Your Work Matters to God

by Michelle Lazurek

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”  Genesis 2:15 NIV

Knee deep in diapers a few years ago, I thought my life would never change. The repeating cycles of never-ending laundry and endless loads of dishes seemed to stretch on forever into the foreseeable future. I loved being mom to two children seventeen months apart in age. But I had to wonder: was this all there would be to my significance? Would my dreams for accomplishment outside of motherhood ever come to pass?

I’m sure at one time or another we all have felt like our work is meaningless. Wiping food off a baby’s chin or caring for a sick loved one can seem tedious and fruitless, simply because we don’t see any reward for our labor at the moment. Yet God views our work as a part of the natural order of things.

Our work matters to God. We can view it as something we have to do, or something we get to do. There is no distinction in the Bible between ministry and other kinds of work. Whatever we do, we can do for His glory.

Our labors are a part of our worship to Him. Whether we treat an ornery coworker with kindness, or throw ourselves into a task at hand, we honor God by being a good steward in what He has entrusted to us.

 In fact, God considered work so important to our well-being, He included it as a part of paradise.

Work allows us to express the image of God- “[The Lord] brought [every beast of field and bird of the sky] to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name” (Genesis 2:19b NASB). As a writer, one of the best parts of my job is taking a topic or Bible verse and giving it a fresh spin from research or personal experience. Just as God created something from nothing when He created the heavens and earth, He allowed Adam to create something out of nothing by generating names for the animals (Genesis 2:19-20). We reflect our Maker when we engage in the creative process.

Work gives us meaning- Accomplishment is very satisfying and brings a sense of purpose to our existence. After creating male and female, God told them, “. . .Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…” (Genesis 1:28a NASB). From the very beginning, God-given work was a significant responsibility.

Work affords an opportunity to operate in community- “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18 NASB). We were not meant to work alone. We were created with individual abilities and are meant to function in the Church as many members of one body. We need each other to get the job done. When we feel like our work doesn’t matter, talking with a co- worker can provide a different perspective and encourage us on in our work.

Your work matters to God. Even if sometimes you don’t see purpose or rewards as you labor, know that your work has more significance than you can imagine: an eternal one.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.   Colossians 3:17 NIV

michelle lazurekAbout the author: About the author: Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, national speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. A member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, she loves to help people encounter God and engage with the world around them. When not writing, you can find her enjoying a Starbucks latte and collecting vintage records. For more info, please visit her website at www.michellelazurek.com.

Join the conversation: What work brings you the most joy or satisfaction?

Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels

Shine Like a Star

by Michelle Lazurek

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure “children of God, without fault, in a crooked in a crooked and depraved generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.     Philippians 2:14-15 NIV

Opening up my Facebook page one day, in my news feed, I read:

“Those dummies in government, they should be fired!”

“I can’t believe Kim Kardashian…”

“I had another terrible day…”

I wouldn’t have minded reading these status updates on occasion, but for the second straight week, I had had enough.

“Isn’t there anything good going on in people’s lives?” I asked myself.

Depressed and frustrated, I contemplated closing my Facebook account down permanently. I didn’t need any additional negativity in my life. I hadn’t had the best week, either. It would have been easy to post my own rant for all my friends and family to see. But instead, I chose to redeem the situation rather than quit altogether.

I wrote a post on how proud I was of my kids and husband. And you know what? I found that my attitude about how bad my life had all but disappeared. Moving from self-centeredness to others-centeredness made it almost impossible to wallow in my own misery. As I began to count my blessings, I quickly realized there were more of them than I originally thought.

In the midst of difficult circumstances, we need to go to the Lord with our concerns and complaints rather than to social media. He will remind us of His deep love for us. We will no longer need to go to social media for that fleeting moment of praise or attention. The inward love we have for God will eventually pour out in every thought and subsequent action, including what we write on social media.

Stars can’t shine if they are hidden behind thick clouds or fog. Yet, even one star can reflect light in a darkened sky. As God’s children, we are not immune from trials in our lives. However, how we choose to react to those circumstances can make the difference in whether people see Christ in us or not.

Protect your heart from the sin of anger and resentment by opening your heart to open and honest communication with the Lord. We can choose to shine our light to the world both on social media and in real life by allowing God’s love to overflow out of us and into the lives of others.

michelle lazurekAbout the author: About the author: Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, national speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. A member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, she loves to help people encounter God and engage with the world around them. When not writing, you can find her enjoying a Starbucks latte and collecting vintage records. For more info, please visit her website at www.michellelazurek.com.

