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, October 12, 2018

The Remarkable Link Between Liberty and Labor

When "Thank God It's Friday" and "Happy Hump Day" are commonly heard at work, one has to wonder if the workplace is a kind of prison for many people. A British friend of mine, David Oliver, wrote a great book on this topic, titled, Work: Prison or Place of Destiny.

The "Thank God It's Friday Syndrome" can easily take over when we fail to keep the remarkable link between liberty and labor in mind.

What is that link? 

Check it out in this short clip from God's Pleasure At Work

If the video does not play click here.

Friday, October 5, 2018

An Awkward Question

Mr. Rogers testifying before congress in 1969.

Photo by http://www.fredrogers.org/frc/news/mister-rogers-goes-washington-may-1-1969 (United States Senate via fredrogers.org) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Last week, after posting a piece in which I quoted Martin Luther extensively, a friend sent me an awkward question: 

"And while you tend to quote Martin Luther, why don't you ever quote anything from his book, 'On the Jews and Their Lies'?"

It's strange, isn't it? From the same mind that gave us "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," came an anti-Semitic treatise. 

I've never read this book by Luther, nor will I waste my time doing so. But the book will not disappear. 

It's like the unwanted-yet-interminable caterwaul of ludicrous statements made by male buffoons in a high school yearbook, yet with no comparison in its devastating self-condemnation because it wasn't written by an injudicious teenager. Luther doesn't have that excuse. It pains me.

In response to my friend, I referred him to a song written by that great children's philosopher-pastor, Mr. Rogers. It's a thoughtful song (as all Mr. Rogers' songs are) titled, "Sometimes People Are Good." 

The opening stanza goes like this: 

Sometimes people are good
And they do just what they should.
But the very same people who are good sometimes
Are the very same people who are bad sometimes.
It's funny, but it's true.
It's the same, isn't it for me and...

When Mr. Rogers wrote that line, "It's funny, but it's true," he was not saying it was something to laugh about. He was saying it's strange. 

But did Mr. Rogers really think it was so strange? 

No. As he said, "It's the same, isn't it for me and..."

I'm not justifying Luther's anti-Semitic book in the least, nor am I minimizing this most egregious error. It's a dark blight on an otherwise very bright light. I'm just saying Luther was, in fact, human. That's not an excuse. It's just a fact. 

We could all use a bit of Mr. Rogers' perspective today. I invite you to take 2 minutes to watch him sing the "Sometimes" song during the first season of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, in 1968, some 50 years ago:

If the video does not play, click here.

Friday, September 28, 2018

"Shovel That Manure For The Glory Of God"

God used a bull-headed former monk with a red-hot pen to quash the "Sacred-Secular Divide" by putting farming on the same level with the priesthood.

Martin Luther, in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, wrote:

"Therefore I advise no one to enter any religious order or the priesthood, indeed, I advise everyone against it--unless he is forearmed with this knowledge and understands that the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but that all works are measured before God by faith alone."

He also said:

“The idea that the service to God should have only to do with a church altar, singing, reading, sacrifice, and the like is without doubt but the worst trick of the devil. How could the devil have led us more effectively astray than by the narrow conception that service to God takes place only in church and by works done therein… The whole world could abound with services to the Lord ['Gottesdienste']…not only in churches but also in the home, kitchen, workshop, field.”

Luther declared, “A dairymaid can milk cows to the glory of God. If your job is shoveling manure, then do your best and shovel that manure for the glory of God.”

It’s hard for us to fully appreciate how radical these words were in Luther's time. The “Sacred-Secular Divide” was deeply entrenched, and God raised up a bull-headed former monk with a red-hot pen to quash it by putting farming on the same level with the priesthood. 

Luther understood we are not only saved by faith, but we also work by faith, both priest and shoemaker. Followers of Christ live by faith. Any work done by faith, for the glory of the Lord, is Gottesdienste, “service of God.”

