So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1954), 18.

Great words from a man who knew what it was like to be among “the scattered lonely.” The ability to visible gather with believers is a blessing to be thankful for. Not the local body that you wish you were apart of. But the body you are apart of now. The body full of weak Christians who sing music off key. You are there, gathered, as the exiled believers encouraging one another till the Final Day.  This is a grace and privilege!

Can there be a legitimate time to leave a church? There can be times.

But what we can learn from Bonhoeffer is the needed attitude of our heart. And attitude of gratefulness for the fact that we have a fellowship to gather with. Not every believer gets to experience it week in and week out.

Yes things are not as you want them to be. The preaching is not of great quality. The youth program is next to nonexistent. The style of worship is strange. The policies are indecipherable. But it is still a gathering of believers.

So be thankful for the grace to visibly gather with the believers you do.

How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty;…

-ibid., 29

leper

The apprehension of God’s infinite knowledge should fill the Christian with adoration. The whole of my life stood open to his view from the beginning. He foresaw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding; yet, nevertheless, fixed his  heart upon me. Oh, how the realization of this should bow me in wonder and worship before him!

Arthur W. Pink,  The Attributes of God (Grand Rapids, MI: 1975), 26.

baby jesus in manger

Christ’s union with us in the incarnation is the foundation for our union with him, both now and in the eternal future. It is a pledge of our sonship, as Calvin wrote, for “our common nature with Christ is the pledge of our fellowship with the Son of God; and clothed with our flesh he vanquished death and sin together that the victory and triumph might be ours. He offered as a sacrifice the flesh he received from us, that he might wipe out our guilt by his act of expiation and appease the Father’s righteous wrath.”

-Robert Letham, Union with Christ: In Scripture, History, and Theology (Phillisburg NJ: P&R, 2011) 41, quoting John Calvin, Institutes, 2.12.3

Well Christmas is upon us. For this I am very glad!

One of the things I like about this season is that I get to break out the Christmas music. I thought I would share my favorite Christmas albums in hopes of spreading the Christmas cheer!

Savior

Songs filled with the wonderful theology of the Incarnation and of the mission the Incarnated Christ came to complete.

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Advent Songs

New feel to traditional (or not so traditional) Christmas songs from Sojourn Community Church. Over all very well done.

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Still

Nathan George and company bring a gentle folk tune to traditional Christmas songs.

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Christmas Songs

I have always enjoyed Fernando Ortega‘s work. The same enjoyment is carried over to his Christmas album.

61i4HwRpf7L._SL500_AA280_

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Behold the Lamb of God

Last, but certainly not least. Beginning in the Old Testament and journeying to the coming of Christ Andrew Peterson takes you through the big story of Christmas. You can hear the whole album here. And then buy it here. Or you can go see it if they are coming to your town.

btl-10-cover

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If you have any Christmas favorites you want to share feel free to share away.

…weakness may be consistent with the assurance of salvation. The disciples, notwithstanding all their weaknesses, are bidden to rejoice that their names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20). Failings with conflict, in sanctification should not weaknen the peace of our justification and assurance of salvation. It matters not so much what ill is in us, as what good; not what corruptions, but how we regard them; not what our particular failings are so much as what the thread and tenor of our lives are, for Christ’s dislike of that which is amiss in us turns not to the hatred of our persons but to the victorious subduing of all our infirmities.

Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1998), 96.

Library at SBTS

I know that there has not been much posting these last few months. Once the semester hit I did not have the time to get around to blogging. The graded assignments took priority over the blogs that aren’t. As the semester winds down I hope to work on posting things. Hope everyone is having a wonderful fall!

I remember looking at the situation before me.  I was working for a few dollars above minimum wage while wanting to go to seminary.  It seemed like I was walking common path of others who had gone before me. The path weaved up the sloop of getting a basic level job where you make enough to get through. This did not appeal to me for the simple reason that I didn’t want to count pennies to make sure I made my budget. I guess I am not that hard core.

Yes, we are not to worry about what we need. The flowers are cared for well and I believe I am of a bit more importance to the Lord than them. God wants us to look at the flowers and be taught. But as we notice the flowers He also wants us to notice the ant crawling down the stem. “Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest” (Pro. 6:7-8). Wisdom fears the Lord, thus trusting in His provision, and then gets to work. So trusting the Lord’s provision I explored the best way to be like the ant.

While exploring another option came open to me. I could take extra time to get a trade skill which I could use to get a good paying job. The benefits of taking this appraoch looked very appealing

  1. I could have breathing room in my budget. And even more that that I could, gasp(!), actually be saving money while going to seminary.
  2. This would mean that I would have flexibility with my finances that I could do things which I wanted to do. Like getting married and having babies without shuttering while I looked at my inflow and outflow.
  3. FREEDOOOOOM!!! (in ministry decisions at least). If I had a trade I could pack-up and move wherever I wanted since I did not have to be dependent on the finances of others. If I wanted to go with a team to church plant I didn’t have to rely on others to give funding. If I wanted to work in a particular church I did not have to wait for them to open a position. I could just show up!
  4. I would not have to go in debt. Going in debt has the benefit of providing the cash when it is needed. But the cost is long term for the quick infusion of cash. Debts can be wise when the pay off of the loan is going to out weight the long term cost. But for seminary the cost of a loan is heavy. That is because working in a church does not pay a lot of money. This means a loan is going to be a heavier financial burden. With a good paying job, however, a loan would not be a necessity. I could pay my way through and come out the other side debt free.

