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The Blessed Chaotic Life

Thoughts which draw me closer to Jesus, and to our cross:

34 *Then Jesus called the crowd and his disciples to him. “If anyone wants to come with me,” he told them, “he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me. 35*For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36Do people gain anything if they win the whole world but lose their life? Of course not! 37There is nothing they can give to regain their life.  Mark 8:34-37 GNT

But, my dear hearer, it does not matter much whether you know all about the arts of nature and the wisdom of the world. Be satisfied with what your experience and common sense teach you. It is enough for you to know that in the summer other work must be done than in the winter; that you know how to attend to your farm, stock, home and children. Beyond this think only how you may know Christ. He will teach you how you may know yourself, who you are, and what power lieth in you. Then you will know God and yourself, which the masters of the arts of nature and the wisdom of this world do not learn.

But a solved life is a reduced life.

There are days where I would love the idea of a solved life. To have a place for everyone, and everyone in their place. (same thing for…things) The clean desk, the organized calendar, the perfect family. To have a government that isn’t petty, but actually does it work with the intent of providing peace and safety to all.

It sounds like a nice utopian village, and is utterly, completely impossible.

And as I think about it, I am glad it is.

For knowing that life will be chaotic is a blessing, for it strips away that part of me that wants to play God. There is no illusion in my life that life is under control, much less “solved”. I have to approach life much as Luther indicates, satisfied to know the basics of survival – and what must be done now, With that, I find more time to seek after Jesus, to be drawn by the Holy Spirit into His presence. Or to see that presence revealed, for Jesus was there all the time.

This resonates with the gospel of Mark, where Mark is urging us to set aside everything–to lose it–in order to see Jesus save it. For we can’t save ourselves, or even manage our lives once they are saved.

Being not in charge means living in a way that seems out-of-control – even chaotic. But that is okay, when we realize the promise of the one who does understand, and shapes all that chaos into blessings beyond our expectation. Blessings that are full of peace and joy, for they are given by the Lord who is present. I might hate the chaos, but in Christ, we will thrive on it. That isn’t a paradox, it is a promise of God Almighty and All-knowing. Understanding this doesn’t make the chaos any less hectic or disturbing, but it can build a joyous expectation as we wait to see how God will make it all happen.

Heavenly Father, when life seems chaotic and out of control, remind us of Your care, and Your will for us! Amen!

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 13–14. 

Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 72.

What worship is… the place where souls are cured

8  Every Sabbath day this bread must be laid out before the LORD. The bread is to be received from the people of Israel as a requirement of the eternal covenant. 9  The loaves of bread will belong to Aaron and his descendants, who must eat them in a sacred place, for they are most holy. It is the permanent right of the priests to claim this portion of the special gifts presented to the LORD.” Leviticus 24:8-9 (NLT2)

The rites and liturgy of man acquire the power to evoke the divine mystery that eye has not seen, that ear has not heard and that it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive. Words, therefore, become seeds of prayer and of contemplation, instruments of man’s transfiguration into the likeness of the Holy God Whom no one can see without dying. Words and symbols lie in the depths of man’s inherited store of knowledge and memory and even in the souls of men who have completely forgotten God these archetypal seeds of divinity and mystery still lie hidden, waiting to germinate like the grains of wheat laid away thousands of years ago, with a Pharaoh under his pyramid

Running-the-church questions are: What do we do? How can we get things going again?
Cure-of-souls questions are: What has God been doing here? What traces of grace can I discern in this life? What history of love can I read in this group? What has God set in motion that I can get in on?

In order for the rites and liturgy of which Merton speaks do what he desires, we have to understand that the rites and liturgy of man means that he is an actor, a part of those rites and liturgies. He is not their controller, their guardian, their defender, or the one who manipulates them. They have to be Divine, the rites and liturgies that are soundly based in scripture and they must reveal Jesus to those who need healing. 

Any other goal for worship, which deviates the attention of God and His people dwelling together as God heals hearts and souls, and bodies, that’s not liturgical worship. It doesn’t plant the word of God deeply in them, it doesn’t result in a spiritual connection. It blocks us from seeing what God is doing, replacing His actions with the actions man has done, or that the pastor/leaders want the congregation to do.

