What about Mondays?

When I see people heading for the parking lot after Sunday services I wonder if they will see any connection between the service they just attended and the other 98% of their waking hours?  Do they see any connection of the Kingdom of God they just touched on Sunday to the same Kingdom they are to carry to their places of employment, school, or the marketplace on Monday?

If not an age old problem called “dualism” can capture our thinking.  Dualism is the tendency to see your life in sections (spiritual, social, and natural etc.) that have no bearing on each other.  Dualism causes people to think the Christian life is what we do for a couple of hours on Sunday or Wednesday but has little bearing on the rest of our life.  God’s design is much greater than this.

There is a mandate that began at creation in the garden of Eden that continues through His church everyday.  Genesis 1:26 contains the mandate “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.”  God continues these three ideas through Christ body, the church

Eph 1:22-23... At the center of all this, Christ rules the church.  (23)  The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which He fills everything with His presence.  

Contrary to the idea that God is only trying to rescue people out of the earth, He also wants to fill the earth with His glory through His people.  I like the theologian Abraham Kuper’s comments on Psa 24:1,  “There is not one square inch of this universe that God doesn’t say “mine.”

As we walk about this earth in our everyday life we need to look at it through the eyes of God’s desire.  He wants to fill every square inch of it with His glory, and He likes to use His people in the process.

One of the great motivation robbers is when we see our everyday spheres of life (2 Co 10:13-16) as a drudgery that we have to endure rather than “square inches” of God’s earth that are to be filled with His life.

We need to seek God for creative ideas and expressions to fill “His square inches.”  It includes good works, words, but also works of power.  We need to pray for people, lay hands on them, and help break and heal the demonic influence in their lives and homes.  One Scripture I would encourage all of us to incorporate into our prayers for this coming year is 2Th 1:11  To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy (make you fit) of your calling, and  fulfill every desire for goodness and the works of faith with power. 

At our everyday workplace

One of the main areas we spend a majority of our waking hours is our places of employment (work and school).  We want to be fruitful, multiply and fill these areas.

What are some of the Biblical ways we can embrace at our workplace or school?

Col 3:22-24  employees, obey your bosses according to the flesh in all things; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart (heartedly), fearing God.  23  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.

  • Work in a way that respects and honors your bosses and teachers knowing they carry authority from Christ and you are first and foremost serving Him (Romans 13).  1Tim 6:1-2…regard your own masters (bosses) as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against….Teach and preach these principles.  This even extends to those bosses who are unreasonable, or perverse  (1 Peter 2:18-20).
  • Work wholeheartedly, not halfheartedly, because you are serving Christ.  I remember hearing a quote written on the wall of a break room:   Sometime between starting and quitting time, without infringing on lunch periods, coffee breaks, rest periods, storytelling time, holiday planning, and the rehashing of yesterday’s TV programs, we ask that each employee try to find some time for a work break. Don’t be like a coworker I once had who used to come to work and before his shift sit in a chair with his feet up and declare his intentions, “they pay me minimum wage and they are going to get minimum effort.”
  • Don’t gripe, complain, or backtalk, but give blessings instead (Phil 2:14-15).   Your source of life comes from something greater than the job.  Always be thankful (1 Thes 5:18) and that will make an impact on a hopeless culture around you.
  • Be trustworthy (Titus 2:10) and dependable ( 16:10).  This tends to make an impact at our workplace, especially in the cultural climate of entitlement all around us.
  • Express the Biblical attitude of contentment with finances and freedom from the love of money (Lk 10:7, 1 Tim 6:6-10  Heb 13:5).   In a greed filled culture this will have a great impact.
  • Bless your co-workers and fellow students through caring, serving, and praying for God’s power to touch their lives (Lk 6:28, Rom 12:14).  One guy I know who worked part time at Pizza Hut was so faithful to care and pray for his coworkers that he received a special award from His bosses and co workers called “God’s Healer Award.”  With this attitude toward coworkers you will be surprised at the opportunities to bring the Kingdom to bear in their personal life.
  • Seek God’s wisdom, insight, and gifting to help your company to prosper.  Many of the saints in the Bible like Joseph and Jacob gained insight to help make the place they were employed prosper which ended up prospering God’s people.
  • Join with other Christians to pray over your workplace.  

