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4

God lays out the fourth commandment in Exodus 20:8-11.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” 

God commands rest.  The Hebrew word for Sabbath is “shabbat,” and it comes from the word which means, “to cease.” God commands his people to stop working.  Not only they, but their children, animals, and even foreigners passing through their land.  Not one of them was to work on this holy day.

So, you couldn’t just tell someone else to work for you on the Sabbath.  You couldn’t have your servants, kids, or animals pull your weight.  Everyone was to rest.  The reason is because this is the example – the precedent set by God himself in his very creation of the world.

The concept of the Sabbath is very important to us today.  It points us back to creation and, even more importantly, forward to redemption.  In Deuteronomy 5:12-15, the Sabbath was meant to point God’s people to their own deliverance from Egypt – from slavery.

All of this points us, today, to our rest in Christ.  We are commanded to cease from labor; to remember our deliverance from slavery; to rest in Christ alone every single minute of every single day in order to glorify him by our complete and total trust and faith in Him – despite the, often times immense workload he has ordained for us.

Resting in Christ does not mean that once we know him we can shuck all our responsibility and not do that which we have been called to.  It is not holy or righteous to cease from our work by dumping it off on everyone around us while we bask in the presence of God.

 It is tempting, I know.  I personally have an almost superhuman ability to block out noise and distraction when I want to study my Bible.  No matter how many mental gymnastics I do, I cannot justifiably come to the conclusion that God has commanded me to rest instead of doing the jobs he has given to me.  Even on the Sabbath, God has not commanded me to ignore and neglect my home and children in order to prove I am faithfully resting in Him.  No.  God wants me to pray for strength and endurance so I might have the great faith it takes to rest in Him in my most overwhelming circumstances.

Resting is remembering God and trusting him enough to stop working in my own strength, not only for one day per week, but every single day until my eternal rest.

Unfortunately, just like a human, I often get off track.  After I work in my own strength without resting in him for a long time, I crash, I burn, or I quit.  Quitting is resting in my own means.  It is a selfish rest.  And it doesn’t really help me, either.  Vacations do not make overwhelming situations go away.  If I left my home and children for a week, they wouldn’t magically become obedient, mature, and respectful while I was gone.  They may not even be alive anymore!  Literally ceasing from the work God has ordained in my life is never an option!  Ceasing from trusting in myself to accomplish it or trusting in my work itself is what this command calls me to.

On the contrary, carrying on and trusting that He is enough to help me accomplish all that which he has called me to do is truly what resting in him is all about.  That is a holy rest; a God-glorifying rest; a righteous rest.

I believe taking a once a week rest from physical or worldly work and daily responsibilities as much as humanly possible is definitely wise.  I believe, however, the command to keep the Sabbath for New Testament believers is rooted in our rest in grace, not works, and, ultimately, our eternal rest in Christ, in heaven.  Even a more literal approach to Sabbath-keeping only indicates and prescribes one day per week for rest from our human responsibilities and callings.  That means the more time we spend “resting” outside that prescription, the less we are actually trusting in God to give and provide us with the true rest he has promised – the rest that comes solely from Him despite overwhelming circumstances and hard labor coupled with a constant, urgent call to share his good news with everyone, everywhere, always.

“Neglected duties remain duties still, notwithstanding our neglect.” ~Matthew Henry

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work

Paul continues the Lord’s instructions for human relationships in teaching on how to be a good servant.  The application is for anyone who is a subordinate of another in the context of labor or service.  Any employment given to men by men stands to benefit in regards to these commands.

The Biblical prescription for employees, servants, and subordinates in the work place?

“…obey in everything those who are your earthly masters…”

“…work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…”

Paul teaches that all requests of earthly bosses and masters are to be taken seriously.  We are to serve men in a genuine and whole-hearted way, not in a for show, pretend, lazy behind their backs way.  The reason Christians are to work in this way is because of our fear and respect for the Lord.  That way, the attitude and advocacy of the boss makes no difference regarding our job performance.  We are not working to appease unruly bosses, we are working to please the Lord.  Even when we are treated unjustly and harshly, we remember that the Lord will give us our due.

Paul reminds us that God is impartial to men and that he favors no one based on status, position, race, or ethnicity.  God is completely just and will repay each of us for the work we have done as well as the way we have done it.

Paul also tells masters, aka, leaders, bosses, CEOs, etc., that God is watching.  He warns those in authority over others that they must treat their subordinates well lest they be judged by the true Master in heaven.

If you are a servant, employee, or subordinate of someone else, work hard and obey them as if they Lord were the one commanding you.  If you are a boss, leader, master, or person with any authority over others, be fair and just dealing with your subordinates as you would have the Lord deal with you.

If the instructions on work ethics found here in Colossians were taken seriously, the vast majority of the problems seen in the work place would be eliminated.

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school

“It’s not spelling, it’s writing!”

“It’s not math, it’s language!”

These are the type of emphatic statements my daughter makes when I correct her school papers.  She does not understand why I mark spelling wrong on her penmanship homework.  She doesn’t get it when I tell her about how she wrote her “5” backwards when she numbered her language quiz.  She thinks each subject should remain separate.  At 9, she has learned to compartmentalize her life in such a way that she feels comfortable justifying error.  She can now enjoy the benefits of avoiding personal responsibility, refuse helpful accountability, and ignore necessary correction – at least in as much as she can continue to convince herself that it is perfectly safe to live life in sordid, unconnected, error-filled pieces.  

I guess spelling, penmanship, math, and language are going to have to wait.  This lesson is far too important to sidestep.  I need a divine lesson plan straight from the Almighty.  As far as teachable moments go for the week, this is it.  I can’t afford to fumble.  

I spend the next five minutes trying to explain how every part of her life is a piece of her puzzle.  I tell her everything must fit together if she wants the best outcomes.  I feel desperately inadequate as we close our studies for the day.  I look to my Father for help giving a less insufficient answer and I ask him to show me how to help her.

What I find is myself standing in utter need, waste deep in confession, and at the mercy of mercy itself.  How many times have I said in my heart things like, “It’s not church, it’s a picnic.”  “It’s not Sunday, it’s Saturday night.”  “It isn’t right, but I’m not wrong because this part of my life has nothing to do with that one.”

That one.  You know, that part which holds it all together; the centrality of all of life; the big picture creator; the weaver of this great tapestry; the one golden thread running through the whole of it all.  The subject?  Jesus Christ.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

He holds all things together.  Every piece of our lives belongs to him.  There is not one about which we have the liberty to say, “This isn’t Christianity, it’s recreation.”  “This isn’t about Jesus, it’s about me.”  “This isn’t religion, it’s work.”  “This isn’t God’s business it’s mine.”  No.  None of that holds water at the end of the day and we all know it.

We know that if Christ is not welcome at work or play or in the recesses of our own hearts and minds at any given moment – if we relegate him to any specific areas and leave him there – nothing will ever fit together properly.  The pieces of our lives will simply never match.  The practice of compartmentalizing our Christianity means spiritual slumber, carnal living, and abdication of personal responsibility.  A compartmentalized Christian repeatedly refuses helpful accountability and ignores necessary correction.  The Bible calls that person a fool.  

A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent. (Proverbs 15:5)

Little wonder why it also warns parents that folly itself is indeed bound up – tied in knots; holding captive; intertwined to a serious and dangerous degree – in the hearts of our children.  We must teach them his ways if we want them to lead righteous lives.  

The problem then becomes us.  We cannot teach what we do not know.  We cannot teach what we do not do.  If our lives are separated by subject, our children will never learn integrity, consistency, faithfulness, or sacrifice.  They will learn, however.  They will learn hypocrisy, abdication, irresponsibility, and self-righteous self-defense.

iF u dOnn’T blevE me, teSt mY werDs?

Go ahead and try to pretend you don’t need reading to do math or language to write.  You will end up like a professor of faith who acts as if he does not need God at work; play; in relationships; etc.  A sayer who cannot, by mere virtue of his own bad theology, be a doer of any good thing.  

Lord, let me not be foolish!  Every compartment of my life must include you.  

 

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Image

I enter to find three men conversing.  Two customers and one mechanic grace the mostly done office in my new favorite garage.  I quietly lie down the boss’s lunch and turn to leave without interrupting more than I already have.  The busy man interrupts himself and says, “Thanks, honey.  I’m hoping to change your oil while the car is here if I have enough time.”

“I thought you changed it Saturday.”

“I just rotated the tires.  I didn’t have any money to buy the oil.”  

He points to customer #1 and goes on, “But this guy got an inspection so now I can get it.”

I pause for a moment and survey the main work floor.  I study each phenomenally handsome vehicle.  A wave of humility comes over me as I realize what my leader has just done in light of what he does each and every day.  I consider just who he is and how much he has changed.  Pride has taken a back seat and all I see in this moment is the image of Christ upon his face.

How humbling it must be to handle those material things you once would have beg, stolen, or borrowed for day in and day out knowing they do not belong to you.

I return to my children and I strive to imitate that great leader.

In the forefront of my mind I keep a detailed picture of that work floor.  I continually remind myself that I do not need to impress any person who walks into my life with false notions of my own success.  I consider how much more influential I can be if I learn to humbly admit when I’m spent.  I save a screenshot of the beautiful task-makers who wait not so patiently in my work space.  I hang it up alongside that garage floor in my mind and I pray for the grace to imitate the head of my house.

These children do not belong to me.  This mother is not my possession.  I will never have ownership over any of the people in my life.  God is the owner of them all.

As the mechanic cannot drift, race, or punish the possessions of the men who employ him and whom he greatly respects, I cannot overwhelm the property of the God I serve.  I can, however, do something far better.  I can do as he does.  I can know them like the performance mechanic knows those amazing machines.  Doubtless there is even greater reward in daily knowing intricately what I love most than in trying to simply use it, store it, and own it as it dusts alone in some detached garage somewhere.  Surely, in knowing them I can more readily humbly remember who really owns me, too.

Furthermore, I can help them become everything their real owner wants, intends, and has designed them to be.  I can test and tune them towards true greatness.  I can dismount myself from my former false throne, interrupt what seemed in my yesterdays to be the most important conversations and offer them a simple thank you for the opportunity to serve them as well as for their service to me.

Yes, I follow a great leader.  One who is not too proud to change the oil in a Ford Focus next to his next three supercharger installs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9Mii4o-ZTU

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Image

I like to do big things.  Well, maybe my goals aren’t really lofty at all compared to others, but, to me, they’re big.  I usually choose to make goals out of that which I don’t even believe I can do.  I like a good challenge.

Oddly enough, near the end I get nervous.  That’s right.  When most normal goal-accomplishers are celebrating, I’m sweating.  Angst is written all over my face as I tiptoe around the last puzzle piece.  From pregnancy to marathoning to book writing, I get to the end and I stall.  It’s hard to explain, but I’m guessing its some strange inner fear of anti-climax.  I know how it feels to be finished with something I’ve striven for with all I’ve got…and, to me, it’s often disappointing.

Yes, I did what I set out to do.  Sure, I could be a lot better at it.  But, as I approach what I know will be the finish line, I turn up my nose, I try to slow down time, and I drag my heels in desperate procrastination.

The bottom line?  I like to fight.

 I like the effort it takes to push myself through things that are above me.  I like the hard parts where I have to wonder if I’ll really even make it.  I even like the pain involved.  To me, that’s living vs. just existing.  Well, that and the fact that muddling through the middle is safe.  I know where I’m supposed to go.  It’s clear what I want to do.  My plan is all laid out in front me me.  All I have to do is work.

Not so at the end.  At the end, it’s scary.  I come to a place where I’m no longer obligated.  I’m no longer confined.  I’m no longer striving.  All I am is finished.  Yesterday’s news.  A has-been.  Finished is boring.  Even if my accomplishment has made me better personally, I can’t grow if I stay at that level any longer.  Now, I have to frantically find something else to do.  And the wheel never stops turning.

It’s been said that we are called human beings, not human doings.  But it’s hard to just “be” and not “do.”  Doing makes us feel better.  Until we finish and realize finishing isn’t half as fulfilling as we thought it would be.

Perhaps what I need is not a new goal, but a new philosophy.  I think about a man who accomplished the biggest task of all time – saving the world – and I remember his name as “I AM.”  “Am” is not an action verb boys and girls.  His name is not “I SAVE” or “I WON” or “I FIX” or “I LOVE.”  The entirely of the character of God himself is realized in “I AM.”

He did a myriad of great and amazing things, but the reason and the right he had to do them were seated in, and could not be separated from, the very essence of who he was. By simply being exactly who he was, Christ accomplished all that was necessary for all of mankind.  Maybe I should keep that in mind when I’m goal setting.  Maybe I should remember it when I’m painfully pressing through the middle.  I know I’ll keep it in mind as I faithfully finish.  How ’bout you?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=othmFqaw0Yk

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