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Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Place Of Destiny

Martin Luther maintained that milking cows is as much the work of God as any deed of a monk, if the one milking does her work by faith. This understanding was articulated later by the Puritan pastor George Swinnock, who said, “The pious tradesman will know that his shop as well as his chapel is holy ground.”  

The current re-awakening of this liberating truth has the marks of an authentic move of God, international in scope. While I am most familiar with what is going on in the US, I know from others, such as David Oliver in the UK, that the Spirit is at work on both sides of the pond, as well as around the globe.

David is the founder of Insight Marketing. He is an international speaker and business consultant, who regularly appears on British television and radio. I have known him for nearly a decade, and have the utmost respect. He is not only a man who understands the biblical concept of work, but lives his understanding in the “real world” of business.

I am pleased to announce that David’s book, Work: Prison or Place of Destiny, has just been re-issued in a new edition with added chapters by Mark Greene, Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and myself.   

Mark Greene says, “David Oliver’s gracious perseverance of purpose and clarity of vision provides a fresh way forward that, if heeded, could see a decisive shift in church culture. And thereby in our nation.” John Beckett, author of Loving Monday, says David’s book, “may be just what you need to reset your focus onto God’s agenda for your life.” I agree!

As mentioned last week, the Apostle Paul elevated the work of slaves to the work of God. It is such an understanding of work that turns the workplace from “prison” to "a place of destiny.”

Whether you’re a bus driver, a banker, or a biologist, David’s book, Work: Prison or Place of Destiny, will motivate you to live out your destiny in the workplace like never before.

If you read just one book in the next year on the topic of living out your faith in the workplace, let it be this one. And give a copy to your pastor. 

In the US, e-books are available at http://bit.ly/WPOPDUSA. In the UK, at http://bit.ly/WPOPDUK

Here is a personal message from David: 

If the video does not play, click here: http://bit.ly/WPOPDVID

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Make It God's Work

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

These slaves had no choice about the kind of work they did every day. They could not take aptitude tests to discover their strengths, nor sit down with career coaches to figure out better job fits. If their masters were demanding, ego-centric, or downright cruel, they had to live with the situation. (Do you think you've got it bad? Really?)

Thankfully, Paul did not write, “You are not alone, my dear friends! Nobody’s work in this world really matters. Not even the tents I make have any lasting value! They all deteriorate in time. Focus only on the next life. Keep the faith.”

On the contrary, Paul’s remarkable words to slaves hold a great key for bringing extraordinary meaning to "ordinary" work. His directive is particularly helpful when our jobs are difficult and painful, or the work we're doing makes us feel like slaves.

If you do car repair work, housecleaning work, or longshoreman’s work, and your work doesn't really seem like “God’s work,” there is something you can do about it, without a change of location: you can make it God’s work.

Make it God’s work? How?

By doing what Paul advised slaves to do: think differently about the work you are currently doing. Specifically, think of doing your work “as unto the Lord.” 

This means, if you repair cars, approach your next repair job as though your customer is Christ. Repair the car as though it is Jesus’ car. If you clean houses, clean your next house as though Christ lives there. If you carry wooden beams off a ship all day, carry each beam as though it were to be used by the Lord Himself for some great purpose. (It can’t be as heavy as His cross.)

For many years we have heard the saying, “WWJD: What would Jesus do?” The implication is, “What would Jesus do if He were in my shoes?” I suggest a different question: “WWID: What would I do if Jesus were in my customer’s shoes?” “What would I do if the money I’m managing were Jesus’ dollars?” and, “What would I do if the clothes I’m ironing were to be worn by Christ?” 

This is what it means to do our work “as unto the Lord.” Try it for just one hour. Then another. And another.

Again, it starts in our heads.

Are you feeling like a slave in a "dead-end" job, wishing you were doing something else? Maybe you should make a change, if you can. I don't know. But try a change of mind before you make a change of location--or your clothes.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

It Starts In Your Head

When we think of Jesus, we usually think of Him preaching to thousands, healing people, and dying for the sins of the world. But Jesus spent the majority of His days doing carpentry work. Certainly He was helping Joseph full time by the age of 13, and continued doing carpentry work until 30. Jesus worked at least six times longer as a carpenter than as an itinerant teacher and miracle worker. 

We don’t know much about the life of Christ during His carpentry years, but we do know this: Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" during that time (Luke 2:52). This is a remarkable statement.

By Christ's own testimony, He only did what His Father showed Him to do (John 5:19). The question is, when did this arrangement begin? Did it just start when Jesus was baptized at the age of 30? Or was this the case during His carpentry years too?

When Jesus was baptized, His Father proclaimed: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased  (Matthew 3:16-17).” This was before Jesus healed anyone, and before He called a single disciple.  

Certainly Christ’s character and obedience were pleasing to the Father. But I suspect the Father was also pleased with what Jesus had done with His time up to that point, and how He spent His daily energy, doing what His Father showed Him to do: carpentry. For Jesus, this, too, was the work of God.

