Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Calling Jesus Lord

In the first six chapters of Matthew, “Lord” is a designation for God. Then,Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount during which he says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (7:21). The lone exception to the rule before the Sermon on the Mount is the prophecy about John the Baptist preparing the way for the Lord.

After that people are calling Jesus Lord. The Centurion with great faith called him Lord. Remember the disciple who wouldn’t immediately follow Jesus because he wanted to bury his father? He called Jesus Lord. The disciples in the boat, Peter on several significant occasions, the blind men, the Canaanite woman, and even King David in prophecy called Jesus Lord. Those who got close enough to converse knew perhaps that calling him Lord wasn’t enough, but they knew to call him Lord.

One person sticks out as refusing to call Jesus Lord. Instead, on the two occasions that he addresses Jesus as anything, he calls him Rabbi. He spent a lot of time with Jesus, but wouldn’t call him Lord. He was one of the twelve, but wouldn’t call him Lord. His name was Judas. We call him the betrayer. To Matthew, he represented the synagogue community who wouldn’t call Jesus Lord. Does what you call Jesus say anything about what you think of him? Do you ever call him Lord? Have you given him that role in your life? You won’t be in the kingdom if you don’t. He is worthy. That’s Life at Work!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Explosive Anger

Steve Tran of Westminster, California, had some roaches in his apartment. He decided that he would set off bug bombs to kill them. The directions on the can said that two would be plenty for his apartment, but he wanted to make sure he got rid of them all. He set off twenty-five of them. When the spray reached the pilot of the stove, it ignited, blasting his screen door across the street, breaking all of his windows, and setting his furniture on fire.

The blast did over $10,000 damage to his apartment building. Asked about the cockroaches, Tran reported, ''By Sunday, I saw them walking around." That story was reported in the Arizona Republic of April 25, 1995. I read it in Leadership Journal with this comment, "As Proverbs 29:11 says, ‘A fool gives full vent to his anger.’”

As we deal with people, we are going to become angry at times. That is true whether you are talking about a husband/wife relationship, parent/child relationship, employee/employer, employee/employee, or Christian/Christian. Jesus warned his disciples, “I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matt 5:22). Paul added later, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Eph 4:26).

The commands here mean that first, we are to have control of our anger instead of letting our anger control us. Watch your mouth, check your attitude, sit on your hands, and do not sin.
Moreover, make sure that the day of conflict is also the day of reconciliation. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. Go to your wife, your children, your boss, your co¬worker, or your brother in Christ. Forgive where there needs to be forgiveness. Confront in love where confrontation is necessary, but do not put it off. Here's a good rule. If the damage done by the other individual is bad enough to make you angry, it is bad enough to deal with immediately. If it is not bad enough to deal with now, it is not bad enough to make you angry so get over it and go on in love. That’s Life at Work.

Friday, November 18, 2005

So Far From Want

Edward Winslow was actually at the first Thanksgiving meal with somewhere around fifty other colonists and ninety Wampanoag Indians. His account is the only extant firsthand account of that meal:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

A great harvest, more fowl than before, plenty of venison from Massasoit’s men - enough to prompt Winslow to write in his journal that he apparently was sending to England that “we are so far from want that we often wish your partakers of our plenty.”

We are so far from want. God has chosen us to be holy and blameless; he predestined us to be adopted as his children; we have redemption through the blood of Jesus, the forgiveness of sins; we are lavished with the riches of God’s grace; we have the Holy Spirit within us who guarantees our inheritance (Eph 1:3-9). “For this reason… I have not stopped giving thanks.”

Who have you thought about recently to whom you should say in regard to the spiritual blessings you have, “I often wish that you were a partaker of our plenty”? Maybe since Thanksgiving is an official holiday and you’ve got some time, the time is here to write that letter or make that visit.

Give thanks, and then give what you have to others.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Colic and Christ: Are You Desperate Yet?

Our daughter Brittney was incredibly colicky as an infant. I remember the seemingly endless crying. She could not be satisfied with diaper changes, feeding, or even the rocking chair. We spent countless hours in the rocking chair, but it wasn’t for her. It didn’t help or hurt her. It helped us. We felt so out of control. We needed to feel like we could do something, and we needed to get close to her so the frustration would subside.

I try not to think about those days too much. Brittney is so healthy, and she is so not a crier. I was reading a New York Times article about colic. The NYT interviewed Felina Rakowski-Gallagher a mother of two, on remedies for colic. She operates a business that educates women about baby care. She’s heard plenty of remedy rumors and knows how badly parents want help to get rid of colic. What she said became the NYT quote of the day for November 11: "You would boil pork rinds if someone told you it worked."

When people really become aware of their sin, they really want to know what to do about it. The Jews in Jerusalem at Pentecost, the Ethiopian Eunuch, and the jailer in Philippi are just a few of the people who, since the resurrection of Jesus, have sought the remedy for sins. They were ready to try any remedy, but only one is necessary; and only one works. The remedy is Jesus. Are you desperate enough yet? That’s Life at Work.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

This Won't Disappoint You

Morey Amsterdam said about his musical pursuits, “I studied cello for five years in Italy, ten years in Germany, and fifteen years in vain.” I never heard Morey Amsterdam play the cello, so I don’t know first hand about the vanity of his lessons. I do know how disappointing it is to commit a great deal of time and energy to some enterprise, only to end in failure. Maybe you do, too. Maybe your entrepreneurial spirit is grieved because of your failed business adventure. Perhaps you devoted several years to a marriage that ended in divorce. Did you parent a child for eighteen years to end up with an adult son or daughter who wouldn’t even drive across town to visit you?

Here’s a promise from God that ought to motivate you to give yourself to something that won’t end in disappointment:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:1-5; New International Version).

Put your faith in God. Endure whatever you have to endure in this life to keep it. Your hope for eternal life will be realized. You will not be disappointed. That’s Life at Work!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Leading Leaders

Several of us have been meeting early Monday mornings to talk about leadership. We’ve been using John Maxwell’s The Twenty-one Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader’s Day as our resource. It is an excellent resource. Maxwell uses leaders from the pages of the Bible to illustrate the Twenty-one Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – the title of an earlier book he wrote.

As we talked this week about the Law of Explosive Growth, we hit again on the need to lead other leaders to great leadership. The future will need effective leaders. When those leaders can “hit the ground running” so-to-speak, they will be much more effective, much quicker than if they have to learn then what they could be learning now from you. That is true whether the future leaders you have opportunity to influence are leaders in a business or organization, a church, or your home.

Don’t allow neglect, laziness, or selfishness keep you from helping the groups that are important to you. They can experience explosive growth if you will create or continue the cycle of leading effective leaders. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Blessed Are the Persecuted

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

How should I respond to that amazing teaching by Jesus? Is this a calling to persecution like Jesus just called the disciples to humility, meekness, hunger, mercy, purity, and peace? Or is persecution something that I am likely to encounter as a follower, like mourning, and Jesus is teaching me about the heavenly attitude to have when persecution happens?

I think I have an idea about what was happening in the lives of Matthew’s first readers. Some of the disciples who Matthew wrote specifically to influence were being mistreated, at least socially, by fellow Jews who didn’t trust Jesus. These unbelievers were led in their meanness by the Pharisees who were an influential bunch. Jesus said, “They persecuted the prophets before you,” and emphasized that again later (Matthew 23) directly identifying the Jews who actually murdered the prophets.

I don’t know that there is evidence of wide-spread deadly persecution for the first readers of Matthew. Yet, it seems that Matthew wants to underscore the relationships these followers have. They are related to the prophets who were killed by the Jews, yet now have reward in heaven. They are related to Jesus, who was persecuted by the socially and religiously elite among the Jews and has ascended to the right hand with all authority. They are in great company, even if the social standouts don’t think so.

I’ve never been mistreated by a Jew. There haven’t been many times in my life that I felt like I was being mistreated by anybody because I am a follower of Jesus. But I have some incredibly brave relatives; ancestors and contemporaries in Christ who have their reward in heaven. If I ever do have to put up with discrimination or deadly force “because of Jesus,” I’ll remember them, and I will not deny my Savior and Lord! That’s Life at Work!

Monday, October 17, 2005

All My Life

George Shearing was a jazz pianist He had been blind from birth. An admirer of his musical ability asked him, “Have you been blind all your life?”
“Not yet,” Shearing responded.
“All my life” hasn’t happened yet. If you are reading this, it hasn’t for you yet either. I wonder if Shearing expected to be blind all his life, or if he had some reason to hope that some day, he would see the keys on the piano he played.

