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, December 25, 2009

The Greatest Christmas Gift

One of my favorite carols is Joy To The World.

The words are by Issac Watts, based on his paraphrase of Psalm 98:

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth, with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.

Some people believe Joy To The World is not about the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. They say it is about His second coming, not the first. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy_to_the_World.)

The joy that is sung about, then, is a future joy that will occur when Christ returns, to “make the nations prove the glories of His righteousness,” in that full expression of His Kingdom yet to come.

But for me, the song makes as much sense as a celebration of the first coming of Christ in Bethlehem.

While I’m looking forward to that full and perfect expression of Christ’s Kingdom in the future, I’m also celebrating the Kingdom that has already come. Jesus is Lord of all. Today! Not just in the future, but at this present moment (Acts 2:36; 10:36).

No, the Kingdom of God isn't fully recognized, or perfectly expressed right now. I believe this will happen when Christ comes the second time. But that domain over which Christ is King (His Kingdomain) presently includes both Heaven and Earth!

This is the greatest Christmas gift: that Christ the King has come “to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.” And He intends His blessings to flow through carpenters, cops and CEOs (today!) who are reconciled to God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and reconciling all things to Christ--including their work things! That's the idea behind Christ's coming in the first place. (See II Cor. 5:17-20 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=II%20Cor.%205:17-20&version=NIV and Col. 1:17-20 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Col.%201:17-20&version=NIV.)

So, no more let thorns infest the ground. By God's amazing grace, put your work gloves on, go to your workplace after the Christmas holiday and start pulling up bramble bushes--and planting redwood trees.

Joy to the Earth! the Savior reigns; Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

The First Commission

Last week I claimed that carpentry is the work of God. Even pounding nails and building a home in your neighborhood.

I justified this claim by referencing the “The First Commission,” found in Genesis 1:26-28.

It is the very first command of God to human beings.

Here's how The Message puts it:

God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself...

He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
"Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
or every living thing that moves on the face of Earth."

Genesis 1:26-28 is sometimes called, “The Cultural Mandate,” or, “The Dominion Mandate.”

But I prefer to call it, The First Commission.

And what a commission it is!

Here we have a commission to rule over the entire globe! It is a command to take charge.

Chuck Colson summed it up this way: “On the sixth day, God created human beings—and ordered them to pick up where He left off!”

Randy Kilgore says: “God created a world that functions on order, and requires labor for its tending. He created you and me to be a part of that order, to do that labor. Even when our acts at work don’t seem to have eternal significance, their very rendering fulfills His original commission to humans to tend His creation.”

"Creation-tending" is a very big job! Ruling over "all the Earth" (not just the animals) entails a responsibility as broad as the world is wide, and requires a lot of varied occupations, including carpentry, as well as civil service, high-tech work and homemaking.

Earth-tending involves physical work ( as with Adam the landscaper, tending and keeping the Garden), and mental work (as with Adam the zoologist, naming the animals.)

Both kinds of work occurred before the Fall. Work is not a curse. The curse just made work more difficult.

Did the Fall cancel The First Commission?

I don't think so.

Ruling over trees, metal, electricity and water pipes is all part of what goes into building a good house. And when Joe builds that house, he is participating in The First Commission.

That's the way I see it.

What do you think?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Like Discovering A New Continent

If someone said to you, “My friend, Joe, is doing the Lord’s work,” what work would come to your mind?

Most people would imagine Joe is a pastor or a missionary. Maybe a doctor, if Joe is practicing his medicine overseas among the poor, with nothing in return, that is.

But if Jonathan Edwards were alive today, I dare say Edwards would ask: “In what line of work? The aerospace industry? Farming? Retail sales?”

Yet, we no longer put those kinds of jobs in the category of "the Lord's work."

In Paul Stevens’ excellent book, The Other Six Days, he writes: “What is needed is a comprehensive biblical foundation for the Christian’s life in the world as well as the church, a theology for homemakers, nurses and doctors, plumbers, stockbrokers, politicians and farmers. Recovering this, as Gibbs and Morton said decades ago, would be like discovering a new continent or finding a new element.”

There’s that idea again: recovering.

I expect Stevens says “recovering this..." because he knows people such as Jonathan Edwards would have taken it for granted that God does His work through carpenters, cops and CEOs.

To limit “the Lord’s work” to the work of a pastor, a missionary, or a volunteer doctor in Africa would have been off the radar.