They may be highly motivated, they may be doctrinally astute, but that is not the purpose of worship. Worship is to give people what they need to know about Jesus, it is to comfort terrified and anxious souls (see the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV) The service provides the healing of souls, what has been called the cure of souls. It is what God is providing for His people, this miraculous work of His in our lives. 

This is what Peterson is getting at – the difference between “running a church” and being a place where the “cure of souls” occurs. That cure results in a worship that is beyond just singing a couple of cool songs, it results in a transformation that is beyond words, and a peace that is beyond expression. Both a result of a love that is beyond logic.

And realizing that love, that mercy, that peace, is what we are to be doing…. and then responding with God’s people.

That’s what the scripture passage is really about – the fact that the offerings God’s people give are used to provide for …God’s priests. And since all believer’s now belong to the priesthood… God uses our offerings, our sacrifices – to care for us. (He certainly doesn’t need the $$) Again – a response to the cure of souls…

This is why God gathers us together, to care for us, to cure us, to make us whole, and wholly His.

Lord, help us to see Your work as we are gathered by the Holy Spirit, in Your Name! AMEN!

 

 

 

Thomas Merton, The New Man (London; New York: Burns & Oates, 1976), 60–61.

Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 70.

God Will Revive You then go and Tell Them How the Lord Restored You!

Thoughts which draw me to the cross

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had had the demons begged him, “Let me go with you!” But Jesus would not let him. Instead, he told him, “Go back home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how kind he has been to you.”  Mark 5:18-19 GNT

1   I praise you, LORD, because you have saved me and kept my enemies from gloating over me. 2  I cried to you for help, O LORD my God, and you healed me; 3  you kept me from the grave. I was on my way to the depths below, but you restored my life. Psalm 30:1-3 (TEV)

Had not these shepherds believed the angel they would never have gone to Bethlehem, they would have done none of those things related of them in this gospel. One might say, I would gladly believe if an angel from heaven were to preach to me. But whoever does not receive the Word for its own sake will never receive it for the sake of the preacher, even if all the angels preached it to him.

The vocational reformation of our own time (if it turns out to be that) is a rediscovery of the pastoral work of the cure of souls. The phrase sounds antique. It is antique. But it is not obsolete. It catches up and coordinates, better than any other expression I am aware of, the unending warfare against sin and sorrow and the diligent cultivation of grace and faith to which the best pastors have consecrated themselves in every generation.

Luther points out something we know, at least we should know it. The shepherds, the first of the New Testament evangelists, went to share what they saw in a manger. This is what the angels shared with them, but their message was not about the angels, it was about the Messiah, who came to them.

Likewise, the man posessed by demons, commissioned to bring the gospel to his gentile community, is to talk about what God has done to him.

Hear the Psalmist as well, who understands that they’ve been saved at the gates of hell. Saved from those depths, and restored!

These are the seeds of a revival. These are souls that are being changed by God, souls that have been cured. There is little need ot but point them at their community, at their world and let them go bring the news about God’s ministry in their lives. (Luther goes on to say they shouldn’t remember the messenger – so overwhemed by the presence of God and His love.) This changes communities, it changes the world.

Revival doesn’t just target a demographic. It tells everyone, and they come, for they need God’s love and cure as well. This is so different from the Church Growth Strategies I’ve been taught over the last 40 years!  Those strategies want the pastor and leadership to plan the ministry, to control the way the Holy Spirit focuses, bsaed on data and marketing strategies, leadership principles and, to be honest , investment strategies. (Investement of time and resources, not just money).

Revival means the pastor is, as Peterson notes – more focusd on helping people deal with sin and sorrow by planting seeds of grace, and encouraging people’s awareness of the Christ revealed to them in prayer, study, sermons and the sacraments. Done well, the people treasure these moments of being cured, and it is so amazing that they will share it with those they encounter. Their hunger is for Christ, and to see the Holy Spirit at work.

