The DMV and the Redeemed Multitude

One of the places in the world where time seemingly stands still is at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles—notorious here in southern California). It has the same feeling as Bill Murray’s movie Groundhog Day except instead of living the same day over and over again, you are living the same hour over and over again.

I had to go the DMV this week to renew my license. When I arrived I found that they now have outside lines (those with appointments, like me, and those without). This kept everyone from flooding inside where hundreds of people crowd each other and jostle for position. Even so, the number of people inside was incredible. Every seat was taken and many other people were standing.

It was a little disheartening to find out that a whole group of people had an appointment the same time as I did. While the woman processing the paperwork and the security guard fought about what time it was, I waited in another line.

As I stood in line I watched the people in the DMV. I saw people of all colors, of all sizes and shapes, and of all ages. Some dressed impeccably (probably hoping to make it to work) and others dressed far less impeccably. Some were openly obnoxious and complained about the wait while others were surprisingly pleasant and patient.

All of these people reminded me of an unredeemed multitude but it also put me in mind of the redeemed multitude of Revelation 7:9-10. The redeemed multitude was from every nation, tribe, people and tongue, many of them represented at the DMV. The redeemed multitude was all clothed in white robes—impeccability did not play a part. The redeemed multitude cried out with loud voices, not to obnoxiously complain, but to praise God with these words: “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

I wondered how many of those at the DMV would also be at that gathering before the throne of God.

Perhaps the most unanticipated part of the day was that once I was in the line that was inside the DMV, it did not take me very long at all to complete what had to be done. That was glory in the grind!

However, what sticks with me is the multitude. We can rejoice as those who one day will be a part of that great, heavenly multitude. Then there will no longer be the glory of the grind—there will only be glory!

Posted in Successful Christian Living | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Kingdom of God on Monday Morning: Part II

Part I of The Kingdom of God on Monday Morning highlighted two principles from Daniel 1 to help you as you seek to live out a kingdom perspective each weekday: Recognize who is in control (vs. 1-2); Pursue excellence (vs. 3-7, 17). Today I want to look with you at the remaining three principles.

Principle #3: Expect Frustrations (vs. 8-13)

Everything does not go smoothly for Daniel and his friends. They are in a place where they could have been frustrated by their situation—in order to eat they have to defile themselves. They are not willing to do that; for them to do so would be to sin against the Lord. But they respond in a God-honoring way, and God honored them in their situation.

Because you work in a fallen world, there will always be aspects of your job that will be frustrating. No matter how much you love and enjoy your job, times of futility are characteristic of work in a fallen world.

The kingdom of God is present on Monday mornings because on Monday mornings you can respond in God-honoring ways to frustrating situations. Remind yourself of it daily. Preach it to yourself relentlessly until it becomes part of your daily perspective.

Principle #4: Fulfill Your Vocation (vs. 18-19)

Daniel and his friends spent three years in this secular training that they were required to undergo (vs. 5). At the end of that time they were presented to the king for service—you might say they had a vocation to fulfill.

The purpose of your vocation is to love and serve your neighbor—a fulfillment of the second greatest commandment. It grows out of the fact that God has created you for community and the living out of that community brings a dependence on one another. Meeting the needs of others is the way you live out the kingdom purpose for your vocation. Virtually every vocation either provides a service or produces a product and some vocations do both. Living out your vocation meets the need of others.

The kingdom of God is present on Monday mornings because on Monday mornings you are fulfilling the calling of God through your vocation. Remind yourself of it daily. Preach it to yourself relentlessly until it becomes part of your daily perspective.

Principle #5: Honor Your Superiors (vs. 20-21)

Notice that Daniel and his friends don’t object to the idea of serving this pagan king or in giving him advice which causes him to prosper. The text says that they were ten times better than any of the other advisers of the king. The superiority of the wisdom of the Israelite young men was not a matter of degree it was a matter of kind—it was true wisdom which comes from the true God.

Perhaps you are in a vocation in which you serve under or work for unbelieving employers. The example of Daniel and his friends demonstrates that your attitude toward them is that you need to do your job in a way which causes them to prosper.

The kingdom of God is present on Monday mornings because on Monday mornings you are honoring the King of that kingdom by honoring your superiors; you are honoring those the King has placed over you. Remind yourself of it daily. Preach it to yourself relentlessly until it becomes part of your daily perspective.

At its heart, the kingdom of God is a lifestyle, a way of living that is centered in Christ and in the truths of his Word regardless of the circumstances, and this includes your job on Monday mornings. It is recognizing that the gospel empowers and motivates you to think with a kingdom mentality and to live with a kingdom purpose. Everyday you need to be reminded of the gospel—that you are a great sinner and Jesus is a great Savior. He is the one who will make the kingdom of God a reality on Monday mornings.

Posted in Successful Christian Living, Vocation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Kingdom of God on Monday Morning: Part I

How many of you have been in your present job/position for five years or less? Five to 10 years? More than 10 years? How many of your have had 5 or more different positions in your working life?

The US Dept. of Labor conducted a study a few years ago where they found that college graduates will have had 4-5 jobs by the age of 34. Assuming a person graduates at 22, that is 12 years—they stayed an average of 3 years or less at each job.

