A Few Thoughts on Work, God’s Original Intent, and the Abundant Life

I’m sorry I have not posted as frequently lately.  Things have been hectic and crazy.  Work is keeping us very busy with teaching, planning, grading, meetings, talking with parents, and so on.  Even when we leave work, work seems to follow us.  I guess it’s the life of a teacher.  Actually, it’s the life of most of us when it comes to our jobs.

I want to head off this post by stating clearly that not much of what I am saying here is original.  I am indebted to authors like Randy Alcorn, Tim Keller, Ted Dekker, and others for much of what follows.

I also want to state clearly that I do like my job.  This is not a rant against my job in particular in any way.  I have a great principal, wonderful coworkers (more like family), and a very fulfilling role as I try to pour into the lives of my students.  This is not a veiled attack on what I do.  Rather, it is an exploration of something common to all of us, I believe.

Contrary to what many think, work is not a result of the fall.  Work preceded the fall.  Genesis 2:15 tells us, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (ESV)  Work was part of God’s original good design.  We were created to work, to create (as sub-creators imitating the original Creator), to continue God’s ordering of the world.

The fall did not introduce work into the world; the fall made work difficult and trying (see Genesis 3:17-19).  In those verses, we see the introduction of pain, thorns and thistles, and sweat.  Where the original intention of work was to be a blessing and fulfilling for Adam and Eve, it would now be a struggle.  It would still be beneficial, as it yielded food for them, but it would be beneficial through the frustrations.

That is where we are today.  Work is beneficial.  It still allows us to sub-create.  It still lets us use our gifts and talents.  It still provides our means by which we eat and have shelter.  And while many of us may not deal with real thorns and thistles or sweat at work in our air conditioned buildings, we still understand the concept of pain and toil and stress and frustration.

We often work for the weekends (the days of rest) or the holidays (holy-days?).  We look forward to the times when we can enjoy God and family and friends.  We may still do work on those days, but it’s often the work and hobbies we want to do; the work we enjoy doing all the time.  Again, that is not to say that we hate our current jobs, but we do dislike the stress and strain that goes with them.  So we do those things that are less stressful to us on our down time.

Interestingly, and possibly without realizing it, we are living in small ways every week what we are to eventually live in all eternity.  We are going to enter into an eternal rest with God, where God “will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, ESV)  I believe, with Alcorn, that we will still work in Heaven.  It is an active place.  There will be things to do in God’s kingdom as we serve Him for all eternity.  But it will not be stressful.  It will be specially matched to our longings, desires, and capabilities.

We will no longer have issues with coworkers or customers or bosses.  We will no longer be looking at a clock, exhausted from a hard day’s work, longing for the time when we can go home and kick our feet up and rest.  We will no longer struggle with the greener-grass issue, wondering how life might have been different if we had picked a different career.

We will be content for all eternity.  We will love every aspect of our assignments, working joyfully alongside others who also have been freed from any remnants of sin and the fall.  We will have the best boss we could ever ask for, God Himself (and we know that the best boss on Earth now cannot compare with Him).  We will never again struggle with the frustration of being discontent, wondering if our work truly is making a difference.

There is a reason that we are to live in hope of eternity.  We are to wait expectantly for Christ’s return (or for the day we fall asleep in this life, only to awake to life unending with Christ).  We are to long for Christ and Heaven.

Even so, we also have another promise.  Christ promised in John 10:10 that He came that we might have abundant life now.  We are supposed to have an easy yoke and light burden now, as we follow Him in this life (see Matthew 11:29-30).  When we think of eternal life, we tend to think primarily of living forever in Heaven.  That is true insofar as it goes.  But it is an eternal kind of life that begins the moment we turn to Christ to follow Him and continues into Heaven after we die.  It doesn’t wait until then to start.

Let’s do two things to help ourselves as we work in this world now.  First, let’s live in the abundance of life we have through the Spirit’s dwelling in us and leading us to become more like Christ now.  Second, let’s look to the hope of a future when all remnants of the fall are done away with for good, when the foretastes of Heaven we experience on Earth now reach their fulfillment in eternity, never to be disrupted again.  And let’s apply all of this to our work as we serve our King.

