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Posted: 29 Oct 2014 10:01 PM PDT
Would you be more likely to say “God is changing me" or “God has changed me”?
Many Christians are comfortable saying the former, but some of us might hesitate to say the latter: “God has changed me.” We are much more likely to say, “I have a lot more changing to do. I’m a work in progress. I haven’t yet arrived.”
There is indeed a continuing process of sanctification happening within the believer, but the completed work of regeneration is of equal importance. Regeneration is the complete transformation that begins the continuing process of sanctification.
It seems that many Christians have a good grasp on the continuing process, but perhaps a more tenuous grasp of the completed work. So here are seven Scriptures that speak clearly of Christ’s completed work in you as a believer.
"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Cor. 5:17, NIV)
Paul does not say, “If anyone is in Christ, he is becoming a new creation.” He does not say, “The old is going away.” Nor does he say, “The new is gradually forming.” He says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” There is no process here. This is something that has happened in its entirety, and it’s true of you if you are in Christ.
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Gal. 2:20, NIV)
Regeneration didn’t just happen to Paul; it’s true of every believer. It’s a done deal.
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." (Col. 3:1-3, NIV)
Notice it’s not, “If you hope one day to be” but, “Since you have been . . .” If you are a believer, you have been raised with Christ. You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. There is something for us to do (as there are in all these passages) in setting our hearts on things above, but you do that by taking in the first part of the verse.
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" (1 Cor. 6:19, NIV)
Some Corinthians also struggled with regeneration. “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit,” not “is becoming a temple of the Holy Spirit.” You have received him from God. If you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit lives with you and in you. His presence gives you power, and that makes the Christian life possible for you. That’s why it’s important to know.
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light." (Eph. 5:8, NIV)
He doesn’t say, “You have light,” he says, “You are light.” Your very nature was darkness. You were darkness, now you are light. Your nature has changed. Notice how Paul brings regeneration and sanctification together: “You are light.” That’s regeneration. “Live as . . . light.” That’s sanctification. You can’t live as light, unless you are light.
"You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." (Rom. 6:22, NIV)
Many Christians don’t grasp this point. They would say, “You don’t understand; I sin and fail in many ways. I’m not yet free from sin.” Paul says, “Wait a minute! You have been set free from sin.” He’s writing to ordinary Christians like us. Sin is still your enemy, but it is no longer your master. You are no longer sin’s prisoner. You are no longer in chains. You are no longer under your old master. You can fight against temptation by God's grace. That’s why there is hope for you.
"You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." (1 Pet. 1:23, NIV)
You can’t be a little born or half born. Either you are born or you are not born. The language connotes completed transaction. This is what has happened to you in Christ. Regeneration is God’s completed work in you. It is not a process. It does not happen in stages. That’s what makes it different from sanctification. You can be a little in love, but you cannot be a little married. Sanctification is like being a little in love. Regeneration is like being married. Either you are or you aren’t. You cannot be a little regenerated.
Regeneration is the complete transformation that begins a continuing process called sanctification. The great truth of sanctification is that “God is changing me.” The great truth of regeneration is that “God has changed me.” We need both.
Posted: 29 Oct 2014 10:01 PM PDT
How much can college ministry really differ from campus to campus when you're dealing with 18- to 22-year-olds? Quite a bit, actually, depending on your region of the country, the priviate or public nature of the school, and the religious foundation or ongoing commitment of the school.
Jon Nielson and Solomon Rexius (follow on Twitter) minister in two very different campus contexts (see their previous article, "Seven Questions for Two College Pastors"). College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, where Nielson works, stands next to Wheaton College, a private Christian school with about 2,400 undergraduate students. Rexius serves as college pastor at University Fellowship Church in Eugene, Oregon, one of the most liberal and unchurched regions of North America. He graduated from the University of Oregon, and most of the students in his ministry attend this public school of 24,000 students. So these two men lead college ministries in areas that appear to share little in common. But as you'll hear from them, the gospel unites believers across geography, age, experience, and vocation.