Am I saying "Joe the carpenter" can be doing the work of God by pounding nails?

That’s exactly what I’m saying.

And I am not talking about Joe volunteering his carpentry skills to build homes for needy families in Mexico, as commendable as that is.

I am talking about Joe pounding nails for the XYZ Construction Company from 7:00am until 4:00pm, Monday through Friday, while building a new house down the street in your neighborhood.

How can this work be the work of God?

Well, if Joe puts his work with the XYZ Construction Company into the context of a biblical worldview that sees every nail and 2x4 as belonging to God (Ps. 24:1), and every swing of the hammer as a response to The First Commission to "rule over all the earth" (Gen. 1:26-28), then it starts to make sense.

But there's more to how Joe's work for XYZ Construction can be the work of God.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, please view the new video of the month. It is Paul Stevens again, this time speaking about "ministry" and the work of the Lord: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bkm89trY9zM

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Bring Meaning To Your Work As The Work Of God

A recent Wall Street Journal article provides a good follow-up to last week's post. The article, Idle Hands: Some Puritan Advice for the Unemployed, appeared November 19:

“…the Puritans... had a view of work in which God looms large. [They] believed that all of life, including their work, was God's, and, as such, infused with purpose and meaning…

...Martin Luther, in his doctrine of vocation, taught that God gave each individual an occupational ‘calling.’ Man's vocation was not seen as impersonal and random, but as from a loving and personal God who bestowed each individual with natural talents and desires for a particular occupation...

…17th-century tradition held that sacred occupations (like priest or monk) trumped secular ones (like farming or blacksmithing). The Puritans, however, rejected such a distinction. Holding to 'Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might' (Ecclesiastes 9:10), the Puritans sanctified the common, believing that all work, however lowly, if done for the glory of God, was good…The farmer's plow became his altar, his tilling an act of service to God every bit as holy and valuable as the priest's….

Now, I’m not suggesting the Puritans did everything right. Nor is the WSJ article suggesting that. But the Puritan view of work was biblically motivated, and this is what interests me most.

“Biblicity” (did I just invent a new word?) is what allowed Jonathan Edwards, and his forerunners, Luther and Calvin, to view work in a profoundly remarkable way.

Last week I asked if "worklife discipleship" could be restored. I think it can. But to get there, I believe we have to re-learn how to view our work in the context of a comprehensive biblical worldview and an explicit theology of work.

This begs the question, "What is a biblical worldview and a theology of work?"

I'll fill that in as we go along. But for now, I'd just like to say that when you see your work in the context of a biblical worldview and a theology of work, as Luther, Calvin, and Edwards did, your work (no matter what kind of work it may be) takes on previously unimaginable significance.

In fact, seeing your work in the context of a biblical worldview and a theology of work allows you to bring meaning to your work as the work of God.

To be continued.

For the full Wall Street Journal article by Amy Henry, see http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704431804574541403268485712.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Can Such A Vision Be Restored?

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a pastor, a missionary to Native Americans, and the third President of Princeton University. Among his descendants have come scores of pastors and missionaries, 120 college professors, 110 attorneys, 60 authors, 30 judges, 13 college or university presidents, 3 congressmen, and one Vice President of the United States.

But there's more to the story.

While doing eight years of Ph. D. research on Jonathan Edwards, Dr. David Scott discovered something remarkable:

“One day…I came across the discipleship curriculum that the puritan pastor Jonathan Edwards had been trained in by his church in how to have a God-filled work life. They even had a name for it…'technologia,' a Latin term for their little-known method of teaching the art of God-centered work.... Edwards and his fellow students—future pastors and merchants alike—were tested in it in order to graduate from early Yale. The Puritans knew what it meant for the church to purposely pastor people in their work. We do not.”

The above is from an article published by WorkLife, Inc. (formerly called, "His Church At Work"), an organization founded in 2003 by Doug Spada for the purpose of helping churches to be effective in worklife discipleship today.

Dr. Scott, who is now a history professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, goes on to say: “If you asked an engineer in one of our churches what designing computer components has to do with the kingdom of God, my bet is that he or she probably could not pass the test. The reason is that we modern evangelicals have no functional equivalent for the systematic work life discipleship teaching that Edwards took for granted…”

The former custom of teaching people "the art of God-centered work" is no longer customary. For the most part, worklife discipleship has gone the way of men's powdered white wigs.

