Friday, March 30, 2007

12 Step program to...

Well, this isn't really news... it happened over a year ago, but I've only just discovered it.

Carey Hardy, Former Senior Executive pastor at Grace Community Church, gave a great 12 step program to raising a Pharisee. I've found it a helpful list to attempt to avoid in parenting...

1. Majoring on external instead of internal issues
2. Excessive control
3. Overreacting to failure
4. Being unforgiving and impatient.
5. Elevating preference over biblical principle
6. Unnecessary separatism
7. Judging others…other families
8. Being “belligerent”—a fighter
9. Favoritism
10. No humor
11. Building up their self-esteem
12. Lack of genuine spirituality

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Christian View of Work 9: Not Workng for God's glory is idolatry

B. Other work isn’t evil in itself, but when not done for the Lord’s glory becomes idolatry.

After Cain is sent off by the Lord, he starts to work. He builds a city.

So Cain went out from the LORD's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. (Genesis 4:16-17)

Now God is not against the building industry. Read Nehemiah! But here Cain seems to build a city in order to shut out God, rather than to bring glory to him. Rather like those who build the city of Babel, he wants to make a name for himself and his family, not to proclaim the name of the Lord. One of his descendants was a poet. In terms of literary excellence there is hardly a better poem in ancient literature. But look at the subject matter.

Lamech said to his wives,

"Adah and Zillah, listen to me;

wives of Lamech, hear my words.

I have killed a man for wounding me,

a young man for injuring me.

If Cain is avenged seven times,

then Lamech seventy-seven times." (Genesis 4:23-24)

God is not against poetry: Read the Psalms! But this poem glories in evil rather than the Lord. If our work is not done in service of the Lord, however pleasing it is to our senses, however hard we work at it, it will only add to our guilt before God.

There are many things that are not wrong in and of themselves, as means to the end of serving the Lord. Yet they make terrible ends. Like fire, they are good servants but bad masters.

Making a profit is an important part of any business. If a business doesn’t make a profit, then however well it is serving people and the Lord, it won’t do so for long. But if making a profit becomes the chief aim of our work, then we have ceased serving the Lord. Jesus himself said, “You cannot serve God and money.”

Working to have a clean and tidy home is a good thing, which could very clearly reflect the wonderful God we have who brings order from chaos. But if that tidiness is merely so that we can feel that we are living in an ideal home and can impress people who visit, then we are seeing both our house and people who visit as a things to serve our egos rather than seeing the house as something to use in service of the Lord.

It is ironic because it is when we serve anything in this world that the ephemeral nature of our work is highlighted.

Yet not all work is futile. There is work that has eternal consequences, and that is all work that is done for the Lord. We shall look at this in our next post.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Your Worst Nightmare Soon...

Joel Osteen, author of "Your Best Life Now" (Here's Greg Gilbert's review) is planning a visit to the UK. Another British pastor in the US comments that his promotion video for the UK tour fits the bill for a resume of a super-apostle.
I will be interested to see what the British response is. My instincts tell me that his self-promotion and outrageous claims will severely clash with the cynicism of British culture.
I only hope that there are not misguided British Christians who attempt to defend him against the accusation of being a charlatan.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Christian View of Work 8: Workng for evil ends is idolatry

Some work is now idolatry

As we saw earlier, work is worship.

That is just as much the case now as it is was before the fall. Work is still worship. But we are not always worshipping the Lord. If we are not serving the Lord with our work, we are replacing him.

A. Some ‘work’ is idolatry because what we do is in itself evil.

The chapter after the fall, Adam’s sons are going out into the field. But Cain doesn’t expend his energy tilling the ground; he expends energy murdering his brother.

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?" The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth." (Genesis 4:8-12)

Rather than creating to reflect God’s image, Cain destroys: His sin is an act of uncreation. And it renders Abel’s life fleeting. (That’s what it means – Abel is the word translated ‘meaningless’ in Ecclesiastes.)

We need to think about this in our work. If we do anything that treats a client, colleague or competitor unfairly, then we are un-creating rather than creating. We are sinning rather than serving.