I brought Jon and Solomon together to discuss the privilege of discipling college students in such varied settings. We explored how the gospel of Jesus Christ makes the goals and methods of their respective ministries quite similar. And we dove into the details of evangelism, social media, and retreats, along with the relationship between Christian campus ministries and colleges. Don't miss their wisdom on how to encourage college students to serve in the local church and put them in contact with adult mentors.
Resources recommended by Solomon and Jon for students or college ministers included:
Posted: 29 Oct 2014 10:01 PM PDT
Editors' Note: TBT (Throwback Thursday) with Every Square Inch: Reading the Classics is a new weekly column that publishes some of the best writings on vocation from the past. Our hope is to introduce you to thoughtful literature that you may not have discovered yet and, as always, to encourage you to know and love Christ more in all spheres of your life.
As with other aspects of business, so it is with competition: the evils and distortions that have sometimes accompanied competition have led people to conclude that competition is evil in itself. But this is not true.
We can think of some good examples of competition in other areas of life. To take one example, most people think competition in sports is a good thing, whether in children’s soccer leagues or Little League baseball or in professional sports. Although we can all think of bad examples of overly competitive coaches, for the most part we think competition in sports is a good system, and we think it fair that the best teams receive some prize or award at the end. (See 1 Corinthians 9:25-26 and 2 Timothy 2:5 for some metaphors of athletic competition that Paul uses in a positive way.)
Similarly, in our school system, assigning grades is a competitive activity in which the best math students and the best English students and the best art and music students receive higher marks. The grading system provides guidance to help students find something they can do well. When I fly in an airplane, I am glad that it has been designed by someone who got straight A's in mathematics and engineering. The grading system is “competitive,” and it guides society in assigning jobs to those who are best suited to those jobs.
In the business world, competition does that as well. We hired a careless painter once for our house, and he lasted only a day. But then we found a good painter, and we were willing to pay more for his high-quality work. The bad painter needed to find another occupation, and we were helping him do that by asking him not to come back the next day. The world is so diverse, and the economic system has so many needs, that I am sure there is some area in which he can fulfill a need and do well. But it wasn’t painting.
We must recognize, of course, that in every society there will be some people who because of physical or mental disability are unable to find productive work without help from others, either from charitable organizations or from government agencies. Surely we should support such efforts to provide a “safety net” for those unable to care for themselves. But in American society at least (with which I am most familiar), and in many other countries as well, there is productive work available for the vast majority of the population, and competition is the mechanism that helps workers find the jobs for which their interests and abilities best suit them.
So a competitive system is one in which we test our abilities and find if we can do something better than others, and so be paid for it. The system works well when we reward better work and greater quantity of work with greater reward.
In fact, if you have ever shopped around for the lowest price on a shirt or a computer or a car, your actions show that you approve of competition in the economy, because you are making competition work. You are buying from the person who can produce and distribute a computer cheaper than someone else, and you are encouraging that more efficient manufacturer to stay in business, and you are discouraging the less efficient, more expensive computer manufacturers from staying in business. This happens every day, and we take it for granted. But if we are going to be good stewards of our possessions we need to have competition in the marketplace.
Another benefit of competition is that people keep getting better at making things, and as a result the (inflation-adjusted) prices of consumer goods keep falling over the course of decades. This means that over time an economically competitive society will enjoy an increasingly higher standard of living.
The audio player I bought last week cost me $89, but a year ago it would have cost me $120. Similarly, computers keep getting better and prices keep falling, so more and more people can afford a computer, and everyone who buys one has more money left over than he or she would have had a year ago. The first pocket calculators cost around $100, but today I can buy one at the checkout counter at the drug store for $1. These are examples of how competition brings economic benefit to the society as a whole.
