Christ at Work

…and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king… ESV Nehemiah 1:11

Yesterday in church we considered the challenge of mental illness and all associated with it. To help us better understand the the nuances of mental health, we brought in a Christian counselor to guide us through some practical steps of dealing with depression and anxiety. When she introduced herself to the congregation, she shared that she worked at a secular counseling center, yet had been given great freedom to share her faith through her work. While she’s not able to ask people to receive Christ, she can share the gospel, encourage them to find a church and urge them to consider the spiritual side of their lives.

In our culture today, I think we too often feel as Christians we aren’t allowed to be a witness for Jesus at our work place. However, this is a lie from Satan that couldn’t be further from the church. Yes, we are employed to do a job. However, as we do our work, God may open doors for us to advance His kingdom, even if it doesn’t explicitly involve sharing the gospel. Joseph used his position to secure his family’s well-being. Nehemiah used his to secure resources to rebuild Jerusalem. Esther used her position to save her people. Daniel used his position to witness to the most powerful men alive and point them to God. We must not fear the opportunities God places before us as at our work. While we may not lead Bible studies on company time or lead all our co-workers to the Lord, it doesn’t mean we can’t be a powerful witness.

A good friend of mine used to teach 4th grade in the public schools. While she didn’t explicitly share her faith, she tried to ensure the biographies they read were of believers. She would also take every opportunity when kids asked what she believed to tell them. Another friend asked a question about faith in a public forum, enabling deeper conversation. Mike Pence especially seems to be able to witness effectively in his position. I’ve been quite impressed with how he displays his faith in a very difficult calling. God placed you in your workplace to glorify Him. Do it well!

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Standing Sober

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. ESV 1 Peter 5:8

For some reason, I’ve especially felt the prowling of the adversary lately. From an event at church last night that started with him trying to get a foothold, to some things I’m wrestling with today, he seems to constantly be trying to shift my focus off of Christ. It’s amazing how quickly I can get frustrated or knocked off my game. However, when we read the verse above, we should learn to expect these distractions.

Peter warns us to be sober-minded and watchful. Apparently the devil is trying to devour me (and you) today. While I think I’m living just a regular Saturday, the devil is hungrily trying to get me to sin in any way he can. Whether it’s frustrating me as I install new wiper blades, challenging my patience through my children, or tempting my thoughts toward sin in various ways, Satan is constantly seeking to draw my heart away from Christ Jesus. While we should never fear the devil, we need to realize this truth as part of our spiritual formation. For this reason, we have to remain on guard at all times. Yes, we can take Sabbath to relax, but we must always remain in prayer, wary of his sudden attacks. Like a soldier in a combat zone, we must always be ready to defend against an enemy attack. While Christ has died, securing our eternal life, the adversary wants to do everything in his power to ruin our present life on earth. Only by remaining watchful and sober can we avoid the attacks of the adversary.

How has Satan knocked you off your game today? Has he caught you off-guard? May I encourage you to stay focused on Jesus at all times so that you might guard your heart and mind against the attacks of the enemy? The warfare is real, but the victory is assured when we simply stand firm in Christ Jesus. He has won the victory, but we have to claim it in each attack. Stand strong my friend!

Loving the Lost

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ESV 2 Peter 3:9

When I think of my spiritual formation, I think of things that make me better. Reading my Bible, loving Jesus more, praying more, etc. Rarely do I think of those who are far from Jesus, those who don’t even consider their own spiritual formation, those who may or may not believe in God. However, as I learn the heart of Jesus, I’m realizing true spiritual formation involves developing a passionate heart for those far from Jesus.

Jesus Himself acknowledged He didn’t come for the well, but for the sick. He didn’t come to be served but to serve. He didn’t come for the found but to seek and to save the lost. Peter comments in the verse mentioned above that Jesus hasn’t returned to earth yet because He wants to give just a little more time for those who haven’t repented of their ways to come turn from perishing and embrace the life of Christ. Jesus reminded the Samaritan woman God is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and truth. Even John reminds us God’s love for the world was so great He provided the death of His Son Jesus to secure the salvation of all who believe. Truly God is committed to saving the lost, and any spiritual formation that takes place in my life must reflect this passion.

My Growth Group is working through a series on how to share our faith, and I’m loving the response of our members. Several were sharing on Tuesday how in the past, they never considered the fact that their co-workers were lost, but now they regularly recognize that and are looking for opportunities to share their faith. As we grow in the mind of Christ, we begin to realize the true spiritual condition of those around us and work to bring them into a knowledge of the awesome gospel. The more we grasp our own forgiveness and position in Christ, the more we yearn for others to experience the same thing. Perhaps this is why Paul in the book of Romans, after writing about God’s grace and our salvation, admits he would give up his salvation if it meant the salvation of His people. May we share his passion.