Worshipful work is intended to be the bringing of order out of chaos for the glory of God. But we can exert effort to bring chaos out of order. This is idolatry, to work to serve the devil's ends rather than the Lord's. Cain exerts energy to take his brother's innocent life.

If we are willing to bill clients for more hours than we worked for them, that is an act of ‘uncreation’ for we are sending out lies rather than proclaiming the truth. If we are willing not to challenge unsubstantiated rumors that we hear about a colleague, because we think those rumors might help us to get the promotion instead of our colleague, then that deliberate silence is an act of uncreation. If we are happy to provide a second rate product to somebody because there is more gain to us than there would be if we provided them a first rate product that doesn’t make us so much money, then that is uncreation.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Should we make sure our children hear the gospel at all costs?

My fundamentalist friend, Ben Wright (standing next to CJ Mahaney, 3rd from the right -sorry ladies, he's on our no-dating-whilst-an-intern-at-CHBC policy until the end of May) points us to a great article asking the question "If we centre the church around the kids in order to pursuade them to come and hear the gospel, will they be able to hear a gospel that teaches us to centre our lives not around ourselves, but around the glory of God as displayed in Christ" (I paraphrase).

To quote:

Once teenagers graduate from high school, however, they are suddenly confronted with a church that no longer revolves around them. We explain to these young adults that God expects them to serve others and not themselves. But for years, our example has taught them that the church exists for them. So when the church stops meeting their perceived needs—when the church stops existing for them—they have no reason to stick around.

How many ministries even to College Students are built to feed the appetite nurtured for 18 years by a man-centred ecclesiology that has been unwittingly practiced by churches desperate to see their teenagers hear the gospel at all costs?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Christian view of Work 7: Earthly Work is ephemeral

2. Earthly work is now ephemeral.

That is, it doesn’t last. It’s not just that the land produces thistles. It’s that however hard we work, we’ll never be able to keep the thistles away. Our work doesn’t last.
This added problem comes partly from the fact that we too don’t last. So Adam himself would die and return to the dust. And after he’s dead he can’t work much. In fact his body becomes the land that gets worked by future generations.
The ephemeral nature of work is fleshed out in more detail in the book of Ecclesiastes. You would do well reading the whole book if, because the frustration and seeming pointlessness of living in a frustrated world is a recurrent theme.

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.
A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

(Ecclesiastes 2:17-25)

No work on earth will last. People dedicate their lives to build something. But it won’t last. Bill Gates will be forgotten one day. Microsoft will be no more. Even those who built empires will not stand. The Roman Empire might have left a few ruins behind. But that’s all they are. They’re not used for what they were designed for. And they are the great success stories. It cannot last. It will be forgotten.
Shelley’s Poem Ozymandias captures well the fleeting nature of all work, even of empires.

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Whatever you think you will achieve by your work for things in this world, it is an illusion.
You are writing a dissertation. It’s not just that nobody will read it but it will be useful to you: you yourself will probably forget it before you die. You are fixing a car. It will be on the scrap heap in a few years. You are baking a cake: it will be eaten and forgotten. You are teaching a lesson. It will be ignored and probably disproved. You are building a house. It will be owned by a fool. You are giving medicine to a child. That child will die one day. Enjoy your work in this world. Yes! It is a gift from God! But don’t live for it. For if you are working for this world it will come to nothing. It will give you food and enjoyment, but it will be a denial of the whole purpose of being a human being: to reflect the glory of God as his image bearer.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Christian view of Work 6: Work is now Laborious.