Join the conversation: What kinds of things do you post to keep things positive on Facebook?

 

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Living in the Cage of Familiarity

by Michelle Lazurek

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.” (John 21:1-4).

Staring at the paperwork in my lap, I scribbled my name on the bottom like a zombie. As I continued through the other short sale documents on our home, just one thought ran through my head: how did I get here?

At that moment, it seemed all was lost. My life was spiraling out of control and I had no way to stop it. No matter how hard we had tried to keep the doors of our church plant open, it was no longer financially feasible. Facing the possibility of having no place to live, my husband had taken a new pastor position. This may have seemed like good news to some, but to me, it was not.

I actually felt more like Jesus had betrayed me. For sixteen years I had faithfully served Him, but toward what end?  Possible homelessness and seemingly no help from Him no matter how much I begged and pleaded? I wanted the church plant to continue: not because I thought it was in God’s plan, but because it was what I knew. I couldn’t bear the risk of moving to a new state, attending a new church, and starting over.

I’ll bet the disciples felt this way, too.  The events of recent days were nothing less than spectacular. They saw Jesus beaten, tormented by His enemies, and finally die a criminal’s death on a cross. Then, in an amazing turn of events, He had appeared to them resurrected from the dead. But now, after traveling to Galilee to meet Him as they were told, there had been no sign of Him. And as the days passed, they began to wonder: had something more happened to Him? Or had He forgotten them?

When we’ve stepped out in faith, it can be difficult to feel God’s presence or to see His hand at work. At points we might even feel abandoned. In that disillusionment, it is a temptation to retreat back to the familiar that we left behind. It is easier to live in the cage of the cozy familiar than step out into the boundless space of the unknown.

That’s what the disciples did. Permanently leaving their old livelihood as Jesus had called them to do suddenly felt like a stretch. So they moved away from the looming uncertainty went back to what they knew. Like many of us, the familiar can feel as good as slipping on a comfortable old pair of slippers: much more pleasant than facing the gaping unfamiliarity of the unknown.

But to abandon what God has called us to is to abandon the great blessings He has in store for us. As difficult as circumstances may be, He intends to use them to draw us into a deeper relationship with Him. To learn on a new level how worthy He is of our trust. To experience His goodness in ways we have not yet experienced.

Although I couldn’t see it that day, God did soon reveal plan far greater than my ideas for the future. He provided a new ministry, with a loving church family and a parsonage which not only provided us with a home, but cut our financial costs in half. This gave us room to pay off our mounting debt and purchase the essentials we desperately needed.

We’re never sorry when we trust in the character of God over our present circumstances. Are you reverting back to the familiar in your life because it is easier than stepping out in faith?

Lord, help me to trust you enough to step out into the unknown instead of living in the cage of familiarity.

michelle lazurekAbout the author: Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, national speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. A member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, she loves to help people encounter God and engage with the world around them. When not writing, you can find her enjoying a Starbucks latte and collecting vintage records. For more info, please visit her website at www.michellelazurek.com

Join the conversation: Has God asked you to step out into the unknown?

Bring Them Here to Me

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

 “Bring them here to me,” he said.  And he directed the people to sit down on the grass.                                                                                                                      Matthew 14:16-19 NIV

“I’m a pastor in northern Wisconsin and just read your article and found it to be refreshing and inspiring. Next week, I am preaching a sermon on getting unstuck spiritually — and that is how I stumbled across your writing.”

This is an email from a stranger who had just read an article of mine. Nothing makes my heart more joyful than hearing how my words (whether written or spoken) have been used by God to impact others. But what if I hadn’t been obedient to write it? What if I had allowed fear or pride to keep me from putting it out there? What if I believed my words were not good enough to be read?

In this story from Matthew, a large crowd gathers in the hope that Jesus will heal their diseases. Jesus tells the disciples to feed the crowds with what they have on hand. The disciples complain there isn’t enough. Jesus miraculously provides for everyone, multiplying the few loaves and fishes they have.

But there is a sentence that is often overlooked: “Bring them here to me.” When we bring Jesus what little we have, He uses it for His glory.

We may think, as the disciples did, that we don’t have much to offer. When we compare ourselves to others, we find ourselves lacking. Why would God want what I can give? Surely He can find someone better. But God wants us to be willing to give what we have, even if it seems insignificant in our eyes.

This story of the feeding of 5,000 leads us to three powerful truths:

 If we don’t put our words out there, we’ll never know how God will choose to use them. I’m convinced that part of the joy we will receive in heaven will be from people that come up to us who say things like, “Thanks for writing that article on sexual harassment. Because of it I was inspired to speak up against the harassment I was experiencing at work.” Or “Thanks for that blog post on the dangers of giving your kids cell phones at a young age. It kept me from bowing to the pressure of giving my child a cell phone like the rest of his friends. He now enjoys more social activities because of that.”

