Jemar sums up the typical position in much of the culture which says something like: “We believe all religions are equal and you are free to believe and practice yours…except you Christians because you need to just shut up.” Thanks, Jemar, for responding in a helpful way.

Jemar Tisby

Biblical Christianity is sadly misunderstood both by Christians and non-Christians alike.  The most persistent misunderstandings about Christianity seem to grow out of religious and philosophical pluralism in the U.S.

Pluralism says that every religion is equally true and valid.  No religious adherents, therefore, can claim exclusive rights to the “truth” or impose their beliefs on others.  Believe what you will, but do not assert those beliefs.  That is the cardinal sin of our age.

I recently read an article on the Huffington Post by Steve McSwain entitled, “6 Things Christians Should Just Stop Saying.”  Judging by the popularity of this article (over 21K “likes” on Facebook at the time of this writing), McSwain’s thoughts resonate with many.

According to McSwain the six things Christians should stop saying are,

1. The Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God.

2. We just believe the Bible.

3. Jesus is the…

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Great book! It influences much of our hermeneutic at Covenant Seminary.

The Reformed Reader

 Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God is an outstanding contribution to the fields of hermeneutics, biblical theology, missions, and evangelism (among others).  It is a unique and amazing resource for pastors, church planters, missionaries, and any Christian interested in a detailed yet readable study of the mission of our Triune God.  Here’s one short quote that I highlighted as I read through it last year.  It comes in the chapter entitled, “God and the Nations in Old Testament Vision.”

“All stand under YHWH’s judgment.  All can turn to YHWH and find his mercy.  This surely has to be one of the most foundational elements of the Old Testament contribution to our theology of mission.”

“1) If it were not the case that all nations stand under the impending judgment of God, there would be no need to proclaim the gospel.”

“2) But if it were not for the fact…

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Never Once

 

Bombed outFrom March 2008 to May 2009 I spent 15 months in Iraq as a soldier.

In that time, I never once was threatened by a roadside bomb.  I never once had to dive for cover.  I never once had to dodge a bullet.   I never once really felt like I might die.  And when I came back, I enjoyed 2 incredibly sweet years with my wife as I started a new job and a new life.  What I never expected was that after 2 years of peace after leaving an actual war zone, I would enter into a different war zone.  My battlefield is my house.  My dinner table.  My car.  My bedroom.  My children’s bedroom.

Today I live in a battle.  I have almost died or been crippled and seen those I love suffer the same more times than I have kept track of…at least so it seems.  I’ve fought to the place of nearly complete hopelessness more than once.

My current mission guarantees that I and those I love will be in harms way.  I cannot complete my mission from an air-conditioned trailer halfway around the world.  I am not somewhere in the rear echelon or enjoying the comforts of a highly secured command post.  For the first time in my life, at least that I recognize, I am fighting for my life and the lives of those I love.  That seems ironic to me.

You see, I walked out of Iraq without a scratch.  I never once felt pushed to the brink.  I cannot say the same about being a parent for almost 2 years now.

It might sound funny but I assure you, it’s not.  I‘ve been entrusted with the care of precious cargo.

Some part of me knew the old cliché: “no one is ever ready to be a parent.”  And I heard parents say that in some seasons, “every day is a battle” and I would kind of laugh, you know?  No one ever said it this way but I always thought that they were sort of blaming their children in some way.  That, I felt like I could prepare for: a threat from the outside.

Never once did I consider that the battle would be inside me.

When you go to war, there is a simplicity in knowing who your enemy is going in.  You analyze your foe and you devise a strategy to defeat them by exploiting their weaknesses while capitalizing on your strengths.  Seems straightforward, I know.

But what happens when before going into battle, you have completely misidentified the greatest threat?  This is the situation I find myself in.  

As an old comic once said: “We have met the enemy and he is us.

Never once did I think the greatest enemy in raising my children would be me.

I completely underestimated my capacity for selfishness.  I completely underestimated how much I seek unhealthy control of things.  I completely underestimated my capacity for fits of rage.  I completely underestimated my ability to justify harsh treatment those I love.  I underestimated the enemy and the enemy can be awful.

Never once did I think the greatest enemy in raising my children would be me.

This realization has been crippling at times and just when I think I’m gaining ground, the enemy attacks and seems to negate any progress that seems to have been made.

