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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

#26. Should we fast when we pray?

Christian Prayer Catechism: Question #26

Q. Should we fast when we pray?

A. Yes, fasting adds an "exclamation mark" to our prayers.


There are many appropriate times to fast and pray (see the long biblical list in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, chapter 9 [pgs. 159-180]). Fasting is expected by our Lord (Mark 2:19-20, Matt. 6:16-18, etc), but it is not a means of wrestling God to our point of view or holding him hostage by a hunger-strike. Fasting is a way of intensifying our prayers so that we increasingly say to ourselves and to God that we really believe what we are praying. "This much, O God, I want you" (A Hunger for God, 23).

Monday, September 21, 2015

"After Acts" by Bryan Litftin - Book Review

I had hoped to be able to read After Acts devotionally and also recommend it to small groups for spiritual growth. The topic is interesting and unique--what happened to the apostles in history after the Bible finishes telling their story? The author is an evangelical professor at my alma mater and really knows his stuff.

Yet while this book is definitely worthwhile to read, it's not the book I was hoping it would be. The main problem is just how difficult it is to faithfully reconstruct the history of the apostles. Take this paragraph about Peter for example:

"Since the early Christina were aware that Peter had followed in the footsteps of the Savior to the same kind of death, it wasn't long before fictional narratives emerged that purported to recount the whole epic story. These tales are filled with holy saints and vanquished heretics, giving us reasons to view them critically. Yet just because the texts have a legendary, even lurid, flavor doesn't mean they don't have a historical kernel of truth. The trick is to separate fact from fiction!" (pg. 149).

Yep, that's the trick. And while Litfin does a yeoman's work of trying to untangle those things, it makes the book difficult to read and the end result is unsatisfying if you're only moderately interested in the historical method.

On the other hand, I'm glad that someone has done this work and that it's here in a readable format. As an accessible reference work, it's very good. The best feature is a scorecard at the end of each chapter assigning a grade to each historical assertion about the apostles for how likely the "facts" about them truly are. For anyone who wonders if Peter was crucified upside down or where Paul is buried or if Thomas made it to India, this book will do the best job of summarizing the evidence. But if you're looking for a lot more fodder for your own personal spiritual growth, turn back to Acts.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Why Work?"

“Why Work?”
Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
September 20, 2015 :: Ephesians 2:8-10

Our Fall sermon series is entitled, “Working for the Lord,” and it’s about our work, our vocations, our occupations, our employment, our jobs.

We’re learning together that God cares about our jobs, that God cares how we do our jobs, and that God empowers us to do our jobs for Him.

We are working for the Lord.

And we are learning that we all do that. Even if we are retired from our careers or are currently unemployed or are disabled and unable to do work for pay or even if we are a second, third, or fourth grader.

We all have a job to do. And we are all to be working for the Lord.

The first week, we got that baseline idea into inserted our brains. “It is the Lord Christ that you are serving.” The master messiah is your true boss.

Last week, we asked the question, “Is Work – Good or Bad?” And we decided that it was complicated.

Work was made to be good, but because of sin and the curse it turned bad. But Jesus’ work is redeeming work and, one day, Jesus will make work good again. Perfect, in fact.

Now, I want to get into some of the practicalities of our work, things like diligence and excellence and attitude and ethics.

But I have one more big overarching orienting question about work that I want us to think about today before we get down into the nitty gritty.

And that question is a very simple one:

“Why Work?”

Why get up and go each day?

Why do Christians, especially because that’s what we are, why do Christians work?

Now, you may already know the answer to this one, especially if you’ve been paying attention for the last two weeks.

But I think it’s worth pondering some more together.

And thinking through some of the implications.

Why work?

Now to begin to answer that together, let’s just ask it of ourselves like we did last week:

Why did you work this week?

Why did you go to work (if your work is out of the home)?
Why did you fire up your computer at the office?
Why did you pick up your tools and start using them?
Why did you climb up into the truck?
Why did you make breakfast for the family?
Why did you put on your scrubs?
Why did you {fill in the blank with whatever it is that you do}?

Why did you work this week?

There are a lot of reasons why people work.

And the number one reason for most is survival.

We work to get paid to take care of our basic needs.

Or as the Seven Dwarves might say, “I owe. I owe. So it’s off to work I go!”

Is that you?

That’s not bad. That’s not wrong.

The Bible teaches that one of the purposes of work is to provide for yourself and your family.

Provision is not just a basic need but a biblical imperative, especially for men–husbands and fathers.

But most of us go to work for other reasons, as well.

If you are a second, third, or fourth grader, you do it to escape punishment. You have authorities over you that you must obey. Mom and Dad and the teacher and the truant officer.

Many people go to work to escape from boredom. They wouldn’t know what to do if they didn’t have their jobs.  There’s an inner compulsion to work and not working seems almost impossible.

That’s why some folks lose their way when retirement time comes.

Or when they can’t physically be busy any more with work. Life seems meaningless.

But there are often deeper reasons why people work that we might not recognize as readily or be willing or able to articulate.

How about self-fulfillment? Self-esteem? Finding your self-worth?

We often are searching for those things in our work, aren’t we?

Especially those of us who can choose what work we do.

Not everybody in the world can choose their work.

But often we are motivated by self when we do.

Michael Wittmer in his excellent little book Becoming Worldly Saints begins chapter 10 this question:
How can you tell if you’re winning the game of life? The standard scoreboard looks something like this:
Success: What have you done?
Stuff: What do you have?
Status: What do other people think about you?”
People kept score this way in the distant past, and it will be how they keep score far into the future. It apples to both East and West, men and women, the world and the church. People may count different things in various cultures and subcultures, but whether you are counting children, championships, sales, or souls saved, the same questions remain: How well did you do with whatever your people value, what do you have to show for it, and how well do others think you did? They never stop counting until you’re dead (pg. 77).
Are these some of the reasons why you went to work this last week?

I think that these kind of scoreboards often motivate us more than we like to think or say.

Here’s another one that you probably didn’t think of but has been a prime but mistaken motive for work in the history of Christianity:

To be saved?

Misguided people have often tried to impress God with hard work. To earn their way to God by their efforts, by their performance.

And not just by doing “good deeds” like going to church, giving money, teaching Sunday School, serving on a committee, or going on a missions trip.

But even by the way they do their occupations.

And that was true in the Pharisees’ day, and it was true in the Middle ages, and it was true of some of the Puritans, and it’s something that sticks around still today.

One of you asked me a question this week, a great question, that we’re going to answer in multiple ways over the course of this series.

You asked, “How do you know when you are working hard enough or long enough to please God?”

Now, the questioner goes on to ask about work and rest and how to balance those two.

It’s a great question.

But you can see how someone asking that question might think that it takes hard work to be saved. Right?

How do I know when I’ve done enough to make God happy?

If God is my Boss, how much work is required to please the Boss?

And how do I pay off all of this debt? This sin debt?

Because I know I’m a sinner.  “I owe, I owe, GOD! So it’s off to work I go.”

Do you see how that could work?

Now, if you know Ephesians at all, you have guessed what our text is for today. It’s Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8, 9, and 10.

