Tag Archives: Jesus

Death and Life

So Christian, the big day is coming. The dirt nap, the big send off, the shuffling off of this mortal coil, the big sleep: our death. 

So, are you looking forward to it? Do you yearn for it? 

In the news right now is at least 20 dead at a church in Texas. 

Are you ready for that send off? Are you ready to meet your maker?

Jesus conquered death. It no longer holds power over you. The Apostle Paul said “to live is Christ, to die is gain!” 

Gain?!

Yes. Gain. 

We leave behind a broken and battered world. We leave behind broken relationships and incomplete knowledge of each other.  We leave behind evil and violence and torture and pain and anxiety and fear. 

So, yes it is gain. So until then let us live free of the fear of death. For death to this life means to rise to new life, an imperishable life. Life eternal joined to the source of all Goodness and Life. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Dig them weeds out

Earlier this week I was listening to a podcast by the church planting movement of the Anglican Church in North America: Always Forward. One of the comments, said in passing, was this: “the gospel is supra political.” I’m not really sure if I heard anything else for the next few minutes as I listened to the podcast. It seemed so inherently obvious that I couldn’t believe I had missed it. God is super natural, he is above nature. God created all things and all things have there being in and through him. The gospel speaks to the entirety of our lives. It is for all aspects of human existence. It is for the relationships between husband and wife and parent and child and citizen and state and of course human being to God.

I have been chewing on this idea for days. I was raised in the house of politics. I think I’ve mentioned before that my father was a political philosophy professor and my mother was a high school English teacher. All of my parent’s friends were academics. We frequently had discussions about politics. When we went for walks as a family, my mother and my father would discuss politics. So, I’ve struggled to prioritize the Gospel over politics: politics is sort of always running in the foreground and the gospel trying to overlay it.

Now I know this is a problem. But, there’s a huge difference between intellectually knowing there’s a problem and being able to resolve it in practicalway. In one little comment I was able to see the flaws in my thinking. Not that I didn’t know there was a flaw but I couldn’t clearly define what that flaw was.

I don’t think I really have a fancy conclusion for you. This particular idea has been spinning like a splinter in my head for days. I’m putting it here in my blog has a way of reminding myself and giving full voice to the idea.

Jesus clearly told us that we cannot serve both God and Mammon.  For quite a while now, I have known that politics was a problem for me. It was getting in the way of my view of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of God. One of the phrases I have used to describe my process of being more like Christ is philosophical weed pulling. There are many thoughts and ideas in each of our heads that are in direct conflict with the gospel. Going into the field of our minds and clearing out all that which is damaging to the word, to the seed of the word that must be implanted, means pulling out by the root all the ideas that are contrary to the Gospel. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

So, this small comment nestled in a podcast about church planting somehow made me see the contours of the root that I needed to dig out. In a way I guess, just as a church is planted, so is the word implanted. A local church is a small field of sown seeds. So church planting and personal implantation of the faith go hand in hand.

I encourage you to pray and search out those things in your life that are choking off the roots of the seed implanted in you. Not just because it is the good and right way to live out your faith but for the benefit of the church and the Kingdom of God, both those near and those yet to be born into the kingdom.  

Soli Deo Gloria 

 

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What is the Gospel?

The Gospel is the good news of God loving and saving lost mankind through the ministry in word and deed of his Son, Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1-4

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

Romans 5:15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

John 1:12-13

12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

1 John 5:11-12

11And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Soli Deo Gloria 

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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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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 23: Admitting Error

One of the main aspects of Anglicanism, and really all old order traditions, is the liturgy. We have a set practice, and in our particular case it is in the Book of Common Prayer (this is a link to Anglican Pastor for a good explanation of what that book is).

Every single Sunday, prior to the Celebration of the Eucharist (communion), we say prayers for the nations and then a confession of sin. We all say the same words together, led by the deacon:

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

It’s also part of morning daily devotion. It’s a serious prayer. But let me reword it a bit to draw out some the ways it challenges us, I hope it makes you think and analyze the various ways we all rebel against God:

Calling on the mercy of God. We acknowledge that we have erred against God in every way, through action and inaction. Our Love has been on ourselves and not You and definitely not on others. This was a major mistake and we submit ourselves to examination by Jesus Christ that we have turned from our errors please be merciful to us because of our rebellion. Please Pardon our sins. Our error is we think your will isn’t really delightful for us, help us see the unbridled joy of your plans, show us the ancient paths of wisdom, for the Greatness of your Beautiful Name. Amen. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 19: Barely Beating the Buzzer

So it’s nearly midnight, so I need to get something up if I’m going to get 30 consecutive days. 

The Triple O Again

Orthodoxy, orthopraxy and orthopathy. This has been my regular thought for weeks now. Like I said in my post yesterday I’ve been ruminating on the pathy part. Right passion or right feelings. 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul. 

Love your neighbor as yourself

Love one another as I have loved you

Our culture, the world we live in here in the United States is one of self gratification. During lunch at a restaurant with my wife we overheard a conversation between two ladies who were obviously rather well to do. One was complaining that all he husband does during a vacation is drink. The other told her she needed to find her own “happy place”. It was the saddest conversation to listen to. Lives lived chasing happiness through material things. 

