Spiritual Labor

As we look ahead to this weekend and Labor Day here in the US, I thought we’d take a look at a few verses from the Bible about work and what God says about work.  A few of the results caught me by surprise, so as we head into the new month we may take time to dive deeper into a few of them.

“He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

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

“The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.” Deuteronomy 28:12

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” Proverbs 14:23

“I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.” Ecclesiastes 2:18

“Whatever you do, do well.” Ecclesiastes 9:10a

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10a

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” Romans 4:4

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

God and work:
“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” John 5:17

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” Psalm 127:1a

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:4

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

“God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Corinthians 12:6

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

What are your thoughts on (spiritual) work?


Dimensions of Love

As we get closer and closer to Valentine’s Day the topic that most people are talking about is love.  It’s true that many people take this whole month to really focus on love and romance and I think that can be a very good thing.  It’s not a good thing when this month or these 14 days are the only time that you focus on your relationships, but sometimes it’s good to really dedicate extra time and effort to something that should be very important to you.

In thinking about the topic of love and romance it got me thinking about one of the biggest topics around love for people of faith, God’s love.  There’s a lot we can learn from His love and how He loves, so as I was working on my devotion this week I ran across a few verses that I wanted to share with you here today because they share a really important reminder about love. Take a look:

“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

“…may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.”  Ephesians 3:18-19a

The interesting thing about all of these verses is that they talk about love in multiple dimensions, using multiple senses and in experiencing it beyond the obvious.  The challenge many of us face in experiencing or living love is that it’s not instant.  It’s not something we can throw a bunch of money at and get what we want.  Love takes work.  It’s something that is best experienced when you fully immerse yourself in it.  It’s like many wines that it often gets better with time, but unlike wine you can’t just leave it alone and expect it to get better.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as a child loving their pet, or loving how your partner holds your hand.  But in other ways it is complicated because many of the best loves do have multiple layers and depth to them.

So this week as you think about your Valentine plans or you think about the person that God has planned for you in the future, I encourage you to try to see love outside of the box that you may have stuck it in.  What have you missed about love?

We the United Nations

Yesterday was United Nations Day. Today I want to share a few verses from the Bible about the nations and a short reflection on what it means to be part of the united nations.

Psalm 67:3: “May the nations praise you O God. Yes may all the nations praise you.”

Deuteronomy 7:7:  “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples..”

1 Chronicles 16:31: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!””

Psalm 9:8: “He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness.”

Psalm 9:20: “Make them tremble in fear, O Lord.  Let the nations know they are merely human.”

Each and every nation has their own people, culture and history.  No nation is exactly the same as any other, and even the nations who are similar have differences.  Those differences are one of the reasons why it’s so important to have an organization like the United Nations, so that we can all come together in a safe environment and support each other.  Because what may be seen as differences could be the solutions or insights that other nations are in need of and could benefit from.  The United Nations should also be a safe place for us to talk about our challenges and and concerns that we have with other parts of the world.  The United Nations is also a reminder that we all share this same planet and should be considerate of what we’re doing and how it could be affecting the future of our world.

The verses above also remind that all nations should give honor to God and that God is aware of all nations from the largest to the smallest.  God doesn’t care about size or military might, but cares for all nations. We should remember that we’re visitors on this planet that He has created and that if we want to keep living here we should do better with working together to care for it.

A Purpose of Hope

As we start out this month looking at the topic of purpose, one of our greatest purposes and callings in life as people of faith is to share hope with the world.  So today I’ve got some verses of hope to share with you.

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

“I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.”  Psalm 16:7-8

No power in the sky above or in the earth below-indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:39

“For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6

“Jesus [said] “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die….”  John 11:25-26

“My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.”  Psalm 62:7

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.”  1 John 4:9

What words of hope would you share today?

The Discipline of Health

In my studies and writings this month I’ve been reminded consistently that healthy living is a choice.  It’s one of the many things that if you don’t make a choice about it consciously it will make a choice for you, and usually that’s not a good thing.  The really difficult word that comes to mind when we consider this is discipline.  Yes, discipline is known for what happens when a kid (or adult) is bad; they’re disciplined for their actions.  But discipline when it comes to healthy living is all about making a choice and sticking with it.  It’s discipline (and knowing the consequences if I don’t follow through) that has me choosing the healthier foods instead of the bad ones, the good relationships instead of those that would constantly hurt me, and the other healthy habits I’ve chosen for my life.

