You’ve got to know God’s character

character

One of the things that’s always astounded me is how we don’t seem to really think deeply about God’s character. We might look at attributes such as God’s love–which is absolutely essential to our understanding of him—but if we do, we tend to elevate that to his essence. We don’t bother to get to the core of who God is.

But the thing about God is, he wants us to know his character and rejoice in it.

The chief attribute of God

Just think about Abraham for a moment. Abraham is one of the only men to be called a friend of God. He is the one to whom the great promise of an offspring who would be a blessing to all the nations was given. He was the one who miraculously was given a son when he and his wife were well beyond childbearing years. He knew God—he understood his character. And he wasn’t afraid to approach God on that basis. Consider Genesis 18:22-26:

So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

This is astounding isn’t it? Look at what he says in this bold appeal: “Far be that from you that the righteous be swept away along with the wicked,” he says. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

What is he basing this appeal on?

God’s character—he knew God was (and is) just. We know of his hatred of sin from Genesis 18:21, a sin so great that he came to personally judge it. Because he is a holy God, he would administer justice. He could do nothing else.

This is one of the attributes Abraham recognized—the attribute which is arguably the defining one of God. It is the one angels sing of (Isaiah 6:1-3), which prevents him from even looking at sin and not taking action (Habakkuk 1:13), of hating wickedness in all its forms (Psalm 5:5; 11:5).

But this same holiness also undergirds his compassion.

Holiness and compassion

That’s why Abraham could ask with complete integrity, “If there are fifty righteous people in the city, will you spare it?” And then again presume to ask about sparing the city for the sake of 45, 40, 30, 20 and 10. God in his compassion, his merciful loving kindness, would execute justice, but he would not destroy the righteous along with the wicked—and in fact, he was even willing to spare the wicked for the sake of the righteous!

That’s the sort of amazing God we serve—one who is generous as to extend mercy to the wicked for the sake of the righteous.

And that’s the gospel, isn’t it? For the sake of the true righteous one, Jesus Christ, wicked people such as you and me are spared what we are due and instead not only given pardon, but welcomed into God’s family. We are declared more than friends—we are children!

But that’s the thing about God: if we don’t do our best to grasp what we can of his character—understanding the natural limits we all face—we wind up with a lopsided view of him, one that doesn’t represent him at all. You and I, we have got to know God’s character as best as we are able. We have got to do our best to know and be thankful for every aspect of him, his overwhelming love and his perfect justness. His incomparable holiness and his unimaginable kindness.

We need it all. All the time. No matter what.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

B&H has put a number of volumes from the Perspectives series is on sale for 99¢ each:

Also on sale are:

Westminster Bookstore and Crossway are also offering an amazing discount when you buy one or more cases of Russell Moore’s book Adoption (as low as $1.75, though if you want just buy one, it’ll cost you $3) or Scott Klusendorf’s The Case for Life (about $5). Pastors, if you’ve got a bit of money in your budget, grab a few cases of these and give them to everyone attending your church.

What to do after you preach

Dave Harvey:

The conclusion of a sermon is a dangerous moment for the preacher. He has just spent 30-45 minutes in an expository deluge, dumping his study and zeal upon his congregation. The 10-20 hours of sermon preparation are now ancient history and he’s climbed in his car for the drive home. Most likely, he is exhausted – emotionally, spiritually, and physically.

If you’re called to preach, you leave it all in the pulpit.

I’ve been there.  And over the last 30 years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about what I should do and what I shouldn’t do following a sermon. Here are three key lessons.

3 Reasons Not to Homeschool

Christina Fox:

This time of year, as we begin to transition out of vacation mindset back into school mode, you may be considering homeschooling for the first time. And there are many good reasons to consider it. You get to choose the curriculum for your children. You’re able to teach every subject through a biblical worldview. You can take time to study things your children enjoy learning about, at their own pace and on their own level. Homeschool allows for greater flexibility in your schedule. Since it doesn’t take as long as a typical school day to complete lessons, there’s plenty of time for extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, additional classes, and hobbies. Homeschooling also provides more time for families to spend together. I could go on.

But there are also reasons not to homeschool. If the idea of homeschooling has been on your mind, here are three reasons you should not homeschool your children.

Matt Chandler on abortion

Watch the full message here.

The Joy of Meaty Christian Biographies

Don Sweeting on why biographies are great.

Beware the Pride of Easy Education

Michael Kelley:

We live in this age of easy education. Never before has more information been more available to us. You can count on the fact that virtually anything you’ve been curious about, someone else has already been curious about, and has recorded the answer somewhere in cyberspace. It’s a pretty amazing thing when you think about it. And yet the breadth and depth of these facts and figures of all shapes and kinds brings with it a question:

To what end?

Planned Parenthood: There, But for the Grace of God…

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You walk into your doctor’s office for your annual check up—flu shot, cancer, cholesterol and blood sugar screening, blood pressure check—you know, routine maintenance on the ol’ bod. You’ve chosen this doctor because you don’t have health insurance and he’s kind enough to lower his prices and work with you on a payment plan. His office is clean and bright, beautifully decorated, and the staff is always friendly. You even get a lollipop at the end of each visit.

