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What is True Wellness? by John Dunlop, MD

What Is True Wellness?

9781433538124

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.

 

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Dr. Ted Engstrom on The Power of a Positive Attitude

Our attitude at the beginning of a job will affect the outcome of the job more than anything else.

Our attitude toward life determines life attitude toward us.

Our attitude toward others will determine their attitude toward us.

Before we can achieve the kind of life we want, we must think, act, walk, talk, and conduct ourselves in ways characteristic of who we ultimately wish to become.

The higher we go in any organization of value, the better the attitude we’ll find.

Holding successful, positive thoughts in our minds will make all the difference in the world.

If we always make a person feel needed, important, and appreciated, he or she will return this attitude to us.

Part of a good attitude is to look for the best in new ideas. So look for good ideas everywhere. We will find them in the most wonderful places: on the bumpers of cars, on restaurant menus, in books, in travel, out of the innocent mouths of children.

Don’t broadcast personal problems. It probably won’t help you, and it cannot help others.

Don’t talk about your health unless it’s good.

Radiate the attitude of well-being. Don’t be embarrassed to share visions, desires, and goals.

Treat everyone with whom you come in contact as a fellow member of the human race—with all the rights, duties, and privileges thereof. The Golden Rule still applies: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Ted W. Engstrom (1916-2006) led several major evangelical institutions – including World VisionZondervan Publishing HouseYouth For Christ International, and Azusa Pacific University. He wrote or co-authored over 50 books and specialized in mentoring and developing leaders. “His ability to integrate the gospel with everyday life was absolutely inspiring,” said Dean R. Hirsch, head of World Vision International. “Dr. Ted made work and faith walk together.” This excerpt was adapted from Motivation to Last a Lifetime: Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983.

 

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How To Earn Money For God’s Glory

Biblical Personal Finance: Earning for God’s Glory

By William Boekestein

To paraphrase a question often asked by a popular financial advisor, imagine what the people of God could do if their financial houses were in order.

If the question doesn’t sound very “spiritual” we might have an unbiblical notion of spirituality. More than 2,000 Scripture verses deal with money and possessions. The way we manage money is fundamentally a spiritual matter (Luke 16:10-11). On top of this, consider the problems related to poor money management. In a recent survey 46% of Americans reported suffering from debt-related stress. Financial problems can lead to marital breakdowns and contribute to unethical behavior (Prov. 30:8-9).

It never ceases to amaze me that algebra is required in school but personal finance is not. We desperately need to hear what the Bible says about personal finance.

In Ephesians 4:28 Paul boils personal finance down to two points: Earning and spending. He does so not as a financial guru but as a pastor teaching believers how to “walk worthy of the calling with which [they] were called” (v. 1).

Fiscal fidelity looks different from family to family. Some believers cannot work due to severe handicap. Sometimes wives contribute to the family’s budget by working in the home. Still, ordinarily, earning and saving helps us to look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4).

A number of principles help us navigate the waters of earning:

1. Heads of Household Must Provide

Paul says something startling in 1 Timothy 5:8. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” It’s hard to understand Paul’s phrase “worse than an unbeliever.” What could be worse than denying the gospel and rejecting God’s free grace? God’s answer: Failing to provide for your family. While it is permissible for a man to delegate breadwinning to his wife for weighty and justifiable reasons, the responsibility ultimately rests on him (Ruth 3:1-4Eph. 5:28-29).

2. Needlessly Burdening Others Is Sin

It has become acceptable today for people who could be helping provide for themselves, to burden others. I’ll never forget the answer I heard when I once asked a man what he did for work. “I leech off the government,” he said. Even though such an answer approaches the pinnacle of shame, I have stopped being surprised having now heard the answer a number of times. The Bible says, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” Paul goes on to write, “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread” (2 Thess. 3:10-12).

3. Work Is for God’s Glory

Roughly 25% of our adult lives are dedicated to work. If we don’t work well, much of our life displeases our Maker. Even those who do not need to work to provide for their families still must work to glorify God. “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men…It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:23,24).

