Whine Connoisseur

Molly

Molly

Now and then when my mom is away for a short trip or even a long day, my wife and I “sit” her Cockapoo, Molly.

Molly is a sweet, affectionate little dog with loads of personality, and a handful of quirks that are uniquely her such as how she greets people by retrieving a battered stuffed dog called Cliffy.  Very red and half the size of her, Molly scoots around with Cliffy in her mouth, tail wagging enthusiastically.

Mom unabashedly spoils Molly with lots of attention, speaking to her with a special “doggy voice,” and giving  treats for good behavior or just because. Mom makes clear that we are to also spoil Molly when she is our guest.  While we do our best of treat Molly special, we know we don’t hold a candle to mom.  In mom’s home and with mom, Molly is truly happy and in her element.

Given how well cared for Molly is, one of her not-so endearing quirks is somewhat surprising – whining. Not a cute little squeak but a guttural, moany-groany “whoa-is-me-sound.” When she really gets going, all within earshot just want her to stop.

Sometimes she is appeasable such as when we refill her food dish, let her out to pee or give her a little attention.  Otherwise, we may put her in her kennel to “think about it a while” or try to tolerate listening until she stops.

Her whining notwithstanding, our affection towards Molly far outweighs the negativity of her whining.  We are fond of Molly and will always welcome her over when mom has need for us to “Molly-sit.”

Frankly, I only mention Molly’s whining due to a rather embarrassing revelation that occurred to me during a recent week of Molly sitting – How God could certainly view my worry and irritableness when circumstances in life are not going the way I prefer as a form of whining.

When I thought about it some more, I had a creepy sense about how much my whining must get under God’s skin at times, especially considering all he has done for me. At times, I’m sure God considers me a “whine connoisseur.”

No question in the Bible how God feels about whining. During Israel’s desert wandering years, their complaining against God triggered his wrath several times (See Numbers 11:1; 14:27; 21: 4-6)

Paul makes clear believers are not to be anxious about anything. Rather, we are to put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and learn to be content in every situation. (Philippians 2:14; 4:6,11b; Ephesians 4: 31-32).  Proverbs and James warns that a person’s discontent with God leads to his/her own ruin (Proverbs 17:22; 19:3; James 5:9)

No person set a better example than Jesus for “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth;” (Isaiah 53:7, ESV; Also see Mark 14:61)

Was Jesus able to maintain his composure because he lacked the sin nature that infects the rest of us?

As prolifically as the Bible warns and comes against whining and grumbling, it also makes clear that those who belong to God are content, grateful, thankful and joyful.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:22)

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. (Psalm 16:9)

I am grateful for how God used little Molly’s whining to teach me a timely lesson.  (Help me, dear Lord to never again be seen as a whine connoisseur in your eyes!)

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Countering Connective Isolation

Testing while walking can be hazardous to your safey

Texting while walking can be hazardous to your safety

I’m “between jobs” again so I have ramped up my connectivity.  Job searching 2016 is primarily an online endeavor. I spend hours and hours online searching and connecting, making appointments, applying, following up… Then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Just a few hours daily of doing all that  pretty much taps me out.  Unfortunately, most engagement is one-way so while it seems “connective” in nature, it’s actually pretty isolating.

My wife is my main foil to counter connective isolation.  When she gets home from work, I disconnect to engage with her.  Often we’ll go for a “power-walk.” When we are out walking, we leave our electronic devices at home but most people we see when we’re out are plugged in. Many don’t even return our greeting to them.

Just in the last week, I had to stop while turning my car onto a street on two different occasions for oblivious joggers donning earplugs who barrelled into crosswalks without pausing or looking for traffic. In both cases, the cars behind me narrowly avoided rear-ending me.

While I acknowledge that connectivity has made the world seem smaller by allowing us to communicate instantaneously across vast distances and to listen to favorite entertainment while on the move, it’s not the same as being present, in-person, face-to-face.

Take God for example.  Yes, God.  If anyone can circumvent being there physically present, it’s God.

