Tag Archives: work

Soul-Rest

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:28-29, NLT*

This much-loved and often-quoted passage brings comfort and hope. Most times we focus on words like ‘rest, teach, humble, gentle,’ and again ‘rest.’ We skip over the ‘yoke’ part.

I’ve often heard the teaching about the yoke being for two oxen, and how a new, untrained animal would be paired with an experienced one to learn how to pull the plow. Jesus, the thought goes, is the experienced teacher, and we, learning to work alongside Him, are the novices.

That makes good sense, but let’s look at the yoke for a minute. Jesus says it’s His. He may or not mean He’s wearing it, since He did indeed come to serve by showing us how to live for God.

It’s also His because the Teacher, Shepherd, Suffering Servant is also the Master.

On our own, we get frazzled, weary, and definitely overburdened. The soul-rest Jesus offers isn’t about collapsing under a shade tree for a nap, though. It’s about dropping the loads we were never designed to carry and taking up the load He has for us.

There’s still work involved, but now we’re working under the direction of a Master who loves us, a God whose compassion sent Him to die to rescue us. He knows our weakness, and His Spirit gives us strength.

Sovereign Lord God, You are our rightful ruler and King. Forgive us for the times we try to live under our own leadership, and the stresses and messes we get into. Help us to surrender to Your authority, and open our spirits to Your Spirit’s direction and strength. Thank You that the path of serving You is a path of fulfillment and soul-rest.

This song from Matt Maher sums it up: “Lord, I Need You.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Rest from the Ordinary

You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 5:13-14a, NLT*

Note the extra word the NLT adds here: “Your ordinary work.”

Rest. He insists on it. God rested on the seventh day of creation, not because He needed it, but because we would need it. Because otherwise we’d find ways to go nonstop in the pursuit of our “ordinary” work.

Stopping becomes an act of faith as well as obedience. It’s a sign to us, and to others, of God’s trustworthiness and His care for us. It means we trust Him to help us accomplish the “ordinary” work He has for us in the other six days.

Truly resting and trusting means not just stopping the work for a day. It means stopping thinking about the work for the day. Otherwise our minds keep working, and we miss the point.

Choosing rest makes us see where our worship and affection really lie – and where they belong. It can refocus us on what’s truly important, taking our focus off ourselves and pointing us back to God. It may reveal a few things that need trimming from our schedules. It also recharges us to return to work with new energy and stamina.

Worship is a key part of soul-rest and restoration. Other aspects of a day of rest dedicated to God may mean different things to different people.

Without legalism, and with daily resting in His presence as well, how might we expand our understanding of a designated day of rest?

God our Creator and our Shepherd, You know our limitations better than we do. You know we need rest of body, mind, and spirit, and You know how we can turn our own agendas into mini-gods if we’re not continually reminded of our true allegiance. Thank You for being the kind of God who rests His people instead of grinding us into the ground. Thank You that You desire relationship with us: our love, not just our labour. Teach us what it means to rest, including how to carve out a day of rest in our fast-paced world. May our obedience be a sign for us and for others of Your goodness.

The key to rest is the invitation of Jesus to “Enter the Rest of God,” sung here by Brian Doerksen.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Living Worship

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Colossians 3:23, NLT*

When I was in the workforce, I reminded myself of this verse to help my attitude and my conduct. One key is a willing heart – not a grudging, grumbling, bitter one. It’s not about what the management “deserves” – it’s about what our God deserves.

What does God deserve? Worship.

Paul expands on this in his letter to the Romans when he urges them (and us) to “give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” (Romans 12:1b, NLT)

In all aspects of our lives, as employees, in relationships, volunteering, attending church meetings… in everything. We need to bring willing hearts, open ears, and eyes that are looking for what God might show us.

God isn’t distant, watching and waiting to reward us in the future. He’s present with us in each moment. Part of Brother Lawrence’s way of practising God’s presence was to do each task out of love for God and as an offering to Him.

Could we learn to live like that? We have the rest of our lives to work at it.

Our God, You formed us for worship, and we’re only complete in You. Forgive and change our forgetful, self-indulgent ways, and draw us to live and serve out of love for You… because You loved us first and saved us. Soften our hearts and help us to lift them up to You with each thing we do.

I loved this song from the first time I heard it, and recently God brought it to mind as a way to commit each task and responsibility to Him as worship. I’m praying to remember. Here’s Third Day‘s “Offering.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

God’s Strength for God’s Work

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him…
1 Timothy 1:12, NLT*

Jesus gives Paul the strength, and considers him trustworthy despite Paul’s past.