This rule of God-honoring productivity also applies to young people. Children should begin laboring on behalf of the family from an early age. By their early teen years they should be pulling much of their own weight. This is important because children are developing lifelong habits. For a few generations many parents have not required their children to work. As a result, laziness and self-serving indulgence abounds. In some families a young person’s schooling is viewed as their work. When this is the case parents must see that their students are academically disciplined. Students not working hard at school should be otherwise gainfully employed so they can “eat their own bread.” The status of “student” doesn’t entitle anyone to be slothful and unproductive.

4. Workaholism Does Not Honor God

Very few people in our day and place are forced to overwork in order to survive. Instead, often workaholism is a sign of imbalance. It may indicate a retreat from family stressors. It may indicate that the family is spending more than they should and may need to downsize in order for the breadwinner to be home more. Workaholism can also be one of the many counterfeit gods we worship. The love of money, the seduction of success, and the power and glory of achievement may drive us to work too much. Even during busy times God demands rest (Ex. 34:21).

*Article origin: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/biblical-personal-finance-earning-gods-glory/ (September 25, 2013)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

William Boekestein is the pastor of Covenant Reformed Church in Carbondale, PA.

He received his B.A. at Kuyper College and his M.Div. at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He has worked in residential construction and taught at a Christian school for several years. He and his wife have three children.

He has authored “Life Lessons from a Calloused Christian: A Study of Jonah with Questions,” as well as three fully-illustrated children’s books on the history of the Reformed Confessions (“Faithfulness under Fire: The Story of Guido de Bres ,” “The Quest for Comfort: The Story of the Heidelberg Catechism,” and “The Glory of Grace: The Story of the Canons of Dort”).

His latest, co-authored with Joel Beeke, is “Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation.”

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Finances, Stewardship, Vocation

 

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Friday Humor: A History Lesson on High Finance

Series: Friday Humor #22

Fishing on a lake

Brief History:

The questions:

Over a generation ago, in 1923, who was:

1. President of the largest steel company?

2. President of the largest gas company?

3. President of the New York Stock Exchange?

4. Greatest wheat speculator?

5. President of the Bank of International Settlement?

6. Great Bear of Wall Street?

These men were considered some of the worlds most successful of their day.
Now, 80 years later, the history book asks us if we know what
ultimatelybecame of them…?

The answers:
1. The president of the largest steel company, Charles Schwab, died a pauper.

2. The president of the largest gas company, Edward Hopson, went insane.

3. The president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, was released from prison to die at home.

4. The greatest wheat speculator, Arthur Cooger, died abroad, penniless.

5. The president of the Bank of International Settlement, Shot himself……

6. The Great Bear of Wall Street, Cosabee Livermore, also committed suicide.

However, in that same year, 1923, the IGFA Champion and the winner of the most important Fishing Tournament was Eredio Munoz, Sr.

What became of him?

He continued fishing and eating his catch until he was 99, died at the age of 100.
He was alert and financially secure at the time of his death.

The moral of this history lesson:
Forget work……..!
GO FISHING………… !
You’ll live longer and be better off in the end!

 

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How To Shape Your Life With Intentionality by Dr. David P. Craig

A TEMPLATE FOR SHAPING MY LIFE WITH INTENTIONALITY

Developed by Dr. David Craig – Pastor and Life Coach – Vertical Living Ministries

prayer in field w sunset

 “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do. Do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

Head –            Convictions                          What do I need to Know?                         Personal

Heart –       Communication                         What do I need to Say/Convey?               Relational

Hands –       Contribution                             What do I need to Do?                            Practical

For each of the nine areas below set goals in light of the above 3 questions: What will I study or need to know about_____; What will I feel or communicate about _____; and what will I do or what actions shall I take about ______. Each goal is meant to turn what you value into an intentional habit that will make a great difference cumulatively in others lives, your own life, and for the sake of God’s ultimate glory.

 Nine Primary Areas of Living Intentionally:

(1) SpirituallyYour Relationship to God through The Lordship of Jesus Christ. Psalm 37:3-7; 1 Peter 1:3-11; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Thess. 5:17

(2) MarriageYour triune covenantal relationship with Christ at the center. Gen. 2:18-25; 1 Cor. 7:1-7; 13:1-8; Eph. 5:22-31

(3) Family/ParentingHow to be a Christ-centered family and raise Children that love Jesus above all else. Deut. 6:1-9; Proverbs; Eph. 6:1-4; 1 Tim. 5:8

(4) VocationallyYour Work in the World and with the Church. Genesis 2:15; Colossians 3:23-25; 1 Cor. 3:5-23

