“There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker, management consultant, educator and author

“Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness … They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns; they have tired themselves out but profit nothing. They shall be ashamed of their harvests…” – Jeremiah 12:10,13

In Jeremiah’s day, the so-called leaders of the people of God had been big on saying religious things to the people – things like, “God isn’t upset with you” and “this exile won’t last long.” The problem was that they had forsaken the hard truths of God, and the hard place that God had them in, according to His will.

Likewise, during His final week in Jerusalem, Jesus found himself in an environment which featured a flurry of activity being done in the name of God. But that activity was full of falsehood, which yielded bad spiritual fruit. This left people unprepared for, and unwilling to receive, the truth of Messiah.

Nowadays, our churches are hives of incredible activity (with incredible budgets to fund it all). We sow…something, a lot of things. We exhaust ourselves with professional pursuits. But we are reaping thorns. Having spent decades making attenders instead of disciples, we now stand ashamed of our harvests.

Then I read the next lectionary piece of the morning: Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  [nice!]  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world  [gulp]  will keep it for eternal life … Now is my soul troubled  [yah, mine, too!] And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? [Or, Father, don’t make hating life in this world part of following you? Let my faith be all about me and my happiness? Bless me with prosperity, not self-sacrifice? Let me be just like everyone around me, only with a Christian glaze?]  But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:23-27)

And finally, a word from Paul: Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ … that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his deaththat by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead … Brothers, join in imitating me!” (Phil. 3:8, 10-11, 17).

Our lives, and therefore our “harvests”, should be men and women who cling to the Words of the Lord, and by doing so glorify the Lord in their rejection — hatred for — this world … who delight in the loss [not procurement and retention of] all things, and joyfully participate in suffering, for the sake of the glory of God. This is life at a soul-troubling level. But what shall I say? For this purpose I am here.

There is nothing quite so useless as a church that runs with great efficiency, but isn’t producing genuine disciples.

(Thankful for my lectionary today.)





Wasted Energy vs. Genuine Glory

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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in church, Discipleship, Lent


Paul’s memo to Titus: “Good works – make sure they’re being done!”

Grace or WorksAs an Evangelical who’s theology could be described as “Reformed” (by people who love describing, prescribing and labeling theologies … though I wouldn’t do it), I do have the tendency to see grace and works in dichotomy. I highlight grace, and grayscale good works.

But, my lectionary readings have me in the book of Titus this week – during my Lenten journey, as I attempt to be a proactive DOER of Lent, rather than a reactive NOT-DOER. Here are some selections from Titus (see if you can spot the theme):

1:15-16  “The defiled … profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”

2:7  “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works.”

2:14  “[Jesus] gave himself for us … to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

3:1  “Remind them … to be ready for every good work.”

3:8  “I want you to insist … that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.”

3:14  “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.”

Why have I never heard of Titus spoken of as “that good works book”?

It’s a pithy Christian cliche, but still very true, and still quite ignored by us Cretans in practice: It’s not just what we’ve been saved from (sin, death and hell) but what we’ve been saved for (holiness, righteousness and good works). Grace doesn’t just extend mercy … it teaches, it empowers, it mobilizes a life full of doing.

Fruitful TreeAnd Paul urges Titus to good works, lest he be “unfruitful.” If a tree is known by it’s fruits (as the scriptures clearly say is the case), and good works are our fruit … well, would people realize we’ve been saved by the grace of God by the things that we do? Or are our testimonies bound strictly to what we know?

Lenten realization: Stopping my sin is not bearing good fruit. It’s just stopping the bad fruit. If I’m going to have a fruitful Lent, I’ve got to do more than just not sin.

The late singer-songwriter Keith Green (a uniquely fruitful man in his day) once said, “If Christians spent more time doing the dos, we wouldn’t have time to do the don’ts!”

Intellectual point taken. Now … what to do?

Stopping My Sin Is Not “Bearing Good Fruit”

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Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Lent


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