In Your Work, Are You All Things to All People?

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To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  1 Corinthians 9:22

I am celebrating a birthday this coming weekend.  While I won’t tell you my age, I will tell you that I am right in the middle part of life.

It used to bother me that I didn’t have a very specific calling and place to serve in ministry.  For me, I wanted to have a “ministry job.”  You know, work in the church or for some big para-ministry organization.

I’m not sure if it was the prestige that I assumed went with it or just the fact that if I was working in such a place I would be on the same team with other believers moving forward toward a common goal.

But lately something struck me.  Perhaps it is being solidly in the middle of my life, but it stopped me in my tracks.

I realized that I have been given a wonderfully diverse variety of places to make my relationship with Christ known and to minister to so many people who I otherwise would have never come into contact with.

Where do you work?

My resume is an interesting document.  I look at all the types of work I have done and it is kind of funny.

I have had the privilege of learning how to work with my hands doing carpentry work. My Dad taught me all that he knows on the subject.  Because of this, I grew up swinging a hammer.  All through high school and college, I earned a living by the sweat of my brow and the strength of my back.

If you have never been to a construction site, let me assure you, there are plenty of opportunities to witness and share the love of Christ there.

I have been in people’s homes working, in their backyards building things, and in office buildings tearing down and building up.  I have witnessed by my words, my actions, and my interactions.

I have worked in the business world in sales for a Fortune 500 company.  There I had clients and customers and vendors that I interacted with.  I was able to show them the ethical and dignified way to conduct myself.  I was able to minister there as well.

I worked in a thrift store for a local non-profit ministry helping get the store up and running.  I was able to minister to people there often at their deepest point of need.  I was able to empathetic and provide a listening ear to those who had no one to talk to.

I owned my own construction business and was able to show how an ethical, godly businessman conducts himself and provides the service he promises with pride in his work.

I have taught countless students on their path to improving their education and futures while pursuing their GED.

I have had these students come back to me and tell me how something that I don’t even remember saying touched their life and made a difference.

I have officiated weddings and ministered to people as they joined their two lives together to become one.

I am a writer.  I am trying to be obedient to the plan God has for me by sharing these words as he lays them on my heart.

When you look at it this way, I have already had a pretty impactful life doing the work I was called to do; even if I am already in the middle.

You may have heard the maxim “bloom where you are planted.”

It makes a lot of sense.  If you look at each day as an opportunity to help someone out, share a kind word, show the love of Jesus, and make a difference in the world, then it really doesn’t matter what your “job” is.

You can be like Paul and try to be all things to all people for the purpose of drawing others to Christ.

And that is not a bad day’s work.

How Much Is Enough?

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” -GK Chesterton

Enough can be a very elusive proposition.  Enough is like running in a race and you are on the last leg of your run.  You can see the finish line coming up, but you never seem to cross it.  It seems like just when you get close to it someone moves it a little further away.  This can be the case with “enough.”

If you live in America, you understand the desire for accumulation.  Often we live in houses packed with things that we don’t use but are unwilling to part with.  We have garages that cannot house our vehicles because they are stacked to the ceiling with things that won’t fit in our house.  We keep clothes in our closet that do not fit or are out of style because we have an emotional attachment to them.  We keep wanting the newest and the next best and the fastest and product marketers are all too happy to convince us that we need these things.

I once was volunteering in a local ministry’s thrift store and a lady came in and bought a couch.  Later that day her husband came to pick it up and his comment made me laugh.  It seemed that he didn’t really think that they needed another couch in their house because this would be their seventh.  His words to me as we loaded it onto his truck were, “I don’t know why she needs another couch, she only has one rear end to sit on!”

So the question is, how much is enough?

I like the Chesterton quote above, but as I study it closer two things come to mind.  The first part of the quote deals with an action, the second part of the quote deals with an attitude.  We like actions (accumulate more and more) because they show progress and make us feel good.  Attitude (desire less) is a different matter.  It is much more difficult to change our attitude because it is an internal change and we can’t really see the change happening.

1 Timothy 6:17 speaks about the moving target of enough and how wealth can come and go:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God,who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Even if you don’t consider yourself rich, you can still be caught up by the trap to put your hope in wealth instead of the Lord.  The fact is that wealth is elusive and fleeting.  It can be gone in an instant.  If you think about the things that bring us the most enjoyment, the aren’t things at all.  They are relationships, experiences, and memories.  They are usually simple things that don’t require much in the way of wealth. 

I wrote a post about the fact that “God cannot pour his riches into hands already full.”  You can read it here.

It seems like a contradiction, but the paradox is this: sometimes to have “enough” what we really have to do is simply let go.

Father, help me to remember that when I have you, I have enough.  Help me to keep my priorities straight and to focus on accumulating the things that matter, not the things that will not last.  Thank you Jesus that you are enough for me.

What We Need, When We Need It

Sun & Rain

Thank you for giving us a little bit of sunshine so we could play outside today and a little bit of rain to wash away the pollen.”

These were the words of my 8-year-old tonight as he prayed over our dinner. As he said “Amen” my wife and I looked at each other thinking that sometimes the most profound words come out of such a small package.