But this year, as you’re walking down the hall to exam room four, you happen to notice that in exam room three, there’s a playpen in the corner with an adorable baby girl in it, cooing away and playing with a toy.

“Odd,” you think, since this is not a paediatrician’s office. You continue to your own room, don that scratchy paper gown, and wait for the doctor. By the time he comes in and begins the exam, you can no longer contain your curiosity. Whose baby is it? Why is there even a baby in the office?

“Oh, yes,” the doctor says matter of factly, “that baby was abandoned by her parents. Nobody wants her, so when I get finished with your check up, I’m going to torture her to death and then sell her organs to medical researchers.”

Your jaw hits the floor. Your stomach turns. You can’t believe the monstrous words you’ve just heard.

“How could you do such a horrible thing?” you scream over your revulsion. The doctor looks surprised that you should ask.

“It’s really no big deal,” he says. “We only do a few of those a week. The vast majority of my practice is providing health care and counseling for patients like you.”

Let me ask you something—would you use that doctor and think that the care he provides you mitigates his atrocious behavior? I hope not. Yet I have heard people defend Planned Parenthood (an organization which has been torturing babies to death for decades, and, we recently learned, profits from the sale of their organs) because Planned Parenthood ostensibly performs a minimum number of abortions and mainly provides health services, such as the ones mentioned above, to women who need them. Somehow, in these people’s minds, the health care Planned Parenthood provides makes up for the heinous murders they commit day after day.

Does it really all balance out? Of course not.

In fact, let’s say, Planned Parenthood had only ever tortured fifty babies to death (instead of the millions they’ve actually killed). And let’s say they provided free health care to everyone on the planet, cured cancer, and brought about world peace. Those are some wonderful things, but does it erase the fact that they brutally ended fifty innocent lives? Do all those good deeds make up for even one murder?

No. They don’t. Good deeds can never make up for heinous crimes. Planned Parenthood’s hands are drenched in blood that all the free health care in the world can’t wash away.

They’re hopelessly guilty. Just like we are.

Apart from Christ, we are Planned Parenthood. We come before God with blood on our hands. Not the blood of millions of babies, but the blood of one child. God’s child. Jesus. We are responsible for His death. It was our sin that caused Him to be tortured to death. Our sin that brutally murdered Him.

“Oh, but it’s no big deal. I’m mainly a good person. The vast majority of my life is spent doing good things and helping people. That totally makes up for those few sins I’ve committed. My good deeds outweigh the bad.”

No. They don’t. Good deeds can never make up for heinous crimes.

But, grace… But, mercy… But the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior intervenes and wipes away the guilt. Washes our hands of Christ’s blood. Cleanses us from all unrighteousness, if we only turn to Him in the repentance and faith that He is gracious enough to give us.

Good deeds can never make up for heinous crimes, but the grace of God can.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)


Michelle Lesley is a ministry wife, home schooling mom, and women’s Bible study author. Her goal in writing, speaking, and teaching is to train church ladies to be “Mighty Amazon Women” of God. Michelle blogs at MichelleLesleyBooks.com. Follow her at @MichelleDLesley.

Photo credit: Me, myself and my cellphone. via photopin (license)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

One Year Later: Ferguson, Justice, and the Gospel

Russell Moore:

Most white evangelicals get this idea when we are talking about issues of abortion. I once heard a progressive pastor I knew to be pro-choice on abortion preach on the issue with the conclusion, “We wouldn’t have to worry about this abortion debate if we just taught our young people sexual morality.” In many ways, that’s true enough. But it avoids the larger question of a predatory political and economic system in which unborn children are not even recognized as persons with rights to life and liberty.

Questions of racial justice are not simply about whether white individuals use the “N” word or wish harm to black people. The issues include questions such as how community policing can better reflect the communities they serve.

Russell Moore also answers the question, “Have the Planned Parenthood videos changed anything?”

What is a biblical theology approach?

A copy of the new NIV Study Bible arrived in the mail the other day, and it’s been a lot of fun to check out the study notes. Here’s a great video on the approach they took to developing them:

Four Warning Signs You Are Not Listening to Your Team

Eric Geiger:

It is foolish to not listen to those on your team. Not only do you lose the benefit of their collective wisdom and experience, but also you simultaneously devalue individuals and harm the culture of your team. Here are four warning signs that you are not listening to people on your team.

Unanswered Prayer

Tim Lane:

Have you ever wondered why it feels like so many of your prayers go unanswered? How often have you prayed for something and nothing seems to change or happen based upon your clearly articulated requests? If we take a moment to look at the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, you may have a better idea for why some of your prayers are not answered in just the way you wanted. Let’s start with some basics.

Non-religious pro-life groups? Here are two

Marty Duren reminds us that the pro-life position doesn’t have to be based on religious conviction—some are based on common sense and science.

Do you suffer from “Cause Overload”?

Barnabas Piper:

One way this exhibits itself is “cause overload.” For Christians who long to be serving others and fighting for justice the buffet of options to choose from is paralyzing. Whereas once we could serve in one or two places in our local community now we see requests from kickstarter and GoFundMe to help an adoptive family in Cleveland or a single mom in Sacramento. We receive the newsletters from community development groups in Chicago, Atlanta, and Houston. We want to defund Planned Parenthood and stop systemic injustice in law enforcement and the judicial system. We want to care for the families of slain police officers and soldiers. We want to tell unreached peoples about Jesus. And we need to choose for whom to vote next year.

