Theology of Work


(Photo credit: here)

S (Scripture): Ecclesiastes 5:13 There is a grievous ill that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owners to their hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture; though they are parents of children, they have nothing in their hands. 15 As they came from their mother’s womb, so they shall go again, naked as they came; they shall take nothing for their toil, which they may carry away with their hands. 16 This also is a grievous ill: just as they came, so shall they go; and what gain do they have from toiling for the wind? 17 Besides, all their days they eat in darkness, in much vexation and sickness and resentment.

18 This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. 19 Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God. 20 For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts.

O (Observation):  Solomon has seen what wealth can do to a person.  Wealth can turn a person inward, caring only for himself or herself.   To what end?   To a cold and lonely end.    When a rich person dies, that person cannot take their earthly goods with them.   Toiling is not bad…but if one toils to gain more things…one does so in vain.  

But Solomon gives us another view of toil: joy in contentment.   Brooding over the work gains nothing.   Instead, find the work God has called each to do, and in that, find joy!

A (Application): I continue to be amazed at our capitalistic society in the US and the growing discontent we have in our lives.   The gadgets and gizmos and vacations we all desire can drive us away from contentment and towards a poor view of our work:  work = money for stuff.   

The joy of work gives us purpose and a way to contribute to society.   The wonderful part of capitalism is the opportunity to explore any of your callings and to seek to be paid for it.   However, the downfall of capitalism is that those who cannot work, or those who cannot see work as something to be enjoyed decide that they don’t fit in, and thus, end up on the streets or living off of handouts.  

I pray that everyone find the inherent dignity in all of humanity.   I pray that everyone find the calling God has instilled in them.  I pray that we are all compassionate enough help those whose work does not allow them enough pay to live on their own.   

I pray that we all enjoy our work for the sake of bringing God glory!

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to be thankful and grateful for our callings in this world!  Amen.

Why Being Wicked is So Enticing

(Photo of Matthew McConnaughey as “the man in black” in the upcoming film, The Dark Tower, adapted from the Stephen King book series by the same name.  Photo credit here.)

S (Scripture): Psalm 73

1 Truly God is good to the upright,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
my steps had nearly slipped.
3 For I was envious of the arrogant;
I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 

4 For they have no pain;
their bodies are sound and sleek.
5 They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not plagued like other people.

O (Observation):  The psalmist acknowledges that God calls all to be righteous, but for some reason, the psalmist is jealous of the wicked!

This author is not jealous of the person’s wickedness, but rather, jealous of the apparent prosperity of the wicked…

A (Application):  The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence…

We so easily can be manipulated by our own egos.   We can see someone who – through dishonest or wicked means – gains popularity and / or wealth – and we can become jealous.  We can start to think about putting ourselves into that person’s place.  If I can just ignore this bit of justice or ignore that neighbor’s need…I, too, can be rich or famous.   

Look! The wicked have no pain. They are sleek!

Yeah, right!   The wicked have pain…they just don’t show you…  The pain comes in lack of support…lack of guidance…lack of joy.   
We can all be tempted to allow wickedness to guide us, because it seems to pay off in worldly ways.  Yet, what is gained?   And what is lost? 

Instead of relying on wickedness, we can rely on the Lord to supply our needs (not our wants).   

Do not let evil lure you into its trap.   Sin is just death  masquerading as life.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, remind us that we are yours and that you supply our every need.  Amen.  

The Promise of Divine Discipline


S (Scripture): Psalm 3
1b I will praise you, O Lord, for you lifted me up, and did not allow my enemies to gloat over me.

2 O Lord my God, I cried out to you and you healed me.

3 O Lord, you pulled me up from Sheol; you rescued me from among those descending into the grave.

4 Sing to the Lord, you faithful followers of his; give thanks to his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a brief moment, and his good favor restores one’s life.

One may experience sorrow during the night, but joy arrives in the morning.

O (Observation):  The study notes that come from the online Bible reader I use (Net.Bible.org):

The author thanks the Lord for delivering him from death and urges others to join him in praise. The psalmist experienced divine discipline for a brief time, but when he cried out for help the Lord intervened and restored his favor.

A (Application): I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like discipline much.  And I don’t like doling out discipline either, which can frustrate my spouse at times : ) (I’m working on this…)

My kids don’t always take heed to my discipline.  Hmm.  Wonder why?  Perhaps my power is limited?   I think my purpose is usually clear: they are moving outside of the boundaries of accepted behavior.  Ok…but then they want to know why that boundary is there.  “Why is that my bedtime?” “What did I do?” “Why?”

