Author Archives: lifecoach4God
Book Review: Greg Forster’s “Joy For The World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It
Renewing Your Vision for Cultural Change
Book Review By Dr. David P. Craig
As a Senior Pastor one of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced over the years is how to keep and shepherd a flock in holiness and influence the world without being contaminated by it at the same time. Tim Keller is a pastor who has been able to do both. Tim writes the forward to this book and his own churches vision statement is as follows: “We at Redeemer Church (Manhattan, New York) seek to build a great city for all people through a gospel movement that brings about personal conversion, community formation, social justice, and cultural renewal in New York City and the world.”
What Dr. Forster does in this book is show how this type of vision is desperately needed in the Western Church today. He shows historically how churches in Europe and America were once the primary influencers in culture and how that now they are more influenced by the culture than influencing culture. Forster’s knowledge of history and theology allows him to make penetrating insights into how Christianity has lost ground in influencing society, and yet offers hope in how to turn this paradigm around.
According to Forster the “exilic challenge of the Israelites in Babylon is the permanent state of the New Testament church. If so, we should consider the Lord’s instructions to His people during the Babylonian Exile: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). Forster uses this passage as a stepping stone to develop the idea of “whole-life” discipleship which encompasses the walls inside and outside of our churches. He forges practical ways and examples to penetrate our communities with the gospel in the context of our families, workplace, educationally, socially, and politically.
In the final analysis Forster has written a book that is especially helpful for Christians and Churches that have become “ingrown”, “inward-focused,” “isolated,” and “self-absorbed.” He gleans principles from the Bible and the Reformation that are particularly helpful in getting the Church back on track in the balancing act that is theologically deep and practically relevant. I highly recommend this book for pastors, lay-leaders, and Christians of all stripes that seek to become ambassadors for Christ who make a difference in our communities and in our world for our joy and God’s glory.
What Is True Wellness?
This is a guest post by Dr. John Dunlop. He is the author of Wellness to the Glory of God: Living Well after 40 with Joy and Contentment in All of Life. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. Article adapted from: http://www.crossway.org/blog/2014/09/what-is-true-wellness/
Will I Be Well at Age 95?
Henry came to his appointment huffing and puffing using his walker to get down the hall. I, as his physician, shook his hand and asked, “How is it going my friend?” Smiling he gave me a strong handshake and said, “Praise the Lord, I’m well, thank you!”
As pleased as I was to hear his response, it caught me just a bit off guard. I was 65; he was 95! I found myself wanting to feel just as well in 30 years. All kinds of questions began to pop into my mind:
Can we truly be well at 95, even when short of breath and using our walkers?
Will I be able to say I’m well if I am still on earth at that age?
What can I do now to increase the chance of being well in thirty years?
The Concept of Shalom
The ancient Hebrews contribute to our understanding of wellness by their use of the word shalom. Whereas shalom is often loosely translated as “peace,” the true meaning is far more extensive. At root, shalom means “totality.” It is the sense of wholeness we have when every part of our lives is in a profound harmony and unity within ourselves, with those around us, and with God. Shalom leads to wellness.
Where do we find the integrating principle that brings all of our lives together? Once again the ancient Jews had the correct answer. The famous Shema of Israel says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:4-5). We are to be a people of one God. This must be more than something we recite for we need to have him as our single focus and see all other areas of life brought together in him. We are to love him with all of our hearts, souls, and might.
Our love for God is well illustrated in the Scriptures:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You. (Psalm 63:1-3)
We learn to love God with all of our beings and then find in him our fulfillment and greatest joy. In God we find what we need to be satisfied. We experience shalom through shema and that sets us on the way to true wellness.
All to the Glory of God
And yet while loving God and loving other people are wonderful—and may help us reach our ultimate purpose—they are not that ultimate purpose in themselves. To attain that ultimate goal we must go one level deeper.
Our overriding purpose in life should be to glorify God. We bring God glory in three distinct ways.
First, he is glorified in our own spirits as we find greater joy and fulfillment in him.
Second, others may give him glory as a result of something we do for them that reflects God’s love and goodness.
Third, God is glorified in his own being through our worship as we declare how much we treasure him. The apostle Paul speaks of Christians as being “the aroma of Christ to God” (2 Cor. 2:15). It is difficult to understand fully but in some way we remind God of the sacrifice of his beloved son, Jesus, and in that he is greatly pleased.
Living with a passion for God and his glory will have the following results:
(1) It will free us from worry and anxiety as we will be less focused on ourselves
(2) We will function out of a sense of fullness, not emptiness
(3) It will energize us and ignite us with passion
(4) We will fulfill our true purpose, find our niche, feel at home, and be content
(5) We will do things with eternal impact
(6) We will experience wellness in its truest sense
6 Areas of Wellness
In order to have this unified focus on God and his glory in our lives we must carefully review each area of our lives to see what changes are needed. These areas include:
(1) Physical: Are we being good stewards of the bodies he has entrusted to us? This includes eating well, controlling our weight, exercising, getting proper rest, and taking advantage of the good medical care available to us.
(2) Mental: As age approaches it is increasingly important to keep using and sharpening our minds. Dementia may intervene but even that offers opportunities for God to be glorified.
