Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

5 Foundational Books About Purpose

In the beginning, God created us to work. Specifically, He created us in His likeness and image so we could manage, steward, govern, rule, "have dominion over" this material world. We were created to be Earth-Tenders under God. 


This is what God had in mind for us from the start, and this is what human labor is supposed to be about. The First Commission [Gen. 1:26-28] gives purpose to education, and this is why I'm trying to restore the biblical meaning of work to Christian schools and churches. It is indeed, "The Lost Purpose for Learning." 

Last week I recommended 5 bedrock books about biblical worldview. This week, it's 5 foundational books about purpose. 

I was going to title this post, 5 Foundational Books About Work, but then realized if I did this, few would read the post! But these books are actually about purpose. 

Here you go: 

1. Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work To God's Work, by Tim Keller.      

Accessibly written, this book has 5 stars on Amazon.com, with over 400 reviews. No small accomplishment! For this book, click here.

2. God's Pleasure At Work: The Difference One Life Can Make, by Christian Overman.

This was the outcome of my D. Min. studies at Bakke Graduate University, when I took the "deep dive" into theology of work. I created this for groups to use in church, as well as school. It is a curriculum pack, with over 50 video clips and a Participant Guide. For the pack, click here.

3. LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day, by Darrow Miller.

This is a thorough theological treatise for everyday work. To get to know the author, watch this video interview I did with Darrow: An Interview with Darrow Miller. For the book, click here.

4. The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work and Ministry in Biblical Perspective, by R. Paul Stevens.

Serving as a professor at Regent College, as well as a professional carpenter prior to that, Stevens knows whereof he writes, both in theory as well as practice. A brilliant mind. For this book, click here.   

5. Your Work Matters To God, by Doug Sherman and William Hendricks.

This was the first book I read on the topic of work from a biblical perspective, and I can't think of a better place to start. It is a classic. To order a copy, click here.

Friday, February 8, 2019

5 Bedrock Books About Biblical Worldview

There are many excellent books on the subject of biblical worldview. Looking back over the formative years of my own thinking on this topic, there are 5 bedrock books about biblical worldview that stand out in my mind. 

I consider the following 5 books to be "must reading” for anyone wanting to understand the nuts-and-bolts of a biblical worldview, given in alphabetical order:

1. Assumptions That Affect Our Lives, by Christian Overman.

What? My own book? Yes! This book affected me most because I learned more by writing it than anyone will learn by reading it! 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of its first publication by Tyndale House Publishers, under the title, Different Windows. I wrote this book when a Christian school principal, having parents, students and teachers in mind. If you read it, you will better understand where my head is "at," and why I write the outlandish things I do in my weekly blog. For a copy, click here.

2. Creation Regained, by Albert Wolters.

This book, more than any other, helped me to understand the Sacred-Secular Divide. It had a revolutionary effect on me. A truly mind-altering book! For a copy, click here.

3. How Should We Then Live, by Francis Schaeffer.

Schaeffer was highly influential in shaping my understanding of biblical worldview during the 1970’s and 80’s. Several of his books helped me, but How Should We Then Live stands out as the most “bedrock.” For a copy, click here.  

4. Understanding the Times, by David Noebel.

I spent 600 hours studying this book! This is not an exaggeration. I kept track of my hours. One of the first opportunities I had to teach on the topic of biblical worldview was at a Campus Crusade for Christ Bible School in Moscow, Russia, for two weeks. They were using a Russian translation of Understanding the Times as their text, and they wanted me to teach from it. I needed to know the book backwards and forwards. I can’t think of a better way to spend 600 hours! For a copy, click here.

5. The Universe Next Door, by James W. Sire.

This book gave me the mental framework I needed for cataloging all things “worldviewishly.” This book is so important that I would recommend it as a starting point for anyone wanting to know what this thing called “worldview” is about. For a copy, click here.

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Friday, February 1, 2019

The Future Of Our Nation--And Its Churches

Something went terribly wrong here.

An SSD infection lies at the root of our loss of Christian influence in America. I'm convinced we cannot recover any significant influence in our culture apart from a rejection of the "Sacred-Secular Divide." What's more, we need pastors with the resolve to lead the way.  

A fundamental shift of thinking must take place in our churches. Apart from pastors with the knowledge, courage and tenacity to facilitate this shift, it's not likely to happen.  
The Sacred-Secular Divide looks like this:

"Sacred” things, in his flawed model, include Sunday church, Bible study, prayer, spiritual growth retreats and mission trips. These things have real significance, because they are related to the soul, to spiritual growth, and to eternity. 

"Secular” things don’t really matter much, because they have to do with the physical, temporal realm of Planet Earth. These things include running banks, managing fish, and getting involved with political issues. These are the “things of earth” that should "grow strangely dim" as we "turn our eyes upon Jesus."

