Monday, June 27, 2011

Missionary Moms - How Many Oak Trees Are "In" That Acorn?

For all you moms who love Jesus and want your lives to count in eternity, I think this little article is worth reading. A few excerpts to encourage you to read the whole thing:
When you are a mother at home with your children, the church is not clamoring for monthly ministry updates. When you talk to other believers, there is not any kind of awe about what you are sacrificing for the gospel. ...
If you are a Christian woman who loves the Lord, the gospel is important to you. It is easy to become discouraged, thinking that the work you are doing does not matter much. If you were really doing something for Christ you would be out there, somewhere else, doing it. Even if you have a great perspective on your role in the kingdom, it is easy to lose sight of it in the mismatched socks, in the morning sickness, in the dirty dishes. It is easy to confuse intrigue with value, and begin viewing yourself as the least valuable part of the Church.
Look at your children in faith, and see how many people will be ministered to by your ministering to them. How many people will your children know in their lives? How many grandchildren are represented in the faces around your table now?
It is easy to think you have a heart for orphans on the other side of the world, but if you spend your time at home resenting the imposition your children are on you, you do not. You cannot have a heart for the gospel and a fussiness about your life at the same time. You will never make any difference there if you cannot be at peace here. You cannot have a heart for missions, but not for the people around you. A true love of the gospel overflows and overpowers. It will be in everything you do, however drab, however simple, however repetitive.
God loves the little offerings. Given in faith, that plate of PB&J’s will feed thousands. ... Offered with thankfulness, your work at home is only the beginning. Your laundry pile, selflessly tackled daily, will be used in the hands of God to clothe many. Do not think that your work does not matter. In God’s hands, it will be broken, and broken, and broken again, until all who have need of it have eaten and are satisfied. And even then, there will be leftovers.
Think about it. Your home is a mission field. If you faithfully farm your family field, sowing generously the seeds of the Gospel with steady, grace-empowered love, who knows what kind of harvest will eventually come from your labors? How many dandelions are in one dandelion seed head? How many future oak trees are "in" your few little acorns? 


Motherhood: In Praise of the Pearl Dropper

Motherhood is the toughest job on the planet. We ought to "rise up and call them blessed" a whole lot more than we do. We ought to pray for them a whole lot more than we do.

One of the toughest parts about it is the sense of incessant tedium mixed with futility. If efforts to find the cure for cancer continue to come up empty, at least it's a great pursuit, right?! But another pile of laundry? Another pile of folded clothes that my toddler knocks over because I didn't have time to get it from the floor to his drawer? There is no end to the tedium, and those tedious tasks don't ever seem to accomplish all that much. Three squares and snacks today? Great. Doesn't carry over and take even the smallest bite out of my culinary task tomorrow. Wake up and start at square one (of three) once again.

I once heard Thabiti Anyabwile quote his wife's way of speaking about her daily labors. "It's like dropping pearls on a string...that's not tied."

Well, to all you moms for whom your daily pearl dropping feels like futility and waste, two pieces of advice. First (just for fun), Matthew 7:6 should not be applied here! Second (and seriously), you are and can everyday be a beautiful re:flection of The Great Pearl Dropper who knows what it means to "waste" his grace and labors on ungrateful souls! Keep looking up, you'll find pearls raining down on your ungrateful head, and strength to keep dropping your pearls into the apparent void below. After all, who knows what God is doing down there in the darkness?!

Monday, June 20, 2011

When The Lord Shakes The Tree

Charles Spurgeon
Dear friend, have you found that trouble cuts the cords that tie you to earth? When the Lord takes a child, there is one less cord to fasten you to this world and another band to draw you toward heaven. When money vanishes and business goes wrong, we frequent the prayer meeting, the prayer closet and the Bible. Trials drive us from earth. If all went well, we would begin to say, "Soul, relax". But when things go amiss, we want to be gone. When the tree shakes, the bird flies away. Happy is the trouble that loosens our grip of earth.
James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
 The Lord values maturity over earthly security, Christlike character over comfort...because he loves us!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What NOT to Do This Sunday Night at Home Group

This one seems to be going around quite a bit lately. A friend of mine from Seattle sent it to me a month or so ago, and then I received the link from a couple of Bethel folks. It's funny, but in a telling, instructive (or corrective!) sort of way. 

About 120 Years of Marriage Wisdom in 5 Minutes

I just wish they would have discussed the topic longer!

Piper, Carson, and Keller on Sustaining the Covenant of Marital Love from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Monday, June 6, 2011

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work

Bill Hughes sent me this link from the Desiring God Blog as a follow-up to last week's message on worshiping God in our work. It's a helpful summary. Here are two thoughtful "both/and" points the writer made (I made the change to all caps on the AND). I hope they encourage you to go read the whole thing (it's not long).

7. Plan ahead AND sincerely preface future tasks with "if God wills."
Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house (Proverbs 24:27).
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that" (James 4:13-15)
9. Work as unto the Lord AND as unto men.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust (1 Peter 2:18).

Why Do You Say No?