After all, isn’t this what God wants us to do?  Sometimes He gives us sunshine and playtime outside.  Sometimes He gives us rain to wash away the pollen.  Usually we are upset when the rain comes because it stops us from doing what we want to do.

But God says in His word that He will give us just what we need if only we will trust Him:

  • Matthew 5:11 Give us this day our daily bread…
  • Psalm 23: 1  The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
  • Philippians 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
  • 1 Timothy 6: 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

This is where the difficulty lies.  If we truly trust in God we have to be content with what He gives us.  I know that I have never gone without; however, I have had some lean times when I had to trust in Him to provide for my most basic of needs.  In these times, I grew closer to God than I ever had before.

When we get to a point of total reliance on God, He will step in at the perfect time and deliver us.  Just today I had a prayer answered that I had been praying over for over a year.  I have been asking God to provide for a need in His perfect timing. I can honestly say that I never doubted that He would provide.  Sometimes it has been tough waiting, but I know that He can provide for my needs so much better than I can.  In fact, sometimes I mess things up if I don’t wait on His timing.

I am working on developing that child-like faith that I saw tonight at the dinner table.  Wouldn’t it be great to just thank God at the end of the day for whatever He gave you?  Instead of complaining when things don’t go our way, just thank Him for your blessings and just see what He is going to do next.

I know that this is can be difficult, but if we focus on the Son and thank Him for the rain, we just may be surprised at what the next day brings.

There Are Two Kinds of People…

I posted this picture on the screen in my classroom and asked my students to put their pens to paper and write. Although this is a simple question, the responses I received were quite insightful.
Here are some of the responses:
givers & takers
judges & juries
the skeptical & the gullible
rich & poor
dependent & independent
What was interesting to me is that these answers came from kids that are no older than 21 and most come from a low income, sometimes at-risk living situation.
So when I answered the question for myself the first thing that popped in my mind was: There are two kinds of people in the world… people who are content and people who are not content.
Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, it seems like there is no better time to look at what contentment is and what it means. To me, contentment is a feeling of peace within yourself that allows you to face the difficulties of life without allowing them to weigh you down and burden your soul. So many people walk around with heavy hearts and you can almost see the burdens that they bear. It is very difficult times that we face right now. The difficulties that we face, however, need not dominate our thoughts or weigh down our hearts.
I think that contentment is key to the message of Jesus in the New Testament. Contentment comes from knowing who you are and where your security rests. When I acknowledge the Lordship of Christ in my life and when I recognize that circumstances don’t control me or change my eternal destination, then I can begin to be content with where I am and what I have. Please note that there is a difference in being content and being stagnant. Contentedness is not a fatalistic mindset that nothing will ever change so why bother trying. Rather, it is a realization that my circumstances can be used to shape me and mold me into the image of Christ and that I must be content to allow the Father to work in me through whatever ways He sees fit.
There is so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. I haven’t enjoyed everything that I have persevered through this year and it is easy to compare what other people have and feel dejected, but if you take a few moments to look around you, you will see there is much to be thankful for and content with.
I hope that you can choose to be one of the contented instead of one of the discontented. It will not only change your life, but it will change your outlook and your relationships with others as well.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Living For Eternity

 “A Kingdom centered life is more about how you live than what you do for a living.”

I have had a lot of time to think about this statement over the last few years.  With a background in the construction industry I have been a victim of the economy and have found myself “under”-employed.  In the past several years I have been a building products salesman, trim carpenter, handyman, thrift-store manager, GED teacher, teacher of my kids, supporter of my wife’s job, minister and writer.  As a man, it is sometimes difficult because so much of our identity is wrapped up in what we do for a living.  Indeed, we spend most of our waking hours at hour jobs, so when you don’t have a job or have a job that is less than what you had hoped for it can leave you feeling slightly inadequate.

Then you think about the statement above:  a Kingdom centered life is more about how you live than what you do for a living. 

I firmly believe that the things I do on this earth are mere preparation for my life in eternity.  Everything I do (or don’t do) here makes ripples in the ocean of eternity.  That is why it is so important to focus on the Kingdom of God and what impact you can have on the eternal things. 

For this reason, whether I am working or not, I can impact people for Christ.  In fact, my attitude and demeanor when I am not working can speak volumes about my relationship with Him.  Doing carpentry work I am exposed to different people almost every week.  I have an opportunity to show Jesus to them through my life and then often times I never see them again.  I have to trust that the Holy Spirit will work on their hearts and some other believer somewhere will be instrumental in the Harvest of their soul.  As a teacher, every ten weeks I am exposed to a new group of people.  I have an opportunity there to live my life in such a way that they see Jesus in me.  It is not something I take lightly. 

My desire for my life is to serve God in some capacity of full time Christian ministry.  For whatever reason He has me stuck firmly where I am.  As difficult as 2010 was, my family and I were taken care of every day and our basic needs were met.

As you go through the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, focus on this one thing.  As Christ-followers, we are all placed in positions where we can do the most good for those around us.  We have to simply be obedient to the Spirit’s leading and show Jesus to those we meet. 

Father, help me to be content to labor where you have placed me.  Help me to never miss an opportunity to share the love you have shown me.  Give me peace and joy in the simple things that last for eternity and help me to thrive where you have placed me.