In or For the Lord: Is there a Difference?

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Brother & Sisters: 

As the Life of the Lord Jesus flows in and through us, He empowers us in our ‘labors’. And these ‘labors’ are in the Lord and not for the Lord. 

Stand Firm in Your Labor in the Lord

Do you see a difference? 

I do. My labor for Him can be—and inevitably  is—in my own strength, building my own kingdom. But when I yield to His Life which so powerfully works in me, then I produce abundant fruit—fruit that will endure.

Be encouraged: as you fully give yourselves to the work of the Lord, know this: your labor in Him is not in vain! (see 1 Corinthians 15:58)

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.(Colossians 3:23-24 NIV 84)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”(John 15:5 NIV).

“Grieving is not for Wimps”

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Date: 01-10-15

Text: — Nehemiah 1:4 — 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: We dare not minimize the loss—ours or someone else’s, but likewise, we dare not minimize the time it takes to grieve over it.

My Thoughts: 

In other cultures, when someone dies or is killed in a bombing, we wailing and funeral processions; but not in ours. Instead, “Weeping’s for Wimps” sports a bumper sticker philosopher. “We’re strong; we can make it.” And because of this cultural philosophy when tragedy strikes on any level, we do not allow others time to grieve—let alone ourselves. “I need to get right back to work.” Keeping busy somehow helps me cope. So we stuff our feelings of loss and move on, but the weight of the loss doesn’t dissipate. In fact, it seems to get heavier with the passage of time.

And if we are really honest with ourselves, getting an emotional kick in the stomach—no matter how washboarded the stomach—takes us down.

First of all, let me briefly define grief: Grieve is any change or sense of loss. The greater the sense of loss or change the greater the grief. Likewise, the lesser the sense of loss or change the lesser the sense of grief. So losing a paperclip does not generate as much grief as losing your wallet, etc….

If we define life as change or growth, and any sense of change as loss, life (lower case “ l”) is grief. Handling life in a healthy way leads us to the fact that we need to learn to deal with change & loss on many levels. I have found that allowing time for grief is one way to deal with it.

As I was reading the verse noted above, I observed what Nehemiah did: He gave himself time to grieve. In doing so, it appears to lessen the weight of the grief, and even give space for perspective. I know when the sense of loss or change overwhelms me, my vision is blurred through  the tears and the vertigo of change knocks me off balance. I have a deep and profound empathy for those who have lost a loved one, especially a child. I have seen that this grief seems to never pass, but in time perspective widens as the tears are less frequent. Perhaps, then we can see—but a glimpse—of how the Lord might use this tragedy for His glory….

Lifestyle worshipers, we dare not minimize the loss—ours or someone else’s, but likewise, we dare not minimize the time it takes to grieve over it. To me, it takes a very strong person to face the sense of loss and change. It is the wimp who runs; the strong stand firm—even when our knees buckle under the emotional weight of the grief.

What has gotten me through many a loss and change is clinging to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have found that because He never changes, there is no grief in Him. And because He is Life (with a capital “L”), His Life is not grief, but a joy overcoming the sorrow of this life.

Yet I have discovered a rather fascinating irony in all this: Although in the Lord Jesus I have Joy & Peace, He Himself was described by the prophet Isaiah as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV). The Lord Jesus was no stranger to sorrow, grief and change. He experienced first hand many of the very losses and changes we encounter in our lives.

But Isaiah doesn’t stop there. Instead he continues in that passage to offer us Hope that our grief will be taken away someday: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4 ESV). The very one who offers us Life has Himself experienced life.

This is almost too much for words….

Below I have noted two places in the Gospels that record our Master grieving. There are many more. And to me, He is the strongest of us all. He endured the cross and scorned it shame making no threats or even whines. I’d rather have His Life coursing through my veins in my moments of loss and change than attempting to stuff the sorrow—only to explode later (been there and done that, too!)

When it comes to grieving and dealing with the sense of loss and changes in our lives, then, I am learning to be gracious to others allowing them “some days” to mourn (see verse 4 above). Oh, and I am learning to  be gracious to myself, as well, allowing myself some space and time to grieve. How about you? Are you a wimp and run when it comes to grieving? Or do you stand firm in the One Who has grieved and conquered it? Your thoughts.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus wept.  — John 11:35 (NIV)

   Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

— 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NIV)

   and [Herod] had John beheaded in the prison. …  John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place….

