Tag Archives: re-creation

Labor Day: You matter. What you do matters.

A few thoughts on Labor Day to answer a common question: Can I do the job I am supposed to do, can I think as I am supposed to think as defined by my employer and still be a Christian?  Can I dare to serve Jesus without reserve and still have a normal job?

Yes. When we do our regular duties, they are made holy because God is with us in the process and we are in God’s world. We don’t do anything that does not matter. No matter what person or institution claims to own us, we know better; we are children of God.

We can go to work and receive whatever comes as full of possibilities. For from [Christ] and through him and to him are all things (Romans 11:36).

On the active side, we can do whatever we are doing at the moment to God’s glory, meaning we do it as an act or service, or obedience, or hope, or whatever. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

How can I be a Christian at work? Part of it has to do with how you see work. Are you God’s at work? Do you do your work with God in mind? Do you see the workplace like God does? It all makes a huge difference.

In Christ, work is no longer a necessary evil. It is now an opportunity, just like everything else.  “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17). The work doesn’t make me who I am, I make the work serve my deepest purposes, no matter what it is. I can be who I am in it.

Jesus is who he is in his work! When he was doing his work, he never “went to work.” All the various things he did were about being who he is and doing what gave him opportunity. Christ did everything his Father commanded until he could honestly say, “It is finished” on the cross. “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work(John 4:34-5)…. “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:19-21).

Does Jesus live to work or work to live? He does both. He was born to do his work. And he says he is fed by the work he does. We are called to share that ongoing work of re-creation in every generation. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world (John 17:18 ). When we show up at our jobs, our cells, our PM Team rehearsal, our work day on the community garden we’re there to honor God in what we do and in how we do it — or not.

Three general ideas on how to be a Christian at work

Let your life speak

Go to work tomorrow or next month or next year and do your absolute best. Be the best employee, the best manager, the best counter person you can be. Be known as the most honest, most humble, most ethical, most competent person in your field. And do all that not to merely advance your own career, but to advance God’s fame. It makes every day worth living.

If you desperately want to make a difference in life, but you have a habit of not showing up to work on time, or you don’t return calls or complete assignments, people will not think God looks that great, probably, should you ever reveal you know Jesus. Being a slovenly worker is why some people never mention Jesus at work; they expect to give Jesus a bad name.

At the same time, don’t get crazy, thinking your work is all Jesus has going for him. But even though the Lord is not relying totally on your perfection, you matter — and you have the same job as Jesus! He probably would not have been a pastor or missionary the way we think of them; he probably would have been more like you. He probably would have worked at Target or Starbucks, since he would inevitably meet everyone on the planet there.

Look forward to problems

You might know some way-too-happy Christians who go to work thinking that since they love Jesus, everything is going to work out. It’s not. You might miss your quota. You might lose a client. You might get fired. You might have tensions with your boss or your co-workers. These things don’t mean that Jesus doesn’t love you or that God isn’t on your side or that God is punishing you for that sin you can’t forget. The problems are just the inevitable result of living in a sin-ridden world; thorns infest the ground. Work doesn’t always work the way it should. So have a big idea of how you are a re-creator with God but be realistic about sin, too. Jesus hasn’t come back yet.

Every problem is an opportunity to rely on Jesus to redeem it. Problems are what keep us redeemers in business. So if you work with problem people in a problematic place that might be the best of all possible worlds for the redemption project. If your work is hard, that might be an advantage to your deeper purposes.

Keep the Sabbath

Rest is crucial to work. Rest is the ying to the yang of action. It is part of how we work. I’m not talking about the bifurcated idea of work-life balance, or work and leisure. That’s one of those binary descriptions of things that got popular in the 1800s and we have not shaken off the definitions yet. We have a calling that is 24/7 and we express ourselves in various ways. We might rest from our labor, but that does not mean we are not generally at work. We don’t find ourselves in our leisure and do work to pay for it.

Resting is elemental to working and working is elemental to resting. Without rest we do not work right, without work we don’t rest right. Most of us are so tied up in our music, video, e-mail, social networks, entertainment, texts and general busyness that we tend to forget the art of resting. Maybe the best thing we can do for ourselves, for our employer, for our careers, and for the glory of God is to set apart one day in our week when we unplug — when the cell phone is off, when we don’t check email, when we take a really long nap, when we worship and pray, when we take a walk or watch a sunset.

If your work obligations don’t permit a 24-hour period of rest every week, then consider taking a personal day every month for solitude and silence and rest. Why wouldn’t you? Your co-workers will take personal days when a pet dies or when a girlfriend breaks up with them or when they are hung over from a long weekend. We don’t need to feel guilty for taking one day out of every 30 to refresh our souls through intimate communion with God.

God is with us in the process and we are in God’s world. We don’t do anything that does not matter. No matter what person or institution claims to own us, we know better; we are children of God. So here’s my blessing for you on Labor Day: Therefore, my beloved [family], be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Posers

Foolish people should not be proud
And rulers should not be liars!
(Proverbs 17:7, International Children’s Bible)

Paul told me, the other night during a marathon and often-hilarious Coordinators meeting, that Peter Weir imported Croatian fishermen to be the ship’s crew when he filmed Master and Commander because Americans cannot look natural on film. The Croatians would actually ignore being filmed and look like real people, whereas Americans are always aware of the camera and visbily change when they sense one. We have apparently bred “posing” into our children. It is instinctual now.

