Set Apart

Click here to read Acts 13:1-12.

Everything is going great! You have just been called and set apart for a special task, an important mission. You are excited! People have been praying over you and are sending you out to do the work they know you can do. God is with you.

As you go on your way, you are thinking of all the things you want to do or say. You take time each day to praise God and to connect with Him. You enter the town or place you were sent to with excitement. But then…someone begins to oppose you and the mission you’re on. It’s like they are trying to wage a war with God Himself by attempting to dismantle your mission.

Let’s just face it. We have all had times like this in our life. We can be so on fire for the mission we are faced with that when someone begins to challenge or oppose us, it stings and can be discouraging especially if you’re there to share the good news of Jesus Christ. “Who would not want to hear this message?” you might think. But people can be stuck in their old ways of thinking and their way of life.

Look at what’s happening in this passage today in Acts 13. Paul and Barnabas are traveling, after being commissioned by the church to go out, and they run into opposition from a sorcerer named Bar-Jesus. He was trying to lead the governor of the city away from Paul and Barnabas. Why? Maybe he felt like he would not have control over the governor anymore. Or his place of power would go away if Jesus’ name and message was spread. So, maybe he was acting out of fear.

This happens all the time. When people are used to being in a certain position of power and control, it is easy to lash out and to try to stop the gospel of Jesus Christ shining bright. But, we have been tasked to go with God to shine light in the dark places. We get to be people who show and share grace.  Living this life may not always be easy but we can be encouraged that when we follow God’s call and God’s steps, His plans and purposes will prevail.

This week, I invite you to look around. Where do you sense God is working around you? Look at the news, can you see God working and inviting people to join Him to redeem the brokenness that is around us?  Anywhere there appears to be backlash to the gospel, trust that God is on the move and is doing incredible work.

Remember the words of Jesus we read in John 16, “I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33 CEB)

Keep Moving Forward

Click here to read the passage for today: Acts 8:1-4.

The cards seem to be stacked against you. It seems like everyone is against you or making your life more difficult. We have all had those days, or even those weeks, where it seems nothing we do will improve the situation. A co-worker could have betrayed you, a spouse could have been unfaithful, people we trusted could have been found out to be frauds. Whatever the situation, or your personal experience, God is still present and active.

Right after the stoning of Stephen, the church scattered. They were nervous and scared because of the threats and harassment they were subjected to. Now, this was not harassment by governmental leaders like the Romans. This was done by the people they used to call family, by those in the same faith they grew up in.

But since the followers of Jesus said he was the Messiah and began to follow his teachings and worship him. This infuriated the religious leaders because they were losing the control over the people because of Jesus.

Isn’t it interesting how people react when the power and control they had is beginning to dissolve. They will panic. They will act in ways of anger. Remember anger is a secondary emotion, meaning something else is triggering the anger. Whenever someone loses the control they enjoyed for so long, they begin to feel scared and insecure because now what are they going to do? From this place of fear and insecurity, people lash out in anger.

Jesus came and showed people a new way of life. Well, actually, the original way of life God designed people to live. When the people heard this truth and experienced the life of Christ, they were different and had a new source of joy and peace. But in the situations of being persecuted (threatened, harassed, tortured) fear begins to creep in. So the people scattered and got away from the place so they could try to live in peace and safety.

Was God in this? Absolutely! Remember what Jesus said in Acts 1:8 “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all of Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the earth.” Because of the harassment and persecution they were facing, they spread out. When they spread out, they began to tell the people around them about Jesus Christ. God’s Word was continuing to spread and expand!

Here in America, we Christians do not face persecution like what is seen and experienced in other countries around the world. I invite you to take some time and pray for Christians around the world. Pray for the message of Christ to be known and shown. A good resource to help remember to pray, and pray for a country or area each day is Operation World. Click here to begin to learn about other countries and to pray for the world.

No matter what is going on in the world, the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ continues to move forward. So should we.

Off Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 4
We have been focusing on our lives during the working hours. This week, we have the chance to look at what it should look like when we are off work.
I am one of those people who loves my vocation. After all, I get to speak about Jesus Christ daily and do all I can to share his good news. This is a fascinating and joyful position to be in! There are times when I want to keep working on “church work” even in the evenings and nights. These are the times I have to force myself to stop and be sure to be fully present with my beautiful wife and children. This is the time of day when I should completely devote myself and attention to them. There are times when an emergency arises; but we take this in stride and still work to find a balance. To all the workaholics out there, including me, this week is especially made for you.
We live in a culture that makes access to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a great temptation to keep working and think everything has to get done everyday. We are constantly putting out fires. But I believe we all have to remember, the work will keep piling up. There will still be work tomorrow.
Sabbath rest is more important than we realize. We are more productive when we take at least one day off a week. This sounds like a contradiction, but it’s true! If we constantly go and go and go, and work and work and work, our bodies and minds do not have the time to recover.
In Genesis 2, we find that rest from work was the first full day of our human experience. Our rest and our relationships are what should give us the energy to be able to do our work with higher quality and purpose. A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog called “Shifting Focus” on this very topic.
Take some time to meditate on this passage from Genesis and see how God views rest in our lives.
“The heavens and the earth and all who live in them were completed. On the sixth day God completed all the work that he had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that he had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.” ~ Genesis 2:1-3 CEB
May we all appreciate the importance of real rest and embrace it.
*Note: The concept for this series we first published on www.seedbed.com “Sermon Series – Office Hours: Ministry in the Marketplace”

Good Hours

OFFICE HOURS Ministry in the Marketplace Part 2

Last week, we focused on work being God given and how we have the opportunities to join Him in the restoration and redemption of the world. How has your week been different? Have you felt a greater sense of purpose for the work you do?

Our passage this week comes out of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5. Again, this translation is from the Common English Bible:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” ~Matthew 5:13-16 CEB

What are some of the things you notice? This is one of those passages we seem to hear a lot, or at least I do. The part that is focused on is the final line, “In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” We also hear about being the “salt of the earth.”

How does this apply to the workplace? We’ve already established we have been given the gift of work and we should do it to the best of our ability to give God the glory in all aspects of our life. Work is where we spend the majority of our time each week. We will go through highs and lows, frustrations and joys, separation and team work. This is the time of our week we have the opportunity to share the love and light of Jesus Christ to our co-workers (even if we work in a church). Not everyone at our work knows the joy, peace, and grace of Jesus Christ. So we get to show them by our actions, our words, and even how we think.

When I was younger, I used to love to put salt on my food. It didn’t matter what it was. Today, I have learned to cook the salt into the food to help the meat tenderize better and to give more flavor from the inside out. This is how I believe we should live out our work life as well. The joy of Jesus Christ in our lives shining through from deep inside us. This is how we let our light shine, how we can be the right kind of seasoning in the workplace. We not only do a better job because we are working to show the Kingdom of God; but our co-workers will also see a difference and seek to discover the joy of Jesus Christ in what seems to be the mundane and tedious work day.

Just as salt brings our the flavor of our food, we have the opportunity to generously share the love of God through Jesus Christ which seasons the atmosphere and souls around us and brings out the real person inside that God is working on.

Take this as a challenge: see how allowing the joy of Jesus Christ truly makes a difference in your life. Not just in Sunday worship. Not just at home. But when you are at work.

Be the salt and light in the workplace. It is possible because Jesus Christ is working in and through you.

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