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar….Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.” (Psalm 139:2,3

Even so, he chose physical proximity by creating, well, creation.  And then us, humans.

Ever wonder why?  Wasn’t he already relational?  This is God speaking, right?

“Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” (Genesis 1:26a, underlines mine)  Then as soon as man was created, looks like God engaged with him in bodily form.  (see Genesis 3:8).

Our inherently relational God made humanity likewise.  Look at man’s very first assignment – to name all the animals in the garden.  First learning?  That unlike all the other animals, man lacked at a mate like himself.  So God made a “suitable helper,” woman. (Genesis 2:20)

Based on Adam’s praise report, God pulled out the stops designing woman  (Genesis 2:23).  Verse 24 makes clear that human relating really began in earnest at this moment, connectivity that was “electric” but in no way electronic.

Then a fourth player slithers in to ruin the bliss. (Genesis 3:1)  We know what happened next – sin, curses, banishment from the garden, and poof!  No more face to faces with God.  (Genesis 3: 14-19).

Fortunately, God’s had a plan to re-engage man again in bodily form, code named “Jesus.”  But Jesus came and went, right?  Aren’t we just as disconnected from God as ever?  What’s different than Israeli period?

Answer – the Holy Spirit who indwells believers – someone the Israelites didn’t have, at least in the same way.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Romans 8:9, ESV, underline mine)

The measure of our alignment with God is giving ourselves over to the Spirit within who in turn enables and empowers us in the ways of God.  Our “fruit” indicates connectivity having taken hold.

You will recognize them by their fruits.” (Jesus, Matthew 7: 16a)

And what are those fruits?  “...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23)  Note the relational nature of the fruits.

So God brings us back full circle from the first days to the present ones.  The most powerful and enduring connectivity is still one-on-one.  “Nothing new under the sun.”  Who said that?

To counter connective isolation, disconnect then re-engage face-to-face. Try it.

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  1. Caution texters: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2509417/The-signs-London-taxi-drivers-like-see.html

 

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Morning Watch

Bamboo windchime

Bamboo windchime

5:30 a.m.  Thumbing through my journal…  What to write?

Early September. Still dark outside, I opened a window and hear but don’t see a soft drizzle of rain. Swiveling my chair, I peer through the window that frames a bamboo windchime attached just outside, dangling under our eave. The morning softness settles into my being.

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive  to my cry for mercy. (Psalm 130:  1-2, NIV)

A soft breeze filtering into the room through the screen is warm, 75 degrees or so?  As the wind catches the bamboo chime, its “glockety, glock, glockety, glock” sound layers into the mood.  I breathe in the musky smell of fresh rain.

As the dawn light leaks into the dark outside, the sound of soft rain drizzling layers a rising peacefulness in me.  Here is where the Lord meets me.

I know God likes these still moments and is always here waiting when I manage to protect these appointed times, keeping the distractions at bay… to simply be solitary, quiet, still, to wait on Him, rest in him, listen with my heart for his still, small voice. (see 1 Kings 19: 11-13)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. (Psalm 130: 5-6, NIV)

“More than watchmen wait, morning that watchmen wait…” The words have a “windchimey” cadence to them like the rhythm of repeating the phrase flattens and smooths any roughness nearby that would wrangle for attention.

I settle into the wait, gradually attentive to the sounds of silence and of my anticipation descending to a held breath just before the Lord himself slips into the space reserved just for him.

In these morning moments of the Lord and me are some prominent company down through the ages.

David: “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3, NIV)

Samuel’s parents, Elkanah and Hannah: :Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord…” (1 Samuel 1: 19a, NIV)

Moses: “Moses rose up early in the morning and went up to Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and he took two stone tablets in his hand.” (Exodus 34:4, NASB)

Jesus: “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” (Mark 1:35, NLT)

Morning seems to hold a special anointing in Scriptures for God to bring a blessing to those he loves who seek him.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. (Psalm 148:8, NIV)

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3: 22-23, NLT)

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5, NIV)

Something about mornings and the Lord… perhaps he had something special in mind when he created them?

