Guess what? Prayer makes a difference.

After wrestling with a technical problem for several months I finally found a solution today! So grateful to God for that. Kind of fits in with my recent thoughts about offering all my work to God.

This particular project has been a thorn in my side for a while now. There were other aspects of it that were making me feel angry and anxious by turns. Recalling my own advice, and some I’d read in earlier editions of this daily devotional, I decided to “take authority” (Jesus’s, not mine) over the project and I commanded it to get in line with God’s will – which, generally speaking, does not include angst, friction or constant frustration.

To be honest I felt a bit stupid praying like that. But – my technical problem is fixed and I feel much more hopeful and peaceful about the rest. Who’d have thought it? God cares, and prayer makes a difference 🙂

Learning to “Work for the Lord” in everything

Let's be honest: Work's a pain sometimes. A drag, a nuisance, a source of stress and all the rest. That might be work that's paid or stuff I have to do at home. In both spheres my lot in life is waaaaay better than many people's. I'm constantly challenged to be thankful. But at least with that challenge I know what to do – thank God for stuff and stop complaining.

There's a broader challenge in the way I regard my work. I've a habit of thinking there's something more satisfying, or more meaningful, just round the corner. I even (gasp) sometimes think about how many years remain in my working life. But scripture challenges all that fair and square, because in at least two places it suggests that every job or task should be and can be done “for God”. Here's the first:

Colossians 3:23-24

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

And here's another:

Ephesians 6:7-8

Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.

I kind of get the impression that “working for the Lord” isn't reserved for vicars and missionaries.

I'll admit it's tempting to conclude that it's just a bit of psychology to kid yourself – pretending that some job in an office, factory, home, supermarket, kitchen, garage or school is serving God so that Christians can feel better. A possible interpretation of the phrase “as though you were working for the Lord…” is “even though you're not really”. But I don't think the rest of the verses leave room for that. I think it's more like, “remembering that you're working for the Lord”.

Hanging out the washing - for Jesus?

So yesterday I hung out some washing then spent over two hours hoovering and washing my car. In a couple of days I'll have to do some more washing. In a few days the car will no doubt be dirty again on the outside and in a few weeks there'll be so many stones in the driver's footwell you'd never know I'd cleaned it. Cleaning things is like that; the effects don't last. Yet, somehow, if I offer that labour to the Lord it pleases Him and I put myself in line for “an inheritance”. So I did.

Years ago I did a time management course where they taught you to distinguish between “maintenance” tasks that just keep things going and “progress” tasks that bring improvement or innovation. Naturally the idea was to minimise maintenance and focus on improvement. Even the church likes to talk about “moving from maintenance to mission”. It's true that sometimes the stuff I do is going round in circles in a pointless way or “keeping the lights on” where really they should be allowed to go out! It's good to question what I spend my time doing. But guess what? Even so-called “improvement”, “innovation” or “mission” tasks and projects can seem, or may eventually be, insignificant or fruitless and will ultimately be forgotten.

I'm beginning to grasp that what matters most is (surprise, surprise) my heart attitude behind the work. I have to ask for the Holy Spirit's help with choosing what to do, how to do it and all the rest. Then I have to remember that it's Christ I'm serving – whether I'm stacking chairs after church, pulling weeds out of the garden or running a software upgrade project. And then I need to offer it all to Him.

I'm big on life having “meaning” and “purpose”, but It's no good me searching for it by trying to assign a “meaningfulness” score to every activity in life. That way lies anxiety, discontentment and disappointment. No; God's plan is clearly that I should do what I do, where I am, with what I've got and what I'm called to – and offer it all to Him, moment by moment.

I'm big on life having “meaning” and “purpose”, but It's no good me searching for it by trying to assign a “meaningfulness” score to every activity in life.

And that's the challenge facing me. While I like to think of myself as quite bright I've not cracked this after more than thirty years. Not so bright now, eh? But this isn't about intelligence; it's about surrender, faith and allowing Christ to transform my stupid thinking.

Excuse me while I go sweep up in the garden…

 

Plectrum to Pen: Traycer hints at next writing project

Following our exclusive interview and Solomon's guest post during his sell-out Spanish tour, the multi-talented and somewhat mysterious Mr Traycer has been good enough to write for us once again.


This music lark is a delight. I mean, at my age, to discover one's writing seems to work in a completely new context is just so thrilling. To have a bunch of superb musicians willing to make me look good is staggering. And then to find that the notoriously fickle public are actually prepared to part with money to listen to us is the cherry on the proverbial icing on the jolly cake. I feel like a kid again! And believe me, it's a very long time since I really was. So long, in fact, that I struggle to remember who was on the throne at the time. Vague recollections of bedtime stories of a failed rebellion in Scotland but that's as far as it goes…Sorry, I digress.

Well, after Spain we had a big conflab about the planned Traycer Band LP, sorry, I mean album. Apparently the first two singles sold well enough for Goldstar to give us the backing for a full studio session and it's all due to kick off in August! We have about six songs lined up, ideas for another three and no idea about the rest. It's a while off yet but it'll come round soon enough so we need some serious creative juice-flowing to happen pretty soon.

