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work

Christian Life, young adults

Young Adult, Work Hard

October 24, 2016

 

 

Those who work their land will have abundant food,
but those who chase fantasies have no sense.
Proverbs 12:11

 

The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.
2 Timothy 2:6

 

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
2 Thessalonians 3:6-10

 

If Jesus is your Lord you don’t get to come home to entertainment and leave dishes undone, your apartment a mess, your car piled with fast food garbage, and the like.

With a world of entertainment available to us at the push of a button or a few clicks of the mouse, it’s incredibly easy to coast through life doing the bare minimum amount of work. This is especially true for young adults in the stage of life where you’re living on your own, unmarried, without kids, and without any significant responsibilities. It’s so simple to work a job that pays the bills, come home each day and spend the evening (or afternoon or morning, depending on what your work shift is) watching tv or playing video games or fiddling around on some social media outlet.

I want to declare that if you’re a follower of Jesus that must not be your method of life.

Those who don’t work don’t eat

Paul’s word to the Thessalonians are harsh to our American ears. “Keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us…’The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’” Apparently to the apostle idleness is as significant a sin as adultery, since he also tells the Corinthians to do treat an adulterous person in a similar way (1 Cor. 5).

This ought to be a challenge to us, my friends. Are our lives marked by idleness? Do we spend more time relaxing and being entertained than we do being productive and serving others? There is a time for rest, but don’t forget that God set aside one day for sabbath and six days for work. As the wise writer of Proverbs declared, “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” (12:11)
This truth goes beyond the physical reality. Though in his letter to the Thessalonians Paul is addressing people who are benefitting by eating physical food without working for it, the principle stands in a spiritual sense as well. Those who don’t “work their land” spiritually won’t eat and will have malnourished spirits. Those who sit by and expect others to provide the food for their spiritual selves will not grow.

Work like Jesus

Let’s stop chasing fantasies in movies, novels, and video games and instead be the hardworking farmer who follows the Master into the fields daily to sow, water, and reap. I want us, my brothers and sisters in Christ who are still young, to be able to say with the Apostle, “we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.”

Young adult, work hard. Let your life be a model for those who come after you. Work like Jesus, who gave his life to the labor that the Father had placed before him. Your reward will be riches that go far beyond this life and far outweigh the momentary pleasure of spending every evening being entertained.

 

 

Christian Life, Spiritual Growth

7 Reasons the Bible is a Hard Book

January 18, 2014

It is the glory of God to conceal things,
but the glory of kings is to search things out.
-Proverbs 25:2

A few weeks ago I read a post by Trevin Wax on the difficulty of the Bible which got me thinking. Growing up it was always implied that the Bible was a simple book, you just had to sit down and read a little bit of it and you would have access to God at the flip of a page. While that’s true on some level, on another level – the level that most people I talk to operate on – the Bible is a book that is intimidating, often hard to understand, and sometimes just overwhelming.

We’re used to novels, youtube videos, and commercial spots. Our brains are increasingly wired to operate in shallow pools, making connections between tidbits of information rather than digging deep into one field. Studies are showing that reading of scripture is consistently decreasing among Christians in the west. In 2013 the American Bible Society found that, “More than half (57%) of those ages 18-28 report reading the Bible less than three times a year or never.” Almost every Christian I talk to feels like they should read the Bible more and feels ashamed at how little they do it. At the same time we’re not even sure how to begin to climb the mountain of scriptural truth that is there.

The Bible is a hard book. I’m someone who is reading several books at any given time, and sometimes God’s Word seems overwhelming to me in its scope and depth. Don’t get me wrong. I delight in the Scriptures. As the Proverb at the beginning of this post says I believe that God has vast riches available to us. However, he has set it up so that we must “search things out” in order to find them. I think of my brothers and sisters who haven’t read a book other than what’s been assigned to them in school, and I want to encourage you in this – there is no shame in feeling like God’s word is sometimes hard. My goal in this post and the following ones is to inspire you to read God’s word with a fearsome passion, and I believe that one of the first things that needs to be set in place to empower you to do that is to admit at the outset that, on a human level, the Bible is a hard book. It’s not a sin to feel like Deuteronomy is difficult reading or be totally confused at what is going on in the book of Isaiah.