These points won me over. Looking long term, 5-10 years, getting a trade had a lot of pay off. Even if it ended right after seminary it would have the benefit of giving me stable finances through the program.

Now, I had already spent my four years of college at Boyce Bible College. I don’t regret that decision. I gained a lot through Boyce. But doing that meant that I could not use those four years to get the trade. So I took a break in between my time at Boyce and Southern to pursue a trade.

I can happily report that after a year of schooling I have learned a new trade and working in a job which has me set to fulfill all three points listed above! As the little picture on the side of this blog testifies I went to through a community college here in Louisville. I spent a year pursuing Medical Coding. Now I am working at a hospital doing just that.

If you are thinking of seminary I would advise that you think about this. The points I listed above are great reasons to consider the option. If you already have a trade then use it. But if you don’t I would say consider getting one. Here is how I went about getting mine.

I determined what I needed. I thought about the kind of job I needed which would fit with what I was planning on doing. Some jobs do not fit with school and ministry. So here are the basic points which the job I searched for had to meet:

  • It would give me the money I needed. Provision was what I was after. If it would not provide then there was no reason to pursue it.
  • It would fit with future ministry. There are great jobs out there but which can demand 50 or 60 hour work weeks. Such a job will not work with either school or bi-vocational ministry. I needed a job which could ride nicely with what else I wanted to do.
  • I could see myself doing it for a long time. Basically, I didn’t need a war in my inner man every morning to push myself out the door towards work. I needed something that could be my trade for the next 10 years or longer. I needed a basic enjoyment of the job so that I could do it well.
    • Now, one should not take this to the place where people in the world take it. Your job does not need to be your identity. I am not seeking fulfillment in the depth of my soul in what job I do. I simply asked the question, “can I do the job day in and day out with a basic level of enjoyment.”
  • It would not take a long time to get. I did not want to take another 4 years to get a job. It needed to be shorter. I was prepared to take up to two years to get an associates in something if I had to.

So with all the pillars set in place I moved forward. I stared out by Googling, “10 top paying jobs with an associate degree.” I took about three different lists which came up and look through each one. I ran each one through the grid above. If it failed one I dropped in and move on. If It seemed to fit I explored it more throughly. That is where I started.

To lend a helping hand let me give you some other places to start your search.

Certifications are a good places to look. Certifications for jobs take less time and less money. If you are looking for something quick but maybe not as much pay (depending upon what you get) you might want to look into it. Here is a list of different jobs in the medical world which want certifications.

There are schools around which offer intense programs for medical jobs. These programs can range from 6 months to little over a year. But you come out the other side with a trade and ready for a job. Here is one in Louisville for medical jobs called ATA.

Also, for those interested in business there are trade schools which focus on apprenticeships.

This one is a two year program in New York, NY called Enstitute :

Another one is called Praxis:

I have not looked into these programs a whole lot. But I wanted to bring them to your attention if you wanted to explore them.

You can also look into your local technical college and see what programs they offer which interests you. As, I said before, I found my local college gave a program in Medical Coding.

Hopefully this helps you start out on the right foot. I don’t know everything it every field so I can’t direct you to exactly what you are looking for. Hopefully this links, if they don’t directly help you, will give you a guide in your search.

Going back to the flower and the ant an important thing I experienced was God’s provision around and through my choice to pursue this job. Now, this is not “God helps those who helps themselves” kind of idea. But God does call us to take responsible actions. To take wise risks and move forward with the aim to glorify Him. And while we do He proves Himself faithful. Not because we earned it. But because He has promised to lead and shepherd us.

If anyone has any question please send them my way.

After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks. Even reeds need bruising, by reason of the remainder or pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy…

Hence we learn that we must not pass too harsh judgement upon ourselves or others when God exercises us with bruising upon bruising. There must be a conformity to our head, Christ, who ‘was bruised for us’ (Isa. 53:5) that we may know how much we are bound unto him.

Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1998), 5.

bonhoeffer-conf

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world…Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both…He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly.

…because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ…we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise.

…Even when sin and misunderstanding burden the communal life, is not the sinning brother still a brother, with whom I, too, stand under the Word of Christ? Will not his sin be a constant occasion for me to give thanks that both of us may live in the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ? Thus the very hour of disillusionment with my brother becomes incomparably salutary, because it is so thoroughly teaches me that neither of us can ever live by our own words and deed, but only by that one Word and Deed which really binds us together-the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ. When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York, NY: HarperOne, 1954), 27-29.

May Richard Sibbes words give you renewed strength to run as it did for me,

So, likewise, we should take heed of a spirit discouragement in all other holy duties, since we have such a gracious Saviour. Pray as we are able, hear as we are able, strive as we are able, do as we are able, according to the measure of grace received. God in Christ will cast a gracious eye upon that which is his own.

…Let us not be cruel to ourselves when Christ is thus gracious. There is a certain meekness of spirit whereby we yield thanks to God for any ability at all, and rest quiet with the measure of grace received, seeing it is God’s good pleasure it should be so, who gives the will and the deed, yet not so as to rest from further endeavours. But when, with faithful endeavour, we come short of what we would be, and short of what others are, then know for our comfort, Christ will not quench the smoking flax, and that sincerity and truth, as we said before, with endeavour of growth, is our perfection.

Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed (Carlisle, PA: The Banner Of Truth Trust, 1998), 51-52.

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