Flag on the Play

penalty-flagEcclesiastes 7:20

20 Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.

There was a unique call in the NFL game this last Thursday night.  The Philadelphia Eagles were on offense during the 4th quarter.  A flag was thrown for a false start.  This is a call that usually indicates sloppy play on the part of one or two players of the offensive line.  In this case the sole offender was the only one NOT  flagged for the infraction.  The center, Jason Kelce, forgot the snap count… and while everyone else sprung into motion… he never hiked the ball.  Referee Walt Anderson received more than a few laughs for his announcement:  “False start, everybody but the center.”   The culprit was the only one not called for the penalty.

Our verse today from Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is not a single person on this earth that is innocent before a holy God.  Not even righteous people do good all the time… even they sin.  Illegal motion could be called on just about every play that humans beings are a part of.

Romans 5: 6-8 reminds us:   For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Solomon said there in not a righteous man who continually does good and does not sin…. but that was because he never met Jesus.  Our redeemer, in the fullness of time, came to live  the only sinless life that has ever been lived.  Then, at the cross, where He died, He took the penalty for our sin.  (2 Corinthians 5:21)   In the game called life, He has given us the victory!  And has made us penalty free in the process!  Blessed be His holy name!

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The Hidden Strength of the Servant

foot washing2Acts 18:1-3

After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, having recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. He came to them, and because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and they were working, for by trade they were tent-makers.

I can’t speak more highly about Aquila and Priscilla…  Paul’s co-workers in tent making as well as in the Gospel.  They traveled with him, taught with him, and even risked their lives for him. (Romans 16: 3-4),  but what I like most about them is that they were just every day, hard working folks.  They loved and served their Lord Jesus with vigor… and yet they both had a 9-5 job to get in as well.

I have worked bi-vocationally and know first hand how exhausting it can be.  Where does one find the energy to please a secular employer and to employ their spiritual gifts?  What right has a pastor to ask a church member working 40-60 hours a week to commit to a ministry at church?

Peter in 1 Peter 4 wrote about two types of spiritual gifts:

11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; …

The “speakers” are the upfront people… the pastors, teachers, etc.  They are to be careful to speak the words God gives them and not just what they know will cause people to like them.

The other group are the “servers.”  These are the behind the scenes people, the servants… people like Priscilla and Aquila.  Their spiritual gifts often go unnoticed and don’t get the praise and recognition that the “speakers” receive.  Add to that that these servants also work full time and it can be difficult to muster up the energy required.

Someone asked to work in such a role might say:  “Pastor, I’m tired.  I work everyday until exhaustion.  I don’t have any energy left for Kingdom work.”

Well, Priscilla and Aquila in the first century were involved in tiring work.   And yet they served the Lord with “the strength which God supplies.”  You don’t know what kind of energy you will have until you put your hand to the Lord’s work.  HE provides the strength you need WHEN you need it the most.

The Scriptures teach:  “23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,”   This means when you punch the time clock… or when you fill out your timesheet… it isn’t just for your earthly employer… you are also “Working for Jesus.”  Your job is more than a means to feeding and supporting yourself… God wants your job to be leveraged for the advancement of His kingdom.   And He promises to provide all the strength you will need.

 

Milemarkers: Surely the Presence of the Lord is in THIS place.

Natchez TraceGenesis 28:10-17

16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”

I have heard the song origin of the Lanny Wolfe Gospel classic:  “Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this Place.”  He was asked along with his trio to sing at the dedication of a new church sanctuary.  The song came in a sudden and unexpected manner.  It was not his usual style of writing, but when he sang those words for the first time at that dedication service, they would not change from that moment:

Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this place,

I can feel His mighty power and His grace;

I can feel the brush of angel’s wings,

I see Glory on each face.

Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this place.

Reading through the story which contains Jacob’s words (upon which the song is based) I sense a different source of inspiration for the quote.  While Lanny Wolfe looked at a beautiful sanctuary and was inspired by God to write.  Jacob awoke from a beautiful dream, only to see the wilderness still around him.  On mile marker “middle of no where”… he experienced the presence of God.

While the songwriter mentioned above marveled at the presence of God in such a Spirit filled setting… Jacob marveled how God could have been present in such a god-forsaken (?) place.  And Jacob then marveled at how he could have almost missed it!

So many of us are on journeys that we would not have chosen.  Jacob’s flight was due to his own doing.   (Many of our journeys take place in the wilderness of our own “doings.”)  And it was there that God found him.  It was there that God made His presence known.  Makes me wonder about what I might be missing around me.  Will I leave my own pity party early enough to catch a glimpse of God’s glory that is really all around me?

Surely the presence of the Lord is even in THIS place!  Wake up and see the glory!

Wise Warnings for the Worker

work in progressEcclesiastes 4:4-6

Happy Labor Day!

Work is an important part of our lives that the pulpit doesn’t address often enough.  Dorthy Sayers once wrote: “How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?”

So here is some wisdom from Solomon… some things to avoid in the workplace:

Envy

And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Harold G. Coffin defined envy as “the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.”  Keeping up with the Joneses is an impossibility.  The Joneses are everywhere.  Envy of others will push you into a cycle of work that will wear your out… body and soul.  And in the end it is a poor motivation for work.

Laziness

The fool folds his hands and ruins himself.

Working for just a paycheck to cash and buy things to keep up with the neighbors produces a lot of lazy people at the job site…  watching the time clock and walking around in a haze… working hard only to avoid work.

Remember:  Laziness doesn’t pay.  And not just in work, but in life… to put off responsibility is to fold your hands and ruin yourself.

Work-a-holism
Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.

Always being the last car on the lot, beating the secretary in, bring home work in your briefcase, telling your family… I’m going to be late again… develops within you a hurry sickness.

What is hurry sickness?

Meyer Friedman, in his book, Treating Type A Behavior defines it as “a continuous struggle … to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time.”  You know if you have that sickness if you saved some work to do over labor day.

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Okay, that is your labor day lesson… now go enjoy your day off.