the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Pure In Heart

Words of Thomas Merton:
You will never find interior solitude unless you make some conscious effort to deliver yourself from the desires and the cares and the attachments of an existence in time and in the world.

Do everything you can to avoid the noise and the business of men. Keep as far away as you can from the places where they gather to cheat and insult one another, to exploit one another, to laugh at one another, or to mock one another with their false gestures of friendship...
Every day brings me into the arena Fr. Merton recommends we avoid. I must deal with men who cheat, insult, exploit, laugh at and mock one another. I try not to participate in these activities, but the close association, the pressure to succeed and the pursuit of financial security are always present. And always tempting me to stray across the line.

I am keenly aware of the tension between living a holy life and providing a means of survival for me and my wife in our old age. I can truly say that it's not about amassing a fortune or achieving any sort of financial gain. But the prospect of not being able to earn a living because of age, health and ability means living on what we have been able to accumulate over my lifetime, which is not a lot.

Living a life wholly trustng in God to provide has always meant using the gifts, the energy and the imagination He has provided to sustain life. You know, the drill,"give a man a fish and you feed him for one day, teach him how to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime." But at some point faith in God's grace must transcend our faith in our own ability to provide for ourselves.

Perhaps some of the resolution to this dilemma is in the definition of what sustaining life is. I have defined sustaining life in retirement to mean the maintenance of my current standard of living. But trusting in God does not mean trusting Him to provide a certain standard of living. It means trusting Him to hold me in his hand no matter what hardships I have to endure.

Suppose I get a cancer. God's provision is not to cure me of this disease and make me whole, physically. His provision is to be with me, to love me, to comfort me in His presence.

What I am able to endure for myslef is not the same as what I will abide for another to endure. So, if a loved one gets cancer, I am not content with this definition of provision. My human needs for companionship and the sharing of life come into play. I do not want to see another suffer. I do not want to see another go hungry. I do not want to see another live a life of poverty. I must provide.

Now here is a passage from My Utmost for His Hightest, by Oswald Chambers.
As they led Him away, they laid hold of a certian man, Simon..., and on him they laid the cross...Luke 23:26
If we obey God, it is going to cost other people more than it costs us, and that is where the pain begins. If we are in love with our Lord, obedience does not cost us anything‚ it is a delight. But to those who do not love Him, our obedience does cost a great deal. If we obey God, it will mean that other people's plans are upset. They will ridicule us as if to say, "You call this Christianity?" We could prevent the suffering, but not if we are obedient to God. We must let the cost be paid.

When our obedience begins to cost others, our human pride entrenches itself and we say, "I will never accept anything from anyone." But we must, or disobey God. We have no right to think that the type of relationships we have with others should be any different from those the Lord Himself had.
And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance. Luke 8:1-3
A lack of progress in our spiritual life results when we try to bear all the costs ourselves. And actually, we cannot. Because we are so involved in the universal purposes of God, others are immediately affected by our obedience to Him. Will we remain faithful in our obedience to God and be willing to suffer the humiliation of refusing to be independent? Or will we do just the opposite and say, "I will not cause other people to suffer?" We can disobey God if we choose, and it will bring immediate relief to the situation, but it will grieve our Lord. If, however, we obey God, He will care for those who have suffered the consequences of our obedience. We must simply obey and leave all the consequences with Him.

Beware of the inclination to dictate to God what consequences you would allow as a condition of your obedience to Him. January 11
Is this where my faith falters?

God, how can I live with one foot in the world and one foot in Your will? Show me the way, Lord.


Blogger HeyJules said...

Joel, that was one stunning post! You hit on almost all the same things I've been thinking and/or wondering about lately. I'm going to have to print this one out and let it sink in for awhile.

Way to go, tentman.

9/05/2006 8:46 PM  
Blogger the reverend mommy said...

Are you SURE you are Baptist?

9/08/2006 9:44 PM  
Blogger the tentmaker said...

Part Catholic, part Episcopalian and very Liberal Baptist.

9/14/2006 6:33 PM  

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