“…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.
(2 Peter 1:5-7)

You have things that are part of your life that you would love to get rid of. There are some things that are true about you now, that you don’t want to be true. Some of those things, perhaps like Shearing’s blindness, are not likely to go away. But there are other things – weaknesses, habits, sins, etc. – that are more under your control. You haven’t lived all your life yet. Be diligent to change those things about you that need changing.
There are other things about you that are great. You have strengths, habits, and goodness that you need to keep. You haven’t had them all your life yet, but you should. Be diligent to keep and build up those things that are true about you that are strong and good. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness!

Hungry? Thirsty? You will be filled.

There was an awful lot to learn to keep up with the Pharisees. Jesus spoke about the burden that Pharisees put on people, “They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” That word picture is meaningful to most of us. We know what it means to carry something that is just too heavy.

Not only did the Pharisees offer a load to heavy to bear, they offered a food without the substance to satisfy and nourish. Matthew records early in his gospel account that if you are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, you will be filled. Matthew reveals as he continues to tell the gospel story that what he means is that Jesus is the source of satisfaction. Listen to him, eat his bread, and you will be satisfied; filled with righteousness.

Matthew was writing to Christians. He knew they wanted to be filled with righteousness. What disciple wouldn’t want that? But there have always been multiple messages about what teaching you should eat and drink in or to be filled. Some teachings just don’t do it.

So Jesus fed five thousand plus women and children from a small amount of bread. Then he fed four thousand more plus women and children from a small amount of bread. Immediately after he fed them, the disciples realized they had not prepared for the next meal. They hadn’t brought any bread onto the boat with them. Jesus told them, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” The disciples finally learned that Jesus was telling them to beware of the teaching and influence of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

You see the Pharisees, who were more influential when Matthew wrote these words than they were when Jesus spoke them, and the Sadducees who basically died out after 70 A.D., demanded much, but delivered little. Their teachings couldn’t fill the follower with righteousness.

Jesus could fill them, though. He can fill you! That’s Life at Work!

Breast Cancer Awarenesss Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There is good news regarding treatment of breast cancer. The death rate due to breast cancer is dropping. Much of the success of breast cancer treatment is due to early detection. Trouble is being found earlier because women have been educated regarding self-examination.A number of the members at South Yukon have been impacted by breast cancer. We have survivors as a part of the family here. We have family members who have lost family members to this horrible disease. They would all encourage you to read the information from credible sources like the American Cancer Society regarding effective self-examination. Check yourself regularly. Your life may depend on it. We want you to stick around.

All of us need to examine ourselves regularly in regard to our faith. Paul told the Corinthian Church, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). He knew in that context that they would know after some self-examination that they were in the faith, but we might find that we are not.Do you resist temptation like you should? Are you growing in the Fruit of the Spirit? Does your attitude about others reflect humility like Jesus’? Is your heart set on things above? Does your belief reflect Bible teaching?Those questions, and many more like them, are questions of self-examination. Ask them of yourself regularly. Your life may depend on it. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

“Blessed Are the peacemakers; they will be called children of God.”

What does it take to be a peacemaker? Certainly there are some skills that individuals can use to maintain peace in their own relationships. There are other tools that third parties can utilize to create peace between others who need some help getting along.

Peacemakers begin with a motivation that is incredibly important. In fact, this motivation is a must. To be a peacemaker you must place a high value on relationships. If relationships are not important to you, your drive to have peace will be low.

There is good reason to value relationships. Surely you are aware that relationships are important to God. Paul wrote about his “ministry of reconciliation” (getting people and God back into relationship).

“For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:14-19).

Christ died for all … to bring us back into relationship with God! When he did that, he created a relationship between the people he saved. He expects that we, who together share relationship with him in the Spirit, will make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit peaceful (Ephesians 4:3).

If you don’t care whether we have a good relationship, you will not put any effort toward being a peacemaker when we are at odds. If it doesn’t concern you when you see a family warring, you’ll have no interest in intervening. If you don’t really care about being close to your family, you won’t pursue peace with your spouse or children.

If relationships are close to God’s heart, they should be close to mine. Isn’t that true? God went to extremes to create peace because he values relationships. What do your efforts toward peace say about the value you put on them? That’s Life at Work!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Blessed Are the Meek

Pushy, rough, harsh, knock-down, drag-out efforts put people in position to get theirs.

Perhaps we think of the cloak-clothed inhabitants of Palestine in the fi rst century as wholly rural, keep-to-myself, community concerned kind of people. There were some of those. Th ere were others, though, who were urbanites, concerned mostly for themselves and used to maneuvering their way up the leadership ladder using whatever means were necessary.

Some of the people listening to the Jesus Perspective on the mountainside were being called to continue in their gentleness with the promise that they, not the harsh, would inherit the earth. That might have been hard to believe for those who knew that even the priesthood could be purchased. Others were there who were being called to dramatically change their view about achieving success.

As Matthew recorded the Sermon on the Mount in his gospel account years after Jesus spoke the words those harsh people were still around and increasing in numbers probably, and the disciples of Jesus were likely having a harder time remaining meek.

You’ve got some opportunity in the next twenty-four hours to be pushy. You will be in a position in which some heaviness would get you something that you want. That possibility might present itself before breakfast in your own home. You might have several opportunities in your office or at the job site. Maybe the most obvious chance to move ahead hard will be in the softball game you play with your church team.

You might get your way in your home, and the price paid will be the feelings of your wife or husband or kids. You might close the big deal and look good for your superior or customer, at the expense of the trust or friendship of a colleague. You might coerce Blue so that the call goes your way on the next close call; and think the cost is minimal.

But the heavenly view is that the meek will inherit the earth. What are you going to do with that? That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Stubbed Toes and Stitches

Once I was walking through my parent’s room in the dark. They had been out of town and there was a suitcase on the floor that I didn’t see. I straddled the latch of their suitcase between my “pinky toe” and whatever you call the toe next to it. Hard! I had to go get stitches between my toes! The healing was worse than the hit!

I wish I could have decided then and there that I would never straddle my toes on a suitcase latch or even stub a toe again, but I couldn’t. The only way to keep from stubbing your toe is to stand still – all the time. That’s just not an option.

To get somewhere, you’ve got to move. When you move, there is potential for toe stubs. It is only in movement, however, that there is potential for getting somewhere. I believe that going nowhere is worse than getting hurt in the travel.

Paul talked about his own race in life. He declared that he would press on toward the goal to win the prize to which God had called him in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14). He knew that his race meant stubbed toes and stitches, but he also knew that races aren’t won standing still. Been hurt? What do you need to get back in the race? Scared of getting hurt? The prize from God is worth the pain. That’s a promise! That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Happily-Ever-After Depends on Today

Life at Work
“It is only possible to live happily-ever-after on a day-to-day basis” – Margaret Bonano.

Do you want to have a great marriage 5 years from now? Ten years? Twenty-five, forty, and fifty years from now? I hope you are planning on that. I hope you dream about it, and talk about your dream with your spouse. Whatever happiness you’ll find on your anniversary fifteen years from today depends on what you do today and tomorrow.

The age old wisdom of Proverbs offers this instruction that can be applied to your marriage today:

“Do not say to your neighbor (or spouse),
‘Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow’--
when you now have it with you.”

You’ve got some great things to give to your spouse today. Maybe you’ve been holding them back for some reason. No reason is good enough if you want to live happily-ever-after. You’ve got to create that day-to-day. Give your spouse your gifts of love, attention, fun, and commitment today! That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Jesus Perspective: Blessed are those who Mourn

The Baby Centre lists seven reasons why babies cry. I noticed that being in pain is not one of them, so the list is not exhaustive. Maybe this list is the seven reasons babies cry when there isn’t an obvious pain source. Here are the reasons a baby would tell you she is crying if she could talk:

I need food
I need to be comfortable
I need to be warm — and not too hot or too cold
I need to be held
I need a rest
I need something to make me feel better
I need something ... but I don't know what

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Those are the reasons I cry! I don’t think that means I’m a baby. I think it means that those things that make us mourn stay pretty consistent and last a lifetime. I’m glad that Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” That’s not just a word for babies. It’s a word for me.

Jesus knew when he said “Happy are the mourners” that some don’t mourn. They never allow themselves to feel hungry, uncomfortable, cold, alone, weary, less than perfect, or unsatisfied. They take care of themselves. Oh, maybe they’ll give to another if they aren’t put out any by their giving; but they will never have to ask for comfort. They make sure they are comfortable.

The assumption of Jesus is that all of us have reason to mourn, but people who have hardened their hearts – like those who won’t acknowledge sin, feel compassion for others, admit their inadequacy, or recognize their helpless estate – never will.

As Matthew tells the story, those who won’t mourn simply miss out on the blessing of comfort. But Luke reveals more. He tells us that Jesus went on to say, “Woe to you who laugh now. You will mourn and weep.”

