Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Matter of Faithfulness

Dan Doriani post: You Do Not Labor in Vain

I regularly preach about work and must confess: It is easy to share stories of executives, doctors, and engineers and forget that the most common occupations in America are retail salesperson and cashier. A series of recent conversations with Millennials reminded me that even among professionals, there is a chasm between Christian rhetoric and reality. Young Christians know the basics: God ordained work from the beginning so that it is good. Further, God commands mankind to fill and exercise dominion over the earth, but also to keep the garden. So we preserve creation even as we develop it (Gen. 1-2).

But daily work is hard. We labor beside people who are incompetent, careless, and mean. One man likes his job but is harried because his co-workers are indifferent and his company teeters on the brink of bankruptcy. His wife works for a vast corporation that does more good than harm, but it manufactures chemicals that seem to harm the environment, and its legal department can be ruthless. She is a corporate writer and isn't sure she believes everything she has say.

A big company recruited another woman in college. Her first boss was an egotist. She also felt claustrophobic, cooped up in a tiny space, staring at a computer all day, crunching numbers to set price points to maximize sales of frumpy women's clothes. One day she had an epiphany. She overheard two women admiring the color and quality of the sweaters she despised. She thought, They really are quality sweaters at a fair price. My job isn't marketing sweaters I would buy. Who am I to judge what styles should please other people? Suddenly she saw that her work made life better for someone. She realized that work is the chief place where we love our neighbors as ourselves.


But epiphanies are rare, especially when our perspective on work is clouded by paradigms taken from the culture. In Vocation, Douglass Schuurman says his students view work as "a realm for self-fulfillment" and "optimal self-actualization." They expect to develop their gifts and find a fulfilling career if they work hard and heed their mentors. He calls this a myth that applies, at best, to people who already have native intelligence, a network of supportive adults, and access to an elite education.

"Self-actualization" came into our vocabulary through Abraham Maslow's 1943 paper, "A Theory of Human Motivation." Like most secular ideas the church imbibes, it overlaps with something in Scripture. Maslow wanted us to realize our potential and expected us to do so at work. And the Bible does link work and joy occasionally (Deut. 16:15, Prov. 12:14, Heb. 13:17). Jesus found satisfaction in accomplishing the work of redemption (John 4:34). Take these slender facts, add a theology of gifts and notions of Christ transforming culture, and we can baptize secular notions.

Yet Scripture primarily sees work as a matter of faithfulness in an ascribed calling. Paul says, "Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so" (1 Cor. 7:21, NIV). Such realism is a remedy for disappointment in a culture of self-actualization. So is Matthew 25. But God sees the significance of our work even if we cannot. When we meet him, Jesus will tell his people:

"Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance. . . . For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?" The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matt. 25:35-41)
Truck Drivers Welcome

People constantly diminish the significance of their own work. Truck drivers say, "Farmers grow the food, I just drive it around." But where would we be without truck drivers? Will we drive to Kansas to buy cows and to Minnesota for wheat?

Everyone in the food chain contributes. The supplier sells seeds, fertilizer, and equipment. We need stock boys and cashiers. Consider the cashier. To buy food, someone has to take the money. The cashier, the last person a shopper sees, can make a tough shopping trip end well. That is how she loves people at work.

It's hard to see the value of our work. The math teacher cannot know that her goofy algebra student will build excellent bridges. The art teacher can't see that his doodler will become an architect with visual flair.

And what job has lower esteem than a fast-food worker? The hours are bad, the pay low, and the food toxic. But I have prayed to find fast food when traveling, desperate with hunger as night closed in. We pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," and God calls farmers, bakers, truck drivers, and fast-food workers.

Jesus will bless the faithful: "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. . . . I was sick and you looked after me." We will say, "When?" Probably at work. At work we have the greatest skill, training, time, and resources. If, by faith, we strive to love God and neighbors at work, then we serve him. And he will remember it forever. If our work has any role in the chain that brings food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, and care to sick and lonely, Jesus is pleased to bless us for it.

