Posted in theology

Work, work, work

By Elizabeth Prata

I’ve got one week left and then I go back to work. I will have had 9 weeks off.

I realize that 9 weeks off, in a row no less, is an understandably wondrous gift, one that many people don’t get in 4 years of working. (Please understand that I live for 12 months on a 9-month salary, so there is a downside).

I work in the education system, so the cycle of my life follows the school year, not the calendar year. The rhythm of my life is one of hectic, fulfilling, busy, challenging, joyful work, then summer collapse rest.

There were some years where I worked for 16, 18, and one notable moment, 20 hours a day, with one week off at Christmas and one week at Independence Day. I’ve in the past felt the relentless grind, overlaid with feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction but sometimes accompanied with frustration and dispiritedness. I’ve been in the work force for 42 years, give or take. There were periods in life where I had to work two jobs and even three, laboring for 7 days a week. I’m not unfamiliar with hard work, relentless grind, whether it comes in the self-employment world, as a minimum wage minion at the bottom of the heap, or in the education world with its benefit of work then rest sprinkled throughout the year.

The job I have now is the best one I’ve ever had. I love working with children. It is a pure joy to be around kids. I enjoy the school breaks that come with the school calendar (being older now, I tire more easily). I have the best colleagues and the absolute most wonderful bosses I could ever hope for. It’s all good.

But the beginning of the school year those first days back at work are a shock to my system. And Monday morning blues still hit.

It didn’t used to be like this. In the Garden of Eden, Adam worked, but it wasn’t work that tired him out or frustrated him, or dispirited the man. It was good work, done without sweat. God gave Adam three tasks; cultivate the Garden and keep it, name all the animals, and lead his wife Eve. (Genesis 2:15, 19, 24; Ephesians 5:22-23).

Can you imagine working without sweating? Not just physical sweat, though that will be nice, but work was absent the heart-pumping stress, hustle, hectic work that office people feel, or bus drivers, or police bomb defusers or…

How do I know work wasn’t the kind of work we think of these days? The verse where God curses work. Genesis 3:17b-19

Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”

We know that heaven, i.e. the eternal state after the conclusion of all things, will be one of rest. But it will also be one of work. Whattt?

Reagan Rose covers this in his essay Will We Work in Heaven?

But for now, assuming Earth is redeemed man’s final destination, we would be right to wonder, “what will we do on that renewed Earth?” The answer is that we will worship our Lord, we will wonder at His majesty, and we will work.

Mr Rose continues with explaining that Heavenly Work Will Be Restful Work, and Heavenly Work Will Be Enjoyable Work, before he comes to his conclusion.

James M. Hamilton Jr wrote Work and Our Labor for the Lord, looking at work as it was meant to be, as it is, as it can be, and as it will be.

As work will be, “We can scarcely imagine it, but everything that makes work miserable here will be removed. All our sinful concerns about ourselves will be swallowed up in devotion to the one we serve. All our frustrations that we have to be doing this task and not the other one we prefer, will be abolished because of our experience of the one who gave the assignment. All inclination to do evil will have been removed from our hearts, so we will enjoy the freedom of wanting to obey, wanting to serve, wanting to do right.”

Imagine, being released from the bondage to sin and working in complete and perfect freedom to serve to the utmost in righteousness and in joy!

On earth our work often distracts us from worship, but in heaven work will BE worship.

What of work now, here on earth? We do need to work. “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

On the Chris Craft podcast, Chris asked guest Phil Johnson “How should we represent Christ in the workplace?”

“Work hard.”

Amen to that. I know of a custodian who works very hard all day long. She never stops. She cleans toilets, hustles to classrooms to wipe up kid-vomit, sweeps the cafeteria floor after kindergarten has been through like storming Huns. She is kind, constantly smiling and always ready to praise Jesus whenever you talk with her.

One day a second grader was waiting and I was waiting with her in the lunchroom. The kid was watching the lone custodian clean the cavernous cafeteria. After a while the child turned to me and said “She works hard. And she has to do all that by herself. But she never stops.”

