Being a Missionary at School or at Work

You may have never considered yourself to be a missionary at your school… or at your job.  But, you are.

Being a missionary in your school or workplace can be tricky.  We can’t do a Bible Study instead of what we are there to do.  We can’t spend our morning going from office to office or classroom to classroom; we are there to do a job or to learn.  We can’t call everyone together to pray before a big test or before a board meeting.  We can’t stand up to proclaim Christ instead of giving or oral report or instead of telling the crew what needs to be done that day.  Yet, whether it’s school or work – whether you’re paying to be there or getting paid to be there – you are to be there on mission.  So, how do you do that?

It happens “in the gaps” of your regular routine: in the lunchroom, during breaks, as you’re going from one station to another.  We can usually find time to talk about our favorite sports team, the TV show we watched last night, what’s happening with the family.  If we can find time to talk to others about those things, we can find time to talk to others about Jesus.

Did you start your day at school praying for God to open an opportunity for you to be a missionary?  Do you consider your 9-5 job as your mission field?

Wherever you are… and whatever you do… on your Monday through Friday vocation, God has put you there.  And He’s put you there for a reason.  He’s put you there to live out your mission.

Foes & Friends of God

In our mid-week study last night, we looked at Psalm 53.

Psalm 53 was written by David… to the Chief Musician.  It was intended to be a psalm to be contemplated… and played to a tune on a lute or a lyre.  It is almost identical to Psalm 14.

I.  God & His Foolish Foes  (v.1-5)

What a person thinks about God goes far in determining his/her character and conduct.  David was concerned about the state of humanity:

  • Their Atheism  (v.1a)  Only a fool would deny the existence of God.
  • Their Apostasy  (v.1b-3)  Everywhere David looked, he saw people who were completely corrupt and had turned their backs on God.
  • Their Attacks  (v.4)  They chewed at God’s people the way they might chew bread.
  • Their Annihilation  (v.5)  God will have the last word…

 

II.  God & His Faithful Friends  (v.6)

  •  The Desire  (v.6a)  David desired that God would rescue His people.
  • The Delight  (v.6b)  When God would eventually restore His people, they will rejoice.

You Are a Paid Missionary!

If you are a Christian, you have also been called to be a missionary.  The life you live is the life God has given you… and the specific locations in which you live that life are the locations to which He has sent you.  Everything you do… everyone you meet… every opportunity you have… is part of your specific vocation – you “calling” assigned by God.

That calling should give special meaning to every meeting you attend, every group project you’re a part of, every chemistry lab, every workshop, every classroom.  In our vocation, we build relationships.  In our vocation, we love, serve, and bless people.  We pray for those around us.

God provides our calling… and He also supports us in it.  If you are still in school, God is providing for your vocation through tax dollars and government-provided schools.  If you are in college, God is providing for your vocation through scholarships and part-time jobs.  If you are in the workplace, God is providing for your vocation through your paycheck.  Regardless of the name on the paycheck, God is routing His resources to you through them… so that you can be paid full-time ministry where He has sent you.

You have possibly assumed you are going to school or working your job so you can afford to pay for the expenses of living life.  You are actually going to school or working your job as a way to remain on your mission field!

Look around on your mission field; what do you think God would have you do today?

Your Mission Is Your Vocation

Unless your retired… if you’re able to read this, you are probably either in school or have a job.  You’re either in an occupation or your preparing for one.  Whichever it is, that is your vocation.

Whether you’re in school or at work, you go somewhere… interact with others… and focus on a goal.  You’re there for several hours, and while you’re “on the clock”, performing assigned duties and agreed-upon policies.  Work and school have set start and end times… and then you go home or to other activities.

Again, whether school or work, that is your “vocation”.  The Latin root word – actually Christian in origin – describes a “calling”.  Your place at school or at work is your calling.  You have a greater purpose there than simply earning a degree or earning money for a mortgage.

As a Christian, you are called to your vocation… and to treat that vocation as your mission.  You’re called to your school or your workplace to live out your mission and ministry.

You might consider approaching your day with this mindset… and see what God can do through you.

On Mission at School/Work

Jesus said we are to love our “neighbor”?  Who is your “neighbor”?  A neighbor is ‘someone in close proximity to yourself’.  In other words, as you head to school or work to begin this week, you are about to come into close proximity with people; those people are your neighbors.

Where do you spend most of your time?  Putting aside those quiet 5-9 hours you might get while sleeping at  night, most of our time each day… every week… finds us in one of three places: home, school, and/or work.  And, most of us spend more time at school or work – away from our families – than we do at home with our families.

Today… and this week… view your school and your workplace as your mission field!

Ask yourself why you – as a believer – are there.  Then, do what God has placed you there to do.  Be salt.  Be light.

In Those Times We Struggle

In our mid-week study last night, we looked at Psalm 46… and found encouragement for those times in which we struggle.

We fake it.  We deny it.  We try to hide it.  We try to ignore it.  But the truth remains… we sometimes struggle.  Each of us and all of us.

