For many people each Monday means going "back to work." And, "work" for multitudes means making money in order to live, to succeed, to acquire material possessions, perhaps to become known, to accomplish "dreams," and then to "retire."
Some so identify with the nature of their job, career, or profession that they become driven and defined by it. Their work becomes their being. Losing their unique personhood they isolate. "Success" can indeed become a cage or cell. Some grow cold and controlling. They do not permit themselves to interact and relate to people except for personal gain, for the good of the company, or beyond the point of asking, "And what do you do?"
The affluent and wealthy among us still speak of inner emptiness, a void, the lack of real meaning, satisfaction, or personal fulfillment. Many who might be rich lack peace and exhibit a drive or frustrated nature. They only know to strive for more, to work harder and longer hours.
Our day to day lives often leave us rather distant from God. The sheer pace of modern life makes it seem rather difficult to fit faith in. Lent is about each us entering into a time of Renewal. This year EEN has partnered with Tearfund, a UK Christian relief and development agency which works in over 50 countries, on their Carbon Fast. In the coming weeks we'll be exploring how renewing our relationship with God, with others, and with the Creation He made, ultimately leads to repentance and transformed lives.
For a follower of Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, the whole of our life is our "work." Seen in the light of the Hebraic scriptures, it is our appointed "ministry." Some are now terming this renewed understanding "LifeWork." In reality, ministry is the presence and release of Christ in all believers, in all settings and in all their affairs.
This integrated perspective has been eclipsed and mostly lost in this modern era. Most Christians think and live in a "duality." They divide labor and time as either being sacred or secular. Church ministry is spiritual and sacred " "holy." Planting trees or building a computer IT network, managing a MacDonald's, or serving up coffee at Starbucks is not "holy," and certainly not "ministry." Such work is seen as non-spiritual and secular. Only church-related activities and church ministries are spiritual and "holy." Wrong! The biblical worldview teaches that all of life is sacred and all things, unless defiled, are holy; all of life is ministry. That which is holy is simply that which is sanctified, set-aside unto God for his purposes"people, families, their occupations, even their tools and equipment.
As we start this Lenten season we invite you to walk with us as we work through the many thorns and weeds that often cloud our walk with Jesus. May this Lenten season be a time of deep personal renewal that helps cultivate a maturity and depth of faith in Christ Jesus!
Personal renewal often begins with reflection. Each week thematic "seed" scriptures are provided. You are encouraged to consider engaging in the Christian discipline of Lectio Divina, Latin for "divine reading." This practice of a "holy reading" arose during the first two centuries of Church life. A quiet and intentional reading of Scripture and "listening" is accompanied by prayer. The one reading hears God speaking in his Word, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart.
We pray that the joy of the Lord, which is our strength, will be released in your heart as you join in this observance. For a PDF copy of "Lent 2012 + Carbon Fast" click here.
The EEN Staff
"Jesus said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.'" (Mark 1:17)
This is the week we put it all together. We begin to integrate the work the Lord is doing in our hearts, in the world, and to sustain and care for his creation. Here are some simple ways to integrate faith and compassionate stewardship works in your daily life.
Practice Contemplatio / Contemplation " Restive and reflective listening and enjoyment of God. Free yourself from your own thoughts. Surrender all that is stirring. Make a "to do" list if you need to and be done with it. Sit still, rest in gratitude for God and his Word. Adore the Lord, invite and become attentive to his transforming presence within you. Enjoy him. Rise and carry Christ out into your community.
© Xavier Marchant " Fotolia.com
Jesus said to his disciples: "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me." (John 9:4)
1 April: Consider becoming a creation care champion through the Creation Care Teaching Institute
2 April: Consider starting a small group on the care of God's creation. You can use our free resources at http://creationcare.org. Where even two or three gather in Jesus' name, he is in their midst in his authority and power. (Matthew 18:20)
3 April: Inform yourself, take a stand, be an advocate for policies to honor God and care for His creation. Learn more at http://creationcare.org/
4 April: Intercede for those who experience the worst aspects of climate change and environmental degradation. Pray for the growing number of climate orphans and climate refugees. Learn more and "Pray the News" at http://prayerforcreationcare.org
5 April: Host a local church or community event introducing others to biblical creation care. Learn more by contacting us at email@example.com.
