Work is the Container for Grace

It’s Sunday, October 22, 2017. Day 21,773.

Nine days until C’s knee replacement surgery.

Debbie Macomber, who was born on this date in 1948, said, “I am a big popcorn fanatic. I love popcorn. In fact one year for my birthday, my husband bought me one of those big popcorn machines like they have in movie theaters.”

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TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah. 
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

Psalm 67:3-5
Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life.
Psalm 119:149
Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.

Psalm 118:25-26
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”
Psalm 122:1
And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:42-45
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! 
It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 
It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Psalm 133
Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Prayer Appointed for the Week

(From Practice Resurrection)

Peterson continues to discuss the relationship between work and grace, using the Genesis work-week. “The Genesis week is the story of God pouring all the Trinitarian invisibilities into forms that are accessible to our five senses. God’s grace, the basic giftedness of everything that God is and does, becomes present to us, exclusively in the form of work. Everything that God created in Genesis is “the forms by which we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell grace.”

God’s creation is the “form, the context, in which we experience grace.” When we meditate on this creation account, it forms continuity for us, with all of those works which God pronounced “good and very good.” The meditation on this Genesis week also liberates us from “secularized and pietist distortions that result from pitting grace and work against one another.” Peterson compares the relationship between work and grace to that of a pail to water. The pail is the container used to get the water from the well to the dinner table. Our pail is the work that we do as we imitate Jesus, and in that pail of work, we carry grace.

Everything that we experience–the world in which we live, time that is measured by the sun, moon, and stars, the animals of the world, in land, air, and sea, and the people with which we interact–is the work of God. “Nothing in the practice of resurrection is experienced or participated in apart from a body.” Likewise, nothing in this practice of resurrection happens without something to work with.

“Work is the generic form for embodying grace.”

Father, I love this understanding of work and grace, this relationship that Peterson describes. May we all understand that the ideas of work and grace go together, like pail and water. They do not exclude each other. Yes, we are saved by grace alone, but work is not excluded. It is a part of our lives, and we must embrace it as something ordained by you, and demonstrated by you.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

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Work Shows God’s Glory

Today is Friday, October 20, 2017. Day 21,771.

Eleven days until C’s knee replacement surgery.

Mickey Mantle, who was born on this date in 1931 (died 1995), said, “After I hit a home run I had a habit of running the bases with my head down. I figured the pitcher already felt bad enough without me showing him up rounding the bases.” Now there was a guy with some class.
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TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalm 34:8
Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
Psalm 71:3
But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Psalm 88:13
God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.
Psalm 7:11
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”
Luke 6:26
The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. 
Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? 
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:10-12

(From Practice Resurrection)

As Eugene H. Peterson continues to look at the Genesis creation account, he considers a week of work and a week of gifts. “All work at its heart and origin gives form to a gift.” This is something that seems foreign to us, at least to me. “The reason that work is called good is that it is the means for delivering a gift.”

When something is called “gift,” it refers, not to what it is, but to how it comes to us. The word “gift” simply means that it “comes to us freely. It arrives in an ambience of generosity, with no strings attached.”

If we examine God’s “workweek of creation,” we will see and realize that the world in which we live is “sheer gift, that we ourselves are sheer gift, and that whatever we do replicates and continues to express and give form to this basic giftedness–God’s giftedness.”

And it is this work/gift relationship, and the God-giftedness that we see that translates into one of our favorite biblical words, “grace.”

“The mature Christian life involves a congruence of grace and work. Nothing in the Christian life matures apart from work and works.” We simply cannot mature in Christ without some form of work being done. The best and most common type of work is practicing the Spiritual Disciplines.

But as we look at Jesus, our example, we see God at work. Jesus states God, whom no one has ever seen, is visible in the works that he does. But it was those very works that people saw and rejected. “His contemporaries found it far easier to believe in an invisible God than in a visible one.”

“We have seen God’s glory in Jesus. Glory is God’s invisibility become visible in Jesus at work.” We, in turn, have been created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared ahead of time for us (Ephesians 2:10). “Our work is a form for the glory.”

Father, help me to keep learning about this and to comprehend the importance of “work” in the life of the maturing Christian. I cannot just sit back and expect you to make me more mature. I must work. I must “work out my salvation with fear and trembling.” I must discipline myself in the ways of Jesus. Teach me your ways that I may walk in your truth. Show me your glory; show me your grace.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Work

Today is Wednesday, October 18, 2017. Day 21,769.

Thirteen days until C’s knee replacement surgery.

Chuck Berry, who was born on this date in 1926 (died 2017), said, “Elvis’s songs will always be there, and I hope mine will be after I’m gone.” They are, Chuck. They are.
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TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, 
who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. 

Psalm 66:8-9
. . . hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!
Psalm 70:5
For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. 
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.

Psalm 71:5-6
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:10
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Mark 10:23-27
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 
You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 
You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. 
For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 
You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:1-8, 12
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

(From Practice Resurrection)

We are reminded again, that work “is what God does, not what we do.” Peterson points us to Genesis 1-2 to give us a reminder of how we are first introduced to God. “The first thing we learn about God is that God works.” In the midst of his work, he “invites us into his work.”

Then he says something that I was not aware of. “The Christian community has a long tradition of reading, meditating, and praying Genesis 1-2 in order to form our understanding and experience of work in the company of God at work.” The next page, I believe, is worthy of quoting in its entirety.

“God makes light. What a gift. God’s work. God’s gift. We can see what is going on, we can see where we are going. ‘Light dawns for the righteous’ (Ps. 97:11). Every lamp, every candle, every torch, every chandelier is a witness to what is continuously revealed around us.

“God makes sky. Sheer gift. God’s work. God’s gift. This huge Above. Space and spaciousness, this immense Beyond. Far, far more than we can take in. Far, far more than we can control. Everything visible stretching into invisibility.

“God makes earth and sea, plants and trees. Sheer gift. God’s work. God’s gift. Oak forests and wheat fields, apple trees and rose gardens. A place to stand. A place to be at home. A home furnished with what we need. A home beautiful.

“God makes sun and moon and stars, marking seasons and days and years. Sheer gift. God’s work. God’s gift. Time to look around and see the sights, sunrise and sunset. Time to listen to the wind in the willows and the rain on the roof. Time to sleep and dream and ‘awake the dawn’ (Ps. 108:2). Time to remember and count blessings. Time to hope and pray.

“God makes fish and birds. Sea and sky resplendent with life. Sheer gift. God’s work. God’s gift. Rainbow trout and belted kingfishers. The dazzle and elegance of every kind of life.

“God makes animals domestic and wild. Sheer gift. God’s work. God’s gift. Cattle and caribou, ants and lizards, grizzly bears and honeybees. Life on the move. Life profuse in form and color. Life dancing.

“God makes man and woman. Sheer gift. God’s work. God’s gift. Wherever you look, wherever you go, man and woman. Man and woman on every street and road, each one unique. But on this sixth day of work, there is something different. Each man and woman is not only an instance of God’s workmanship but is capable of participating in God’s work, working in God’s workplace and continuing God’s work, continuing the gift-making.

“And then it is done, complete, ‘finished.’ The seventh day, a day for God to look back across the workweek, take stock of ‘all the work that he had done.’ ‘The work that he had done’ is repeated three times (Gen. 2:2-3). A day of rest. A day for quiet reflection on all the good work. A day of hallowing and blessing the good work.

“Seven times in this week of work, God paused, looked over his work and pronounced it good. The final ‘good’ was intensified to ‘very good.’ Good work, indeed.”

Father, as I read these beautifully written words, may I pause to consider what they represent. And as, later today, I remember to take a look back at Genesis 1 and 2, let me be grateful for the work that you have done. I am also grateful that you have not stopped working. And, finally, I am grateful that you have invited me to participate in this work. As I work today, doing my job, may it be done for you, in the name of Jesus, in the presence of your Kingdom Among Us.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Grace Does Not Replace Work

Today is Tuesday, October 17, 2017. Day 21,768. Fourteen days until C’s knee replacement surgery.

Evel Knievel, who was born on this date in 1938 (died 2007), said, “I decided to fly through the air and live in the sunlight and enjoy life as much as I could.”
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Today’s word of the day, from Merriam-Webster, is euphony, which means, “pleasing or sweet sound; especially : the acoustic effect produced by words so formed or combined as to please the ear.”

