Tag Archives: evangelism

Joyfulnouncing! The Gospel!

A week or so ago, I posted “Joyfulnouncing Jesus!” and ended that with a question:

Schnauzer Who Rules

“Commander Samuel L. Vimes” (“Vimes” for short. My resident Joyfulnouncer.

How do you personally, define “the Gospel” (feel free either to include that in the comment section, responding, below… or just note it down for yourself for next time.)

Thank you, for considering the question and for the responses that came. They were wonderful, spirit-filled, responses, and I am grateful to have prompted the reflection that yielded them.

I mentioned last time that when the Lord prompted me to go to scripture to find the “Biblical definition” of “The Gospel”…

As I started to work, and dug into scripture a bit, I discovered some amazing things about these two words we use…. “the Gospel”…

What I discovered was that when we go to the New Testament in original language, there’s this “gap” anywhere the English translations say “the Gospel”. There’s just this big white space corresponding… that what the Gospels SAY is this really cool descriptive VERB of the action… “happy-good-true-heralding”.  (Hence the post “Joyfulnouncing”.)

But here’s the thing… the “joyfulnouncement” is always “arrival”, “come-to-us-ness”, and “celebration”. The “good news” part of euangelizo CANNOT be “separated” as an “object” from the “joyfulnounce” part. But often, in English, we do that.

So, the essence of “proclaim the Gospel” (which can never be separated as a concept… the Gospel must ALWAYS be ATTACHED to “announcing”) is something like…

“Hey! Listen! He’s HERE! Love has ARRIVED! Your Lover has arrived!”

So, you see my problem with the “Index Card”/”Elevator Gospel” situation. The “announcing” is of a “relationship”. Just as my old friend put it, when I asked “what someone needs to know for baptism?”…  the answer isn’t WHAT they need to know, but WHO they need to know.

This got me thinking two different things…

The first, doesn’t help me at all as “an evangelist”. In the terms my former Pastor/Boss was thinking, an “evangelist” needs to have a “message”, a “script”, a “set of doctrinal propositions” to communicate and persuade someone to adopt. I could never develop such a script.

Nonetheless, there definitely IS, an “essence” to “the Gospel”. I’ve always “felt” it… (messy, sloppy word that, I know… “feelings” not a good guide, etc., etc.) but deep in the soil of my heart, I’ve always “known” it. But when I chase this cat, when I became utterly determined to “find ‘the Gospel'”…

I discovered myself at the foot of the Cross.

And this is true of every other single person I’ve ever known who “gets it”… who has entered into the beams of “grace”… who has gotten past the elementary principles of the world and eats meat rather than drinking milk. There is an “experience”… in every single one’s life that I’ve ever known, even though this experience can happen in a vast array of symbols, environments, traditions, styles, idioms, cultures…. every person who brings this testimony seems utterly unique,  yet utterly parallel, that…

There is a one-to-one encounter with Jesus, and in this encounter (which is undeniably REAL, though seldom, if ever “material”), Jesus’ love in its Infinite magnitude, washes over and through the person.  We can never effectively speak of, describe, the experience of another in these moments… but for one friend it was at their kitchen table one evening… for another, it was at the edge of the Miami River after throwing themselves into it to drown three times, and failing… for me, it was in prayer, at the Cross, looking at His eyes, face, hands, and hearing those words “Father, forgive them…”

In each and every case, what came about was the absolute “realization” (as in… “a truth becoming REAL to the individual”) of Jesus’ specific, individual, personal committed Infinite love for that person. It’s the “supernatural spark of the living connected relationship” between person and Jesus! It is a “moment”, an “experience”, a “realization”… after which, life is utterly changed and can never go back as it was.

And, of course, that spark, that moment, is “ineffable”… no matter how hard we try. That MOMENT, that RELATIONSHIP, is… as I’ve come to embrace it… “the Gospel”. And THAT, is simply lightning I’ve never managed to put in a bottle. I can talk “about” it. I can describe the circumstances, even the “feelings” to some extent. But the experience? The reality itself? No way… no words I know can wrap around that living Divine Spark.

The closest I’ve come is to invite someone to consider the following notion… “Jesus’ love for you, personally, is so great, so committed, so passionate and intense, that if you were the only person in all of time ever to have fallen… He would BEG Our Father for permission to come, take your place, and suffer all that He did… leaving His throne, living a sinless life, being rejected, betrayed, tried, condemned, tortured, and murdered in disgrace… all of that, just because He loves you that much, and wants you seated with Him at His throne.” Just imagine!

