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My Absence

Hi everyone. Sorry, I’ve been caught up in other things. You’ve seen some of it worked out in the 30 day blog challenge.

It’s been about focusing on time with my wife. We actually have more time alone together than we’ve had in years. The kids are gone half the time with school and work and social lives. So, all of a sudden we have time.

Honestly we are both a little different than when we married, life experience and maturity and all that. We were just 22 (me) and 19 when we married. This year is our 25th anniversary. So we’ve grown up together. We’ve both been married longer than we were ever unmarried.

I hope to move forward with a plan for this blog. I’ve spent a fair amount of time considering how to invest my time. I’ve got more spare time, but I’ve specifically invested it in more time with my wife, in prayer and in study. What I do with this blog (and maybe more of a formal website?) with be an outcropping of those investments.

Soli Deo Gloria 

 

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Why Amateur?

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Work and the curse of the daily grind

Ahhh, Monday. Back to work. To the grind. To the salt mines. The nine to five. Working for the man. The rat race. 

I think you get my point, there are lots of ways we see work in a negative light. As something to be avoided. But work should be separated from “a job”. I work at a job. If I tend my plants, it’s work. I surely don’t get paid for it, so it’s not a job. But it is, in fact, work. I reap a benefit from working my plants well, in my case that’s fresh mint and cilantro. 

The benefit of working a job is not as easy to pin point. At a minimum it’s a paycheck. It has been my experience that many people focus on work principally for that end result: the money. For many of us that paycheck is every two weeks.  So, fortnightly the benefit is reaped. Essentially making the job about an event that occurs every 14 days. 

So then the job becomes a means to an end. It can then be viewed in terms of its utility or usefulness to obtain money, the reward. So then the job isn’t about the work but the reward. Then the “reward” must be utilized somehow. For bills? Or clothes? Or saved? Or on entertainment? Etc. I know plenty of people who spend 14 days thinking about what they will spend the next paycheck on. 

So then, what happens to the work? In many instances it becomes an annoyance of sorts. It’s then drudge work, the grinding monotony that separates the 14 days between what is really enjoyed, which is the paycheck. 

This was not so in the beginning. In Genesis, God has made man (in the older sense of that term, modern term would be humanity) in his own image and planted a garden full of beautiful trees and bushes and green grass. It also describes the land as being full of precious stones and metals. 

Man was put into the garden to work it. God works in the creation. His creation then is given work in tending what God created. God then creates a companion for man from a rib: a woman. Man was given basically one rule: don’t eat of the true of the knowledge of good and evil. He evidently doesn’t clearly articulate this command to Eve (see communication problems from the beginning!) and Eve eats of the tree and then Adam and the then we’re kicked out of the garden. 

Genesis 3:17-19 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

So work is hard essentially because God made it harder. It’s the result of Adam’s disobedience. So, you may ask yourself, why am I made to suffer because of the disobedience of another? It doesn’t seem “fair” our society would say. 

So enter Jesus. Born pure, truly innocent.  No mark of sin on him. Never any disobedience. And yet He goes to work as a carpenter. A worker of wood. That means callouses, splinters, wood under the fingernails, and a few cuts and bruises. 

According to the writings of Justin Martyr, a second century Christian, there were still products in use made by Joseph and Jesus. Yokes and other farming equipment. God became an incarnate being, the God who made everything out of nothing came and made something out of his own creation. 

Should it be any surprise that it was of superior quality? He was a carpenter for about 15 years before beginning his ministry. Never once is there an accusation against him about his work as a carpenter. He produced wood products for 15 years and not one complaint? Because I guarantee you the Pharisees would have found that person. 

I don’t want to draw too much out of this concept. But I think it is at least a reasonable conclusion to come to that Jesus’s work as a carpenter was superior. Why would it not be? 

Our approach to work should be no less attentive. We are where we are because of the plans and designs of God. We should be putting our best into our work. I’m not talking becoming a work-aholic. Balance in life between our different responsibilities is important. I’m thinking here of doing our very best under the circumstances we find ourselves.  

God worked under the very curse he had placed on Adam for which Jesus bore no guilt. But he shared in our nature, even to the point of the daily grind under the curse on work. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

A standard prayer in the Anglican Tradition (called a collect):

Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Labor Day

Right now in the USA is one of those weirdly named holidays. A day to rest from labor named after the thing we are resting from? 

The historically savvy know that it relates more to beginnings of Communism than anything else. Karl Marx and the struggle of the working class, etc. 

What’s truly weird is the complete loss of the concept of a holiday. Which derives from Holy Day. And that a nation might have a Holy Day would probably be a source of derision from the secular culture.   

Now we’ve managed to keep a few actual Holy Days in our line up of official holidays: Christmas and Thanksgiving. And even these are tenuous at best and detrimental at their worst. That Thanksgiving is now the kick off for voracious buying for the commercial nirvana that is Christmas morning gift opening is disheartening. 

The Holy Days instituted by God for the nation of Israel were based around an agrarian people.  Planting and harvest, cycles of the moon and the like. A rhythm built into the very fabric of the society. 

We have ours built in here: summer is marked between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The fall season of Halloween to Thanksgiving with a build up to Christmas. After New Years it’s the slog to spring marked around Easter (secular culture has stolen Holy Week from us, giving us instead the pathetic “spring break”). 

Then back to Memorial Day. A loop. And the older one gets the more one feels the repetitive nature of it all. The slow meandering brook of life.  We labor under the sun, toiling and laboring to an unknown end other than knowing we will be with our Lord. 

