Meaningful Work

Most people prefer to find work that is fulfilling, in a career field they are passionate about, and with pay that compensates them rewardingly. But what makes work truly meaningful? What if work was meant to be fulfilling because it served a greater purpose, a purpose outside of ourselves? 

Whether it’s an entry-level position, work at home, or a leadership role there are many times where we have to do the work that is set before us. This is also known as whatever our hands find to do (Ecclesiastes 9:10). This may or may not be something we’re excited about or paid a lot of money for, but there’s still a purpose behind it. 

Originally work was established with the purpose of worship and expanding God’s kingdom on the earth. Then after the fall, a new layer was added while keeping the original intent. Work was going to be much harder, yet God provided a way for His people to be a part of the healing process in a broken world. God’s people were to be part of the solution and an Offspring was promised (Genesis 3:15). God’s people would have a new opportunity to glorify Him by having families, spreading out over the earth, and using their talents to serve His good purposes, while providing help to others (some product or service).

Work In The Beginning
In the beginning work was performed by God and then He gave instructions and assigned tasks to Adam and Eve. They were to be stewards of creation in perfect relationship with their Creator as they went about their assigned tasks.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:28 

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Genesis 2:15

Work After The Fall
As revealed in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve’s rebellion had consequences that still impact our working lives:

…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you…
Genesis 3:17b-18a

Work is now more difficult, but work was not the curse even though the curse affects our work. 

And then in the first eleven chapters of Genesis we go from the pre-fall garden of grace, caring for God’s creation, and expanding it to spread God’s fame, to a fallen people coming up with a grand plan to disobey God by living in one place and trying to make a name for themselves.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
Genesis 11:4

Is work all about me, my self-worth, building a personal brand, accumulating wealth and retirement, while making a name for myself? Isn’t this a Tower of Babel mentality? 

There are two traps that we easily fall into. Our job, and the money and prestige it generates, can either feed our ego and selfish desires, or it can do the opposite where we tend to grumble and complain due to discontentment.

Consider these verses:

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
1 Timothy 6:6‭-‬7 

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
Colossians 3:23

The Work Of Redemption
As mentioned in the introduction, after the fall God had a plan to restore and redeem and work continued to be incorporated into His plan. Below is a helpful excerpt from a devotional by the team at Theology of Work regarding “God’s Good Idea: Work and Redemption.”

Despite the curse, the work commissioned in Genesis 1 and 2 continues. There is still ground to be tilled and phenomena of nature to be studied, described and named. Men and women must still be fruitful, must still multiply, must still govern.

But now, a second layer of work must also be accomplished—the work of healing and repairing things that go wrong and evils that are committed. In a world of sin and sadness, many jobs echo God’s redemption: Scientists and salespersons help people overcome various difficulties by providing products to make life easier and healthier. Law enforcement officers and parents provide safety in the midst of chaos. Accountants and repairmen fix broken ledgers, appliances and technology.

These and other roles project hope for the coming restoration (Revelation 21:1). One day, brokenness will be gone; pain will be no more. But until that day, even the most frustrating jobs can be means by which we carry out the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). We can reflect Jesus’ finished work in our own lives as we display God’s characteristics to the world and work to redeem areas of brokenness.

The Greater Purpose
While we can’t work to earn our salvation, we can show the world where our Hope lies as we’re working. As we’re going and doing we can show by our actions and how we conduct ourselves that there is a greater purpose to what we do. The purpose includes the greatest command to love the Lord our God and our neighbors.

Therefore, work has meaning and is a tangible way we can minister to a broken world, while honoring God, providing income to steward and to give away to expand His kingdom, while helping others in need. It’s also an opportunity to point others to the promised Offspring, Jesus Christ, to emulate Him as His disciples, and to tell others about His finished work on the cross.

Work, after all, is still a means of worship…so whatever we do, let’s do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Navigating Offenses: Overlooking vs. Dealing With It

One of the hardest things we have to learn is how to deal with others who have offended us, while doing it with love and self-control. If you’re a parent, you know this quite well. And no one does this perfectly, so we all have some growth in this area. Can an offense be overlooked or does it need to be dealt with? The world calls this emotional intelligence, but leaves out the spiritual element and our need for the gospel.

Finger pointing and the blame game started right after the fall and taking up an offense ensued. Enmity and jealousy were introduced and you know the rest of the story…

Let Scripture Guides Us

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends (Proverbs 17:9).

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11).

Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others (Ecclesiastes 7:21–22).

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9).

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31).

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7).

