Archive for the Work Category

John Coltrane and Ecclesiastes

Posted in Ecclesiastes, Grace, John Coltrane, Music, Tim Keller, Work on October 17, 2013 by kevinwilkening

John ColtraneEarly today, October 17, I posted on Twitter the following: “When Tennessee Ford’s 1955 hit & The Vogue’s 1965 hit make your Ecclesiastes 2:12-26 sermon I am reminded that musicians often speak truth.”

Here is another example of a musician speaking truth. This is an excerpt from John Coltrane’s liner notes inside his 1957 album entitled, “A Love Supreme.” (I have been listening to it all day).

During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which as to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At the time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through His grace. ALL PRAISE TO GOD …

This album is a humble offering to Him. An attempt to say “THANK YOU GOD” through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor.

— John Coltrane

*(quote taken from Tim Keller’s book entitled, “Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work”)*

Ecclesiastes 2:24–25 (ESV) — There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?


Work As Worship

Posted in Aaron Armstrong, Books, Discipleship, Tim Keller, Vocation, Work, Worship on December 11, 2012 by kevinwilkening

every-good-endeavorAaron Armstrong is currently reading Tim Keller’s book, Every Good Endeavor. His teaser made me want to read the book. Maybe you will want to read it too. Here is a snippet. Armstrong writes:

He [Keller] reminds us that work is “one of the ways we discover who we are, because it is through work that we come to understand our distinct abilities and gifts, a major component in our identities” (p. 38).

So author Dorothy Sayers could write, “What is the Christian understanding of work?. . . [It] is that work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties . . the medium in which he offers himself to God.”

In other words, a Christian understanding of work leads you to see your work as an act of worship.

Armstrong then ask, “How might our weeks look different if we grasped that concept? That rather than being a drudgery or a necessary evil, work is one of our chief expressions of worship and imaging our Creator?”

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work

Posted in Church History, Discipleship, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Reformation, theology, Vocation, Work on August 28, 2012 by kevinwilkening

John Starke is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and lead pastor of All Souls Church in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He wrote a helpful article regarding the Protestant work ethic. I have only posted part of the article below. You can read the article in its entirety here.

Starke writes: Calvin taught that there is comfort in knowing “that no task will be so sordid and base, provided you obey your calling in it, that it will not shine and be reckoned very precious in God’s sight.” The greater comfort, however, comes from the gospel, where Calvin says, “we are apprehended by God’s goodness and sealed by his promises.”

The Protestant understanding of vocation emerged from this already accomplished salvation. For Luther, the doctrine of justification by faith alone had everything to do with our status and place as workers. He complained in the Appeal to the German Ruling Class that Roman Catholics have created a false hierarchy of a spirituality of work, separating the “spiritual” from the “profane”—or to put it in modern terms, the “sacred” and the “secular.” Somehow, the priest and the bishop are more spiritual than the baker and the brick layer. But Luther, never to pull a punch, calls this sort of thing “guiles of the devil.”

“Those who exercise authority,” Luther says, “have been baptized like the rest of us, and have the same faith and the same gospel; therefore we must admit that they are priests and bishops.” We should be careful here. Luther doesn’t want to flatten all occupations, but to lift up all believers to “the priesthood of believers,” since all have spiritual status.

The doctrine of justification by faith and the forgiveness of our sins redirects the aim of our vocation. In receiving a righteousness that is not from our works or successes, we are free to serve our neighbor and benefit society and our community. This is why Lutheran theologian Gene Veith can say in God at Work:

[A]ll vocations are equal before God. Pastors, monks, nuns, and popes are no holier than farmers, shopkeepers, dairy maids, or latrine diggers. In the spiritual kingdom, in divine egalitarianism (which would also come to have cultural implications) peasants are equal to kings. All are sinful beings who have been loved and redeemed by Christ.

The purpose of vocation then, Veith says, “is to love and serve one’s neighbor.” But the Christian is only free to love and serve one’s neighbor when he is not working to justify himself before God. Justification by faith changes everything.

Vocation Explained

In this video, Tim Keller—author of the forthcoming book Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work—gives a good explanation of the Protestant view of vocation and answers the two questions: (1) Why your work matters to God and (2) Why God matters to your work.

Gospel and Culture Lecture Series: Tim Keller from Redeemer Video on Vimeo.

Keller’s lecture was delivered in the Gospel and Culture lectures series with Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work, who held their first conference in November 2011. The Center for Faith and Work works to mobilize Christians in their professional and industry spheres as Protestant and Reformed Christians. Their second annual conference this fall features a number of insightful thinkers, including James Davison Hunter.

The Protestant work ethic needs to be demythologized and put back into its rightful place: after a sustained reflection of justification by faith alone.

