Category: Vocation

It was Blaise Pascal who noted that, “Jesus Christ is the end of all, and the center to which all tends.” Whether we are conscious of it or not, our vocation and work plays a part in revealing His glory. Christ comes to meet us in our vocation and circumstances. Cyril of Jerusalem declared:

The Savior comes in various forms to each man for his profit. For to those who lack joy, He becomes a vine, to those who wish to enter in, He is a Door; for those who must offer prayer, He is a mediating High-Priest. Again, to those in sin, He becomes a Sheep to be sacrificed on their behalf. He becomes ‘all things to all men’ remaining in His own nature what He is. For so remaining, and possessing the truly unchangeable dignity of the Sonship, as the best of physicians and a sympathetic teacher, He adapts Himself to our infirmity.”

It’s notable that Jesus helped to define the vocation of Peter and Andrew in Matthew’s Gospel when he said, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19) As Creator and Redeemer, when we reflect the nature of Christ we can better see His plan for us and excel in our work.

This video below is titled “He Is” and it’s a powerful reminder of John 1:3. It reminds us that Christ as Creator and Sustainer is reflected in and through our vocation:

baby expensiveThe cost of raising kids in the United States has reportedly gone up, averaging $245,340 per child according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which factors in costs for housing, food, clothing, healthcare, education, toys, and more.

From the Associated Press:

A child born in 2013 will cost a middle-income American family an average of $245,340 until he or she reaches the age of 18, with families living in the Northeast taking on a greater burden, according to a report out Monday. And that doesn’t include college — or expenses if a child lives at home after age 17.

In response to these estimates, much of the reporting has aimed to paint an even grimmer picture for prospective parents, emphasizing other factors such as the likely trajectory of declining wages and rising costs in areas like healthcare and education.

Taken together, it’s enough to make your average spoiled youngster run in the opposite direction. And indeed, many actively are. As Jonathan Last details extensively in his book, What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster, birthrates in the Western world are in a free fall, with more and more adults opting for fewer and fewer kids, if any at all, and making such decisions later and later in life.

For those of us who shudder at the prospect of a world with fewer children, and who increasingly encounter negative attitudes about child-bearing and -rearing amongst our peers, many of whom are in their child-bearing “primes,” one wonders how we might respond with a compelling financial case for having children amid such supposedly grim prospects. (more…)

Boston_Skyline_Web-Banner1Conversations about “faith-work integration” are alive and well, whether in the church, workplace, or academia, and the Acton Institute continues to offer a variety of resources on the subject, from its growing series of tradition-specific primers to various books and lectures to educational video curricula.

In keeping with these efforts, the Acton Institute will be a co-sponsor to the very first Faith @ Work Summit in Boston, MA from October 24-25, where a diverse group of businesspeople, students, pastors, and various others will gather to discuss the state of the faith-work movement and how we might move forward.

From the event’s web site:

On October 24 and 25, 2014, a seminary, a technology school, a business school, and a foundation join forces to convene a summit to address these two over-arching questions.

The purpose of the summit is to gather active leaders and participants in the faith at work movement to assess the state of the movement (achievements, needs, obstacles, opportunities, and resources) and together to develop an agenda going forward for individuals in the workplace, churches, marketplace ministries, seminaries and Bible schools, and universities and business schools.

This is a working conference, not a celebrity or performance-oriented event. All speakers, leaders, and organizers are donating their time and effort. We welcome and encourage every voice in attendance to help shape our understanding and our sense of agenda going forward.

This is an important gathering for the movement at large, and an encouraging sign of the growth and prevalence of this important conversation. I look forward to seeing the fruit that comes from it.

View a list of speakers here, and register for the conference here.

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles DVD & Blu-Ray Combo Pack

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles DVD & Blu-Ray Combo Pack

For the Life of the World is an entertaining film series that explores the deeper meaning of Salvation. Have you ever wondered, “What is my Salvation actually FOR?” Is it only about personal atonement, about getting to heaven, or something that comes later? Is it just to have a “friend in Jesus?”

Join Evan Koons and his friends – Stephen Grabill, Amy Sherman, Anthony Bradley, Makoto Fujimura, John M. Perkins, Tim Royer and Dwight Gibson – as they discover a “new perspective,” the BIGGER picture of what it means to be “in the world, not of it.” This seven-part film series will help you, your friends, church or organization investigate God’s Economy of All Things – OIKONOMIA (a Greek word that has a lot to say about God’s plan for his creation, the world, and us.)