God called the light day, and the darkness He called night And there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:5, NASB)

(God speaking to Job:) “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place, (Job 38:12, NASB)

Apparently, Jesus shared his Father’s fondness for the morning, enough to claim it as one of his special titles.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Revelations 22:16, NIV)

Morning watch – around the breaking of dawn – be still, watch, wait, meditate and listen for the Lord’s next words.

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Notes:

All italics and bold added by me

 

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Labor Days Disconnected

see notes for image source

see notes for image source

Because labor days are disconnected, few of us have ever experienced a connected workplace as God originally designed and intended. A connected workplace is as designed by God in the very first book and chapter of the Bible.  Interesting how the first appearance of the word “work” is when God rested from “all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:3)  Hint, hint?

That word “work” surfaces next when God delegates to man responsibility for the garden in Genesis 2:15. What the NIV renders “to work it and take care of it,” other translations chose “to cultivate it and keep it” (NASB) or “to tend and keep it.” (NKJV)

God created this awesome garden to be man’s workplace to cultivate and keep.  Following God’s one, simple workplace rule, to eat from every tree but one, assured abundant harvests to sustain man and creation and honor God.

Doesn’t sound much like work, right? That’s because work “disconnected” from God’s “Eden design” thanks to man’s first act of workplace insubordination that got him banned from the garden.  Man’s new destiny was to build his own gardens where work became toil and yields not so readily abundant.  Whether God is honored in workplaces depends on an invitation by someone there even though no production is possible without God allowing or causing it.

I am presently searching for work so reviewing position postings and talking to hiring managers is my snapshot of workplaces. If workplace Eden could be likened to a concert that harmoniously blended the natures of God, man and garden to produce a bountiful harvest, today’s workplaces are more like contests where the wants of workplace and man compete while God is noticeably absent.

Bounty is not assured and even when abundance happens, the risk of someone coming along to figure out how to siphon some or all of it away is ever present.  Our nice word for that is  “competition.”

Since Eden, the horrific slide of workplaces from concert to contest became so prevalent as to seem irreversible had not Jesus arrived to reveal that God’s ideal still applies.  Furthermore, the Holy Spirit offers to empower resolved believers to redeem their workplaces.

Sadly, evidence of that happening is not apparent even in supposed Christian businesses or with Christian hiring managers. From posting to posting and company to company, qualifying buzzwords are hauntingly similar:

Fast-paced, Demanding, Willing to work always, travel and relocate, Multi-tasking, Juggling projects, Deadline-driven, Self-starting and my personal favorite, Include salary requirements.

Exaggerating slightly, a job including all those “features” might look like “low person on the totem pole expected to be fully competent on day 2 without any training, cooperation or support from leaders or colleagues while the workplace feels more like an under-resourced productivity treadmill where employees slave to meet quotas and increase profits in exchange for long hours, low pay and zero flexibility.

Having worked in over 20 companies, I’ve found that most workplaces are not as onerous as their postings suggest and “real-deal” Christian managers can have a profound impact on their workplaces. The best news of all is we matter to God so workplace redemption is still possible because Godly wisdom has a way of establishing footholds in the most unlikely places,. Check out best practices in companies recognized by their employees as great places to work.

  1. Crain’s Detroit Business Coolest Places to Work, 2016: http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20160826/AWARDS0416/308279999/how-employees-of-cool-places-feel-about-going-to-work
  2. Detroit Free Press Top 13 places to work, 2015: http://www.freep.com/story/money/business/top-workplaces/2015/11/21/13-very-best-places-work-michigan/76078730/

No matter how dark workplaces get, know that God has the final word in his  universe (see John 16:33).

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Notes:

Image source site: Image source site: https://www.safaribooksonline.com/library/view/us-vs-them/9780134195193/

Just for fun…..