“Seek God first, and the rest shall be added to you” THis is true for the church, as well as for the individual.

Lord, please help us look to You, to cry out for Your minisry, for You to revive Your church. Help us to seek Your face, and then send us to tell others what You have done!  Help us hear Your message, and to see You revealed to us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. AMEN!

 

 

Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 456.

Eugene H. Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 65.

He’s Making His Lists III: An Advent Sermon based on Matthew 11:2-15

He’s Making His Lists III
Matthew 11:2-15

Iesou, Huios, Soter

May the grace of God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ convince you of the love revealed in the lists they made about Jesus’ work—2000 years ago, and today.

Intro:  Don’t turn away…

I want you, for a moment, to put yourselves in the place of John the Baptist, as he awaits the return of his disciples. He was in prison, and like many of the prophets of old, it was for living the life he was called to live, a life walking as God directed. In prison he find himself deep in thought, he begins to wonder, and to doubt…

Before you ever say you wouldn’t…consider John the Baptist, and the reading tonight.

Here is the greatest of the prophets, the first one to recognize Jesus, even while they were both in the womb. I can’t even imagine the conversations they would have had while they were teens…

And at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, John saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove.. and proclaimed that He is the Lamb of God, who would take away our sin…

Yeah–the Agnus Dei comes from this guy…

And while in prison, he struggled. So much he had to send his followers to ask Jesus… are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting… or should we keep looking?

It almost sounds like John was the unfaithful, broken, weak and unstable one that needs to be invited to come see that Christ was born.

The lists…

Jesus responds in a unique way, not challenging John’s doubts, but giving them a list to pass on to John.

He didn’t condemn John for his lack of faith—He ministered to him, even though he wasn’t right there.

Jesus sent a list to him… a list?

If I were John, I would want a miracle. I would demand one.

I can hear him saying, “Jesus—we’re family, I’ve given it all for you—why don’t you help? Why don’t you get me out of here? If you are the Messiah….why aren’t you…”

Jesus helps him focus and gives him a list that matches the list in Isaiah we saw Sunday.

4  Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5  the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. Matthew 11:4-5 (NLT2)

In other words, tell John, whose father was a priest, and studied the Old Testament deeply, that the prophecies are coming true. Jesus wanted him to know what was happening, that all pointed to not only John being saved, but all the world would have the blessing of salvation opened to them!

Just take the Isaiah’s checklist – John I am doing all that and more…the news that God is saving the Jews and the Gentiles is being preached – and it will be preached until the end of time!

This is what John knew was supposed to happen, but life Got in the way…

Instead of a lecture, or being mocked for his lack of faith, Jesus reaches out to John, and assures him with words John knew well. He recalls the promises made in the Old Testament, so that John can be re-focused on the ministry.

Don’t turn away… because of me.

I think this is where we need to go back to the beginning. And hear the words that sound shocking at first,

‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’

I think I hear those words at first as judgment – you blessed if you don’t turn away when you realize who Jesus is. A lot of translations make it sound that way….

But it is just as likely that it means that we don’t turn away because we are in Christ.

Try reading it this way,

God blesses those who do not turn away—because of me.’

You see, on our own, our faith struggles and fails. But when we remember He was born, he died for us, that is something quite different, far more powerful, far more precious.

When I say the closing blessing of a sermon, it is always based on this concept – that you know you dwell in the peace of God which passes all understanding, for your hearts and minds are kept in that peace by Jesus, – this is what John needed to know it is what we need to know.

We don’t fall away and get condemned by Jesus, for it is His responsibility to keep us in Him, and in knowing that we are truly blessed!.

Whether we are grieving, broken, struggling, in prison.

John kept ministering…

In fact, it is after his disciples return that John does significant ministry, instead of with the crowds, with the leaders of Israel, including Herod. So much so, that Herod is grieved by having to kill John, tricked by his new wife and daughter.

Jesus didn’t blast him, didn’t deny him the opportunity to minister. He reached out to him, showed him what God promised to do, and that it was getting done.

And lifted John back up off his feet, and reminded him of the ministry God had called John to..

And if you are struggling tonight, if things seem rough, God will do that for you as well.