Certainty Not Confidence

Ray Ortlund post:  Men sure of God

“. . . men sure of God, sure of his will, sure of the absolute duty to act in his sight and for his approval.  Nothing else mattered by comparison.  Consequences were of no account.  Obedience alone held the secret of freedom, courage, peace, power, happiness and salvation.”
The Puritans, as described by F. J. Powicke, quoted in Iain H. Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years (Edinburgh, 1982), page 97.
We should not idealize the Puritans.  But the value of this statement lies in its clear description of Christian men to whom God is real and supreme, men not confident in themselves but certain about God.
In our time we have rejected certainty and replaced it with confidence.  Certainty gazes outward to Another, while confidence looks within to oneself.  And this change we have foolishly called humility.
Men sure of God are truly humble.  And they cannot be ignored.  They stand out.  They alone have something to say.  Who is willing to bear the reproach of walking through this world humbly as a man sure of God?

Friday, August 30, 2013

People Enjoying Jesus

John Piper post:  Drafted:  Why Chris Norman Said No to the NFL

I invite you to watch this moving 11-minute story of Michigan State linebacker Chris Norman.
Desiring God commissioned the video because God is at the center of the story, and because at one key point, God used Don’t Waste Your Life as part of his surprising plan for Chris’s life. Special thanks to hip-hop artists Flame and Shai Linne for their contributions to the soundtrack, and to Michigan State University and ESPN for the game footage.
Why would a promising All-American turn from options in the NFL toward theological education and the pastoral ministry? The decisive reason came in 2011 at a Christian camp for athletes. He saw something different: People enjoying Jesus.
I didn’t know that Jesus could be enjoyed. So once I figured that out — it was the night of May 24, 2011 — Christ got a hold of my life, captivated my heart, and changed me from the inside out.
As it has happened for many of us, this love for Christ became, in Chris’s life, a specific call to ministry. About a week after his final game he decided to go to seminary. It is a remarkable story brimming with lessons for life. Lessons like . . .
  • First loves in life, no matter how good, and how intense, may not prove to be last loves.
  • Joy in Jesus is captivating.
  • At key points in our lives direction from God will be followed by opposition and obstacles.
  • Surprising, unexpected help comes along the path of obedience.
  • Drop your pebbles of Christ-exalting truth in every pond you can. You have no idea where the ripples might go. This surely has been the story of my life. Share the gospel. Preach a sermon. Give a devotional. Write a book. For example, Don’t Waste Your Life. And seven years later it falls into the hands of a Michigan State linebacker.
Now Chris has dropped his pebble into this video. Where will the ripples go? When you watch, you will become part of that story. And it will become part of yours.
Would you help us share Chris’s story with more and more athletes and sports fans? It will begin with your friends, family, classmates, and co-workers. You can send them

Thursday, August 29, 2013

God Alone Will Have That Supreme Role

God's Sovereignty in Human Actions

When we turn from the natural world to consider the world of human actions and human choice, God’s sovereignty is still amazingly extensive. You should vote in political elections— on the candidates and on the amendments. But let there be no man-exalting illusion as though mere human beings will be the decisive cause in any victory or loss. God alone will have that supreme role. “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; … the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Daniel 2: 21; 4: 17). And whoever the next president is, he will not be sovereign. He will be governed. And we should pray for him that he would know this: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21: 1). And when he engages in foreign affairs he will not be decisive. God will. “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (Psalm 33: 10– 11). When nations came to do their absolute worst, namely the murder of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, they had not slipped out of God’s control, but were doing his sweetest bidding at their worst moment: “Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4: 27– 28). The worst sin that ever happened was in God’s plan, and by that sin, sin died.

