“Calling” for Meaning in Our Work

By Dr. Jim Thrasher and The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College (Grove City, PA). Used by permission.

The first job I ever wanted was to be a “garbage man,” as that is what I called it at age five. I would run out to the curb each week when the garbage truck came. The garbage man would greet me with a big smile and say, “How are you, Jimmy?” It was exceedingly apparent that this man had a positive attitude while performing what most would call a smelly, repetitive, and mundane job. I sincerely believe that this man—who impacted my life and whom I will never forget—loved his job because he saw beyond the required tasks and faithfully served and cared for others. For him, it had little to do with the job itself. I wanted to be just like him because, as I look back now, I sensed his service, commitment, devotion and calling. Read more about “Calling” for Meaning in Our Work

Regaining the Joy of Ministry, Part 2

From Voice magazine, May/June 2016. Used by permission. Read Part 1.

We Rejoice in Ministry Because of the Privilege of Serving

When we encounter trials and difficulties, ministry can soon become a burden. Instead of the joy, we wonder if ministry is a curse that we must endure. However, for the apostles, the call to ministry was the greatest privilege that could be given. It is not an accident that the writers of the New Testament refer to the service of God as a “gift.” But the word “gift” is more than something given without cost. Paul uses the same word to both describe the incredible gift of our salvation (Romans 6:23) and to describe the spiritual gifts we have received to serve him (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:28). In contrast to a wage which someone gives based upon the merit of the recipient, a person gives a gift freely, and it demonstrates the benevolence and loving character of the giver. Read more about Regaining the Joy of Ministry, Part 2

Controlling the Control Bug

A few years back, in an editorial for the Kokomo Tribune, in a series about “social connectedness,” I mentioned what I call the “anonymous lifestyle.” Now I would like to use that concept as a jumping board for another issue: the “control obsession.”

People often gravitate to an anonymous lifestyle, one in which they can melt into the crowd, one in which the worker bees work, the Queen sits on the eggs, and everything is regimented and orderly. Behind this quest for specialty, organization, and planning is the fear of revealing too much about our humanity, a discomfort with being an imperfect, sinful and sometimes incompetent human. Concealing ourselves means we focus only on our function.

Militaries have exploited this concept for decades. A soldier is no longer a human being from a family with ma and pa; he is a G.I., Government Issue, a son of the republic. Communism capitalized on this idea as well, even removing children from their homes at age 2 for training, returning them to parents for weekends only (as Cuba did during Castro’s heyday). If we can become a cog in the machinery, a gear in the transmission, or a washer holding on a bolt, we somehow sense that humanity—ours included—is either under control or at least hidden from view. We feel secure.

But camouflaging ourselves in the crowd is only one of many “control” techniques. Read more about Controlling the Control Bug

How Can I Know God's Will for My Life?

In a study addressing why millennials stay in church, the Barna group discovered that 65% of active church goers or those who believed their faith is very important to their life believed that the Bible contains everything a person needs to live a meaningful life, whereas only 17% of those who dropped out of church believed that about the Bible. In this instance there is a strong correlation between one’s belief about the sufficiency of Scripture and the level of value one places on their faith and expressing that faith in a local church setting.

That correlation should come as no surprise—though it is interesting to see it statistically supported. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is clear regarding the authorship of Scripture and its effectiveness for equipping believers. Consequently it is heartbreaking when we fail to accurately communicate what the Bible teaches, and when we are confused at why young people especially are leaving the faith. Read more about How Can I Know God's Will for My Life?

The Creation Narrative - Genesis 1 & 2 (Part 9)

Read the series so far.

Adam, Guard or Keeper?

Genesis 2:15 has recently stirred the imaginations of a whole group of OT scholars. The reason for this is that they think they observe intimations that all was not well with the good world which Yahweh Elohim had made. For one thing, as we have already said, the garden of Eden was an enclosed garden (gan). Why was it enclosed? Well, maybe because it was the initial safe point of departure for the man within the Creation Project? In this view the garden was started by God and was to be a laboratory model for Adam’s own gardening enterprises after his progeny had themselves begun to explore and subdue the rest of the good earth.

But there is another supposed “clue” in the passage that all was not well outside of the enclosure. The Hebrew words usually rendered “to cultivate” (abad) and “to keep” (shamar), may also be translated as “serve” and “guard.” If, as some surmise, evil lurked outside the enclosure, then the picture before us is of a park which God has separated off from the rest of the early earth, perhaps by a wall or fence; hence a sanctuary. Adam’s role in this scenario would not be just pastoral and creative; it would also be; in fact, it would mainly be, to act as a sentry, stopping the repeated attempts of Evil from despoiling the island of beauty which the garden must have been. Read more about The Creation Narrative - Genesis 1 & 2 (Part 9)

Regaining the Joy of Ministry, Part 1

From Voice magazine, May/June 2016. Used by permission.

You started ministry enjoying the calling given by God to those who shepherd his flock. You enjoyed communicating God’s Word each week. You fell in love with the people. Every week you rejoiced that God would enable you to give your life to the very thing you love.

With time, however, the struggles mount and the discouragements continue such that ministry soon moves from a joy-filled activity to little more than a duty thrust upon you. You begin to see ministry as merely a task to perform rather than also a privilege and calling from God. While Paul saw ministry as a gift graciously given to him (Ephesians 3:7), when going through trials in ministry you begin to wonder if it is a curse. You soon lose the joy of ministry. But is that God’s intent? Did he call you to do something where there is no joy in the task? Are you to begrudgingly go about the day “suffering for Jesus” with the hope that you will only experience the joy of Christ in the eschatological future? Read more about Regaining the Joy of Ministry, Part 1

Carnal Christians: A Pastoral Perspective

From In the Nick of Time, Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Read the series.

I have read with interest the recent exchange in this newsletter on the validity of two-category Christianity. Dr. Hauser argues that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians supports the recognition of two different classes of Christians: the spiritual and the carnal. Dr. Pratt contends that Christians must bear fruit, and that while all Christians sin, there is no biblical reason to think that a Christian can exist in a perpetual state of carnality.

In this essay, I will use the term Keswick as shorthand for the two-category view of sanctification, and Reformed to refer to the position that all Christians are essentially of one type, despite differing in spiritual maturity. Each of these terms normally suggests further theological commitments, but these are not implied in my restricted usage here. And just to play with an open hand, my allegiance lies with the Reformed position.

What I want to consider here are the pastoral implications of this debate. Ideas have consequences, and theological ideas have particularly sharp pastoral consequences. While it is invalid to determine the truth of a theological claim based solely on its practical implications, I actually think there is some common ground in practice between the Reformed and Keswick positions that might help clarify where the debate between them really lies. Read more about Carnal Christians: A Pastoral Perspective

Self Defense and the Christian, Part 3

From Baptist Bulletin, March/April 2016, used by permission. All rights reserved. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Other Considerations

We might wish for more clear texts in the New Testament that are addressed explicitly to the question of self-defense. But since we do not have such data without forcing texts to discuss matters they are not intended to address, a Christian perspective of the question of self-defense must be more indirect. Thus, we shift now from exegesis to an analysis of the social, theological, and ethical concerns.

Contemporary Social & Pragmatic Concerns

We will first address some of the concerns of contemporary American society and note implications of the American social setting. These issues are today discussed almost entirely in terms of defensive weapons, most commonly handguns, though any lethal weapons (knives, long guns, etc.) are relevant. Read more about Self Defense and the Christian, Part 3