I'm glad the wigs are gone. But somewhere between Jonathan Edwards' day and our own, we lost something really vital: a systematic method for training followers of Christ in God-centered work. All kinds of work. As the English Puritan Pastor George Swinnock put it, "The pious tradesman will know that his shop as well as his chapel is holy ground."

This concept of work held by the Puritans was passed on by design, being systematically built into the mind and habits of "pastors and merchants alike."

But the vision to "purposely pastor people in their work," as Dr. Scott put it, has vanished, not only from formal education, but from nearly every church and home in the country.

Can such a vision be restored?

I'd like to think out loud with you about this in the weeks to come.

I highly recommend that you read Dr. Scott’s full article, at http://filemanager.silaspartners.com/dox/hischurchatwork/AnotherGreatOmission-WorkLifeandtheChurch.pdf

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Primary Location For Spiritual Formation

“I’m prepared to contend that the primary location for spiritual formation is the workplace.”

This remarkable statement is by Eugene Peterson, in his recent book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. Peterson is the author of The Message (the Bible in present-day English), who served as a Presbyterian pastor for several years.

I’m curious to know when Eugene Peterson developed this contention that the workplace is “the primary location for spiritual formation.” If he held this conviction while he was a pastor, his church must have been very unusual.

Not many churches have a budget line item directed toward spiritual formation in the workplace. Not many churches have programs that specifically help people integrate their faith with their work. Marriage? Yes. Parenting? Yes. Foreign missions? Yes. Evangelism? Yes. Music? Yes. Community service? Sometimes. Workplace? No.

In 2005, I interviewed twenty senior pastors in the greater Seattle area, asking them about their own church-related beliefs and practices regarding faith in the workplace. 20 out of 20 indicated they believed the local church should play a role in influencing the Monday-through-Friday workplace. A strong majority felt the church should be training, equipping, encouraging, instructing and/or supporting its members in this endeavor.

But when I asked what their level of satisfaction was with how their own churches were doing in this regard, the average response was 4.58 on a level of 1-10 (10 being the highest).

Twelve pastors (60%) gave themselves a 5 or lower. Six pastors (30%) gave themselves a 3 or lower. 80% of the responses were 6 or lower.

About 75% of the pastors felt that having classes at church that focused on how to specifically apply Christianity to practical matters in the workplace would be a positive thing to do. However, only one pastor indicated that such classes had ever been taught in his church.

When I mentioned the idea of publicly commissioning professionals and trades-people during Sunday morning services for the service of Christ in the workplace during the week, most pastors liked the idea. But hardly any had done so.

A couple of pastors indicated they had Sunday service prayer for teachers, police officers and firefighters. Apparently, accountants and car mechanics are off the radar.

My intention is not to be critical here. Churches have enough criticism directed toward them. But why is there such a disconnect between Sunday and Monday?

Any thoughts?

If you haven't viewed the video of the month yet, take a moment to hear Paul Stevens' thoughts on the role of the church in equipping saints for workplace service: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4jLkPzdkuc

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Friday, November 13, 2009

The Deepest And Most Significant Changes

One of the first books that opened my eyes to the faith-at-work frontier was Doug Sherman and William Hendricks' landmark piece, Your Work Matters To God, published in 1987.

Of all the formats the authors have used for teaching followers of Christ to integrate their faith with their work, Sherman and Hendricks say the small group experience, when effectively done, produces "the deepest and most significant changes."

I have a feeling John and Charles Wesley would agree. Along with William Wilberforce.

For those who want to live out the biblical worldview in real life, and to play an effective role in transforming culture, Sherman and Hendrick's advice is as fresh today as it was 22 years ago: "Consider forming an on-going group of associates who purpose to bring biblical principles to everyday work situations.”

The authors suggest such groups be discussion-oriented around specific workplace situations, where participants can experience accountability as well as mutual support and encouragement in making the connections between those workplace situations and authentic Christianity.

Sherman and Hendricks also recommend that such work-focused small groups be homogeneous. As they put it, “…it will obviously be easier for a secretary to think through what it means to serve Christ as a secretary with other secretaries and clerical workers than with vice presidents and CEOs.”

I’m wondering if any of you (readers of this blog) are presently in a work-focused small group such as the kind Sherman and Hendricks describe.