That is what Advent is about – being there with John, and hearing that God is with you…that He is saving you – for that is what He promised, and that is what the lists in scripture show. AMEN!

And may you see revealed this peace of Christ in which you live, as Christ keeps your heart and mind in it. Amen!

Evangelism is More Than a 10 Minute Presentation

Thoughts that drive me to the cross:

22  Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible. 1 Corinthians 9:22 (TEV)

28  So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29  To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (TEV)

I think we cannot experience that which we have not believed. I still think we must instruct and urge men and women, toiling along in average and common Christian ways, to move forward and claim spiritual victory they have not yet known.

The joyful and the sad should be advised differently. Before the joyful are to be set the sad things that accompany [eternal] punishment, but before the sad the joyous promises of the kingdom should be set.

It was nearly 40 years ago that I was “trained” as an evangelist and trainer of evangelists. Somewhere I even have the certificate from Evangelism Explosion, and the neat talking cards they equipped me with, so that I could be an evangelist, and train others to do the same.

Forty years later, I feel less equipped, having seen that a practiced monologue doesn’t make someone an evangelist. I know now that the role of an evangelist, like that of a pastor, is something that can take years, that requires the patience of a shepherd, and the willingness to sacrifice time and energy helping people see the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Because we struggle in this world, because we struggle in our own worlds, we need to hear the gospel-the truth that God loves us-daily ourselves. We need to believe, as Tozer points out, what we are sharing. We need to have revealed the victory that God provides. Otherwise we cannot provide it for those who we love and care for, for we cannot give what we’ve not had given to us.

The other part of this is that we can’t give to someone else when we don’t know where they are at. We have to be like them, as Paul so eloquently points out. All of us are evangelists and therefore serve as a conduit of God’s grace. But conduits connect two points, in this case, God and one or ten or 100 of His people. Some of these know they are God’s people, some are beginning to discover it, and some are fighting it. So we come alongside them, and bear their weakness, we share in their trials, and we love them…

The work of an evangelist is never clean, it is never simple. I learned that when on one of my first EE calls, the door we knocked on to visit a couple was answered by the wife’s “friend”, and she would come to the door, well, not adequately dressed. They both, and the husband, needed God’s presence, in the days ahead, yet no card in my stack addressed their situation in a way that would draw them to Jesus. It would take them years to work through life’s issues, as the gospel and the church showed them God loved them. Not a ten-minute presentation followed by a prayer and baptism. More like a spiritual rollercoaster that seems out of control. But God knows the tracks… we just ride with our people.

This is ministry, an investment of time and love, to help the broken find healing they need for the wounds of life, as they get to know the Lord who loves them. This is whether you are a pastor, or a parent, a elder or just a friend. For we all can share the Lord’s love that we’ve come to know.

Let us depend on God’s love and presence, as we share that with those around us….

A. W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith, Mornings with Tozer: Daily Devotional Readings (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008).

St Gregory the Great, The Book of Pastoral Rule, ed. John Behr, trans. George E. Demacopoulos, vol. 34, Popular Patristics Series (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 93.

We Need to Be Shocked Back to Life! (Spiritually )

Devotional Thought of the Day:
23  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.
Romans 8:23 (NLT2)

The question keeps coming up in John’s Gospel: Where does this man Jesus come from? Does He come from God or only from man? The question is the most basic one that can be asked about us and our love. Are we and our love born again from above, from God? Or are we and it only the product of human nature? The answer to this question makes an infinite difference, the difference between Heaven and Hell in the next life.

This work, which begins in the new birth, is carried on in two ways—mortification, whereby the lusts of the flesh are subdued and kept under; and vivification, by which the life which God has put within us is made to be a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.

Thirty years ago, I was defibrillated 5 times. Just like you see on every medical show when they should “clear” and electricity is passed through the body, with the intent of rebooting the electrical and chemical nature of our body, so our heart will restart and run normally.