There is still another benefit to competition. God has created us with a desire to do well, and to improve what we are able to do. Competition spurs us on to do better, because we see others doing better and we decide we can do that too. An executive from a company that made mail-sorting machines once told me that his engineers thought they had made the fastest, quietest mail sorting machine possible—until he took them to watch a machine manufactured by a German company that was even faster and quieter. Then the engineers went back to work, determined to do even better. I think that God has made us with such a desire to strive for excellence in our work so that we would imitate his excellence more fully.
A kind of competition to try to do as well as or better than someone else seems to be what Solomon had in mind when he wrote, "Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor" (Eccles. 4:4). The term translated “envy” (in most translations) or “rivalry” (NASB) is the Hebrew word qin’åh, which can have either negative or positive moral connotations, depending on the context (much like our terms “jealousy” and “zeal”). Here it seems to have the sense “competitive spirit.” The verse does not say this is good or bad, only that it happens. (A different word, chåmad, is used in Exodus 20:17 when God says, “You shall not covet.”) People see what someone else has, and they decide to work harder themselves, or to gain better skills. In this way, competition spurs people on to better work, and they themselves prosper, and society prospers.
There is in fact a sort of mild “competition” implied in the testing of men before they become deacons: "And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless" (1 Tim. 3:10). If they do well in the time of testing (“if they prove themselves blameless”), then they can become deacons. If not, then they should find some other area of service within the church.
Competition seems to be the system God intended when he gave people greater talents in one area and gave other people greater talents in another area, and when he established a world where justice and fairness would require giving greater reward for better work.
Competition brings many opportunities to glorify God, as we try to use our talents to their full potential and thus manifest the God-like abilities that he has granted to us, with thankfulness in our hearts to him. Competition enables each person to find a role in which he or she can make a positive contribution to society and thus a role in which people can work in a way that serves others by doing good for them. Competition is thus a sort of societal functioning of God’s attributes of wisdom and kindness, and it is a way society helps people discover God’s will for their lives. Competition also enables us individually to demonstrate fairness and kindness toward others, even those with whom we compete.
On the other hand, competition brings many temptations to sin. There is a difference between trying to do a job better than others, on the one hand, and trying to harm others and prevent them from earning a living on the other hand. There is nothing wrong with trying to run a better car repair shop than the one down the street, but there is a lot wrong with lying about the other mechanic, or stealing his tools, or in my heart seeking to do him harm.
Competition also brings temptations to pride, and to excessive work that allows no rest or time with family or with God. There is also the temptation to so distort life values that we become unable even to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
But the distortions of something good must not cause us to think that the thing itself is evil. These temptations to sin should not obscure the fact that competition in itself, within appropriate limits (some of which should be established by government), is good and pleasing to God, and provides many opportunities to glorify him.
This excerpt is adapted from Business for the Glory of God. Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.org.
Posted: 28 Oct 2014 09:22 AM PDT
The rice fields became known as the “killing fields,” where Cambodians were forced to work during the dictatorship of Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge guerrilla army massacred an estimated two to three million people—more than 15 percent of the population.
Thirty-five years later, Cambodia is still recovering from the gory civil war that lasted three years, eight months, and 28 days. The genocide nearly wiped out Christianity when the Khmer Rouge, in their desire to obliterate anything having to do with urban society, executed anyone with religious affinities. Of an estimated 10,000 Christians in 1974, only a few hundred remained.
Post-war years of oppression have made Cambodians spiritually hungry and open to the gospel. Although Buddhism is the predominant religion, Christianity is spreading throughout the country. Today there are approximately 470,000 Christians, and the number continues to grow.
Cambodia still faces a lot of need. Ninety percent of the population lives in impoverished rural areas, with an average annual income of $256 USD. The Khmer Rouge’s elimination of education created a long-term lack of professionals and those with higher education. The church has felt this shortage, as many who desire to lead churches don’t have the necessary training.
