Modern-day Amos

 

Have you ever noticed how much better known the people and stories of the New Testament are than the Old Testament? As a bonafide history geek, I enjoy looking back at books like 1 & 2 Chronicles, the books of “minor” prophets such as Hosea and Habakkuk, and digging up some of the classic narratives from Genesis. So for something a little different this week, I thought I’d highlight some of the folks I’ve found interesting from the OT and we’ll see if their lives offer us any helpful perspectives for being a 21st Century Christian in Corporate America.

Do you ever sense that you’re in the midst of a world that never really stops and thinks about their relationship with God? Sure, lots of folks go to church, some might even tip God a $20 when the basket passes by, but the stuff they hear in the Bible (or don’t hear) and the exhortations of the minister never seem to transcend that hour on Sunday mornings…

Welcome to the life of Amos. Amos was a shepherd living in Israel about 700+ years or so before Jesus was born. Israel was in a time of prosperity, and while religious ritual was common, living God-pleasing lives was rare. God called Amos to take a break from his day job to send some prophecy to Israel’s leaders that, well, wasn’t exactly optimistic. He was quick to explain that he was an amateur (“I’m not one of your professional prophets. I certainly never trained to be one.“) and used his position among the people to tell them what God needed them to hear, and to set a bold example of devotional living for them.

This is us, friends. We might not be paid ministers, but we find ourselves in a land of prosperity, often surrounded by those that think being a Christian is about weekly church attendance. Like Amos, we should be perceptive of the differences between rituals and authentic Godly living. After using Amos to rebuke Israel for all of its immoral behavior, the Lord said, “I hate all of your show and pretense – the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.”

So should we go and tell someone at work who is acting in an ungodly manner that their ritualistic church attendance displeases God? Maybe, but I also believe that we’re sometimes called to add perspective in the workplace in more subtle ways than what Amos was asked to do in his day.

If we lead dynamic, God-honoring lives, people are bound to notice. When they do, we should encourage them to see beyond the doldrums of rote religious service.  Can you imagine being stuck going to weekly church services while stuck in a life that was devoid of spiritual vigor? How boring. As C.S. Lewis once said,

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

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Legacies

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Ever stop and wonder what is it that we’re really trying to accomplish as individuals in the workplace? Better jobs? More authority? Nicer titles? More money? Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and evaluate where we’re heading and why.

This week I’d like to use some great Christian songs from recent years as inspiration for my posts. Yesterday, I got listening to Nichole Nordeman’s song Legacy and as a result got thinking about what legacy I’d like to leave through my working years. Without having to think too long, I began to realize that it’s the people, not the position, that make a difference. 

When I think of someone who is creating a wonderful legacy at work, I think of my friend Shirley.  She’s not just my friend; she’s everyone’s friend. She works at our training center and is one of the people who helps new employees get settled into our culture and shepherds them through their training. I’m not really sure what her title is, who she reports to, or all that jazz because none of that stuff really matters once you meet her. She’s nurturing, funny, a fantastic listener, and insatiably optimistic. And best of all, she’s a Christian who cares very deeply about living a life of discipleship and isn’t afraid to say so.  I wish there were more Christians like her in the workplace.  

I can’t help but feel that I spend too much time trying to leave a legacy based on career accomplishments, while forgetting that we’re here to represent (literally, “re-present”) Jesus to a world that has seen too many lousy examples of those who claim to do so.

Nichole Nordeman asked the right question in her song when she asks, “Did I point to You enough to make a mark on things?” I aspire to someday leave my kids something to remember more interesting and important about their dad’s career than my old job titles.

If you’re not familiar with Nichole Nordeman, she’s one of my wife and my favorite artists, and Legacy is one of my favorite songs from her. If you haven’t heard it, take a listen…

Sacrificial smiles

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We had some good news today – my mom got a great new job. We’d been praying for some time that God not only provide her with a job, but that it would be one that put her many talents to good use and that she would enjoy. He generously delivered on our requests – praise God!

Actually, we’ll probably not offer the Lord nearly as much praise as we should. Like most, I’m guilty of offering a lot more petitions in my prayers than praises. It shouldn’t be that way.  I once heard someone say that God takes his biggest risks with us when he gives us blessings. When we’re in need, most of us take the time to get closer with God in order to petition him for assistance. Then, when he generously says “Yes”, then WHAM – we’re outta there.  We’re too comfy living the good life to give many thoughts or thanks to the big guy.

There’s a guy named Asaph (actually Asaph may also refer to the name of an Israelite clan) who wrote a number of Psalms, including Psalm 50, which is about giving authentic thanks. It’s worth a read.  The Psalm provides great instruction – take the time to appreciate God’s generosity and “make thankfulness your sacrifice to God.” (Psalm 50:14) 

Offering a sincere “Thank you, my Lord” is a simple sacrifice that blesses God, and something tells me that if I rejoiced always, as 1Thes 5:16 suggests, my relationship with God and my quality of life would be blessed as well.

I’d better get started… praise God for Psalm 50!

Abby’s thoughts

There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.” – Brother Lawrence

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This weekend my wife and I went back to Chicago for a memorial service. A friend of ours, Abby-Jill Brauhn, passed away after a long fight with cancer. Abby led a very interesting life, leaving a lucrative career in pharma sales to work full time at our church directing outreach and later led a Mexican orphanage. But more importantly, she was an exceptional person.

As I sat in the service I kept thinking about what made her so unique, and I kept coming back to the same point – she never let it bother her.  It… meaning the next career move, the annoying coworker, the workplace politics, the unappreciative friend… whatever kinds of daily crud tend to get in my way most days. She transcended it and always brought an amazingly positive energy and a great sense of humor to whatever person, conversation or project with whom she was currently engaged.

Now I’ve seen these new age books claiming that just “thinking positive” will transform your life. I don’t give them a second thought. But we can’t afford to not reflect upon what Paul tells us to do in Phillipians 4:8 when he says, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

I love that verse, but I must admit that I find it difficult to put into practice when the tyranny of it keeps me focused on lesser things. I know of only one way to become more like Abby-Jill was, and that’s to pray a lot (as I believe she did). The verses preceeding the above Phillipians verse are key – they tell us to pray to God about anything on our mind and he’ll give us peace.  Paul also tells us in 1 Thes 5 that we should pray continually to be joyful in the Lord. Like the 17th-century monk Brother Lawrence, who wrote about constanly being in God’s presence during his mundane work life, we should recognize prayer for what it could be – an ongoing dialogue throughout our day versus something we do before meals or bedtime.

I prayed on the way home that somehow I grow less concerned with whatever it is going to be this week and fix my mind on what is good.  I hope that starting my dialogue with God at the beginning of each morning will lead me to it, and maybe someday a little bit of that transcendent joy will please someone around me as much as I was delighted when I was with Abby-Jill.