Archive for September, 2009

Why They Call It Work

September 30th, 2009

Let him labor, working with his hands what is good.” Ephesians 4:28 NKJV

“Work is a joy when what you are doing and where you are doing so partners with God.”

My thoughts today are about “why they call it work.”

Work is not always that enjoyable, is it? That’s why they call it work! Whether it’s called homework, or housework, or just work, where you do it is called a workplace. A major part of your life will be engaged in work. When so much of your years will be work related, it seems it would be wisest to better understand that, and to make the best of those hours and years. It is amusing that teens cannot wait to get their first job and those same teens’ grandparents often cannot wait for their last one.

Have you ever wondered if work is somehow related to Adam and Eve’s sin in Eden? Let me try to clear that up. It is wrongly assumed that work became a part of the penalty for their disobedience. Reading what God said to Adam about “painful toil” and the “sweat of your brow,” it would be easy to think that God decided work would be just for Adam’s misdeed. Read Genesis 3:17-19 NIV.

But look a little closer in the preceding chapter and you will see that meaningful work was both a gift from God, and Adam’s anticipated response to the bounty into which God created and placed him. “The Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:15 NIV. Yes, there is effort and sacrifice, and sometimes work just feels like – well, work! Work can be draining and difficult on many levels but consider this, there is also an element about your daily labor that is meant to be incredibly fulfilling and internally satisfying.

You were created to be productive, commanded to be fruitful, and you will not be fully content without that happening. “So God created man in His own image . . then God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion.'” Genesis 1:28 NKJV. You have a holy assignment, and it was not meant to be drudgery or punishment.

Your understanding of work changes when you dare to believe that what you are doing and where you are doing so is at the direction of your Heavenly Father and in partnership with Him. Let me address a couple of reasons why work is a blessed partnership. God wants to bless and abundantly reward your labor, “You will make your way prosperous, and then you will good success.” See Joshua 1:8 NIV/3 John 2 NIV. Maybe that’s why work is often called gainful employment.

Through your labor God wants to meet all your needs, and give you some to spare. “Let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” Ephesians 4:28 NKJV. Did you notice why God wants to give you some to spare? It is because God wants you to have your needs met and more, but not merely so you will have more and more than you need. Your Father wants to include you in His blessing plan of having something to share.

My prayer for you today is to know the joy that comes from serving God in your work.

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A Job Well Done

September 29th, 2009

“Well done, good and faithful servant!” Matthew 25:21 NIV

“Praise and appreciation are the fuel that drives achievement.”

My thoughts today are about “a job well done.”

What is any more satisfying than to be complimented for something that you have done, and done well? Hollywood, Broadway, and Nashville give numerous awards for entertainers in movies, television, videos, stage, and most genres of music, it seems. In addition, there is the Pulitzer Prize for outstanding public service and achievement in American journalism, letters, and music; the Nobel Prizes for significant achievement, the best known of which is the Nobel Peace Prize; and one of the more prestigious, the Peabody Award in electronic media.

Praise and appreciation are the fuel that drives achievement. Parents accomplish that with their words, smiles, and hugs. Bosses do that with awards, plaques, certificates, bonuses or raises. Any award seems to mean more when the person or group giving recognition means the most to you. A stranger’s compliment may be flattering but fleeting; a friend’s praise is cherished forever.

I am not sure there would be any little league teams if Mom and Dad were not in the stands. Those kids don’t yet play for the love of the game; they play for the cheers and congratulations of their parents and coaches. Some years ago, when our children were young, my stepfather gave me great parenting advice, “every child needs a sufficient number of ‘atta boys or ‘atta girls every day.” If those don’t come from you, they will seek them elsewhere.

Let me add a small word of caution. The need for applause and public acclaim can become seductive, even addictive, feeding the ego and pride rather than inspiring better efforts and greater accomplishments. Your best work and deepest satisfaction should come when you findĀ  personal joy in your own sense of knowing you offered your best and God is pleased, whether noticed by others or not.

There is a warning the Bible offers as well. Jesus warned those who “loved the praise (and approval) from men more than the praise (and approval) from God.” John 12:43 NIV/NAS. However great the applause and recognition of others might be, you will find no greater satisfaction than at the moment you finally stand before God and hear the Savior’s words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful . . enter into the joy of your Lord.” Matthew 5:21 NKJV. May that entrance be grand and to the applause of Heaven! Every earthly trophy and tribute will pale in comparison. Live always with Heaven in mind.

When all is said and done, the only opinions that ultimately matter are the Lord’s, and your own. “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does.” Ephesians 6:8 NIV. Your life should not accept any such distinction between the sacred and the secular. All you do for the cause and name of Christ is holy.

My prayer for you today is: don’t live for the crowd’s applause or approval; it never lasts.

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Living a Lifestyle of Loving

September 28th, 2009

“Love each other in the same way that I love you.” John 15:12 NLT

“Sometimes people are trying to pour love out of an empty pitcher.”

My thoughts today are about “living a lifestyle of loving.”

I think loving is pretty natural to a person in the sense of thinking well of others and treating them accordingly. Could there be anyone who has not loved someone at some time? Such a person would be hard for me to imagine. When Jesus says, “Love each other in the same way that I love you,” it sounds so natural and simple. You want to love and be loved; who doesn’t?

How then can something that seems so simple be so difficult to do consistently? Consider the encouragement that Jesus gives – “in the same way that I love you.” Do you read that as a human impossibility? That’s a mistake easily made and makes your efforts a more daunting task. What would change if instead of struggling with that as an impossible standard, you allowed God’s love to become the unfailing source from which you love?

