Tag Archives: Restoration

God At Work: Not In Vain

Jesus at the office

“If you’re a city planner, there is a New Jerusalem, If you’re a lawyer there will be a time of perfect righteousness and justice. The way we view the not yet will inevitably impact the way we respond in the here and now.” -Tim Keller

For the past few months, I’ve written on the importance of vocation and why it matters to reconsider what we do in light of what we believe. I want to conclude this series in the next week, but first I want to point out something that I think many of us familiar with the Scriptures miss.

A few years ago I was hanging out with some quilting ladies at The Hills Church (a much wilder experience than you might think) and they were telling me about what they’ve done over the years. Every week a couple of dozen ladies sit down and make blankets for the under-priviledged. They give their quilts to the mentally handicapped, the orphans, kids in the cancer wards, basically anyone who needs to keep warm. And after hearing their stories this is what I told them.

Work is Meaningless

If you’ve never read the book of Ecclesiastes, I highly recommend it. It’s not a real pick me up book, (in fact Rabbi’s used to ask people to wash their hands after they read it) but it is incredibly honest. One of the more interesting things about Ecclesiasties is how it portrays work.

Because it doesn’t seem to think to highly about anything we do with our lives. One Old Testament Scholar, Tremper Longman believes that Ecclesiasties is written in a literary form of “fictional autobiography.”

Basically what that means is that Ecclesiastes is like a parody (it’s like the Colbert Report of the Old Testament) it’s setting up the most honest way of talking about the world, but just because it’s honest doesn’t mean it tells the whole truth. Because Ecclesiasties has a pretty dark view of work.

It knows that work, no matter how great we think our job is, can never really deliver on it’s promises.

I don’t know about you, but my work keeps me up at night worrying about what I’m missing out on, Jesus seems to be able to sleep through storms. I don’t know about you but my work can easily turn into idolatry.

My ambition can seduce me into thinking that I’m working for my family and friends, when really it’s tricking me into neglecting them. Because no matter what we do, and no matter how well we do it, eventually all work is in vain…no matter how well you build the house eventually entropy sets in, no matter how well you cook or paint or create eventually it will pass…From the perspective of eternity it seems like all labor is meaningless.

Work can be very, very vain.

And anyone who’s ever lived knows that Ecclesiastes is of course right, but it isn’t telling the whole truth.

Ends and Means

It is no accident that Jesus in his first sermon he ever preaches, starts by quoting the prophetic vision of Jubilee and then suggests that this is what he is doing in the world. Jesus is bringing in of the Kingdom, involves work. Jesus sees a Kingdom of God that informs our work. A Christian definition of work will take into account where history is going in God’s hands. So In 1st Corinthians 15, Paul gives us the longest treatise on the resurrection in the whole Bible. It’s one of my favorite chapters in all of Scripture. It’s about the world being set right, everything is how it should be, death is no longer a factor. But Paul chooses to end this chapter in a strange way. He says:

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Which is kind of a strange way to end this chapter isn’t it? He ends by talking about our work. If the resurrection is about going to another place in the sky, than this doesn’t make sense. But if it is something else, sometime about this world being renewed, than that changes everything. Because what you do here and now matters.Heaven and Earth

So back to those quilting ladies…this is what I told them. I told them what they did would matter forever. The resurrection means that every quilt they made is going to have echoes into eternity. Look at one of my favorite quotes from N.T. Wright about our work in relation to the resurrection:

“You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that is about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on a fire…You are-strange as it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself-accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude and kindness, every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course ever prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world-all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God.”

Did you catch that? The things we do with our life will find their way, through the resurrecting power of God, into forever.

Your work is important, not just because you can contribute to church, but because you get to partner with God! The resurrection of the world means that some of the best ministries, don’t have the word ministry in them!

There’s not some work that is spiritual and some work that is earthly, there is only work that partners with God, and work that refuses to.

So take heart plumbers and musicians, take heart teachers and doctors, take heart electricians and carpenters.

Because your Labor is in the Lord, and your work is not in Vain.

Loves God, Likes Girls

“Vulerability is the first thing I look for in others and the last thing I want others to see in me.” -Brene Brown

978 0 89112 359 0
I hadn’t planned on staying up until the middle of the night to finish Sally Gary’s new book “Loves God, Likes Girls” I had planned on reading just enough to encourage her and tell her how much I appreciated her. But that was before I started reading.