We need to be thankful for the gifts He gives us. In John 5:19 Jesus says, “The son can do nothing himself, he can do only what He sees His father doing…” (NIV) Jesus knew that only with His Father could He can multiply those loaves and fishes. He could not do anything apart from his Father. Neither can we. When we keep this perspective and enlist our Heavenly Father for help, He will multiply what we have to give in ways we may never know or see on earth.

Even though God can do what needs to be done Himself, He enlists our help. Jesus could have passed out the newly multiplied bounty, but instead he chose to ask the disciples to do it for him. It is a way He blesses His children. When we are willing to do what God is calling us to do, He is faithful to put that message into the ears and hearts of those who need it.

In our limited perspectives, we may worry we have little to contribute to the Kingdom. But God wants our obedience, for us to willing give our resources, time, and energy to the Him. And when we bring what little we have to him, He multiplies it in ways we could never imagine.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think…”                                                                                                                    Ephesians 3:20 NASB

michelle lazurekAbout the author: Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, national speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. A member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, she loves to help people encounter God and engage with the world around them. When not writing, you can find her enjoying a Starbucks latte and collecting vintage records. For more info, please visit her website at www.michellelazurek.com

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random numberrighteous and lost generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Michelle’s book, Righteous and Lost: Finding Hope for the Pharisee Within,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: 1 Corinthians 12: 7 tells us “to each one  is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (NASB) What has God give you that He wants to use in the life of others?

Photo by Bryan Burgos on Unsplash

 

 

When Mere Words Become the Living Word

by Michelle Lazurek

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life” Mark 10:29-30 NIV

Growing up, my grandmother took me to church every Sunday and I enjoyed it. During my late teens, however, I began to have questions about my faith and started to want more out of my relationship with God.

God, in his sovereignty, began to place people in my life who were on fire for Him. At church, I met a woman who understood my doubts. Soon she invited me to her home for a weekly Bible study. She didn’t try to force me into believing the Word. Instead, she encouraged me to go home and study the Bible for myself.

Several weeks passed as I studied Scripture on my own. Just two weeks before my senior prom, I went forward to the altar at church and gave my life to the Lord. I didn’t tell anyone about this for several months.

When I finally did tell my parents, they were furious. Two days after my absence at Thanksgiving, they stormed into my workplace and asked me to step out into the busy plaza walkway. Once outside, my father told me I needed to pack my things up and leave immediately. When I got home, he opened the garage door to reveal a neat line of black trash bags filled with stuffed animals, clothes, and the rest of my belongings. He tossed them onto the truck, and we headed to my boyfriend’s house.

Without even a goodbye, my father threw the bags onto the driveway, got in his truck and drove away, leaving me on my knees sobbing with my life’s possessions lying around me. In the blink of an eye, I went from having everything I could ever need to poverty, clinging to God with a tentative hope that His Word was true.

One day, I stumbled upon the above passage in Mark. Suddenly I saw the Bible in a new light: it was not just an item on my daily to-do-list, but a living and active love letter to me from God. Its beautiful words were meaningful and transforming. I knew now that I needed to get serious about studying Scripture for myself. My once passive attitude about my spiritual life became active. I began to pray daily, study the Bible consistently, and spend time in silence listening for His voice and guidance.

Psalm 1 promises great benefits to a person who delights in and meditates on God’s Word. They will be “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever [they do, they] prosper.” (Psalm 1:3 NASB) The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself. Consequently, the biggest reward in studying the Scriptures is getting to know God on an intimate basis.

It is worth the effort to carve out the time (even if it is just a few minutes) to spend with Him.  The better we know Him, the better we will love Him in return.

michelle lazurekAbout the author: Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, national speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. A member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, she loves to help people encounter God and engage with the world around them. When not writing, you can find her enjoying a Starbucks latte and collecting vintage records. For more info, please visit her website at www.michellelazurek.com

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random numberrighteous and lost generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Michelle’s book, Righteous and Lost: Finding Hope for the Pharisee Within,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Have you struggled with

 

Be the Fingerprint

by Michelle Lazurek

Two months ago, my husband suffered the loss of his father. At the wake, we were surprised to see the large number of friends and family who came to show their support. A number of people from his former churches also attended. It was a sweet reminder that the Church is comprised of many brothers and sisters in Christ who lift us up and help us bear our burdens.