The psalmist wrote this psalm for those times we struggle.

If you remember nothing else, remember that first verse:  “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble.”

  • “I will not fear”  (v.2,3)  On any given day, we hear news reports of nature in chaos: mudslides, avalanches, earthquakes, tornadoes, lightning strikes, floods, hurricanes, blizzards, heat-related deaths, etc.  In events such as these, life can seem unsure.  Our response?  “I will not fear.  God is my refuge and my strength, a very present help in trouble.”
  • “I will not be fluid”  (v.4-7)  We look to the center of our government and to our courts to be sources of moral stability and high ethical standards.  In recent years, decisions have been made that show even the most basic of morality and ethics are fluid… shifting… changing.  We’re not even sure what gender we are any more!  Our response?  “I will not be fluid.  I will stand on the foundation that is God, who is my refuge and my strength… a very present help in trouble.”
  • “I will not fight”  (v.8-11)  The psalmist describes the aftermath of battlefield; broken weapons and burning chariots.  Most of us have not seen an actual battlefield, but we have seen figurative ones: a broken home, a foreclosure sign on a failed business, a half-empty church after a split, etc.  Our response?  “I will not fight; I will be still and turn to God, who is my refuge and strength… a very present help in trouble.”

 

In those times we struggle, we shouldn’t get “all shook up” (as Elvis said), but should, instead, look up.

From Resolution to Repentance

This past Wednesday night, we studied Psalm 39.  It was a psalm written by David, and intended to be played by one of his favorite musicians, Jeduthun.

Evidently, David had been praying for God to meet a need in his life… and God wasn’t answering his prayer as soon as David hoped he would.  Though David was growing impatient – and possibly even frustrated with God, he was determined he would not speak critically of God… especially in the presence of unbelievers.

I.  David’s Resolution  (v.1-3)

David made a promise to himself.  He promised himself he would not sin in his speech nor in his actions, especially when the ungodly were present.  It was a resolution concerning his witness.

But, in his attempt to say only good things, he found it easier to simply say nothing… and, by doing so, he had removed his witness from those who needed it most!

II.  David’s Repentance  (v.4-13)

David knew his former resolution was the wrong approach.  Pouting in silence was certainly not the answer.  So, he changed his plan of action; he made a 4-fold request to God:

  • Show me!  (v.4-6)  David asked God to remind him of the frailty of life, and the futility of life.
  • Save me!  (v.7-9)  David knew his only real hope was in God.
  • Spare me!  (v.10,11)  David asked God to stop punishing him for his sin and to hear his prayer.
  • Satisfy me!  (v.12,13)  What David wanted more than anything else was to experience the joy of the Lord.  And isn’t that what we all want most?

 

There is usually a right way and a wrong way to approach most situations in life.  The right way is always the way that causes us to turn to God quickest… and stay with Him longest.

Happy Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Today, February 7, would be the 150th birthday of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Happy Birthday, Laura!  If she were here she would probably celebrate by eating a biscuit baked by Ma and getting a cool drink from Plum Creek as she and Pa were fishing.

Her books were almost required reading when I was in elementary school, and I grew up watching “Little House on the Prairie” on TV (and, often, still watch on reruns).  My mom usually watched what everyone else wanted to watch, but when LHOTP came on… we watched what she wanted to watch.

We know much of Laura’s life and home through the books she wrote… and through much research that has been done about her life.  A question was asked to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association concerning Laura’s faith…

