8 to 5

During the Reformation a couple of ordinary, yet remarkable, folks realized that salvation does not lie in our own hands but rather that we are saved by faith and faith alone. Sounds rather philosophical? Well actually the repercussions of this realization spilled over into a shift in societal structure. During this short span of time there were angry kings, martyrs, famous speeches, great literature, great art and the start of democracy, just to name a few. In short: the world changed dramatically. One of the areas where specifically a fellow by the name of Martin Luther made a massive impact was in the perception and theology of “secular” work. People started to think about their jobs and its value.

Four hundred years later we are still (or maybe again) struggling with the concept of work. It takes up most of your day and is not always, sometimes never, fun. We work so that we can then buy things, travel the world and give to charity. We might work to form our identity, to gain respect and leave a legacy. How many people do you know that actually work every day with the sole purpose of retiring? I, for one, know several people that would say we work today to one day move to the coast to sip mojitos and take strolls on the beach. Is this really all there is to your eight to five?

Recently interest in the meaning of work started to (re)surface in discussions and seen more and more in literature, especially in Christian circles. Tim Keller released a book Every Good Endeavor where he discusses our perceptions of serving God in our jobs. He starts off by listing some of the ways to serve:

  1. The way to serve God at work is to further social justice in the world.
  2. The way to serve God at work is to be personally honest and evangelize your colleagues.
  3. The way to serve God at work is just to do skillful, excellent work.
  4. The way to serve God at work is to create beauty.
  5. The way to serve God at work is to work from a Christian motivation to glorify God, seeking to engage and influence culture to that end.
  6. The way to serve God at work with a graceful, joyful, gospel-changed heart thorugh all the upas and downs.
  7. The way to serve God at work is to do whatever gives you the greatest joy and passion.
  8. The way to serve God at work is to make as much money as you can, so that you can be as generous as you can.

So which one is the way in which we are to serve God at work? The assumption of course is that only one of these is the way in serving God. Keller makes the point that these are several aspects of the same thing, each of them are a way  in serving God at work – a combination of these is the way we serve God.

The inherent value of work and our understanding of the value of our work remains a challenge that we need to face. To conclude, see the words of Mr Luther himself:

All our work in the field, in the garden, in the city, in the home, in struggle, in government-to what does it all amount before God except child’s play, by means of which God is pleased to give his gifts in the field, at home, and everywhere? These are the masks of our Lord God, behind which he wants to be hidden and to do all things.

We need to continue to think about work and how we can shift a perception that work is nothing more that a means to an end.

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Making Sense Of It

 

This might a great way to view a seemingly chaotic world:

“Everything you do is connected to who you are as a person and, in turn, creates the person you are becoming. Everything you do affects those you love. All of life is covenant.
Imbedded in the idea of prayer is a richly textured view of the world where all of life is organized around invisible bonds or covenants that knit us together. Instead of a fixed world, we live in our Father’s world, a world built for divine relationships between people where, because of the Good News, tragedies become comedies and hope is born.”

-Paul E. Miller (A Praying Life)

If you are a Christian find solace in this. If you are not a Christian maybe consider the possibility..and then pray.

 

The Christians of Columbine

Here is an interesting read about the shootings, in 1999, at a school in Littleton, Colorado. Note especially the last two paragraphs:

At Leawood, even the resilient families were faltering. Nothing had changed: no buses, no word, for hours on end. District Attorney Dave Thomas tried to comfort the families. He knew which ones would need it. He had thirteen names in his breast pocket. Ten students had been identified in the library, and two more outside, based on their clothing and appearance. One teacher lay in Science Room 3. All deceased. It was a solid list, but not definitive. Thomas kept it to himself. He told the parents not to worry.

At eight o’clock, they were moved to another room. Sheriff Stone introduced the coroner. She handed out forms asking for descriptions of their kids’ clothing and other physical details. That’s when John Tomlin realized the truth. The coroner asked them to retrieve their kids’ dental records. That went over unevenly. Many took it gravely; others perked up. They had a task, finally, and hope for resolution.

A women leapt up. “Where is that other bus!” she demanded.

There was no bus. “There was never another bus,” Doreen Tomlin said later. “It was like a false hope they gave you.” Many parents felt betrayed. Brian Rohrbough later accused the school officials of lying; Misty Bernall also felt deceived. “Not intentionally, perhaps, but deceived nonetheless,” she wrote. “And so bitterly that it almost choked me.”

Sheriff Stone told them that most of the dead kids had been in the library. “John always went to the library,” Doreen said. “I felt like I was going to pass out. I felt sick.”

She felt sadness but not surprise. Doreen was an Evangelical Christian, and believed the Lord had been preparing her for the news all afternoon. Most of the Evangelicals reacted differently than the other parents. The press had been cleared from the area, but Lynn Duff was assisting the families as a Red Cross volunteer. A liberal Jew from San Francisco, she was taken aback by what she saw.

