Friday, December 31, 2010
These were from during a period of unemployment, hence too much time (and an old carrot) on my hands:
Monday, December 6, 2010
“Give us today our daily bread.”
How do we understand this request, and how do we pray it?
Consider alongside it the following proverb:
Two things I ask of you, LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:7-9a, NIV on biblegateway)
Think of the dangers of wealth or fame or gratification of all our perceived desires for money/recognition/food/pleasure (the lives of many superstars as a sad example of this); might we not wisely ask for just enough? When we are engaged in this prayer, do we sometimes find ourselves asking, “Give me today all my wants and ambitions” rather than asking for simply our “daily bread?”
God is rich in His blessings, and certainly bestows wealth on some (not a bad thing, I believe, if God grants it, but something in which there is also great responsibility, and something deeply dangerous to desire after and form one’s life around). There is wisdom in the proverb above, for earthly wealth can all too easily cause us to despise real wealth—the knowledge of God and right relationship with Him through Jesus.
Maybe, in praying this part of the Lord’s Prayer, we ought to be asking God not only to give us what we need, but to also withhold what would be harmful to us.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Or is this a false dichotomy? Are work and prayer so different?
When we pray as petition, we are asking God to work, to be active, to be present in a mighty way. We are obeying His command to pray, and He answers. In these prayers, we are acknowledging our dependence on His power and work and love.
But when we are called to work, is it so different? Serving others, loving the poor, preaching the gospel - we recognize that in these things it is ultimately and foundationally God who is at work. He works through us, it is true, but it is His power that is behind and within and around it all. Our confidence in proclaiming the gospel, for example, is first in God's work drawing His people to Him (see John 6:44). We are called to proclaim faithfully, but this work will accomplish nothing if God were not the one first at work.
So in both these things - prayer and work - it is God who is at work first and foremost. Without His power there would be nothing accomplished in either, and so both are in their fullest essence utterly reliant upon Him. We are given the privilege and joy and work of participating that His power and love may be revealed through us and in us, but it is all from Him, not us.
So perhaps we ought to call prayer "work." Or maybe work "prayer." Either way, let us never forget that when we work, we must be as deeply dependent upon God as when we pray; and that when we pray, we are truly at work as we are asking God's care and provision and action and dominion.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Eugene Peterson writes,
This is scary. For any of us, that thing towards which we gravitate can become, if we are not careful, our very weakness.
The French have a wonderful phrase, deformation professionale, to refer to maladies that we are particularly liable to in the course of pursuing our line of work. Physicians are in constant danger of becoming calloused to suffering, lawyers in danger of cynicism about justice, and those of us who think and talk and read and write God are in danger of having the very words we use about God separate us from God, the most damning deformation of all.” (Eugene Peterson, Subversive Spirituality, 59)
How do we guard against this natural tendency? Well, we can't go wrong if we continually, persistently, regardless of roadblocks or failings, seek to be re-oriented to God. Unless we are striving to see Him throughout our lives and careers and callings, we will easily lose the very life of our calling.
But I believe that God, in His mercy, does not simply tell us to do this and fix our eyes on Him without help. And that help can, I believe, often be found most deeply in the work of the Holy Spirit through trials and pain.
I have grown in the conviction that my struggles and questions of faith - which feels like a daily battle with some longer and some shorter reprieves, though often not as many as I sometimes wish for - though not ideal, have been used by God to turn me to Him. During these times, I find it much harder to simply read a text assigned in class in a detached, simply studious, professional manner (as this deformation professionale tendency may naturally tend me towards). Rather, I am forced to wrestle with the text as it interacts with the weights on my own heart.
This, I believe, can be evidence of the mercy of God in our lives. He brings us to return to Him - not simply to His work - through these very difficulties and struggles. Perhaps an "easy" life is not what we want to pray for...
Monday, October 25, 2010
Pardon must be for the guilty. Forgiveness must be for the sinful...When men are not playing with words, or calling themselves 'miserable sinners,' out of mere compliment, I feel overjoyed to meet with them. I would be glad to talk all night to bona fide sinners. The inn of mercy never closes its doors upon such, neither weekdays nor Sunday. Our Lord Jesus did not die for imaginary sins, but His heart's blood was spilt to wash out deep crimson stains, which nothing else can remove. (All of Grace, 17)Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Sinners. We qualify! And salvation - this is our need!
May we never close the door that God has opened in Christ. May we come to God for mercy, through Jesus.
Friday, October 15, 2010
7:15 am: Get up, get ready for class, work
7:45 am: Drive to class, work - educational radio going, or perhaps earphones in, studying Hebrew paradigms and grammar.
8:00 am - noon: Work, study, go to class
noon - 12:30 pm: Eat, and might as well study or get some extra work done while chewing. Save some time, get more done.
12:30 - 4:30 pm: work, class, study. Walk fast, get things done. "Time is money, and a penny saved is a penny earned." Doing well. Bustle.
4:30 pm: Drive back from work, class. Make some calls (thank goodness for cell phones), arrangements, schedule that meeting (where's my calendar?).
5:00 pm: Devotions! Didn't have time this morning. Ok. Two chapters - check. Pray - check. Read a few pages of that recent book on how to live right. Ok, accomplished.
What connection—or contrast—is there between utter busyness and living for the glory of God? I have used a full schedule as an attempted testament to others - and myself - that I must be serving well, that I must be living life well, that I’m “carpe-ing the diem.” Could this be a lie…?
Is there any reason that, just because I am rushing from one activity to another, I am living in a way that is pleasing to God? Isn’t it all too possible to go through a whole day of jumping from one (good or wholesome) activity to another, and come to the end of the day - realizing that I hardly approached any of those activities truly in reference to God? We think of “devotions” as something we do—but have we forgotten the lifestyle of true devotion: a lifestyle oriented to God and lived in worship? Perhaps the one mindset—obsession with activity nearly for its own sake—has eclipsed the life of worship.
I never want to have a chosen pattern of life that is too busy to allow me to be interrupted. To drop everything and be fully present in that unexpected conversation, that moment to encourage another, or that time of uninterrupted and unmeasured prayer, confession, gratitude, appreciation. To simply stand and drink in the richness of the scent of fall leaves; to pause and truly pray for someone without simply formulaic and efficient words rushed out while mind already has jumped to the next daily task; to truly contemplate Christ as our treasure, even when we stand before God, stripped of all activity and bustle.
Thanks to Calvin College's chaplain for expanding on these thoughts in one of my classes, especially as related to the use of technology and its effect on our lives—harming our ability to truly be still and silent.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Buffet Boot Camp
No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs…
-2 Timothy 2:4
Full bellies—“Bread and circus”—while the battle rages
and souls are dying.
An all-you-can-eat, buffet boot camp:
“Eat ‘til you’re full” –and then some.
Where are those beating, buffeting their bodies
to make them serve the King...?
Outright war breeds
either fear and flight, or
awakening to action, training to fight
Scattered congregant yawns
around a dormant parish.
The preacher’s words, and a circling bottlefly—
Hardly a contest for a child’s—and parents’—attention.
“Will it land? Where?—place your bets.”
Time for lunch.”