  1. Key openings difficult to fill: https://www.goodcall.com/news/companies-struggle-finding-workers-five-fields-08445
  2. Avoid these “danger words” in employment listings: https://www.mediabistro.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Job_Description_Danger_Words_v2.pdf
  3. Listings buzzwords – what they really mean…. http://wallstreetinsanity.com/15-buzzwords-often-seen-in-job-postings-and-what-they-really-mean/

A Cherished Ritual

See notes for image source

See notes for image source

A cherished ritual my wife and I enjoy is praying together before bedtime.

Years ago, we latched onto alternating reading aloud from “Our Daily Bread,” a daily devotional published by RBC Ministries. After one of us reads the scripture and reading, I close with prayer.

My prayer varies. Most often, I reflect on the verse and/or reading, tying into what’s going on in our lives. (How often the readings speak directly into our lives is truly of God!) Then I shift to praying to engage with the Lord and for situations and people.

We always pray for our children, including our son-in-law and a child we support through Compassion International.  Other focuses of prayer include our extended families, our church staff, leaders and their families and people and situations brought to our attention one way or another.

Praying for specific needs or giving thanks for blessings are easier because we can hone in on what we know.  However, these also present risk of us being overly prescriptive by providing guidance to God or specifying specific outcomes for answered prayer.

Best to let God be God and remember that God’s ways are not ours. His approach, timing and “results” almost never play out as we direct in our prayer.  God is good and can be trusted with everything we bring in prayer to Him for our good and His glory.

More challenging is praying generally for people “just because.” For those we know to be believers, we often pray that they grow in their relationship with the Lord.  For unbelievers or whose faith we have no idea about, we pray for their eventual acceptance of God’s invitation of salvation through Christ.

Notice our bias?  Christ is always the best answer for every person and situation.

Every Saturday, I meet for prayer with a few guys at church.   Recently, we talked about themes in prayers of the apostle Paul in his letters to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians.

EPHESIANS 1: 15-17 –  “ I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better…that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…(NIV-2011)

PHILIPPIANS 1: 9-10 – “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (NIV-2011)

COLOSSIANS 1: 9b-13 – “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, “ (NIV-2011)

Some key words in these prayers are: Grace – Discernment – Knowledge – Understanding

  • Grace – undeserved merit conferred to believers through Christ
  • Discernment – enlightenment to sort good from bad and best from less than best
  • Knowledge – God-infused wisdom about anything and everything
  • Understanding – knowing how to apply knowledge to every situation

Here’s a brief prayer including all these words: To grow in the grace and knowledge and understanding of God that the Holy Spirit gives, in order to discern what is best through Jesus Christ.

No need to imagine realizing all those benefits for every situation that life throws our way because that’s exactly what God offers to all believers through faith in Jesus Christ.  How? Through prayer!

“We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves (but that viewpoint is) not found in the New Testament,” wrote Oswald Chambers. “ (Rather,) the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.  Prayer is the way the life of God is nourished.”

So we pray to nourish life with God whereupon He returns spiritual enlightened insight for our day to day lives.  Amazing, right?

We must really matter to God.

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Notes:

  1. Image source site: http://mercyky.org/prayer-a-significant-bonder/
  2. Our Daily Bread: http://odb.org/
  3. Chambers quote from “My Utmost for His Highest” for August 28 (http://utmost.org/

 

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A Treasure Beyond Measure 2

magic-wand(Originally published July 9, 2013)

Submitting myself to the Lord, giving over control to Him has always been a constant struggle for me.  A few years ago, I came across an intriguing way of looking at this in the book “The Steward Leader, ” by R. Scott Rodin.

Explained Rodin, the kingdom of God has come in the work of Christ that should in turn be evidenced in the lives of believers. Ideally, believers wholeheartedly agree that all creation belongs to God.  When our lives reflect this, “the world around us is given a glimpse of the fact that all things are indeed in subjection to Christ.” (pg 51)

But we have this struggle, this tension. Despite our desire to be totally and solely committed to Jesus Christ and to give everything to him, we hold back parts of our lives from God.  As we do, we build a second kingdom.