“The way that those families reacted was markedly different,” she said. “It was like a hundred and eighty degrees from where everybody else was. They were singing; they were praying; they were comforting the other parents, especially the parents of Isaiah Shoels [the only African American killed]. They were thinking a lot about the other parents, the other families, and responding a lot to other people’s needs. They were definitely in pain, and you could see the pain in their eyes, but they were very confident of where their kids were. They were at peace with it. It was like they were a living example of their faith.”

(Taken from Columbine, Dave Cullen. Borrowed from Tim Challies, A Living Example)

Why would it be that the Christian parents would react so differently? I think the reason is along the lines of what Thomas Brooks tried to convey in his book, Heaven on Earth (1667), concerning God showing Himself to those in difficult times:

“The moon will run her course, though dogs bark at it. Just so, will all those choice souls who have found warmth under Christ’s wings, run their Christian race in spite of all difficulties and dangers.”

The Cool Of Dawn

The death of the world and birth of a new one passed without anyone noticing. Since that day God is showing his children that they are, as a matter of fact, walking with Him in a new creation.

“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.”

-G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

Not Exactly a Walk in the Park

The God of the Christian faith is one that claims to be sovereign over everything. When the obvious deduction is made that He must therefore be in control of pain, suffering and disaster people tend to doubt the goodness of such a god, the existence of a god and the intellect of his believers. The believers of this God see hurt and pain as part of their existence and accept the reality of the temporary grief as if they see it from another vantage point – the Christian view of suffering.

How does Christians see suffering? From the blog post Nine Good Purposes in Our Suffering, Rebecca Stark shows nine purposes in the suffering of believers. All of the purposes are taken from scripture:

  1. Suffering works to advance the gospel. Acts 11: 19-21
  2. Suffering spurs other believers to keep trusting in Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:10-12 
  3. Suffering shows our weakness, demonstrating Christ’s power in us. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  4. Suffering teaches us to trust God and not our own abilities. 2 Corinthians 1: 8-9
  5. Suffering shows genuineness of our faith. 1 Peter 1: 6-7
  6. Suffering produces righteousness in us. Hebrews 12:7, 11; Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-3 
  7. Suffering makes us value and long for what is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
  8. Suffering brings us heavenly reward. Romans 8:17-18
  9. Suffering give us the ability to comfort and encourage others in their suffering. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 

Consider reading The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis or Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper should you want to know more about the Christian perspective of suffering.

Look Again and Think

Do not worry about your life . . .”  —Matthew 6:25

A warning which needs to be repeated is that “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches,” and the lust for other things, will choke out the life of God in us (Matthew 13:22). We are never free from the recurring waves of this invasion. If the frontline of attack is not about clothes and food, it may be about money or the lack of money; or friends or lack of friends; or the line may be drawn over difficult circumstances. It is one steady invasion, and these things will come in like a flood, unless we allow the Spirit of God to raise up the banner against it.

I say to you, do not worry about your life . . . .” Our Lord says to be careful only about one thing-our relationship to Him. But our common sense shouts loudly and says, “That is absurd, I mustconsider how I am going to live, and I must consider what I am going to eat and drink.” Jesus says you must not. Beware of allowing yourself to think that He says this while not understanding your circumstances. Jesus Christ knows our circumstances better than we do, and He says we must not think about these things to the point where they become the primary concern of our life. Whenever there are competing concerns in your life, be sure you always put your relationship to God first.

Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). How much trouble has begun to threaten you today? What kind of mean little demons have been looking into your life and saying, “What are your plans for next month— or next summer?” Jesus tells us not to worry about any of these things. Look again and think. Keep your mind on the “much more” of your heavenly Father (Matthew 6:30).

-January 27, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers

Questions and Answers

Have you ever wanted to ask a question at Bible study but didn’t because the question seemed stupid or even blasphemous? Is it ok to doubt what we confess to believe? Should a Christian question his religion (or parts of it)?

If we believe the Bible is the ultimate truth, that God sovereignly put this book together by the hands of believers and that therein lies all that God thought we ought to know, then we should not be afraid to ask questions. Instead we should continue to ask questions! When we ask questions we get answers. When we get answers we get to know God better. When we start to know God better we grow in hope.

Combine these two thoughts from these two great men and you end up with a similar conclusion:

“A faith without some doubts is like a human body without antibodies in it.  People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.”

Tim Keller, The Reason for God

“The ancients were afraid that if they went to the end of the earth they would fall off and be consumed by dragons. But once we understand that Christianity is true to what is there, true to the ultimate environment – the infinite, personal God who is really there – then our minds are freed. We can pursue any question and can be sure that we will not fall off the end of the earth.”

― Francis A. Schaeffer, Art and the Bible

 

We should be ready, wether it’s going great or awful, to give answers for the hope that is in us. (1 Pet 3:15)