6 April: Set aside some time to consider what might be done locally for the renewal of the church and to reach the lost and suffering through biblical creation care. Pray that local church facilities be renovated to become more energy efficient.
7 April: Ask the Lord to take your time and talents and use them for work in the kingdom in a wide range of possible fields of compassionate stewardship, taking the gospel to the lost, programs of sustainability and conservation.
© Arpod Nagy-Bagoly " Fotolia.com
"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:34-40)
Now that we've taken time to renew our walk with God, taken steps to reduce the negative impact of our lives on others and God's creation, we will now turn to the work of actively loving our neighbor, both those we know and those unknown to us personally but who live in need around the world. This week we'll explore practical ways we can love our neighbor as ourselves and take actions to help the least of these at home and around the world.
Practice Actio / Action " Implementing and living out what we have heard God speak as we have been prayerfully reading and "listening."
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the lease of these" you did for me." (Matthew 25:40)
25 March: Consider intentionally eating less today, fasting a meal, for a full day, or even longer. Give some of the savings of what you have not "eaten" to a local food pantry, and some to a Christian relief and development group involved in one of the many acts of mercy, development, and charity around the world.
26 March: If you know someone who is out of work, suffering want, or who is in spiritual need, take time to contact and meet with them. Pray and offer encouragement and counsel. Is there any material way you might help them?
27 March: Build your understanding of things that impact our neighbors around the world. Check the EEN resource center or book center and read about groups like Plant with Purpose and World Relief who are involved in areas experiencing severe climate change.
28 March: Intentionally get to know someone who does not know Christ and is unfamiliar with the gospel. Reach out in friendship first and spend some time with them.
29 March: Consider what you might do to build awareness and get your church involved with acts of compassion and mercy around the world.
30 March: Learn more about EEN's work around "Compassion for a World in Need." http://creationcare.org/compassion. Consider ways that you can help facilitate and partner in this work.
31 March: Think about how you might invest your time and energies to help meet local needs. Does your local church have ministries to the poor? Consider meeting with your local Salvation Army and get to know communities in need in your neighborhood. What clothing might you donate to Salvation Army or Goodwill?
"The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they willl fast". The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. (Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 9:15, 26:11)
"Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?" (Ezekiel 34:18)
We live in an age and in a nation blessed with great abundance. Yet, ironically, this abundance often has great negative ramifications on our walk with Christ. It also has a coercive impact on God's creation, pollutes and degrades the environment, and does not relieve scarcity being experienced by millions around the world. This week we will be exploring simple steps we can all take to more faithfully conserve and steward resources and honor God in our day to day walks.
Practice Meditatio / Meditation " Look in a concordance and read, re-read, "ruminate" and reflect on scripture passages regarding orphans, widows, the poor, generosity, alms and hospitality. Pray about how this personally applies to your own life. What can you easily live without. Listen and note and adjust your habits of consumption.
"When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, 'Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." (John 6:12)
18 March: If you don't recycle start doing so today. If you do recycle make sure you are recycling everything that you can. Even if you do know what to recycle check to see what's covered and what isn't. The last 10 years has seen a significant growth in what can be recycled.
19 March: Take an audit of how much food you waste on a regular basis. Do you eat to life or live to eat? Commit to finding ways to buy only what you will eat in a particular week. Take the money you save and use it for good kingdom purposes. Pray for food pantries and soup kitchens in your area.
20 March: Think about the sorts of products you use and take time to check out their ingrediants. Inform yourself to see if there are healthier or more creation-friendly alternatives; be sure and switch.
