Faithful Membership 2: Gather to Worship

This is the second part of a series reviewing three crucial commitments church members should make to their the congregation. The series introduction can be found here.

Our first commitment is to gather with the rest of the community for public worship every Lord’s Day. This is a fundamental way we fulfill our vow “to serve Christ in his church by supporting and participating with this congregation in its service of God”. What makes corporate worship so important?

Scriptural Command

DSC01874First, when we worship we obey God who commands our praise. I Chronicles 16:29 states the direction that runs throughout scripture, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness”.

Moreover, the one who is worshiped determines how. Our praise of God isn’t a time of self-expression, it calls for submission and obedience. God commands us in the manner of our worship, and this includes the “when”. Worshiping God, in the way He has prescribed, is at the root of obedience to the Fourth Commandment:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11 ESV)

We keep the Lord’s Day holy, in part, by corporate worship – gathering with God’s people to hear his Word, sing his praises, and lift up our hearts in adoration.

Gathering of the Covenant Community

Second, gathering together for worship, as are all of God’s commands, is for our benefit. We can’t be God-centered without being other-encompassed.  As T.S. Eliot wrote in “Choruses from the Rock”:

What life have you, if you have not life together?

There is no life that is not in community,

And no community not lived in praise of GOD.

Gathering together encourages us as we remember our identity as God’s redeemed and embraced children. It reorients us within the body and towards our Head.  As Hebrews instructs, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)

IMG_6272A cliché sometimes heard by those who frequently neglect common worship is that they can worship God just as well on the golf course, or on the lake, or ball field – or whatever else we allow to take priority over worshiping God with our fellow believers.  But if worship is rightly understood, you can’t.  You might feel close to God, you might think about Him, you might even feel inspired by the majesty of creation.  But you can’t really worship as God has taught us because you can’t encourage and be encouraged by other believers, you can’t gather around the Lord’s table to receive the supper, you can’t promise a new believer your support as they are baptized, and you can’t sit under the proclaimed Word.  Christian worship is fundamentally communal.  This isn’t about being in a particularly holy place, but in the midst of a particular people – “the Kingdom of God is within you”.1  As many commentators have noted, the elemental prayer our savior gave us begins not with my but Our Father.  Even as we pray in private, we remember that we do so as part of our new family.2  This communal nature of worship is unsurprising considering the very nature of the God we Worship.  Within the essence of God, who is Holy Trinity, is a communion of persons, therefore worship is fellowship with God the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

What do I get out of it?

As we worship, we receive.  Caution is needed though, because there is a tendency for us to approach worship asking, “What do I get out of it?”.  The danger with that question is that it reveals a consumer’s attitude.  The question could be rephrased as “Do I enjoy the music?”, “Do I like being with the people?”, or “Do I feel good about the sermon?” In these of questions we approach worship with self-diagnosed needs and our own benchmarks.  This is a shopper’s approach, browsing for an inspirational feeling, wisdom to fix a problem, or an assuaging of guilt.

photo by James Emery

photo by James Emery

To receive as a disciple is to trust that the Master knows better than us and to accept what he offers: commands that I would rather ignore, conviction of sin that I have been suppressing, and humbling assurance of forgiveness.  These are things we will miss if we basing the question on our musical taste or how funny the preacher is.  What we “get out of” worship is God’s Word spoken to us and his gracious promises confirmed in water, bread, and wine.  We receive welcome and fellowship within a community that God calls his own.  We receive nothing less that God himself.

 

 

 

 

1. Luke 17:21, The “you” is second person plural. Jesus is not saying that the Kingdom is and individualistic, internal reality.
2. Eliot is helpful here as well, “Choruses from the Rock” continue, “Even the anchorite who meditates alone,/ For whom the days and nights repeat the praise of GOD,/ Prays for the Church, the Body of Christ incarnate.

 

Faithful Membership 1: Introduction

salt-216499_1280

What do you think active membership in a church looks like? I can remember often hearing people bragging about being at the church every time the doors were open, but is simply showing up for services enough? Should a member make a goal of being at everything going on in the life of the congregation?