John Piper. Doctrine Matters (Kindle Locations 1030-1042).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Power of Grace

Trevin Wax post:  I Weep for Miley

Picking up a sub sandwich today, I saw a news report on CNN about Miley Cyrus’ performance at last night’s VMA’s. I was shocked, then sickened, then saddened.
For the rest of the day, I wondered:
What kind of people are we?
What kind of culture have we created?
What do we want our children to be?
No more wondering. Tonight, I weep.
I weep for the little girl who gave us Hannah Montana and became a role model to millions of little girls across America.
I weep for the lostness of a girl who doesn’t see herself stumbling around in the dark.
I weep for the news channels that profit from their all-day coverage of a young woman spiraling out of control.
I weep for the American Idol culture that promises glitter and gold to children, then chews them up and spits them out.
I weep for an entertainment culture that celebrates the breaking of every social taboo and the casting off of every restraint, only then to turn and mock the stars that follow suit.
I weep for a tabloid culture that finds celebrity gossip and embarrassing moments titillating.
I weep for women enslaved by a false view of sexual liberation.
I weep for men (myself included) who have failed to say, “Enough is enough.”
I weep for all the times I’ve looked at women as objects and failed to see them as someone’s sisters and daughters.
I weep for the fathers of Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and all the family members of all the other women who feel they have to sexualize themselves to achieve success.
I weep for my five-year-old little girl, who twirls around like a princess and hugs me tight at night, when I think of the world she is growing up in, the world I will send her into.
I weep for the broken, messed-up world we live in.
But then I weep at the power of grace.
There’s Jesus, lifting the head of a woman of the night and sending her away into the light. There’s Jesus in a crowd, healing a woman desperately trying to cover the shame. There’s Jesus at the well, transforming a woman tossed aside by multiple men.

Weeping is no longer enough. Now, I pray.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Help Meet It

What's Best Next post:  The Necessity of Distinguishing Relief and Development

In both cases, the goal is to help the person back to self-sufficiency. But the strategies in each case are different — often profoundly so.
The goal of relief is to meet pressing, urgent needs that are causing great hardship to a person or group. You don’t worry about things like “dependency” here; you just get in and solve the problem because people’s lives, or livelihoods, are at stake and there is very limited time. For example, right after an earthquake you don’t care about whether your help might create a “dependency” or whether you are dealing with the so-called “worthy” poor.  You just get in and save lives. Time is of the essence, and people need immediate help.
The focus of development is enabling and empowering the other person or group to act to solve their own problems. Here, things like the risk of dependency matter very much, because you aren’t dealing with extremely time-sensitive needs that are of such an extreme nature that the person will lose their life or experience extreme loss if the needs aren’t addressed almost immediately. You have time. If you simply give the person hand-outs, they will not develop their own capacity and become self-sufficient.
The Great Mix-Up (Which is No Longer What You May Think)
We often get these things mixed up. One of the central tenets of my thinking for the last 15 years, ever since I started learning about economics, is that we often take a relief-based approach to situations that are really issues of development. This screws everything up and hurts those that we are seeking to help.
As the importance of this truth is being recognized more and more, I am unfortunately noticing an unfortunate trend in the other direction now. People are suggesting development-based approaches in contexts that actually require a relief-based approach. This especially happens in personal situations here in the U.S. I’ve seen people withhold help to others that is essential to meeting pressing needs (Titus 3:14) out of fear that they will create dependency in the person. As a result, the person experiences great loss that, in turn, actually undercuts their ability to remain self-sufficient.
How’s that for irony? In an attempt to avoid creating “dependency” in the person, you actually undercut their ability to remain self-sufficient by failing to help with a need that is genuinely beyond their capacity, through no fault of their own.
Plain and simple, this is disrespectful. We need to have enough respect for people to realize that most people are not seeking to become moochers. When a person has a real, immediate need that is beyond their power to meet, plain and simple, just help them!
This is why we don’t see Jesus very worried about “dependency” in all the healings he did. If a person was blind, or paralyzed, or disabled in another way, Jesus didn’t say “well, hmmm….; if I help you, you might not be grateful enough, you might abuse it, and you might become dependent, no longer seeking to do things yourself.” He healed every person he came across (Matthew 4:23-25; 9:35 — note: he healed “every disease and every affliction”). People are supposed to be able to walk, they are supposed to be healthy, and they are supposed to be able to see. That’s God’s design for human beings. When people lack these things, you have a case of relief, not development, so Jesus healed every person he came across in order to re-establish them, at the very least, back to the baseline of what God intended for them.
With our sanctification, on the other hand, the Lord tends to take a development approach with us (Philippians 2:12-13). That’s why it’s so hard! The Lord is not an enabler and does not do everything for us. He is helping us grow into mature, self-governing Christians who are capable of making our own decisions. Hence, he takes us on paths that will involve us making mistakes and having to exert great effort on the path of sanctification. The result is that we grow.
But the Lord doesn’t mix up the situations calling for relief, and the situations calling for development. He takes a relief approach when necessary, and a development approach when that is appropriate. We shouldn’t mix these things up, either.
Bottom line: when a person has a need that is beyond their capacity, especially that is a result of injustice, don’t let the concern to avoid “dependency” get in the way of actually helping them. When you see a pressing need, help meet it (Luke 10:29-37; 1 John 3:17; Titus 3:14)!