And, even more challenging for many… “The Fathers’ love for you, personally, is so great, so committed, so passionate and intense, that if you were the only person in all of time ever to have fallen… He would grant that permission, and DESIRE that Jesus… His Beloved Firstborn Son… leave His throne, come to earth as mortal man, take your place, and suffer all that He did… just because He loves you that much, and wants you seated with Him at His throne.” Just imagine!

Now, I’ll be honest… I “got” the first part of that… the “Jesus loves me this much” part… when I was very young. But it wasn’t until I was older… much older… and my daughter was grown with children of her own, that the FATHER approached me with the extent of HIS love! He challenged me… I could imagine, fairly readily, giving up my OWN life for someone I loved, yes. But! Could I imagine, even for one moment, loving someone so much that I would turn over MY DAUGHTER… my most beloved, who has never deserved such treatment… to the sufferings of Jesus, not for her own life debts… but for the sins of others?

Gentle Reader, that was a hard afternoon for me. I had never thought in those terms. I had never imagined the true depths of the FATHER’s love for us! For YOU, alone. For ME, alone. For him, and him, and her, and her, and them… alone.

Why? Because this is Who He is, and WHAT He is… He is not merely “a loving god”. He IS LOVE! Love Himself! He has no other way to be. No love happens but from, by, through Him. No one and nothing can love or be loved but by the “wiring” and “energizing” of Grace, of God Himself!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anyway, sorry, Gentle Reader. I get carried away with the magnitude of it all… God’s love… just… wow.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But as to the Second Thought on Evangelism… on euvangelizo… on joyfulnouncing…

Suddenly today, I realized that my problem is that it’s like a “Fanfare!”, a “Trumpet Call” like Reveille, or Taps, or Ruffles and Flourishes, or Call to the Post. Here is a particular and peculiar sound, that has a specific meaning!

Well, for some reason this morning, this concept of “Fanfare” kept kicking me as I thought of drafting this post. I didn’t know why, but just let it roll on.

And then… the “trumpet will sound”… at the coming of Jesus ahead of us…

And then… the trumpets of Jericho…

And then… the Shofar… that the shofar or shofars travelled in front of the Ark of the Covenant, playing fanfare and calling the people to worship….

And something, suddenly, went “click” for me. (And I share it here, not to convince you… or persuade… or even “educate”… simply to share this thought, and see if it “fits” for you. If not, throw it away…)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Suddenly, John the Baptist lit up in my spirit as a human “Shofar”… like the trumpet call in Godspell that introduces… “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”  There he was… John, the Herald… a human ram’s horn… making way for He who would follow… for the joyful arrival of the King!

A “voice crying in the wilderness” announcing… not a new “religion”… but the person… The Person… The Relationship of Unimaginable Inexpressibly Infinite Love and Embrace of Love Himself!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And, what has all this got to do with us? Simply this…

Perhaps we are all called to be human Shofars… perhaps we joyfully announce the Arrival of the Beloved… and embrace one another, and total strangers, aliens, sinners… in the grace and acceptance of our expressing the Spirit’s Infinite Love for them. Perhaps we transparently reflect and refract that “lightning in our own bottles” to light up the dark places.

The Good News isn’t Bad News! Thieves, cheats, fraudulent tax collectors, adulterer’s, prostitutes… didn’t go traipsing miles up and down dusty rocky hills to John at the Jordan to be made to feel bad, guilty, miserable and worthless. Zaccheus (a wee little man), was bubbling over with joy upon being called down from his perch by Jesus, even though he was so snubbed by his townspeople they wouldn’t even let him get a view of the street!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anyway, that’s getting into the next post… This has just been about the “Lightning in the Bottle”.

Next time, a bit more on, “The Good News isn’t Bad News!”

Let me again, leave you with a question…

I’ve heard it said that “repentance” has to come before “forgiveness” and “reconciliation”.

Think a moment, and ask yourself…. is this true? Or not?

Until next time then… Grace to you — The Little Monk


Posted by on February 4, 2016 in Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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Joyfulnouncing Jesus!

Schnauzer Who RulesI have this little gray dog…

When ANY of us come home, this little guy loses his mind with joy! He will wake from a sound sleep, or run in from the back yard, or leave his food bowl… anything at all… to leap up and down as high as he can jump (whether on you or just up in mid-air) to say, at the very top of his doggy joy….

“You’re HOME! FINALLY, you’re BACK! I MISSED you SO much! You were gone FOREVER!… (I counted)…”

And his overwhelming love is so clear and so profound… all the way from his wet black nose to his stub tail wagging faster than the speed of light… that no matter how tough a day it’s been, you just cannot help but smile, put your stuff down, and sit so that he can have a moment or two just to “worship you”… which he insists on doing.

