30.3 Our Job: Keep On Keepin’ On.

30.3

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic Two: Serving Christ in the Workplace.                      

Our reading for today: 2nd Timothy 2: 1-7 (MsgB)

So, my son, throw yourself into this work for Christ. Pass on what you heard from me—the whole congregation saying Amen! — to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others. When the going gets rough, take it on the chin with the rest of us, the way Jesus did. A soldier on duty doesn’t get caught up in making deals at the marketplace. He concentrates on carrying out orders. An athlete who refuses to play by the rules will never get anywhere. It’s the diligent farmer who gets the produce. Think it over. God will make it all plain.

My mentor, Pastor John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard church movement, had a wonderful way of encouraging every Christian he knew to pro-actively involve themselves, on a daily basis, with the Kingdom ministry of Jesus. When asked about who God picks to step into this role of ministry, or as Wimber called it, “Doin’ Jesus’ Stuff”, he’d quickly reply…

Everybody gets to play!

As I see it, every follower of Christ who finds themselves reading this blog post; whether they are young or old, rich or poor, college-educated or street-smart, is called by the Master to “go and bless” those around us, giving away the good things Jesus has deposited in our lives. Using Paul’s words of encouragement to his young disciple friend, Timothy, “So, my son, throw yourself into this work of Christ.”

Sadly, over the centuries, the Church has developed the hard-n-fast concept of the “professional minister”. For most of my thirty years in pastoral ministry, I’ve tried my best, like John Wimber, to break that glass ceiling, opening up the ministry of Jesus to every person who attends our church. Looking back, I’m not sure how well we’ve succeeded at that task, but until my dying breath, I’m determined to tell you what John told us…

Everybody gets to play!

So as we close this section of our discipleship blog series, Serving Christ in the Workplace, let me echo once more that very unique call Jesus of Nazareth has placed upon your life and mine.

You, my friend, as we’ve stated earlier in this series, are God’s Plan A. And like it or not, God has no Plan B! The words and works of Jesus have now been offered to you. As one wise man says it, “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies those He calls!” Thus, the decision on whether or not you will walk in that calling, as a dedicated follower of Christ, is in your court, not God’s. His Plan A is to walk alongside you, day after day, into your workplace, and it’s your choice if you want to take advantage of that Holy-Spirit directed favor…or not!

My prayer is that you understand that call and are doing your very best to fulfill that purpose in your life. So here’s two little pieces of advice for you as we continue serving Christ in our workplaces…

First, I echo the encouragement some accredit to St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1200)…

Go out and preach the Gospel; and if necessary, use words.

Secondly, I bring to your attention, the wisdom of musician Curtis Mayfield (circa 1970)…

Keep on keepin’ on!

You see, the goal here is not to become the first man or woman to finish the race. Jesus has already done that for us. The goal, as dedicated followers of the Master, is to keep showing up, day after day, believing that it’s not the degree of effectiveness Christ is evaluating in my life, but simply, my on-going faithfulness to the task He’s given me.

Now, let’s go out and get about the business of the Lord!

My prayer: Jesus, one thing is for certain. You have commissioned us to continue Your work in this generation. I hear the call, now empower me with the Holy Spirit so I might respond faithfully, giving You my daily best. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: What will “keep on keepin’ on” look like in my life today? How might I best present the good news of the Gospel through the actions I take today with those around me?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

30.2 Yahweh Vs. Your Way?

30.2

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic Two: Serving Christ in the Workplace.                      

Our reading for today: 1st John 2: 15-17 (MsgB)

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

Those in the know (i.e. career counselors, job researchers, etc.) tell us that the typical American worker will have, on average, five to seven different careers throughout their working life. Those same experts go on to say that with the ever-increasing number of career choices available to us, combined with the growing unpredictability found in the job market, about one-third of the total workforce will now change jobs every twelve months. One recent report states that by the age of forty-two, most Americans will already have had about ten jobs! Combine that with approximately ten million layoffs each year in the American work force, and we have one very volatile work environment.

Hmm.

Throughout my lifetime, as best as I can figure, I’ve had four different careers (music educator, bookstore manager, parachurch ministry worker, and local church pastor), with dozens of varying jobs within those four major careers. And that, of course, doesn’t count the odds-n-ends kind of stuff that has supplemented my income along the way! Oh…and don’t forget the three or four times I was either fired or laid-off from a job!

Whew…after 40+ years in the American workforce, I’m getting’ kinda tired just thinking about it!

