Motivated Work

Why do we work? What is our motivation?

There are wrong, or distorted, views of why we work: When the only reason we work is to make money, we need more and more to be content. This is disillusioning and leads to dissatisfaction. Working for our own greed, or FIRE = financial independence [to] retire early; purely selfish and self indulgent, only working so that we can quit working and live a life of leasure. Then there is working for self significance, importance, to accumulate power, and identity. None of these is a fulfilling way of life and will leave us empty; never satisfied. Recall in Genesis 11 when the people built the Tower of Babble to make a name for themselves, independent from God? It was a singularly unfulfilled and unfulfilling task that only served to create chaos.

The right reasons: remembering that our primary calling is to God, and our secondary calling is to someone or something beneath Him. We can be unemployed, and we can change our secondary calling, but we can never be uncalled. ALL legitimate work is to Glorify God and is pleasing to Him. These include support (1 Tim 5:8; Proverbs 12:11): making money to provide for self and family, to meet needs, and to bless others. Working for satisfaction and enjoyment: Do you feel God’s pleasure in what you are doing? A poll showed that 70% of Americans are completely dissatisfied at work. What does that say about our culture! (Ecc 2:24; 3:22 NLT; 5:18-19) To serve other people, and to share what we acquire: “God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbor does” – Martin Luther (Mark 12:31; Eph 4:28)

“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
1 Timothy 5:8 NASB

“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, But he who pursues worthless things lacks sense.” Proverbs 12:11 NASB

“Here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat, to drink and enjoy oneself in all one’s labor in which he toils under the sun during the few years of his life which God has given him; for this is his reward.” Ecclesiastes 5:18 NASB

“There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.” Ecclesiastes 2:24 NASB

“So I saw that there is nothing better for people than to be happy in their work. That is our lot in life. And no one can bring us back to see what happens after we die.” Ecclesiastes 3:22 NLT

“Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God.” Ecclesiastes 5:18‭-‬19 NLT

“The second is this, ‘ you shall love your neighbor as yourself .’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31 NASB

“If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.” Ephesians 4:28 NLT

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Of Love and Justice

A Psalm of David.

“I will sing of Your Love and Justice, LORD. I will praise You with songs. I will be careful to live a blameless life— when will You come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride. I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me. I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence. My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the LORD from their grip.” – Psalms 101:1‭-‬8 NLT

Sounds pretty harsh, right? There aren’t any people today who could honestly say that they are blameless, and we know that David was far from being blameless himself. He was a murderer and an adulterer…. I wonder how many people younger than the Baby Boomer generation even know what being an adulterer means.

Reading these verses, it’s difficult to imagine many business people can say that they apply these principles to their business. In corporate offices, even in Christian-led companies, I can bear witness to to all of those things that David was against occurring on a constant basis. Coworkers and management alike using gossip and slander to get ahead; dishonestly taking credit for someone else’s work, and accepting rewards and kudos for it. “In my own home …” Whether in my house or my vehicle or my office or my cubicle; at the movie theatre or amusement park …. it is a struggle to live these words.

In my time, I have acted in all of those ways. In my last job, I was in a close working relationship with people claiming to be Christian, yet seeming to take delight from gossiping and spreading lies in order to promote themselves over their coworkers, and who were full of conceit. Again, I must emphasize that I have also been full of conceit and lies in my past. I am far from perfect; I am guilty of many sins. It is difficult to miss the vulgarity in today’s society with billboards and signs proclaiming it in large format, and with television and radio, social media and the movies rampant with it. Clothing styles shout out perversions and prejudice and lack of modesty, and we just follow the crowd – instead of the cross.

Yes, I’m preaching again!

“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” – Galatians 1:10 NLT

This verse from Paul’s letters to the Galatian church is how I struggle to live. I say “struggle” because it isn’t easy for me. I am a people pleaser from my childhood; a classic codependent whose life revolved around whoever I was with. A few years ago, I began to understand this about myself through a church program called Celebrate Recovery. Many people think/assume that because it’s a 12-step program, you must be an alcoholic or drug addict if you participate. Not true. In fact, one of the leaders said this: “There are 2 types of people in this world. Those who are in recovery, and those who need to be in recovery.” I absolutely agree! Being a codependent isn’t something you just shake off, any more than you can shake off any other addiction, and there are lots of addictions. Shopping, eating, sports, work, animals, and even our children can all be addictions.

It’s something for us to think about.

WORK : A Four-Letter Word

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26 NASB

God created Man to rule over the earth; to care for it (everything in and on it) and to cultivate it; to subdue the earth – we are a contractor for God the Creator. In other words, we are to work the earth. The LORD God is all about work, and He created us in imitation of Him, in His image: the Bible opens with God working. From Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 NKJV) to the end of Revelations, God is working. Creator Potter Shepherd Builder Judge ….. we are created in the image of God, therefore we are created to work.

“Who does great things, unfathomable, And wondrous works without number.” Job 9:10 NASB

“For the LORD will rise up as at Mount Perazim, He will be stirred up as in the valley of Gibeon, To do His task, His unusual task, And to work His work, His extraordinary work.” Isaiah 28:21 NASB

“He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which GOD has done from the beginning even to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 NASB

“Then the LORD GOD took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15 NASB

Work is an integral part of our lives, and all work is included, from the CEO to the janitor, to the “housewife” to the farmer, to the homeless person picking up cans to sell. No work is better or worse than any other. If the CEO thinks he/she is too good to clean up a spill, or to clean their bathroom or pick up trash, then they have the wrong concept of work. The concept goes far beyond our paid workplace, individually and collectively, as we go about our daily lives. Do you stop to pickup that piece of trash to dispose of it properly, or do you step over it (I’m not getting my hands dirty!)? Are you careful to make the most of our resources, reducing waste, and not being wasteful with food?

We are under a mandate of work – it is a calling, and should never be considered a curse. As our pastor said, “Before Jesus was known as the Christ, He was known as ‘the carpenter’.” From Genesis, we know that work was present before the fall.

“Then the LORD GOD took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it….. Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.” Genesis 2:15, 3:17 NASB

The work is not cursed, but it falls under the curse, making it more difficult, as “marked by thorns”. It’s interesting to note that the Greek word for “to cultivate” can be used for work, worship, and service. We are coworkers with God. It’s not for Him to do everything, and not for us to do by ourselves, but to work together in partnership. He wants us integrated with Him and His Will: everything we do is important to God, not just ministry or church work. All work is equally valuable and pleasing to God. There is no sacred/secular or blue/white collar division; in fact, it has been said that a Sacred Place is wherever God has placed us, and according to William Tyndale, all work is sacred.
“Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him… Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything, should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him. We can therefore properly say as a matter of secondary calling that we are called to homemaking or to the practice of law or to art history.” – Os Guinness

I like this, too: “Divine service is done here three times a day” hanging over the kitchen sink of Ruth Bell Graham.

“There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.”
Ecclesiastes 2:24 NASB

I Lied…..

I lied. I’m not strong. I’m not courageous. I’m insecure. My faith wavers. I’m weak and I worry. I’m afraid God is too busy, and that I’m not important enough to Him, for Him to concern Himself with my petty life and issues.

The Disciples knew the Truth. They knew Jesus. They ate and drank and walked with Him; they laughed and cried and slept with Him. They were with Him when He prayed and when He preached. They were eyewitnesses to His life on earth, and still they doubted. They lied, they were weak and afraid. Peter, the Rock, the man who established the church, denied that he even knew Jesus, even after he (along with James and John) witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountaintop, and heard the LORD GOD proclaim Jesus His Son: “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” ” (Matthew 17:5 NASB) They were with Him when He died on the cross, they witnessed His resurrected body, and they saw Him ascend in the clouds (Acts 1:9).

It makes me feel a little better knowing that they struggled with their human feelings and emotions, too. Even so, they persevered.

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the LORD – for we walk by faith, not by sight – ” 2 Corinthians 5:6‭-‬7 NASB

“Rejoice in the LORD always; again I will say, rejoice! Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the Peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4‭, ‬6‭-‬7 NASB

I must persevere. In and of myself, I am nothing except a bundle of weak and cowardly flesh. However: with the LORD JESUS in my life and the Holy Spirit in my heart, I am invincible.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31, 35‭, ‬38‭-‬39 NASB

AMEN!


Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), woodcut. Saint Michael fighting the Dragon, from: The Apocalypse

Faithful Suffering

Faithful suffering. First Jesus, then Paul; actually, all of the Apostles served as our examples of this.

“Blessed be the GOD and FATHER of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, the Father of Mercies and God of all Comfort, Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by GOD.” 2 Corinthians 1:3‭-‬4 NASB

“But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” [Psalms 116: 1-10] we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He Who raised the LORD JESUS will raise us also with JESUS and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the Grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the Glory of GOD.” 2 Corinthians 4:13‭-‬15 NASB

I don’t suffer faithfully, or gracefully. Do you? Does it make you mad when bad things happen to you or your loved ones? I spent a large part of my life mad at God because of all the bad in my life…. I didn’t want anything to do with Him since He let all of it happen. At the same time, I ignored or denied that any of the good came from Him. My Faith was nonexistent. It took some major disasters to get my attention off me and my faithless suffering, and back into the LORD and my childhood Faith.

I still don’t want any suffering or bad stuff; however, now I can recognize where it really comes from. I know that no matter what the enemy throws at me, my LORD is with me, beside me, supporting me, carrying me when I need it. I still worry, and I still get angry, but I’m learning through Faith that I am not alone. You aren’t alone either, if you’ll allow Jesus to walk with you.

All Who Are In High Positions….

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the Truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1‭-‬4 ESV

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13‭-‬14 NASB

To be honest, this suggestion, especially the part about giving thanksgivings for all who are in high positions makes me choke just a bit (sometimes quite a lot!). From the people who are in “high positions” in the local schools, the “high positions” in every business, landlords, bankers, and one and on, to city government, up to county, state, and federal. From clerks who think they are in control, judges, peacekeepers of all kinds, politicians….. there’s really no end to the people who consider what they are doing to be a higher position, where they are somehow better than the people they are supposed to serve….. but I digress.

I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions…..

We like to imagine that life was simpler when Paul wrote these letters, but I think that those high positions haven’t changed that much in the way those holding them think and act. As much as I would like to have many of the people in those positions removed and replaced, I need to keep this passage in the front of my mind. We don’t really know the minds and hearts of those people. There are many in high positions that are very blatant in their disregard for the people they supposedly care for, but Paul is explicit in asking us to pray for them, and to be thankful.

It’s difficult to be thankful when I perceive that their goals and actions are to bring harm to me and those I care about; when they abuse their power.

My Dad would tell me “If you can’t respect the man, respect the office.”

Easier said than done.

Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

There are too many to count in those high positions that I have absolutely no respect for. There are so many who are only out for their own benefit; who couldn’t care less about the people they represent.

Regardless of my feelings, it’s important to pray for those people. Maybe it’s most important to pray for the ones I despise.

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from GOD, and those that exist have been instituted by GOD. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” Romans 13:1‭, ‬5 ESV

Do you struggle with this? Conservative or liberal, business owner or newest employed, in a mansion or homeless, whatever the situation, do you lift up those you despise? We can work on this together, because this is a tough assignment!

Heavenly Father, Lord of the Universe, you know my heart. When I’m honest with You and with myself, You know I’d rather do almost anything rather than to give thanks for many of our country’s so called leaders. Your Words says that they are set in place by You. I confess that I struggle with that concept! However, since You have said it in Your inspired Word, I must accept it, and thank You for the governments You have put in place, from our city to our nation. Bless those men and women, Lord, and I pray that they will bow their heads, and knees, to You. Bless our country. Bring us, as a nation, back to the Truth. Amen.

Loving God, Hating Evil

I love that when I open Facebook to put my thoughts out there, it asks “What’s on your mind?” Today, this is on my mind: Loving God, hating evil; living as God would have me to.

“As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should!” – Psalms 119:7

How does that translate into our lives today?

“Jesus replied, “My Light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the Light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going.” ” – John 12:35

So many of us spend our lifetimes stumbling around in the dark! Where is the Light? How do we find it? There is ONE source for the Truth; ONE source for the Light, and it is made available to anyone – ANYONE – who wants it. That source, the Handbook for Life, God’s ‘Instruction Manual’, is the Bible. God-breathed, God-inspired, God-given.

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” – Romans 12:9

It’s all about Love, Light, and freedom from an eternity in hell – and yes, Virginia, there IS a hell, an actual physical place that bleeds over into the world. I have seen glimpses, and it almost destroyed me. “HATE what is wrong.”

The one thing that God is adamant about is to LOVE Him. To accept Jesus Christ; to acknowledge Him as the One Way to true contentment in this world. When we love Him, and we give HIM the priority in our lives, we are more likely to recognize evil. If we read His ‘Instruction Manual’, the Bible, we are more likely to recognize the “wrongs” in our life.

Are you willing to turn your back on the things the world deems acceptable? Are you ready to have friends and family tell you that what they are doing is all in fun, and not at all sinful, in order to justify their actions? Loving God and following His Word is often difficult because of people around us, but the joy and contentment He provides is well worth it!