Thursday, September 30, 2021

"Leading the Presence-Driven Church" Zoominar Oct. 27

 

I'll be teaching my presence-driven leadership strategy for the Annual Gathering of American Baptist Churches of Michigan. What a privilege! (Thank you Brian.)

Wed., Oct. 27, 7 PM.



Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Fine-Tuning Argument for God's Existence

Fountain, at
Monroe County Community College


























(I am re-posting this for a friend.)



THE FINE-TUNING ARGUMENT FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

The argument can be stated this way.

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
  2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
  3. Therefore, it is due to design.
Define “fine-tuning”

Almost everything about the basic structure of the universe – for example, the fundamental laws and parameters of physics and the initial distribution of matter and energy – is balanced on a razor’s edge for life to occur.

Our fine-tuned universe is an event that demands to be explained.

Examples of fine-tuning

  1. If the initial explosion of the big bang had differed in strength by as little as one part in 10\60, the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or expanded rapidly for stars to form. In either case, life would be impossible. (An accuracy of one part in 10 to the 60th power can be compared to firing a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and hitting the target.)
  2. Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as five percent, life would be impossible.
  3. If gravity had been stronger or weaker by one part in 10\40, then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible.
  4. If the neutron were not about 1.001 times the mass of the proton, all protons would have decayed into neutrons or all neutrons would have decayed into protons, and thus life would not be possible.
  5. If the electromagnetic force were slightly stronger or weaker, life would be impossible, for a variety of different reasons.
And so on…

Premise 1 seems to exhaust the alternatives. The soundness of the argument depends on the plausibility of premise 2.

Premise 1

Can cosmic fine-tuning be plausibly attributed to physical necessity?

By “physical necessity” we mean: the constants and quantities must have the values they do. If this is true, there was really no chance of the universe’s not being life-permitting.

But this alternative seems extraordinarily implausible. Because it requires us to believe that a life-prohibiting universe is physically impossible. But surely a life-prohibiting universe seems possible. That, e.g., the universe might have expanded just a bit more slowly does not seem physically impossible.

A person who claims that the universe must be life-permitting is taking a radically position that requires strong proof. But as of now there is no such proof.

NOTE: support for the idea of “physical necessity” being false is given, inadvertently, by multiverse theorists. Such theorists use multiverse thinking to show that, while nearly all possible universes are life-prohibiting, it’s possible that one or more could be life-permitting.

Can cosmic fine-tuning be plausibly attributed to chance?
 
Philosopher John Leslie gives an example, as an analogy, to show the implausibility of the universe coming into existence by chance.

Suppose you line up against a wall and 50 sharpshooters take aim at you and fire. All of them miss. This event demands an explanation, for their missing me is needed for my survival.

I shouldn’t at all be surprised that I observe that all the bullets missed me, since I am alive to observe that they did all miss me. There is nothing improbable about that at all.

But I should be very, very surprised that in fact all the bullets missed me. That seems very, very improbable.

It seems reasonable to infer: design. That is: the sharpshooters missing me was planned for my continued existence.

This is a case of “inference to the best explanation.”

Analogically, the fact of the fine-tuned universe means the universe is life-allowing rather than life-prohibiting. This is very imporbable on atheism. This is not improbable on theism.

 The main atheist objection to this is multiverse theory. “If there is only one universe,” British cosmologist Bernard Carr says, “you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.” (Discover, December 2008)

The Fine-Tuning of the Universe (The Anthropic Teleological Argument for God's Existence)


I am posting this for a friend.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Romans 8:18 - A Personal Note

 

                                                   (With my grandson Levi at the zoo.)

The first verse I remember memorizing as a new Christian was Romans 8:18. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 

I was 21 years old. I had recently flunked out of college, and was trying to make a new beginning in community college, and in life. I had hurt some relationships with my drug and alcohol use, which also caused damage to my spirit. I was lacking direction in life, except that I now was fully committed to following Jesus. My internal suffering was about self-inflicted scars from my previous careless lifestyle. Yet now, my sinful stains were wiped clean. 

I now think of these sufferings as minimal compared to what others go through. And yet, to me, two things were happening. I lamented over a wasted three years of life (post-high school). I had found new life in Jesus and was excited about this.