Why is he so happy? Because you WEREN’T here… and now you ARE here! Now, his world is OK again. His life, his house, his security… are all OK again. When you WEREN’T here, he had to watch everything for you and keep it safe. But now you ARE here, so everything is safe, and so is he.


Sometimes, little dogs can preach very well.


I have recently discovered “The Gospel”. That may sound strange, but bear with me a moment.

For all my life… (a significant number of years)... I have “known”, The Gospel. But if you asked me to “articulate” it, I was hard-pressed. I could tell you a lot ABOUT it… but I was never satisfied, the Spirit within was never satisfied, with any articulation I could make of it… any words I could wrap around it.

My most recent “Church Boss/Pastor” got really frustrated with me one day, when he wanted all the Staff to be able to state an “Elevator Gospel”. (That’s a “sales” term, where a salesman, offering a product or service, needs to be able to rattle off the significant benefits and a strong close for sale of their product, if all they had were a 60-second Elevator Ride to present to their customer.  All the rest of the staff wrote up a little 1 minute presentation… basically Roman Road tract… and I could not. I wasn’t being smart or defiant… it’s just that “there were no words there for me” when I went inside my heart looking for them. All I found was the question, “What do you need?” That THAT was the essence of the Gospel as I know/present it… “What do you need to be whole? Where do you hurt? Where/What is the Void for Light to fill?” I tried to explain this to him… that any time I “do evangelism”, it’s always different, because it has to depend on where the person is empty… He didn’t understand, and I couldn’t make him understand.) Church Boss/Pastor was frustrated, but just wrote it off to my being “the weird Little Monk”… because I couldn’t prepare my own “canned gospel”. I couldn’t “write the script”. And he… “forgave me”… but he wasn’t happy.

And I wasn’t happy, because he wasn’t. I felt I had disappointed him, or defied him. And it wasn’t defiance. It was simple failure. My hands could simply not find any script I could write or type, and title “The Gospel”. And I checked and rechecked as I tried… and the Spirit was unyielding here. No matter how hard I dug, it was just an empty hole. There were no truthful words there for me to scribe. Not in “my own voice”… which was the essence of this task.

That “surprised'(?) me. I nearly say “worried” or “disappointed” me. I checked for if I were out of order, experiencing some quiet form of “snit” or “attitude” or something, resisting his authority. You know… “who does he think HE is, to assign me such a homework task!”… etc. But no, Spirit was clear… not the case. It was simply that *I*… my hands, my lips, were simply not permitted to do this. And if it gained me censure… oh well.

But it left me with a puzzle across these years. I learned to identify the puzzle as… “I cannot find, or have not found yet, my own ‘Elevator Gospel’.”

Now, perhaps my comment about FINDING my Gospel will make more sense.

“I’ve now FOUND my Elevator Gospel”.


I know why I’d not been able to do it before…

A number of years ago, a young woman with special needs asked to be baptized. There was “resistance” among some staff, because she could not “pass the entrance exam”, and articulate the doctrinal requirements typical and customary for church membership. She had very limited comprehension… she couldn’t pass the customary “Sunday School Knowledge” test. So… powers that be wouldn’t move forward. She spoke to me about it, and I was tasked to do some research and look into this by Church Boss/Pastor… (since I knew some folks in Special Needs Ministry).

One of my mentors, in fact, was a national expert. So I wrote to him, asking… “What does a candidate have to know, to understand and comprehend, as far as doctrine or dogmatic competence… for baptism?” (with reference to a young lady with developmental and cognitive deficits.)

I expected a list of the doctrinal, dogmatic points that defined “minimum competence”…

  • Jesus begotten by God the Father
  • Born of Virgin Mary
  • Messiah, Savior
  • Sinless Life
  • Condemnation, Crucifixion, Death
  • Resurrection by God
  • Holy Spirit and Indwelling

You know… “The GOSPEL”, right?

His response to my question blew me away for its simplicity and accuracy!

“Salvation is a person, not a plan or a set of doctrinal statements.  Does the individual have capacity to know persons?  Does the person have an experience of Jesus as a living presence?  Has the person known Jesus’ love for him and responded by loving Jesus in return?  That’s it!  His grace needs no more than an opportunity.”

I blush to disclose…. I had forgotten this. It’s not “theology”, or “doctrinal competence”… it’s RELATIONSHIP! His response reminded me, ever so gently, that I’d been hanging with the “wrong crowd” for too long. Even to frame the question in the terms I had used, highlighted the wrong thinking habits into which I had slipped.