Yet, for those of us who see our jobs as assignments from God, it can be very difficult, at times, to keep our perspective on how we might best serve the Master even though our actual career or job might change more rapidly than we were expecting. Back in the day, when I attended the University of Iowa (1969-1973) I was expecting music to be my bread-n-butter career for life. But, in actuality, I only had five years as a band director before God started meddling, directing me (through being unexpectedly fired/laid off) to look at a different career path than I was first trained for.

How about you? Has God suddenly pulled the rug out from beneath you in the workplace? Sometimes, just the opposite can happen, and without warning, a new job opportunity opens up without you ever searching for it! That’s happened to me as well, as recently as the last few years, as Sandy & I have now become part-time trainers in spiritual direction with Sustainable Faith.

In truth, you just can’t predict the future when it comes to your job. Which brings me to today’s Scripture. Look again at John’s words of encouragement to his friends…

Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from Him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.

As I see it, the key to being truly fruitful in this ever-changing work environment is to remove, as best we can, that fleshly desire of wanting, wanting, wanting; and replace it with desiring God and His Kingdom more than we want the stuff the world offers us. Yes, it’s certainly true that a paycheck is vitally important in putting food on the table and clothes on our bodies, but I’ve found, over my years of ups and downs in my work experience, that it’s even truer that God’s favor is much more valuable than the best job ever offered me by man.

One good friend of mine once spelled it out for me by asking this good question…

“Marty, which ‘way’ do you really want your life to go…Yah-weh or your way?”

You know, when my friend put it that way; I say…

My prayer: Jesus, despite all the ups and downs on my career path; I’m here to follow You. Whether I have a lot of success in my job, or little success at all, I choose to want You and Your way in my life vs. trying to find my way! Fill me Holy Spirit and give me strength this day to follow Jesus, wherever He may lead. Lead on, Master…lead on! For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: I’ve often been told there is a major difference between wanting trivial things in life versus desiring things that really matter. So am I willing today to lay down my fleshly wanting, wanting, wanting in order to desire God’s best for me?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

75,000 Hits! Amazing!

75000

We’ve been sharing our writings via our As I See It blog since January of 2010, and just this week, our website topped the 75,000 hit mark! Wow! We are both honored and humbled by this wonderful response of our blog readers. In celebration of our 75,000 hits, we decided to re-post our most popular blog over the last year. This post, Let It Be. Fiat Mihi, comes from Our Ignatian Prayer Adventure Series blog series, Days of Preparation: Week Four/Session One where the theme is: God’s Invitation to Greater Freedom.

Enjoy!

4.1

Our scripture reading for today: Luke 1: 26-38.

(Mary) was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call His name Jesus…And Mary said, “Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” (Luke 1: 29-31, 38a MsgB)

The Fiat Mihi.

No, I’m not talking about an Italian sports car.

The Fiat Mihi is the Latin term used in the Catholic Church to describe the amazing response of Mary to the angel Gabriel, upon being told that she had been chosen to carry the Son of God in her womb. “Fiat mihi” when translated from Latin to English is “Be it done in me” or, as Eugene Peterson translates it in The Message Bible, “Let it be with me.”

Sadly, they don’t teach Latin in schools now-a-days. It’s called a dead language. But interestingly, in church history, those who understand Latin can often gain a bit of insight, just as those who study the original Greek and Hebrew of the Scriptures. The Latin word “fiat” is a form of the word “to make” or “to do” and in the Vulgate Bible (long used in the Catholic church) the Latin in Luke 1: 38 reads this way…

“ecce ancilla Domini fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum”

Which rendered in English reads as: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Thy word.”

Now watch this. If we turn to Genesis 1, we find this phrase in Latin:

“dixitque Deus fiat lux et facta est lux”

Which rendered in English means: “And God said: Be light made. And light was made.” (Genesis 1:3) This form of words using “fiat” as the action word is repeated in the other accounts of the acts of creation (see Genesis 1:6 & 14).

So indeed, God’s “fiat” was His act of creation, while Mary’s “fiat” was her consent to the Incarnation. Fiat. Let it be.

As I was pondering this phrase, my musical mind wandered back to the 1970’s and the popular tune written by Paul McCartney and recorded by The Beatles.

When I find myself in times of trouble,
Mother Mary comes to me.
Speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be.”

And in my hour of darkness,
She is standing right in front of me.
Speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be.”

Let it be, let it be,
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom,
“Let it be.”

According to McCartney, who was asked years later how his classic song, “Let It Be”, came to be, said that his mother, named Mary, who died in the 1950’s, long before The Beatles became world icons, came to him in a dream just during the time The Beatles were breaking up as a band. McCartney was quite troubled during this season of his life and apparently this vivid dream, where his mum came to him speaking words of comfort, eventually evolved into a song that most listeners around the world assumed was speaking of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

As I see it, “Let It Be” or “Fiat Mihi” is a pretty powerful phrase, especially when it is used by a follower of Jesus as a heart-response to the voice of the Lord. Nothing milk-toasty here! Let It Be is not a fatalistic resignation. It’s not…“whatever will be, will be.” Nor is it…“Don’t worry, be happy” or “Hakuna matata.”

