Who You Work For Shouldn’t Affect How Hard You Work

When I was in college I had a couple of professor’s that I really worked hard for. First, because they expected a lot and graded “hard,” but second, because I respected them. I wanted to earn their respect.

On the other hand, there were a few classes that I took outside my major that I didn’t value at all. One class, in particular, was a complete joke. The professor was a push over. Few assignments were graded and our final exam was open note.

Since I didn’t respect the professor or the set up of the course, I didn’t work hard. In fact, I hardly worked. I didn’t do the weekly reading—I didn’t even buy the book. I took few notes in class, but put together enough of a study sheet to coast through the final exam and still receive an “A.”

Two different kinds of professors, two different work ethics.

Yet, while the grades were the same, the learning was not.

Wait a minute—isn’t that what college is supposed to be about? Learning? Not grades. Not the respect of respected professors—but my learning.

In 1 Peter 2:18, the apostle instructs Christian slaves to submit to their masters and serve them with all respect, essentially, whether they deserve it or not.

18 Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.”

Peter is not condoning or condemning slavery, he’s simply shepherding believers who happen to be slaves. His instruction to slaves is an example of a specific application to the exhortations he has already given in verses 12 and 17, where he instructs believers to live “such good lives among the pagans” and to “show proper respect to everyone.”

Peter says, submit to your masters and serve them whether they deserve your respect or not. Whether they mistreat you or not.

How might we apply this passage to our lives today?

We must look for a universal principle that can be applied to a myriad of contexts:

Who you work for shouldn’t affect how hard you work.

If that’s your boss, your customer, your teacher. Whether or not they are competent, arrogant or abusive.

As Paul said in Colossians 3:23 (when he addressed slaves), “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

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Aliens, Strangers & Jesus Freaks

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jesus freakWhen I was growing up, I was a little bit like a chameleon. I took on slightly different personalities depending on who I was around. I appeared different, depending upon where I was. I tried to “blend in” to my surroundings, because I wanted to fit in.

Motivated by my insecurities, I spent a lot of time pretending to be someone I wasn’t. One of the dangers, though, is that if you pretend long enough, you start to morph into that person you are pretending to be.

No doubt the worst environment I was in was on the bus to and from school. The Bus offers a unique educational “opportunity” as kids of all ages, Kindergarten up to 12th grade, are concentrated in close quarters, supervised only by a singular adult who, by the way, has to maneuver this monstrosity through traffic (many times in bad weather) and has to execute the bus route.

As a result, conversations go unmonitored, and kids openly talk about all kinds of things they shouldn’t. Not only is the content of conversation, so is the way that kids talk to one another. Put-downs, threats, cursing, etc. Kids try to act tough, they try to act more grown up than they are, and they certainly don’t want to come off as weak or juvenile.

So, when I was on the bus, that’s the way I acted. I talked about things I didn’t really know anything about. I talked a big talk, I tried my best to present myself as a tough guy, and as a result said a lot of mean things to people to try to fit in. In my mind it was a “dog eat dog” world and I needed to act like a dog to survive.

But the reality was that I didn’t fit in, at least, I shouldn’t have. That’s not who I was. But it was who I was becoming. See, instead of being true to myself, I started to change who I was to fit into the mold of that environment.

In the book of 1 Peter, Peter is addressing a group of believers who are struggling to fit in. They have been marginalized by society, they are beginning to experience persecution. As a result, Peter addresses them as “aliens and strangers.” However, this designation isn’t merely descriptive… its actually prescriptive.

1 Peter 2:11 says, Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits.

Peter exhorts them to live as aliens and strangers. He invites them to embrace this identity. He doesn’t want them to “fit in” with the rest of society…he wants them to stand out!

Peter’s address for these Christians as “aliens and strangers” is akin to the DC Talk song from way back in 1995, “Jesus Freak.” The lyrics ask:

What will people think when they hear that I’m a Jesus Freak?

What will people do when they find out its true?

I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus Freak.

There ain’t no disguising the truth.

Just like Peter did with “aliens and strangers,” DC talk took something that was a derogative term, “Jesus Freak,” and embraced it.

