After Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 6

What are your plans after you reach retirement age? Are we only working now so we can play and relax after we retire? I have come to the understanding that we have misguided ourselves when it comes to retirement.

Retirement is not simply quitting work and spending the rest of our life relaxing and doing nothing. This time is actually a gift. This is not the time to think we have “served our part,” or “I’ve done _______ for awhile, it’s time for someone else to do it.”

Growing older is a grand adventure. As we age, hopefully we are learning from our experiences and allowing God’s wisdom to sink into our hearts. I imagine it is easy to say it is time for “new blood” or “someone younger is better.” But this is the opposite of what we need to happen. The scripture focus for this week shows us, we should continue to respect and honor those older than us.

Take some time to read these words:

“Don’t correct an older man, but encourage him like he’s your father; treat younger men like your brothers, treat older women like your mother, and treat younger women like your sisters with appropriate respect. Take care of widows who are truly needy. But if a particular widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn to respect their own family and repay their parents, because this pleases God. A widow who is truly needy and all alone puts her hope in God and keeps on going with requests and prayers, night and day. But a widow who tries to live a life of luxury is dead even while she is alive. Teach these things so that the families will be without fault. But if someone doesn’t provide for their own family, and especially for a member of their household, they have denied the faith. They are worse than those who have no faith. Put a widow on the list who is older than 60 years old and who was faithful to her husband. She should have a reputation for doing good: raising children, providing hospitality to strangers, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in distress, and dedicating herself to every kind of good thing.” ~ 1 Timothy 5:1-10 CEB

Notice the first part, “encourage.” So, to complete this series, I would like to encourage two groups of people: those who have retired, and those who have not.

First, to those who have had the opportunity to retire: Thank you for all you have done to pave the way for new generations to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ now and in the future. Your commitment to following him in and outside of your workplace has been an example to us all and we value you. We do not view you as someone who is obsolete. Instead, we value your input, your wisdom, because God has done incredible works in and through you. God is still working and moving in and through you. Embrace this truth and continue to be beacons of light for us all. 

Second, for those working people. You have been given an incredible gift also. You and I have the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ at work, at home, in the community, in worship. Take head of this special time. We do not work just so we can retire. We work to make an impact for the Kingdom of God here on earth right here, right now. We are able to do this because of the grace that God has bestowed. Look to the older people. Be sure to encourage and include everyone because you never know who God is using to connect with another person. Value the time you have at work and continue to foster growth in your relationships.

I pray God continues to be known all through your life. At home, in the community, in worship, and even at work.

Praise God for the incredible gift of work!

Amen.

*Note: The concept for this series we first published on http://www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”

Strong Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 5
If you are doing well at your job, or rather want to do well, there are trainings and seminars an employee should go to. These often talk about the “weak” areas that should be developed in order to perform better.
Think back to a seminar or training you attended recently. How much of it was trying to get improvement in one area or another? Many “self-help” books talk about this very thing: make your weaknesses your strengths.
Our scripture for this week comes from the book of Ephesians. This verse comes right after Paul telling the people they are saved by grace, God’s gift to us, which is something we could not have done nor can we boast about.
“Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.” ~ Ephesians 2:10 CEB
I have read several books and articles this year which talk about and teach leadership skills and management skills. Many employers and managers focus on what area of our work, our character, is not as strong as it should be. These are called “growing edges.” If we are not careful, we will begin to focus on the things that are “wrong” with us and forget to nurture the aspects that are “right” with us.
Each one of us has been given different gifts and talents. We cannot be like everyone else, nor can we expect everyone else to be like us. The gifts and talents we have, work with anothers’ gifts and talents. When we collaborate more using our strengths, we can, hopefully, find great harmony and see how much more will be done in a more joyful way.
I have a hard time continuing to work on what I am “weak” or “bad” at; but I love getting to work on and continue to nourish the areas God has given me strengths.
This week, I encourage you to take some kind of assessment to discover your Spiritual Gifts. You can also see what your strengths are. Some great resources for this are: www.spiritualgiftstest.com/test/adult
Work in your areas of strengths and give God the glory because “we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.”
*Note: The concept for this series we first published on www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”

Do We Take Christ Seriously Enough?

This may seem like a strange question as we begin Advent, but I believe it is an important question we should ask ourselves. This is a questions I ponder most days. How we think about Christ changes our to do list and what we do day to day. What we believe about Christ changes our lives from the inside out.

You can read the scripture for this week here. I am inviting us to read the same passage each day this week (as will be the invitation for the other weeks in Advent). The reason for this is to see how the scripture speaks to us throughout the week.

So, the question for today is “do we take Christ seriously?” Jesus speaks of the end times and the Son of Man coming in glory and that we need to be on guard and be prepared for that time. We will not know when it is coming, for it will happening suddenly.