Now you might be wondering why I took you on this tortuous loop. It’s this: don’t separate the labor from the Holy God who gave it to you. Today is a Holy Day, an extra day of rest our Lord providentially provided for us. We were made to tend the garden of Eden. We were made to labor, to work. Not aimlessly, but to the good of our neighbor and the Glory of God. 

The culture may have forgotten about Holy Days, but our God surely has not. Someday all will be made right. Today let us rest and yearn a little for that day. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 30: It is finished

Today is the last day of my personal challenge to write 30 days in a row. A few days were nothing more than me phoning it in, pretty perfunctory really.  But overall I think I did a lot of writing. I do have one piece that’s nearly written that needs to be posted on a particular day to have the desired effect. I think you will know it when you see it. 

The title is two parts: one, I’m officially done with the challenge; two, the work of Christ is finished. Since today is Sunday, it’s fitting since it is a recalling of the Resurrection. Just before giving up His spirit he cried “It is finished.” The work of atonement was done. The Resurrection is the initial proof of the atoning sacrifice. 

When we come to Christ (and we only come because He called us) and we turn from our sin, we are forgiven. That forgiveness was purchased on that cross. 

There is a phrase “between the already and the not yet”. This is where we live. The work of Christ is done, the atonement finished, forgiveness is purchased. The kingdom of God is already, but not yet in its fullness. 

So I shouldn’t be striving to earn my forgiveness or impress God with my religiousosity, my Christian “bonafides”. I shouldn’t be praying to impress God, but because I’m leaning into Him for strength.  I don’t cross myself to prove to others my religiousness. No, I do it to remind myself to whom I belong. I was bought with a price. 

I don’t bow at name of Christ in the Nicene Creed because it want to show off, I do it to remind myself one day all knees will bow to him. Right now I choose to kneel. But only because He called me. It’s the end of me and the start of Him. I’m finished. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 29: Prayer

“My house shall be called a house of prayer”

Prayer

Jesus drove the money changers out with a cord of whips he made by hand. Deliberate and forceful action.

Jesus is frequently seen rising early, well before anyone else and going off to pray. At the raising of Lazarus, Jesus prays out loud.

There’s the parable of The Pharisee and the Tax Collector:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortions, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

His disciples ask him how to pray and He teaches them an incredibly short prayer:

Our Father, who is in heaven, Holy is your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. And give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks his disciples to pray while he is praying and they sleep instead.

And when Jesus is arrested, his disciples scatter. But Jesus had prayed for them.

Saul is searching for and imprisoning followers of Jesus. He is blinded on the road to Damascus, and challenged by the Risen Christ: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

Later the Lord sends Ananias to Saul. Ananias is a little hesitant to go. His reassurance is “you will find him praying.”

Here are the new converts to Christ in Acts:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

So, let me ask the hard question: how are you praying?

Jesus drove the money changers and the animals out of the meeting space around the temple. We have many distractions to focusing on prayer. I deliberately get up early and pray in the darkness of the pre-dawn hours. It started as a part of my Lenten practice in 2016. I used a simple daily devotion using this app. (I invert the colors on my phone to keep the light level way down.)

It wasn’t easy. My body complained. My mind rebelled. But the spirit had life. And because of that posture I was able to take a hard lesson that came a few months later.

Healing of my anxious soul was interwoven with the fabric of prayer. My mind is focused on scripture and the old prayers of saints long dead. I breathe back to the Lord the worries and cares of my heart. I now use the book of common prayer Rite 2, morning devotion. This particular one includes the Lectionary readings. 

May I encourage you to drive out the distractions in your own life and find the time to pray. It cannot be truly comprehended in any other way.

Prayer, at its center, is experiential: it must be done to be truly understood.

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Day 28: So Close

I really hope I can write something tomorrow. 

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Day 27: Out of Gas

You guessed it. Nothing in the tank today to get anything written. Spent time developing relationships and nurturing the bonds in my family. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 26: Breakfast 

Fasted today. Evening service for prayer to start the ministry year. A Eucharist celebrated with the congregation surrounding the table. 

Literally broke my fast with bread and wine. 

God ministered to me in some tangible ways today. Oh He is so Good. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 25: Chance Encounter?

So, I decided to grab some coffee this morning before heading to work. As I walk into the place I notice a man in his twenties reading the Gospel of Luke (he was right in Chapter 1, so it was in nice bold print that even these old eyes can see). I grab my coffee and headed out. I normally don’t talk to people randomly. Something made me ask. “So, personal bible study or sermon prep?”

He initially looked a little startled. And then we chatted. He’s a young athletic trainer who is also mentoring some kids through his church. We talked about humility, Divine Mercy, the ways that pride sneaks up on you, the amazing strange ways that God works in, through and around our lives.

I then said how I never stop at this particular coffee shop in the morning. He said he’s never come to this place either to do his bible study. We just looked at each other and knew that it was He who arranged the appointment. We each chuckled a little about it but marveled at God’s timing.  He’s considering the pastorate and I’m thinking about mentoring young believers and strengthening the maturing. So I get to offer some encouragement to a young heart thirsting for God’s direction. He gets to see God’s timing and realize that the call is to a work that God is already doing. And honestly, I get to as well.

So, yet another divine appointment for me. God pre-arranging meeting with fellow believers so we are each able to see God’s perfect timing. Chance encounter? Nah, not at all. That’s my GOD and Savior at work: “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Soli Deo Gloria 

 

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