God Did It

John Piper post:  The Value of Knowing How God Saved You

I will venture to say that most Christians don’t know how God saved them. I don’t mean how God paid for their sins, but how he brought them to faith. That means many Christians miss out on the benefits of knowing this. There are at least six benefits which I’ll mention at the end.
God saved us by raising us from spiritual death, opening the eyes of our blind hearts, and giving us the gift of faith. Let it sink in now from God’s word, that he did this, not you.
Whether you or I remember it or not, we were all once spiritually “dead,” and therefore “children of wrath.” This is true even if we never remember being an unbeliever. You have it on God’s authority. “You were dead in trespasses and sins . . . and were by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:13). All humans are, or were, spiritually dead. That’s what Paul means by “like the rest of mankind.” That’s what God saved us out of.

We Were Blind

Another way God describes our spiritual deadness is by saying we are “natural” rather than “spiritual.” “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him . . . because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
So our “natural” state of being spiritually “dead” makes us unable to discern and accept the spiritual truth of Christ — that he is supremely beautiful and desirable. The devil could see that Jesus was the Son of God, and know he died for sinners (Mark 1:24). But he could not see Jesus as supremely beautiful and desirable. Neither could we when we were “dead” and merely “natural.”
So God says that the eyes of our hearts were blind to the glory of Christ. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

You Did Not Save Yourself

This means that the way God saved us was by giving sight to our blind hearts. “God . . . has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4–6). If you see Jesus as supremely beautiful and desirable so that you embrace him for the Savior he is, God has healed your blindness.
And he has raised you from the dead. “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). And he has given you the gift of faith. “It has been freely given to you that you believe in Christ” (Philippians 1:29).
So you did not save yourself. You did not open your blind eyes, or raise yourself from the dead, or create your own faith. All of it was owing to God’s sovereign grace. You may have resisted this for a long time (as Acts 7:51 says), but, if you love Christ, God overcame your resistance and brought you to himself. What was impossible for you, God did. “With man it is impossible, but not with God” (Mark 10:27).
Why does it matter if you know this? It matters because there are at least these six benefits from know it.

Six Benefits from Knowing How God Saved You

  1. Knowing how God saved you enables you to feel a fitting thankfulness to God. You can’t be thankful for what God did, if you think you did it. (Romans 6:17)
  2. Knowing how God saved you enables you to admire and worship the freeness of God’s saving grace (Ephesians 2:5), the greatness of his particular love (Ephesians 2:4), and the sweetness of his overpowering strength (1 Corinthians 1:18).
  3. Knowing how God saved you teaches you to live and serve in the ongoing supply of that same empowering grace. “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? . . . Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:3–5). “Serve by the strength that God supplies” (1 Peter 4:11).
  4. Knowing how God saved you shows you that you are to evangelize others with the expectation that he must do the decisive work, not you. In evangelism your witness is indispensible, but God’s work is decisive (1 Corinthians 3:5–7).
  5. Knowing how God saved you gives you hope for the hardest of sinners and the most resistant mission field. “For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27).
  6. Knowing how God saved you reminds you that you have a stunning testimony to share. You were blind, but now you see. You were dead, but now you are alive. You were unbelieving, but now you embrace Jesus as supremely beautiful and desirable. You can share this not on the flimsy authority of your memory of it (which may not even exist), but on the unsurpassed authority of God. And it is not boring. Being raised from the dead can never be boring.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Excludes Boasting

Chapter 4.  The Sovereignty of God.  John Piper. Doctrine Matters (Kindle Locations 1044-1052).