(3) Social: Relationships are more important as we get older and we need to ensure that we’re making the best of them. It’s critical that we choose a living situation where we will not be isolated but can continue to build close friendships while strengthening our family relationships.
(4) Financial: Are our finances worry-free? Rarely can we increase our resources but we can often limit our expenses. We must be good stewards of the resources God has given us, saving to meet our future needs, and leaving room to be generous.
(5) Spiritual: Our later years offer rich opportunities for spiritual growth and service. Some of the fruit of the Spirit like patience and gentleness may be late bloomers. All believers, no matter their age, are given spiritual gifts through which they can help others. Our abilities may change over the years but there will always be need for prayer and encouragement for others.
(6) Emotional: Are we learning to be content? That must exist in three tenses: we must be comfortable with the past, satisfied in the present, and confident of the future. As age advances depression is all too common and we must learn to effectively deal with that.
Once we get to Henry’s age it’s unreasonable to think that we will continue to be totally well in each of these areas. But, if we review each of them and carefully take stock of where we are now,we can make some corrections that will maximize the chance of true wellness as our lives progress.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
John Dunlop (MD, Johns Hopkins University) practices medicine in Zion, Illinois, and serves as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University. He is board certified in geriatrics, holds a master’s degree in bioethics, and is a fellow of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity. Dunlop is the author of Finishing Well to the Glory of God: Strategies from a Christian Physician and Wellness to the Glory of God: Living Well after 40 with Joy and Contentment in All of Life. Both published by Crossway Books.
Excerpt from Gary Millar and Phil Campbell’s Book [contributed by Andy Naselli]: Saving Eutychus: How To Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake: Kingsford NSW, Australia: Matthias Media, 2013, pp. 40-41 (http://andynaselli.com/8-advantages-of-heart-changing-expository-preaching/May 16, 2013)
8 Advantages of Heart-Changing Expository Preaching
(1) Does justice to the biblical material which makes it clear that God works through His Word to change people’s lives–as it ‘uncaged the lion’ and allows God’s Word to speak.
(2) Acknowledges that it is God alone, through the Spirit, who works in people’s lives, and that it is not our job to change people through clever or inspiring communication.
(3) Minimizes the danger of manipulating people, because the text itself controls what we say and how we say it. The Bible leaves little room for us to return repeatedly to our current bugbears and hobbyhorses.
(4) Minimizes the danger of abusing power, because a sermon driven by the text creates an instant safeguard against using the Bible to bludgeon (or caress) people into doing or thinking what we want them to do or think.
(5) Removes the need to rely on our personality. While we all feel the weight, at times of having little ‘inspiration’, energy or creativity, if our focus is on allowing the immense richness of Scripture to speak in all its color and variety, the pressure is well and truly off.
(6) Encourages humility to those teaching. While it can be a temptation to think that we are somehow special because we are standing at the front doing most of the talking (and, on a good day, receiving the encouragement), getting it straight that the key to preaching to the heart is simply uncovering the power and freshness of God’s words helps to keep us in our place.
(7) Helps us to avoid simple pragmatism. If our focus is on working consistently to enable people to encounter God who speaks through the text, we will not feel under pressure to address every single issue and topic as it comes up in the life of the church. Conversely, working through the Bible week by week will force us to cover subjects that we wouldn’t choose to address in a million years. In other words, expository preaching is the simplest, longest-lasting antidote we have to pragmatism.
(8) Drives us to preaching the gospel. Expository preaching persistently drives us to the Lord Jesus Christ (wherever we are in the Bible) and so ‘forces’ us to preach the gospel–that is, to spell out what God has already done for us in the death and resurrection of His Son, and then to move from that grace to what God asks and enables us to do. When we preach the gospel we are not simply telling people how to be good or leaving them to wallow in the overwhelming sense that they are irredeemably bad.
How to Decide About Your Next Job
In 1997 I put a list of Bible texts together to help folks think through what job to pursue. Below I have taken that list and added comments to flesh out more specifically what I had in mind.
My prayer is that these thoughts will help saturate your mind with the centrality of Christ in all of life. He made you to work. And he cares about what you do with the half of your waking life called “vocation.” He wants you to rejoice in it. And he wants to be glorified in it.
May the Lord position you strategically in the workplace, as only he can when his people care deeply about these kinds of questions.
12 Questions to Consider
1. Can you earnestly do all the parts of this job “to the glory of God,” that is, in a way that highlights his superior value over all other things?
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
It almost goes without saying that a job that requires you to sin will not be done to the glory of God. Sin is any feeling, word, or action that implies the glory of God is not supremely valuable. So you can’t sin to the glory of God. But things are often not that clear. A job may involve me in questionable practices that are not clearly sin. Then the question becomes: Is my conscience clear? And the crucial text becomes Romans 14:23, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”
2. Is taking this job part of a strategy to grow in personal holiness?
For this is the will of God, your sanctification. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
When Paul says, “Pursue righteousness” (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22), he does not mean: at church and home, but not work. Our work is about half our waking life. If personal holiness in all of life is our calling, then how this happens at work matters. God will be pleased if you ask the question: How does this job fit into the overall strategy of my pursuit of Christ-like character.
