On Coffee and Sanctification.

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I always told myself I wouldn’t end up with a desk job. But woe is me, I have a desk job.

Contrary to popular belief, having a desk job isn’t so bad. I was recently hired to be a business analyst (in which I had no previous experience) at a multi-million dollar tech company (which I was not qualified for), spending 40 hours a week sitting at a desk (a posture I didn’t picture myself being in outside the classroom). I drink coffee everyday at 9:30, and I drink it black. And all-in-all, I’ve been extremely blessed. I work with wonderful people: creative and intelligent co-workers, humble and gracious supervisors, and insightful and thoughtful executive leadership. My work isn’t always fun, but it’s more exciting than stressful and more dynamic than morose; and it allows me to be creative in finding viable business solutions that can potentially help a lot of people. I enjoy my job for the most part as well as the people I see and share life with everyday.

Now before this begins to sound like an overly-optimistic, idealistic blog post, I understand that there are a lot of jobs out there that are quite the opposite––jobs that generate hate within hearts rather than joy. There are jobs that are dreadful and might warrant grumbling and discontentment, and I can’t pretend to understand what some people go through with their work. However, I think I have more in common with the disgruntled employee than most might think.

You see, both the disgruntled employee and the person who loves their job can easily succumb to the same temptation: to idolize their work. For the disgruntled employee, their idol is a better work situation because they hate their jobs and dream of greener pastures. They might think, If only I could have that job, or If only my work situation was improved this way then I’d definitely be happy. For the man who loves his job, his idol is the job that he already possesses. He might think, This job fulfills me. I’m satisfied and happy because of my job. I want to focus on my job and gain all the recognition and money that comes with it. Yet when that job is taken away from him, his entire world falls apart because he worshiped his work or what his work provided him. In both cases work has become an idol, taking a place that rightfully belongs to the Almighty God, and receiving the worship that only God deserves.

Work can be an idol, and I’ve seen it slowly seep into my own heart. It has Romans 1:25 written all over it: “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Our society, and specifically this generation, so easily worships the work that God created and blessed us with. We’ve experienced the lure of success and satisfaction through the workplace, and we can be blinded from the true joy that only comes from Christ in the Gospel!

At the same time, we were created for work. Adam was created from the very beginning to work and have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28-30), and I believe that Christians will continue to work in the new heaven and the new earth. Work is a blessing, a good thing given to us by God before the Fall. However, the work we experience now (and all our sinful responses to it) have been affected by the Fall––they are sin plagued. So how do we reconcile our work knowing that we were created for work but it is plagued by sin? Let me offer some practical thoughts:

1. Be Thankful. Remember that our sovereign God has placed you in the specific situation you’re currently in. Whether to increase your holiness or to stretch your faith, be thankful that your work is in the hands of a sovereign and all-powerful God who does not make mistakes. Pray with thankfulness about your work situation.

2. Steward Your Time. Your work is a stewardship given to you by God, so use your time wisely. Do not let your discontentment or grumbling blind you from seeing the gift of work given to you by God. He did not have to give you a job. He did not have to bless you with work. But He did. So steward it well.

3. Redeem Every Moment. Think of practical ways that you can redeem segments of your day, whether it’s intentionally building up a friendship with a co-worker or spending your break time in the Word. Develop a routine that will set your mind back upon the greater hope of the Gospel through different parts of your day.

4. Find Your Hope in the Gospel. Whether you love your work or despise it, you must place your hope in the Gospel. Find joy and rest in the fact that Christ has saved you from the devastating consequences of sin, and that hope will never be taken from you. If the Gospel truth is the most precious thing in your life, work will never become an idol to you.

Work is one of those “good” things that can very easily become a “bad” thing. It is a constant battle to try to excel at work, but not find my hope in work. I know that the Lord has placed me where I am for a reason and it’s most likely to sanctify me and teach me lessons on holiness. I take comfort in the fact that my sovereign God has given me the opportunity to glorify Him in my work, and he has provided me ways to accomplish that goal. Knowing this, I can sip my coffee with confidence because I am ultimately being sanctified by my work.

