Blog - Grasping Vocation

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Let's stop talking about “entering the ministry.” The way we use those words widens the false gap between “sacred” and “secular” and between “clergy” and “laity.” The phrase confuses Christians.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

You may now download from this website a 12-unit study guide for the book, Serving Christ in the Workplace. The free guide can be used in a variety of ways (for example, by adult Sunday school classes, home study groups, cell groups or individuals working alone).

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The meltdown of the USSR opened the door for a massive influx of western missionaries.  But according to theologian Darrell Cosden, this burst of  missionary activity communicated not only the Good News but also some bad news for Russian believers in ordinary jobs.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Last week, I spoke with a multi-talented Christian woman. Daily work for her has included nursing, computer programming, administrative work for a mission board overseas, and contract administration here in the United States. Her story brings into focus a double-mindedness in the way our evangelical traditions have taught us to think about work.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

After reading the sentence, I stopped to scan it again. As one of a series of thought-stimulators in the study guide for a book, it asked readers to, “Describe three ways that you currently take God to work (or school) with you.” Hmmm. Does God really need me to take him to my workplace?

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Q:  What's wrong with this picture?

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Sunday, November 08, 2009
Recent events in the news plus a personal experience added up to one of those aha! moments for me. For days, the media focused our attention on the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, and at the Gateway Center in Orlando, Florida. Other than murder and injury, what did those tragedies have in common? read more...
Monday, November 23, 2009
Does God give you gifts of his Spirit for use only within your local congregation? Or does he also give those gifts to make you able to serve him in your everyday work? read more...
Thursday, December 31, 2009
What can the church learn from all the recent focus on airport and airline security? read more...
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Can you think of anything more powerful than the Word of God? Nine times Genesis 1 explains creation with the words “God said.” Psalm 33:9 sums it all up: “…he spoke, and it came to be.” Jesus, the God-Man, drove evil spirits out of people “with a word.” And he even now is “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). What could possibly stand in the way of such power?

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Monday, April 05, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: EVERYDAY NON-RELIGIOUS WORK IS SECULAR

This is the second in a series of articleson religious traditions that undermine the effectiveness of Christ-followers in the work world. The format for these articles echoes Jesus' method of exposing harmful religious traditions by saying, “You have heard…but I say to you….”  

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

You have heard: Everyday Non-Religious Work is Secular (Read Part 2)

But Scripture Makes Clear: God's World is Not Split into Sacred and Secular Zones.

Seeing the world in sacred/secular terms creates half-hearted and double-minded workers. This comes from defective vision comparable to diplopia—double vision. read more...
Sunday, April 18, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: WORK IS PART OF GOD'S PUNISHMENT FOR SIN

“Why Work?” asks British writer Dorothy Sayers in the title of an essay. How you answer that two-word question is crucial. Many look to Genesis 3:17-19 for the answer . . .

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Friday, April 23, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: WORK IS PART OF GOD'S PUNISHMENT FOR SIN

BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: GOD, THE WORKER, MADE US AS WORKERS BEFORE SIN ENTERED THE WORLD

You've seen those houses with lean-to's jutting from outside walls. A lean-to is merely an attachment, an add-on, not part of the original design. The tradition that work is part of God's punishment for sin teaches us to see work as a lean-to, something God tacked onto us after he made us.

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Friday, April 30, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: YOU ARE JUST A LAYPERSON

 

Sue Mallory, in her book, The Equipping Church, admits: “I put off writing this book for a long time because I wasn't sure I had an audience or a right to speak. After all, I thought, I'm just a layperson.” What had held her back? read more...
Friday, May 07, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: YOU ARE JUST A LAYPERSON

BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: YOU ARE SALT, LIGHT, SEED, AND MUCH MORE

 

Many words in the New Testament tell us who we are as Christ-followers. But nowhere does it call any of us by those disabling terms, “laypersons” or “laity.” R. Paul Stevens writes, “While we observe in the church today two classes of people [clergy and laity]…, we discover in the New Testament one ministering people….” read more...
Friday, May 14, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: GOD'S ONLY PURPOSES IN “SECULAR” WORK ARE WITNESSING AND MAKING MONEY FOR LIVING AND GIVING  (Read Part 7)

