Friday, June 10, 2016

Whatever you do

I have preached the same scripture to different congregations at different times and in different places.  Though the scripture is the same and my notes might have been the same, the message sounds a little different each time, but had you been at each place, it would all sound very familiar.

Parts of Paul’s letters sound all so familiar; and they should.  He is consistent in his message though his readers vary in many ways.  Some he knew personally.  Some he had never met.  His message, however, is consistent and will sound familiar to us.

We have been raised with Christ and our sights are not set looking backwards.  We don’t live longing for the past.  We are not guided by selfish desire, wanting all that I can get for me and mine.

We set our sights—our hearts and minds—on the things above.  The old self has died.  The new self seeks God’s kingdom and his righteousness.

But we still live in this world and the spirit of worldly things is still trying to get a foothold in our lives.  The old self wants its old job back.  The things that the world taught us to live for are still there and they hire new marketing firms every year.

And we need to have godly eyes to see and ears to hear so as to discern where God is leading us.  We must let the peace that we know through Christ Jesus be what rules in our lives.  We must love what Jesus taught his disciples for we are now those disciples for our time.

God’s word and his songs and his psalms must be what we say and sing as we go through the day.  Let’s use the children’s church model for lack of a more sophisticated term.

Learn the Bible verses.
Learn the songs of faith.
Sing them to ourselves and each other during the day.

Do you remember GIGO?  Yes, it is an acronym for garbage in, garbage out.  The problem is that it is not entirely accurate.

Originally, it meant that if you put a half hearted effort into something, you should not expect excellence.  If you fed insufficient or corrupt data into your computer program, then the report or other product that it produced would be garbage.

Garbage in, garbage out makes sense in this context, but there is a caveat when it comes to our lives.  Not all of the garbage that goes in comes out.  Some of it lingers.  Some takes up residence.

What does GIGO have to do with Paul’s letter to a church that he was trying to mentor and encourage?  What does it have to do with us?

That decision to listen to your Christian music station or some rap about killing cops, actually makes a difference. 

That decision not to take an extra second or two to encourage another believer, makes a difference.  If we let apathy in, we should not expect godly passion to come out.

If we take in those corrupted things of the world, we should not expect to produce the fruit of God’s Spirit.

Jesus said that it was not what you ate that defiled you.  If you eat something it goes in and later comes out, sooner with good probiotics.

But the same does not hold true with what comes into our bodies and proceeds to our hearts and minds.  We must understand that living in this world is an interactive process.  It begs the question:  What do we seek with our eyes and ears?

The world has a great marketing department.  It wants to conform us to its image; but we are people being conformed to the image of our Master.  That should cause a little friction in our lives.

But the marketing firms that work for the spirit of this world are good at what they do.

Think to the story of the first humans being tempted in the Garden of Eden.  Why did Eve take the fruit from the forbidden tree?

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

God said, “It is forbidden.”  Eve saw that it was good for food.  It was pleasing to the eye.  It was desirable for gaining wisdom.

God made the fruit that way.  The fruit was not evil.  It was good, but Eve’s thoughts were not on the things that God had given her but on her own human, selfish, and carnal desires.

Again, Proverbs 3:5-6 seems appropriate.  Eve found herself relying heavily on her own understanding at the expense of trusting God.

Do you think that the world’s marketing department went out of business?  Whether we specifically tie it to Satan or to evil or to our own selfish nature, we contend with a daily struggle in our discipleship.

Our salvation is secure but our discipleship is a daily struggle.  We pray and we listen to the Holy Spirit, but sometimes we forget to encourage and even admonish each other.

How do we do this?

We do it with God’s word, his psalms, and the songs that we have learned.  We encourage and admonish gently and we do these things in the name of Jesus.  That means we don’t do them in the name of self-righteousness.

Our eyes are set on heavenly things but we live in the middle of worldly things and we need some help navigating the course.  We are called to help each other.  Sometimes that is a hug or a song or speaking the truth in love; but we are in this journey together as God’s people and we help each other to stay the course.

We have fallen short, been saved by God’s grace, are now right with God, and we really want to live as the people that he made us, saved us, redeemed us to be.   So we need to learn to help each other.

It is a strange mix.  We admonish and teach, encourage, and forgive one another and in all of this we give thanks to God.

Paul also talks about our earthly relationships.  Husbands and wives, parents and children, and even slaves and their masters get a quick dose of instruction to live with love, respect, gentleness, and loyalty.

Beyond these paired relationships he speaks of our most important relationship and how it must manifest itself in our lives.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

We should let the divine that lives within us come out in our most human relationships.  In our daily interaction with others, we should work as is we are working directly for God. 

Think of the thing that you like to do the least.  Is it making your bed?  How about taking out the trash?  Could it be washing windows?

Maybe it’s not the thing but the day.  How many online comments do you see about facing Monday morning, or even the whole day.  OMG, it’s Monday again.

What if we took that most undesirable task or day or whatever, and approached it as something we would do for the glory of God.

What if we looked upon everything that we did as something that we did for the Lord?  It’s not that the Lord needs to increase his workforce so his stock will go up; this counsel is for us.