Those who don’t mourn have shut their hearts from the reality of their own insufficiency and from the pain of others. Jesus said that those who will keep their hearts open will receive comfort. That’s good. That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Thanks for Helping

John, Al, Mike, Gary and their families appreciate people like you for your generosity and concern towards people like them. They are friends of mine who cannot live in their own homes because of Hurricane Katrina. They are victims of what will likely be declared the worst natural disaster in American history. People like you, many of you, have contributed to organizations that are going to help the displaced and despairing thousands. Some of you have volunteered your own time in our town and cities nearby to serve hand in hand with other volunteers, and face to face with those who have lost nearly everything.

I believe that’s something of God in you, prompting you to do something for others who are hurting. I believe that when God created us in his own image, he placed in us a conscience that carries a seed of God’s own character. That’s why I believe that ultimately, for all that any of us do, God gets the glory.

But some people suppress that urge in them to help the hurting. Some sear their consciences with flames of greed and self-centeredness. They don’t respond to that voice on the inside that says “love your neighbor.”

You’ve let your heart have your ear. And you’ve helped. My friends in south Mississippi would have me tell you, “Thanks.” I’ll say it, too. “Thanks!” That’s Life at Work!

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Jesus Perspective: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

There are a couple of things that many people depend on to bring wealth to the soul:

One is the personal bank account. The rich man who wouldn’t care for Lazarus had this. The drive to be rich is so strong in many people. Getting there is the goal of poor. Staying there is the goal of the wealthy. Lives are consumed with the gaining and the holding of wealth. Some know how to do it, others don’t. Some want to be wealthy due to hard work; others look to the lottery or to theft; others know they want to be wealthy and are just hoping it falls in their laps some way, sometime. Monetary wealth is not the only goal, however. Coupled with that is the desire to feel secure, even powerful. It is believed that the wealth in the wallet brings wealth to the heart and mind – the soul. That is the human perspective and it drives the human agenda.

Another is personal righteousness; you might say rightness. The Pharisees had this. Many never believe that they are less than adequate spiritually – and that’s on their worst day. Most of the time we find enough people who are less ethical, less moral, less driven by conscience, that we are able to compare ourselves right into the belief that we must look good in God’s sight.

The Jesus Perspective is dramatically different. Jesus said that happiness (blessedness) will not come those who think they are spiritually or monetarily wealthy, but to the poor in spirit. To be poor in spirit is to, in humility, recognize spiritual poverty. The truth is that all of us are bankrupt spiritually because of sin. True happiness belongs to those who recognize that truth and are willing to admit it.

That’s Life at Work!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Theology of Marriage

Important reminders from Genesis 1-2 about marriages:

A Theology of Marriage from Genesis 1:
Man and woman together make mankind. They created them, and it was very good. All mankind, male and female, are created in God’s image.

A Theology of Marriage from Genesis 2:
Man was created first and received instruction from God. There was closeness between the man and the Creator.

Man was initially alone, and it was not good. This is the first time that something about what God had done was seen as “not good.”

Man was made to realize his tremendous desire for companionship before God gave him the woman.

Woman was made from the man – the only created being to come from another created, breathing being.

Woman was a wife. God didn’t create a mother to care for Adam, nor a child for him to give care. This was a wife.

Woman was the completion of man – at her creations mankind was whole.

The man’s immediate response was to keep the woman. No comparisons. No complaints. She was his. He was hers. No questions.

Husband/Wife relationship was declared the most important of relationships. There were no fathers or mothers, but Moses commented “A man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife….”

Marriage is unique relationship. The two are “one flesh.”

Understood to be for all of life (Matthew 19:6)

That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Importance of Washing

Life at Work
In 1818, when Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis was born the finest hospitals lost one out of six young mothers to the scourge of "Childbed fever." A doctor's daily routine began in the dissecting room where he performed autopsies. As the doctor left that room to move to the rooms of his patients, including expectant mothers, he never stopped at a sink to wash his hands. Dr. Semmelweis was the first man in history to make the connection between unwashed hands and the infection that led to death from “Childbed Fever.” Semmelweis did begin to wash his hand with a chlorine solution, and after eleven years and the delivery of 8,537 babies, he lost only 184 mothers - about one in fifty. He spent much of his time and energy debating with his colleagues. Once he argued, "Puerperal fever is caused by decomposed material conveyed to a wound....I have shown how it can be prevented. I have proved all that I have said. But while we talk, talk, talk, gentlemen, women are dying. I am not asking anything world shaking. I am asking you only to wash....For God's sake, wash your hands." Bruce Mouton vividly described the response of his Semmelweis’ contemporaries and the consequence: “Virtually no one believed him. Doctors and midwives had been delivering babies for thousands of years without washing, and no outspoken Hungarian was going to change them now! Semmelweis died insane at the age of 47, his wash basins discarded, his colleagues laughing in his face, and the death rattle of a thousand women ringing in his ears.”

When David realized the wickedness that had been a major part of his life ever since he saw Bathsheba on her rooftop, he wept as he wrote, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2). “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (vs. 7). Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (vs. 10) “Wash me!” was the anguished prayer of King David.

In the New Testament, being washed clean of sin is a wonderful theme. Paul moved the Corinthians to refuse to return to sinful living by reminding them of their spiritual past: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” 1 Cor. 6:11). He wrote to Titus about the kindness of God:
“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior…” (Titus 3:3-6).

Without being washed clean, in a much worse way than the women who died by the touch of unclean hands, we all die from the contamination of sin. Paul was in the same filthy condition as David - and us - when he heard the words, “What are waiting for? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” What are you waiting for? For God’s sake, wash! That’s Life at Work!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Citation or Savior

Life at Work
In 1992 a Los Angeles police officer was writing citations for parking violations. His practice was to come up behind the automobiles, write out the ticket, and place it on the automobile somewhere where it would be seen. One of the cars he ticketed that day was occupied at the time of violation by the driver. The policeman filled out the citation, walked to the open window on the driver’s side, and then placed the ticket on the dash right in front of the driver. There was no argument from the man in the car. He offered no explanation for being parked where he was, and the officer asked for none.

A few hours later, the police officer was questioned about the ticket because the man in that car had been shot and killed 10 to 12 hours before the ticket was written. He was dead, but the officer was too busy writing tickets to notice.

I know I’m guilty. So does Jesus. He understood that I need a savior, not a citation. Instead of sitting in judgment, Jesus became sin for us. Paul wrote about that blessing to Timothy, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:13-14).

Instead of writing citations, Jesus became our Savior. Instead of sitting in judgment, Jesus became sin for us! That’s good news. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Effort to Grow

Life at Work
We joke about putting a brick on our kids’ heads to keep them from growing, but we know it is a joke. Growth of the human body is natural. When a body is healthy and it receives proper nutrition, it grows. Christian growth doesn’t happen naturally, though. Paul wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved….” (2 Tim. 2:15) Peter wrote, “Make every effort to add to your faith… for if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:5-9). Christian growth depends on “doing our best” and “making every effort.”

In “Southern Cross,” Crosby, Stills, and Nash sang the words, “We never failed to fail. It was the easiest thing to do.” They sang about human relationships, but some have that same approach to their growth toward God. It is easier to do nothing, fail, and then moan about the failure, than it is to grow.

I don’t know all the reasons someone would live that way – failed past attempts or laziness might be a couple. It’s certainly true that someone who never excels will rarely be given responsibility in the future. Some might be trying to stay away from future callings.

I do know what Peter says about those who don’t make the effort. He says they have forgotten that they were cleansed from their past sins. When you remember how far you’ve come by the grace of God, you have the motivation to keep going. Have you settled in? Are you in a pattern of failure because that’s the easiest thing to do? Remember where you’ve come from because of God’s mercy, then do your best again. That’s Life at Work.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Is that Clock Right?

Life at Work
Hugo Wolf was an Austrian composer who in 1897 went insane and was committed to an asylum. He was sane enough, however, to know his condition. Once, pointing to a large clock in the dining room of the asylum, he asked, "Is that clock right?"

"As far as I know," responded the attendant.

Wolf asked, "Then, what's it doing in here?"

There are requirements for being in certain places, aren't there? One of the requirements for being in the Kingdom of God is to be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). The Pharisees were not poor in spirit. They were spiritually rich, in their own eyes. Because of that, they couldn't come into the Kingdom.

I used to say that I had not come across many people who were convinced they had everything right spiritually. Since then, I’ve met a few. I have also known many, self-described, good ole boys/girls who just never do anything really bad, in their own eyes. They never go to the cross acknowledging the fact of their guilt, and never ask for forgiveness. The church is not the place for people who won’t admit they are wrong. If you think you're right, or just don’t do much wrong, you don't belong (1 John 1:8-10). To enter the Kingdom, you've got to admit you've been wrong, and know that only Jesus can make you right.

