Monday, June 30, 2014

A Theology of Work - Part 1

Genesis 1:27-28 (ESV)

[27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. [28] And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

 

As Americans we have begun to act as though leisure and pleasure are the ultimate good in life. My grandparents' generation placed a high value on work. It was how life went. Rest and play were for the purpose of enabling them to work more effectively. My parents' generation worked hard so they could retire and play comfortably. Rest was the ultimate goal, but work was an important part of life as well. My generation saw the value of play their parents had and said, "If play is so valuable why waste time working first? Let's play now." We became a recreational generation from recreational sex, drugs and Rock and Roll to toys of all kinds. Now, as we are getting to retirement age, we've had more toys than any generation to precede us, and we're wondering how we will be able to keep up this recreational lifestyle, whether it is really all it is cracked up to be, where our lives went and whether we did anything significant with them. In three generations we moved from understanding rest as a means to be more effective in work to understanding work as a necessary evil so that we can rest.

 

Biblically we were not designed and created to play. We were designed and created to work. Rest was a means to becoming more effective at work. Rest and play was never the goal. Of course, because of the Fall of mankind pain became an integral part of work making it less rewarding. Stress fills our lives even as we try to ignore it through play. As we age even the fun of play is dulled by pain. When we make play the ultimate goal in life we are left disillusioned and disappointed. We were ultimately designed to "subdue (the earth) and have dominion over the fish …  birds … and over every living thing … on earth." We were designed to work. Rest was simply a means of enabling us to be more effective at our work.

 

That is not to say that the work was intended to be drudgery, painful or unrewarding. Those are consequences of the Fall. Work is a key part of what it means to be made in the image of God. We need to learn, as believers, to view work and rest through the lens of creation rather than through the cultural lens of recreation.

 

Father, I confess that I have often failed to view work through the lens of your Word and your creation. Forgive me. Teach me the meaning and value of work and the proper place of rest and recreation.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

1 Peter 1:6-8 (ESV)

1 Peter 1:6-8 (ESV)

[6] In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, [7] so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. [8] Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

 

We live in a world where many have bought into the lie that money is the solution to the needs of our lives. If we only had enough money we could be happy. If we only had a car that wasn't always breaking down, if we only had that newer, faster smartphone, if we only had … You fill in the blank. We have all fell for the lie. People who can't afford to put food on the table are spending money on lottery tickets somehow believing that they will win and that their winnings will be the answer they are looking for in life. Ask someone, "Have you ever won anything with a lottery ticket?" They'll respond, "Oh yes! I won $20 last month." What did they do with that $20? They bought more lottery tickets. I read an article recently that claimed that almost every individual who has won big in the lottery has had their family and friendships ruined by it and a few years later the money is all gone. We all see the joy of winning. The picture is in the paper, on television and splattered across the internet. What we don't see is what follows.

 

As believers our hope is not in dollar signs and accumulated stuff. Our hope lasts beyond this life. We may be called on to do without. We may be called on to sacrifice. We may be called on to experience oppression, opposition and outright persecution. Our hope is not in this life. I recently heard the testimony of a missionary who had been held captive by guerillas in Columbia for over 2 years back in the 1990's. Several years later he had the privilege of meeting the man who had ordered his kidnapping. The man had come to faith in Christ, had seen the book about this missionary's life and asked to meet him. There is greater joy in that than there ever can be in money, safety and comfort. Truly our safety is not found in circumstances, but in the God we serve.

 

I recently had the privilege of visiting a two room, dirt floored home in Peru where sewage flowed in the ditch in front of their house. The smiles on their faces as they shared the beauty of their first-born with us reminded me that joy is not found in sterile heated and air-conditioned environments. It is found in recognizing the gifts God has granted us and trusting the sovereign grace of God who will one day bring us to his home where he has a mansion prepared for us. "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory."

 

Father, forgive me for my failure to walk in faith. I confess that I too often complain about conditions that others would consider a blessing. I too often fail to live with eternity in view. I too often live as though money and stuff are what life is about. Thank you for your gracious faithfulness. Today may I walk by faith.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Prove 22

Proverbs 22:15 (ESV)

[15] Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,

but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

 

Over the past couple years I have read books by three different authors all painting slightly different pictures of a dystopian future. Each series of books were written with a teen audience in mind, so it is not surprising that in each case the hero was a teenager. In fact, in each series of books a teenaged girl was the unintended heroine. In each case the heroine found leadership thrust upon her in some way. In each book series the primary antagonist was the greed of corporate or governmental leaders. This greed was usually focused in one man, but permeated the system. In contrast it was the natural goodness and naivety of the heroine that ultimately drove her.

