Does Your Job Really Matter?

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You are one of 4,000 residents of Cubicleville USA, and you do the same thing every day. You enter your sensory deprivation chamber, turn on the computing device, and fire up your favorite spreadsheet. For eight hours you crank out numbers that are somehow related to something called “gross market value” and “the bottom line”. Some days are good. Some are so boring that you feel like jabbing a mechanical pencil into your eye.

Or maybe you’re on a construction crew and spend your days among nails, two-by-fours, and framing hammers. Or you’re a mom and the bulk of your day is spent cleaning slop and soggy Cheerios.

Does any of this really matter to God, or are you just piddling away your days until you get to heaven? Does God actually care about spreadsheets, nails, and Cheerios?

Actually, He does. Very much. Go back to the beginning.

Genesis 1:1 – God creates. Light splits the darkness, order emerges from the chaos, and it is good. We serve a energetic, creative, ordering God.

Genesis 1:26 – God makes man in his image. In the image of a creative, ordering God. Humanity is given a mandate: take dominion over the earth, cultivate it, make it a pleasant place to live. We are to imitate our creative, ordering God.

Herein lies the connection to spreadsheets, framing hammers, and soggy diapers. When we work, create, and order, we are imitating our God. God loves to see His creatures imitating him.

You’re not just crunching numbers, you are fulfilling the creation mandate, which pleases God very much. You’re not merely building a house, you’re actually imitating God. And much greater things are at stake then a spilled bowl of Cheerios. The glory of God is at stake.

Tomorrow is not just another day at the office. It’s an opportunity to glorify God by taking dominion over the earth.

So work hard. Take dominion. Glorify God.

+photo by karindalziel

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New Song Rough Sketch

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Sometimes people ask how I go about writing a song.

Do I just “get” whole songs spontaneously in the shower or while driving?  I wish it were that easy.  I usually begin with some kind of idea for the theme and then play numerous variations of melodies, chords, and rhythms and work and rework the lyrics.  Here’s a song in its early stages.  I wrote this – one verse and a chorus – to submit it to Bob Kauflin and Steve Cook for consideration for the upcoming album from Sovereign Grace called “The Gathering.”  I wrote only 1 verse and the chorus to get their opinion if it’s worth continuing to work on.  I’d like to hear your opinions as well.  It’s pretty rough.

If you would like to listen to this song  you can listen to it here.

Here are the lyrics:

SUCH GREAT THINGS

YOU HAVE STILLED THE WINDS
YOU HAVE CALMED THE WATERS
TO OUR TROUBLED HEARTS
YOU HAVE SPOKEN PEACE
YOU HAVE QUENCHED OUR THIRST
SATISFIED OUR HUNGER
YOU HAVE HEALED OUR WOUNDS
AND CURED OUR HEARTS’ DISEASE

SO WE WILL LIFT OUR VOICES AND SING YOU SONGS
WE WILL SHOUT FOR JOY, WE WILL WAKE THE DAWN
WE WILL GIVE YOU THANKS
FOR YOU HAVE DONE SUCH GREAT THINGS
SUCH GREAT THINGS

Mark Altrogge 6.28.11

Christianity Tomorrow – Paul Tripp Donates Mustache To Science

Sometimes when I get bored I like to think about what the Christian headlines of the future will be. What will magazines like Christianity Today be saying in 25 years? Maybe something like this…

PAUL TRIPP DONATES MUSTACHE TO SCIENCE

Philadelphia - The trademark mustache that has changed so many lives is no more. After many years of sporting his trade mark “Tripp-Stache”, Paul Tripp has decided to donate his famed mustache to science.

The mustache will be donated to researchers at Temple University. “We’re really excited to get this mustache for a couple reasons,” said Temple research scientist Michael Vilmer. “First, we want to determine if the mustache really is a mustache. We have reason to believe that it might actually be some sort of independent organism, such as a new species of beaver or ferret. We won’t know for sure until we do DNA testing, but we’re fairly certain that we are dealing with a new species of animal. Second, we’re hoping to clone that bad boy. It’s not every day that a mustache of this density and lushness comes into our lab, and we have high hopes of reproducing it.”

When asked about the possibility of cloning, Tripp said, “You know, there are a lot of guys out there who are really broken up about their inability to grow facial hair. On an almost weekly basis I have guys coming to me and saying, ‘Paul, I need help. My kids don’t respect me because I don’t have a mustache.’ My heart goes out to these guys. If we can clone my mustache and make it available to other guys, it will be a huge step in the right direction.”

When asked if he would regrow the famous mustache, Tripp commented, “You know, I’m not really sure. I can grow a full beard in twenty minutes, so I’m not really worried about it at this time.”

Sources at Temple confirmed that they are also in negotiations over David Crowder’s beard, but that nothing has been agreed to yet.

FYI – This is written in pure fun. Dr. Tripp, if you happen to read this, know two things. First, your books have helped me immensely and we carry lots of them at our church. Second, I hope I can grow a mustache like you someday.