Spiritually, we need something like that. What Spurgeon called vivification, the idea of bringing us back to life, being born again, where God brings us to life. Kreeft indicated this was the one question that matters, the one most basic to our life, and the one that makes the greatest difference, period

The problem is when we want to be brought back to lift without dealing with what caused us to whither and die. If all the paramedics and ER doctors did was to shock me back to life, and never try to address the cause, it would have mattered not. The same is true spiritually, and while one day we will be free from all sin and suffering, God is freeing us from its effects, even now. This is the mortification that Spurgeon said was part of the same work – the process of eliminating the rot caused by sin, and sin itself.

Mortification isn’t easy, neither is vivification. Both require drastic changes, and discipline and some pain. And yet, the life that is provided, free from the rot, free from the pain, is beyond words.

God is with us, He’s the great physician, the one that does both pieces of work… that makes it not just a possibility – but a promise.

So let Him get to work on you…

Let Him draw you to the cross – where both things happen, as the sinful you dies, and you are raised with Christ Jesus. Amen!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 26.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

The Cure for the Confusion You Experience

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”  Matt 11:28-30 NLT

Man’s moral fall has clouded his vision, confused his thinking and rendered him subject to delusion. One evidence of this is his all but incurable proneness to confuse values and put size before quality in his appraisal of things. The Christian faith reverses this order, but even Christians tend to judge things by the old Adamic rule. How big? How much? and How many? are the questions oftenest asked by religious persons when trying to evaluate Christian things.…
The Church is dedicated to things that matter. Quality matters. Let’s not be led astray by the size of things.

The only question is whether you thoroughly recognize and feel your labor and your burden and that you yourself fervently desire to be relieved of these. Then you are indeed worthy of the sacrament. If you believe, the sacrament gives you everything you need. At present, however, most people come to the sacrament without this understanding of it. They come with a hungry stomach and a full soul; they pray much beforehand and yet do not believe. They receive the sacrament and yet do not really avail themselves of it. They have no other reason for receiving the sacrament than a fearful and unwilling obedience to the church’s precept, thus becoming utterly unfit for it.

Come to the table and see in His eyes
The love that the Father has spoken
And know you are welcome, whatever your crime
For every commandment you’ve broken
For He’s come to love you and not to condemn
And He offers a pardon of peace
If you’ll come to the table, you’ll feel in your heart
The greatest forgiveness, the greatest release  (Come to the Table: Michael Card)

There is too much going on in our days. We deal with one crisis, only to find two more coming. Many of those lead to compromise, to a moral faiure which leaves us even more confused as lines of morality blur into oblivion. And lacking the knowledge of what quality is, the church resorts to systems that have failed for two or three generations–dressing the solution up with new names, and a re-cast vision for the same target.

And the burdened soul finds more burden, the weight of despair grows more desperate.

I’ve been watching these cycles in churches, and in the church for 4 generations in the United States.

We don’t spend time, as Michael Card urges, spending time at the Table of the Lord. We don’t take the time to look in His eyes, to be pardoned, to find the release that comes from the burdens we bear. We may be so confused we don’t even know why we feel mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. If we don’t realize the burden is what it is, then how could we know the solution is to be still, and experience the love of God. ( This is what it means to know He is God) Our hunger is not fulfilled by what we think it should be fulfilled by–the offerings of the world.

We need to help others hear Jesus invite to be with Him, to let Him relieve our burdens, to let him bear the weight of all that is crushing us. To take all that and give us in replacement His Body and Blood as we take and eat, and take and drink. Look into His eyes, and see the love the Father has for you. And as you do, you won’t worry about dropping the burdens, they will simply fall away…

So come to the table this weekend.. come share in God’s passion and His glory…and find everything has changed.

 

 

 

 

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 177.

