Barb Below

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Posts by Barb Below

His Grace is Sufficient

Yesterday at 10:00am the staff at the International Center gathered for daily worship service. We were blessed by Rev. Jeff Hemmer, of Bethany Lutheran Church in Fairview Heights, IL, who preached a wonderful sermon. I am happy to share his sermon with you:

Thursday of Pentecost 6, AD 2012
Chapel at IC & LCEF
II Corinthians 12:1-10

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

No one strives for sufficient. Sufficient implies the minimum: good enough, just getting by. You don’t want sufficient possessions; you want toys. No one wants his bank account to be sufficient. If you’re just getting by, you’re not really all that successful, are you? And who doesn’t want to be successful? A sufficient employee might keep his job, but he gets passed over for promotions and raises. Sufficient grades don’t earn you scholarships. Sufficient hardly seems like the substance of the Church. But it is.
Having been given this glorious revelation, being carried up into heaven to behold God face-to-face (just don’t ask him whether it was in the body or out of the body), seeing his Lord and being given the call to be an apostle, St. Paul seems to exist on a plane far above “sufficient.” Except for the thorn in his flesh, whatever it was. It served to keep Paul away from spiritual pride. The higher the call, the deeper the thorn. Three times he pleaded that it be taken away. Three times his prayers were answered “no.” Instead: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” The thorn, the affliction, was used by God to chasten Paul, to discipline him, to weaken him. And all of that, the Lord declared, was good. It was to teach Paul about the sufficiency of grace.
Your problem, like Paul’s, is that you don’t believe grace is sufficient. It’s not enough. So beneath your carefully guarded pious veneer is a man who loves the respect and admiration of his peers, who wants to add accolades and achievements to his palmares, who—even for the right reasons—wants to play a vital role in the growth and success of the Church. You favor strength over weakness, productivity over prayer, activity over passivity, speaking over hearing, doing over being given to. If you believed grace was sufficient for you, you wouldn’t wrestle with God and man for control. If you believed God’s power is made perfect in your weakness, you’d be quite content to endure those things that render you weak and powerless. Repent. These thorns, these trials, are to chasten you, to weaken you, to strip you of every other thing you thought you needed. And that’s good. Grace is sufficient.
This is not the counsel of well-meaning people with their nevertheless loathsome, damnable nonsense, who tell you, in the middle of your struggles, that this will all work for your good. This is God bestowing good, delivering His grace. This alone is sufficient for your every day. The thorns are to teach you contentment in grace. The suffering is to sharpen your hope. The persecution is to elicit your endurance. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
This is sufficient. This is enough: your Lord has descended into the mess of vain, prideful, self-worshiping men. Instead of calling them up higher, He has descended to you. He has redeemed you, a person lost and condemned by your sins and your self-righteousness. He has purchased and won you, not with gold or silver, for those are insufficient. But with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. Those alone are sufficient to your need. He died, and He rose. He promises resurrection for your very body. His death is sufficient. His resurrection is sufficient. It is enough. It is all you need.
His power is made perfect in your weakness. When there’s nothing else, grace is sufficient. When grace is sufficient, you can be content with any trials. When you were most helpless, at your weakest, He demonstrated His power in your baptism, joining you into the death and resurrection of Jesus. When at your weakest you kneel and confess, “I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most,” His powerful words resonate from the mouth of a man sent to you for this purpose: I forgive you. When in your weakness, you beat your breast and pray “Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, grant us Thy peace,” He does. He places into your sin-weakened flesh His own Body. Past your lifeless lips He pours His life-giving blood. When you are weak, He is strong, powerful, forgiving. This is grace. This is sufficient.
In the Name of the Father, and of the  Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Jeff Hemmer
-Barb Below


Several months ago we began work with a consultant, Bob Gleason, on the restructuring of the national office. This week we are celebrating the restructuring work accomplished through the help and leadership Bob has provided. Since Bob has “set the table for us” and trained us well, we will now continue restructuring work without him. Bob has become a friend to the International Center and we will miss his smile, calm demeanor, and sense of humor. Bob has worked with staff throughout the International Center and has:

  • Assisted with the development the new structure
  • Helped bring clarity to positions and roles
  • Facilitated the National Mission Conference and other large team meetings
  • Guided us in the development of new work flow processes
  • Assisted with communications about restructuring
  • Invented the Change Network (CNet) to facilitate change in the organization
  • Spurred conversations, asked tough questions, made us think
  • Provided great counsel and guidance

While Bob’s restructuring work with us is coming to a close this week, there is still much restructuring work that we will continue to do. Through the leadership of the President Harrison, Rev. Greg Williamson (CMO), service and program executives and staff, we will continue to refine and improve processes, continue to integrate strategically across departments, develop long range planning, and develop an organizational culture that supports the accomplishments of our goals.

If your organization (district, congregation, team, business) wants to:

  • assess your organization (what works, what doesn’t work)
  • develop processes to improve your outcomes
  • enhance the culture in your organization
  • consolidate and optimize your operation
  • develop vision and strategic plans
  • consider stakeholder analysis
  • and much, much more

I highly recommend contacting Bob Gleason. His background in organizational development and change makes him a great asset to the Synod. All of us here at the International Center are grateful for his help over the last 10 months. I am confident that he can help your organization, congregation or district accomplish the goals you want to achieve. You can contact Bob directly at

Thanks Bob!,

-Barb Below