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The Changing Tides of My Mission Mentality

It’s been quite a while since I’ve last blogged, and I think it’s time to resurrect my writing life. Subsequent posts will have more details about what I’ve learned in the year away from this blog. But for now, this is one the forefront of my mind. So here we are, back at it.

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I love the holiday season, but it usually becomes an uncomfortably busy time of the year, especially if you’re involved in Christian ministry, so it wasn’t an easy commitment to devote the short span of time between Christmas and New Years to a conference in Louisville, Kentucky. But I, along with a small group of college students and staff, forfeited our comfortable 75-degrees-and-sunny existence in Southern California and flew to the frigid 20-degree climate in Louisville. The weather there is frightening enough that the city had built enclosed bridges to help people travel from building to building without having to face the biting cold (If a city needs to build heated bridges for people to get around, it’s too cold to live there in my opinion).

However the week-long conference was worth braving the cold.  Through the preaching of the word and the testimonies of the saints abroad, my mind was transformed and opened to the call of missions. I was humbled and convicted that my view of missions and the church was underdeveloped and inadequate for the glorious things that God had intended it to be. It was a paradigm-shifting, God-glorifying, Christ-preaching conference, and I’ve boiled my takeaway thoughts into three major headings:

*Note: I use the term “missions” to refer to the act of moving to another culture and/or geographical location for the purpose of making the Gospel known among people who have not heard the Gospel.

1. Missions: Exporting the Local Church

As Christians we often hear about mission apart from the local church: if a person decides that they’re called overseas the church is perceived to be the financial investors and spiritual oversight, but nothing more. I always pictured a rather cold relationship between missions and the local church, but I quickly saw that this isn’t the way God designed missions. When a person goes on missions, they are exporting the local church: they are building a church, a community of believers who operate to love and encourage one another. But if we know not and understand not the local church, how can be build a community of believers in an unfamiliar place?

At the Cross Conference the intimate connection between missions and the local church became clear to me. There should be no “lone ranger” missionaries (something I firmly believed in before), but even more than this, missionaries need to love the local church, serve in local church, and understand deeply the purpose of the local church. These are not suggestions, but they are essentials. In this way, if you don’t  love, serve, and understand the local church, you are ill-suited for the mission field. On the other hand, if you love, serve, and understand the local church, you are more ready for the mission field (even if you’ve never considered it). As one speaker aptly put it, “There is no sanctification through aviation.” The person you are here will be the person you are on the mission field, so learn to love the church well.

Recommended: “The Call of Christ: Inspired, Informed, Confirmed” – Mack Stiles

2. Risk: And the Sovereignty of God

Another unique topic for a missions conference was about the sovereignty of God. If you’re like me, when you think of missions you imagine a scruffy man snaking through thick jungle with a canteen and bible strapped to his torn shirt. Each day, he wakes in a hut unsure whether he will live to see the next. Each day is lived on the brink of death and risk is all around. This is what you might imagine, or maybe I just have a rather drab outlook of missions.

Yes, there is risk in missions. There is risk in uprooting your entire family and moving to a country where you don’t know the culture or how to ask where the bathroom is. There is risk in missions just like there is risk in living in the US. However, as Christians, we must understand that God’s work is much more strategic than that. We must take into account the sovereignty of God––the utter control, provision, and allowance of God. This truth must reign clear in our minds as we consider missions: nothing happens to the children of God apart from what He allows. If persecution and suffering come on the mission field, God has sovereignly allowed it. If we are blessed abundantly  on the mission field, God has sovereignly allowed it. No risk associated with preaching the Gospel and fulfilling the Christian purpose is greater than the sovereignty of God.

Recommended: “Five Surprising Motivations for Mission” – Kevin DeYoung

3. Christ: And the Call to Missions

We’ve all heard of the distinction between “senders” and “goers”. I’ve sat for many years in my comfortable chair as the self-proclaimed leader of the “senders”. I always thought that I could pick a “goer” out in a crowd: the outspoken, boisterous, sometimes shocking personality with lowered standards of living and a live-or-die mentality. They’re surely called by God to go, I would think. They’ve hit the missionary genetic jackpot. God will surely use them, but that’s not me. Then I’d return to my chair, bow my head, pray for them once, and get back to playing Candy Crush.

The requirements for missions somehow got lost in translation: missions is not a personality thing, it’s a purpose thing. Having an extroverted personality has as much to do with missions as the color of my bible has to do with my standing in the church. The greater goal in the work of missions, preaching Christ, is the purpose for which we have been saved and each Christian is called to have the same conviction and heart to this end. No one is excluded but everyone is to be intimately involved with the spreading of the Gospel to the unreached and unengaged. Yes, that means some of us are to stay where we are and fund the work of God around the world, but we should have no less heart for missions than those on the field. Many of us who are here are likely better suited for the mission field but have yet to consider it.

Recommended: “Mobilizing God’s Army for the Great Commission” – David Platt

With one heart, the church of Christ is called to complete the work of evangelism to the end of the earth (Matt. 28:19-20). Until Christ returns, our mission stands and we need all hands on deck.

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Randoms: Reformation Day Edition!


Yes, it’s Halloween Day, but I’ve never really been a big fan. What people don’t know though, is that it’s also Reformation Day today! Four hundred and ninety five years ago, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the Wittenburg castle church door. This put into motion a movement that had been underground until this point, but the wheels were suddenly put in motion that would change Christian history forever. So today, in honor of the birth of the Reformation, here are some links that help us celebrate Christian history:

Christianity and the Dark Side––What About Halloween?
I’m not totally ignoring Halloween. Al Mohler presents a great article to help us think of what Halloween stands for: “Over a hundred years ago, the great Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck predicted that the 20th century would “witness a gigantic conflict of spirits.” His prediction turned out to be an understatement, and this great conflict continues into the 21st century.”

Four Reasons My Family Trick-or-Treats
Before you think I’m absolutely against Halloween, I’m not. Here’s a look at the reasoning of a faithful pastor, Jesse Johnson, and why his family trick-or-treats.

A Prayer for Reformation Day
In a short post, Nathan Busenitz gives us a glimpse of the prayer of Martin Luther the day before he post the 95 Theses. In the midst of his consternation, Luther cried out to God for strength and help.Here is part of Luther’s poignant prayer.

Church History Timeline
A cool little website to help us get our bearings on church history. It’s interactive and easy to use––and it gives a broad overview of historical events and how they brought us where we are.

Jonathan Edwards App
Yes, this is for real. And it’s awesome. For you church history buffs: “The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University is pleased to announce the official Works of Jonathan Edwards Online iOS App. Now you can easily access and share the works of Jonathan Edwards from your mobile device.”

Other Links:

Memverse
Memorizing verses has always been a difficult task for me. Thankfully, we can now use technology to help us to keep Scripture written on our hearts. This free online tool helps with Scripture memorization.

After Darkness…Light (Video)
From John Piper: Today is Reformation Day. Martin Luther posted his explosive 95 theses October 31, 1517. In the wake of Luther’s life, an army of Reformers soon emerged. Foremost among them was John Calvin. Together they recovered for the church the supreme authority and clarity of the Scriptures. Grace-erasing tradition had buried the glory of the gospel. But now light was breaking out. So the Reformers took up a Latin phrase to describe the wonder: “Post Tenebras Lux”—“After Darkness… Light.”

Worship Matters

"28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same." - Jonathan Edwards

"28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same." - Jonathan Edwards

Desiring God

"28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same." - Jonathan Edwards

Justin Taylor Posts – The Gospel Coalition

"28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same." - Jonathan Edwards

Pyromaniacs

"28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same." - Jonathan Edwards

Russell Moore

"28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same." - Jonathan Edwards

AlbertMohler.com

"28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same." - Jonathan Edwards

The Cripplegate

for a new generation of non-conformists

Thabiti Anyabwile Posts – The Gospel Coalition

"28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same." - Jonathan Edwards

Kevin DeYoung Posts – The Gospel Coalition

"28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same." - Jonathan Edwards