Why is the Bible a hard book? Here’s 7 reasons that I see for it;

1. It’s world is different than ours.

The stories of scripture (most of them) take place on this earth, yes, but the canon of scripture was closed within a couple generations of Jesus’ death and most of the old Testament is from thousands of years before that. The world of Genesis, Exodus, the prophets, and even Jesus and the apostle Paul is a world drastically different than ours. No electricity and no internet. Different languages and different cultures, all poured into one book. When we read scripture, even in our own language, we have to become translators who are able to take the the meaning of passages like the last few chapters in Deuteronomy that are filled with laws and rules about building the temple and translate their meaning into our world.

2. It doesn’t have a clear story line.
We’re used to novels and movies that have a clear narrative arc, where we follow a protagonist through the ups and downs to the ultimate conclusion. Scripture, at first glance, doesn’t have a clear story line. Characters come and go. Nations rise and fall. The scale of time is massive.Seeing the story arc of scripture is hard work if you’re coming to it on your own.

3. It covers a wide range of genres.
I know of very few people who enjoy reading history books, legal documents, poetry, narrative, and apocalyptic literature. I know plenty who enjoy one or two of those categories, but few indeed who enjoy them all. Scripture is composed of a vast array of genres, each one requiring a particular style of reading and interpretation.

4. It’s long. Really long.
Awhile ago I started reading Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. My copy clocks in at 1,001 pages. It’s the only book I own that beats my Bible for sheer length, and I put it on hold after 400 pages. The Bible is a long book. It takes a long time to read from cover to cover. That in and of itself makes it daunting.

5. It’s dense.
Parts of scripture are just all around dense reading. Leviticus and Deuteronomy are infamous for killing the high hopes of people who start on on a through-the-Bible-in-a-year journey. Revelation is a dense layering of images and allusions to the Old Testament books as well as cryptic prophetic declarations. Some sections of the Bible require serious heavy mental lifting to engage.

6. It tells you things you don’t want to hear.
Some subjects are more comfortable to just ignore, but scripture leaves almost no subject untouched. From brutal violence to sexual perversion to God’s seemingly inexplicable wrath towards nations other than Israel in the Old Testament, the Bible is in your face with things that you probably didn’t want to deal with

7. It’s bigger than you.
Most books and movies are things we can engage for a moment and then toss aside. We read the novel and move on with life. We watch the television show and when it’s done it’s done. But the Bible insists on over-reaching itself, digging in to bit of your life that other things don’t, and working on you. You don’t engage it. It engages you.

Seven reasons why the Bible is a hard book. In my next couple posts I’m going to lay out what I believe are some of the most compelling reasons to not let the surface-level difficulty of the Bible daunt you. We serve a good God who loves his people and wants them to know him intimately. He made us and He knows us. There’s a reason that He expressed so much of His identity and will in a written text. In the difficulty there is amazing good for us. But we’ll look at that next time.

Christian Life, Evangelism, Journal

Thoughts after four weeks of work

December 3, 2013

Almost four weeks ago I wrote about my reasons for working full time even though I’m confident God has called me to vocational ministry. I’ve had four weeks at my place of employment now and as I sat over lunch I noted down seven things that I’ve learned since starting. The majority of them are directed at people who, like me, are in or feel called to vocational ministry. The last few are more directly toward people who Christ has placed as vocational missionaries in the workplace. We can all learn from both. I know I’ve had plenty to think about and learn from in my 10 days working 8-5.