Today is Mulligan Day. Commonly known as a golf term, a mulligan is a second chance, taking a shot over. So today, give yourself a second chance. Take that mulligan.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

The Call to Prayer
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Psalm 95:1-2
The Request for Presence
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.
Psalm 119:147
The Greeting
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
Psalm 13:5
The Refrain for the Morning Lesson
The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.
Psalm 89:11
A Reading
Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Luke 12:32
The Morning Psalm
Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off. 
I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree. 
But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found. 
Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace. 
But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off. 
The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. 
The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

Psalm 37:34-40
The Gloria
Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your Name. May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Lord, I pray that your grace may always precede and follow me, that I may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Concluding Prayer of the Church
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

(From Practice Resurrection)

“Work and workplace are not antithetical to grace,” says Eugene Peterson. Paul makes sure that we understand this by inserting the words “good works” in the same set of sentences as “grace.”

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:8-10

Even more so, “Fundamentally, work is not what we do; we are the work that God does.” Note that verse 10 says, “we are his workmanship.” We are what God has made us.

“Grace does not displace work.” Just because we are practicing resurrection does not exempt us from the daily punch of the clock. Work can be “exhilarating,” but it can also be “debilitating, demoralizing, and exhausting.” But the difference is, we no longer work for CEVA, or USBC, or Sears, or any other company. “We are God’s work and doing God’s work.” We are created in him for good works.

Father, you have already begun teaching me this concept, this truth. Keep teaching me, and keep my spirit alive to your Spirit as you teach me your ways. Keep teaching me how to be a disciple in this world, to walk in the Kingdom Among Us.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

“Acquired Passivity”

Today is Tuesday, October 10, 2017. Day 21,761. TWO days until our 32nd anniversary and Glen Rose weekend!

Helen Hayes, who was born on this date in 1900 (died 1993), said, “Mere longevity is a good thing for those who watch Life from the side lines. For those who play the game, an hour may be a year, a single day’s work an achievement for eternity.”
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Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is astrobleme, which means, “an erosional scar on the earth’s surface, produced by the impact of a cosmic body, as a meteorite or asteroid.” Don’t we usually call those “craters?”

I can’t decide if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that World Mental Health Day and World Homeless Day have fallen on the same day. I mean, granted, there is probably a connection between the two, but not always. Not all homeless people are suffering from poor mental health, but I am pretty sure that homelessness couldn’t possibly have a positive effect on one’s mental health. I’m also not sure what can be done about either one, especially on an individual level. The first thing, though, is to be aware that both are a problem. There are people who suffer from mental health issues, and those are not always as visible as one might think. Some people manage to hide them quite well. And there are people who are homeless, some by choice, some not. Let’s begin by being aware, then see what we can do about it.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

I have decided to begin adding the headings, which might give understanding to the particular texts that are featured. Please note that I do not repeat the “refrain” as it is repeated in the actual reading. It appears again after the Reading and The Morning Psalm.

The Call to Prayer
Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!
Psalm 9:11
The Request for Presence
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah.
Psalm 67:1
The Greeting
By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas;
Psalm 65:5
The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 
Luke 1:48-49
A Reading
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
John 14:6-7
The Morning Psalm
Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me! 
There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god. 
I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

Psalm 81:8-10
The Cry of the Church
O God, come to my assistance!
O Lord, make hast to help me!

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your Name. May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon your church the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Concluding Prayer of the Church
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

(From Practice Resurrection)

As Peterson continues discussing this thing he calls “acquired passivity,” he moves into the territory of “grace.” Grace is one the Christian’s favorite words, and for good reason. “The air we breathe and the atmosphere we inhabit as believers and followers of Jesus is grace.” We won’t find an adequate definition of it in the dictionary, though. Peterson says, “It is everywhere to be experienced but nowhere to be explained.” I, myself, prefer Dallas Willard’s definition that grace is God accomplishing in us what we cannot accomplish on our own. (I didn’t put that in quotes, because I’m not sure I’m quoting it directly.)