That’s Life at Work!

The Greatest Thrill

Life at Work
George Shearing was a jazz pianist, and he was blind. One afternoon he was waiting at a busy intersection for someone to help him across the street. Another man, a blind man, tapped him on the shoulder and asked if Shearing would mind helping him get across. Being asked about his response, Shearing said, "What could I do? I took him across and it was the biggest thrill of my life!"

But for the grace of God, Shearing would never have gotten to tell that story because he and his blind companion would be dead. But for the grace of God, the blind man writing this article would never have gotten to tell his story, the story of forgiveness. I, was not physically blind, but spiritually. Jesus, the Light, gave me sight so that he can lead me to the other side. Now, my greatest thrill in life, and the greatest thrill for all of us who are disciples of Jesus, is to help someone else on that same journey. The way is not one that we created, nor a crosswalk we painted. The path is the gospel - the good news that Jesus died for our sins, that he was buried, and that he rose again. When we respond in faith to that message, the greatest thrill is ours. That's Life at Work!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Life at Work

Life at Work

Near the end of his life Douglas MacArthur said these gut-wrenching words:

"In memory's eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through mire of shell-pocked roads to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God....

Twenty years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts... the horror of stricken areas of war."

War is one of those things about which many memories will always be ugly. MacArthur's memory could not rose-color the awful memories of the years of war. There was too much filth, weariness, suffering and death to be overcome.

I'm convinced that if the filth, weariness, suffering and death that is a part of our spiritual war could be visualized on an on-going basis, the army of the Lord would have many more soldiers than it does. I believe that because we see it occasionally. We look at the lives of others and see the turmoil brought about by alcohol and other drug abuse--and when we see it we think about how filthy and rotten sin is. We see the marches on television with the vile public actions of the sexually immoral, and we think about how filthy and rotten sin is. We see a building or a subway blown to bits and hear about the hundred or more killed; and we think about how filthy and rotten sin is. When these things happen, more people become convinced that obedience to God is the only way to clean up.

These things don't happen every day, though. They only occur occasionally, thank God! It is easy to forget between reminders, though, that every sin is ugly. Every curse word, every evil thought, every gossip session, every lustful look, every lie, every hateful gesture, every laziness, every sin is filthy and brings weariness, suffering, and death.

Too many have come to like fighting in this war zone, though. In fact, they look for the ugliest foxholes, the nastiest trenches, and the most stricken areas. Jude commands us in his letter to "hate even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh."

We must keep in mind that this spiritual war is dirty. Whether we see the filth, whether we sense the suffering and death, is unimportant. It is there, and God is the only one who can keep us clean.

Thinking Sacramentally

Life at Work
Sex, money, and power. When you read those words just then, were your thoughts negative or positive? I mean did you think of ungodly things or godly thing? I’ve said those words and asked that question about them a time or two recently. Nearly everyone has said that the words spark a negative, ungodly thought in them – including me, by the way.

In his book Rumors of Another World Philip Yancey encourages us to think sacramentally. Sacra mean “sacred.” Mentally indicates “in mind.” To think sacramentally, then, is to keep the sacred in mind when considering something. The truth about sex, money, and power is that they were created by God and God said that his creation was good – very good after mankind was created in fact. Those three things were intended by God to be used by people for our good, not for our destruction. If they have bad connotations, it’s not because they are actually bad things; but that we have abused them.

Paul told us that people quit glorifying and thanking God, and that their thinking was futile and their hearts were darkened (Romans 1:21). We have continued in that pointless thinking and dark hearts. It’s time to be renewed in our minds.

Open your eyes again to the way that God sees things. When we see them his way, we will use them in a good way. That’s Life at Work!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Free from What?

“We have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we will be set free?” (John 8:33). I don’t know if those who spoke those words were blind or forgetful. One or the other, though. I do know they were wrong. The Israelites had been slaves a number of times in their long, colorful history. In fact, they were slaves to the Romans, in a sense, when those words were uttered.

Jesus was less concerned with the reign of Rome than he was the reign of sin, though. You can tell because of what he accomplished. Dying on a Roman cross wasn’t intended to bring down an empire of men. Dying, then resurrecting was intended to defeat sin and death! The Roman Empire lasted for a while after Jesus rose. The dominion of sin came to an immediate end!

You can also tell which slavery Jesus was concerned about because of his response to their ridiculous claim: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34). Slavery to sin is worse than any national slavery can ever be. Slavery to sin lasts longer, and its effects are more devastating.

When the people in the American colonies began to feel enslaved because of taxation without representation, they signed a Declaration of Independence; and then fought and won a war for freedom. To this point in our brief history, we can say “We’ve never been slaves of anyone.” But let’s neither be blind nor forgetful. We have all sinned. We have all been slaves to sin. Guns can’t win our freedom from this reign of terror. The Son and His truth are the only way to being truly free. That’s Life at Work.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Paul and The Crisis

Life at Work
Do one “word association” with me. I’m going to type a word in all caps. You tell me the word that comes immediately to your mind. Ready? “JESUS”. What did you think? What word came to mind? Savior? God? Lord? Christ? There would have been times that if you had done that word association exercise with Paul when you said, Jesus” he would have said “death.” Paul wrote that he and his gospel preaching companions “always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (2 Corinthians 4:10-12). He wrote to the Galatians, “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). He had earlier written to the Corinthians, “I die every day….” (1 Corinthians 15:31).

This was not just a choice that Paul made for himself. He was a follower of Christ and Paul understood that his life was not his own. He knew the words of Jesus, “… anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38).

If you know the history of Paul from Luke’s stories in Acts, you aren’t surprised to read words like those from his pen. One of the greatest stories is one that Luke witnessed with his own eyes:

“A prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
(Acts 21:10-13)

Thomas Paine wrote “The Crisis” on the occasion of General Washington’s retreat across the Delaware River. Washington was so moved by the words he ordered them to be read to some of his soldiers whose courage seemed to be failing. The first words are famous ones: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” These words, also from “The Crisis,” help me understand Paul’s resolve to go to Jerusalem: “Tis the business of little minds to shrink but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”

Paul knew that the Jerusalem journey was his path. The hungry there needed the funds he was bringing. The Christians there needed to know about the concern of their Gentile brothers. Everybody there needed the message he would give from God. He needed to do what he was convinced was right.

What’s the right thing that you need to do? That’s your path. That’s Life at Work!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The End is Near! So What?

Life at Work
As Peter wrote about the judgment and the end in 1 Peter 4:7-11, he gave four instructions that were perhaps intended to keep the readers from sitting in their spiritual rocking chairs and waiting for Christ to come. The Christians who heard this letter read were not to be asleep like Peter was in the garden with Jesus. There are things to do.

I haven’t known of many who expected the return tomorrow and ceased all activity waiting for the clouds to part, but there have been a number of groups and individuals who have done just that. I encounter people, rather, who give little thought during the week, much less the day or hour, of the coming. The instructions that Peter gave fit that situation, too.

1. Be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
2. Love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins.
3. Be hospitable without complaining.
4. Use your gifts from God for all their worth.

You see, just because the end is at hand doesn’t mean it’s time for life to shut down. While we continue living, though, keep the end in mind. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Adventures in Fatherhood

Life at Work
We’ve put our hand to the plow, so to speak. We’ve marched into the battle. We have framed our building. When Jesus employed those word pictures, he was telling his hearers that they needed to count the cost before striking out on the Christ Adventure.

The pictures are equally applicable to the Adventures of Fatherhood. Before you have kids, count the cost. There are many blessings and there are many sacrifices. What is best for you and your wife right now?

Surely, though, there are readers who have already stepped out in faith, but are asking, “What was I thinking?” They didn’t consider some of the cost before, but they are paying the price now. Christianity often calls us to a higher level of courage and conviction than we dreamed in the beginning it would.

There are a lot of us who are fathers who often feel like we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. Some of us felt that way the first time that we had to change a diaper by ourselves. Others of us felt ahead of the game until we met our match in our teenage children. Maybe you’ve asked the question, “What was I thinking when I thought I wanted to have kids?”

Here are three things that I think are important for fathers to do so that fatherhood doesn’t become a burden:

First, create the fun. Be imaginative, make the appointment (if you have to call it that to keep it), and have some fun with your children. You’ll need to do a little research to discover what they would really enjoy doing, but get yourself out of the house and away from your other irritations. You might just find that you aren’t so much frustrated with your kids as you are other demands that have become irritants.

Second, allow room for mistakes. You’re a Christian for goodness sake, practice a little grace.

