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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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