21 March: If you are still regularly using plastic or paper bags think about switching to reusable canvas or the many alternatives now available to you.
22 March: Do a light check in your house, if you can switch to CFLs or LEDs make the switch today. Do this on the basis of wisdom and compassionate regard for all on the planet who still do not have electricity.
23 March: Have you ever tended a garden or raised a small flower pot? Think about simple ways that you can reconnect with God's creation. Many find this recreational and a time of rest and renewal in their day. Could you garden a bit on a deck or balcony? Could you share this experience with a child?
24 March: Plan a day trip to a national or state park, or just take a morning, noon, afternoon, or evening walk in a local park. Start to intentionally observe, study and know the creation God has placed around you. Enjoy it!
photo by phOenixinFlight
"Jesus gave them this answer: 'I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his father doing. By myself I can do nothing.'" (John 5:19, 30)
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:28-31)
Our walk in the Christian life is filled with times of exhaustion and times of discouragement and disappointment. This week it is time to revitalize some of those practices and habits that are key to sustaining gospel life. Know that despite the past or hardship in the present, the Lord is in the midst of all situations and wants real and lasting fruit to emerge from his people. To produce fine vintage wine, grapes must be crushed.
Practice Oratio / Speaking " Speak to God. Pour out your heart in non-religious language. Be honest and real. Jesus had deep feelings and exhibited emotion. Jesus wept for his city and when a close friend died. (Luke 19:41; John 11:35) He cried out in agony as he battled to accomplish his assigned redemptive work. Allow for change, for the transformation of being and feelings. Empty out. Make room for strength.
Jesus knelt down and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: "'Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours done.' An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him" (Luke 42-43).
11 March: Ask the most immediate members of your family how you can pray for them today.
12 March: Give a random tithe out of gladness and thanksgiving to your church or groups like World Vision, Plant with Purpose, and/or the Salvation Army. The amount does not matter, but give with joy in your heart.
13 March: Actively commit to pursuing forgiveness in a long-standing relationship. You do not need to do everything today, but commit to addressing lingering resentment, anger, hurt, frustration, and grievance. Remember the words of Jesus that whoever says raca [fool] to his brother is answerable to God for "killing" their brother or sister in their heart. Pray a blessing on this person.
14 March: Ask the Lord how he might want to engage you in kingdom mission. If you have time ask another trusted friend how they think your skills, experiences and passions might be used within your current or in new spheres of influence.
15 March: Check youself on how faithful you have been on spending time with the Lord in the scriptures, worship, and/or in fellowship on a daily basis. Re-commit. Come up with your own creative plan. Whether it's a daily devotional book, an hour of worship and prayer in the car, or a more formal plan like the Daily Office be sure that you commit to sticking to it. Aim for quality time with the Lord.
16 March: Think about how the Lord might use you at work, at home, online, or in other forms to spread the good news and hope found in Jesus Christ. Remember relationship always trumps formula and tracts.
17 March: Give thanks to the Lord for what he is doing, forming and working out in your life.
"The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew 23:11-12)
"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." (Philippians 2:5-7)
This week's theme and actions are all about how we can walk more in step with God so that we can be a blessing to others. We will be exploring what it means to have Christlikeness in our all comings and goings. You may see the deep disconnect between the way we live and the way Christ died for us to live.
Practice Viseo / Seeing " Slowly read a selected portion of Scripture a number of times. Return to it with the intentional purpose of "seeing and hearing Christ" in the text. Ask God to open the eyes of your heart to see in Christ's example what he wants you to see, and to see how you are to be like him.
"The evening meal was being served". [Jesus] poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, 'Lord are you going to wash my feet?' Jesus replied, 'You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand'" (John 13:2-8).
Ask God to encourage you and show you what it means to have the attitudes, love and mindset of Christ in all that you do.
4 March: Do a task that you consider beneath you whether at work, at home, or in the church (take out the trash, dust, do work usually assigned to your administrator, wash the dishes, pick up after the dog or cat, pick up and discard litter. In essence do something you normally wouldn't consider doing or that you don't enjoy doing).