Let It Be, when spoken by those responding to God, is no casual statement. Let It Be is a line in the sand; a strong stance of “come hell or high water, I’m committed to what God has planned for me.” Let It Be is saying “Yes” to God’s invitation to fully participate with Him, despite the personal cost or the pain involved.

Could be that Paul McCartney was more right than he ever imagined! Let It Be just might be the wisest words any human being can speak when being asked by our Creator to join with Him in His redemption and re-creation of this broken and battered world in which we live.

My prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God. Fiat Mihi. May it be done with me just as You say! For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So where is God looking for my Fiat Mihi today? What God-invitation is being extended to me and what obstacles are standing in my way, blocking me from saying the strong words Mary spoke, “Fiat Mihi…may Your will be done in me just as You say?”

If you like what you’re reading here at thecontemplativeactivist.com, might we suggest you share this blog with others!

30.1 Sharing All The Good Things You Have…At Work!

30.1

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic Two: Serving Christ in the Workplace.                      

Our reading for today: Galatians 6: 4-6 (MsgB)

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.

If you’ve been with us throughout this blog series, A Journey into 3-C Christian Discipleship, you know that it’s our hope that what we offer here is not just words of encouragement, but also some practical examples you and I can act upon along the way.

Today, as we continue this leg of our journey; learning how to better serve Christ in the workplace, let me offer you some practical examples (30, in fact!) on how we might become more proactive in our Christ-appointed missional assignments found at our workplace. (Much thanks to this creative list as published by The Verge Network):

Many times it’s difficult to find practical ways to be a blessing in your workplace. Rapid pace, mounting deadlines, or co-worker conflict can often derail even the best of intentions to say and show the love of Jesus at work. Here are some very practical ideas for blessing others in the workplace:

  1. Instead of eating lunch alone, intentionally eat with other co-workers and learn their story.
  2. Get to work early so you can spend some time praying for your co-workers and the day ahead.
  3. Make it a daily priority to speak or write encouragement when someone does good work.
  4. Bring extra snacks when you make your lunch to give away to others.
  5. Bring breakfast (donuts, burritos, cereal, etc.) once a month for everyone in your department.
  6. Organize a running/walking group for before or after work hours.
  7. Have your missional community/small group bring lunch to your workplace once a month.
  8. Create a regular time to invite coworkers over or out for drinks.
  9. Make a list of your co-worker’s birthdays and find a way to bless everyone on their birthday.
  10. Organize and throw office parties as appropriate to your job.
  11. Make every effort to avoid gossip in the office. Be a voice of thanksgiving not complaining.
  12. Find others that live near you and create a car pool.
  13. Offer to throw a shower for a co-worker who is having a baby.
  14. Offer to cover for a co-worker who needs time off for something.
  15. Start a regular lunch out with co-workers (don’t be selective on the invites).
  16. Organize a weekly/monthly pot luck to make lunch a bit more exciting.
  17. Ask someone who others typically ignore if you can grab them a soda/coffee while you’re out.
  18. Be the first person to greet and welcome new people.
  19. Make every effort to know the names of co-workers and clients along with their families.
  20. Visit coworkers when they are in the hospital.
  21. Bring sodas or work-appropriate drinks to keep in your break room for coworkers to enjoy. Know what your co-workers like.
  22. Go out of your way to talk to those who are often overlooked (i.e.: janitors and cleaning people).
  23. Find out your co-worker’s favorite music and make a playlist that includes as much as you can (if suitable for work).
  24. Invite your co-workers in to the service projects you are already involved in.
  25. Start/join a city league team with your co-workers.
  26. Organize a weekly co-working group for local entrepreneurs at a local coffee shop.
  27. Start a small business that will bless your community and create space for mission.
  28. Work hard to reconcile co-workers who are fighting with one another.
  29. Keep small candy, gum, or little snacks around to offer to others during a long day.
  30. Lead the charge in organizing others to help co-workers in need.

As I see it, what better way can we proactively act on today’s scripture than putting into place a generous handful of some of these great workplace ideas? As Paul states it, “make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that…sharing all the good things that you have and experience.”

Hey gang…time to get to W-O-R-K!

