Monthly Archives: August 2013

Is This Your Labor Day?

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“When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you”
(Psalm 128:2)

 

The official U.S. Department of Labor website states that Labor Day “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” That’s not too far off from the Christian view of work in the world. Well, sort of. At least it’s closer to God’s perspective than how most Americans define the day.

 

Labor Day is rarely celebrated for the reasons stated by the Department of Labor. We claim Labor Day as our unofficial last day of summer. It’s the last day of freedom and leisure before we go back to school and the rigors of our jobs kick in, now that summer vacations and vocational laxity are in the rear view mirror. A modern American perspective on work is that it’s something which makes us miserable, as we grudgingly endure it until such time as we hit the lottery, receive a generous inheritance or retire. We live for leisure and work for the weekend.

 

That is an upside down view of work in God’s economy. As Martin Luther points out, “Your work is a very sacred matter. God delights in it, and through it He wants to bestow His blessing on you. This praise of work should be inscribed on all tools, on the forehead and the face that sweat from toiling.” A Christian view of work recognizes God, not the labor force, as the source of the contributions that strengthen, prosper and provide for the well-being of our nation. “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth (Deut. 8:17-18a). God provides for you, me and our nation through our labors. God intends for us to work and to delight in it.

 

As Christians, our work is not a secular duty, but a sacred calling or offering. The Apostle Paul reminds us, in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Do you think of everything you do as a form of serving Christ? That includes your homework, mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, changing diapers, driving a school bus, working at the checkout line, serving as a state representative, painting homes, writing code, teaching, providing medical care, cutting hair, managing a business, balancing the books, priming the assembly line, wielding a chainsaw, answering the phone or an email, installing HVAC systems, designing bridges, painting and even pastoring (insert your daily work here if I missed it!).

 

Brothers and sisters, let’s consider what our daily work truly is and go back to it with happy and grateful hearts, doing it all as unto the Lord. Don’t you think, just maybe, your neighbors will notice and ask you “to give the reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) How could that not glorify Christ more?

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“Through Grace” – Acts 18:18-28

broken chains

What is the role of God’s grace? God’s common grace extends to all people. As Jesus said, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” You may have noticed how beautiful the weather has been the last couple weeks. It has been sunny and quite pleasant. That is by God’s common grace. God doesn’t place the good weather over the Christian homes and whip up a good Nor’easter where the non-Christians live. God’s common grace is for all people.

 

God’s special grace, as some call it, is that which now pertains to those who belong to Christ. It pertains to all members of the body of Christ. Yet, it reaches out and draws non-Christians into the body, thereby making them recipients and instruments of that special grace. In fact, grace is so important that I dare say that being a Christian is 100% about your confidence in the grace of God.

 

You and I can’t make that kind of grace happen, no matter how hard we try or how good we are. As C.H. Spurgeon once said, “Grace is exercised according to the will of God and not according to the will of man.” The exercise of that grace has profound implications for the Christian life. A Biblical understanding of that grace can radically alter the way you think and act. It arrests your fears, allays your guilt, squashes your pride and sends you running to, not away from, God. It causes you to cling to Jesus. There’s only one way to be struck by grace like that. And that will be the focus of this week’s message from Acts.

 

Will you pray about and ask a friend to join you in church on Sunday or to one of our upcoming Christian formation classes? This is our last week of summer (9 AM) worship. Come for grace!

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“Fearless” – Acts 18:1-17

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Alright, I confess. The Apostle Paul is one of my heroes of the New Testament. I often think of his words to the church at Corinth, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1) Oh how I want to imitate Christ in the way that Paul did with his own life. Paul said, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13) Paul was amazing, a true inspiration, and seemingly, a man of steel. Or, was he?

This week’s passage pops my Pauline bubble just a little, as we see Paul on the ropes once again with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The theme is quite familiar and yet I find it immensely challenging and uplifting in a new and insightful way (and I hope you do too). It knocked Paul down a couple pegs, in my view, but also lifts our hope and trust in the surpassing worth of Jesus, our Lord.

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“Worth-ship” – Acts 17:16-34

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Athens was the intellectual, cultural and idolatry capital of the Roman Empire, at the time of the book of Acts. When we think of Athens, we think of beautiful, enduring structures like the Parthenon, a temple to the goddess Athena. As Paul arrived in the city, during the first century, he was deeply moved by the number of idols, representing a variety of gods. There was even an altar with an inscription, “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.” The Athenians wanted to be certain they covered all the basis by recognizing all the gods they could think of, and even the one they may not have.

As I prepare this week’s sermon, I’m finding myself overwhelmed by the number of ways in which Athens is like the world we live in today. Every one of us is worshiping something or, maybe I should say, several things at once. The things we worship aren’t necessarily bad, in themselves, but what’s scary is that we don’t even recognize we are worshiping them. Like the Athenians, we don’t recognize either the power they have over us or the burdens they lay upon us. How do we find true freedom? What, in this world, is worthy of our worship? Find out this Sunday as we consider these things and others.

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“Disturbing the Peace” – Acts 17:1-15

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I can’t believe that we are already entering day four of our Gold Rush Kid’s Camp.  What a week thus far!  Many of you and I have sensed a strong presence of the Holy Spirit among us this week.  He has been present and at work overcoming many hindrances and obstacles, making more of the week than we could have imagined.  His work in our presence is, although, a humbling reminder of our need to seek His strength and power as we face Satan’s attempts to derail the work of Gospel ministry.
I believe that same theme is at the core of this week’s passage in the book of Acts.  Paul, in fact, recognizes that very fact in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, one of the two main stops on our journey with the apostle this week.  Luke is sparingly short on the details of this two city visit, yet there are two activities, in particular, that he makes an effort to stop and report.  This Sunday, we’ll take a look at those activities and why Luke found them so important for us to know in our battle against the enemy of our souls as we work to be disciple making disciples of Jesus.

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