The Spirituality of Laura Ingalls Wilder

One of the questions I’ve often been asked by visitors to my website pertains to Laura’s religious beliefs.  What did Laura believe about God and spirituality?  While this question is impossible to answer in one respect, since Laura is no longer with us to ask, we get a pretty good idea of what Laura’s religious beliefs were from her various writings. The first source is the Little House books themselves.
From reading these books, it is evident that the Ingalls girls were given a religious upbringing.  In the early years, prior to moving to Walnut Grove, it doesn’t seem that going to church was part of the Ingalls’ lives due to distance, but the family still observed Sunday as a day of rest, and the girls must have received religious instruction from Ma and Pa as they are familiar with Bible stories and have memorized Scripture verses even before attending church or Sunday School. In both Walnut Grove and De Smet, the Ingalls family attended the Congregational Church, which is a Protestant denomination where each local congregation is independently run. Interestingly, Congregational churches place much authority in the hands of the people of the church, rather than being primarily run by the minister or officers, making each member responsible for governing his own behaviors under God’s ultimate authority.  While In Walnut Grove, Laura won a contest for memorizing more Bible verses than the other children.
We see the concept of self-responsibility threaded throughout the Little House series. Pioneer Girl, Laura’s unpublished autobiography, sheds some more light into Laura’s thoughts about God and religion. Laura writes of a boy who joined their church in Walnut Grove and testified every Wednesday night at prayer meeting:  “It somehow offended my sense of privacy. It seemed to me that the things between one and God should be between him and God like loving ones mother. One didn’t go around saying ‘I love my mother, she has been so good to me.’ One just loved her and did things that she liked one to do.” Laura also tells in Pioneer Girl of a time when she had to care for an ill neighbor and was lonely for home. “One night while saying my prayers, as I always did before going to bed, this feeling of homesickness and worry was worse than usual, but gradually I had a feeling of a hovering, encompassing Presence of a Power, comforting and sustaining and thought in surprise ‘That is what men call God!'” From these writings, we learn that Laura followed such spiritual disciplines as prayer, Bible reading, regular church attendance, and Scripture memorization, but also that she experienced God on a deeper personal level, but felt those experiences should remain private.
As adults, Laura and Almanzo were active in the Methodist Episcopal church in Mansfield, there being no Congregational Church there. Almanzo’s family was part of the Methodist church in Spring Valley, and Laura herself had attended the Methodist Sunday School as a child in addition to her own church services, so the Methodist doctrines must have been similar to their own beliefs. Laura was involved in the Ladies Aid Society at the church, and was an active member of the Interesting Hour club, which was composed of two of the Methodist Sunday School classes.
Although the Wilders stopped attending services in their older years, Laura returned to the church after Almanzo’s death.  Well-known to Wilder fans is the list of Bible references Laura left behind, indicating that the Bible served as her tool for handling life issues. So although Laura’s specific religious beliefs may have varied somewhat from the denominations under which she worshipped, it is clear from the evidence we do have that she practiced spiritual disciplines throughout her life and engaged in a personal private relationship with God.
And that is the best answer we can give to the question, “What did Laura believe?”

The Blessing of Forgiveness

In our mid-week study last night, we looked at Psalm 32.

Psalm 32 was written by David, and was intended to be a maschil… 1 of 13 psalms intended to give practical wisdom.  This psalm should be written in conjunction with Psalm 51; both were written after David’s adultery with Bathsheba… and David’s attempt to cover it up with murder… was confronted by the prophet, Nathan.

I.  The Confession  (v.1-5)

God sees the sins we commit.  David tried to cover up his sins on earth, and was able to for awhile.  But he could not cover up his record in Heaven.  When we confess our sins, God wipes the record clean; see 1John 1:9.

  • The Bitterness  (v.3,4)  David described his agony before he confessed his sins.
  • The Blessedness  (v.1,2,5)  David described his joy after he confessed his sins and received forgiveness.

APP:  Notice the progression in v.5… acknowledging his sin, bringing it out into the open, confessing his sin, and receiving forgiveness.

II.  The Counsel  (v.6,7)

David advised the godly to repent of their sins.

III.  The Commission  (v.8-11)

  • What the LORD would do  (v.8,10)  He promised to lead… and to love.
  • What the king should do  (v.9,11)  He should obediently follow God, having no need for a bit or a bridle… and he should openly declare God, and all God has done for him.

APP:  David went from silence (v.3) to singing (v.7) because he was finally honest with God and confessed his sins.

“I Need This Done Before I Come Back”

When I was a kid… preteen and teen… and living at home, I regularly was given chores by my dad.  Sometimes I would be told to mow the grass, clean a fence row, pick up rocks from a field, etc.  When I was given these chores, it was expected that I would complete them.

Let’s say I woke up one Tuesday to find a note left by my dad: “Clean the garage.  I need this done before I come back.”  Let’s say I read the note, and looked at my watch; I saw I had 6 hours until he was expected home from work.  So, I go out to the garage and take a look…  Sure enough, it certainly needs cleaning.  What do I do?

Let’s say I pull out a lawn chair, take a seat, and begin to pray about it.  Or let’s say some of my buddies gather around and we talk about what I have been tasked to do.  Maybe we even take the note and do an exegesis of the text… and discover what the note really means is that dad expects me to clean the garage and to have it done when he gets back (yep, he really meant what he said).

Let’s say I pull out a guitar and begin to sing songs about my dad: “Daddy loves me, this I know…”, “‘Tis so sweet to trust in Daddy…”, “Daddy, I adore you…”, etc.  Or maybe I pull my buddies in close and I spend the day telling them tales of the many times my dad proved himself faithful to me, and showed me how much he loved me.

Let’s say I’ve devoted my whole day to praying about what I’d been given to do, or talking about about what I’d been given to do, or singing about my dad and talking about my dad.

When dad pulls in the driveway, and gets out of his truck, to check on the progress I’d made in the garage, will he be pleased or disappointed?  Would it help when I told him I’d spent the time talking about him instead of doing what he’d given me to do?  Knowing my dad, it wouldn’t have helped…

What is the point of this imaginary scenario (that is very close to what happened many times)?  Insert Jesus in place of my dad… and insert my orders to clean the garage with the Great Commission of Acts 28:18-20.

We’ve spent countless days and weeks and months and years doing everything but… even every good thing but… what Jesus told us to do.

When Jesus comes back, will He be pleased or disappointed?