Brothers and sisters in Christ are most precious when you’re not always surrounded by them. It’s so easy to get frustrated with Christians, especially people who have spent years in the church and yet have the spiritual maturity of a four-year old. Petty conflicts over worship style, service length, Sunday school curriculum, and event scheduling swallow up the joy of kingdom work. When we’re surrounded by only believers it’s surprisingly easy to take for granted the body of Christ, but when you spend eight hours of your day as the only Christ-follower, a missionary sheep in the midst of wolves, the body becomes an amazingly precious thing. Rather than being more of a drain, our Community Gatherings and my time discipling other believers has become even more enjoyable now that I spend a larger amount of time away from the Christian bubble.

You probably don’t understand most of what you’re people experience day to day if you work at a church. I spent almost two years interning at a church and have spent the last few years working part time odd hours with the majority of my daily schedule given to ministry. For the last three years I haven’t worked at a church, but I have been largely living in the ministry world. I thought I had a better handle on what the “normal” believer’s life was like. Honestly, I was wrong. Hear this as a gentle reminder if you work full-time at a church or a ministry – much of your life is in a totally different world than many of your people’s. Not a wrong world, just a different one. We need to make intentional time to gain an understanding and empathy of our fellow believers experiences so we can empathize with and shepherd them well.

There are people who seriously need Jesus that you will never see at your church. Not because their against church, necessarily. It’s not even on their radar. I have yet to meet someone at work that goes to church more regularly than holidays, and I’ve met two people who have never set foot in a church in their 20-something years of life. These are people with serious needs, some of whom are wide open to the Gospel. I had a conversation about how Jesus changes marriage and relationships over lunch this afternoon with a guy who knows next to nothing about the Gospel. We can’t wait for people to attend our church to hear about Christ, and we can’t expect our people to go out as missionaries if we don’t set the example and regularly share stories of how God is using us as ministers of reconciliation.

It takes training and practice to live as a missionary at work. I’ve had to do some seriously daily indoctrination of myself to keep from getting sucked into the “just get through the day” mindset. Starting my day in the Word and prayer and  listening to the Spirit’s guidance throughout the day is more critical than ever. I have to regularly remind myself that I’ve been sent first as a missionary and employee second. Work becomes something exciting when you go into it with the confidence that God has you there for Gospel purposes. However, that mindset isn’t something that just magically happens. It’s something that we need to train ourselves towards. Paul’s ability to rejoice in any circumstance didn’t come out of nowhere. He practiced. He sang while imprisoned, even if he didn’t feel like it. He trained his soul to rejoice and his mind to be set on mission, no matter what the context.

Breaks are your greatest tool. Leverage them for Gospel purposes, not your own enjoyment. Almost all of my getting to know other workers and conversations I’ve had have been during lunch or another break time. It’s tempting to use those precious few minutes for relaxation, catching up on Facebook, or my particular weakness – reading. We need to be tuned in to the Spirit’s leading enough that we know when he wants us to rest and when we wants us to leverage our break time for Jesus’ glory. Use that time to get to know the people he’s placed you near.

Time is terribly precious. Don’t waste it. When 9 hours of your day are given to an employer, every extra minute is precious. I know a terrible number of men and women whose lives follow the pattern of work, come home, and absorb entertainment until sleeping. God commanded a day of rest, not every evening full of relaxation. I come home from work tired, but Jesus didn’t take a night off because he was tired. Instead he entrusted himself to the Father who gives rest to the ones he loves and pushed onward. My evenings are where some of my most important ministry takes place. I want to leverage every ounce of my time for Christ’s sake.

Don’t hide Christ. Flaunt him. It’s so easy to tuck Christianity away behind a veneer of niceness in the work place. We need to be upfront with people about what we believe. Look for ways to let people know that you’re a Christian, not so that they’ll think more highly of you, but so that you’ll have the conscious knowledge that you are in your workplace as a representative. If people know you’re a disciple of Christ then your actions and words are teaching them what Christ is like. Flaunt Jesus. Make it clear that you are his and then live worthy of the calling that you’ve received.