I’ve thought through what the expectations of the average member should be in a congregation and so now as part of our new member class I encourage everyone to make it a goal to worship, to connect, and to serve.
Over a series of posts I want to discuss each of these in more detail, but first I want to make note of two things about membership commitment and activity in the local church.

First: No one is average. A wise farmer in my first congregation used to joke that while the average summer might have the perfect amount of rainfall for a good crop, average that meant that about half the years would be a drought and the other half a flood. Both of these destroyed crops, so the average was simply an ideal between extremes that didn’t actually occur too often in reality. Our lives our like that. Everyone goes through times of more or less energy and free time. There is a difference in parents of small children, an affluent retired couple, and a grad student with debt and unsure of where she will be next year. So we take into account the season of life we are in and don’t feel guilty if our God ordained calling to care for an elderly parent prevents a lower priority of helping out with Bible school. Likewise, if we are in a place in our life where we have more time and more expendable income, we should avoid doing the “bare minimum” to assuage our guilt and get on with pursuing pleasure and entertainment more than serving and worshiping God. So when I speak of average member commitment, I mean take this as a starting point to think through how to best fulfill the vows you made to God and to the congregation when you became a member.

light-677062_1280Second: It doesn’t take the institution of the church to be a “Christian” activity. Obviously, gathering together with the saints for worship requires the church. And while we need Christians to support and serve in the congregation. Loving your neighbor doesn’t require the approval of the board of elders. Sharing God’s grace and love doesn’t require a committee. This should be obvious, but as a Pastor I am too aware of my own tendency to think of needs in the church as examples of Christian service: teaching a bible class, helping with the nursery, cleaning the church kitchen, or preparing a budget. These are of course needed. But leading your family in prayer and bible study, sharing a meal with a lonely neighbor, or mentoring a child at the Boys and Girls Club is no less Christian. So as we look at these three ways Christians should be involved with their local congregation, keep in mind that this doesn’t exhaust all of what discipleship means. There are other personal and family disciplines and commitments, but I’m only discussing those related to obligations to the local congregation. Also, while members should be involved in the ministry and work of the church, one’s Church involvement shouldn’t take so much time and energy that there is none left to give to your family, neighbors, and community. Salt is meant to add flavor to food, not to more salt. Light is to shine in the darkness, not illumine a bright room.
So with these in mind, I’ll next discuss why every Christian should be committed to gathering for worship every Lord’s Day.

Sermon: Accountable Disciples, Rom 16:17-27

Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and to the spiritual oversight of this church session, and do you promise to promote the unity, purity and peace of the Church?

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you. Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:17-27 ESV)

rp_romans-300x225-300x225.jpg

Quick to Forget

Quick to Forget

airport-351472_1920

I recently returned from a visit with a missionary organization in Honduras where I taught a little and got to see the work they were doing in supporting church plants, providing and supporting medical care, providing food etc… My return was following a large amount of snow, so my flight from Houston to Memphis that evening was cancelled. As I was waiting outside for the van that was to take me to a motel I was tired of travel, I was missing my family, and I was worried about not getting home in time to preach Sunday morning. The time for the shuttle to arrive past, and the longer I waited the more I felt my temper rising. Then, in the midst of my growing irritability it struck me. A little over twenty-four hours earlier…

  • I had been shown pictures of a 6 month old infant who weighed only thre and half pounds due to malnutrition. The mother had been breast feeding on a diet of one tortilla a day.

  • I had prayed with a nascent congregation over land to build a food distribution center and church that had been given in a community whose main source of income was sorting through a massive trash heap for recyclables.

  • I had visited a hospital where patients had to provide their own sanitary water and X-rays might have to be postponed due to unreliable electricity.

And I was getting angry because the heated van that would take me to a comfortable room where I would shower in uncontaminated water and get a night of sound sleep was ten minutes late.