When a person works so hard (for the Lord as I know she does) and a child notices the work ethic, you know it’s a good ethic. A shining ethic. Do I work that hard? Do cheerfully perform any menial task set before me? With purity of heart and a sincere effort? Sometimes no, but the lady I’d mentioned is my role-model inspiration. She represents Christ in a way that few people I’ve ever seen do so, and she does it through work.

Work hard on earth, as Colossians 3:23 says

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

And look forward to the day when you and I will be FREE to serve without sin tainting our work ethic or the work product. What a day that will be.

Meanwhile…Happy Monday!

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I made this collage some years ago when I was pondering work and being busy even in ministry work. Do we work so hard we become too busy for God? On the left side of the collage top and bottom we see heaven and worship in heavenly peace. Below that scene are the animals, who know what to do in their spheres. Even creation groans for release. On the right side, top and bottom, is the heaving, pulsating spectacle of humanity going to and fro, with only a few looking at the Light, even noticing it.

too busy for God

Posted in christian life, theology

A Day in the Life of: Introduction

By Elizabeth Prata

Do you enjoy reading the Bible? I do. Too often though, I allow my mind to drift to the novelization of it, laying aside that this book recounts real, literal events with real, literal people. It’s easy to start thinking of the people we read about as either superheroes, or characters in a novel.

To combat the creep of fictionalization of the pages, or alternately, to make them more real to me, I often think about the people in the Bible going about their day. Our teaching elder recently preached through John 4, the Woman at the Well. This scene of this illegitimate housewife is easier to imagine as she goes about her day, because the time of day and her wifely task is often preached as an important part of the scene. How the housewives gathered in the early morning or later afternoon to draw water from the community well because it was cooler. How that was all the water they had to use during the day, unless they wanted to walk the whatever miles to get more from the well. And so on. A housewife’s day is also recounted in Proverbs 31.

But there are a lot of other professions mentioned in the Bible besides housewife. Shepherds are rife throughout the pages. King, scribe, farmer, fisherman. Tanner, tent-maker, baker, fig picker, seller of purple, cupbearer, cook, hunter, and so many other professions mentioned. What was a fisherman’s day like? What did a seller of purple do? What is a tanner, anyway? Is there still a job of cupbearer?

I decided to do a series on people in the Bible going about their day doing their job. For example, A Day in the Life of: A Tanner, A Day in the Life of: A Merchant. A Day in the Life of: A Cupbearer, and so on. I’ll select professions to write about based on the amount of reliable information I can find (and understand, lol). If there is a profession mentioned in the Bible you’re interested in learning about, what a day in that Bible person’s life would have been like, let me know. I’ll do my best to research it out.

collage 1
Baker, fig picker, fisherman, scribe… What was the first century Palestinians’ job like?
Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Ladies, no job is too menial and no sphere is too small to make a huge difference

There are a great number of young ladies who are in college, or who have just finished college, or are just beginning work-life, marriage, or children. They’re starting out. As a 56-year-old woman myself, (thirty years older than most of them!), I keep forgetting that they have grown up in the faith under a completely different paradigm than many other women of my age. They have seen years and even decades of forward-living women in the faith (most of them false) who claim that a woman can (only) make a difference in the name of Jesus if she is stamping out the global sex trade … or setting up social justice programs in Africa … or speaking to mega-audiences and selling buckets of popular studies and books … or being a global voice challenging pastors, men, and God for our seeming lack of impactful opportunities and therefore our alleged inability to make a difference. The world presents these female Christian lifestyles as normal. They’re not.

Of course there is nothing wrong with speaking to large audiences of women or writing books or helping the poor in Africa or giving aid to victims of the sex trade. The difficulty is that these attitudes and endeavors have become so endemic that many young women coming up think that unless you’re doing “A Big Thing,” then God isn’t pleased with your measly attempts for His name. Or, that you have no hope of making an impact for His name at all.

First of all, the women I linked to above are considered false teachers. Their stepping out into the world to stridently proclaim and stride and strut is not the Godly way of woman anyway.

God planted you where you are. If you are sensing a call to missions, then definitely follow that call after deliberation with elders and prayer. But for the vast majority of us women, our Christian lives will be solely contained in one geographic and unremarkable location, doing a menial-to-barely interesting job, perhaps marrying, and then perhaps having children. No globetrotting, sex-slave stamping, social justice righting, adoring audiences for us. We live obscure lives with little reach.