 

 

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Living Out The Important Things

God didn’t love from a distance, but loved up close. He calls us to do the same.  

“You have meant so much to me and my family, like the time…”  His voice began to crack as he remembered events and shared them with appreciation at his 50th birthday party.  People began to grab tissues and the floodgates of emotions and testimonies began to flow.  During this time of year when I encounter these types of events I can’t help but think of what the angel Clarence said to George Bailey in the movie It’s a wonderful life. “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”   

During the holiday season we celebrate the fact that God didn’t just send a message, a podcast, a tweet, or a Facebook post.  He sent His Son in flesh and blood to demonstrate what He is like, and show how much He cares.  It’s called the incarntation.

Jostrange-isnt-ithn 1:14 The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, liIke Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. 

Taking on flesh and blood and reaching out with real life is God’s nature.  He is the light and has given His church the commission to continue to demonstrate that light. Matthew 5:14  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  His church isn’t a building, meeting, or program, its the family of God demonstrating His life, and offering the good news to the world around them    It happens with life on life interaction which is the way Jesus did it.  1Jn 1:1  That which was from the first, which has come to our ears, and which we have seen with our eyes, looking on it and touching it with our hands, about the Word of life.

Incarnational Living

We learn to live incarnationally from Jesus who took the time to regularly sit with people whom the religious community deemed unworthy of their time or attention.  Eventhough His time was in demand, He stopped long enough to speak with people, play with children, and eat with friends.  Most of his Kingdom work centered around these types of interactions.

This is often called incarnational living.  It is laying down your life to enter into, and reveal God’s life to others.  It is laying down your life to relate with, and serve people.  It is a pattern of dying to self in order to live to God.   

It is unfortunate but often the things we are most concerned about, and strive to achieve, have little to do with incarnational living with others.  As a matter of fact, many times what we pursue destroys the valuable relationships with people around us.   How many marriages have disintegrated because one of the spouses was married to their career and sacrificed close relationships to pursue it.  How many children grew up not being around people who should have shown them they were loved and important but instead took a secondary place in their lives.  What emotional holes were left because people didn’t live incarnationally.

The most valuable fruit in our lives comes not with power, wealth, or material things but with the gift of our presence.  It is life on life relationships with people.  In the end, the meaningful things that really matter come from loving relationships.

There was an interesting little quiz I came across a few years ago that highlights this truth.  It was attributed to Charles Schultz and it contains perspective about the important element of life on life relationships.

  • Name the five wealthiest people in the world. 
  • Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
  • Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest. 
  • Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize. 
  • Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress. 
  • Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.

The facts are, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday.  After the applause dies, the accolades are forgotten, and the youtube videos are no longer played they are forgotten. How about these questions?

  • List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
  • Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time. 
  • Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile. 
  • Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special. 
  • Think of five people you enjoy spending time with. 
  • Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you. 

The lesson is clear.  It is the life on life relationships with people that make the greatest difference in our lives.   It is not the ones with the greatest achievements, the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.  It is the ones who sacrificed, took and interest in, and cared about our life.

Jesus said this many times to help keep our focus on the most valuable things.

Mk 12:29-32 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength’. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. No other commandment is greater than these.”

Pursuing this type of living is simply about entering into another’s world by learning to listen, sympathize with, and to be present and available.  Then we do everything we can to bring God’s comfort, healing, deliverance, and care.   This is how Jesus lived.  The gospels are full of accounts of Jesus’ interactions with individuals – Matthew, Nathaniel, a prostitute, Nicodemus, a blind man, a Samaritan woman, and many others.  When the rich young ruler came up to Him, Jesus “looked at him and loved him.”  He listened.  He was never in a rush or distracted in His value of people.  At the end of the day that is where the greatest influence comes into people’s life. 

