Daily Devotionals from Grace in the Workplace
Thursday, November 29 2012
Verse of the Day
Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” [Matthew 26:27-28 – NKJV]
As many of you know, I’m a retired tax lawyer. I specialized in corporate, partnership, and M&A (i.e., mergers and acquisitions). One of the concepts that you have to get familiar with in a hurry in my former profession is figuring out what something’s worth; we commonly refer to this as its “fair market value.” It’s not always easy, but there are tried and true techniques that give you an indication of what something is worth, whether it’s stock, tangible or intangible assets, etc. Just curious, but have you ever given much thought as to what you’re worth?
It’s been said that the value of the physical elements in the human body is somewhere around one dollar. Two caveats: this is dated information so it doesn’t take into account inflation; second, it does not account for those of you who have gold teeth. Clearly, this is not an indication of your true value. Another approach might be to determine the net present value of all the services you provide, including the income from your job and the imputed income from your role as parent, caregiver, etc. But, again, this just doesn’t seem to be appropriate.
If you are a Believer, your “fair market value” is best described in today’s passage. Jesus died on the cross for you and me so that we could spend eternity with Him. We often hear this expressed as Jesus “redeeming” us from our sins. That’s a good segue back to my past life as a tax professional. A “redemption” is a tax and legal term or concept generally associated with stock buybacks and similar corporate transactions. What could be more apropos? Jesus bought us back! He was the price paid in the deal. So now we know our true value. Thank you, Jesus!
Wednesday, November 28 2012
Verse of the Day
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. [John 15:4 –NIV]
I don’t know about you, but every once in awhile I used to like to handle stuff on my own. After all, when you do it yourself it gets done right, doesn’t it? A person who takes this approach at work or in other aspects of his or her life is often referred to as a “lone ranger.” Believe me, this is not a compliment. When you strike out on your own you are, well, after all, on your own. There is nobody to turn to for advice, help or wise counsel. You are it. Is this smart? Of course not!
So if the “lone ranger” approach is a losing proposition, why would unplugging yourself from Jesus be effective in your walk with Him? How can you possibly do good works in His name without having a deep and abiding relationship with Him? Well, you can’t. As Jesus tells us in today’s passage, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” So immerse yourself in the Word and pray constantly to Jesus for help and guidance in your life. All of us “branches” need to bear fruit to honor and glorify our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Monday, November 26 2012
Verse of the Day
And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” [Genesis 11:4 – NKJV]
We have always been fascinated with the heights of buildings, skyscrapers that touch the heavens. This fixation with reaching into the sky has been part of all religions for centuries as mankind tries to connect with their gods. When the Israelites wandered away from the Lord their God, they worshipped the gods of the pagans in the “high places.” Clearly getting closer to the stars has meaning when trying to reach a higher power.
In today’s passage we see the futility of mankind after the Flood as they disobey God and build a tower to reach into Heaven. Ironically, the tower was probably only about seven stories tall, but that’s not the point. God disrupted their plans, confused their language, and the Tower of Babel was no more. But what about today?
Skyscrapers have been a part of our landscape for more than a century. There are good reasons for their existence: limitations on land use, the cost of land, economies of scale, etc. Most of these factors have to do with how our cities have developed, but that is certainly not the only reason that man seems to be so fascinated with the heights of these modern-day behemoths. There is always a competition going on, isn’t there? Who has the tallest building? New York? Chicago? Los Angeles? In the old days it was the Empire State Building and the Sears Tower. Then, we had the World Trade Center, which was tragically destroyed by terrorists on September 11, 2001. Today there are the competitors from other counties, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and China. What’s up with all of this? Is man still fixated with trying to reach into the heavens? I think the answer is an emphatic “yes!”
Don’t you know that God is looking down on us and wondering why we don’t get it? We just never seem to learn, do we?
Monday, November 19 2012
Verse of the Day
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. [John 3:16 – NKJV]
First let’s clarify what I mean by leverage. I am not using the term in the financial sense (i.e., the degree or extent to which a business or investor is using borrowed money), nor am I using it in the engineering sense (as in using a fulcrum as a means of moving a heavy object). What I mean by leverage is the use of information about a person to affect, shape, or influence their behavior. Leverage is most commonly associated with business, politics, and other high-stakes activities, but we often see it employed in everyday life, too. Whether we know it or not, we often use what we know about others to influence them. The application of leverage raises connotations of a bad or evil motive or intent; however, that is not always the case. I’d like to submit that God uses leverage in His Plan for us; to save us and bring us into a loving relationship with Him.
God knows each of us intimately. He is constantly at work to bring about our salvation by using people, events, and other forces to affect and influence our behavior and ultimately our receptiveness to His Son, Jesus. As the Apostle Paul tells us, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” He brings all the leverage at His disposal to bring us into a right relationship with Him. And the fun part is that He knows beforehand exactly how we will react!
Of course there are countervailing forces at work. The evil one uses our prideful, self-centered nature to twist our minds and hearts so that we resist God and His Word. The secular world is actively involved in tearing down, demeaning, demonizing, ridiculing, and humiliating Christianity and Believers, but we know that God will prevail! We love Him because He first loved us. “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”
Thursday, November 15 2012
Verse of the Day
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. [Psalm 100 – NKJV]
Traditionally, Thanksgiving has marked the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. My favorite Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street, opens with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Kris Kringle taking over for a “spurious” Santa who has had more than his fill of Christmas “spirit.” Of course, that was decades ago and today, Christmas decorations seem to pop up immediately after Halloween. In recent years, Christmas, at least the secular, commercialized variant, seems to have overshadowed Thanksgiving.
Sure, we gather together, but more often than not it’s at the dinner table as we get ready for the turkey or in front of the flat screen as we watch the big game. Thanksgiving is more and more a forgotten day. It’s a holiday that has lost its meaning and purpose. Through no fault of its own mind you, but then holidays need us, the celebrants, to keep them alive. We give them purpose by observing them in the way they are meant to be celebrated.
Thanksgiving is a time to gather together to reflect on and give thanks for the many blessings that God has provided. Regardless of whether you and your family are doing just fine (thank you very much) or are suffering with a job loss, health concerns, or other needs, we all have something to be thankful for. Everything we have belongs to God. We are His stewards. We owe everything to Him. And I’m not just talking about the stuff, but our health, our talents and abilities, our families and our friends, our jobs, our beloved country, and on and on. So, this Thanksgiving, take time to pray a prayer of thanks (both individually and collectively) to the Lord your God for His bountiful provision. As the Psalmist says, “Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” Amen and amen!
Wednesday, November 14 2012
Verse of the Day
If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” [John 14:7 – NIV]
Many ask, “What’s God the Father really like?” In the Old Testament we see a well-woven tapestry that depicts a close, personal, and constant relationship between God and His People. Many Old Testament figures walked and talked with God: Adam and Eve (before the Fall from Grace), Enoch, Noah (who God chose to continue man’s presence on earth after the Flood), Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Samuel, David, and many other prophets and kings. And let’s not forget that the Israelites, His Chosen People, had a close, personal relationship with Him, too. They saw His miracles (as well as His judgment), His presence (as represented by fire and smoke), and occasionally heard His voice. But, after the remnant returned from Babylon, God seems to have disappeared.
In the New Testament, we get occasional signs that God still speaks to His people, most notably when Jesus was being baptized (see Matthew 3:17: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”). As the New Testament times draw to a close, God no longer makes Himself known to His People, at least in an audible or visible way. There are reasons for this disappearance; the principle one being that, after His death, Jesus sent a Wise Counselor to us. Now, thanks to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we Believers have the Spirit of God with us 24/7!
But, just as in Jesus’s day when the disciples wanted to know the Father, we too have an insatiable curiosity to know more about our Heavenly Daddy. We wonder, “What is God really like?” Well, in today’s passage, Jesus has the answer for us: if you want to know God the Father, get to know His Son. How do you do this? One of the best ways is to read the Word. The more you learn about Jesus, the more you will get to know God the Father.
Many think that the Father is stoic, mean, heartless, unfeeling, and uncaring. This belief is based on a misreading; a miscomprehension of the Old Testament. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus was none of these things. Above all else, Jesus demonstrated love, compassion, and mercy. Did Jesus have emotions? Yes. Did Jesus get angry? Yes. But, all this tells us is that these are not bad characteristics to possess when handled with discipline and love. Bottom line; we have a Father who really loves us. How much, you ask? Well, He sent His Son to die for us on the cross. Jesus shed His blood so that we Believers could share eternity with Him. Thank you Jesus!
Tuesday, November 13 2012
Verse of the Day
“…when you are invited [to a wedding banquet], take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
[Luke 14:10-11 – NIV]
I don’t go to all that many parties, but I am reasonably well-informed about appropriate party behavior and etiquette. It’s one thing to be the life of the party, which can be kind of fun if you’re the right person for the task. After all, you could end up entertaining a few folks and providing a few laughs and priceless moments. But, it’s an altogether different thing for you to get all puffed up, self-righteous, and full of yourself by assuming that you are one of the most important guests. By adopting this kind of attitude you are doomed for disappointment, embarrassment, and humiliation.
In today’s passage, Jesus is suggesting the proper attitude for a partygoer, aka a Believer. Adopt an attitude of humility. If you choose the lowest place at the banquet table instead of the highest, then it is possible that the host may choose to move you to a more prominent position. Please note the analogy between the wedding banquet and the Kingdom of Heaven. If we want to be exalted in God’s eyes we need to adopt an attitude of humility. As Jesus says, “…all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Tuesday, November 06 2012
Verse of the Day
“…when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” [Luke 14:13-14 –NIV]
Although I was never a party animal, I have always enjoyed getting together with friends and having a good time. Sharon and I have occasional dinner parties, but we’ve never hosted a banquet; however, it does sound like a fun thing to do so maybe I’ll give it a shot someday.
Turning to today’s passage, the fact that I’m not ready to open our home to hundreds of people doesn’t mean that I get a pass from helping the poor and needy. At first blush, it would seem that Jesus’ point wasn’t merely the venue in which we meet the needs of the poor; it was about the nature or condition of our hearts as we reach out to them. Are we servants? Are we ready to do our part to help those less fortunate? Most of us can answer yes to these questions. We serve in homeless shelters, food pantries, soup kitchens, and we give financially to help the poor, but there is something more about this passage that bears mentioning.
The setting or location of the banquet in today’s passage really is significant; in fact it’s the key to the passage, and here’s why: When we volunteer at a homeless shelter we spend a few hours on a weekend helping some poor, down-and-out people get back on their feet. We share the Good News with them, we talk and laugh and sometimes we cry, but then we leave and return to our comfortable, cozy homes. What does that say about how we really feel about the poor and needy? Turn now to the banquet. When you throw a banquet you usually do so to honor the quests. You invite them into your home, you entertain them and feed them, and you show them honor and respect. I think that is what Jesus is saying here. It’s not enough to just care for the poor; it’s how you do it. Do you really care for those around you? Do you treat them with honor and respect? That’s the type of behavior that will ensure that you get “repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Thanks be to Jesus for showing us the Way! He is the Truth and the Light!
Monday, November 05 2012
Verse of the Day
Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” [John 11:47-48 – NIV]
The audacity! The people were beginning to believe in Jesus. Just imagine what would happen to the religious rulers of the day if belief in Jesus got out of control? They were concerned about the Romans taking away “our temple and our nation.” Funny, I thought it was God’s temple and God’s nation, but then what do I know? When the institution of religion becomes more important than its objective—worshiping and glorifying the Lord our God—then we’ve strayed way off course. God had absolutely nothing to do with the religious practices of the day. And that is exactly the point of so many of Jesus’s parables.
The old adage “The more things change the more they stay the same” is no doubt true. Things don’t change much, do they? The tendency to look out for “number one” is as prevalent today as it was in Jesus’s day. We are just as concerned about “turf” as the Sanhedrin was. What’s “ours is ours” and we’re going to fight to keep it to the bitter end. What kind of attitude is this? It’s certainly not one that we need in our lives. What’s ours is really God’s and we are His stewards. If we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves then we will use what God has given us to bring glory to Him. Let’s make sure that we look out for the real Number One, Jesus Christ! Make Him first in your life today.