When my sons cry out to me, will a loving father greet them or will the enemy strike?

And it happens again.  The enemy attacks with that bitter voice:

“Stop whining!”

“Be quiet!”

“STOP IT!”

“THAT’S ENOUGH!”

Oh, God… not again.  There’s shrapnel everywhere.  The words hang in the air like smoke.  They linger like a foul burnt smell.  It’s repulsive.  What a mess…and how do you begin to clean up?  Worse still, there’s no sign of it not happening again.

Never once did I think the greatest enemy in raising my children would be me.

Questions race through my head.  Who am I?  What sort of man am I?  Why don’t I treat my children the way I want to treat them in my mind?  Why don’t I treat them with gentleness and patience?  Am I a loving father or am I an enemy of my own household?

These days, the answer depends on what day you ask or even what part of the day you ask.

My name is James Arthur and we joke about James being the jerk and Arthur being the voice of reason.  It can almost sound cute in those terms and I can say it with a bit of a smile.  The reality some days feels more like: James is a monster and Arthur is freaking gone – he’s nowhere to be found…again.

So, I get stuck in this perverted cycle of self-righteousness and self-loathing.

I am good.

I am right.

I should be better.

They need me to be better.

Why am I not better yet?

How can I keep doing the same stupid things over and over again?

I am a phony.

I am a hypocrite.

I am hanging on by a thread…again.

The rub is James and Arthur are not two people…but one.  I am James Arthur Jardin and I am at war with myself.  I am at the same time the one who needs to be victorious and the one who needs to be defeated.

I guess victory is successfully raising my boys so that they know and believe that their father loves them.  And if that is victory then defeat is if they believe that their dad should be avoided or that he does not want them or does not have time for them.

God help me.  Save me from myself.  Save my children from me.  I hope they will never once think that their dad doesn’t love them. 

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Worse than an Unbeliever

How can someone who is in the church be worse than an unbeliever?!

Here are the fruits of some research time here at school that were reviewed well by my professor (Dr. Bob Yarbrough) during my “Pastoral and General Epistles” course.  The topic was to pick a statement from Revelation, 1 or 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 or 2 Peter, James, Hebrews, or Jude and ask “what did [the author] mean by [insert verse in question here]?” So…here it goes:

 

What Did Paul Mean by ‘But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’?

In 1 Timothy 5:8, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This statement is a stark warning and warrants serious attention. It raises a few questions. Are the “members of his household” just referring to widowed mothers and grandmothers as those to be provided for or are there others included such a young children? How could someone who was part of the church community be worse than an unbeliever? What did Paul say about unbelievers in this statement? What effect was this statement intended to have on Timothy and those under his care? These questions all press readers to think carefully about a warning such as this.

My thesis is that Paul gave this warning because of his deep concern for belief in Jesus Christ producing behavior in accord with his teachings. Therefore, Paul’s statement means that the people who have widows in their family and also claim to believe in Jesus Christ deny the faith when they fail to take care of these widows. What is implied then is that even unbelieving families take care of their widows! Therefore, if even unbelievers take care of widows in their family, people who profess Christ become deniers of the faith if they do not behave in a way that applies words of Christ for the sake of love of God and neighbor. This statement would have been corrective to those who took the care of widows in their families lightly and in doing so presented a poor witness of following Christ. Paul’s concern was for believers in the faith to walk the walk that matched their confession.

The context of this verse is within a section on the treatment of older members of the church in chapter 5. First, in vv. 1-2, Paul dealt with addressing older men and older as well as younger women. In vv. 3-16, Paul addressed the care of widows by both the church as a larger body and by specific family members of the widows within the church. The section that follows in vv. 17-25 deals with issues regarding ruling elders and the purity that Timothy has been called to for the sake of the church of Jesus Christ. So, in its immediate context, v. 8 is part of Paul’s practical instructions on issues regarding older members of the church.