Our salvation was secured on Calvary under the sovereign hand of God. And, if you are a believer in Jesus, if you love him, you are a walking miracle. God granted you repentance (2 Timothy 2: 24f). God drew you to Christ (John 6: 44). God revealed the Son of God to you (Matthew 11: 27). God gave you the gift of faith. “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2: 8– 9). The sovereignty of God in our salvation excludes boasting. There may have been a hundred horrible things in your life. But, if today, you are moved to treasure Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can write over every one of those horrors the words of Genesis 50: 20: Satan, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” I conclude therefore with the words of Paul in Ephesians 1: 11, “God works all things according to the counsel of his will.” All things— from the roll of the dice, to the circuits of stars, to the rise of presidents, to the death of Jesus, to the gift of repentance and faith.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

None Like You

Scotty Smith:  A Prayer for Blasting Our Hearts with the Gospel

”Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11
     Dear Lord Jesus, today like every day, I need the gospel—the good news about who you are and what you’ve done for us; not old advice about how to get my life together, and what I must do for you. I could no more redeem my own life than I could climb the Himalayas in flip flops, blindfolded; or surf the waves of Hawaii on a pop cycle stick; or be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect. I need you, and you alone, for my salvation.
Among all the gods and wanna-be saviors, there is none like you—none so augustly perfect; none so quintessentially beautiful; none so immeasurably generous, kind and loving. No god, except you, ever took upon himself the burden and price of redeeming rebels, fools and idolaters, like me. You didn’t lower a ladder down from heaven, expecting me do climb up a wrung at a time. You came from the perfections of eternity into our world of brokenness to do for us, what we could never do for ourselves.
As our substitute, you lived a life of perfect obedience to God’s law—fulfilling everything demanded of us, but never delivered by us. You didn’t show us how “to do it”; you did it all for us. You didn’t set a good example for us to follow, by our grit; you earned a perfect righteousness for us to receive, by your grace.
Your death on the cross was the death we deserved—the perfect Lamb for guilty sinners; your resurrection from the dead was for the justification we now enjoy; your intercession in heaven is for the ongoing needs we constantly have; your return to the earth will be for the completion of the salvation we have freely received. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! From beginning to end, our salvation is of the Lord—of you, Lord Jesus!
     Of course, we now want to worship and adore you; obey you and serve you; spend time with you and be spent for you. No longer condemned, we are no longer chained to a life of self-anything; no longer in doubt about eternity, we are no longer in doubt about what to do with the rest of our lives in this world; no longer slaves to sin and death, we are now bond-slaves of freedom and the righteousness that is by faith.
Lord Jesus, free us to forgive others, as you have forgiven us; to accept others as God has accepted us in you; to love others, as you so sacrificially, passionately and constantly love us. Hallelujah, what a Savior you are! Hallelujah, what a salvation you have freely given us. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and loving name.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

There Is No Other

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. 
—Isaiah 46: 8– 11 

One of the most foundational of all the thirty-year theological trademarks is the priceless truth of the sovereignty of God. Let’s go right to our text lest even from the beginning we import something here that does not come from the word of God. This matter is far too serious, and touches on so many painful realities, that we dare not trust ourselves here to come up with truth without being told by God himself. In Isaiah 46: 9 God says, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” So the issue in this text is the uniqueness of God among all the beings of the universe. He is in a class by himself. No one is like him. The issue is what it means to be God. When something is happening, or something is being said or thought, and God responds, “I am God!” (which is what he does in verse 9), the point is: You’re acting like you don’t know what it means for me to be God.

John Piper. Chapter 4.  The Sovereignty of God.  Doctrine Matters (Kindle Locations 928-939).