My prayer: Jesus, it’s obvious that there are many creative ways I can be Your caring servant at my workplace, especially if I take the extra time needed to simply act on Your desire to use me as a blessing to others. Whether it be a larger project of blessing or just a handful of simple acts of kindness, lead me and guide me with Your Holy Spirit. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: Which of the thirty acts of blessing suggested here stand out for me as ones I can act on today at work? Which suggestions are simple and sustainable in my workplace, and are consistent with who I am and my on-going desire to bless others?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into 3-C Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

Why Are You Looking For Life In A Cemetery?

Easter 2017. Resurrection Sunday. He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed!

27.2

At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus. They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how He told you when you were still back in Galilee that He had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words. (Luke 24: 1-8 MsgB)

I appreciate the fact that apparently in heaven, sarcastic humor is considered a spiritual gift.

Here in the midst of the greatest story ever told, our two angel friends just can’t help throwing a bit of sarcastic humor into the mix.

Somehow I think in heaven, the word has spread on how goofy and unreliable the human existence actually is when given the straight facts. These angels, for example, know full well that every word that comes out of the mouth of God is true. Totally reliable. A done deal.

So when Jesus, the Son of that same reliable and trustworthy God, says He will have to go to Jerusalem, die on a cross, and then after three days will rise again; if you’re an angel, apparently you know full well that you can take those words to the bank.

Thus the little wise crack here that pokes a bit of fun at these poor, confused human beings who are searching in a cemetery for any signs of life!

“Why in the world are you here looking for life? Doesn’t anybody down here know better than to look for someone living in a cemetery! Oy vey!

I can almost detect a bit of Jewish accent in these angels as they talk, winking an eye to one another, wondering to themselves when these thick-headed human beings on the planet will finally get a clue.

Hey, guess what gang? When Jesus speaks something, He really means it!

And so it goes.

For thousands of years now, we humans have our unique ways of living life outside of our ability to trust whatever God says.

Jesus, for example, in the gospels tells us with certainty that He has come to bring us life, and life to the full. In other places in God’s Word, we find that any life lived outside of the magnificent presence of God is much less than full life, and in most cases, death, itself.

Yet we humans so easily ignore these powerful words of promise and spend so much of our valuable time here on earth searching for life in cemeteries and looking for love in all the wrong places!

No wonder these two angels seem a bit sarcastic when they find these close friends of Jesus turning over moldy gravestones in a cemetery, looking for the Living Christ.

You know, now that I think about it, it does look a bit foolish doesn’t it? I guess I can see why these angelic beings are just a bit amused at how backward thinking we humans can be sometimes. Maybe if we’d just listen to God a bit more carefully and actually believe and act on what He says, we’d spend much less time in cemeteries and much more time in God’s presence, where real life is found.

Makes me wonder if I might want to re-evaluate all of what Jesus says and take it just a bit more seriously, don’t you think?

My prayer: Lord, I’m struck at the sad truth these angels speak to us human beings as we are found wandering aimlessly in cemeteries looking for life. Holy Spirit, empower me to be stronger in my belief and ability to believe that if God speaks, I can trust it to be true. I believe, Jesus, but help me in my unbelief. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: How am I like these friends of Jesus, wandering hopelessly and aimlessly in a cemetery looking for the Living One? Where have I allowed grief, worries or unbelief to cause me to forget the promises found in Jesus’ words? How can I step out of life’s cemeteries and begin looking for life in God’s presence instead?

So, what is the Spirit of God whispering to you on this Resurrection Sunday?

29.3 Amazing Grace In The Workplace.

29.3

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic Two: Serving Christ in the Workplace.                      

Our reading for today: Ephesians 6: 5-9 (MsgB)

Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.  Masters, it’s the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them.

Back in the day when Paul wrote these words, slavery was not only legal, but it was the norm! And the concepts of profit-sharing, employee benefits, matching-fund IRA’s, and a 40-hour work week were as a foreign to the workplace as night is to day! Yet, Paul, even in a work environment as cruel as it was in the first century, is encouraging his fellow believers to not get caught up in loud complaining, but rather, go about their labors as if they were actually employed by God!

Of course, the great equalizer here is that Paul is not just speaking to employees but he’s also addressing employers as well! You see, to Jesus, it doesn’t matter if you are an employee or an employer. Both are required by the Master to be otherly men and women, watching out for those around us, caring as much about the livelihood of our fellow workers as much as we’re caring for ourselves.

Yet, alas, in today’s dog-eat-dog world of business and commerce, there are not many places of employment where the Golden Rule is Job One.

So, what’s a Christ-follower to do?

As I see it, the best answer to living and working in this consumer-driven culture where the one with the most toys at the end of the day wins, is to live, as best we can, the counter-culture, Christ-centered life Paul suggests here to his friends in Ephesus. You see, if I can go to work today with the attitude and work-habits of Christ, serving others before they serve me first, caring more about the least of those around me than my own personal success; I’m actually living the world-changing life Jesus has empowered me to live. And through the mighty work of the Holy Spirit, my Christ-centered, Christ-honoring actions just might spark a flame of revival that might soon spread to others around me.