Though care of children is an important issue in the Bible, children are not the focus of receiving provision from family in this verse. Paul’s warning is aimed particularly at family members who don’t take care of their widowed mothers or grandmothers. The words τῶν ἰδίων καὶ μάλιστα οἰκείων, “one’s own [relatives] and especially [members] of his own household” likely pinpoints the focus on the children and grandchildren of a widow mentioned previously in v. 4.[1] Also, when Paul says that the individual ἤρνηται, (has denied) the faith, this matches the description Paul gave elsewhere in the pastoral epistles of false teachers who had denied the faith.[2] This is important because it serves to emphasize the seriousness of failing to take care of one’s own family in regards to the faith. This leads to the next words of note: τὴν πίστιν. “The faith” is different from just “a faith” and is a reference to a specific thing, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ.[3] What then did Paul mean by bringing the “unbeliever” (ἀπίστου) up in this verse? Paul is not condemning unbelievers here.[4] Elsewhere, Paul points out that even unbelievers “are known to do the works of the law.”[5] So, when Paul wrote that the one who doesn’t care for his family ἔστιν ἀπίστου χείρων, “is worse than an unbeliever,” he pointed out how those who believe in Jesus Christ especially have no excuse for failing to take care of their families. Paul is concerned for the church’s deeds according with their confession, so he called out those who “profess to know God” but “deny him by their deeds”[6] in this failure to love their family well.

In conclusion, Paul’s warning in 1 Timothy 5:8 is a specific and practical concern that is part of the more encompassing one: the witness of the church to the rest of the unbelieving world. If the church was going to be consistent with its confessed faith in Jesus Christ, even those outside of the church must recognize many of their actions as righteous. In this case, outward deeds based on faith in Jesus Christ that Paul emphasized were things that unbelievers recognize as good and right too. Care of families by members of the church had potential to say what was important to Christians not just in words but also in practice. Failure to care for widows, especially by members of their own immediate family, would be considered disgraceful even by those outside of the church. If people who confess Christ failed to do this deed, they did something that even unbelievers knew was wrong and therefore were even worse than them, for unbelievers never claimed to follow Christ yet still do this good deed. This warning from Paul was ultimately about church members living out their confession through the care of widows within their own families. For members of the church, their actions, like ours, could either affirm belief in the faith of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by word and deed or they could become worse than an unbeliever by denying the faith by confessing belief in word but denying it in deed.


[1] George W. Knight and III, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary On the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 220.

[2] Philip H. Towner, 1-2 Timothy and Titus (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 1994), 120. Also, cf. 1:6; 4:1, 6:21; 2 Tim. 2:18; 3:5; Tit.1:16

[3] Knight, 221.

[4] Gordon D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers / Paternoster Press, 1995), 118.

[5] Knight, 221.

[6] Thomas C. Oden, First and Second Timothy and Titus (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1989), 155. Also cf. Luke 7:9-13.

Bibliography

Fee, Gordon D. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers / Paternoster Press, 1995.

Hultgren, Arland J., and Roger Aus. 1-2 Timothy, Titus / 2 Thessalonians. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1984.

Knight, George W., and III. The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary On the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999.

Oden, Thomas C. First and Second Timothy and Titus. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1989.

Towner, Philip H. 1-2 Timothy and Titus. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 1994.

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More Thoughts on Evangelism

    Don’t let the word “evangelism” in the title of the post scare you.  I cannot recommend Learning Evangelism from Jesus more happily to anyone who wants to learn more about Jesus.  Through Prof. Jerram Barrs‘ perspective, we are reminded that in following Christ, our whole life is to be evangelism.  The way we go about the most mundane task is a witness of the work of Christ in our lives.

There is a simplistic beauty in learning evangelism by observing the record of Christ’s work in Scripture.  Coming from an evangelical tradition where Scripture is held as the guide for all wisdom in life, it seems completely natural to look at Jesus in this way.  There are many methods of evangelism in the modern Christian scene but in my experience, I have not had the pleasure of encountering a philosophy of practicing evangelism that sought to base its understanding and method on the example of Christ.  This book has been my first experience with such a clearly defined focus on learning how to declare the Gospel primarily by examining various encounters that Jesus had.

I tend to feel like I am living passively in my faith in Christ if I am not being challenged to apply Scripture to my life.  Sometimes, I reach the point where I am offended and made to re-evaluate my assumptions on the way life should be.  The Lord has used these moments in my life to draw me to repentance and to different perspectives on His call on my life.  There were various moments in this book where I experienced this again.  I am guilty of establishing false rules that go beyond the prohibitions of God.  Rather than following the example of Christ, I have followed the example of the Pharisee.  I meant well but I was still adding prohibitions to the Word of God.  I need to be faithful to what God has spoken and take the risk of allowing others around me to abuse these areas of freedom.  I cannot make more rules and expect people to “get it.”  At some point, I have to trust that God gave all the law that is necessary and that “…the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more (Rom. 5:20).” I need to risk practicing grace!