Pay Attention

As my wife can attest, I’m not the most observant person in the world. Case in point…While we were dating, we attended a small country church, that probably averaged around 20-25 each week. One Sunday morning I got up in the middle of the service to use the restroom during the singing. When I returned I walked down the aisle, found my wife-to-be, stood next to her, and resumed singing. There was just one problem–I wasn’t standing next to my wife! In fact, I had walked past my wife into the pew in front, and stood next to another young lady of similar size and almost identical hair (and, ironically, had the same first name). It just so happened that this young lady grew up in this church, so her entire family had a good laugh at my expense. Actually, there were probably only a few there that day who didn’t witness my blunder!

The Author of Hebrews warns us of the importance of paying attention, though the stakes are much higher than suffering a little embarrassment.

In Hebrews 2:1, he writes:

“1 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

These verses serve as an exhorting conclusion for everything he had written in chapter one, where he wrote about how God is now speaking to us through His Son. In the past God spoke to us through the prophets, but now it is through the Son of God himself (1:1)! Just as this mediator between God and man is superior to all other mediators (prophets, angels, priests), his message and his ministry is superior to theirs as well!

Therefore, we must pay more careful attention! As Hebrews 3:12-14 says:

12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

Men & Women Wanted For Hazardous Journey

Being a Christian is a dangerous endeavor—or at least it should be. When I read the Words of Jesus as he both calls and sends disciples, I am astonished at what he demands.

He invites Peter and Andrew to “Come, be fishers of men” (Matt 4). He turns away followers who have business to settle before they can fully commit to following Jesus. When someone else offers to be his disciple he responds with: “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but I don’t have anywhere to lay my head” (Matt 8; Luke 9).

Perhaps the strongest statement Jesus makes about discipleship is this: “If anyone would be my disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24). The invitation is to come and die. The expectation is sacrifice. The path of discipleship is a dangerous one.

I saw this ad floating around the internet a few years back that has really impacted me. Legend has it that Ernest Shackleton published this ad when looking for men to accompany him on his exploration of Antarctica in the 1910s. I can’t help but think that his invitation is truer to Jesus’ call to discipleship than some of the ways we often extend that call today.

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”

 

New Clothes, New Song

Newness
There is something energizing about “new.”

I bet some of you got some new clothes for Christmas this year. Doesn’t it just feel good to wear new clothes? They fit just right…they haven’t shrunk in the dryer, the colors are vibrant and full from not being overly washed. A new shirt is a new look. And a new look makes you feel like a “new you.”

Newness means energy. Newness inspires hope and optimism. Newness brings passion and enthusiasm.

Sing a New Song
I believe this is the reason we find in the Scriptures the exhortation to “Sing a New Song” to the Lord.

We are exhorted to have this sort of newness in our worship for the Lord.

Newness means energy. Newness inspires hope and optimism. Newness brings passion and enthusiasm.

“Singing a new song to the Lord” means bringing a freshness and an enthusiasm to our worship. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we literally sing a new song (though that can sometimes promote freshness in worship), it just means that we pursue the Lord’s exaltation with an exuberance and renewed passion that is appropriate for an incredible God who continues to do marvelous things.

In fact, that seems to be the reason given by the Psalmist for our renewed worship. Psalm 98:1 says, “Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things!”

The eternal God who is living and active, who continues to reveal Himself to His people while demonstrating his infinite greatness, is worthy of a worship that is vibrant, alive and new.

We cannot come to the Lord with songs that are stale and stagnant. Let us sing a new song before the Lord our God!

Knowing Vs. Doing

Chuck Swindoll illustrates knowing vs. doing….

Let’s play ‘Let’s Pretend’. Let’s pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. I’m the owner and I’m interested in expanding overseas. To pull this off, I make plans to travel abroad and stay there until a new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family and move to Europe for six to eight months. And I leave you in charge of the busy stateside organization. I tell you that I will write you regularly and give you directions and instructions. I leave and you stay. Months pass. A flow of letters are mailed from Europe and received by you at the national headquarters. I spell out all my expectations.

Finally, I return. Soon after my arrival, I drive down to the office and I am stunned. Grass and weeds have grown up high. A few windows along the street are broken. I walk into the Receptionist’s room. She is doing her nails, chewing gum and listening to her favorite disco station. I look around and notice the wastebaskets are overflowing. The carpet hasn’t been vacuumed for weeks, and nobody seems concerned that the owner has returned. I asked about your whereabouts and someone in the crowded lounge area points down the hall and yells, “I think he’s down there.” Disturbed, I move in that direction and bump into you as you are finishing a chess game with our sales manager. I ask you to step into my office, which has been temporarily turned into a television room for watching afternoon soap operas.”What in the world is going on, man?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, look at this place! Didn’t you get any of my letters?””Letters? Oh yes! Sure! I got every one of them. As a matter of fact, we have had a letter study every Friday since you left. We have even divided the personnel into small groups to discuss many of the things you wrote. Some of the things were really interesting. You will be pleased to know that a few of us have actually committed to memory some of your sentences and paragraphs. One or two memorized an entire letter or two – Great stuff in those letters.”