And there is the same essential insight I came to realize on the morning I discovered My Gospel! Looking into His face, experiencing His love wash over and through me… IS “The Gospel!”… “God holds His children in His Infinite Love. To this end, beyond all imagining, He came… sending His Son as Son of God/Son of Man… entering FULLY into our existence, with all it’s joys, sorrows, frailties, temptations, triumphs, and sufferings… to express fully and engulf us in His Infinite Love Everything… despite our pitiful and piteous needy nothing.”

I knew that this… this “Gospel Thing”… is important. The words… “the Gospel”… are often misapplied and abused, causing wounding, offense, tribalism, and fear.

All too often, this “Good News” is presented as… “You [sir or madam] are a worthless no good piece of evil trash… a sinner… rightly damned and doomed to hell on your own. BUT… right here right now, if you will cry out for rescue by Jesus… He will come and save you from burning forever… IF AND ONLY IF… you surrender and turn over your own worthless and helpless self to His Lordship. THEN He will protect you from the wrath of His Father, who will otherwise send you into the eternal death of hellfire your sins have earned as their just wage!”

So I started to draft a post titled… “The Good News is not Bad News”… trying to focus on the Gospel as a Living Relationship of Infinite Love… as expressed through the Cross and Passion… rather than either a set of doctrinal propositions, or even a “set of books”… worthy as they are… of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John.

As I started to work, and dug into scripture a bit, I discovered some amazing things about these two words we use…. “the Gospel”… but those are for another post. This is enough for now.

Let me just build a bridge to a next installment asking this question:

How do you personally, define “the Gospel” (feel free either to include that in the comment section, responding, below… or just note it down for yourself for next time.)


Posted by on January 31, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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What is Your Gospel?

This morning, I read and commented on Don’s terrific “ongoing Journey” post in his blog Life Reference. It is a fantastic read, better than I have ever done or could do in “synthesizing” the fundamental Christian theology, and I recommend you peruse it after this.

My eye fastened on the title of another blog in his sidebar list of follows called iChristian, and when I chased that cat I happened upon, Lying Religious Leaders, posted yesterday.

Steve’s post ends with the following:

2 Timothy 4:1-4 Easy-to-Read Version

4 Before God and Jesus Christ, I give you a command. Christ Jesus is the one who will judge all people—those who are living and those who have died. He is coming again to rule in his kingdom. So I give you this command: 2 Tell everyone God’s message. Be ready at all times to do whatever is needed. Tell people what they need to do, tell them when they are doing wrong, and encourage them. Do this with great patience and careful teaching.

3 The time will come when people will not listen to the true teaching. But people will find more and more teachers who please them. They will find teachers who say what they want to hear. 4 People will stop listening to the truth. They will begin to follow the teaching in false stories

Now, these verses echo richly and dig deep into the soil of my spirit, as probably many others here. These were read, as my “charge”, my “commission”, a pronouncement of the will of God over my life, on the day I was ordained to the Ministry of the Gospel. These verses state clearly, Paul’s expectations of Timothy. In my own heart, I believe they state the expectations of my “Pauls”, those who have poured out their lives investing in my formation. But beyond that, they very solemnly proclaim, in a deep and intimate way, GOD’s expectations of me.

And… of you. Of everyone touched by the charge, the great commission, of Christ. And this struck me very deeply this morning. I heard echoed a question you’ve seen addressed here from time to time… “Proclaim the Gospel! YES! But, what IS… YOUR… Gospel?” That is, what is YOUR Good News, the Good News as you own it, perceive it, as you have experienced it? Because if whatever Good News you proclaim is not deeply relevant to you, does not express your love to and from God, AND your love for the person you speak with… well, without the love… it’s just a brassy clang, not a proclamation.

Well, I cannot answer that question for anyone else. That is wholly in that sacred space between you and God. But over the past week, with an intensity I have never known before, I have seen Jesus crystallize to a diamond’s point…. to a laser’s precision… what is my OWN Gospel. I now know what *I* am to proclaim, and it is a matter of what Richard Rohr calls the “Jesus Hermeneutic”.

These verses fit right up there alongside Paul’s charge to Timothy…

Luke 4:18-21 Easy-to-Read Version

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me.
    He has chosen me to tell good news to the poor.
He sent me to tell prisoners that they are free
    and to tell the blind that they can see again.
He sent me to free those who have been treated badly
19     and to announce that the time has come for the Lord to show his kindness.”

20 Jesus closed the book, gave it back to the helper, and sat down. As everyone in the synagogue watched him closely, 21 he began to speak to them. He said, “While you heard me reading these words just now, they were coming true!”

