Tag Archives: work

Guarding your thoughts: Philippians 4:6-7

After an exhausting day at work, I peeled off my sweaty clothes and tossed them on a pile of laundry.  But before I could take up residence on the couch, there were a few household items I needed to take care of.  Feeding “big boy” (our parrot fish) and walking Jake and Brody (our two dachshunds) topped the list.

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After finishing a relaxing walk with my pups, I grabbed the stack of dirty clothes and tossed it in the washing machine. A couple hours later I transferred the load to the dryer.

I grabbed a fresh towel and a wash cloth from the dryer the next morning as I prepared to start my day.  While taking several gulps of coffee, I noticed wads of paper scattered across the floor.  I recognized the fragments immediately.  They were “scraps,” thoughts I collected for chapter 8 of my upcoming book, which interestingly enough dealt with the issue of distraction.

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Accusing thoughts surfaced–Brody!  It’s a proven fact he loves to shred anything made of paper.  But how did he get ahold of my precious thoughts?  Yet, he didn’t look guilty as he rested quietly head in paws.  I didn’t know what to think.

Moments later, I visited the dryer again.  This time rummaging for a pair of socks. More wads of paper appeared among the clothes.  As it turns out, this was my doing!

If I had taken the time to capture these thoughts in my manuscript instead of carrying them around for weeks in my shirt pocket, this calamity could have been averted.  In my moment of anxiousness I was reminded of this verse of scripture:

“In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 ASV

You may be wondering what losing scraps of paper has to do with this passage of scripture.  I had the same thought and considered putting this story on ice.  I decided to ponder the matter for further and pray about it.  A thought came to me this morning.  The source of most of my scraps used in this blog find their origin in bathing myself in the peace God provides.

I have to chuckle.  From now on, whenever I see, “guarding your thoughts,” (as in folded scraps of paper in my pocket) it will remind me of my washed and dried scraps of paper.

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Life’s Inequalities

Is life a dead end street? If you are among those who have found no lasting enjoyment in any of life’s pursuits, it may seem so. This thought is not new. Moses, Elijah, Job, Jeremiah, Solomon, Jonah, Paul and other notable Bible figures struggled to the point where some “wished they’d never been born.”

In chapter 6 of Ecclesiastes Solomon struggles with the inequities of life he has seen.

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V1-2    One of the great inequities in life according to Solomon is someone possessing wealth yet not being able (or allowed) to enjoy it for one reason or another.

  • We need to realize that God controls both the giving of wealth and ability to enjoy it (Wm. Barrick)

V3-5    Solomon’s illustration switches to other forms of wealth. Culturally, being blessed with children was seen as possessing great wealth. (Ps 127:3-5)

  • In Solomon’s view a stillborn child is better off than a man who faces nothing but frustration and disappointment his whole life with regards to his family.
  • Stillborn children were not named in ages past as it was thought that by not naming a child it would facilitate the passing of grief
  • No burial – culturally viewed as dishonorable; a person not receiving a proper burial would be viewed as cursed

V6       Long life – in ancient times long life is said to bring honor to ones parents. It is no guarantee, however, that a person will be remembered or that they will enjoy life more and experience an extra measure of happiness.

According to Warren Wiersbe, refusing to acknowledge the Giver (God) while enjoying gifts we receive is a form of idolatry. Likewise, searching for enjoyment apart from God equates to fleeting entertainment. But knowing God and finding enjoyment in his will offers lasting joy and satisfaction (enrichment).

V7-9    The word “satisfaction” here carries the meaning of being filled.

  • A poor man labors with his muscles, while the rich man lets his wealth labor for him. They both labor for food. Why? Each strives to add years to their life.
  • In nature, self-preservation is the first law of life. In man’s case this same desire for self-preservation leads to death (Mark 8:34-38).
  • V9 is equivalent to the saying, “a bird in hand is worth more than two in the bush.” It is better to have something and enjoy it than have nothing but dreams.

hands-1139098_960_720Dr. David Jeremiah offers this perspective on work:  You may be tempted to think: My boss is not God so why give it my all?

  • Work makes life compelling and teaches us about ourselves
  • Work brings us the pleasure of fruitfulness; we find meaning in it.
  • Work is earthly, while joy is heavenly. How do we connect the two? We need to make sure the Holy Spirit supplies the power to help us find enjoyment in our work.

V10-12 Introduce us to the theme SOVERIEGN LORD, which the balance of Ecclesiastes concerns itself with.

V10     Named – naming displays authority. In the book of Genesis God named “light,” he also named “day”

Man – (adam) is formed from the earth and hence this is our standing in the grand scheme of things.

“Devote yourself not with the pursuit of happiness, but with discovering God’s purpose and plan for your life.” W. Wiersbe

v11     Words which increase futility – this exposes our critical need to spend time in God’s word. God’s word leads to life, man’s words are condemning.

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What then is our advantage – Everyone wants an advantage, to use it to control his or her own destiny. We manipulate objects, circumstances and people trying to accomplish that aim. It is God that determines what happens to the individual. Striving against God accomplishes nothing (Isaiah 45:9-12)

V12     Who knows what is good for a man or woman – there is an expression, “God is good all the time, all the time God is good.”

