Monday, January 28, 2008

Quote of the Week

"Our work is not our identity, though it is an important part of how God intends us to live. For too many of us, our sense of identity is more rooted in our performance than it is in God's grace. It is wonderful to be successful at what God has called you to do, but when you use your success to define who you are, you will always have a distorted perspective."

Paul Tripp & Tim Lane; How People Change, p. 5

Friday, January 25, 2008

Kelly Tilghman vs Dana Jacobsen - Which is Worse?

If you're into sports, you've probably heard about the controversy surrounding Golf Channel announcer Kelly Tilghman. A couple of weeks ago she suggested on air that the only way to beat Tiger Woods might be to "lynch him in a back alley". Her off the cuff, poor attempt at humor earned her a two week suspension and significant criticism. After serving her suspension, she was recently back on the air, starting with a clear and sincere apology before diving into the substance of her work.

A lesser known debacle involves Dana Jacobsen, the ESPN anchor. In a celebrity roast for the hosts of the Mike & Mike show, she cursed like a sailor and used an expletive in reference to Jesus. ESPN's response was slow coming but under pressure by religious groups, they eventually gave her a one week suspension coupled with a weak apology.

I'm no social or cultural activist but this really bothers me. Let's see how the math on this works:

Humorously suggest lynching Tiger Woods - 2 week suspension
Curse and blaspheme Jesus Christ - 1 week suspension

Don't get me wrong - both are reprehensible but the outrage surrounding the "lynching" comment far outweighed the response to the Jacobsen's blasphemous tirade. It's a commentary about what the American popular culture functionally views as valuable and important. Let's face it - for mainstream popular culture, God doesn't really exist nor does He weigh upon the national conscience.

In short, the point isn't what these controversies say about Ms. Tilghman or Ms. Jacobsen - it's what it says about us. Make no mistake about it - this loss of the fear of God is a sad indictment on our nation.

What do you think?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Quote of the Week

"What marks our own generation? It is the fact that modern man thinks there is nobody home in the universe. Nobody to love man, nobody to comfort him, even while he seeks desperately to find comfort in the limited, finite, horizontal relationships of life."

Francis A. Schaeffer, Death in the City

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Is the Gospel at the Center of Your Aspirations?

I've been thinking about a quote from an excellent sermon I heard a couple of weeks ago. The sermon referenced a provocative quote from D.A. Carson's book "Basics for Believers" -

"As Christians, we are called to put the advance of the gospel at the very center of our aspirations. What are your aspirations? To make money? To get married? To travel? To see your grandchildren grow up? To find a new job? To retire early? None of these is inadmissible. None is to be despised. The question is whether these aspirations become so devouring that the Christian's central aspiration is squeezed to the periphery or choked out of existence entirely."

This may sound like run of the mill, religious-speak to you but I think what makes this quote particularly provocative is that it is alien to the way most Christians think about their lives. When we think about career choices, how many of us take the advance of the gospel into account? How about the pursuit of the American dream - two kids, white picket fence et al, - where does the advance of gospel fit into that pursuit? It's entirely possible that for most of us, this central aspiration has been pushed to the periphery of our lives...still in view but marginal.

For various reasons, I've been thinking about this quote lately and asking myself a few questions -

Is D.A. Carson correct in his assertion? Should the Christian's central aspiration really be the advance of the gospel?

If so, what does it look like for someone in the marketplace to put that into practice? For instance, should a Christian nurse make the advance of the gospel, the primary objective of her job? How about someone wishing to start a business? Should the primary aim of the business be profit or gospel proclamation?

What about our lesser ambitions or aspirations? If they are not inadmissible as Dr. Carson says, then how do we evaluate them in light of our primary aspiration to advance the gospel?

When we truly grapple with what Dr. Carson is saying, I think there are serious, weighty implications to the way we live and make decisions. What do you think? How would placing the advance of the gospel at the center of your aspirations change the way you work or the choices you make?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Quote of the Week

"One simple truth should motivate our work and affect every part of who we are. Christ died for our sins. If there's anything in life that we should be passionate about, it's the gospel...Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the gospel ought to be."

C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life p.20

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Spurgeon on Faith and Leaving Work Behind

Over a year ago, I started a series of posts based on Charles Spurgeon's sermon on faith and work. Here's the final post in that series. It speaks to Spurgeon's assertion that the influence of faith in our daily work "enables a man to cheerfully leave his occupation when the time comes".

There are many reasons that might lead to leaving or changing our present occupation. For instance, we may be physically constrained by illness or we may relocate to live in a place where job opportunities are limited. Sometimes, life circumstances may necessitate a change in our vocation. Prevailing economic conditions can play a role in hindering our employment. Whatever the reason may be, faith in a Sovereign God helps the Christian navigates through vocational changes. Faith reminds us that we are under the command of a Sovereign God to do His bidding and to humbly submit to His will for our lives.

The believer says, "Command my journey, and I go." I am but a tent dweller, and must expect to be on the move. Like Israel in the desert, we must follow the cloud, and journey or rest as the cloud ordains, for here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.

Such a mindset enables us to humbly cope with inevitable changes in our occupation. For instance, the day may come when you're asked to leave your present position so that others, more energetic or more qualified may serve in your place. How might you respond? Spurgeon reminds us that faith can help us here.

Sometimes our vocations have to be given up through weakness or old age. It is a hard pinch to many a busy man when he feels that he has no more strength for business, when he perceives that other and more vigorous minds must be allowed to step into the long occupied position...Faith is of essential service here. It helps a man to say, "My Master, I am one of the vessels of thy house; if thou wilt use me I will be glad; but if thou wilt put me on the shelf, I will be glad too. It must be best for me to be as thou wouldst have me."

Ultimately, through death each of us will leave our life's work behind. Spurgeon encourages us to approach that prospect with a glorious, eternal perspective.

And then comes at last the leaving of your vocation by death, which will arrive in due time to us all. Then faith displays its utmost energy of blessing. Brethren, may we meet death as Moses did, who when God bade him climb the mountain, for there he must die, uttered no word of sorrow, but like a child obeyed his father, went upstairs to bed, looked wistfully out at the window upon the promised land, and then fell asleep. His work was done, and his rest was come... Dear aged saints, so near home, does not faith transform death from an enemy into a friend, as it brings the glory so near to you?

Perhaps it's helpful to remember that our present occupation is temporal, subject to change and ultimately, only for a season. Yet, the circumstances of our present employment are always under God's loving directive, never apart from His Sovereign rule.

As Christians we enjoy the chief of all vocations - we are called to worship Him forever.

If you're interested, you can check out the other posts in the series here.