 

When we look down at a newborn we tend to think of unsoiled innocence. The logical next step is to believe that it is the evil of the world that soils the innocence of the child. If that is true then all that is required to retain their innocence is to keep a child isolated from the world. But Proverbs 22:15 tells us that folly is not thrust upon a child from the outside. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child. In our current dystopian stories there is an innocence in children that will ultimately save the world. In the 1954 dystopian novel Lord of the Flies all of the greed, violence and selfishness of the world was quickly discovered to reside in children as well. The author had a very different view of the nature of man than these current authors seem to possess. It is interesting, however, that in one of the book series I read the main character at one point realizes that in even the best people there resides evil. That is as close to a biblical perspective as one can come.

 

When Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil he set us up with an inclination to sin. Natural tendencies, urges and desires are not, therefore, a thing to pursue. Each of us is born with a bent toward sin. Accepting that bent as normal, natural and good does not make us good. Redefining morality to fit our natural inclinations does not make us moral. It just buys into the lies that naturally accompany a nature bent to sin. And so we come back to Proverbs. "Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him." Ultimately ever individual needs to face their own fallen condition and cry out for forgiveness. It is the cross of Christ that provides the means to forgiveness and a new heart. We begin with discipline which leads to grace and mercy. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.

 

Father, thank you for your gracious love which sent your Son to die in my place. I rest in your grace and mercy. Open the hearts of each generation to see their need for a savior and to find life in you by your grace through simple faith Christ.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Children

Proverbs 17:21-22 (ESV)

[21] He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,

and the father of a fool has no joy.

[22] A joyful heart is good medicine,

but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

 

These two verses contain two sides of the same coin. One the one side is the grief of having foolish children. It is the responsibility of parents and grandparents to train, warn, discipline and do whatever is necessary to raise up children who are not foolish. By foolish the scripture does not mean the class clown. The term fool refers to one who is proud and arrogant, who is undisciplined and indulgent, and who is selfish, narcissistic and immoral. If we raise children to believe that the world revolves around them and that they can do no wrong we will raise a fool.

 

The other side of the coin is that we must not crush the spirit of our children even as we discipline them. A broken spirit destroys creativity, motivation and purpose. Somehow we must learn how to drive out foolishness without breaking the spirit of our children. Somehow we must figure out how to encourage their ability to dream, think, imagine, and build without giving them the false expectation that the world owes them and that they can do whatever they want.

 

Raising children is not for sissies. It is hard work that takes a great deal of prayer and discernment. We don't want to raise self-centered fools, nor do we want spirit-crushed automatons. Our constant prayer needs to be for wisdom to train, discipline and mold our children into the uniquely gifted individuals God as designed them to be with hearts inclined toward him. One of the most encouraging things a parent can hear from their children is, "Thanks for disciplining me without breaking my spirit."

 

Father, watch over my children and grandchildren. Give them a heart for you. May my words and my life reflect you and your truth to them. Let them see Jesus in me.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Monday, June 9, 2014

Proverbs 9:8-9

Proverbs 9:8-9 (ESV)

[8] Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;

reprove a wise man, and he will love you.

[9] Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;

teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.

 

Over the years I have taken part in a few online theology forums and discussion groups, as well as a few addressing different moral/ethical questions. I thought that they would be good places to hone my thinking and minister to others. What I quickly discovered was that most of them were populated by people who wanted a hearing rather than by people who wanted a discussion. They often devolved into mindless prattle, personal attacks, misunderstanding, arrogant ignorance and poor logic. They were characterized by the first half of verse 8 above. It took me awhile to realize that most online discussions had little value. Scoffers continue to scoff. Fools continue to be foolish. Wise men are hard to find in those discussion groups. Good arguments are rejected out of hand without any thought whatsoever while faulty arguments and faux truth are foisted upon you as irrefutable truths. Wise men are hard to find.

 

That raises the question: Am I a wise man? Do I love those who reprove me? Do I become wiser when instructed? Do I increase in learning or do I believe that I have already absorbed all truth and am beyond learning? As a young pastor I was always amazed by the older pastors who listened well and often took notes talking about all they were learning. I thought: Haven't you already learned all these things in the years you have been a Christian? Now I am one of those "old guys." I am passionate about passing on to the next generation those things I have learned, but I am also keenly aware that I still have much to learn. On this earth we have never arrived, and I am guessing that, because we are finite and serve an infinite God, even in eternity we will continue learning for an eternity. We must never assume that we have somehow arrived at a magical point in life where we have learned all we need to learn. The instant we do we have become a fool.

 

Father, forgive me for the times in my life I have been unteachable. May I be wise in your eyes rather than wise in my own eyes.

 

Proverbs 3:7 (ESV)

[7] Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

 

Proverbs 26:12 (ESV)

[12] Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Isaiah 50

Isaiah 50:4-7 (ESV) The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him w...