— Matthew 14:10, 12-13a (NIV)

Heavenly Father,  as I give myself time to grieve, open my eyes to the larger perspective. Though I may never fully understand what glory You are getting out of this, I trust that You are Good all the time no matter what.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

“The False Dilemma of Mary & Martha”

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Date: 11-27-14

Text: — Luke 10:38-42 — 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” [NIV84]

The Big Idea: I discovered yet another factor in my remedy for self-deception.

My Thoughts: 

The joys of Thanksgiving linger as I wash the dishes in the kitchen. And then I’m reminded of Martha in Luke 10:38ff (see above). Fortunately, this is in my mind. This passage served as a check in my spirit, but alas, initially I was alone washing the dishes. Everyone else was engaged with the grandkids, and I was tempted, thinking, “Hey, I’d like to relax and watch the game and play with the kids….” I almost started laughing.

I have constantly vacillated between a Martha—workaholic type— and Mary—a monkish type. The dishes need to get washed. I really like seeing an uncluttered kitchen. But I also want to spend time with the family. These moments will quickly fly. In my heart I really want to understand the balance here. Perhaps you, too, struggle with the balance of desiring to get ‘things’ done for the Lord, and deeply desiring to sit at His feet.

From Martha’s perspective, nothing is getting done if we are merely sitting at Jesus’ feet. From Mary’s perspective, all is being at the feet of Jesus’…. I understand both.

Jesus tells us clearly what Martha’s issue is. It is not that she is stuck in the kitchen and should have chosen to sit at the Master’s feet. It is not that she is even asking Him to ‘help’ enlist others (though it is asked with a rather persnickety attitude). No, it is rather that she is being distracted by the duties of the kitchen. It was her distractions that were the issue.

Obviously, Martha’s heart was in turmoil. She truly wanted to listen to the Master at His feet, for He has the Words of eternal Life. She knows this. But she also wanted to please Him with the most wonderful meal her skilled hands could prepare. She knew these skills were from above. She also knew that the task was too great for her to do alone. Torn between the two poles, she requests the Master’s intervention.

And intervene He did, but not in the way she desired or expected. At first glance, it appears that Jesus is completely siding with Mary, while excluding Martha’s choice and from and Either/Or worldview this would be so. But I do not think our Master is framing it quite this way.  Mary has removed distractions from her heart. Martha had not. Mary had chosen to sit undistracted at the feet of Jesus. Martha chose to remain in the kitchen completely distracted, resenting Mary all the while. Remember, distraction is the issue (v. 40). Mary could have sat at the Master’s feet and be completely distracted. Oh, she may “look” good, but the Lord sees the heart.

The unifying factor from a Both/And perspective is to deal with the heart’s distractions. Martha can still be in the kitchen, but she also could have chosen listening to the Master as well. (Or if the kitchen was not in earshot, she still could do the cooking with a heart full of joy and thanksgiving—knowing she is serving the Lord in this manner.) And by this choice the meal would be completed in due time and her soul would have enjoyed its feast as well.

She needed to deal with her resentment of Mary—and of the Lord. Truly, doing this would have set her free and resolved the apparent Either/Or conflict.

The dilemma is really: for if no one is in the kitchen, then no one would eat. (Now from one perspective this may be good, but Lord puts the two together in Dt. 8:3, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (NIV84).) People need both to live. In truth, we need both Martha’s and Mary’s for us to live.

But why make this a true dilemma?

Lifestyle worshipers, have you read Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God? He offers us a wonderful Both/And solution that taps into the omnipresence of our Lord. Leaving his private prayers, he arrives in the kitchen to do his daily duties. Though he is now in the kitchen, Brother Lawrence has not left the presence of the Lord, for at the beginning of his duties he offers up this prayer:

“O my GOD, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence; and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections” (Excerpt From: Brother Lawrence. “Practice of the Presence of God.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/Jvchw.l  p. 27)

Have you wrestled with this dilemma: wanting to get things done, but also wanting to sit at the feet of Jesus? Care to share your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. — 1 Corinthians 12:4–7 (NIV84)

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. — Galatians 5:13 (NIV84)

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

— Romans 12:10-12 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I confess any resentments and distractions to You. Focus my mind. Deliver me from any resentments I may harbor in my heart. I put You on, Lord Jesus Christ, as my Gloves of Kindness. May I serve You and Your Body with joy & thanksgiving.  Be that part of my life that has been in bondage to any resentment. I release myself into Your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike