Earning a Living

2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 (NIV)

For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.  We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.  For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”   We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.    Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.

The scriptures are filled with God’s commands to take care of the poor, to show compassion and to give to those in need.  As a result, there are many who believe that those with money should support those without.  In politics there are those who feel that the government should use taxes to provide everyone with a living wage.  There are well meaning Christians who build their theology around the idea of social welfare programs.

Don’t misunderstand this post.  I am not here to promote one political party over another.  I am not towing a party line. My goal is to allow God’s word to add some clarity.  I do believe that God compels us to give to those in need.  God commands us to have compassion.   Deuteronomy 15:11 tells us, “there will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” 

However, God knows the difference between those who are poor because of circumstance and those who are poor by choice.  The Apostle Paul knew the difference as well.  Paul worked hard to support his ministry.  He wanted to be a model others could follow.  Hard work has its benefits.  It not only provides for the workers needs, it also can provide the worker the means to help others. Continue reading

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When Pressure Builds

Mark 4:18-19 (NIV)

Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

I have had a lot of pressure on me recently.  Some of the pressure is self-inflicted.  Some comes from normal family and work responsibilities.  Some comes from Satan trying to stir the pot.  At one level I like pressure.  It helps me get up everyday.  The need to get things done is a great motivator.  However, pressure that takes your eyes off of the greater goal, the higher calling is not healthy.

When Jesus told the parable of the sower  he was talking about the way people respond to God’s word in their lives.  The seed represented God’s word (Luke 18:14).  The types of soil on which the seed fell represented the hearts of the hearers or perhaps stated differently, their reception to God’s word. There was seed sown on the hard packed dirt, in the rocky soil, amongst thorns and finally seed that fell on good, fertile soil.

I would encourage you to read the various accounts of the parable.  You can find them in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8.  There is a lot we can learn about the way people respond to Gospel.  However, I just want to focus on the seed sown in the thorns.  Jesus explained that the thorns represented the, worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things.  Pressures.  Those things, good and bad, that take our eyes off of what God is doing in our lives and in the world. Continue reading

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True Freedom

 John 8:28-36 (NIV)

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.   The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.”  Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.  To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”   They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”   Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.    Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.    So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

If you live in America it is easy to say, “I am free.”  After all, we have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, a right to privacy, the right to bear arms and so much more.  Is that all there is to freedom?  Do all the rights Americans share provide true freedom?  Not according to Jesus.

The context of the verses above indicate that Jesus was engaged in conversation with a group of  Pharisees about his testimony about himself and his “father.”  As Jesus spoke we are told that “many put their faith in him.”  Then Jesus directed his comments to the Jews who believed him and said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Jesus knew that something was missing in their lives.  Belief in Jesus was great, but they needed a paradigm shift.  In the end, these Jews still held to their position as Abraham’s descendents. “We are descendants of Abraham.  We have never been slaves.  How can you free us?”

They did not recognize the chains that still bound them.  Perhaps it was pride, perhaps it was ignorance.  Bondage is not always evident.  The world is full of people who are slaves.  Slaves to vices, slaves to desires, slaves of thier career, slaves to sin.  Until we realize that the path to true freedom is only found in Jesus Christ, we will never be truly free.  Traps are set in every corner.   Sin waits to hold you down.

Jesus is there to offer you hope and freedom.  Without Christ your freedom is only good until the next trap.  Jesus extends his hand to bring you into a relationship that will break the chains.  Get to know Jesus.  Read his words, “hold to” his teaching.  Believe. 

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The Importance of Preparation

Joshua 3:5 (NIV) 

Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do great wonders among you”

There are a number of times in the Scriptures where the listeners were told to prepare (consecrate, purify etc.) themselves (cf. Ex 19:10, 19:22, 28:41, Lev. 11:44 and more).  The point is that God deserves the best we can be.  Partying until 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning and then bearly dragging yourself to church does not honor God. 

If that is your standard method of operation, don’t be surprised if God does not “show-up.”  You prepare yourself for work. You prepare yourself for a date. Why wouldn’t you prepare yourself to meet God?  God is looking for people who desire to see his face.  God is seeking people who will worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). 

Don’t misunderstand me. If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross, your sins are washed away. However, that does not mean live life as if nothing has changed. You are adopted sons and daughter’s of the living LORD.  Let your life reflect that grace.

This is not just a Sunday preparation issue.  God is Lord of everyday of the week and he deserves our attention.  Lord, help me to honor you.  Help me to seek after you and prepare my heart and mind for that encounter everyday.  Help me to usher in the great wonders you want to do for a people “ready” for the encounter.  AMEN

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Enter the Twitter Zone

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A Suitable Partner

Genesis 2:15-25 (NIV)

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, ‘for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Chris KelleyBefore we come to these verses in the Book of Genesis we “hear” God pronounce with each creative moment, “it is good.”  When God reviews all he had done in the creation of our world he adds the exclamation. “it [is] very good” (Genesis 1:31).  However something was not good; a man with out a companion.  Someone who could share the joy of God’s creation and fellowship.  “It is not good for the man to be alone,” was God’s observation.  Of course, this was not a surprise to God.  It’s not as if God went about creation and suddenly realized he missed something.  God was merely making a point.  Humankind was made for fellowship and that included intimate fellowship with God’s female creation.

Work was not enough.  The joy of this wonderful creation was not enough.  Even the blessing of the animal kingdom was not enough.  We, the male gender, need the kind of fellowship we can only get with our spouse.  Just as there is a vacuum that only God can fill in our lives, for most human males there is a vacuum that can only be filled by a woman.  Not just any woman.  We need to connect with the woman God has made for us.  The woman that completes us and makes us whole.  A partner who knows our flaws, but still loves us and wants to be with us.  A partner that can help us to grow even as we help her to grow.

Yes, there are people who God created for celebasy. However, the vast majority of us need that life mate who can fill in the gaps that work and play are unable to.  Have you found the partner of your life?  Don’t rush it.  Watch what God can do when you are faithful to the tasks he has placed before you.  God knows what you need…and who

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What’s love got to do with it?

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

I have daughters getting married this year.  With these marriages all my children will be married and establishing families of their own.  I think about marriage and relationships a lot.  My parents were divorced and it seems that just about everyday I hear about marriages ending or in turmoil.  It breaks my heart.

“I just don’t love her anymore” is the excuse I often hear when a marriage crumbles.  A pretty lame excuse when you consider what love is.  I’m not talking about the erotic or infatuated feelings that people often call love.  I’m talking about real love.  The kind of love that is a promise, an actionable promise.  In the verses above, Paul was describing agape, a Greek word used to describe the kind of love the God has for us.  It is the kind of love that God wants us to know and share.

Take some time to consider these verses carefully.  Think about what love does AND what love does not do.  Ask yourself if you know this kind of love.  More importantly, ask yourself if you show this kind of love. 

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The Gift of Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NIV)

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

God delivers many spiritual gifts to believers for HIS glory.  Unfortunatley, people tend to rank the gifts.  However, this text reminds us that God doesn’t use the same scale.  The gift of teaching isn’t valued by God more than the gift of hospitality.  In fact, the gift of hospitality may reach more people with the Gospel. 

If you think your giftedness is less appealing or less valuable than others, please take note of these verses. God knows what he is doing.  Your gifts are given to you for a purpose. The important thing is that you use the gifts and watch what God will do through you.  Don’t regret your gifts or wish you had someone else’s gift.  Trust that God has something big in mind.

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