The Difference Between Singing Praise Songs and Worship.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

15  But what could I say? For he himself sent this sickness. Now I will walk humbly throughout my years because of this anguish I have felt. 16  Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! 17  Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins. 18  For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in your faithfulness. 19  Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next. Isaiah 38:15-19 (NLT2)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ lays hold on us with all the authority of sovereign obligation. It says that the Christian church is to go and make disciples—to go and make disciples of all nations. The moral obligation of the resurrection of Christ is the missionary obligation—the responsibility and privilege of personally carrying the message, of interceding for those who go, of being involved financially in the cause of world evangelization

“Pray! For hope no longer lies in arms but in God. If anybody defends us against the Turk,18 the poor children who pray the Our Father will. Our wall and firearms and all the princes will probably leave the Turk untouched. I told the master builders too, ‘Dear Sirs, why are you spending so much time building? Unless prayers build a wall that declares that angels surround you with protection, your wall is worthless.

As I am pursuing a doctoral degree in worship, talking to people has been interesting.

They think this is a music degree, that it has to do primarily with the instruments I play, and the songs I have written.

It doesn’t.

My breakfast with a friend this morning was an experience of worship as much as when I pick up my guitar and play with our liturgical band on Sunday morning. As we talked about the brokenness we’ve witnessed (and went at the side of others!) As we talked about where God has guided us on very unique tracks to where we serve, him in the public sector, me in the church, there was a sense of what Hezekiah talked of in the scripture passage from Isaiah above.

We’ve experienced it all, the need to be humbled, the oppressive anguish, the discipline (corrective action) taken, I have had the challenges to health, he’s witnessed others experience them, and we’ve seen God deliver us from it all.

Sharing that is worship. Appreciating, even being in awes of how God has guided us is praising and glorifying God. I left a little less tired, a little more able to expect to see God’s work today, a little more determined to pray before the actions I know are coming, and less time building the walls which cannot protect me.

Tozer talks of a sovereign obligation to be missional—that because of the resurrection, we must share the hope born from experiencing God. I agree there is a need for that action, but I don’t think it is as much a moral obligation as we think of obligations, something done in repayment of something that has benefited us. Rather, it is as a subconscious spiritual compulsion to love those we are sent into the midst of, for surely God has done sent us into these places.

Surely singing is part of this, how this attitude is formed, how it buries itself deep in our sub-conscious, along with hearing the word of God and receiving the sacraments. The Holy Spirit uses all of this to form us in a way where the life of worship is just part of who we are. We struggle with it of course, allowing sin and the brokenness we observe to distract us temporarily us from our life in Jesus. Even then, God is at work, delivering us, calling us back,  and getting our attention.

And because of that, with Hezekiah and all who have been re-born in baptism and faith, we worship Him. In sanctuaries, and our homes, and even over breakfast at Polly’s.

God is good.. and He is with us!

 

 

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 419.

This is Ministry…

Thoughts leading us to Jesus, and because of which, we adore Him:
1  Then this message came to me from the LORD: 2  “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? 3  You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. 4  You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. 5  So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. 6  They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them. Ezekiel 34:1-6 (NLT2)

The Christian minister, as someone has pointed out, is a descendant not of the Greek orator but of the Hebrew prophet.
The differences between the orator and the prophet are many and radical, the chief being that the orator speaks for himself while the prophet speaks for God. The orator originates his message and is responsible to himself for its content. The prophet originates nothing but delivers the message he has received from God who alone is responsible for it, the prophet being responsible to God for its delivery only. The prophet must hear the message clearly and deliver it faithfully, and that is indeed a grave responsibility; but it is to God alone, not to men.

In those cities and places, likewise, where the parish churches have no certain boundaries, neither have their rectors their own proper people to govern, but administer the sacraments to all promiscuously who seek it, the holy synod commands bishops, that for the more perfect security of the salvation of the souls committed to their charge, having divided the people into fixed and proper parishes, they shall assign to each its own perpetual and peculiar parish priest, who may know his own parishioners, and from whom alone they may lawfully receive the sacraments; or they shall make such other provision as may be more profitable, according as the character of the place may require

Someone reminded once again me that evangelists are also physicians for souls; new converts need a physician of the soul just as long time members. A lot of listening, consoling, absolving, praying, and blessing was just as important for Sonia, the zealous new convert, as it was for George, the patriarch of a family known as “pillars of the church” for generations.