A good example that comes to mind is the story of John Newton. Let me share his story here, thanks to the website, The Abolition Project:

At just 11 years old, (John) Newton went to sea with his father. In 1743 he was on his way to a position as a slave master on a plantation in Jamaica, when he was pressed into naval service. He became a midshipman but after demotion for trying to desert, he requested an exchange to a slave ship bound for West Africa. Eventually he reached the coast of Sierra Leone where he became the servant of an abusive slave trader. In 1748, he was rescued by a sea captain and returned to England. During a storm, when it was thought the ship might sink, he prayed for deliverance. This experience began his conversion to evangelical Christianity. Later, whilst aboard a slave vessel bound for the West Indies, he became ill with a violent fever and asked for God’s mercy; an experience he claimed was the turning point in his life. Despite this, he continued to participate in the Slave Trade. In 1750, he made a further voyage as master of the slave ship ‘Duke of Argyle’ and two voyages on the ‘African’. He admitted that he was a ruthless businessman and an unfeeling observer of the Africans he traded. Slave revolts on board ship were frequent. Newton mounted guns and muskets on the desk aimed at the slaves’ quarters. Slaves were lashed and put in thumbscrews to keep them quiet. In 1754, after a serious illness, he gave up seafaring altogether. In 1757, he applied for the Anglican priesthood. It was seven years before he was accepted. On 17th June 1764, he finally became a priest at Olney in Buckinghamshire. He became well known for his pastoral care and respected by both Anglicans and nonconformists. He collaborated with William Cowper to produce a volume of hymns, including ‘Amazing Grace’. So popular was his preaching, that the church could not accommodate all those who flocked to hear him. Newton began to deeply regret his involvement in the Slave Trade. After he became Rector of St Mary Woolnoth, in London in 1779, his advice was sought by many influential figures in Georgian society, among them the young M.P., William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was contemplating leaving politics for the ministry. Newton encouraged him to stay in Parliament and “serve God where he was”. Wilberforce took his advice, and spent the rest of his life working towards the abolition of slavery. In 1787, Newton wrote a tract supporting the campaign, ‘Thoughts upon the African Slave Trade’, which was very influential. It graphically described the horrors of the Slave Trade and his role in it. He later joined William Wilberforce in the campaign for abolition of the Slave Trade. In February 1807, when the act to abolish the Slave Trade finally became law, John Newton, nearly blind and near death, “rejoiced to hear the wonderful news.”

You see, for John Newton, God’s amazing grace came flooding in on the hardened heart of a professional slave trader, making him see things he’d never seen before. A man who once was employed as a slave trader had now become an “employee” of the Master, working for change in a world that insisted that there was nothing wrong with slavery.

Hmm. I wonder what social injustices are being overlooked today in the work place? Injustices that Jesus is highly concerned about, but sadly, has no one listening because His servants are too consumed with climbing the corporate ladder for themselves?

Maybe, just maybe, you might be the next John Newton on Jesus’ work agenda? Or maybe the Holy Spirit might use your Christ-likeness at work to greatly impact the next John Newton? Who knows?

Are you ready for a taste of Amazing Grace at your workplace today?

My prayer: Father God, without a doubt, Paul’s words to the Ephesians are not easy to swallow…particularly in the highly-secularized culture we live in today. But Jesus, You too lived in a very godless culture where the rights of others were overlooked, slavery was the norm, and human injustice was the flavor of the day. Holy Spirit, indwell me and empower me to go to work this day with the heart of Jesus. May I glorify You with both my words and deeds. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: What realms of social injustice are surrounding me today and, like John Newton, where do I need to change my thinking and my activity so that I’m on the side of Christ?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

29.2 W-O-R-K: Running The Race With Jesus.

29.2

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic Two: Serving Christ in the Workplace.                      

Our reading for today: Hebrews 12: 1-3 (MsgB)

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility He plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Let’s face it, folks.

W-O-R-K is not called W-O-R-K for no reason at all. As a matter of fact, many would call it a four letter word!

W-O-R-K, you see, is hard. Tough stuff!

Our jobs are many times distasteful; full of things that make us want to throw in the towel on a daily basis. Some suggest that we avoid this problem of W-O-R-K by finding something we truly enjoy doing in life and then finding a creative way to make a living doing just that. Now, that idea sounds great on paper, but here’s the problem…

Most things that you and I truly enjoy (like vacationing, enjoying a good meal, taking coffee breaks, and daydreaming) just don’t produce the kind of income we need to live, move and have our being…unless, of course, we want to house ourselves in a cardboard box down by the river!