My anger quickly turned to gratitude for the comforts I enjoy and repentance for taking them for granted. I have felt shame for my unappreciative and entitled attitude before, as have most Americans who’ve served on short-term mission trips. What struck me this day was how quickly I had forgotten and lost perspective. It’s amazing how soon insights we have about life and what’s truly important is lost.

This seems to be a part of the Christian life. I can remember times of feeling deep intimacy with God, when prayer seemed to flow, I appeared to be growing in grace, and I had a stronger sense of God’s presence my prayer. In those moments I thought how could I give this up? Why would I not devote myself to prayer and pursuing holiness? Then at some point shortly after I noticed that it had been too long since I had really prayed and I had returned to habitual sins I just knew had been conquered.

So why is it that I can thank God for healthy children one afternoon and the next be grumpy about a late van? That I can feel such a deep communion with God that the fields and trees I drive past seem to radiate his glory but by that evening feel resentment about my life?

An element of all sin is ingratitude. Like a spoiled child opening a gift and saying “Thanks, but why didn’t you get me something else?”, rather than being thankful to God for his good gifts, we seek to find our security or joy in something other than what he gives. If someone is greedy, they are not saying about money “Thank you God for what you have given me!”, but “Is that all?”. If someone is sexually promiscuous, rather than accept with gratitude the gift of sexual intimacy as part of a complete commitment of one’s self to another, they have complained that God’s arrangement is too confining and seek to fashion a better alternative to the offered gift.

So under this ingratitude is a lack of faith, a lack of trust that God truly seeks what is best for us. If we are not thankful it is because deep in our hearts we believe that there is something better than what God, in his providence, has given us. We’re not trusting him to be our strongest security or deepest joy. Do we really believe God works all things for our good? Or do we not often believe that to follow Christ is to settle for something less.

If the root of ingratitude is a lack of trust that God lavishes his love on us, then the remedy is not to stir up a sense of guilt about what I have in comparison to others, or even of the ugly ingratitude, but to be reminded that God showers us with more than we can ask or imagine from the riches of his glory. We need to daily be reminded of our blessings in Christ, to “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits”, (Psalm 103:2). This is part of our daily repentance, our continual turning from anything we trust to provide our deepest joy other than Christ. But we also to remind each other as Christians of God’s faithfulness and blessings. One of the reasons for us to gather with the church on Lord’s Day is to hear again of God’s faithful love and unearned kindness and to come to the table where we taste and see that the Lord is good.

Sermon: A Living Sacrifice, Romans 12:1-8

Do you promise to serve Christ in his church by supporting and participating with this congregation in its service of God and its ministry to others to the best of your ability?

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

(Romans 12:1-8 ESV)

rp_romans-300x225.jpg

Sermon: Living as a Follower of Christ, Romans 6:1-14

Do you now promise and resolve, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:1-14 ESV)

FootWashing

Carson on The Downward Drift

Rowboat Adrift by Jeff Marks

Rowboat Adrift by Jeff Marks

ONE OF THE MOST STRIKING EVIDENCES of sinful human nature lies in the universal propensity for downward drift. In other words, it takes thought, resolve, energy, and effort to bring about reform. In the grace of God, sometimes human beings display such virtues. But where such virtues are absent, the drift is invariably toward compromise, comfort, indiscipline, sliding disobedience, and decay that advances, sometimes at a crawl and sometimes at a gallop, across generations.

People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated. – D.A. Carson, For the Love of God, Volume 2

Four Lessons on Evangelism from a Runner

Four Lessons on Evangelism from a Runner

10941133_10153265626059179_4778358026569149987_nI ran my second trail race a few weekends back. I’ve run on and off for several years now, but not too many races and not on trails. I wouldn’t have run this one had it not been for Baker, a brother in Christ and a committed runner. And by committed I mean enthusiastically addicted. He organized the race last year and invited me so I signed up. Now if most people had asked me to try out a trail run I would have found an excuse to not participate. I’m usually moving at a pretty leisurely pace, on pavement, with headphones blocking out the world. But Baker’s enthusiasm for running is so contagious that I felt compelled to give it a shot, and I’m glad I did.
The other day I was running with Baker and another friend. Lagging well behind both of them, I began to think how well the invitation for me to run with them was like good evangelism.

