Work as Freedom: Hearts of Flesh (Part 2)

After starting a new series on hearts of flesh last week, I want to spend this post extending the theme into the workplace.

‘Cause truth is: While discussing theological intricacies has its place, if a Gospel principle isn’t tangible…if it’s ambiguous in application…one must wonder if we’re fully taking it to heart.

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Thankfully, we’re believers in ‘part 2’s here at His Girl Fryday. As such, the goal of this post is to discuss what hearts of flesh look like in the marketplace using the three core concepts of ‘part 1’ as a foundation.

Without further ado, let’s dive in…

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No question, we live in a complicated world addicted to hurry, prosperity, and high expectation. We want well, we mean well, we work well…but by day’s end, there always seems to more weighing us down than lifting us up. Ever wish you could fix just one issue knowing the ripple effect it could have? I know I do.

However, I also know at the core of many prevalent issues are hearts of stone burdened by systems of performance and self-effort. This arguably is no more evident than our cultural idolization of individual accomplishment over collective partnership. As a society, we say we value the idea of collaboration; we preach the principles of teamwork and leadership. But in an ‘I must get this done’ age, can we honestly say our bottom line emphasis is more ‘done’ than ‘I’? Or are we so caught up in progress and status, we’ve lost the point of why we work all together?

Regardless of where we’re at, as mentioned in ‘part 1’, there’s a common thread we can adhere to: By aligning ourselves to God, we can know not only is our salvation secure for those who believe (Romans 10:9-10), but our purpose, our destiny, and our future as well.

This has massive implications in the marketplace.

For starters, we can enjoy our work free from offense, agenda, and anxiety since our idea of success is rooted in worship and completion, not affirmation and accomplishment. Ever worry about your voice being heard or if ‘x’ project will get done? Perhaps you feel trapped knowing advancement can only happen is certain metrics outside your reach are met.

If so, dare to rely on God as your higher power in those moments. Put into practice, you’ll find this posture will not only free you from insecurity, but also redirect a fear of man/failure to a fear of the Lord.

As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 12:11,13 (ESV):

“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Remember when we surrender our anxieties, when we cast our cares upon the Lord, we create space God can invade.

Note how 2 Peter 3:8-9 literally captures this in the Message translation:

Don’t overlook the obvious here, friends. With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day. God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness…He’s giving everyone space and time to change.”

Unfortunately, for many of us, this reality falls flat before we recognize it. We pray before each day, we ingest truth through the Word, and yet somehow the emotional gravity in conflict remains unchanged. Why is that?

I know for me after I graduated college, I’d feel guilty if I had time to kill or margins to clear. I’d think to myself I must be doing something wrong if I’m not productive or ‘on the go’ all the time. But looking back, I realize this burden was self-inflicted having believed no mountain to conquer was a sign of faithlessness. As I now know…

…voids created through surrender is an apex of spiritual maturity.

More specifically, to create voids righteously, one must repent and acknowledge God as the provider of opportunity, the way to resolution, and sustenance when either is lacking. True, our margins and capacities may vary (see parables of the talents), but it’s ultimately God who entrusts us with them. Knowing this, we can experience work as freedom by viewing business ethics, accountability, communication, and motivation as ‘fragrant offerings’ to God.

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Furthermore, if we accept our future as known and pre-determined rather than unknown and self-determined, then we can view our work as done since our purpose is already secure. Granted, this idea may be hard to grasp at first. I’m not suggesting you approach responsibility with a cavalier attitude; however, I am encouraging you to see aligning to God as a way we engage His fullness, faithfulness, and the belief that what good can be donewill be done.

If it helps, consider this: You are made a new creation. To be made is to have an identity. What you do is not your identity. Accordingly, what you make, what you earn is not your identity. So what is your identity? It’s who you are. God…God made you who you are. However, He also made work. Why? So people can know Him and discover their purpose. Hence, why work isn’t your identity, but working unto the Lord is.

