Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Who's the Boss

For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field,
God's building.

-- 1 Corinthians 3:9

The old saying goes that if you love what you do for a living, you'll never work another day in your life. That's when a run-of-the-mill job has become a passion.

So are you one of the fortunate few who absolutely love their jobs - or do you keep one eye on the time clock and live for the weekend? TGIF indeed!

Whether you're thrilled by your career or simply put in your hours for a steady paycheck, the Bible has some words of wisdom that help put things into perspective: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart," advises the Apostle Paul, "as working for the Lord, not for men."

In other words, whatever you do - whether you're the CEO of a multi-national corporation or a 9 to 5 ditch digger, you need to do your job for the glory of God. That means you should consider your workplace to be as much a place of worship on Monday through Friday as a church is on Sunday.

Unfortunately, that can be a difficult proposition. After all, churches are usually filled with Christ-followers - or at least people checking out the faith. They're eager for the message. But the workplace is most often where spiritual discussions are avoided for fear of alienating fellow employees. No one wants to be known as the office Bible-thumper or some sort of Jesus freak.

But demonstrating your faith in the office doesn't have to mean cornering the bookkeeper in the break room. Instead, you can show God's Spirit at work in you by consistently doing your job with excellence and enthusiasm, demonstrating honesty and integrity, and going out of your way to serve your fellow employees. Your co-workers will notice the difference. And if someone asks what keeps you ticking, be prepared to tell them.

As Christ-followers, God wants us to be lights to the world - and that world includes your place of employment. Pray through your workday that God will use you to make a positive difference on the job. And whatever you do for a living, approach each day as an opportunity to show Him living through you.

Yes, it's OK to thank God it's Friday. Just don't forget to do the same on the other six.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

For Better or For Worse

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives
as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

-- Ephesians 5:25

One of the great things about the Bible is what it's definitely not: an unpractical book of rules and regulations delivered to humankind by some distant, unknowable power.

In fact, the Bible is quite the opposite. It reveals that God is Love, and He will go to any lengths to bring His creation back to a healthy, growing relationship. And to make His mission even more personal, He sent His Son - Jesus - to live among the people to experience all the joys and sorrows of life, and then pay for your way and mine for an eventual eternity of joy. How better could God explain His ways than by coming to live and teach among the lowly, the abused and the oppressed?

God understands the human experience because He lived it Himself through Jesus. And Jesus' teachings and principles - available to us today through the Bible - draw a roadmap for how we're to live our lives and grow among friends, family, neighbors - and even our enemies. The Bible is really God's owner's manual for our lives. In its pages we find practical guidance on topics that are just as relevant today as they were 20 centuries ago.

Marriage happens to be one of these timeless topics. But since Jesus never had a wife, just how much first-hand advice can he give us?

Quite a bit. It's true that Jesus never got married, cut a wedding cake or went on a honeymoon to Niagara Falls. He had no wife to keep up the homestead as he preached, healed and saved. But the Bible tells us that Jesus actually does have a bride - the entire body of Christ-followers around the world known collectively as the Church.

And this is where Jesus teaches us some important lessons about marriage. First - like He did during His earthly ministry - husbands and wives need to submit to each other. This involves voluntarily relinquishing some of our rights while honoring and affirming the husband's leadership in the family. As Jesus explained about Himself, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

A related Biblical lesson about marriage is that husbands should show sacrificial love toward their wives - just as Jesus showed for His Church. That's unlikely to mean that husbands will literally need to die for their wives (although it could), but it does point to an intentional sacrifice of time and a genuine commitment toward a Christ-centered life together.

Both lessons reveal a critical insight that our modern culture chooses to hide: successful marriages demand work, vision and commitment. And there's much more truth where that came from. From the first passages of Genesis to the last verses of Revelation, the Bible teaches volumes about love, marriage and relationships.

But let's step back and consider Jesus' attitude toward His bride -- the Church. How much stronger would our own marriages become if we adopted His principles of submission and sacrifice -- and then put them into action?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord's coming is getting closer.