‘Til Death Parts Us

Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. ESV Romans 7:2-3

I’m blessed to have married my best friend. We love hanging out together and do so at every opportunity. While we love raising the children God has given us, we also look forward to the day they are raised and we are freed to enjoy more time together! We look forward to spoiling our grandchildren and enjoying the ministry God will have for us at that point. In the mean time, I’ll continue to pour into my wife at every opportunity–for she will be with me until one of us dies.

We often consider the importance of taking care of our physical bodies. Be it exercise, losing weight, eating well, tracking various numbers (cholesterol, sugar, blood pressure), we realize our life on earth very much depends on the health of our bodies. When our bodies fail, so does our time on earth. As such, we should at least be slightly motivated to care for our bodies. For some reason, we don’t always think of our marriages in the same way. God does, however. At marriage, we become one-flesh with our spouse, meaning they become as much a part of us as our bodies. Hence, we would do well to maintain our marriage with the same passion that we maintain our bodies. (On another note, and perhaps a blog post for another day, I’m shocked at how many people don’t bother to maintain their bodies….). Just as most of us consider diet, exercise, sleep, etc. to be vital to enjoying long life, so we should consider dates, getaways, movies, snuggles, gentle kisses, walks together, discussion, sharing our day, holding hands, long hugs, sex, dreaming together, and dancing in the kitchen to be vital to the health of our marriage. The verses above remind us of the permanency of our marriages, so we would do well to invest in them.

With five kids, homeschooling, a growing church, an adoption process, lots of discipling and the like, it’s easy for my wife and I to grow apart. That’s why we fight passionately for time together every night. We wrapped up our day at 9:15 last night, then sat and talked for 45 minutes, and watched “Life in Pieces” (our nightly medicine), then went to bed. That hour and a half was time invested in my future…time well spent ’til death do us part.

Playing to Strength

Assemble and listen, O sons of Jacob, listen to Israel your father. 3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. 4 Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it- he went up to my couch! ESV Genesis 49:2-4

I’m reading a fascinating book by Shawn Achor called The Happiness Advantage. While it’s from a secular perspective, as I run it through my Bibilcal worldview, so much aligns with Scripture. Shawn effectively argues from psychological research that we perform best when we are happy. He offers several helpful strategies that go beyond just thinking positive thoughts and trying to convince ourselves to be happy. One interesting suggestion he calls “the fulcrum and the lever” arguing that instead of just trying to think positively, we should instead focus on our strengths and less on our weaknesses. In effect, this moves our fulcrum closer to our load, thus lengthening our lever of positive strength and enables us to accomplish more. It’s also Biblical!

Often throughout the Bible, father’s would bless their children as Jacob does in the verses above. Through these blessings, they called attention to the child’s strengths and warned them of their weaknesses. By encouraging them to focus on their strengths, and to be aware of, but not controlled by their weaknesses, the fathers equipped them with the same principles Achor argues for. In the verses above, Jacob acknowledges Reuben’s strength, might, power and dignity. However, Jacob also calls attention to how Reuben failed to exercise self-control and slept with his father’s concubine. Reuben would only thrive if he moved back toward his strength and away from his weakness. David does the same thing with Solomon, Isaac did the same with Jacob. In blessing our children, we have an awesome opportunity to encourage them to play to their strengths.

As I took my son to school this morning, I applied this same principle. I acknowledged some of his weaknesses that give him frustration in school. But then I affirmed two of his strengths that allow him to thrive in school. I urged him to focus on his strengths, realizing his weaknesses will still be there, but his strengths will overcome them. If he listened, it set him up for success today. May you play to your strengths today and thrive!

 

Don’t Underestimate Our Children

For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images. ESV 2 Chronicles 34:3

We often think our children can’t do great spiritual things. For that reason we often think they can’t serve the Lord until they are adults. Not so with Josiah. Perhaps we can all learn from his actions.

Josiah came to the throne when he was just eight years old. Eight years later when he was only sixteen, he began to seek the God of David his father. When he was twenty, he began to purge all the evil from Judah. As I listened to his story this morning, I couldn’t help but think that he was an amazing example of following the Lord, even as a child and young man. Oh that my children would have such a passion for the Lord Jesus! Josiah set in place some serious reforms that gave Judah a final few years of following the Lord before they fully turned and were sent into exile.

May we never underestimate the passion of our children. May we encourage them and cheer for them as they begin to seek the Lord. It may be rough or immature at times, but know that God loves the children and He has often raised up great leaders in their youth. Joseph, David, Daniel…all most likely did some of their greatest actions as teens. In the NT, Joseph, Mary, and perhaps many of the apostles were all in their teens when they followed the Lord’s calling. Our children have great potential, so let’s pray passionately for them and encourage their spiritual development.