The Downside of Digital Bibles

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William Tyndale was the first to translate the Bible into English from the original languages. When he began this long and difficult task, he stated that it was his desire that a plowboy could know the Scriptures better than a bishop. Although he was martyred for it, he was successful in giving common believers access to God’s Word.

I wonder what Tyndale would think of our own day. Though it is tough times for professional plowboys, the Bible is more available than at any other time in history. On top of Bibles in our churches, homes, and bookstores, we have apps for our smart phones and tablets that make it so that we can read, study, and even listen to Scripture at all times.

Though we may not be disciplined enough to be reading the Psalms while in line at the drive-thru, Bible apps are becoming more prevalent in our lives. A quick scan of the congregation on Sunday morning reveals that some people have begun to use devices as their primary means of reading Scripture.

There isn’t anything inherently bad about using digital Bibles as opposed to printed ones. I personally use my tablet all the time. However, we shouldn’t rely on them as our exclusive means of reading Scripture.

The difference between a digital Bible and a printed one extends beyond the difference between pixels and ink. As much as they are a help to us, we lose something when we rely solely on a Bible app instead of a “real” Bible.

3 Reasons Why a Digital App Shouldn’t Replace Your Physical Bible

1. Print is Permanent.

In today’s digital culture, technology is always changing and the old is tossed aside. We are quick to ditch the barely old in favor of the slightly new. Our favorite apps are constantly updating and upgrading, and our homes are filled with temporary technology.

Meanwhile, God’s Word is eternal and unchanging. Having an app be our primary means of accessing Scripture robs us of its weightiness. The Bible is so much more than our favorite app – it is the Word of God.

Yes, Scripture is still Scripture regardless of format. But a printed Bible allows us to better recognize this sense of permanence than an app does. If we rarely use a printed Bible, Scripture can start to seem like just another app – especially to our kids.

2. Digital Distractions

While Scripture is a goldmine of timeless wisdom and spiritual truth, our smart phones are kitchen junk drawers of random odds and ends. When you’re on a device, it’s all too easy to bounce from Ephesians to email and from Titus to Twitter.

App notifications, text messages, and phone calls can be constant distractions when attempting to study the Word on a digital device. The important things in life are constantly being crowded out by the inconsequential, and our phones and tablets are a huge factor in this reality.

So the next time you’re headed into church, leave your phone in your pocket and grab an actual Bible. You may be surprised at how much more you get out of the sermon. Besides, we spend enough time staring at glowing rectangles throughout the day.

3. Resource Overload

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of helpful resources for studying Scripture on your device. But even these can be a distraction during a church service or Bible study. We’d be better off focusing our attention on the message and the text and leaving the exploration of parallel verses, maps, and commentaries for after lunch.

In times of personal study the abundance of resources available at our fingertips can begin to overshadow the biblical text. If we are not careful, we will spend all of our time reading what others have found helpful in a particular passage rather than studying it ourselves. Yes, this can happen with a printed study Bible as well, but it is not likely that you will have access to dozens of commentators and hundreds of years of commentary on the page in front of you like you do on a tablet.

Try reading only the text for the majority of your time in the Word. Think through what the passage tells us about our Redeemer and what it means for us as His redeemed. You’ll get more from your study and better familiarize yourself with Scripture.

Don’t Ditch Technology Altogether

I am in no way opposed to the use of digital Bibles and other resources. In fact, here are 16 apps that I’d recommend that you add to your iPad right now. We just shouldn’t let these digital resources distract us from reading the text itself.

In Tyndale’s day even having the Bible in your native language was impossible, so we should be especially thankful for the ability to carry Scripture with us in our pocket. But if you’ve found yourself using a phone or tablet as your primary means of reading the Bible, consider the points above.

Try putting away your device and see if you’re able to dig deeper into the text when the text is all that is in front of you. Besides, you won’t need wi-fi and you’ll never run out of batteries.

What Do You Think?

Where do you stand in the ‘print vs. pixels’ debate? Leave a comment with which format you prefer for Bible study and why. I look forward to reading them and interacting with your thoughts!


Clayton Kraby is a husband, father, and an M.Div. Student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL. He writes at Reasonable Theology, which helps believers think about and apply sound theology to their everyday lives. Follow him at @ClayKraby.

Photo credit: Exodus via photopin (license)

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today, Karen Swallow Prior’s excellent book, Fierce Convictions, is on sale for $1.99. If you need some encouragement to get this one, be sure to read my review. Also on sale:

Over at the Westminster Bookstore, Kevin DeYoung’s first children’s book is on sale for dirt cheap—get The Biggest Story for $12, or $10 when buying five or more copies. Here’s a look at the trailer:

Finally, at Christian Audio, they’re giving away Compelling Interest: The Real Story Behind Roe v. Wade by Roger Resler until the end of the month. Be sure to download this.

Praying in the Spirit

Colin Smith has a new eBook out, Praying in the Spirit. You can get it free by subscribing to his blog.