(5) HealthTaking care of the Temple that God will use on this earth until the day of your final glorification. 1 Tim. 4:7-8; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 10:31; Philippians 4:4-9

(6) FriendshipYour connections and building bridges with others as you reflect Christ in your community. Matt. 5:13-16; Gal. 6:9-10; Eph. 5:15-18; Col. 4:5-6; Lk. 6:27-31

(7) FinanciallyYour stewardship of God’s resources. Matt. 6:19-24; 1 Tim. 6:6-11, 17-19; 1 Cor. 16:1; 2 Cor. 9:6-8

(8) MentoringYour investing in Others Using your Unique Skills, Gifting, Talents, and Personality. Prov. 27:17; 2 Tim. 2:2; Titus 2:4; 1 Thess. 5:11

(9) DiscipleshipYour Investing in the Spiritual Growth of other followers and would-be followers of Christ. Lk. 6:40; Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 3:10

 

 

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Dr. Tom Nelson on A Theology of Work

“CREATED TO WORK”

 

“All vocations are intended by God to manifest His love in the world.” – Thomas Merton (Quoted in William C. Placher, ed., Callings: Twenty Centuries of Christian Wisdom on Vocation. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005. 426).

The animated movie WALL-E is a cute story of a curious robot whose job is to clean up a trashed earth. While humans once inhabited the earth, we soon discover that they have been evacuated from earth with the hopes of returning one day after robots clean up the mess. Though a hardworking robot,

WALL-E has a rather lonely existence. But that changes when WALL-E meets another robot by the name of Eve. WALL-E quickly gains a fondness for his newfound friend whose name evokes a biblical image of creation.

WALL-E enthusiastically pursues EVE to the point of making an unplanned journey, via spaceship, to a high-tech space station where humans who have made a real mess of planet Earth are now living a “utopian,” carefree, work-free existence. As residents of the space station, humans are waited on hand and foot by robots attending to their every whim and desire. As a result, the pampered humans have become self-indulgent, bored couch potatoes. With the passage of time, adult humans now resemble giant babies with soft faces, rounded torsos, and stubby, weak limbs—the tragic deforming and atrophying result of human beings doing nothing but cruising around on cushy, padded, reclining chairs, their eyes fixed on video screens, taking in large amounts of calories, and sipping from straws sticking out of giant cups.

As a movie watcher, the high-tech space station filled with human couch potatoes is anything but appealing. The creators of WALL-E explore many important themes, but possibly none more compelling than what it means to be human. WALL-E reminds us that a do-nothing couch potato existence is actually repulsive and dehumanizing. But why is this? As human beings we were not created to be do-nothings; we were created with work in mind.

 CREATED WITH WORK IN MIND

As human beings, we have been designed not only to rest and to play but also to work. From the very beginning of Scripture we see that the one true God is not a couch potato God, nor did he create a couch potato world. As the Genesis storyline opens, we read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Here we are immediately introduced to God as a thoughtful and creative worker. At first glance we observe the triune God as an active deity. The Spirit of God is hovering over the waters. God’s infinite creativity, omnipotence, and omniscience are unleashed, and he is intimately engaged in his good creation.

As God’s work of creation unfolds, humankind—the crown of creation—emerges on the literary landscape. God the Creator places a distinguishing stamp of uniqueness on human beings, one that sets humanity apart from the rest of creation. Then God said,  “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:26–28).

The Genesis writer wants us to grasp the unique place of human beings in creation. We observe this uniqueness in two foundational ways.

First, humans are designed by God to exercise proper dominion over creation, which is a divinely delegated stewardship role.

Second, humans are designed by God to be his image-bearers, to uniquely reflect who God is to his good world. The repeated use of the word image by the Genesis writer tells us of the importance of this concept for our understanding of what it means to be human.

