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For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.  – 2 Peter 1:16-18

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Denali | July 2016

We are members of the 30% club. Only 30% of the people who travel to see Mount Denali actually see the mountain. It’s covered in clouds 70% of the time. In fact, we were told when we arrived at the Mount McKinley Lodge that they would take our room number and call us in the middle of the night if the mountain “showed up.” It’s that spectacular. While we were hanging out at the lodge that afternoon, the mountain showed up! It was a sight to behold. We’ll not soon forget it.

That must have been the case on the mount of transfiguration when Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and while they were on the mountain Jesus’ appearance was changed. He shone from the inside out. His face was radiant. His clothes were whiter than any launderer could ever make them. Peter had been so overwhelmed at the event that he spoke about making tents on the mountain for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

The experience was indelibly etched on his mind. Now he speaks of it with the conviction of this experience, having heard God’s voice, and recognized God’s honor being poured out on Jesus. It surely must’a been somethin’.

Without seeing it for ourselves we can perhaps recognize not only how impactful the event was for Peter, but begin also to appreciate that despite Jesus’ humble life of service and unassuming nature while on earth, his true glory was manifest. Peter saw it. He now reports it.

But not only was it something, it is something. Jesus is not just a good man, a humble servant, but the Son of God. We serve a living Lord, a glorious Savior, a mighty God. When we take the name of Jesus into any situation we take a powerful name of a good God who was willing to lay aside his glory to seek and save the lost. That really is something.

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. – 2 Peter 1:12-15

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Calla Lily – 4 | Cypress, Texas | May 2018

I have a friend who has a private airplane. I’ve ridden with him on a few occasions, and thoroughly enjoy the experience. He has even let me fly the plane on a couple of occasions – from the right seat. It’s not as easy as I thought; there are needs for constant corrections and adjustments to keep on course and to “keep the metal and the earth separate” as he likes to say. He also has an autopilot in his airplane. It does all those adjustments for you; bearing, altitude, airspeed, and other important components of successful flying.

There is no autopilot, however, for the Christian faith. We may live as though there is; a life well-grounded in ritual, habit, predictable rhythms, and steady bearing. We may go years without obvious need for correction. Our investments may be doing well. Our bills may be paid. Our children are successfully launched. Our health is good, our friends are dependable. No need for course correction – so we think!

Think again. There is such a thing as mission drift; we can forget why we strive for a well-ordered life. We can lose sight of the fact that God desires us to be productive in our faith. We can be lulled into a false sense of security by a life that seems to be going well, but which places us farther and farther from depending on God. A well-ordered life may be a blessing from God. It may also be a venue for forgetting God and slowly, imperceptibly, but eventually straying from God. We fail to give thanks to God for his gifts. We absent ourselves from worship. We ignore those little warning pangs that come to mind when considering a course of action.

Peter reminds us to hold the qualities he has just mentioned in high esteem. He knows that the people to whom he was writing knew of them all. But he also knew how quickly we forget. Worship, Bible study, and fellowship are gifts from God to help us keep in mind his goodness and our calling to serve and honor him alone.

For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:9-11

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Calla Lily – 3 | Cypress, Texas | May 2018

A friend of mine, and colleague in ministry, once said, “Jesus felt around the edges of people’s lives until he found the cracks and fractures of their souls, and then he poured into them the balm of Gilead.” The image of balm being poured into someone’s soul is rich in grace and comfort. Who wouldn’t want that poured into our broken hearts and fractured souls?

The need for the balm, however, is the hard edge of grace. Where there is no need, no brokenness, fracture, or fault line, there is no need for balm of any kind. We are all broken, however, and there are cracks in our souls and fractures in our hearts. We need grace, healing, balm, and comfort. It comes to us in the form of forgiveness for our sins.

For the root trouble of all these woes is our abandonment of God, our willful waywardness, our sin. We accuse God in our hearts of evil whenever we perceive that he is unfair to us. We are lost and blind to his path of salvation. Had God left us in that estate, we would be forever lost, hopeless, condemned, and eternally fallen.

But God has reached into our hearts with his healing balm. We must not forget this. Through his mercy and gracious work, we have been provided an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us never forget the hard edge of grace: our need for it. But let us rejoice in the balm of Gilead, comforting, healing, enriching, showered upon us through Jesus Christ our Lord!

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:5-8

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Calla Lily – 2 | Our Back Yard | May 2018

Two hundred eighty years ago this week John Wesley was touched by words written by Martin Luther two centuries earlier. After reading from Luther’s preface to the book of Romans, he reported:

A most wonderful thing has just happened to me, and I can not restrain myself from bearing witness to it now, at once. I, John Wesley, I am that man described by Luther. Casting about Him in the outer darkness. Sir, when I heard the words: “Faith is God’s work in us…” [emphasis added] I, I felt my heart…strangely warmed…

What a wonderful insight and powerful truth: faith is God’s work in us. This is not only most certainly true, it is a foundational truth for all that Peter speaks of in these verses. God’s desire in working faith in our hearts is not to be taken lightly, nor short-circuited. God desires that our hearts be touched with his grace so that we are saved, and in such a manner that we become eminently more useful, productive, effective, and useful to our neighbor and fellow believer.

Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. This is not Peter’s nor Christ’s desire for us. That we believe and are saved is essential to following Jesus. This is truly his express will and desire. But Jesus also calls us to love our neighbor, do good works, and bear fruit. Faith is not properly founded nor engaged if it does not move us to do good, bring glory to God, or help our neighbor.