Not solely, but to a large degree, satisfaction in your job is a matter of perspective—believing you are called by God to be where you are and that it is the best for you. But it can be challenging to have God’s kingdom perspective when your job is difficult, boring or you are feeling burned out.

It is easy for me to think about the kingdom of God on Sunday mornings in the midst of worship, preaching and fellowship. But what does the kingdom of God look like on Monday mornings at work? How do you live as a kingdom person in the context of your everyday secular world?

Daniel can give you help. The theme of the book of Daniel is: In spite of present appearances, God is in control. Daniel 1 illustrates how you as a kingdom person can live out the reality of that kingdom in your daily life situations.

Daniel 1 gives you five principles to carry into your work situation week after week. In this post we will look at principles one and two.

Principle #1: Recognize who is in control (1-2)

Notice that the narrator here rips away the curtain and informs us of the reality behind the appearances. He does this with a simple statement, “the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand.” As considerable as the forces of Nebuchadnezzar were, they were not the reason why Jerusalem fell or the people were taken into captivity. The Lord was not mysteriously absent but actively working to deliver his people over to their enemies in order to accomplish his purposes

This active Lord who accomplishes his purposes is the one you need as the foundation of your world. As you drag yourself out of bed on Monday morning; as you work toward deadlines and face frustrations; as other people or co-workers aggravate and irritate; the one sure truth is this: God is in control. Just as the defeat and captivity were the occasions the Lord was using to accomplish his purposes for Daniel and his friends, the circumstances at your place of work are the occasions the Lord is using to accomplish his purposes in your life.

Principle #2: Pursue Excellence (3-7, 17)

Daniel and his friends were seized from their homeland and taken into exile. They were chosen because they were from the nobility of and were being trained to serve in the palace, to be leaders of the Babylonian propaganda machine.

Their training program consisted of learning the literature and language of the Babylonians—secular/cultural training. They not only learned it but they were outstanding in that learning (see verse 17).

The kingdom of God is present on Monday mornings because on Monday mornings your work is ultimately for the Lord and not for men. Therefore it needs to be done excellently. Remind yourself of it daily. Preach it to yourself relentlessly until it becomes part of your daily perspective.

Posted in Vocation | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

With Christ in the School of Contentment

Jeremiah Burroughs, Puritan pastor and author, wrote: Our contentment does not consist in getting the thing we desire, but in God’s fashioning our spirit to our conditions.

I have been thinking a lot about this statement on contentment over the last few weeks. I confess that I am only a novice, a beginning student, in Christ’s school of contentment. Even though there are many undeserved blessings in my life, I still struggle at times with discontentment.

Burroughs’ words are challenging and convicting. They call into question our motives and ambitions. They call us up short when trying to justify our own personal reasons for discontent.

Our thoughts tend to run in this direction—if only I had this job or this relationship or this much money or this home in that place—then I would be content.

Burroughs goes on to explain that when we get to this point, we have lost Christ as our greatest treasure and have put our hope and security in the things of this world. Since only Christ can really satisfy, even when we get what we desire we find that it did not bring the contentment we anticipated.

His statement also shows that the Lord has something bigger in mind than simply fulfilling all our desires. He is interested in changing us at the level of the heart. In the words of Burroughs, God is interested in fashioning our spirit to our conditions. He asks us, in effect, can you trust me to be your contentment in your present circumstances even if you do not receive what you desire?

In Philippians 4:10-19, the Apostle Paul speaks about contentment and makes these challenging but comforting points:

  • Contentment is learned through experience. Paul learned to be content in being hungry and in abundance because he had experienced those things (vs.11-12).
  • The source of contentment is our relationship with Christ. Paul writes the famous verse: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. While this verse has wide applications, its immediate application in the context is that our relationship with Christ is the foundation of our contentment. He enables us to be content (vs. 13).
  • God has provided all you need for God-glorifying contentment. Paul talks about how God supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Again, while this verse has wide applications, in context it speaks about how God supplies everything we need to be content (vs. 19).

As I said at the beginning, I consider myself only a novice in Christ’s school of contentment but I am praying that I will be a good student and will be learning what He has to teach.

You can pray for me and I would be glad to pray for you too.

[You can find a pdf of Burroughs’ book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, (which I highly recommend) here. You can also download a Kindle copy for $0.99 here]

Posted in Successful Christian Living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Frailty and the Gospel

 “I almost never get sick.”

I actually can’t remember the last time I was sick—until this week. I spent most of the week under the weather. I even missed a day of work and I still am not a hundred percent. So I can no longer lay claim to my opening statement.

Spending the week feeling poorly reminded me of the frailty of the flesh. Illness often comes quickly and without warning. I went running the morning of the day that I began to feel sick. Then, before I knew it, the icky-ness set in.

Since I was thinking about frailty I decided to see what the Bible had to say on the subject. I was amazed to find that in most modern translations the word does not occur at all. The most occurrences I could find in older translations were three and only one had to do with the frailty of man.