When we approach everything that we do as if we were working for the Lord and not for men, we remove the worldly interference.  We won’t do anything begrudgingly.  We won’t compare our workload with what the guy in the next workspace or tractor or sales force is doing. 

We are working for God.

When we work as if we are working for the Lord, it helps us deal with all of those aggravations we have about the way our boss wants something.  The whole, if she wants it done that way she can just do it herself doesn’t really come into play.

When we work as if we are working for the Lord, those extra demands placed upon us by customers, co-workers, or others that rely upon our services are not quite so demanding.

If God himself asked us to build him storage shed or plow half an acre for a garden or write an essay, would we not give it our very best?

Would we not pour ourselves into making this our very best work?  And in so doing, would we not discover a taste of abundant life?

The fact is that God wants us to pursue excellence in all that we set out to do.  He wants us to work at whatever we do as if we worked personally for him.

·      To be the best husband or wife possible.
·      To be the best parent possible.
·      To be the best receptionist possible.
·      To be the best nurse possible.
·      To be the best student possible.
·      To be the best farmer possible.
·      To be the best supervisor possible.
·      To be the best disciple possible.

What is the difference between the person who shows up to help with VBS with a whatever attitude and the one who shows up with the whatever it takes outlook?

How many times have you been upset when you go in Walmart or Lowes or Target or some other huge chain store and you get the surely you don’t want me to help you look?

If that’s the case, get out of that store and go eat lunch at Chick-fil-A.  It’s like they are really glad to see you, glad to take your order, glad to bring you your food, glad to refill your drink, glad to talk to you and see how you are doing.  Why?  Because I think that they are.

It is an entirely different outlook on life.  You might just think, “Well, that’s just positive mental attitude—PMA.  The world’s been using that for a while.”

PMA is good.  It will get you through some tough situations but not nearly as sustaining as working as if you were working for God himself.

While a counselor in prison, I talked to many men in their 40’s and 50’s about reentering the workforce.  Except for the drug dealers who had stashed away a bunch of money, most of the inmate clients that I counseled had to consider employment, and most did not have skills for a competitive workplace.

They would say, “I will flip burgers if I have to.”

I responded, “I am sure that you can do that, but what about having a 20-year-old zit faced kid as your boss—can your handle that?”

It was as if I had extended their sentence by a decade.  They had not considered that they would have the entry level job and some kid barely out of school would be giving him orders.

Work at everything that you do as if you were working for the Lord not some zit faced kid.

Sometimes, we need this counsel in our marriages.  “I am ready to kill him.  I cannot spend another moment married to her.  If I have to spend another…”

Sometimes we work at our marriages as if we were working for the Lord and not with our partner.

Sometimes we work at parenting as if we were working for the Lord and not for these creatures that we know as our offspring that surely could not have come from our genes.  Oh sure they were cute when they were born or even at 4 or 5 years, but then they hit 10, 12, or 15 and you are sure that they have alien DNA in them.

But you continue to bring them up in the way they should go not because the kids make it easy but because in everything you do, you do it as if you were working for the Lord himself.

Sometimes bringing glory to God comes in the most mundane of activities.  It comes in the most repetitive things.  It comes in the jobs that nobody else will do.

It comes in making the coffee, making the bed, making lunches for the kids, and making it to work on time with an attitude that says, “I’m bringing it today!”

What are you bringing?  You are bringing glory to God!  In everything that you do, work at it as if you were working for God and not for men.

We memorized a verse last month that speaks to this.  How we live out our lives is our reasonable act of worship.  It is our true and proper worship.

Do we understand that everything that we do is a holy thing, a spiritual thing, and a divine thing?  If we cut grass or cut diamonds and do it as if working for God himself, then what we do has become holy.  It is set apart because we are set apart and we work to God’s glory.

If we live this way, there are no ordinary tasks, no ordinary livelihoods, and no ordinary days.  Whatever we do, wherever we do it, and whenever we do it so long as we do it as if we are working for the Lord, then you are bringing glory to God.

If you are a bank robber or an identity thief and you say, I don’t know that I can do that; maybe you need to change your line of work.  For those who pursue what we might call an honest living, you can pursue it with the mindset of working for the Lord.

In fulfilling the noble calling of parent, you can stick with this sometimes onerous role by working for the Lord and not for the monsters that those once lovely creatures became at age 13 or so.

If you are plowing a field all day, stocking shelves in the middle of the night, or driving a truck across town or across the country, remember that you may bring glory to God doing all of these things.  Work at them by pouring your heart into them as if you were working for the Lord.

You might just find your attitude shifting from whatever to whatever it takes.   You might just find yourself bringing glory to God in things that you have done all of your life.

There is a byproduct of living this way.  It is salt.  You will become salty.  You won’t blend in anymore.  You will have a distinct taste.  People will taste the goodness of the Lord in their encounters with you.  You will know and understand what it is to be the salt of the earth.

That’s a good thing.

Let’s work at everything we do as if we are working for the Lord.  It is the Lord Christ that we serve!


Read the message from Colossians 1

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