It’s been about a month of work. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but I do know that it’s where the Lord has me here and now and I want to be faithful with what he’s entrusted to me. For those of you who have more experience than me in living as disciples and missionaries of Christ in your workplace, do you have any advice for me?

 

Journal, Life, Spiritual Growth

Why I’ll be working full time

October 31, 2013

The next week or so is going to bring a significant transition in my life. For the last month or so I’ve been struggling between whether I should get a full time job and limit what time I have to invest directly in Threshingfloor or stick with the minimal income of a part-time position and keep more of my time free for ministry.

It’s been quite the mental tug of war. I’m confident that our Lord wants me to do ministry as a vocation at some point in my life, but I also feel the weight of needing to provide for Kelly and I, particularly as she finishes up school and we begin needing to make payments on school loans. But if I get a full time job is that acting in fear rather than in faith that Jesus will provide? Will working full time keep me from opportunities to minister to those who are under my charge in our community? At the same time, most of the people in our community work full time and therefore I can’t invest much in them during the work day.  But will I have energy to work 8 hours a day and spend 4 of my seven nights pouring myself out in ministry? But isn’t that what so many of the Lord’s people have done throughout the generations? Isn’t every believer called to an entire life of service? But…you get the point.

About two weeks ago I landed on what felt like the Lord’s leading and accepted a full-time position at a company here in Fargo. I start next Monday, November 4th. Honestly I’m not sure how things are going to work out, but through much prayer and conversation with Kelly I believe that a full time job is what I need to pursue for this season. Here’s why.

  • To test myself. Am I truly committed to disciple-making or am have I just pursued vocational ministry because it’s a familiar and enjoyable path? I love reading, teaching, and people. Ministry is an outlet for those loves. I don’t want to go into ministry simply because it’s the easy road or because it feels the safest. I want to test myself, and I believe that disciple-making needs to be something that I am committed to whether or not it is my vocation.
  • To test the Lord. If Jesus has called me to vocational ministry he will make a way for it to happen. The job I’ve taken is a “long term temporary” position, and during the months that I’m working I’ll be spending much time in prayer and pursuing ways of generating income that will free up more of my time down the road. By my calculation Kelly and I need an income of at least $2000/month to make ends meet. I’m stoked to praise the Lord like crazy when he provides above and beyond that so I can commit to full time ministry.
  • To set an example. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of the young men and women in Threshingfloor work full time. Just a Jesus set the example for his disciples in all things, I believe that leaders are called to actively demonstrate what they call their followers to. If I’m calling the people within Threshingfloor to leverage their whole life for disciple-making, I want to be living proof that it can be done when we walk in the Spirit’s power. Christian’s shouldn’t be able to point to their leader’s lives as reasons to keep their faith limited to church events.
  • To experience. How can I correctly counsel and encourage someone who is struggling to make disciples and work 40 hours a week if I can’t empathize with them? I want to experience that lifestyle so that I can more accurately discern its idols, strengths, weaknesses, and be able to shepherd the Lord’s people well.
  • We need the money. I put this one last not because it’s the least important but because I’ve questioned myself a lot on whether I’ve accepted this full time position simply out of the pressure of financial needs. I don’t think I have, but that tension is still there. Kelly and I do need money to pay our bills. However, the moment I start looking to my job as the source of my steadiness it becomes an idol. Instead I’m daily reminding myself that this job is a tool for the sake of glorifying Christ through making disciples. I’m sent as a missionary before I go as an employee.

Keep me in your prayers, family. Jesus has provided this job and that means that there’s something for me to do there that’s going to bring him glory. It’s going to be good.

Best Of, Christian Life, Commentary, Spiritual Growth

What God Demands First

March 14, 2013

Psalm 50 opens with an image of God riding through the heavens, calling for his people to assemble before him.  “He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people,” and around him is blazing fire and storm clouds, reminiscent of the scene that took place at mount Sinai where the Israelites were so afraid they didn’t even want God to speak to them and had Moses go forward in their place.

If God is coming in that kind of terrible power for judgment, it makes sense that his people must have done something wrong. The mount Sinai scene was for the sake of proving his power and presence so that his people would listen to his law. For him to be showing up again like that seems to say that they have forgotten those laws. Perhaps they’ve started worshiping the idols of the nations around them, or have failed to keep the Sabbath holy, or have ceased to offer the proper sacrifices that they were commanded to make.

That’s what I expect in reading this Psalm, but as you move through the text we find out that’s not the problem at all. God declares “your burnt offerings are continually before me.” God’s people haven’t ceased to do what he commanded them to, so what’s the problem? In verse 12 God is clear. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness is mine.” Somewhere along the way the Israelites seem to have gotten the idea that God needed them and what they were doing and God wants his people to be clear. He doesn’t need sacrifices. He doesn’t need the help of his people. The Israelites are rebuked for doing exactly what God had commanded them, but from the wrong motives.

Much of the time we’re standing in the same position, with God summoning us before him because we have inverted the order of things. We think that we are necessary and that if we don’t do enough our family, ministry, or marriage is going to fall apart. Our tendency is to live as if the work we do for God proves that we are his people. We sacrifice time, energy, and money to prove our love. “See God? I’ve read my Bible every day this week. I talked with two people about Jesus. I served at my church. That proves I love you!”

   When our performance becomes the measure of our love for God, we need to hear the words spoken to Israel in Psalm 50 ; “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving…the one who offers thanksgiving in his sacrifice glorifies me”. What God demands first and foremost from his people is gratitude, not labor. Our thanksgiving glorifies him more than all of our hard work and sacrifice.

   My friends, be aware of this danger. If we are to live as Christ’s people thanksgiving and gratefulness must to be the tone of our lives. Not busyness or hard work; thanksgiving. When we become a grateful people it transforms the world around us. We realize that everything we have is a gift and complaining fades away. How generous our king!  Then out from that gratefulness flows the life of service and labor that Christ has commanded.

A life that begins with labor is not the Christian life; it is a life of religious legalism. A life that begins with thanksgiving to God for his free gift of salvation and overflows in joyful sacrifice is the life that glorifies Christ. What God demands first of us isn’t more work, it’s gratefulness.

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Christian Life, Commentary

Rest and Service

February 12, 2013

Allow me to set the stage. Jesus’ ministry is in full swing. An unspecified amount of time before Jesus had sent out the twelve apostles to go and proclaim the kingdom in nearby cities, giving them authority over demons and sickness and telling them to take nothing with them. A bold move, sending out twelve untested dudes to do unsupervised warfare with Satan. That in and of itself could be a post on how different Jesus’ method of training for ministry is from our safe, institutional methods, but we’ll save that for another time.

Apparently things go pretty well for the guys. “They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.” (Mark 6:13) Talk about a thrilling experience for a bunch fishermen, tax collectors, and men who had led pretty normal lives thus far. It’s one thing to see your leader do the miraculous; it’s another to see God do the miraculous through you. They return to Jesus “and told him all that they had done and taught.”

Here’s where it gets interesting. We expect Jesus to give a rousing speech to the disciples and point out how God was at work through them and now get back out there and continue the work, there are more people who need what you’ve been given! But instead Jesus does the unexpected. He recognizes his disciples’ need for time to rest and process what’s taken place. They may be excited at the power of the Spirit at work in them and raring to continue, but they are human. Jesus tells them “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”

They take a boat in an attempt to escape the crowds that have been following them, but people recognize Jesus and his band as they’re travelling and run to catch them. Despite the fact that they’re attempting to have a “staff retreat” Jesus sees the crowds when they come ashore and feels compassion on them and spends the evening teaching and eventually miraculously feeding them all.