I then turned to the dictionary and found that the defining characteristic of frailty is weakness—that weakness can be physical or moral.

This led me to consider my own spiritual life. It is so often characterized by frailty. I fail to do what I should have done and I do what I should have avoided. It is too easy to give in to the comfortable and familiar and to avoid the challenging and difficult things that push me beyond my comfort zone.

That is why I am so grateful for the gospel.

In the gospel I find forgiveness at the cross for those times when I am overcome by my own frailty.

In the gospel I am graciously granted the very righteousness of Christ so that I can be assured that I am accepted by the Father in the Son.

In the gospel I am given the Holy Spirit as a down-payment on what is to come and who empowers me to live beyond my own resources (which are shot-through with frailty).

Even in the midst of not feeling well this week, I was presented with an opportunity for ministry with a group of people who are totally different from me. We have virtually nothing in common. Can you guess this pushed me beyond my comfort zone?

I decided to say “Yes” to this opportunity because it pushed me beyond my comfort zone. It is in those times when the Lord can grow me in my faith because I am completely dependent on him to make this opportunity a significant one.

Are you aware of your frailty today?

Are you finding your forgiveness, hope and strength in the gospel?

Are you avoiding something beyond your comfort zone that the Lord is calling you to do?

Posted in Successful Christian Living | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

It’s Easy to Be Spiritual in the Early Morning

Most mornings I get up at 5:45 to go running. For the past few months I have been taking a golden retriever, Achilles, who is currently residing at our house. Achilles and I head out to the running track while it is still dark. I run on the track. Achilles likes variety so sometimes he runs on the track and sometimes he runs on the grassy fields next to the track.

These early morning runs are great. My body goes into autopilot and my mind is free. I use that time to pray—adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication (the old ACTS method). It is dark, quiet and conducive to reflection. When I am finished running, Achilles and I head home.

Once home, I stretch, feed the dogs (we have three current residents), make breakfast (usually cereal and coffee) and spend time in the Word while I eat. It isn’t dark but it is quiet and conducive to reflection. Usually everyone else is asleep (except the dogs) or my son has already left for work.

After that I shower, shave, etc. and head off to work.

It’s easy to be spiritual in the early morning.

That is when my day begins.

There are temptations, frustrations, disruptions, distractions and interruptions. There are appointments, disappointments, and disillusionment. The calming influence of the early morning has been stolen from me by the busyness and activities of the day. And I think to myself . . .

It’s easy to be spiritual in the early morning.

So I try to bring the reflection of the morning into my day. I remember the gospel—that I am saved by the grace of Christ, undeserved but experienced.

I am being sanctified by the Spirit to be more and more like Jesus, and I have so, so far to go, but he will not forsake me.

The one who began a good work in me will bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus and I will live in the new creation with him forever.

I preach the good news of the gospel to myself in the same way that David spoke the good news to himself in Psalm 42:5: Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

While this gets my mind to where it needs to be, if I am going to be honest, I would have to say that it does not work every time. Sometimes the frustrations and disappointments win the day.

However, I plow through and remember that the next day Achilles and I will be back running in the dark, quiet and reflective morning. Because he and I both know . . .

It’s easy to be spiritual in the early morning.

Posted in Successful Christian Living | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Abiding—Feeling At Home with Jesus

I have spent six of the last seven days away from home on business, two in Las Vegas (all the time there consumed by meetings) and four in Oakland. When I have been away for a number of days I begin to look forward to that walk through the front door of our house. Immediately I feel at home—the place of acceptance and ease, of rest and refreshment.

In John 15:4 Jesus said, Abide in Me, and I in you. It is a mutual abiding.

The word “abide” means to remain (the word modern translations often use), to stay, to dwell, to lodge. Or to put it differently, the principle is for you to feel at home in Jesus and for Jesus to feel at home in you.

Your relationship with Jesus should have that sense of feeling at home. One day that sense of feeling at home will be complete when you dwell forever in the new creation where there is no more death, no more crying, no more mourning, no more pain. Every tear will be wiped away. You will be at home.

In the meantime, you have the opportunity for a taste of that eternal home in your present relationship with Jesus. In him you have the promise of acceptance, the promise of forgiveness, the promise of rest, the promise of refreshment. All of the good things that make home feel like home you have in Jesus.

You can feel at home in Jesus.

The second part of the verse speaks of Jesus abiding in you. Does your life provide a place where Jesus would feel at home? If he went everywhere you went, saw everything you saw, did everything you did, would he feel at home with it all

Or would he have to excuse himself from some of it because it would not feel like home to him?

If you are honest, you know there are some things in your life, at least some of the time, which do not honor Christ and so make your life an uninviting place rather than one that is welcoming to him..

That is why the gospel is such good news. In the gospel there is forgiveness of sin and the removal of guilt. In the gospel there is the promise that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us.

In the gospel there is the fullness of the unending love of Jesus. There is nothing I can do to make Jesus love me any less or any more than he loves me right now.

The gospel cleans up your life so it becomes a welcoming place for Jesus. He will abide in you and feel at home in your life.

That is glory in the midst of the grind.

Posted in Successful Christian Living | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments