Confession’s Incredible Benefits

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If you’re like me that are times when you pray, but hear nothing; read the Bible, but get nothing out of it; go to church, but experienced nothing; seek the presence of God, yet he seems distant.

Why?

The reason, at least for me, is a simple yet profound truth: Confession precedes worship. Communion with God is preceded by confession before God. God is a holy God and anyone coming into his presence must rid himself of sin. God has never demanded perfection, but he has expected honesty. And, if I wanted to engage his presence, I had to come out of hiding to acknowledge my sin.

God despises sin and God deals with sin. Before engaging in authentic worship, there had to be honest hearts. Before celebration comes confession. Holiness precedes happiness.

Confession is being honest about who we are.

To confess means to admit or concede. It involves stripping away layers of disguise to expose what is really at the center of who we are. Confession is the discipline of making an honest appraisal of ourselves.

Honest appraisals aren’t very fun, but they are very revealing.

Confession begins with God.

We need to view sin as God views it. God doesn’t measure our sin against someone else. God sees sin as a rebellion against his authority, as despising his Person, and as defiance of his law. W. S. Plummer said, “We never see sin aright until we see it as against God. . . . All sin is against God in this sense: that it is his law that is broken, his authority that is despised, his government that is set at naught. . . .” It is not the size of the sin but the majesty and holiness of God that makes our sin so grievous in his sight.

Such a view leads one to honest confession.

Confession prepares the soul for the seed of God’s presence.

Confession is like preparing the ground for a planting a crop. Think of your soul as soil. God’s presence is the seed. Confession is removing the debris of sin so the presence of God can grow.

The big sins are easy to see, but hard to move. It is the bad habit that is hard to break. The unlovely attitude that goes down deep in our conscience. The hurtful actions that have been repeated so often that it is engrained in the fiber of the flesh. The addiction that controls the body. The smaller sins are easier to move but take a lot longer. The unkind word. The lying. The cheating. The gossiping. The gluttony.

Confession becomes the bridge over which we can walk back into the presence of God.

Remember Adam and Eve. The first man and woman enjoyed constant communion with God. They were without sin and without shame. Then they ate the fruit and sin entered the world. First, they covered their bodies. Their nakedness no longer brought freedom but fear. Next, they hid in the bushes when God came near. Their rebellion left them ashamed and scared to face him. Their relationship was broken.

When God asked, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9 NIV). It was not for his benefit, but theirs. His question was not geographical, but relational. God knew exactly where they were.

Sin erects a fence while confession builds a bridge. Those who keep secrets from God keep their distance from God. Those who are honest with God draw near to God.

God wanted to find Adam and Eve, and you and me. No one desires to stay hidden. No one person can have contentment when secret sin is hidden in the recesses of his or her heart.

Confession liberates us from the guilt of sin.

Confession admits wrong and seeks forgiveness and grants freedom. It releases us from the burden of sin. It frees us. It liberates to a new life.

 

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Understanding Prayer’s Power

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The practice of prayer in a believer’s life is an incredible, virtually untapped power source. Prayer moves the hand of God. Prayer prevails. Prayer turns ordinary mortals into men and women of power. It is the key that unlocks the storehouse of God’s riches. It is the call that moves heaven to act on behalf of earth.

Prayer’s power is not merely communicating words with God, but communion with God himself. Does prayer really work? Actually, this is a bad question. Prayer is not a utilitarian practice aimed at achieving an accomplishment. Neither is prayer an exercise in which a person gets exactly what he asks for if he takes great care to state the request properly.

Prayer is communion with God. It is more than communication with God. Communication implies an exchange of words and logic. Often prayer consists of nonverbal outcries that are far more emotional than rational. The substance of prayer is communion with God—the act of being with God.

So, to ask if prayer works is to misunderstand the nature of the experience. It’s like asking, “Does love work?” or “What do you get out of talking to the one you love?”

In our communion with God we need not be preoccupied with logistics, language, or locale. We need only to speak to God with absolute candor and a total lack of inhibition. Prayer is an invitation to speak to the One who loves us beyond measure. Prayer does not lead to an experience with God, prayer is an experience with God.

Prayer’s power does not depend on the one who makes the prayer, but on the one who hears the prayer. We live in a loud world. To get someone’s attention is no easy task. He must turn down the radio, turn away from the monitor, turn the corner of the page and set down the book. When someone is willing to silence everything else so he can hear us clearly, it is a privilege. A rare privilege, indeed.

But God is different. He listens. You can talk to God because God listens. Your voice in heaven matters. He takes you very seriously. When you enter his presence, he turns to hear your voice. Even if you stammer or stumble over words, even if what you have to say impresses no one, it impresses God—and he listens.

He listens to the painful plea of the elderly in the rest home. He listens to the gruff confession of the death-row inmate. When the alcoholic begs for mercy, when the spouse seeks guidance, when the businessman steps off the street into the chapel, God listens.

There are not a lot of things in this world you can count on. But this one thing you can count on: God hears your prayers.

Prayer’s power does not depend on telling God what is on our hearts, but on us asking what is on his heart. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask that God’s will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. When we seek what’s on God’s heart our prayers get answered. A good exercise is to examine Jesus’ prayer in John 17. Reading his prayer gives us a glimpse of what is important to him. It reveals what’s on his heart.

Prayer’s power is to join God, not God joining us. The power of prayer is to rearrange us, not us to rearrange God. The power of prayer is to ask what is on God’s heart, not us telling God what is on our hearts. The power of prayer is its ability to adjust us not us adjusting God.

Prayer’s power is unleashed not by our eloquence, but by our hurt. God is moved more by the hurt and pain in our hearts than by the eloquence of the words from our mouths.

Never forget that God is a father. And as a father he is moved by the hurts of his people. He responds. That’s what fathers do.

Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference. Since the power of prayer is moved by our hurts and not by our eloquence, our prayers arouse the forces of heaven to come to our aid.

 

 

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6 Ways to Deal with a Critic

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Critics are everywhere. The manager of the Cleveland Indians, Tris Speaker, said of Babe Ruth: “He made a great mistake when he gave up pitching.” Jim Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired Elvis Presley after a 1954 performance and said, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.” The president of Decca Records said of the Beatles in 1962, “We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out.”

Whatever your feelings toward criticism, don’t expect to miss out. No matter how hard you work, how great your ideas, or how wonderful your talent, you probably will be the object of criticism. No one is exempt. Well, maybe you can evade it, but there is a catch. Aristotle said, “Criticism is something you can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

Maybe you face criticism at work, at home, or at school. Your boss nit-picks, your coworker second-guesses, your business partner points out the flaws, your friends see only the bad, and your family members take pride in pointing out your mistakes.

The nature of a critic can be identified as follows: One, critics resist change. The heart of the habitual critic resists change. To the critic, change is a threat. Two, critics run with critics. Critics have a “herd” mentality. They function as a group. Three, critics demoralize. They seek to suck the life out of a vision and the heart out of a willing worker.

How can one deal with the critic? Here are some powerful action steps to take.

Evaluate the criticism.

Since criticism is inevitable, we must measure the value or worth of the criticism. This step requires great self-control that prevents us from becoming impatient and defensive.  Someone said, “Patience is the ability to let your light shine after your fuse has blown!”

Ask yourself if the criticism is true or false. Take an honest look at yourself.  If the criticism is valid, do something about it.  Sometimes the best course of action is to respond to criticism and learn from it.  If the criticism is invalid, forget it.  Sometimes the best course of action is to completely ignore it.

A. W. Tozer wrote, “Never fear criticism. If the critic is right, he has helped you. If he is wrong, you can help him. Either way, somebody gets helped.”

Pray about the criticism.

Once you weigh the criticism, play it down and pray it up. Instead of turning it over and over again in your mind, turn it over to God. Take the criticism to God in prayer.

When we are criticized, we need to talk to God about the critic and the criticism. A song we sang as teenagers had the line, “You can talk about me whenever you please, but I’ll talk about you when I’m on my knees.” Chuck Swindoll wrote, “You are never more successful than when you are on your knees in prayer: The saint who advances on his knees need never retreat because prayer provides an invincible shield.”

Stay at the task.

Critics demoralize. Leaders encourage. It’s easy to give up when criticized. But we need to persist.

Calvin Coolidge wrote, “Press on. Nothing can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are overwhelmingly powerful.”

Use the criticism to motivate.

We need to use the criticism as a motivation to bigger and better things. Winston Churchill wrote, “Kites rise highest against the wind.” The wind of criticism enables some to rise to new heights, new potentials, and new strengths.

Keep your dream alive.

There are times when criticism does not lie down—it intensifies. In such situations, keeping the dream alive calls for an intensified response.