Luther further declared: “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., stood on his namesake’s shoulders when he said this about a person's calling:

“If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven played music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.”

Christianity gives labor dignity.

Martin Luther King's ideals were based upon Christian principles.

Photo by Nobel Foundation (http://nobelprize.org/) [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, September 21, 2018

What Success Looks Like

For the past 10 years, I have blogged about how we can approach human labor in the larger context of the biblical worldview. Yet, to the best of my recollection, I have never addressed the question of what success looks like when it comes to our state of mind at work.

I will do this today. 

However, as I do this, I am reminded of Viktor Frankl, the psychiatrist of Jewish descent who spent two-and-a-half years in four Nazi concentration camps, penning these words in his great book, Man's Search for Meaning: 

"Don't aim at success," advised Frankl, "the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself."

This is excellent advice. "Success" (like "happiness") is not the target. Rather, it is the by-product of surrender to a cause much greater than ourselves (the Kingdom of God), and to the most important Person in the universe

To see what success looks like, with respect to a biblical state of mind at work, click here

As with the list of "Juicy Questions" I provided last week, the list of mental attitudes I am sharing today is not intended for ingestion all at once. You'll choke on it. Focus on one state of mind per week, and it will  keep you occupied for nearly a year. 

Onward and upward.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Juicy Questions

[Photo used by permission of Crosstown Church of Christ.]

When I think of John Calvin working in the broken city of Geneva to renew it, in the 1500s, one word comes to my mind: intentionality. 

When Calvin taught the believers how to connect their faith with their "station in life," he was intentional and specific. As I mentioned last week, he advised bankers to not charge more than 4% interest, lest they fall into the sin of what the Bible calls "usury."

For Calvin, getting people "saved" was not the end game. It was a necessary first step, and Calvin knew there was a second and a third and a fourth. He understood believers are called to observe all that Christ commanded, and he recognized that this observation was to fully occupy our lives after we say "I do" to the Lord. 

Leading people to say "the prayer" is great. But teaching them to observe [practice] Christ's commands is a big part of the Great Commission of Matthew 28 as well, and intentionality is needed.  

May I encourage you to be more intentional about observing Christ's commands in your workplace today?

I will provide you with some thought-provoking questions to "get the juices going." Glance through the list provided below, and see if one or two questions resonate with you.  Think about these questions as you approach your work today, whether your work is in the home or in the marketplace. Try a couple more questions tomorrow, and the next day, etc.  

For my list of juicy questions, click here.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Three Essentials

Corruption in the church was no stranger to Calvin.
[Photo formerly attributed to Hans Holbein (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons.]

A low point of my summer came when I heard about the child sexual abuse by 300+ priests involving 1,000+ victims over 70 years in Pennsylvania. The scope of the scandal stunned me. 

The problem is not limited to the church. In our nation's schools, 25% of US school districts reported incidents of sexual abuse over the past 10 years. In 2014 alone, roughly 800 school employees were prosecuted for sex crimes with students. These were caught. Imagine 70 years.

Yet, non-believers will add the latest church scandal to their justifications for rejecting Christianity (of any stripe) altogether. 

Corruption in the church is not new. I think of the priests who operated houses of prostitution in Geneva, in the 1500's. 

The people ran the bishop out of town in 1530. William Farel, a French evangelist, came in 1531.
His co-worker, Antoine Froment cried in the markeplace, "We must reform the church in order to reform the nation!" 

Farel sought John Calvin, demanding he come to Geneva to apply the theology he was writing about. Calvin came at the age of 27, and rebuilt this broken city on three essentials:

1. Preaching the Gospel: "...so that people would be saved and start to be transformed and the church would be restored to biblical purity."

2. Teaching: "...so that people would know how to live, the authorities would know how to govern, and all would know how to work in their different spheres." 