The virtues we are commanded to add to our faith are there so that we are not self-focused, inwardly directed, and short-sighted, but that we live for the honor of Christ Jesus. If we believe we do well. If we put Jesus’ teachings into practice we do better. If we add these adornments to our faith we will be productive and effectual. God will be praised. People will be blessed. Earth will be better. Heaven will rejoice.

When I consider Jesus in these terms, I am reminded of his perfect faith shown on the cross when he died entrusting himself into the hands of the One who had forsaken him: that’s perfect faith. His whole life was a life of steadfastness, self-control, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. What a powerful impact he had by that means.

Thanks be to God for his work of faith in us. What a launch pad for a full, meaningful, productive, and enriching life!

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. – 2 Peter 1:5-7

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Calla Lily – 1 | Our Back Yard | May 2018

This is quite a list of godly characteristics that Peter offers here in this passage. It starts with faith – which is essential. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Without faith the adornments of virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection or love have nothing to adorn. They lie scattered as a meaningless assortment of good things without true purpose or function. For faith sets the stage for all these other virtues, and offers a foundation from which to launch and a direction in which these good things are to be deployed.

Peter, moreover, leaves love for last. I sense that is not because love is least important in his mind. He would surely concur with Paul that while faith, hope, and love abide, the greatest of those three is love. Jesus said that if we love one another we prove ourselves to be his disciples. Peter leaves love to last perhaps because it is the crown, the acme, the ultimate expression of true faith.

Three things come to mind in regard to the outgrowth of love in the life of a believer. First, as Bob Goff says, “Love Does.” Love acts. It doesn’t stand idly by. It does not wait to move toward those in need. Fear paralyzes. Anger incites. Selfishness and greed protects possessions and self. Love, however, acts. Love is moved by others’ needs and moves us to do something. Love will never cause us to ring our hands or fret. Love does.

Love also looks. After a recent meeting I attended one of the attendees fell and hit his head quite hard. He was on the ground, disoriented, and in at least some pain. Some people went directly to him. Some people turned away and backed away. Whether in fear, anxiety, or just to stay away from the blood and pain. Those who loved the man drew near to him. We helped him up. We asked about his wellbeing. We offered paper towels to wipe away the blood. Those who love do not look away. The move in.

Love feels. Love starts in the heart. It begins with a softness toward others – not only in times when the bloom is on the rose; when we’re in happy places – but also when there are trials and challenges before us. Love does not close its heart to the pain of others. It opens its heart to much pain and suffering. Love puts us in a place where we even be hurt for the sake of another.

There are certainly other ways in which love is seen and expressed. A kind touch. A  word of favor and blessing. A thoughtful gift. An investment of time. An act of service. These are a few ways in which love is shown. In whatever way we express love, if it is an adornment of faith and accompanied by the virtues named here, Peter promises that our faith will make a difference. That is a subject for tomorrow.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. – 2 Peter 1:5-7

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Heron | Cypress, Texas | May 2018

When our sons were growing up there were times when the level of testosterone together with immature impatience and a strong need to be in charge brought something other than brotherly love to the surface. One time, in frustration, I said to our sons (we have four!), “Don’t treat my son that way. I love him!” On another occasion I told one son to treat his brothers like he treated his soccer opponents (his killer instinct never made it onto the field), and treat his soccer opponents like he treated his brothers!

I’m not sure Peter had in mind the kind of in-the-home brotherly love of that nature. Yet there is a brotherhood that is special, precious, and deep – a seedbed for a kindness of heart, a shoulder-to-shoulder camaraderie, and an affection that sends people across town to help a brother in need, or is willing to put up with peccadilloes and shortcomings because he knows his brother, and his brother knows him.

Brotherly affection grows out of shared experiences, common parentage, aligned values, a united world view, and  a mutual desire to honor God – all steeped in God’s love for us and our recognition that God loves us in a special way who are in the brotherhood of believers.

This is not sexist; the same would be said for sisters; though the specific manifestation of it might be unique the foundations are all the same. What’s more, this is a call to affection, something more than an act of the will, but a movement of the heart toward the brother or sister in Christ.

When we let our hearts be touched by others’ hurts or joys we are best able to add brotherly affection to our faith, steadfastness, self-control, knowledge, and godliness. That is truly a beautiful adornment!

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection… – 2 Peter 1:5-7

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Nearing Sunset Over the Gulf of Mexico | May 2018

My first encounter with church politics took the shine off the rose for my view of the church and her leaders. Many years later, when first elected President of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Matthew Harrison spoke to the delegates to the convention and said, “You have kept your perfect record of electing in every case a sinner to serve as your president.” I will take that as a statement of humility.

Sadly however, some assert their “sinnerliness” as an excuse to act badly – with impunity. I’ve heard men talk in course language, plot against their opponents with malice and disrespect to an all-to-great degree. There are also outwardly pious chancel prancers who strut around in a show of piety for all the world to see but with no heart for God. And there are also the overly-humble servants falling all over themselves to try to look helpful as more of a show to be seen by others than an act of service actually to help others.

Thankfully, too, there are godly men and women in the church who serve in love, faithfulness, grace, and humility. These godly men and women serve with a heart for God’s mission. They recognize the grace they have received and model it toward others. In fact the whole point of godliness would certainly be to reflect the goodness, kindness, love, and grace displayed in the life of Jesus. He had harsh words for the false-godly calling them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27-28). But to repentant sinners he spoke grace, truth, mercy, and life, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

We who seek to adorn our faith with godliness will sometimes get it wrong – no doubt. But a heart that has been touched by the grace of God in Jesus will seek to exercise the kind of godliness that reflects God’s true nature while never presuming to stand in his place. The words of Micah 6:8 come to mind, “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”