Monday, May 31, 2010

Do you take the Gospel to work every day?

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life (Focal Point Series)Many companies have a special day when employees can bring a son or daughter to work. Christians have something more important to bring to work, the gospel. Christians should pack  the gospel and its implications  in their briefcase every morning. For Christians this subject should be a matter of the highest priority because how the gospel impacts what we do Monday through Friday 8:00-5:00 is greatly ignored.

Over the last few months I have read or surveyed many books on this subject. I want to recommend my two favorites, Gene Edward Veith's God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life and Sherman and Hendricks  Your Work Matters to God

Veith is a Lutheran. You have probably seen his  writings in World Magazine. Hegives us a compelling summary of Martin Luther's doctrine of  vocation and attempts to apply it to life in the 21st century. Veith defines the purpose of vocation, how to find your vocation, and how God is present to us as we pursue our vocation on a daily basis.

Your Work Matters to GodAlthough Your Work Matters to God was published in 1987, remarkably it is still in print. Few books achieve this status. The authors point out that, for many "Career has become far more than a means of paying the bills. It has taken on many of the roles once played by religion. Meanwhile, religion, according to one historian, has become privately engaging but socially irrelevant" (Pg 20). They note that work is the place where Christianity and unbelief most frequently rub shoulders. If this is true it could be that "what happens on the regular weekdays may be far more important, so far as the Christian faith is concerned, than what happens on Sundays" (pg 217). For this reaso alone this book is worth reading. It might transform your vocation, making it a rich venue for rewarding ministry.

Brothers and sisters, those who "take the gospel to work" daily inform themselves to  make this a reality. Either of these excellent books will equip you to do just that.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Book to Make you Happy

Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943Just finished Anthony Beevor's epic account of the Battle of Stalingrad. Beevor is a first class military historian who gives the modern reader a glimpse of the horrors of WWII.

In the summer of 1941 Hitler invaded Russia. Quickly he gobbled up the Western half of Stalin's empire, penetrating  to Moscow in the North . The German invasion climaxed and reached its turning point at Stalingrad in southeast Russia. In fact, WWII reached its turning point at Stalingrad. Stalingrad portrays humanity at its lowest.From Aug 1942 to Feb of 1943 the armies of the Third Reich and atheistic Communism clashed in what would become the most brutal and violent battle in history.

Combined this battle alone produced over 2 million casualties. Both regimes brutalized the civilian population. Both treated their prisoners like animals. Neither Stalin nor Hitler placed any value on human life. By the time Russia drove the Germans back into Germany, Russia alone had suffered somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 million casualties. To put this in context, in all of our wars combined American has experienced about 1 million casualties.

Why should Christians read this book? First, it gets one in contact with history, and we are an historically challenged society. Second it puts one in contact with reality. As John Piper has said, we live in the Disneyland of the world. Stalingrad convinces the reader that something is radically wrong with humanity, that under the right circumstances people will descend to unimaginable depths of barbarism, and that the civilities of 21st century North America are probably an exception to the rule. Last, Stalingrad is tonic for the soul. It makes the reader thankful. No matter how bad your life gets, it will never approximate life as it was in the Fall and winter of 1942 in Stalingrad. Stalingrad puts life in perspective, a perspective we need on a continual daily basis.

I recommend heartily. Reading Stalingrad will fill you with joy and gratitude. Life in North America is a wonderful exception to the rule. It is only attributable to the sovereignty of God that you and I were not participants in Stalingrad.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Power of Hope

Hope is crucial to life. Despair is its absence, and despair is deadly. The Bible is a book of hope. Our hope is fundamentally in the world to come. It is Christ himself. We hope to see the glory of God. We hope to share the glory of God. "We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" (Rom 5:2). We hope in a New Creation deprived of crying, pain despair, depression, or suffering.  

What can we do to grow in hope? On our best days we should think. "Things are really good . I am experiencing a small foretaste of the age to come. Imagine how much better my future inheritance will be. This is nothing compared to that for which I wait."

How should we respond when the clouds of despair descend? "Today is rough. I feel hopeless and despairing. But the truth is altogether different. I have a glorious inheritance. God's presence will be "fullness of joy." Unabated, eternal pleasures are my portion (Ps. 16:11). In Peter's words, "Joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Pet. 1:8) will be my baptism.

