Why My Wife Has Re-entered the Workplace

Today is Friday, August 17th, and while I’m recovering from an annoying case of vertigo, I have been reflecting on a decision my wife and I made about a month ago.  This afternoon my wife, Susan, will come home from her first week of teaching 2nd grade at a nearby school, the first job she has had outside the home in 17 years.  She is tired and yet she is excited about how the Lord is using her.

Not that she hasn’t been working.  For the last 17 years she has had the hardest job anyone could have, managing our home.  She has cooked thousands of meals, pushed grocery carts for thousands of miles, wiped noses (and other unmentionable areas of our childrens’ bodies) thousands of times, and picked up a thousand pairs of socks and underwear from the floor.  She has homeschooled all of our four sons at one time or another (none of whom are still in homeschool at present), and managed to transform a houseful of smelly, messy, testosterone-laden boys (present company included) into a home where the grace of God rests.  Oh yes, she has worked.

But this is the first time in 17 years she has worked outside the home.  We consider that to be a gracious blessing to our family.  Not everyone is able to have mom stay at home, but God has been gracious to make this desire a reality for our family.  He certainly required that we make sacrifices to make it work (financially and otherwise), but we don’t for a moment believe that living off of a pastor’s salary in a middle-class suburban context with 4 boys was our doing…no, it was our Sovereign God who made it work, and to Him we are so very grateful for this blessing.

But why the change?  Why now, after all these years is Susan jumping back into the workplace?  Great question!  For us, we always considered this to be part of the plan.  We knew that unless the Lord provided in some other way, Susan would need to get a job at some point in order for us to afford the looming expenses of sending four sons to college (which will begin for us in less than a year).  That provision had not come by the beginning of summer, and so we decided it was time to go ahead and start preparing for her to re-enter the workplace, and I am so proud of what she accomplished in taking courses and getting her Georgia teaching certificate re-certified.  Then, the arduous task of applying for jobs and interviewing.  As God would have it, a precious family friend notified us of a 2nd Grade teaching position at a school 7 minutes from our house.  Susan applied, had 2 interviews in a week, and received an offer the following week.  It all happened so fast, we found ourselves discussing whether or not to accept the offer before we really had an opportunity to pray about whether she should go back to work at all.  We just assumed that was what she was supposed to do.  After all, how else were we going to afford college?

That’s when the Lord urged both Susan and I to pause and pray.   The salary offered to Susan was such that it required us to seek the Lord’s wisdom.  Any lower and we would have been tempted to just decline the offer….after all, her working outside the home was going to have a major impact on our family and it needed to be financially “worth it”.  Conversely, if the offer had been any higher, we would have been tempted to just go ahead and accept it, seeing the higher salary as a “sign from God”.  Instead, the Lord was gracious to make the offer such that we really were forced to bring it to Him for discernment.  So, we brought the decision to the Lord, and He impressed upon both of us that we were looking at this decision from a “financial” perspective, instead of from a “missional” perspective.  This wasn’t a financial decision as much as it was a decision about what God wanted Susan to do with her life…in essence, what was His mission for her?

The real question the Lord caused us to wrestle with was, “Was God calling Susan to be a teacher?”.  If He wasn’t, then no amount of money would be worth her being outside of the will of God.  If He was, then no amount of money should stand in the way of her doing what the Lord was asking of her.  Boy, did that take the pressure off!  We simply needed to know what our Father’s mission was for Susan, and then trust Him with the financially aspect of how it would happen.  Once that became “the decision”, it was a fairly easy decision.  Susan’s heart has always been to teach children.  It’s what the Lord placed on her heart as a young girl, whether it be teaching our own kids in homeschool, teaching children at our church, or teaching in a traditional classroom, the Lord has created her to teach for His glory.  Once we were settled on her mission, the financial aspect of the decision became much easier.  Who were we to decline an opportunity to be engaged in what the Lord made her to do, just because it wasn’t going to completely satisfy all of our financial “wants”?  The Lord has always perfectly provided for us, as He has promised to do.  Were we now going to trust Him in this, or not?  We’ve discovered that after the Lord gives clarity to a decision and makes it more about whether we’re going to trust Him or not, the decisions get easier to make.  Ofcourse we would trust Him.

Now, I will readily admit that this has been an adjustment to our family’s life.  We have all needed to pitch-in and be more helpful around the house, but that has been a good thing.  The boys are learning more responsibility, and we are all looking at this as if our whole family is involved in the mission that the Lord has given to Susan.  And I think that’s pretty cool.

