Monday, January 31, 2011

For ALL of us in ministry...

"To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
(2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

I know the author of 2 Thessalonians was writing to an entire church community.  There are many words of encouragement, admonition and challenge.  But these two verses (2 Thess.1:11-12) could easily be a prayer for all of us int he full-time ordained ministry. 

Some of the parts that struck me this morning:
  • "...we always pray for you..." The gift (and privilege) of regular prayer.  Wow!  (Lord, help me be more consistent here).
  • "...that God will make you worthy of his call..." We humans screw up all the time and clergy are no exception.  Actually we often draw more attention when we sin, and rightly so, as we re-present God and the church.  To borrow a phrase from Wayne's World, "We're not worthy!!!"  And yet, we're called to strive for excellence in all we do (especially with morality).  SO this is a wonderful plea for all of us - to be made worthy of God's call on our lives... not by our own goodness, but by God's grace.
  • "...will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith..."  Being persons in full-time ministry, we usually have a lot of projects going on.  We need God's power & strength to accomplish it.  The 'good resolves' and 'works of faith' will fall short if we try to d it all by ourselves.  May God's power, instead, accomplish what needs to be done through us!
  • " that the name of Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him..." Bottom line: Jesus gets the glory.  Period.  It's not about us, no matter how awesome we may be :)'  Are we bringing glory to God through all we do?
I have decided to copy this scripture verse and place it in my "prayer area," so I can remember to pray for ALL of you - my brothers and sisters in ministry.  May God do all of this, all the time, in and through you!

Monday, January 24, 2011

More than simply "Awesome!"

"Then (Jesus) began to reproach the cities in which most of his deeds of power had been done, because they did not repent."
(Matthew 11:20)

"Deeds of power."  That's what he called them.  Opportunities to display God's amazing glory.  Healing the sick... curing the blind, lame, deaf, mute... casting out demons... walking on water... feeding the multitudes... even raising the dead!  They must have been incredible to witness.  The crowds would have been electrified!

Had we been there, our response probably would have been one of wonder & amazement: "Awesome!  Did you see that!?!?  Wonderful!"  We may have told others about it... journaled about it... or even alerted the media.  Heck, on a good day, we may have even offered up a silent prayer of thanks to God.  But that wasn't Jesus' intent.

According to Matthew 11:20, the goal of Jesus' deeds of power was to lead people to repentance.  Not to impress us... or exalt him... or provide a topic of conversation in the workplace.  No.  It was to lead us to repent.  I wonder how many deeds of power I've witnessed over the course of my lifetime, and simply exclaimed, "Awesome!"  How many opportunities for repentance have I let slip by?

Friday, January 21, 2011


"... (Mary) will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
(Matthew 1:21)

(Fill in the blank)  "What this country so desperately needs fixed right now is __________________!"  It's a statement that can be answered in so many different ways: the economy, education, homelessness, the environment, immigration, political gridlock, healthcare, racism, drug addiction/trafficking, mental illness, elder care, gang violence, corruption, etc.  The list could go on and on.  It's easy to think of words to fill in the blank, isn't it?

I'm sure the people in Jesus' day could have done the very same thing.  Their list would have been different, but surely they could have done it, too.  It probably had "Get rid of the Romans" near the top of the list.  Then maybe something about the influence of foreign religions on their own worship practices.  And possibly something about the numerous sick, diseased & unclean people in their midst.  They, too, had a lot of problems that needed to be fixed.

It's interesting, however, when the angel comes to Joseph to tell him about the impending birth of Jesus... that he specifically says Jesus would "save his people from THEIR SINS!"  Think about that for a moment.  To me, that means the one word we need to fill in the blank with is... "me."

What this country so desperately needs fixed right now is ME.

Instead of looking around at all the things I think are so messed up in this state/country/world, I need to be looking inward at my own heart & life.  But there is good news, friends!  There is hope!  There is forgiveness!  There is healing & restoration!  Because there is Jesus!  (Have you spent time with him today?)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My inability to pick up the blitz...

"...But (God) said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.'  So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

It's so counter-intuitive.  Bragging about one's weaknesses.  It just doesn't happen.