Our Flimsy Faith

Sometimes we think it’s the strength of our faith that gets things from God. This just isn’t the case.

Jesus said we only need faith the size of a mustard seed. Remember the story about the man who’s son was afflicted by a demon? He said “I believe; help my unbelief.” Jesus didn’t say, “Is that the best you got?  Do you think I’m going to heal your son when you have such flimsy faith?  Come back when you really believe.”  No, Jesus said, “I can work with that!”  Jesus responded to his weak faith and healed his son.

Faith is like a power cord that plugs into a wall socket. The cord itself has no power. The cord is thin and flimsy and weak. But when we plug it in it taps into the vast resources of the electric company, which has more than enough power, vast power, far more than we need to run our vacuum sweeper or circular saw.

Our flimsy weak faith connects us to the ultimate power source, Jesus Christ.

It’s not the strength of our faith that matters, but the strength of the One our faith connects to.  Next time you pray for something and you feel weak in faith, keep your eyes on Jesus, not your faith.  Keep your eyes on the One who spoke and it came to be, who sustains the universe by the word of his power.  Keep your eyes on the One who told the wind and the waves to be still and they obeyed.  Remember his vast power and infinite love for you.

He can work with our flimsy faith.

photo by photofarmer

Warning: Do Not Read This Blog

Last Tuesday the FDA announced it’s going to require tobacco companies to place graphic anti-smoking images – like blackened lungs, rotten, discolored teeth and gums, and a guy blowing smoke out of a tracheotomy holeon cigarette packs with the goal of reducing and preventing smoking.

I hope it works, but I’m concerned the FDA is going a bit far here.  In the future they may require warnings on other products, like the following…

Pictures of clogged arteries and bypass surgeries on packages of bacon.  Or photos of huge guts on beer cans.

Here are some other possibilities:

Warning: Listening to large amounts of country music can make you depressed, sick and tired of wakin’ up sick and tired, and cause you to associate with friends in low places.  It can make you prone to saying clever lines, like “I wasn’t born for diggin’ deep holes, I’m not made for pavin’ long roads, I ain’t cut out to climb high line poles, But I’m pretty good at drinkin’ beer.”

Warning: Consuming coffee can make you jittery, irritable, overly talkative, and produce a Colombian accent.  In extreme cases, people have been known to begin calling themselves Juan and grow mustaches, even women.

Warning: Consuming chili may transform you into a weapon of mass destruction, cause loud, embarrassing noises, and frighten small children.

Warning: This dog, though cute and adorable, will deposit unwanted surprises on your carpet, get into your trash baskets when you’re gone, shed hair all over your couch, and go completely berserk barking every time you enter the house, like you just got back from 6 months in the Himalayas, even though you only left 30 seconds ago to get the mail.

Warning: Marriage can produce small beings who drool, puke, cry like banshees and suck all the energy out of you, require anxious trips to the hospital, and eventually become teen-agers who will require you to be institutionalized.

Warning: Listening to the good news of Jesus Christ may result in a complete and unexpected transformation, causing you to love and identify with losers, listen to conscience-piercing messages, give away your money and time, and quit doing certain things you really like doing now.  It will also cause you to experience various kinds of suffering and respond in crazy ways like praising God and giving thanks.

And finally, Warning: Reading this blog can cause headaches, blurred vision, heartburn, fingertip numbness, baldness, confusion and age-appropriate dressing.  Flee while you still can.

A Memo From God to Stephen RE: Universalism

FROM: God

TO: Stephen

RE: Universal Salvation Plan

It has come to my attention that, in your weaker moments, there are times when you wonder if there could have been some other way of salvation other than through Jesus Christ, perhaps something less exclusive and less “harsh”, you might say. In light of these “difficulties”, I would like to invite you to submit your own plan of salvation to me. This will give you the opportunity to tell me how you would do things if you were God.

Please make sure that your salvation plan includes all of the items. Anything less will be considered insufficient.

1) Satisfaction of my infinite justice. Your salvation plan must include a way to satisfy my infinite justice and righteousness. Make sure that my justice is satisfied for all the billions of massive sins committed by humanity, such as holocaust, rape, murder, genocide, and sex trafficking, as well as all the billions of “minor” sins of committed by humanity, such as cursing, grumbling, worry, and materialism. Your salvation plan must include full payment and atonement for all these wicked deeds.

2) Satisfaction of my infinite love. In addition to satisfying my justice, your salvation plan must include a way of satisfying my infinite love. Even though every man and woman has engaged in all out war against me, I love them with a love deeper than you could ever imagine. Your salvation plan must encompass the depths of my love and demonstrate to the world that I love them oh so very much.

3) The undoing of all evil. In case you haven’t noticed, the world that I made has been seriously messed up, and you and your fellow humans are responsible. You might not be able to hear it, but creation is groaning right now, waiting for redemption. Your salvation plan better include a way to satisfy the groanings of creation and to undo all the evil that has been unleashed on the world. You must repair the broken relationships, bring harmony between creation and humanity, and ultimately restore things to the way I originally intended.

