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Should I Stay or Should I God: Balancing Devotion and Ministry

Devotional Thought for the day:

29  So the people of Israel—every man and woman who was eager to help in the work the LORD had given them through Moses—brought their gifts and gave them freely to the LORD.   Exodus 35:29 (NLT)

63 But after a man is converted, and thereby enlightened, and his will is renewed, then he wills that which is good, in so far as he is reborn or a new man, and he delights in the law of God according to his inmost self (Rom. 7:22). And immediately he does good, as much and as long as the Holy Spirit motivates him, as St. Paul says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”8
64 This impulse of the Holy Spirit is no coercion or compulsion because the converted man spontaneously does that which is good, as David says, “Your people will offer themselves freely on the day you lead your host.9

In the world of today, when people are so burdened with duties and their problems, which oftentimes have to be solved with great haste, range through so many fields, there is considerable danger of dissipating their energy. Priests, too, involved and constrained by so many obligations of their office, certainly have reason to wonder how they can coordinate and balance their interior life with feverish outward activity. Neither the mere external performance of the works of the ministry, nor the exclusive engagement in pious devotion, although very helpful, can bring about this necessary coordination. Priests can arrive at this only by following the example of Christ our Lord in their ministry. His food was to follow the will of him who had sent him to accomplish his work.21

I remember back in the day there were those who thought Franklin Planners and Day Runners were the key to success.  Just use all the little tabs, the priority tools, the calendar and you would be a success in business.

That is of course, assuming you were able to keep track of the $120 leather bound notebook!  We complain about our cell phones being leashes these days! Those things took the place of God in our priorities!

Seriously though, as I read the Book of Concord and the words from Vatican II this morning I was taken back to those days, to friends who assured me that having a organized and structured life was the key to successful ministry, and those who insisted that instead it is a pastor’s duty to first spend extensive time in devotion and prayer.  Not measured in minutes -but hours a day, a day a week – a week a year.  That only then will a pastor be able to endure.

And of course, each was backed up by Biblical examples.

There are still those who put forth those answers today.  That want me to read these books they found – by Steve Covey or by Dallas Willard.  (representative of the two thoughts)  I am torn between the two often – there are people that I need to go see, things I need to plan, and yet there is also the need – a desperate need, to be still, to know that He is God, He is my God, my loving, merciful benevolent Father, and I am his child.

So how do you strike a balance?  Or can you?

I have tried for far too long, more than 3 decades tried to discern this balance.

And the answer is far more… simple.. and thus more overwhelming.

Follow Christ’s will….

There are going to be times we have to lay aside everything and go.  There are times where we have to manage our time.  And there are times – where if we don’t seek God’s face, where we don’t encounter His presence, we will be worthless.

How do I know the difference?

By being in tune with Christ, with knowing He is walking with me.  To understand that I am not the messiah – and I draw my strength from knowing His mercy for me personally. (This is why I have absolutely no problem with a daily celebration of the Lord’s Supper!)    I need to know His presence, I need to know His cleansing work within me.

Then it is simple to hear his voice, then it is simple to know how to give, how to spend that time.

It has to be the Holy Spirit who coordinates that – I can simply keep focusing on Jesus, and depend on Him to make it work.

And so He does.

That is what “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner” is all about.  AMEN!


Tappert, Theodore G., ed. The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959. Print.  Formula of Concord: Solid Declaration:  II Free Will or Human Powers

Catholic Church. “Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests: Presbyterorum Ordinis.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print.

Who Do You Call First?

Featured imageDevotional Thought of the Day:

10  We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! 11  But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has now made us God’s friends. Romans 5:10-11 (TEV)

A god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.
If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God. For these two belong together, faith and God. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God. (1)

1009      Whenever the worrying thought enters your head that you lack rectitude of intention—sometimes it may come like a flash of lightning, at other times like a filthy pestering fly which you brush off but which keeps coming back—always make acts of the opposite virtue straight away… and carry on working calmly for Him and with Him. At the same time, even though you might feel you are only pronouncing the words mechanically, say slowly: Lord, I want nothing for myself. May everything be for your glory and for your Love. (2)

My son and I, a couple of weeks ago, went to my college alma mater to watch a basketball game.

As we were about to leave, we passed a table offering raffle tickets to raise money for the girl’s team.  All four top prizes were computer tablets, so we bought a few tickets and walked away.

Yesterday, as I was working in my office, I got a phone call.  We won!  (this is the second tablet I’ve won… 🙂 ) Before I was off the phone, I was already walking to where my son was, eager to share with my techie son that we had another “screen” in the family. I had to let him know.  My wife found out later, and silly me, I forgot to

As I was reading the Large Catechism (the blue quote) this morning, I thought of that – who do we go to first?  When life just sucks, or the opposite when something extraordinary happens, when we are suffering or simply trying to endure.  Who do we call?  Who do we go to find sustenance?  Who do we praise and glorify?  ( I include both good and bad things on purpose)

Is it a person, a spouse or a parent?  Is it some item, such as a bottle or chocolate, or some drug?  Or do we choose to suffer alone?  Or do we tell the world by FB, Twitter, and text?  Do we ever bring it to God?  Have we set up an idol, even many idols?