But wait. That’s not true. We might not have a great reach, but the Gospel goes out from every direction from every corner of the world, from women just like you and me. That Gospel turned the world upside down, and it still turns hearts upside down – and inside out. It still changes lives. It still makes a tremendous impact. Everywhere, even in Nowheresville.

Here are three examples:

Christian mothers:

“[I]n 1 Timothy 2:15, where Paul says, “[Women] shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with sobriety.” For most women, their greatest impact on society comes from raising godly children. If a women is godly and if God chooses to give her children whom she raises in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, she will have a profound influence on a new generation. Men may have the outward, overt leadership, but women have just as great an influence.”

Where would we be without Mrs Spurgeon, Charles’ mom. Monica, (actual spelling, Monnica) St Augustine’s mom- who prayed for her wayward son for years. Widow Anna Maria Moon raising 7 children on her own, Lottie’s mother. And so on! It’s not complicated. Raise the children.

What if you’re not a mother? Some women aren’t. Some women never become mothers. What then? Can we ladies make a difference for the Lord? Oh, yes!

John Bunyan wrote in his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

But, poor wretch as I was, I was all this while ignorant of Jesus Christ, and going about to establish my own righteousness; and had perished therein, had not God, in mercy, showed me more of my state of nature.

But upon a day, the good providence of God did cast me to Bedford, to work on my calling; and in one of the streets of that town, I came where there were three or four poor women sitting at a door in the sun, and talking about the things of God. Being now willing to hear them discourse, I drew near to hear what they said, for I was now a brisk talker also myself in the matters of religion.

Now I may say, I heard, but I understood not; for they were far above, out of my reach, for their talk was about a new birth, the work of God on their hearts, also how they were convinced of their miserable state by nature; they talked how God had visited their souls with His love in the Lord Jesus, and with what words and promises they had been refreshed, comforted, and supported against the temptations of the devil. Moreover, they reasoned of the suggestions and temptations of Satan in particular; and told to each other by which they had been afflicted, and how they were borne up under his assaults. They also discoursed of their own wretchedness of heart, of their unbelief; and did contemn, slight, and abhor their own righteousness, as filthy and insufficient to do them any good.
And methought they spake as if joy did make them speak; they spake with such pleasantness of Scripture language, and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world…

At this I felt my own heart began to shake, as mistrusting my condition to be naught; for I saw that in all my thoughts about religion and salvation, the new birth did never enter into my mind, neither knew I the comfort of the Word and promise, nor the deceitfulness and treachery of my own wicked heart

Four women having a Godly conversation in a doorway … became part of the conversion story of the man who wrote the most lasting and beloved Christian work in history. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress has never been out of print. Think of what an influence that book has had on millions of people in the last 400 years! Never underestimate the impact a Gospel-driven public conversation can have. It’s not complicated. Talk about the biblical Jesus with love and passion.

But what if you’re not a wife, not a mother, and you work in a menial, out of the way job? Can you as a woman have an impact there? Yes! In 1-2 Thessalonians by Gregory K. Beale we read-

One well-known theologian recounts how the diligent work of a so-called ordinary office worker led to his conversion. An executive at a London corporation would often pass by an office where several typists worked before the computer era. The executive noted that one particular woman was more diligent in the way she typed, working faster and taking fewer breaks than the others. After a few weeks, he asked a friend at work why she was so unusually industrious. The friend responded, “Oh, that’s Mildred. She is a Christian.” The executive pondered this and after a few more weeks asked the typist herself why she worked in such an indefatigable manner. She responded, “I’m a Christian, and I serve Christ. I work heartily for Him, no merely for my human boss.” The conversation led to the executive investigating the faith further and eventually becoming a Christian. A few years later, he was speaking at his church about his conversation, and someone in the church became a Christian through his address. The person has now became a prominent theologian and enjoys talking about the typist as an illustration of the faith of Christians as it is expressed through “ordinary” work in every walk of life is vital for the witness of the Gospel”

There is nothing too menial. Is what you’re doing more menial than Christ leaving glory as King and living and working as an obscure carpenter for thirty years? Is what you’re doing (or me) more menial than Jesus washing the disciples’ feet? Paul was a brilliant, learned, famous lawyer, but post conversion he was an itinerant tentmaker. Our ordinary, menial, mundane work can be a glorious witness of the Gospel when it’s joyfully and properly expressed through whatever work we have been called to do. It’s not complicated. Work hard and display a strong ethic.

