Monday, April 30, 2007

Whistle While You Work #8: Generosity

We’re continuing on how to love our neighbor through our work. We’re still on the provisional end of things. This isn’t so much who to provide for, but more to be a generous person. God hasn’t blessed us to horde our stuff. He’s blessed us that we might be a blessing to others.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. – 1 Timothy 6.17-19
We’re to love our neighbor by being generous people, generally, and caring for them in particular when their need is great. How generous should the people of God be, knowing how generous God has been to us? That’s rhetorical, by the way.

For those concerned about the “Prosperity” stuff several posts ago, this puts some kind of “cap” on accruing stuff for our own enjoyment. We need to be denying ourselves to a certain degree if we’re going to be generous to others and the poor.

This also brings us to generosity for those who are fulfilling God’s purposes around the world. Abraham was blessed by God to be a blessing to the nations (Gen. 12.1-3). The psalmist asked for God’s blessings on Israel, not that Israel would horde, but that God would be known among the nations.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, 2 that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. – Psalm 67.1-2
Use your resources to support a missionary a little extra from your church (the Allans are heading to Cambodia from Cypress), or give to a Faith Promise fund or missions fund your church offers, and don’t forget Jane’s House and their ministry in India (see previous post).

How has your work enabled you to be generous to others? To those serving around the world to make Christ known?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 7b: The Lord's Supper

The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper (Mt. 26.26-29; Mk. 14.22-25; Lk. 22.17-20; 1 Cor. 11.23-26) and was practiced in the early church (Acts 2.42, 46; 1 Cor. 11.27-34). It seems that this should be a repetitive rite (1 Cor. 11.26). It is an occasion to remember the death of Christ on behalf of the church (1 Cor. 11.25-26) and an anticipation of Jesus’ return (Mk. 14.25). Christ is also present in the midst of the meal. When one is “sharing” the Lord’s body and blood (1 Cor. 10.16) in the “Lord’s supper” (1 Cor. 11.20) at the “Lord’s table” (1 Cor. 10.21), which is an expression of table fellowship, it is clear that there is some presence of Jesus implied. Jesus is truly, spiritually present in the celebration of the Eucharist, though it is not the only means of His presence in the life of the church (Eph. 3.17; Mt. 18.20; 28.20). This ordinance is reserved for believers by its very nature. Believers in fellowship celebrated (Acts 2.42) and it is partaking in Christ and His work (1 Cor. 10.16), but believers ought to examine themselves and take the ordinance seriously (1 Cor. 11.27-32).

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Whistle While You Work #7: Provide for the Poor Locally and Globally

We’re still on loving our neighbors through our work. Now we move to a more traditional idea of loving our neighbor. Caring for the poor in this case.

He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. – Ephesians 4.28
Don’t just work to quit stealing. That’s good. That honors God. Paul’s talking about more than just pulling our own weight. We’re to work to “get” so we can “give.” The end goal isn’t self-provision. It is self-provision plus others’ provision. Jesus was pretty clear on how important it is to take care of the poor.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' – Matthew 25:34-40
Look for local opportunities to give to the poor. It could be the guy on the street corner, if God so leads. But it could also be a mission, or some organization that helps people get on their feet with more long-term assistance and training. Whatever you do, it is clear God wants us to bless the poor through our work.

In Southern California, our church runs a ministry called Campaign for Care that provides blankets for the homeless and we have boxes up for people to donate items to the missions. We also support Faith In Christ Ministries, which is a church that reaches out to the suffering in South LA. If you want to expand caring for the poor to the world, I have a friend who started his own organization that currently trains pastors and evangelizes in India and, most importantly for this point, provides for 30 or so orphans. For more information, check out this website:

How do you use your work to provide for the poor in your area? What are good ministries in your area that others might be aware of them (be sure to tell us the area)?

Friday, April 27, 2007

More on Bullpen Usage

If you're at all interested in non-traditional (or non-conventional) bullpen usage, see the post/link from a few posts ago (on 4/21) as well as this one on how it is helping the Mariners win games now (which is no easy task):

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Whistle As You Work #6: Providing for Your Family

As we look at loving our neighbor through our work, we need to look first at who our neighbor is. The Good Samaritan in Luke’s gospel answers the question – if a Samaritan could be an ancient Jew’s neighbor, anyone is a neighbor. Let’s start with those neighbors who actually live with us. Our family.

Your family is the first neighbor you can love through your work. You love them by providing for them – the same way you provided for yourself.

But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. … If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. – 1 Timothy 5.4, 8
In this case we’re talking about providing for your parents, in this case a widow. That’s your responsibility (see also Mark 7).

While we’re looking primarily at material provision so far, this I think would be a primary contribution of those who aren’t “breadwinners,” but who are the stay at home parent. And it shouldn’t be understated. My wife “works” a couple part-time jobs to help materially, but there’s no measure to be put on the role she plays in shaping the lives of our girls. It’s value is inestimable.