I am not talking about a group of working people who meet together for general Bible study. I am not talking about a group that meets for prayer, unless that prayer is specifically focused on workplace matters. I am not talking about a group that meets for a Christian book study, unless the book is about biblical applications to specific work issues that group members are facing.

What I am talking about are work-oriented small groups that meet regularly for the specific purpose of bringing biblical principles to specific workplace challenges and opportunities that participants in the group are currently facing. A true support group.

Are any of you part of such a work-life support group? If so, would you mind posting a comment, sharing how it is working for you and those in your group?

If you are not in such a group, but have thoughts on this matter, please post a comment.

Posting comments helps others. But if you are reluctant to submit your comments for the whole world to read, please send me a direct e-mail at overman@biblicalworldview.com. I’m truly interested in your thoughts, and in your experience along these lines.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

The Most Fitting Place

One reason I am passionate about helping followers of Christ to connect their faith with their everyday work is because authentic Christianity is not just something for the individual soul, but for the community as a whole.

If you take William Wilberforce’s passion for the reformation of society, and combine it with John Wesley’s passion for "real Christianity," then mix it together with regular gatherings of a small "Clapham Circle" of Christian businessmen, bankers, and other politicians for advice, encouragement, accountability and perspective, what do you get?

You get what the English poet William Cowper described as, “the better hour.”

There are four big take-aways from the Wesley-Wilberforce story that are meaningful to me:

First, while Wesley's work as a full-time preacher-teacher was the right thing for him to do, if Wilberforce had left politics to go “into the ministry” it would have been a great loss. A Christian politician can be “in the ministry” too, directly by doing his or her daily work in that field.

Second, a small group of believing friends to provide encouragement and accountability in connecting one's faith with one's work is indispensable.

Third, the application of real Christianity to all of life is transformational, not just for individuals, but for whole communities and nations.

Fourth, there is no better opportunity to live out the application of real Christianity than in the context of everyday, regular work. This is what Wilberforce did.

When it comes to "salting" and "lighting" the world, isn’t the everyday workplace the most fitting place for followers of Christ to apply the biblical worldview to real life, in natural and normal ways?

I’m not talking about sharing the Four Spiritual Laws with co-workers here. I’m talking about living out authentic Christianity in the context of our work relationships, decision-making processes, policies and procedures, marketing and sales, product development and production, pricing, contracts, accounting, management, strategic planning and community service.

Right now millions of followers of Christ are already sprinkled throughout the workplaces of the world, at all levels of society, in all arenas of influence. What might happen to whole communities and nations if we all did our daily work, in all spheres of human endeavor, "as for the Lord?"

Os Guinness was profoundly correct when he said: "God has His people where He wants them. The problem is that they are not being His people where they are.”

Wilberforce demonstrated a keen understanding of the full-orbed Gospel of the Kingdom. This understanding changed the face of his nation—and the world. I think it is time for a refresher course.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

A Practical View of Real Christianity

“[It is] impossible to tell from a typical sermon whether the preacher [is] a follower of Confucius, Muhammad, or Jesus Christ.”

Sir William Blackstone made this statement over 200 years ago “after visiting the churches of every major clergyman in London,” reports Chuck Stetson in his 2007 foreword to the reprint of William Wilberforce’s A Practical View of Real Christianity.

What led to Blackstone’s comment? For one thing, in 1661, punitive and vicious anti-Puritan legislation was passed by the British Parliament. As a result, priests who were Puritans (1/5th of all British clergy) were expelled from the Church of England.

By the time Blackstone toured London's churches in the 1700s, he “did not hear a single discourse which had more Christianity in it than the writings of Cicero,” writes Stetson.

But in 1739, John Wesley (1703-1791), his heart having been “strangely warmed” by the Holy Spirit, began to preach a different message in open-air meetings. Over the next fifty years, Wesley commissioned many preachers who were not ordained or licensed by the Church of England.

At the same time, Wesley encouraged small groups of believers to meet for the strengthening of their faith. Wesley’s new small group “method” of discipleship became a hallmark of “Methodism.” Sometimes persecution produces wonderful things, as was the case in early 20th Century Korea, when the Japanese imprisoned Korean believers who would not bow the knee to the Emperor.

Forty-seven years later, in 1786, when the "Methodist" movement was in high gear, William Wilberforce experienced his own personal spiritual awakening, just five years before Wesley passed on. Wilberforce called this his “great change.”