In preparation for the service, I thought of a picture my daughter made in preschool. It was a hand turkey. After being dipped in paint, her hand had stamped an image that was uniquely hers onto a piece of paper to be decorated with feathers. I sensed God wanted me to talk about fingerprints. He brought to mind a few facts:

1) Our fingerprints are unique to us. No one in the world has the same exact fingerprint as me. Therefore, my hands leave an impression that can only be traced back to me.

2) I leave my fingerprint every place I touch, whether I can see them or not. This is due to the oils naturally secreted in my hands.

3) When my physical body leaves a place, my fingerprints remain on everything I touched while I was there. That unique impression can last for quite a while.

I realized that each person that attended the funeral were people that my father-in-law touched. He may no longer be in this world, but like a physical fingerprint, his impact on others remains.

God has gifted each of us with gifts that enable us to serve each other in love. Paul wrote: “Now there are varieties of gifts…And there are varieties of ministries…There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, NASB). God created each of us with unique abilities to be used in the lives of others. That means you can have an impact in a way I cannot. Our ability to help someone along in their faith is as individual as our fingerprints.

Every day we have an opportunity to leave our fingerprints on each other. A simple act of kindness may seem insignificant but can leave a lasting impression whether we see it at the time or not. It could lead someone to change their thinking and shift their focus back to God. Something as simple as holding the door for someone, smiling at a store clerk, or offering a coworker something to drink can have an impact. Each time we choose to love, we touch lives for eternity.

Where is God calling you to leave your fingerprint?

“But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:7 NASB

michelle lazurekAbout the author: Michelle S. Lazurek is an author, speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children’s Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal, and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author’s Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Michelle is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more on Michelle, please visit her website.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random numberrighteous and lost generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Michelle’s book, Righteous and Lost: Finding Hope for the Pharisee Within,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: How are you using your God-given abilities  to touch those around you?

 

Open Hands, Open Heart

by Michelle Lazurek

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22: 41-42 

“Why do we have to move?” my seven- year- old son asked, his face full of tears.  After twelve years of ministry with a church plant, we were facing our most difficult season as pastor and wife. Because our church was close to closing and our financial situation dire, we had no option but to take another job. Although this was tough on all of us, my son was particularly sensitive to the thought of moving away from his friends.

“Honey, I know this is hard. But I want you to think about it this way. So often when I’m faced with something outside of my control, I tend to keep my hands clenched tightly in a fist, resistant to hear what God has to say. But what if I kept my hands open and ready to listen? When my hands are clenched, I am saying no to God’s blessing. But when I leave them open, I am opening not just my hands but my heart.”

I took my son’s right hand in mine and opened it, placing it face up on his lap. “Practice opening your hands to God. Whenever you feel closed off to what God has for you, open up your hands and place them on your lap. I bet you’ll find your mind and heart are more receptive to God when you do this.”

As someone who struggles with fear, I often try to control my environment by carefully planning out every detail. When things don’t go according to plan, I tend to close my fists, closing myself off to Him. Even worse, when I’m going through a trial, I shake that fist in the air, angry that a good God would allow me so much pain. It is then, during my times of prayer, I physically open my hands and place them face up. My heart softens. I finally let go of my will and embrace His. The result of this process is that I learn to trust God more fully.

Here are three things I have learned by opening my hands (and heart) to God:

I become more receptive to the Holy Spirit’s influence. When I am closed off in my mind, I cannot hear Him speaking to me. His prodding is gentle for the most part: He does not force Himself on us. When I physically open my hands, my spiritual posture changes, and I am better able to hear from Him.

I receive what God has in store for me. God wants me to remain open to Him, willing to offer what I have been tightly holding as a sacrifice to Him. Very often, He has something bigger and better than what I was so reluctant to release.

I am transformed into a closer reflection of Jesus Christ. We follow in the footsteps of a suffering, obedient Savior. In the Garden, even Jesus petitioned God to spare Him from what He was about to endure. But in spite of His agony, He chose to submit Himself to the will of the Father. There’s nothing wrong with having personal desires. But in the end, we must choose to trust God when He has something else in mind.

Lord, help me to open my hands and heart to you. Amen.

michelle lazurekAbout the author: Michelle S. Lazurek is an author, speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children’s Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal, and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author’s Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Michelle is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more on Michelle, please visit her website.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random numberrighteous and lost generator to pick a winner from today’s comments. To enter our contest for Michelle’s book, Righteous and Lost: Finding Hope for the Pharisee Within,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: Are there areas of your life in which your hands are closed to God?