One of the most important passages in the Bible. One that every Christian should try to memorize. Because it gets to the heart of the gospel.

And it has implications for our work.

Now English word, “work” is going to show up 3 times in the NIV, but none of them mean “job” or “occupation” or “career.”

This is not a passage that is directly about our vocations and employment.

But it is about our efforts. It’s about our works. It’s about the things we do at those jobs, vocations, employment, and careers.

And it’s also about salvation.

I’ve only got two short points to share this morning.

Here’s number one.

Why work?

#1. NOT TO BE SAVED OR BRING GLORY TO OURSELVES.

Ephesians a rich explanation of the gospel. Chapter one begins with a long praise to the triune God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. And then Paul prays that believers would know just how blessed we are because of the mercy and that God showed us when he made us alive with Christ and put our new rescued and redeemed selves on display.

And as Paul is praying that, he ends with these 3 famous verses that explain where our salvation comes from and leads to.

And he says that our salvation does not come from us. V.8

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Where does salvation come from?

Well, it doesn’t come from us.

It’s truly been said that the only thing we bring to the table in our salvation is our sinful need of rescuing!

Salvation, Paul says, is a gift.

That’s what it means for salvation to be by grace.

You can’t earn it if you tried.

Now, this should be familiar for all of us as we’ve just spent most of the last year studying the book of Romans together where Paul makes that point again and again and again.

But he says it here in a nutshell.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith [our faith is involved, yes, but faith is not a work, it’s not effort on our part, it’s receiving, it’s trusting, it’s resting on someone else’s work through faith]–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

And I believe the “and this” there in verse 8 is saying that even that faith is a gift from God. Not something that I can take credit for.

Now, how does this relate to work? V.9

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Not by our efforts. Not by our performance. Not by our exertions.

Now, in the book of Romans, Paul talked about not by “works of the law” which had a emphasis on the Jewish ceremonial law. But we also saw that it was bigger than that. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

It’s not by our good deeds.
And it’s not by how we conduct ourselves at work.

It’s not by how we do our jobs.

Because if it was, then we could get the glory for our salvation.

See what he says? It’s “not by works, so that no one can boast."

Whoever does the work gets the credit, right?

At the end of the movie, the credits roll by, and the people who did the work get the credit for it.

Who gets the credit for our salvation?

If salvation is by works, then you and I do.

But if salvation is by grace through faith, then God gets the glory because it’s all from Him.

Now, what does this mean for our jobs?

Well, for one thing, all that work we do is not to earn our salvation.

Isn’t that good news?!!!

Isn’t that freeing?

Doesn’t that take away the worry?

If you are wondering how much you have or how long you have to work to earn your acceptance with God, your restored fellowship with God, your forgiveness before God, worry no more!  You don’t have to work at all of for those things!

Those things comes as grace. They are already paid for. It’s a gift! You just receive it!

That should free you from being a workaholic.

It should free you from worrying about what other people think.

Those scorecards of success, stuff, and status?

If you are right with God by sheer grace, who cares what anybody else thinks? Even yourself.

Do you see how freeing that is?

You don’t have to work to earn your salvation.

You couldn’t do it even if you tried.

So you are free of all those expectations that might wear you down.

But you also don’t get to boast.

You don’t get to draw the glory to yourself.

When you do work, you don’t do it to earn credit with God or to show off yourself.

You’ve been saved in such a way as to eliminate boasting.

So, what does that say about working for self-fulfillment, self-esteem, self-worth?

Maybe self isn’t so important or central after all.

This probably requires some repenting our part. Because we love to boast. We love for the attention, the spotlight to be on us.

There is freedom here in grace, but it requires letting go of our right to our own glory.

Here’s how Tim Keller said it in Every Good Endeavor:
The gospel of salvation through sheer grace holds a second implication for work. While ancient monks may have sought salvation through religious works, many modern people seek a kind of salvation–self-esteem and self-worth–from career success. This leads us to seek only high-paying, high-status jobs, and to ‘worship’ them in perverse ways. But the gospel free us from the relentless pressure of having to prove ourselves and secure our identity through work, for we are already proven and secure. (pg. 73).
Does that help?

I’m guessing that there are some tender souls here who need to hear that.

Some of us need to hear, “Get off of your behind and get to work.” And we’ll get that kick-in-the-pants in the next few weeks.

But some of you need to hear, “You are already proven and secure.”

Nothing to prove! To anybody. Including God. Because He’s already given you the gift.

If you have received the gift.

You can see why these two verses are very important to understand the gospel. If you are trying to earn your way to God, you’re not getting saved God’s way.

He doesn’t do it that way so that no one but He can boast.

So, you’ve got to receive that gift. And I pray that you all here have or will.

But Paul doesn’t end there, does he?

He’s got more to say about works. Good works are still in the picture.

They just aren’t saving works.

D.A. Carson like to say that the gospel is not opposed to effort. It’s opposed to earning.

Paul says it like this. Verse 10.

“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Why work?

#2. BECAUSE WE ARE SAVED AND TO BRING GLORY TO GOD WHILE SERVING OTHERS.

So, Paul says that “we are God’s workmanship.”

Some translations make that “God’s masterpiece.”

God has been working...on us.

In fact, He wants to show us off. He gets glory from showing others His redeemed children.

Do you think of yourself that way?

That God of proud of what He’s doing in you and desires to show you off in the heavenly realms?

You know that part of Job when God is showing him off?  That’s not just for Job.

You are God’s workmanship. He’s the Master worker!

And He’s recreating you through the gospel.

V.10 says, “created in Christ Jesus.”

Now that could mean when you were created in the first place because Jesus was there as the Word of God.

But I think this is more talking about your salvation. Your sanctification.

You are a new person now thanks to Christ Jesus. Thanks to God’s workmanship in the gospel.

And because of that you’ve now got work to do.

Not to earn God’s favor but because you have God’s favor.

“...created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Or literally, “to walk in.”

So, we are supposed to work.

We’re supposed to do “good works.” And I don’t think that just means churchly things.  I think that’s all of the many efforts that we are supposed to expend in all of life.

And that includes in our work-life.

I mean most of us spend most of our life at work so I think these “good works” are probably going to be mostly done on the job!

And I think they are mostly serving others in love.

Martin Luther said, “God doesn't need our good works, but our neighbor does.”

So, these good works, most of them, are going to be serving our neighbors in love.

Serving.

That’s probably how we should measure how we’re doing in our work-life.

How are we doing at serving?

That’s what should be motivating us to get out of bed and get to work each day, serving our neighbors, serving the common good, meeting needs in love.

That’s what work needs to be about.

I’d like to affirm some more workers now.

One of my goals in this series is to celebrate your work.

Last week, we had the nurses and other medical professionals stand and be recognized. I thought it was interesting that pop-culture this week did the exact opposite.

Today, I want ask everyone in logistics to stand. Everyone who works or worked in logistics to stand. Truckers. Dispatchers. Office personnel. Drivers. Everybody whose job it is to see that things get from point A to point B would you stand be recognized? Mail carriers? Transportation people.

Thank you!

Why did I pick on you this week?