Perhaps the deadliest poison of criticism comes when it is aimed toward one’s aspirations. Years ago, the sister of an innovative college professor suffered from a hearing deficiency. In the midst of building a device to help her hear better, he invented an unusual contraption. After many years of trial and error and eventual success, the professor was ready to take the device into production. He traveled extensively to gain financial backing for his dream. But everywhere he went, potential supporters laughed at his idea that the human voice could be carried along a wire. The professor could have allowed his critics to discourage him. He could have given up, but he didn’t. And nobody laughs at Alexander Graham Bell today.

Don’t allow your critics to snuff out your dreams.

Know that time answers a lot of criticism.

Time and success has a way of erasing a lot of criticism.

Colonel George Washington Goethals, the man responsible for the completion of the Panama Canal, had big problems with the climate and the geography. But his biggest challenge was the growing criticism back home from those who predicted he’d never finish the project.

Finally, a colleague asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer those critics?”

“In time,” answered Goethals.

“When?” his partner asked.

“When the canal is finished.”

In the end, remember they don’t build statutes to the critic. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

 

 

 

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The Benefits of Waiting

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No one likes to wait. But we wait in traffic, in car pool lines, in holding patterns, in grocery stores, for the foursome ahead of us, for the doctor, for a spouse, for a baby, for retirement, for sermons to get over, or for Jesus to return.

Waiting is not just something we have to do while we get what we want. Waiting is the process of becoming what God wants us to be. What God does in us while we wait is as important as what it is we are waiting for. Waiting, biblical waiting, is not a passive waiting around for something to happen that will allow us to escape our troubles. Waiting does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It is not a way to evade unpleasant reality.

Those who wait are those who work, because they know their work is not in vain. The farmer can wait all summer for his harvest because he has done his work of sowing the seed and watering the plants. Those who wait on God can go about their assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and conclusions to their lives and the harvest to their toil. Waiting is the confident, disciplined, expectant, active, and sometimes painful clinging to God. It knows that we will reap a reward.

Waiting on the Lord requires patient trust.

We live by the adage: Don’t just stand there, do something. While God often says to us: Don’t just do something, stand there.

Waiting means that we give God the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he is doing.

Waiting is God’s way of seeing if we will trust him before we move forward.

That trust is a patient trust. Whether it has to do with our relationships, our finances, our careers, our dreams, or our churches. We have to trust that God knows what he is doing.

Waiting on God reminds us that God is in control.

Sometimes people ask, “But what do I do while I’m waiting?” Good question. During those waiting times take on the active role of a watchman. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,” declared the Psalmist, “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning” (Psa. 130:5-6 NIV). In biblical times, watchmen vigilantly guarded the city. They watched for enemies who might attack at night, and they waited for the sun to come up. They were alert and obedient, ready to respond when needed. When called upon, they sprang into action. But on the other hand, watchmen didn’t make things happen. They didn’t control the rising of the sun. They couldn’t speed up the process of the dawning of a new day. A watchman knew the difference between his job and God’s job.

Waiting reminds me that I am not in charge. I’m the patient. I’m in the waiting room. In the real issues of life, I am not just waiting around—I am waiting on God; therefore, I can trust his wisdom and his timing. I’ve heard it said that the person who waits on God loses no time. I can wait with confidence. Because I am waiting for someone, and that someone is God.

Waiting reminds me that I am not God. As a man, I want to fix things. I want to fix my problems, my relationships, my conflicts, my career, and my church. Fixing and controlling situations and people is like trying to expedite the rising of the sun. From time to time I have to be reminded that I am not God (Aren’t you glad?). My job is to be a watchman. I need to have a watchman’s attitude: a confident and alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do.

Waiting on the Lord allows God to do his work.

Not only do I want to do God’s work, but also, I want to speed up his process. I understand that the father of the modern missionary movement, William Carey, waited seven years before his first convert in India. As did Adoniram Judson in Burma. As a pastor, I want to speed up the growth process of my church and its ministries. I see much that we could do and should be doing. I see many unmet needs. I see the hurts of people. I drive though neighborhoods and am bombarded at the thought of many people spending eternity without Christ. I have a vision from God to reach those people. And I want it to be a reality now. And I question God, “Why not now? Why not bring it to pass today?”

God’s timing is best. In the Old Testament book of Habakkuk, Habakkuk, the prophet was having similar questions. Using the watchtower motif, hear the dialogue between the prophet and God: “I will climb my watchtower now, and wait to see what answer God will give to my complaint. And the Lord said to me, ‘Write my answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell others. But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!’” (Hab. 2:1-3 LB).

God is working. During those times, we wait patiently on the Lord. We know that deep down he is working—while it may be underneath, hidden deep in our character. In due time, God will reveal everything he’s grown in us. Those who wait will never be put to shame. We will never be disappointed.

Waiting on God increases my strength.

Sometimes I struggle to remember that it’s good to wait for the Lord. It isn’t easy. It goes against the grain of our quick-fix society. But, there’s a hidden benefit in waiting. In times of waiting my soul is revived and spirit is renewed. Isaiah wrote, “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:31 NRSV). The time will come when those who wait on the Lord will soar.

God is the great mover. We are to push, to work. And if we wait, in patient trust, remembering that God is in control doing his work increasing our strength, we will experience the move of God on our lives.

In a dream, God told a man to go outside and push against a huge boulder in his front yard. So every morning for the next few weeks, the man went outside and strained against the rock. He pushed and groaned and prodded and shoved, but the rock never budged.

Finally, in a fit of exasperation the man fell to his knees and lifted his eyes to heaven. “What were you thinking, Lord? he cried, wiping sweat from his brow. “You told me to push this rock, and I’ve been pushing it for weeks, yet it has not moved an inch!”

A voice from heaven rumbled among the clouds, then whispered in the man’s ear. “I told you to push the stone,” God said, “I didn’t tell you to move it. I’m the only one who can move it, and when you’re ready, I will. By the way, look at your hands.”

The man looked at his hands. They had grown callused and tough with the work, and his arms bulged with muscles. Though his efforts seemed fruitless, he had grown strong; and now he was beginning to grow wise.

 

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When Cravings Are Out of Control

 

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For most of us we eat a little more than we should, and then we have a second helping. We don’t want to offend the cooks we say to ourselves. We let out our belts a notch or two. And, for goodness sake, we won’t even try buttoning our coat. We are consumed by food, physical looks, and dieting—the deadly sin of gluttony.

Contrary to popular opinion gluttony is not about overeating on Thanksgiving. Gluttony is not about appearance; it is an attitude. It is not about being overweight; it is overindulgence. It is not about recreational eating; it is rampant excess. It is not about too many external effects; it is a lack of internal balance.

Gluttony is misdirected hunger. It is the mad pursuit of the bodily pleasures that never completely satisfy. We connect it with the craving for food and this has been its primary expression. But the person who drinks or smokes too much is as gluttonous as the person who overeats. Not to mention the person who watches television excessively or stays on the computer into the wee hours of the night.

What is so bad with a little gluttony, anyway? It’s not one of the bad sins, like adultery or stealing. All gluttony does is make you soft and huggable. It’s the cute sin. So, what is the problem? The problem with gluttony is that it seeks to feed the soul with the body’s food. It can cause a person to become so full in their stomach they lose their appetite for God. It can cause a person to become so enamored in their mind they lose their thoughts for God. The gluttonous not only have a misdirected hunger; they have misplaced God. They pay homage to their appetites; their conspicuous consumption is their extravagant act of praise. Charles Buck described them as “their kitchen is their shrine, the cook their priest, the table their altar, and their belly their God.” They no longer eat to live; they live to eat.

Mastering gluttony is a tricky task, because you can never tell when you have arrived. Most sins you know whether or not you have mastered. The thief knows if he did not steal. The dishonest knows if she did not lie. The adulterer knows if he did not have the affair. With some sins, there is not much gray area. With gluttony, it is almost all gray. You cannot simply swear off eating. You’ve got to eat, so what do you do?

Feeding.
The gluttonous needs to be fed, or more precisely, to be fed by God. From Genesis to Revelation God is pictured as a caring Father who feeds his people. God feeds us. Safe in his pasture, we will not become food. The one who bids us come to the banquet will not devour us, he promises to feed us. But there is more; he does not feed us with the good things he has made, he feeds us his very self. It is this other bread we must learn to eat, not “bread alone” but the Word of God himself. Our whole lives consist of learning what he meant when he said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (John 4:32, NIV). Jesus bids us to his feast that binds hungry sinners together and links us to the One who alone can feed our souls.