IMAGE-BEARERS OF GOD

As God’s image-bearers, we were created to mirror the glory and excellence of the triune God. An image-bearer is designed to reflect the image of another. I was reminded of this truth as my wife, Liz, and I were cheering on our Kansas City Royals baseball team. While enjoying a beautiful summer evening at Kauffman Stadium, we had a delightful conversation with the wife of a professional baseball player whose present work and vocational calling is being a mom and raising her children. Sitting in the row right in front of us were two of her beautiful children whom we had not seen for a couple of years. The last time we had seen them they were still infants, and now at three and five years old, their budding personalities and appearances were emerging. As I looked at their five-year-old son, I was simply stunned at how much he was like his dad. The closer I looked, the more amazed I became. His physical appearance remarkably resembled his dad, though on a smaller scale. The boy’s voice

sounded the same. Even as a five-year-old he had similar mannerisms, and like his dad he was already into baseball. I couldn’t help but comment to my wife, Liz, “Look at him; he is the spitting image of his dad!”

I am not in any way suggesting that we are somehow little gods or that we will ever be God, but as human beings we were created to reflect our heavenly Father. In a sense we were created to be his spitting image. We were created to worship God and to display a glimpse of God’s glory to a vast and expanding universe. This glimpse of God’s glory reveals many things about the character and magnificence of the one true God, and at a very foundational level, we must recognize our image-bearing reveals that God is a creator, a worker. God is not some cosmic do-nothing deity.

 WHY DO WE WORK?

While While commuting to my office, on more than one occasion I have seen a bumper sticker that provides one answer to this question of why we work: “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go.” Paying the many bills that come to us each month is no small matter. We can all give testimony to the high cost of modern-day living, but is economic transaction the foundational reason why we work?

Scripture tells us that the most bedrock answer to the question of why we work is that we were created with work in mind. Being made in God’s image, we have been designed to work, to be fellow workers with God. To be an image-bearer is to be a worker. In our work we are to show off God’s excellence, creativity, and glory to the world. We work because we bear the image of One who works. This is why the apostle Paul writes to a group of first-century followers of Jesus who have embraced the gospel, “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). At first blush, Paul’s rather blunt words seem cold and lacking Christian compassion, but upon further theological reflection, Paul’s words convey to us some needed insight. Paul does not rebuke those who, for various legitimate reasons, cannot work, but he does say that an unwillingness to work is no trivial thing. For anyone to refuse to work is a fundamental violation of God’s creation design for humankind.

When we grasp what God intended for his image-bearers, it is not surprising that throughout the book of Proverbs the wise are praised for their diligence and the foolish are rebuked for their laziness. When we hear the word fool, we often think of someone who is mentally deficient. However, a foolish person in Scripture is not necessarily one who lacks intelligence but rather one who lives as if God does not exist. The psalmist puts it this way: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ ” (Ps. 14:1). A fool is one who rejects not only the Creator but also creation design, including the design to work. Throughout Scripture slothfulness is rightly viewed in a negative light. A slothful Christian is a contradiction in terms. We should not be shocked to see that the Christian church throughout history has reflected negative sentiments about slothfulness. Sloth finds a prominent place in Pope Gregory the Great’s listing of the seven deadly sins. The Protestant Reformers spoke of the poverty of slothfulness and laziness. Consistently they made the connection that those who spend their time in idleness and ease should rightly doubt the sincerity of their Christian commitment.

God could have placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and made it much like the world of humans in WALL-E, where they could sit around with food coming to them, sipping their life-giving nutrients out of giant cups. This was not God’s desire or his design for his good world. Because God himself is a worker, and because we are his image-bearers, we were designed to reflect who God is in, through, and by our work. The work we are called to do every day is an important part of our image-bearing nature and stewardship. As human beings we were created to do things. In this sense we are not only human beings, we are also human doings. We have been created to contribute to God’s good world.

CREATED TO CONTRIBUTE

First and foremost, work is not about economic exchange, financial remuneration, or a pathway to the American Dream, but about God-honoring human creativity and contribution. Our work, whatever it is, whether we are paid for it, is our specific human contribution to God’s ongoing creation and to the common good. Work is an integral aspect of being human, an essential aspect of loving God and his created world, and a vital part of loving our neighbor as ourselves. Gilbert Meilaender presses into the rich implications of the truths presented to us in the Genesis account. He writes, “To regard work as a calling is to suggest that we live to work, that our work is of central significance for our person. Still more, the calling gives to work a religious significance which it is not likely to acquire in any other way” (Quoted in Mark R. Schwehn and Dorothy C. Bass, eds., Leading Lives That Matter. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006. 237). For us to view work outside a theological framework is to inevitably devalue both work and the worker.