Many people like to skip these kind of passages because they find it scary or don’t think the end will happen like this. Even though these passages may seem kind of harsh, they do point to a Christ that is not all feel good and every thing will be just fine if we have enough faith. He shows us there is more to Jesus than just offering peace. He shows us more depth into who God is. If we take Christ serious, we’ll love all the messages He brings because they are God’s word to us. We should always take serious Christ and His word. This doesn’t mean we understand everything, but we trust that God knows what He is talking about.

I challenge each of us to think about how serious we take Christ and His word today and this week. I hope we are more serious about the faith we have in Him more and more each day.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Stories

James 5:17-18 “Elijah was a person just like us. When he earnestly prayed that it wouldn’t rain, no rain fell for three and a half years. He prayed again, God sent rain, and the earth produced its fruit.”

There are incredible stories of God answering prayers throughout the Bible. Sometimes I think we do not think that God answers prayers in the same way as recorded in scripture; or we may believe that we are not as good as the people who had the answers to prayers.

One thing is for certain, the people mentioned in the Bible are real people who did their best to keep their hearts in tune with God. We do not have to worry about them being better than we are. They made mistakes as well; yet they still stayed faithful to God and hearing from Him.

There are people who have incredible stories of prayer and God’s answer to them. We can praise God for any answer He give: yes, no, not yet. Often times we hear of how a person prayed and God miraculously stepped in to deliver them from several kinds of situations (health failing, finances, work, etc). But what about those stories that do not get as much press or media attention?

Think for a moment about the times you know God has answered your prayers. Were they always the way you wanted them answered? Most likely not. Yet, we still have stories of how God answered prayers, even when we didn’t like the answer, to be an example of faithfulness to our Creator.

Jesus prayed for the cup of suffering to be taken away from Him; but He still followed through. You and I can be examples to show how we keep communication open with God, through our prayers, in all aspects of our lives.

What kinds of stories can you tell about God’s answers to your prayers? If this is something challenging to think of, I invite you to begin a Prayer Journal. In this journal, record the date, time, prayer you prayed and leave a space for answer. Every now and then go through this Prayer Journal to recall your prayers and see how many answers you received. This will be an incredible story of faithfulness that will make an impact not only on your life, but on the lives of your family and friends that will be able to help them in their walk with Jesus Christ.

Faithful

James 4:4-6 “You unfaithful people! Don’t you know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever wants to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy. Or do you suppose that scripture is meaningless? Doesn’t God long for our faithfulness in the life he has given to us? But he gives us more grace. This is why it says, God stands against the proud, but favors the humble.”

Ouch! This is a tough passage for today. It could be easy to take this in the negative and run with it. I have known many people who use a scripture like this to degrade another person.

One of the questions we have to ask is, “what does it mean to be a friend of God?” David was (and is) classified as a man after God’s own heart. Moses and Abraham were considered “friends of God.” This is showing that we do not have to have perfect lives to be considered a “friend of God.”

So what does this phrase mean? The New Interpreters Bible commentary says, “For the ancients, to be friends with another person meant to see things the same way, to share the same outlook.” I think this is important. There are times in our life where our actions does not match the words we say, but we can still be considered a “friend of God” because we come back to God and see the world through His eyes. Being transformed in the image of Christ should mean that we begin to develop the eyes and the heart of Jesus Christ for the world.

We will not always see things the exact same way. In fact, I am okay with people disagreeing with anything I say or write. This is a chance to develop relationships and learn where people are. One of the things that seems to get us in trouble is when we stick to one point of view and not even allow people the opportunity to express how they came to their understanding.

The Proverb quoted is Proverb 3:34. A better word instead of proud might be “arrogant.” Arrogant means, “having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.” When we elevate ourselves above people, we are essentially devaluing them.

There are days this Proverb hits me right between the eyes. Those days, like today, I have to be careful. It could be easy to flat out say that I am right and you are wrong; but then where is the grace in that? I believe God wants us to have a humble, teachable spirit so we can be the people who allow Him to transform our lives to work with Him to transform the world.

It is the times when we believe, yet live a different standard than our faith says, that we are “unfaithful to God.” “You unfaithful people!” In other translations, the word “Adulterers!” is used. This is how serious the scriptures are showing God takes our relationship with Him. When we profess belief in Him and go another path, we are essentially “cheating” on Him with other ideologies and worldly living.

To be “friends with God,” is a way to show we are moving in His direction. Our lives point to Him. Even in the messed up parts of our life, we can still show people the grace that has been bestowed on us. Do we always get it right? No. But we can be humble and keep seeking to see life, the world and people as God sees them and have a heart that breaks when His heart breaks.