He shared about a message he offered in which he used a wooden box to hide what he claimed to be a treasure beyond all imaginable value.  He said, “in that box was the one item that kings and presidents go to war over, that wealthy and powerful people spend their entire lives pursuing, and that every person in church that morning would give everything they owned to possess, if even for just a moment.”

He turned his back to the congregation, opened the box and revealed the highly coveted item–a magician’s wand.

“But this was no ordinary wand.  This one magical device had the power to give to its bearer complete control over any and every area of his/her life.  With it a person could control health and finances, manipulate the stock market, change the outcome of sporting events and determine the weather.  The bearer could alter the behavior of others, smite his or her enemies, even the score for all the injustices in life and make things right where he or she has been wronged.  The one who used the wand could get a better job, improve the behavior of his or her spouse and kids, buy a bigger house and take a vacation anywhere in the world,” Rodin explained.

“The wand represented the control we so long to have over our life.  It is the desire for power, for the ability to shape things so they come out our way, to be the lord of our lives and the people and things that comprise it.  We believe that if we just has more control, our life would be better, we could make things come out the way we want and guide our own destiny,” he added.

Do you see where he is going with this idea of second-kingdom building?

“It is less about our stuff than about our hearts, but it is about our stuff as well.  It is the struggle between God’s kingdom and a counterfeit earthly kingdom we want to label as “ours.”  It is ultimately about lordship.” (pg 53)

Think about that for a moment – a magic wand that could do anything you could imagine.  I had no problem coming up with things I would use the wand for to cause life to happen my way.

But here’s what Jesus challenges we do instead of waving a wand – to pray and hand over our desire for control to God.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6-7, NLT)

Notice how Jesus’ challenge does something to the desires relinquished to God?  Instead of worrying about desires, they become a form of prayer.  Instead of desires burdening us, we are thankful for them.  Instead of satisfying desires, we receive a peace that exceeds anything we can understand that will also guard our hearts and minds.

Sounds pretty awesome even if the formula seems odd, right? God’s answer is to trust him to not only make the math work but to be with us in the midst of it.

“…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5: 3-4)

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No shortcuts

No-ShortcutDuring vacation, I resolved to carry some of that relaxed, vacation-induced mode into our “life as usual”  back home.  But the frenetic pace was waiting and I didn’t seem to miss a beat jumping right back into it.

Despite good intentions, I so often fail to carry through on even the easiest actions to move forward. As my slippage occurs to me, anxiety creeps in and with it a foothold for “you know who” to get between me and the Lord.

Having good company in frustration and brokenness shouldn’t be comforting but St. Paul’s transparency regarding his own deficiencies offers some context and direction.

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15, ESV)

A few sentences later, Paul answers his own “Why?” question with, no surprise, “Jesus Christ.”

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 24-25a, ESV).

Jesus Christ is the answer.  Ever heard that one before?

Several years later, Paul’s letter to the Philippians reflects a man whose experiences and especially his trials shapes how he learned to live “through Jesus Christ.” Suggests Paul, the disposition of such a person might look something like this:

1)  A gentle demeanor

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5, NIV-2011)

Gentle, reserved, cautious to criticize.  Paul notes that such a person is given to rejoicing in the Lord.  Imagine that?

2)  Calm in the midst of tribulation

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV-2011)

If the remedy for anxiety is prayer, makes sense that having an anxious state indicates insufficient prayer grounding. Also notice the “with thankfulness” qualifier Paul adds.

3)  Drawing from lessons learned while also managing to uncover legitimate “silver linings” in even the worst situations.  

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9, NIV-2011)

Even if troubles seem to continue with no end in sight, peacefulness is evidence of God’s presence.  Put another way, if you wonder if God is near in times of trouble, look for peaceful believers in the vicinity.

4)  Steady as life’s storms rage

… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11b-13, NIV-2011)

Here Paul sites his own experiences as platforms for learning how to be content through strength given by God in various circumstances he encountered.

Learned over time – Through trials – No shortcuts.

