Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A paradigm shift: seeking to practice serious obedience (Matthew 7:21)

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 7:21 (TM) – larger reading Matthew 7:21-28
"Knowing the correct password - saying 'Master, Master,' for instance - isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience - doing what my Father wills.”

Once while Francis of Assisi was hoeing his garden, he was asked, "What would you do if you suddenly learned that you were to die at sunset today?" He replied, "I would finish hoeing my garden."

It’s Tuesday evening. I’m writing Wednesday’s blog. I normally write the next days blog before going to bed for the evening. The house is quiet because my spouse of 48 years is on grandma duty with our 6-month old grandson an hour-plus north of us. She will be home Friday. Monday through Friday are often busy times as well as down times. Time to reflect. Time to read. Time to ponder.

Tonight I’m pondering this Will of God stuff. The sermon flew together this week. Strange thing about sermons - the more difficult and challenging the subject matter the faster they come together. The Gospel of Jesus demands a paradigm shift. It doesn’t allow us to remain as we always have been. Such was the case last week and such will be the case this week.

The scripture lesson chosen was very familiar – John 3:16. The more I prayed, the more I thought, the more I contemplated these all too familiar words the more the cry for a paradigm shift in the thought process. They had become too familiar, too comfortable, too flippantly quoted. I was increasing drawn back to Henry Blackaby’s fifth step in “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God.” That 5th step is “Crisis of Belief” – where everything we have thought about God, faith, kingdom, etc. shifts and needs to change before we can even begin to make the necessary adjustments so that we can truly know the will of God and begin to practice “serious obedience”.

As I sat down to write tomorrow’s blog on the pre-chosen scripture passage from Matthew there were those glaring words from The Message translation/paraphrase: “serious obedience”. Obedience is one thing, but serious obedience demands a paradigm shift of understanding and acceptance. The shift requires a lot of adjustment before obedience and experience can be reached.

But do any of us really want our life turned upside down and inside out? Most of us would much prefer what appears to be Francis of Assisi’s approach … just continue to do what we have always done… nothing more and nothing less… just keep hoeing our little garden plot of land. Until we begin to comprehend how God considers our “garden plot of land”.

Now don’t get me wrong. The life of Francis of Assisi bears testimony to the fact that it wasn’t a “continuing to do what we have always done” approach. Maybe what caught my attention was the “hoeing the garden” phrase.

There isn’t anything wrong with hoeing the plot of land, but for me personally that could lead too easily into a life of complacency … doing just what is expected… just getting by… nothing more and nothing less… just being the old preacher guy serving a church part-time. But God’s spirit won’t let my soul rest… never has and never will. And so goes the struggle especially when confronted with the Crisis of Belief. What in my understanding of God needs to change… has to change?

For those who might care, the Crisis of Belief in reference to John 3:16 is multifold – how big is God; how pervasive and unconditional is God’s love; how huge is the world and how inclusive is the belief that is asked for.  I’m sure that the sermon will change between now and Sunday – always has – and the spiritual struggle will cause some sleepless nights between now and time to preach it – that’s pretty normal – I just pray that I am listening, that I continue to hoe my “garden” and I will practice serious obedience.


Well, God, here we are again. Our prayer is for guidance and also for you to disturb the calm waters of our life until we are giving serious obedience.

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