A major takeaway from this book in my own life is that I will be reading and hearing the accounts of Christ’s parables in a much more practically instructive manner (a sad confession…I know).  There has always been an assumption on my part that thought: “Well, He was Jesus!  I’m not Him, so I can’t use these parables for much more than observing and taking note of how He related to people as God.” I think I do this because I under emphasize the humanity of Jesus.  No, we cannot read peoples thoughts or know their hidden past and use these things for the sake of evangelism but we certainly can follow the examples of grace, mercy, and wisdom contained therein.  There is a goldmine of points of application for multiple points of practical Christian living in the parables of Jesus.  I hope these lessons sink deep within me for the sake of the Gospel.  As a bearer of the good news I will be tempered with the grace in truth toward pagan and Pharisee alike.  I can do this because the parables are more real to me now than ever.

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Thoughts on Evangelism

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For my current Apologetics and Outreach class at Covenant Seminary, we are required to read The Heart of Evangelism, by the professor teaching the class, Jerram Barrs.  In the few lectures we have had thus far, this book seems mirror in large part the content of the lectures.  Here is a personal thought about speaking to different groups about the Gospel: I have always been put off by the street evangelism style that seemed to train its evangelists to learn a single memorized presentation of the Gospel as a one-size-fits-all method.  Guys tried to recruit me into this style in bible studies or other settings but I never felt comfortable with that tactic.  In the chapter about Memorized Summaries of the Gospel, Prof. Barrs covered some of the differences in evangelizing to different groups of people.  We have good biblical precedent to be prepared to speak to different groups of people about the Gospel in different ways that are tailored to the particulars of that audience.  Of course there is a core of the Gospel that is unchanged from audience to audience but surely the significance of certain aspects of Christ’s salvation are going to need more emphasis when talking to a Jew versus a Mormon, versus a Muslim, versus a Wiccan, etcetera!  I have discussed the Gospel just enough with people of other faiths to know that preparing to talk to one of these versus another is a very different process in regards to which particular aspects of orthodox faith in Christ need to be brushed up on before discussion.  Sun Tzu is popularly quoted as having said, “know thy enemy.” [1]  I would adapt this for Christian purposes to say, “know thy neighbor.” I am reminded that evangelism should be as relationally specific as the rest of our lives.  Say our neighbor needs a shovel.  We would be unwise to then offer a rake.  It is not a particularly loving thing to do to not take the time to recognize his need and seek to meet it accordingly.


[1] The quote is actually “know [the] other” not enemy but in context, the word enemy can be inferred.

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The Calling of God

What am I supposed to do with my life? This is a question that everyone must face at some point. We all have this sense that we are here for some reason – some purpose! Enter the Bible. God’s Word confronts us with our Creator who has called us into a relationship with Him and has given us a mission to engage in and a purpose to fulfill. The calling of God is a major area of discussion for those who want to understand how we should live in response to the calling God. Those who follow the Lord must think through two big questions. First, how do I respond to God’s call on my life to follow Him exclusively? Second to that, how do I fulfill that calling as an individual with a unique combination of gifts and abilities? Just the word “calling” needs to be unpacked before looking at the big questions. When we hear the term “calling” in our modern usage, what historical baggage do we bring to the table?

Once we get past defining the word “calling,” we can go deeper into questions regarding how calling affects the way we live in light of it. How does our sense of calling affect our heart – our moral center? Following inquiry into how calling affects our heart is inquiry into how it affects the work of our hands. How does calling shape the way that we behave? Ultimately, glorifying Christ must drive us as we fulfill God’s calling in our heads, hearts, and hands.

CALLING AND DEVOTION

Like the call of God to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3, all following generations have been called to follow after God in faith. And further still, all have been called to follow God unto living according to His way of doing righteousness and justice much as God said in Genesis 18:19. Jesus Christ continued this call from God to follow Him alone in order to not die but instead to have eternal life in John 3:16. Jesus said one of the most controversial statements in the history of all world religions in John 14:6 when He said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

These verses (and many more could be used!) help to serve as a backdrop to the first level calling that Os Guinness called the “primary calling” of God in his book on the subject, The Call. Our primary calling is to glorify God through Christ. This is the most basic level of the calling. This decision to answer the primary call of God is said clearly in the words of Joshua 24:15, “…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…” Jesus made it clear in Matthew 6:24 that you can’t serve Him and someone else when He said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” This primary calling affects everything in our lives. Guinness wrote:

calling is the truth that God calls us to Himself so decisively everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.”