The creation account recorded for us in Genesis 2 emphasizes God’s design for humanity and the significant contribution the crown of creation is to make in his good world. Prior to God forming man from the dust of the earth and breathing life into him, before sin entered the world, the Genesis writer raises a tension regarding the incompleteness of God’s creation. In Genesis chapter 2:5 we read that “there was no man to work the ground.” In other words, God created humans not only to worship him and to delight in him, but to make an important ongoing contribution to his creation. From Genesis 2 we see that the earth itself was created in order to be cultivated and shaped by humankind. Unspoiled pristine nature is not necessarily a preferred state. God desired that there would be harmonious human cooperation within the creation order. Not only would the crown of creation have joyful intimacy with their Creator, but they would also be given the joyful privilege of contributing to the work of God in his good world.

As Genesis chapter 2 continues, we get a further picture of a human being as a worker. We observe work as it was originally designed to be, before sin and death entered the world. In Genesis 2:15 we read these words, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” The Lord God takes the initiative and places humankind in the garden of Eden with a particular task in mind. The emphasis here is not about personal human choice but rather divine initiative and divine calling.

Already in Genesis we see that vocation is not something we ultimately choose for ourselves; it is something to which God calls us. Contrary to much of our present cultural emphasis that deifies personal choice, a biblical worldview begins not with human choice, but with a good and sovereign God who is not only the Creator but also the Caller. Here in the Genesis narrative, before humanity’s fall into sin and resulting corruption of the world and our work, we are given two bedrock truths regarding human work and vocation: we were created with an important stewardship in mind, to cultivate creation and to keep it; and we are commissioned by God to nurture, care for, and protect his creation.

A STEWARDSHIP POSTURE

Humankind, the crown of creation, was created for the glory of God and entrusted with a remarkable stewardship exercising dominion over the earth. A vital aspect of this stewardship is the essential work not only of tending things and making things but also of cultivating and creating culture. Andy Crouch convincingly undermines the rationale for both Christian withdrawal from the common culture and for Christian hubris that projects a kind of utopian triumphalism of changing the world. Crouch suggests Christians adopt a stewardship posture anchored in cultivation and creation, what he often refers to as culture making. The stewardship of culture making involves both cultivators and creators. Crouch

 describes cultivators as “people who tend and nourish what is best in human culture, who do the hard and painstaking work to preserve the best of what people before us have done.” Creators, he says, are “people who dare to think and do something that has never been thought or done before, something that makes the world more welcoming and thrilling and beautiful” (Quoted in Gideon Strauss, “Making It New: Andy Crouch Proposes a Different Way for Christians to Engage Culture” Books & Culture, September–October 2008).

Andy Crouch makes an important point. Humanity’s creative work is varied, broad and far reaching. We not only make things or fix things, but also we are actively involved in creating and cultivating human culture itself.

 AVODAH

The language of work as cultivation and creation in Genesis 2:15 is embedded in the Hebrew word avodah, which is behind the English translation “to cultivate.” The Hebrew word avodah is translated in various ways in the Old Testament. It is rendered as “work,” “service,” or “craftsmanship” in many instances, yet other times it is translated as “worship.” Avodah is used to describe the back-breaking hard work of God’s covenant people making bricks as slaves in Egypt (Ex. 1:14), the artisans building the tabernacle (Ex. 35:24), and the fine craftsmanship of linen workers (1 Chron. 4:21). Avodah also appears in the context of Solomon dedicating the temple. Solomon employs this word as he instructs the priests and Levites regarding their service in leading corporate worship and praise of the one true God (2 Chron. 8:14). Whether it is making bricks, crafting fine linen, or leading others in corporate praise and worship, the Old Testament writers present a seamless understanding of work and worship. Though there are distinct nuances to avodah, a common thread of meaning emerges where work, worship, and service are inextricably linked and intricately connected. The various usages of this Hebrew word found first in Genesis 2:15 tell us that God’s original design and desire is that our work and our worship would be a seamless way of living. Properly understood, our work is to be thoughtfully woven into the integral fabric of Christian vocation, for God designed and intended our work, our vocational calling, to be an act of God-honoring worship.