The most insane/brilliant political ad I’ve ever seen

I can guarantee I’d never vote for this dude (not just because he’s in British Columbia and I’m not), but dang. Also, mild language warning:

Your move, Donald Trump. (Here’s also an article explaining this whole… whatever this is.)

Sex is More AND Less Important Than You Think

Trevin Wax:

“Sex is everything,” goes the idea in the 21st century. “And sex is nothing.”

This paradoxical view of sexuality in our society requires a paradoxical response from the Church. Our Christian witness must “put sex in its place” – meaning, we will need to take sexuality more seriously and less seriously than the rest of society.

An Introverted Christian

Tim Challies:

There is no doubt that I am an introvert. If we place introversion and extroversion on opposite sides of a line and say that each one of us falls somewhere between the two extremes, I would be pretty far from center along the introvert side of the scale. I may not be as far along as some people, and I still enjoy some exposure to crowds of people, but at heart I gain energy and perspective in solitude and then expend it in a crowd. My default reaction to a crowd is to run away to find a place of quiet. I love and enjoy people, but do better with small groups than large ones. Even after several years of public speaking, it still takes a lot of effort and self-denial to stand in front of a crowd. I walk to the front of a room slowly and, when finished, sprint to the back. That’s just the way I am.

5 Important Theological Pairs

Nick Batzig:

One of the many wonderful things about the Westminster Shorter Catechism is that it includes several extremely important theological pairs (i.e. joint categories) in the opening questions that help us robustly systematize the biblical truth concerning our relationship to God, God’s work in the world, the nature and effects of man’s sin and the saving work of the Redeemer. Much of the disagreement in theological matters, in our day, comes from only holding to one of the two truths set out in each of these pairs. As we labor to spiritually grasp both aspects of these pairs we will find that we become better equipped to spot theological error, defend the truth and to minister more effectively to others with theological precision and care.

ND Wilson on the problem of evil

This is great:

Living Without Worry (a guest book review)

living-without-worry

Are you a worrier? I confess to being a worrier. Yes, I know all of the injunctions against worrying. I know it accomplishes nothing. I know that worrying steals joy from today because we’re too consumed with tomorrow. And yes, I struggle on.

I recently picked up the book Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety With Peace, by Timothy Lane. I’ve read a few books on the subject of anxiety, and this one is one of the best.

Lane begins with defining what worry is and is not, and why we shouldn’t do it. He discusses worry in the context of our past, present, and future, and then moves into practical steps to help those who struggle with worrying.

I found Lane’s definition of worry helpful. He defines it as “over-concern.” There is nothing wrong with being concerned. It is what parents have when their children are playing outside near the road, or are sick with a fever. When it begins to take over our lives, it becomes worry, or over-concern. Lane borrows a phrase from the Bible scholar, Dick France, to clarify his definition: it is over-concern about something other than the kingdom of God. I found that helpful, to think about worry as it relates to our place in the kingdom of God. That is something Lane refers to again in the book.

Lane reminds us that worry can be a reflection of what we love:

…worry is over-concern that results from “over-loving” something—that is, loving it more than God. Concern results when you love something in the proper way and not more than God. Indifference is a lack of love. It is the opposite of worry, not the antidote or cure for worry.

The principle that worry is a reflection of our attitude toward God is repeated often, and though it is a hard thing to hear, Lane does not come across as harsh. He recognizes that some people are more prone to worry, and it is something they will battle.

In the ninth chapter, Lane gives practical suggestions, beginning with the verse that most worrisome people have had others share with them many times: I Peter 5:6-11. Casting our cares on God means relating to God personally. Lane says:

When you are struggling with anxiety, you must talk to and relate to God. There is no other way to experience lasting, abiding change, for this is the only way to change our hearts.

Lane’s suggestion for fostering that heart change is to meditate on Scripture, specifically the Psalms. He gives a helpful list of Psalms which are good for that purpose, and then he takes the reader through Psalm 27 as an example. Many of the Psalms show someone struggling with worry and anxiety. We can learn much from those examples about how we ought to relate to God in an anxious moment.

The last chapter shows what Jesus himself said about worry as he spoke to in a vision Paul (Acts 18:9-11). In a nutshell, he said, “Don’t be afraid; keep on speaking; don’t be silent.” His reassuring words to Paul were, “I am with you,” and I think that is the truth we have to tell ourselves over and over again, even when it feels like we’re only repeating it in vain. We have to live by faith even when we feel like we can’t do it. I liked Lane’s words on this matter:

Faith involves doing the very opposite of what comes naturally. And sometimes it feels wooden and insincere, but it is not. Don’t be fooled by your mere emotions. While it is often good to have your emotions right in step with your behavior, it is not always the case.

Even in the midst of worry and anxiety, we have to live our lives. If we wait to move forward until we don’t feel worried, we will find ourselves not really living. In those anxious moments, we have to keep moving forward regardless of how we feel.

This book was very readable without glossing over the truth. Lane does not try to candy coat the issue, and is very clear about the fact that worry is sin. But he is not harsh about it, and his words offer hope. There are always going to be things to worry about. Some seasons, they are worse than others. But they will come. We can grow through them by learning to battle them, and I think this book has a lot of great suggestions to help us with that.


