Thursday, August 29, 2013



Recently we’ve had the great privilege of coming together to consider our Lord’s teaching on the Kingdom, and how we are to picture it in our minds.  I say “picture it in our minds” because rather than presenting a lecture, He chose to start by drawing two pictures with words for His disciples and listeners.
The first picture was that of a tree – a great tree growing from a mustard seed.  The wording in the translation we heard in worship used the phrase “a grain of mustard seed”.  In this way, the translators link the idea of the seed with the word “grain” which helps us picture the scale of its size.  Wikipedia reports that the average mustard seed is 1-2mm in diameter.  This is also the size of a “course” grain of sand.  In other words, very, very tiny.
But this same tiny grain, although hidden underground for a time, will sprout to life and grow like a mighty tree, providing a home for the birds from all around. 
Or the leaven powder a woman hides inside the giant lump of dough, slowly fermenting the whole three measures [~60 lbs].
We’ve already considered together what this picture implies.  The Kingdom begins very small – with only a handful of believers and then is hidden underground.  Just like our Lord was hidden in the ground of a garden, His Church was driven underground at first, literally having to worship underground and in catacombs at times because of Roman persecution.  This situation is still taking place among Middle Eastern and Asian peoples, and so we continue to pray for the day when the Kingdom comes on earth and the great branches and leafy canopy fill the sky above our heads.
But faithful prayer is only half of the equation.  Our other duty is faithful work.
And this is reflected in the beautiful Latin phrase we’ve been given in Church History: Ora et Labora.
So I would like to remind you of it and ask you to continue to keep it before yourselves, especially in this green season of “ordinary time” and growth when we are starting back up into the school year and plowing forward once again into the rhythms of the year.  This is the time of summer slowly coming to a close and fall harvest work beginning. 

A dear pastor friend of mine from Niceville is fond of saying: “You cannot change the world, but sometimes God gives you a little piece.”  And he is right.  But how do we change even our little piece?  The answer is faithfulness – faithfulness in prayer and faithfulness in labor; lives lived in this duality of faithfulness among us and our children and our children’s children.  Covenental faithfulness.  Generational steadfastness.  Incremental advances.  This is how our Lord taught us to think about how His Kingdom would grow.  
There is a great poster I saw once on the internet, illustrated after the fashion of the British WW2 poster, it said: “Keep calm and Ora et Labora.”  These are our marching orders.  So go forth, praying and laboring.  The book of Ecclesiastes teaches us that much of our human work "under the sun" is vain because of the fall and curse.  But not all life is vanity and not all work is vain.  So do not grow weary in doing good work, but persevere, knowing that when you work in the Lord, your labor is not in vain [1 Cor 15.57-8] . 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

True Grit

The past few days I've been reading True Grit to my sons before bed.  Not a single time have I been able to get through it without bursting into loud laughter at least once.

Just last month, The Big Read released an audio episode devoted to this great American novel and it is well worth a listen, here.

I was surprised and tickled last night to read this paragraph:

The Indian woman spoke good English and I learned to my surprise that she too was a Presbyterian.  She had been schooled by a missionary.  What preachers we had in those days!  Truly they took the word into “the highways and hedges.”  Mrs. Bagby was not a Cumberland Presbyterian but a member of the U. S. or Southern Presbyterian Church.  I too am now a member of the Southern Church.  I say nothing against the Cumberlands.  They broke with the Presbyterian Church because they did not believe a preacher needed a lot of formal education.  That is all right but they are not sound on Election.  They do not fully accept it.  I confess it is a hard doctrine, running contrary to our earthly ideas of fair play, but I can see no way around it.  Read I Corinthians 6:13 and II Timothy 1:9, 10. Also I Peter 1:2, 19, 20 and Romans 11:7.  There you have it.  It was good for Paul and Silas and it is good enough for me.  It is good enough for you too.

Somehow that part didn't make it into the film.
There is a tremendous amount of Biblical imagery present in the book.  The theme teeters back and forth on the line between vengeance and justice.  I don't think it is an accident that with the Lex Talionis at its core, the Marshal is a one-eyed man.
The book is emphatic that these events took place in winter.  Arkansas becomes Narnia.  Additionally, the woman falls into a pit with serpents, but her deliverer descends into the earth to bring her up out of captivity, shooting the serpents [at least several of them] and then using her humble pony "little Blackie" to pull their rope and lift them up to salvation.
Upon seeing that it was "Little Blackie", Maddie references the Messianic Psalm lyric - "the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief Cornerstone."
Finally, the wicked Tom Chaney ends up being cast down into that serpent's pit and destroyed [different than the Coen brothers movie ending].
Don't ask me where LaBeouf figures into things.  I have no clue on that one.
Have you noticed any of these themes from the book or films?  I talked further about some of them a while ago in my review of the film here. I'd love to hear your thoughts and invite your comments below.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Drivetime to Church

"But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." 

- Heb 3.13

When deciding between two locations to live or buy a house, people will often say things like - I'd rather be ten minutes from work and forty minutes from church because I drive to work every day but church is "only Sundays".
This is a common viewpoint and an understandable one, but it reveals a very unBiblical and anemic ecclesiology.  Church is NOT "only Sundays".  Your involvement in church life is not simply an hour Sunday morning.  You are to be a real part of the local body.  That means service and shared life together.  And that means more than Sundays.
Your ability to minister, serve, help, visit, commune & fellowship with, live alongside of, share time with, join, eat together, just stop by, shoot over to lend a hand, drop off extras, and so forth will all be hindered if you choose to live farther away because you think of church as only a Sunday commitment.  I'm not saying that the right decision is always ten minutes from church, forty minutes to work, every time without fail.  But I am saying that church is NOT "only Sundays".  Real church life is a daily thing.  #Heb 3.13

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Restoring the "We" to our Vocabulary

As our congregation has been working through Luke's Gospel, we recently came to the Disciples' Prayer [aka "The Lord's Prayer"] in chapter 11 and we took a great deal of time to notice the pronouns.  The only pronouns Christ gave us to pray were You [Thou] to the Father and first person plural [us, we, our].  Here is a great summary of that point from a different angle - the stories of Wendell Barry as described by Eugene Peterson.  Enjoy!