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Theology of Work

January 30, 2020
By Aidan Ivers: 11th Grade

God created man not to be idle, but to work for his glory. He views work as a way to serve him and spread his glory. God has much to say about work in his word. In the Bible, we see work as it was intended and work as corrupted by sin. We also see how work can be used for good in a fallen world and how it applies to the life of a Christian.  John Calvin once wrote that no sacrifice is more pleasing to God than when every person applies diligently to his or her own calling and endeavors to live in such a manner as to contribute to the general advantage.

In Genesis, the Bible describes how man was not created to be idle. We were made to reflect God’s character through our stewardship of his creation. Our ability to work reflects God’s ability to create. After the Fall, work, like all things, became tainted with sin. Although it could still be used as it was originally intended, we were now able to work for things outside of God. Once meaningful work has become toil (Genesis 3:17). People now seek work apart from God and define themselves by their earthly achievements. However, death renders the man’s earthly achievements futile (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Work apart from God is motivated by envy and greed. Work must be done in obedience to God's will. If it is not, it becomes quickly corrupted by selfishness, the desire for human recognition, and power. All work must be motivated by love for God and neighbor. Then our work will provide fulfillment and be free from anxiety, idolatry, and laziness.

Work is very important in the life of a Christian. We are called to love and serve our neighbors. One of the major ways we can respond to this call is through fulfilling the duties associated with our everyday work. Martin Luther once said that we can only truly serve God in the midst of everyday circumstances. This gives a new dignity and meaning to ordinary work. As Christians, we are also called to be salt in the world. The workplace becomes another place to introduce a Christian presence and influence and made a difference in our world.

All things in life, including daily work, can be understood as a calling from God. All work, if done for the glory of God, is equal in God’s sight. God has given everyone unique gifts and abilities that can be used to serve him. God can call someone to serve through any line of work, not just religious callings. Someone could work a simple job but praise God, serve others, and witness to their coworkers, while a preacher may be corrupt and hypocritical. Christians are to spread God’s word throughout all the world, including all fields of work. God created man in his image to work and care for creation (Gen 1:26). Our value as image-bearers is in Christ. As workers, we are to carry out God’s purpose for our lives.

The primary call for everyone’s life is to spread God’s word throughout the world and honor him in all that we do. We are called to submit to God’s will, whatever that may look like in or lives. We should model our plans around what God has called us to do. This call should manifest itself in our daily lives. When Jesus called his first disciples to follow him, their lives were changed forever (Matt 4:18-22). They left their old vocations behind to follow Jesus’ call to become “fishers of men.”

God created man not to be idle, but to work for his glory. He views work as a way to serve him and spread his glory. The Bible shows work as it was intended and work as corrupted by sin. We also see how work can be used for good in a fallen world and how it applies to the life of a Christian. Following God’s view of work, that it is holy and done to serve him, will provide fulfillment and freedom from anxiety and laziness. Going into life viewing work as a good thing, rather than a necessary evil, will help you find purpose and meaning and lead to a healthier outlook on life. A key verse that exemplifies this is Colossians 3:23 (NIV): “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

A Simple Proposition Relevant to Our Children’s Education

January 22, 2020
By John Morrison

I have emphasized for many years a simple proposition: either God the Son – Jesus Christ – and His word – the Bible – are authoritative in all matters pertaining to truth, or man is left with his own finite speculations and opinions as his highest source for determining truth about how best to conduct his life.  

This “either/or” proposition is really the fundamental issue of all spiritual warfare, as described by the Bible.  In reference to the reality of Satan, the apostle Paul states: “we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11).  And later in 2 Corinthians, the nature of Satan’s schemes is defined when Paul states that the crux of his ministry is “pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor.10:4-5).  In other words, the essence of Satan’s “schemes” is to capture people’s minds with his strongholds of ideals and speculations grounded ultimately in his lies about truth and reality.  This is why Paul says to the Corinthian believers, “I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). 

Neil Anderson, in his well-known Bondage Breakers series, states: “Satan’s first and foremost strategy is deception … His power is in the lie” (pp. 31-32).  Sadly, many professing Christians seem quite naïve when it comes to this point, allowing so many unexamined assumptions to affect their lives without passing them through the truth filter of God’s word!