I wonder if William Wilberforce’s conversion would have occurred at all, apart from the spiritual awakening of 18th Century England in which John Wesley played such a significant role. I also wonder if Wilberforce’s “Clapham Circle” would have become a reality had it not been for Wesley's small group “method” whereby believers received encouragement in the practice of “real” Christianity," which they were not learning about in church.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Merry Olde England?

In the time of William Wilberforce, 25% of the single women in London were prostitutes. Liquor flowed so plentifully that it became known as the “Gin Age.”

Chuck Stetson, in the Foreword to a 2007 reprint of Wilberforce’s work, A Practical View of Real Christianity, writes that “gambling was a national obsession and ruined thousands.” And, “daylight fornication [was practiced] on the village green.” Stetson also writes of “auctioning one’s wife at a cattle market,” and “executions, known as Hanging Shows,” that “attracted huge crowds.”

Stetson writes: “…murder, general lawlessness, thieves and highwaymen were so prevalent that Horace Walpole warned, ‘One is forced to travel, even at noon, as if one were going to battle.’”

In addition, false signals were lit at night on the seashore to lure ships into rocks where the shipwrecks were plundered, with no regard for drowning sailors.

Merry Olde England?

William Wilberforce (who is Chuck Colson’s model and the model for the SALLT Academy I wrote about last week), was one of those followers of Christ who, like the 9-11 fire fighters, headed into the problem rather than away from it.

As a member of 18th Century British Parliament, Wilberforce was active in politics when converted to Christianity in his 20s. At first, he thought about leaving politics and going into “the ministry.” But John Newton, the former slave trader who wrote the words to Amazing Grace, persuaded Wilberforce that a strong follower of Christ was needed in Parliament. Thank God for Newton’s good advice!

Wilberforce is most famous for his tireless efforts to abolish slave trading in England. This was a goal that took twenty years to accomplish. But Wilberforce had a second stated mission in life: “the reformation of manners.”

Wilberforce was not talking about British table manners. He was referring to British culture. The culture described above. And this might be another reason Newton urged Wilberforce to use his influence as a follower of Christ in Parliament.

But there is more to the story of the reformation of Merry Olde England. God raised up another man whose name begins with W: John Wesley.

The stories of Wilberforce and Wesley go hand-in-glove. (To be continued.)

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Friday, October 16, 2009

The SALLT Academy

Recently I was invited by the former District Attorney of Oklahoma County, Wes Lane, to meet with a group of about twenty-five members of the Salt And Light Leadership Training Academy (SALLT), in Oklahoma City. I spent the day with them on October 9.

In my thirty years of teaching about biblical worldview, this is the most unusual group I've had the pleasure to address. Among its members are two sitting Oklahoma senators (one currently running for Lieutenant Governor), the County Commissioner, the President of Oklahoma Christian University, a former Miss America, an owner of the city’s baseball team, a member of the Oklahoma City School Board, the Director of the Oklahoma Memorial, prominent business leaders, numerous lawyers, and the list goes on.

The SALLT Academy is an eight-month curriculum in which members come together for one day per month to receive instruction, pray, and focus on city issues in light of the biblical worldview.

We spent the day looking at how to assess matters through the lens of a biblical worldview, and how to propose solutions to city challenges and opportunities that are specific, winsome and consistent with that worldview.

The group was very responsive to what was shared. By the end of the day, they were applying what they had learned to a particular issue that is facing one of their peers. It was truly an amazing thing to watch, and a privilege to be a part of it.

The model for the SALLT Academy is William Wilberforce, the 18th Century Christian who served in the British Parliament. By God's grace, Wilberforce, along with a small group of friends known as the "Clapham Circle," worked tirelessly to abolish slavery in Britain. They succeeded after 20 years of effort.

Wilberforce's Clapham Circle consisted of about ten followers of Christ who were businessmen, bankers, and politicians living in the village of Clapham, near London.

Wes Lane's vision is that many "Clapham Circles" will be spawned in Oklahoma City as a result of leaders' participation in the SALLT Academy curriculum.

Please remember Wes and the SALLT Academy in prayer. What is happening in Oklahoma City could be a model for other cities throughout the world. Pray that God will have His way in the development of the curriculum, and the birthing of "Clapham Circles" to follow.

For more about the SALLT Academy, see http://saltandlightleadership.com/

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Friday, October 9, 2009

The Engine That Pulls The Train

“We don’t find meaning in our work, we bring meaning to our work.”

