Dirty Jobs

For our children, a stay in a hotel has many charms.  The pool, of course, is at the top of the list.  Hotels without pools fall into the “emergency only” category.  Booking a room at such a venue is seen as a breach of paternal trust.  But our children also enjoy the freedom to jump from one bed to another (before 9:00 pm) as well as the carb-overloaded cereal bins in the breakfast area.  And then there is television.

We have a television at home and recently got basic cable, but we rarely watch anything that does not stream from Roku or spring from a DVD.   Unless we have a hankering for big-pharma or big-auto commercials, we never venture past the evening news into TV land – except when the Olympics are on.  But when we are at a hotel, we enjoy a small dose of cablevision, especially “Dirty Jobs.”  While the show’s host, Mike Rowe glories a bit in the “muck and mire” aspect of each episode, I appreciate the heroic light he shines on those who work these jobs, day in and day out.  But “dirty jobs” are not for everyone.  It demands special people to work these special jobs.  Despite the natural revulsions these jobs may inspire, each one is of value and produces something that makes our lives better.

As far as I know, “Dirty Jobs” has never done an expose on the work of elders in the church, though it certainly might qualify.  A mentor of mine once declared, “working with sheep is a dirty business.”  And, so it is with any helping and caring profession from the work of an elder, to a nurse or caregiver.   But the value of this work extends far beyond the here and now, into eternity.   For this reason, the Apostle Paul writing to his apprentice, Timothy, instructs him to instruct the church in regards to what type of men God calls into the work of elder and deacon.

Paul declares that anyone who sets his mind on this work desires a “noble task,” then sketches the qualities of elders as men who have been tested in life and leadership.  They have a proven track record of living and leading consistent with their creed.  But Paul’s instructions are not just for Timothy and an elite group of executive recruiters in Ephesus.  They are for the whole church, so they may know what type of leaders to desire and how to pray for the leaders they have.

Join us this Lord’s Day, September 16, as we examine 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and consider what type of men are to be desired and selected to do the dirty job of shepherding the flock of God.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions or check out the order of service.  Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

Getting Ready for Church

My father was a rigorous logistician.  Every trip, no matter how short, was meticulously planned and documented with copies of the itinerary sent to all reasonably close relatives — “just in case.”  But when it came to getting our family ready for church on the Lord’s Day, he met with serious challenges.  He would be up before dawn shaving and brewing the coffee, waking my mom to make the blueberry muffins, waking my sisters to start the glacial process of feminine adornment, and helping me get dressed complete with a thorough application of comb and Vitalis to direct my unruly coif.  Saturday afternoons would find the men-folk polishing and shining white patent-leather shoes and Saturday evenings always included the study of Sunday School lessons.  But even with my father’s careful planning and direction, we rarely left the house on Sunday mornings at the published departure time.   I can still see him pacing in the driveway, puffing furiously on his pipe, trying to maintain his composure as the clock ticked.

Why is it so hard to get ready for church?  Every other day of the week we manage to get dressed, find something to eat, collect all the important trappings of the day, and depart at some early hour for work, school or play with the logistical proficiency of Fed-Ex.   But when we are preparing for church, it seems everything is harder.  Hair just won’t work.  Razors cut deeper.  One of every pair of shoes is AWOL.  The right clothes are rumpled or in the laundry.  Every child has been switched into three-toed sloth mode.  And we suddenly discover that our Bible and our keys are playing hide and seek.   At last we trundle everyone in the car and arrive for worship, breathless and emotionally exhausted and totally unprepared to enter the presence of the Lord of All Creation.

How are we to account for this mysterious disturbance in the space-time continuum on the Lord’s Day?  We cannot blame it on any astronomical or celestial phenomena since the seven-day cycle we call our “week” is the only measure of time not based on the rotation or revolution of stars, planets, or moons.  Maybe, just maybe, the problem lies closer to home.  Perhaps it is reflective of our values and priorities.  We prepare well for what we value.  What does our preparation for worship say about the value we place upon the communion of the saints in worship on the Lord’s Day?   In the original language of the New Testament, the word used for Friday (the day before the Jewish Sabbath) was literally translated, “preparation day?”   How much of the day or days before the Lord’s Day are devoted to getting ourselves ready for church?

This is not a new concern.  In 1 Timothy 2, Paul writes to his friend, Timothy, to urge him to give needful instruction to the church concerning personal preparation for worship.  In a passage that excites controversy in our modern world of gender confusion, because it dares to differentiate the roles of men and women in worship, Paul’s real focus is on how men and women are to prepare their bodies, their minds, and their hearts for church.

Join us this Lord’s Day, September 9, as we examine 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and consider the practical aspects of our physical, emotional and spiritual preparation for worship.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

Leading in Prayer

Every college has one – that lethal combination of professor and course which inspires dread and is the bane of degree-seeking students.  At Erskine College, this was Mr. Bittinger’s Finance class. He alone taught this required course for Business majors.  Many attempted to evade this threat to their GPA by taking Finance elsewhere during the summer and transferring their credit.  Mr. Bittinger was not an academic, but a professional — a hard-nosed, no-nonsense former comptroller who had little time or patience for ill-prepared future business leaders.