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Knowing God is why we work means He’s the subject of our work. Our co-workers and supervisors? They are not the subject. They are the object…equal in value, diverse in function…just like you. Even the confusing characters, those who think success is all profit, position, and power, God sees the ‘finished them’…not only what they could be, but what they will be.

In light of this, we can embrace helplessness and accept weakness knowing we’re a new creation continually transformed as we receive from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Even when others condescend on weakness, we can take heart knowing the Cross has meaning and power because of it. Oh, how sweet it is to know this same wonder-working power can be alive in and through us…even as we work.

All that said, next time you’re on the clock, delight in the fact you can be open to constructive criticism since work is more than learning; it’s freedom. When you’re micromanaged, manipulated, or indirectly communicated to, rejoice. God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear on what your boss or colleagues can do to you, but of love, power, and a sound mind in what you can give back. Again, if you align to Christ, the reproach, the dying to self…it all takes care of itself. Besides, you can’t control what others do or think, but you can trust in God who works all things for good and is progressively transforming us into His image.

Cause to God, it’s not about the bottom line…or even the finish line; it’s about the finished line…

…a reality we can know as Christ’s finished work alive in us.

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In closing, I bid adieu with one last verse from 2 Peter…

With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.  So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.” ~ 2 Peter 1:8-11 (MSG)

Stay tuned next time when we’ll discuss how merging bottom lines with finish-ed lines ultimately sets the stage for cultural transformation in our arenas of influence. In addition, we’ll contract intimacy versus independence before relating each reality view to weakness (as Paul describes throughout 2 Corinthians 12).

‘Til then, be blessed and stay refreshed…

Selah.

 Cover photo creds: Steemit

 

Built to Build: The Call of Vocations (Part 1)

After previously discussing 1 Corinthians 4, I want to rewind a chapter and review our vocational identity – what God intends us to be on the clock.

While we will ultimately need guidance from Colossians 2 to unpack this in full, for now let’s start with 1 Corinthians 3:9-11 (ESV):

For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Here, Paul, having emphasized church divisions (v. 1-4), is reminding the Corinthians to see Christ as their cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-22), as the foundation of life on which new life can be built. Unfortunately, like the Israelites in Judges, the Corinthians are strong in flesh and weak in discernment. A people ravaged by schismatic impulses, they are plagued by paganism and a past rooted in idolatry. Certainly, Paul couldn’t have been too surprised to hear reports of such dissension.

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Yet, what Paul lacks in suspense, he makes up in candidacy, specifically we are servants designed for unity and God is the source and core of it all. What matters is not who gets this task and who gets that task, but rather why the task exists at all. For most of us, this makes sense, but to the Corinthians, a people who saw their value through who they followed, this would have been difficult to accept. Imagine your political preference and/or denomination of choice being your chief designation. “Hi, my name is Cameron and I’m a charismatic Republican.” A bit off-putting, right?­

Conversely, for Paul, affiliations meant nothing compared to eternal intent as evidenced in v. 9 (AMP):  

For we are God’s fellow workers [His servants working together]; you are God’s cultivated field [His garden, His vineyard], God’s building. “ 

Like 1 Corinthians 4:9-13, this is powerful imagery concerning our vocational identity. We aren’t just God’s workers, but fellow workers on mission with Christ doing good works in Gospel partnership (Phil. 1:5-6). Concerning our colleagues and clients, they’re also designed for God’s assignments, but whether they know it or not should not deter us from working peaceably as it depends on us (Romans 12:18). As long as we accept the call to be Christ’s championing companions, we can embrace unity as helpers of joy (2 Corinthians 1:24) while perceiving our cultivation as an overflow of God’s goodness.

After all…

…we don’t work to lay the foundation; we work because Christ is the foundation!

Put another way, as co-laborers and vocational leaders, we’re meant to be laid on, not laid upon; hence, why Jesus says in Mark 3:25, “…a house divided against itself cannot stand.” If we don’t value teamwork apart from personal gain, our operations will be hindered having affirmed our identity as the foundation.