Peterson calls grace “an insubstantial, invisible reality that permeates all that we are, think, speak, and do.” We aren’t used to this. We don’t live “by invisibles.” We work, we learn, we help people, we navigate traffic, we cook meals. And then when we need a break, we go to tangible things, watching birds, taking walks, reading books, watching TV, listening to music, having a cup of tea. But the breaks aren’t the real world. They are what we go to to get refreshed so we can get back to “reality.”

Living in grace is a lot like swimming. If you move your hand through water, it is obvious that this substance would not hold up your weight, if you tried to, say, walk on it. But if you relax, you will find it to be “miraculously buoyant.” I know this from experience. I’m a pretty heavy guy, but I can float quite well in our swimming pool. Almost so well that I could easily fall asleep while floating. But if I thrash about and try to stay afloat, it’s not so easy. I can swim, to a degree, but not very well. But floating? I’m pretty good at that.

That’s what living in grace is like. “Grace originates in an act of God that is absolutely without precedent, the generous, sacrificial self-giving of Jesus that makes it possible for us to participate in resurrection maturity. It is not what we do; it is what we participate in.” But that participating must be rooted in what he calls “acquired passivity,” just like floating on the top of the water. We must give ourselves up to what has come before us, “the presence and action of God in Christ that is other than us.”

Father, keep working in me to acquire this passivity that is necessary to live in grace. I feel that I’ve made, we’ve made, progress in this, over the past few years. But there is still much work to be done. Help me to join you in this work and give myself up to what you have already done. And help me to know your presence and remain in it throughout this day, minute by minute.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Hybrid Christians

Today is Saturday, October 7, 2017. Day 21,758. Five days until our 32nd anniversary and a four day weekend!!

Rachel McAdams, who was born on this date in 1976, said, “With any project I work on – not just ‘True Detective’ – I don’t feel the need just to play a strong woman. I don’t want the audience to say, ‘Oh, she was so strong.’ I want to play characters that are flawed and interesting.”
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Today’s word of the day, from Dictionary.com, is collogue, which means, “to confer secretly,” or, “to plot mischief; conspire.”

Today is Random Acts of Poetry Day. I’m not quite sure what to do with that. Perhaps I’ll pull a poem out of my hat. And write about things that rhyme with cat. Or maybe I’ll just sit and chat. For now, I think that’s enough of that.

Well, the Astros pummeled the Red Sox again, yesterday, 8-2. So the ‘stros are up 2-0 in that series. I’m hoping that the Sox at least don’t get swept again, like last year, but I don’t have much hope that they can shut down the Astros lineup three times. They are just too strong, this year. The Indians beat the Yankees again, but it took them thirteen innings. The wound up winning 9-8. It’s looking like an Astros/Indians ALCS, which will be quite the battle, I think. I’ll be pulling for Terry Francona and company in this one. That’s the Indians, in case you didn’t know.

In that other league, the Cubs shut out the Nationals 3-0, and the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks 9-5. I don’t really care a whole lot about who wins the NL. But I do slightly favor the Cubbies over the Nats, and wish that the D-backs could knock out the Dodgers.

In other news, C has her knee replacement surgery scheduled for Halloween morning, which is just fine with us. It gets us past our getaway weekend for our anniversary, and allows time for recovery and therapy before the deductibles reset for a new year.

Today, we will be traveling to east Texas for my cousin’s wedding, in which S will be a bridesmaid. It’s a rather informal affair, with the wedding happening in her mother’s back yard. At least it will be at 6:30 in the evening, so it won’t be quite so hot. But this is Texas, and even thought it’s technically Autumn, we are still looking at 90 degrees for a high today. Bleah.

Also, I will not be taking a computer with me on this short trip, so there will not be a blog post tomorrow morning.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! 
Psalm 57:8
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

Agnus Dei
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit,
in the Glory of God the Father.

Glory to God
Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
Psalm 31:5
You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
John 15:14-17
O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. 
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. 
I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, 
in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 116:16-19

(From Practice Resurrection)

This segment of Chapter 5, subtitled “Acquired Passivity,” is bold and brutal, and sets up what will come later in the chapter. Peterson begins by saying, “A good part of growing up in the land of resurrection, growing up in Christ, involves practicing a kind of acquired passivity.” He acknowledges that the word “passivity” has a kind of bad odor in our culture and language, conjuring up images of people who are lazy, lacking ambition, couch potatoes, and so on. Our culture pushes people. Our culture teaches us to admire people who have ambition, drive, who “get-up-and-go.”

