Devotional Thought of the Day:
And today the LORD has affirmed that you are his own possession as he promised you, that you are to keep all his commands, 19 that he will elevate you to praise, fame, and glory above all the nations he has made, and that you will be a holy people to the LORD your God as he promised.” Deuteronomy 26:18-19 CSB
27 The God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27 (CSB)
We will never be where we ought to be until we go back to those old paths and learn to find God. [Then] we will cease to be bored with God.…[W]e will center our affections upon God and Christ … and become specialists and experts in the realm of the spiritual life.
It is amazing how little outside stimulus we need if we have that inward stimulus. It is amazing how much God will meet our needs. It will not be God and something else. It will be God everything.
My soul, why art thou so timid and fearful at the sight of the goodness and infinite love of thy Lord? why such distrust? Now that thou art made worthy to receive within thee Jesus Christ, let thy sentiments correspond to this grace, by confiding in that goodness of God, who gives thee all himself. Truly his judgments are terrible, but they are terrible only to the proud and to the obstinate; but to the humble and penitent, who desire to love and please him, his judgments are all mercy and love, emanating from a heart full of compassion and kindness.
Tozer’s words struck me this morning.
There is a lot of talk about how the church needs to position itself, what it needs to do to survive and grow in these days of crisis.
I think Tozer is on to something in these words. What are the old paths where God was found? He wrote this not long after the time some think was the “golden age” of the church in America – the 1950’s, so he didn’t mean then.
There have been similar calls throughout history: Barton Stone, John Smith, and Alexander and Thomas Campbell in the 1800s. The work of the Wesley’s before that. Luther and some in the Counter-Reformation. Francis, Augustine, and Anthony, and Athanasius. All sought God and turned ot the times when people did walk with Him.
The time of the gospels, the time of Acts. The good times in Jewish history. The places where they found “the God of Old.” The God who didn’t have to be searched for long, for He made himself apparent to His people.
The times where He comforted them. The times where He rescued them from enemies, or the times He rescued them from idolatry. The times the Lord confronted their sin and healed them of it.
We need to come across, in our own words, the feelings de Ligouri speaks of, where we see God’s compassion and kindness.
This is a time where humility is the only option. We don’t know which doctors to believe; we don’t know which politicians or news media to believe. The pressures caused by trauma are becoming more and more intense.
There is one place the church needs to position itself in this time. In the arms of God, in His presence, for He is our Fortress, our refuge, our strength. We need to find those altars where He has placed His name, where He feeds His people His Body and Blood. The altars from which the declaration that our sin is forgiven comes.
That is what makes us the church… let’s get back to it.
A. W. Tozer and Marilynne E. Foster, Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2007).
Alphonsus de Liguori, The Holy Eucharist, ed. Eugene Grimm, The Complete Works of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori (New York; London; Dublin; Cincinnati; St. Louis: Benziger Brothers; R. Washbourne; M. H. Gill & Son, 1887), 85–86.
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.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 I, who am an elder myself, appeal to the church elders among you. I am a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and I will share in the glory that will be revealed. I appeal to you 2 to be shepherds of the flock that God gave you and to take care of it willingly, as God wants you to, and not unwillingly. Do your work, not for mere pay, but from a real desire to serve. 3 Do not try to rule over those who have been put in your care, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glorious crown which will never lose its brightness. 1 Peter 5:1-4 (TEV)
705 Christian responsibility in work cannot be limited to just putting in the hours. It means doing the task with technical and professional competence… and, above all, with love of God.
A society that tends to turn people into puppets of production and consumption always opts for results. It needs control; it cannot give rise to novelty without seriously compromising its purposes and without increasing the degree of already existing conflict. It prefers that the other be completely predictable in order to acquire the maximum profit with a minimum of expenditure.
I often receive advertisements for books and seminars about Christian leadership. Books that talk about the management of the church, the proper way to administrate things. Some bring the best and brightest of secular management and leadership theorists into play. This is nothing new, as names like Peter Drucker, John Maxwell and Steven Covey have long tried to bridge the gap between secular leaders and leaders in the church. Most of the church consultants I know use those kinds of models, those kinds of systems.
By leaders, I mean anyone who leaders, whether it be the Sunday School leader, the deacons, elders, or altar guild, or the pastors and denominational leaders that go by terms like Bishop, President or even Pope. My favorite title for a leader, and I have heard every Pope in my life refer to it, is their title, “servant of the servants of God.” Not the King, or the Lord, or high exalted leader but the servant of those who serve.
Back to leadership itself. I think the problem we often see when secular leadership style and theory come into play in the church is the idea of profit. Not necessarily monetary, but the idea of profit as in return on investment (ROI). I’ve seen this as churches prepare budgets, as denominations determine where to plant new churches, and whether to close other, smaller churches. The latter because they use up too many resources (money, land, building space)
St Josemaria calls us o think differently, to work with the love of God. Not just putting in the hours, but truly investing our talent, our knowledge, our competencies, all bathed in the love of God.
Francis likewise warns of turning the church into a puppet kingdom, where we strive for results and growth, forgetting the person’s needs, and basing outreach on maximum profit for minimum expenditure. I’ve seen this in meetings where rather than come alongside smaller churches in urban areas, advisors tell them to become legacy churches, closing and selling their properties to help growing churches thrive. We want predictable and sure methods for growth or revitalization, something with a quick turnaround, rather than something that might consume us.
We come full circle back to Peter’s epistle then, where he tells us not to do out work for pay (whatever the “payoff is – it might not be money) Rather we should do our job from a desire to serve, even as our Lord served. To work, not demanding this and that of those we are entrusted to, but by being examples to those we care for, investing in them, not expecting them to invest in us first. We need to love them, not manage them, Just as Christ loves and guides us, with gentleness and care.
This is contrary to modern business practices, yet it is the nature of ministry, of serving others, it is the nature of imitating Christ Jesus, who expended it all to save a bunch of corrupt and often shameless sinners like you and I.
May we lead our people into the peace and wonder that is found as Christ is revealed, as He ministers to, cleanses and makes us Holy. May we all find that healing available only in Jesus, as we help others heal.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 2578-2581). Scepter But Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Pope Francis. A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. Ed. Alberto Rossa. New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis, 2013. Print.