Again, this offers quite the paradox to the natural mind. Are we the foundation Christ, the master builder, lays or are we the slab plan built on Christ the foundation, by Christ the builder? Personally, I side with the latter, especially when I note the Psalmist and weeping prophet (i.e. Jeremiah) who perceived identity as predestined (Psalm 139:13, Jeremiah 1:5), Christ’s work in them1 as destined, and God’s nature as perpetually present. Applying their worldview, we can rest knowing as vocational influencers, we can mature our reach knowing it is Christ in us who does the cultivating through our work.

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In other words…

He is the vine, we are branches…but we are also a part of His vineyard!

Sometimes, we get so discouraged being branches, we forget the beauty of the garden we’ve been planted in. This tells me not only do we need to know Christ as the foundation on which we stand, but also the cultivator who pours out seeing the growth before it happens.

Colossians 1:4 and 2:2 (AMP) captures this process beautifully.

We have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus [how you lean on Him with absolute confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness], and of the [unselfish] love2 which you have for all the saints (God’s people)…For my hope is that their hearts may be encouraged as they are knit together in [unselfish] love, so that they may have all the riches that come from the full assurance of understanding [the joy of salvation], resulting in a true [and more intimate] knowledge of the mystery of God, that is, Christ…”

Combining these passages, we find the blueprint to living our vocational identity. When we’re overcome by disappointment, we choose gratitude seeking God in confidence. When we’re overwhelmed by hate, prejudice, and indifference we choose love seeking God in faith. And when we’re overpowered by unbelief and unforgiveness, we choose hope seeking God in His grace and power. In this way, we allow the towel (John 13: 1-9) to unfold as our hearts yearn to see others transformed and united by unselfish love. Granted, when we talk being on the job in the midst of funk and discrimination, this is easier said than done.

Then again, the whole point of Paul writing this is to encourage the Gentiles to desire unity with the Jews in hope to see them know Christ. And it’s this heart posture, I submit, we embrace as believing vocations on marketplace frontlines. Remember we are built up to build up, a process that with God knows no bounds.

As far as what we do between being built up in Christ and building up through Christ, Paul does give an additional template on this later in Colossians 2. For now, let’s pause and revisit the topic in next week’s post on how we contend for unity at work.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Ministry of reconciliation/sanctification
  2. The key to understanding this and other statements about love is to know that this love (the Greek word agape) is not so much a matter of emotion as it is of doing things for the benefit of another person, that is, having an unselfish concern for another and a willingness to seek the best for another.
Photo creds: FULLER studio

3 Things I’m [Really] Sorry For

For many, it’s the same thing every January…

                   …we forget all acquaintance, inflate our morale…

…only to tease ourselves with premature quests founded on prayer-less resolution.

But perhaps you’re like me in the sense you prefer cleanse before change…in getting real before getting right.

If so, trust me when I say these days in early January can seem just as blue as they are buoyant.

Still, while taking internal inventory may seem less ‘fun’ compared to making resolutions, when we fearlessly explore what we need to be free from, we ultimately position ourselves to embrace the ‘next’ God has for us.

Thus, in the spirit of going under the knife, here are three things I’m owning as we turn the clock to 2018…

1) Making culture the enemy

I’ve learned many lessons as a state employee from persevering when treated like a number to managing challenging subordinates, but arguably none has gripped me so intensely as knowing your enemy in the face of conflict.

Growing up, like many, I learned Ephesians 6:12: “…we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities…and spiritual forces of evil”; however, while I understood this truth conceptually, I lacked awareness contextually. For instance, at work whenever I felt belittled or neglected, I used to justify resentment by redirecting my disappointment from colleague to culture. I’d think to myself, ‘As long as what I hate isn’t breathing, I’m good.’

The problem was: my offense wasn’t going anywhere. If anything, I had taken cynicism with respect to ‘person’ and extrapolated it over ‘many persons’ all the while exchanging discouragement for a false comfort I could easily hide behind.

Yet, as I’ve now learned, when it comes to not making culture the enemy, we must be willing to assign our offenses and align our defenses in the heat of battle. Far too often, we want to make sense of our surroundings; we want to feel secure about who is for us, who isn’t for us, who is pouring into us, who isn’t, etc.

However, if our filing system defaults culture to enemy while compartmentalizing those we assume aren’t for us as products of that culture…are we not recasting the same judgment we fear?

And yeah, I know it’s easy to appoint anger and bitterness onto what we think can’t be seen; however, I encourage you…

…if your idea of enemy is the deceived, not the deceiver, then not only are you misappropriating identity, but you’re removing yourself from an opportunity to love and judge righteously.

Think of it this way: if you’re struggling to see the finger-pointing, never wrong colleagues as anything but enemies, try focusing on encouraging them (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-36, Ephesians 4:32) and watch as God transforms how you see them. That way you’re at least in position to shift the enemy from instigated to instigator.

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2) Hiding behind proximity

As an introvert, I love my solitude…that still calm in the middle of productivity and a dwindling ‘to do’ list.

But lately I’ve been thinking: Why is privacy perceived as such a luxury when we were created for proximity (i.e. engaged connection with those around us…not just closeness in space)?

I mean…if you’re reading this, odds are you’re close1 to someone, right? From neighbors to co-workers to immediate family and friends, it’s no question proximity is both prominent and prevalent. Why is it then if we were to describe our ideal escape, it’d often involve seclusion or separation?

Is it because we think harmony and proximity are mutually exclusive…that rest can only happen in a vacuum?

If so, I submit we get back to valuing those in our midst regardless if they treat us like strangers or outcasts.

‘Cause truth is: if how we engage people is conditioned on what we can’t control, it’s going to compromise our conviction in acting on what we can.

That said, it’s worth noting the false security in minimizing proximity.

Case and point: for years at my job I used to think to myself, ‘Just because so-and-so lives two cubicles down doesn’t mean I’m entitled to be close…’ or ‘I’ve tried talking with so-and-so, but after all these years, they’ve never tried to talking to me. Might as well as be strangers.’

However, once I realized these thoughts were only de-salting my witness, I knew my approach had to change. Like my heart towards culture, I had to stop  compartmentalizing people to make sense of my surroundings. Somehow, someway…I had to open myself back up so anyone and everyone could be a potential target for love, kindness, compassion, and encouragement.2

‘Cause like many, I can love on certain people well…plugging into their life…even giving gifts (which for me, is far down the love language list), but when I consider how Jesus broached proximity, no one was outside his periphery to love or his reach to heal.

Thus, I think it’s important we all examine ourselves and explore where good intentions may be linked to our own terms. Perhaps then we can find those secret places we may be hiding behind.

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3) Marginalizingmy bandwidth

Left unguarded, my mind can easily drift into personal narrative. How will what’s left untold…unfold based on the good, bad, and ugly of yesterday?

Yet, as mentioned in prior posts, it’s hard to invest external margin (i.e. loving one another) in the present when you’re overly vesting it in the past. Therefore, if we’re wanting to be more selfless in venturing our margin John 3:30 style, then clearly we must be willing to examine our perception of relationship before transferring it.

Granted, easier said than done; however, as long as we’re intentional in asking God to breathe width into our bandwidth (i.e. capacity/strength to love on purpose), who’s to say we can’t change?

And hear me: I get how tempting it can be to assume other people’s perception of you is less than what it should; however, I also know if you cement your mind in thinking people won’t believe the best, you will do the same as well. Why not then trust God to move, convict, and transform others the same way He’s moving, convicting, and transforming you?

If it helps, if you want to de-marginalize your bandwidth, go back to your narrative…but this time, consider what you learn at 35 or 45 may be what someone else learns at 25 or 55. After all, who are we to judge when truth clicks for someone else? I mean…if we truly want to be heaven on earth, then we should want to root each other on regardless if our maturity curves line up (see Matthew 7:5).

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Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Literally and figuratively
  2. A key distinction between world and ‘like Jesus’
  3. To treat as insignificant

Cover photo creds: Newhdwallpaper