Because we often don’t realize how important those jobs are to our basic needs and survival.

Heather’s different, but if we have to live off of what I could grow and make on our land, our family would starve.

Where would we get our stuff?

Our modern world is full of wonderful stuff, but we have it because someone got it there.

And if you did it as a follower of Christ, full of faith, then you were doing “good works.”

Which God had prepared in advance for you to do.

It’s that last phrase that I want to camp on as we end.

God has planned out some good works for us to do because we’re saved and to serve our neighbors and to bring Him glory.

We use the word “calling” for that idea.

That God has called us to our work.

He’s called us to Himself in the gospel.

But the Bible also says that He’s called us to do certain work (1 Cor 7:17).

That’s where we get the word “vocation.” It means a “calling.”

And here in verse 10, we find out that God has prepared some good works for us to walk in.

Do you see how that answers the question, “Why Work?”

Because God has some things for me to do today.

The Lord has some things for me to do today.

How’s that for “Why go to work?”

God’s got a plan for today, and it includes good works that He’s handpicked for me to do.

Some of them will be difficult.
Some of them will be fulfilling.
Some of them will be exciting.
Some of them will be rather boring.

But the Lord picked them out, so they’ve got to be good.

Does that help at all?

Does that help you to fire up your computer at the office?
Does that help you to pick up your tools and start using them?
Does that help you to climb up into the truck?
Does that help you to  make breakfast for the family?
Does that help you to put on your scrubs?
Does that help you to fill in the blank with whatever it is that you do}?

Tomorrow morning, say to yourself, “I wonder what good works the Lord has laid out for me to do today.”

And don’t just think “give alms or pray prayers” but think make widgets or build walls or bail hay or ship that thing from point A to point B.

Because we’re working for the Lord, right?

I know that we know this already but do we live that way?

“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We’ve got work to do, friends, good work.

Not to be saved or to bring ourselves glory.

But because we are saved to bring God glory while serving others.

And you know what?  Strangely enough, that’s when we’ll find satisfaction and fulfillment and identity and worth.

When we are doing the work that God has prepared in advance for us to do.


***

Messages in this Series

01. Working for the Lord
02. Is Work - Good Or Bad?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Friday, September 18, 2015

"Résister à la Médisance" Launch in Montreal Next Friday


I am so excited about the launch of Résister à la Médisance next Friday!

The French version of Resisting Gossip has already been released by CLC in France (and is also available on Amazon.fr), but it comes to this continent on September 25th.

Dave Almack of CLC USA and I will be traveling up next weekend to Montreal to participate in a special event to launch the book. CLC Canada will be hosting us at SEMBEQ, a unique seminary that is the center of the evangelical mission to plant gospel-centered churches throughout Quebec. I will get to share with Christians (through a translator) how to recognize, resist, and respond to gossip. I'm looking forward to meeting new people who are interested in what the Bible says about the war of the wagging tongue.

I'll let you know afterwards how it went.

CLC has provided a preview of Résister à la Médisance that can be accessed below. 



Thursday, September 17, 2015

#25. What should be our posture in prayer?

Christian Prayer Catechism: Question #25

Q. What should be our posture in prayer?

A. We are to pray in all postures but especially on our knees.


The Bible repeatedly calls us to bow down before God. We are in the throne room of the Worthy King of the Universe (Eph 3:14). We also sit and stand before Him, raise holy hands, prostrate ourselves, and pray on our beds. All of these postures and more are appropriate at various times when they are done in faith.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Is Work -- Good or Bad?"

“Is Work – Good or Bad?”
Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
September 13, 2015

I invite you to turn in your Bibles with me to page #1. The first page of your Bibles. Genesis chapter 1, verse 1.

This morning’s message is going to be different from most of the messages that I give from this pulpit. Normally, we have just one major passage of holy Scripture that we focus our attention upon, but today, we’re going to focus on multiple passages drawn from multiple places throughout the Bible. In fact, we’re going to go through the entire Bible today and get the big picture of what the Bible says about work.

And we’ll start on the very first page, the very first sentence.

Our new sermon series is entitled, “Working for the Lord.” And it’s about just that, our work, our efforts, our labor, our occupations, our vocations as faith followers of Jesus Christ.

We are working for the Lord.

Last week, we dove right in to Colossians 3:23-24, and we learned that the Lord Jesus Christ is our true Boss.

And therefore we should do our work sincerely, reverently, whole-heartedly, and expectantly. No matter what our work is, we should do it as working for the Lord.

And that’s true whether our work is something for which we are paid or just something we are called to do right now.

We should be working for the Lord even if we are retired from our careers.
Or even if we are a second, third, or fourth grader.
Or even if we are unemployed right now and looking for work.
Or even if we are disabled and unable to do work for compensation at this time.

No matter what our work is, we should do it as working for the Lord.

That’s what we learned last week, and that undergirds everything we’re going to learn together this Fall.

Now, today, I want us to take a step back and ask this question. It’s on the back of your bulletin.

“Is Work – Good or Bad?”

Now, most of you have been with me long enough to know a trick question when you see it.

So think a bit before you give your answer.

Is work something that is good or bad or both?

And how do you know?

Well, let’s start with your last week of work.

How was work this week?

If you are a second grader, how was school this week?

Was it good? Was it bad? Was it a little of both? What was the best part? What was the worst?

If you are a school teacher, how was work this week?

Was it good? Was it bad? Was it a little of both? What was the best part? What was the worst?

If you are a farmer, how was work this week?
If you are a builder, how was work this week?
If work in an office, how was work this week?
If you drive a truck, how was work this week?

Was work – good or bad?

The answer is, “It’s complicated.” Isn’t it?

Most big questions have complicated answers because we live in a complicated world. In fact, we live in a complicated story.

To truly answer that question, we have to understand the “big picture” of the story that we are living in.

And theologians tend to tell that big story in 4 succeeding episodes.

Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New-Creation

And one of the presenters I heard at EFCA One this Summer put it this way:

Creation tells us what OUGHT TO BE.
The Fall tells us what IS.
Redemption tells us WHAT CAN BE.
And the New Creation tells WHAT WILL BE.

So, today, I want us to take a train ride through what the Bible says about work and stop at those four stations along the way.

Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New-Creation.

And the first one is creation. And it happens on page 1.

Let’s read Genesis 1:1.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Is Work Good or Bad?

Answer #1. WORK WAS GOOD.

Work was made to be good.

And what I want you to see first and foremost this morning is just how good work can be.

Because who is the first worker?

Who was the first one to do work?

God Himself, right?

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

God is a worker.

And just in case, we think we think, “Well, that wasn’t work for God.” skip over to chapter 2 and see how it finishes the story of God’s first work week. Chapter 2, verse 1.

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

God is a worker.

And is He done working?  No, even though He rested, our Lord Jesus says in John 5:17, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

So, this is amazing. God worked and God works.

Work is intrinsically good because God does it.

Pastor Tim Keller said it this way, “In the beginning, then, God worked. Work was not a necessary evil that came into the picture later, or something human beings were created to do but that was beneath the great God himself. No, God worked for the sheer joy of it. Work could not have a more exalted inauguration" (Tim Keller, "Every Good Endeavor," pg.34-35).