Title: Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace
Author: Timothy Lane
Publisher: The Good Book Company (2015)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore | The Good Book Company


Kim lives in Southern Ontario with her husband of 28 years. She has three adult children. She is a blogger, bible teacher, reader, and seminary student. She blogs at The Upward Call and Out of the Ordinary.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots of new deals today, including the following from New Growth Press:

And David C. Cook has put a pile of books by Warren Wiersbe on sale:

Hope for the Unhappily Single

Marshall Segal:

Maybe it is an increasing consumerism in dating and marriage, where people are pickier because there are more choices (especially through new media, like online dating). Maybe it is the lengthening of adolescence, in which twenty-somethings less and less feel the need to grow up and take on responsibilities of starting a family, owning a home, and more. Maybe it’s the success of women in the workplace, creating more vocational opportunities for females that could delay the pursuit of a partner and family. Whatever the roots, it’s a reality. If you have single people in your church, you very likely have unhappily single people in your church — and that crowd is not getting any smaller.

The scary question for some in the waiting is, “Will I be single forever?” Would God really withhold the good gifts of love and marriage and intimacy, and children, from me?

3 Reflections on Cultivating Theological Poise

Gavin Ortlund:

If we see doctrinal fidelity as the goal of our ministries, rather than an essential and noble means for the larger goal of the knowledge and kingdom of Christ, we are probably insufficiently sensitive to the dangers of under-contextualization. We are not well poised.

Political Correctness and Plain Rudeness

David Murray:

But there’s a difference between fighting for free speech and using filthy speech. There’s a difference between telling the truth and simply insulting opponents. There’s a difference between ridiculing policies and ridiculing people. There’s a difference between breaking liberal control of politics and losing all self-control in the process. There’s a difference between highlighting bias and resenting any challenge to explain ourselves. There’s a difference between bravery and bluster. There’s a difference between being fearless and being foolish.

Why would any Christian support Donald Trump?

Trevin Wax asks a good question:

How is it possible for salt-of-the-earth, family-loving conservative Christians to be taken with a serial adulterer who won’t take back misogynistic comments and who publicly trumpets the fact that he doesn’t make mistakes that require God’s forgiveness?

Self-Care and Self-Denial

Amie Patrick:

The topic of self-care, particularly as it relates to physical and emotional health, has long confused and challenged me as a Christian. While I’ve deeply resonated with much of the common sense in the philosophy of self-care, other aspects have troubled me and seem completely incompatible with Christianity. I couldn’t agree with Scripture and at the same time agree with arguments encouraging me to pursue a self-focused, indulgent, comfort-based lifestyle. On the other hand, I heartily agreed in principle with discussions of self-care as stewardship. Still, I usually came away with more of a sense of heavy obligation than of freedom and gratitude. I often saw God as an auto mechanic pacing around, irritated and inconvenienced by my failure to get my car in for regular maintenance.

Five lies I believed about faith and work

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Ever since I turned fifteen and could get a worker’s permit for a summer job at a pool concession stand, I have loved to work. My work history includes time delivering mail, as a garbage collector on my college campus, in marketing sound systems, and now as a missionary with an organization training pastors in expository preaching.

Even though I had wonderful Christian parents who taught me the value of working hard, I didn’t always see work as a major element of Christian discipleship. In my head, I knew some truths about how my Christian faith informs my work, but those truths didn’t make the journey down to my heart.

Several times I had to learn the hard way of how God wants us approach work as a Christian. God, in His grace, revealed to me several lies that seeped into my work life. I pray that the lessons I learned will give you a greater view of God and His purpose for your work while strengthening you to work for His glory.

Lie #1: Work is not a part of God’s perfect plan.

For a long time I believed that the necessity of work was a result of sin and not part of God’s original plan and good design. This probably entered into my brain as a kid watching TV characters complain about work or hearing the constant whining of peers complain about their homework. “In a perfect world,” I would think, “Nobody would have to work and I could just sit around all day doing what I wanted”—which in those times was playing video games, eating junk food, and watching sports. (Funny, I didn’t think about the thousands of people whose work made enjoying food, video games, TV, or even sitting on a couch possible for me!)

The Scriptures show a different reality, one that says work is a fundamental part of God’s good plan for the world. God gave Adam what theologians call the “Creation Mandate”—the command to subdue the earth and have dominion over every living thing (Genesis 1:28). This command for purposeful work to cultivate the earth came before humanity’s fall into sin. Sin tarnished God’s good design, making our work toilsome (Genesis 3:17-19). While sin changed many elements of work for us today, it did not change the fact that we are image bearers created to reflect the image of a working God.

Lie #2: Work is all about me.

I believed this lie for a long time. In my mind and heart, I was the one I worked for. I wanted the money, opportunity, and status that came from my work. When something at work made getting what I wanted difficult, frustration would overwhelm me, causing my attitude and motivation to suffer.

Scripture says that our work should be done, “as to the Lord” (Ephesians 6:7). This means that He is our ultimate boss, the One we will ultimately report to for our work. Our work also touches many other people because in God created work to be a means of blessing others. This goes for the barista, the car salesman, the truck driver, the teacher, and the banker. This new focus away from ourselves helps us obey the two great commandments of Scripture: to love God and love others.