Feasting.
Feasting isn’t gluttony. Gluttony is self-indulgent. Feasting is God-honoring. Gluttony has no perspective. Feasting keeps perspective. Gluttony is a solitary act that defeats community. Feasting is a social act that enhances community. Gluttony ignores God’s bounty. Feasting celebrates God’s blessings.

When the local church gathers for a banquet or a fellowship; it is not just a social event, it is a spiritual event. Feasting is a part of our Christian faith. The people of Israel were always feasting—celebrations of thanksgiving for what God had done. Jesus enjoyed feasting. Jesus was at home at feasts and banquets and parties. When believers come together they celebrate God’s goodness and mercy in their lives. During those times believers take their eyes off the appetites of the body and the desires of their lives to look at Christ and how they can serve him and his people.

Fasting.
Dieting is a modern phenomenon that the Bible says nothing about. In fact, dieting as it is known in western countries can merely be a substitute of one of the Seven Deadly Sins for another: forsaking gluttony, we fall into pride. Christians have, for a long time, wrestled with the temptation to misuse food, but the weapon they used wasn’t dieting. It was fasting.

Fasting is mentioned in scripture more times than even something as important as baptism. Notice Jesus’ words at the beginning of Mt. 6:16-17, “When you fast . . .” (Matt. 6:16 NIV). By giving us instructions on what to do and what not to do when we fast, Jesus assumes that believers will fast. The Bible defines fasting as a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. Fasting is Christian, for fasting by a nonChristian has no eternal value since the discipline’s motives and purposes are to be God-centered. Fasting is voluntary in the sense that it is not to be coerced. Fasting is more than just the ultimate crash diet for the body; it is abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. Fasting whets the appetite of the soul in hope of experiencing the grace and wonder of God.

If gluttony is misdirected hunger, then fasting is an expression of hungering and thirsting for spiritual food. Gluttony deadens spiritual hunger, numbs our appetite for soul food; fasting keeps us alive to what Jesus knew—“My food is to do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34 NIV).

A hunger and thirsting in our souls exists that food and drink can’t fill; and when we say “No!” to our appetites and “Yes!” to God we will discover a nourishment that strengthens and sustains our spirit.

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4 Questions to Ask of Your Work

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Sometimes we are not sure that our work, as legitimate and as spiritual as it may be, matters. We question the worth of our work, the significance of our job. For many of us we don’t pause long enough to consider some challenging questions about our work.

Why do I work?

Some people work for money. Others work for opportunity. Respect is another reason people work. But what happens when the money dries up? What happens when the opportunities halt? What if people don’t like you? What if there is a downturn or downsizing? What then?

The key to finding purpose and meaning in your job is connecting what you do all day with what you think God wants you doing. In fact, you will never find ultimate meaning in your work—or in your relationship with God until you do. Are you in the place where God wants you to be?

For whom am I working?

Are you working for a boss, your spouse, your family, or yourself? Or, are you working for God? If God is a worker and he calls us to be coworkers with him, then our work must be for him. All our work should be done for God. If not, we are wasting our lives. When we know that we are working for God, that our efforts bring us pleasure and honor God, then we are fruitful and fulfilled. We are performing the right job.

 Can you give all of your heart to your work?

Colin Powell learned a valuable lesson about work early in his life. While working at the Teamsters Hall on soft drink delivery trucks, Powell accepted a job as a porter at a Pepsi bottling plant, not knowing what a porter actually did. The first day on this new job, the future Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State was given a mop. He was determined to be the best mopper at the plant. At the end of the summer, the foreman who had watched Powell work during the summer complimented him on his hard work. The foreman offered him a better job for the next summer. Powell could have had a different attitude toward his menial job as a porter, but he was determined to do the best job even if he was not working at the best job. The lesson he learned was this: “All work is honorable. Always do your best, because someone is watching.”

We may not have the most glamorous or the best paying job in the world, but we can still give that job the best we have to offer. If we are coworkers with God, and God does his best, then we too must do our best.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

 Is it worth it?

As a Christian who works I receive not only a paycheck but also the promise of a heavenly reward far greater than any salary. Often, I hear from people who complain about their poor salaries and benefits. They often seek another job. It often hits me when talking to such people that no matter how little or how much I was paid today, it was nothing compared with the coming reward from God.

When we work for ourselves or for others, we have nothing beyond a paycheck and the material goods it can buy. These cannot ultimately satisfy. But for believers the thoughts of standing one day before Jesus and hearing him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Mat. 25:23 NIV) drives us on. That will be far greater than any Oscar, Pulitzer, Nobel, or Grammy prize that the world could offer.