In 2011 a group of retired pastors from the Korean American Presbyterian Church addressed the dire need for theologically-trained church leaders in Cambodia. They established Westminster Theological College and Seminary (WTCS) in Phnom Penh, the capital city. The school offers bachelor’s and master’s programs to (currently) 30 to 40 students.
Four times each year WTCS also provides a Pastoral Education Program with intensive theological and pastoral training. Each session draws 60 to 70 pastors from all over Cambodia.
Daniel Kim and his wife Young, also members of the Korean American Presbyterian Church, were introduced to WTCS through his brother-in-law, Rev. David Yuhan, who is Vice Chancellor of the seminary. After Daniel retired from pastoral ministry in 2003, the couple began serving as itinerant teaching missionaries. Although they live in California, they spend many months each year traveling overseas to seminaries and Bible schools to teach and train future church leaders. They’ve traveled intermittently to Cambodia since 2005. Three years ago they became faculty members at WTCS and now plan to stay in Cambodia three months out of each semester.
When the Kims’ journeyed to Cambodia in October–November of 2013, they brought along a case of ESV Global Study Biblesprovided by The Gospel Coalition International Outreach’s program Packing Hope. The couple hand-delivered a Bible to each WTCS student and observed their heartfelt gratitude for this gift and eagerness to use it.
When Daniel visited WTCS last May, he was pleased to see the students referring to the theological notes in the back of the Bible to aid in their teaching preparation and personal Bible study. One student, Caleb Zhu, said the new Bible is helping him “to understand God’s Word clearly and deeply.”
The seminary plans to expand the building and the student population as the church in Cambodia advances. “Workers are needed to teach, train, and mentor young men and women to become Christian leaders who would plant and build the Cambodian church, nation, society, and beyond,” Daniel says. He asks God to send more laborers into the harvest.
The fields of Cambodia, once “killing fields,” have given way to fields ready for sowing seeds of the gospel.
Google Inc., 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States
Posted: 29 Oct 2014 03:40 PM PDT
“When you’re out here filming the police for no reason you have to give us your ID.” Tracy, CA — A video was uploaded to YouTube Tuesday which shows an Full Article »
Posted: 29 Oct 2014 03:26 PM PDT
Harris County, TX — Deputy Collins with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office was accused of going 50 mph through a residential neighborhood by a citizen who claimed to have witnessed it. Full Article »
Posted: 29 Oct 2014 02:41 PM PDT
All education is self-education. Period. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop. We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn. Those people Full Article »
Posted: 29 Oct 2014 11:46 AM PDT
Napping can be great! But sometimes when you wake up after a nap, you feel groggy and almost as if you are more tired now than you were before taking Full Article »
Posted: 29 Oct 2014 08:18 AM PDT
Back when my parents were kids, they didn’t have the information that we do today. Drink coca cola, smoke cigarettes, cook with lard; it was all perfectly safe. It would Full Article »
Posted: 29 Oct 2014 07:13 AM PDT
Yuka Mammoth An almost perfectly-preserved 39,000-year-old female mammoth has gone on display in Moscow, as scientists speculate on how the ancient creature died, and what she can reveal about the Full Article »
Posted: 29 Oct 2014 05:40 AM PDT
When it comes to trusting the Obama Administration and, increasingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no one is making it harder for Americans to do so than the Full Article »
Google Inc., 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States
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Posted: 28 Oct 2014 10:02 PM PDT
I have five copies of Tim Keller's Center Church behind my desk. A seminary student at Beeson Divinity School once exclaimed, "Wow, you must really like that book." Yes, I do, but I have five copies because I'm always looking to give one away. At a time when young ministers in training look for church models that guarantee success, I'm thankful that Keller avoids this error and focuses on the principles of gospel-centered ministry. That way we can trust God to tease them our for our particular contexts around the world.
