Vocation

In Praise of To-Do Lists

In Praise of To-Do Lists

Happy New Year! I pray your 2018 was a good year: rich and full of God’s grace and mercy. And I pray that 2019 is better yet!

We cannot know what 2019 has in store for us, but I want to be prepared for what God has for me, and I’m sure you want to be ready for what he has for you. To that end, let me start the year by commending to you the humble to-do list. May we thoughtfully prepare ourselves for the good works God has for us, strategically readying ourselves for the tasks we are called to step into.

Without a doubt, people trump tasks. To paraphrase Paul[i], if I accomplish all the tasks in the world but have not love, I gain nothing.

And yet, organization can be a wonderful tool for a life organized around God’s good purposes for us.

One of the most important verses about our purpose is found in Ephesians 2. There, Paul says that we are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”[ii] What are the good works that God has prepared beforehand for you? Do you know? Do you have an inkling of what they are?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What the World Says When We Lie to OurselvesStephen Kneale considers how the world responds to the lies we tell ourselves compared to how the Bible responds. For instance: 

"Lie: Everybody hates me
World: I’m sure that isn’t true. I like you.
Bible: ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8); ‘See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.’ (1Jo 3:1)"

2.       How Would Christ Celebrate Christmas? Erin Davis suggests that, “It's great to spend Christmas with the people we cherish, but I don't think Jesus' Christmas celebrations would only include the people He is most familiar with. I believe He would spend His birthday in service to others.”

3.       5 Pitfalls When Preaching or Teaching on the End Times: Please won't you read this brief but important article before you lead your next Sunday School class on Revelation? Marty Duren reminds us, "Pastors and theologians have long held the importance of accurately dividing eschatological words of truth. Too often though, we see dull knives forced again and again onto the sacred text, resulting in tortured interpretations (the UN Secretary General as the Antichrist) or unbiblical expectations (77 Reasons Jesus Will Return in 1977)."

4.       What Should I Do to Become a Pastor? Derek Heibert offers great advice for anyone who has considered whether they have a vocational calling to pastoral ministry. He reflects on how different that advice is compared to other vocations, "We all know the assumed logic in America for landing a career: 1. Decide what to do with your life. 2. Go to school to learn the skillset. 3. Graduate from said school. 4. Get hired for a job using that skillset. Now substitute “school” with “seminary,” and voilà! You have a career in pastoring … right? You might be surprised to learn that this isn’t the answer I texted back to the aspiring pastor..."

5.       Why Christians Have Always Done Healthcare DifferentlyJohan Tangelder begins by reflecting on the crossroads we currently stand at, "Within a short time span hospitals and medical care have greatly changed. In fact, today a man of seventy can justly claim that more medical progress has been made in his lifetime than in all of previous history. This medical progress forces us to cope with issues our forefathers never faced. The most common and most pervasive issue is how new medical science has transformed medicine: it used to be about caring for a person; now it is about curing a disease. According to this new philosophy, when someone is faced with a medical problem, everything that can be done ought to be done, no matter what – they are treated as an object to be fixed, rather than a person to be helped."

6.       What Would Happen if Every Human Being Suddenly Disappeared? This is an interesting thought experiment.

How God Wants You to Work

How God Wants You to Work

Over the past two weeks I’ve been making the case that work wasn’t the result of the fall – a curse that has fallen on humanity that we can only hope to escape one day. No, in fact, we were made for work. I would even make the case that we will work in heaven (free from the effects of the fall). That is a gift!

Today, I would like to get practical by offering biblical wisdom regarding work for a few specific groups of people. Those groups are students, stay at home moms and dads, those who don’t like their job, those who love their job, and retirees.

For students:

Even though you’re not paid, you do have a job right now. You do have dominion. That dominion is being a student and taking care of your home with your parents. Don’t neglect your job. There isn’t an opt-in age for dominion, meaning we can all contribute, no matter how old we are. For the youngest, that might just mean helping to put away toys and empty the dishwasher. Even a toddler has dominion and is called to exercise it faithfully. For older students, lean into your dominion. Take more, not less responsibility at home. If you have a part time job, great! Treat it like it’s your career.

No matter what your task is, you are ultimately working for God, not your parents.

Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

Heaven Won't Be a Picnic

Heaven Won't Be a Picnic

The Garden of Eden was no picnic. When God created Adam and Eve, he placed them in the Garden not to vacation, but to work. Before sin ever entered the picture, God formed Adan and Eve in his image, and called them to exercise dominion in the Garden of Eve.