As I read from the writings coming out of the Council of Trent this morning, those words in blue hit me hard. It wasn’t like resonated in a good way, but like play a guitar and one key is so far out of tune… it hurts.  People who go to a church may not know the man who is preaching, if he is even in the same building and not located on another campus, and his picture live-streamed into that building. There is a disconnect there, and while thye have someone preaching at them, it is not the same as a conversation with them, know them and having the ability to call in a moment and have them pray.

It’s not just true in big churches, COVID has done this to many family sized (50-300 member churches) as our people have been spread out, and limited to digital contact or a phone call or two. As much as I like bringing my thoguhts together on this blog, I would rather have 4 or 20 people in a Bible study, or a dedicated prayer time. There is something about the people of God, gathered together, spending time in His presence together.

Tozer’s comment about the pastor being a descendant of the prophet fits in here. God has a message for a specific group of people, and has placed the pastor there to give it to them, in a way they can understnad it. That means you have to know them well enough to spek into their heart. That is scary for both the pastor and the people. But if it doesn’t happen., if this connection isn’t made, then people spread out, and begin to do what is right in their own eyes–and that includes the pastor.

We all need to be ministered to, the atheist, the person God is transforming from scratch, the person God’s been working on for decdes.

And the most needed and hardest ministry happens when the pastor and people are laughing and crying together. As souls are comforted…and healed by the same power which raised Christ Jesus from the grave.

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

Theodore Alois Buckley, The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (London: George Routledge and Co., 1851), 201–202.

Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 234.

Visionary Servant Leadership

Thoughts helping us focus on Jesus…

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. John 13:3-5 NLT

Leadership requires vision, and whence will vision come except from hours spent in the presence of God in humble and fervent prayer?

God remains the center, and man is drawn beyond himself toward the absolute as it manifests itself. He “possesses” love only insofar as love possesses him, which means that he never possesses love in such a way that he could describe it as one of his powers, which lies at his own disposal. To be sure, this does not mean that love remains external to him, but if it does not, it is only because love itself takes possession of him in his innermost heart—interius intimo meo.

Nevertheless, as a spiritual physician I’m treating the whole person, not just their emotions. When the soul is at rest in God, emotions will stabilize.

There are a lot of books out there that one could read to learn about Visionary Leadership. That includes those written by pastors, former pastors, corporate CEOs, former military leaders, and sports figures like John Wooden.

Rarely do I find that there is a spiritual component in these books or the seminars they spawn. If so, spirituality made be motioned as an afterthought. Even though we have generations of servant leaders, and the example of the prophets and Jesus of such incredible leadership.

We think such leadership is a gifted ability, something innate in that person but missing in this person. In thinking so, we make a mistake. Authentic leadership is not a gift as much as it is a side effect. (Note – leadership in Romans 12:8 is closer to administration than leading and guiding people. )

A side effect of time with God.

That time with God results in a deeper dependence, a deeper trust. Theologians call this faith, but that overused word rarely is thought of as the desperation that results in our clinging to God, knowing there is no other answer.

And the side effect of that dependence is the leadership Jesus shows as he washes the disciples’ feet and dies for them and the world the next day. Tozer talks of leadership coming from hours spent in the presence of God. Balthasar speaks of being drawn to God and possessed by God’s love – even to the most interior, intimate part of being. God is there; that is what conversion is, as our hearts and minds- cold, dead, broken by sin are replaced by the Spirit with Christ’s heart and mind. It all comes down to dwelling in HIs presence, and being sure of the promises, as Chirst was, as he washed the feet of the apostles… even of Judas…

Ultimately, this kind of leadership is focused on drawing people into the heart of God. That is where we must lead them, for that is where we find out who we are. We have to be confident of God’s presence and His work – then leadership is simply part of the response. This is the work Senkbeil speaks of – the healing that takes place as we wash feet, go and pray, or take the time to explain what the scripture means.

That is visionary servant leadership… which is the kind that makes an actual difference in the lives of people… both not and eternally. AMEN!

Tozer, A. W. 2015. Tozer for the Christian Leader. Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. 2004. Love Alone Is Credible. Translated by D. C. Schindler. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

Senkbeil, Harold L. 2019. The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.d

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