If you haven't already, don't waste any time and pick up an eBook copy of Center Church while it's discounted by Zondervan to just $7.99 for Reformation Week. Check out the complete list for many other excellent titles at steep discounts. PROOF by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones is one of the newest titles in the sale (just $3.99). Whether you hate Calvinism, wear the label proudly, or don’t even know who or what I’m talking about, you will learn a great deal from this important book. I haven't yet read The Crucified King by Jeremy Treat, but this enthusistic review of the new book we ran at TGC this summer convinced me to make the time. It's just $7.99, less than half of the list price of $17.99. Among the other new releases in this sale are the Practical Shepherding Series by Brian Croft, including Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals,Visit the Sick, and Prepare Them to Shepherd (each $2.99).
I'll link the entire list of eBooks for sale below. Zondervan's Reformation Week eBook Sale ends Sunday at 11:59 p.m. ET.
Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology. Sale: $6.99. Original: $34.99
D. A. Carson, Gagging of God. Sale: $6.99. Original: $19.99
D. A. Carson (General Editor), Telling the Truth. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99
D. A. Carson (Editor), Worship by the Book. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99
Bryan Chapell (Editor), Hardest Sermons You'll Ever Have to Preach. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99
Brian Croft, Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals (Practical Shepherding Series). Sale: $2.99. Original: $7.99
Brian Croft, Visit the Sick (Practical Shepherding Series). Sale: $2.99. Original: $7.99
Brian Croft, Prepare Them to Shepherd (Practical Shepherding Series). Sale: $2.99. Original: $7.99
Brian Croft and Cara Croft, The Pastor's Family. Sale: $3.99. Original: $9.99
Everett Ferguson, Church History, Vol. One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation. Sale: $7.99. Original: $25.99
Ajith Fernando, Reclaiming Love. Sale: $3.99. Original: $9.99
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology. Sale: $19.99. Original: $32.99
Wayne Grudem, Politics: According to the Bible. Sale: $7.99. Original: $26.99
Wayne Grudem, Christian Beliefs. Sale: $3.99. Original: $7.99
Collin Hansen and John D. Woodbridge, A God-Sized Vision. Sale: $2.99. Original: $10.99
Michael Horton, Pilgrim Theology. Sale: $7.99. Original: $22.99
Michael Horton, The Christian Faith. Sale: $19.99, Original: $38.99.
Michael Horton, For Calvinism. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99
Michael Horton, A Place for Weakness. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99
Timothy Keller, Center Church. Sale: $7.99. Original: $19.99
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers. Sale: $3.99. Original: $10.99
Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones, PROOF. Sale: $3.99. Original: $9.99
Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson (General Editors), Is Hell for Real or Does Everyone Go to Heaven? Sale: $3.99. Original: $5.99
Randy Pope with Kitti Murray, Insourcing. Sale: $3.99. Original: $9.99
Scott Thomas and Tom Wood, Gospel Coach. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99
Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert, The Gospel at Work. Sale: $3.99. Original: $9.99
Jeremy Treat, The Crucified King. Sale: $7.99. Original: $17.99.
Michael Williams, How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens. Sale: $2.99. Original: $11.99
Michael E. Wittmer, Heaven Is a Place on Earth. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99
Michael E. Wittmer, Don't Stop Believing. Sale: $2.99. Original: $6.99
John D. Woodbridge and Frank James III, Church History, Vol. Two: From Pre-Reformation to the Present Day. Sale: $7.99. Original: $30.99
Posted: 28 Oct 2014 10:01 PM PDT
Daniel Block. For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014. 432 pp. $34.99.
Do you get frustrated at the shallowness of some contemporary evangelical worship? Do you need help understanding a full-orbed biblical view of worship and communicating such a view to the people to whom you minister? If so, Daniel Block’s For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship is a book you should read.
As the subtitle suggests, Block wants to “recover” a biblical theology of worship. Why does a biblical theology of worship need to be recovered? First, he doesn’t like the pragmatism of much of today’s evangelical worship and believes the pragmatic approach can be remedied with deep biblical reflection on the subject. Second, he observes that many Christians tend to skip over the Old Testament (OT) when thinking about worship. Block, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College outside Chicago, believes a true biblical theology of worship must incorporate all of Scripture, including extensive interaction with OT worship forms and principles. In other words, he wants to give people abiblical theology of worship, not just a New Testament theology of worship.