And Adam and Eve (and therefore you and I) were made in God’s image and given work to do. Look at the end of chapter 1. Verse 26.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule [job] over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it [job]. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. [job]’” And at the end of chapter, v.31. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

Work was good.

Chapter 2 tells the story in depth of the creation of our first parents and the placing of them in the Garden of Eden. And verse 15 summarizes that story (and look for our key word). Genesis 2:15

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

The Hebrew word there is “Avoda” and it means to serve the garden, to cultivate it, to make something of it, work it. And that same word is also used in the Old Testament to describe worship.

Just like we said last week, our work is meant to be worship.

From the beginning work was good.

Not only did God do it and make it good.

But He gave us meaningful work to do ourselves.

We were made to work.

We were created, in part at least, to be workers.

To make something of our world.

To cultivate. To serve. To contribute. To not just rest but to throw ourselves into something and work at it.

Think about this. There was work in paradise.

Is that your idea of paradise?

We tend to think about paradise as being a cruise ship or a day at the beach. Feet in the water, rear ends in the sand. Right? Forever.

That actually sounds like Hell to me.

If I had to do it forever. It sounds nice for a break. But not forever.

There was work in the garden and everything was good.

Work is not a result of the Fall.

Work itself is noble.
Work has dignity.
Work has intrinsic value.

So, here’s the application of stop #1 in the big story.

ENJOY.

Enjoy your work.

Work was meant to be good.

Unless you a have job that is based on sinning which you should quit right away, don’t be ashamed to enjoy what you do.

Work is a good thing.

When you work, you are being like God who is the Great Worker.

Don’t be afraid to throw yourself into your work and enjoy it.

Hold you head up high. Work is a noble thing.

No matter what your calling is.

I said last week that I want this sermon series to celebrate you and your work.

Today, I’d like to celebrate the nurses among us.

This Summer, I came to appreciate like never before what a nurse actually does.

When I lived on the third floor of the Dubois Hospital for almost two weeks, I saw nurses in action, and it was constant action!

They worked 12 hour shifts and never stopped moving. And it was so demanding. Everybody wanted something every minute they were on the floor. I don’t know how many times I rang that little bell, and I think I was a pretty good patient! And they had to show class and restraint and make quick decisions.

I was amazed at what a nurse does.

When you are faithfully doing your job, you are glorifying God, who created you to work.

It’s okay to enjoy that. It’s right to feel God’s pleasure on you as you fulfill your calling.

But the Bible doesn’t end in Genesis chapter 2, does it?

No, unfortunately there is also Genesis chapter 3.

Which gives us the next stop on our train ride. The site of a disaster.

#2. WORK WENT BAD.

The serpent tempted Adam, and Eve, and they fell for it.

They (and we) fell into sin. And there were consequences for all of life, including all of our work-life.

Look with me at Genesis 3 and go down to verse 17 where God places a curse on Adam’s work.

“To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil [note that word] you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return’” (Genesis 3:17-19).

So the joy of work got distorted by the pain of toil.

Work became hard. Work became warped. Work became twisted and cursed.

Work went bad.

All of a sudden, the garden fought back at the gardener. Thorns and thistles would pop up from the ground. It was going to take real sweat to eke out an existence.

Things would not work any more they way they did before.

Things were no longer the way they ought to be. ...

And remember, this is a consequence.

This is because of sin.

Work went bad. A bomb went off on work!

In fact, work became so bad that it began to feel futile.

Meaningless.

Turn with me to the book of Ecclesiastes.

That’s not one that we go to every day, but it’s an important one.

Our Link Group recently studied Ecclesiastes together, and it was a really good experience for all of us.

Ecclesiastes is one of my least favorite books because it talks about the way life often feels.

Ecclesiastes is one of my wife’s favorite books because it talks about hte way life often feels.

And it often feels meaningless.  What the is Teacher’s favorite word in this book? Chapter 1, verse 2.

“‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?”

What do you get for all of your work?

This man was in a position to try out all of the different facets of life and figure out what they truly meant.

And one of his experiments was work. Chapter 2 tells us that he did great building projects and accomplished amazing achievements. But chapter 2, verse 11.

“Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

He says the same kind of thing in 2:17 and  2:18 and 2:20.

Meaningless. Futile. Vanity. In vain.

Work has gone bad.

Work can go bad in so many ways.

When I asked you how your week was what was the worst thing about you work week?

That’s work gone bad.

We didn’t just go bad, but our world went bad.

We broke the world with our sin and it’s made our work difficult, painful, hard.

This last Thursday when I went on my prayer retreat–thank you for sharing your requests with me by the way. It is a privilege to be your pastor and to cares your cares on our God’s almighty shoulders.

A lot of your requests on those little prayer cards had to do with your work and the difficulty of it.

Some of you have been given new responsibilities to do in shorter time.

I talked with one of you on the phone this week about how the management where you work doesn’t understand how their choices affect you on the cutting edge of production.

I’ve talked to others of you whose employees are lazy and refuse to do their part.

Speaking of parts, sometimes the part that you need to do something is the one part that the store doesn’t have, right?

Or the one tool that you need is the one that you loaned out.

Our world is broken and that makes our work so much more difficult.

Here’s the application of that: GROAN.

It’s okay to lament the fact that your work is difficult.

It’s okay to groan under the heaviness of toil.

Do you remember when the Israelites were being forced to make bricks without straw?  What did they do? They groaned under the weight of that work gone bad.

And God heard them!

He didn’t say, “Quit your complaining, you lazy bums!”

He said, “I hear you. I know it’s hard. And I'm going to do something about it.”

Now there is a complaining that has to go. Grumbling needs to be killed.

But groaning can be righteous.

Remember when we learned back in Romans 8 that the whole world groans? It groans because of the curse.

And Paul said that even we groan who have the firstfruits of the Spirit!

We know and feel that things are not the way they are supposed to be.

We don’t just grin and bear it. There is a place for groaning.

Or the other biblical word for that is lament.

The psalms are full of lament. To lament means to feel and express sadness over some brokenness.

Sadness over brokenness.

God gives you permission to groan and lament the painful realities of your work.

We’ll talk about grumbling in another message in this series.

But there is a difference between godly groaning and godless grumbling.

Work has gone bad. It just has. Even in its best moments, work is broken right now.

You run out of gas.
Your machine breaks.
Your co-worker steals your glory.
It rains when you need it to shine and it shines when you need it to rain.
You were one day late with the sales quote.

Even in its best moments, work is broken right now.

And the Teacher of Ecclesiastes connects the problem with death. Do you still have it open? Look at chapter 2, verse 21.

“For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.”

The Teacher reminds us again and again that no matter how good life can get you still die at the end of it.

To dust you return.

But that’s not the end of the story, is it?

Those two themes of “work was good” and “work went bad” run through your whole Old Testament whenever work shows up. They’re intertwined.

Even the Teacher of Ecclesiastes knows that work can be satisfying. Check out chapter 3, verses 12 and 13 when you have a chance.

But he also knows that no matter how good it gets, you still die.

But we know that that is not the end of the story.

Stop #3. The redemption stop.

#3. WORK IS BEING REDEEMED.

That’s the point of this sermon series so I’m not going to say much about it right here.

But Jesus Christ came to reverse the curse.

The work of Jesus Christ is to undo the mess that sin has created.

The work of Christ on the Cross pays for the penalty of sin.

The work of Christ changes people from the inside out.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

And transforming people, He transforms our work.

We saw last week how we now do our work (even slave work) as working for the Lord. It is the Lord Christ we are serving.

The Lord Christ. The Master Messiah!

And we’ll learn more about how Jesus transforms our work as we go deeper into this series.

But one of the chief ways that we know that He does it is through the resurrection.

Turn with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verse 58.

This is the great resurrection chapter where Paul defends the resurrection of Christ and predicts our resurrection as well.

And he ends that great resurrection chapter with this word of application. V.58

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Here’s the application: STRIVE.

Do you hear it?

“Stand firm. Let nothing move you.”

Keep going. Don’t give up. Don’t give in.

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord...”

Now, that’s probably referencing what we might call gospel ministry, first and foremost. Gospel proclamation as the work of the Lord.

But we have learned already that all of the work we do if we are doing it working for the Lord IS the work of the Lord!

And what does Paul say, “you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

It’s not meaningless. It’s not futile.

Why?

Because of the resurrection!

Because Jesus has conquered death!

Jesus’s resurrection undoes the meaninglessness of Ecclesiastes and even the death sentence of Genesis 3!

Because He lives, we will live.

So even if our work is painful and then we die, that’s not the end!

Do ever wonder if the thing you’re working on will ever be finished?

If you will get it done before you die?

I thought about that this Summer when I was contemplating surgery. Will I get to finish that thing I was working on? Will we ever finish Romans?  (I still don’t know!)

Does it matter?

Life is painful and work can be painful.

But Jesus is reversing the curse. First in us and one day, on the world.

So strive. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Your work matters to God and if you are doing it for Jesus, it will have eternal meaning.

Last stop on our trip. You know where it’s going. New Creation. Consummation.

The last page of your Bible. Revelation chapter 22.

#4. WORK WILL BE GOOD AGAIN.

Revelation 22.

It’s a vision of the new heavens and the new earth. The eternal state. The way things will be.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. [The garden is back. And now it’s a garden city. V.3]

No longer will there be any curse. [Genesis 3 is completely reversed.] The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. [You see that?] They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”

Notice that work is still there.

Just as there was work in the garden, there will be work in the new heavens and the new earth.

But will be work without the curse!

We get the wrong ideas about heaven and eternity.

We think that we’ll be sitting on clouds playing harps.

That’s not in the Bible. That’s not the picture we get.

We don’t have all of the details of what it will be like–mainly, I think, because we wouldn’t understand them if we did.

But our eternal rest involves work! We will be given meaningful, satisfying, creative, important tasks to do. It says here that we will serve and we will reign.

And that’s just two of them.

Work will be returned to what it was supposed to be in the beginning.

All of that dignity and worth, and nobility and cultivation and worship from Genesis 1 and 2 but without all of the futility, pain, and toil of Genesis 3.

And, even better, work will be seen to be redeemed which is (somehow) even better than it was originally.

Work will be perfect again.

And God will get the glory forever.

Application?  HOPE.

Long for that day.

Live for that day.

It’s not here yet.

We’re still in chapter 3.

But that chapter is coming, and we need to live in light of it.

It changes everything!

Because we know the end of the story, we can do our job in the middle of it.

***

Messages in this Series

01. Working for the Lord

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

"Stop Your Complaining" by Ronnie Martin

Ronnie Martin's newest book is now out (from my favorite publisher!), and it's good.

Here's my very brief review and endorsement:

"I didn't want to read this book because I knew that I needed to read it, but I'm glad I did. With both keen insight and dry wit, my friend Ronnie explores our all-too-common sinful tendency to grumble and offers grace-laced answers to our problem. You may not want to read Stop Your Complaining either, but you'll be glad you did."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Review: What's Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life's Big Questions

What's Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life's Big Questions What's Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life's Big Questions by James N. Anderson

A brilliant and unique primer on worldview. There has never been a book quite like What's Your Worldview? It's kind of like a cross between the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books and "Philosophy 101." Anderson interactively introduces all of the basic worldviews that exist in terms that are easy to grasp and constructively critiques each one. He shows how ideas are connected and have consequences.

Readers answer each question for themselves and process through the maze (of course, you can read the book sequentially, as well) finding out the answer the title question and learning about how other people see the world at the same time. I think that adherents would say that Anderson is careful and fair in his descriptions of their worldviews even as he advocates for the claims of gospel-centered Christianity. He also writes concisely and with humor generously sprinkled throughout. So well done!

When I was a young Christian, I read James Sire's The Universe Next Door which gave me these same categories. This book is a Universe Next Door primer for this generation. I can't recommend it highly enough and have 3 people I want to give copies to right now.

Why Would I Tell You That I’m on a Prayer Retreat?

This morning I headed out into the woods with my church directory and a fistful of prayer request cards and spent the morning praying for my flock. I walked about 4 miles praying for each family in the directory by name and focusing specifically on the requests that people had entrusted to me.

It’s a great privilege be a pastor, and I want to be a faithful one that prays for his people.

While I was walking, snapped this picture and posted it on Facebook:



And as I pressed “send,” I had the thought, “Why am I posting that? What is my goal for telling my Facebook friends that I’m prayer-walking?”

That’s an important question to ask about anything we post on social media. But it’s especially important because our Lord Jesus has warned us about putting our piety on display. There is danger in parading our prayer before others.

Bad Reason: To Impress You With My Godliness

If my chief goal in posting this picture was to make you think highly of me and impress you as “Mr. Godly Pastor,” then I have already gotten my reward.

Our Lord said, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6, NIV1984).

To my shame, I admit there have been times when that’s been my motivation, and it’s a temptation still for me today. If I don’t have more secret prayer times than announced ones, then my prayer-walks are hypocritical, and I probably won’t have very many answers to prayer either.

At the same time, there are plenty of public prayers recorded in the Bible (Psalms!) and stories of people praying (the Gospels!) and even what they prayed for (see Galatians 1, Philippians 1, Colossians 1, Ephesians 1).  So, if your motives are right, it’s not necessarily wrong to announce that you’re going to pray or have prayed for someone.

Better Reason: #1. To Hold Myself Accountable

Now that I’ve told the world that I’m going to go into the woods and pray, I’ve put a lot more pressure on myself to really do it.  The truth is that I am tempted to be a “functional atheist,” who professes to trust in God but doesn’t live it out by entrusting my requests to Him.

It’s easy to make vague promises to pray sometime, so I’ve found it helpful to periodically make public promises to do so. I’m much more likely to keep them.

It’s kind of like when Paul asked the Ephesians to pray for him to be bold: “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20). I think that last part, “as I should” was a public reminder to himself of Paul’s duty. The pressure was on.

I’m glad I told people that I was going to pray, and that I could follow through publicly.