Third, learn to laugh again. Kids laugh four hundred times per day. Adults laugh less than twenty times. Look how much happier they are! Laughter really is the best medicine – that’s in the Bible nearly (Proverbs 17:22).

Don’t give up. You fathers are already in it now. Get determined again. Don’t look back. Finish this tower and win the fight over the temptation to give up. That's Life at Work.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Father's and Good Foundations

“And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4; NRSV)

Dads, as Father’s Day approaches, meditate on that passage. Consider that as Paul details the really important things in relationships; his instruction for you is about the training of your children, not providing for your children. I thought about that when I read Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. In regard to the amount of energy a family gives to work, he wrote this:

“The place to start is not with the assumption that work is non-negotiable; it’s with the assumption that family is non-negotiable. That one shift of mind-set opens the door to all kinds of creative possibilities” (p. 118).

Covey warns us not to get addicted to the stimulation of the work environment and a certain standard of living. When we do, we are compelled to make all other lifestyle decisions based on the false assumption that lifestyle is high on the list of important foundations for children.

The discipline and instruction of the Lord is what your children need most from you. Don’t set aside that priority for anything. That’s Life at Work!

Monday, June 06, 2005

No More Wasted Time

Life at Work
The Eagles sing in “Wasted Time” about a girl who has given herself in a number of relationships that have ultimately faltered. She is distraught over having no close relationship after long-time personal, emotional investments. Having reminisced, Henley sings:

So you can get on with your search, baby,
And I can get on with mine
And maybe someday we will find,
That it wasn’t really wasted time.

We aren’t always concerned about wasting time while we are wasting the time. Something happens periodically, though, that causes us to reflect; and when we realize that time will be short, or has gone by too quickly, we mourn wasted time.

Peter wrote about wasted time in a letter to people who had invested part of their lives in wicked ways. He wrote, “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do-living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry…” (1 Peter 4:3). Paul asked the Christians in Rome why returning to the kind of life in which they found shame and death would even cross their minds. He told them that the beneficial life was the one in which the slave to God would be led to holiness and to the great ending: eternal life.

I don’t want to say, “Get on with your search, and I can get on with mine.” I want to tell you instead that Jesus has called us to the abundant life. For either of us to pursue any life course without heaven as the goal will prove to be wasted time. I don’t want to waste anymore time! Do you? That’s Life at Work!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

That There May Never Be Another Case Like Emmett's

Life at Work
The ground in Burr Oak Cemetery is being turned near the headstone of Emmett Till today. The FBI is exhuming his body while his family looks on in order to dispel rumors that the body in that grave might not be the body of the thirteen year old killed in Money, Mississippi in August 1955.

Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam were charged with murdering Emmett, but were acquitted by an all white jury. I wonder if they experienced even a moment of imprisonment by guilt for killing that young boy. They are dead now, but before they died, they confessed to abducting, beating, and shooting Emmett because he whistled at Bryant’s wife.

Emmett’s home was in Chicago. He was visiting his family that summer in the Mississippi Delta community where he died. He was found in the Tallahatchie River three days after he was abducted from his uncle’s home and killed. His body had been held under the surface of the waters by the weight of the seventy pound gin fan that was tied to him. A strand of barbed-wire had been wrapped around his neck and tied to the fan to keep him under the water.

They will find that the body they found and buried thirty years ago is Emmett, I’m confident. A momma knows her son, and Emmett’s mom had the casket open during the funeral to expose the violence of the crime against her son – and against humanity. I hope they will find some evidence that will link someone else to the murder, if in fact anyone else participated, or knew about it and said nothing. And if that someone is alive, I hope they will be charged, found guilty, and live the rest of their lives in prison.

I was born in Tupelo, Mississippi in March of 1966 - eleven years after the brutal hate crime against Emmett Till. I lived in Mississippi for twenty-three years. I can say without a moment of hesitation that the hatred that was prevalent among some my fellow Mississippians in the fifties and sixties did not infiltrate my heart in the least.

From the days of my earliest memories in elementary school, to my experiences in Mississippi churches where we were members or frequently visited, and to my high school experience, I encountered many people of various races. While we were obviously different – we looked different, we talked different, and we worshipped different – we were all God’s children, and I knew that.

There are a number of reasons why I could love anybody – even those of different races – in a state where hatred was at an epidemic level. No doubt, the impact of the civil rights movement in the late fifties and early sixties, exposed race hatred for the horrible thing it is. I believe, though, that what made me appreciate people of all skin colors was the influence of my parents who appreciated people of all skin colors. You see, if my parents had been racists, the likelihood is that I would have been one, too, until I developed enough maturity and/or saw the idiocy of racism to bring about change in me. Since, however, my parents were equal opportunity lovers, I learned it from them.

One of the most powerful things you can do to stop racism is to model respect for all people to your children. If you haven’t been doing that, another Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam are a generation away. If you have been modeling respect for all people, your children have seen the reflection of God in your life. That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

I Might Decide to Preach All Day

Life at Work
Lyle Lovett sings “Church,” a song about a church service during which the preacher keeps on preaching to an increasingly hungry congregation. The moral of the story is in the last verse:

And the moral of this story
Children it is plain but true
God knows if a preacher preaches long enough
Even he'll get hungry too
And he'll sing

To the Lord let praises be
It's time for dinner now let's go eat
We've got some beans and some good cornbread
Now listen to what the preacher said
He said to the Lord let praised be
It's time for dinner now let's go eat

Some preachers preach through lunch time, others preach into the nighttime. That’s what Paul did in one of the funniest stories Luke records in his Acts of the Apostles.

I say it’s a funny story. It might not be if Eutychus, the man who fell asleep and then fell to his death had stayed dead. Luke says that Paul went “on and on,” and that Eutychus fell sound asleep. It is important not to sit in a window sill during a long sermon. Interestingly, after the man fell, died, and was brought back to life, Paul ate and then talked with them some more until daybreak. Even the dead man stayed around for the additional conversation.

These people in Troas really wanted to hear a word from God through Paul. Knowing that he was about to leave, they wanted to take in all they could. When you’ve been without food, you get so hungry so that you can’t get enough when you finally get some. When you know that food is about to be scarce, you take in all you can, like a squirrel before winter.

I come across a lot of people who don’t eat what they have set in abundance before them. In the natural world, I understand that. If I go to an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant, I get full the minute I walk in the door. Just the realization that when I finish one plate, I’m no closer to being without food than I was when I started, makes my stomach shrink in a hurry. Do you suppose that the availability of the Word keeps you from being hungry for it? Could it be that since you can listen to the word on the television and radio; you can hear it Sundays and Wednesdays; and you can read it any day from any number of versions that you feel full though you are receiving limited nourishment?

Do you feel that hunger pain for a Word from God? That’s Life at Work!

Absurd but Not Unbelieveable

Life at Work
Abraham was told that he and his wife Sarah would have a child. Why was it so great a thing that Abraham should believe that he was going to be a daddy? Because he and Sarah were right at ninety years old when they received the promise.

Imagine Abraham and Sarah talking with the local crib maker. "So, are you buying this for a nephew, a cousin, or what?" Abraham responds, "Nope, Sarah's expecting our first. We're getting this for him and his children to come. Better make that crib big. God said there's going to be a bunch of 'em."

Ridiculous? Yes. Preposterous? I'd say so. Absurd? You bet. Laughable? Sarah laughed, at first. Unbelievable? Well, not really. Remember, it was God who promised. God has often done ridiculous, preposterous, absurd, laughable things. That's why, even this, is not unbelievable.

For example, God said, "I'll forgive you of your sins, resurrect you from the dead, and bring you to heaven with me to live forever." Ridiculous? Yes. Preposterous? I'd say so. Absurd? You bet. Laughable? When I look at my own sinfulness, yes. Unbelievable? Well, not really. Remember, it was God who promised. God has often done ridiculous, preposterous, absurd, laughable things. That's why, even this, is not unbelievable.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Life at Work

Life at Work
“Give him a fair fight!” Most of us remember those words or words like them from our elementary school days. One of the funny things about that cry that usually had to do with making sure it was one against one is that we knew what a fair fight was. We forget what a fair fight is when we become adults. That’s why when you are reading books about relationships there is likely to be a chapter or two to educate us about how to fight fair. In Becoming a Couple of Promise (NavPress, 1999), Dr. Kevin Leman tells about unfair fighting.

It is not a fair fight when:

We generalize the behavior of another by using words like “you always” and “you never.”
We change the issue during an argument in order to make a personal attack.
We make a vague accusation instead of being clear about a complaint.
We respond to a complaint by citing a case where something worse has been done to us.
We flood the other by throwing out the multitude of things they have done wrong.
We bring out an old grievance that we’ve been saving in our minds to drop at just the right time.
We use passive-aggressive comments to lay guilt on the other.