Favor to the Humble

…to the humble he gives favor. ESV Proverbs 3:34

I’m not a huge sports fan, but my family generally watches the Super Bowl together and we keep up with the basic news the week before the big game. Hence, while I’m sure I don’t know all the facts about every player on every team, I was very impressed with Nick Foles going into the game. I had read a few different articles that he plans to become a high school pastor after football (and I had read of others on the Eagles team who were outspoken believers as well). This isn’t to say there are no Christians on the Patriots, as I’m sure there are in an organization that large. However, I can’t help but wonder if God was a bit involved in the game last night. The Patriots are a simply amazing team (as we saw in Super Bowl LI). Could it be that God showed favor to the Eagles last night?

Two Foles quotes stood out to me this morning as I skimmed news articles about the game last night. “I’m a Christian and I believe in God… and when you do great, you stay humble and you give him glory.” Secondly: “I think the big thing that helped me was knowing that I didn’t have to be Superman,” Foles said. “I have amazing teammates, amazing coaches around me.” Various proverbs kept running through my mind as I considered such humility and how God loves to show himself strong to those who are humble and loyal to Him. Granted I don’t follow sports that closely, and I’m sure there are those who could cite all sorts of evil with the Eagles, and perhaps cite even more examples of godly people on the Patriots, so I’ll admit I’m blogging outside my strength zone. (One reasons why I generally stay straight from the Bible :-)). However, part of spiritual formation is applying Biblical teaching to life and looking for real-life examples of Biblical teaching.

I pray we stay humble in our callings today. God has given each of us unique talents and while we won’t win Super Bowls, we can find God’s favor in other ways. May you humbly submit to the Lord Jesus and allow Him to exalt you in due time. Humility always wins.

 

Following God in Faith

…He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. ESV Isaiah 22:22

My wife and I are learning a lot about our God right now as we follow Him on an adoption journey. Over the last few weeks He has really spoken so much to us and we are tentatively following Him in faith. It’s been an interesting journey to be sure, one that has caused us to constantly reflect on what He has done thus far and what we believe He will do in the future. Several key passages of Scripture have come to mind on this journey, and I wanted to share one of them this morning.

As I reflected on what God has been doing most recently on this journey, I thought of the verse in Isaiah quoted above. The passage refers to God’s servant, but the servant is clearly acting with the power of God, so I think in context it’s fair to say the verse describes how God works. When He chooses to open a door, no man on earth can shut it. When He chooses to close a door. No one and no thing can open it. This idea comforts my wife and I as we search for the kids God has in mind for our family. God knows the sibling set He has for us. No one can stop that match from being made. It may seem for a while like a door is closing, but God is the one who ultimately determines if it is closed. Up to this point, we have watched Him open door after door. We felt the call to adopt again over 5 years ago, but knew the time wasn’t right. Three years ago he provided a house large enough for the adoption. 18 months ago, He opened the door to the right agency (so many other doors had been closed). Then He opened the door to the required training, and provided the initial financing needed. Now we wait for Him to open to door to the right kids. There is a group of siblings we feel strongly drawn toward, yet that door seemed to close last week. Until God reminded us that only He can fully close doors.

We aren’t quite sure what that means, but at this point, we feel compelled to continue to pray in faith for these particular kids. God knows! (Taken from the end of Exodus 2…that was our prayer on this house…God did know, and did provide). I don’t know what doors are before you in your life, but may you be encouraged that only God can open and shut them. May your pray with earnest expectation as you await His awesome work.

Knowing Your Past

The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addan, and Immer, though they could not prove their fathers’ houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: ESV Ezra 2:59

I’m generally a forward-thinking person–always dreaming about and planning for the future, and not so much concerned about the past and where I have come from. However, when I do take time to reflect on my past, I realize most of the good things in my life now are a direct result of the strong Christian faith of my ancestors. My parents are strong believers who actively discipled me. My grandparents were strong believers who passionately lived out the Christian life (and my grandma continues to teach Bible studies in her late 90s). My great-grandparents were believers. My life is the result of a powerful Christian legacy.

Chen Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland following the exile, they joyfully responded. Once back in their country, they registered according to their family, and began to renew their positions accordingly (priests, leaders, servants, temple musicians, etc.). However, a few families didn’t know their father’s houses of their descent, and couldn’t prove whether or not they truly belonged to Israel. They didn’t know where they came from. Because they couldn’t prove their lineage, they were excluded from serving in specific roles until a priest could sort things out through God’s guidance.

While this may leave your discouraged if you don’t know your past, or perhaps if you are a first generation Christian, be encouraged. The reality is that it’s not so much your earthly lineage that defines you as it is your spiritual lineage. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are an adopted son of God. Jesus is not ashamed to call Himself your brother. This new position in God’s family should define you. Yes, in your past, your father was the devil, but your past defines you no longer. Your heritage and legacy from this point forward is as a child of God. Your children and grandchildren will build draw from this legacy. Be confident in your position in Christ and build a legacy for future generations. Our past can influence us, but it doesn’t define us. Even with my Christian heritage, I must embrace God’s call on my own and live for Him going forward. Join me in this endeavor.

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