Blessed to be a blessing

I got a call from a friend at work today who told me an interesting story. He said that he’s been thinking lately about how blessed he is and he’s felt compelled to do something special for someone else. After looking around the house at all the material items he’s collected over the years, he put some stuff for sale on Craig’s List. Once the stuff sold, he wanted to direct the funds somewhere special, so he prayed that God would give him a new opportunity to share. Not very long after that, he got a call from a friend of his who wanted to participate in a walk benefiting a hunger relief agency and was looking for financial sponsorship. Bingo! My friend felt that his prayer was not only answered promptly, but he felt good about supporting his friend in his desire to provide meals for the hungry. 

I was reminded of a phrase that our pastor often uses – that we are “blessed to be a blessing.” We know that from whom much is given, that much is required (Luke 12:48). And while many of us tithe from our incomes, we might not stop to think about how our jobs themselves are blessings. Our jobs, whether they seem like it in the moment or not, are incredible blessings for reasons other than the income they provide. They are opportunities for us to develop and use our skills, they are opportunities to be involved in the lives of others, and they allow us to have a special role in shaping the history and culture of the places where we live. So every once in a while I think it’s a good thing to ask ourselves, “How can we use these blessings  – the income we receive and the others blessings of work – to be blessings to others?”

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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…

The gift of perspective

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Today wraps up our week’s discussion of job insecurities, but for those of you who are struggling with job transitions or unhappy jobs, it need not be the end of this opportunity for spiritual growth. Today’s topic – the gift of perspective. There’s something about not having reliable income that jars us into taking stock of our lives and our lifestyles. My friends, this is a gift indeed.

At the end of Solomon’s life, he wrote Ecclesiastes to share his perspectives on what he’d learned. Here’s the perspective he shares on work and money in Ecc 5:13-20:

There is another serious problem I have seen in the world. Riches are sometimes hoarded to the harm of the saver, or they are put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born. And this, too, is a very serious problem. As people come into this world, so they depart. All their hard work is for nothing. They have been working for the wind, and everything will be swept away. Throughout their lives, they live under a cloud – frustrated, discouraged, and angry. Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work – whatever they do under the sun – for however long God lets them live. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life – that is indeed a gift from God. People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.”

Now is the time for taking stock and asking good questions of yourself. Am I enjoying my career? Am I attempting to live a lifestyle that is beyond my means? Which comes first – my family or my job? How would I like to remember this period in my life? Taking time to ask God for wisdom and then honestly answering these questions can not only change your next job choice, but change the rest of your life.

 I hope this week’s series was helpful to you. Next week – back to my random thoughts about being a Christian in corporate America!

Oh, and if you’re interested in learning more financial advice, the Bible offers tremendous wisdom on money – about 2300+ verses, more than faith & prayer combined. Also, I highly recommend The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn (or Money, Possessions & Eternity if you’re really serious about learning) to better understand what God has to say about money, or Dave Ramsay’s books – my favorite is Financial Peace – on how to take control of your finances. Happy reading.

God’s role – provision for our needs

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We continue this week’s look at jobs insecurities – looking for a job, worrying about losing a job, or staying in a miserable job for fear of leaving. And if you missed it, yesterday we looked at how these trials can actually be spirtual blessings because they force us to rely upon God. I know what you’re probably thinking – that’s great in theory, but what about the financial implications of being without work? How are we to focus on God when there are bills to be paid? For most of us, this is the most pressing aspect of job insecurities, and the biggest distraction from spending time with God. How can I sit around reading the Bible and praying when I could be on Monster.com?

It starts with remembering our true source of income. The fact is, “our money” is not our money. It, and everything else on Earth, is God’s. Psalm 42:1 reads “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” When we are allowed to have money, it’s because he has chosen to bless us with it. It is a tool that he provides us for our needs while we’re on this planet and to accomplish his purposes. When we need it, we should not worry about it, but rather we should ask him for it.  Look at what Jesus told his followers in Matthew 6:25-34:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.“

Jesus himself has told us not to worry about the provision for our needs. Instead of worrying we are to seek him first and if we do so, he assures us that our needs will be met. Does this mean that we shouldn’t look for a new job if we need one? Of course not. But it does mean that we should seek after God as we seek after other employment.

How should we go about seeking him? One way to begin is to ask yourself whether or not you truly trust God to provide you with what you need. Is there any reason that you think that God would not want to bless you with life’s provisions? If God has taken the effort to create plants such as lilies with glorious colors and patterns, even more glorious than a king can dress, then he will not ignore his son or daughter in need.  The Bible tells us that we become God’s children when we accept the reconcilliation with him that Jesus offers (Gal 3:26), and Jesus himself says in Matthew 7:7-11 that we shouldn’t hesitate asking our Father for what we need:

“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks. You parents – if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

As we work our way through the stresses of job insecurities, it’s good to know what is our role and what is God’s. Jesus has told us that we shouldn’t worry about having our needs met. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll always have the standard of living that we’d like, but it does mean that provision is God’s responsibility. Tomorrow, we’ll look at ours.

“I Wanna Be Rich”

Remember that song from the 80’s? Quite annoying. Anyhoo, it’s tax filing season, and it’s always interesting to see what you made, what Uncle Sam took, and what he’s willing to give you back. So when you see those numbers, be sure to count your blessings that you’re rich.

Nope, I’m not talking about being spiritually rich;  I’m talking about being wealthy. Do you consider yourself a wealthy person? Check out the website Global Rich List. It’s a site that allows you to input your income to see where you fall versus the rest of the world, and it does a good job of shedding some perspective on how we take our wealth for granted. As an example, someone that makes $25k annually is wealthier than nearly 90% of others in the world. The reality is, if you are able to read this post on a computer, either at work or because the income you made at work allowed you to buy your own, then you are part of one of the wealthiest generations and classes of people in history.

The Bible doesn’t condemn being rich, although it does give a sobering look at how spiritually challenging it can be to be rich (Luke 16). It’s a lot easier for God to keep the attention of those that rely on Him daily to meet their basic needs, while we tend to pray over dinner instead of for it.  One of my all-time favorite verses related to this is found in first Timothy. In this letter from the Apostle Paul to his protege Timothy, who had taken over the leadership of the church at Ephesus, Paul instructs Timothy as to what he should tell the materially wealthy Christ followers there. He says,

Tell those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which will soon be gone. But their trust should be in the living God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.  Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and should give generously to those in need, always being ready to share with others whatever God has given them. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of real life.” (1Tim 6:17-19 NLT)

This verse has enough good stuff in it for a month-long sermon series, but since we’re here to talk about work stuff, I’ll get to the gist. Let’s not let ourselves get caught up in the salary comparison game or take for granted what we make. The Lord gives us what we need to live through our jobs, and that allows us to provide for our loved ones and help those in need during our brief time on Earth. We are truly blessed.

And now for your listening pleasure, here is “I Wanna Be Rich” by the band Calloway. Ah, the Eighties…