5 March: Take time out of your day to serve someone else in a way that blesses them (consider doing something out of the ordinary for your spouse, make an appointment to mentor an intern, send your parents or someone you know is lonely a lovely card, an encouraging email, text message or some flowers. Consider what would bless someone else and do it whole-heartedly).
6 March: Do something to consciously reduce your energy consumption today. Whether it's turning off some or all of your lights, unplugging "waiting" appliances, computers or game consoles, taking a faster shower, making sure the AC/heater is off when you leave for work, taking extra time to use mass-transit, or car-pooling. Take an active step in reducing the energy you normally use. Realize that what you have not used is thereby still available for a neighbor or one of the millions less fortunate than yourself.
7 March: Actively refrain from extoling your praises and accomplishments whether at work, in the home, or elsewhere. If the conversation comes up on what do you do and why, on what you have accomplished or an important role you played in it, don't make it sound grander and more worthy of praise than it is.
8 March: Let your yes be yes and your no be no today. Don't overcommit yourself on a promise or project at work, in the home, or in the community. Simply let your yes be yes and your no be no, and remember to salt your conversation and actions with graciousness and genuine care.
9 March: Take time to meet with someone in your church or the workplace that you've never met before. Go out of your way to be hospitable and kind, even if it is someone you've avoided at great length. Ask God to show you who he would like you to greet or meet with. You'll be surprised.
10 March: Commit your ways to the Lord. Worship him in a simple expression of surrender. Offer the Lord today the sacrifice of your hopes, dreams, and plans. Ask him to mold them and complete them according to His will. Thank him that he has set a future and a hope before you, and not calamity. (Jeremiah 29:11)
© Rufoto " Fotolia.com
"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin." (Jesus of Nazareth, Luke 12:27)
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:12-13)
In this first week, think about what steps you can take every day to turn towards Christ. Ask him to show you the sources of discontentment. Spend time in the middle of your day doing something that takes you out of your normal cares and concerns (grab lunch with a friend, call a member of your family, go to that prayer time or fellowship meeting you've been neglecting). Know that the works of God take time to form in our life; stay diligent and know that God will meet you.
Practice Lectio / Reading: Slowly read a Gospel portion, a Psalm or Proverb, or another Scripture passage, perhaps several times. Listen for a word, verse or passage from God that is "quickened" or "speaks" to your heart. Consider jotting what you "hear" in a Lenten notebook or journal.
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." (Jesus of Nazareth, John 10:27-28)
22 February: Pray for grace to live differently from the culture around us and to know that life filled up with mere possessions is empty.
23 February: Where have you over extended yourself? Make a commitment to gracefully bow out of one regular commitment today.
24 February: Make a decision to stop following one of your favorite shows, sports teams, or other forms of entertainment (smart phones, computer games, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.)
25 February: Take some time today to identity the things that make you restless, insecure, and distant from the Lord.
26 February: Take the day to pray and actively repent of things that you sense draw you far away from God.
27 February: If you don't have one, institute a time for daily devotion, Bible reading, prayer, reflection, devotional reading, sermon listening. There is no exact right thing to fill this time with, but try and identify what helps your soul by being still before the Lord. Listen, and start to practice this regularly, starting with today.
28 February: Refrain from judgments today. If the opportunity presents itself do not speak ill of another or weigh in on the latest controversies in the relationships that you encounter today.
29 February: Reflect and take time to thank God for the good work he is starting to do in your life.
1 March: Tell another person about the work you sense God is doing in your life.
2 March: Spend time in a daily devotional today. Whether it's the Daily Office from http://esv.org or another form, take time apart in a structured way in the Word today.
3 March: Offer up your time, home, and or possession to another today. Whether it's giving a friend a coat you don't use anymore, giving away a DVD, or offering up your time at lunch or your home in the evening. Do something for someone you are in an active relationship with.