Lie #3: Full-time ministry is the only work serving God.

I struggled finding my calling in work for a while because I believed the false dichotomy that said I couldn’t serve God while working a “normal job.” Sure, a ministry job like pastor or a missionary uses your skills to more directly advance the Kingdom (which is an honorable thing!). That doesn’t mean a job other than pastor or missionary doesn’t serve God as well. If you do your job for the Lord, it is serving Him.

Think of Joseph, who by faith honored God as a shepherd, prisoner, overseer of Potiphar’s house, and eventually the second in command of all of Egypt. By faith, Daniel similarly served in the Babylonian government and stood for his God against strong cultural pressures and even death warrants. By faith, Obadiah, as an official of the king, protected and fed God’s prophets in a cave while they ran from the queen who sought to kill them (1 Kings 18:3-4). Time would fail me to tell of all of the other brothers and sisters throughout history who were faithful gospel witnesses in their workplace, stood compassionately for biblical truth, fought for justice, showed mercy, cared for the poor, and stewarded the resources God gave them in service to His Kingdom. Bottom line: we are servants of God no matter if we serve in “official” ministry positions or not.

Lie #4: Rest is optional.

One summer during my seminary days, my boss gave me a great offer: “Kevin, this summer you can work as many hours you want—even if you go into overtime.” Overtime and overtime pay? The ears of this cash-strapped seminary student perked up and I soon made it my goal to cash in on this offer. After a few weeks filled with 55+ hours of work while trying to balance responsibilities at church, I realized that I slowly began to dread work, serving at church, and spending time with friends. I was drained both physically and spiritually—I needed a break!

I was missing a vital part of God’s plan for work. In God’s design, man is to work and to rest from his work. This imitates God’s rest in creation (Exodus 20:8-11) and in the words of Tim Keller is “a celebration of our design.” True rest refocuses our hearts on the Creator and rejuvenates us for more work.

Rest has many dimensions and doesn’t only refer to physical rest. Spiritual rest is found in Christ and obtained when we put our faith in Him. In Christ we rest from trying to earn God’s approval through works (Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:3). This means we need the rejuvenating effects of spiritual rest in communion with God through prayer and the Scriptures, solitude, and fellowship with other believers.

Lie #5: My work gives me an identity.

This lie is actually more of a half-truth—work does shape part of our earthly identity. But if I bank my life and entire identity on my work, my self-worth and emotions will be dependent on my performance. If work is going well, it quickly becomes an idol. That idol will eventually disappoint me, leaving me disappointed until I have reason to hope in myself again. And when things get difficult, I question my identity and if I’m doing what God called me to do.

Jesus wants us off of the emotional rollercoaster that comes with finding our identities solely in our work. First and foremost, we are forgiven sinners, bought by the blood of Christ and are children of God. The very reason Jesus died was “to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession” (Titus 2:14). If you believe in Christ, your core identity is no longer in your work but is in your new identity as belonging to Christ. This fundamental aspect of your identity should be weaved into the very fabric of your being both today and 100,000 years into the future.

Working in the Gospel’s Power

Christ’s death and resurrection gives believers a new identity and a new power in the Holy Spirit for our work. Instead of separating work from worship, we can fuse them together for the glory of our King. Instead of focusing on the frustrations of work in a fallen world, we can rejoice that Christ’s work on the cross makes it so it won’t always be this way. And instead of striving to achieve worth, you can rest knowing that you are of infinite worth in your Father’s eyes.

When you are tempted to believe lies about work or who you are in Christ, may these truths serve as a steady anchor for your mind and heart.


Kevin Halloran is a servant of God, husband, and blogger at Word + Life. Serves with Leadership Resources International training pastors worldwide to preach God’s Word with God’s heart. You can follow Kevin on Twitter.

Photo credit: Work sucks via photopin (license). Designed with Canva.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin on sale for $3.49 this week. Be sure to grab a copy of it. Also on sale are How We Got the Bible by Neil Lightfoot ($1.99) and Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day by Garry Morgan (99¢).

A Vintage Kindness

Bryan Loritts:

Several years ago I sat down to breakfast with my son at a local diner. When the server first came to our table I knew something was wrong.  She had anything but soft edges.  This woman had “don’t mess with me,” written all over her face.  Words like, rude, short andabrasive came to mind.  As if this wasn’t enough, she messed up our order, and offered a meager, disingenuous apology.  I was heated. Didn’t she know she existed to make my day better?  So I left the gratuity section of the bill blank, yanked my son out of the diner and headed off.  Then the Holy Spirit began speaking to me, showing me how my utilitarian outlook on her had set the stage for me responding to her meanness with an extra helping.  I made a pit stop at the bank, pulled out some cash, then headed back to the diner. When I finally got to speak to her, in vintage cabernet tones I told her that while I felt she could have done better, my response was unkind.  I asked her for forgiveness then gave her the money.  Then she surprised me.  A tear trickled down her once hardened face.  For the next several moments she unloaded, telling me about the divorce she’s going through, the tough financial times and the difficulty she’s having with one of her kids.  Sure, while kindness had broken her, I found her response to my kindness elevating my vision of her.  She was no longer a nameless server who existed for my convenience, but a real person with a story.  I guess kindness got to both of us.