And I read this verse. It stood out to me. It has never left me, and comes to mind often. It gives me a perspective that I lacked before coming to Jesus. I have a future that is infused with the glory of God and overwhelms my sufferings!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Deconstructing Progressive Christianity (My Book)

 


My book Deconstructing Progressive Christianity is completed.

My hope is to have it published in early 2022 if not before.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Introduction: What Is Progressive Christianity?

2. The Roots of Progressive Christianity: Political Progressivism

3. The Roots of Progressive Christianity: Postmodernism

4. Are Beliefs Less Important than Behaviors?

5. At the Same Table, but Not on the Same Page

6. Can We Know Who God Is?

7. Can We Know Who Jesus Is?

8. Is the Atonement “Cosmic Child Abuse?”

9. Was Jesus Really Raised from the Dead?

10. What About the Supernatural?

11. The Battle for the Authority of the Bible

12. Marriage is Between and a Man and a Woman

13. The Myth of Progress

14. Love and Wrath

15. For Such a Time as This



Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Pride: A Checklist

Linda and me, with Payne Theological Seminary friends

God is opposed to the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.

James 4:6

Those are strong words! In areas of pride, God is against us. Pride in us hinders others from experiencing God's love, mercy, and grace.

C.S. Lewis once wrote that the true Christian's nostrils must be constantly attuned to the inner cesspool. That cesspool includes pride. 

Do I, do you, have ungodly pride in your heart? In my praying time yesterday I was bringing, before the Lord, some areas of pride that are within my heart, and asking God to remove them.

Michael Brown, in Revolution in the Church: Challenging the Religious System with a Call for Radical Change, provides a checklist of potential evidences of pride. If you have a pointy finger, aim it at yourself as you read these. If the shoe fits, confess and turn from the prideful attitude.


  • You are accountable to no one. 
  • You think you are “the one”—that your church, your ministry, your anointing or your teaching is the necessary ingredient for true revival or evangelism or growth. 
  • Your opinion is always more important than the opinion of others. 
  • You are able to find sin in the lives of others but not in your own. 
  • You are quarrelsome. 
  • You find it difficult to be a team player. 
  • You are always right about everything. 
  • You are slow to repent. 
  • You find it difficult to say, “I’m sorry,” without defending yourself or blaming others. 
  • You refuse to take help. 
  • You are unteachable. 
  • You are unable to recognize others’ accomplishments or rejoice in their successes. 
  • You are unable to say, “I’m hurting; I’m in trouble.” 
  • You never reverse your path when wrong, but make only minor adjustments. 
  • You always think, “This message is for someone else, not me.” 
  • You fail to realize when God is trying to get your attention, when He is correcting you, when He is judging you.





Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Historically Christian View of Marriage: Part 1 (Preston Sprinkle)



Part 2 is HERE. ("Arguments Against the Historic Christian View")

What to Do When You Are Upset With Someone In the Church

Monroe


What is a person to do if they don't like something, or someone, in their church family? Here are my thoughts.

1. There is always something, or someone, not to like in any family, including a church family. Depending on the situation, God might lead you to show grace towards them. I probably would lose count if I knew how many people have chosen to show me grace and love when I have not pleased them.

But some situations need to be confronted.

2. There is always everyone to love in a church family. So, if you don't like something someone does, then your job description is to love them. This means...

3. Speak the truth, in love, to them. Here is how you do that.

4. Scripture tells us to go to the person with whom you have an offense. (Matthew 18:15) This is so crucial that you are not even supposed to worship until you go to a brother or sister who has something against you! (Matthew 5:23-24)

This is revolutionary! This means you do not talk to other people about the person. You go to the person.

I remember teaching these verses in a church class. A woman from Malawi, Africa, was there. I remember her saying, "If we really practiced this in my church, all of us would leave the building, find people we are in conflict with, and lovingly share our concerns with them!"

5. If that does not work, then approach church leadership. Share with them that you want help in dealing lovingly and truthfully with someone who has upset you.



Now, let's say you are ready to go to the person. Note: If this person is going to abuse you, then bring a church leader with you.

Pray. For yourself, and the person, that truth will be spoken in love. You are going to the person because you love them, and you want to make the situation right.

Speak for your own self, and not for others. Do not say things like, "Many others are upset with you too." If you know of someone else who is upset, direct them to the person, just as you are doing. If they refuse to do this, they have taken what John Bevere called "the bait of Satan." Have no part in this evil.