Is It Really Something To Be Offended About?
Is it a potato? A what? Yes, a potato. In our family, believe it or not, there was once an argument over a baked potato among two of our children. Heels dug in, neither side would let it go, and tempers flared. After all calmed down it was rather silly and they knew it, but in the heat of the moment sinful hearts were revealed. We now have a saying when a minor offense comes up. Are you making this a potato?

Sometimes we like to argue and fight over insignificant things because it’s in our sin nature to take up an offense, point fingers, and insist on a satisfactory outcome in the courtroom of our own justice.

Consider these verses:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:18-19).

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

The next time there’s a potato in your family, point it out, talk about how it needs to be overlooked, and explain that love covers a multitude of sins. Explain how we should be gracious and merciful, and how it relates to the gospel…”but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Let’s help train one another to overlook the offense because we live in a broken world where offenses come frequently. Age and spiritual maturity help, but some situations are much more difficult than others. Sometimes it requires dealing with it.

How Would You Handle These Two Examples?
A family member isn’t coming home for Christmas this year, they’re going on vacation instead. This breaks a longstanding family tradition and now other family members aren’t coming either. You can sense the tension.

A friend at work applied for the same managerial position you did after you told them about it. You feel you’re more qualified and taken advantage of. They received and accepted the offer and now you work for them.

When It Can’t Be Overlooked
The rule of thumb is what love can’t cover, it has to be dealt with. Overlooking an offense in a loving self-controlled way is healthy, but conflict avoidance, with the appearance of overlooking, isn’t healthy.

Avoiding conflict often means sweeping the dust under the rug, letting it accumulate, and then all the mess comes out later. I’m not talking about taking time to calm down, or needing some space. I’m also not talking about separation because of safety from an abusive situation. Sometimes temporary separation is necessary. I’m talking about avoiding someone because you don’t want to deal with an offense that’s eating at you.

If love can’t cover it, meaning you can’t forgive and let it go because it’s bothering you so badly, or because the offense was so sinful, that’s when you have to deal with it. The rules are clear, we’re to go directly to the person and have the conversation about the offense to try and resolve the matter.

Matthew 18
Verses 15-20 provide the guidelines for dealing with someone who has sinned against us and the aim is to confront gently and attempt to restore the relationship. One practical way to work through an offense is to explain how the offense makes us feel versus attacking someone for what they did or didn’t do. Meaning, telling the person when you did X, I felt Y and it really bothered me is a better approach than letting them have it with a verbal barrage for what they did to you and making sure they know how wrong it was. Explaining to them that you want to work through things because you care about the relationship also goes a long way toward mending it.

This may take a lot of work and self-control, but it’s a loving step towards forgiveness and reconciliation versus attacking or simply retreating into an entrenched position of “you’re the worst.” Telling someone how you feel shows vulnerability and opens the door of communication, attacking someone slams the door and often creates more conflict, and entrenching into our position creates a stalemate. Remember, if possible, try to live peaceably with others…it takes the willingness of the other person to work through things fully. Sadly, it may not be possible.  

Therefore, serious offenses and stubbornness of heart may require others to be engaged. This is where seeking wise counsel and bringing one or more into the mix helps. Each step of the way the circle is enlarged, but the aim is to keep it as small as possible. 

Outside the church, this may have to be dealt with within the family circle, HR department, or governing authorities. Within the church, this process is known as church discipline. The last step is few and far between, but the first step is practiced all the time in one on one conversations and no one else is even aware. The entire church is rarely involved. Yet God knows our stubborn hearts and He provides this process to help confront serious offenses in a Biblical, God honoring and loving way.

Growth And Hope
Whether it’s a potato or a more serious issue, we find forgiveness, hope, peace, and comfort in the gospel. Relationship difficulties sprout opportunities to trust God more, to grow in our love for God and others, and to grow in our understanding of how we should forgive because we’ve been forgiven.

Be encouraged, Revelation 21 tells us all will be made right. One day the brokenness we experience will end, the relationships between God and His people will be fully restored, we won’t offend or be offended, justice will prevail, and there will be joy and peace forevermore.