Ambition and drive certainly have their place, giving people the resources to make money, get academic degrees, win wars, climb Mt. Everest, make touchdowns, and hit home runs. “But such goals, all of them much lauded by our culture, have very little to do in themselves with living a mature life, living ‘to the praise of his glory.'”

All of these ambitions, as well as the disciplines that go along with them, can be pursued, and often are, “without conscience, without love, without compassion, without humility, without generosity, without righteousness, without holiness.” In other words, apart from maturity. We see immaturity all around us in our celebrities, our athletes, our scholars and scientists.

“These are the men and women who set the standards for a life fueled by ambition, getting to the top, making a name for themselves, beating out the competition.” But do any of us really want to live that way?

If we stop to think about it, surely not. “The misery, the emptiness, the superficiality, the boredom, the desolation that accompanies this kind of living is devastating, not only to the individuals involved but to their families and communities.” Their lives are “radically different . . . from the life of Jesus and the resurrection life of Jesus that Paul uses as his text for living a mature human life.”

This is truly nothing new. Our life is really no different from life in the ancient world, at least in this regard. “What is different is that North Americans, by and large, exempt themselves from any sense of cultural and societal kinship, especially in terms of immaturity, with the ancients. We assume that we are different, better, and more advance.” It’s obvious, isn’t it, that we are so much more advanced as human begins. Or is it? In addition to all this, we have “this rich Judeo-Christian heritage, forming our identity as ‘Christian.’ A Christian nation. A Christian culture. A Christian person.”

We have taken the culture of Christianity and the culture of America and created a hybrid: the American Christian. We have taken “what we think is the best of each to produce a hybrid: American Christian, Christian America.” We have become “hybrid Christians.”

But if we look at history, we see that the ancient Hebrews lived among people who were just as culturally advanced as we are. The Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians had quite sophisticated technology and mathematics, which allowed them to produce some pretty “astonishing architectural feats, including pyramids and intricate irrigation systems.” The pyramids continue to mystify even the most modern architects. The artistry and philosophy of the Persians, Greeks, and Romans are still well-regarded by many today.

But in spite of this, the Hebrews “were fiercely jealous of the integrity of their souls and vigilantly guarded their image-of-God identity.” They did not assimilate the lifestyles of those nations around them, while taking advantage of benefiting from their libraries and technologies.

“The stories of Abraham and Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah, Daniel and Esther are all energetically countercultural.” These people lived alongside and among these other cultures while remaining uncompromising “in their rejection of the divine pretensions and sexual profligacies of their leaders in government and the arts, and the superficial idolatries in all the so-called best families.”

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John present God as crucified, in their texts that showed us the way to live a mature life. “The cross was a ‘stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles’ (1 Cor. 1:23) in the time of Jesus.” And it continues to be such a stumbling block in our culture, today; a culture that “worships power and self-indulgence, a culture that divinizes human achievement.”

We, as Christians, are the only people on earth who worship a crucified savior. And this crucified savior appears to everyone else to be “a rejected, humiliated, and failed Savior.”

Unfortunately, unlike our Hebrew ancestors, and even unlike our ancient Christian ancestors, we insist on cross-fertilizing American and Christian to come up with this hybrid thing. Sometimes, hybrids can be good. But the word, itself, from the Latin hybrida, literally means “mongrel, the offspring of a tame sow and a wild boar.”

“When the wild bull of American ambition is bred with a tame Christianity with no cross, the result is mongrel spirituality–a ‘Christian’ with both the image of God and the crucified Savior lost in the cross-breeding. The distinctive element in the human is lost. The distinctive element in Jesus is lost. An antichrist?”

I realize this was a lengthy passage, and will be actually surprised if anyone makes it to the end. But I believe them to be important words for our culture today. Our “Christian” culture is in danger of being lost in the culture, assimilated into the driven, ambitious culture of America. We struggle to remain “countercultural,” as we should.