When you speak to the person, begin with love.  Begin your sentences with "I," rather than "you." Instead of saying "You upset me," own your feeling with words like "I feel upset _____________." Fill in the blank with a behavior; e.g., "I felt angry when you did not call me when you said you would." Or, "I felt angry when you called me irresponsible." "You"-language puts the other person on the defensive; "I"-language acknowledges your responsibility in the relationship. For how to do this, read this

Do not use negative descriptive adjectives when confronting the person in love (like these). Behind every adjective there is a judgment. You are not the judge of the other person, and do not want to come off that way to them. Instead, refer to behaviors. 

Listen to the person, for the sake of understanding. Your goal is understanding, more than it is agreement. Remember that you cannot begin to agree or disagree until you understand.

Be prepared to confess and forgive. You both may need to do this. For how to do this, read this, and this. And, see "The First Two Steps in Relationship Restoration." 

Follow this template, concerning speaking the truth in love. 

Have these attitudes, not only in your words, but in your countenance and behavior. 

Listen, understand, assert, love.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Trusting in Our Critical Thinking Apparatus In the Absence of Evidence


Here's a nice article on the need for critical thinking by Michael Lynch.

I have one observation. Lynch seems to be over-favoring a W.K. Clifford-type of "evidentialism." Which is: if you cannot provide evidence for a belief, then that belief is not worthy to be embraced.

In response to this, consider the philosophical idea that there are "properly basic beliefs." See Alvin Plantinga, William P. Alston, et. al.

Things such as the laws of logic, the veridicality of sense perception, and objective moral values seem to be properly basic. We are rational in believing them even though we cannot evidentially argue for them (since to do that one would need to assume the very thing one is trying to prove). This forms a response to Lynch's statements: "After all, if all reasons are grounded on something arbitrary, then no one’s principles rest on any firmer foundation than anyone else’s. It seems to give us the freedom to go with any epistemic principle we choose."

Properly basic beliefs are not "arbitrary." Yet they cannot be evidentially proven. (This is the philosophical objection to the "evidentialism" of, e.g., a W.K. Clifford.) To prove that the laws of logic are epistemically trustworthy one would have to assume the laws of logic in arguing for this. To argue for the veridicality of our sense experience one would require using our senses to empirically verify that our senses are trustworthy.

There are things critical thinking cannot prove, either deductively or inductively. One of those things is the trustworthiness of our critical thinking apparatus. What can we do? Assume it is rational to continue trusting in it in the absence of reasonable doubt.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

How Could a Good God Send People to Hell (and other questions...)

On Monday night, Sept. 20, 8-9:30 PM EST, I will answer the question "How Could a Good God Send People to Hell."  

Take my Apologetics class in Renewal School of Ministry and I'll show you how to answer this, and other questions.

Register here. 

hsrm.org




Thursday, September 16, 2021

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit


(Our grandson Levi)



“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3


Being "poor in spirit" is about an attitude. It is a heart-thing. It's related to humility.

I was praying this verse last night, and God told me: "Diminish." Become less, so that God can become more.

Craig Evans writes: "The opposite of the poor in spirit are "violent men" who try to take the kingdom of heaven by force (Matthew 11:12), men who will not humble themselves and become like children (Matthew 18:3; 19:14)." (Craig Evans, Matthew, 104)

I am to get small, so God can loom large.

Craig Keener says "["poor in spirit"] refers not merely to the materially poor and oppressed, but to those who have "taken that condition to their very heart, by not allowing themselves to be deceived by the attraction of wealth" (quoting Sean Freyne, Galilee, Jesus and the Gospels: Literary Approaches and Historical Investigations, p. 72). Although Matthew does not stress renunciation of possessions to the same degree as Luke, for him as well the kingdom belongs to the powerless of the world, to the oppressed who embrace the poverty of their condition by trusting in God rather than favors from the powerful for their deliverance." (Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 169)

I am to get less, get simple, so God can show his beauty.

Michael Wilkins writes:

"The kingdom of God belongs to those who know they have no resources, material or spiritual, to help themselves before God. These are the "poor" to whom Jesus has come to announce "good news" (Matt. 11:5) and to whom the kingdom belongs." (Michael J. Wilkins, The NV Application Commentary: Matthew, 206)

In my spiritual poverty I am blessed, for God rules and reigns over me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Why Does God Care if We Worship? (By Holly Collins)

 


(Our Worship Director, Holly Collins, sent this out to our church family today. I have her permission to post it here.)