Cool story, huh? There’s two things I want us to see draw out of this story and apply to our lives. First, we need to develop rhythms of labor and rest. Second, we need to willing to let God disturb our rhythms when he has something greater planned.

 

Develop a Rhythm

                God placed in the very fabric of creation the rhythm of labor and rest. Labor, rest. Labor, rest. Create, rest and enjoy. For the disciples, do ministry, sneak away to rest. Rhythms need both on and off beats. Remove one and you don’t really have rhythm, you just have sound.

We all tend in one direction or the other. If we had the choice, some of us would be leaning full on the rest side. Others would be all labor all the time, but Jesus leaves no room for this. We’re called to both, in the appropriate order. First we labor, then we rest.

For those who are like me and tend towards constant labor and have time sitting still, being silent, focusing on one thing at a time, and the like, we need to consciously set apart times of rest. It wasn’t until Kelly and I were married that I realized just how “on” I was all the time. Even my rest time was something to be checked off the list. She’s teaching me how to chill.

For those who are more like my beautiful wife and tend toward the rest side of the rhythm, be intentional about doing work first and not letting the introspection, comfort, and ease keep you from the work God has given you.

Get this rhythm right and it will sustain you through a lifetime. Labor, then rest.

Don’t Fear Disturbance

Lest we get paranoid about keeping our rhythm of labor and rest on beat, Mark demonstrates how Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit and allows the Spirit-fruit of compassion to cancel the moment of rest for him and his team when he sees the needs of those around him.

As we develop healthy patterns of work and relaxation there will be times that we will be interrupted. Like Jesus, we need to be more attentive to the Holy Spirit that to our habits. If we idolize our rhythms and begin to treat them as functional saviors we will miss supernatural ministry opportunities.

Since we got engaged Kelly and I have made a practice of taking Sundays off from work and homework, setting them aside as one day a week to enjoy Jesus and each other. It’s a large part of what has kept our relationships solid for the (short) time we’ve been together. However, there has been several times where we’ve felt like God has placed before us opportunities that could only happen on that day and required us to give up our day of rest for that week. The times where we’ve gone along with the Lord’s leading have been pretty sweet. The times we’ve selfishly chosen to keep to ourselves and rest we have invariably been led into sin and even the rest that we attempted to take was no true rest at all.

Yes, God has created this world and we humans to follow the patterns of labor and rest. But more importantly he has given us his son Jesus as an example of what a true human is meant to live like. Want to learn how to live your life well? Look to Jesus. He knows what’s up.

Journal

Another Year of Labor

August 25, 2012

It’s a Wednesday, 5 days before school starts and I’m back again at MSUM, sitting on the grass in front of Ballard hall watching a growing stream of freshmen and their parents flow through campus in search of purpose. A year ago I wrote a post titled A Year of Labor, cataloguing my thoughts and hopes after one year of ministry in the Fargo-Moorhead area. Now another twelve months have passed, and I am sitting in the same spot on nearly the same day, reflecting once again.

Much has changed since August 2011. Kelly and I were engaged and married, Threshingfloor has grown and solidified its form, we have learned much about the reality of Satan’s war against God’s people, and I have (somewhat sadly) given up my dreadlocks.

If the several people I have bumped into over the last few days have any say in the matter, I’m not the same person I was a year ago. Most of them didn’t recognize me for the first several seconds (probably due to the dreadlocks being gone). Much has changed, but my passion remains the same as it was two years ago when I first set out from Brainerd with my Oldsmobile Alero packed full of stuff and moved into the dorms that I now sit in front of. My purpose here is to spread the fame of Jesus’ name by making disciples of people like the ones I see before me now. They are bitter, angry, and indifferent to the God I serve. They delight in sexual indulgence, perversity, laziness, deceit, and love themselves more than anyone else. They are held captive by sin and Satan, blind to the fact that they walk in death and willfully reject true life. My heart breaks for these thousands of college students and young adults who are surrounded and lost in darkness.