Sometimes people are trying to pour love out of an empty pitcher. The problem could be seen as simple as filling the pitcher before you attempt to fill something from it. The more you allow God’s love to fill and heal your heart daily, the more readily you will find yourself able to pour love into others’ lives without such great, and often failing, effort. Love is not a warm, fuzzy feeling of emotion.

Love is the faithful expression of your will in obedience to God’s command, accomplished in God’s enabling ability. Here’s what I have come to believe with conviction: love to be authentic must be practical and observable. “Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence . . And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.” 1 John 3:18-19/23 NIV. Read that again slowly. Did you notice that loving one another is as clearly commanded as trusting in the name of Jesus?

If your expression of love is not a practical supply of another’s need and able to be known and experienced by them, it may be well intentioned benevolence but it is something less than love. Love is not about giving what you want to give when you want to do so, but about providing what another needs to receive when they most need it. It is always generous and sacrificial, and usually inconvenient – but oh so satisfying to the one who receives it and the one who gives it.

Let me share another’s practical suggestions of how to live a lifestyle of loving: “people are insecure – give them confidence; People need to feel special – compliment them; people look for a better tomorrow – give them hope; people need to be understood – listen to them; people need examples – be one! Now those are simple, everyday things that you can do – giving people the practical love that Jesus gives you.

My prayer for you today is: love as a lifestyle, not an emotion or occasional action.

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The Simple and Satisfying Life

September 25th, 2009

“What do you have that God hasn’t given you?” 1 Corinthians 4:7 NLT

“You serve at God’s pleasure, with God’s provision, under God’s direction.”

My thoughts today are about “the simple and satisfying life”

It is tempting to presume that who you are, or what you have, or what you can do is of our own making. It rarely, if ever, is. Your individual talents, abilities, possessions, and even your relationships and opportunities are not things you own. When Paul was addressing the pride and boasting of believers in Corinth, he challenged them to consider, “What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if all you have is from God, why boast as though you have accomplished something on your own?” 1 Corinthians 4:7 NLT. Not easy to miss Paul’s point or debate his reasoning.

Among the first words a toddler learns to express is their declaration of ownership, “Mine!” And it seems that one of the hardest and last things they learn as adults is how very few things really are! If they ever realize it at all. The Bible describes this insatiable need to own and control and the internal and external conflicts that result in this way, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” James 4:1 NIV.

There is very little that originates with any of us, or of which any of us are truly owners; you are really a steward spiritually of whatever has been entrusted to you by God, out of His grace and ample provision. See 1 Corinthians 4:2 NIV. That being true, you are not free to do with that as you please. You serve at God’s pleasure, out of God’s provision, under God’s direction, and with ultimate accountability to Him. “As each has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of GodĀ  . . So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12 NIV/1 Peter 4:10 NAS. That’s what stewards do.

I think that most of would prefer be owners, but the reality is that all of us are stewards – a more current business position would be called a manager. A manager is a person given a trust by someone else to faithfully and effectively serve the other’s best intents and interests. With that trust comes a required loyalty and accountability. Loyalty and accountability are not optional for anyone, especially stewards. “Now a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. What about me? Have I been faithful? . . It is the Lord Himself who will examine me and decide.” 1 Corinthians 4:2-4 NLT.

Owner or steward? You have to decide. Life is so much simpler for you when you have less to worry about and fewer to whom you answer. Anything you have is out of His gracious supply; everything you are is the product of His presence in your life; all that you can do or give is to be for His service and glory. That’s the simple and satisfying life.

My prayer for you today is: rejoice to be a recipient and steward of God’s benevolence.

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Careful What You Say!

September 24th, 2009

“Say only yes when you mean yes, and no when you mean no.” James 5:12 TEV

“Long after spoken, words may linger in a person’s heart or in their life, for good or bad.”

My thoughts today are: “careful what you say!”

It has been said with understated oversimplification, “words mean something!” Of course they do. With words God created all that you see and know of this physical universe. See Genesis 1:3/John 1:1-3/Hebrews 11:3 NIV. God obviously values the power of words.

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Cook, in my elementary school in North Venice, Illinois, planted the seeds in me to appreciate words. She taught me to want to use them well. My Dad taught me to want to use them wisely. I remember my Dad talking about it being important to “say what you mean, and always mean what you say!” He considered that a man was never any better than his word. I probably still need to practice the lessons from them both!

The Bible gives a good guideline; Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29 NLT. They can hurt or heal, encourage or discourage, teach or taunt, raise doubts or dispel them, inspire to greatness or incite to violence. Words are a priceless commodity used wisely and a tragic waste when squandered.

Sometimes a person may treat their words as though they mean nothing special. Words are flung into the air as though they are instantly disposable, evaporating with the hearing of them, but they don’t disappear even when you wish they would have. Everyone knows that words can linger for good or bad in another’s heart or mind – or in their life – long after they were spoken.

People use words they don’t really mean, just because they may feel that way at the moment. And when the feelings change, they wonder why their words still matter to someone that can’t just forget them. People use words to make promises they may not be as careful to keep. “Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought . . therefore let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2 NAS. Like everything else, too much of a good thing dilutes the value. There are words spoken I wish had not been, and times when words were left unspoken when I wish they had been. Good to know when to speak up; great to know when to shut up!

The Psalmist prayed this prayer, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord!” Psalm 19:14 NIV. That would probably be a good thing to ask every morning before you begin your day, and every evening when you return home. It’s good to have a Godly filter, and that honest prayer is the best one.

You will observe in life that no one will value your words any more than you seem to value them by making sure they are true, they are kind, and they are correct. Life will be smoother; friendships will be cleaner; misunderstandings and hurts will be fewer; apologies will be less needed, when you “say only yes when you mean yes, and no when you mean no.” Try it. I think you will be pleased to see how well that works.

My prayer for you today is: make your words count for what is eternal.

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