Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Who is the First, Best, and Greatest Laborer?

Labor Day has come and gone, with all of its sales, barbeques, political rallies, and vacations. We get so busy that we often don’t take time to consider why we have it as a national holiday.

The Department of Labor credits a number of union organizers as the likely founders of Labor Day, and states it “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

It is a good time to ask, Who has been the first, best and greatest laborer? What single worker has shown the greatest aptitude for excellence, enthusiasm, and ethics in their work?

Here’s a clue: “In the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

That’s pretty good work.  The work is so excellent, with everything fitting together so perfectly, that we just don’t even think of how magnificent His work really is.

The Genesis account says: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Monkeys may not be our common ancestor, but dirt is: clay and earth contain every single element which is also found in the human body.

It takes 20 amino acids to make the proteins that exist in the smallest living cell, and the proteins in living beings are made of long chains of different amino acids that must be knit together precisely.

How did David, an ancient desert-dwelling king, know all that when he wrote in Psalms: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

God intentionally and perfectly knits together each aspect of a life and all aspects of all lives. It is not a random occurrence. The odds of even a single DNA gene being formed by chance are 1 in 10 followed by 155 zeros.

After a baby is conceived, the DNA code for the eye programs the baby’s body to begin growing 1,000,000 optic nerve endings to grow to the brain and 1,000,000 optic nerves to grow to the eye. Per eye.

All those optic nerves meet perfectly and allow the human eye to send 1.5 million messages to the brain.

Grant R. Jeffrey in his book “The Signature of God” uses the picture of a man watching a woodpecker to illustrate the elegant simplicity and perfection of God’s work.

You see a woodpecker flying. In much less than a second your brain figures out the trajectory of the woodpecker flying near you and sends to your arms and legs electronic messages at speeds of 300 miles per second telling them to run and get the camera because the woodpecker is such an amazing creature.

Like other birds, it has hollow bones to allow flight. But woodpeckers also have two clawed front toes and two clawed back toes so it can climb up and down trees and short, stiff tail feathers to brace it against the tree while it is working.

While other birds have their bills attached to their skulls, the woodpecker has a spongy tissue between its bill and its skull to act as a shock absorber.

Other birds have their tongues attached to the back of their mouths. The woodpecker, though, has its tongue attached to the “hydroid”, a bone and elastic tissue structure which loops around its skull.

When the woodpecker’s pecking hits an insect tunnel, it will send out its five-inch, sticky, barbed tongue to get its food.

Go ahead, try and evolve a man watching a woodpecker.

Very simply, God is the first, best and greatest laborer.

We can’t say it any better than He did Himself in the first chapter of John: “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of man.”

Now, “Consider the ravens [or the woodpeckers]: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” (Luke 12:24)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Decision Making Guidelines

It seems like it is a rare person who isn’t being confronted right now with a tough decision, whether it is about college, marriage, parenting, career, or finances.

Awhile back when I was trying to make an important decision, I prepared the following "Decision Making Guidelines" with suggestions gleaned from Steve Deal (a missionary to the Phillipines), Elmer Towns (Biblical scholar and teacher), Matt Gregory (a local pastor), Rick Warren (author of The Purpose Driven Life), and Oswald Chambers (author of "My Utmost for His Highest").

Understand Who the decision-maker really is. The Bible tells us, “A man's steps are of the Lord,” (Proverbs 20:24) so: “Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

Commit the decision to a time of fasting and prayer. For me it usually is a forty-day time period. The fast I try to do is to refrain from all drinks other than juice and water; from all sweets, snacks and desserts; from any food during the day other than an oatmeal breakfast; and then to enjoy whatever meal Nancy has prepared for dinner, but have no snacks after that meal, other than juice or more oatmeal if I am still hungry.

The purpose of a fast is not for any health reason, it is so that when you have a desire for whatever it is you are fasting from, you use that as a prompt -- a cue -- to pray. (Ezra 8:23 “So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.”) Being a donut junkie and a coffee-holic, I have lots of prompts to pray during my fasts.

Search the Scriptures. During this forty-day decision making period, every morning I review the "Decision Making Guidelines" and the Bible verses that might be applicable to each one and pray through the process, being careful not to pre-decide the issue before the end of the forty-day decision making period. (Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.”)

Look at the pros, cons and alternatives on paper. This step was also a favorite decision-making tool of Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. It helps us to think through choices to see them in black and white. Each morning I would move a little bit farther through the decision making process, pray over what the alternatives of the decision might be and as they are revealed, write them down across the top of a chart. Not all the alternatives may be revealed at one time. Just write them down as the Lord reveals them to you. (Luke 14:28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it-”)

Seek Godly counsel. Write down the responses which the Lord reveals to you directly during prayer or indirectly through the counsel of others. (Prov. 11:14 “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”)

Compare your alternative decisions with the gifts of service God has given you. How do the various alternatives fit with your gifts? Do you have a heart or a passion for the alternative(s)? How does each alternative fit with your abilities? Your personality? (I Cor. 7:7(b) “…each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.”)

Look at the connection between your alternative decisions and your life experiences. We may think our heart or our commonsense is driving our decision, but God has been directing our steps through our life experiences, both good and bad. Keep in mind that God prepared Moses and Joseph for their life's work through their bad experiences. (Prov. 16:9 “A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”)

Seriously consider how the alternatives fit with the Golden Rule. Would a particular alternative be for the good of others? Would the alternative hurt anyone? (Matt. 7:12 “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”)

Total up the decision each column adds up to. At the end of the forty-day decision making period --and not before—the final decision is the column that has all positives and no negatives. Since you first identified God as the decision-maker, and you then saturated the decision making process with prayer and fasting, accept the fact that God HAS made the decision for you and He then showed it to you when you totaled up each column.

Trust in God and take the NEXT step. After that, you are ready to follow Oswald Chambers' advice to now trust in God and take the NEXT step. Don't let concerns about the second, third or twelfth step deter you, all God asks you to do is to take the next step. He will be waiting for you there.

Throughout it all, don’t forget Hudson Taylor’s line, “God always gives the best to those who leave the choice to Him.”