Obviously, this is extremely relevant to the kind of education our children receive.  Anything that calls itself “Christian education” must have as a first priority a commitment to distinctly integrating biblical truth into all facets of the child’s training and education.  No doubt, there are other critical factors, including parents and teachers who are the “living curricula” as godly, relational role models as well as heartfelt intercession on behalf of our youth.

But we can never over-emphasize the priority of God’s authoritative truth and its content being imparted to our little ones as a primary distinctive of a truly Christian education.  Without such a clearly biblical content, the assumptions formed as the basis for our children’s worldviews will be skewed and ultimately harmful.

One of the common arguments against a distinctly Christian education, whether in the form of homeschooling or the Christian school, is that so many of the children so educated are really no different than those produced by non-Christian systems of education.  No doubt, there is an element of accuracy to this argument.  But this is largely a fallacious contention, in that no one should claim that Christian education begets Christians.  Only the Holy Spirit can do that!

But we can fill our children’s minds with the content of God’s truth and trust as the Holy Spirit brings His convicting and converting power at a time that He knows is best for each one, that the deposit we as parents and educators have made will serve as a vital element of the knowledge base of truth essential in following Christ.  

In my view, and I believe in the context of biblical principle, the sacrifices necessary in providing our children with the kind of education described above will be eternally rewarded, and many lives eternally affected!  

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Daniel Tiger, Difficult Questions, and the Goodness of God

January 15, 2020
By Brian Fitzgerald

Being an Amazon Prime member and the dad of a three year old means that I don’t have the luxury of going through an entire day without a Daniel Tiger song invading my mind. (For those of you who aren’t three or don’t have a three year old, Daniel Tiger is a children’s cartoon show inspired by Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.) Daniel has a song for every circumstance: when you get jealous, when you’re sick, when something seems bad, when you have to go potty… Name a childhood (or adult!) conundrum, and Daniel has a catchy song to help you handle it. And by “catchy” I mean, “It won’t let you go.” That song is going to be with you long after the show’s over and days have passed since your last viewing! If you haven’t seen Daniel Tiger yet, you’ve been warned. We’ll revisit Daniel and his songs in a moment.

Being a pastor and Bible teacher means that I spend time thinking through the Christian faith and the objections raised against it, and it seems to me that there’s a deep irony in most of those objections or accusations. Here’s a popular quote that’s representative of this irony:

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."  (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion)

Here’s the irony: most people who tend to make accusations against the Bible do so on the basis of morals and values that come from the Judeo-Christian worldview. In other words, they take the values they have and use them to attack the very thing that gave them those values in the first place. The Judeo-Christian worldview gave the world a radical and unprecedented view of the inherent value and dignity of every human being, irrespective of status, bloodline, talent, etc. In comparing Greek philosophy with Christianity, the French secular-humanist philosopher Luc Ferry observes:

"The Greek world was fundamentally an aristocratic world, a universe organized as a hierarchy in which those most endowed by nature should in principle be ‘at the top,’ while the less endowed saw themselves occupying inferior ranks. And we should not forget that the Greek city-state was founded on slavery."

In direct contradiction [emphasis mine], Christianity was to introduce the notion that humanity was fundamentally identical, that men were equal in dignity—an unprecedented idea at the time, and one to which our world owes its entire democratic inheritance. But this notion of equality did not come from nowhere.

In other words, we in the West today take it for granted that every human being has inherent dignity, despite having a wide range of external qualities, but that is not an idea that ever took root in the world until Christianity came on the scene in a global way. So often, those who are most visceral in their attack of the Bible—the Old Testament, in particular—argue based on values whose sole source is the Judeo-Christian tradition. To take those values and then attack the thing from which those values comes makes no sense. These are not self-evident values. It’s only “self-evident” in those parts of the world deeply touched by Jesus and his followers.

So, have you ever been rattled by an accusation against the Bible? Has anyone accused God of a crime against which you had no defense? Do accusations against the God of the Bible (specifically the Old Testament) make you uncomfortable and unsure how to respond? Daniel Tiger has a song about how to respond when you’re afraid (when you see a scary shadow in your room, or you hear a noise that frightens you, etc.), and I think it’s relevant for us when we come across accusations against the Bible that make us uncomfortable: ♬ “See what it is. You might feel better.” ♬ (Go to YouTube at your own risk.) I have found that most accusations against the Bible, especially on issues of morality, are best handled by reading the issue in question in context. Go read what the Bible actually says on that issue, read it in its larger context, and use common sense when arriving at a conclusion. Go “see what it is.” You might just find what David expresses throughout Psalm 119 to be true. God is good and so is His Word.

I’ll offer one of my experiences recently which deals with Numbers 15:32-41 (keep Exodus 31:15; 35:2-3 in mind and in context when reading this account). This one stumped me for a moment. When I heard the accusation that God killed people for working on the sabbath, I thought it was an exaggeration. Then I read Numbers 15:32-36. It seems excessive to kill someone for gathering firewood on the sabbath, right? But keep reading. Numbers 15:39-40 emphasizes obedience to God rather than following “after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot…” This account isn’t the case of someone doing innocent and necessary work. This is someone ignoring a clear commandment of God’s and doing his own thing. According to the law, working on the sabbath was punishable by death (Exodus 31:15). That sounds harsh, but if that’s how things are, then why work that day? Furthermore, Exodus 35:3, right after repeating the punishment for working on the sabbath, says, “You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the sabbath day.” The man gathering wood on the sabbath was in complete defiance of God’s clear commands. He was blatantly ignoring God’s way and choosing his own. If we ignore God and choose our own way on something as simple as not working or making fires, then what are we going to do with the rest of it? Is it going to be our way or God’s? Does our way lead to true life and goodness? Or is God good and does He have good in mind in all that He does? Reading the larger context for this specific situation gave me a deeper appreciation for what was really going on and what was at stake, as opposed to reading an incomplete account which paints a more disturbing story when torn from its context. 

So, when you come across a difficult passage or issue, ♬ “See what it is. You might feel better.” ♬ Of course, feeling better about it isn’t the point. The point is that many accusations against the Bible represent misunderstandings or mischaracterizations. Checking those things out for yourself is important and may give you greater confidence in the goodness and faithfulness of our amazing Creator.

 

Not a Mindless Hope

January 09, 2020
By Casey Musselman

It is a new year. Time for reflection, optimism, renewal, mourning, and/or celebration. Yes, the date is arbitrary and contrived. Why do we pause to celebrate a date that has no real or personal meaning to us? One reason is that we want measurements of our lives. We want to evaluate who we are and what we have done. We need affirmation of our accomplishments and that who we are has meaning and value.

As Christians, we are not immune to this need. However, we seek our value in something greater than time, culture, and society. We seek our measurements in the life and words of Christ. We find our value in His love and acceptance. We find meaning in being part of Him.

Our optimism is not mindless hope, but grounded in experience. We are optimistic for the future, because we know what God has done for us in our past. We remember the broken relationship that we knew was over but was healed through grace. We remember the struggle that only God could handle. We remember the failure that led to more of God’s strength and a deepened faith when He forgave us. We remember the blessing when God did something for us that we never expected. We remember God’s work and look confidently to the future.

We try - like everyone else - to make ourselves “better”, but we know that it is only through God’s grace that we can succeed. The apostle Paul wrote, “Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13.) Paul did not forget what God did. Paul forgot what he did. Paul forgot his failures. He did not let them hold him back. Paul also forgot his successes. He did not live on past glories. Both of these types of memories are traps. Our focus should be not on what we did, but on what God did with us and how God can use us in the future.

A calendar year gives us the impression of a circular view of life. We go through cycles of time until our cycles run out. No. Christians know that time is linear and that God is moving towards the end of time when He will restore his creation. That knowledge gives us a sense of purpose. We know that our actions and God’s work through us have lasting significance that will outlive us. When we reach out to someone and show them unconditional love, we are making a lasting impact on - not just them - but on our world. A permanent impact on the future. Carry that sense of purpose this year. Know that we are changing the future when we connect with someone who needs love and grace.

The calendar changes and a new year begins. All is new again. However, there are constants in our lives that are not affected by the year. Our need for unconditional love and grace is the greatest of these constants.

In Peace,

Casey Musselman

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