It’s been estimated that 85% of American young adults see Church and Christians an Homophobic and against Homosexual people. But that is not anywhere near the Christian story.

I’m not even talking about how such a disproportional amount of church conversation is on homosexuality (in comparison to the very small amount of times it is mentioned in Scripture). I’m talking about the fact that Christians are not seen as being opposed to homosexuality, or any kind of sexual immorality…we are largely seen as opposed to gay people.

And to be honest that’s kind of our own fault.

But the Christian story, if it trying to say anything, is saying that gay people…or any kind of person, is not the enemy. The enemy is the spiritual principalities and powers and sin in all the forms that it takes. And when we don’t get that we can really, really hurt people.

That’s why I stayed up all night reading Sally’s book.

The Best Stories Have But’s

It’s incredibly hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Because most of the time it’s so hard to get out of our own. But Sally’s disarming way of telling her own story makes you realize how much all of our stories have in common.

They say the best stories don’t use and as much as the word but, I think that’s right. The Godfather was evil but he did it for family. Steve Jobs changed the world but he was often a jerk. The best and the worst of us, are filled with the best and the worst. And Sally’s story is filled with but’s.

Her dad would go into fits of emotionally abusive rage but he also learned sign language to communicate to the deaf kid at church. Her mother was incredibly nurturing but often overprotective. Sally dated and liked some boys but….

Sally is incredibly honest and truthful about how great and hard life with her parents and church have been for her. She’s honest about her shortcomings and painfully honest about what life was like for a girl growing up sexually confused in a time when those kind of things weren’t spoken about.

But this book isn’t just about homosexuality and church, as the Father of two little girls I was convicted over and over again. She let me see how important being a daddy was for any little girl, and how important it was to be an intentional communicator to your kids.

She’s also honest about all her phobias and the quirky way she saw the world and learned how to cope with it (she’s actually afraid of the water) but as I read her book the same thought kept coming back to me…

For someone who talks about being afraid so much, she sure is brave.

Because Sally, for the past 15 years, has been willing to do what almost nobody else in the world will do. She’s being willing to be vulnerable to the entire world for the sake of the people who are out there like her.

Church and Gay People

That’s why she wrote the book, and it’s why she runs the ministry CenterPeace. Because she wants churches to know that there are people in our churches who are struggling with sexual orientation. They are our friends and our family and they’ve worked so hard to keep it secret because we’ve told them how we feel about their struggle…we just didn’t know we were talking about them.

Sally has been invited to speak to churches from all over the spectrum of Churches of Christ (and beyond). She’s spoken at our most conservative and our more progressive schools and churches because we’re waking up to the realization that this matters. And Sally’s gentle but brutally honest story helps you hear her wisdom:

Sexuality is complex and we haven’t fully explored all the possible variable that enter into this equation. Biology sets a foundation, but the impact of what we experience throughout life continues to shape and re-shape us. The dynamic interplay between chemistry, neurology and our perception of life experiences over the course of a lifetime remains to be investigated. Mix in individual temperaments, largely a biological construct, and you quickly realize there are no cut and dried explanations as to how sexuality takes shape in us. All we really know, is that we have much to learn. And at the very least, our lack of understanding should move us to greater compassion.

And that’s why everyone needs to read this book. Because Sally doesn’t try to make anyone feel guilty, she just lets you see through her eyes for a few hours. And what you see will change the way you love the people around you.

I’m proud to say that Sally is a member and leader at the Church that I work at, but I’m even more proud to say that she’s a part of our Restoration Vision. Centerpeace is one of the 3 non-profits that our campaign last year went to support…and after reading her book I’m incredibly grateful that we can play a very small role in what she’s doing in the world.

Sally’s dream is to help churches learn how to be a safe place for people to be honest. And she did that by going first.

So thanks Sally. You love God, and you’ve taught us how much he loves everyone.

Restoration in Memphis

I love this video. And I really love this church’s vision. Josh Ross is a very good friend of mine (he’s another young preacher in Churches of Christ) and we found out last year, that our church shepherds, independent of one another, were working on very similar visions. Visions that hoped to partner with God in the Restoration of All Things.

We believe that the Kingdom of God is bigger than Churches of Christ, but that God is not done with Churches of Christ’s. And it’s exciting to see these movements of the Spirit prodding churches across the country in similar directions. Thanks Josh for sharing this video, and thanks Sycamore view for your courage to have a vision bigger than yourself!