Therefore, conforming to the wisdom of the proverb above can be tough. We’re unconfortable with who we are. Turn on the camera and we lie. We are not ourselves, we are an image. One of the first things we learn as a baby is to pose. By the time we enter college we have mastered being a resume. If we drop out of that nonsense we form a band or an emergent church and strike an anti-pose pose.

One would think that Christians would rejoice in being saved from the damnation of living as a piece of imagination and be real. One would think that we would be content with being exposed as foolish and would stop being proud as a means to cover up our emptiness. Jesus, the great I AM, graced us with the freedom to be who we truly are, just like he IS.

We are not always that happy. We think life is like God, the great parent, pointing a heavenly camera at us all day and we are uncomfortably trying to smile. We bring a friend up the stairs to worship and we can’t help warning them that what we do is “kind of weird,” since we’re sure it probably won’t look right.

Maybe this goes double for the leaders. Like the proverb says, they should not be the chief liars: posing for their audience and performing Christianity for them, acting like the paparazzi are looking for them all the time so they’d better keep their clothes on. If the leaders lie like that, they teach everyone else to lie, and the whole church is less an incarnation of the Spirit of truth and just another film clip.

I know this is on my mind because I watched Bosnian and Serbian TV last week. Their airwaves were filled with American TV or knock-offs. (The knock-offs were the best). I didn’t realize that our country’s main export is probably brilliantly-produced images: Mickey Mouse, CSI (and every other crime show), John Wayne films (they have TCM). And I even ran into the Gaithers beaming themselves into Sarajevo.

Let’s be real. We may be foolish people, but we are saved foolish people. Tell them, “Yes, our meetings might seem weird to you; talk to Jesus about it — he’s OK with what we’ve got, honestly shared.”

Mustard Seed Faith

Recently a friend of mine got me thinking about faith-as-small-as-a-mustard-seed moving mountains because we sing:

Si tuvieras fe como grano de mostaza
Eso lo dice el Senor
Tu le dirias a la montana
Muevete, muevete
Esa montana se movera, se movera, se movera

 Shouldn’t this song come with a warning label? Something like: “We don’t really think this is true?” Or “No mountains were injured in the writing of this song?”

A mustard seed amount is more than enough

Why does Jesus say, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20) if He doesn’t really mean it?

mustard seed faith

That’s a good question. It is an especially good question if you were taught all your life that the Bible was feeding you the kind of truth that the philosophy of our day considers truth, namely, that truth is something you can test and see repeated when you try it again. If the formula says mountains will be moved and they aren’t moved, then it is not a true formula. Sometimes such thinking claims to be about “literal” truth, like truth is whatever gets written down and can be proved by someone else with the same methodology. I think Jesus speaks a deeper truth than that surface truth.

But Matthew 17 is very confusing for “literalists.” I feel their pain. First Jesus is up on the Mount of Transfiguration revealing to his inner circle that there is just a thin veil between His Father’s dimension and our own — but also reveals the dimensions to be very different. Then he announces his impending resurrection. Then they come down the mountain and he completes an exorcism that his other disciples could not do. And why can’t they do it? They don’t have enough faith. It is a wild chapter.

Live in Matthew 17 until you change your mind

Perhaps we should live in Matthew 17 until we understand it and stop basing our ideas of faith on things we can already understand and do, like being nice, or applying moral principles or acting on a stripped-down methodology that passes for being forgiven of our sins. (I digress…with hope in my heart).

Many people come away from what Jesus says about not having enough faith looking for a formula for getting enough faith. But I think the whole point of his statement is not about what we lack, it is about what we don’t lack. He is ultimately being very positive — realistic about us, but full of hope. Yes, Jesus is as frustrated as we are that we have less spiritual capability than we ought to. But even if we rely on Him just a little, his work of death and resurrection allows even the little faith we have to do things that were previously unimaginable.

When I sing, “Muevete!” I am expressing my hope in Jesus, not taking on the ultimate challenge to prove Jesus worthy of worship by my miraculous excavating. Obviously, Jesus is not rearranging the planet for his convenience, either, so he must not mean for us to look for faith that is mustard-seed size somewhere in our inner being and prove his validity as a Savior and our value as followers by moving Mt. Everest to Beijing. Some people give up on the Bible because that isn’t happening and say, “The Book just plain contradicts itself!” But I wish they’d soak in it long enough to see what’s really happening.

Resist reducing. Surrender to adult faith.

When there is a surface meaning that isn’t working for us, we do need to argue it out until we can receive its deeper content:

  1. Ignoring or reducing things we can’t understand keeps us infantile.
  2. Being content to endlessly argue keeps us adolescent.
  3. Working with the risen Lord to experience something of what his inner circle did on the Mt. of Transfiguration is adult and better.

Rather than focusing on how mountains are not literally moved, or on “how much faith is enough to cast out a demon,” I think we should rejoice in what the-little-faith-we-have has done in us and through us that would have been unimaginable without it.

For instance, that we should believe any parts of Matthew 17 as true must be an act of God-with-us. That we want to ponder and even argue about who Jesus is and what he did surely could only be the Spirit of God drawing us. That we know we are forgiven and destined for an eternity of connection with our creator is a big change. That we care whether we have enough faith to make a difference is a conviction only a Spirit-changed heart would have. That people continue to be comforted, saved from self-destruction, and energized to foment justice and hope by their faith in Jesus is just what Jesus was predicting, wouldn’t you say?

Not satisfied without a mountain being moved? I am not sure you are respecting the faith that causes such discontent, but who knows what will happen next?