Better Reason #2: To Be an Example

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell us that Jesus went off to solitary places to pray. I’m sure there are many reasons why the evangelists let us in on that little detail–one primary one would be just to encourage us that God the Son needed and desired fellowship with His Father–but at least one  reason would be to give us an example to follow.

I don’t claim to be a perfect Christian (far from it), but I am endeavoring to be a mature Christian who can serve as an example for others to follow. The apostle Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

I know that people are watching what I do in public. How do I act and react at a football game? What do I post about on social media? What are the priorities that shape my life choices?  At times, that kind of scrutiny and fishbowl living can be stifling. But I try to turn it around and use it for discipleship. If folks are watching me, I’ll try to use my life as a teaching tool.

So, setting aside a morning for prayer? Not everyone can do it, but by doing it, I’m setting it out as a valuable thing.

Are you considering a prayer walk? It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t cost anything. Just head out with your heart turned towards the Lord and give Him your burdens. You can do it, too!

Better Reason #3: To Encourage You

It feels great to know that someone is praying for you. You don’t feel so alone. You don’t feel like your burdens are only your burdens.

I know that I’m encouraged when someone tells me that I’ve been on their mind and heart and even more when they tell me that they’ve been praying for me.

This Summer was really hard for me as I dealt with diverticulitis, a perforated colon, and then major surgery. One of the things that got me through it all was the prayers of God’s people.

Would they have been encouraging to me even if I didn’t know they were offered? Sure. But they were more encouraging because people told me that they had lifted me up to the throne of grace.

So, church family, I’m telling you today that I went into the woods to pray. I hope I did that, not to impress you, but to encourage you that you are loved and prayed for. No matter what your burden is, today I was casting it on the almighty shoulders of our Lord.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen, (1 Peter 5:6-11, NIV 1984)

#24. What should characterize our prayers?

Christian Prayer Catechism: Question #24

Q. What should characterize our prayers?

A. Our prayers should be characterized by confession, repentance, adoration, thanksgiving, intercession, supplication, dependence, patience, love, and forgiveness.


Prayer is a means of relationship with God. Therefore, all of our heart’s attitudes toward God need to find expression in our prayers. They should be characterized by confession and repentance because though we are already forgiven in Christ, we need to appropriate that forgiveness and grow in intelligent repentance (1 Jn 1:9, Mt. 3:8). We should adore God for Who He is and thank Him for all that He has done (ex. Psalm 8, 1 Thess 5:18). We are called to pray for others and ourselves (ex. 1 Sam. 12:23, Mark 14:36). We need to trust God in waiting for answers. Prayer is a practical way of loving others: “As faith without works are dead, so is prayer without love dead.” This is often expressed in forgiveness and forbearance (Mt. 6:14-15, 18:21-35).

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Two Years of "Resisting Gossip"

It's hard to be believe, but Resisting Gossip has just turned two years old.

Yesterday, I went through all of the posts on this blog marked Resisting Gossip, and reviewed what a fun ride it's been over the last twelve months.

Some highlights from this second year:

Resisting Gossip Together

In October, CLC Publications released Resisting Gossip Together: Participant's Guide and Bible Study as a companion book. This Summer, RGT already went into its second printing. I'm thankful for the chance to provide this study guide for folks who want to go deeper into God's Word on gossip. I was able to include material that didn't make it into the original book.

For more information, see this page on my blog which include even more resources and my interview with the Biblical Counseling Coalition.


A great place to purchase Resisting Gossip Together is Westminster Bookstore who also has a starter pack of 5 books and study guides at 35% off the list price.

The Resisting Gossip Video Teaching Series

At the same time, CLC Publications also released a complementary set of videos featuring me teaching on the ten chapters of Resisting Gossip. They were produced, filmed, and directed by Spencer Folmar of Third Brother Films and have great music from The Gray Havens.



What I love most about these videos is that they are available for FREE to the world--downloadable and sharable. The first video has already been viewed more than a thousand times. (A DVD set is available for those who need it.)

Restiendo el Chisme on Colombian National Television

I never saw this one coming!

On March 31st, the Spanish version was featured in an 18 minute segment on the morning show of Channel One, the national television station in Colombia. (Click on the picture here to got to the YouTube video.)

I don't know much Spanish, but from what I can tell, they did a great job of covering the contents and even the corny humor from the book.

I love the international reach of CLC Ministries.

The Korean and Russian translations are in production, and I can't wait to learn how the Lord might use those in parts of the world I will never see.

Disciplemaking, Not Just Resisting Gossip

The best part of being the author of this book is that it's not about me, it's about ministry. It's not just about resisting gossip; it's about making disciples of Jesus Christ.

So, my favorite part is hearing stories from people who have been helped by the material.

Stories from folks like Allison Bies, the Federated Church's Adult VBS, this ladies' Bible study group, this family, Uche in Sudan, and this anonymous pastor.

It's a great privilege and joy to be used in ministry.

What's Next?

1. Résister à la médisance!

The French translation has just been released by CLC France in Europe and will soon be released in Quebec by CLC Canada.

I'm particularly excited about this new release because I get to be a part of it in Montreal! On September 25th, Dave Almack and will be traveling up Montreal for the launch of Résister à la médisance. I'll be sharing more about this event as it gets closer.

CLC France has posted the cover, table of contents, the foreword, introduction and a bit of the first chapter in French.



2. "Side by Side."

Next month, Heather and I will be traveling to Virginia Beach to participate in the 2015 CCEF National Conference. I've been asked to teach a breakout session on "Behind the Back: When Side by Side Ministry is Distorted by Gossip."

I love the ministry of CCEF so I consider it a great honor and a high privilege to get to serve in this way. I can't hardly wait!

In preparation for the conference, CCEF ran a new version of my article on how to keep gossip out of prayer requests.



My heart is full of thanks to God for all of these blessings (and also the countless ones I have no idea He's sending me). May He get the glory now and forever.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

[Matt's Messages] "Working for the Lord"

“Working for the Lord”
Working for the Lord - Fall 2015
September 6, 2015 :: Colossians 3:22-4:1

Today, we’re going to begin a new sermon series entitled, “Working for the Lord” and the first message in that series has the same title, “Working for the Lord.”

Now, some of you are wondering, what happened to Romans?  Are we ever going to finish Romans together?

It was one year ago last weekend that we embarked on our study of Romans, but we only got as far as chapter 13. There are still 3 chapters left to go.

I told you once that I wasn’t going to go into Romans and never come out like some preachers do. Little did I know how true that was!

I want to put Romans on the shelf for a few more months. Maybe in January we’ll come back to Romans.

But the Lord has been stirring in my heart a desire to preach on work, labor, vocation, calling, the workplace, the marketplace, our jobs–the kinds of things we  tend to do on Monday through Friday. What we give ourselves to for most of our week.

And for months I’ve been planning to start that new series on Labor Day weekend, this weekend and go through the Fall.

And since this is the weekend that the Lord has seen fit to raise me up again to preach, I decided to start in this new series.

So, instead of trying to catch everybody up on Romans 1-13 and get back into that right now, I want to turn the page and start something new.