Most sermons in Evangelical churches today deal with our personal lives. Yes, Christianity is highly personal. But it isn't just personal.

Here is what to do with SSD:

Know this: both things in heaven and things on earth are Jesus' things. And when we turn our eyes upon Him, the things of earth should grow remarkably relevant to our Christian walk.   

Yes, the things of earth are broken, due to sin, and in need of restoration. The point is to engage with them in a reconciling and restorative way, as the Spirit leads. That's why we're here.

This requires a different way of seeing all things:

In this way of thinking, any sphere of human activity may be done in harmony with God or in conflict with Him; in alignment with His Word, or in opposition to His Word. Christ died to reconcile all things to Him so that in all things He may have the preeminence, both things in heaven and things on earth. Please read Colossians 1:15-20 here. 

Does this include business things, legal things, artistic things and civil things? Is Christ as relevant to what goes on in medicine as He is to what goes on in church? Is He as relevant to economics as He is to eternity?

How we answer these questions will determine the future of our nation--and its churches.

Something's going terribly wrong here.

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Friday, January 25, 2019

The Ability To Look Beyond Us

Do your windows need washing--again?

Paul wrote to slaves in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as unto the Lord.”

A powerful word for when the work we're doing makes us feel like slaves. Vacuuming carpets (again)? Fixing the leaky sink (again)? If this work doesn't seem like “the work of God,” there is something we can do about it: we can think differently about work.

This is the power of the Word of God applied to our everyday lives: the ability to look beyond us. We don’t find meaning in our work, we bring meaning to our work when we approach work as something God wants done, regardless of how “mundane” it may seem at the time.  

Martin Luther, in his Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity sermon, exhorted his listeners to never separate God’s Word from their work. He advised his listeners to “inculcate” the Word of God into daily work, and that “by such work more is accomplished than if one had established all the cloisters and kept all the orders, although it be the most insignificant domestic work.”

“Our foolishness,” Luther maintained, “consists in laying too much stress upon the show of works and when these do not glitter as something extraordinary we regard them as of no value; and poor fools that we are, we do not see that God has attached and bound this precious treasure, namely his Word, to such common works as filial obedience, external, domestic, or civil affairs [and fish management], so as to include them in his order and command, which he wishes us to accept, the same as though he himself had appeared from heaven.”

“What would you do if Christ himself with all the angels were visibly to descend, and command you in your home to sweep your house and wash the pans and kettles? How happy you would feel, and would not know how to act for joy, not for the work’s sake, but that you knew that thereby you were serving him, who is greater than heaven and earth.”

“If we would only consider this, and by the power of the Word look beyond us, and think that it is not man, but God in heaven who wishes and commands these things, we would run full speed, and in a most faithful and diligent manner rather do these common, insignificant works, as they are regarded, than any others.” [Emphasis added.]

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Friday, January 18, 2019

It Doesn't Come Easily To The Evangelical Mind

Our eldest son, Nathanael, is in full-time Christian service. 
He works as a fish biologist for the State of Washington. 

Nancy Pearcey, author of Total Truth, says many Christians fail to see work in business, politics, the arts, and science as ways to serve God. She notes that many young people think if they really want to serve God, they will go into "the ministry." To them, this means being a pastor or a missionary.

The problem, Pearcey maintains, is the "sacred-secular distinction," dividing life into "sacred" and "secular" categories. 

The Sacred-Secular Divide [SSD] is a mental stronghold that's hard to remove. Yet, ridding young people of SSD is an essential part of Christian education, whether formally at school, or informally at home. 

Our son, Nathanael, knows he’s doing God’s work by managing fish because we dismantled the Sacred-Secular Divide at the dinner table. We chewed it up and spit it out.

I don't want to be critical of pastors [they have a tough job], but when was the last time your pastor talked about how fish management fulfills God’s purpose for human beings to govern well over Planet Earth?

If you are a parent, when was the last time you talked about this at your dinner table?

When was the last time the car mechanics in your church were brought up front and commissioned to serve God through fixing broken automobiles?

All cars belong to Christ, but some are broken. The whole earth is the Lord's, and everything in it. Not just fish, but metal, glass and brake fluid. He's relevant to it all. Ruling well over God's stuff is the work of God. It's what God had in mind for human beings when He commissioned us to govern over this beautiful-but-now-broken planet.  

I'll say it again: repairing cars and fish management, done in response to the First Commission of Gen. 1:26-28, is the work of God.  

Yes, so is the work of pastors and missionaries. Yet, somehow, calling fish management and automotive repair “the work of God” is nearly heretical. It doesn't come easily to the evangelical mind.    

Jesus was a carpenter for most of His 33 years in Palestine, yet He only did what His Father showed Him to do. Was He doing the work of God before He became an itinerant teacher? 

He was doing exactly what His Father showed Him to do. Carpentry, for Christ, was the work of God.  

For a brief interview I did with Nancy Pearcey about these matters, click here.