Let me encourage you not to make decisions like this based on the resources available to you, whether it’s time, money, or talents.  Instead, make it a decision based on mission.  Is the Lord asking you to do this…..or not?  And after He answers that question, then all you’ve got to do is trust Him.

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Don’t Worry

A couple of weeks ago we unpacked Matthew 6:25-34 where Jesus exhorts His disciples to not be anxious.  You can listen to the audio of the sermon here (sermon title: “Don’t Worry, Be Godly”), but I thought I would share with you some thought-provoking quotes I came across as I studied for this sermon.  I pray these bless you by encouraging you to have greater faith in your amazing Savior!

Charles Spurgeon – Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.

Anonymous – Worry is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.

Corrie Ten Boom – If a case is too small to be turned into a prayer it is too small to be made into a burden.

Corrie Ten Boom         Look around and be distressed.  Look inside and be depressed.  Look at Jesus and be at rest.

E Stanley Jones – Worry is the interest we pay on tomorrow’s troubles

DA Carson – the root of anxiety is unbelief

George Mueller – The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety

Worry

…gives a small thing a big shadow

…is the interest we pay on tomorrow’s troubles.

…over tomorrow pulls shadows over today’s sunshine.

…is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.

…is an indication that we think God cannot look after us. (O. Chambers)

…is putting question marks where God has put periods. (J R Rice)

…is the interest we pay on tomorrow’s troubles. (E S Jones)

…is an intrusion into God’s providence. (J Haggai)

…is a guest admitted which quickly turns to master.

… never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its strength (A J Cronin)

… is  the interest paid by those who borrow trouble (G W Lyon)

…is practical atheism and an affront to God (R. H. Mounce)

Sunday 10/23/2011 addendum

Text for this Sunday, Matthew 6:19-24

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!24 “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.

I don’t know if we’ll get all the way through this passage on Sunday (don’t laugh please), but atleast this is where we’ll start.

What does it mean to store up treasures in heaven, as opposed to storing them on earth?  What does it mean to have a healthy eye and so have a life full of light, as opposed to an unhealthy eye, and have a life full of darkness?  What does it mean to have God as my master, as opposed to something else mastering me, like money?

Jesus is using three vivid analogies to illustrate that we have a decision to make, and the decision is, “Whom are we for in life?”.  That’s the question that Jesus is using to cause His disciples to do some self-evaluation.  Whom are are you for in life?  Is your life ultimately about you, or is your life ultimately about your God?  Whom do you serve?  Whom do you really worship?  Whom do you consider first?  Where we store our “treasure”, which kind of eye we choose to see through, and who we call our master will help us answer that ultimate question… “Whom are we for in life?”

Let us prayerfully prepare ourselves to hear from the Lord this Sunday, and trust Him to give us both the courage to be honest with Him and the faith to be transformed into people who are truly “for Him”.

 

 

Why Change?

Is there something about your life that you know you need to change?  I’m not talking about changing your job or changing the car you drive or anything like that.  I’m talking about the need for change inside you; something about your heart, your actions, or your behaviors.  Maybe it’s an unhealthy habit you need to stop, or an attitude that needs to change.  Perhaps there’s something you know you should be doing, but for some reason you’re not doing it.  Whether it’s a sin of commission or a sin of omission, there’s something in your life that you know needs adjustment.

Now I need to clarify at the outset that we don’t change ourselves.  Our role is to simply surrender to the work of Christ in us as He changes us.  In this post as I talk about changing, please understand that I am referring to the aspect of surrender to Christ’s lordship and His work of redemption in us, not to some human effort to effect change from within.  This post is not addressing that aspect of change; however, Joe published a post specifically addressing this last week (click here).   The question I want to pose in this post is this:  What will be your motivation to change?

Why will you change?  Will it be to improve your life, make you happier, or less stressed out?  That’s the message of our culture, and far too often it is also the message of today’s church as well.  Today we hear a lot about living your best life now and how we can be a better person, but at the end of the day, isn’t this really just self-centered motivation?  Should my fundamental reason for changing be to just improve my life or be better?

What about changing in order to serve others?  Should my motivation to change be so that I would be a better father so that my sons would be better equipped for life?  Should my motivation to change be so that I am a better witness to a lost world?  One of the cornerstones of Biblical Christianity is an “others-centeredness”, so this motivation seems to be moving in the right direction.  But even this falls short of what the Bible provides as our primary motivation.

As we’ve talked about so often, our primary purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  This means that the reason God created us, the very reason for our existence is to worship and exalt our Creator with our lives (2 Cor. 10:31, Is 43:7).  Every action we undertake, every attitude we exhibit, every decision we make, and every relationship in which we participate is an opportunity to display to goodness and glory of our great God.  So as we talk about a motivation for change, we must elevate our focus from improving ourselves and serving others to the ultimate motivation of glorifying God.

