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 30, 2011

The Video Has Over 1,211,000 Hits

It brought tears to my eyes. A computer project by the 5th grade class of a public school near the Bering Sea, in Southwest Alaska.

My sister-in-law sent me the link: a video rendition of the Hallelujah chorus of Handel's Messiah, done by the Yupiq Eskimo village of Quinhaquak, population 550. The project was done with the help of a creative schoolteacher, along with community members pitching in. As I write this post, the video has over 1,211,000 hits.

Watching this clip, I was struck afresh by the multicultural truth of the Hallelujah chorus, pertaining to all nations and peoples: The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ. For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, King of Kings, Lord of Lords. And He shall reign for ever and ever. Hallelujah!

His reign shall never cease. And it's omniplicable [a word I just created, meaning "applicable to all"]. No human authority has ever risen above it, nor ever shall. Even the royal authority of King George II, who stood to his feet at a London performance on March 23, 1743, was not above it.

Did I say March? Not December? That's right. Handel's Messiah was originally written as an Easter oratorio, not a Christmas work. Although Part One deals with the birth of Christ, the Hallelujah chorus concludes Part Two of the oratorio, which describes the Passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.   

Yes, the Hallelujah chorus was written with Christ's resurrection in mind. King of Kings, ruling forever, and ever. Very much alive today.

What is remarkable about Handel's Messiah is that the entire score, taking nearly three hours to perform, took a mere 24 days to compose. I honestly don't think I could copy the score by hand in 24 days, let alone create it from scratch. Handel is said to have told a servant upon finishing the Hallelujah chorus, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself!”

I believe it. I think this may explain my misty eyes. Like Handel, as I watched the video I saw the living Lord, not a dead one. I saw the resurrected Christ, not just an historic figure born in Bethlehem. I saw the Kingdom of our Lord proclaimed afresh, 'mid snow, ice, Eskimos and bush planes.


See for yourself: http://youtu.be/LyviyF-N23A.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

The Greatest Christmas Gift

[This post first appeared December 25, 2009.]

One of my favorite carols is Joy To The World. The words are by Issac Watts, based on 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 say Joy To The World is not about the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. They say it is about His second coming, not His 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 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-yet-to-come, I’m also celebrating the Kingdom-already-here! Jesus is Lord of all. Today! Not just in the future, but in this present moment (Acts 2:36; 10:36).

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

This is the greatest Christmas gift: Christ the King has come “to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.” Right now.

Our Savior came to make His blessings to flow through carpenters, cops and CEOs who are reconciled to God, and reconciling all things to Him, 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, let's put our work gloves on, go to our workplaces after the Christmas holiday and pull up some bramble bushes--and plant some 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!

Merry Christmas.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Inextricably Joined

My decision to accept Jesus as Lord at the age of eight turned out to be the most pivotal decision of my life. As it turns out, this decision to receive Christ as the Savior of my soul (which at the time was the main purpose for the decision), was the first step of an on-going journey.

It wasn't until years later that I realized this decision did not a disciple make. While there is nothing I could do to earn salvation (it was a gift I accepted), and I was happy to know I would not go to hell when I died, God had much more in mind.

I said last week that the Great Commission of Matthew 28 has "a fundamental connection with this present life." I said this because of the part about "...teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."

While receiving Him as Savior is the starting point, the subsequent "observation of all things Christ commanded" is supposed to follow. Where is this "observation" supposed to take place? I suppose it is to take place on planet earth. I believe this is why Jesus concluded the Commission with the promise of His presence "until the end of the age," which is a very earthy endeavor.   

The reason our organization, Worldview Matters, focuses on the application of Christian faith in the area of work, is because work fills the majority of our waking hours on this planet. Not just work for pay, but any expenditure of energy, mental or physical, for pay or not, that rightly manages God's stuff (this material world).

This involves driving trucks, building bridges, managing money, creating music, selling real estate—not to mention washing dishes and mowing the lawn. This is what The First ("Cultural") Commission entails−the Commission in Genesis 1, to rule [govern, steward, manage] over the entire realm of God's creation. 