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Book Review – “Abolishing Abortion” by Rev. Frank Pavone

One topic I have been wanting to read more about lately is the topic of abortion.  I have been interested especially in finding good information regarding how to help end abortion and save the lives being lost in the practice.  Interestingly, I was accidentally providentially sent a copy of Abolishing Abortion: How You Can Play a Part in Ending the Greatest Evil of Our Day by Rev. Frank Pavone (published by Thomas Nelson) from Book Look Bloggers.

While many books on abortion focus mainly on the scriptural reasons we should end abortion or on providing moral and ethical arguments against it, Pavone’s book, while including those topics, focuses more on the political aspect of what needs to be done.

The book starts by explaining how we must take the abortion discussion into the public square.  In doing so, Pavone tackles the question of separation of Church and state, arguing that in reality both Church and state have a common goal: the protection of the right to live for all humans, with no exceptions.  He goes on to argue that it is “Time for Repentance,” meaning that those of us who believe that all human life should be protected need to repent for not doing whatever we can to help bring an end to abortion.  As Pavone continues through the book, he offers insight into how churches can stand up for the rights of the unborn politically in light of the threats of losing tax-exempt status.  I found this chapter especially enlightening, as I hear much about the tax-exempt status of churches without necessarily understanding how this started and what all is involved.  Suffice it to say that churches really are not in nearly as much danger of losing that status as they have been led to believe.  In reality, the laws regarding that issue seem to be so vague that to enforce them would be nearly impossible, unless I am misunderstanding Pavone.  Chapters 7 and 8 seemed to be the hardest to get through for me, as Pavone focuses specifically on Roman Catholic issues regarding the topic (he writes the whole book from a Catholic perspective).

I really found the most interesting parts of the book starting in chapter 9, “Collision Course.”  In asking the question “What is the difference between killing a child just before birth or right afterward?” Pavone makes this statement:

“There is no way out of this question for the abortion industry or for any of us.  Kermit Gosnell and other late-term abortionists put the ideological approval of the practice of abortion on a collision course with the normal, human antipathy toward gruesome violence.  To break the impasse over abortion, we must compel the collision with all its pain, with all its attendant friction, collateral damage, and anxiety. In fact, we need to increase the speed and force of that collision.  Although collision is inevitable, our human nature does everything it can to postpone the moment of impact, and more damage is done in the meantime.” (p. 157-158)

On one hand, we all know that murdering humans is wrong.  On the other hand, abortionists and pro-choice advocates are forced to try to deny that innate understanding in some way to continue to support their stance.  Our job, according to Pavone, is to continue to increase the pressure to acknowledge the gruesome fact that abortion is taking human life.  Whether it is through pictures, through reason and logic, or any other means (still in a loving way), we must take a stand and continue to increase the tension in this area until the question of what abortion is doing can no longer be avoided, dodged, or reasoned away.

Pavone explains in the next chapter that we are really advocating for the care of both mother and child in fighting against abortion.  He explains:

“We need to convince the unconvinced that to be pro-life is to be pro-woman. The difference between ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ is not that pro-lifers love the baby and pro-choicers love the woman.  The difference is that the pro-choice message says you can separate the two, and the pro-life message says you cannot. Our opponents criticize us as ‘fetus-lovers’ who are insensitive to women and indifferent to children.  But one cannot, and pro-lifers do not, love the child without loving the mother.  Abortion defenders claim they are loving women, even as they admit they are killing their children.  But one cannot love the woman without loving the child.  Nor can one harm the child without harming the mother.” (p. 183-184)

It is not either/or but both/and.  Protect and look out for women and children.

Chapter 11, the last chapter, is really one of the most important.  Its title is “A Foundation of Love,” and that truly must be the true foundation of the pro-life movement.  Pavone states, “Love is the foundation and inescapable condition of everything the pro-life movement does, whether that activity is perceived as ‘loving’ or ‘harsh.'” (p. 195)  Pavone continues on to explain:

“Abortion is the exact opposite of love.  Love says, ‘I sacrifice myself for the good of the other person.’ Abortion says, ‘I sacrifice the other person for the good of myself.’ And isn’t it amazing that the very same words used by the culture of death to justify abortion are the words used by our Lord to proclaim life and salvation and love: ‘This is My body!’

