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“Is that Your Boy?”

Processed with VSCOcam with lv01 preset“He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.” And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:51-52)

“Is that your boy?” asked the salty 82 year old owner of the marina as we backed the boat into the slip, with my son, Steve, and son-in-law, Greg handling the lines. “Yes,” I answered, “He’s my son,” and then pointing to Greg, “and he’s my son-in-law.”

We were on a three day boat trip down the Potomac River, across the Chesapeake Bay to Tangier Island, then up the St. Mary’s River and finally back to Occoquan, south of Washington, D. C.  It was early October and God had blessed us with absolutely beautiful weather – warm sunshine days and cool nights – picturesque sunrises and artistic sunsets. We had lunch at various crab houses along the way and anchored out each evening with one of the boys cooking dinner on the boat. We were all easy to be with.

Tangier Island is like stepping into a time warp, discovered by Captain John Smith in 1608, a population of 569 who still speak with a trace of Elizabethan accent; all connected either directly or indirectly with the crabbing industry. No cars, only golf carts and walking paths populated with houses and front yards filled with gravestones of preceding generations; lots of docks, marshes and crab boats.

It may sound like a small thing, but for the owner of the marina to see enough resemblance to ask the question, “Is that your boy?” made me feel kind of proud. Forty-three years separate my son, Stephen and me. He was 30 and vigorous at the time. I have white hair and am not quite so vigorous.

In today’s society, families tend to get so disbursed that we can easily lose our sense of family and identity from generation to generation. We go our separate ways, life full of work, children activities and busyness; seldom doing things together, living far apart, seeing each other only on an occasional holiday. In prior generations, like Tangier Island, families tended to live together more, or at least in closer proximity, sons worked with their fathers and were a continuation of the father in both work and life.

Tradition tells us that Jesus initially took on the work of his earthly father, Joseph, working as a carpenter before he began his public life. In his public life he took on the work of his heavenly Father, becoming his presence in human form in the family business of salvation, offering the fullness of life from God, the Father to all people.

This is the natural order established by God – man, woman, family cooperating with God’s creative act to fill the earth and to work and take care of the garden of creation, extending God’s plan and leading each generation to God, so that God may one day be “all in all.” (1Cor. 15:28)

Let us pray that God may be as proud of us, his extension in this world, as I am of my son, Stephen, son-in-law, Greg, and all my children, their spouses and families, who are an extension of our family and heritage.

No Law Against Love in the Workplace

“Love is kind, love is patient. It is not jealous, is not pompous, it is not inflated. It is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury. It does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Co. 13:4-7)

These words of St. Paul might offer guidance to Christians as to how they should respond to hostility to their faith in the workplace. Some people believe that faith should be private, not to be shared or otherwise evident in the workplace. Others object to hearing talk about Jesus, complaining that they do not want Christians imposing their beliefs on them. They contend that the workplace should be a religious free zone.

There is, however, no law against love in the workplace. There is no employee handbook that can object to conduct exhibiting the characteristics enumerated above. If as Christians, we adhere to these actions, we will stand out; people will notice that we are different; they will seek our counsel and advice on both business and personal matters.

There was a certain executive where I worked that when he learned of my affiliation with a Christian ministry called Christians in Commerce, would mock my Christianity when we were with other colleagues, but when we were alone would ask me numerous questions. With others present he would contend that Christians in Commerce was an oxymoron, but privately, he would ask me what we did, and seek my opinion on things in the Bible he did not understand or agree with. Whether he realized it, he was searching for God, and because of the credibility established in our relationship over many years, the Lord may have given me the opportunity to plant some seeds.

Our initial witness to Jesus Christ is usually better accomplished with conduct than words. The conduct establishes the credibility and opens the door for the words to have more impact when the opportunity arises. The expression, “talk is cheap” applies to Christians too. If you want the opportunity to witness to Christ with your words, witness first with your conduct. Hostility to Christians in the workplace is often a reaction to words that come before the credibility of affirming conduct.

What workplace can object to patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, truth, hope, trust, perseverance – in other words, love?

Making Requests to God

“Ask something of me and I will give it to you,” (1Kings 3:5)

How would you respond if God made a similar offer to you?

God did make that very offer to Solomon. Surprisingly, though Solomon was Israel’s new King, he replied in complete humility, “O Lord my God, you have made your servant, king to succeed my father, David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?” (1Kings 3: 7, 9)

While God offered him whatever he wanted, Solomon did not choose the things people usually think of first such as wealth and power, or good health and a long life. Rather, he acknowledged his lack of experience and need as he came to serve as King.