The Sacred Has Absorbed the Secular

Posted in Charles Spurgeon, Desiring God, Discipleship, Work on August 6, 2012 by kevinwilkening

Tony Reinke writes, Monday mornings are notoriously difficult, and Charles Spurgeon was aware of the challenges his congregation faced to begin the week motivated to work diligently for God’s glory. In one of his sermons he reminded his congregation that “the sacred has absorbed the secular.” God’s purposes for our lives brings new vision to all of our vocations and weekly tasks. For God’s children all of life is ministry. Here’s how Spurgeon put it in his aptly titled sermon “All For Jesus”:

To a man who lives unto God nothing is secular, everything is sacred. He puts on his workday garment and it is a vestment to him. He sits down to his meal and it is a sacrament. He goes forth to his labor, and therein exercises the office of the priesthood. His breath is incense and his life a sacrifice. He sleeps on the bosom of God, and lives and moves in the divine presence.

To draw a hard and fast line and say, “This is sacred and this is secular,” is, to my mind, diametrically opposed to the teaching of Christ and the spirit of the gospel. Paul has said, “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself” [Romans 14:14]. Peter also saw a sheet let down from heaven in which were all manner of beasts and four-footed creatures, which he was bidden to kill and eat, and when he refused because they were unclean, he was rebuked by a voice from heaven, saying, “What God hath cleansed that call not thou common” [Acts 10:1511:9].

The Lord hath cleansed your houses, he has cleansed your bed chambers, your tables, your shops, he has made the bells upon your horses holiness to the Lord, he has made the common pots and pans of your kitchens to be as the bowls before the altar, if you know what you are and live according to your high calling. You housemaids, you cooks, you nurses, you ploughmen, you housewives, you traders, you sailors, your labor is holy if you serve the Lord Christ in it, by living unto him as you ought to live. The sacred has absorbed the secular. via @desiringgod

Sabbath Rest: An Act of Faith

Posted in Sabbath, Work on October 26, 2009 by kevinwilkening

I have been incredibly busy this semester.  It often seems that every moment of everyday is filled with work that needs to be done.  If it is not done between 5:30am and 5:30pm, then it must get done in the evening hours.  If I have meetings at night, then the work placed on the next day’s agenda.  However, if the next day cannot handle the unfinished work, then that work gets pushed to my day off.  If that work gets pushed to my day off, then I can begin to neglect my wife and my children.  So I am writing this post to challenge myself, and those in ministry everywhere.  Here it goes:

How do we define our lives?  Normally, when we are introduced to a person that we do not know, we ask them two questions: 1) What is your name?  and 2) What do you do?

Why is this?  Why do we ask people what they do?  Because most of the time we define our lives by what we do, not who we are.  Yet, God will not let us get away with this.  We were never designed by God to define ourselves by what we do, but rather, we were design by God to define ourselves by who we are in Him.

Think about the concept of the Sabbath.  We were created in the image of God.  God works.  Therefore, when God created man in His image, He created man to work. Work is a God-like activity.  And God created us to find meaning and enjoyment in the God-like activity of work.  However, we were never intended to find our identity in our work.  We were always intended to find our identity in God Himself; not in the work we do.

Consider the Sabbath. God set aside a day for man to cease from His labors and declare, “We are the covenant people of God!  He is our God, and we are His people; the sheep of His pasture!” It was a declaration that our lives are not the fruit of our labor, but rather our lives are a gift from God.  And God calls us to put our trust in Him.  He calls us to trust Him, that if we do not labor, but instead we rest in Him, He will provide for His people.  So, it is only when we trust Him that we can truly rest in Him.  It is only we trust God that we can gladly take a day off from our labor each week and know that neither the world, nor the church, nor our ministries are going to fall apart, because it is God who is holding all things together . . . not us.

Yet, there are many who are in ministry who refuse to take a day off.  They feel there is too much to be done for the kingdom of God to take a day off.  This is simply poor theology.  And theology always works itself out in our practice.  If we really believe that there is too much work to be done to take a day off, then we are saying that we have completely accepted the teaching of this culture that says, “My life is made and defined by the work I do.”

However, God is clear, our identity is not to be found in what we do, but in who we are. Working all the time, never taking a break, neglecting our families or our marriages for the sake of the ministry, is an act of arrogant unbelief.  I’ll say it again: Working all the time, never taking a break, neglecting our families or our marriages for the sake of the ministry, is an act of arrogant unbelief.

You may think that statement is too strong, but consider this: What we are really saying is: “The success or failure of our churches is more dependant upon what we do than what God does.” We are saying, in effect: “We cannot afford to take time off for our families, or our marriages, or even take time off just to rest our bodies because the work that we are doing will all fall apart if we stop working.”

However, this is untrue.  God is the One who builds His Church, not us. Certainly we must work hard, and be faithful to the task that God has given us.  But God is the One who ultimately meets the needs of people in the end, not us.  God is the One who builds His Church, not us.

Therefore, the concept of Sabbath rest is an act of faith.  If we trust God, then we will be free to stop working because life is not the fruit of our labors.  Life is God’s good gift to us.  Life is to be enjoyed.  And we are to worship God with our lives.

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