These are the wise words of Bonnie Wurzbacher, Senior Vice President of Global Customers for the Coca-Cola Company, who is a dedicated follower of Christ.

Wurzbacher sees a divine intent for business. She actually sees her work (yes, her work with Coke) as fulfilling the purposes of God in the earth and advancing His Kingdom.

Really? Coke?

In a phone conversation I had with Bonnie last year, she explained it to me this way:

“I believe that anyone’s theology of work is understanding how what they do advances the Kingdom of God here on earth.

And business, I believe, does that in two ways: First of all, it contributes to the economic well-being of communities around the world, which allows everyone to use their God-given gifts and talents; and secondly, as the sole source of wealth creation in the world, it enables every other social, civic and even spiritual institutions to exist…through the taxes, and salaries and also the generous giving of businesses and of business people….”

Think about it. Churches do not create wealth. Their doors are kept open by the free-will giving of congregational members. Civil governments do not create wealth. Without a confiscatory tax system that withholds funds from people’s paychecks, all governments would fold. Schools don’t create wealth. They consume it. So do hospitals and non-profit organizations of all types.

Business is the engine that pulls the train on which every civil, social, and spiritual institution rides.

Bonnie is highlighted in the video of the month. To view, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ake9KgWyB9g

Last week I wrote about a special gathering for men in the Seattle area with Chuck Colson on the morning of October 21. This week I want to let women know about a special gathering for you on the evening of October 22, with Bonnie Wurzbacher.

Don't miss this, ladies! If you live in the greater Seattle area, I urge you to come to the “Women in the Workplace” event at Westminster Chapel in Bellevue to hear Bonnie speak.

Register on-line at http://www.westminster.org/connect/groups/women/special-events/, and forward this information to your friends by clicking the SHARE button below.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

A Great Simplifier

Albert Einstein said, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” And General Colin Powell once remarked, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers.”

Chuck Colson is a great leader because he understands the critical issues of our day and he is able to communicate in such a way that ordinary followers of Christ can grasp what is important and run with it. Colson is a great simplifier.

Maybe this comes from his experience in politics. I don’t know. But one thing is for sure, Colson is sounding a clear trumpet for the Body of Christ to “run toward the problem rather than away from it,” as I alluded to last week when I suggested Christian young people become loan officers.

But Colson is not just calling for Christian loan officers. He is calling for Christ-following scientists, politicians, lawyers, business leaders of all kinds, artists, musicians and educators. He is doing this by helping people to understand what a biblical worldview is and why it is critical to the future of civilization.

Serving in the White House as Richard Nixon's counsel from 1969-73, Colson’s own life was radically altered when he received Christ as his Lord and Savior during the turmoil of the Watergate affair. Then, after serving time in prison for his offenses, he founded Prison Fellowship Ministry.

Since then, he has worked tirelessly to restore a biblical worldview to people's way of thinking and living. He knows this is the most essential way to reverse the inflow of future inmates, and to make society a safer place to live.

Last December, Colson was called to the Oval Office once again. This time by President George W. Bush, who awarded him the Presidential Citizen's Medal--the second highest honor a president can bestow upon an American civilian.

On Wednesday, October 21, 6:30-8:00 am, Colson will be speaking at a men's rally in Bellevue, Washington, near Seattle. If you are a man living in this area, I urge you to reserve your seat at http://www.linkingshields.com/.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Heading Into The Problem Rather Than Away From It

Last week I made the unsettling statement that the Kingdom of God is “contaminated.” That is to say, the present expression of Christ’s Kingdom on earth has been infected by the work of a malicious enemy (Satan), who came in the night and sowed bad seed into the Lord’s field: His Kingdom (Matthew 13:37-43).

I think the fact that we presently live in a contaminated "field" may be the crux of the reason why so many Christians tend to withdraw from this present world, and why some of us see the work of a pastor or a missionary as being the only truly worthwhile and significant occupation on earth (as I did when I was twelve).

We don’t like to think of God's world as being infected. Sick. Broken. Furthermore, we may tend to think that because the field is so infected with weeds, it isn’t worth anything to Him, or to anyone else. And the airplanes we build keep decaying in a world where things get old and fall to pieces.

This may be the reason why as a child I tended to focus more on after-life issues than the present life, when it came to considering what would be a worthwhile occupation for me to pursue in the here-and-now.