When we are approaching God with a request, we might want to follow Solomon’s example and come humbly, acknowledging our true status and need. Solomon characterized himself as a “mere youth.” How appropriate when coming before God!  Jesus said unless we become as little children we will never enter the kingdom of God.

We may not always understand what to request, confusing wants and desires with real needs.  Solomon was overwhelmed with the task he was about to face as a young and new king. That is not necessarily a bad place to be since it helped him recognize his needs in contrast to his desires.

One other thing Solomon did in his request was to leave God some room to act in what would be in his best interests.  Solomon did not ask to be a successful king. He asked for wisdom and a discerning heart. The Bible tells us that God was pleased with Solomon’s request and gave him not only what he asked for, but also what he didn’t ask for including riches and honor. God also told him that if he obeyed his commands he would give him a long life.

Centuries later we hear the echo of this same response, when Jesus tells us not to worry about what to eat or drink or wear, but “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) Seeking God’s will in all things may be the highest priority in our lives. It is a measure that far surpasses the world’s view involving wealth, fame, and power.

So, what would you ask?

Are You Willing to Stop to Help Another?

“‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’” (Mark 10:47, 49)

Ask someone how they are doing, and they will likely tell you how busy they are. We seem to be always busy – demanding jobs and active families with children involved in numerous activities often result in our rushing from one place to another.

The Gospel of Mark reports that as Jesus and his disciples, along with a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar heard that it was Jesus passing by, and began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” Those standing nearby rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the louder, “Son of David have pity on me.” (Mark 10:46-52)

Above the din of the crowd Jesus hears this man call out to him as the heir to King David. Ironically, Bartimaeus, the beggar, may have known who Jesus was better than the disciples and the crowd following him – that Jesus would reign over David’s throne forever. (Isaiah 9:7) Bartimaeus is appealing to the King, and the King has stopped to hear his plea.

Jesus responds by asking, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus says, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus says, “Go your way, your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:51-52)

Are you willing to stop what you are doing to respond to someone in need? Sometimes I have stopped; sometimes I have passed by.

One evening when I was driving to a meeting, I came upon a man who had just been hit by a pick-up truck as he was crossing the road with a grocery cart. The man was on the street in front of the truck and the grocery cart was under the truck. As one of the first on the scene, I immediately pulled into an adjacent parking lot and ran to him. I kneeled down to see how he was. As the sound of sirens approached, he asked me if he was going to die. I said, “No, you are not going to die,” and started praying with him as a crowd gathered around. The rescue squad arrived and pushed me aside. They put him on a board and took him to a nearby hospital. I inquired of the hospital, but since I didn’t know his name, was never able to learn whether he lived or died.

In reflecting on the moment, I came to understand that I was the King’s delegate that evening and the King wanted me to stop and let the man know that whatever his physical condition, he wasn’t going to die, but would live for eternity.

There is blessing in stopping. Are we willing to listen above the din of the crowd and resist the pace of the moment to stop – and respond to the need of another on behalf of the King?

How Much Confidence Do You Have in God?

“Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.” (John 14:12)

In a 2016 Gallup poll, 89% of Americans said they believed in God. While this widespread belief may seem remarkable given recent trends in our pop culture, a more telling question might be how much confidence do we have in God with respect to our day-to-day actions?

Do we seek his guidance for both large and small decisions? Do we tell the boss what he or she wants to hear or speak the truth? Do we correct a teenage son or daughter even though it may provoke an extreme reaction? Do we offer to pray with a co-worker who has just learned that he or she has been diagnosed with cancer?

In Hope for the Workplace – Christ in You, there is the story of Dr. Sheri Donaldson, a physical therapist whose co-worker, Ashley, was scheduled for an MRI to check on a piece of brain tumor that could not be removed from a prior surgery. Every time Ashley would have an MRI to check on the status of the tumor, she would get very anxious. On this occasion it turns out that Sheri was able to see Ashley right before she was leaving for her appointment. Sheri sensed that the Lord wanted her to pray with Ashley that this time the MRI would show that the tumor was gone. While Sheri had reservations about whether she should follow what she deemed a prompting from the Holy Spirit, she nevertheless placed her hand on Ashley’s forehead and prayed in the name of Jesus that the tumor would be gone.

Sheri reports, “The next time we saw each other, I was walking down the hallway past Ashley’s office when she yelled, ‘Sheri, THE TUMOR IS GONE!’ Not a trace of it on the MRI, even though it had been present on every MRI for several years.”