“Working for the Lord.”

Now, let me say a little more about this series before we get into this week’s message in particular.

You might be worried that this series won’t apply to you.

Perhaps you are a second or third or fourth grader.

Raise your hand if you are in second or third or fourth grade.

I know you’re in here because our children’s church only goes up through first grade.

And I have a note posted to myself right above my computer where I write my messages that reminds me that there are second graders listening to each of my sermons.

And I try hard to make sure that the messages I preach can be understood and applied to a second grader. Not every word. In fact, many of my words will be over your heads. But that’s normal when you’re learning things. We all need to stretch.

But these messages on work will apply to you to in your job.

What is your job?

Your job is being a student in second, third, or fourth grade.

It’s also the jobs that Mommy and Daddy give you to do around the house.

This sermon series is not about being employed. It’s about working.

It’s not primarily about getting paid. It’s about what God says about our labor, our work.

So, if you are retired, this series is about you, as well.

If you are your own employer or unemployed (not being paid right), this series applies to you, too.

If you are a homemaker and no one ever pays you any money for all of your backbreaking labor, this series is for you, as well.

Of course, it is also for those who have a “regular job,” too.

And I have a few goals for this series.

One is to encourage you in you in your work. To celebrate you in your work.

God made work and made us to work. We’re going to see that next week. And I’ve been convicted that I haven’t done enough work at celebrating your work.

I feel like you celebrate my work all of the time. You set aside a whole month for pastor appreciation. It’s almost embarrassing how appreciated I feel. Especially this last month when I wasn’t able to work.

But I don’t feel like I’ve done enough to appreciate and celebrate your work. At EFCA One this year, I went to a series of talks on connecting Sunday worship with Monday work connected closely with this book Work Matters by Tom Nelson, an EFCA pastor. And I was already planning this series for the Fall, but I was blown away by all of the biblical teaching and rich theological reflection that they were offering. I came home with pages of notes. I couldn’t write them fast enough!

And one of those items was appreciating your work. That as a pastor, I need to understand more what you do the rest of the week and celebrate it.

But also, secondly, to teach more what the Bible says about work. Because the Bible has a lot to say about work. It’s not just a minor theme in the Scriptures.

Over the last couple of decades, we’ve offered a lot of Sunday School classes on connecting your faith to your work. I went through my library yesterday and noted resources with titles like, “Your Work Matters to God,” and A Man’s Guide to Work, “Created for Work” that the youth boys did a couple of years ago. And our Basic Training that the men did a few years ago (remember that), had a whole module on  Biblical Principles for Work).

This Summer, your interns studied a book with me called “Becoming Worldly Saints” which had a lot of teaching on how the gospel intersects with our work-life.

And I’ve preached on this subject whenever it came up in the Bible book we’re studying.

But this is the first time I’ve preached a whole series just on that theme.

And there is so much to share.  About working hard, about ethics, about witnessing on the job, about calling and vocation, about work and rest, about greed and money, about prayer on the job, about doing work with excellence. There is so much to learn about.

And I know that you have questions, as well. I have a pile here of surveys that have been returned and I want to try to answer your questions biblically as we go through this series.

One last goal I have is to empower you with grace to do your jobs.

You need to know that God cares about your work and that God wants to give you the grace to do your work in the way that He desires.

I don’t want this series to beat you up about what you are doing wrong. I’m sure there will be some parts that are like that. Sometimes we need that. Good preaching comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.

But I want this series to be encouraging and inspiring and helpful. To give you grace to persevere in the calling that God has called you to.

I know that your job is hard and that following Christ on your job is hard. But God offers the grace to hang on, hold on, and even thrive.

So, in fact, I’m going to end each week of this series with the same benediction, a prayer, prayed over you from Psalm 90, verse 17 which says, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us–yes, establish the work of our hands.”

And what better day to start a series like that than Labor Day weekend, the day we celebrate the gift of work and the contribution that labor makes to our society?

Let’s focus now Colossians chapter 3.

If you’re like me, then you immediately get hung up by the first word, “Slaves.”

Does this mean that the Bible condones slavery?

Because here it says that the Christian slaves were to be obedient in everything.

And that’s a very good and important question, and the best answer is long and complex.

One thing that makes it difficult is that when we think “slave” here in the US, we immediately think of “blacks” enslaved in the South before the Civil War. Most of that slavery called chattel slavery was built on the sin of manstealing–kidnapping.

But most of the slaves being addressed in the Roman world were in a very different kind of slavery than the old South. It wasn’t based on race. It was in many cases an economic arrangement. You could use yourself as collateral and sell your services to get out of debt. Or you were enslaved because your nation had been conquered so you were put into this master/slave relationship to work for and be bound to this employer.

In most cases in the Roman world, it wasn’t nearly as bad and evil a situation as what we think about in our American history.

Not that you would want to be a slave per se–it would be better to be free–but it wasn’t such an evil institution that needed to be so strongly opposed.

Paul tells slaves elsewhere to get out of that arrangement if they can as soon as they can and the seeds of global emancipation are present in the New Testament, as well.

But I don’t want to preach on slavery itself today. If you have more questions about it, I’d love to talk further about that subject another time.

But I want you to put yourself as a worker in that word “slave” in verse 22 and apply all of verses 22 through 25 to you.

Because Paul was introducing a different perspective on work here in this verses.

A different perspective than most slaves would have ever heard.

And a different perspective on work than world offers us today.

What does the world tell us about our work today?

It tells us to live for the weekends, right?

That work is a necessary evil.

On the other side, it tells us that our work is something to give our lives to. To worship our work. To make it an idol.

And that’s wrong, as well.

Here’s the amazing life-changing perspective that Paul wants these Christian workers to gain for their lives.

The Lord Jesus Christ is their true boss.

You and I are working for the Lord.

Did you hear it when I read those verses?

How many times does Paul use the word “Lord?”

Let’s read them again.

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters [Greek “lords”] in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord [that’s our title], not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. [And just in case you missed it:] It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

So, raise your hand if you work for the Lord Jesus Christ.

You see some people think that only pastors and missionaries are working for the Lord.

There is a theological word for that idea: Baloney.

Whatever you do as you work, your ultimate Boss is the Lord Jesus Christ.

“It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

So, second, third, and fourth graders.

Who is your Boss?

Is it your teacher or your Mommy or your Daddy?

Yes, they are your boss. You do work for them.

But who is your True Boss? Your Boss’s boss?

The Lord Jesus Christ.

And He’s the One for whom you should your work.

Does that change anything?

If you are retired or unemployed you still have a boss. You are still under authority.

“It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

And whether you work in the prison or the church office or the hospital or the school, your true boss is still Jesus Christ.

Does that change things?

Does that give a different perspective on our work?

In our family, we like to joke that my Boss never lets me have Christmas or Easter off. I always have to work those holidays.

But He’s not just my boss, is He?

He’s just as much your boss and He is mine.

Were these slaves pastors and missionaries on the payroll of the church?

No, but they were working for the Lord.

And that colors everything about our work-lives.

I see at least four ways that we should now work because we have this Lordship perspective.