1. All Work is now laborious

All Work is now hard. For the woman, the man she was called to help would no longer be a constant joy to obey. He would take advantage of the position of responsibility that God had given him over her, and use it not to bring Glory to the Lord, but to rule her for his own ends.
The process of bringing new workers into the world is no longer something that can be unequivocally celebrated: for those who come into the world will not perfectly proclaim the Lord’s rule. And so the joy of a new image-bearer is marred by extraordinary pain.
For the man it meant that all work becomes hard and frustrating. In one sense the work is the same. He is still to bring order out of chaos. He is still to till the earth for food. But the earth is now against him. It will produce thorns and thistles. Adam will produce sweat as well as wheat.
The reason for this is often misunderstood. It is not that the fall of man has inevitably led to the ground being against him as if there were some mechanical connection between Adam and the earth. It is rather that the ground is cursed by God. Adam had served himself rather than proclaiming God’s rule. In anger God shows Adam and the whole human race what it means to have someone else as God.
As Romans 1:18-25 puts it,
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.
Because humanity is in rebellion against God, God pours his anger out upon humanity.
So, you are digging your garden and the shovel breaks in your hands. That is because in His anger God has cursed the ground. You are going shopping and the cart veers off into a stack of tinned prunes. That’s because God has cursed the materials that make the ball bearings in the wheels.
When something goes wrong, we often say, “Oh, it’s a result of the fall. It’s Adam’s fault.” Yes. Without the fall it wouldn’t be like that. But more precisely it’s a result of the curse… It is God’s doing.
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)
This completely changes our attitude towards frustration at work. Frustration is not just an annoying thing that gets on our nerves and serves no purpose. Frustration is something that God is working to a purpose. Frustration at work is something that is crying out to us, “God is angry with this world!” This world is not worth living for. There is a glorious freedom that you should be living for. And so, frustration begins to proclaim to the world the gospel.
For once we know that the wrath of God is being revealed against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, we will ask: does that include me? And when we are told, “Yes it does, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We will ask, “Well how can I be put right with God?” How can I be justified!? And we find that through faith in Jesus Christ God has revealed not his anger this time, but a way to get right with him.
Frustration is frustrating. It is supposed to be. God has designed it to be so, for it is that frustration that makes the News that we need a Savior credible.
God subjected the creation to frustration in hope. There is hope in frustration. The hope that people would long for their final adoption into a new and better world. Praise God that work is frustrating and I am therefore less tempted to live for this world!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Christian View of Work 5: Work is subject to frustration

So far we have looked particularly at the first two chapters of Genesis and learned how work is a great gift from God that comes close to the heart of what it means to be made in the image of God. God made order out of chaos, and so too all good work makes order out of chaos and so proclaims the character of our Creator for His glory.

So when we have thought about how good work is, perhaps it is surprising how much of the time our work is a pain in the neck. Even if things are generally going well, much of it is frustrating.

The computer crashes and you’ve lost your last hour’s work. You work for a week on a project and then the boss decides that she will use somebody else’s idea. You decorate your living room, only to have your 4 year old add their uninvited finishing touches. You spend a week on an essay, and the person who set it doesn’t even read it properly. You spend an afternoon tidying your desk, but by the same time next week it is in the same mess it was before. You spend months training somebody up to do a particular job, and when they are about ready to do it they go and get a job with a rival firm. All these things we may have enjoyed at the time. Yet they seem to have had no long-term benefits.

Work is supposed to be worship. It is supposed to reflect God’s rule in the world by bringing order out of chaos. Why does the order seem so quickly to degenerate to chaos again?

We have seen that this wasn’t the case with work originally. It seems that Adam and Eve were to cultivate the land. They and their offspring were to fill the world and subdue it. In time the whole world would have been a beautiful garden that proclaimed the rule of the Lord.

But with the rebellion of Adam and Eve against the rule of God came the frustration of the work that was supposed to proclaim the Lord’s Rule.

To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." (Genesis 3:16-19)

In the next few posts we'll look at some of the implications of the fall and the curse upon how we should view work.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Christian View of Work 4: Work is Partnership

Work is partnership

We have shown that work is not to be avoided. Another misconception of work is that it can be pursued alone. Work (even when you are working on your own!) is to be a partnership.

The Lord set Adam in the garden to be his servant and do his work. But Adam can’t do it on his own:

The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame (Genesis 2:18-25).

God says an extraordinary thing in this passage: “It is not good for man to be alone.” After a whole chapter filled with God declaring that things are good, he declares that something is not good.

People generally know that these verses in Genesis 2 are helpful in understanding the purpose of marriage. Unfortunately, this passage is often read in isolation, rather than in the context of the whole chapter. Some may read, “It is not good for Adam to be alone,” and think, “Yes, poor Adam. He must have been lonely. He needed a companion. A pet dog or rabbit or rhinoceros wasn’t a suitable companion.”