Father, I pray that you will strengthen us in our resolve to be countercultural and not be assimilated by the modern culture of our times. Help us to remain bound to the cross. Help us to continue to worship the crucified savior (who did not fail, in fact, but rose from the dead), and to practice this “resurrection life.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Resurrection Country

Today is Monday, October 2, 2017. Day 21,753. Ten days until our 32nd anniversary!

Don McLean, who was born on this date in 1945, said, “I’ve never done anything but what I wanted to do with my life. I don’t think too many people can say that. I wrote the songs I wanted to write, for me. I had no idea that ‘American Pie’ would relate to anybody.”
BrainyQuote

Word of the Day

Thimblerig ~ “a sleight-of-hand swindling game in which the operator palms a pellet or pea while appearing to cover it with one of three thimblelike cups, and then, moving the cups about, offers to bet that no one can tell under which cup the pellet or pea lies.”

Today is International Day of Non-Violence. Wouldn’t it be nice? But instead, we wake up to news of possibly at least 50 people dead and over 100 injured at a Las Vegas shooting, last night.

We wound up having a pretty nice day, yesterday. As reported yesterday morning, our Internet was out. But it wasn’t just ours. Apparently Spectrum Internet was out in a large chunk of the country, if not the entire nation. We braced ourselves for a challenging day, but it turned out okay. S was okay through it, as was I. After a good worship gathering, we went out to eat with another family from the church. We tried a place we had not been to yet, called “Meat U Anywhere.” It’s a barbecue restaurant, and it was quite good. It’s interesting, because you don’t order a plate lunch. Instead you order meat by weight, and then buy the sides that you want, also by size. It’s a little pricey, but it was delicious. The one strike against them is that they don’t have any Coca Cola products, so Diet Dr. Pepper is the only diet drink they serve. Besides water. Wait. There was a cooler with some sixteen-ounce bottles in it. Now that I think about it, there may have been some Diet Coke in there. Oh, well. Anyway, I had their sliced brisket and jalapeno cheddar sausage. The sausage was pretty amazing, as was the brisket.

After lunch, I went to the grocery store, while C took a nap. Right before I got home, the Internet came back on. I did what I was already planning to do, which was play Horizon: Zero Dawn on the PS4. After I played for a while, and C painted on a paint by number set she got, we watched the season premier of Saturday Night Live, which was disappointing, to say the least. But, over-all, I would say it was a good day.

Today, there is no baseball. The wild card games are tomorrow and Wednesday, and the ALDS series begins Thursday. Unfortunately, the Red Sox/Houston games on Thursday and Friday will be the afternoon times.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! 
Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! 
Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Psalm 103:20-22
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Psalm 115:1
This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24
Dear Father always near us,
may your name be treasured and loved,
may your rule be completed in us-
may your will be done here on earth in
just the way it is done in heaven.
Give us today the things we need today,
and forgive us our sins and impositions on you
as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us.
Please don’t put us through trials,
but deliver us from everything bad.
Because you are the one in charge,
and you have all the power, and the glory too is all yours-forever-
which is just the way we want it!

(Dallas Willard)

(From Practice Resurrection)

We have moved into Chapter Five, which will focus on Ephesians 2:1-10.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

With the abrupt transition of “And you were dead,” and, “made us alive together with Christ,” Paul moves us into “resurrection country.” We are no longer looking at it from a distance. We have stepped into it, “our feet on the actual ground.” Looking back at 1:20, God raised Christ from the dead. In 2:6, God raised us up with Christ, as well. “Resurrection defines Jesus’ life; resurrection defines our lives. We were sin-dead; we are resurrection-alive.”

This “resurrection country” is no longer a place that we are looking at from a distance, admiring the landscape. It is now the “land we live in, entering into the detailed intricacies of resurrection living.” It is completely different from the life we are used to. It is also not something that we add to what was already there. It is completely new, making alive what was dead.

Yes, we will bring old habits from our life in the country of death. “And so we require a patient, long-suffering reorientation in the resurrection conditions that prevail in this country, living into the ‘full stature of Christ’ (4:13), our resurrection pioneer and companion.” And, most importantly, Paul begins this reorientation with the word “grace,” in 2:8. We will find that Paul uses this word quite a bit.

Father, thank you for bringing me into resurrection country. Now I pray that you continue to teach me and reorient me into this resurrection life. Thank you for that word, grace.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.