‘This is my body,’ some say. ‘I will do what I want, even if it means destroying the child.’ ‘This is My body,’ Jesus said, ‘given for you.’ (See Luke 22.)” (p. 197)

The above struck me as being very hard-hitting and very true.  Abortion truly is the opposite of love, but I would add so is ignoring it and staying silent out of fear.  If we love everyone, including the unborn, the time to stay silent is long past.

Pavone is very clear throughout that we are not to attack, demean, or look down upon those who have had abortions.  We are to love them, to assure them of forgiveness in Christ, and to reach out to them to help them as much as possible.  This book is in no way a cold-hearted, holier-than-thou attack on anyone.  It is birthed out of a love for humanity, even at the earliest stages of life.

Overall, Abolishing Abortion was a great read.  I couldn’t really associate much with the parts dealing with Catholicism and the pro-life position, but the majority of the book at the beginning and end were well worth the time invested.  It truly helped open my eyes to how vocal I need to be out of love for women and children.  I would encourage everyone to read this book and let it embolden them to take a stand for those who truly cannot take a stand for themselves.  Love demands it.

You can purchase the book from Amazon here or from Thomas Nelson here.

Note: I received this book free from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.  

Book Review – Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World

As Christians we are supposed to be in the world but not of the world.  How do we guard ourselves from being of the world?  That is the question that the contributors to Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World from Crossway publishers attempts to answer.  C. J. Mahaney is the editor and a contributor, along with Craig Cabaniss, Bob Kauflin, Dave Harvey, Jeff Purswell, and John Piper (who wrote the Foreword).  The book includes discussion questions in the back, which can be used individually or in a group to help think more deeply about the contents of the book.

Mahaney writes the first chapter, dealing with 1 John 2:15, regarding what it means not to love the world and how Christians are to be distinct from the world.

Cabaniss’ chapter deals with the question of how we avoid worldliness with media.  He includes a helpful checklist on how we are managing our time, what our heart attitude is regarding media, and what the content of the media is.  Before he includes the checklist, he addresses the idea that trying to avoid worldliness amounts to legalism (it doesn’t), and he explains clearly how it is actually “[g]race-motivated [o]bedience” (p. 47).

Kauflin’s chapter deals with worldliness as far as music is concerned.  He clearly explains that music is God’s idea, but that music is not neutral; it always conveys content, context, and culture (pp. 73-81), and it impacts us deeply.  The point is not merely to try to tell us what all to avoid, but to help us to glorify God in our music choices and the way we use it.

Harvey’s chapter deals with materialism.  Our culture is constantly encouraging us that we need more, and Harvey provides a good reminder that while we may own things, we need to be sure that our things don’t own us (paraphrasing p. 96).

Mahaney returns for a chapter on worldliness and clothing.  Mahaney does a wonderful job of explaining the importance of what we wear and why we are wearing it.  The focus is on women’s clothing, as that seems to be a larger issue in terms of temptation.  Some may be put off by this, but I encourage everyone to read it with an open heart.  He includes some testimonies of men who explain how what women wear affects them and another from a woman who began to dress to help men more and why.  There are two appendices that go with this chapter.  The first was written by Mahaney’s wife and daughters and is a “Modesty Heart Check” (p. 173), a checklist for considering what to wear.  The second deals with “Considering Modesty on Your Wedding Day” (p. 177).

Purswell, in the final chapter, explains how we are to love the world, since God loved the world Himself (John 3:16).  We are to “Enjoy the World” (p. 147) by enjoying what is good in God’s creation,  we are to “Engage the World” (p. 154) by helping to create culture patterned after God’s original intent, and we are to “Evangelize the World” (p. 161) with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In keeping with the last point, the author explains how we are to constantly live in relation to the cross of Christ. We should have the same mindset as Paul, who wrote, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14, ESV)

I found the book challenging and refreshing.  Some Christian teaching today seems very focused on being relevant to the world.  In my opinion, the push to be relevant often ends up in a form of compromise with the world.  I realize there are exceptions to this, and we obviously are still in the world as salt and light. What I think this book does well is remind us that we cannot lose that saltiness or distinction that makes us light in our attempts at living in this world.  While the book does push us to be separate and guard our hearts (see Proverbs 4:23), I think it does a great job of reminding us of the purpose (to influence the world for Christ and live holy lives) and means (by grace, not legalism) by which we do this.

Read this book and be challenged to be in the world but not of it as you follow Christ.

You can purchase a copy of this book at Amazon or from Crossway.

Book Review – What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung is a great basic book on a biblical Christian view of homosexuality.  In light of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling regarding homosexuality and marriage, it is very important for Christians who believe that homosexuality is not God’s design and is, therefore, a sin to have a good, loving, well-reasoned, and ultimately biblical explanation for why they believe the way they do.  I believe that DeYoung’s book will go a long way toward helping Christians articulate their views.

In the Introduction, DeYoung explains that while the Bible does talk about homosexuality, in reality it is a very small part of what the Bible is about.  DeYoung does not say this to downplay the importance of the topic in our current culture, but to remind us that there is a larger storyline in Scripture, and its comments on homosexuality fall into that larger storyline.  He also very clearly states up front that “this is a Christian book, with a narrow focus, defending a traditional view of marriage” (p. 15; italics in original).  The book does not cover every possible nuance of the discussion, and it is does not intend to.  For those interested in studying deeper, DeYoung includes a brief annotated bibliography in the back.  He also emphasizes that “If you walk away from this book angry and arrogant, disrespectful and devoid of all empathy, someone or something has failed.  I pray the failure is not mine” (p.18).  DeYoung’s point in writing the book is not to hate or bash anyone, and he states that very clearly.  I also believe he does a great job of maintaining a straightforward yet loving tone throughout.  He also does not want his readers walking away with anything but a loving concern for those who deal with same-sex attraction.

The book is then broken into two parts.

Part one is “Understanding God’s Word,” and it deals with the major texts in Scripture relevant to the discussion of homosexuality: Genesis 1-2; Genesis 19; Leviticus 18, 20; Romans 1; and 1 Corinthians 6 and 2 Timothy 1 (together).  In each chapter, DeYoung examines the biblical text and responds to common objections or reinterpretations of the text.  For a book of this size (150 pages, not including the bibliography, acknowledgements, or Scripture index), DeYoung does a great job of laying out a basic understanding of the issues.  He is a careful exegete, and remains faithful to the text as his final authority.

Part two is titled “Answering Objections,” and this part deals with extra-biblical objections to a traditional Christian view of homosexuality.  The objections he answers are “The Bible Hardly Ever Mentions Homosexuality,” “Not That Kind of Homosexuality,” What about Gluttony and Divorce,” “The Church Is Supposed to Be a Place for Broken People,” “You’re on the Wrong Side of HIstory,” “It’s Not Fair,” and “The God I Worship Is a God of Love.”  Each of these objections are truly relevant in our current culture, and again, for a book of this size, DeYoung does a good job of responding to each one.

The conclusion explains the importance of the topic by reminding us that several things are at stake in the debate: “the moral logic of monogamy,” “the integrity of Christian sexual ethics,” “the authority of the Bible,” and “the grand narrative of Scripture.”  DeYoung ends by reminding us that we all need Jesus and His grace in our lives.

There are three appendices in the book.  Appendix 1 deals with the question of same-sex marriage.  Appendix 2 discusses a Christian view of same-sex attraction.  Appendix 3 ends with a call to 10 commitments Christians and churches should make when dealing with the issue of homosexuality.  This includes commitments like #2 “We will tell the truth about all sins, including homosexuality, but especially the sins most prevalent in our community,” and #8 “We will ask for forgiveness when we are rude or thoughtless or joke about those who experience same-sex attraction.”  DeYoung also encourages us to do everything in love in the 10th commitment.

If you are looking for an easy yet helpful read regarding the issue of the Bible and homosexuality, Kevin DeYoung’s book is a great place to start.  I have linked below to Amazon and Crossway (the publisher) in case you would like to order a copy.

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? (Amazon)

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? (Crossway)