I like to keep a few irons in the fire so at the same time I'm talking to my publisher about the next book. After an epic historical fantasy series like Rider of the Ages I decided to dial back the mythological / extra-terrestrial / sci-fi element but still run a little wild with some what-if history rewrites. The classic example is “What if the Nazis had won the war?”, and it's been done a few times. So I'm trying to be somewhat more subtle but no less surprising.

Naturally I'm only at outline stage and haven't even signed a deal yet, but I wondered whether I could do a bit of the modern “focus group” thing and offer a little taster for your considered opinion? Good. Bearing in mind, then, that the finished product may quite possibly bear absolutely no resemblance, here for your delectation is the possible blurb for the forthcoming Solomon W. Traycer novel, A Kingdom Divided:

In a post-war Britain where Churchill was re-elected and Ulster stands on the brink of leaving the UK to create a united Ireland, the Prime Minister enjoys a surprisingly warm relationship with Soviet Russia's Josef Stalin. Unbeknown to the PM, Stalin's agents are behind a resurgence in Scottish and Welsh nationalism creating unrest and pressure for independence. Angered by the UK's cosying up to the USSR, the USA threatens Churchill with a trade embargo.

Why is the British PM so willing to co-operate with Stalin, and what does the USSR hope to gain by destabilising the UK? Top civil servants, horrified at the turn of events, send out secret cries for help to other countries. Secret Service agents are staggered to receive a reply from a most surprising source – disgraced Nazi Rudolf Hess. Under the guise of a trade mission, agent Sammy White arranges to meet Hess in a secret location in Berlin…

So there you go. Does it grab you? Would you want to read it? I'd be awfully grateful for your thoughts.

Why is the British PM so willing to co-operate with Stalin, and what does the USSR hope to gain by destabilising the UK?

(Feel free to use the comment thingy below, or if you're an old-fashioned soul at heart you can write to me c/o my agent, Shackleton Promotions, 3rd Floor, Blackstone Building, Heath Lane, Bath, BA32 7JH.)

 

Photo Post: Playing with Colour Picker

Image

Took this in my mum and dad's back garden. It's a bird box in a tree. Big wow. The thing I like is the magical exclusion of all colours except one. (It's blue, if you didn't spot it.) This ability to pick a particular colour on the Canon Ixus 800 IS is called…drum roll please…the Colour Picker. Purists will probably be horrified, so I apologise to you. I just like this effect and wanted to share my delight 🙂

 

Oi! God’s speaking, so listen up!

I was reading the incident in Luke 5 where Jesus healed the paralysed bloke whose mates got him in front of Jesus by vandalising the roof of the house. He did an amazing thing here; well, two amazing things. Actually, three amazing things.

The first is that he forgave the guy's sins (verse 20). The religious types were understandably shocked. After all, for them, forgiveness entails goats and bulls and blood and guts and the right ceremonies.

The second is that he made him well. That, my friend, is not normal. No potions, antibiotics or physio – just a word of command.

The third is that he didn't seem to bat an eyelid at the fact that the man's friends would probably find themselves served with a lawsuit for damage to property, or at the very least a third-party insurance claim. Nah, not really – the third amazing thing is that he linked the first and second amazing things together:

Luke 5:23-24

Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

In other words, he proved his authority by doing a miracle – giving them a sign, if you will. And he pointed out that the forgiving thing and the miracle thing are equally tough. God's territory, in fact.

So it must have been pretty galling for Jesus when they later started asking for “a sign” to prove he was from God (Matthew 12:38 and 16:1) and asking what authority he had to do his thing in the temple (Matthew 21:23). Short-term memory loss, I guess.

Or maybe Jesus wasn't surprised at all, knowing, as he did, the true nature of what it is to be human – people born with a God-rejecting nature who'll display astonishing prowess at ignoring God's “signs” and, if you'll pardon the phrase, sticking two fingers up at his authority. The Bible says plenty about that. In Romans chapter 1 for example:

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

Taking a bird's eye view of the whole of the Bible reveals a repeating pattern, over and over again. God warns, God reveals, people ignore, people disobey, people reject, people suffer. Pick pretty much any part you like, Genesis to Revelation, and it's there. The whole of history is a tale of God reaching out to His creation, forbearing, forgiving, providing chance after chance to recognise His authority and accept the signs He sends. Even down to what I believe will be a literal thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth (the millennium) – it's all about showing that, even in the best of circumstances, with the strongest of evidence, the heart of a human is still inclined to rebellion against its creator. Wow.

So if you're not a Christian take heed of the signs and don't reject your creator. Get right with Him through faith in Jesus. If you don't, you will pay a terrible price.

So if you're a Christian take heed of the signs and don't reject your creator. Listen to what He's telling you through scripture and your circumstances and do what He says, go where He leads. If you don't, you too will pay a price and end up wasting time, energy and strength building stuff that'll just get burnt up.

What sign from God are you looking for right now? Maybe He's already sent it and you're just not looking.