Your Life's Work

 

Your LIFE’s Work: Finding Significance in Your Job is a free eBook that provides greater clarity and inspiration for why we should work and how we can glorify God through our work. You can claim you copy by clicking here and signing up for my weekly One Minute Uplifts.

 

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3 Reasons To Change the Way You Look at Work

 

 

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Dobie Gillies once said, “I don’t have anything against work. I just figure, why deprive somebody who really loves it.” In that comment rests a universal challenge: To put excitement and enjoyment into work, we first must be willing to work. The satisfaction, fun, and fulfillment we experience in work are benefits we can give ourselves.

Work is not something out of God’s concern. It is a major part of human life that God takes very seriously. Work has intrinsic value—it is inherently worth doing. Here are three reasons why we work.

 God is a Worker.

God first reveals himself in Scripture as a worker. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1 NIV). God calls this activity work. “By the end of the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing” (Gen. 2:2 NIV). God did not stop working after creation. He continues to work, upholding the creation, meeting the many needs of his creatures, and working out his purposes. And, of course, he accomplished the great work of atonement at the cross.

God is a worker. The fact that God calls what he does work and calls it good means that work must be significant, that it must have intrinsic value.

 God created people to be his coworkers.

Man was created in the image of God and since God is a worker, man—created in God’s image—must be a worker, too. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden” (Gen. 2:15 NIV). Man was created not to work for himself, but to work as a coworker with God. Starting in the Garden of Eden, we are partners with God. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes calls work “the gift of God” (Eccl. 3:13 NIV). David describes this partnership, assigning dignity and value to man as God’s coworkers. “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet” (Psa. 8:5-6 NIV).

Created in God’s image, we do something very Godlike when we work. Not only is God’s work significant; human work is significant, too. God ordains work. All legitimate work is an extension of God’s work. Legitimate work is that work that somehow contributes to what God wants done in the world.

 The Bible does not differentiate between secular and sacred work.

We must shelf the idea that secular vocation is a step-child to sacred calling. We must purge our minds of such notions as “full-time Christian service” and “secular careers.”

William Tyndale, burned at the stake for making English translations of the Bible, said, “There is no work better than another to please God; to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a cobbler, or an apostle, all is one.” Martin Luther, the reformer, said, “Household tasks have no appearance of sanctity: and yet these very works in connection with the household are more desirable than all the works of monks and nuns.”

Your Life's Work

Your LIFE’s Work: Finding Significance in Your Job is a free eBook that provides greater clarity and inspiration for why we should work and how we can glorify God through our work. You can claim you copy by clicking here and signing up for my weekly One Minute Uplifts.

 

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5 Ways You Can Slay Envy

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The Greek proverb is correct, “Envy slays itself by its own arrows.” Envy is deadly because it will not let us live happily. It robs us of joy. It will not let us be satisfied with what we have or be grateful for our talents and personal qualities. It becomes a barrier to the celebration of who we are. It cheats us from blessings.

What can we do to slay the green monster? The next time envy creeps into your heart and mind do the following.

 Acknowledge envy as sin.

Many people struggle with envy for years, yet never acknowledge its true character. Envy is sin. The envious person is not just a victim; he or she bears responsibility. The Scripture says, “For where you have envy . . . there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16 NIV). The failure to confess envy will only lead to more sin.  Envy causes conflict with others, it travels with its cousin anger, it leads to depression, it manifests itself in gossiping, and it can even pull the trigger on murder.

Resist comparing yourself to others.

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves . . . [it] is not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12 NIV). Envious people are always comparing themselves to others. One way to bolster their own poor self-esteem is by finding fault with others. But when we compare ourselves with others two things happen and both are destructive. One, when we compare our strength to another person’s weakness we become prideful. Two, when we compare our weakness to another person’s strength we become envious. Either way we lose.

Recognize God’s goodness.

In other words, we need to be grateful for what we already have. A myth has circulated since the beginning of time: I must have more than you to be happy. And, you must have more than me to be happy. This is simply not true. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we need to remind ourselves what we do have, giving thanks for God’s graciousness in our lives. Do you have life? Health?  A job?  A house?  Clothes?  Friends?  When we understand God’s goodness in our lives, comparisons are meaningless.