What naturally follows from this more general concept of a primary calling then is the specificity of the secondary calling.

The secondary call then is unique for every person. It doesn’t take much reflection to see that the people around us have a wide variety of combinations of gifts and abilities. This means that every believer has something to offer the Kingdom of God. This is well within keeping with the teaching of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:6-8 where he wrote:

“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

It logically follows then that any profession that serves to benefit those around us in light of God’s goodness is itself a worthy profession. This includes but is certainly not limited to vocational ministry.

So, all who answer the primary calling of God are secondarily called to use the gifts they have to further the Kingdom of God. Notice the second word of the last sentence. Which people are called to use their gifts to further the Kingdom of God? All people who answer the primary call. This touches an idea that is a point of debate between those holding the Catholic perspective on calling versus the Protestant perspective. In a Catholic understanding, the term calling is more or less reserved for those who are called into the vocational ministry of the priesthood. According to the Catholic understanding, the priesthood is a “higher calling.” What necessarily follows is that any calling other than the call to the priesthood is a lower calling. The vocation of ministry is elevated above the rest of the body of Christ. This makes about as much sense as saying in the terms of parts of a body, that an arm is more useful than a leg. On the contrary, the arm and the leg work in concert to move the body in the direction of giving God the glory. There is an inherent elitism in this kind of thinking and it is a product of worldliness versus a product of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic distortion of calling doesn’t appropriately apply 1 Peter 2:9 which says:

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.”

Peter’s words apply to all of those who are in Christ. Never mind the opus of the value of the different parts of the body all working together in equal importance that Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:12-31 which is simply too long to restate here. Suffice it to say, no calling should be elevated above others.

There is a Protestant distortion that takes calling to the other extreme on the spectrum opposite the Catholic perspective. In the Protestant distortion, the primary calling is overshadowed and places a higher value on the secondary calling for all people. The problem lies in that there can be no true secondary calling without the primary being in place first. Our devotion to work should never eclipse our devotion to Jesus Christ. Our work should complement the work of Christ but should never be done in a manner that elevates it to a place were Christ’s work is pushed to the periphery and therefore idolizes our work. He is the chief cornerstone from which the whole construction is built. In summary, our calling affects every facet of our lives and it is equally significant to God’s Kingdom for clergy as it is for the stay at home mom and at no point can devotion to our work ever surpass our devotion to Christ because of what He has first done for us.

PROCEEDING FROM THE HEART

So once we know we accept the primary call of God, it follows that our heart should conform to the desires of God to conform to the image of Jesus. If we rightly understand and embrace God’s calling on our lives, we will accept that God has given us the particular combination of gifts and abilities that He has rather than the set He has given to another. We will not think that “what we are unable to achieve, we will bring low,” as Guinness summed it up. The heart that thinks this way is ungrateful to the Lord in the same way that the wandering Israelites with Moses were ungrateful to Him for the blessings that He had graciously given them.

This attitude is poisonous to the one who holds it. It is a rot in the heart. An attitude of ungratefulness threatens to undercut any sense of calling. I realized as I was confronted with this particular aspect of internalizing our calling as Christians, that I had become jealous of some who had gifts and abilities that I wanted more than my own or they had the same or similar gifts as me but had them in greater measure! I continue to confront this unhealthy attitude whenever the Holy Spirit convicts me of doing it yet again. Glory be to God that the Gospel shows us that as poisonous as this attitude is, it isn’t able to overcome the power of God to save His people. The Spirit reminded me that Jesus died for my envy too. Restored again by the grace of Christ, my sense of calling was only stronger than it was before I had rebelled in my envy. A heart changed by God’s grace will embrace the gifts that He gave to it.

JESUS, CALLING, AND THE WORLD

God’s salvation isn’t limited to the individual believer. God’s restorative purpose stretches to the whole of creation. This means that once we have affirmed our primary calling, taken stock of the combination of gifts and abilities that God has given us, we must turn those gifts loose upon the world in a way that glorifies Jesus Christ. Once the calling is embraced, it benefits the world to the glory of God and it combats sin within the believer!