Block compares his book (xiii–xiv, 3–4) to other contemporary biblical theologies of worship such as David Peterson’s Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship (IVP Academic, 2002) and Allen Ross’s Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation (Kregel, 2006). For the Glory of God, however, is slightly different from both. Instead of surveying the canon of Scripture from beginning to end (like Peterson and Ross), Block organizes the biblical data from the standpoint of various worship-related themes—hence chapter titles like “The Object of Worship,” “The Subject of Worship,” “Daily Life as Worship,” “The Ordinances as Worship,” “Prayer as Worship,” and “Music as Worship.”
Another key difference Block is quick to point out is his extensive treatment of the OT data. He believes Peterson’s book, for example, is unbalanced in primarily dealing with the New Testament (NT). Block, on the other hand, wishes to recapture the OT’s full significance for a Christian understanding of worship.
Each chapter of Block's book begins its biblical theology of the theme under discussion by starting with the OT, and rightly so. In most chapters, Block’s treatment of the OT is much more extensive than his treatment of the NT. As he turns his attention to the NT, each chapter attempts to show the continuities and discontinuities that determine how principles of worship should apply to the church today.
Another strength is the way the material is arranged. Since each chapter tackles a specific element of worship, the book is almost a collection of biblical theologies of worship that helps us think biblically-theologically about each worship theme. This makes it a great reference resource for those needing to think carefully about a certain aspect of worship, such as the ordinances and music. I can envision myself going back and re-reading certain portions to get a quick, chapter-length biblical theology of a particular element of worship.
The only real weakness I see in For the Glory of God is that I don’t believe Block always connects the OT and NT appropriately. I think he sometimes flattens out the Bible by not giving the NT the hermeneutical priority it deserves. His basic principle for connecting the OT and NT, stated more than once, is this: “unless the New Testament expressly declares First Testament notions obsolete, they continue” (7, 25). Block defends this approach by pointing out that the NT authors are relatively silent on many of the specifics of worship, and that the OT contains one hundred times as much information on worship as the NT. For him, this seems to imply that where the NT is silent on the specifics of worship, we should just let the OT principles fill in the gaps, so to speak.
Specifically, I disagreed with some of the ways Block brought OT data into the NT era and applied them to the church today. Take, for instance, his statement that families should use the liturgical year to develop a sense of spiritual community, based on the fact that Israel did so in their observance of the Passover (138, 287ff). The problem is that, seen through the Jesus-lens of the NT, the Lord’s Supper seems to fulfill this function for new covenant believers. Observing a liturgical calendar might be beneficial, but to say that Christians should do this based on the OT doesn’t seem warranted. Another example of wrongly carrying over OT worship themes into the NT is Block’s discussion of sacred worship space (chapter 12). He does a good job of showing how Jesus (John 2:19), the Christian individual (1 Cor. 6:19–20), and the corporate Christian community (1 Cor. 3:16–17) all fulfill the theme of tabernacle and temple in the new covenant. But then he jumps into a discussion of how these principles should affect contemporary church design and architecture, which I think is unwarranted given the way the NT itself lays out the fulfillment of these themes.
I believe this approach to relating the OT and NT is a bit too simplistic. Perhaps the NT authors have less to say about the particular forms of worship because they’re spending their time on something far more fundamental. They’re trying to help new covenant believers develop a Christ-centered lens through which they can understand all of life, including what God had been doing under the old covenant. Once this Christ-centered lens is in place, new covenant believers can figure out many of the specifics regarding worship forms on their own. Even where the NT doesn’t explicitly terminate OT forms, we must still take into consideration the Christ and kingdom dynamics that alter the way we read and interpret the entire OT and understand its fulfillment. Block uses this fuller principle in several places, but in my opinion doesn’t do so consistently throughout the book.
This said, this particular weakness only shows up in a few places. The book on the whole is a superb resource for helping the church think biblically about worship in light of the entire canon of Scripture, and I highly recommend it. I also recommend watching these video interviews with Block.
Posted: 28 Oct 2014 10:01 PM PDT
Over a cup of coffee, Wendell—an entrepreneur with a PhD in biomedical engineering—told me that he was thinking about making a career change. “I don’t want to waste my life,” he said. “I want to do something that has real significance, where I can glorify God and actually love people.” He went on to ask me if I thought he should become a pastor, a missionary, or a nonprofit leader—jobs he thought really mattered in God’s economy.
Wendell is a member of Redemption Tempe, the church where I serve as pastor of communities and cultural engagement. At our church, we preach the lordship of Christ over all aspects of life, offer classes about the theology of work, and repeat our favorite phrase every Sunday: “All of life is all for Jesus.” In spite of his intelligence and our initiatives, however, Wendell still didn’t see that his work as a biomedical engineer was as significant as my work as a pastor.
To my shame, I had never asked Wendell about the specifics of his work. We mostly talked about how he could serve at church. Over coffee, though, as he explained how his company develops devices that help doctors detect cancer at early stages, his eyes were full of excitement. In this conversation, I realized that I had failed him as a pastor. He was clearly skilled and passionate about his work, but he didn’t see how it applied to Jesus’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:31).
So we talked about how we love our neighbors through our work—even if we don’t personally interact with them—by providing goods and services that help them flourish. We talked about how Martin Luther said, “God milks the cows through the vocation of the milkmaids,” and how God cares for cancer patients through his biotech work. He walked away from the conversation encouraged, but I walked away perplexed.
As I wondered why Wendell didn’t understand our church's message about the broad scope of the gospel and its implications for all of life, I realized that the issue wasn’t with what he heard, but with what he saw. He frequently heard teaching about the importance of vocation and all-of-life discipleship, but he never sawanyone’s work—apart from pastoral, missionary, and nonprofit work—publicly celebrated.
When I mentioned this observation to Riccardo Stewart, our lead pastor who wrote a paper in seminary about commissioning people in all kinds of vocations, we decided to figure out some ways to celebrate the work of our congregants. Thus, the “All-of-Life Interview” was born. For the past year and a half, we have devoted five minutes before the sermon to interview people from various occupations so that we might celebrate their work, pray for others in their field, and affirm the goodness of a broad range of vocations as opportunities to glorify God and love our neighbors.
While there is some room for customization, we ask four basic questions in each interview. We repeat the same questions, because they give our congregants a weekly reminder and opportunity to reflect on their own work.
Question #1: How would you describe your work?
We want a snapshot of the daily life of the interviewee. This answer often builds common ground between the interviewee and others within the congregation, even if they don't work in the same field.
Question #2: As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work? (Gen, 1:26-28, 1 Cor. 10:31, Eph. 5:1, Col. 3:17)
We want to ground the intrinsic value of work in the character of God and frame our work as an act of “image-bearing” (Gen. 1:16-28, 2:15). Therefore, we ask the interviewees to connect their work to some specific aspect of God’s work. In Kingdom Calling, Amy Sherman offers six categories of God’s work that give us a helpful framework for our vocations:
Question #3: How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world? (Gen. 3; Rom. 3:10-20)
Some people subconsciously think their work should always be fun and fulfilling, often assuming that the presence of pain and struggle invalidates the goodness of their work. We want them to see that, in a fallen world that is filled with sin and its effects, each occupation has unique hardships and comes with its own thorns and thistles.
Question #4: Jesus commands us to "love our neighbors as ourselves." How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others? (Mk. 10:35-45; Eph. 5:1; Rom. 12:14-21; Col. 1:24-27)
We want to broaden the application of Jesus’s command to love our neighbors. Many people assume this command is mostly applied as interpersonal acts of kindness, but we try to demonstrate that love can also be indirect and systemic.