3. Accountability: "...so that the teaching would not just be theoretical but applied in all areas of life."

Calvin had no room for a Sacred-Secular Divide. He believed "holy vocations" included the work of the banker as well as the pastor, and advised bankers to not charge high interest rates, identifying this as the sin of "usury" in the Bible. Calvin understood that Jesus is the Lord of all banks.

Geneva became "a city on a hill," where a healthy church of transformed people engaging in God-glorifying work throughout every sphere of life in the city brought righteous commerce and just governance to the public square from the inside out, not the outside in.  

John Knox came to Geneva and took what he learned to Scotland. English believers were influenced by Geneva, and later brought the so-called "Protestant Work Ethic" to North America.  

See Thomas Bloomer's, "Calvin and Geneva: Nation-Building Missions." Click

There's hope. If...

Friday, May 25, 2018

Biblical Worldview Training Boot Camps

Join fellow teachers and administrators for training and inspiration at the Manderley Christian Camp & Conference Center this summer, in Pikeville, TN.

It's my custom to take a break from blogging during the summer months, so my next post, Lord willing, will be out on the first Friday of September.

In the meantime, I invite you to join me at the Manderley Christian Camp & Conference Center, in Pikeville, Tennessee, this summer, for the 2018 Biblical Worldview Training Boot Camps for Teachers and Administrators, hosted by Renewanation.

I look forward to speaking on The Lost Purpose for Learning, and also providing practical tools for accomplishing biblical worldview integration in the classroom.

There are 4 camps this summer, held on the following dates: July 23-24, July 26-27, July 30-31 and August 2-3.

For details, including registration, click here.

I hope to see some of you there!

Onward and upward.


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Friday, May 18, 2018

This Is Not Your Mainstream European Thinking

Viktor Orban delivers his inaugural address at the start of his third term as Prime Minister of Hungary. 
Photo by Thomas Kovacs

From a Christian perspective, there is not a lot of positive press coming out of Europe these days.

So what happened on May 10 was unusual, as the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban, was sworn into office for his third term. He won the election by a 2/3 majority. This in itself is noteworthy, but what is more noteworthy is Mr. Orban's inaugral address.

Consider this:

“Let us acknowledge that hidden behind the successes one always finds the grace of God. So the following is not just a rhetorical flourish, and not just tradition, but a deep conviction: Soli Deo gloria – Glory to God alone.” 

And this:

"I will not conceal our intentions: here before you I am making it clear that, acting in the name of Hungarian freedom, my government will be a determined opponent of [the plan for one European government], the process that has led here and its intermediate steps. Multiculturalism was the first such step. Political correctness, which muzzles freedom of speech, was the second. This is where Europe stands today. The third step would be the mandatory migrant resettlement quotas. We must and we will enter the arena of European politics, in order to stop the Europe that we love – and for which we are ready to make major sacrifices – climbing to the next step towards self-immolation. We shall oppose the mandatory quotas, stand up for Christian culture, and fight to defend borders.”

Stand up for Christian culture?

And then this:

"One cannot renew an entire nation in secret. In my view, a contribution to the results we have achieved so far has been made by our open declaration that the age of liberal democracy is at an end. Liberal democracy is no longer able to protect people's dignity, provide freedom, guarantee physical security or maintain Christian culture...Our response to this changed world, the Hungarian people's response, has been to replace the shipwreck of liberal democracy by building 21st-century Christian democracy. This guarantees human dignity, freedom and security, protects equality between men and women and the traditional family model, suppresses anti-Semitism, defends our Christian culture and offers a nation the chance of survival and growth. We are Christian democrats, and we want Christian democracy."

Glory to God alone?  Protect the traditional family model? Suppress anti-Semitism? Defend Christian culture?

This is not your mainstream European thinking.  

Let's keep Mr. Orban, and Hungary, in our prayers.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Who Has Charge Of Planet Earth?

"Saint Anne," 8th century painting. She appears to have just realized something very significant. 