So today, let us abound in hope. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope" (Rom. 15:13).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Should we bless or curse our enemies?

The Bible is a complex book. Unless we read every verse in its context (the rest of the Bible) we will undoubtedly oversimplify the truth. The result will be legalism.

Personal vengeance is a good example. In Romans 12 Paul tells us "Repay no one evil for evil...Never avenge yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God...If you enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink...Overcome evil with good" (12:17-21).

This seems straightforward enough until we come to 1 Corinthians 16:22, "If anyone has no love for the Lord let him be accursed," And how about Galatians 1:8-9? "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Here is a Holy Spirit inspired paradox. In Romans Paul tells us to do good to our enemies, but in 1Corinthians and Galatians he asks God to curse those who do not love God, and he calls down an anathema (curse) on those who pervert or distort the gospel. How can we resolve these texts? 

Here is one solution. In the first instance Paul is talking about personal vengeance. Do not repay others for the wrongs they have done to you personally. If a friend slanders you forgive , bless, and do not harm them. However, in both of the second instances he prays not that God will curse those who have not wronged him personally, but he asks God to curse those who have done something to diminish the glory of God. In 1 Cor 16 he asks God to curse those who fail to love him, i.e. reject the gospel. In Galatians he prays that God will curse those who conspire to change or pervert the gospel. 

Through this contrast we see the Paul's priorities. The glory of God and the gospel are at the heart of what matters. He and we should be willing to turn the other cheek for personal offenses, but when it comes to the integrity of the gospel the rules change.   

In relativistic age that devalues doctrine, these distinctions are not welcome. But for the believer who wants to walk in the freedom that a fullorbed grasp of the truth provides, these differences are a matter of great joy.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Should you protect your children from the world?

In his book, Connected Christianity, Art Azurdia (professor of homiletics at Western Seminary) writes,
“It is disturbing that some Christians actually believe the goal of parenting is to do everything possible to keep their children disengaged from the world. I profoundly disagree. The burden of Christian parents must be to prepare their children to engage the world with a mind filled with the Scriptures, a heart aflame with love for Jesus Christ.” 

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Why? 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Keep Yourself in the Love of God

The most common complaint I hear from Christians is this. "I know God loves me, but most of the time I don't feel that love. It is not real to me."

Jude 21 lays down the solution. "Keep yourself in the love of God." That doesn't mean "feel the love of God." It means put your mind on it. It is objective truth. God loves you. It matters little how you or I feel about it. His love is always there. We internalize it by faith. We receive it by believing no matter how we feel.

Practically, how does this work? We meditate on what God has done for us. We call this preaching the gospel to ourselves. Here is what God has done. The Father chose you from before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). He did this because he loves you. Then he sent his Son on a rescue mission to save you. He descended an infinite distance, clothed himself in human flesh, and lived a perfect life. Then he suffered the wrath of God in your place. It was an infinite suffering. He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. When he ascended he took you with him (Eph 1:20). Because he now sits at the right hand of the Father to constantly intercede for you, you can be sure that everything yesterday, today, and tomorrow is working together for your good (Rm. 8:28).

In other words, God's love is know by what he has done for you, not by how you feel about it. “It is well known that the Greek word for love in the New Testament, agapē, was not previously in common use," David Prior writes. "It was taken into the Greek of the New Testament specifically because the love of God, seen in Jesus of Nazareth, required a new word. God’s love completely transcends all human ideas or expressions of love. ‘It is a love for the utterly unworthy, a love which proceeds from a God who is love. It is a love lavished on others without a thought of whether they are worthy to receive it or not. It proceeds rather from the nature of the lover, than from any merit in the beloved’. This is the love which, according to Jesus, has to characterize and control the Christian community, if it is in any sense to be recognized as Christian and if he is to be recognized as God’s Son and the world’s Saviour.

Increasingly, the love of God becomes real to those who preach the gospel to themselves. If you do, before you know it, you will be awash in love's  "height, and depth, and breadth," until in Paul's words, you are "filled up with all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:19).

[1] David Prior, The Message of 1 Corinthians : Life in the Local Church, The Bible speaks today, 226–227 (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., U.S.A.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985).