Sunday, July 13, 2014

Vocational Idolatry / Vocational Idleness

In Matt Smethurst's interview with Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger about their book, The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Lives, they touch on the topic of vocational idolatry and idleness. First, concerning idolatry: 
Making an idol of our work is extremely easy to do. Our jobs become the primary source of satisfaction, purpose, and meaning in our lives. Idolatry shows up not just in working too many hours, but in a heart that's finding its sense of wellbeing in what we do. If work is going well and our professional stock is rising, we think life is good. We feel secure. But then when it's not going well, our sense of wellbeing fades or even collapses....

But here's the thing: When you realize that you actually and ultimately work for King Jesus—at his command, according to his plan, and for his glory—that realization cuts the root of idolatry. Because of Jesus' work for us, we already have all we need. Identity, love, belonging, acceptance, forgiveness, meaning, and reward—it's all ours already because of Jesus! And that means we no longer have to pursue those things in something that could never provide them in the first place—our jobs. Instead, we realize our jobs are an arena in which God will work in us and through us to make us more like Jesus and to glorify himself.
On the other hand, we can tend towards idleness, which is more than just laziness:
Idleness in work is the other major problem Christians tend to have when it comes to their work. At its most extreme, "idleness" means not doing the job. It's wasting time, slacking off, and generally being unproductive. That's a problem. But just because you're "getting it done" doesn't mean you're avoiding idleness. That's because the deepest problem is not so much idleness of the hands as it is idleness of the heart. In other words, many go through the motions—and even do the mechanics of their work with efficiency and productivity—but they've lost sight of God's purposes for them in it. When Paul says we're to do our work "with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord . . . as working for the Lord" (Col. 3:22-23), he means our work itself ought to be an act of worship to our King.

So how do you know if your heart is tending toward idleness? Some have come to see their jobs as merely a means to an end. "I work so I can play," or "I work so I can provide," or even "I work so I can give to my church." What's wrong with that way of thinking? It ignores the fact that God has purposes for us in our work itself. Our jobs are more than just means to an end. They are one of the key ways God matures us as Christians and brings glory to himself.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Pray as "Desolate" People

Tim Keller summarizes four principles or rules for prayer from a letter by Augustine. The first "rule" is this:
St. Augustine wrote that before anyone can turn to the question of what to pray and how to pray it, they must first be a particular kind of person. What kind is that? He writes: “You must account yourself ‘desolate’ in this world, however great the prosperity of your lot may be.” He argues that no matter how great your earthly circumstances they cannot bring us the peace, happiness, and consolation that are found in Christ. The scales must fall from our eyes and we must see that—if we don’t all our prayers will go wrong.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Living as Exiles

In part 1 of a post called Sin and Grace in the City, David Kim talks about how the church can best disciple its people for service in society:
Today, the church needs to wrestle with the significance and implications of this redemptive-historical context to inform how we engage the world around us. Often churches assume that they are in Jerusalem with all the comforts and security that it affords, when in fact, we are, in the words of the New Testament authors, "exiles" (1 Peter 1:1, 17) and "aliens and strangers" (1 Peter 2:11) in this world—citizens of a heavenly kingdom (Philippians 3:20) and a heavenly city (Hebrews 13:14). As volunteer exiles in a new era, the mandate remains the same as that of the Old Testament exiles, but how are we are to seek the prosperity of this city we inhabit in our modern context?
He goes on to answer:
There is a definite need for the church to nurture and disciple God's people; however, our exilic context ought to frame and shape what this discipleship looks like and what expectations we ought to have concerning life in the world. Life in exile is difficult, requiring sacrifice, contentment, and perseverance, and this becomes very evident in cities. We are not at home, but we are to live in this world promoting the good of institutions that advance societal flourishing.

Today, many Christians around the world feel torn between their calling to be faithful in the "world" and their calling to be faithful in the "church." Unfortunately, these options are mistakenly presented as mutually exclusive categories. There is often pressure to leave our workplaces and our involvement in our local "secular" communities in order to serve the church. Yet, our calling is to be faithful to Christ who is Lord over all, world and church inclusive. The church needs to give her people a vision for why God would care about the world, providing theological rationale as well as practical instruction and encouragement. In this way, the church can model in our society what institutional grace and maturity looks like by seeking and promoting the good of the whole society and not provincially looking only toward her own expansion.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Work as God's Work