Another Day Strong

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Some days are harder than others
Without your curves under the covers
Waking up knowing I’ll never hold another…like you
But then there’s days when I think everything’s gonna be alright
And nights when my heart tells me I’m gonna survive
Without you snuggling by my side

Another day gone, another day strong
I’ve gotta long way to go, down this lonely road
I don’t feel like I’m getting far, when I’m missing you so hard
But I’m praying one day at a time, since you’ve been gone
I’m another day strong

Some days I’m haunted by your face
Driving by spots where we used to date
Sometimes you appear in crazy ways…out of the blue
Like hearing that song you always sang the wrong words to
When a caller on the radio sounded just like you
Catching the scent of your perfume

I’m moving on, never the same
Changed by love, changed by pain
But your memory will never fade

Another day gone, another day strong
I’m another day strong

Jesus, Friend

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Jesus, the Lamb of God with us
Betrayed, denied by friends He loved
Bleeding, dying, buried, then raised
Death conquered by Power and Grace

Jesus, Friend of sinners and thieves
Of which I am the the worst of these
My sin, my debt, my nakedness
Gone, paid, now dressed in Righteousness

Behind the lines

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. ~John 15:12-17

The Wise Counsel of Friends

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At some point in our lives we’ll face a crisis where we’re not sure what to do and we’re overwhelmed with the weight of what we’re facing. These kind of dilemmas may have various degrees of severity, but what they do is push us over the edge of the normal routine of life and into an uncomfortable situation that refines us by fire. The Book of Proverbs is full of wisdom to help us navigate difficult circumstances and one thing is clear God provides friends with wise counsel to help and encourage us on our spiritual journey. Friends are precious gifts from God and we shouldn’t take friendship lightly.

Acknowledge The Need For Help

The first thing we must do in difficult situations is to realize when we need help, wisdom, and counsel from friends and act upon it. The challenge for us during tough times is we’re often flooded with anxiety and may experience sadness, depression, anger, restlessness, and frustration. Both sleep and the appetite may be lost, or we may go to the other extreme of oversleeping and overeating. This is on top of the daily pressure of work, school, family, and household duties. The reality of our specific situation may be multifaceted and complex. Our decision making may be clouded by doubts, fears, and mental phantoms where we tend to resist the help of our friends because it exposes something we’d rather not deal with. We may be hurting emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Therefore, we’re more likely to believe lies and say things out of frustration which aren’t helpful. We’re primed to make bad decisions.

This is precisely why and when we need wise friends with Godly counsel.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad (Proverbs 12:25).

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel (Proverbs 27:9).

Resist Following Your Own Heart

The second thing we must learn is to resist the desire to follow our own heart and mind because the Bible tell us we’re prone to think wrongly. Where the world tells us to “follow our heart”, the Bible says:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9). 

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Proverbs 28:26).

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Here we often struggle by justifying our attempts of coping alone. We ask ourselves questions and answer back and believe things which aren’t true: “So what if I make an unwise decision or hurt someone? I’m already hurting, it can’t get any worse. Is this happening to me because of my sin? What if I have to confess something that makes me look bad? I think God is after me. I wonder what the Bible says about the situation? I really don’t have time to dig into the Word. I wonder if I should seek my pastor or friends advice? What if I talk to one of my friends, I’ve heard they’ve been through something similar? No, they wouldn’t understand my situation, it’s similar, but not really the same. And I bet my pastor is too busy, and I don’t want to look foolish to my friends, but is it more foolish of me not to seek advice? I don’t know, I’ll just do this my way and see how it goes.”

Embrace Wise Counsel

Whatever trial we’re facing its purpose is to help us depend less on ourselves and more on God. Trials reveal our heart, expose sin, and help us see our need for a Savior anew. This is where wise counsel helps us through the muck of our lives, helps us stay on the right path, and helps us to learn to accept the love and support of friends whom God has placed in our lives for this very purpose. Thus, instead of following our own heart, we should embrace the help of Christian friends and thank God for them.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17).

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). 

A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory (Proverbs 24:5-6).

And I’ll include my favorite again:

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel (Proverbs 27:9).

So embrace the sweetness of a friend who will rejoice your heart by their counsel and be that friend to others. Friends are a Godsend for our good and His glory on our life journey.

The Pilgrim’s Progress

This reminds me of The Pilgrim’s Progress, that famous book penned by John Bunyan, where the main character, Christian, has two friends on the way through life’s journey. One was named Faithful and the other Hopeful.

Faithful was from the City of Destruction whom Christian meets as he leaves the Valley of the Shadow of Death and the two journey together until Faithful is killed in the wild town of Vanity Fair. But soon after Faithful’s execution Christian meets Hopeful and the two of them travel together all the way to the Celestial City. After each trial God provides a friend for Christian.

In the second half of the book, Christian’s wife, Christiana, later follows her husband on a similar journey and she has Mercy and Great-heart to help her on her way. If you’ve not read The Pilgrim’s Progress lately I highly recommend it.