The tendency of many will be to read that list to see when others have fought unfairly. Don’t do that. Read each one and ask yourself, “When have I used this tactic to fight unfairly.” Give him/her a fair fight! That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Artemis of the Ephesians

You’ve got to call her "Artemis of the Ephesians;" otherwise you might confuse her with another Artemis, goddess of the Greeks. The Artemis about whom the Ephesians cried, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” was born, so the myths say, near Ephesus. She did not make the temple that was built for her in Ephesus her home, she lived in the woods – or wherever living things lived. She was the mother of all the living. Anything, then, could be given or offered to her. Maybe that’s why her shrine in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Greek World was so large and why so much of value came into the city.

Demetrius was a silversmith who made his money making Artemis memorabilia. No, that isn’t what they would have called it, but since her only lasting value has been the trinkets of her likeness that have been discovered, “memorabilia” is appropriate. Demetrius was a worshipper, it would seem. He mentions the fact that Paul slandered Artemis in his preaching against idols, and that he didn’t think that was right. Yet, twice, before he mentions the slander, he mentions the money that he and his cohorts will be out if people continued turning from Artemis to Yahweh. He no doubt knew that there could not be a profitable conversion for him, either. After all, Yahweh does not want any images made of his likeness – as if that could really happen.

Later on the city clerk is going to console the people who riot by saying that they all know that Artemis is divine and their beliefs shouldn’t be threatened. He seems concerned that he will have to answer to the higher authorities regarding a riot and really wants to avoid that. He succeeds in quieting the crowd, and is able to dismiss the crowd.

Demetrius is concerned about money and says that when Paul says that man-made gods are not gods at all that he was destroying the reputation of Artemis. The city clerk is concerned about riots and says that no one had blasphemed their goddess by what they had said. Someone isn’t telling the truth, here. The city clerk is avoiding reality to avoid a confrontation with his superiors. The message about the God of Heaven, the God whom Paul preached, the God who sent Jesus allows no room for other gods.

Yahweh is jealous. Yahweh demands all of your loyalty. Yahweh is real and alive. Do you think he is trying to push all of your other loyalties aside? Have you gotten the impression that he refuses to be one of two masters to you? Do you perceive that he wants you to love him with all your heart, soul and strength? Then you have understood correctly. He’ll have no place but the only place. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Blessing Our Communities

Luke describes prayer clothes, demon possessions, Jewish exorcists, Seven Sons of Sceva, Ephesian Kung-Fu, beaten streakers, and book burnings. This is a wild story in Acts 19. Despite all of the strange things that make up this story, there is one part of the account that we are not surprised to see Luke include: "In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power" (Acts 19:20). What is it about the work in the areas where Paul traveled that brought about positive result so consistently? I’m going to suggest three things that seem to be true about Paul’s work that we can use to cause the word of the Lord to spread quickly and grow in power.

The dynamics of the area were considered when an approach was determined. Paul would not have tried to put on a brush arbor meeting in New York City. If an area was particularly philosophical, Paul was a philosopher. If the area was superstitious like Ephesus, showing power over the established superstitions would be a great way to go. So maybe, maybe the extraordinary miracles of Paul were needed in this extraordinary city of Ephesus.

Our primary push has been to reach people for Jesus who live around Yukon, Mustang, El Reno, and Piedmont. There are things that are peculiar about these areas that we need to consider when we think about serving. We provide opportunities for our college kids here, but we don’t have a campus ministry. The way we help the poor of our area is not going to look like an inner-city ministry. If we have high divorce rates, high teen pregnancy rates, drug/alcohol abuse problems, lots of kids at home by themselves in the afternoons, a high widow/widower population, a high single parent population, a high blended-family population, and a significant number of teens, then those things will help us decide what we do to be a blessing to our communities. We need to place high priority on those things.

Paul brought with him certain abilities and strengths. He also brought with him other people with certain abilities and strengths. He also used the local people to whom God had given certain abilities and strengths. We need to consider what talent God has put in the local body here as we move to reach our communities. To mention one, we have a great number of excellent teachers in this church. We ought to have the best Bible School available, and we should consider the other ways that we can utilize this extraordinary blessing of the Spirit.

One other thing that was true about Paul and the people with whom he worked that was important in their successful outreach was the determination they had not to let trouble get them off their path. They kept their eyes on the goal, hurdled their obstacles with help from Heaven, and moved forward. Let’s do that, too.

That’s Life at Work!

Monday, May 09, 2005

You Say One Thing and Do Another

“You say one thing and do another.” That is the regular complaint that I make to my preacher, the man I look at in the mirror every morning. “They do not practice what they preach,” Jesus said concerning the Pharisees. Then he calls them hypocrites for the rest of Matthew 23. That hurts.

I preach about marriage, parenthood, morality, service, faith, and priorities. But I’m not the husband or father that I ought to be sometimes. I sin because I don’t always behave morally. My service is lacking, my faith is weak, and my priorities are out of whack.

Those things are true of everybody at some point or another, but not everybody stands in a pulpit regularly calling people to repent of their failures. Preachers do. I do. So often, I look in the mirror and in the faces of the people who know my sin; and I am hit squarely with my failures, and I feel like a hypocrite.

Lord, forgive my sins – which are many. In my mind and heart I want to completely quit sinning, “but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” (Romans 7:23-24). To quit sinning completely, I become more and more convinced out of my own experience is not going to happen. Thank God, for me and for you, there is forgiveness in Christ. That’s Life at Work.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Mom's a Mom

You might have brought your baby home from the hospital having delivered her yourself. She has your eyes, your husband’s hair (or lack thereof), your sister’s dimples, and your dad’s feet. One thing is for sure - she has all your love, and you have all of hers. Because a mom’s a mom.

You might have watched from behind a window when he was carried by a nurse from the birthing room to the nursery. You might have known that the baby that just went by would be at your home before long. You’ve been good to the birth mom who just couldn’t take care of the child in her womb. You’ll always know what she looked like because you’ll see her in the baby you’ve adopted as your own. His features don’t look like anybody in your family, but one thing is for sure, he has all your love. You have all of his, too. Because a mom’s a mom.

Maybe the kids you care so much about came to your home knowing who their birth mom was and knowing they couldn’t live with her anymore. You adopted them after personalities developed, after they had to consider whether they were loved, and after they could be held and rocked comfortably. You’ve struggle, you’ve taught, you’ve hugged, and you’ve spent yourself on them. One thing is for sure, they have all your love. And you have all of theirs, because a mom’s a mom.

You were going to be their grandparent, but your role has changed. There’s a huge age difference, and you find it hard to keep up most days. You’ve stepped up to the challenge, though. You take him to school and pick him up. You go to his soccer games and sit with the soccer moms smiling as he falls all over the field. You weren’t planning on this. There were days when you thought you couldn’t do it, and wished you didn’t have to. But now, one thing is for sure. He has all your love, and you have his. Because a mom’s a mom.

She’s lived in your house for six months. You have no clue how long she is going to stay. DHS could come tomorrow to take her from you. You’ve held her as she cried. You’ve comforted her when she’s been scared. You’ve done all you can to heal her heart. You’ve modeled a good home. You’ve hugged her and kissed her. You’ve told her things she should have been told all her life, but that she’s never heard before. You don’t know if the phone call will signal the end of your time with her, but one thing is for sure. She’s got all your love, and you’ve got hers. Because a mom’s a mom.

God bless you Moms. All of you.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Mother's Memory

Life at Work
Woman’s Day magazine was recommending some gift ideas for Mother’s Day. One neat gift idea was “Mom’s Memory Jar.” Write some memories, some special moments to you, on some colored pieces of paper, put them in a pretty cup or jar, then tie a Mother’s Day balloon to it. I like that idea. I think I’ll suggest it to my kids.

Funny thing about that, though, is that the real gift for my kid’s mom will be that they counted the moment as special. You see, JeannaLynn won’t need to be reminded of the moment. I promise you, she remembers.

As Luke wrote about Mary seeing the baby Jesus lying in that manger with all the shepherds around, he said that she “treasured up all of those things and pondered them in her heart.” Later, when she thought back on finding Jesus talking to the leaders in the temple when they thought he was lost, Luke wrote again, “His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

Mother’s have a special gift from God that enables them to remember and cherish special moments with their children. Whether you write them on notes and put them in a jar, or call your Mom Sunday to talk a little, tell her about some occasion involving the two of you that is cherished by you. She’ll likely remember, and then she’ll never forget that you remembered, too.

Have a Happy Mother’s Day Sunday.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Team

Life at Work
“When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26).