I want to share with you something I felt God said this past Sunday morning during our worship. I know this was a word for my family and I and I hope it will be an encouragement to you, too! 


Psalm 24:7  "Lift up your heads, O gates! ... that the King of glory may come in." 

As we were singing, "Reign Above it All," I saw a picture of our world, but it was flat, almost like the bottom layer of a cake. It was dark and swirling, chaotic. Billions of people in different shapes and angles crammed together. At times I could see individual expressions of pain, anger, disappointment, fear, division, etc. The layer had movement to it but no one came out of it.  At first I was in the thick of that layer and the influence felt overwhelming. Michael and I, and our girls, are currently in the middle of some circumstances that leave me very often feeling frustrated, fearful and not knowing what to do. I forget too often to look for God's help and perspective first, above my own worries or solutions.  In the middle of standing in this layer, I heard God shout, "LIFT UP YOUR HEAD, SO THE KING OF GLORY CAN COME IN," over and over again. 

As I obeyed and lifted up my head, my neck started to stretch so that my head slowly rose out and above that earthly layer, which all of a sudden felt like a prison. The higher above it my head got, the greater the freedom and the bigger the space above that earthly layer became...the amount of space and light was incomprehensible, unable to be contained in words. The earthly layer became smaller and smaller. My feet remained in the earthly layer, but as if I'd eaten of the mushroom from Alice in Wonderland, my body had grown exponentially above it. And then, the throne. I locked eyes with the King of Glory. He stood up and started coming. The frustration and fear of our current circumstances immediately dissipated. They weren't forgotten, but my perspective had changed completely. The panic was gone.  The fear over not knowing how they would turn out was gone. Hope returned that wisdom & discernment was coming. Peace was in its place and the resolve to trust and praise Him took over.

I am often asked, as a worship leader, why does God care if we worship? Why do we have to sing or raise our hands? Is God some ego-maniac that He must hear us tell Him how wonderful He is all the time? The answer, I think, to these questions is this. Worship is the physical practice of putting our flesh/spirit/soul in alignment with God's thinking and the knowledge of Him. I would venture to say that most of spiritual warfare happens between the ears of humanity. Our stinking thinking is the enemy's footstool. If he can keep us seeing and living from this small, claustrophobic earthly layer, his destruction is pretty effortless.  But, when we lift up our heads and look at the One who reigns above it all, our lives change, our thinking changes, our power changes, etc. Worship allows us to lift up our heads, to look above it all and see God. When we declare who He is, we see who He is. God doesn't need us to worship for His sake. He desires us to worship for our sake. Worship is other-mindedness on our part in exchange to gain His mind, which is truth! 

So, God has lovingly reminded me that He's got this! The King of Glory has my home. The King of Glory has my children and He's coming in with help, solutions, and peace...His reign and rule. I need only to lift up my head to see Him...for He is more true than my circumstances. 
                       Praise will be my breakthrough
                       My song becomes my triumph
                       Worship is my warfare
                       My victory is You, my victory is in You

--

Holly Collins
Redeemer Fellowship Church
Worship Director

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Search for Belonging

 

                                                                     (Plant on our deck.)

Henri Nouwen writes:

"When productivity is our main way of overcoming self-doubt, we are extremely vulnerable to rejection and criticism and prone to inner anxiety and depression. Productivity can never give the deep sense of belonging we crave. The more we produce, the more we realize that successes and results cannot give us the experience of “at homeness.” In fact, our productivity reveals to us that we are driven by fear."




Friday, September 10, 2021

How to See into the Spiritual Realm

 


Also live streamed here - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8U3rY0m-fmQVSlhvWfQ7xw



Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Churches Need Discernment in Such a Time as This

Detroit


When James Goll spoke to us at our online conference (here, via HSRM) he said this. "Be led. Not pushed." That is, be led by the Holy Spirit, and not pushed or pressured by the surrounding culture. I love that! This is about discernment.

One thing the followers of Jesus need during the pandemic and economic crisis is discernmentThe church leadership question is, "God, what are you saying to us?" 