Paul knew from the onset he would suffer much for the Lord’s name (see Acts 9:16) so we can all be assured that trials will come our way as well.  When they do, God intends we bring those trials to him – and keep doing so.

When we do, God’s “transcending peace” guards our hearts and minds while the “God of peace” is with us.  Sounds renewing, doesn’t it?

 

 

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Pouring ourselves into life, work…

Image source: see notes

Image source: see notes

I must develop a different way to depict my various separations from work.  Trying to explain the nuances of each situation sounds more like excuses.

What I would like to say, “I was pouring myself into the job when I was unexpectedly separated from it due to someone else’s decision, not mine.”

Although true from my standpoint, the work world doesn’t see people pouring into their work as what work is really about.   Rather, work is about productivity, results, outcomes and longevity.

Separations are particularly problematic especially unexpected ones.  “Wise” workers are supposed to see those coming.  (I actually suspected a few of them but was helpless to head them off.)

Standing in stark contrast is Paul’s depiction of how to approach the “work” of living in Christ. Note how the New Living Translation (NLT) actually uses the word “results” in Paul’s instruction.

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (Philippians 2: 12-13, NLT)

Ever thought about obeying God as a RESULT?. Furthermore, the desire to obey “with deep reverence and fear” is due not to our effort but to God working in us, giving us the desire and the power to obey accordingly.

Paul then follows with a few ideas about how we work at life in this manner – “ without complaining and arguing… (living) clean, innocent lives … (as) bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people… (and holding) firmly to the word…” (see Philippians 2: 14-16, NLT).

Lest you think that working this way assures producing the kinds of results that will give us standing in (say) our American workplaces, hold on for what Paul says next on this.

“But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.”  (Philippians 2: 17)

Wait a minute, I could lose my life while I am faithfully pouring myself out like a liquid offering? Furthermore, if I do lose my life, Paul not only wants me to rejoice in that but share my joy with others?

Not a typo.  Shockingly, loss of life and surely loss of job is indeed possible.  With the Lord, the pouring is the result, as well as how we pour ourselves out – with no other result in mind except obedience to God.

Besides me and others you know who have suffered employment termination, does anyone else come to mind whose work was unexpectedly lost as they were pouring themselves out?*

Oswald Chambers wrote, “We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success.” Rather, “What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.” (My Utmost for His Highest for July 28)

For believers, the pouring is the outcome vs. any benefit, status, increase, profit or visual bobble associated with the pouring that is all the work world looks at or cares about.

I don’t expect people who don’t follow Christ to “work out” life God’s way but Christians too often default to the world’s lingo and approach as well.  Fellow Christians, when does our default change from using “typical” success measures in conversations about our work, investments, diet, fitness, family, etc. when God’s “results” are THAT we simply pour ourselves into our work, giving, parenting, day-to-day duties, etc. “ without complaining and arguing… (living) clean, innocent lives… (as) bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people… (and holding) firmly to the word…?”

As one who has repeatedly experienced “pouring interruptions,” I’m very grateful for Christians who believe it me and who get it.  You refresh me.

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Image source: http://www.hipsterscripture.com/post/42350590431/are-you-ready-to-be-poured-out-as-an-offering

*Pouring interrupted – How about Jesus, Paul and all the apostles except John, every martyr, many (Catholic) saints and people we think died “too young?”

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We be gone (Us being obedient)

Pseudo camping with KOA*

Pseudo camping with KOA

As you read this, I’m away on “holiday” with my best friend, companion, wife, lover.  We planned this a while ago but reconsidered when a recent “life glitch” occurred.  Should we, could we indulge ourselves with this little luxury?

We gave that about two minutes before deciding that our latest development gave us more reason for a holiday, not less. So here was are, not only away but very intentionally without as much of our day-to-day baggage as we could responsibly leave behind.

I call this pseudo-camping.  The pseudo part regards our KOA “camping cabin” dwelling that I liken to a log tent along with real beds, two plugs, an outside water spigot and a covered porch with a two-person swing.