And the work is Jesus’ work, not Paul’s. Not mine. Not yours.

In Paul’s case, it’s high-profile, dangerous work. For most of us, it’s not. We’re parents, employees or employers, citizens, neighbours, friends, shoppers etc. It’s still more than we can handle in our own strength, and we need to rely on the strength and grace that God provides.

We’re Christ’s ambassadors, just like Paul.

If we keep the trust and conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel, relying on Jesus’ strength and leading, we’re doing His work of revealing God’s reality to those around us.

That’s a high calling indeed.

Holy One who saves us, You send us just as You sent Jesus, to let the world see that You are God—and You are good. Help us walk by faith, not by sight. Help us rely on Your strength, not our own, and to live for the sake of Your glory, not ours. Thank You for calling us to work with you in reaching the world.

When we find ourselves working in our own strength, we need songs like this one from Brian Doerksen: “Enter the Rest of God.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

Working with Purpose

That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.
Colossians 1:29, NLT*

Paul’s motivation and passion is “to present [everyone] to God, perfect [or ‘mature’] in their relationship to Christ,” and he pours his whole life into it.

It’s different when we don’t have an overriding sense of calling or mission, or if we don’t have a felt purpose or deadline.

I’m in the happy state of being an at-home mom to almost-grown sons. They don’t need a lot of care, although they’d appreciate more home baking.

There’s plenty of housework that needs doing, but… it waits quite patiently. And there’s more writing I’d like to be doing, but… it too waits. As much as deadlines stress me, I often find I get more done when my time is tighter. Daily life (and email) seems to spread to take up all the available time.

I had full-time work from October through December, a repeat of my previous year’s seasonal job. It was a great opportunity that stretched me and demanded more than I had to give. When I told people God sent me back to the same role to re-learn the lessons He’d taught me the first time, I was only half joking.

The task was too big for me. I had to rely on God. That meant getting up early enough to start each day with prayer and a Bible reading. It meant committing the day to Him and depending on His intervention and provision.

There wasn’t much of me left over at the end of each day, but He was enough. And somehow the other details of my personal life (little things like preparing for Christmas) fell into place.

God our Sustainer and the Director of our paths, thank You for demonstrating Your goodness. Help me—help us all—to view each day as the assignment You have for us, however simple or complex. Help us to anchor ourselves in You and to work diligently, relying on the power of Christ in us. Nourish us daily from Your Word and Your presence. When things come up that aren’t on our agendas, give us discernment to know if they’re redeployments to obey or distractions to ignore. Help us do all to Your glory, with willing hearts.

Geoff Moore’s song, “Your Day,” is a good one to start each morning.  (Click to listen to Your Day at Last.fm)

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

A Sign Between Us

Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.’
Exodus 31:13, NIV*

For a people liberated from slavery, being commanded to observe a weekly day of rest would be a definite switch.

The Old Testament is filled with visual aids: markers and activities that remind the people who God is and what He has done for them. Exodus 31:13-18 twice calls the Sabbath “a sign between us”.

Mark Buchanan (The Rest of God, Spiritual Rhythm) said recently that the Sabbath is the only one of the Ten Commandments that Christians don’t seem to think we need to keep. Not that we’re perfect at the other nine, but at least we either try or feel guilty about failing.

Ignoring the taint that legalism has given the Sabbath, I see some benefits to this gift from God:

  • work without a break is not healthy
  • identifying ourselves by our work isn’t healthy either
  • allowing work to take first place—making it an idol—is dangerously unhealthy
  • abstaining from work lets us be still and know that God is God, and it lets us seek Him

I think this is where the Sabbath (for Christians, Sunday or whatever day our work schedules allow us to observe) is a sign between us and God. It’s a spiritual marker that celebrates our freedom from slavery to the world’s ways and praises the God who rescued us.

And it reminds us that our God is good.

Holy and Almighty God, who chose Israel to show Your glory to the world, thank You for Jesus’ blood that makes a way for all people to belong to You. Thank You for the gift of Sabbath rest and its benefits to us. In the bigger picture, it’s still about revealing Your glory to all who can see: You rescue. Your way is best. You are a good Master.

Brian Doerksen’s song, “Enter the Rest of God,” is a gift too. He’s talking about way more than Sabbath rest, but let it be a balm to your spirit today.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

God’s Work

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
John 4:34, NIV*

Monday I had a wonderful visit with two friends whose day jobs are in Christian social ministries. They’re involved in helping people through Opportunity International and the Salvation Army. It can be exhausting, but it fulfills them. When they share their stories, you can hear their passion.