But loneliness isn’t Adam’s main problem. His primary problem is incompetence. It was not good for Adam to be alone because he had work to do that he couldn’t do by himself. He needs a helper, not merely a companion.

The purpose of marriage, therefore, is to share in the Lord’s work. If you are married, the primary purpose of your marriage is work that brings glory to God’s name. Whether that be the work of discipling children, or the work you do together in the church, or the secular work to which each of you is called. Marriage is a partnership in the work of the Lord.

If you are married, this means a couple things. First, marriage is not one of your responsibilities before the Lord that competes for your time. Marriage is the partnership in all your responsibilities before the Lord.

This means that we are called to take an interest in our spouse’s responsibilities, not just because we love them and are interested in their lives, but because we are partners in each other’s work. Husbands are responsible for their wives. Wives are called to help their husbands.

Because all work is a partnership in worship, it means that spouses have the opportunity to encourage one another to see all the work they do as an act of service.

Secondly, the shape of the marriage is to be determined by the calling God has given in creation, not merely by the shape of your personalities. God is a God who works to bring order out of chaos. Importantly, he has established order within the marriage relationship. Adam names his wife. Eve helps her husband. Our faithfulness to this order is an exercise of worship. Husbands who neglect their responsibilities and wives who assume authority demonstrate a lack of trust.

If your single and pursuing marriage in some form, realize that marriage is a partnership. The compatibility you seek with another should center primarily on the compatibility of service. Does the person in whom you’re interested have a heart for Christ and the church? Above all, consider whether you can see yourself serving faithfully with the other person for the rest of your life.

Regardless of our particular stage of life, each of us is called to work for the Lord, and in so doing, we bring glory to his name. We are called not to do this alone, but in partnership.

The partnership that Adam has with Eve was not only significant of the partnership of marriage. Adam and Eve are not only the first family, but also the first people of God. Thus they are a paradigm not only for marriage but also for the church. The church is the family of God. Gospel ministry must always be in partnership with the church, and only normally in the partnership of marriage. I'll look at this in a later post.

Let’s ensure our lives are used for work that clearly proclaims the Lord’s rule in fellowship with others.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Christian view of Work 3: Work is Good because Work is Worship

Work is worship.

Eden is more than a garden. It was the place where God lived. Now, obviously God is everywhere. His word stretches out over the universe, just as it stretched the universe out. But in the garden, Adam and Eve met with God. They should have forever enjoyed walking with the Lord (Genesis 3:8).
Furthermore, in the middle of the garden were two trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). The tree of life demonstrated God to be the source of all life. We have life only through our connection to God the life-giver. The tree of knowledge demonstrated that God ruled:
And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’ (Genesis 2:16-17).

God had the right to say what Adam could and could not do. Adam was not just to work as he saw fit, but to do so under God’s rule.
Not only does the tree of knowledge signify God’s ruling presence, so does the description of the land.
A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) (Gen. 2:10-12).

How strange to mention the presence of gold and precious stones. We don’t come across these onyx stones anywhere else in the Old Testament apart from one place. They turn up seven times in Exodus 25-40. In those chapters gold is mentioned 84 times.

So what’s Genesis 2 got to do with Exodus 25-40? That section of Exodus refers to the making of the tabernacle—the place where God would symbolize his presence with his people.
So what has this got to do with work? The word used for Adam’s work in Eden is the word used for the service of the priests in the tabernacle and temple. In other words, work and worship are bound together so closely that the call to work is the call to worship God. The work that man is called to in Eden is about worship—about serving the Lord.
Whatever our work, so long as it isn’t sinful, it is worship. Therefore, we should see our work as part of the Lord’s great work of bringing glory to himself.
The story is told of a traveler who, entering a city, comes across a vast building site where men are hewing and carrying large stones. He approaches one worker who is covered in dust as he hews what looks like a section of a pillar. “What are you doing?” the traveler asks. “Can’t you see? I’m hewing this stone.” Another man is carving something onto one of the stones already cut. The traveler asks him, “What are you doing?” “I’m earning seven groats a week,” he replies. A third man is almost buckling under the weight of a vast stone he is carrying. “What are you doing?” the traveler inquires. With a little light in his eyes, the worker responds, “I’m building a cathedral!”
Do we see our work as a part of God’s great plan to bring glory to his name, or merely as a drudgery inflicted upon us, or a necessary evil to earn our keep?
Paul reminds us that all our work should be an act of worship. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).That all our work is for the Lord should inform our attitude and response to relationships and circumstances at work. It can be enormously frustrating when a boss or an employee doesn’t do things the way we would like. We must remember that our work isn’t primarily for us. It is for the honour and glory of the Lord Jesus. Consequently, we must be sure that we are being faithful and trust that this will please the Lord.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