This Combo Pack includes a letter from Evan and two discs for your player of choice: DVD and Blu-ray. Enjoy seven episodes around 20 minutes each, along with episode teaser videos, a series trailer, and bonus content.

Explore how God’s purposes are woven into every area of our lives: family, work, art, charity, education, government, recreation and all creation! The Bible calls us Strangers and Pilgrims, living in "the now and not yet" of God’s Kingdom Come on earth. We are also called to be salt and light, to have a transforming presence among our neighbors. Rediscover the role of the church and how our lives lived on earth matter in God’s plan for the world.

Designed for deep exploration, the series invites viewers to watch the series again for new insights. Also, check out the companion Field Guide to jump-start group and individual investigation and enhance the film experience! FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD Field Guides are available in print or via streaming access at StudySpace.org.

Regular Price: $59.99

Special Price: $35.00

FLOW-gifOver at Capital Commentary, Byron Borger offers some valuable reflections and rather extensive praise for the Acton Institute’s new educational DVD series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a visually enjoyable Christian educational video curriculum,” he writes, “and I know I’ve never seen one so thoughtfully inspiring about a foundational Christian view of creation, culture, social life, and redemption.”

Indeed, FLOW offers a peculiar blend of artistic beauty and educational oomph. FLOW excels and exceeds at both showing and telling, and does so in a way that not only captures the mind, but instills a deeper, meditative longing in the heart for restoration and renewal across all spheres of life.

As Borger aptly captures, the series is unique in the way it unleashes the imagination toward a fuller, more nuanced vision for cultural engagement.

The teaching interviews and bold cinematography are so artfully expressed, though, that the blend of neo-Calvinist and conservative Catholic social theories that form some of the theoretical/theological background of the films are hardly noticeable; they are what Calvin Seerveld would call “suggestion-rich” and allusive. And they are often illustrated, not preached, with curious narratives and fantastic footage in settings as diverse as Makoto Fujimura’s art studio and Dr. Tim Royer’s Neurocore clinic which studies brain-related neurological issues. (more…)

Jacopo-Bassano-Jacopo-da-Ponte-Departure-of-Abraham-and-his-family-and-livestock2“To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.” –Ecclesiastes 5:1

Obedience to God is a fundamental requirement of the Christian life. With our constant recitations of “thy will be done,” it may seem a rather obvious point, but while many of us are comfortable with the basic aims and directives of the Gospel – feed the poor, serve the needy, steward your talents, love your enemies – when it comes to the actual implementation, we tend to defer to our own designs and desires.

Yet no matter how much spiritual frosting we may apply, that basic question still longs to be asked: “Lord, what would you have me do, and how would you have me do it?”

In a free society, wherein individual choice and action are largely uncontrolled and often empowered, we have increased opportunities to align our lives and actions to God, and thus to others. But this same elusive freedom can also mean heightened temptations to become wise in our own eyes. For the Christian, such freedom is only as authentic as it is subservient to the true and the good — a perplexing and paradoxical notion, to be sure. (more…)

kid-digging-holeLast Saturday was hot and humid in our corner of the world, and thus, my wife and I quickly decreed a pool day on the front lawn. The kids were ecstatic, particularly our four-year-old boy, who watched and waited anxiously as I got things prepared.

All was eventually set — pool inflated, water filled, toys deployed — but before he could play, I told him he needed to help our neighbor pick up the fallen apples strewn across his lawn.

With energy and anticipation, he ran to grab his “favorite bucket,” and the work quickly commenced. Less than three minutes later, however, his patience wore off.

“This is boring, Daddy,” he complained. “Can I be done now?”

More than anything else, the response was comical. Within mere minutes, this simple, ten-minute task had become a heavy burden he simply could not bear.

But it also signaled something profound about our basic attitudes about work, and how early they begin to form. Our kids are only beginning to edge upon the golden ages of chorehood, but as these situations continue to arise, I’ve become increasingly aware of a peculiar set of challenges faced by parents raising children in a prosperous age.

In a society wherein hard and rough work, or any work for that matter, has become less and less necessary, particularly among youngsters, how might its relative absence alter the long-term character of a nation? What is the role of work and toil in the development and formation of our children, and what might we miss if we fail to embrace, promote, and contextualize it accordingly? In a culture such as ours, increasingly propelled by hedonism, materialism, and a blind allegiance to efficiency and convenience, what risks do we face by ignoring, avoiding, or subverting the “boring” and the “mundane” across all areas of life, and particularly as it relates to work? (more…)

mourn-work-woundI recently wrote about “wounding work,” a term Lester DeKoster assigns to work that, while meaningful and fruitful, is “cross bearing, self-denying, and life-sacrificing” in deep and profound ways. Take the recent reflections of a former Methodist minister, who, upon shifting from ministry into blue-collar work at a factory, struggled to find meaning and purpose.

