Monthly Archives: May 2013

This Is My Worship

This summer, in addition to preparing to go to Uganda by raising support, I’m taking a part time summer job to help make ends meet. God was so good in providing work even though I started job hunting after the summer had already started. I get to work outdoors helping customers load heavy purchases into their vehicles, among other physically demanding tasks.

Let me rephrase that…

This summer, in addition to preparing to go to Uganda by raising support, God has called me to worship Him by working a part time job this summer. In His timeless sovereignty, He has decreed that I will work outdoors helping customers load heavy purchases into their vehicles, among other physically demanding tasks, for His glory.

That is my worship!

Paul teaches this mindset towards work in Colossians 3:23,24. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

For some context, these verses come directly after instructions from Paul for husbands to love their wives, children to obey their parents and slaves to obey their masters, not only when they’re around but with sincerity of heart. According to Paul, how we function in the roles we’re assigned in life should have everything to do with our fear, honour and reverence of God.

For me, it’s easy to worship God by serving in ministry. Ministry activities come naturally to me. It’s also easy to sing songs and study the bible. It takes discipline to get into the habit of taking regular quiet times with God, but if you can get into the rhythm it becomes a lot less difficult.

Six hours into the workshift is around when worship becomes difficult. That’s when everything hurts and a customer comes for help with loading ten 75-80lb bags of rocks. It’s when a sweet older lady takes her time opening the trunk after you’ve already lifted her order and love is not what wants to come out of my mouth. That’s when the place is quiet and a twenty minute break hidden behind a large pile of stuff seems tempting.

But this is my worship. My work is an offering to the God who redeemed my life at the cost of His, and in that claimed ownership of my entire existence. This body is not my own, to do as I please. God, who calls me to rest (Sabbath) when I crave work, also calls me to work when I crave rest. In all things, He demands His glory in my life.

One story that comes to mind is David in 2 Samuel 24. After he incurs the wrath of God by taking a census, he’s told by the prophet to offer a sacrifice at a specific spot which is owned by some dude. The old David would have had him killed and taken his wife land, but this is the new improved David. Dude offers to give David the land for free, and David’s response amazes and challenges me. He tells the guy, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing” (Verse 24). Instead of taking the easy out, David determines to bear the full cost of his offering to God. To give God any less than the best of his personal worth would have in unacceptable.

See I don’t want my life of worship to God to be all about what was easy or fun or simply the best use of my talents. I thank God for all he’s done in preparing my heart to go to Uganda for a year, but that wasn’t a particularly tough decision. I’m giving up a lot to go, but I’m inspired and excited by the work God is already doing there and the idea of being a part of it.

It wasn’t my plan to work this summer. If I had made better decisions during the school year, I wouldn’t have to work. But by God’s grace He has blessed me with an opportunity to worship in  a way I never would have planned. I’m going to be the best employee I can be, not because I like my supervisors (and they’re really nice people), but because I’m doing it to God.

The verses from Colossians 3 don’t end with the command, but include a promise. There is an inheritance that we will receive as a reward. I’m not sure exactly what it’ll be. Perhaps it will be the blessings that flow from developed character; maybe it’s material blessings or open doors; or maybe something in heaven after the end of my life. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I trust God that it will come and it will be good.

For this summer, part of my worship involves carrying heavy stuff.

Soli Deo Gloria

When I Choose to Love Pleasure

My lowest moments in life have often come when I’ve chosen to love pleasure. In my first year of university, I had a bad habit of taking a lazy day. On average, once every second week I would decide to skip all my classes, stay in bed and do nothing but watch YouTube videos and NFL highlights, read articles on my favorite humor site. I could justify it well enough to myself: I’d worked hard (not really) for a couple of days and I didn’t have the stamina to continue without a break because I never did much work in high school. It was fun for hours at a time, but the fun always faded. But no matter how bored I got, I could never seem to motivate myself to get up and actually do work. Often my lazy day would extend to multiple days until an imminent deadline reminded me that I was supposed to be a student.

Every lazy day(s) hurt my spiritual life. In an internet haze, I was highly unmotivated to take the initiative to pray or spend time in God’s Word. I was vulnerable to sin and even if I didn’t do anything “wrong”, God always seemed so far away. I believe that rest, fun, pleasure are good things, but can very easily become idols, or things we value above God. They compete passionately for our attentions and when we give our hearts to them, they work to displace God. It’s no surprise then that God warns us against them, quite passionately.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

We are called not to love the world or the things of the world. What does it mean to love the world? Well, for one, it is a sign that the love of the Father is not in a person. I’d like to compare it to another passage where love of something is set against loving God.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” – Matthew 6:24

Here love is paralleled with devotion. A person can only love either God or money and can only be devoted to God or money. Love is a huge concept with a lot of aspects and implications. If here we focus on loving as the act of committing, devoting and giving of oneself to its object, we’re able to get a clear understanding of what the passage from 1 John is saying. Do not be committed, devoted or give yourself to the world or things of the world. You can only serve one master, and it will be either God or the world.

The world consists of natural inclinations: The desires of the eyes, the desires of the flesh and the pride of life (or pride in possessions). John Piper puts it well in his book Future Grace, “No one sins out of duty. We sin because we want to. Sin promises happiness, and we buy the lie.” It’s easy to be lazy; our flesh loves it. It’s easy to sit and be entertained for hours at a time. We are prone to loving the world because it requires no real effort. Love, devotion, commitment to pleasure is not always an active decision we make, but often the natural consequence of choices we don’t

Relationship with God is a regular and active choice. Knowing God requires that we think deeply and reflectively, and communicating with Him doesn’t happen unless we’re intentional with our prayers. Salvation is free, and costs us our lives at the same time. Paul describes his Christian experience as being crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) and Jesus tells us we’ll need to take up our crosses (an image of death) daily (Luke 9:23). The author of Hebrews talks about striving to enter God’s rest so as not to enter into disobedience (Hebrews 4:11). To know God is to choose a lifestyle of daily sacrifice and to love Him, not pleasure.

 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1,2

Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him. There was a plan, from before the foundation of the world to save humanity by paying the penalty for our sins. This plan was rooted in God’s love for His creation, made in His image. Since the fall of man in Genesis, God has been on mission to redeem man, cumulating at the cross. Jesus had a purpose set before Him and gave up everything to fulfill it. And now He is exalted, sitting at the right hand of the Father, having inherited a name that is more excellent than the angels (Hebrews 1:4).

He sets before us a purpose. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” A life driven by our God-given purpose will protect from the destruction that comes from pursuing the pleasures of this world. What’s your purpose? How are you uniquely gifted to make God’s kingdom known?

For many of you and for me, it’s the beginning of a long summer break. It’s easy to slip into laziness, hours online doing nothing or making fun the goal each day. You can spend the summer looking for new ways to be entertained, being deeply unsatisfied. Or you can be a part of a mission that’s been going on since before the world was created. Don’t lose sight of the purpose to which you were called. Pleasure is not bad, but it can become a weight that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1).