So, what will keep us surrendered to Christ’s work of redemption as He changes us from the inside out?  Not a self-oriented desire to be a better person or even an others-driven desire to serve people, but instead it will be a heart-driven passion to see Christ glorified in our lives.  It is knowing that as I allow Him to change me from being Ken-like to being more Christ-like, I will be able to glorify, worship, exalt, and magnify Jesus more with my life.

What about you?  Is this your fundamental motivation for change?  If not, what is?

If you want this to be your fundamental motivation, here are a couple of recommendations:

1. Pray – Ask the Lord to adjust your motivations.  Ask the Lord to give you a greater passion for His glory.  Ask Him to redirect the focus of your affections from yourself and those around you to Him.  Prayer works, and God loves to answer these kinds of prayers.

2. Read the Bible – Don’t read the Bible just to check off a “to-do list”.  Read it to encounter the living God.  As you saturate your life with His Word, you will come face to face with the nature of God.  As you get to know Him as He has divinely revealed Himself in His Word, a natural consequence will be that your love for Him and your passion for His glory will grow.

He Has Done It

Satan’s greatest lie is a half-truth. When you feel worthless in your sin he whispers in your ear, “You’re not good enough. There is no way you could ever measure up. Your’re dirt! Worthless!”

To which our response should be, “Yes…”

Nothing good dwells in us. We may have the desire to do what is right, but we lack the ability to carry it out (Rom 7:18). Our righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Is. 64:6). Our hearts are deceitful and sick (Jer. 17:9).

This is an essential part of the gospel. BUT it’s only part of it. When Paul reflects on his own wickedness in Romans 7, he concludes, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

So when the enemy tells you these things in order to burden you, to keep you away from grace, respond firmly with, “Yes… but Christ has died. He has defeated you and all of your ways. You no longer have victory over me. I am no longer your slave. I am know a slave to righteousness. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He has done it!”

I recently experienced a time like this. I felt the power of the Spirit as I preached the Gospel to my soul and told the Enemy to leave with his accusations. I was so overwhelmed by the truth of Christ’s goodness despite my wretchedness. I wrote the following song.

I hope and pray this brings you to rest in the goodness of Christ’s gospel:

The days are dark, my eyes are dim
My wickedness is seen
A blackened heart in need of grace
A broken sinner’s plea

My hands, they work for righteousness
But all I build is death
I need the work of nail pierced hands
to bring my soul to rest

My sovereign God has brought me low
so humbled and so weak
Such lowliness is where I dwell
For Christ is all I see

I gaze upon the rugged cross
and search the wounds of Christ
I once was dead in all my sin
now death has brought me life

It is finished
by His blood we are made clean
He has done it
Death, where is your victory?

Christ our Savior
Risen Lamb, King of kings
You are Victor
We will bow before and sing

And now a life to Jesus Christ
By grace I will endure
Though trials come and fires burn
My hope, it is secure

And on that day I’ll stand before
The holy Son enthroned
He’ll wipe away my final tear
and bring this sinner home

Do We Really Know What the Gospel Is? – Part 2

In the first post of this series, I discussed the possibility that our 21st century American Christianity has been neglectful in clarifying the gospel, and that in so doing, has caused the “gospel” to become some nebulous message of self-improvement.

If this is the case, then the only we to fix this is to return to Scripture in order to clarify what the Gospel really is.  Greg Gilbert, in his recent book, “What is the Gospel”, does an excellent job of doing just that, and suggests that there are four key Biblical truths that form the framework of the gospel message.  I will lay out the first two of the truths in this post.

Before I lay out those four truths, it should be clear from the outset that the core of the gospel is Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is the long-awaited Messiah, that has come to redeem lost people back to God, and any description of the Christian Gospel that does not have Jesus as its core is not the real gospel.  But going on from there, one must ask, “Why is Jesus the core of the Good News….why is it good news that Jesus is Messiah”?  Answering that question Biblically will give us the following framework for the “Gospel”.

1. God is the holy and righteous Creator, to whom man is accountable

God spoke all of creation into existence, including mankind.  As created beings, we are not self-accountable; we are not autonomous beings.  We are accountable to Him who created us.  So, we must begin with God.

The God of the Bible is perfectly holy, righteous, wise, powerful, loving, just, and merciful.  As God He is sovereign over all that He has created, including us.  As God, He is worthy of (and due) worship from His creation, and is perfectly just to punish rebellion.

18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:18-21

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Romans 3:19

2. Man has rebelled against God

The apostle Paul, in Romans 1-3, explains that all of humanity is guilty of sinning against God.  Nobody is free from this indictment.

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23

This “sin” is evidenced by immoral actions, words, and thoughts; however, Scripture is clear that sin is primarily about a heart problem.

24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Romans 1:24-25

Our “sinful behavior” originates from the “sinful desires of their hearts”.  It is primarily a heart problem…a rebellion of our allegiance.  Instead of giving God glory and worship, we worship things other than God (self, the world, achievement, or any other myriad of “idols”).

As rebels with depraved hearts, we are hopeless.  The Bible says we are slaves to this “sin nature”; we cannot do otherwise.  This does not mean that we are as evil as we possibly could be, but it does mean that because of our rebellious hearts, we cannot please God.

All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. Ephesians 2:3

This is the predicament of every human being, and because this is true of us, there is a catastrophic consequence, namely eternal punishment.

“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2

This “death” Paul talks about is not just a physical death (though, that too is a result of the Fall), but rather it is a spiritual death…a very real separation of our souls from the presence of a holy and righteous God.  In this life, this means we are spiritually “dead in our transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), and thus completely dependent on God to give us new life in Christ.  That’s bad news in and of itself; however it gets worse because it’s not just bad news for this life.  In the next life (after death), the consequence of our sin will lead us to spend eternity in conscious torment in a place the Bible calls “hell”.

In Matthew 25, when Jesus was talking about the eternal judgment, He explains that in that day He will say to the unrepentant, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41), and then later says of these people, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46).  This “eternal punishment” is described in Revelation as a “lake of burning sulfur” where those who are there are “tormented day and night for ever and ever”, (Rev. 20:10).  Jesus calls it a place of “unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43).

21st century cultural Christianity is embarrassed of these Biblical truths and shies away from talking about them.  We think it is somehow “unloving” to scare people with all this talk of hell and burning sulfur and eternal torment, so instead we talk about how our lives here are all messed up because of sin, and that is the consequence or punishment that we need to be saved from.  But if we really believe the Bible is true, then it is terribly unloving to be neglectful in sharing this bad news?

Thus is the condition of all mankind before a God to whom we are accountable.

And this is bad news.  Without this bad news, the good news is not good news.  Without a full understanding of what we need to be saved from, the Gospel will not be seen as our only hope for rescue from certain doom.

I hate to leave it there, but let’s let the “bad news” sink in a bit.  A subsequent post will describe the answer of redemption that God has provided in Jesus Christ as well as what our response must be to His initiative toward us.

Till then, let’s evaluate what we think of as the “Gospel”.  Have we sold the Gospel short by eliminating the bad news?

The Kingdom of Heaven

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

You may have heard the adage, “You are so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good.” My guess is that it originated to describe people who claimed to be spiritual but never really did anything for Jesus. That’s a struggle that we all face; It’s a lot easier to talk the talk without walking the walk.

But the problem is not that we are too focused on the kingdom of heaven. It’s that we are not focused enough. Jesus’ words in this short parable show as that when we truly grasp the kingdom of heaven, we will do whatever it takes to obtain it.

What is the kingdom of heaven? Matthew is the only gospel that uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven.” It is interchangeable with the phrase used by the other gospel writers, “kingdom of God.” It’s much more than the after-life. It is the presence of God here and now.

This kingdom was ushered in by Jesus Christ. John the Baptist knew this when he preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Matthew goes on to identify John the Baptist as “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”

Later on in chapter 3 Jesus identifies himself as the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies: “‘The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

The treasure of God’s kingdom is Jesus.

If you are reading this, you are probably a Christian. And you are probably thinking, “Well, yeah. This is basic stuff: Jesus is everything.” If Jesus is your treasure, there is no sacrifice too great for Him. What is keeping you from that field? Is it money? Comfort? Popularity? A career?

I think a lot of us feel stuck. We have tasted the sweetness of the gospel. We have been redeemed by a gracious God. But all too often we have traded in the treasure of Jesus for lesser things. According to Jesus, there is no middle ground. If He is not your treasure, something else is your idol.

Don’t settle for lesser things. Notice that the man in this parable not only sacrificed everything, he did it joyfully. He, like Paul, counted all things loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus the Lord (Philippians 3:8). I plead with you to do the same, for there is no true joy apart from Christ.

Some more resources on this topic…
Don’t Waste Your Life: A sermon on Philippians 1 preached by Tyler Recker at NewBranch
Don’t Waste Your Life: Book by John Piper (FREE PDF version)
Crazy Love: Book by Francis Chan
Radical: Book by David Platt. I have yet to read it but it has been highly recommended