Not only do temporal things decay, but when we see political activity contaminated by human pride and greed, the natural tendency is for us to distance ourselves from politics. “It’s dirty.” And when we see business practice infected by the love of money, we tend to think devout Christians ought to disassociate themselves from professions that deal with a lot of money.

While there are certain professions that can never be pleasing to God (such as human trafficking), there are very few professions that cannot be redeemed [restored, renewed, reclaimed] by the grace of God being expressed through His people in the workplaces of the world.

I think that's what He wants to do with us, and one reason why our "ordinary" work is so important to Him.

Think of the firefighters of 9-11, heading into the problem rather than away from it. As followers of Christ, shouldn’t we be heading into the problem, rather than away from it? And doesn't it make sense to do this through the portal of the work-world?

In view of all that has transpired this past year, shouldn’t we be encouraging Christian young people to become loan officers of the future?

Shouldn't we?

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Friday, September 18, 2009

His Kingdom, With Or Without Weeds

If we are currently living within the Kingdom of God, and the rule of the Creator-Sustainer is a present reality, why did Christ teach us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come…?” (Matt. 6:10)

Describing the Kingdom of God is like the blind men describing an elephant. One man touches an ear and declares, “the elephant is like a fan!” Another touches the tail and shouts, “the elephant is like a rope!” It depends on which aspect of the elephant one touches.

When it comes to the Kingdom of God, there is both a present expression of the Kingdom and a coming expression. They are not exactly the same expressions. To put it in the context of Matthew 13, the coming Kingdom is "the Kingdom without weeds." The Kingdom where “all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness” have been removed (Matt. 13:41). Until then, God's present Kingdom contains weeds.

Even so, it is still His Kingdom, with or without weeds. In its current state of disrepair, the whole “field” of planet Earth, and all that it contains, including every airplane flying overhead, is the Creator-Sustainer’s own possession (Psalm 24:1).

Does this mean Jesus owns everything in the Boeing Company, and the Boeing manufacturing plant just miles from my home lies within the realm of Christ’s rule, under the jurisdiction of His present Kingdom? I say, “yes.” Jesus is Lord of all (Acts 10:36), whether the Boeing Company recognizes Him as such or not!

Why does understanding this matter? The ramifications for our everyday work are enormous. It means there is no type of earthly work that can be done outside the present Kingdom of God, because the jurisdiction of Christ’s rule extends over every human activity, and there is no earthly occupation that takes place outside the borders of the King's domain.

It gets very practical. If I’m sweeping floors, I’m sweeping part of His Kingdom. If I am building airplanes, I am molding and shaping His Kingdom’s “stuff” into machines that fly through His Kingdom’s sky. This gives building airplanes a sublime dimension, and it gives all work an awesome significance: It is His world we are working in, and His stuff we are working with.

But if I limit my understanding of the Kingdom of God to only its coming pristine expression, and I fail to appreciate its present (albeit contaminated) expression, I'll tend to focus on the age to come, and miss the significance of the here-and-now, including the full significance of everyday work in God's present Kingdom. Including building airplanes.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

There's No Other Place To Fly

In the parable of the wheat and the weeds ( Matthew 13:24-30,36-43), we see the “Son of Man” (Jesus) planting “good seed” in “His field.” He calls the good seed the sons of the kingdom, and refers to His field as the world (v. 38).

Which “world” is Jesus referring to here? I believe He is referring to the created realm of planet Earth, which is a wide "field." And in this parable, Jesus refers to this field as “His kingdom” (v. 41).

But then Satan came and planted “bad seed” into Christ’s field, the world (v.39).

So both “wheat” and “weeds” are growing in Christ’s field. We just need to watch the 6 o’clock news to see that "weeds" abound.

But it's strange to think of both the Lord's “wheat” and Satan's “weeds” co-existing side-by-side in Christ’s kingdom! Yet Jesus clearly says that “at the end of this age, the Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness…” (v. 41)

What's that? Are people who “practice lawlessness” in the Kingdom of God? Does the Kingdom of God contain “things that offend?”

For this to make sense, I have to think of the Kingdom of God in its broadest sense as the domain over which Christ is King, and the jurisdiction over which He rules.

When I think of it in this way, I can easily understand how both “wheat” and “weeds” are in God's Kingdom. That’s because no one lives outside His jurisdiction. There’s no other place to exist!