evangelism should…

be a natural to who you are

Anyone who’s around Baker for even a little while picks up that he’s a runner. It’s simply part of who he is. We communicate who we are as much as what we know. While it’s appropriate to learn methods to effectively communicate the Gospel, it is more important that the truth of Jesus penetrates and reorients our own hearts. Method is secondary to a soul overwhelmed by God’s grace.

flow from a love you want to share

Baker is always inviting people to run because of his sincere love for running and a desire to share it with friends. Sharing the good news of Jesus effectively begins with our own sincere love for Christ and His Gospel. We naturally share what we love with those we love. Passion is contagious!

be patient

OK, I have to admit I’ve turned down several invites to run. Sometimes out of laziness; sometimes because I didn’t want to be the slowest, oldest, and most out of shape in the group; and sometimes just because it wasn’t a good time for my schedule. But the invitations kept coming. For most Christians, if we ever do try to share our faith or invite someone to church we probably err more to giving up too soon rather than being too pushy or overbearing. People are more open at different times in their lives to listening and considering spiritual matters. By being patient, respectful, and consistent we reach people in God’s timing.

be a team effort

While Baker is the most passionate one I know, there are several runners in our congregation. Being around so many men and women who lace up and hit the pavement somehow helps nudge me to do the same. Seeing others out, being able to ask questions, and getting encouragement all play their part in inspiring me to sign up for a race or get out when I wouldn’t otherwise. We need to remember that evangelism is a work of the whole church. Someone must share the message and extend an invitation, but the message also needs to be supported with hospitality, encouragement, and sincere kindness.

First Presbyterian Church Runners

First Presbyterian Church Runners

Sermon: Community of Sinners, Romans 3:9-20

Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God and without hope for your salvation except in His sovereign mercy?

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:9-20 ESV)
romans

Faith and Learning

Faith and Learning

2010 Bethel University Convocation Address

Introduction

It is an honor to speak to you this morning. It is especially an honor to be speaking at a University that maintains a vital connection to the Church. In 2008 I received a gold medal and congratulatory letter from the University of Glasgow announcing that I had won the Cleland and Rae Wilson Prize that year. I searched for information on the award to discover that it originated in 1846 ‘to be awarded in alternate years to a student of Divinity and a student of Physics’. I found this to be a fascinating combination. Would we find a benefactor today who would want to equally endow both of those subjects? Contemporary American society assumes a hostility between faith and scholarship. The relationship between science and theology was described by one famous book as one of warfare. The disengagement of the our institutions of higher learning from their founding Churches has been documented by James Tunstead Burtchaell in his Dying of the Light, and by George Marsden in his Soul of the American University as well as others. The regression can be seen in the fact that in 1881 80% of American colleges were religious or private institution; in 2001 the numbers were reversed, only 20% were connected to a religious tradition. This separation has been to the detriment of both the Church and the academy, and so I would like to invite you to reflect on the necessity of intellectual development and reason to the Christian faith and how, in light of this, we might see education as a Christian vocation.