Jesus did not struggle with a "sacred-secular split." There is no doubt in my mind that Christ modeled what it means to govern over wood. I do not believe He would have grown in favor with the folks of Nazareth had He done shoddy carpentry work. Justin Martyr, the 2nd century historian, wrote that plows made by Jesus and Joseph were used in his day. If this is so, Jesus and Joseph must have done superior work!

Imagine what would happen if all followers of Christ engaged in their daily work as the work of God. It would turn the world upside down--again.    

If that's too big to wrap your mind around, just think about turning your own office, shop, or kitchen around. Do your work as the work of God for just one hour. And then another. And another. It starts in your head.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

The 800 Pound Gorilla

In a telephone interview with Nancy Pearcey, author of Total Truth, she articulated why so many Christians fail to see work in politics, business, education, the arts, and science as ways to serve God. She pointed out that many Christian young people think that if they really want to serve God, they should go into "ministry," which means being a pastor or missionary.

The problem, Pearcey maintains, is accepting a "sacred-secular distinction." That is, putting work in "sacred" and "secular" categories. The Sacred-Secular Divide is a mental stronghold that's hard to remove. I am convinced, however, that ridding ourselves of SSD is the first step (and perhaps the biggest step) toward bringing significance to any human endeavor.   

Have you ever heard a Christian say, "Someday I'm going to quit my job and go into the ministry?" The unspoken message is: "I don't see my current work as a sacred task." Seeing fish management as "full-time Christian service" is unthinkable. It does not come easily to the evangelical mind. 

SSD is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. I don't want to be critical of pastors [they have a tough job], but when was the last time you heard a sermon on how to get rid of the Sacred-Secular Divide? When was the last time the car mechanics in your congregation were brought up front to be prayed for, and sent out with a commission to service automobiles well, repairing each car as the Lord's car (doing their work "as unto the Lord"), and seeing their repair work as the very work of God? 

Yes, the car does belong to Christ! The whole earth is the Lord's, and everything in it. And ruling well over grease and ball bearings is part of what God had in mind for humans before He created Adam and Eve. Repair work itself is sacred, when done in response to the First Commission of Gen. 1:26-28, and in fulfillment of the Great Commandment of Mark 12:29-31. 

Yes, we need pastors and missionaries. But we don't need to justify car repair work as an opportunity for evangelism, or a way to earn money to support the others who are in..."the [real] ministry." Because car repair is ministry too.  

Ask Jesus. He was a carpenter.

Here's my interview with Dr. Pearcey: 

If you cannot play this video, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypID1NXF2Bw

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Friday, October 3, 2014

The Good Works Of Biologists And Car Mechanics?

This photo shows our oldest son at work, radiotracking tagged fish. He works for the State of Washington Department of Fisheries, spending his days doing the highly scientific and demanding work of fish management. Is he doing the work of God? Is he doing something God wants done in the earth? Is this work really important to the Lord? Is this part of Christ's purpose for humans today? If a young man came to you for advice, saying he wanted to go into "full-time Christian service," would fish management be on your list of possibilities?

A slow reading of the First Commission of Genesis 1:26-28 will cause most people to conclude that ruling over fish, as our son Nathanael does, is an outworking of the governing role and function God planned for human beings when, before creating Adam, He declared:  "...let them rule...over all the earth." This includes trout and salmon. 

Would it be a stretch to say that in governing well over fish, Nathanael is doing a "good work" which God "prepared beforehand for him to do," as Ephesians 2:10 puts it? A decade ago, I would have said, "You've got to be kidding!" But today I say, "Why not?"   

Why should I limit my scope of "good works" to helping old ladies with groceries, and volunteering time at the mission on Saturday? Does a biblical "good work" only qualify as "good work" when it's done without pay? 

When Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven," was He excluding good work done by a follower of Christ at the Boeing Company, making airliners beautiful and safe, or at Starbucks, making a latte that's a work of art?

I believe God calls us to share the Good News of salvation with those who don't know Christ. I believe we are saved by faith alone, and that good works don't earn us eternal life. But while we aren't saved by good works, we are saved for good works. Can this include the good works of biologists and car mechanics? Or longshoremen and janitors?

Ask Josh Kelly about this. After serving as a full-time pastor for 14 years, his church ran out of money, which led him to take a job at Starbucks. Here Josh asked himself, "How spiritual is making $4 lattes? What is the eternal value of blending up an extra-caramel Caramel Frappuccino?" 

But Josh realized that mopping the Starbucks floor was part of his call to rule over dirt. And in the process, Josh discovered the Holy Spirit was also guiding his conversations with co-workers and customers. He learned about the struggles of people in the "real world," and was able to share God's love with those who walked through the door, from the panhandler, to the gay couple, the businesswoman, and the retiree. 

For the full story, read Josh Kelly's new book, Radically Normal.

Some people actually get paid for doing this sort of thing! But Nathanael has the added bonus of knowing he's doing what God created and commissioned humans to do. Managing trout! Like this beauty from the Cedar River. If this isn't God's work, I'll eat my tackle box.

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