To answer this question requires much time spent in God's presence, with the Scriptures. If this doesn't happen, as an ongoing practice, you can forget hearing from God. 

“Discernment” is a fruit of an abiding prayer life. To "discern" is different from to "decide."

Ruth Haley Barton writes that some pastors have the...

 "vague sense that our approach to decision making should be different from secular models—particularly when we are leading a church or an organization with a spiritual purpose. The problem is that we’re not quite sure what that difference is. In the absence of a clear consensus, that difference often gets reduced to an obligatory devotional (often viewed as irrelevant to the business portion of the meeting) or the perfunctory prayers that bookend the meeting. Sometimes even these well-meaning attempts at a spiritual focus get lost in the shuffle!" (Barton, Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups, Kindle Locations 180-185)

The difference is: God. God's presence. God, doing the leading. God, doing the building. Because unless God builds the house, we are laboring in vain.


What's needed today, in this storm, is discernment


"Discernment," writes Barton, "in a most general sense, is the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and the activity of God—both in the ordinary moments and in the larger decisions of our lives. The apostle Paul says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can discern what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:2). This includes not only the mind of each individual but also the corporate mind." (Ib., Kindle Locations 186-189)


What's needed today, in churches, is mind-renewing transformation. Pastors and church leaders must be living in the rivers of constant spiritual formation and transformation, in order to discern what the will of God is. This is what the whole "church" thing is about. Barton writes:


"It is hard to imagine that spiritual leadership could be about anything but seeking to know and do the will of God, and yet many leadership groups do not have this as their clear mandate and reason for existence. This raises a serious question: If we are not pursuing the will of God together in fairly intentional ways, what are we doing? Our own will? What seems best according to our own thinking and planning? That which is merely strategic or expedient or good for the ego?" (Ib., Kindle Locations 201-205)


The more familiar or intimate we are with someone, the more we are able to discern their heart. The more time spent in close dialogue, the more we recognize their voice. The less familiarity, the less discernment. Spiritual discernment is in direct proportion to our intimacy with God.


Don't focus on trying to make things happen. Focus on intimacy, closeness, with God. In that atmosphere, discernment comes. 


***
My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

I am writing...

Deconstructing Progressive Christianity

How God Changes the Human Heart

Linda and I then hope to co-write our book on Relationships

Monday, September 06, 2021

Living for a Fullness That Is Beyond Ourselves

Bangkok
Miroslav Volf's A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good is a beautiful read! Chapter 1 is worth the price of the entire book - on the nature of "prophetic religion," with the double-movement of "ascent" and "descent," both of which are needed, and needed in a certain way. 

In Ch. 2 Volf writes of the meaning of labor, of work. Volf ties work in with the existential matters of life's meaning and purpose. 


"There are many possible ways of construing the meaning of work. One purpose that immediately comes to mind is to put bread on the table—and a car into the garage or an art object into the living room, some may add. Put more abstractly, the purpose of work is to take care of the needs of the person who does it... But when we consider taking care of ourselves as the main purpose of work, we unwittingly get stuck on the spinning wheel of dissatisfaction. What we possess always lags behind what we desire, and so we become victims of Lewis Carroll’s curse, “Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.” In our quiet moments, we know that we want our lives to have weight and substance and to grow toward some kind of fullness that lies beyond ourselves. Our own selves, and especially the pleasures of our own selves, are insufficient to give meaning to our lives. When the meaning of work is reduced to the well-being of the working self, the result is a feeling of melancholy and unfulfillment, even in the midst of apparent success." (Kindle Location 639)


The antidote to the "rat race" and boredom of work is to live for "some kind of fullness that lies beyond ourselves."


For example, live for this cause.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Come to Jesus, All Who Labor

Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio

It's Sunday of Labor Day weekend. On Tuesday, many return to work.  

Where do you work? What jobs have you had? And, Linda and I are praying for people we know who need jobs.

I have...

  • worked as a stockboy at Kroger - my first job.
  • worked for two summers cutting lawns for the Rockford (Illinois) Park District.
  • worked two summers for Nylint Toy in Rockford, loading shipments into hot, stuffy boxcars.
  • ran a drill press in a factory.
  • operated an overhead grinder in a different factory.
  • worked as a custodian for Woodward Governor in Loves Park, Illinois.
  • painted apartments for a complex at Northern Illinois University.
  • been a youth leader for four years at Tabor Lutheran Church in Rockford.
  • been youth leader and interim pastor at First Baptist Church of Joliet, Illinois - for seven years.
  • served as a campus pastor for eleven years at Michigan State University.
  • served as a pastor at Redeemer Fellowship Church in Monroe, Michigan.
  • taught philosophy at Monroe County Community College for eighteen years.
  • taught in seminaries, in the U.S. and around the world
While these jobs were different in many ways, in one way they were the same. The common denominator in all of them was me. 

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who labor, and I will give you rest."

The Greek word we translate as "labor" is koipiao. It means:

1) to grow weary, tired, exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief); 2) to labor with wearisome effort, to toil;  2a) of bodily labor.

The word for "rest" is anapauo, which means:

1) to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor  in order to recover and collect his strength; 2) to give rest, refresh, to give one's self rest, take rest; 3) to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation.  

Dallas Willard comments on this verse. He writes,


"Basically, we started out with the great verse where Jesus says, “Come unto me all you who labor.” I believe he is talking about laboring under religion, and I think the context in Matthew 11 bears that out. He is saying, “Come to me and accept your life with me in the kingdom of God as a little child would accept it, and just begin to live it.”" (Willard, Living in Christ's Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God, p. 115)

I was twenty-one, and a new follower of Jesus, when I worked for Woodward Governor. My workday began at 4 AM, hours before the machine operators arrived. My job was to clean the oil and grease from around and on the machines. It was hard, unattractive, dirty work. But it was mostly energizing and life-giving. Work was different, because I was different. I had come to Jesus, and viewed myself as working hard, for his name's sake. 

The real issue is not the job, but who we really work for. The basic question is "who do I belong to?" This determines whether or not we experience life, to include our jobs, as meaningless and bone-wearying, or purposeful and life-giving. As I began seeing my laboring as for the Lord, my true Employer, my attitude towards work changed.

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Our True Labor

Image result for john piippo labor
Monroe

It's Labor Day weekend in America. Time to rest and recreate from work. 

For followers of Jesus, our true work is all that is done "in the Lord." This brings satisfaction, as we view themselves working for God, and his greater purposes. 

This was my experience as a new follower of Jesus. I was working my way through college. I had a job as a custodian, at the large factory my father worked at. I was convinced I was to work hard at all that God called me to do. Colossians 3:23 was living and breathing in my soul.

Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, 
just as though you were working for the Lord 
and not merely for your masters.

And I did. I worked hard, with joy, to please my heavenly Father, and my earthly father as well. What kind of witness would I have if my labor was half-hearted?

God's greater purposes have to do with the redemption of his creation, to include persons. Our job may involve making things, selling things, cleaning, teaching, whatever. But our real job involves the bigger, redemptive picture of what God is doing. This is our true labor. 

We see this in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. 

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord

"Labor" is "vain" if it has no meaningful purpose. "Vain  labor" is boring. "Boredom" is not having nothing to do, but finding no meaning in what one is doing.

A philosophical example of vain labor is Albert Camus's "Myth of Sisyphus." Sisyphus, according to the Greek myth, was punished for all eternity, and condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll back down to the bottom when he reaches the top. This happens over and over again and again, everlastingly. 

Camus claimed Sisyphus is representative of the human condition. Sisyphus struggles perpetually, and without hope of success. His labor is absurd. Camus thinks if Sisyphus can accept his absurd labor, then he can find happiness in it.


Many people view their labor as absurd. They find no joy in it. Their work lack telos (purpose), and is in vain. 

But, from the Jesus-perspective, all labor "in the Lord" is not vain, but meaningful. When what we do emerges out of who we are in relationship with Christ, our lives become purposeful. Purposeful, *telic living brings satisfaction.

We are to view God as our Employer. From this God-relational POV, redemptive activity can be seen and experienced everywhere. What seem to be vain, meaningless tasks, from a human POV, take on eternal, missional qualities. This happens, not because of any intrinsic majesty of the task at hand, but as a function of who we are under.

Labor under the Lordship of Jesus, and abound in the work you are doing under God.

Know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.



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*telic - a purposeful or defined action; from the Greek word telos, meaning "end," or "goal"; such as teloscope, literally "to see to the end."

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In my book I talk about prayer as purposeful activity - Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.