Faith and Work ~ Work Can Destroy You

Pray | Lord, give us insight on how my faith should shape our work, because our work matters to you and to others.

This week in looking at work and its relationship to the fall in the Garden, we’ve seen that we’ve been working from the very beginning, and that work became more difficult after listening to the serpent. Limitations set by God are for our good, and brokenness causes us to ignore those boundaries creating difficulties in and between us. Today we’re considering how our faith can influence our work, and that if faith doesn’t, our work has the potential to destroy us.
Read | Psalm 119:30; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Micah 6:8 

Psalm 119:30
I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.

1 Thessalonians 1:3
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. 
Reflect | Spend some time reflecting on one or more of the following:

Pastor and theologian, Tim Keller, in speaking on faith and work, offers four ways faith can serve us in our vocation. The first is faith gives an inner stability without which work can destroy us
If our self-worth, importance, identity or competence comes from work, our successes go to our head and our failures go to our heart. If we are not absolutely certain of our worth, we’ll be whipped back and forth but faith can keep us grounded in the stormiest of times.

Faith reminds us of the dignity of all work.
With this truth central in our hearts, we won’t have a belittling attitude toward others’ work. The shutdowns during the pandemic revealed and reminded us of some of the unsung heroes in our midst. Our uplifting of them showed we valued their dedication and work, that their work very much mattered.

Faith gives us a moral compass without which work could corrupt us.
With so much pressure for profitability, and with culture leaning toward moral relativity, leaving our faith at the door may cause our clarity and conviction to become soggy and soupy.

Lastly, faith gives us a world view that shapes the character of our work, and without faith, our work could master and use us.
We might find ourselves giving more to our jobs than to our families, which in turn causes us to prioritize in a disordered manner, putting our best effort, energy and position toward work. Our work has the potential to shape us if we walk unaware of if we are shaping or being shaped by our work environment.

Though people can be difficult, and work is harder and slower due to a ground cursed with thorns and thistles, that’s not all we’re left with, we have faith. Faith gives us hope in all circumstances, so let us not leave it at the door as we finish our prayers, begin our day and enter our work.

Does my faith shape my work, or am I being shaped by my work? If so, how? Am I certain of my self-worth and identity outside of my job or role?

Written for Five Oaks Church Daily Life Devotional
Link here to the second message in a four part series on Faith and Work

Pastor Jonathan Haage // (message The Curse of Work begins at 16:12)

Your Work Matters ~ Embracing Limits

Pray | Lord, help me see the limits you have in place for my daily life.

“Should babies have maple syrup?” my daughter-in-law asked as I dipped a piece of pancake into syrup before plopping it in my granddaughter’s mouth as she murmured “Mmmmmm.” Turns out, they should not.

Just because the taste is sweet, or something looks appealing, doesn’t mean it’s good for us. Sometimes it’s as simple as syrup for a baby, but it can be as complicated as the fruit on a forbidden tree. 

Read |  Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-5 

Genesis 2:15-17
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” 

Genesis 3:1-5
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

Reflect | Spend some time reflecting on one or more of the following

In the Garden, God forbid Adam and Eve the fruit of one tree. Enter the serpent, who out points out to Eve the prohibition of one tree, neglecting God’s provision of the rest of the trees, implication — God is restrictive. While living within the limit God set for them, Adam and Eve lived harmoniously and uninhibited with God and one another. But once they broke that boundary, they suddenly felt naked, ashamed, covering themselves and even hiding from God. When asked what they had done Adam blamed Eve (and kind of blamed God, “The woman you put here with me . . . “) and Eve blamed the serpent and they became fragmented. That decision to take the forbidden fruit still affects work environments and relationships today; we can be difficult with each other, have a hard time taking ownership of our actions, we can be disagreeable and prideful . . . fragmented.

Interestingly while living within God’s limitations in the garden, work was fulfilling and good, yielding much. But with disregarded limitations, work became harder, there were thorns and thistles to contend with. Those thorns and thistles are still present in our work today, they can pop up as tedium, exhaustion, blaming, difficult deadlines, co-workers, clients, bosses and such. But we still have the option to embrace God’s limits today, and when we do, we live with each other much more harmoniously, and work is good and fulfilling.