 WORK AS AN ACT OF WORSHIP

So often we think of worship as something we do on Sunday and work as something we do on Monday. However, this dichotomy is not what God designed nor what he desires for our lives. God designed work to have both a vertical and horizontal dimension. We work to the glory of God and for the furtherance of the common good. On Sunday we say we go to worship and on Monday we say we go to work, but our language reveals our foggy theological thinking. That our work has been designed by God to be an act of worship is often missed in the frenzied pace of a compartmentalized modern life.

One of our favorite family vacations was visiting England. Touring beautiful Westminster Abbey and Christopher Wren’s truly breathtaking St. Paul’s Cathedral was one of my personal highlights. As I walked through these beautiful and inspiring architectural works of art, I was reminded of the apocryphal story of the three stone masons who were engaged in conversation by a visitor. “What are you doing?” the visitor asked the first mason. “I am cutting stone,” the mason replied. A second mason chimed in, “I’m making a living.” “And how about you?” the visitor asked the third mason. “Me, I’m building a cathedral for God and his people.” What a difference our perspective on work makes!

 AN AUDIENCE OF ONE

When our children were young, my wife, Liz, and I tried to impress on them that we live and work before an Audience of One (Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. Thomas Nelson, 2003. 70). Our line of thought went something like this: If God is aware and cares for every sparrow that falls, then we know that our loving heavenly Father watches over us wherever we are and whatever we are doing. Nothing we think, say, or do ever escapes God’s loving, caring, and watchful eye. Living before an Audience of One also means that all we do and say is to be an act of God-honoring worship. Of course we all fell short many times in keeping this perspective in mind, but, as a gymnast, our daughter, Sarah, latched on to this transforming truth. Over the many years of her devotion to the sport of gymnastics,

Sarah encountered the daily hard work of preparation, the exhilaration of victory, and the agony of defeat. Through the good and the bad times, Sarah remained remarkably focused and resilient. Sadly, Sarah’s gymnastics career was cut short due to a severe ankle injury. Years later we were reminiscing about her years of being a competitive gymnast. I asked Sarah how it was that she stayed so buoyant during those years. She looked at me and said, “Dad, remember you and mom taught me to live before an Audience of One.”

Doing our work before an Audience of One changes what we do and how we do it. Living with this mind-set helps us connect our faith with our work, for we live before the same Audience on Monday at work as we do on Sunday at worship. Dorothy Sayers, a contemporary of C. S. Lewis, gave a lot of thought to how followers of Christ who have embraced the gospel ought to see their work. She also spoke in a compelling way about how the church has so often dropped the ball when it comes to connecting our Sunday faith with Monday work. In a thoughtful essay simply titled “Why Work?” Sayers writes, “The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to [moral instruction and church attendance]. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables. . . .” (Dorothy Sayers, “Why Work?” in Mark R. Schwehn and Dorothy C. Bass, eds., Leading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006, 195).

Dorothy Sayers is not saying that offering moral instruction and inspiring worship services is unimportant. Clearly this is an important stewardship of any gospel preaching and Christ-honoring local church. But what we must not miss in her insightful words is the importance of the church in teaching each one of us that our work, whatever it is, is to be an act of worship. With remarkable insight Sayers continues, “Let the church remember this: that every maker and worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade—not outside it. . . . The only Christian work is good work well done” (Ibid).

So often we use the language of Christian work to refer exclusively to ecclesiastical, missionary, or parachurch callings, but this distorted understanding exposes our inadequate grasp of the transforming truths of Christian vocation. It is hard to imagine how our understanding of work and the quality of our work would change if we would truly live before an Audience of One and fully embrace the truth that the only Christian work is good work well done. Dorothy Sayers is not being novel; she is simply saying what the apostle Paul penned to the first century local church at Colossae: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23–24).

RETHINKING WORK

Though our work may be difficult and at times exasperating, we do not have to hate our work or merely live for the weekends. We need to rethink how we think about our work. When we begin to embrace how work ought to be, then we begin to see what we do each and every day as an integral part of our worship of God. If you understand that God designed you to contribute to his creation, you will take seriously how and where you are called to make your important contribution in the world. When we thoughtfully reflect on God’s original design for our work, we are inspired with its beauty and grandeur, but we also realize that work and the workplaces we inhabit in our present world are not as God designed them to be.

