February 12: Grace at Work

Read Ephesians 6:5-9

Many people spend a huge segment of their lives on the job. It is there, then, that we have one of our largest platforms for touching others for eternity’s sake. Keep in mind, though, that these are likely the people who, next to our families, know us best. Not only do they see us when we are on the mountaintops of life but also when we are in the middle of valley experiences. Beyond that, they witness firsthand our approach to our work and to fellow employees. What they see in our lives may endear them to the gospel, or perhaps distance them from it. As you invite your co-workers to join you at Grace and as you share the truth of Jesus Christ with them, can you say that your work life is consistent with the invitation?

Admittedly the biblical text you read today may seem somehow remote from clear references to employment. Instead, Paul spoke to the first-century reality of slaves and owners. Nevertheless, the closest twenty-first century parallel is found when we are on the job. So, here we find principles for employees and bosses. Let’s take a closer look.

Employees should do their work as unto Christ. You see there is no facet of life, including your work that does not fit under the lordship of Jesus. Whether your boss is watching and appreciative or not, do your work with excellence and the Lord will reward you.

Bosses should also lead sensitively without the use of threats. If you oversee others on the job, exercise the same kind of impartial grace that you hope to receive from the Lord one day in the future.

By incorporating these kinds of employment principles and practices into your life, you can make your witness for Christ even more attractive.

sbk

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February 11: How Much Has the Lord Done for You?

Read Mark 5:1-20

Talk about life change! There is no doubt that this man experienced it.

Before Jesus came along, he was downright scary. The fact that he lived in a graveyard was our first clue. Running around naked was yet another detail about him that tipped us off. His superhuman strength added another reason to fear. Oh, and by the way, “cutting” isn’t just a 21st century phenomenon . . . this guy was inflicting injury upon himself 2,000 years ago. And then there was the screaming. Continuously, this man cried out with a voice that had an unearthly origin. That was the man who “welcomed” Jesus as He got out of the boat on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. Scary, isn’t it!?

And that same man asked to get in the boat with Jesus as He departed . . . well, not exactly. He was different. The screaming had stopped. He had clothes on. Rather than running around wildly, he had actually sat down calmly. This man who was crazy now seemed to be in his right mind. What happened in that few minute span was nothing short of a miracle. Jesus had transformed him.

But while the man asked to accompany Jesus, the Lord gave him different instructions:  “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (v. 19). He did just that . . . and people were amazed.

The instruction Jesus gave this man is a good reminder to us as we embrace opportunities to share Jesus with others. What do you say as you invite someone to meet Jesus or to just join you at Grace? Start where Jesus asked this man to start. Tell someone about the things the Lord has done for you. Tell him/her how God has used Grace in your life. As you engage others in conversation, can you sensitively communicate some of the blessing you have experienced from the Lord?

sbk

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February 10: Daily?

Read Acts 16:1-15

A word from today’s reading captured my attention. “Daily.”  We find it in verse 5. Paul and Silas were delivering the message of the all-important decisions made in Jerusalem, found in Acts 15. As they did so, “churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.” (emphasis mine)

There are a couple of ways to understand that. It could have been that each day the number of people in those churches was larger than the day before. Or was it, as a dear brother of mine has concluded, the possibility that every day the number of churches was larger than the previous day? No matter how you stack it, some amazing growth was taking place!

Wouldn’t it be exciting if we could say that about our own church. What if Grace Church was growing daily in numbers?

Let’s work backwards and consider what might bring that about. First of all, we must clearly acknowledge that it is God who ultimately causes growth. (See 1 Cor. 3:6, 7.)  He is the One who has chosen people before the creation of the world. (See Eph. 1:4.)  It is His Spirit that convicts people of sin and draws them to the Savior. (See Jn. 16:7-11.) We have to conclude on the one hand, then, that this daily increase we just read about is His doing. You and I are totally dependent upon Him in prayer.

Meanwhile, we must recognize that God typically reaps a harvest where workers have been out in the fields. You see, while Paul pointed to His heavenly Father as the One who brought about growth, he also said, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it . . .” (1 Cor. 3:6). Even Jesus saw the needs of people and pointed to the integral role that Christ followers play when He said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matt. 9:37, 38).

God typically reaps a harvest where workers have been out in the fields. If we are praying for a daily increase, we will want to be daily active in sharing Jesus and the truth about life with Him. With whom will you speak today?

sbk

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February 9: Listen to the Spirit

Read Acts 8:26-40

Not all of your chances to share Jesus will end the way Philip’s did with this man riding in that first-century chariot. Not every conversation in which you offer a stranger an invitation to Christ and our church will end with their conversion and baptism. I am guessing that you realize that. I am stating the obvious. That point is clear.

But there is something about this story that is less clear. It is packaged in verse 29. “The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.’” Okay, here is my question: How did the Spirit communicate that to Philip? Did he hear an audible voice? Was there writing in the sand? Did the Spirit communicate through a nagging feeling, an impression? I wish the Bible were clearer. But then again, if we were told how the Spirit spoke, we might limit the ways He speaks to us to that one expression. We might only listen for that kind of voice. We might miss other ways in which He prompts us.

But beyond the question of “How did the Spirit speak to Philip?” there is another question that plagues me. “Do I hear the Spirit speak to me?” Would you recognize the voice of the Spirit if He spoke to you? Wait a minute. That last “would you recognize if” statement could seem to communicate the idea that the Spirit’s involvement in my life seldom happens. That is not consistent with the description Jesus gives of the Spirit’s involvement in our lives in John 14-16. He describes “another Counselor” who is incredibly active in the hearts and lives of people. So that leads us back to the original question. Assuming that the Spirit wants to direct me into outreach encounters, am I listening for and recognizing His voice?