We see in Sheri’s story someone who not only believes in God, but also has the confidence in God to step out and boldly offer to pray with her friend that God would heal her and take away all trace of the remaining piece of brain tumor. (www.hopefortheworkplace.com – p.105)

In connection with Jesus’ promise above, he also says, “And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13) Our motivation, in addition to helping someone or some situation, should always be to bring glory to God.

The Bible has many promises like this one. How much confidence do we have in them?

How Long Will You Live?

“If a man dies will he live again?” (Job 14:14)

One characteristic common to all living things is that they eventually die. People, animals, birds, microbes, plants, even the giant redwoods that can live a thousand years, die at some point. The cycle of birth, life and death may vary, but the sequence remains the same for all. The Psalmist says, “You have made my days a mere handbreadth.” (Psalm 39:5)

But then Jesus says, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25, 26) This, of course, runs counter to what we experience in being born into this physical world, living the life we see, hear and touch.

Many years ago a secretary with whom I worked was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. Her name was Rita. She went through multiple surgeries and treatments. I watched her as she went from this vibrant woman in her prime, full of life, grace and happiness, literally shrink physically before my eyes as the cancer and treatments sapped the life from her. In visiting her a few days before she died, I was shocked at her physically deteriorated state.

That evening, while reflecting on her condition, the thought came to me that while the cancer was destroying her physical body, it could not destroy her because who she was included so much more than her physical body. Yes, her physical nature had a part in defining who she was, but the most important part of her was her personality, her gracious and loving manner, her kindness, her willingness to listen to a co-worker with a problem, her diligence in her work, her quiet peace and joy when our office was experiencing a chaotic moment, her inclination to love no matter who was standing in front of her.

These non-physical characteristics of Rita were what really made her who she was. They would not die with her body. They would live on. As physical beings we struggle with defining the non-physical. We use words like soul and spirit that have the potential to transcend the physical realm. The writer of Ecclesiastes observes, “He has set eternity into the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Eccl. 33:11)

Jesus answers Job’s question. We die to this physical world in the current age, but if we believe in him, the best part of us lives on — soul and spirit. Just as God raised Jesus to new life with a different kind of body, he promises to do the same for those who believe.

“For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?’”               (1 Cor. 15:53-55)

Are You Patient with God

“I will drive them out little by little before you, until you have grown numerous enough to take possession of the land.” (Exodus 23:30)

We live in a fast-food, express lane world. We have instant cash machines in grocery stores, drive-through banking, one hour cleaning, jiffy lubrication for our cars and overnight delivery of mail. We seem to be in a constant rush. The virtue of patience and waiting holds little value, considered more a distraction than an attribute.

In the Exodus 23, God is giving instructions to the Israelites about how he is going to help them overcome the people who occupy the land he has prepared for them. He says he is not going to drive out the occupiers in a single year. Instead he will drive them out little by little until the Israelites become numerous enough to take possession of the land. He explains that if he drove out the occupiers immediately, the land would become desolate and the wild animals would be too numerous for the Israelites to handle.

God designed us to grow little by little from infancy to childhood, from childhood to puberty, from puberty to adulthood, from early adulthood to maturity. Shortening the process will not lead to the desired outcome of maturity and wisdom. How often have we seen the fame accompanying a child actress or the instant wealth accruing to a gifted collegiate athlete gone professional lead to a disastrous result?

Our daughter Emily was born with Down syndrome. One of the characteristics of children with Down syndrome is that they experience delays in their development. That first step takes a little longer. First words come a little slower and physical coordination can take time, but each milestone is accompanied with much rejoicing and a sure sense of achievement.

Ironically, the Lord calls each of us to seek him eagerly, but then often has us wait to see the fruit. St. Paul acknowledges that even “creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed…in hope that creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19, 21)

We who accept God’s offer to dwell in us are the sons and daughters of God being revealed generation upon generation to liberate this created world from its bondage to sin and decay. It is a long term process, but the benefits can last an eternity — for us, our families, our colleagues, our workplaces and the world around us. It is noteworthy that of the fifteen characteristics St. Paul uses to define love in 1 Corinthians 13, the first is patience. He says, “Love is patient, love is kind…”

The question is can we abide by God’s timing of what he wants to accomplish through us? While we are looking for instant success, God realizes that we often need preparation to do what he has put before us. “Little by little” he prepares us, and the hearts of the people he wants us to reach, so we need to be patient with God to provide the circumstances for us to act.

Several years ago, one of our daughters made a plaque with beautiful calligraphy for my den. It reads, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) I gaze on it each morning while I meet Jesus for coffee and wait on the quiet whisper of his will.