You may be thinking, Tom, this reflection on God’s design for our work all sounds well and good, but you don’t know the difficulty of my work or the pressures of my workplace or what a difficult boss I work for! And you are right in the sense that I don’t know all that you are facing in this competitive, fast-paced world. I may not know the particularities of your work, but over the years I have interacted with many people about their work, and I do know that for each one of us who desires to connect our Sunday faith with our Monday work, the ongoing challenges are ever present and significant.

 THE OFFICE

I must confess I am an enthusiastic fan of the television show The Office. Each week the Dunder Mifflin gang makes their way into our living room. The Scranton division of a fictitious paper company by the name of Dunder Mifflin and the cast of characters have become a lasting fixture in our imaginations. The Office, at first glance, gives a humorous depiction of work and workplace antics, but the more you enter into the lives of these characters and the workplace they inhabit, the more painfully broken it seems. On display every week for the entire world to see is the ongoing drama of very broken individuals who daily bump into each other in the workplace. Though the writers of The Office sometimes go over the edge for my tastes, each week they remind a watching world that work is an important part of what it means to be human. The Office says to us that we were created to work, yet unresolved tensions fill the air of every episode, and we are left to ponder that work now is not what it really ought to be. Daily we are confronted by a sobering reality that our work, the workers we work with, and the workplaces in which we work are not as God originally designed them. In a myriad of ways we are painfully reminded each and every day that we live and work in a fallen and corrupted world. Like many other things in life, work in this less-than-perfect world is a mixed bag. This is the inescapable reality to which we will turn our attention next.

A Prayer for Our Work

 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! (Ps. 90:16–17)

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

How does knowing that you are created in the image of a God who works change the way you view work?

In what ways does your work serve to create and cultivate culture?

What would change in your work if you maintained the mindset that you live and work before an Audience of One?

How might you do your work as a God-honoring act of worship?

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Dr. Tom Nelson (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) has served as senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas, for more than twenty years. He is the author of Five Smooth Stones and Ekklesia as well as a member of The Gospel Coalition. The article above was adapted from Chapter One his fabulous theology on work entitled: Work Matters. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2011.

 

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Larry Burkett on Financial Advice For The Second Half of Your Life

[Adapted from the Excellent Book by Larry Burkett. Your Money After the BIG 5-0: Wealth for the Second Half of Life. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2007, 215-219.

 

“Take Hold of the Life That Is Truly Life”

 The hardest struggle of all is to be something different from what the average man is.

 – CHARLES M. SCHWAB

 Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way. That was a true proverb of the wise man, rely upon it; “Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure, and trouble therewith.”

 – BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

 Why would you settle for such brief, short-term, inadequate, low-yield dividend pleasures offered by the world when eternal pleasures—tens of thousands of years of pleasures—await?

 – HEARD FROM THE PULPIT OF AN ANONYMOUS PASTOR

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,

where moth and rust destroy,

and where thieves break in and steal.

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,

where neither moth nor rust destroys,

and where thieves do not break in or steal.”

 – MATTHEW 6:19–20

The media refer to “the graying of America.” Sociologists analyze “the coming of age of the baby boomers.” The politically correct would say we are “chronologically challenged.” Really, we are just plain growing old. We are learning to be content with that. As someone recently reminded us in an e-mail, there are some good things about getting older. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can’t remember them either. Your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size. Your eyes won’t get much worse. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac. Things you buy now won’t wear out. There’s nothing left to learn the hard way. Your joints are more accurate than the National Weather Service. In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first. You are smarter, much smarter, at fifty-plus than when you were only twenty-five. Rather than approaching the second half of life with dread or fear, see it as a great adventure with the Lord. Think of the wisdom you have learned throughout your life—some earned by a degree from the School of Hard

Knocks and some earned by prudently following biblical counsel and teaching.

At every stage, the demographic phenomenon of the baby boomer generation has made a great impact on American society. With increased prosperity and longevity, will your wealth and life have a lasting impact on your family and the Kingdom? Avoid fitting in with what Ralph Waldo Emerson described when he said, “We are always getting ready to live but never living.”

Take hold of the life that is truly life—the abundant life available through a personal relationship with the Creator God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

As our friend Bob Buford said, “Do you want to get to the end of your life, stand before God, and hear Him say, ‘So what’? No, you want Him to tell you, ‘Well done.’”