We already knew that Priscilla and Aquila were hospitable – they housed Paul for nearly two years. I wonder if their exposure to his evangelistic spirit and teaching ability enabled them to help out Apollos. They were certainly effective, and the succeeding verses reveal why that was so important – but first things first.

John Maxwell noted about teams, “A team is many voices with a single heart.” The fact that this couple works together stands out to me. Look at the verses that mention either Priscilla or Aquila.

“There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them…,” (Acts 18:2)

“Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken. They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews” (Acts 18:18-19)

“He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26).

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3)

“The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house” (1 Corinthians 16:19).

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus” (2 Timothy 4:19)

They were Christians as a team. They were teachers as a team. They suffered as a team. They housed individuals and churches as a time. They even sent and received greetings as a team. They succeeded as team.

Why? Because though they were individuals, they had one heart; a heart for God. That’s Life at Work.

(Maxwell Quote from: The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player.)

Help in Times of Trouble

Some friends in Manhattan are in the NICU with their baby who is struggling to live. My friends are one in the struggle with their infant son named Ira. Their struggle is not physical, though. It is emotional and spiritual. Why does their baby have to be on extreme life support while other babies in that hospital were born perfectly healthy? Why wasn’t their baby formed with organs in the correct position when baby after baby is born with organs in perfect order? I know these questions are out there. If they are not on lips, they are on hearts. Now, they are on paper.

One of the doctors asked my friend, a preacher, if he would preach Sunday. He responded that he just doesn’t have anything to say these days. I’ve been there. Maybe you have, too.

The truth is, not many of us have an arsenal of helpful things to say at times of heavy grief and fear. What has helped my friend the most is the attention from his church family and the promises that people are praying for him and his wife, for their daughter, and for their son.

We can offer some help for you in your times of struggle. Our answer box isn’t empty. We’ve got some answers for some struggles. But what we can offer in endless supply for you is love from a caring church family and the promise to pray that God will see you through. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

What You Can, When You Can

A Saturday Night Live skit recently satirized President Bush and his never-ending efforts for the country. “I’m working 24/7. That’s twenty-four hours a week. Seven months out of the year.”

The President’s work is important. It does require a good bit of time, no doubt. Probably more than the twenty-four/seven of Saturday Night Live. Our work is important, too. “Which work?” you ask. The work of taking the good news about salvation in Jesus to the world is important!

There are lost people here and yonder who need to know what sin does to their relationship with the God who has set a day to judge the world, and what that Awesome God has done to make things right with him again. Our opportunities vary with the day. They certainly did with Paul as Luke tells his story in Acts 18.

Paul went from Athens to Corinth to preach. The first thing that Luke wrote points to obstacles that stand in the way of what we want. He said that Aquila and Priscilla were in Corinth because all Jews had been ordered to leave Rome. Sometimes you can’t even live where you want to! But Paul lived with them, working as a tentmaker, in order to keep from being a burden to the Corinthians (cf. 2 Cor. 11:7-12). He taught about Jesus in the synagogue on the Sabbath days.

When Timothy and Silas arrived, Paul’s opportunities increased because Timothy and Silas were able to help Paul. Paul devoted himself exclusively to the work of preaching and teaching. The funds were there and the time was there. God provided the protection he needed, too. There were people there who wanted to hear. Many of those hearers believed and were baptized. But not everybody.

Even though he had funds, and time, and protection; Paul still had those who opposed him. He was taken by force to Galileo, which turned out just to be a waste of time, because Galileo wouldn’t even hear the bogus case they brought against Paul.

Do you see all the things that impact our ability to tell our neighbors and the world what God wants them to hear? There are funds, time limitations, dangers, unwilling hearers, and other responsibilities.

So what can we learn from Paul’s experience in Corinth? Don’t lose site of God’s purpose for you during the slower times. Pick up the pace on the straight-aways. In other words, do what you can, when you can. That’s Life at Work!

Monday, April 11, 2005

They Serve a Puny God

They served a puny god. That’s what I thought when I read an article in my hometown newspaper in the Southeast several years ago that described a new temple being built in a larger city nearby. The article described how a prominent Eastern religious group was trucking in their gods. Their gods have to be brought in by truck? Those are puny gods.

I don’t want a puny god. I want a god about whom you say, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24-25).

A god who needs me is no good to me. I need a God who can do things for me that I can’t do. I want to know that when I pray for my spouse to come home safely, for sickness to be removed from my body, or for my family to be healthy again that the God to whom I pray can actually do those things that I can’t accomplish. How could I believe that a god who I have to truck in to his new home could do anything for me?

The truth is that one of the hardest things God ever had to do was get us to heaven. But he can even do that! The God of Heaven, the creator of everything, the giver of life and breath, doesn’t need me. I am so glad about that. I need him, though. You do, too. That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

What Do You Say About God to Someone Who Doesn't Know Him?

The little boy was fairing poorly, to say the least, in elementary math. His mom did everything she could to help him get his grades up, but all her efforts were in vain. She finally decided to take him out of the large public school he attended to enroll him in a small, private Christian school nearby. They had never exposed themselves to Christian teaching, she just thought some of the differences might make the difference for him.

The first day she picked him up from school; he got into the car with her and immediately opened his math book and started studying. When they got home, he went to his room and stayed there studying until dinner. After dinner he went back to his room and studied more. This kind of study was so out-of-character for him, the mother was shocked to silence. But it happened everyday for six weeks!

Finally, he got in the car with her and handed her the report card he had received that day. She slowly opened the card, and a big smile spread across her face. He got an A in math! She was so happy – for him and herself.

“What’s the difference, son?” she asked. “Is it the smaller class size? Is the material explained better? Is the teacher that much better?”

“No, none of that,” he son said. “I just knew the first day that I walked in the classroom and saw that man nailed to that plus sign that they were serious about math.”

There have been a few times that I’ve come across someone who knows next to nothing about Christianity. Even people who know something about Christianity can be limited in what they know, really know, about God. Paul found some people in Athens who had erected an altar to the unknown God. They did that to cover their bases, so to speak. Paul knew that there really was a God that they did not know. What do you say to someone who doesn’t know God?

Paul told them five things in Acts 17. They are important things. Maybe they are important because you need to know them. Maybe their importance is in the need for you to express them to someone you have encountered and care about. Here, in a nutshell, is what he told them. Read it with a tone of caring, not arrogance. You can bet that is how Paul said it.

1. The God You Don’t Know Doesn’t Need You, But You Need Him
2. He Wants You To Seek Him, But You Don’t Have To Look Far
3. Since You Are His Offspring, You Would be a Fool to Worship Idols
4. He’s Been Patient, But Now Is the Time to Repent Because Judgment Is Coming
5. The Resurrection of Jesus Should Prove It to You

Turn from the life that sets you at odds with the God who you need. He’s been close to you all your life, even when you didn’t know it. He raised Jesus to be your savior, but also to be your judge. You are his offspring because you are his creation. It’s time to become one of his children. It’s time to get know God. That’s Life at Work!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A Moral Compass

When evaluating a vision, John Maxwell says that says that you should check your compass to see if the dream is worthy of pursuing. This chapter in The Seventeen Indisputable Laws of Teamwork stresses the importance of your intuitive, historical, directional, strategic, and visionary compasses. That’s five of the six compasses he mentioned. There is one more that struck me as I read the entire chapter. It is the first compass in his list. It is a moral compass.

Now, being a preacher, a moral compass has a louder ring of truth to it than some of the others he mentioned. But the chapter addresses something that made the need for examining a vision with a moral compass really stand out. He illustrated the importance of leading to live a dream with the success of the Enron Corporation.

I admit that I don’t know much about Enron’s failure. OG&E delivers my utilities. But I’ve watched enough of the news to know that greed was the driving force behind the visions of Enron’s executives. If greed is the driving force, and a leader examines the vision with a moral compass, the vision will never be pursued. Where a vision is pursued without examination with a moral compass, success may be seen for a while, but failure will come.

Remember these proverbs that are recorded in succession:

"He whose walk is blameless is kept safe,
but he whose ways are perverse will suddenly fall."

"He who works his land will have abundant food,
but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty."

"A faithful man will be richly blessed,
but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished"
(Prov 28:18-20).

No doubt, Maxwell will write more books. I hope he does. They are worth the read. I wonder if we will see another chapter about the importance of a ethical dreams where the fall of Enron, rather than its success, is the primary illustration.

Monday, April 04, 2005

One Thing

Two books are on my mind: Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald and It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys by Marilyn Paul. They are on my mind because they are on my shelf, and I need to read them. I need to read them because I need motivation and education about getting my life in God’s control. I bet I’m not the only one.