Sometimes discipline starts out as a fear or consequence that we’re avoiding, but the better use of discipline is when it helps us turn a good idea into a habit and a wish into reality.  Discipline is what gets us up every morning to go to work or to care for our kids, even if it’s not what we really want.  It’s what keeps us going on that really tough project when we know it will help us be successful.  It’s what keeps us moving one step at a time to get closer to accomplishing our goals.

In this definition of the word, discipline is helpful and necessary.  While we don’t always enjoy discipline in this definition, or the well-known one of discipline as punishment or consequences, both are necessary at times.  Discipline is part of our lives for a reason, but we aren’t always willing to follow through with the reason or the punishment.  Life, and health, is all about choices, and choices have consequences and results, whether we want them to or not.  I encourage you this week to take time to consider what the disciplines in your life are teaching you, or trying to teach you.

“Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.” Deuteronomy 8:5

Promises, Promises

Just about every day we say the words “I promise.”  Keeping your promises means that your words are more than just words.  That they have a purpose, a life of their own even.  When you make a promise to yourself or someone about something, you’re doing more than just sharing words.  But even calling them “just” words is a bit misleading because they are never just words. Words have power, power that we give them by thinking, saying and using them.  The question is what will we do with our power?

Will we choose to keep our promises, giving real value to our words, or will we prove over and over again that we’re untrustworthy and unable to follow through on our commitments?  It’s unfortunate that many of us aren’t able to keep up with our commitments, or bite off more than we can chew.  It’s OK to make an honest mistake but all too often we’re greedy or lazy or just not as honestly committed to things as we should be or agreed to be.

We’ve failed as people and we’ve failed as children of God before.  We’re not perfect and it can be really hard, even intimidating to try to keep up with God and His unbelievable power and abilities, not to mention the tiny fact that He’s perfect.  The good news is that God knows we’re not perfect and still loves us and is willing to be patient while we learn what it means to keep our promises.

It can be really hard to keep our promises when things distract us or go wrong.  When we feel like people have failed us or things get screwed up we just want to throw in the towel.  But that’s not what God wants us to do. God wants us to be patient and learn how to work through the tough times and learn what it means to be reliable and dependable. No, we’re not supposed to stay in anything that would harm us or others, but that doesn’t eliminate as many things as you may think, it certainly leaves plenty for us to follow through on yet we don’t.

Sometimes it’s fear, sometimes we’re tired, but whatever the reasons we’ve slacked on our commitments too many times.  Choose love this week when you face commitments and choices, and do your best to follow through with God as your example.

“Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” Deuteronomy 7:9

Agreement of Love

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:37-39

We’ve heard this passage recounted countless times.  It sounds simple but we all know that both loving God and loving our neighbors can be challenging.  Matter of fact, loving ourselves can be challenging too.

Let’s start with the simple part first.  When you’re a kid love is pretty simple: you love everything almost (except broccoli).  Somehow as we go through life and get our hearts broken we stop believing in simple love.  Even our parents, it seems, fail us at times.  But if we take the time to remember back to being kids we can remember how easy it was for us to fall for our first crush, love mac-n-cheese, and simply trust and openly love our parent(s).  If we want love to be simple as adults it starts with remembering love as we knew and believed when we were kids.

The challenging parts are that none of us humans are perfect, and while God is perfect and can’t fail, He isn’t right here to answer us in the way I might answer you either in person or via the internet.  Instead we’re left to struggle with our self-doubt, fears, loneliness, worries and losses when things don’t work out like we hoped.

As I was considering all that this week I ran across a verse that changed my perspective on the first part of that passage: the loving God part.  Deuteronomy 7:12 says:

“If you listen to these laws, and if you are careful to obey them, the Lord your God will keep his agreement of love with you.” 

What’s this agreement of love?  It’s God’s promise to love us for who we are, at any time, any place and for as long as we’ll accept that love.  He’ll love us beyond our faults and failings, from the lowest lows to highest highs.  Yes, He always hopes we’ll live up to the sky-high hopes He has for us, but His love is unconditional.

Know as you begin this week and celebrate love, that whatever else happens God will not let you down for loving Him.  He’s agreed to love you for who you are.