So, the truth is that you and I, for a good portion of our lives, assuming our bodies are fit to do so, are forced through our earthly circumstances, to get up out of bed each morning and trot our tired old bodies off to W-O-R-K.

But here’s the good news!

As dedicated followers of Jesus of Nazareth, there are many resources available to us in our W-O-R-K that so many of us, so very often, fail to recognize. As we discussed last time, the amazing truth about Jesus of Nazareth is that He is not just a holy person interested in our spiritual lives. In truth, the Master is fully committed to getting up early each and every work day and joining us as we go to W-O-R-K. As a matter of fact, the idea of Jesus only being available to us as we sit in a church pew on Sunday mornings is as foreign of a concept in the New Testament as it is to believe that Jesus was a white guy with blond hair and blue eyes!

Martin Luther, the great reformer of the 16th century, was one of the first saints to address this false concept that God is found only in holy, sacred cathedrals of the world. To Luther, W-O-R-K was the best place where God could be discovered, and as a matter of fact, he was quick to slam those who believed that full-time “ministry” was somehow a much better work assignment, or a more holy work than the labor of the peasants in the fields and streets of the surrounding community. Luther, and the other Reformers, believed in what we call “the priesthood of the believer” where every man, woman, and child has full access to God and His presence; not just those special men and women who spend their time laboring for the Lord in a church or sanctuary.

So, as I see it, that’s why the writer of Hebrews encourages us Christ-followers to keep our minds and hearts focused on the prize awaiting those who W-O-R-K their way through this lifetime. You see, Jesus, the Master didn’t pull Himself out of the workplace in order to be closer to God. He didn’t become a hermit, secluded and hidden away, believing that the world had to find its’ way to Him in order to receive the many blessings He was able to offer.

Jesus, as the writer of Hebrews states here, was willing to go to W-O-R-K on a daily basis, exposing Himself to many painful experiences in order to be the faithful servant of God that He wanted to be.

So folks, as we force ourselves to get out of bed tomorrow morning, stumbling around for that cup of coffee to get us going, I suggest that we turn the pages of our Bibles over to “He-brews” as well and take to heart these highly-caffeinated words of encouragement:

When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility (Jesus) plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Up and at ‘em, gang. It’s time to go to W-O-R-K with Jesus!

My prayer: Jesus, You are the supreme example of running the race, enduring the pain, in order to keep on keepin’ on for the cause of God’s Kingdom. If You did it, Master, so can I…not by my strength alone, but through the indwelling and empowering work of the Holy Spirit. May I choose today to go to W-O-R-K, knowing that You have completed Your assignment and are now actively involved in helping me with mine. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: What needs to change inside of me when it comes to my attitude toward my job? Am I aware of the assignment of God that is contained within my employment? Am I aware of the fact that God can be found at work, possibly much more there than on a typical Sunday morning as I sit in a church pew?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

29.1 Inviting Jesus to Join Us At Work.

29.1

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic Two: Serving Christ in the Workplace.                      

Our reading for today: Philippians 3: 12-21 (MsgB)

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetite. But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like His own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which He is putting everything as it should be, under and around Him.

Work! Work! Work!

There are numerous reports out there that we Americans work more than anyone else in the industrialized world. More than the English, more than the French, way more than the Germans or Norwegians. Even, recently, more than the Japanese! And those same reports indicate that we Americans take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later, as well!

Author Juliet Schor, who wrote the best-selling book The Overworked American, concluded way back in the 1990’s, that Americans worked an average of nearly one month more per year than in we did in 1970. Recent reports indicate that with advent of I-phones, mobile offices, and all the wonders of today’s advanced technology, workers today rarely find themselves “off-the-clock”.

So when we delve into the idea of serving Christ in our workplace, the burning question for many of us becomes… “If I am laboring so long and hard at my day-job, how in the world can I ever have the time to allow Jesus to be more actively involved in and through my life?”

I remember a powerful conversation I had with a good brother in Christ years ago when I was working with Promise Keepers, the highly-successful men’s ministry that God used in touching many men for the cause of Christ back in the 1990’s. My friend, Ray, was the manager of a small industrial plant here in our city, overseeing a labor-intensive workplace where men and women were employed keeping railroad cars used for carrying a variety of highly toxic chemicals cleaned up and in tip-top operating order. Government standards are very high when it comes to keeping the levels of contamination low, so the pressure was on my friend on a daily basis to make sure his team was doing their job a 100% perfection rate.

Ray was a very devout follower of Jesus and felt the tug of the Master to do more for the cause of Christ in his life, but in our conversation, he revealed to me how very discouraged he was that so many hours of his week were spent laboring on his “day-job” while he had hoped to do more for Jesus instead.

We were walking through his plant at the time of this conversation, so I asked my friend, “Ray…you spend so many hours here in this building and it sounds like you’d rather be somewhere else working for Jesus, right?” Ray nodded in agreement. “So, Ray, since you can’t follow that dream right now, why don’t you do something else? How about since you can’t go off to follow Jesus, you try inviting Jesus to come be here with you as you work?”

Ray looked a bit puzzled at first, but by the time we were done, my friend realized that he, as manager of this plant, could begin looking at his job a bit differently. So we came up with a plan where Ray no longer saw himself as just a manager at his workplace, but in Jesus’ eyes, he was a plant manager/plant chaplain as well!

The results were amazing.

Over the next few months, Ray began coming in about a half-hour earlier than usual in the early mornings, bringing his Bible with him. Each morning, he’d walk through his empty plant, praying out loud and inviting Jesus to come into this workplace, bringing God’s sovereign presence into this environment, blessing each worker as he called out their names in prayer.

I recall about a year later talking with Ray and finding out how different he felt about his job and the many divine appointments he had found as he began seeing his role a bit differently than he had prior to inviting Jesus to come to work with him.

So how about you?

Have you invited Jesus to come to work with you today? As I see it, it’s just one simple way of doing what Paul suggests here in his letter to the Philippians…keeping our eyes on the true goal…glorifying Jesus in every and all ways!

My prayer: Jesus, thank You that You don’t always ask me to leave my work to come work for You, but it can be just the opposite! I believe You are waiting for me to invite You to join me in my work today, so that You and Your goodness can rule and reign in this thing I call W-O-R-K. May You be glorified in my workplace today. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: In what practical, quiet, yet powerful ways can I bring Jesus into my work environment today without becoming a flaming, offensive Bible-thumper? Where might God be working in people and situations around me at work, and how might the Master desire for me to become actively involved, focusing not on me but coming alongside others for the greater glory of God?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

28.3 Being Salt-n-Light…Not Doom-n-Gloom.

28.3

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic Two: Serving Christ in the Workplace.                      

Our reading for today: Matthew 5: 13-16 (MsgB)

Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

Ok, my dear friends, it’s time for a bit of soap-box preaching. Give me five minutes here to speak my mind and then you can go about your own business…like nothing ever happened, if you choose. But my hope is that the Holy Spirit might give me the grace to speak some life-changing truth into your life and mine, as we go about this daily chore we call life.

If you’ve been following this blog on Christian discipleship, you know that we’re currently on the subject of W-O-R-K. In truth, every follower of Jesus has been given a specific job assignment…a God-given duty and responsibility to live out our lives no longer for our own selfish gain, but for the glory and honor of the Christ who has redeemed us. My mentor, John Wimber, used to say it like this…“when it comes to mission…everybody gets to play!”

So, as I see it, every person reading this blog, myself included, has been given a work assignment by the Master. But here’s the rub. It’s in the going and doing of that job assignment, so many in the church have lost their way, turning a God-given opportunity to be a blessing in our fallen world into a dreary drudgery of judgment, condemnation, and finger-pointing. So it’s in that mindset, I direct your attention to these important words of Jesus, found here in Matthew 5, verses 13-16.

You see, Jesus never envisioned sending out an army of do-gooders whose job was to point out sinfulness, while cleaning up dirtiness across this lost and fallen world. No. Jesus never called for hard-core volunteers to spread doom-n-gloom across the planet, leaving a pile of broken-n-bruised unrepentant sinners wherever we go.

As I see it, it’s just the opposite.

Salt, you see, is a wonderful seasoning that must be used wisely on foods and with good taste. There’s nothing more bland than a meal without salt, yet nothing more worthless than a tender cut of meat ruined by too much of it.

Light works the same way. Too little leaves us all squinting through the fog, looking for direction, while too much blinds us, leaving us to bump around life like mindless zombies.

That’s why Jesus used the words He did here. He’s calling for wisdom and discernment in those He’s sending forth. Not warriors with swords hacking their way through the jungle, acting much like untamed bulls in the proverbial china closet; but connoisseurs of good taste, sprinkling a light dusting of tasty salt here and there as needed, and offering a bit of light and hope to those who might be stumbling around in the darkness.

Our W-O-R-K, as The Message Bible author, Eugene Peterson, puts it, is to help others to taste the delicate God-flavors sprinkled throughout this often tasteless world, and glimpse the unique God-colors painted amongst this oft-colorless place we call our human existence.