"Whether you’re writing sermons at a desk, selling desks, putting them together, or harvesting the lumber, God can use you uniquely and powerfully for his cause in the world." Marshall Segal outlines these 8 aims for your career:
  1. Aspire to make much of God.
  2. Aspire to do God's work.
  3. Aspire to find your joy in God, not money.
  4. Aspire to confound the world.
  5. Aspire to provide for your family.
  6. Aspire to overflow to others.
  7. Aspire to build and protect the church.
  8. Aspire to work for what lasts.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mature Christian Thinking

J.P. Moreland on developing a Christian mind:
All of life is an occasion for discipleship and worship for a mature Christian mind. Further, an intellectually excellent mind is one that is informed, that makes important distinctions when a less mature mind fails to do so, and that has deeper and deeper insights into issues of importance. To develop such excellence, one must regularly read, listen to tapes, and expose oneself to excellent teaching. One must also be willing to engage others—believers and unbelievers—in conversations about important worldview issues. Such regular practice, if combined with a growing ability to listen nondefensively, will bring motivation and opportunity for regular growth in intellectual excellence.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Rethinking Mercy Ministries

Mez McConnell at 20Schemes examines whether mercy ministries are really a slow death of the soul. He concludes:
I don’t have all the answers but I do think we ought to seriously visit this topic as Bible believing Christians without having knee jerk reactions. I am not calling for an end to mercy ministries. I am calling for them to be made better. I am calling for them to be more reciprocal, less one sided and thought of more as a stepping stone on the road to serious Christian discipleship within the local church. My contention is that generous justice and mercy ministry is not enough on its own. It doesn’t go far enough. I was reached by a mercy ministry to the streets. That was 20 years ago. We need to move on. We need to help people in my position move on. We need to ask whether what we are doing is really helping people move forward or merely servicing ourselves and our programmes.

We all want ministries that bring spiritual life to souls walking the cruel pathway to eternal death. Maybe a helping hand is our first point of engagement. But for too many churches it also seems to be our last.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Praying Scriptures

Andy Naselli provides 12 reasons you should prayer Scriptures:
  • Because God's people in the OT and NT did.
  • Because Jesus did.
  • Because it glories God the Father.
  • Because it helps you focus on what is most important.
  • Because it helps you focus on praying.
  • Because it is entirely truthful.
  • Because it helps you pray confidently.
  • Because it kindles your affections.
  • Because it helps you express yourself appropriately.
  • Because it keeps your prayers fresh and specific.
  • Because it keeps your prayers in scriptural proportion.
  • Because it helps you understand Scripture better.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Ref21 Series on Personal Evangelism

Summary of and links to the posts in Jeremy Walker's series on effective personal evangelism.
If we as individual Christians and members of gospel churches are to be effective personal evangelists, these are qualities that I think we must prayerfully pursue if we are to declare the gospel profitably and fruitfully. Not all Christians will be on the streets of our towns and at the doors of our communities. Some of us will do it sitting down over a cup of tea (other beverages are available) with a friend; some of us will do it around the dinner table or at the bedside, night after night, with our children; some of us will do it over a lunch time snack with a colleague; some of us will do it in a Bible study with our peers. However we do it, all of us have opportunities to make Christ known.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Love One Another in Practice

David Murray issues 10 Love Challenges for believers to practice in the context of their local church:
  1. Pray for one family
  2. Speak to one person
  3. Encourage one person
  4. Carry one burden
  5. Visit one person
  6. Give one gift
  7. Forgive one person
  8. Welcome one person
  9. Share one meal
  10. Relegate one preference
Here's what Murray means by the last challenge:
There are some things in church life and the Christian life that are a matter of biblical principle. These things we cannot let go of, we cannot demote, we cannot dismiss. Other things are a matter of personal preference – clothing, hobbies, sports, education choices, etc. When we make our preference equivalent to principles we inevitably erect barriers between us and others, we put others down and puff ourselves up. Search your life for one preference that you’ve turned into a principle, relegate it, let it go, and watch your relationships improve.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Serving Families with Disabilities

John Knight offers some thoughts on how the church can serve families with disabilities. He begins with an important foundation:
If we are
  1. truly uncondemned and set free (Romans 8:1–2),
  2. with the full knowledge that all things work together for good (Romans 8:28),
  3. in a relationship with someone God has intimately created (Psalm 139:13),
  4. even with disabilities (Exodus 4:11),
  5. which is for his glory (John 9:3),
  6. and he has chosen that person for the good of his church (1 Corinthians 1:27),
  7. even calling them central to his purposes (1 Corinthians 12:22),
then you can trust God to equip you to serve families that experience disability.
Read the rest.