Two years of countless hours of work, of financial sacrifice, of all night prayers warfare, of great meetings with leaders who are succeeding amazingly and painful meetings with leaders who are falling short, of acceptance and rejection, pain and peace, and so much more; all these things are a small price to pay to see the salvation of these souls.

Kelly and I have perhaps two more years in Fargo. We have both determined that there is nothing we’d give our time to than seeing the gospel do its transforming work in this city. We want this city to be noticeably changed when we depart, to the praise of Christ. The mission we are on is no easy one, but it’s rich with reward and the Lord is using it to build around us an amazing family of believers who love each other and love the lost deeply. It has done great good for us in our marriage thus far. It has given me reason to wake up and work day after day. I have had greater joy in this work than in any other that I’ve done thus far in life, and I am beginning to feel what Paul must have felt when he said that he counted everything else loss when compared with knowing Christ and sharing in his sufferings. I am confident it’s what every Christian has been called to do, in some shape or form.

Christian, I ask you, do you labor? Have you given yourself to the cause your King has commanded? Your life will be dry and empty until you do, no matter how many Bible studies you attend or books you read. We were born again, recreated, to be laborers in the harvest fields. Anything else is a revolt against the DNA that the Spirit has rooted in our bones.
Come with me. Let us go. Another year of labor lies before us. The fields are ripe for harvest, and the workers who are already laboring are in sore need of your strength. The reward is beyond comprehension, both in this life and in the next. This is what we were made for. Go!

I conclude with the same quote from Charles Spurgeon that I closed A Year of Labor with. It still resonates deeply with my soul.

O Zion, shake thyself from the dust! O Christian, raise thyself from thy slumbers! Warrior, put on thy armor! Soldier, grasp thy sword! The captain sounds the alarm of war. O sluggard! Why sleepest thou? O heir of heaven, has not Jesus done so much for thee that thou shouldst live to him? O beloved brethren, purchased with redeeming mercies, girt about with loving kindness and with tenderness, ‘now for a shout of sacred joy,’ and after that, to the battle! The little seed has grown to this: who knoweth what it shall be? Only let us together strive without variance. Let us labor for Jesus. Never did men have so fair an opportunity, for the last hundred years. ‘There is a tide that, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.’ Shall you take it at the flood? Over the bar, at the harbor’s mouth! O ship of heaven, let the sails be out; let not thy canvas be furled; and the wind will blow us across the seas of difficulty that lie before us. O! That the latter day might have its dawning even in this despised habitation! O my God! From this place cause the first wave to spring, which shall move another, and then another, till the last great wave shall sweep over the sands of time and dash against the rocks of eternity, echoing as it falls, ‘Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reighneth!”
Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons, sermon VII

Poetry, Relationships

Most Saturday Mornings

September 12, 2010

I awake to the creak of the floor above my bed
and the drifting smell of coffee, and my mind carries me backward;
it’s seven years ago, a Saturday, with my father moving before anyone else.
Moving, listing out the days work with his cracking hands
on the small notepad he always carries. He scribbles, glances,
nods solemnly, and returns to writing as I tread
quietly up the stairs, dressed in clothes for work
because we don’t sleep in, except on Sundays, when he doesn’t drink coffee.
“God made man to labor for his bread,” he always said,
sipping from the cracked cup, examining the notebook, and thinking.
I remember seven years ago when we never slept in, except for Sundays.
That is, until the morning father wrote a note
and not a list, leaving it beside his steaming cup
looking back through closing the door as I came up,
and moving solemnly on.

Prose

Give yourselves no rest, oh men of God!

June 22, 2009

“The Lord your God has given you this land to possess. All your men of valor shall cross over armed before your brothers, the people of Israel…until the Lord gives rest to your brothers, as to you, and they also occupy the land the Lord your God has promised them beyond the Jordan. Then each of you may return to his possession which I have given you.”