A Christian view of Work 2: Work is Good because it is a good gift from God

Human work existed before the fall. it is part of God's perfect plan for humanity.
“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’” (Genesis 1:28).
Humans have the job of ruling over the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. Not only did that work exist before the fall, we reflect God’s image when we work.
The idea of dominion lies very close to the heart of what it means to be a human being. Genesis 1 makes it absolutely clear that God rules supreme. The universe did not exist until his creative word called it into existence. He received no help from anyone. His own word did the work. And the work was fantastic! By God’s word, planets and stars and creatures sprung into existence in all their diversity and richness. So God is a God who brings order out of chaos. That’s what work is.
Bringing order out of chaos is precisely what human beings are called to do—to rule over God’s world in the way that he rules. Or, more precisely, we are to rule in such a way that it proclaims his rule.
We know from Genesis 2:4-6 that without man the land remains chaotic. Thus, God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden “to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). Adam is to be the one who will irrigate this land so that plants will grow. In other words, God deliberately left his creation an unfinished project so that human beings could work just like he works.
But why would God do this? God gave man work so that we can know him in a way that no other creature can. As God’s image bearers, we can know what it means to have responsibility and authority. We can know what it’s like to be satisfied at the end of a productive week because what we’ve done is good. We can look back with satisfaction at the field we’ve irrigated or the computer code we’ve written or the clothes we’ve washed or the diapers we’ve changed or the squeaky door we’ve fixed or the painting we’ve painted or the distraught employee we’ve comforted or the meal we’ve cooked. We can think, “That was a mess. My work has put it in order. That’s good.”
Moreover, we should work self-consciously aware that we are created in God’s image. Thus, we proclaim the rule of the Lord as we work. We should think, “I’ve brought order out of chaos, just like my Maker does. What a wonderful God he is, not only to have made me, but to let me share in his work.”

Imagine a mother baking some cupcakes. Rather than icing all of them, she makes some icing and gives it to her four-year-old daughter along with some candy. She says to her daughter, “You can decorate these cakes as you like. You’ve seen me decorate some, now it’s your turn.”
The daughter then gets caught up in the work of the mother. The mother hasn’t just provided the cupcakes. She’s given the daughter a part in the work. Consequently, the little girl enjoys the cakes that her mother has made. But more than that, she is able to identify with her mother’s work, participate in it, and so better appreciate her mother’s service to the family. In short, the little girl’s participation in the work is good for her relationship with her mother.
So it is with the task of dominion to which man is called. Our work enables us to participate in the creative purposes of God as we bring order out of chaos. Such is the nature of God-ordained work.
Work has nothing to do with whether or not we are paid. It has everything to do with whether we are bringing order out of chaos. We must all work whether we are employed, unemployed (much of our work will then be to seek work), or work in the home. You need to work even if you are paying to be a student.Bringing order from chaos, consciously for God’s glory, lies close to the heart of our calling as human beings made in God’s image.

