Our labour is not in vain.

 

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56For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.  1 Corinthians 15:56-58

Ever since the Great Catastrophe in the Garden of Eden, humanity has pressed against the infection of death — work is hard and often filled with thorns and thistles. Solomon called it, “Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity.” This cry against the despair and futility of life is sometimes translated “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.” Sometimes life feels that way. But here’s the good news of Jesus and His Gospel: He gives us victory over sin and death. He makes use of our work and our faith in Him. Its never useless! Its never useless to live your life for Jesus!

Jesus creates defining moments.

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18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.  Matthew 4:18-25 ESV

Jesus creates defining moments. Defining moments change us. Its when we have an experience, make a decision, turn a certain direction, that sets a new trajectory for our lives. Peter had a defining moment. Our challenge with the text though is not really accepting that Jesus commands respect and obedience. Well perhaps that is a problem for us. But that’s a challenge in our relationship to Jesus as Lord.

However, our challenge with the text is to put it back into the context of the other Gospel writings and see events leading up to this defining moment. Jesus created the defining moment for Peter and Andrew, and James and John, through a series of encounters.

+ Teaching and public ministry around Galilee and in the
synagogues. Luke 4

+ John the Baptist prepares the way around the Jordan, declaring,
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
John 1:29

+ Andrew tracks down Jesus and later tells his brother Simon,
“We have found the Messiah.”  John 1:41

+ Jesus arranges a miraculous catch of fish for Peter after a night
of failure. Luke 5:1-11

Here’s the deal, you may not realize now what Jesus is up to in your life. But, He does have a discipling vision for you if you are His follower. You have a contribution to make in the life and work of the church. “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.”

Someday… when I win the lottery.

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1We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. 6Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.  2 Corinthians 8:1-7

Generosity is a matter of character. And like many aspects of character we assume we can actually “put it on” or simply “start doing it” when we “grow up” or when we have more responsibility and capacity. So we may assume we will establish a standard of giving when we have a lot more money than we have today. But that’s not the way it works. You won’t become generous because you have a big salary, or win the lottery.

Our “Secret” of Giving
As Christians generosity is meant to flow from our disciple-life with Jesus. The secret of the Macedonian’s generosity was not that they were wealthy people. Their secret of generosity was that they “gave themselves first to the Lord” and “then by the will God” to the apostles and their work. The tithe was not the beginning point for them; rather their relationship with Jesus and His church was their starting point for giving.

Set your Standards of Giving
The standard of giving that you have today is likely to be your standard of giving in the future, unless you begin to change it in response to Jesus and allow for a Gospel-shaped generosity in your standards. This is how character develops. Its a hardened habit built over time and testing. Then the tithe under the grace of Jesus becomes a generosity baby step. Paul tells the Corinthians to see that that they excel in the grace of giving not through the force of a command but through the force of Jesus’ love in their hearts!

8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:8-9

Scarcity and worry. Part 3.

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32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:32-34

One of the traits of an entrepreneur is that she is asking, “What do I want to do next?” I believe there is a related and similar question for the follower of Jesus.

However, scarcity and particularly worry about scarcity can keep us from asking the question and from giving our lives to the answer. Jesus is resetting the internal automation of the disciple. His Spirit is turning our affections and our questions towards Him.

So Jesus assures His disciples, My Father cares for you. My Father knows you. And now He assures them, if you are seeking His kingdom and His righteousness, God will add the “things” you require.

Here’s the question followers of Jesus are free to ask and to give themselves to daily: “My Heavenly Father, would you show me what you are doing in the world, and how you would like me to be a part of it?”

The question must come with a declaration of intent: “Lord, even as I go about the work of this day, I’m available to you for your Kingdom and for doing life in your ways.”

We really do have a hard time acting like we believe the Lord has an abundance of what we need for the trouble of this day. How often has obedience to Him been stopped in its tracks by worrying about “what if I don’t have enough… ?”

Let’s give our selves to the Lord Jesus Christ again believing He has enough.

Anger after the sun goes down.

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26Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and give no opportunity to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27

So angry. Seething. When the sun goes down on our anger, the mind races to create stories justifying our wrath. The mind creates an enemy not just out of the offending people or group, but out of you. An enemy is one we think the world could do without. In other words, an enemy is one who believes the world would be better if this person was gone, removed, and dead to us. After dark, anger can turn us into the enemy willing and capable of harm. Oh, we might not kill the person, but we can act badly — lashing out later or turning on a cold hearted and deathly silence.

Such mental work is poison to our souls and for our relationships. The Gospel of Jesus compels us to take these matters of anger seriously. We must begin to see anger as an important emotion, signalling that something is wrong either in the world or in us… or in both.

Paul connects “going to bed with anger at play in our heart and mind” as the Devil’s playground. Anger gives the Devil an opportunity.

So you are angry. A work of prayer is required. A work of reconciliation is required too. You must make an intentional decision to keep the offence and problem that stimulated your anger in the light of the Son of God and not in the heart of darkness.