Sometimes we can think of doing God’s work only in terms of recognized, organized ministry. We dismiss our regular lives. But I think the type of work Jesus talks about in today’s verse happens anywhere: on the job (sacred or secular), at home, in a chance encounter at the grocery checkout.

In context, the verse refers to Jesus’ talk with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. It wasn’t a planned teaching time or public event. Not on the group’s ‘official’ agenda. But it was part of God’s agenda, and it was His work.

Our days come pre-filled for the most part: work, home, appointments, whatever. If that’s where God has us, then that’s where He wants us to work with Him, however mundane the task. Or however inconvenient the interruption He allows.

There’s something about the routine and the everyday that dulls my attention. Meal preparation and household chores, even conversation around the family table, feel like the same-old-same-old. But shouldn’t each thing I do for my loved ones—for my employer if I’m working—be truly done for God? Isn’t each conversation a chance to show His interest in the other person?

In that case, it’s all God’s work if I can only see it. God’s work, an offering to Him. Even if it’s peeling potatoes or scrubbing toilets. Or taking a coffee break with a friend.

Father God, who sent Jesus into the world to do Your will and who has sent us to do the same, take us out of ourselves and make us mindful of You and Your ways. Help us live for You, and teach us to be on the lookout for Your leading in our daily lives. Feed us with the satisfaction of serving You.

This week’s song is “Jesus, All for Jesus,” from Robin Mark.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

High Calling Blogs Network

HighCallingBlogs.com Christian Blog NetworkI don’t remember how I found the High Calling Blog Network a few weeks ago, but I decided it’s a good place to be. I’m glad to be a new member there, and have added the site to my blogroll here. (You can also reach them by clicking the image in the sidebar.)

I love how the network is described on its Facebook page: “Our desire is to help people connect with God in every part of their daily life, including their work.

Living our faith means more than going to church. The hard work comes in the daily grind, and I’m looking forward to spending time in this community of faith and work.

We Can’t Do It On Our Own

We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 1;2-3, NIV*

This is faith making a difference, and it’s something each Christian needs to have in his or her own life. As Paul goes on to say, it’s not something we do in our own strength: we need to receive the gospel “with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” (1 Thess. 1:5a, NIV)

It’s God in us who makes the difference.

Although individuals need to have a personal and vibrant relationship with God, Paul is speaking here to a group of believers operating as a whole—functioning as the body of Christ.

Could Paul write these words to churches today? Certainly to some, but not to all. Praise God for those congregations where His power and love are on display. And rather than judging or criticizing those where not much activity is visible to our eyes (which aren’t all-seeing!) let’s pray for growth and empowerment.

Father, I pray for Your global church and its individual congregations, that Your gospel would truly come with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. Revive us where needed, forgive where needed, and teach us how to live in unity. Grant us faith in You to produce work, love for You and for others to prompt our labour, and hope in Jesus to inspire our endurance.

Canadian singer-songwriter Brian Doerksen articulates our need in his song, “Hear Us Call”.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

About God’s Business

Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” Colossians 3:23-244:17, NIV1

I was heading for 1Thessalonians when this verse caught my attention. I suspect Paul’s referring to a specific task or calling Archippus has received, but it seems to apply generally as well.

In her comment on last Wednesday’s devotional, Ginny Jaques said “I work for Him 24/7, and He directs my path, even giving me R and R when I need it.”

Some of us have a direct assignment from the Lord, but all of us have work He’s given us to do. People He’s given us to care for.

The Bible says a lot about faithful service, and about relying on God’s strength instead of our own. I love this quote from Brother Lawrence:

Recently I went to Burgundy to buy the wine provisions for the society which I have joined. This was a very unwelcome task for me. I have no natural business ability and, being lame, I cannot get around the boat except by rolling myself over the casks. Nonetheless, this matter gave me no uneasiness, nor did the purchase of wine. I told the Lord that it was His business that I was about. Afterwards, I found the whole thing well performed.2

Father, thank You for what You’ve given me to do, especially for my family You’ve given me to look after. Thank You it’s not about a frantic hurry to complete a set task—it’s about a willing heart that trusts in You. Help me recognize the work You give, and to serve You well. help me recognize and let go of the distractions.

Let this week’s song be our prayer: “To God Alone,” by Aaron Shust.

1New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

2Brother Lawrence, as recorded in Practicing His Presence, © MCMLXXIII by Gene Edwards, Christian Books.