We ought to whistle as we work because, whether it is provision through punching the clock, or being unpaid in the job that you never clock out of, our work provides for our families, our first neighbors. How do you love your family through your work?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Whistle While You Work #5: Loving Your Neighbor

The last few posts have dealt with how our work is beneficial to ourselves, personally. I’m sure, if God is at work in your life, you were wondering when we’d get outside ourselves to using our job to bless others. Now is that time, though we know we usually derive much personal joy from doing good to others. These next several posts were, in the sermon, under the second point: "Whistle! Your Work Matters for Your Neighbor!"

One of the things I found most exciting when studying for this series, in the formative stages and when it came time for me to preach. Calvin and Luther apparently didn’t care much whether you were self-fulfilled in your work (see Vocation by Schuurman). You could hate your job, but you were called by God in that job, whether you liked it or not, to love your neighbor. Work was a key venue for loving your neighbor in Reformation times.

Before we begin the posts on how you love your neighbor, have you ever thought of loving your neighbor as an important reason for your work? How do you see yourself loving your neighbor in your work?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Whistle While You Work #4: Subduing the Flesh

This is the last section on "Whistle! Your Work Matters for You!," which is the first point in "Whistle While You Work" - the sermon, or series of blog posts. This is a little more abstract, or at least less tangible than the previous two posts - your job providing needs and wants in a material way. This one has to do with how work can be used, if we let it, to subdue our flesh, making us more like Christ. This came from a book my friend Keith loaned me for sermon prep called The Other Six Days by R. Paul Stevens. It was a helpful book, but on this point he pretty much lets Bonhoeffer make the point on "the therapeutic value of work":

Work plunges men into the world of things. The Christian steps out of the world of brotherly encounter into the world of impersonal things, the ‘it’; and this new encounter frees him [or her] for objectivity; for the ‘it’-world is only an instrument in the hand of God for the purification of Christians from all self-centeredness and self-seeking. The work of the world can be done only where a person forgets himself [or herself], where he loses himself in a cause, in reality, the task, the ‘it’. In work the Christian learns to allow himself to be limited by the task, and thus for him the work becomes a remedy against the indolence and sloth of the flesh. The passions of the flesh die in the world of things. But this can happen only where the Christian breaks through the ‘it’ to the ‘Thou’, which is God, who bids him work and makes that work a means of liberation from himself. (from Life Together).
If I understand this correctly, work will, if we let it, take us out of ourselves and focus us on something external. This is valuable because we can spend so much time thinking about ourselves and feeding our flesh, our selfishness. When we put our hand to the task, we take our focus off our selves and, if we let it, God will use this to make us less "fleshly," less selfish, less self-focused.

I can honestly say that during my warehouse forklift days I remember spending a bunch of time while I was at work seething with contempt for my job. But there were plenty of times where I was focused on the task at hand, which means I wasn't focused on myself. I wish I would have used that time better. In ministry I can honestly say the work has never been incredibly frustrating. It is enjoyable, but there have been peripheral matters that have weighed heavily and made me focus on my dissatisfaction. I guess this is a huge benefit of loving what you do. You can get lost in your work easier if you enjoy the task.

This is an interesting perspective on work. Do you think this is a valuable insight by Bonhoeffer? How do you think it works? How has it worked for you?

Next: "Whistle! Your Work Matters for Your Neighbor!"

Monday, April 23, 2007

Whistle While You Work #3: Prosperity

We're still looking at the personal blessings of our work. This is still point #1 ("Whistle! Your Work Matters for You!) in my message "Whistle While You Work." Last post talked about our basic needs being met in work, which we’re all grateful for, but the fact of the matter is, we’ve been blessed in the good old USA and for the vast majority of us, our work provides for much more than our needs, doesn’t it? Whether we’re rich or not by American standards, we’re certainly rich by world standards. And guess what. That’s OK.

The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it (Prov. 10.22).

Now I know that isn’t universal. There’s much poverty and suffering in the world, but Paul makes it clear in 1 Tim. 6.17-19 that, while we shouldn’t put hope in wealth, all things are provided for our enjoyment. It is good and right to enjoy God’s blessings.

Wealth isn’t dismissed in Scripture as evil – loving money is the root of all kinds of evil, but not wealth in and of itself. In fact, God told Israel not to be proud in their wealth as they entered the Land because it wasn’t their doing it was God’s, though they would live in abundance.

You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today (Deut. 8:17-18).

We don’t live in the “Promised Land,” though we have been blessed and it is no less from God. All our relative wealth – cars with AC and CD players (standard), owning a large or multiple homes (maybe ownership at all!), movie tickets, flat screens, eating out, closets full of clothes, baseball tickets, various collectables, etc… are a gift from God that comes by means of work. So whistle at work. It paid for your Disneyland passes.