Who do we cling to?  Who do we count on?

Do we ever think about our relationship with God in that way?  As the closest of friends?  Can we even conceive of a God, who is that interested in us, that desires to be given all we can’t handle, and yes, to be thanked when something special happens?

Do we realize that is what it means to pray without ceasing, to give God the good, the bad, the challenged?

As we walk through this Lent. As we walk with Christ to the cross, may we share it all with Him! May we depend upon Him so much, may we adore Him so much, that it is His name we call first, in prayer and praise!

May we call Him first, and always!

(1)  Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 365). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

(2)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3558-3562). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

“We’ll get together then, God. You know we’ll have a good time then!

Devotional Thought of the Day:

8  “Observe the Sabbath and keep it holy. 9  You have six days in which to do your work, 10  but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to me. On that day no one is to work—neither you, your children, your slaves, your animals, nor the foreigners who live in your countryExodus 20:8-10 (TEV) 

552         It would be bad if you were to waste your time, which is not yours but God’s and is meant for His glory. But if on top of that you make others waste it, you both diminish your own standing and defraud God of more of the glory you owe Him. (1)

There is a song that was once a faovrite of mine, perhaps not so much these days because of the reality of it in life.

Written by Harry Chapin, it tells the story of a dad and his son, who thought they would desire to spend tie together, don’t.  Life and work gets in the way.  And the father who said, “not today”, in his old age hears the same phrase back, “not today”. It looks forward to the day when “we’ll get together then, you know we’ll have a

Verities & Balderdash

Verities & Balderdash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

good time, then”

In this life, there will be no more “then’s” for me and my dad, there will be them for my son, and trying to keep that all in balance with the demands of being a servant to the people of God is a challenge.  There are those that say the pastor’s family must always come first.  A noble idea, but an impossibility, if we take our ordination vows seriously.  There are those who use those same vows as an escape from the family, mismanaging their time.  There has to be wisdom, and yes sacrifice.   And in even in that balance, there will be pain to be born.  Someone will have to hear “then”,  and it will hurt to hear it, and hurt to say it.

This blog isn’t about those “then’s”, but rather the one’s we say to God.

God, I’m running late this morning – I’ll spend time with you later.

God, there’s a family event, I need to be at.  I’ll be at church next week.

God, we’ll have a good time together, “then”!

The tragedy is great, this neglecting  of relationship.  Not just for us, even as we so need God’s presence in our lives.  For life is a challenge, there are hurts and betrayals, sins and disasters, and we often need his comfort.  Hard as it is to imagine, our neglect of our relationship with God is hard for God as well.  You see it in God’s word’s to Hosea, as God explains the hurt as Israel prostitutes herself to false idols.  You hear it in Jesus voice, as he cries over Jerusalem, explaining how he longed to comfort them as a mother hen comforts and protects her children.   That’s the idea of a relationship – to spend time together, and the time lost… is time where love isn’t expressed, time where we drift apart.

There is another line in the song, the words of the song where the son says, “I’m gonna be just like you dad…”

And I pray, that with God, that line is true. That we will look to our Abba Father in Heaven, and we will grow up to love Him in the way He loves us.  That we will appreciate our time with Him, the way He desires to spend it with us.

Not just in heaven,but now.  Hear His promises,

“You will be my people, and I will be your God.   Ezekiel 36:28 (TEV)

“and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”    Matthew 28:20 (TEV)

“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; “ 1 Corinthians 6:19 (TEV) 

Writing about our time with God is hard, because no matter how hard I try, it sounds like law, it sounds like, well discipline.  I still struggle with calling prayer and bible study and such benefits -spiritual discipines – because that makes it sound like tasks and obligations, rather than the good time we have, when we understand that God is here… that God is with us.   But how we encourage each other to live aware of His presence, aware of His love and comfort, of His guidance.  I Know that’s how Escriva’s words sound at first, yet I also realize that they come from a person who knows God’s presence, and knows how desperately we need to remain aware of His presence.  Yeah – it’s that powerful, that life changing. That everything.

Prayer not just as a formal matter, but as our time with our Dad… where we admit that He’s gotta handle the things which we can’t, where we rejoice as He fixes and heals, as He shares with us His work in recreating this world. As He brings us together to encourage each other, to celebrate His love. To realize that this God did come to us, and is here with us… even this very moment.

Such is the nature of this joy, that we need to realize what it’s cost us to overlook it.  Like Harry Chapin’s song is supposed to help us dad’s, and our sons.

Lord, have mercy on us, and help us to grow up just like Jesus.


(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2370-2372). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Divine Appointments

 23  Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearerHebrews 10:23-25 (TEV)

973    Those words whispered at the proper time in the ear of your wavering friend; that helpful conversation you manage to start at the right moment; the ready advice that improves his studies; and the discreet indiscretion by which you open for him unsuspected horizons for his zeal—all that is the “apostolate of friendship.” (1)

I often think of the passage from Hebrews above as one talking about our church gatherings- our worship services, our Bible Studies.
But this week, as those services cause me to struggle – I also think about it as the meals I have shared with others at this convention.  The young teacher from Canada, the pastor’s wife from Detroit, the breakfasts with those from my district.