Class days alternated between lecture and exercises.  On exercise day, Mr. Bittinger would randomly select students to demonstrate the solutions to assigned homework in front of the class.   And his selection was remarkably random.  If you looked at him, he would choose you, if you looked at your shoes he would choose you.  If you sat in the front of the class and looked keen, he would choose you.  If you sat in the middle behind the class brain, he would choose you.  He had an uncanny knack for choosing you on just that problem that had given you fits.   Cutting class was not an option at Erskine.  There was nothing to do but gird up the loins of your mind and face the music.

We often feel this way when it comes time to lead in prayer at church and we know that the pastor is going to call on someone.  Pulses race, foreheads sweat, minds become suddenly empty, we stare at our shoes and then comes the call.   We do our best to remember the acronym, ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication) and avoid using the phrase “we just want to …” more than once.  But it still inspires anxiety and awkwardness.  If this sounds familiar you are in good company.  The following anecdote describes Stonewall Jackson’s struggle to lead in public prayer.

According to S.C. Gwynne’s Rebel Yell, Stonewall Jackson’s pastor once urged more congregation members to lead in prayer during the church prayer meeting. Afterward, Jackson went to see him, explaining to the pastor his fear of praying publicly. “But,” Jackson said, “if you think it my duty, then I shall waive my reluctance and make the effort to lead in prayer, however painful it might be.”

At the next meeting, the pastor called on Jackson. His prayer was “faltering, agonizing, [and] cringe-inducing.” For several weeks, the pastor didn’t ask him to pray again, not wanting to subject Jackson to what was obviously an ordeal.

So Jackson went back to see him. “My comfort or discomfort is not the question,” he protested. “If it is my duty to lead in prayer, then I must persevere in it until I learn to do it aright, and I wish you to discard all consideration for my feelings.” From then on, Jackson doggedly continued to lead in prayer, and, though Gwynne reports that he was never eloquent, he managed to become competent.

The Apostle Paul recognized that leading in public prayer is a critical part of our life in the body of Christ and in weekly worship.    In writing to his young apprentice, Timothy, he gives him needed instruction to pass on to the church about our manner and the matter of our corporate prayer life.   Far from being vain repetition that punctuates the movements of our worship service, corporate prayer breathes life into worship and provides the medium that carries us to the throne of God.   In Acts 4:31, we read that after the early church shared in corporate prayer, “the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.”

Join us this Lord’s Day, September 2, as we examine 1 Timothy 2:1-7 and consider the power and importance of corporate prayer to move us and enable us to speak the word of God with boldness.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.

String Theory

Without music, the world could not exist!  This is not merely a declaration of aesthetic sensibility or support for the importance of the arts.   But quite literally, theoretical physicists have hypothesized that multi-dimensional vibration accounts for all the particular arrangements of protons, neutrons and electrons into the atomic structures that constitute matter.  This view, known as “string theory,” resonates remarkably with how the Bible claims the world came into being.

 “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3

Consider, however, that God did not think the world into existence, but spoke it.  The original language of God’s speaking in Genesis does not exclude the idea of singing – an idea common in the creation accounts of many cultures and in popular literature.  Both Tolkien in the Silmarillion and C. S. Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia describe the creation of their fictional worlds through the singing of a supreme being.

But there is another singer in each of these stories – a glorious, but prideful, envious creature who sings a different song, slightly off pitch in order to lead creation to resonate with discordant vibrations.  He weaves doubt and dissonance, asking “did God really say?” and introducing a “better truth” than God’s truth – a truth that man himself should be the captain of his soul and the master of his fate.  He does not deny God’s existence or that he has spoken.  He only suggests that God’s word is not enough, not sufficient, not completely trustworthy – suitable only for moral and practical suggestion.  He does not sing a new song, just God’s song off pitch and out of tune.   He sings of man’s essential goodness and God’s overbearing and unreasonable demands.  He sings of God’s justice and implacable wrath or perhaps of his basic apathy toward us and our concerns.

This accuser, this destroyer, this father of lies sings a soul destroying and life depriving dissonance.  For this reason, the scripture commands us to close our ears to his choir of false singers, teaching a different doctrine and another gospel, contrary to God’s Word, the Bible.  When the Apostle Paul writes to his young protégé, Timothy, to instruct him in giving guidance to the fledgling church in Ephesus, he charges him strictly to refute those who are teaching off-key.   In his exhortation he gives one of the simplest, most concise, articulations of the gospel in all of scripture.

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15

Paul sings out the song of redemption with clarity of voice and perfectness of pitch in order that men might reject Satan’s song.  Join us this Lord’s Day, August 26, as we examine 1 Timothy 1:12-17 and consider why it is imperative to resist those who sing the gospel off-key.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.