More Than Sovereign

Adam McClendon:

I was trained in a discipline that focused on the sovereignty of God, and I’m grateful for that.  It has centered my life on someone beyond myself; nevertheless, the primary and almost exclusive characteristic of the nature of God promoted was his sovereignty.  As a result, I found a theological formula that was inadequate in this moment of distress.  Something important was missing.  After all, if God is like Hitler, his sovereignty brings no comfort.  I did not doubt God’s sovereignty in this moment.  What I was struggling with was his goodness.

Sovereignty alone was no longer sufficient.

 

Google Translate vs “La Bamba”

Surprised by Scripture: Love and Spirit-Inspired Insults

Joe Rigney:

Because it connects being filled with the Spirit to these pointed words, this passage is a challenge to us. First, it demands we recognize this type of speech can be motivated and animated by God’s Spirit. It forces us to enlarge our vision of the Spirit-filled life. Not that the Spirit-filled life doesn’t include sincere love and patience and kindness and gentleness. But apparently the Spirit-filled life is compatible with this kind of direct, pointed speech too. Faithfulness to Scripture demands we have a category for a Spirit-inspired insult.

The Acute Pain of Trust

Michael Kelley:

All three of our children, for the first time, will go to school this year. This will be the last first day of school. And though I’ve prided myself on not being “that parent,” I’m for sure “that parent.” I’ve done my share of fretting and wondering whether or not we have rightly prepared this kindergartner, like his brother and sister, for this first real entrance into the big, wide world. When I think about those things, and I think about my big boy walking away with his newly minted lunch box in his hand into a classroom for the first time, my heart hurts.

An unshakeable foundation for human dignity

dignity

One of the most dangerous things about fudging on the first few chapters of Genesis—or really, on any part of the Bible—is what you lose. See, I do believe that genuine Christians can continue on in their faith in error, sometimes even in serious error. And I’m the first to admit there are undoubtedly some things that I am in error on, perhaps even seriously.

But one of the things we can’t back away from, even when we consider all the weird and wonderful stuff we read in the Bible, is this important passage in Genesis:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

Upon these verses, Christianity’s concept of human dignity cling. They are central to what we believe about human beings (even the awful ones). And the fact that Jesus—God the Son, the second person of the Trinity—would come to earth and take on human form… well, my goodness, that just compounds humanity’s value, doesn’t it? God’s plan of redemption stems even from these verses—they give us the reason why he would send Jesus. He redeems because he loves us in a way that is unique from all the rest of creation. He loves us because of how he made us. And he redeems us in order that we might be as he intended us to be. Russell Moore captured this truth so well in Onward. This is how he puts it:

A Christianity that doesn’t prophetically speak for human dignity is a Christianity that has lost anything distinctive to say. The gospel is, after all, grounded in the uniqueness of humanity in creation, redemption and consummation. Behind the questions of whether we should abort babies or torture prisoners or harass immigrants or buy slaves is a larger question: “Who is the Christ, the Son of the Living God?” If Jesus shares humanity with us, and if the goal of the kingdom is humanity in Christ, then life must matter to the church. The church must proclaim in its teaching and embody in its practices love and justice for those the outside world would wish to silence or to kill. And the mission of the church must be to proclaim everlasting life, and to work to honor every life made in the image of God, whether inside or outside the people of God. A vision of human dignity can exist within the common grace structures of the world, but a distinctively Christian vision of why humanity should be protected must emerge from a larger framework of kingdom and culture and mission. (138-139 [ARC])

You don’t have to be a Christian to be opposed to abortion, for alleviating the suffering of those living in poverty, or wanting to see the end of sex trafficking. But what that conviction is grounded in matters. For the pro-life—and whole life—Christian, we truly do have an unshakeable foundation. Let’s not forget that.

July’s top 10 articles at Blogging Theologically

top-10

Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in July:

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Six books every Christian should read on prayer (August 2014)
  3. The Prodigal Church (July 2015)
  4. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  5. What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? (April 2015)
  6. 5 books every new Christian should read (May 2014)
  7. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  8. Ministry Idolatry (January 2011/rewritten in September 2014)
  9. Church Buildings: They’re actually useful! (December 2009)
  10. 5 books Christians should read on Islam (March 2015)

And just for fun, here are five I really enjoyed writing this month:

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This sale on the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway is wrapping up really soon. Get the following titles for $5.99 each:

Also on sale are:

Video Killed the Pulpit Star

This was very interesting.

9 Marks of a Healthy Worship Leader

Alex Duke:

I suppose I’m equal parts grateful and terrified. After all, the title “worship leader” is nowhere in the New Testament. This fact tempts even the most levelheaded toward the subjective and superficial, where already drawn lines and white-knuckled commitments merely evidence what we’ve previously seen, known, or been comfortable with.

So I wanted to pass along a few thoughts I’ve developed as I’ve prayed through what my church is undertaking in the coming weeks, and what your church may be going through right now. I’ve unoriginally titled them “Nine Marks of a Healthy Worship Leader.”