A Rational Faithlibrary-488690_1280

Christianity is a rational faith. It is no accident that so many of our universities had their origins in our churches. Christianity is a revealed religion, and it is revealed through writing. To believe that God has shown us what we are to believe and how we are to live through literature demands that our cognitive faculties are used to receive the revelation. There is a vocabulary to learn, syntax to understand, and nuances of idioms to discern. Not only does the means of revelation demand the use of our reason, nearly every essential doctrine that is revealed supports an understanding of a God that is approached through rational means: the method of Creation is said to be by speech; the Incarnation is described by St. John as the taking on of flesh by the Logos (a rich word translated as word, but also conveying reason and purpose – the root of our word ‘logic’); and our understanding of Mission is that it is by rational persuasion, never by coercion or force, and for the purpose of making disciples or students. This is not to say that we somehow obtain God through the mere use of our unaided reason, but it is to say that Faith comprises a rational assent to a specific, definable content.
For the most part this understanding has been evident in the life of the Church. Upon his conversion, the Second Century Church Father Justin Martyr continued to the wear his philosopher’s robe as a sign that he had discovered the “true philosophy”. During the so-called ‘Dark Ages’, classical Greek and Roman literature was preserved in the libraries of Christian monasteries, which is to say learning itself, not exclusively religious learning was valued within these communities. The Middle Ages saw the development of our Universities, which grew out of educational institutions of the Church. The rise of Classical Humanism and the Renaissance went hand in hand with the Protestant Reformation. The cry ad fontes was the motto for both movements – the font being the writings of Aristotle or Seneca for one, and the Greek and Hebrew texts of the Scriptures for other. With the Reformation came new academies, plans for public education, and a rise in literacy. The near universal literacy in the West today owes much to a belief in the doctrine of the authority of the Bible. If the scriptures are authoritative, then everyone should have access to them by being taught to read and having the Bible translated into the languages of the people. While popular portrayals often give a simplistic view of the Church repressing scientific discovery, the belief in an ordered universe created by a rational God, and the attempt to ‘think God’s thoughts after him’ gave a foundation for modern science. Isaac Newton for example was as much of scriptural scholar as scientist, the man who formulated the theory of gravity wrote, ‘Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done’. As Church Historian Jaroslav Pelikan has said the Church, while always more than a school, is never less than a school.
But now we find ourselves in time that assumes a necessary division separating faith and reason, science and religion, sacred and secular. This assumption has been evidenced in sermons I have heard warning high-school graduates of the dangers of university professors. On the other hand I have seen the genuine surprise shown by one of my friend’s colleagues upon being introduced to him. My friend is a botanist, the surprise was that a scientist could be such close friends with a member of the clergy. We have gotten to this place of sequestering faith apart the rest of our life by intellectual laziness. In the face of challenges raised by the enlightenment and modernity, the Church has too often retreated from the difficult task of offering a well thought out answer. Instead, many have responded by casting faith as a private experience. It is evident in phrases such as ‘I know Christianity is true because I can just feel it’, ‘I believe the Bible because I tried it and worked for me’, ‘I don’t try to argue with someone about faith I just say look at the difference in my life’ or in the words of one of our Easter hymns, ‘you ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart’. Or even worse, faith for some is no longer an intellectual assent to rational propositions but a blind leap in spite of evidence to the contrary. ‘Don’t think, just believe’. Compare these common statements with the the defense of the faith offered by St. Paul who regularly debated others appealing to eye-witness testimony and the public account of Christ’s life.
This privatizing of faith is a working defense because personal experience is out of the range of attack – no one is a greater authority on your experience than yourself.But precisely because your inner experience is beyond contact with others it demands that faith becomes segregated from the rest of our life. It becomes what we do on Sundays with little connection with the other activities or other people. Only in living this way can we come to expect politicians to make the ridiculous claim that they are deeply religious, but their religion is private and will not affect their decisions. And I fear that for many, you will learn how to think one way in your profession that is completely separate from how you think in Church. ‘Faith’ will remain within the realm of private, inner experience.