Well, Gentle Reader, God is very kind and gracious, very patient and understanding of the flaws and frailties of this Little Monk. In that kindness, He has shown me here, in simple terms, the six lines of “my own Gospel”. This is the message I have shared since my teens. This is the message I will continue to share to my last breath. “That God so loved the world that He sent Jesus to embrace us in His Name, take on all our frailties, faults and sins without committing any of His own, paid the price for them, removed them utterly from us, and now offers us induction into the Father’s House, Kingdom, and Family that God Himself provide for us, protect us, and nurture us as His Own Children. That all we need do here, is acknowledge our need for such embrace, and accept it… relax, and allow HIM to hug us, feed us, and transfuse us from our own death, to the blood of His life.”

I OWN those statements. I have walked through those statements in my own journey, wanderings, triumphs and failures. Thus, that is, My Gospel.

How about you? What is yours?

Pray for me always, Gentle Reader. Always a work in progress. Take and enjoy what suits and rings true in your spirit. Dismiss what does not. God is “ever speaking” in your own heart your own way. “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 🙂 Grace to thee!


Posted by on January 14, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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Whose House? – Part II – The Restoration

So… this continues from…. *insert drum roll here with dramatic pause*Whose House? – Part I – The Fall (whoda thunk it?)

The Topic: Comparison and Contrast Between “Ministry” and “Fellowship” in Evangelism

The Modality: Sharing one of my most embarrassing and shameful experiences in ministry, face-to-face defiance of God… Oh, and the consequences thereof.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We last left our young ministry padawan pondering their failure and writing it up for The Pastor to address the next day. The issue was not, and would not be, “justice” or “punishment” or any such thing. The issue would be, “where’s the lack, the chink, the vulnerability of heart that made (or makes) such defiance look like a right idea”? Almost always, it was (and yet is), something of God I don’t clearly understand… once I understand, I tend never to make that mistake again. (Of course, that’s not to say I don’t find entirely NEW mistakes to make… just sayin’)

So, next morning I walk in to The Pastor’s office, bringing my daily sheets of “prayer journaling” (probably the best, though inadequate way to describe it)… plop them in his Inbox per daily usual, and start to head back to my office. Normally, we do the “debrief” at about 11 and break at noon for lunch, but this day, his appointments were such that he said, “Go ahead and sit down, I’ll need to leave early before lunch,” and he picks up my papers.

Now, be aware, Gentle Reader, that I had never EVER in my walk on this staff, “defied” Holy God. I’d done lots and lots of wrong things, wrong judgments, impetuous words or actions. The Pastor had had to address, and even clean up, some of my messes, yes. But never before had I broken the “One Rule”… and I was ashamed. For the first time, before him, I was deeply ashamed. He NEVER broke the One Rule. He was one of those (almost irritating) people to whom… to KNOW the will of God for his life, day, or moment… was to DESIRE the will of God for that moment. He honestly could never wrap his head around willful defiance. Couldn’t “comprehend” the attitude. (I was a great help to him in this arena.)

As he reached for the papers, I said, “Hey, would it be ok with you, while you’re reading, if I just take a minute back in my office to finish something up? I’ll be right back.”

Being a reasonable and considerate guy, he said, “Sure, that will be fine,” and I headed for the door. But before I could reach it, he stopped me, with a strange look on his face, and said, “wait just a moment…” and I could see he was doing that praying/listening thing! My heart sank. God was “telling…” durnit! And he looked up at me and said, “Do you REALLY have something to do? Why do you want to leave?”

And I knew God had already blown this, so there was no point “speaking less than the truth” (as we called it). I said, “I do not want to be here, to sit here, while you read those pages, sir.”

“Why not?”

“Because I messed up… Big Time. And I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed of myself, and I’m ashamed before you. I do not want to watch you, as you read that. I am afraid.”

“Ah,” he said as he nodded. “Then sit down, right there, and relax if you can. Be at peace and wait for me.”

So, miserably I sat, trying not to squirm, as he carefully read through what I had done, and my conviction of being so wrong. When he finished, he looked up and I was relieved to see no anger or disappointment on his face.

He simply said, “I asked you to remain here and wait as I read that, because you needed to face that fear and hear me clearly when I say this now and forever. There is nothing in those pages, nor in anything you could ever do or say, that will EVER make me ashamed of you or disappointed in you. Dismiss that from your mind and heart.

“You make mistakes, you sin. So do I, so does everyone here. But you love Our Father and seek to serve Him. I am only a brother, not your Judge. But even Our Judge does not condemn us, or feel ashamed of us, or even get disappointed in us. Jesus paid for all our mistakes and sins at the Cross, and now we just seek to grow together as a Family under Our Father. That will NEVER change, no matter what you do, so never let that fear grasp your heart again.