While far from backpacking in the wilderness, it’s still a significant departure from our busy, loud, connected, suburban life and many of the distractions associated with our life and stuff.  Nothing fancy but comfortable, a little vacation, a holiday, a Sabbath.  Just us two.

These getaways satisfy a mutual love we have for being outdoors in nature, a favorite setting for hiking, reading, sightseeing, such “spiritual” activities as devotions, journaling, and thinking and, my personal favorite, standing still staring and absorbing a setting like water, woods, a mountain…

Holiday favorite - watching something like this

Vacation favorite – absorbing something like this

Resting our brains, reconnecting with ourselves and each other, opening to Who’s in charge of this great adventure called life…

I am reminded of a particularly busy moment in Jesus’ ministry when so many people were coming and going that he and his disciples did not even have a chance to eat.  “‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest,” Jesus urged his disciples.”So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31-32)

As active as Jesus’ ministry was, his story was marked with many notable instances of getting away to quiet places to rest and pray. ( See Luke 5:16)

Leading by example, he invites us to not only do the same but to unburden ourselves to

him.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30, NASB)

Mark this and let it be noted for the record – us being obedient!


* KOA is “Kampgrounds Of America”

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Truth test?

Image: see notes

Image: see notes

Heard a truth test the other day that I’d like to try on you.

“If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.”

Jen Hatmaker said that during a Focus on the Family interview about her 2015 book “For the Love – Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.”  Hatmaker is a mom of five, pastor’s wife, speaker and author.

My wife Cindy read “For the Love…” along with our church’s women’s ministry earlier this year.  She shared excerpts with me during her reading. I would typify Hatmaker’s views as straightforward, even blunt, views of the gospel with a harried mom humorist twist – poignant, thoughtful and funny.

She explained that she grew up with this “American God” context who “deeply favored me and mine, certainly our country, very concerned about my advantages, safety, comfort, security… “

Then some changes in her life presented opportunities to travel and “everything got weird” she says in the book.  She discovered the rest of the world – different Christian traditions, different people, poverty…  “Then the system in which God operated according to my rules started disintegrating…Some values and perspectives and promises I attributed to God’s own heart only worked in my context…(and) that is problematic.”

So she devised her Haitian mom biblical benchmark to use for hard questions about what she will or will not ascribe to God – the shoulds, should nots, will and will nots –

“If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.”

For example, she wrote, “If a sermon promises health and wealth to the faithful, it isn’t true, because that theology makes God an absolute monster who only blesses rich westerners and despises Christians … everywhere else a sincere believer remains poor..“Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere,” she reasons.

This benchmark “sets God free to be God instead of the My-God-in-a-Pocket… (and) lends restraint when declaring what God does or does not think (especially when) my portrayal of God’s ways sounds suspiciously like the American Dream…. Because of the Haitian single mom, maybe I should speak less for God.”

Try plugging “prosperity” into a Bible app like http://www.openbible.info/topics/.  My search turned up over 100 verses in the ESV, including “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 19)

Considering this or any such verse alongside Hatmaker’s “Haitian single mom” benchmark shifts the focus from me to God, doesn’t it?  Riches that flow from “glory in Christ Jesus” need no additional qualifiers, criteria or conditions to be met.  Nor can I or anyone help the promise along in order for it to be true.  Freed from any such constraints opens us to recognize and receive God’s promises however He chooses to deliver them to me/us.

Does this remind you how Jesus answered the Pharisee’s question about the most important commandment?

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 37-40)

When all contexts start with God, all our questions are answered and needs met in the best possible way for everyone across the board – as true for the single Christian mom in Haiti as the married Christian man in Michigan.

“They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” (Proverbs 36:8, ESV)

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I drew Hatmaker quotes from her Focus on the Family interview on July 19, 2016: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/media/daily-broadcast/letting-go-of-perfection-and-accepting-gods-grace-pt2 (part 1 was July 18) and her book, “For the Love – Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.”

Image source: http://www.pressherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/TruthMeter21.jpg

 

 

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