Education as Christian Vocation

microscope-275984_1280Clifford Stoll, an astronomer, formerly at Berkeley, tells the story of trying to escape the mayhem of student riot in the ‘60s as an undergraduate at the University of Buffalo. He ducked into Hayes Hall and climbed the bell tower, as the police and students clashed on the campus below he read these words inscribed on the bell: ‘All truth is one in this light: may science and religion endeavor here for the steady evolution of mankind from darkness to light, from narrowness to broadmindedness, from prejudice to tolerance. It is the voice of life which calls us to come and learn’.
I encourage you to heed that invitation from the voice of life. Seek to ‘Love the Lord your God with all of your mind’. If you understand that pursuing education is a way to glorify God it will transform what you are doing here. We have made the mistake of telling young people to go to school to get a degree so that you can get a better job and buy more toys. How utterly selfish. If your time here is merely to get a piece of paper that will help you get a better job then most of it will be wasted. But if you see it as answering a call ‘to move from darkness to light’ you will ask more than ‘Is this going to be on the final exam?’. If you see understand how your lecture attendance, hours of research, and struggles with precisely how to state a concept can help you progress ‘from narrowness to broadmindedness’ then there is certainly more motivation to persevere in the hard work than if you are driven by what might lookgood on a resume. Would you rather return home for winter break and tell your family and former teachers that you are trying to get a piece of paper to increase your earning potential, or that you are developing every aspect of your being in pursuit of a divine calling to lead people ‘from prejudice to tolerance’?
Seeing education as a spiritual calling is for each one of you. Some of you might ask how can the study of computer systems or sociology or music glorify God or be Christian. One of the symptoms of the way the Church has been disengaged from the ‘secular’ is that we think for something to be Christian means it has to be stamped with a fish symbol like HIS CPA, a ‘Christian CPA Firm’ of Duluth, Georgia which promises to bring ‘Christian Values to Accounting and Tax Preparation in Metro Atlanta’. (I think your deduction would be the same regardless of the preparer’s faith.) We think, a ‘Christian’ writer is one whose books talk about God a lot and are sold in Lifeway instead of Barnes and Noble. Christian music becomes separated with distinct labels, stations and bands that sound sort of like top 40 bands but singing ‘Oh Jesus’ instead of ‘Oh Baby’. The result being that, to quote Hank Hill, it ‘doesn’t make Christianity better it only makes Rock and Roll worse’. But all truth is one, therefore, every field of learning finds its place within a scriptural worldview. We are given the Revelation within various genres of literature, narrating a redemption that takes place in history: among particular people, in specific nations, within a defined location. The Revelation points us to creation itself as ‘declaring the glory of God’ and claims that humanity was created and placed in the garden with the charge to cultivate it. Therefore no branch of learning is alien to God: we serve him by pursuing the study of language, history, geography, political science, botany, or astrophysics. To write well and honestly is glorifying the God who gave us language whether the work is published in the McKenzie Banner or in Christianity Today. To pursue genetic research with the best tools available points us to the one and same Source of truth sought by the Biblical scholar working with textual criticism.Whatever develops culture; whatever is good, true, or beautiful is of God and is life enhancing and God exalting.

Continue your Spiritual Development

rp_tumblr_m0sztnqd0y1rrdedwo1_500.jpgGrowing up in a small Church I wasn’t in a group with a paid youth minister. An older member, Lenford Nabors, served as the youth teacher. He was in his seventies, a retired combustion engineer. We learned complicated math concepts as much as Bible stories. (I remember conformal mapping being a particularly favorite topic of his.) Lenford modeled as well as anyone an well-integrated mind. One of the best pieces of advice he ever gave us was to continue to develop our spiritual understanding. He explained that as we continued in our education, the difficulty would come not in encountering new ideas. The difficulty would be if we encountered new ideas without having continued to grow in our spiritual understanding and maturity. In other words, an understanding of the faith that hasn’t developed since 8th Grade Sunday School will appear childish compared to the sort of material covered in a college philosophy course. Questions raised by graduate level chemistry studies will probably not find adequate answers in Bible studies that have not gone deeper than Veggie Tales. But if you continue to study and mature spiritually your faith is strong enough to be engaged with a deeper understanding of the world. So continue your spiritual maturity. Take advantage of the resources and opportunities available here at a University committed the growth the whole person to develop a robust faith. Continue to grow in your understanding of God so that you are not tempted to separate how you think in Church from how you think in the office, or lab, or studio. Both the Church and our society desperately need Christians whose intellectual life is so integrated that they can enter into business, art and science completely engaged and completely faithful.