Cooking for God in Heaven (Luther)

  “What does it mean to serve God?” Luther asked in a sermon on Matthew 6:24-34.  He answered his own question echoing Scripture: it means listening to Christ, accepting the gospel, and obeying God.  If we are not obeying God we are not serving him no matter how religious or spiritual our lives may look. In fact, we can serve God in whatever calling he’s called us to do.  We don’t necessarily have to go into some ministry or travel far to serve him.  Here’s Luther:

In every way, therefore, it is serving God when one does what God has commanded, and does not do what God has forbidden.  

When a preacher preaches God’s Word, baptizes, administers the sacrament, exhorts, rebukes, warns the secure, comforts the timid and distressed, in this way he is serving not only men but God, who has ordained and commanded these things; and there is joy in doing them, knowing of a certainty that it is God’s will and command.

In the same way, a poor servant girl has joy in her heart and can say, My job is to cook, make the bed, and clean the house; who has commanded me to do these things? My master and mistress have commanded me to do them.  Who has given them such authority over me? God has ordained this. Ah, then it must be true that I am serving not only them but also God in heaven and that God has pleasure in this. How, indeed could I be more blest? It is tantamount to cooking for God in heaven.

Martin Luther, Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, 7.10-11.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Calling, Gifts, Service (Guinness)

 If you haven’t read The Call by Os Guinness, you should put it on your “to read” Christian book list!  It’s an in-depth look at vocation (or calling).  I was looking over some of my highlights in this book today and came across the following quotes that really have been helpful for me and my own Christian life:

“…God normally calls us along the line of our giftedness, but the purpose of giftedness is stewardship and service, not selfishness.”

“A sense of calling should precede a choice of job and career, and the main way to discover calling is along the line of what we are each created and gifted to be.  Instead of, ‘You are what you do,’ calling says: ‘Do what you are.'”

“In the biblical understanding of giftedness, gifts are never really ours or for ourselves.  We have nothing that was not given us.  Our gifts are ultimately God’s, and we are only ‘stewards’ – responsible for the prudent management of property that is not our own.  This is why our gifts are always ‘ours for others,’ whether in the community of Christ or the broader society outside, especially the neighbor in need.”

“The truth is not that God is finding us a place for our gifts but that God has created us and our gifts for a place of his choosing – and we will only be ourselves when we are finally there.”

Os Guinness, The Call, p. 45-46.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Faith and the Workplace (Keller)

Tim Keller has a helpful section in Center Church that has to do with the Christian faith and our daily vocations (callings).  I’m sure he goes into this more in his other book on this topic, but here’s a nice summary from Center Church:

  1. Our faith changes our motivation for work.  For professionals and others who are prone to overwork and anxiety, the gospel prevents us from finding our significance and identity in money and success.  For working-class people who are prone to captivation to what Paul calls ‘eyeservice’ (Col. 3:22) …and drudgery, our faith directs us to ‘work with all our heart, as working for the Lord’ (Col. 3:23).
  2. Our faith changes our conception of work.  A robust theology of creation – and of God’s love and care for it – helps us see that even simple tasks such as making a shoe, filling a tooth, and digging a ditch are ways to serve God and build up human community….
  3. Our faith provides high ethics for Christians in the workplace.  Many things are technically legal but biblically immoral and unwise and therefore out of bounds for believers.  The ethical norms of the Christian life, grounded in the gospel of grace, should always lead believers to function with an extremely high level of integrity in their work.
  4. Our faith gives us the basis for reconceiving the very way in which our kind of work is done.  …In most vocational fields, believers encounter workplaces in which ruthless, competitive behavior is the norm. A  Christian worldview provides believers with ways to interpret the philosophies and practices that dominate their field and bring renewal and reform to them.

Timothy Keller, Center Church, p. 332.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

The Faith and Work Bible (NIV)

For review purposes I recently received the “NIV Faith and Work Bible“(edited by David Kim and published by Zondervan).  It isn’t exactly a study Bible; instead, it’s a Bible that has doctrine and application articles scattered throughout.

More specifically, the theme of these articles have to do with core Christian doctrines and what it means to live them out in our daily vocations.  There are also 31 short articles at certain places in Scripture which gives readers a summary of the overall story of redemptive history.  Basically, in this Bible you’ll get articles on 1) Bible storylines, 2) Doctrine, 3) Application to the workplace.

Many of the articles in this Bible are solid and helpful, utilizing various resources such as Abraham Kuyper, Anthony Hoekema, John Murray, and many others.  There is something of a “renewing creation” emphasis, but it didn’t seem to be taken to the extremes that I’ve seen elsewhere.  I also like the real life stories of how a person in a certain vocation applied doctrine to life.  You can preview this Bible on Amazon if you want more detail.

I do like the larger font in this Bible, and it is edited nicely.  However, I’d rather have these articles in a separate book rather than scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments.  I didn’t really need a new Bible, but I did want to read these articles in this Bible, and I’m glad I own them.  But now I have one more large resource on my shelves that could have been much smaller if the articles were published separately.  I’m guessing that most people who buy this Bible already have enough Bibles, and now you have to spend more than thirty bucks to get yet another new one.

In summary, the articles and application stories in the “NIV Faith and Work Bible” are helpful, but it would have been better if they had been published as a separate book instead of mixed throughout a Bible.
(NOTE: I received this Bible as part of the Booklook blogger program, and was not compelled to write a positive review.)
Shane Lems

Dr. Martin on Monastic Futility

Product Details  Some Christians today unfortunately have a positive view of monasticism or monastic retreats; many of them view such things as very “spiritual” and pleasing to God.  Martin Luther, however, rightly rebuked such a view.  Having spent time in a monastery, Luther spoke first hand.  This excerpt that follows has a lot to do with the Reformation’s recovery of the gospel (justification by faith alone):

“The real change which Christ came to effect is an inward change of the human heart, just as I now have a different mind, courage, and perception than I did when we were still controlled by the papacy and before the Gospel was revealed anew. At that time I was convinced that God would reject me, and I did not believe that I would be serving God if I continued in my vocation, discharging the duties of my office. As a matter of fact, I did not know God as He really is. Nor did I know how I could ever overcome sin and death, go to heaven, and live in eternal bliss.  I had the idea that I had to reach those goals by my own good works; and I became a monk for that reason, and nearly tortured myself to death.”

“But salvation does not depend on caps, robes, not eating meats, fasting, and similar works.  Death cannot be destroyed in that way; nor can sins be washed away in that manner.  Instead, both sin and death continue to exist under either gray or black hoods, and under red or blue robes.  As I said earlier, salvation depends on the heart being enlightened and receiving a new seal, so that it can say, ‘I know that God accepts me just as I am, and that this truly applies to me because he has sent his Son, let him become a human being, so that through him I would be able to overcome sin and death and be assured of having eternal life.”

“…Prior to this time many people thought, ‘If I am to be saved, I will have to don a monk’s camp or a nun’s hood.’  If anyone tried to force you to wear one now, you would run to the end of the earth to avoid doing so.  Likewise if you previously would have eaten a bit of meat on Friday, you would have thought that the earth would upon up and swallow you for sure.  But now you tell the pope, the bishops, yes, the devil himself, ‘Go, kiss my hand! Why shouldn’t I eat meat?  Why should I be afraid to do so?’  That’s what it means to undergo an inner change and a change of heart, a change in which the heart acquires from God’s Word a different mind and will, and continues in its vocation and secular life as before, as we learn from the shepherds [in Luke 2:15-20).”

Martin Luther, a “Holy Christmas Day” sermon, Luther’s House Postils, in volume 5 of Luther’s sermons.

shane lems