Is this testing coming from disrespect?   Or simple curioisity?   Or innocence?  Seems to me to be a bit of all of those possibilities.   With God, however, we have different elements at play. 

Discipline that comes from God is quite a bit different for a faithful Christian believer.   Divine discipline always has the promise that God is bringing us back around to our true and right calling.   As much as we might be experiencing divine discipline, we know that joy comes with the morning (v. 5 above).   My discipline that I give my children can at times be unfair or tainted with personal bias (and therefore may not bring the child into the desired path).

The hard part is that we can’t always see the joy coming down the road – even with divine discipline.  Instead, we rely only on the promise that God will be with us… the promise that all will turn out well.   

What discipline are you dishing out?  For what purpose?   Do you sense that you are receiving divine discipline?  And if so, for what purpose are you receiving that discipline?   

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to see that joy comes in the morning. Amen. 

Making It Through Today


S (Scripture): Psalm 123

1 I look up toward you, the one enthroned in heaven.

2 Look, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female servant look to the hand of her mistress, so my eyes will look to the Lord, our God, until he shows us favor.

3 Show us favor, O Lord, show us favor!  For we have had our fill of humiliation, and then some.

4 We have had our fill of the taunts of the self-assured, of the contempt of the proud.

AND

John 13:34 [Jesus says,] “I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.”

O (Observation):  The psalmist utters a frustrated, yet faith-filled sigh to God above.   This psalm could very well have been composed while the Israelites were in Babylonian captivity – pulled from their homeland and sent to live in foreign territory. He is frustrated, yet not without hope. 

In the John text, Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet and is preparing them for a lifetime of challenges, and he won’t be around to help them in person.  So, he teaches them they hallmark of a disciple: love one another.  Not just those who part of “the Christian team.”  Rather, love ALL people.  This will show the world that love comes to rescue, not power or might.  


A (Application):  I’m really drained.  I know people are venting frustrations, but I can barely look at my FaceBook feed right now.  I have over 1,000 friends on FB, and my “friends” are all over the political spectrum.   

I see articles that take small things and make overarching generalizations as a response.  We spin stories and stats to our desires.    We cry “foul” because people are hurting each other or destroying property.  People are outraged for Trump being voted president.  People are outraged at the protests.   

I’ve pointed out some things that frustrate me about Trump followers committing horrific acts in response to their candidate being voted into office.   I’ve also posted about people committing acts of violence towards those who have voted for Trump.  All of it is inexcusable. 

What a crazy couple of days.  And all of the frustrations and angst are valid indeed.  We cannot invalidate the frustrations and fears, joys and praises that these last few days have stirred in the people of our nation.  

And as I read these texts today, I didn’t feel compelled to condemn anyone.   I’m moving past that.  Rather, I felt that the psalmist and I connected in a deep way.  I felt a kinship in the frustration, and sensed that God will see us through this, even though things are topsy-turvy for now.   

As far as how to move forward?  That’s where the Gospel text comes into play today.   Eventually (or now, if you can muster it) we are called to show love for one another.  As we show love for one another, we will pause.  We will listen and validate one another’s thoughts and feelings and hopes and dreams and fears and worries.  Deepening our connections will be the key for how to move forward.   This is what will bring us together.  

Let us continue to sit across the table from one another.  And if we must, we will peaceably protest as we strive for peace and justice in all the earth. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, guide us into all peace.  Amen.  

What Fruit am I Bearing?

   
S (Scripture): 1 Thessalonians 2:17
But when we were separated from you, brothers and sisters, for a short time (in presence, not in affection) we became all the more fervent in our great desire to see you in person. 18 For we wanted to come to you (I, Paul, in fact tried again and again) but Satan thwarted us. 19 For who is our hope or joy or crown to boast of before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not of course you? 20 For you are our glory and joy!

O (Observation): Paul writes the church in Thessalonica, and shows his deep desire to see the believers there. He focuses his desire on the people with whom he has built a relationship. His crown, his glory, is the PEOPLE, the BELIEVERS!

Paul brings to mind a message that is simple, but hard:   Discipleship is a people on people thing.  

From the work that Paul had done with the church that he helped to establish, he formed a deep, deep love for the people.   That kind of love only comes from being steeped in relationships and working through life issues with one another for some time.   

A (Application):  Paul reminds us of what should bring us great joy, of what should be our crown:  the people we disciple! 

We can get caught up in appetite, approval, and ambition.   We try to satisfy our appetite to be known for our good work.  We seek approval from others, so we will bend our values to the breaking point, and forget that God has already said, “I love you.”  We seek greater and greater ambition, reaching for the top, standing on the heads of those we work with and walk beside.  

Relationships are key.  Paul realizes this, and his zeal for relationship has a purpose beyond his own joy.  Paul needs to be able to speak with authority in the lives of the people he brought along in the faith.  

At the congregation I serve, our New Member process comes down to one word:  Relationships!   These folks who wish to journey with us will need fellow disciples with whom they can journey.  So, we focus on relationships, teaching and guiding as we go along.  

How are your relationships coming along?  Is your fruit the people you have worked with in discipleship?   Have you sensed God calling you to bear fruit by way of those you journey with in discipleship?  

If you want to know how to get involved in this kind of work with fellow members of the body of Christ, let me know : )

P (Prayer):  Lord, you call us to bear fruit for your kingdom.  Help us to do this always.  Let our joy and crown be the fruit of disciple-making for your glory.  Amen. 

Salvation NOW

  S (Scripture): Isaiah 12:1 At that time you will say:  “I praise you, O Lord,
for even though you were angry with me, your anger subsided, and you consoled me.
12:2 Look, God is my deliverer!
I will trust in him and not fear.
For the Lord gives me strength and protects me; he has become my deliverer.”
12:3 Joyfully you will draw water
from the springs of deliverance.

O (Observation): Israel and Judah have fallen and God’s people are deeply in need of a Savior.  Isaiah, God’s prophet, speaks of a day that will come when God’s anger turns away from God’s people.  At that time, the Lord will give God’s people strength and bring them joy.  

A (Application):   For God’s people at the time, their salvation was to come at a future time.   We could read this, and decide that our future in heaven is secure, and leave it at that.  

However, I want to know what salvation we experience now.  Salvation is not only in the future for us, in heaven.  Rather, Christ has come to set us free from the power of sin and death NOW. 

What impact does “salvation now” have on your life?   How does “salvation now” bring you hope and joy today?

P (Prayer):  Lord, you watch over us and bring us salvation, now.   Help us to see how we can represent you in the world, since you have chosen us as you’re own.  Amen. 

What’s Your Perspective?

  S (Scripture):  2 Corinthians 4:5 For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. 4:6 For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ. 

O (Observation):  Slave may best be translated as bond servant.  A bondservant is somebody who sells themselves into somebody else’s service to repay the debt that is a owed.   In this case, Paul and other followers consider themselves bondservants for Jesus’ sake, but they are not working out of this debt.  Rather, they work out of a joyful sense of obligation. 

Paul goes on to describe that their debt is owed to Christ, because Christ shined his light in their hearts to reveal to Paul and other believers the glorious knowledge of God.    
A (Application):  When I say the word words “duty” and “obligation,” what is your reaction?   Then, ask someone of a differing generation about their reaction to those words.  

My guess is that those born in the 1940’s and earlier will enjoy duty and obligation, because they grew up in a time when the societal expectations were such that you followed the orders from above: parents, teachers, officers, etc.   

Ask those born after the 1940’s, and perhaps we get a different response to “duty” and “obligation.”  That age group was a bit more rebellious.  Perhaps more of a “you can’t tell me what to do” bent.   So maybe this verse from Paul is hard to swallow. 
Take those born more recently (post 1980’s), and we have a society filled with extreme conveniences, such that kids complain when they can’t have McDonalds, or go out to a nice restaurant.   What is duty and obligation to this group?

Thus, the difficulty of reading Scripture.  The Bible is the Bible, no matter the perspective.  But perhaps we can learn from those in other generations.  Perhaps a conversation on the varying perspectives of duty and obligation can be of some good use these days.  

Paul’s sense of duty and obligation came from an overwhelming sense of grace they God poured into him.  He couldn’t help, but be obedient!   That’s what happens when God enters into a relationship with you.   You can’t help, but say, “Yes!  Here I am Lord.”

Then, no matter what generation you’re a part of, you will submit and serve: God, fellow disciples, your community.  

What is your reaction to “duty” and “obligation”?

P (Prayer): Lord, we have varied perspectives on the Scriptures and what our response should be to serving you.  Help us all to see the serving nature of being a Christian in the world.  Help us to relish the joyful sense of duty and obligation we have to you in this world.  Amen!