In Guinness’ chapter called “Combating the Noonday Demon,” he illustrated specifically how the calling of God serves to overcome the sin of sloth. Sloth of course stands in direct opposition to God’s call for His people to go forth and be His image bearers to the world. Laziness and lack of concern for the world outside of one’s self are simply incompatible with His calling to live out the Gospel.

This idea of the sedentary man who neglects the world hits a little too close to home. In ways great and small, from not watering my plants to not engaging in healthy relationships with those I should, my own slothfulness is confronted. My problem isn’t unique to me. I live in a generation that at times can place a higher value on playing video games alone for a weekend over spending quality time with loved ones. The words of Proverbs 6:10 and 24:33 warn us all: “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest, Then your poverty will come as a robber And your want like an armed man.” The poverty in this psalm is likely literal poverty of lack of material provision but I don’t think it a stretch to see this poverty in light of the other needs of man. Man can be impoverished of relationships. God said it Himself: it isn’t good for a man to be alone! I too am guilty of thinking that I don’t need relationships from time to time. I’m a free, strong and independent, American man! At least, that it the mindset I operate too often in. This cultural air we breathe in America of freedom and independence can come around to bite us.

On a long enough time line of living this way, we risk waking up one morning to face problems that seem insurmountable and the worst part will be…that we have to face it alone…without a loved one to walk through it with us. The thought of it makes me go cold. I have experienced enough hardship in my years to know that when the going gets tough, the people who love you are invaluable. When we choose not to engage the world around us because we are too lazy or slothful to do so, we don’t know whom we are denying the opportunity to have someone to cry out to when their life is coming apart at the seams. How will people know that which is coming apart can be mended by the One who sustains all things – who holds all things together unless we get up off our chair and tell them about Him?

CONCLUSION

Os Guinness’ book, The Call, has been very helpful with his insights into the importance of calling in a Christian’s life. The Christian should have a much easier time answering the question: “what am I supposed to do with my life?” The Westminster Shorter Catechism sums up the purpose of man well. It says:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”

This neatly points the believer to the general aim that their life should take. This question and answer points back to the primary call. The answering the primary call means that our whole life – our chief end – is in giving Him all the glory.

The secondary call is fulfilled in each individual’s particular employment of their God given talents and abilities. Those called to pastor a church should pastor unto the glory of God! Those who are called to run a business should do it unto the glory of God! Those who are called to be craftsmen should craft unto the glory of God! As members of the body of Christ, they all compliment each other in service to the Kingdom of God in their own unique functions. This does show God’s glory! The pastor shouldn’t look down on the craftsman because the craftsman doesn’t focus on shepherding God’s people. The craftsman shouldn’t look down on the pastor because he has not physical object to show for his labors. Neither the pastor nor the craftsman should be envious of the businessman because of his prestige or money, if he has them. Each of these vocational individuals should instead embrace the gifts that God gave them and seek to employ them in concert with his neighbor.

Humor me as I use a musical illustration to conclude this discussion of what primary and secondary callings working together. When the body of Christ functions as it should with its secondary callings all working in harmony, it is as if God is conducting a spiritual symphony. Each member adds their own unique tone and timbre to the glorious production that is Kingdom building, not for their individual moment in the spotlight, but so the Composer, our Father in heaven, can receive all the glory yet we still share in that glory by virtue of the fact that we were invited to participate in that which is so much greater than us. Once the members perform in this function, they might even be able to glorify God even more just by enjoying the “performance” of the other members as they fulfill their secondary callings along side them. Like a cellist who while playing his part, closes his eyes to drink in the sound of the others that surround him as they all play their individual parts, but are yet still unified under the direction of their common Conductor. If we function like all different members of a symphony, would we as believers unified in Christ see Him as our Composer and Conductor. Would we play our part with excellence and in harmony with the symphony around us in a way that we revel first in the Conductor and Composer but not only that, revel in the simultaneous performances of the fellow players that surround us as we all perform the symphony together. Would the individuals be so moved by this performance in its beauty, complexity, and yet in its unity be so moved that they too would be moved to answer the primary and secondary calling on their life…and join in the harmonious playing of the symphony to the glory of God through Christ.*

*This post is an adaptation of a paper that I wrote for a course at Covenant Theological Seminary.

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