Dr. Nancy Pearcey

Friday, January 11, 2019

Thinking In Decades

I received an e-mail from a local organization about their 30-year plan to care for a forest. The subject line read: “How To Think In Decades.” Great advice!

I thought about "thinking in decades" in connection with my friend Jon Sween, President of Marketplace Connections, based near Seattle.

Like the early Moravian missionaries, Jon has a passion to “multiply disciples through Kingdom-centered business and gospel expressions.” Marketplace Connections trains followers of Christ to develop Kingdom-centered businesses in distant places of the world such as India, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, as well as in the USA, working in cooperation with such groups as Youth With A Mission, and Children of the Nations.

Entrepreneurial Leadership Training courses are taught by Christian business leaders who share their acumen with local followers of Christ. They teach them income-producing skills, and help them to know how live out biblically-informed faith in the context of the "real world." 

As Jon puts it, “It’s so exciting so see western business people sharing their vast business experience around the world.  Christian business people are often underutilized in the local church, and this vision catches their heart. We are now training trainers in many countries so Christ-followers can do a more effective job of contextualizing their faith through Kingdom-centered business." 

Marketplace Connections has provided training in the cities of Hyderabad, Udaipur and Vizag in India, where 6 businesses have been started by graduates. In Rwanda, 6 other business have been started. 40 followers of Christ have been trained in Uganda. Others have been trained in Malawi, and the list goes on. Efforts are now being made to expand to Kenya.

In the process, people are coming to know Christ. 

The “Five Big Ideas” behind Marketplace Connections are:

1. God designs and calls us to use our gifts and creativity to expand his work and express his character.

2. God enables us to take risks to create something new for kingdom work.

3. God calls business people to create wealth and build enterprises that provide jobs and advance the gospel.

4. God uses transformational leaders to lead people to new places of living and uses profits from business to address social issues.

5. God shapes our character and ethics to express his love, grace and truth.

Visit http://marketplaceconnections.org/ for more information. 

Here is a short interview with two graduates of the ELT course in Uganda: 

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Chilling Disappearance Of Gnadenhütten

During the 18th century, Moravian missionaries came from Germany to work among Native Americans in the New World, sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom, which began with personal salvation, and spilled over into Kingdom-centered commerce.

Last week I wrote about Bethlehem, PA, founded by Moravian missionaries, and later dying "not of failure, but of success.” The Moravian's wholistic approach to missions created businesses that attracted many non-believers who didn’t embrace the theology but loved the profits.

The work of Moravians among Native Americans died for different reasons.  

The Moravians established a number of prosperous Native American communities, including Shekomeko in New York, Indian Pond on the Connecticut border, and Gnadenhütten in Ohio. 

William Danker, in Profit for the Lord, describes Friedenshütten, in Pennsylvania:

"The Indians lived in log houses with windows and chimneys like the homesteads of the settlers. The streets and alleys were kept scrupulously clean. In the center of the town stood the chapel with a school house as its wing. Behind the houses were fruitful gardens and orchards. Stretching down the river were cultivated fields and meadows. The converts had large herds of cattle and hogs, and poultry of every kind."

Moravian-founded communities of Native American Christians sold corn, maple sugar, butter, and white pine dugout canoes.

During the Revolutionary War, the Native Americans in these communities, along with the Moravians, tried to preserve neutrality. They were suspected by both British and Americans as double-dealing. Indian war parties were hard to trace, but the settled Native American communities were easy prey. Many Revolutionary War participants wanted Indians eliminated.

Danker describes the chilling disappearance of Gnadenhütten:

150 men "bound the peaceful inhabitants and murdered them two by two in two buildings they wantonly called 'slaughter houses.' White men, some of whom must have been baptized as Christians, scalped Christian Indians with biblical names who lived in white men's houses, wore white men's clothing, and used civilized utensils and tools in their homes and their work. Some of the Indians pleaded for their lives in fluent German and English. Yet the pitiless settlers spared not a single one."

Six missionary assistants and their wives were also butchered that day. In total, 96 defenseless people were demonically eliminated: 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children. 

In time, all Moravian Native American communities came to an end. William Danker concludes: "One cannot help wondering what the future of the Indian American and the future of Indian missions might have been if the Moravian experiment had not been choked in blood."

Think about this the next time you drive past a Native American casino.  

This is the mass grave of 96 Christian Native Americans and German missionaries who were scalped at Gnadenhütten, in Ohio, by 150 white men. The bodies were first piled in mission buildings by the monsters, and then the village was burned to the ground. No criminal charges were ever filed. 

Years later, a missionary by the name of John Heckewelder collected the remains and buried them in this mound, just south of the vanished village site. This burial mound is now listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, where an official marker reads: "Burial Site of Indian Martyrs." 

[This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unreported license. Attribution:
 Bwsmith84 at en.wikipedia.]