We're in the midst of the NFL (National Football League) playoffs here in the US.  Player after player is touting his own prowess or his team's superiority.  It's relentless.  But I've yet to hear someone say...
  • "You know, I have a really hard time covering WR's when they go deep.  I'm just not quick enough."    OR...
  • "As an offensive lineman, my pass blocking is really suspect."   OR...
  • "On passing downs, I'm a real liability to this team, since I have serious problems picking up the blitz!"  OR...
  • "I'm just not that accurate a passer when opposing teams put pressure on me."
No... professional athletes never boast about their weaknesses (though you can guarantee opposing coaches have watched enough game film to know exactly what those weaknesses are!).

But Paul encourages us to do so in 2 Corinthians 12:9.  Why?  Mock humility?  Of course not.  He knows it's not about him, and all about Christ.  His weakness provides a wonderful opportunity for GOd to show His power.  It's not about us!  So let us offer up our weaknesses to the One who can do all things (even pick up the blitz!).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's seen... and what's not seen

"So we do not lose heart.  Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we we look not at what can be seen, but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal."
 (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Nana is dying.  Literally.  Hospice workers say it will be any day now.  She has a form of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).  She's had it for a while... but only in the last 4+ weeks has it really taken its toll on her.  As her pastor, I've been by to see her at home many times in these 4+ weeks.  Each time she's been more and more weak.  Her body is wasting away.  it's hard to see, knowing what a vibrant woman of faith she has been.

In his 2nd letter to the church in Corinth, Paul could very well have been talking about Nana.  If you'd only had the chance to meet her these past 2 months or so, you'd probably call it a tragedy.  But if you've known her longer, like I have, you've come to know the love & hope in her heart.  You'd have seen the deep & abiding faith she has.  You'd know the condition her body is right now in now way reflects the eternal condition of her soul.  A soul which will soon be spending eternity with the Author & Creator of all Life.  Thanks be to God for that truth.  AMEN.

(It's not what you think!)

[From 1/13/11]

"Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body & blood of the Lord."
(1 Corinthians 11:27)

If you've grown up in and around churches most of your life, you've probably heard the admonition to avoid taking Holy Communion "in an unworthy manner."  Usually, the implication is you're not to receive the bread & cup if there's any SIN in your life.  Don't come forward if all is not right between you and God.  It seems logical at first glance, doesn't it?  But I don't think this is what it means (at least, not after reading ALL of 1 Corinthians 11).

Beginning at verse 17, Paul begins to address a growing problem in the Corinthian church.  It seems people are using Holy Communion as a MEAL.    Not a "spiritual meal," to be "fed" by the grace of God (which it is)... but a literal meal!  They're taking dinner-sized portions of bread & drinking enough wine to get drunk!  (Can you just imagine staying up at the Communion Table for seconds, thirds, etc... until one is drunk!)  I love how Paul sticks it to them in verse 22: "What!  Do you not have homes to eat and drink in?"

This is the "unworthy manner" he speaks of in v.27.  Not the condition of your heart (all of our hearts are in need of God's grace!)... but the condition of your stomach!  So come one and come all to the Table of the Lord!  Experience God's forgiving grace & mercy... (just eat at home first!).

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Search

"But where shall wisdom be found?  And where is the place of understanding?  Mortals do not know the way to it, and it's not found in the land of the living."
(Job 28:12-13)

Humankind has done an amazing job of mining precious stones & metals from the hidden recesses of this world.  Silver, gold, iron & copper... onyx, sapphires, coral, crystal, glass & pearls.  They each are substances of worth in our world.  Part of their value is the effort it takes to mine and process them.  Job 28 knows this and does a fine job of communicating this truth.

But what's of even greater value than any of these precious stones or metals?  WISDOM.  It may not seem like it - especially in a society where the acquisition of wealth seems to be such a priority.  But Job knows the deep truth of God: wisdom is to be valued above all!

The challenge, then, is to find wisdom.  The Search!  We scour the earth for stones & metals... yet seem to care less about seeking wisdom.  Strange, isn't it?  God knows how to get wisdom (see Job 28:23!).  We're called to seek the LORD... to "fear" Him (though I prefer the words 'respect,' 'revere,' or 'be in awe of,' personally).

Gee... maybe wisdom should have been on my Christmas wish list?!?
New Year's resolution, maybe!?!