“OK. You got my letters. You studied them and meditated on them; discussed and even memorized them. But what did you do about them?”

“Do? We didn’t do anything about them.”

SOURCE: Improving Your Serve, Chuck Swindoll

Breaking the Cycle of Violence

My wife worked in a domestic violence shelter for 5 years. During that time she had many eye opening experiences. She also learned quite a bit about domestic violence.

Some of the statistics that she has passed on to me are mind boggling. If my wife wasn’t a social worker, I wouldn’t believe them. They don’t sound possible, but she not only received them in training, but she experienced them first hand.

A division of the CDC conducted an exhaustive study a few years back where they surveyed women. What they found was shocking.

  • 1 in 5 women reported being raped, or having someone attempt to rape them.
  • 1 in 4 reported being physically abused by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 6 women reported being stalked at one point in time.

When you do the math, you realize that the implications of those statistics means that there are women in your life that have been victimized in the past, or are currently being abused.

As shocking as that is, the statistic that blew me away is that, on average, it takes a person 7 attempts before they can successfully leave an abusive relationship.

As my wife would talk with the general public, that is what was so hard for them to understand.

Why don’t they just leave?

Why does she keep going back to Him?

I thought she was getting her life back together, she was doing so well, and now she’s back with him again?

Unfortunately my wife witnessed it first-hand in the five years she spent at the shelter. She saw the same women come back. Some because they went back to their abuser, others because they got involved with another abusive person. There were countless women who dropped charges on their abusers.

These are women who have risked a lot by filing charges, leaving their homes, spending a month in a shelter and trying to start a new life….so why do they go back?

There are a lot of reasons, but the bottom line is that these abusers have incredible power over these women. Even after they have essentially broken free, some women make a choice to return to those harmful relationships.

Many of these women have been oppressed so much that they almost don’t know how to function in an environment of freedom. The psychological and emotional damage that has been done is something we can’t fathom. We can’t comprehend choosing to go back to an environment of abuse, but some of them can’t comprehend any other way of life.

They have to learn to live differently. They have to believe that something better is even possible. That’s what social work is all about—showing new possibilities to the broken and hurting…replacing the lies that they have been told with truth.

The oppressiveness of sin works similarly in the life of a believer.

(Unlike the men and women who have experienced domestic violence, we are not victims. The comparison I am making is in the difficulty of LEAVING an oppressive environment, not what got us into that environment in the first place. We are responsible for initiating the oppressive environment sin creates while Domestic Violence victims were dragged forcibly into the oppressive environment they have the challenge of trying to leave.)

We’ve tried to break free of sin’s grip before and failed. We’ve tried to leave more than 7 times, yet we keep placing ourselves under its power.

Sin, our oppressor, has only the power we allow it to have…but we have to learn a different way to live.

It has damaged us psychologically and emotionally, so it is hard for us to believe that there is a new and better possibility. It’s almost like we don’t know how to live in an environment of freedom.

Upon further review, we know exactly what it’s like to choose oppression over freedom.

Our only hope is to allow God’s truth to penetrate the lies that we have believed, and His compassionate hand to heal our brokenness.

That’s why, like Jesus says in John 8:32, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

The immediate context makes it clear that Jesus is talking about the oppressiveness of sin. Verse 34 says:

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The “truth that sets free” is a truth that energizes us to believe in a new way to live–a life devoid of sin’s deceitfulness and pitfalls. The “truth that sets free” is a truth that heals the self-inflicted wounds we can trace back to our sinful behavior.

Contrary to the way our culture often uses the phrase, “The truth shall set you free” has nothing to do with the pressures you feel while you are keeping a secret, or even the relief you experience when you “fess up” and deal with your guilt. “The truth shall set you free” has everything to do with being liberated from the oppressiveness of sin through the Kingdom Living Jesus taught us about.