Apart from the direct effect of the interview on the interviewee, we’ve a witnessed a cumulative effect in our congregation over time. These interviews have slowly helped all of us to understand that “vocational is integral, not incidental, to the mission of God in the world,” as Steve Garber says. We have noticed increased theological depth and gospel intentionality in our congregants and their work. This is the work of the Spirit, but we are delighted that he is using the interviews as an instrument of his grace.
The interviews also give us a glimpse of God’s brilliant attributes and actions. An artist at our church points to God’s creativity, an accountant talks about God’s order, a pediatric oncologist reminds us that God will one day heal all wounds, and a handyman reflects God’s restoration. The one thing that really matters, of course, is the gospel—but because of the gospel, all things matter (Col. 1:15-23), including the work of the butcher, the baker, and the biotech maker.
Posted: 28 Oct 2014 10:01 PM PDT
Zachary Tarter has been serving as a window cleaner and power washer with Distinctive Window Cleaning since 2009. He is also working to earn a Master of Divinity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. He lives in North Port, Florida, along with his wife, Emily, and their three children.
How do you describe your work?
The nature of my work stays the same every day; I do both power cleaning and window cleaning of commercial and residential properties. How that plays out each day, though, varies widely. I might begin a day doing a restaurant job, where I am cleaning grease off concrete in the dumpster, and end it by cleaning the windows of a multi-million dollar house on the beach.
As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?
I haven't always intuitively classified my work as image-bearing, but as I've thought about it, I've seen that bringing order out of chaos reflects the image of God. When I get to a job, it can be filthy everywhere. By the time I leave it, though, it's clean. I make clean what is filthy. We see God doing that all over the place in Scripture. In creation, he creates order out of chaos by speaking creation into existence. As sinners, he takes the chaos of our lives and makes order through Christ. At the end of a job, there's a great deal of satisfaction knowing that God has used the work of my hands to make clean and new what was once dirty.
How does your work give you a unique vantage point into the brokenness of the world?
Sin is everywhere, and I see that most clearly in my work. There are times where I am power cleaning something that simply will not get as clean as I would like it to be. Because some of my jobs require me to clean them before they open for business, I get up at hours when I would never naturally want to get up. More specifically, if a sprinkler has been hitting a window for years, the water hardens and is next to impossible to remove. I’ve been stung by wasps and hornets. But I’ve also seen the brokenness of this world in my own heart. My response to the difficulties of my day often show me that the curse is alive and well in my work and my heart.
Jesus commands us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How does your work function as an opportunity to love and serve others?
I have the opportunity every day to care for my customers. In particular, a lot of the details of my job will be seen by no one other than me, so that is something I want to keep in mind. I want to make the job look like the customer would want it to. On another note, with my co-workers and my boss, when we work together on particular jobs and someone has to leave early for a reason, I’m given the chance to love them and their needs more than my own. We don’t want to take away money from each other. We want to make sure each other is getting home at a decent time. When we work jobs together we want to keep the other person in mind.
Editors' note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are condensed.
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Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:12
Just because you face temptations, tests, trials, or tribulations does not mean that you don't have faith. If you have missed it anywhere, repent, and know that God forgives you.
When you were learning to ride a bike, what did you do when you fell off? Did you say, “I fell off and I am never going to ride a bicycle again!” No. You got back up and got on your bike. You kept at it, and eventually you were able to enjoy the benefits of riding.
If you are going to walk by faith and not by sight, you can’t be a quitter. The fight of faith is a good fight because the victory has already been provided. But in order to realize the benefits, in order to realize the manifestation, you have to seek first the kingdom way.
Father, your Word is true. Your Word is mighty. I praise you for your Spirit who empowers me to walk with perseverance throughout my days. Thank you for the gift of faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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