We work for a human boss, but ultimately we labor for Jesus. Therefore as is said in the Traeger and Gilbert book The Gospel at Work, one of the key themes of The Gospel at Work is that “who you work for is more important than what you do.”

Ladies, you can make Jesus’ name known in whatever sphere you dwell and whatever stage of life you’re in. Our work ethic and our Godly conversations will be noticed. In heaven we might be surprised at all the things we said and did that we didn’t know influenced some person who saw the Christ-likeness in us. No sphere is too small and no job is too menial. You can make a difference.

800px-Eugène_Boudin_-_Washerwomen_by_the_River_-_Google_Art_Project
Eugène Boudin – Washerwomen by the River

Laveuses sur la rivière (Washerwomen on the river) is an early Lumière brother film produced in 1897. This film depicts women washing clothing along the riverbank.

 

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

What’s in your pocket? Lists? Or nails?

We are sinners. The Syro-Phoenician woman knew that. (Mark 7:26). The Tax Collector in the temple knew that. (Luke 18:13). Mary knew that. (Luke 1:46). We know we are sinners.

No one believes in Jesus Christ the savior unless they see a need in Him. Martyn Lloyd Jones, sermon Isaiah 1:10, Repentance and Salvation.

Before we are saved, we are blind to our sin. After the Lord graciously gives us the ability to see ourselves as we are, the scales having fallen off our eyes so to speak, (Acts 9:17-18), we repent of our sins. But that does not mean we stop sinning. We have the Power to resist sin thanks to the Holy Spirit in us, but we still sin. (Matthew 16:24). We will continue to sin until we are glorified.

Legalists like the Pharisees to whom Jesus contrasted the Tax Collector, believed they would attain heaven by their good works. This belief is not expired. People believe it to this day. If you watch street pastors Ray Comfort or Todd Friel, when they ask people on the street if they expect to get to heaven and how, the people always respond that they are a good person doing good things so surely they will go to heaven.

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Are you so foolish? (Galatians 2:15-16)

After we are saved, however, we still have a tendency to give in to our to our sinful nature. We can easily start to believe satan’s propaganda that we earn God’s regard by doing good things, that we maintain our salvation by doing good works. Or we start to make lists of the things we must do to preserve our good name before the Lord. Paul addressed this in Galatians 3:3, asking rhetorically,

Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

John MacArthur said of the verse,

The notion that sinful, weak human nature could improve on the saving work of the Holy Spirit was ludicrous.

We should always remember that it is by grace through faith that we have been saved, not by works. After salvation, the good works that we do are an inevitable result of our gratitude for this great gift, and it is the proof of the existence of the new creature. But our works do not save us and they do not add to the preservation of our salvation. Martin Luther said,

We all carry about in our pockets His very nails.

Erik Raymond at The Gospel Coalition succinctly said,

Legalists keep lists in their pockets, while Christians keep nails.

What’s in your pocket today? Lists? Or nails?

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

The sin struggle of summer

I work in education and that means summers off! Mind, my salary covers employment for 190 days, so I’m not paid for the days off summers off, but at this point of my life I’m happier to have the time.

I had 9 weeks off, all in a row. Sixty-four days from May 27 to August 1, I’ve had a blissful time here in what I call The Hermitage. It’s so dubbed because I like to spend copious amounts of time indoors in my small apartment. Alone. Never lonely.

Like everyone else, during the seasons when I’m working, there are always lots of other things I’d like to do, but the fact that I’m committed elsewhere for 9 hours a day (longer if I work AfterSchool Program) means I don’t have time to do all that I want. I like to read, study, surf the web, watch movies, write, and do crafts. Erm, I can’t squeeze all that into a day that is also dedicated to doing my best job at school. Add errands and cleaning to that, and like everyone else, time is short. Continue reading “The sin struggle of summer”