Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul. Amen.Book of Common Prayer
Before you head off into your weekend, here is a quick snapshot of three things that made an impact on me this week. Have a great weekend!
He concludes that stories of success and failure consistently exaggerate the impact of leadership style and management practices on firm outcomes, and thus their message is rarely useful.Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
While I know that leadership is an important part of every organization, it is good to be reminded that leaders probably get too much credit for success and failure. This covid season showed me that the best plans will fail if the congregation is not willing to go along and give themselves to new ways of worship, small groups, even pastoral care. It is ultimately the group that determines momentum and success not the leader. So grateful I get to serve a group of people so willing to do what it takes in every season.
If we spoke less about God’s love and more about God’s holiness, more about his judgment, we should say much more when we did speak of his love.-P.T. Forsyth
As we are preaching on the cross of Christ this Lent, I have been in John Stott and Fleming Rutledge’s writing along with many others. The above quote from Forsyth illuminates the need for law and grace; judgment and mercy; wrath and holiness to stand side by side for they are the full expression of God’s love. For a gospel emphasizing one side of the equation above the other leads to a misunderstanding of who God is and what God is about. Do we trust God enough that we believe these seemingly contradictory terms need to stand side by side?
We assess our consolation and determine if our peace is from God by reflecting on our motives, three in particular: the desire for honor, the desire for wealth and the desire for security. Each of these can cloud the issues we face and disable us in the task of discernment.Listening to God in Times of Choice by Gordon T. Smith
My hands down favorite book on discerning God’s will. Are you wanting to make a change in your life or are wanting to NOT make a change? It is important to examine motives along with the long list of pros and cons. Smith says there are three motives that need to bring caution to our soul: the desire for honor, wealth or security. The key is to be objective and truthful enough with ourselves to know if any of these motives may be clouding our discernment.
Mark 8:31–38 (NRSV)
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” 34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
Suffering. Rejected. Killed. Rebuke. Peter called Satan. Deny. Take up a cross. Lose.
So many emotionally charged and difficult words in a few verses. And at the heart of it is Jesus’ defining word on how to be a follower. Discipleship is not for the faint of heart. And it was never meant to be that way.
Part of the reason I believe discipleship is crafted as a high bar endeavor is that discipleship, in the end, is about drawing close to God. And to draw close to God…you need to get close to God. I know that sounds like double talk…and it is in a way…it is also truth.
Jesus says deny ourselves because he knows that if left alone to our own desires (what we want) and devices (how we want it), we will lead ourselves not to abundant life but something akin to “it’s a good enough existence” at best. Peter in the above passage is a prime example of how quickly our desires and devices can get us sideways with God’s path.
Difficult, yes. I would say impossible by design.
It drives us away from our own strength and instead drives us to God’s. Discipleship is only possible with the help of the Spirit of Christ working in us through faith. It’s not about working harder – it’s about trusting more completely.
O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your son.Book of Common Prayer
As we begin our series on the Cross this Lent, today is a day we crest the hill and begin to see the lights of a far away city and get a sense of its scope. Not every detail will be visible mind you, and it never will be in this story, but we will begin to get a sense of things.
The center of the good news is a cross upon which the son of God, a man named Jesus, died. And it is often talked about as a God’s love.
Love has a lot of meanings these days:
- I love snow and ice – said no one ever – after the first few inches.
- I love the sun shine and warmth
- I love being productive.
- love my job.
- I love when the story all works out happily ever after.
- I love __________ fill in the blank based on your situation (friend, spouse, kids, parents)
- I love the cross?
Well, yes…but then again…no…I don’t love the fact that Jesus hung on the cross and died in total and utter despair and loneliness. I don’t love that it should have been me. I don’t love that the process was horrific.
Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. Print.
Crucifixion was the most degrading form of execution, reserved for non-Roman criminals who were slaves or free persons of the lowest status.
Flogging until inches of your death. Walk of shame through streets carrying the instrument of your destruction. Out of town in a public place, usually near a well-traveled road, you would march and carry your cross. Upon reaching your final destination you would either be tied or nailed to the cross bar and left to hang until you drown in your own bodily fluids.
I would be a messed up person to say I loved any of that…and yet…this was exactly how God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit showed us what love looks like. The love we see from the cross is a far cry from the one we espouse today.
The cross of Christ says that love
- Takes life seriously
- this life counts, what we do and do not do matters. God is at the ready to move life forward, with all of creation, until it and we reach our intended in which is to glorify him.
- Does nothing by fiat –
- everything by working in and through us. Doesn’t wave a wand and make it happen rather takes up residence with us and sees us through.
- God is a hands-on king, ruler, redeemer, and friend.
- Becomes victorious through unconventional means
- at the name of Jesus every knee should bend.
- by his wounds / weaknesses we are healed.
- faith in Christ and not your own work
- Practices humility
- he humbled himself – and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.
- Romans 2:4 – God’s kindness leads us to repentance
Love says I can.Love says I will.
Capable and compassionate. These are the two things upon which rests all of our hope. This is the type of love God showed, and gave on the cross.
With God’s help, I can be faithful to you. And I will for the rest of my life.
With God’s help, I can stand shoulder to shoulder with you in your (fill in the blank: loss, depression, doubt, fear, anxiety). And I will for as long as it takes.
With God’s help, I can forgive you. And I will not hold a grudge.