4) The transformation of sinners. Please be sure that your salvation plan includes a way for people who hate me to be instantly transformed into people that love me. Make sure that this transformation occurs apart from anything they could possibly do.

5) The mixing of the sacred and the profane. Your salvation plan must include a way to bring together the incredibly sacred (ME!) and the incredibly profane (YOU!). When others have tried this in the past, things haven’t gone so well. Remember Nadab and Abihu? You need to do better than them or you will end up being consumed by holy fire.

6) The preservation of my glory. This is crucially important. In all elements of your salvation plan, I must get all the glory. Humans cannot get one drop of glory or credit in salvation. If they do, the whole thing is off. Because I am God, I get the glory. Have I made myself clear?

These are the first six requirements of the salvation plan. Once you have submitted a plan that adequately meets all these requirements, I will send you the next six, and so on. Please submit your plan by next Friday. I look forward to seeing your proposed solution.

FROM: Stephen

TO: God

RE: Universal Salvation Plan

I now shut my mouth.


Both Rich And Generous

“Alexander the Great had a general whose daughter was getting married.  Alexander valued this soldier greatly and offered to pay for the wedding.  When the general gave Alexander’s steward the bill, it was absolutely enormous.  The steward came to Alexander and named the sum.  To his surprise Alexander smiled and said, ‘Pay it!  Don’t you see–by asking me for such an enormous sum he does me great honor.  He shows that he believes I am both rich and generous.’” (Tim Keller in The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World).

What a great illustration of the attitude we should have in prayer.  It does great honor to our Heavenly Father when we ask great things of him because it shows we believe he is both rich and generous.

Before I was a Christian I pictured God as a grumpy old man in the sky watching me with a lightning bolt in his hand ready to hurl it at me the moment I started to have fun.  At other times I figured he was too busy running the universe to answer my peewee needs.  Sometimes I’d view him as blessing me begrudgingly – “Oh alright already – I’ll give you a few crumbs.  Now go away and quit bothering me.”

Our Father is inclined to bless, save, forgive, help, and strengthen.  The ultimate demonstration of his generosity is that he gave his only Son to save us.  He’s poured out his riches upon us in Christ.

Isaiah 30.18 says “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.”

Because of Jesus, God waits to be gracious to us!  He’s waiting, poised, ready to pour out blessings. I can just picture him saying, “Come on, just ask me!  I’m can’t wait to bless you.  It glorifies me to show mercy to you.”

What a wonderful God we serve!

Kept Out of the Temple

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And you shall keep guard over the sanctuary and over the altar, that there may never again be wrath on the people of Israel. (Numbers 18:5,7)

The priests of Israel were given a solemn charge by the living God: do not let an outsider near the sanctuary. Don’t let them near the holy things, keep them out of the holy places.

An Israelite couldn’t simply waltz into the tabernacle and present a sacrifice on the altar. Unless they wanted to die. The holiness of God kept the sinful Israelites out of the holy places.

The Levites and priests kept guard over the sanctuary and the altar. There could be no playing around on the job. Life and death were on the line. If an unauthorized person managed to bust into the temple the results could be disastrous. Wrath.

So how is that you and I draw near to God with such ease? There are no guards stationed at the doors of my church. No one monitors me to ensure that I don’t offer unauthorized prayer. What’s the deal?

Hebrews 4:6 reads, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Those are astonishing words. Unlike the Israelites, we’re commanded to draw near to God, not hold back. In Jesus, we have a high priest who brings us into the presence of God. At all times. In all places. Nothing keeps us out of the presence of God.

Aren’t you grateful for Christ, our high priest?

+photo by nickinglis

Originally published June, 2009

What Would Billy Joel Say About You?

These lyrics from the song “Pressure” by Billy Joel have always provoked me:

Now here you are with your faith
And your Peter Pan advice
You have no scars on your face
And you cannot handle pressure

He seems to be dismissing someone who claims to have faith and doles out simplistic “Peter Pan advice” yet has no deep experience of suffering – scars on their face – and can’t handle stress.

What does the way you handle pressure say about your faith?

If Billy Joel knew you, what would he say to others about the way you handle heavy situations? Would he say you seem to rely on God and that despite your pain you are at peace?  Would he say that you have scars on your face from many afflictions yet you seem to have a deep joy?

When we’ve gone through fire and flood and experienced the comfort and strength of Jesus, we can comfort others with the comfort we’ve received.  We can give them much more than Peter Pan advice.  We can share our faith.

At a recent funeral of a young man I was able to share with the family how my own brother had committed suicide years ago, so in some faint way I could relate to the pain they were going through.  I shared what an elderly woman had told me to do, “Lean on Jesus, just lean on Jesus.” Though words can’t begin to touch the family’s pain, one of them told me that it was meaningful that I had been through something like they were.

Take your pressure to Jesus.  Cast your cares on him, for he cares for you.  He might not remove it right away for he might be shaping you to be a witness to his sustaining power.  You will get some scars on your face along the way.  But those scars will say a lot, if in the Lord’s strength you can handle pressure.