3. Will this job help or hinder your progress in esteeming the value of knowing Christ Jesus your Lord?
I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippians 3:8)
Think through the demands of this job and how it may affect your pursuit of knowing and treasuring Jesus. For example, will it require you to choose between excellence in work and faithfulness in corporate worship? Will it present you with sinful images or offers, to which you are most vulnerable — that is, which lure you to treasuring this world more than Christ?
4. Will this job result in inappropriate pressures on you to think or feel or act against your King, Jesus?
You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. (1 Corinthians 7:23)
The point here is bondage. All jobs constrain behavior. We must show up. We must produce these outcomes. We must follow these procedures. Constraints are not bondage if we joyfully affirm their wisdom. Will this job pressure you in ways that are in fact unduly oppressive and enslaving?
5. Will this job help establish an overall life-pattern that will yield a significant involvement in fulfilling God’s great purpose of exalting Christ among all the unreached peoples of the world?
Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20)
I assume every one is a goer, sender, or disobedient, when it comes to the great commission. There’s no neutral zone. We don’t all go. But we all care that there be goers. We are all world-Christians. We are all burdened by how many unreached peoples there are. And we are all thrilled with news of gospel spreading.
Some jobs may advance this life-goal significantly by involving travel or multi-ethnic interactions. Other jobs may seem unrelated. But are they? Workplaces are the source of income for giving to the cause of Christ. Workplaces are places of conversion and recruitment for the global mission. Workplaces are places of training for the kinds of things one could do for a living in another country with few Christians. Workplaces are places for speaking intelligently and wisely about the peoples of the world.
6. Will this job be worthy of your best energies?
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
Nothing is to be done half-heartedly. This means that things that are not worth doing whole-heartedly should drop away from your life. Tasks don’t have to be high-impact to be worthy of high-effort. Most of the things we do in any given day are relatively low-impact. Working on an assembly line means doing hundreds of times a task that in itself seems low-impact. But if the product or the service is valuable, the cumulative effect of thousands of low-impact tasks is huge. These tasks can be transposed by an act of faith into worship. That is what it means to do them with your might and for the glory of God.
7. Will the activities and environment of this job tend to shape you or will you be able to shape it for the Christ-magnifying purposes of God?
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)
Know yourself. We are all more or less vulnerable to different temptations. Christians are to be shapers of the world rather than being shaped by the world. Yes, it is true that we are all shaped by our culture (language, dress, etc.). But God means for this to be reciprocal. We share the culture of this world in order to communicate that we live for a treasure beyond this world. Does this job hold out hope for that? Or, realistically, is it too resistant?
8. Will this job provide an occasion for you to be radically Christian so as to let your light shine for your Father’s sake, or will your participation in the vision of the business tend by definition to snuff your wick?
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
There are companies — increasingly so — whose policies and procedures would muzzle your voice so seriously, you would not be able to speak with truth and love without being fired. Is the acceptance of this job the acceptance of that muzzle? Is that God’s will for you?
9. Does the aim of this job cohere with a growing intensity in your life to be radically, publicly, fruitfully devoted to Christ at any cost?
If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Mark 8:34)
If you are in a season of serious spiritual growth, ask how a new job will affect that. There are kinds of tasks, kinds of people, kinds of pressures, kinds of schedules, that may bring that growth to a screeching halt. Is this new level of love to Christ precious enough that you will prioritize it, if necessary, above the new job?
10. Will the job feel like a good investment of your life when these “two seconds” of preparation for eternity are over?
You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)
God says that there is a wisdom that comes when we consider the number of our days (Psalm 90:12). Therefore, it will serve your wise choice of a new job to ask how it relates to the brevity of life. When the Lord calls for us or comes for us, we want to be found doing what pleases him. And we want to feel good that we made a wise choice in view of how short and vulnerable life is.
11. Does this job fit with why you believe you were created and purchased by Christ?
“Everyone who is called by my name … I have created for my glory” (Isaiah 43:6–7). “You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)
You are unique. That is amazing and true. I often marvel, in a crowded airport, that the thousands of people all look human, and they all look different. How can there be so many differences in this one kind of being? But there are. And none of them is an accident. God designed them all like unique prisms that refract his glory as only this prism can. The question is: Will this job conceal the uniquenesses of your prism? Or will it give you space to shine?
12. Does this job fit together with the ultimate truth that all things exist for Christ?
For by him all…have been created by [Christ] and for him. (Colossians 1:16)
If all things exist for Christ, can there be any wrong jobs? Yes. Because humans try to use things for purposes other than the glory of Christ. Everything God made is good. It exists to communicate something of his greatness and beauty. Will this job free you to take what he has made and turn it for uses that honor him?
I hope you can tell from this that there are few easy answers when asking about what job to pursue. The aim here is not to make it easy, but to make it Christ-centered, Christ-exalting, and Christ-empowered. If your heart is right on these kinds of questions, God will guide you. Seek him supremely in these ways, and let your heart be your guide.
About the author: John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books. This article is adapted from September 9, 2014 (http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/how-to-decide-about-your-next-job)