Don’t Know What a Fetus Is? Here Are Your Options

Clarifying words from Peter Kreeft, via Justin Taylor.

Performance in Music City USA

Ray Ortlund:

But there is a dark side to our culture of performance.  The dark side is bondage to appearances — smiling, beautiful, impressive, attractive appearances.  Nashville is a city of truly amazing people.  But under the surface are also stories of unspoken disappointment, insecurity, heartache, failure, loneliness, fear, regret, injury, loss, even as the show must go on.  We may well wonder, “Does anyone care about my broken heart?”

Focus on the Family

D.L. Mayfield:

I was told for so many years to focus on my family, to make it good and strong and holy. But now all I ever want to tell my daughter is that it is sometimes those who speak the loudest about morality and spirituality who are all bluster and bluff.I remember Bill Cosby as being one of my dad’s heroes. He was respectable, safe, clean, funny. He was a regular guy. He was a dad, exasperated and busy and lovably frustrated by the self-absorbed monsters he himself had created. As a family, we would watch the Cosby show. I always thought it was a bit boring, especially those long extended musician solos. When I was young, it seemed to me that I had no taste. I didn’t like jazz. I didn’t like the comedy records that my dad played. And I never really liked Bill Cosby. When I was twelve, the youth pastor at our church was a man in his forties. He was married, and his wife terrified me with her frizzy red perm and long, claw-like nails. This youth pastor looked a lot like Sully from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (one of the other few television shows we were allowed to watch). He had long, curly brown hair and very broad shoulders. He did not seem to mind at all when people mentioned that he looked a little bit like Jesus.

7 books Christians should read on abortion and adoption

books-abortion-adoption

One of the most frequent charges laid against Christians who oppose abortion is that we care about a child’s life before they’re born and once they die, but don’t really give a rip about anything in between. This, of course, is absolute bunk, especially when you consider the number of Christians who are passionate adoption advocates, who are assisting those in need through organizations like Compassion International.

But even though the charge is bunk, it persists. And Christians would do well to educate themselves about the realities of abortion and its alternatives. Here are a few books I’d recommend to help in this area:


Innocent Blood by John Ensor

Here’s what I wrote about this book in my review from 2011:

Innocent Blood is perhaps the most personally convicting and challenging book I’ve read—so much so that I’m still wrestling with what needs to change, of what I need to repent and how to move forward. You will not enjoy reading this book, but you would do well to do so.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon | Cruciform Press (download half the book)


The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf

The Case for Life provides intellectual grounding for the pro-life convictions that most evangelicals hold. Author Scott Klusendorf first simplifies the debate: the sanctity of life is not a morally complex issue. It’s not about choice, privacy, or scientific progress. To the contrary, the debate turns on one key question: What is the unborn? From there readers learn how to engage the great bio-tech debate of the twenty-first century, how to answer objections persuasively, and what the role of the pro-life pastor should be.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue by R.C. Sproul

In this book, Dr. R.C. Sproul employs his unique perspective as a highly experienced pastor-theologian and a trained philosopher to provide well-considered and compassionate answers to the difficult questions that attend termination of pregnancy.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


Adopted for Life by Russell Moore

The doctrine of adoption—God’s decision to adopt sinful men and women into his family—stands at the heart of Christianity. In light of this, Christians’ efforts to adopt beautifully illustrate the truth of the gospel. In this popular-level and practical manifesto, Russell Moore encourages Christians to adopt children and to help other Christian families to do the same. He shows that adoption is not just about couples who have struggled to have children. Rather, it’s about an entire culture within evangelicalism—a culture that sees adoption as part of the Great Commission mandate and as a sign of the gospel itself.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


Reclaiming Adoption by Dan Cruver

Here’s what I wrote about it in my review:

Reclaiming Adoption packs a convicting punch. As Cruver unpacks the importance of the doctrine of adoption over his four chapters, he shows readers just how much it impacts everything. To understand the love of God for His people—those He chose to adopt before He even created the universe—completely transforms how we think, live, feel and act.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon


Orphanology by Tony Merida and Rick Morton

Orphanology unveils the grassroots movement that’s engaged in a comprehensive response to serve hundreds of millions of orphans and “functionally parentless” children.

You’ll see a breadth of ways to care with biblical perspective and reasons why we must. Heartwarming, personal stories and vivid illustrations from a growing network of families, churches, and organizations that cross culture show how to respond to God’s mandate. The book empowers:

  • churches—to plan preaching, teaching, ministering, missions, funding adoption, supporting orphans;
  • individuals and families—to overcome challenges and uncertainties;
  • every believer—to gain insights to help orphans in numerous ways.

Buy it at: Amazon


After They Are Yours by Brian Borgman

Christians considering adoption should also be aware that not everything is smiles and sunshine.

After They Are Yours: The Grace and Grit of Adoption talks transparently and redemptively about the often unspoken problems adoptive parents face. Combining personal experience, biblical wisdom,  and a heart for people, Borgman recalls the humbling and difficult lessons God has taught him and his wife. This is not a success story, rather it’s a story of struggles and failures set in the broader context of a God who is gracious and continually teaches us the meaning of adoption.

Buy it at: Amazon