There was an obvious lack of love all around. Well, not exactly. There was a love of vacations, material possessions and personal happy places. I wanted to cry. It was so ostentatious and yet so sad. There didn’t seem to be any real love between anybody involved.  

I dare say everyone has either heard a conversation or been in one ourselves like it. 

“God is Love” we read in the book of John. The summary of the law, the first two quotes above are about love. Jesus’s final command is about love. Paul says “Do everything in Love.” 

Other focused. Talk about counter cultural. How does one really live like that? Where do we look for clues?

Jesus lived that life. Jesus lived that Love. 

But we can’t do it on our own. Only by, with and through Christ Jesus. By embracing His Love for us are we able to Love others as we should Love them, which is how Jesus loves us. 

Now I realize that the practice and the passion (orthopraxy and orthopathy) are tied up together there. But we are body and soul, we are incarnated beings. And therein lies the rub, to quote Hamlet. 

They are not separate things. Orthodoxy informs the orthopraxy which produces the orthopathy which feeds the orthopraxy more energy to keep receiving more orthodoxy. Whew. 

Practice and passion are tied up in a intricate Tango. Tear them apart and the beauty is gone. Examine them separately and they’re ethereal, lofty ideas that seem unattainable. But put them together and they dance with beauty and grace. Sublime passion and perfect practice. Dance Christian, dance. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 13: The Wedding Anniversary Edition 

Today I’m taking a day off of work. Twenty five years ago today my wife and I were in a lawyer’s office in downtown Guatemala City signing the legal documents that would make us married, legally speaking, in Guatemala. In Guatemala the only people able to marry people are lawyers, not priests, pastors or anyone else. Most people have the legal ceremony the week before the Church wedding, because that’s just how they do it.

So we did that and then submitted her visa request to the US Embassy and I went back to my duty station and waited for things to process. In late October we were married in the Episcopal Cathedral in Guatemala City in a bilingual ceremony. The place was full and I had only my parents and sister in attendance from my side of the family.

Twenty Five Years Later

I was all of 22 and my wife was 19. So, we’ve grown up together in many ways. Our faith has grown together. We are raising a son and a daughter. Our son is the now the age when we married. We have tried, very imperfectly, over the years to raise them with the idea they are not ours ultimately, but God’s. We have had our share of major and minor catastrophes. We’ve lived in Hawaii, Upstate New York, Guatemala City, Atlacomulco in Mexico, and now here in the suburbs of Chicago. We’ve moved 12 times. We’ve attended 8 different churches. Officially members of only three.

Together we’ve learned each others language and each others country’s ways of doing things. We’ve learned each others strengths and weaknesses. We know what foods the other likes. Lots and lots of little and big things. A whole life together: we have both been now married longer than we were unmarried.
Ephesians 5:22-33:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Some Thoughts 

Somehow marriage is a picture of Christ and His Church. What a mystery. A profound mystery Paul says. And I have to say after 25 years of it, indeed it is. How does a marriage work: a lot of work, tears, prayers, sleepless nights, passion filled nights, disagreements and making up. It’s finding all the ugly things in ourselves. It’s finding something greater by the combination of our talents.  It’s Love in action: Christ in us. What a divine mystery. What glorious union. How? Only God knows. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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Day 12: True Peace

The concept of posting a blog every day for 30 days is proving very difficult. My post yesterday really needed to be edited more. I may have wedded a couple of themes into one. 

So, I’m thinking I should write and think on the more serious ones and hold them until they are ready and then keep doing regular posts on simpler issues.

Some Reflection 

The events of the past few days in Charlottesville are illuminating. Like shining a light into the dark corner of a garage, we are finding some things we wanted. 

And other things we wish hadn’t seen:

  • We have white supremacist marching around with tiki torches and inciting violence. 
  • A feckless media who seem only too happy to pour gasoline on this fire and fan to flame more passion. 
  • Certain counter protesters inciting violence as well. 
  • A president who hems and haws about clearly condemning white nationalism and white supremacy. 

I’m sorry, but these tiki torch guys needed meme posts of them with bunny ears and pigs noses and the like, you know the snapchat filter stuff. I’m thinking in how to handle them strategically. They needed to be derided and made fun of, instead Antifa showed up and provoked them. Bullies like these white supremacists need to be starved of oxygen (a point I’ve made about Trump in the past) and be treated as the small minority they are. Their social media footprint appears to outweigh their numerical size. They should be called the white tweetbot supremacists. 
Then we have the morally repugnant man-child who used his car as a weapon to murder and maim. This is the temper tantrum of a boy who never became a man. A passion induced frenzy: a pounding on the floor and screaming like toddler, “This is mmmyyyyyy country!!!!”. 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Let Us Be Self-Controlled 

Let us react like grown ups. Punishment is both right and necessary for the man-child. We as Christians should pray for his tortured and twisted soul. And those involved carry tiki torches. And for the souls of those who think mob violence is the proper response to the white supremacists. 

Let us be champions of peace, not capitulation, but True Peace. The peace of Christ. Let us preach and proclaim the Good News: the debt of Sin has been paid, come and find Reconciliation in Christ. 

Soli Deo Gloria 

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