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Identity, Expectations, and Experience

Jesus wasn’t looking for members to casually join an organization. He was looking for people who would “lay their life down to follow Him together with others.”  He wanted imitators not admires,  followers not consumers, fellow family members on mission, not casual meeting attenders.

Our identity affects both our expectation and experience.  Legend has recorded a story about Alexander the Great, one of the greatest military generals who ever lived. One alexandernight during a campaign, he couldn’t sleep and left his tent to walk around the campgrounds.  As he was walking he came across a soldier asleep on guard duty – a serious offense. The penalty for falling asleep on guard duty was, in some cases, instant death; the commanding officer sometimes poured kerosene on the sleeping soldier and lit it. 

The soldier began to wake up as Alexander the Great approached him.  Recognizing who was standing in front of him, the young man feared for his life. “Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” Alexander asked the soldier. “Yes, sir,” the soldier responded in a quivering voice. “Soldier, what’s your name?” demanded Alexander. “Alexander, sir.”

Alexander repeated the question: “What is your name?” “My name is Alexander, sir,” the soldier repeated.  A third time and more loudly Alexander the Great asked, “What is your name?”  A third time the soldier meekly said, “My name is Alexander, sir.” Alexander then looked the young soldier straight in the eye. “Soldier,” he said with intensity, “either change your name or change your conduct.”

A Two-Tiered System

Colossians 2:6 You have accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord. Now keep on following Him.

Unfortunately under the umbrella of Christianity we have created a divide between salvation and discipleship.  Yet the Great Commission calling of Matthew 28:18-19  was to “make disciples (followers), teaching them to practice everything I have commanded.”  Being saved without following Jesus is a completely foreign idea in the New Testament.

“All who are called to salvation are called to discipleship, no exceptions, no excuses!”
Bill Hull

This can create alternative (not Biblical) categories of Christians.  One in which people decide to believe and receive Jesus as savior which guarantees heaven when they die. The hope is that later before they pass on they submit to Him with their whole life. The second is people who receive Him as “both Lord and Savior” (Acts 2:36) and begin to follow and obey Him. The first group is casually waiting for heaven while the second is serious about their faith as they follow Jesus. 

Expectation usually affects experience.  This two-tiered system leaves room for a group that will never bear any real fruit of following Jesus or multiply thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold (Mt 13:19-23).  With that expectation churches create various programs in hopes that Christians will eventually take steps towards discipleship.  If churches too strongly appeal to be involved in discipleship activitities like studying the Bible, praying, obeying Jesus, walking in real relationship among His people, or serving, it can be interpreted as legalism so they tone down expectations to avoid the stigma.   

Contrary to toning down expectations, Jesus was very clear about following Him as disciples. 

  • Joh 12:26  “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.
  • Jesus called people to “follow Him” 25 times in the Gospels while calling them to “believe in Him” only 4 times.  Even James despairingly says that “you believe God is one, that’s fine, but even the demons believe that and tremble” Jas 2:18.
  • In the 25 calls to follow He includes the expectation that we deny ourself and forsake other things in order to follow Him.  (Mark 8:35, Matthew 10:39, Luke 9:24, Luke 14:33, Luke 17:32-33, Luke 18:22 Matthew 16:25, Mar 10:21, John 12:24-27, John 13:37-38 John 21:17-25, John 15:12-14)
  • The New Testament refers to God’s people as “disciples” 269 times while it uses the designation “Christian” only 3 times.  One of the 3 says, “the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch” Acts 11:26.  The Biblical identity and expectation is clearly discipleship.

Maybe what Alexander said would help in both the expectations and experiences of God’s people. What if instead of asking or answering “are you saved” or “are you going to heaven,” the question was, “are you following Jesus?” What about using the Biblical terms used to describe His people “followers, disciples, slaves, co laborer, and servants of Christ?”  Maybe a change of identity will change expectations and experience.

Colossians 2:6 CEV You have accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord. Now keep on following Him.

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