Paul wrote, “But one thing I do… I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). One thing? I’ve got a desk stacked with things that are calling my name. Opportunity left because he got tired of standing in line at my door behind responsibility. I am growing more aware that I want to do what is important sometime instead giving my time and energy to the urgent. And Paul does one thing.

I want to do his one thing. I know you want to, too. We both know that pressing toward the goal is not something to do instead of working to provide for my family, or responsibly doing my work so others can take care of their families, or being a blessing to my community. I do those things as part of pressing toward the goal. But sometimes I lose focus. Sometimes control slips out of my hands, and I feel driven by the goals of others that don’t have anything to do with the “one thing.”

Did you need to read this today to help you refocus on one thing? What do you need to let go of, and what do you need to reach out for, so that you can press toward the goal? What can your neighbors who are the South Yukon Church of Christ do to help you with that? We’ll press on together. We’ll do the one thing as group. That will help. That’s Life at Work.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Scriptures Prove It

Higher ranking character. That’s what Paul said the Bereans had in comparison to the Thessalonians who had chased Paul and his companions out of town. Instead of chasing them out of town, the Bereans received Paul’s message and searched the scriptures daily to see if what he said was true. What had Paul said? He said that you could prove from the Old Testament that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.

That wasn’t commonly understood, of course. Even after Jesus crucifixion, John comments that “they (the disciples) still did not understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9).

The Jews, disciples and unbelievers alike, believed in a very powerful messiah. While power and resurrection go hand in hand, power and death do not. Of course, to resurrect, you have to die. They didn’t believe that would happen to the Messiah – the Anointed One of God.

Convincing the Jews that the Christ must suffer and rise from the dead was a constant crusade for Paul. Preaching that the Messiah died was stumbling block to them. Even Peter said, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”

Peter, Paul, and the other apostles would use various Old Testament passages to prove that the death and resurrection of Jesus was a fulfillment of prophecy about the Messiah. Peter quoted the Psalms on Pentecost:

…because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”

We are used to using the New Testament to prove the resurrection of Jesus. But God had revealed long before that the story of redemption would include the death and resurrection of his Son. When your faith needs strengthened, read some of those passages that will fortify your conviction that Jesus died for you and rose from the dead. See what use the inspired writers made of Old Testament passages to proclaim the good news – the news that Jesus died and rose from the dead to save you! That’s Life at Work!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Go Home

In an animated email, a stick figure is beating his head against a stick wall saying, “I want to go home. I want to go home!” I’ve been there. You probably have, too. The frustrations of the workplace can be so overwhelming that we long for the comfort of home. Sadly, though, there are too many of us who don’t want to go home enough. If the frustrations of the work place don’t have us aching to leave, we stay, and stay, and stay, and stay.

Now, I want “Life at Work” to have some relevance for most who read it weekly, so let me say this generally: Though there is no Sabbath Day command for Christians to require us to rest for a period of time, the principle of the Sabbath Day is still pertinent. You need some rest. Take it.

But there is another reason for many of us to go home even when we could stay at work a little while longer. There is a family, a spouse and some children perhaps, who need some time with you. That time needs to be good time, play time, prayer time, family time. Not just hurry-you-to-bed time. Not just crash-out-on-the-couch-and-leave-me-alone time.

The Jews turned the blessing of the Sabbath rest into a burden. He told them, “The Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath.” We’ve turned the blessing of employment into a huge burden. God made work for you; not you for work. Take a break. Give your family some of your time and energy. That’s Life at Work!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Raised from the Dead

“He raised him from the dead.”

How do you respond to that statement? Maybe this week, approaching Easter, your thoughts are about the resurrection of Jesus and your first response is positive – a response of belief. Maybe you’ve been hearing recently about money-hungry false prophets who claim the ability to raise the dead, so your first response is negative – a response of disbelief. Many of us have been in both places. Many of us believe in the resurrection of Jesus, yet we realize how unusual a resurrection is. We are quick to reject claims that it happens now, prior to the resurrection of all the dead that Jesus told us about in John 5:28-29.

Acts 17 details the responses of various people to the claim that Jesus was dead, but is alive again. In Thessalonica, some Jews, a great number of Greeks including a significant number of women believed. In Berea, more Jews were at least interested in the news of the resurrection because they searched the scriptures to see if what Paul preached was true. In Athens, some sneered, others wanted to hear more, and a few believed.

I’ve heard some say that you can’t react with apathy to the message of the resurrection. They say you’ll either believe with a life-changing faith, or you will disbelieve and be unmoved in the pursuit of whatever it is you are pursuing. I disagree. I think some of the Athenians who were more interested in a philosophical slant on the resurrection idea were responding with apathy when they said, “We want to hear you again.” I think that many of us who grew up in the Bible belt constantly hearing the message of resurrection believe it to be true, yet don’t live the unusual lives that the unusual resurrection calls us to live. In fact, according to Barna (Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators, 1996) eighty-five percent of Americans believe in the resurrection of Jesus, yet only twenty-six percent of us read our Bibles once per week. That’s a sign of apathy. We should change that. That’s Life at Work!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

How God Used an Earthquake to Save a Home

On January 17, 1994 at 4:30 in the morning, the Northridge thrust, a fault under Northridge, CA, shifted causing the first earthquake to strike directly under an urban area of the United States in over sixty years. The quake produced the strongest ground motions ever instrumentally recorded in an urban setting in the US according to the Southern California Earthquake Data Center.

The pictures that show the damage of that quake are not huge cracks in the ground that crossed some remote road in some far off deserted sand field. The pictures are of homes, neighborhoods in fact, and apartment complexes that were destroyed by the shaking and shift of the ground. This quake didn’t just collapse the home of a field rat; it collapsed the homes of people.

When we think of earthquakes, we think about the destruction of homes. God thinks differently.

Paul and Silas were on their way to the place of prayer and ended up in prison. There was a slave girl in Philippi who had been following Paul, Silas, Luke and the others around the city shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (Acts 16:17). Normally, Paul and his companions would have rejoiced at the testimony, but this girl was a possessed by an evil spirit. If you saw someone with a terrible acne problem pushing a face cleanser, you’re probably not buying in. A demon-possessed girl pointing the way to salvation is not effective advertising.

So one day – why he put up with it at all I don’t know – Paul cast the demon from the girl by the power of God. She was rescued, but her owners were outraged. They had been using her as a source of revenue, but now their money-maker was normal. They accused Paul and the others of causing an uproar. Paul and Silas were beaten, thrown into prison, and shackled.

What do Christians do when they’ve been beaten and locked up unjustly? These Christians sang. I don’t know what they sang, but I bet it wasn’t “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me” or “Man of Constant Sorrow” or “Welcome to My Life.” It may have been a song that expressed distress, but it probably expressed confidence, too. They knew God could rescue them. And he did. He sent an earthquake that broke their shackles and opened the door of the prison. But that isn’t the greatest part of the story. When he sent the earthquake, he also saved a home.

The jailor took Paul and Silas home with him to learn what the slave girl said he could learn from them – how to be saved. He and his home were saved that very night.

I know there is a different between a house and home. Thanks for letting me play with the words here – I know you get the point. Buildings might have collapsed in Philippi, but a household was saved. That’s how God used an earthquake to save a home. Does anything need shaking up around you to get you asking “What must I do to be saved”? That’s Life at Work!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Step into the Real Life

The movie The Truman Show (1998) starred Jim Carrey as Truman who, since infancy, was the main character of a TV show about himself, but he didn’t know it. He didn’t know that everyone in his life was an actor until he bumped into a caterer backstage. Having learned that his life setting had been arranged and choreographed by his father who produced the show, he was faced with the reality that he needed to experience life for real. But he didn’t even know what that meant. Brian McLaren asked this question about Truman’s choice that is important for us: “If we stood poised, as Carrey's Truman did at the end of the film, ready to step out of our dome, leaving a safe and scripted world where we're the star and where it's all about us, would we take the step?”

Do you know that Jesus calls you to such a life? Life with Jesus is often unpredictable and it certainly isn’t about us. For some of you that idea is exciting and challenging. Some of you have already answered the call to the capricious life lived for God.

Others of you are scared to death at the idea. I understand. Jesus said, “Follow me,” but adds “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” You might not be comfortable.

Jesus says, “Follow me,” and adds, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” Your life will be about bigger priorities than the normal life.

Jesus said, “Follow me,” and then adds “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom.” This life is different. Consider your choice carefully, and don’t start if you’re not going to finish.”

I can tell you that I’ve taken the step and the choice was the right one, without a doubt! The way to suppress your fear is to build your faith. We can help you with that. Then let God build your courage. When you step into the kingdom world, you’ll have lots of help. Those of us who have done it stick together. That’s Life at Work!