I guess it's Monday morning with Lewis. Here's one more quote (from Mere Christianity) I didn't read yesterday that may be very helpful as you seek to apply the message. It will help guard us against legalism:
One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons—marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.
Sounds like Colossians 2:13-23:
13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations-- 21 "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)--according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

In Love, He Claims All

Here's the other C.S. Lewis quote I read yesterday. It's SO helpful and important.
He claims all, because He is love and must bless. He cannot bless us unless He has us. When we try to keep within us an area that is our won, we try to keep an area of death. Therefore, in love, He claims all. There's no bargaining with Him. 
That is, I take it, the meaning of all those sayings that alarm me most. . . . [William] Law, in his cool, terrible voice, said . . . 'If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God, it will make in the end no difference what you have chosen instead.' Those are hard words to take. Will it really make no difference whether it was women or patriotism, cocaine or art, whisky or a seat in the Cabinet, money or science? Well, surely no difference that matters. We shall have missed the end for which we are formed and rejected the only thing that satisfies. Does it matter to a man dying in a desert by which choice of route he missed the only well?
('A Slip of the Tongue,' in The Weight of Glory & Other Addresses, emphasis mine)

Tracing The Beams Back To Their Source

In the sermon yesterday, I quoted this passage by C.S. Lewis (from Letters to Malcolm Chiefly on Prayer, emphasis mine):
Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility....
But aren't there bad, unlawful pleasures? Certainly there are. But in calling them "bad pleasures" I take it we are using a kind of shorthand. We mean "pleasures snatched by unlawful acts." It is the stealing of the apples that is bad, not the sweetness. The sweetness is still a beam from the glory. ...
I have make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don't mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I mean something different....
Gratitude exclaims, very properly, "How good of God to give me this." Adoration says, "What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations (i.e. flashes of light, sparkles) are like this!" One's mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.
If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline. But it is worth some labour.

I ran across the following example of "running back up the sunbeam to the sun" just this morning.
Rev. Theodore L. Cuyler, the celebrated Brooklyn divine, was visiting the famous London preacher, Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon. After a hard day of work and serious discussion, these two mighty men of God went out into the country together for a holiday. They roamed the fields in high spirits like boys let loose from school, chatting and laughing and free from care. Dr. Cuyler had just told a story at which Mr. Spurgeon laughed uproariously. Then suddenly he turned to Dr. Cuyler and exclaimed, ‘Theodore, let’s kneel down and thank God for laughter!’ And there, on the green carpet of grass, under the trees, two of the world’s greatest men knelt and thanked the dear Lord for the bright and joyous gift of laughter.
What beams of God's glory have you traced back to their Source lately? Let's keep our "eyes" open for God's glorious (though often "ordinary") coruscations this week!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why Work? Wisdom from Dorothy Sayers

I'm guessing that unless you are particularly interested in the "worship through work" topic or you are exceptionally ambitious, you're probably not going to read either one of the articles I linked to below. Maybe you will at least read the following quotes and be challenged and inspired by this thought-provoking essay.

What should work be?
[Work] should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God’s image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing.
She unpacks this statement a bit when she compares our typical vocational motivation with why we put energy and time into our hobbies.
The habit of thinking about work as something one does to make money is so ingrained in us that we can scarcely imagine what a revolutionary change it would be to think about it instead in terms of the work done. To do so would mean taking the attitude of mind we reserve for our unpaid work – our hobbies, our leisure interests, the things we make and do for pleasure – and making that the standard of all our judgments about things and people. We should ask of an enterprise, not “will it pay?” but “is it good?”; of a man, not “what does he make?” but “what is his work worth?”; of goods, not “Can we induce people to buy them?” but “are they useful things well made?”; of employment, not “how much a week?” but “will it exercise my faculties to the utmost?”
Sayers was writing in England in 1942, yet her insights are spooky in their relevance to 21st century America: 
A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand.
Here's the outline of the main body of the essay:

First, her "doctrinal position":
...that work is the natural exercise and function of man - the creature who is made in the image of his Creator.
Then three propositions arising out of that doctrinal position:

1) Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. 

She then gives four consequences of this first proposition. They are all worth reading, but I'll just quote from the last of the four:
A fourth consequence is that we should fight tooth and nail, not for mere employment, but for the quality of the work that we had to do. We should clamor to be engaged in work that was worth doing, and in which we could take pride. The worker would demand that the stuff he helped to turn out should be good stuff – he would no longer be content to take the cash and let the credit go. ... There would be protests and strikes – not only about pay and conditions, but about the quality of the work demanded and the honesty, beauty, and usefulness of the goods produced. The greatest insult which a commercial age has offered to the worker has been to rob him of all interest in the end product of the work and to force him to dedicate his life to making badly things which were not worth making.
2. It is the business of the Church to recognize that the secular sacred.
How can any one remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life? The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.
...No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. Nor, if they did, could anyone believe that they were made by the same hand that made Heaven and earth. No piety in the worker will compensate for work that is not true to itself; for any work that is untrue to its own technique is a living lie.
Let the Church remember this: that every maker and worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade – not outside it. The Apostles complained rightly when they said it was not meet (i.e. "fitting") they should leave the word of God and serve tables; their vocation was to preach the word. But the person whose vocation it is to prepare the meals beautifully might with equal justice protest: It is not meet for us to leave the service of our tables to preach the word.
The only Christian work is good work well done.
3.  The worker's first duty is to serve the work.
...if you set out to serve the community, you will probably end by merely fulfilling a public demand – and you may not even do that. A public demand is a changeable thing. Nine-tenths of the bad plays put on in theaters owe their badness to the fact that the playwright has aimed at pleasing the audience, in stead of at producing a good and satisfactory play.
We are coming to the end of an era of civilization which began by pandering to public demand, and ended by frantically trying to create public demand for an output so false and meaningless that even a doped public revolted from the trash offered to it and plugged into war rather than swallow anymore of it.

Worship and Work Resources

I mentioned on Sunday that I would post on some resources that may be helpful to you as you seek to glorifying God from "8-5."

First, a couple of messages worth listening to:

"Glorifying God in Your Work" by Sebastian Traeger from Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

"A Study in Wise Words: Business Ethics" (from Proverbs) by Kevin DeYoung from University Reformed Church in East Lansing, MI.

Next, one book I can recommend...

...and two that have been recommended to me. This:

And this:

Finally, two articles I found to be very insightful and thought-provoking:

"Why Work?" by Dorothy Sayers
"Human Flourishing" by Danielle Sallade