-- Hebrews 10:25

Ask a dozen people what comes to mind when you say the word church, and you’ll likely get several different answers. Their responses will likely range from little white clapboard country churches to impressive Northeastern stone and stained glass churches to massive European cathedrals. Others might take a different approach with answers citing the small home churches that are common in China and Cuba. And believe it or not, some might even talk about churches meeting in movie theaters (imagine that!).

The common denominator is that these answers equate church with a location or style of physical building. But that’s not the way the Bible defines church. Rather than an impressive structure filled with pews and crowned by a soaring steeple, the church is really people – all the people on Earth who have accepted and trust Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. No matter who you are and where you live – if you’re a Christ-follower – you’re part of His church called the Body of Christ.

That’s a remarkable concept because it means you’re a part of a literal body of believers spread all over the globe. We speak different languages, are of different races and come from different cultures. But we’re all united by Jesus’ death on the cross as payment in full for all the wrong we have done (and continue to do) in our lives. As different as we are, we’re a single family that has accepted Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness.

But like all families – even the best and most stable – differences, disagreements and disappointments are bound to arise among the siblings. And the fact is that the church isn’t perfect. And why should it be: it’s made up of imperfect people who do very imperfect things.

This all leads to another key Biblical truth about the church: It’s not about us – it’s all about Jesus. Everything we do as Christ-followers ought to be done to glorify God through Christ, who the Bible tells us is the head of the church. Whether it’s a local gathering of believers or all the millions of Christ-followers on Earth, this Body of Christ answers to an audience of One.

Jesus paid for His church with something much more valuable than money or gold. He bought our spiritual freedom and eternal future at the price of His own blood. So whether we worship Him in a massive cathedral, a quaint country church or even a multiplex movie theatre, we’re ultimately one body joined through a common faith.

Let’s strive as Christ-followers to make it a body that’s healthy, strong and worthy of His sacrifice.

Friday, September 5, 2008

School Daze

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

-- Proverbs 22:6

A mother escorting her tearful child to the bus stop or classroom. The mom and dad saying goodbye to their uncertain (but hopeful) 18-year-old at the college freshman dorm. They're scenes that were repeated thousands of times last week across the nation as public and private schools opened for the new year.

If you've been a parent long enough, these familiar scenarios might evoke some bittersweet memories and mixed emotions. Letting your child leave the nest - if only for a few hours a day - might have been a difficult step. But it was also a critical milestone. And both you and your child grew up a bit in the process.

But these same steps can lead to dangers - particularly for the children of Christ-followers. That's because many public school systems and secular colleges and universities teach a world view that denies God's truth as it's revealed through the Bible. Think of it as the gospel of relativism. It's a philosophy that promotes the tolerance of dubious viewpoints on what were once steadfast issues. Relativism also shuns the notion of morality and absolute truth because teaching what's right and wrong could denigrate different cultures, religions and belief systems. After all, no one wants their feelings hurt. And shouldn't everyone succeed and aren't all viewpoints equally valid?

(In one extreme case, a school system actually banned its teachers from using red pens for grading papers because the vivid ink was deemed too intimidating for the students!)

This perspective is much more than silly. It can become a serious issue for Christ-followers and their children because God teaches that there indeed are right and wrong ways to live, treat our neighbors and see the world. And the problem is often greater in colleges and universities. In these environments that are largely free from parental guidance, secular classmates and professors often downplay or even mock Christian beliefs. Defying these same professors - the same ones who determine grades and ultimately graduation - is obviously intimidating. It's no wonder that these powerful influences can cause some students to compromise their faith, change their behavior or even turn their back on the Biblical truths that they once embraced.

So what's the answer? Christ-followers of all ages need to resolve to do what's right in all situations and regardless of the consequences. Of course, resisting certain temptations could mean losing some friends along the way. But as the saying goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies?

Second, there's real strength in numbers. It's therefore important for Christ-followers to seek out and surround themselves with others who share their faith and support their viewpoints. And finally, Christ-followers need to know, trust and apply the power of God's Word - the Bible. It's God's proven user's manual for living a successful life.

Let's be clear that there's nothing wrong with education - particularly education that brings about healing and positive change. But as Christ-followers in the classrooms and in the boardrooms, we also need to be agents of change - those who Jesus calls the Light of the World.