“I am not challenged at all in this work,” he writes, “and I want something more.”

Although DeKoster helps us recognize that meaning and purpose do reside in such work, and that our day-to-day labor is not exempt from the sacrifice and obedience bound up in the Christian life, the pain for those of us in the midst of all this is likely to persist, even if for a season.

On this, Evan Koons continues the discussion over at the FLOW blog: “To stress that all work is about gift-giving, to marvel at its vast community of relationships, or allude to the suffering one share’s with Christ by remaining in said environments, doesn’t make the experience any more pleasant.”

What, then, are we to do amid such suffering? How ought we to respond, whether as wounded workers ourselves, or as those who simply serve and disciple alongside those who suffer? As Koons explains, there is no quick-and-easy cookie-cutter “solution,” spiritually, economically, or otherwise, and going down the paths to peace that Christ does provide will inevitably involve those same familiar features of our fallen world.

(more…)

Gilbert_ChestertonIn Episode 1 of For the Life of the World, Stephen Grabill and Evan Koons lay the groundwork for viewing Christian cultural engagement through the lens of exile. “We are strangers in a strange land,” Grabill explains, and yet “we are meant to make something of the world.”

As Koons recently expounded over at Q Ideas, Christians have long struggled with the idea of being “in but not of the world,” resorting to a range of faulty attitudes and approaches, whether it be fortification, domination, or accommodation.

In his famous work, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton writes of his own struggle in this area, describing the difficulty he endured in reconciling this with that. In chapter five (“The Flag of the World”), he ponders the peculiar tension between pessimism and optimism in the Christian life — a feature that perplexed him throughout much of his life. “Christianity was accused, at one and the same time, of being too optimistic about the universe and of being too pessimistic about the world,” he writes.

These distinct accusations continued to compete throughout his intellectual and spiritual development, and as they did, Chesterton continued to be confounded by the paradox. “On this system one could fight all the forces of existence without deserting the flag of existence,” he writes. “One could be at peace with the universe and yet at war with the world. St. George could still fight the dragon, however big the monster bulked in the cosmos, though he were bigger than the mighty cities or bigger than the everlasting hills.”

Then, one day, it all made sense. (more…)

Mincaye of the Waodani

Mincaye of the Waodani

As we continue to encounter the adverse effects of certain forms of foreign aid and other misaligned efforts to alleviate poverty, it becomes increasingly clear that those in need require a level of care, concern, and discipleship not well suited to detached top-down “solutions.”

But just as we ought to be careful about the types of solutions we create, we ought to give the same level of attentiveness to the needs themselves, which are no less complex and difficult to discern.

Steve Saint, author of End of the Spear and missionary to the Waodani people of Ecuador, offers some helpful insights and warnings along these lines, critiquing the West’s tendency to project its “standards, values and perception of need onto others,” particularly when it comes to material needs.

“When people visit the Waodani,” he explains, “they look around and think, ‘Wow, these people have nothing!’” Yet, when the Waodani encounter the lifestyles of foreign outsiders, they tend to find them unseemly and excessive. (more…)

gleaners-milletIn recent years, we’ve seen a renewed focus on the deeper value, meaning, and significance of our daily work, particularly across the realm of evangelicalism. Yet as easy as it may be for some to alter old attitudes and begin appreciating the gift of creative service, it can be extremely difficult for others — and often for good reason.

Indeed, until the last few centuries, the bulk of humanity was confined to activities that, while often fruitful, meaningful, and God-glorifying in their basic aim and end, did not leverage individual “giftings” in ways we would deem “fulfilling” or “dignifying” today.

Our economic situation has surely improved in the years since, with vocational opportunities and overall prosperity continuing to expand and improve in profound and unexpected ways. But many still find themselves in positions or careers that are difficult to endure, from the anxieties of a Wall Street executive to those of an underpaid farm hand.

Each of us is going to encounter our own unique challenges, driven by and toward our own particular calling. Although we ought to try our best to improve the alignment of such service in a fallen world, the persistent need for hard and rough work is bound to remain as long as it remains a fallen world. (more…)