I Need the Gospel Each and Every Moment

Christina Fox post:  A Tantrum for My Transformation

Some days I wake up and nothing seems to go right.
The alarm fails to sound. The kids are slow to get ready. The fridge is empty of milk (after I set the table with bowls of cereal). And then the route to an appointment is filled with red lights. Soon I find myself stuck for an hour in a tiny exam room, waiting for the doctor to show up while my boys bounce off the walls. After the appointment, we stop at the grocery store on the way home (for the milk) and the boys act like wild animals broke free from a zoo. My heart sighs and I wish I could just rewind time and start the day all over.

What Should I Do?

Days like this would often leave me in despair. I felt frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed. I desperately tried to figure out why my life was chaotic and how I could fix it. And then I felt guilty over my inability to do so. I thought that maybe I just needed to be more organized. If I could get control over the details of my life, maybe I wouldn’t have these stressful days. I searched the blogs and read the books, hoping to find ways to make my life run smoothly, thinking the whole time that there must be something I can do — that there must be someway to grab back control over my days.
But I really needed theology. I needed what I knew about God to press down deep into my daily life. I realized that if I believe in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty I had to face the truth that God is never surprised by any frustrating event I encounter. Spurgeon once said that even a speck of dust cannot move unless God wants it to. God is in sovereign control of all he has made and of all the details of our lives. “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6).

A Greater Plan for Me

Since this is true — since nothing happens outside God’s will and plan — then my daily parenting challenges are under his sovereign control, too. He knows about the tantrums over lost toys, the kids getting sick right before an important event, and the everyday-stress of getting children to go to sleep. He is not surprised by sibling spats, markers on the walls, or potty training fiascos. All the events of our lives that feel out of our control are actually in God’s control.
Lamentations 3:37–38 says, “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” Jerry Bridges comments on this passage, “God is in control of every circumstance and every event of our lives, and he uses them, often in some mysterious way, to change us more into the likeness of Christ” (Respectable Sins, Location 629). What this means for me as a parent is that every late appointment and every empty jug of milk is sovereignly decreed and used for my good. My child’s tantrum is for my transformation.
And this truth has given me great freedom. Instead of despairing over the seemingly random and chaotic events in my life, I can view them in light of his sovereign care. When my days are long and everything seems to go wrong, I know it has all happened for a reason. In fact, all of my parenting challenges are used for my spiritual good — they are to make me more like Christ (Romans 8:28–29). This is what God is about.
He is not in the business of making my life comfortable and free of any stress. He has something greater planned for me: my holiness.

There Is Hope

In the midst of the chaos, I see Jesus and how much I need the gospel each and every moment. The God of grace who saved me from sin is the God of grace who will help me have patience in the close confines of a pediatrician’s office. Every challenging situation becomes an opportunity for me to trust him — to obey, to learn, to grow, to rely more on his grace.
So when the dryer breaks and I get a flat tire, instead of despair there is hope. Life doesn’t feel out of control if we know Who is in control. We can trust and rest in God’s sovereignty, knowing that he is using our every stress for our transformation and his glory.

Every Task is Significant

Elise Amyx post:  Is Your Job Useless?

When I graduated college, I saw many of my Christian friends apply for campus ministry and rush to missions work in Africa for fear they would not find significance at a standard 9-to-5 desk job.

I watched plans to become dance teachers, chiropractors, and entrepreneurs dissolve as my peers gave up their dreams in order to pursue "full-time ministry." They feared one day waking up and feeling they weren't changing the world or advancing the kingdom of God. They were ready to do anything to avoid that gnawing feeling.
They aren't alone. Today, three-quarters of Americans feel unfulfilled in their work -- and job dissatisfaction may be an even greater struggle in the Christian community. What do we do, then, when we feel our work is useless?

Biblical Basis of Work

When thinking about our vocations, we should remember God created us to work. According to Genesis 2:15work is not a curse, but a gift from God given to us before the fall. Work was—and still is—a tool for us to develop the creation and be salt and light in the world for the glory of God and his kingdom.
As a result of the fall, however, our work will at times be frustrating and difficult. So work can often seem useless. But Christ came to restore all things, which means even the most boring job is redeemable.