I’d say, let’s stop our flesh-commissioned assignment to cast all hell out of the world for the cause of Christ, and begin simply being bearers of salt-n-light, loving “the hell” out of everyone and everything around us.

Anybody wanna join in that W-O-R-K?

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.

My prayer: Jesus, I dare say that rather than allowing my life to be an Open House for God’s glory…a place of Spirit-led generosity and grace; I’ve lost track of Your call to be Salt-n-Light and joined with other Christians in my generation who see it their job to finger-point and condemn, thus sadly becoming a House of Horrors to those we’ve come to serve. Forgive me, Master, and empower me now to a greater place of love and grace, becoming a wise and discerning Christ-follower who simply points out God-flavors and God-colors for those who might need my assistance. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: What practical ways of living my life need to change so that I become a bearer of Salt-n-Light rather than a distributor of Doom-n-Gloom? Am I taking the necessary time in my own life to stop, look and listen for the God-flavors and God-colors surrounding me, or am I focused exclusively on getting my world in order so that everything in life is proper and prim?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…

28.2 Strength! Courage! Go To Work!

28.2

Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.

Our current theme: Characteristic Two: Serving Christ in the Workplace.                      

Our reading for today: Joshua 1: 1-9 (MsgB)

After the death of Moses the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses’ assistant: “Moses my servant is dead. Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people. Cross to the country I’m giving to the People of Israel. I’m giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on—just as I promised Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon east to the Great River, the Euphrates River—all the Hittite country—and then west to the Great Sea. It’s all yours. All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”

Sadly, in our generation, the belief that W-O-R-K can be a good thing is sometimes very hard to find.

Last week, as I was getting a haircut, I chatted with a very nice young man who was working on my hair. He was a very friendly guy and after a few casual comments back and forth, he began complaining to me about how very tired he was of cutting hair. I decided to play the role of the encourager and began asking him some questions on how he had decided to make hair-cutting his profession. From the sound of it, the young man has a very creative side to him, so the idea of being a hair-stylist, creating new and exotic hairdos for folks was exciting. But now, all these months later, as he wrestled with the reality of spending long hours on his feet, clipping hair for average customers like me, who just aren’t interested in streaking rainbow colors on my balding head, the job had become just that…a job.

I asked the young man what he really wanted to do in his life, and his response was almost immediate…

“You know what I really want?” the hair-stylist said, “I want to win the lottery and then spend the rest of my days lounging around my mom’s house, doing whatever I want, whenever I want!”

I chuckled, but then suddenly, I looked at him and realized that he was dead serious.

Hmm.

Now I know this type of response is most often a knee-jerk reaction, spoken out of our frustrations; but seriously, my friends, my fear is that more young people across America are dreaming of this kind of reality of W-O-R-K than we probably want to realize.

As I read today’s passage from the Book of Joshua, my mind wanders back to the young man who clipped my hair last week. I wonder what wonderful plans of W-O-R-K God might have for that young man, if he’d only take enough time to stop, look, and listen. Of course, we read about Joshua, the young man God chooses to lead His people to the Promised Land, and think, “Sure, I’d be willing to do a brave thing like that if I had God speaking directly to me like Joshua did!”

But here’s the rub.

In truth, God is speaking to us today! As a matter of fact, you and I have much more input from the Divine than Joshua ever did! You see, we have several thousand years of mounting evidence that God is always looking for men and women who will be willing to step out of the ordinary and follow Jesus of Nazareth into the extra-ordinary. I like the way one pastor told it to me…

“You know, Marty, God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called!

Now, I realize today’s blog might sound like an old-fashioned pep-talk…and, in fact, I don’t apologize for it…it is!

I’m just saying that if you have been reading this series of blogs on discipleship thus far, there must be a God-reason for me to encourage you today…

Hasn’t God commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take. Now GO to W-O-R-K!

Next time, we’ll continue our discussion on what that W-O-R-K might look like in your life and mine!

My prayer: Father God, as I turn the pages of the Bible and review the history of Your people, I see that in every generation, You call men and women to step out of their comfort zones and risk following You wherever You might lead them. Certainly, Joshua is one prime example where You knew how very difficult it was for Joshua to believe in both what You had for him, and in his own ability to believe in himself. Thank You, Jesus, that You are still calling men and women today to go to work on Your behalf, following in Your footsteps. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: Have I fallen into the doldrums of the young hair-stylist, settling for a dream of W-O-R-K that leaves me weakened and worthless, or am I believing there is more to life than just that? Am I taking the necessary time to stop, look, and listen for the voice of God, inquiring of Him how He might want to use me for His Kingdom-purposes in my world today?

So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?

Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next session in the series…