We are called to create order from disorder, to cultivate, and till, and build. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden not just to sip Mai Tais and binge on Netflix (not that there is anything wrong with that!); they were put there for the sake of dominion. God wanted caretakers who would craft, build, and create order.

We were made for work. We were made for dominion.

There are some interesting studies that reveal the impact of not working. It has been well documented that there are significant negative mental and emotional outcomes for those who are unemployed.[i] Anxiety rises and self-confidence drops which leads to an increase in substance abuse and violence against self and others.[ii] Consider, for instance, the unhealthy of the lives of those whose profession is to be famous, like the Kardashians.

We were made to work.

Is Work the Curse?

Is Work the Curse?

“I do my job just to get by.”

-Three in ten American workers

 

“My job is just a steppingstone for something better.”

-Two in ten American workers[i]

Half of America agrees: work is a curse. And isn’t that what the Bible teaches? After Adam and Eve rebel, God levies this curse on Adam:

[C]ursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground…
[ii]

Work is a curse. Historian Roger Hill agrees:

 "From a historical perspective, the cultural norm placing a positive moral value on doing a good job because work has intrinsic value for its own sake was a relatively recent development… Work, for much of the ancient history of the human race, has been hard and degrading… the Hebrew belief system viewed work as a 'curse devised by God explicitly to punish the disobedience and ingratitude of Adam and Eve'… Numerous scriptures from the Old Testament in fact supported work, not from the stance that there was any joy in it, but from the premise that it was necessary to prevent poverty and destitution."[iii]

There you have it. Work is a curse. And haven’t you felt the curse of work? Haven’t you felt the thorns, thistles, and sweat?

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Let's Ban Porn: Ross Douthat with a bold proposal, "[W]e are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that that impose misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, mostly young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut."

2.       Ten Lessons on Parenting Big(ger) Kids: Great advice from Tim Challies. All ten are good, but I particularly like his final piece of advice, " Focus more on sharing experiences than exchanging stuff. The things you and your children remember and celebrate as the years go by are far more likely to be experiences you shared together than gifts you exchanged."

3.       Wishing He Were Your Husband: Sabrina Beasley McDonald on the dangers of emotional infidelity and what to do when that wishing begins: " If you're thinking of a man right now and you're wondering if you're in danger of an emotional affair with him, then you probably are."

4.       Vocation in Retirement: Gene Veith, one of the best authors on vocation, considers what vocation means in his retirement: " Retirement underscores two important facets of the doctrine of vocation: the purpose of every vocation is loving and serving our neighbors. And the way we make our living is only one of our vocations and not even the most important one."

5.       Does the Bible Endorse Slavery? This charge is often made against the Bible by atheists and agnostistics that the Bible supports slavery? Is that true? Dr. Matthew Hall responds.

6.       Can a Christian Be Demon Possessed? Dr. Stephen Wellum says no in this helpful video.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

Happy Easter, friends! 

This week's list is Holy-week-centric with a few other fun nuggets. Enjoy!

1.       How Much is Your Vocation Trusted? Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra reports on the recent Gallup report. Pastors, in particular, took a big hit: "Less  than half of the country—just two out of every five Americans—believe clergy are honest and have high ethical standards... That level of trust has dropped steadily since 2009, down from a high of 67 percent in 1985, the pollster reported." Unsurprisingly lobbyists, car salesman, and members of congress filled out the bottom of the polls with nurses, military, and teachers on top. Did where you vocation land surprise you?

2.      What was Crucifixion Like? Got Questions answers, "Crucifixion was invented and used by other people groups, but it was “perfected” by the Romans as the ultimate execution by torture... Crucifixion was meant to inflict the maximum amount of shame and torture upon the victim."

3.      Why the Donkey was the Supporting Actor for the Triumphal Entry: My childhood pastor, Roger Barrier, with a wonderful reflection on how “God never miss[es] an opportunity to use powerful symbols throughout scripture. Jesus’ famous ride on this lowly animal reveals much about Christ’s character and purpose.”

4.       Modern Parenting and the Winter Olympics: Exit "helicopter parenting," enter "curling parenting." I love this clever little reflection by Stephen McAlpine, "Helicopters hover serenely over the landscape, seeing all with a birds-eye view that takes the frantic out of it.  It’s big picture stuff. Curling on the other hand? It’s all micro-management and frantic scrubbing of anything that might cause just that one little bump in order to arrive at the goal."

