, be more devoted to Him that to my wife, my son, my mother, my friends?

Other translations phrase it more bluntly, indicating that we have to “hate” those relations. The root word can extend from the hate that is actively working against the person to simple indifference, where the blessing we could be is neglected, to refrain from being in the person’s life.

I have to admit this, I don’t like these words of Jesus.

I struggle with them.

I can try to rationalize a million reasons why Jesus didn’t mean what he said. From talking about our responsibilities under the fourth commandment ( Honor thy father and mother) to talk ing about the witness we need to have with our lives, as we care for those God has put in our lives. And I know people that have done as the Pharisees and discounted their parents out of religious obligation. Jesus talks about them as well, calling that practice wicked.

Yet these words will not disappear from scripture.

And as much as we are shocked by them, we need to hear them. We desperately need to hear them. We need to admit how we too often turn these relationships into idolatry When we live through them or define ourselves first as a husband, dad, son, brother, cousin, friend. When the devotion we should have towards God is sacrificed on the altar of these relationships. When we tolerate sinful behaviors or brokenness because we are afraid of hurting the relationship. When we are more worried about losing this person’s favor than we are about losing the love of God.

And there is the problem, this idolatry of relationships, this giving of the place that God designed in your life, so that you can know His love, that you can know His care, that you can realize His presence.

Yeah, He means it. not out of some self-centered jealousy and need for self-affirmation, but because of what He can provide for us, that no one else can.

As we learn to live in that love, as that relationship defines us, we even find out our care for others becomes more like God’s, truly loving and not just caring for what we get out of it.

A hard lesson to hear, a harder one to live out. Yet so necessary…

Lord, help us to receive Your love for us, and help us to respond to it, living in it, letting it define who we are, and how we live… AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 2824-2829). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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