– Deuteronomy 3:18-20

Here Moses is relating to a new generation of Israelites what has transpired since their miraculous freeing from Egypt,. Finally, after over four decades in the desert the nation is preparing to enter the promised land. However, the Ruebenites and the Gadites have requested to stay behind in a land that they had already conquered, settling there with their families and livestock. Moses agrees, on the condition that all of the men of fighting age stay with the rest of Israel until they had defeated the tribes within the promised lands. The Ruebenites and the Gadites agree.

In these few verses (and the earlier relation of the same story in Numbers chapter 32) I see a principle that is both extremely relevant and extremely neglected in Christianity today; that of our obligation to serve and assist our fellow believers. We are not to rest until our brothers and sisters in Christ have found a rest and peace of their own. As God declares in Isaiah 62, “You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” So are we to do today, to devote ourselves to working every meaning of the word to establish our brothers and sisters in Christ.

It is not necessarily that we are to send our young men off to join with other believers in hostile territory (though it very well may be so in some cases, and I would say that if that never happens something is very wrong) but that we are not to give ourselves to lounging and pleasure and entertainment when there are others who have no such luxuries.

What massive significance this has in our western cultures! Our tendency is so much towards slothfulness and rest in the face of the fact that thousands of Christians are struggling to survive with little or no food as we sit in the movie theaters with our $5 large popcorn, $4 drinks, and candy. Such a thought should horrify us. Not only should it horrify us with its blatant lack of care for others, but it should also strike terror into our hearts when we read what the Lord declares to such a country in the book of Amos, when he says,

“You lie on beds inlaid with ivory

and lounge on your couches.

You dine on choice lambs

and fattened calves.

You strum away on your harps like David

and improvise on musical instruments.

You drink wine by the bowlful

and use the finest lotions,

but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.

Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile;

your feasting and lounging will end.”

(Amos 6:4-7)

Do those words not describe us? Oh, surely we are a people who lounge about and dine upon the choicest of foods! Think of the hundreds of new musicians every day who seek only their own glory and fame, of the numerous people who have given their lives to drinking, caring for their appearance, and seeking only their own satisfaction, completely ignoring the ruin that coats the earth.

Are there any “men of valor” among us? If so, let them rise up and go before their brothers and sisters, laying down their lives “until the Lord gives rest” to them. This faith of ours is not one that sits idly by and watches as the earth spins, declaring that God shall do what must be done. Far from it! Ours is a faith that calls men to rise from their comfort and go, in complete dependence upon God, into the darkest and most wretched parts of the world, bringing with them the full glory of the Gospel. Come, oh men of God. Give yourselves no rest until the Lord should establish His kingdom in full! Cast off the hours of television after getting home from work. Throw away the video games and fishing poles and sports and hobbies that keep you from the work of the Lord. Do not seek to surround yourself with comfort and settle in the place which the Lord has given you until He has also established comfort and peace for those who also bear His name.

Then how sweet shall the rest be as we come before that final throne to hear God himself rise and declare “Well done, my sons! You have fought the good fight and won the race.” Is not an evening’s rest much better after a heavy day’s work? Shall not the rest of heaven be infinitely more potent if we have given ourselves to that heavy work here in this life? Do not hold back! The Lord shall reward those who do as He desires, as Paul writes, “God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life.” (Romans 2:6-7)

Poetry

Misery Business

February 19, 2009

A slotted afternoon, again
as I walk
through rain
downtown to the place where I once kissed
her eyelids, as she brushed my chin.

Down, to where people run, uncaring
without a thought of things that breathe,
things like love, and misery,
trees, and children,
all laughing at their play.

And I walk through the cut-out spot
into the office, where I’ll lose myself
in work and work and work and shame,
much like the papers
stacked in their hungry waiting
for me to take the pen
and write out a live’s story
that I’ve never really known.

Then, nine and three-quarter hours later
back out through the hole
into more gray and slanting rain,
then home, back to where she once was
and I once loved
to be.