Shepherd's Conference Day 2

Well, today has been a different day. Ligon Duncan preached excellently on Numbers 5:11-31 with a wonderful model of how to preach a very hard passage from the Old Testament law and apply it (not to the millennium) but very helpfully devotionally to the Christian.
He ended with a wonderful meditation on the way in which we can be made clean because the one who alone was clean, the one who touched the unclean and made them clean, the one who touched teh dead and was not contaminated, but raised them, that this one deliberately drinks to the dregs the curses that should have been ours.
How remarkable that Jesus would deliberately and willingly drink curses upon himself, the cup of the wrath of God that was against me so that I might be made clean and boldly enter the presence of the Holy God.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Incredible Hospitality

Whatever I think of the eschatology of the conference here, one thing is clear. The conference is perhaps the most extraordinary example of generous, kind, gracious, hospitality I have ever observes or experienced being given to so many people at once. 3000 pastors here, and I have not heard anything but a patient, kind, helpful word from any of the stewards.

On arrival we were given some very generous gifts; the food is 'awesome'. It is a huge undertaking, even for a megachurch to put on such a conference. It is the 34th time they have done it. I am hugely grateful and mightily impressed and humbled.

Preaching to the choir

The 200 voice choir rolled out. We prayed, then John Mc.Arthur started 'preaching' about the reason why every self-respecting Calvinist is a premellenialist. I've rarely heard such a partisan (and admittedly very amusing) dismissal of amillenialism.

I wonder though, if there was irony that the choir had just left before he started preaching to them!

Shepherd's Conference 2007

I landed in LA yesterday with a group of a dozen of us fro CHBC, to join 3000 pastors for the Shepherd's Conference. I'm now sitting in Grace Community church enjoying the music of the extraordinarily talented brass band that is playing. It does feel rather like I'm attending the last night of the proms. There is a 200? strong male voice choir. It feels like a vast Salvation army Convention, though the uniform of choice is black suits and white shirts, rather than the more military attire of the Sally Army!

I'm not going to blog on the sessions of the conference - I shall leave that to the real bloggers out there, but do intend to make a few cultural comments of the observations of a Brit visiting a Fundamentalistish California Mega-Church conference.
As I write now the big man himself, John MacArthur is welcoming us and introducing the conference. I shall sign off, and enjoy!

A Christian view of Work 1: Work is Good because God works

It is all too easy as a college student to adopt worldly lies about work. I'm going to outline some wrong views of work over the next few days, and provide a biblical view of our work instead.

A good book to read on this if you are interested is Mark Greene, Thank God It's Monday

Lie Number 1: Work is best avoided.

There are several reasons that we shall explore as to why work is good rather than to be avoided. first and foremost of these is this:

Work is good because God works.

Is work something to be avoided? Maybe you think I must have this attitude if I’m on the pastoral staff of a church. Many people think that a pastor has never done an honest day’s work in his life. The old saying goes that pastors are six days invisible and one day incomprehensible.
Actually, the longest secular job I’ve held down was as a newspaper delivery boy. I did that for about two years! So, since I stopped my paper-route at the age of sixteen, have I done rather well at avoiding work so that I could do what I enjoy doing?

We might be tempted to see work as a necessary evil that intrudes upon life, as if “real” life is what we do when we’re not working. Similarly, we might view work as that which enables us to really enjoy life. Such thinking tends to treat work and enjoyment as mutually exclusive categories with little relationship to one another in every day life.

According to the Bible, is work merely a necessary evil associated with living in a fallen world? Is work God’s curse to human beings who have rebelled against him?

Work comes not from the fall, but from creation. The first worker in the Bible isn’t Adam once he’s banished from Eden. It’s not even Adam before he is banished from Eden. The first worker is God himself. God is portrayed in Genesis 1 as the ultimate worker, who enjoys ultimate job satisfaction.
Therefore, work isn’t a curse to be avoided; it is a blessing to be enjoyed.

God is a God who works. His work brings order out of chaos.
The world begins formless and empty. For three days God forms. For three days he fills. By the end of day six, he has brought great order out of chaos: “The heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array” (Genesis 2:1). Whose work was it? “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:3). It was God’s work. This tells us something about who God is. He is a God of order, a creative God.Even though God rests on day seven, he doesn’t cease working altogether. Far from it.

If God doesn’t work, the universe ceases to exist. “Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working’” (John 5:17).

We have a God who is always at His good work. therefore work cannot be intrinsically a bad thing. We should not therefore seek to avoid it, but embrace it.