How might the brokenness back in the Garden affect your relationships and work life? Do you have a sense of God’s limits for you? What are some limitations that have yielded fruit in your home and work life?

Written for Five Oaks Church Daily Life Devotional

The Answer is No

It isn’t easy telling my kids no, in fact sometimes it’s really hard when it comes to bigger issues. Such was the case in the beginning of Courtney’s freshman year at college. “You are responsible for a portion of your college tuition and so yes, you must get a job on campus.” That was just one of the more difficult conversations we’ve had with our oldest…
Read more here.

Needed: Boundaries

I am very aware of how prevalent pornography is – I know it comes into our homes through our computers and gets caught in spam. I know with smart phones, kids are looking at it while sitting in class and on the couch. I know that both boys and girls in our middle schools and high schools send text messages with both inappropriate words and pictures.

I know our culture seems to be moving  has moved us in the direction of accepting more and more sexual material in more and more arenas, and consequently we are becoming more and more desensitized to inappropriate material.

But I am not so desensitized that I didn’t notice the cover of this month’s ESPN magazine. ESPN magazine comes to our home because we ordered it for Zach (our sixteen year old) as a gift last year. But he won’t be receiving this month’s magazine – The Body Issue.

Some will say I’m a prude, some will say I can’t appreciate the strength and beauty of the human body. But the truth is, I am a mom trying to help my son keep boundaries.

I would never put a magazine in my son’s hands with naked women and men in it; I throw away Victoria’s Secret catalogs as soon as they arrive in the mail. We are known to talk about pornography at dinner and during family devotions (I’m still not comfortable with these conversations, but culture is very comfortable pushing every envelope, so the way I see it, I don’t really have a choice except to talk to them). We are teaching our kids how, and even more importantly why, to protect themselves from images such as these.

I know the magazine is out there and Zach may have friends who have it. He certainly could purchase it himself. We may even raise his curiosity by keeping it from him. The same is true for the computer – although we have ours in the kitchen, there are others who have them in the bedrooms, though he doesn’t have a smart phone, he knows many others who do. We know we can’t keep our kids from all material that is inappropriate, that actually isn’t our goal, what we are shooting for is to help them understand what happens when you become desensitized and what happens when you allow culture, or even your friends set your standard.

I asked Erin (our fourteen year old) why she thinks we do all that we do in this area. She said it’s so they are very clear about what is right and what is wrong, that they have an understanding that is black and white about what is expected, and that by living by example, we help them keep purity.

That tells me we are making an impact and having an influence. It doesn’t mean they will always choose wisely. It doesn’t mean our job is done. There are marketing firms and a pornography industry spending millions trying to influence my kids – but I am a parent, who according to research, still has the greatest influence in my kid’s life, and I simply leveraged that influence today.

One of These Things is Not Like the Others…

Warning: I’m disgusted and the following may sound like a Soap Box post.

While watching the Today Show last week I saw an interview with Cee-Lo Green. It was during this interview that I learned who he is and that he has a song that as of today sits at #16 on the Billboard Top 100. Maybe you know of this song, I did not. Tyring to articulate my feelings about this song and its title is difficult. I’m appalled by it. Cee-Lo said his ten year old son is not allowed to listen to the song, and yet it pollutes the airways in which our kids listen. (Does he really think his 10 year old hasn’t listened to the song? That his friends at school haven’t talked about it?)

My thirteen year old daughter had heard this song on the radio and had heard the lyrics as “Forget You” but knew what the real lyrics were. When I asked her how she knew, she said kids at school have talked about it.

At the Grammy’s on Sunday evening, Cee-Lo Green gave a performance of this song – with the MUPPETS. As in the Muppets that we associate with Sesame Street! We all trust that the Muppets would never teach our kids swear words, right? Except in addition to the implied F word, another swear word was also used during the performance.

This just makes me mad. Mad that we seem to have no standards, no boundaries, nothing is off limits. In fact we bring the guy who sings these words onto a network news show and gush over him. And now, we can associate the Muppets with singing lyrics and words we would punish our kids for using.

I have no idea why we struggle with so much disrespect in our culture. No idea at all.

I am aware there are many, many awful songs out there with horrific lyrics. I don’t listen to that music and can avoid it fairly easily. The difference is that this song came at me through the network morning news and through a prime time network TV.

Yesterday I posted Love is Patient here.