All Work Is God's Work

Though some work may seem useless, Christians understand that all work is God's work. Our work only seems insignificant because we fail to grasp the big picture. This is what economists refer to as the "knowledge problem." The knowledge problem means we can't always see the big picture because knowledge is dispersed among many people; no one person knows everything. In the vocational sense, this means we may not understand how our work is part of a much larger economic dynamic. If we can't easily see how our work contributes to the common good, we may understate the effect of what we do.
Some positions make it difficult for workers to see the end product, but that certainly does not mean that their work is insignificant. Just because a factory worker doesn't receive the instant gratification of seeing the final product that he helped to create doesn't change the reality that his effort contributed to that product.
Hugh Whelchel articulates this idea well when he writes,
The work of believers possesses a significance which goes far beyond the visible results of that work. . . . All human work, however lowly, is capable of glorifying God. Work is the potentially productive act of praise.
It's important to remember that the value of our work may never be fully realized in our lifetime. In medieval times, it could take hundreds of years to build a single cathedral. The laborer laying the cornerstone might never live to see the top of the steeple.
Clearly, the knowledge problem is also a faith problem. Rather than being discouraged in seemingly insignificant work, we can humbly rest in the confidence of God's master plan.
However, there are a few cases in which work is truly useless. They occur in industries where demand for a product or service is immoral or if the product or service doesn't meet the intended purpose. Examples include anything from pornographic material to goods that do not function properly.

Every Task Significant

All good work can be "Christian" and no work that serves mankind is useless. Even interns who enter contact names into a spreadsheet add significant value to their organization—and the organization's mission—through their labor. Likewise, the factory worker who churns out widgets day after day is actively participating in the work of God.
Though some routine assignments seem unimportant, every task is significant if God has called you to it. We fulfill our call to Christian work when we put our hands to the task he has called us to do—and leave it to God to see the final outcome.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

He Is Able

John Piper:  Will You Be a Believer Tomorrow Morning?

Christian, how do you know you will still be a believer when you wake up in the morning? And every morning till you meet Jesus?
The biblical answer is: God will see to it.
Are you okay with that? Does this make you uneasy, admitting it depends decisively on God? I hope it is your joy and song. It really does have huge implications to believe this. Let the word shape your mind on it.

We must endure in faith to enter heaven.

By itself “must” is not a gospel word. By itself it feels threatening and burdensome. But it is not by itself in the Bible. “We must” occurs along with “he will” and “we will.” “We must” becomes “we will” because “God will.”
  • “The one who endures to the end, will be saved” (Mark 13:13). We must endure.
  • “If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12).
  • “I make known to you, brothers, the gospel . . . by which you are saved, if you hold fast the word . . . unless you believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1–2).

God will see to it.

Enduring in faith is not owing to our first profession of faith the way health is owing to a one-time vaccination. Enduring faith happens because the great physician does his sustaining work every day. We keep believing in Christ not because of antibodies left over from conversion, but because God does his life-giving, faith-preserving work every day.
  • “He is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory” (Jude 1:24).
  • “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
  • “I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jeremiah 32:40).
  • “Christ will confirm you to the end. . . . God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son” (1 Corinthians 1:8–9).
  • “The Lord will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).

We will endure in faith.

Because God will see to it, we will — not just must — endure to the end. If we have been justified by faith, we will be glorified. It is as good as done.
• “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

Four “R’s” follow from this security.

We relinquish the burden self-preservation. We stop thrashing and let the firefighter carry us out of the burning house. We can’t make it. He can. He will. “It is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
Does your heart not echo the joy of Charles Spurgeon when he said, “O dear friends, one’s heart rejoices to think of those potent shalls and wills — those immoveable pillars which death and hell cannot shake—the shalls and wills of a God (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. IX (364). “He who calls you is faithful; he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The yoke is easy and the burden is light because God says: I will carry you and you will rest on me. “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4).
If you know your future is secured by your omnipotent, ever-keeping God, the threats of earth and hell cannot stop you from spreading his fame. The inference Paul drew from “Those whom he justified he also glorified,” was, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Therefore we will risk “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword” (Romans 8:35). Because nothing can separate us from the love God in Christ (Romans 8:39).