top3 for March 25, 2022

top 3 for March 25, 2022

Fridays are a break from the Lenten devotions to share a list of things I have read or thought about this week. Have a great weekend!


It’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that disturb me, rather it’s the parts of the Bible that I do understand that disturb me.

Mark Twain

Not sure if I have anything to that. I’m with Twain, there is plenty obvious and clear stuff to keep me plenty busy. Often the difficult to understand becomes a distraction or parlor game we like to debate rather than do the difficult, but clear, work of forgiving, stewardship, being a witness, and so much more for which there is not debate.


Christians in this Gospel (Matthew) are not so much called to be full and taste the whole range of human experience, as they are called to be real and to sacrifice those parts of their lives that diminish faith and love.

F. Dale Bruner from Commentary on Matthew

I love all things Dale Bruner and particularly his commentary on Matthew. In my mind, the only other help on Matthew that you need beside the Gospel itself. But I digress.

Rather than filling up on all of life, Bruner says that giving up that which detracts, or diminishes, from our faith in Christ or love for God and others is the plan. Addition by subtraction!

I am reminded that approximately 70% of Jesus’ ministry was around the Sea of Galilee. He did not choose to travel the world and share the good news but rather stayed anchored in one place. In normal times, like non-Covid, the length of a minister’s tenure is the most significant cause in the growth of the ministry. For instance, I regularly get calls from non-church members but friends and acquaintances from 17 years in one place who ask me to officiate funerals and weddings. That is a but one example of the growth in ministry strictly because of a depth of remaining in one place.

Chasing the shiny new, which I confess that in my case is instinctual, needs to be sacrificed because it does diminish faith and love. When we focus on being a mile wide we get an inch of depth. But the emphasis that Bruner sees in Matthew is the need for an inch wide but mile deep.

May I speak to clergy in the UMC for a moment? Now is the time our congregation’s need us anchored, present, and real. Resist the temptation to speculate about what is about to happen and what that will mean for you. Jesus told us that there is too much work to be done today to worry about tomorrow. That is so true for us right now. If we do our work well today, I firmly believe that the tomorrow’s will be productive times of disciple-making.

Okay…end of sermonizing…you may go about your weekend planning!


“I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord”

Numbers 24.13

These are words from Balaam the prophet to Balak the king of Moab. Balak was attempting to coerce Balaam into cursing the Israelites who were occupying the land next to Moab. This story of Balaam, which by the way gets mentioned quite a bit in the rest of Scripture, is a great reminder that being guided by God’s word does come with restrictions. Holiness is the goal with freedom being found within not outside of God’s boundaries. Holiness leads to freedom not the other way around. Balaam was free to speak truth to power (aka. The king of Moab) by following God’s word