Like Bunyan, and the writer of Proverbs, God knows we need friends that are faithful, hopeful, full of mercy, and who have great hearts for the Lord. Embrace their wise counsel because, even though they’re not perfect, they are very much a sweetness to the soul and in God’s providence they provide much encouragement to us on our long spiritual journey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delighting in the LORD’s Discipline

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What comes to mind when you think of a father’s discipline? Is it a rough and tough dad picking-you-up-by-the-pants and spanking you angrily out-of-control, or is it a strong, but caring father who firmly corrects you because he loves and delights in you? The later is of course the picture painted about the discipline our Heavenly Father gives in Proverbs.

Proverbs 3:11-12
My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

The Hebrew word for despise is ma’ac (phonetically maw-as’) and it means to abhor, cast away off, disdain, become loathsome, refuse. What are we not to make light of and refuse? God’s love through His discipline. The Hebrew word for weary is quts (phonetically koots) which means to feel a loathing, abhorrence, or sickening dread. What are we not to sickening dread? God’s love through His reproof.

Let’s turn our attention to the word delight. It’s the Hebrew word ratsah (phonetically raw-tsaw’) which means to be pleased with or accept favorably. Should we loathe and hate to be under the loving care and discipline of a Father who is pleased with us and accepts us so favorably?

Think about these two points:  

  1. Our Heavenly Father disciplines us because He loves and delights in us, but if we despise His correction, we are despising His love.
  2. Our Heavenly Father disciplines us for His glory and our good, but when we’re in dread of, or distressed by, His correction, we are in fact denying His goodness and throwing shade on His glory.

Even the best earthly father will fail in many ways and ruin the perfect picture of love and discipline painted in this verse. The writer of the Book of Hebrews quotes it again to remind us not to forget it and never grow weary of our Heavenly Father’s discipline and care.

Hebrews 12:5-11 
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 

Don’t you love that He disciplines us for our good so that we may share in His holiness? Sinners! You and me? Holy?

Yes, His discipline may seem painful for a time, but it will one day produce peaceful fruit and holiness! And fruit takes the mind all the way back to the garden, to that seemingly delightful, yet sinful fruit that Adam and Eve partook of. But God, in Genesis 3:15, promised an Offspring, and then took His children by the hand in order to lead them all the way back to peace with Him. This peaceful fruit was made possible by and through the sacrifice of the promised Offspring – His One Loved Son!

We have a Good, Good Father indeed! Delight in Him…

Troubled

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Verse 1
One of you will betray me
One of you will deny
All of you will be afraid
And scattered into the night

Pre-Chorus
I will lay down my life
I will lay down my life

Chorus
Don’t let your hearts be troubled, troubled
Don’t let your fears get in the way
Believe in God, believe also in me
And when your world starts to crumble
Don’t let your hearts be troubled

Verse 2
There is a new commandment
One that I give to you
That you love one another
With the love which I’ve loved you

Bridge
I will go and prepare a place for you
My Father’s house has many rooms
So keep my commands until I come again
And remember I am coming soon

You Love Me With Your Eyes

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I can see it in your eyes
I can sense it across the room
There’s no hiding what you’re feeling
And there’s nothing I can do

You love me with your eyes
You’re in love and everyone knows
You have strength deep inside
And it shines wherever you go
Girl, you take me into your soul when
You love me with your eyes

Everyone else disappears
When you glance over at me
When our eyes meet they lock in a kiss
Like lightning hitting the sea

Waves crashing on a pristine beach
Sunset falling over the ocean side
Starlight as far as the heavens deep
And then there’s your eyes

 

Into the Fog of Gloomy Gray

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Two red flags waving on the shore
Change to white signaling a love no more
Marking where two lovers once guarded their castle strong
But wave after wave it eroded away
And now it is gone

Where no ocean breeze brings relief
Where no moonlit tide rests the mind
Separated and drifting further away
Gone, into the fog of gloomy gray
Into the fog of gloomy gray

No sunny, long walks on the beach
Only fists full of mist left within reach
No strong storms brewing in the eyes of tangled up hearts
Just emotional waves hiding day after day
Pushing them apart

Where no ocean breeze brings relief
Where no moonlit tide rests the mind
Separated and drifting further away
Gone, into the fog of gloomy gray
Into the fog of gloomy gray

Behind the lines

Red flag marriages going separate ways and all the cloudy emotions that follow.

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him (Lamentations 3:21-24).”

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