Lord, show us, through your eyes, the hurting and brokenness in this world so we can respond with grace and lead people to you. In Christ’s name, Amen.

Conflicts & Consequenses

James 4:1-3 “What is the source of conflict among you? What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder. You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight. You don’t have because you don’t ask. You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.”

Today we are looking at the consequences of our actions. Many of us may not take these attitudes to the extreme that is mentioned here; but maybe we do and don’t pay much attention to it.

This is not meant to convict and try to coerce anyone to change out of guilt. This is more meant for us to look at our lives objectively. From the beginning, we have said our purpose is to challenge us to draw us closer to Christ and encourage us to live our lives according to Him.

As we live, there are emotions and attitudes that come up. Every action has a reaction. Every attitude has a consequence.

So, we start with conflicts that arise. Why do we have conflicts? There are many reasons and many opinions that people give. Some legit and some just plain silly if we look at them closely. The heart of the matter is we are conflicted with people for many reasons. Most of the reasons is they conflict with our personal desires.

This doesn’t mean that all of our desires are bad. People are in conflict with others because of the good work that God is doing in them and through them. We have the desire for people to know and believe in the God who created them; yet we come into conflict.

Looking at this from a simply wordly perspective, we can see there are serious consequences to certain attitudes, mindsets and behaviors if not checked. My guess would be that there are people reading this who would say, “I have never murdered anyone.” I invite us to closely read Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5. This shows us that whenever we think about harm coming to another person, or how another person makes us feel in a way that our spouse doesn’t, this is really just one step away from completing the “task”.

Throughout James, we have been examining that what comes into our mind is powerful and can lead us to do things we never intended. This even happens in our prayer life. How many times have we wanted something for our own use, our own cravings or selfish reasons? This can be on so many levels. James reminds us that we don’t get what we want, especially in times of selfishness.

I am so grateful for my wife. She is incredible and we are there for each other. As we live this life together, we are good sounding boards for each other. It is easy to slip into thinking solely about our own personal desires and wants; but we communicate with each other and we can grow our relationship and being open with each other. This doesn’t mean that we get it perfect every time; but praying for her and telling her what is on my heart and mind is how I can grow closer to her. She does the same thing with me.

How will we live today? For us? or for God’s purposes?

God, we come to you today to hear from you. We ask you to pour into us your Spirit, the Spirit that gives life and walks with us to be in line with Your will for our lives. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Life’s Journey

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Colossians 2:1-5 I want you to know how much I struggle for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who haven’t known me personally. My goal is that their hearts would be encouraged and united together in love so that they might have all the riches of assurance that come with understanding, so that they might have the knowledge of the secret plan of God, namely Christ. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in him. I’m telling you this so that no one deceives you with convincing arguments, because even though I am absent physically, I’m with you in spirit. I’m happy to see the discipline and stability of your faith in Christ.

This is such a rick passage that I cannot really do it justice in the space I’ll be writing today. As Paul is in prison while writing this, he wants the people to know how much he is struggling for them. Reading this in context of the entire letter, it seems like he is struggling in his spirit because he is praying for them and desires for them to be mature disciples of Jesus Christ. I would think that it is difficult for him not to be present with them, thus his struggling.

I also think it is remarkable about who he is concerned about. He is not just concerned about those who know him, who have listened to him, who love him. He is concerned for those who haven’t been reached yet, those who do not yet know him. This is a great reminder that I need to be concerned about those I am interacting with daily right here, right now; but it is also a reminder to be concerned about and pray for those I have not yet encountered. Pray for God to open doors to the lives of those who are going to intersect the path God has me on.

Our goal should be to encourage people to be engaged with the message of Jesus Christ that unifies them with the Spirit of God; but also our goal is to work with people to bring unity and peace wherever we are. This unity begins with the knowledge of Christ, that really is not a secret, just hard to understand at times. As we learn more about Christ, then somehow the treasure is opened and released to us. This is not the treasure that is material. This treasure is spiritual. We, individually and collectively, receive this treasure as we open our hearts to God.

There are people who come along and sound convincing about “other truths” about Jesus Christ. This is not really what we should be listening to. Paul reminds his readers in 1 Thessalonians to “test the spirits.” We are to test whether or not someone is speaking the truth about God to us. We can do this through prayer, personal study, speaking with others mature in their faith. This is so we do not get led astray and go off on a life journey that God never intended for us to be on.

We cannot be with those we teach and disciple all of the time; but we can be with them in spirit. We can be with them by keeping them in our minds and finding ways to check up on them. We can also be in prayer for them. Our challenge today is to think of someone who may not know Christ, or who is struggling either in their faith or in their life. Pray for them and ask God to do a great work in their lives. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the person who God uses to walk with that person/people on their journey. This give Jesus Christ glory because we do this in His name and not for our recognition.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist