Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Quality of our work

On Sunday, we looked at Solomon's views about how work or a career can be meaningless if it is not redeemed.  When we work simply for a pay check, we get frustrated and disillusioned, especially if it doesn't utilize our gifts and talents.  The most satisfaction in our employment comes when we believe we are making a contribution that will last.  Sadly, most of our jobs do not have this quality about them.  It certainly would be easier for us on Monday mornings if we had jobs which brought us joy, satisfaction and allowed us to do the things we really enjoyed doing.  If you have a job like that, then you are truly blessed.

However, if you fall into the category of having a job which doesn't utilize our God-given talents but allows us to pay the bills, then we must find a way to redeem that job.  On Sunday morning, we looked at the two ways Ecclesiastes 2 showed us.  Those are perhaps the best ways to redeem our jobs.  But if those don't work, here are some Biblical suggestions:

Read I Corinthians 15:9-10
In this passage, we are reminded by Paul that since he had received so much grace from God, he worked harder than others.  God's gracious gift of salvation motivated him to work hard, not to earn salvation but as a result of salvation.  He was so grateful to God for eternal life, that he wanted his work in this life to reflect God's grace.  Wow!  Do we do that at our jobs?  Do we work harder than others because we have been blessed with eternal life?  Does our work reflect an attitude of commitment, even in the menial tasks?  Do we have a quality to our work that surprise others because they are simply marking time?

Read Colossians 3:23-24
This passage reminds us to work with all of our heart because it is the Lord Jesus Christ we are serving.  So often, we will work hard for a "good" boss and slack off for a boss who acts like a jerk.  We forget that our ultimate boss is Jesus.  He gave us this job and He is the one we should work to please.  This will affect the joy we have when we go to work.  This means our job is eternally significant and we get to honor Jesus five days a week.  Whether this is our career or just a job along the way, we need to work in a way that Jesus is thrilled with us.  At the end of the day, is Jesus pleased by my effort, attitude and ethic at work?

As devoted followers of Christ, our actions and attitudes at the job are our greatest witness.  Others should be able to tell we serve Jesus by how we serve our boss.  When we have the opportunity to witness at work, people should not be surprised that we are Christians.  They should already know it by the way we work.  I can honestly say that I have never had a bad job.  I was blessed to have a Godly Dad who gave me an example of hard work and dedication.  I also was able to learn God's Word enough to know some of these truths about redeeming my work.  I often long to work in the secular world where people don't expect me to have a Jesus ethic.  People should expect the pastor to be a reasonable example of Jesus, but they don't always expect their co-workers to do that.  I have worked at places like:

Sneakers in the Carolina Circle Mall.

Pizza Hut

Delivering newspapers for the Greensboro News & Record

I didn't always enjoy everything about those jobs, but they helped prepare me for the next step in my life.  I thank God for the people I met in these places and for the insights God shared with me through them.  

So where do you work?  Are you a student?  Are you retired and about the choose where you spend your time?  Are you looking for work?  Whatever station in which you find yourself, let the quality of your work reflect the quality of your faith in Christ!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Something for Nothing

You've probably heard saying like these:  "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is" and "Nothing is ever really free".  These sayings really ring with truth.  Think about the last time someone told you about this unbelievable deal.  Once you got into, you realized it wasn't all that great.  I remember back in the 70's when I would see the advertisements from RCA which had the unreal promise of buying six albums (Back in the day, albums were larger CDs) for only one penny.  I remember being excited about that and writing down my choice of six albums when one of my brothers came into the room.  I told him about this great deal and then he burst my bubble.  He told me to read the fine print, which I did.  The fine print said that I would have to buy ten more albums during the next year at the regular price.  Since there was no Internet, I was unable to google their price list, but I'm sure they would have made money off me with their "regular" prices.  What a terrible way to find out that if something looks too good to be true, it is.  Just think about the advertisements for a free cell phone.  The fine print says we must sign a contract with this carrier for two years to get this wonderful "free" phone.  There really aren't many things which are free.

Yesterday, the El Sobrante Chamber of Commerce hosted the El Sobrante Stroll.  They block off about 1/2 mile of the San Pablo Dam Road and sells booth space to different organizations and vendors.  Our church always rents a space and sets up a booth (More about that later).  During the Stroll, I walked up and down the street to check out all of the booths.  Almost every single booth was trying to make money - Maybe they were vendors selling food or merchandise.  Maybe they were organizations trying to raise money.  For the past few years, this charging at every booth has become the common practice.  Even the booths for kids were charging to play games or play in the jumper or have the face painted.  So Hillcrest Baptist Church has chosen to buck the trend and provide a booth with quality entertainment for families at no charge.  We had two games set up (The Labyrinth and Skee Ball) along with prizes for the winners.  The high scorers in Skee Ball would receive a Family Gift Card donated by Chuck E. Cheese or a $25 gift certificate from Outback Steakhouse.  As we invited people to play these games, the first response was almost always, "How much is it?".  People had been programmed by what they had already seen to know there was a charge.  Then they wanted to know what the catch was because nothing is ever free.  But there was no catch and it was all free.  Our response was to tell them that God's love is free and the church doesn't charge to help people enjoy life.  It was amazing to watch faces light up as they were able to do something that would not hit their wallets.  Several people thanked me as they left because their kids had such fun playing the games.

It reminded me that we live in an age when the Church often uses the bait and switch method.  We invite people to something, but there is a hidden hook in it.  We invite you to come to hear and free concert and then take up a love offering.  We have a wonderful event, but before you can get what you came for, you have to listen to a sermon.  They hear pastors on the radio or see them on TV hocking their latest book or merchandise.  You can have this book or merchandise for a small donation.  So now our culture has become leery of the church because it appears we have a hidden agenda.

The Church should always be honest and have integrity in what we are doing.  People need to know that they can trust whatever the Church says.  Jesus spoke plainly and He spoke the truth.  Those who were seeking, were thrilled to encounter Him, but those who played games were offended by Him.  As followers of Christ, this is how we should live our lives.  Our family should know we are trustworthy and credible in whatever we say.  Our co-workers should be able to trust the words we say.  There is too much duplicity in the world today and we need some fresh, loving honesty.  It doesn't mean people will always appreciate what we say (Of course, we also can speak the truth in rude and offensive ways also - then tell everyone we are persecuted because of our faith).  But it doesn't mean people will respect us and know that we have integrity.  My prayer is that some of the folks at the Stroll who saw the love of Christ in action by the Hillcrest family will desire to follow through and come to church to see what the love of Jesus is all about.  Then they can see the truth of Christ being lived out by the Body Of Christ.

Ephesians 4:14-16 gives us a solid foundation for this insight.  Check it out and see what you think.  The church at Ephesus was dealing with false teachers who would manipulate the truth for their own gain.  Paul reminds them that in the Church, we speak honestly and we speak with agape.  That is what helps us grow up and mature in Christ.  The church in America could greatly benefit from the insights given to the church at Ephesus.  We need honest conversations which allow us to grow and mature.

How about you?  Do you have a hidden agenda?  Are you speaking the truth in love and accepting the truth others tell you?  May we be a refreshing breath of honesty in our world.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Where were you?

Most of us remember where we were when the news first came about planes crashing into the World Trade Center ten years ago.  Much like the generation of World War II can tell you where they were when they heard about Pearl Harbor, this was an event that stopped business as usual.  If you have flown on airplanes since 9/11, you know that things have dramatically changed.  So where were you?  It was a Tuesday, which is my day off, so I was still asleep.  We had just moved to California from Hawaii and were living with Leah's sister in Walnut Creek.  Leah's brother-in-law came in the room and started telling us that the Trade Towers had been hit by a plane.  Since they didn't have television, we turned on the radio to listen.  We sat in stunned silence as we heard the reports.  Later that day, we went to a nearby hotel and watched the news to see this horrific event.  I can still remember where I was sitting at the Embassy Suites lobby when I saw the first replay.  It was almost surreal to see the plane slam into the building.   I have been to the top of the Trade Towers on several occasions and was broken-hearted to see those trapped at the top who were waving for help or jumping to get away from the flames.  Like you, I watched as the police and fire department ran into these buildings to save as many people as they could.   It has been a while since I allowed myself to reflect on that day because the carnage was so beyond belief.

In the ten years since 9/11, I am amazed at how our country has grown apart rather than pulling together.   The first few months after 9/11, there was a sense of unity and a desire to help each other, but the divisiveness and disunity in our country is growing daily.  It seems like everyone is just looking out for himself and his interests.  I am still amazed at the level of hatred that would drive someone to kill so many people.  How do you reach a point of anger and violence that would allow you to justify murdering so many unsuspecting and innocent people?  I am still amazed at how many people hate America and Americans.  I remember vividly the pictures of countries whose residents were dancing in the streets and celebrating this incredible loss of life.  I have been reminded of how blessed I am to live in America - An imperfect country but a country of diversity and freedom.  We are much more secure than most other countries of the world.  On 9/11 we had a glimpse into what Jews in Israel face every day simply because they profess a different religion from the surrounding countries.  Jews live daily with the knowledge they could die in a suicide bomb attack, have their country attacked by several countries or be kidnapped or beaten because they are Jewish.  In America, most of us are still clueless about the freedom we have to worship, work and live.  Though we have lost some of our freedoms since 9/11, we still have more freedom and choices than most other countries.

This morning, I reflected on how brief life can be.  One of our members' sons passed away on Saturday at the age of 44.  Life really is fleeting and the question that has rattled around my brain is this:  "How will I be remembered?".  If I were to die in a terror attack today, have I done anything which will last for eternity?  Have I seen people come to saving faith in Christ through my words and life?  Will my sons have a legacy to follow that is meaningful and significant?  Will those to whom I have ministered know what it means to follow Jesus because of how I lived my life?  Will I leave a legacy of faith and fortitude?  Will eternity be affected because I was alive?  Those are some rather pointed questions which we would all benefit from asking about our lives.  May this Sip from the Well lead you to make an eternal difference somewhere today!