Tag Archives: work

Proverbs 31; Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:8

Tomorrow marks the eleven-year anniversary since we settled on the house we call home. (I celebrate every year here.) I spent yesterday putting a fresh coat of paint in the kitchen. It had been almost eleven years since I painted it last. I thought back to that first time painting over the former owner’s warm yellow with a coat of white. And for some reason, my thoughts went to our house before, and the time I put in painting a mural for our first child’s nursery. How at the time, I was anticipating my first child, not knowing that that room would be the perfect room for a next woman’s young child. I wondered about a future day that all the changes we’ve made to this home will someday be viewed by a next owner–more than just a coat of paint, truly.

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 2:17-19, NIV)

I read the scriptures for this post yesterday, and thought on them while I worked. Thought of what seemed like opposite perspectives: from the example of a diligent (Proverbs 31) woman, whose work not only shaped and showcased her character but was a blessing to her family and community to the neighboring scriptures of Ecclesiastes, fraught with melancholic undertones of meaningless toil and repetition.

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26, NIV)

I notice the difference again between the things we can’t touch and the things we can. To the one who pleases God, wisdom, knowledge and happiness–intangible wealth! But to the sinner, the gathering and storing up of wealth that can’t be taken beyond the grave. The underlying character of the Proverbs 31 woman … and the undeniable truth in this:

16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
    the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die! (Ecclesiastes 2:16, NIV)

Lord, I have truly enjoyed the cyclical labor of the land of this home–although it’s definitely beaten me more than I’ve subdued it! Thank you for a home that’s been a fertile ground for treasured memories, joy, companionship, celebrations, and so much more. When I celebrate this home, Lord, I celebrate you and all that you’ve done in our lives–and in that, there is great meaning to me. Thank you for seeing me, Lord, and loving me.

Courtney (66books365)

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Isaiah 20-22; 1 Corinthians 2

One of my kids is caring for animals at a nearby farm this week. She loves animals and has always had a dreamer’s impression of what farm life would be like–harmonious, lovely, routine. But this week with hot and humid summer temperatures, buzzing flies, and work that leaves her sweaty, tired and achy has shown her a different perspective. She comes to my car dirty, disheveled, smelly, exhausted. The next day, she awakens with aches as her body remembers. Anne of Green Gables meets The Hunger Games, and the arena doesn’t seem anything like you imagined when you’re finally in it.

When I read through Isaiah 20-22, instead of consuming words while I drink my coffee, I step into the horror. In my NLT, each section begins with a subtitle “A message about …” and a city is listed. In A message about Egypt and Ethiopia:

Then the Lord said, “My servant Isaiah has been walking around naked and barefoot for the last three years. This is a sign—a symbol of the terrible troubles I will bring upon Egypt and Ethiopia. For the king of Assyria will take away the Egyptians and Ethiopians as prisoners. He will make them walk naked and barefoot, both young and old, their buttocks bared, to the shame of Egypt. Then the Philistines will be thrown into panic, for they counted on the power of Ethiopia and boasted of their allies in Egypt! They will say, ‘If this can happen to Egypt, what chance do we have? We were counting on Egypt to protect us from the king of Assyria.’” (Isaiah 20:3-6, NLT)

Or in A message about Babylon:

My stomach aches and burns with pain. Sharp pangs of anguish are upon me, like those of a woman in labor. I grow faint when I hear what God is planning; I am too afraid to look. My mind reels and my heart races. I longed for evening to come, but now I am terrified of the dark.

Look! They are preparing a great feast. They are spreading rugs for people to sit on. Everyone is eating and drinking.
But quick! Grab your shields and prepare for battle. You are being attacked! (Isaiah 21:3-5, NLT)

In A Message about Jerusalem:

You inspect the breaks in the walls of Jerusalem.
    You store up water in the lower pool.
10 You survey the houses and tear some down
    for stone to strengthen the walls.
11 Between the city walls, you build a reservoir
    for water from the old pool.
But you never ask for help from the One who did all this.
    You never considered the One who planned this long ago
.

12 At that time the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
    called you to weep and mourn.
He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins
    and to wear clothes of burlap to show your remorse.
13 But instead, you dance and play;
    you slaughter cattle and kill sheep.
    You feast on meat and drink wine.
You say, “Let’s feast and drink,
    for tomorrow we die!” (Isaiah 22:9-13, NLT, emphasis added)

In the New Testament, Paul’s words begin with the subheading Paul’s Message of Wisdom. These readings, all messages to the reader.

Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. (1 Corinthians 2:6-8, NLT, emphasis added)

I reflect on these readings and the underscoring of God’s sovereignty and plan. And like farm life, it’s more comfortable to read about war, choices, nations from the ease of my couch than it is to personalize a message. What if I stood before God’s judgment? What if I didn’t ask for help from the One who planned all this long ago? What if I didn’t understand?

13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For,

“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
    Who knows enough to teach him?”

But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:13-16, NLT)

Lord, I don’t want to do life apart from you. I’m thankful for reminders that you are sovereign and you desire true relationship with me. Your word puts it out there for me–warning, wisdom, guidance, truth. You make known what you want. Help me to understand.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 5; 2 Chronicles 2; 2 Thessalonians 3

Solomon had a job to do, and he knew how to go about getting it done. He contacted people who would help him reach that goal–to build a temple. And those people knew other people who were highly skilled in their field.

I may not personally know people who can help me get the job done, but technology has made it so that I can learn from them. I can learn from people who’ve done the things I want to do or they can inspire me to do something altogether new. I can get a book. I can follow a social media page. I can watch a video. I can listen to a podcast. I can join groups online and connect with others.

Sometimes it has taken me out of a routine or a comfort zone–volunteering at an event to help make it a success, or putting my hands to work in a project with people I’d just met to meet the needs of a community. I walked into these situations by myself, without the comfort of someone I knew to help ease the newness of the unknown.

Most of my treasured mentors are people I’ve never met, but whose stories I return to again and again. I’ve learned that reaching a goal isn’t nearly as satisfying in itself as who I become in the process.

In 2 Thessalonians 3, under the subhead “An Exhortation to Proper Living,” Paul has this to say:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. 10 Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

11 Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. 12 We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. 13 As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.

14 Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. 15 Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, NLT)

Lord, I praise you. I’m so thankful for the doors you’ve closed in my life, even though I didn’t understand at the time, and for the doors you’ve opened. This is an amazing time to be alive, to be able to learn from complete strangers, to reach across continents or into the past and know people who inspire me to persevere, to never get tired of doing good. I know that if there weren’t these examples, if I didn’t have your word or these others spurring me on, I would have tired by now. Thank you, God.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 1; Matthew 1; Ezra 1; Acts 1

It is my prayer and hope that in our first day together, in the start of a new decade, as we engage in the first chapter of these amazing books, that we look to the art of talking with God. May this prayer be the first step to take us to that special place with Him.

 In the beginning, when God created the universe. Genesis 1:1 GNT

Our great and glorious God, creator of the heavens and the earth: We come before You this morning, for You are the beginner of all good things. All creation sings Your praises. From morning light to evening shade, from the expanse of the sky to the breadth of the sea, all that You have made declares that You are God and that there is none like You.

You caused the earth to sprout, to yield, to bear sweet fruit of many flavors. You gave the sun to warm us with its golden rays, the moon to illume the evening tide, the stars to keep us wondering and to prevent our wandering. You made the secret creatures of the sea and the soloists of the sky. You alone fashioned cows to feed in the open field, lizards to leap across desert rocks, and great beasts to pad along the forest floor. For all these things we praise You. They are all of Your design, Your execution, and exist for Your pleasure.

And yet as if all of this were not enough for You, you have done even more. You created man in your own image, male and female. You’ve called us to multiply ourselves, commanded us to exercise dominion over this world, and encouraged us to enjoy its food for our need. How easy it is for us at this moment to share in Your judgment that this is all good, even very good!

And still we wonder. If the lights of our heaven are so glorious, how much more the lights of Yours? If by Your word alone You have commanded into existence a world of astonishing creatures, what have You commanded for the creatures around Your throne? If this is the glory of the world that is seen, what will be the glory of a world unseen? If we are left breathless at the sights of a world that is tarnished by sin, what will be our wonder at a world where You have banished all evil? If we are stunned at the sight of your creation, how will we measure our amazement if we are granted even a glimpse of the Creator’s glory?

And so we come to You this morning not merely to sing Your praises, but also to bring our petitions. We confess that we have not respected enough Your creation. We confess that we have not reverenced enough You our Creator! Forgive us Father, and fit us for the new heavens and the new earth. Forgive us, male and female, for all that we have done that is not good, and refashion us, in your mercy, into the image of Your Son. Call the Spirit who once hovered over the waters to hold sway over our hearts. And hear us for the sake of our loving Saviour, who for our sakes hung on a tree bearing the bitter fruit of all our sin. AMEN. 

Erwin (evanlaar1922)

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Isaiah 60-63; Colossians 3

How do we live out Colossians 3:23?

Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.

First we work from the heart. We put our whole heart into what we are doing. If we are cheating at work we are really cheating God. If we slough off at home it’s really God we are dissing.

Second, don’t be a man pleaser. You are not doing your job for your boss, you are doing it for God, so don’t be looking to that person for your meaning and affirmation. Be looking to God. Yes, of course we want to be pleasing our family and friends, but it’s because we are first seeking to please God and follow His Word.

Third, work and serve without grumbling. God sees your situation and knows what is happening. Remember He has you right where He wants you so what you are going through right now is based on where He has put you. If you are grumbling about your situation you are grumbling about God.

Fourth, work without comparison. Remember Jesus giving Peter a mission for his life and he wanted to know about Jesus’ plans for John. In John 21:22 Jesus basically said it’s none of your business. Judge your progress on where you have come from, not on the other person. Do your best and forget the rest!

Fifth, we should be working to hear the words, “Well done” spoken to us by God our Father. He is the one we are pleasing. Keep those words in your mind. That’s our goal in the end.

Sixth, thank God for every circumstance in which He has you. In those times and situations remember you are God’s ambassador and work and live to please Him and thank you for the journey He has you on.

Father God, thank you for the opportunity to serve you in all that we do. Help us to keep our focus on you and work in a way that shows You and others that we long to hear those precious words, “Well done!”

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