Friday, April 18, 2014

Jesus is My Life!

My TIE Value: Delight in the Lord [especially in His Resurrection]

The word "Value" is on my mind during this Easter season.
Webster’s defines value as, 
(1) The amount of money that something is worth or price or cost of something. 
(2) Something that can be bought for a low or fair price. 
And (3) usefulness or importance. 

My adult experiences have confirmed that all three definitions really do reflect our societal values.  If one is not worth much it is reflected in their wage, title, status, and on and on. There is no consolation in valuing people as bargains.  As a person who has chosen a theological education from Bible College and Seminary, people often told the 20-something me, “What value is your education outside the church?”

In 1995 this question was put to the test as a new graduate from Talbot School of Theology. Seven years of theological education was the only formal degrees that I held. Through a series of hardships, I found myself out of a pastorate job and into a world of temporary employment. I would not be in a ministry job until 1999. So what did I learn during these four years? 

(1) God gave me opportunities to serve Him outside the church

     My first job was given to me from a gracious church member who was going through struggles in life and in work. He brought me into his department in order to fulfill the internal education requirements for industry certification. My skills for study, auditing, and teaching was used on a daily basis. After this project was completed I got employment through a temporary agency. I was placed in a technology, insurance, and sports equipment industries in contracts that lasted anywhere from 3 weeks to 18 months.  

     The cool thing was that none of these companies knew my education background. They knew I had two degrees including a Masters and they could see the value in my work. I was offered 3 full-time jobs in these 4 years. One of them was for executive training for a large insurance company.  

(2) God showed me my daily mission

     More than utilizing my abilities to study binders of materials, teach, and organize work processes, I discovered there were people who had real life issues. Whenever, I stayed in a place longer than a week, people started talking to me about their problems. Perhaps at a human level, I was perceived safe because of being a temporary worker or because I seemed like a good person. But on a Divine level, I noticed that these conversations about work, family, and life only came up on days that I cried out to God about my frustration of not being in ministry. Then after I was finished venting to God, He would reveal my daily mission.   To my amazement, I learned that it is possible to listen to others while praying to God at the same time before I speaking!

(3) God revealed Himself in the workplace

     It is the reveal that is that makes the home shows fun to watch. Likewise it is most fun when God reveals Himself to people who have made up their minds about Him. Usually at the end of a contract or in a private conversation about future employment opportunities, I would be asked, “So what are your degrees in?” I would reply, “What do you think?” According to my supervisors and co-workers they guessed that I had degrees in business, psychology, sociology, political science, journalism and pre-law (I did earn a certificate in 1998 in legal studies at the UC-Irvine Extension).

     They were astonished when I revealed my degrees are in theology from a Bible College and Seminary. They were puzzled that someone had the ability to do well in a job outside of an education discipline.
     At this point I would answer, “It is God who loves all of us that gives us the ability to use our heart, mind, and strength to accomplish His mission in our lives. God’s living truth makes the sum of our education and experiences transferable and valuable.” It is fun to see people speechless but in awe of God.

My TIE Moment

     It was 1997 the exact middle of my ministry desert when God revealed the value of the His daily mission to me. I spent two years frustrated with God. My attitude was more like Jonah who loathed the thought of going to the undeserved people of Nineveh.

    A new employee had been processing work for a week after completing her two week internal training.   Her work was filled with errors. She was getting files back for correction and new files for processing at the same time. She would exclaim, “Jesus Christ!” every time a highlighted mistake and new file that came her way. The next day the other workers began to keep count how many times she would say, “Jesus Christ!” By noon she was averaging over 30 times per hour.

    As a file clerk, I had to deliver more files to her during this particular afternoon. Knowing the other workers had their score cards in hand, I asked her, “Do you know Jesus?” To my surprise she began talking about her church, being a Christian and loving Jesus. Then suddenly she realized that she had been profaning the name of her Savior.

Then God revealed Himself.

     I sat down with her and showed her how to solve some of the issues that were leading to mistakes. Then when I was done, another co-worker came to show her how to solve other more complex issues. And when she was done, there were two more workers who walked her through other work issues. By the end of the day, 6 of the 8 workers in this office revealed they are Christians too! While they were not outwardly profaning Jesus’ name, they realized that they were profaning His works of mercy, grace, righteousness and all His commandments to love.

     After this day, the office changed to reflect the light of the Good News. People helped and encouraged one another. They began to open up their lives to one another. And as for me, all they knew was that I was a Christian.

     What I experienced that day was not too much different than the disciples locked in a house fearing for their lives after the crucifixion of Jesus. Yet, somehow walking through the locked doors in His transformed body, Jesus stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:21). He forgave, and restored them. Then when He left them, He gave His Spirit to His disciples who gave them the ability to boldly proclaim the Good News even in hostile places. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:18-23 that it is the same power of His resurrection that gives the church the ability to be the visible evidence of His presence in our world today.   

I wonder what delightful transformations await us when we value that Jesus is our complete Life!

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