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The room fell breathlessly silent.

I was speaking to a group of Christian school teachers and administrators at a conference when I posed this question: "What is the purpose of education?" 

Before anyone could reply, I answered: "The purpose of education is to equip the next generation to govern well over this material world."

I let the silence hang. Then someone near the front broke the silence: "Would you mind repeating that?"

I did.

Then I asked if anyone had ever told them this before, and not a single hand was raised.

Yet, what specific role and function does the Bible say God had in mind for humans before He created us? Clearly, God had governance of Planet Earth in mind, when He said: "Let Us make man in Our likeness and image, and let them rule over...all the earth..."

Psalm 115:16 says: "The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men.” The Message puts it this way: “The heaven of heavens is for God, but he put us in charge of the earth.” 

See also Psalm 8. 

Yes, "the earth is the Lord's and everything in it" (Psalm 24:1), yet He has given humans charge of it, as His appointed Vice-regents.

Wait! Really?! Who has charge of Planet Earth? 

You and I do. And our neighbors. Think about it. Human beings were created for the express duty of governing over God's earth and everything in it. This includes water, electricity, fish, cows, carrots, digital images, e-books, airplanes and ice cream!

I believe this is why George Swinnock, the Puritan leader, said: “The pious tradesman will know that his shop as well as his chapel is holy ground.” 

We were created to rule over whole systems, too, because without systems, governance over things cannot happen. This is why we need legal systems, civil systems and economic systems that work well. We need economists, judges and legislators with their heads screwed on straight.

So if it is God's intention for human beings to govern over this material world, shouldn't the purpose of education be to equip the next generation to do this well? 

This provides meaning for education--and purpose for teachers. Yet, few Christian teachers have heard this. Why? 

Hint: How many sermons have you heard about God giving humans charge of Planet Earth?

Christian school leaders, please click here.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

The Center for Christian Civic Engagement

Ric Fritz, speaking in the chamber of the Washington State legislature in Olympia.

Last week I posed the question of whether or not Christians should be politically active. Frankly, if there ever was a time for civic engagement on the part of Christ-followers, it is now. Yet, for many who think they should be involved somehow, the lingering question of how to best go about it often hangs unanswered. 

Yet, this is precisely why my friend Ric Fritz founded the Center for Christian Civic Engagement.

Ric and his wife sold their house (along with nearly everything else) and bought a "fifth wheel" which is now their home, shared with two of their children. They did this so they could be mobile, going wherever God leads them, to encourage Christians to become engaged in "conversations that will shape and guide future generations." They also seek to help pastors know how they may equip their congregants to be civically engaged—and why this is so important.

As Ric puts it: “The need for Christian Civic and Political Engagement is increasingly important in a world and culture disconnected from the Lord. Policies and legislation passed by government impacts God’s people. They can either encourage people to live Godly lives or they can encourage ungodly lives. As conservative, Bible-focused Christians retreat and disengage from political discussions it follows that the character of those who step in to fill the void will not reflect Christian values. This is exactly what we see today. Christian Civic and Political Engagement seeks to stop and reverse this trend to the glory of God.”

Ric is uniquely qualified for what he is doing. Not only did he serve a full career in the U.S. Air Force (now retired from duty), but Ric is also a credentialed minister, and a former youth pastor. He also has first-hand experience in the political system.

The Center for Christian Civic Engagement is not trying to re-invent the wheel by duplicating the efforts of others. Rather, Ric is helping followers of Christ to know how they may come along side those who are already working in particular civic arenas with a biblically-informed motive and perspective. Ric's organization serves as both a clearing house and a connecting body, as well as an education source.

Pray for Ric, that doors will be opened.

If you want to know what your options are for involvement in civil engagement, whether it's a tiny involvement or a large involvement, contact Pastor Ric.

I invite you to explore the website of the Center for Christian Civic Engagement here, and meet Pastor Ric via the video clip below:

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