In this context of ruling over creation through our work, the "observation of all Christ commanded" can be fulfilled in truly significant ways. In the context of daily work the very goal of the Great Commission can be effectively accomplished. 

This is why I believe The Great Commission of Matthew 28 and The First Commission of Genesis 1 are inextricably joined.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Colson Was Momentarily Speechless

Last week, Chuck Colson related in his daily BreakPoint about speaking with a group of pastors regarding engagement of culture. "Afterward," Colson said, "the pastors had a lot of questions — but they were also a little confused. One confessed, 'I’d never heard of the Cultural Commission, and will it interfere with fulfilling the Great Commission? Isn't that our job—to win people to Christ?'"

Colson was momentarily speechless: "Of course we're called to fulfill the Great Commission," he replied. "'We're also called to fulfill the Cultural Commission.'"

He went on: "Christians are agents of God's saving grace — bringing others to Christ. But we are also agents of His common grace: We're to sustain and renew His creation, defend the created institutions of family and society, and critique false worldviews."

This exchange with a group of pastors underscores a critical issue deserving more attention among evangelicals. We have bifurcated the First Commission of Genesis 1:26-28 [the "Cultural Commission"] and the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, much to the church's determent, and the detriment of society at large.

This condition could go a long way toward remedy with pastors preaching a robust theology of work from the pulpits. With such leaders teaching it regularly, we could see a change in the thinking of the church at large, with respect to integration of faith and daily work.

But I don't think this will happen until the two Commissions are bonded as one in the minds of church leaders, and the integration of faith and work is viewed as essential to the fulfillment of the Gospel itself.

Actually, there is much overlap between the First Commission of Genesis and the Great Commission of Matthew. The Great Commission is largely a re-statement of the First, with the added necessity of restoring people to a right relationship with the Lord. This relationship was broken at the Fall, not long after the First Commission was given, and this relationship is critical. But both Commissions have a fundamental connection with this present life on planet earth.

I'll pick up from here next week.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

I Am Now A Pastor/Barista, And Loving It!

The following is a guest post by Joshua Kelley, lead pastor of The Gathering, in Mount Vernon, WA, and barista at Starbucks. More information about Joshua and his book can be found at www.radicallynormal.com. Contact josh@tgcconline.com.

What does a full-time pastor of 14 years do when he realizes his church is running out of money and has to cut his salary in half?

This pastor (me) got a job at my home-away-from-home: Starbucks. I am now a pastor/barista, and loving it! The job is fun, I get to work with some great people, I like (most of) the customers, and I get to drink a lot of good coffee. After all those years of ministry, preceded by four years of college, it is good to be back in the “real world.”

But every now and again (especially at first), I doubt myself. How spiritual is making $4 lattes? What is the eternal value of blending up an extra-caramel Caramel Frappuccino? As a pastor, I have frequently taught that all work can be ministry and all Christians should be ministers wherever they are, but it’s different now that I am the one with the “regular” job! 

I distinctly remember one of these waves of doubt. I was busy mopping the lobby but mentally working on a book I’ve been writing called The Radically Normal Christian. In my book I’m attempting to correct the Christian tendency to undervalue the things of this life that God wants us to enjoy. Suddenly, I realized this applies directly to my work at Starbucks.

I was undervaluing God’s First Commission, which wasn’t “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18-20), but to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:26-30). In others words, God commissioned you to go and live life, to make your mark, and to fulfill your calling as someone made in his image.

By the very act of working hard to accomplish something, I am fulfilling my calling as a child of God. Now add to that all the opportunities I have to be a light here. The Holy Spirit has initiated and directed conversations with my co-workers. I am learning about the daily struggle of the real world. I am able to bestow dignity and God's love on every person who walks in, from the panhandler, to the gay couple, the businesswoman, and the retiree.  

Perhaps you are struggling with the spiritual value of your "regular" job. Be encouraged! You are serving God and bringing him glory in the manner that he has called the majority of his children to.

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