Those have been the benefot of being here. as some have helped me in my struggles – as others I’ve been able to help.  They weren’t the reason I came – yet…. they are the reason I am here.

As you go through this day – realize God has set your calendar full of people you are to encourage, people you are to gather with, meet with, invest the time God has given you… and rejoice – where you are gathered with them…. God is there as well.

Cry out together, “Lord, have mercy…” and sit back and watch as He reveals the wonders of His love!


Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2253-2255). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What do we invest our money in? What about our Time?


The Passage of Time

The Passage of Time (Photo credit: ToniVC)

 16  Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. 17  He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ 18  Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, 19  and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ 20  “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ 21  “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”  Luke 12:16-21 (MSG)

People engaged in worldly business say that time is money. That means little to me. For us who are engaged in the business of souls, time is glory!  (1)

It seems we live in a world that concentrates on the here and now, and that now is imitated by the church.  Back in the ’80’s,w e called this the Tyranny of the Urgent.

I think it has gotten worse, and we rarely, if ever, look to the long run, whether in how we invest our money, or something even more precious, our time.   We want thee quickest turn around The quickest route to healing and recovery, and we will settle for far less than God has promised.   Heck – do we even bother to consider the long range outcomes anymore, or do we just react to everything that is happening, to focused on “this moment” and what has to be accomplished?

What would happen if we did pay attention to our future?  How would it change how we spend our time, our money, our lives?  Would we give more time spent in God’s presence?  Would we spnd time – not questioning those mysteries He hasn’t revealed to us, but simply being amazed by the truth of them? Would we consider our careers differently?  Would we see what we do with our spare time differently?

Josemaria Escriva said, “time is glory”.  The more I read that, the more I realize it is true.  Because time, our time, has been revealed to be spent in the presence of God.  God promises to never leave s, has promised to be very patient with us. Do we realize the time spent in His presence is spent in His glory – even if we cannot see it revealed clearly as it will be in heaven?

I think this is the biggest difference maker, to know God’s presence, to revel in it – to value and cherish it.  To even be a little defensive of those times – until we realize how to integrate them into our blessed lives and walk with God.

So take a afternoon – find a quiet place – and think it through – what takes your time, how is it invested..

Then figure out how to spend it, knowing that you are in the presence of God!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 904-906). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Idol of Time “Managed”….

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

15  So watch your step. Use your head. 16  Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! 17  Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants. 18  Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. 19  Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. 20  Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 5:15-20 (MSG) 

There is also, he added, “another richness in our culture”, another richness that prevents us from getting close to Jesus: it’s our fascination for the temporary”. We, he observed, are “in love with the provisional”. We don’t like Jesus’s “definitive proposals”. Instead we like what is temporary because “we are afraid of God’s time” which is definitive.  “He is the Lord of time; we are the masters of the moment. Why? Because we are in command of the moment: I will follow the Lord up to this point, and then I will see… I heard of a man who wanted to become a priest – but only for ten years, not any longer…” Attraction for the provisional: this is a richness. We want to become masters of time, we live for the moment.  ( Pope Francis’s honily this day… from Catholic News Agency)

We live in a world that is, as Pope says, fascinated with “the temporary”.  We look to the short term investments to make a killing, we lease cars so that in two or three years, we can buy a new one.  We buy into a system that causes us to replace our cell phones, our tablets, our computers every two or three years.   We hear that young people will not have one career in their lives – but 3 or 4 or more (heck , I am on my third…)  And less we forget marriage, people trade in their lifetime commitments like they were library books.

I labelled this blog – the “Idol of Time” because that is what it appears to be.  Yet I think the Pope sees it very clearly – this is an Idol, because while we claim to value it, we also want to desperately control it.  That’s the thing about idols – they are far easier to control than God is, who as CS Lewis put it (and Chesterton as well) God cannot be tamed.  So we try to become Master’s of our own time – setting up calendars and planning our next moves, working to see what new thing we can distract ourselves with for the moment, thinking that we’ve got it all now.  Then the next commercial makes us realize we are out of date already.

That’s why we are attracted to the temporary, to that which is unsustainable, to that which needs to be replaced.

But what id we were to focus on that which endures – that which is sustained – that which has a meaning that can never be replaced?

What if we understood the will of God, what if we took the time in prayer, and in reading His word, and in finding encouragement as we fellowshipped with those who also knew His love?  What if our joy was found in seeing people cleansed and healed and finding God’s presence – not far off in some othre universe, or even on vacation in a gloriously beautiful place like the mountains of New Hampshire, or Rome, or China?  What if we found God’s incredible majestic presence in our homes, our work places, our cars as we drive – and yes… our churches.  Would we then look at those places differently?  Would we find contentment in the simplicity of knowing He is there?

Would we find the joy that would explode in our singing praises?

Let God manage our time, let Him redeem it, let Him show us His will… His love, His mercy…His peace…and an eternity of wonder and awe and…Him

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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