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!