GOOD is the bridge to Ecclesiastes chapter 7.

“Solomon systematically removes every rationale that a person might offer for the existence of inequalities in life “under the sun.” He places creature in contrast with Creator to exhibit mankind’s weakness in the presence of Almighty God.” Wm Barrick

God designed man in a certain way. He made us for himself. This is why success and riches never seem to satisfy because they lead us away from Him. The secret of life, finding heaven on earth has nothing to do with finding a treasure map that will lead us to treasure. The secret boils down to obedience. (Dr. D Jeremiah)

Ecclesiastes: Futility and Folly

Have you been so concerned with a problem that you have felt the tension in your arms, legs or chest? Have you been so stressed out that you lost sleep over it? Solomon is telling us he has seen the futility of life under the sun. In this section (Ecclesiastes 1:17-2:26) his futility gives way to frustration. He is leaving “no stone unturned” in his search for the meaning of life.

William D. Barrick refers to the first two chapters of Ecclesiastes as Solomon’s honest confession. He can’t solve life’s most important issues without God. It is highly unusual for a king of this era to admit to “failure, frustration and folly.” But God uses failure, frustration and folly to draw wandering prodigals back to Himself.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:1-2

In chapter one, verse thirteen a new prospective is identified, “under heaven;” the abode of God, the all-supreme Creator. However, Solomon’s search under heaven does not include the eternal, only the temporal.   His search includes:

Wisdom – The more we know, the less it seems we know.

Wm. Barrick – “What is crooked cannot be straightened” (a proverb). In essence, mankind cannot change all that is done under heaven. C’est la vie (that’s life).  “With wisdom comes much grief” (another proverb). In essence the more wisdom obtained the greater the grief. Solomon keeps reaching the same conclusion that man cannot save himself.

Josh McDowell – If education were the key to life, “universities would be the most moral, ethical and spiritual centers of any nation.”

W. Wiersbe – “The Christian won’t be able to explain everything that happens in life but life is not built on explanations, it’s built on promises.”

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Pleasure – Solomon denies himself no pleasure. He enjoys it. Today we talk ourselves into believing that pleasure is something we have earned, or deserve; like the advertising jingle, “Work hard, play hard.”

Why does pleasure lead to disappointment (under the sun)? We seek the ultimate meaning out of that which is temporary and perishable.

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Work – alone is not the key to happiness. The more we work the more unbalanced the rest of life becomes. For many, work is an attempt to keep them busy from facing how empty their lives really are (under the sun)

Work is not evil. God put Adam in the Garden and gave him work to do. We are wired to work. Unfortunately, for some accomplishments in their work give them the feeling that they are captains of their souls, masters of their destiny.

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Wealth – wealth cannot be taken with us when we die. Where is the advantage of wealth? “The more we have the more we want what we don’t have.” (Dr. D. Jeremiah).

“Money is the universal passport to everywhere except heaven, and the universal provider of everything except happiness.” Wall Street Journal

More about work – Solomon struggles with the realization that labor doesn’t produce anything that will endure for eternity. Futility of labor is equivalent to a hamster on an exercise wheel.   Additionally, there is a realization that death levels the playing field. It comes for everyone; both the lazy and hard-working, the wealthy and poor, the renowned and anonymous. Work done under the sun is not lasting in the light of eternity.

Why did Solomon use the word “hate” referencing his toil? He couldn’t keep the fruits of his labor (his toil ultimately is handed to others). Secondly, he couldn’t protect its fruits (those who receive it won’t have the same appreciation as the person who produced it). Finally, wealth can’t be enjoyed as it should (a lifetime of toil leaves relatively little time to enjoy it).

Solomon’s Conclusions:

Remember Solomon is attempting to find the meaning of life under the sun (striving apart from God). He mentions the sinner, which means one who falls short or misses the mark. This person ultimately gathers resources only hand down to someone else when they die.  Life apart from God (without reconciling with God) leaves the sinner no means of accessing the eternity of heaven.  For them “all is vanity.”

Everything we have is a gift from God.   The believer in God whose prospective is above the sun (under heaven) can find enjoyment under the sun.  In the words of Jesus, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Work or Worship

IMG_0402In Benham’s book, the brothers call our attention to the Hebrew word avodah which can mean work or worship.  God put a desire in us to do both.  The Benham brothers assert that as followers of Jesus we shouldn’t make the mistake of separating the two.  They had several things to say on the subject.  Here are three:

  1.  Whatever the task at work (no matter how menial), it can be done as an act of worship to the God we serve.  That means if we’re janitors (been there) or some other low link on the corporate food chain, our work is meaningful to God.  He sees it as such.
  2. We are strategically placed by God in our jobs as ambassadors for Him.  Not only are we serving our employer (work) we are serving Him (worship).  Your job is your ministry.
  3. Our identity should come from who we are not what we do.  “We are defined by the One who holds us in His hand.”  We must be careful that we are not pulled away from God by making what we do a priority over who we are.  (Colossians 3:23-24)