Now, just as you thought about the basic provisions you’re thankful for, take some time to reflect on the unnecessary blessings God has given you through your work.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Whistle While You Work #2: Basic Provision

I delivered the “Whistle While You Work” sermon this morning. It went pretty well, I think. I know a few people were encouraged, one who was feeling discouraged in what he does and another who loves his job. In my last “work” post I talked about the fact that self-fulfillment in work is great for those who have jobs they love.

But this pleasure in our work need not be elusive for those who don’t love their jobs. The next several posts will talk about reasons our jobs are worthy of enjoying. Why we can “whistle while we work.” They all flow from the idea that our work is meaningful, even if not fun. The hope is that meaning becomes more important than “fun,” and we truly enjoy that what we are doing is valuable.

So the next couple posts (and the last one as well) are the self-interested side of work – how it benefits us. The point in the sermon was: Whistle! Your Work Matters for You! Self-fulfillment is the first sub-point (even though I used it as the introduction), that your “job” is more than a job, it is a calling. But on a more “material” level, your work also provides for your basic needs. That's the focus of this sub-point.

I know there are exceptions for those who are unable or without a job, but for the most part God provides through means. Means come, for most of us, through our jobs, our work. I know this isn’t rocket science, but shirts don’t make themselves. Someone worked to make them, and you work to purchase them – or whoever gave you that shirt for Christmas did.

Scripture is clear that work provides for the most basic needs. In 2 Thess. 3.10 Paul says if a man won’t work, he shouldn’t eat. So, while this isn’t the most romantic of reasons to love your work, you can love it because it paid for your dinner.

What basic provisions do you have to be thankful for that are a result of your work?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bullpen Usage

An interesting discussion on the best way to use a bullpen ... for those interested in such things.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Whistle While You Work #1: Self-fulfillment

I'm preaching a sermon on Sunday in our series, God @ Work. My sermon is "Whistle While You Work," focusing on how to have a good attitude at work. The first section (with several subpoints) focuses on the personal benefit from work. The first way to do that is the joy that some people have of doing precisely what they think God has created them for. I'll use a clip from Chariots of Fire for introduction - where Eric Liddel talks about how God made him fast and he needs to run to honor God. A biblical example would be Oholiab and Bezalel (Exodus 31:1-11) who were particularly gifted by God to do the job He appointed them to do. Is this you?

Exodus 31:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6 And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: 7 the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, 8 the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, 9 and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, 10 and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do."
Don't get me wrong, I think we need to have balance in life, particularly that we shouldn't be workaholics. "Fulfillment" at work doesn't mean neglect at home or anywhere else is acceptable. How much does "fulfillment" fit in to what you do at work? In a perfect world, what would you be doing that would be ultimately fulfilling for you as a job - so it would be more than a job, but a calling?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Alexander Hamilton and Proactivity

I'm reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow and it is fascinating. I didn't know much about Hamilton (still don't), but that he was a key figure early in our history, first Secretary of the Treasury, and a political manipulator (and on the $10 bill). I'm just starting the book, but it has blown me away from the beginning.

Hamilton was born into a difficult situation in Nevis in the Carribean. His illegitimacy was something that he worked hard to avoid throughout his life - and it was the beginning of his pain during his earlier years. Chernow writes: "Let us pause briefly to tally the grim catalog of disasters that had befallen these two boys [Alexander and his brother] between 1765 and 1769: their father had vanished, their motehr had died, their cousin and supposed protector had committed bloody suicide, and their aunt, uncle, and grandmother had all died" (p. 26).

Despite this start, Hamilton seized every opportunity he could find to better his situation and make his mark. He was largely self-taught and put himself "out there" when opportunity knocked. His amazing talent was, thankfully for all of us, recognized by different people who put him in further positions to succeed. Still, he didn't take these opportunities for granted. He made the most of them. (He didn't want to go to Princeton because he wanted to go through school at an accelerated pace.) He was, in Stephen Covey's terminology (see Leadership Tab), proactive. He made things happen.

The point: We all have our challenges from our past. Some are huge. Some are insignificant by comparison, but they may be significant to us all the same. So here's something to think about. Where do you need to be proactive in your personal life? Work life? Other?

I'm not far into the story, but I know Hamilton is far from perfect. But we can certainly see an exceptional example of someone being proactive and not being defined by their situation. I've been encouraged and challenged by this brilliant man who was determined to make a difference.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Whistling While You Work

This coming Sunday I'm doing the next installment of our "God At Work" series. I'm doing "attitude at work," titled "Whistle While You Work." I won't give away what I think I'll share. (I say "think" because getting into a text often challenges my pre-conceived notions of it.) But any help would be appreciated.

What helps you keep a positive attitude at work?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

"Unwell in a New Way"

I just finished The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson (the guy who wrote The Message). He's become one of my favorite writers of late. This wasn't my favorite book of his, but it was good. I should have blogged on more, but time didn't permit.

Anyhow, there's a great chapter on sin as a theological notion - humans aren't close to God and don't serve Him. But Peterson correctly notes that we're able to distance ourselves from the concept of sin. We need to localize our sin to our lives, to our times. This book was written in 1989 and he says the sin of his day was "episodes of adolescence." That is, people worship youth culture and that adults are still functioning with their emotions, traumas, and difficulties like adolescents. That, I guess, is how people in 1989 were "unwell" (sinners) "in a new way."

One of the issues for this adolescent perspective is the "absence of historical sense." Every problem is dealt with from scratch, there's little learning from history. Learning too often comes from experience rather than trusting history or obeying God. Adam and Eve opted for experience over obedience.

I feel that way sometimes and I don't think this challenge of "adolescence" is out of date - even almost twenty years later. What do you think? How are we "unwell in a new way" in our day and age?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Easter Traditions

After Young Adult Ministry on Thursday the host of our home mentioned how cluttered Easter can get with eggs and bunnies and we can miss out on what it's all about. Flipping through TV channels later that night I ran into a South Park episode addressing the same thing. (Good question, despite the irreverence.) These things got me thinking more critically about what we do for Easter. How do we keep our girls (and us, really) focused on the fact that Jesus conquered death and not about bunnies, Peeps (which I love), and eggs?

My question for you is this: "What traditions does your family have to keep focused on the real meaning of Easter? Or what are some ideas you have for what you'd like your family to do?"

Ordination #2, Art. 7a: "Baptism"

Baptism is an initiatory rite that Jesus commands (Matt. 28.19) and is a step of obedience that identifies the believer with Jesus (Acts 2.38). It was practiced throughout the NT churches from Pentecost forward (Acts 2.38; 8.12; 9.18; 10.47; 16.14-15; 18.8; 19.5). Since salvation is by faith alone and not by works (Eph. 2.8-9), it is clear baptism does not save. Passages like Acts 2.38 are best explained by the fact that baptism is the outward expression of the inner reality of faith. An unbaptized Christian should sound as odd as a physically uncircumcised Jew. The evidence indicates that baptism by immersion is the preferred mode based on the meaning of the word baptizo (dip, immerse), that Jesus came “out of” the water when baptized (Mk. 1.10), the Ethiopian eunuch requested baptism upon seeing a sufficient body of water for baptism (Acts 8.38-39), and it is the best picture of the symbolism of dying to self and being raised through faith in Christ (Col. 2.12). Since it is a symbol of what has happened in the believer’s life (Col. 2.12; Acts 22.16), the NT indicates baptism followed a profession of faith (Acts 2.41; 8.12).

Friday, April 6, 2007

Young Adult Ministry (YAM): Good Friday and The Passion of the Christ

Last night we watched The Passion of the Christ for our Young Adult meeting. It was sobering and difficult to watch - as it is every time. In my long term memory I'm always left with the images of violence, which is a shame because there's really much more to it. I shared a couple thoughts during discussion last night, but most people weren't in the mood to talk. One more I wanted to share was the scene near the beginning where Mary and Mary Magdelene are talking - before John comes in. One says, "Why is tonight unlike other nights..." or something like that. The response was, "We used to be slaves..." They were referring to the Exodus - the release of God's people from their bondage in Egypt. This is part of the traditional Passover meal. We did it in the college ministry last year. We focus a ton on the transaction of our sins being placed on Jesus, which we should. But if we take this Exodus imagery, we see there's much more. We are freed from the bondage of sin. It isn't just paid for, we are called to live in our freedom from sin. We have been freed from sin to live well, not just wait for heaven. So this Good Friday, may we remember that God didn't just pay for our sin in Christ, but He released us to live in freedom as well.

How did God speak to you or challenge you last night watching The Passion? If you weren't there, how has God used it in your life in the past?

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 1d: "Authority"

This one concludes the first Article in the Evangelical Free Doctrinal Statement, which focuses on Scripture...

The Bible is also God’s final authority for Christian faith and life. If we believe Scripture is God’s Word, it follows that it carries the authority of God for our lives (2 Tim. 3.16). Reason, tradition, and experiences are all significant elements of human existence, but they are all subject to the authority of God’s Word. This is not to say Scripture is anti-reason, anti-tradition, or anti-experience. In fact, they are inescapable influences in how we read and interpret Scripture and can work together. As we engage Scripture, our human reason, God’s objective Word, and the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14.26; 16.8, 13, 14) are working together to ensure that hear God’s authoritative message.