Your Blessed Work

lightstock_81604_xsmall_elizabethIt’s really easy to get mired down in the day to day work of life and lose sight of the blessedness of being called to work for the Lord. Our work differs, but whatever it is, it’s an honor to be called–to be entrusted with a job for His kingdom. Matthew Henry reminded me of this in his commentary of Ecclesiastes 1.

“…a commission is a tacit pardon. Christ sufficiently testifies his forgiving Peter by committing his lambs and sheep to his trust. “

The work He gives us testifies to our belonging to Him. That can give us great joy in our day to day endeavors. Undoubtedly, Satan wants us to doubt our happy reconciliation with the Lord and the importance of our obedience. Rejoice that we have for this moment, work to do, while it is day! We have the privilege to serve our Redeemer, the Lover of our Souls.

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ ” John 21:15

 “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” John 15:15

“And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” 1 John 3:23

 

The Lost Art Of Feasting

large_the-lost-art-of-feasting-retjrwiuArticle by

Executive Editor, desiringGod.org

 

We might suppose that overstuffed American bellies would hardly need any instruction on feasting. So many of us have grown so accustomed to having so much to eat. Then here comes Thanksgiving. Just put it on autopilot. Fasting is the discipline today that is grossly under-served; no need to consider feasting.

Not so fast. It’s true that fasting is sadly overlooked, and too often forgotten. And yet, perhaps counterintuitively, true feasting is also in decline through familiarity and lack of spiritual purpose. Most of us have never given any serious thought to what it might mean to feast with Christ-honoring intentionality.

We’ve grown dull to the wonder of ample food and drink through constant use, and overuse. When every day is a virtual feast, we lose the blessing of a real one. When every meal is a pathway to indulgence, not only is fasting lost, but true feasting is as well.

Feasting as a Spiritual Joy

The Bible is replete with the goodness of food and the holiness of feasting. God in his goodness made his creation edible. He made trees “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9), and created us to eat his world: “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:29). Then after the flood, he extended the gift to eating animals: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything” (Genesis 9:3). But distinct from the kindness of God in everyday food is the special grace of a feast.

In the Old Testament, God structured the seasons and years of his chosen people with fast days and feast days. Then he sent his Son as the great culmination of his nation’s feasts. Now those who make up God’s multinational people through Christ are no longer under obligation to practice Israel’s ancient feasts and rituals (Colossians 2:16). They were “a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17). Christians are free to feast — or not to feast:

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:5–6)

But what we’re not free to do is feast in a way that dishonors God. And forgetting him altogether is profoundly dishonoring. As Christians, we want to learn to feast in such a way that we’re tasting God’s supernatural goodness as we enjoy natural tastes.

Not the Same as Indulging

Feasting is not first about the food. It is foremost about the Godward celebration of some specific occasion together. Good food and drink, in abundance, come in alongside our corporate focus to accentuate the appreciation and enjoyment of God and his kindness. The heart of feasting is not the food itself, but the heart of the feasters. A true feast is bigger than the food — infinitely bigger. The center is God and his greatness and grace toward us in Christ.

For Christians, feasting is not the same as mere indulgence. There is nothing particularly Christian about eating and drinking more than usual. What makes feasting a means of God’s grace for nourishing our souls is explicitly celebrating Christ together in faith. Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Easter, a birthday or anniversary, when we feast as Christians, we celebrate the bounty and kindness of our Creator and Redeemer. Feasting in Christ is no mere physical event, but deeply spiritual.

Prepare the Way for Feasting

Good preparation for a good feast typically begins before the feast day — not only in our planning, but in our pattern of eating. When our normal daily consumption is characterized by sufficient restraint, then feasting is something we can rise to on special occasions, by faith and in good conscience, rather than being the baseline of everyday eating. If you’ve so overindulged leading up to the feast that you feel a need to count calories at the feast, something is not right. Daily restraint both keeps our stomachs primed for times of fasting (so we’re not miserably famished) and makes possible a kind of special indulgence on feast days.

But exercising self-control in eating and drinking as a habit of life is only a prerequisite to good feasting. For a big Thanksgiving dinner to honor God — and feed not only our stomachs, but our souls — we need a few simple, but significant, steps to make it holy.

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Good Friday: The Believer and the Cross

Man Walking Towards Cross

“‘Christ died for our sins’…it is the very essence, the very centerpiece, the very core of our faith. It is the bedrock upon which every precious truth of salvation rests. If that one statement were to be removed from the Bible, there would be no Bible. If that one statement were to be removed from the gospel, there would be no gospel. If that one statement were to be removed from the faith, there would be no salvation. Christ died for our sins, my friends, is not just a wonderful something, it is a marvelous everything.”–Wil Owens, Teaching Pastor

Oh, the GOODness of Good Friday! It’s the day that stands at the center-point of history–the day in which Christ, by dying in our place, secured every heavenly blessing for us.

In a special Good Friday sermon, Teaching Pastor Wil Owens shares the joy we find when we really grasp the greatness of Christ’s saving power and the magnitude of our sin.

“Atonement means that since my sins have now been paid for, since my sins have now been cleared from my record, since my sins have now been washed away, I now have been made right with God. I have been reconciled to God. I have been made righteous before my holy, righteous, Creator. He is now my Father…What this means then is that since Christ took all the ugliness of my sin upon Himself and paid for it with His death, I now have and enjoy all the beauty of every gospel grace given to me freely in Christ.”–Wil Owens

Are You Avoiding Your Cross? You May Be Avoiding Your Joy, Too.

Wooden-Cross-weathered

Are you shirking part of your work? I think most of us know when we are doing this. As enigmatic as finding God’s will often seems, we seem to know fairly quickly if there is something we are neglecting to do. God has placed us where we are at this moment in time for a reason–to work in co-operation with Him in accomplishing His work here on earth before His second coming. Being faithful in the daily, ordinary tasks that contribute to the greater work can feel like slogging through mud sometimes. But it’s the only way to get any real work done.

tired gopher

And it’s the only way to feel joyful. Our joy is to be walking beside Christ our Shepherd, sharing in His joy as day by day the workings of His plan unfold before us. Turning away from our work is turning away from the comfort of drawing near to Him. We become like sheep who have wandered into the cold shadows of the brush nearby, rather than walking in the warmth of His side. Jesus, Himself acknowledged this in John 4:

34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

During Lent we remember the lowliness of Christ and the work He did to accomplish our salvation. It’s a good time to ask ourselves what we are doing that we shouldn’t or what we aren’t doing that we should. For me, among many things, I am not walking and praying as I should. What is it for you? Ask for the strength to be obedient and sidle up next to the Savior and do it. He will be there with all the warmth and strength of His presence.

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Luke 9:22-24

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EBH