“Do you understand that?” and his voice was mild… gentle… not confrontive. And he waited until I could look him dead in the eyes and say, “Yes, sir. I do.” And I did, and from that day to this, that has never ever changed between us.

“Good!” he said, turning back to the pages with a more cheerful, businesslike, air. And his face took on a confused, almost amused, expression as he said, “I hear you here. This was wrong, yes. This was defiant, yes. But the Lord has already dealt with all that, there’s nothing for me to address of that. But what I want to know is, ‘How?’… ‘Why?’… this is just so unlike you! Of all the challenges you bring me on any given day, ‘turning Pharisee’ is certainly not the one I expect! What was in your mind, in your heart? What happened there?”

I pondered for a moment, then sort of mumbled… “It was that ‘Fellowship’/’Ministry’ thing. I had to run. I couldn’t fix it…” and, of course, I was making no sense. (As is so often the case when the Holy Spirit is really working in one’s heart.)

He had me stop, slow down, take it step by step, He inquired what I meant by the “Fellowship/Ministry Thing”, and I explained what Uncle Elder Deacon had taught me the weekend before. Now, I had thought that was “theology”. A given part of this culture of worship, this denomination I was not raised in. I thought that to be a doctrinal statement. It certainly made “sense” to me. It “sounded” scriptural enough. Had a very “holy ring” to it. All that.

But when I described it, I saw my teacher close his eyes and ponder. And then he folded his hands and leaned back in his chair. I knew what he was doing. And I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. Sometimes I “liked” where this went, but often I did not. So… rather like kid banished to their bedroom to “wait til your father gets home”… I just sat and waited, resigned to my fate.

He opened his eyes, leaned forward, reached for his Bible and said, “Little Monk, you were taught an error. I understand now. Your defiance was wrong, but the confusion behind wasn’t your fault. ‘Fellowship’ and ‘Ministry’ don’t work that way, but I don’t want to try to ‘preach’ that to you, I need you to see it first hand.

“SO… I have a homework assignment for you. This is NOT punishment, or correction in any negative sense. You and the Lord are fine, but there’s a mistake, something you don’t understand, and He needs to show it to you, not me. So I’m going to make this assignment, but there is NO TIME LIMIT on it. Normally, you turn work around overnight. Do NOT do that with this. Take all the time you need, and I know when it is finished, you will turn it in. Clear?”

I nod.

“Fine. Now, the Gospel of Mark is sometimes called the ‘Travelogue of Jesus’. It’s this wonderful series of encounter after encounter in rapid fire sequence. Like ‘and then we went there’, and ‘then we did this’, and ‘then we met them’, and ‘then we went THERE’. There’s a wondrous sense of ‘movement’ to Mark. So…

“I want you to take Uncle Elder’s paradigm, and overlay it on the Gospel of Mark. This is very simple. DON’T WRITE much. This ISN”T that kind of assignment. Just take notebook paper, and make four columns, so…” and he illustrated a narrow first and fourth column, splitting the page in half for the two center columns.

“Then, just LIST… don’t DESCRIBE… the encounters. Start with Column One, the verses address, Column Two “Where was the encounter? House? Temple? Boat? Beach? Hillside?”, Column Three “Who did Jesus or they encounter?”, and then in this Last narrow Column Four, just put one letter… “M” if this was a “Ministry” encounter, or “F” if it was “Fellowship”. Got it?”

I got it, sounded simple. I felt vastly relieved. I could do this standing on my head. He said I didn’t need to finish it overnight, but I was certain I could DO so… I LIVED in the Gospels, these days. No sweat!


Know what? I was wrong! I was dead wrong!. Let’s see, that was a Tuesday, yeah. So, by Friday, as we had just gone on with “life in the fast lane” and we had never addressed this sin again (a practice of his, once something is learned and fixed, that’s it… you never exhume dead sins. Jesus buried them, that’s enough.) So as we’re closing up shop Friday, I pop my head in and say, “Oh, by the way, just to let you know, I’ve not neglected that Mark assignment. I work on it every night. It’s just going slower than I expected.” And he just waved a cheery hand and assured me, he knew I was working on it. Not to worry.

So, the weekend goes by. And I am CERTAIN I’ll have it finished by Monday. And AGAIN I am dead wrong. Not even close…

And that day, Monday of the second week of this Mark assignment, I remember saying the stupidest words to that man that I have ever uttered in my entire life…

They were, “Um, sir? You know that Mark assignment?” he nods… “Would you consider changing it to something else? I’m sort of having a problem with it.”

He smiles , shakes his head patiently, and says not to worry, just take all the time I need.

At which point I whine, “But, do you REALIZE…. there are SIXTEEN CHAPTERS to the Gospel of Mark?” *o my, Gentle Reader, just go ahead and shake your head. This is a fellow who BREATHES the Gospels… you think he knew that? Duh!*

But he nodded gently with a smile, and patiently said, “Yes, Little Monk. I knew that. Just don’t be anxious about it, take your time. You’ll get it done. I’m not worried.”

And so passed that week… Until Thursday, when I put down my pen and papers, and I smiled…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m going to stop this post right here, Gentle Reader. At that stopping point, everything just exploded in a startling insight and Truth. And I will NOT spoil your potential discovery, by describing what happened next.

There will be a Part III — and it will give the answer. But before I do that, let me pose the same challenge to you, Gentle Reader. Try the exercise. OK, maybe you don’t want to try it with all Sixteen Chapters.. but maybe just one or two. Work on this homework for at least one diligent hour or so of JOYFUL Bible Study time… it’s really a great Read! Honest! Nothing dull or heavy about it!

Try that, before opening up Part III and see if we arrive at the same destination!

Blessings and grace to thee, Gentle Reader. We’re all on this journey together. Please keep me in your prayers!


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Smart Enough for the Gospel?

Last week I faced a middle-aged married couple seeking God.

The husband, clean but grizzled with gray wiry crewcut standing straight up as if gelled, proudly stated that he often went to a church down the street whose name he could not remember, but that he had lived a bad life and wanted Jesus to receive him but wasn’t sure if He would… he still sinned sometimes. He wanted his wife to go to church with him, but she was afraid. She stood there, scruffy clothes, straggly gray hair shoulder length, shamefacedly looking down at her toes.

I took their hands, smiled, and said… “That’s GREAT!” I said that God loves them so much, He is delighted that they sought Him, and He was totally willing to receive them. What seemed to be in the way?

Grace was moving powerfully in the moment, and though we were surrounded by crowds of people, it seemed like we just calmly sat all by ourselves in a quiet park.

They both answered with their most direct responses. The man said, “I’ve done so many wrong things, and I still struggle so… I’m just not what a Christian should be.” His wife answered in turn, “I’ve gone to lots of churches, and been at lots of Bible studies, and it’s just all too complicated. I don’t know enough. I don’t understand the Bible. And it’s all so hard, so much. I’m not that smart… I can’t even understand all it takes to be a Christian… and even if I understood it all, I know for SURE I can’t DO it!”

My heart did a strange thing in the same moment. It broke for the pain these people were feeling, and it soared with the realization of what we were about to do.

I thanked them so much for speaking with me this day… for trusting me with their hearts and spirits in this way. I said I could readily understand and agree with their concerns. Sometimes it is very hard to believe that God, as good as He is, as love as He is, is really big enough to forgive and cleanse us from all the wrong and stupid things we’ve not only done in the past, but that we STILL do, when we should know better. And that I, too, have walked into many churches and listened to sermons that made me feel like I needed a college degree to “get it”. Sometimes it is easy to feel out of place in a Bible Study or Sunday School Class where everybody seems “on the same music” except us.

(I remember a 45 minute Bible Study filled with mature Christian churchmen, where 20 minutes was spent in discussion of the Jewish belief that the soul hovered above a corpse for 3 days, thus explaining Jesus’ delay in returning to Lazarus when He was notified of His friend’s illness. Seriously! That discussion seemed overwhelmingly important to the teacher and classmen on that morning… allowing everyone to display their attainments at having “studied to show themselves approved” as Biblical scholars!)

So here we were, the three of us, as I paused a moment to reflect and pray within myself.

Then I said, “Sometimes, the Christian life can seem very demanding, or very complicated and confusing. But, let’s bring it to some simple basics for a moment. You are parents, aren’t you?”

They brightened, starting to speak of their three grown children…

“Great!” I said, “Now, for just a moment, I want you to do me a favor and cast your mind back to when you first held your baby… Take a moment, think back, imagine him in your arms, and feel what your heart felt for that child. Do you remember it? The tenderness? The love? The desire to care for him? To protect him? To see him grow up strong, healthy, and good? Do you remember your heart that day?”

Both of them, thinking back as I’d asked, smiled gentle smiles and nodded, lost in the memory for a moment, then looking up at each other and smiling with love.

“Well here is the most important thing for you EVER to know about God… THAT is His heart towards YOU! In fact, what you felt was only the teeniest tiniest grain of HIS very heart towards your son. You didn’t manufacture that love, you can only reflect it from Him. And He feels exactly that way about you!

