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An acronym for how to love your job without making it an idol

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)

We’ve seen a few helpful definitions of idolatry throughout this series. Let me offer my own: An idol is anything you can’t live without. It’s anything other than God that functions as your deepest source of joy.

And so, if we want to keep our work from becoming an idol, we would be wise to voluntarily practice self-denial—resting from the good gift of work as a means of proving to ourselves that God is the only thing we ultimately need.

Pastor Joe Rigney whose book Strangely Bright inspired me to write this devotional series says this about self-denial: “Biblical self-denial is the voluntary giving up of good things for the sake of better things…[it] keeps our legitimate love of earthly things [like work] in check. We enjoy them when we have them. But we don't covet and crave them….We can voluntarily give them up for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That brings us...

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What it means to "set your mind on things above”

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2)

Last week, I argued that paradoxically one way to ensure your work doesn’t become an idol is to enjoy your work most fully as a means of better appreciating the “betterness” of Christ.

But how does that advice match up with today’s passage? Isn’t Paul telling us to ignore “earthly things” like work and focus our mind on exclusively heavenly things? 

Not exactly. A few verses later Paul explains what he meant by “earthly things” saying this: "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5-6). 

The word Paul used for “earthly things” in verse 2 is the exact same word we translate...

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Enjoy work more—not less—to fight idolatry

“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” (Psalm 4:7)

We’re in a series exploring four principles for enjoying our work without turning our jobs into idols. Last week we unpacked Principle #1: Insist that Jesus is better. Today we turn to Principle #2: Delight in your work freely and fully.

Now, I know that may seem oxymoronic. After all, if Jesus is better than my job, shouldn’t I try to love my work less, not more? I’d argue that’s impossible to do and foolish to try for two reasons. 

First, God created you to enjoy your work. Work was God’s first gift to humankind in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 1:26-28) and one of the many gifts he has in store for us on the New Earth (see Isaiah 65:17-23). So, to try to love your work less is to fight against God’s design.

Second, the more you enjoy God’s gifts, the more you can appreciate the “betterness” of God. You see this...

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Want to kill idols? Reserve this adjective for God alone.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

There’s a tension we see throughout Scripture. 

On the one hand, we are invited to delight in creation and our work with creation. “Every good gift” is from God (James 1:17) given to us “for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17). And that includes our work! Ecclesiastes 2:24 says “a person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil” because those good things are “from the hand of God.”

These verses are good examples of what I call the “delight in creation” passages of Scripture. But on the other side of this perceived biblical tension, we find the “delight in Creator” passages that command us to love God above all things. This was summarized most succinctly in Jesus’s articulation of the Greatest Commandment above.

So, we are called to delight in the gifts...

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Confessing my less than godly motives for this action

I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. (1 Chronicles 29:17)

After giving his considerable “personal treasures of gold and silver,” for the building of the temple, David took the time to examine his heart to see if he had given that treasure with God-honoring intent (see 1 Chronicles 29:3-17). Why? I think because David understood how easy it is to do godly things with a mix of godly and ungodly motives.

I experienced this first hand just a few months ago. I had just made a decision within my business that triggered a significant financial sacrifice. But I was convicted through prayer that it was the right thing to do.

Implementing this decision required that I notify some fellow believers. And as I did, these friends consistently commented on how “proud” they were of me for taking this action.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was quietly...

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IF success comes from God, THEN inputs > outcomes

David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting….Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all…Everything comes from you.” (1 Chronicles 29:10, 12, 14)

The context of today’s passage adds weight to David’s words. Here’s the scene: David is addressing Israel in what was likely his final public address as king. The next day, Solomon will take David’s place and soon become the wealthiest man on earth. 

What would David say at the close of his forty-year reign? He chose to focus his son and his people’s attention on the truth that “wealth and honor” and “everything” good comes from God.

This is a truth we see reiterated throughout Scripture. James said, “Every good and perfect gift is from above,...

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My “5 Minutes of Nothing” rule to dissent from the “Kingdom of Noise”

In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. (Psalm 10:4)

In 1517, Martin Luther had an “aha” moment that would change the world. He realized that “the merciful God justifies us by faith,” and not by works.

Where was Luther when he had this epiphany? In a grand library? Walking in a beautiful garden perhaps? No. As Luther biographer Eric Metaxas explains, “God had given [Luther] this insight while he was sitting on the toilet.”

I’m not surprised, because even in Luther’s day, the outhouse was a rare place of silence and solitude, free from what C.S. Lewis called “the Kingdom of Noise” that surrounds you and me to this day.

Everywhere we turn we are bombarded by external noise—nonstop emails, texts, information, and entertainment—which leads to a more dangerous internal noise that blocks our ability to think, be creative, and most importantly, listen to the voice of...

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3 reasons why Anti-Bucket Lists > Bucket Lists

You [Lord] reward everyone according to what they have done. (Psalm 62:12)

I don’t believe Bucket Lists are evil. But I do believe that Christians of all people should spend less time thinking about Bucket Lists—lists of things you want to do before you die and “kick the bucket”—and a lot more time thinking about Anti-Bucket Lists—catalogs of things you will strive not to do on this side of eternity.

Why? Three reasons.

#1: This life is not our only chance to enjoy the best this world has to offer. As Dr. Randy Alcorn has said, “the ‘bucket list’ mentality…is profoundly unbiblical,” because Scripture makes clear that we will have all eternity to enjoy the earth’s greatest destinations (see Revelation 21:10-21), food (see Isaiah 25:6–8), culture (see Isaiah 60:1-11), jobs (see Isaiah 65:17-23), etc.

#2: God will reward believers differently based on how we steward this life. This is what David alluded to...

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Swamped at work? Here’s a surprising reason to thank God.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war…David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba”...Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (2 Samuel 11:1-4a)

Many historians believe that this famous scene took place towards the middle of David’s 40-year reign as king of Israel. And today’s passage suggests that David was growing lax on the job. 

Samuel says that “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war,” David didn’t. He “remained in Jerusalem.” Then we’re told that “one evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.” 

The picture Samuel paints is of David being bored. He couldn’t sleep (perhaps...

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I rarely cry. But I weep over this obscure passage.

[King David] asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”...When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” he replied. “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”...So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons. (2 Samuel 9:3,6-8,11)

I don’t cry much, but I have wept over this passage numerous times. Why? Because I think it’s one of the...

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