5.       How Early Christian Worship Managed to Offend Everyone: Starting with the Romans, Michael Kruger explains why this was the case, "A fundamental aspect of early Christian worship was its exclusivity. Only Jesus was to be worshiped. Whatever other religious loyalties one possessed before coming to Christ, they had to be abandoned and full devotion given to Jesus the King. One might think the Roman state wouldn’t care about such things. Wasn’t religion a private matter? Not at all. To be a good citizen, your duty was to pay homage to the Roman gods who kept the empire prosperous and flourishing." 

6.       10 Levels of Light Pollution: Cool two and a half minute video that shows that different levels of light pollution across the globe.

What is Heaven? It's Dynamic!

What is Heaven? It's Dynamic!

Can we learn in heaven? According to one survey, only 18% of Americans believe that people will "grow intellectually in heaven.”[i] It makes sense. We should know everything in heaven, right? In the presence of God, won't all knowledge be ours?

And yet, we will be learners in heaven. Ephesians 2:6-7 says, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace.” Do you catch the presumption of active learning in heaven in that verse? God is going to show us the incomparable riches of his grace… in the coming ages!

What are the incomparable riches of his grace he will show us? The list is endless. We will certainly understand the wonder of God’s grace on the cross more perfectly, but we will also be shown more profoundly God’s grace in creation, in art, in science, in beauty!

America’s greatest theologian Jonathan Edwards rejoiced in the progressive increase of our knowledge in heaven, “The number of ideas of the saints shall increase to eternity.”[ii]

In God’s grace-filled purpose, we are built to be learners.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What is the Biggest Factor in Economic Inequity? Marriage: Glenn Stanton reports, " Jonathan Rauch writing in the National Journal, certainly no conservative, notes that “marriage is displacing both income and race as the great class divide of the new century.” Isabel Sawhill, a senior scholar at the center-left Brookings Institute, boldly and correctly proclaimed some years ago that “the proliferation of single-parent households accounts for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since the early 1970s.” Virtually all of the increase!"

2.       The Spirit is Always in Agreement with the Word: Aaron Armstrong battles a mode of argument in favor among progressives, that the Spirit can move us past Scripture, "[I]f we can’t use the words the Spirit inspired [the Bible] to be our norming-norm, what do we use to determine whether or not we’re resisting him? Shifts in culture? Personal feelings and preference?.. After all, the Spirit doesn’t work apart from the word he inspired...It’s important that we wrestle with what’s going on in our culture, the shifts in beliefs and behaviors especially. But if anyone is going to make a convincing argument on why Christians need to change their views on a number of key controversial issues, it’s not going to be pitting the Spirit against Scripture."

3.       10 Things That Require Zero Talent: I love this little list from Paul Alexander. #4 and 8 on his list are: "Body Language: You say more with your body language than the words that actually come out of your mouth; Being Coachable: You can learn from anyone, but you have to choose to."

4.       Corporate America's Strange New Religion: Kevin Williamson reports on America's favorite new religion, "'Participants are regaining 62 minutes per week of productivity,' Stringer wrote. 'They are seeing an approximate dollar return, in terms of productivity alone, of more than $3,000 per person per year.' Never mind karma — this is a bottom-line issue.  'Mindfulness,' a meditation practice that is in essence Buddhism without Buddha, is everywhere in corporate America and celebrity culture."

5.       National History Museum 2017 Photography Winners: Stunning photographs. This evocative photo is probably my favorite. 

Why I Need You to Help Me Do What I’m Supposed to Do as a Pastor

Why I Need You to Help Me Do What I’m Supposed to Do as a Pastor

Moses was crushing it. The people loved him. He had lines out the doors for those who were hoping to hear a word from God or a word of wisdom from Moses.[i] Then his father-in-law, Jethro, showed up and told him he was leading poorly, not well.

Moses had every reason to not listen to Jethro’s advice. There were no real indicators Moses’s leadership style wasn’t working. And yet Moses heard Jethro’s advice, and humbly heeded it.

In Ephesians, Paul makes it clear that this is no mere stylistic choice for a godly leader. Healthy leadership is characterized by “equip[ing] the saints for the work of the ministry.”[ii] Did you catch that, healthy leadership isn’t characterized by doing “the work of the ministry” but rather by equipping the congregation to do the work of the ministry.