#1. SINCERELY. V.22

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”

Sincerely here means, “Conscientiously, with pure motives, with singleness of heart.” It means to really mean to work.

And it’s contrasted with those who work only when boss is watching.

Paul uses this Greek word which he made have made up. And it means working while the eye is on you.” It used to be translate “eye-service.”

When I was a student at the Moody Bible Institute, I worked on the grounds-crew.  Believe it or not, my job was to mow lawns (!) and trim hedges.  Our supervisor was a man named Tom.

 Now, when Tom was around, work bustled!  We clipped things and cut things and trimmed things.

There was this plant all over campus called “Euonymous coloradois” and we clipped it doooown when Tom was around.

 But when Tom went to check on things here or there, our work slowed dooooown.  And the talk started. We didn’t stop and take too long breaks, we just found a slower pace that suited us.

Can you identify?

Now, what if we had thought not so much about Tom but about the Lord Christ?

How about you? Are you doing your work just because the boss is around?

Let me tell you something. Your true boss is always around.

Sincerely.

Not to gain the favor of others but with sincerity of heart.

And #2. REVERENTLY.

Paul says in verse 22 that we should work with “reverence for the Lord.”

The Greek word is the word from which we get the word “phobia.”

It literally means to fear the Lord. Not to be frightened of Him, but to revere Him.

To stand in awe of Him.

To worship Him.

Do you think of your work as worship?

We’ll talk more about this in weeks to come, but our work is a form of worship.

We live out the fear of the Lord when we do our work reverently.

And that’s not just me leading worship here on Sunday mornings.

That’s whatever you do out there Monday through Friday or whenever you do your work.

Trucking. Nursing. Building. Teaching. Selling. Shipping. Typing. Creating. Producing.

Protecting. Rescuing. This week marks the 14th anniversary of 9/11. And we remember those firefighters especially who ran into the devastation to save lives.

Whatever you do, if you are a follower of Jesus, is to be worship.

You’re to do it reverently. Worshipfully. Fearfully of the Lord.

And part of that if caring about the quality of it. Because the Inspector isn’t Inspector 12. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ!

Reverently.

Do you offer up your work as worship to the Lord Jesus?

Second graders. When you do your school work for Jesus, you are worshiping Him.

Working for the Lord: Reverently.

#3. WHOLE-HEARTEDLY. V.23

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men...”

“With all your heart.”

Literally, “out of yourself” our “out of your soul.”

Throw yourself into your work and do it heartily.

Why?

Because you are doing it for the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you remember anything from this morning’s message, remember this. You are working for the Lord.

No matter what your job is. Maybe it’s digging ditches. Maybe it’s taking out the garbage. Maybe it’s flipping burgers.

Whatever it is do it wholeheartedly for your Lord.

Because He wants your whole heart.

And because it will bring Him glory.

Paul just used this phrase, “whatever you do” up in verse 17. Look up there.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

That’s how we need to learn to think about our work.

Back in 1993, I joined a circus.

I was a sophomore in college who had just a month before proposed marriage to a beautiful young lady from Western Canada and then I ran off and because a juggler for the Circus Kingdom which traveled up and down the Eastern Seaboard doing at least one show a day.

And that was hard work. I’ve seldom worked as hard as I did the Summer of 1993.

We traveled in a caravan with a box truck full of circus equipment, a 15 seat passenger van and 2 Ford LTD’s with 400,000 miles on them a piece.

Needless to say, we had a few breakdowns along the way.

And we’d stop at least once a day and get the whole thing out of the truck and set it up and then tear it all down and travel to the next place.

It was a lot of work. I’m tired just thinking about it.

Well, I decided my first day there to not talk to anyone about Jesus until someone asked me about Him.

I decided I wasn’t going to bring Him up. I was just going to live and work for Him wholeheartedly and then see where that led.

It took about one week.

And here’s what I did.

Whenever someone asked me to do something, no matter what it was–to move some heavy piece of circus equipment or to do some tiring, menial job, even though it wasn't my turn, I jumped up like Jesus had asked me to do it.

What if Jesus was the one asking me to do that?

How would I act? How fast would I go?

What attitude would I do it with?

It took about a week before my friends asked me, “Okay. We can tell there is something about you. What’s going on?”

The leader of the circus was very religious but didn't believe that the Bible was God's Word.

And he gave me (and therefore my Lord) one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.  He said, “Matt, you are the first ‘fundamentalist’ (and by that he meant Bible-believer) whom I've ever met that lived out what he preaches.”

Praise the Lord!

Jesus got glory through that. Wholehearted service to Him through earthly masters.

Now, I’m not saying that it will work out every time like we want.

But the Bible is saying here that we need to work wholeheartedly in whatever we are called to do because we aren’t doing it for men but working for the Lord.

What about you?

Are you’re a whole-hearted worker?

I confess that I haven’t always done as well as I did the Summer of 1993.

There are times I don’t want to do my job and times when I’ve done it very poorly indeed.

How about you?

Are you working sincerely, reverently, whole-heartedly?

If not, what needs to change? And how?

One more way that we work because of this Christ-centered perspective.

#4. EXPECTANTLY. V.24

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”
Good news!

The Lord Jesus Christ is a AWESOME BOSS!

He really takes care of His employees!

Work hard because you know that you will be rewarded.

That’s amazing.

You see these slaves that Paul was writing to had no inheritance to look forward to.

They weren’t sons, they were slaves.

And while they would have been taken care of and even paid, most of them. You could be a doctor or an administrator and also be a slave. It was just who did you work for but on more less-free more permanent basis. It wasn’t just menial work. So most would have been paid something, but the rewards of being a slave were minimal at best.

But Paul was promising them great reward for just doing their slave-tasks for Jesus’ sake. “It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

And He rewards!

Some people think that we shouldn’t do what is right for the reward, but the Bible constantly holds out rewards to us as motivation to do what is right.

The rewards are mostly eternal. We don’t get them right away.

But they are more real than the what we see here every day.

So...it really doesn’t matter how much you make.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a great-paying job or minimum wage.

Do it for the Lord and expect a great reward!

Because that’s the kind of Lord we have!

Now, it works both ways. V.25 is true, as well.

“Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.”

Our Boss is very fair. He brings justice. Injustice will not stand.

And workers need to know that. And bosses do, too. Because He is the Boss of the Boss’s. Chapter 4, verse 1.

“Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master [Lord] in heaven.”

There will be accountability for our work and for the management of our work.

And we should expect it.

We should live not for the here and now but the for the then and forever.

And for Him.

Expectantly.

Our gracious Lord loves to hand out rewards. So we should work hard.

Christians should be the hardest workers.

Sincerely, reverently, whole-heartedly.

Not because off the little paycheck we get but because of the payoff to come when our gracious Lord Jesus starts handing out the eternal bonuses.

Does that change your perspective at all?

It should shape our perspective every day for what we do.

Because it’s the Lord Christ we are serving.

Working for the Lord.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Thursday, September 03, 2015

#23. What should we NOT pray for?

Christian Prayer Catechism: Question #23

Q. What should we NOT pray for?

A. We should not pray for our lusts.


"When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:3). God will not be used.