Respond to others in love.

“Love does not envy” (1 Cor. 13:4 NIV). When we love other people, we appreciate their strengths and their gifts. We acknowledge that God loves them like God loves us—no more, no less. And when we choose to love, envy is eradicated from our lives.

Refocus on God.

“Don’t be envious of sinful people; let reverence for the Lord be the concern of your life. If it is, you have a bright future” (Prov. 23:17 GN).  There are only three things that will last for eternity—God, his Word, and his people. Not houses, or cars, or jobs, or vacations, or clothes.  When we look at people and their achievement and possessions, we need to look at the long haul not the short term. When I focus on God, my neighbor’s achievements and advancements don’t matter.

 

One of my most popular books, The 7 Sins of Highly Defective People, takes a twenty-first century look at the seven deadly sins, including envy, and offers advice on how, through Christ, we can overcome them. The book is a repair guide that will take you from highly defective to highly effective in your Christian walk. Click here to claim your copy.

 

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5 Things You Need to Know About Envy

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Envy has been called “the green sickness,” “a torment,” and “the most corroding of the vices.” Philip Bailey vividly described it as “a coal come hissing hot from hell.” And speaking of hell, no one has done a better job of portraying envy than Dante. In his Purgatory the envious sit like blind beggars by a wall. Their eyelids are sewn shut. The symbolism is apt, showing the reader that it is a blinding sin—partly because it is unreasonable, partly because the envious person is sewn up in himself. Swollen with poisonous thoughts in a dark, constricting world of almost unendurable self-imposed anguish.

Envy is the sin of the evil eye. The word envy is from the Latin invidia, meaning, “to look maliciously upon.” It always sees and desires what it does not have. Unlike jealousy, which focuses on possessing what you desire, envy focuses on taking something you desire away from the person who owns it. Envy is not just wanting what the other person has; envy wants the other person not to have it. Envy is sort of greed with a vengeance. Envy loves wealthy people to go broke; it loves for healthy people to become sick; it loves for skinny people to grow fat.

Envy is the one vice everybody has experienced. There are people who aren’t gluttons, who aren’t greedy, and even some who aren’t particularly proud. But everybody has been envious at one time or another. Our human nature has a built-in instinct to be envious. While we think envy is often justified and treated as a mild sin, it, too, can be just as deadly as any other.

Here are five realities of envy.

Envy is directed toward people close to us, not those who are distant.

It grows naturally in relationships between people who are equals. Two people of the same age and similar interests feel envy most keenly. Doctors envy doctors.  Lawyers envy lawyers.  Neighbors envy neighbors.  Salespersons envy salespersons. The closer a situation comes to matching your own identity, the higher the stakes become and the more likely envy is to erupt.

Envy reaches for what is out of reach.

My family picks apples at an orchard every fall. On one of those excursions, I noticed that I was always looking for the one seemingly perfect apple just out of reach. While there were plenty of apples, beautiful apples, well within my reach, it was always the one just out of my reach that caught my eye.  Such is envy.

Envious people cannot be content that they are victorious and prosperous. All they can see are others who have received more victories and achieved more prosperity.

You’ve heard the phrase, “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” Why do we believe that statement?  Simple.  The grass on the other side of the fence is always out of reach.  What is out there, or over there, or beyond what we have, is what we want.  We envy it.

Envy creates the sense that life is passing one by.

The envious often feel they are in their twilight years when the rookie comes to camp. Be that a neighbor who drives up with a new SUV or takes off on an exotic vacation to Italy or has a more productive vegetable garden. Or, a work associate that gets promoted over you or gets a perk that you wanted. Others may be glad and rejoice, the envious seethe and become angry.

Envy is rotten to the core.

The Proverb says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones!” (Prov. 14:30 NIV). Chaucer’s Parson reminds us that envy is a foul sin because it sneers against all virtues and against all goodness. Envy is like a little worm inside an apple—it eats us up internally. Much of the depression people experience today is nothing more than internalized envy.  Like rust eating iron, envy corrupts men and women.

Envy has within itself its own destructive seed.

The Greek proverb is correct, “Envy slays itself by its own arrows.” Envy is deadly because it will not let us live happily. It robs us of joy.  It will not let us be satisfied with what we have or be grateful for our talents and personal qualities.  It becomes a barrier to the celebration of who we are.  It cheats us from blessings.

Which of these do you struggle with the most? What is your source of envy?