So, here’s the challenge for today, and every day. Expect the Spirit’s involvement in your life. Listen for His prompting today that nudges you to get close to someone else and be willing to talk about your relationship with Jesus. Listen for the Spirit.

sbk

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February 8: Neighbors

Read Luke 10:25-37

As familiar as I am with the story of the Good Samaritan, I don’t know that I really ever noticed this one detail, or at least took the time to think about it, until today. The expert in the Old Testament law posed a question. Jesus responded to that question with a story. At the end of the story Jesus posed a question back to the man. Now here is the point that I have never taken time to consider: the two questions sound nearly the same, but they are vastly different.

The expert asked, “Who is my neighbor?” You see, the man understood, and even expressed, the importance of the Old Testament command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It is a valid question to ask, but it seems that the expert probably already had his own answer. As he sought “to justify himself” (v. 29), he had already drawn his own conclusions. He was looking for affirmation from Jesus if His answer was the same, or he was ready to engage Jesus in debate if His qualification list differed. He had already in his mind defined the profile of neighbors worthy of love. And those known for their sin or those who might tarnish his ceremonial “cleanness” just weren’t on the list. They were to be avoided . . . the way that two of the characters in the story gave a wide berth to the injured traveler.

“The Good Samaritan” by Aimé Morot (1880) shows the Good Samaritan taking the injured man to the inn.

But Jesus closed the story with a different question. “Which one was a neighbor?” Rather than focusing on who qualifies for our help, He is interested in knowing who is willing to offer it. You see, we really aren’t given much information about the beaten man. Was he a Jew? Did he have a reputation for sin? What if he was a tax collector! Jesus doesn’t give us that kind of information.

And while priests, Levites, and experts in the law may have established qualification lists and conditions for demonstrating love to others, Jesus doesn’t even go there. Instead, He seems to point out that this man deserved neighborly love independent of his background. Loving your neighbor is simply a response to the need of people you find along your path. Who is willing to help?

As you look for opportunities today to share Jesus, try to listen to the desperate, felt needs of the person you engage in conversation. Is there any help you can offer?

sbk

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February 7: Church, an Electric Place!

Read Acts 2:1-47

It happened in the month of May around 30 a.d . . . a landmark day in human history. It was the Jewish holiday of Pentecost. But that wasn’t what made it special. No, this day was extraordinary because it was the day the Church was born. On that day, the Spirit of God came upon followers of Christ. On that day, Peter shared a message. On that day, three thousand responded in faith and baptism. Those three thousand came together and became the first church.

The Church of the Nativity is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world.

Think about how monumental that is. That church was the first of literally millions of churches that have since come into existence. Our church traces its roots ultimately to that church and to that day.  And that church, though I am sure it wasn’t perfect, modeled for us the purpose and some of the values that every congregation should embrace and express.

That first church in Jerusalem was an electric place. You probably noticed it as you read. People were filled with awe because of what they experienced. Their jaws dropped and eyes opened wide, not only because of miracles that happened in their midst.  No, there was more to it than that. They had transforming experiences as they subjected themselves to the teaching they received. People gave and people received and needs were met. They were enjoyed rich relationships in the context of warm times together in each other’s homes. Times of communion were reminiscent of that evening when Christ shared those symbols with His disciples. The atmosphere in the early church was expectant and electric.

Wooster Grace stands firm as a recipient of that legacy. Perfect? Definitely not. Room for improvement? Of course. But it is a place where people have transforming encounters with the Scriptures! It represents an opportunity to experience deep relationships! Here is a group of people where many sacrifice in order to meet the needs of others! In our church, men and women experience the living Christ!

There is so much at Grace that blesses me, I want to invite others to share my experiences. How about you? As you look for opportunities to reach out and share Jesus, it makes sense to invite them to join you in experiencing the body of Christ. Why not invite them to Grace Church this weekend? Reach out and watch God work.

sbk

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February 6: Don’t Complain

Read Philippians 2:1-18

Ever encounter a person whose name and situation you should know, but you can’t for the life of you seem to remember? Somewhere along the way, I heard how one person handled those situations. He would simply greet the familiar strangers warmly and then ask, “So, how is the old complaint?” At that point, his forgotten friends typically launched into a long dissertation about their frustrations. You see, that person realized that most people have some kind of complaint that they aren’t afraid to bring up and elaborate on!

Christians are not exempt from that tendency. Oh, we may spiritualize our grumbling by mentioning it as a “prayer request.” We may add the words “Bless their heart . . .” before speaking badly about someone. Perhaps we find more acceptable ways to “sanctify” our complaining.

But, just imagine what would happen if you didn’t follow the normal complaining pattern of the world! Think about what it would look like for you to resist that seemingly innate tendency to grumble! Paul tells us what the result will be. Not only will we become blameless children of God, but we will also “shine like stars in the universe!” In other words, we will stand out. Against the dark backdrop of a culture characterized by complaining, the person who chooses not to complain will be obvious to others.

Today’s challenge will go against all of your natural tendencies to experience justice and be appreciated. That’s OK, although it may be unnatural. God equips you with supernatural ability. You can become a person who does not argue or complain. With the fruit of the Spirit that includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, you will stand out in a world marked by complaining. Let those qualities be the trademarks of your life rather than an angry, justice-seeking, complaining, grumbling attitude. As you do so, your outreach to others will become more irresistible.

sbk

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