We have purposed in this book to share all the financial wisdom we possess, all the wisdom we could borrow from others, and all the wisdom available in God’s Word. Our recommendations may vary from the world’s advice. We encourage you to keep working in some capacity during retirement, though the world says you are entitled to leisure. We recommend to pay off debt, though others give reasons to keep or increase debt. We recommend diversifying to preserve, though the secular instinct is to get rich quick. It is hard to go against the grain of a materialistic, status-seeking society.

The story of Mr. and Mrs. Thing provides a vivid reminder of truth. Mr. and Mrs. Thing are a very pleasant and successful couple. At least, that’s the verdict of most people who tend to measure success with a “thingometer.” When the “thingometer” is put to work in the life of Mr. and Mrs. Thing, the result is startling.

There is Mr. Thing sitting down on a luxurious and very expensive thing, almost hidden by a large number of other things.

Things to sit on, things to sit at, things to cook on, things to eat from, all shiny and new. Things, things, things.

Things to clean with and things to wash with and things to clean and things to wash. And things to amuse and things to give pleasure and things to watch and things to play.

Things for the long, hot summer and things for the short, cold winter. Things for the big thing in which they live and things for the garden and things for the deck and things for the kitchen and things for the bedroom.

And things on four wheels and things on two wheels and things to put on top of the four wheels and things to pull behind the four wheels and things to add to the interior of the thing on four wheels.

Things, things, things.

And there in the middle are Mr. and Mrs. Thing, smiling and pleased as punch with things, thinking of more things to add to things. Secure in their castle of things. Do they sound familiar?

The story of Mr. and Mrs. Thing always strikes a chord with the audience when shared in a public forum. Everyone, it seems, knows someone who fits their description. (And all of us probably see something of ourselves in this couple.)

Mr. and Mrs. Thing may be secure in their castle of things, but that’s not the end of their story.

Here it is: Well, I just want you to know that your things can’t last. They’re going to pass. There’s going to be an end to them.

Oh, maybe an error in judgment, maybe a temporary loss of concentration, Or maybe you’ll just pass them off to the secondhand thing dealer. Or maybe they’ll wind up a mass of mangled metal being towed off to the thing yard. And what about the things in your house? Well, it’s time for bed. Put out the cat, make sure you lock the door so some thing-taker doesn’t come and take your things. And that’s the way life goes, doesn’t it?

And someday, when you die, they only put one thing in the box. You.

—ANONYMOUS

About the Author: Larry Burkett (Pictured Above) was among the people who played a role in fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s dream of landing on a man on the moon. After serving as an electronics technician in the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command, Burkett, who had degrees in marketing and finance, headed an experimental facility that served the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo manned space programs.

After Larry and his wife, Judy, became Christians in the early 1970s, he began extensive studies of the Bible in which he found more than 700 direct and hundreds of indirect references to money. Just one year after becoming a Christian, he found himself living in Atlanta and working as a financial counselor with Campus Crusade for Christ. Concluding that most of the problems facing Larry’s counselees were the result of mismanaging funds, the Burketts began Christian Financial Concepts (CFC) in 1976. Their first office was in the basement of their home in Tucker, Georgia. In 1977, the first CFC newsletter was published. More than simply a collection of stories, the newsletter contained articles to help every family with their finances, including practical ideas for around the home, stewardship, personal testimonies, and biblical principles for managing money. In 2003, “Money Matters” now has a circulation of nearly 200,000.

Larry Burkett was also the author of over 50 books, including Debt-Free Living, Your Finances in Changing Times, and The Coming Economic Earthquake, and a guide for kids on money management, called What If I Owned Everything. Together with Ed Strauss, he wrote the World’s Easiest Pocket Guide series with books on everything from buying a first car, renting an apartment, getting a credit card, and more. Larry even branched out into the fiction arena with best-selling novels such as The Illuminati and Solar Flare.

In 1995, Larry was diagnosed with cancer which led to the publishing of several other books, including Nothing to Fear: The Key to Cancer Survival which Burkett used to share his own personal experiences and offer insight to his readers. One of the central principles Larry taught is that we don’t really own things; we are simply stewards and managers of what God has entrusted to us. In Larry’s case, that included the ministry he founded.

Until his death July 4, 2003, Larry and Judy Burkett resided in Gainesville, Georgia. He is survived by his wife Judy, four adult children, and nine grandchildren.

 

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