But there is help and hope. Part 2 of this article will provide steps to overcome envy.

 

One of my most popular books, The 7 Sins of Highly Defective People, takes a twenty-first century look at the seven deadly sins, including envy, and offers advice on how, through Christ, we can overcome them. The book is a repair guide that will take you from highly defective to highly effective in your Christian walk. Click here to claim your copy.

 

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What to do when angry

 

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Regina Barreca wrote in the Chicago Tribune Magazine, “. . .anger is . . . an itch, an allergic reaction to some little piece of life’s pollen blown your way.” Of all emotions, anger is probably the most common and most powerful. Hardly a day goes by without me experiencing some measure of anger—either my own or that of someone with whom I interact. My appointment is delayed. The traffic is jammed. A drunken driver kills three students at the local high school. My anger causes my face to turn red, my heart to race, and my eyes to water. I want to hit something or someone. The fire rages within. Anger is intensely personal. It is the quintessential individual signature emotion: I am what makes me mad.

Please understand, however, anger is normal and healthy. I am not responsible for the event or person that brought on my anger, only for how I respond to and use anger once it happens. Anger is not always sin. And not all anger is wrong. In the Old Testament, God became angry at the sin and wickedness of his people. In the New Testament, Jesus became indignant over the misuse of the Temple. And humans are instructed to express their anger, but not to become full of wrath and hatred. But anger can cause sin. A difference exists between “an angry person” and “a person who is angry.” An angry person is one who is controlled by anger—the fire is raging leading to sin. A person who is angry, on the other hand, is someone who has allowed a bit of life’s sparks from a certain event or person to ignite their anger—it’s a fire but not a wildfire.

What should I do the next time my smokestack starts to blow? Good question. I need to learn to control my anger. It has been said, “Your temper is one of your most valuable possessions. Don’t lose it.” Aristotle was right, “Anybody can become angry—that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” If I can’t control my anger, it will control me. So how do we keep anger under control?

Don’t bury your anger.
When my wife and I were in London one spring, we discovered that some of the bombs dropped on England are still killing people. They turn up and sometimes blow up at construction sites, in fishing nets, or on beaches fifty years after the war. Undetected bombs become more dangerous with time because corrosion can expose the detonator. What is true of bombs that are not dealt with is also true of people who have unresolved anger. Buried anger explodes when we least expect it.

And, when anger explodes it does all sorts of damage. It severs relationships. It causes ulcers. It leads to murder. When anger is turned inward it leads to depression. When it is turned outward it leads to aggression. So I have to deal with my anger, not bury it.

Anger is like a splinter in your finger. If you leave it there it gets infected and hurts every time you use your finger. If you remove it, the sore heals and you feel better.

Be wary of chronically angry people.
Anger is highly contagious. It’s dangerous to associate closely with people for whom anger has become a chronic way of life.

If we are not careful the anger of those we associate with will rub off on us. Their rage will become ours.

Take time to cool off.
We should never speak in the heat of anger. We tend to say words that hurt or wound. Sometimes we say things we never intended. We should give ourselves time to cool off because we want our anger to accomplish something positive.

Often, when I am angry my mouth runs faster than my mind. I engage my mouth before my mind is in gear. A sharp tongue only cuts one’s throat. Whoever said, “If you are angry count to ten, if you are very angry count to 100,” knew what he was talking about.

When I feel the fires of anger heating up I ask myself: Is this anger really worth what it’s going to do to others and me emotionally? Will I make a fool of myself? Will I hurt someone I love? Will I lose a friend? Am I seeing this event from the other person’s point of view? Many insignificant matters are not worth getting worked up about. We can win some battles and still lose the war. Perhaps one of the greatest cures for anger is delay.

Choose to forgive.
Anger is a choice. I am reminded of that every time I am in an argument with my wife and the phone rings. If you are like me, you don’t answer the phone with the same tone of voice that you are using in your fight. In a split second I can go from screaming to my calm, pastoral voice as I say, “Hello.” If anger is a choice, so is forgiveness. I can control my anger by choosing forgiveness over anger. Forgiveness is surrendering my right to hurt you back if you hurt me. It means that when I am the object of anger I don’t deserve; I can choose to forgive by not trying to strike back.

Forgiveness and anger cannot live together. I cannot be resentful and forgiving at the same time. If anger is fire, then forgiveness is water. Forgiveness is the water that puts out the fire of anger.

 

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