His Kingdom rules over all (Psalm 103:19), and that covers a lot of territory. And it also includes a lot of stuff. That’s why I said last week there are "many airplanes in His kingdom." There’s no other place to fly.
At least that's how I view the Kingdom of God--in it's broadest sense.

Have any of you picked up on the faulty idea that when sin entered history, God turned this world over to Satan, and now the planet belongs to him?

Big ideas have big consequences.

What differences do those two contrasting ideas make on how we view earthly occupations, like building airplanes?

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Friday, September 4, 2009

In His Kingdom Are Many Airplanes

To understand how we can “serve God by building airplanes,” as I put it last week, we must comprehend the breadth of the Kingdom of God.

In my previous post, I wrote that God is the Ruler of this world. But Jesus called Satan the ruler of this world! (John 14:30)

What gives?

What gives is, the word “world” has four meanings in Scripture: populated regions, the human race, the created realm of planet Earth, or a system of thought and behavior that is contrary to the ways of God.

John 3:16 says: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” Here the meaning of “world” is the human race.

But I John 2:15-16 says: “Love not the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Here “world” connotes a system of thought and behavior that is contrary to the ways of God. Or as John puts it: “…the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.”

In Romans 1:8, “world” refers to populated regions: “I thank my God…that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world;” while in Romans 1:20, “world” refers to the created realm of planet Earth: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen…”

When Jesus calls Satan “the ruler of this world,” I believe He is referring to Satan as “the ruler of this world-system,” not the ruler of the created realm of planet Earth, the human race, or populated regions. These "worlds" are God’s alone.

Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains, the world and those who dwell therein.”

Psalm 103:19 says, “His kingdom rules over all.” That's as broad as creation is wide! And in His Kingdom are many airplanes.

Yes airplanes. It may sound a bit "earthy" to put it in such terms, but I'll try to justify these words next week.


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Friday, August 28, 2009

The Hazards of Either-Or Thinking

The problem I experienced in my youth was that I separated the "work of God" from the "God of work."

What do I mean by that?

First let me clarify that the eternal destiny of a human soul is critically important, and cooperating with God in the re-birthing process of a human being is the greatest joy we can experience.

I thank God my Mother explained why Jesus died for me. She helped me walk through the amazing re-birth process, whereby I became part of the family of God, and received assurance that I would live with Him forever. I remember this monumental moment like it was yesterday.

But I reduced the Gospel to the “Gospel of Personal Salvation.”

In my view from the pew, I saw the “work of God” as only that which pertained to the after-life and the soul.

Why did I think this way?

Because I divorced the material world from the spiritual world. I divided time from eternity. I separated this world from that world, and failed to see that it is all God’s world.

Our God is not the God of either-or, but the God of both-and: both this world and the next. And He is the Supreme Ruler of both!

Either-or thinking can trouble (torment?) followers of Christ in a culture that divides this world from that world.

Josh Smith (thanks for commenting, Josh) experienced this when he asked his wife, "How do I serve God when I am so involved in making a living, being a father, husband, son, son-in-law...?"

The hazards of either-or thinking can cause a follower of Christ who works at Boeing to say,
“How do I serve God when I am so involved in building airplanes?”

But the fact is, we serve God by building airplanes!


To be continued…

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Polish Brass on a Sinking Ship?

Growing up in church, I often heard the Great Commission of Matthew 28 quoted, but little mention was made of the First Commission of Genesis 1.

In the Great Commission, Jesus says: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you… "

This was often quoted in reference to missionaries, which may explain why I reduced the message to: “Go tell people how they can be saved, so that when they die, they can go to heaven.”
To my impressionable mind, soul-saving was the only real reason for living, and the only legitimate purpose for Christians to remain on earth after they got saved.

The First Commission of Genesis 1:26-28—where God commissioned humans to govern over all the earth—was far off my radar. After all, it is a commission to rule over this material world, and somehow I got the impression the material world was something I should not take very seriously.

Songs to that effect filled my young mind: “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through...;” “Turn your eyes upon Jesus…and the things of earth will grow strangely dim…” “Some glad morning when this life is ‘ore, I’ll fly away…”

Heaven was the focus—not Earth. “Why polish brass on a sinking ship?” This didn’t leave many occupational choices for me. If I was going to do something truly God-honoring with my life, my choices were limited to being a pastor or a missionary.

Have you ever felt this way? If so, I’d like to journey with you. The comments and questions that you provide will help to move our conversation along.


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