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!

Motivated by Love

Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend, authors of various “Boundaries” books write in Boundaries with Children that we need to help our children move toward greater motives for doing the right things and making the right choices. They list motivation stages from those that are less mature to the more mature: (1) Fear of consequences, (2) Immature conscience, (3) Values and ethics, and (4) love.

It occurs to me, as it has to others, that motives for obeying God mature the same way for adults in their relationship to the Father. While fear of eternal punishment, internal coercion motivated by the desire to conform to the values of others, and personal ethics are compelling motivators for obeying God; love is the greatest motive of all. Surely Jesus was expressing that truth when he said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

When you know what God has done for through Jesus, you can’t help but love him. When you’ve exposed yourself to the love of God, you develop a love for all people, because God loves all people. Love is the motive that will keep you on the “straight and narrow” when fear and coercion have lost their power and when ethics appear questionable.

Grow toward love. That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What, Why, and How We Do

We recently challenged our own attitude toward worship by comparing it to the attitude of those in Lystra who worshipped Paul and Barnabas as if they were Hermes and Zeus. The story of their devotion to false gods is a wake-up call for us. Are we so devoted to the true and living God?

In the worship assemblies of the South Yukon Church we practice the same things weekly. We practice these things because we are convicted that they are what we should be doing to worship God as he wants to be worshipped. Some of you are new additions to the body of believers here and to the church of Christ. Here is what you will see each Sunday here when we gather to worship.

We sing. We sing a cappella. Musically, that means purely vocal. Literally, that means in the style of the church. We sing without instruments because that is the only kind of music mentioned in the New Testament associated with spiritual singing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), and it is the kind of music that the early church closest to the time of the apostolic teaching employed. It is likely that instruments were not used because of the highly spiritual nature of New Testament Worship.

We pray. Privately and in community, God’s people pray. As we come together, our common adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplications go before God’s throne. We communicate what is in our hearts for God in this way.

We read and focus on God’s Word. The Bible is the communication of God’s heart toward us. Part of sacred scripture is read a couple of times in our assemblies. Comment is made on the word. While the comments are not the Word, they are considered that seriously before they are delivered because the speaker has been instructed: If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11)

We give in proportion to our blessing through the week. God’s people have always brought their first fruit to God. Accordingly, following the example of the Corinthian Church (1 Cor 16:2), we give so that when the time comes to meet a need the funds are collected and ready.

We also eat the Lord’s Supper. We commune with the Lord weekly because that was the practice of the early church in response to apostolic teaching. We will also only eat the Lord’s Supper on Sunday – no other day. The significance of Sunday is that Jesus was resurrected on Sunday – we eat the Lord’s Supper on the Lord’s Day.

These are not activities unattached to hearts and lives. We sing with all of our hearts to God and with the goal of teaching and building up each other. In fact, everything we do together has the goals of glorifying God in our devotion to him and mutual strengthening. We pray because prayer brings closeness to God and prayer in community brings us close to each other as we join with others in their rejoicing and sorrow. We give generously, feeling good about giving to God and others. We read and focus on the Word because we love the Word and want the worship experience to bring a change for good to our lives. We eat together, remembering our oneness, remembering the sacrifice given for us, and declaring our belief that Jesus will return to take us home.

And all of this is done in the clothing of love, because it is by our love that the world will know that we are his disciples (Col 3:14; John 13:35). That's Life at Work!