“Being Christian is not a matter of not having done wrong, stupid or sinful things… behaving well enough for God to receive us. Being Christian isn’t a matter of studying enough theology, memorizing enough of the Bible, or being smart enough for God to receive us.

“Being Christian is a matter of adoption into God’s family. It is a matter of relationship. It is knowing that God loves us, has made the way for us to be united with Him, and receiving and accepting HIM. It is to accept and acknowledge God as our Father, Jesus as His Only Begotten Son who saves us by His own loving sacrifice of His sinless self in our place, and receiving His Spirit into ourselves to provide life, light, and love. The issue isn’t HIM receiving US, with all our flaws and imperfections. It’s US receiving HIM with all that He offers and provides, knowing that we cannot provide those things for ourselves.

“Are you willing? Are you BOTH willing… to let Him adopt you fully as His children? To accept and receive Him as Father, King, Savior, Rescuer? Provider of life, light, breaths, and heartbeats?”

They said yes, they both wanted this very much.

I said then we would ask Him for this in a moment, and their agreement would seal their covenant with Him. All it took to do this, was to know… absolutely… that it was available to them, and agree to it. Did they believe, absolutely, and KNOW… that God truly loves them, that Jesus is God, Son of God, truly and actually came from heaven, was born as a fully human baby, lived a sinless life, was condemned, tortured, executed, crucified, died (truly died), was resurrected three days later, and ascended to heaven, again seated at the right hand of God the Father? That He thereby took their sins from them, paid the price for them, and opened the way for their adoption as joint heirs with Him?

They agreed throughout, as this was said slowly and carefully.

Did they agree and acknowledge that they had, indeed, done wrong things in their lives… sinned… as have I… and had need of Jesus redemption and cleansing for making reunion with God a possibility?

Yes, they did.

So, together, we prayed and affirmed all of this, sealing it in our souls together.

Afterwards, we talked a bit more, and I pointed out that being Christian was our relationship with God in Christ, “inside stuff” (as one friend of mine puts it), not “outside stuff” like behaviors, memorization, dressing up, and church forms. BUT!!! Once adopted as the Father’s children, He raises us… trains us… teaches us… and as we walk that, all that “outside stuff” WILL change! It’s not that we “have to do all that religious stuff to be pleasing to God”. It’s that the more time we spend with Him, the closer we walk with Him, the more our “outside stuff” conforms to Christ Himself, and the more “Christian” we look.

But just like any child grows up a bit at a time, you don’t expect an elementary school son to draft a presentation on quantum physics. We learn from basics to more complex stuff. There was nothing necessarily “wrong” with the Churches or Bible Studies they had visited, but perhaps they needed to find something more geared to younger, newer, Believers… and mature their way along to more complex studies.

We parted in great joy as God affirmed in their hearts His total enfolding of their lives. I encouraged them with all my heart to find other Believers who could walk with them and help them along. A Church home that would receive and help them develop at their own pace. There was no question that a local Church family would provide the support this couple needed, and without one they would struggle much more than they had thus far.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So many times, Gentle Brethren… so many times I’ve heard this same refrain… “I don’t KNOW enough yet to accept Christ! I’ve gone to church after church and each of them say the others are wrong! I don’t want to get this wrong! How do I know which one is right? I open the Bible and it’s so complicated I don’t understand it! I don’t know what to do!”

Do I despise theology? NO! I’ve spent much of a lifetime acquiring a fair-to-middling understanding of it! Do I despise upright living, or seeking to walk in the footsteps of Christ? Absolutely not! My heart yearns to walk pleasing to Him at each and every moment. Behavior, self-discipline, constraint… are all important components of the Christian life.

But beneath all of this… fundamental to all of this… is RELATIONSHIP! To know, first and foremost, that I am the Lord’s beloved and adopted child, creation of His hands, being raised… loved… trained… taught… with infinite patience and mercy to live out my life and Kingdom role as vessel for Him and His love.

And here is a place where it is all too easy for a Seeker, one who desires salvation and its assurance, to experience Churches and Public Christians as “obstruction” to Him, rather than “vehicle”.

This realization is leading me to “study down” in these days. I am coming to see, and will begin to write here, some of these “simple fundamentals” of Christian life as I’ve come to walk it… I find this often helps others, especially those feeling “overwhelmed by public Christianity”. No one, ever, should feel they are “not smart enough” to grasp the Gospel! That… is just NOT… OK. Ever.

Pray for me, Gentle Reader. Very much a work in progress! Blessings and grace to thee – Little Monk


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