And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. Revelation 21:5
In the U.S. we have a tradition of making resolutions when the calendar turns over. We resolve to quit smoking, lose weight, spend less money, or the like. We also are famous for failing to deliver on our resolutions.
One of the worst feelings in the world is to know that you have made a mistake and can’t do anything about it. The damage is done. I remember a number of times when I offended co-workers and customers by careless words and it was never right between us after that. I resolved to keep quiet.
Thankfully, our Father is in the change business. This week’s text, so poetic in the King James Version, describes that time at the end of time when the Lord will invite us to join Him in a new reality. One of the things we know about the Lord, however, is that He wants us to live out the truth of that time in this time. We are to live today as if He had already returned for us. (See, for example, Matthew 6:10. “Thy Kingdom come…”)
How about this year we bring change into our lives not through our puny acts of resolution but through reliance on the Master of all change. Let’s come before the Lord to humbly ask that He bring about change in us and then open ourselves to being made new. Not just so that we would improve, but so that His Kingdom would come in us this year.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:2
Year-end can be a really busy time in business. We have to meet our quotas, ship the product, close out the books, and balance the budget, all at the same time as we are finalizing next year’s quotas, products, books and budgets. It would be hectic under any circumstances. And then, it is also Christmas. Just at the time when we need to pour the most into our jobs we have to add hefty amounts of shopping, cooking, decorating, parties, church events, and kids’ recitals. It’s enough to make you crazy.
One of my favorite moments of the Christmas season for years has been the candlelight Lord’s Supper on Christmas Eve at my wife’s home church. One of the main reasons I love it is because it is silent. All the fuss and business and excitement come to a stop and it is just the Lord and I, having our own private, silent night together.
That experience of the peace of Christ that I have at that Christmas Eve service is available to me all the time, I just have to know how to access it. Even when the job has me working until the sweat flies off of me, I can be as serene as on that silent night. And so can you.
All we have to do is return our focus to the meaning of Christmas. Because Jesus came, death is defeated, even if the market falls apart. Because Jesus came our future is secure, even if our work situation isn’t. Because Jesus came everything I really need in life is already available to me for the asking. That sounds like a perfect recipe for peace, doesn’t it?
Peace to you, my brothers and sisters. Grace and peace.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy. Like Bob Cratchit in Dickens’ Christmas Carol, we close up the shop for the Holiday and rush home with eager anticipation. But also like Bob, we often know that not all is well in our world.
Sometimes life can be hard. Tiny Tim is ill, deathly ill. The bills have piled up. Layoffs are coming. Maybe they have already come. Someone is missing. Maybe they aren’t coming back.
When you study comparative religions you can be struck by the lengths some other religious systems will go to establish that their gods are different from humankind. They float above the earth, appear in horrific forms and make violent demonstrations of their power – all to prove they are not like us.
Christianity is blessedly different. Our God went to extraordinary measures to demonstrate how much He has in common with us. Christ shared our human existence with all its pains and sorrows. He knew the trials of life and death.
The Master we celebrate is glorious beyond our understanding and loving beyond our imagination. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and eternal. And He understands us. He came to dwell with us in our world of pain, problems and discouragement. Maybe it is the extent of our fallen world that makes the coming of Christ so joyful. Our darkness has been illuminated. The Word has become flesh.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. Luke 2:8-9.
This week’s scripture has been read, sung, celebrated, and romanticized for centuries. Let’s get a clear picture of the scene. It’s dark. The kind of dark you get when you are out in the country with no street lights or neon signs for miles. The temperature? Hard to know. Unlike Easter, we don’t really know what time of year the Christmas events took place but the climate generally lends itself to warm days and chilly nights. Even in the summer the temperature drops into the 60’s. The tradition then, as now, is that the shepherds would have been young boys. Remember David in I Samuel 16?
And what were these shepherd boys doing out there in the middle of the night? They weren’t on vacation. It wasn’t their day off. They weren’t celebrating a holiday. They were working the night shift in a low status job. That was the context in which the angel appeared with the news that would change the world forever.
That’s not the only time the Lord sent an important message to people at work. Think about Moses in Exodus 3, Gideon in Judges 6, Matthew in Matthew 6, and James and John in Matthew 4. Seems like the Lord is often delivering important messages at work, doesn’t it?
But what is the takeaway for us as business people? It’s probably not that we need to maximize our time at work so as to increase our chances to encounter God. But it may be that we need to work every day with a sense of expectancy. Time at work isn’t time away from the Lord. He often chooses that time to talk to His people – even when we are working a low level job on the night shift.
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Luke 18:18-22.
This text can be a little scary for business people. We are in the business of making money, either for ourselves or for other people. The idea that the wealth we are busy creating can come between us and God is a frightening idea. How can we resolve that conflict?
The truth is you don’t have to be a rich ruler to make money your idol. I have met poor people who would not give up the time of day and I have known very wealthy people who were exceedingly generous, even by the standards of their wealth.
But let’s get down to the nitty gritty – Do I have to give away all my money? The short answer is “yes”. But does that mean I have to sell everything and give it to the poor like the rich, young ruler? My personal take on that is, “not necessarily”. The Lord made you steward over all that you own. It is all His money, and you are His servant assigned to use it according to His will. Some of it (in some cases maybe all of it) He may want you to give to the poor. (See text above.) Some of it He may want you to use to care for your family. (See I Timothy 5:8 and last week’s Crucial Connections devotional.) In the rich, young ruler’s case, Christ was calling him out of the job of ruler and businessman to the job of itinerant disciple – a job that is not conducive to managing wealth in a responsible way.
The call to asceticism is for all Christians, rich and poor, business people and those outside the business world. But the asceticism to which we are called is an all-consuming asceticism. Christ not only wants us to acknowledge all our wealth as belonging to Him, He wants us to acknowledge that all our time and talents are at His disposal as well. If your role in the Kingdom is accumulating wealth for the Lord’s work, do it with all your heart as to the Lord (Colossians 3:23). It is His after all.