This religious tradition concedes that so-called “secular” work can have some religiously redeeming value. Okay, it says, so you hold a job that does not qualify as work popularly called “full-time Christian service.” Not a total loss. At least you can use it as an opportunity to share the gospel, to earn a living, and to make enough to support your church and cross-cultural missions.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: GOD'S ONLY PURPOSES IN “SECULAR” WORK ARE WITNESSING AND MAKING MONEY FOR LIVING AND GIVING (Read Part 8)

BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: GOD SENDS YOU TO WORK TO REFLECT HIM AND HIS WORK

Why has God placed you where you work? He has done so not for just two but for a rich variety of purposes. This will be the first of several blogs on other reasons God deploys you into the work world.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: GOD'S ONLY PURPOSES IN “SECULAR” WORK ARE WITNESSING AND MAKING MONEY FOR LIVING AND GIVING (Read Part 9)

BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: GOD USES WORK-RELATED STRESSES TO FORM CHRIST IN YOU

 Jesus tells us, “In this world, you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:33). Much of that distress occurs in the work world. Is it possible that encountering that trouble is one of God's reasons for sending us into that world?

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Friday, June 04, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: GOD'S ONLY PURPOSES IN “SECULAR” WORK ARE WITNESSING AND MAKING MONEY FOR LIVING AND GIVING (Read Part 10)

BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: YOU AND OTHER BELIEVERS AT WORK ARE TO SERVE EACH OTHER

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Friday, June 11, 2010

RELIGIOUS RUTS IN YOUR WORK WORLD: PART 12

YOU HAVE HEARD: GOD'S ONLY PURPOSES IN “SECULAR” WORK ARE WITNESSING AND MAKING MONEY FOR LIVING AND GIVING (Read Part 11)

BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: YOU'RE THERE TO MAKE THE GOOD NEWS APPEALING

A few years ago, during the boom years of real-estate sales, a new business emerged—home staging. A seller hires the home stager to put forward the best features of the house. According to one expert, “Staging a home can make a huge difference in how it's perceived by prospective buyers.” Is there a lesson here for Christ-followers in the work world?

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Friday, June 25, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: GOD'S ONLY PURPOSES IN “SECULAR” WORK ARE WITNESSING AND MAKING MONEY FOR LIVING AND GIVING (Read Part 13)

 BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: WITNESSING—A SERIOUS (NOT THE SOLE) PURPOSE

 For a toddler, Kai had a way of capturing hearts. We had known his family well before he was born. One Sunday, as my wife worked in the church nursery, she couldn't help noticing again his gentle, kind spirit. “Kai,” she said, “I love you!” Instantly his body recoiled . . .

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Friday, July 02, 2010

RELIGIOUS RUTS IN YOUR WORKPLACE: PART 15

YOU HAVE HEARD: GOD'S ONLY PURPOSES IN “SECULAR” WORK ARE WITNESSING AND MAKING MONEY FOR LIVING AND GIVING (Read Part 14)

BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: GOD APPLAUDS (NOT JUST ALLOWS) WORKING TO EARN

A flight attendant said, “The Great Commission is what we're called to. It is the number-one reason that God put us here. We need a job just to make our house payments and pay the bills.” In Your Work Matters to God, Doug Sherman and William Hendricks use this quotation to illustrate what they call the “Mainstream Model” of Christian thinking. In this view, the primary reason for working is to evangelize. The “just” in the quotation downgrades earning to a bothersome necessity.

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Friday, July 09, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: GOD'S ONLY PURPOSES IN “SECULAR” WORK ARE WITNESSING AND MAKING MONEY FOR LIVING AND GIVING (Read Part 15)

BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: GOD SENDS YOU INTO THE WORK WORLD FOR MANY REASONS

What difference does it make if you think you're in the work world just to witness and to earn? Peer through the eyes of Lisa, a bank teller who has come from a church tradition in which evangelism trumps all.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: TO REALLY SERVE GOD IN YOUR WORK, GO INTO FULL-TIME SERVICE

BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: ALL CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO SERVE GOD FULL TIME

"We shape our buildings,” said Winston Churchill; "thereafter they shape us.” In a similar way, we fashion religious terms that from then on have the power to mold our thinking for generations. Case in point: the phrase "full-time Christian service.” read more...
Friday, July 23, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD:  STAY CLEAN BY AVOIDING THE WORK WORLD

BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR:  PENETRATE THE DARK WORK WORLD AS A LIGHT  (Read Part 17)

 "The workplace is no place for a Christian woman,” said one pastor.  "It is too hard to be spiritual there. . . . Stay out of the world.” You don’t often hear this stance toward the work world expressed so openly.  But even if not stated outright, the attitude continues to smolder in many places.  Just the other day, I came across these words on a website: 

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Friday, July 30, 2010

YOU HAVE HEARD: TO GO TO CHURCH, ATTEND A WORSHIP SERVICE

BUT SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR: YOU REMAIN IN CHURCH WHILE YOU WORK  (Read Part 18)

Ruts pose two hazards for a bike rider. One, they're hard to get out of. Two, they take control of the steering. The words "go to church” create similar risks for Christ-followers. read more...
Friday, August 06, 2010

SUMMARY AND SIGNIFICANCE OF SERIES: PART 20  (Read Part 19)

Just over four months ago, I began posting these blogs on "Religious Ruts in Your Workplace.” Before we leave that theme for other workplace topics, let's briefly review what we've covered. These articles have identified seven religious traditions that affect our daily work. As I listed them for an overall look, a fresh insight emerged.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Some welcome news came last week. The Bakke Graduate University (BGU), Seattle, accepted me as a D.Min. student. The full name of the program: Doctor of Ministry in Transformational Leadership for the Global City. I plan to specialize in the theology of work—a BGU strength. Why this—at my age?

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010
After my last post, I spent two weeks in Kingston, Jamaica, in a course offered by the Bakke Graduate University (BGU) of Seattle. What I saw there brought to mind what Jesus said about salt. read more...
Thursday, December 02, 2010

This question headlined the web page: "What is the purpose of working or holding down a job?” Naturally, given the theme of this website, it caught my attention. What kinds of answers would the readers of Yahoo! Answers come up with?

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Saturday, December 11, 2010
Workplace ministry. I use the term, yet it can be misleading. Too often it seems to imply bringing church-like activities—Bible studies, prayer meetings, and so on—into the office or job site. So I welcomed the following words by David J. Bosch in his book, Transforming Mission... read more...
Friday, January 14, 2011

You’ve just been introduced to someone you don’t know. Typically, he or she may open the conversation by asking, "What do you do?” In other words, "What is your work?” Some of us take the question in stride. Others see it as demeaning.

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Friday, March 04, 2011
Whether paid for it or not, you probably think often about your work. Does God think about human work? And if so, what does he think about it? What does the Bible say about work? That’s the question behind the Theology of Work Project . . . . read more...
Friday, March 18, 2011
The other day a friend sent a link to a blog that began with the comical story of two couples canoeing on a lake. The first couple pull their boat to the dock and step out. The other couple park their craft alongside the first. The man in the second canoe steps one foot into the first, intending to use it as a bridge to the dock. But . . . read more...
Friday, July 01, 2011

"Most of us . . . have jobs that are too small for our spirit,” Nora Watson told Studs Terkel, who quoted her in the introduction to his book, Working (p. xxiv). "I think most of us are looking for a calling, not a job,” she said. Nora’s words must have struck a nerve, because other writers by the hundreds continue to quote them.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

"We shape our buildings,” said Winston Churchill; "thereafter they shape us.” It’s also true that we shape our words—and then they shape us.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011
"I wasn’t aware that there is such a thing as work theology.” Those words, written by a Christian graduate student, no doubt reflect the position of countless believers. read more...
Friday, October 14, 2011

Believers from the work world gather Sunday after Sunday to listen to their pastors. What if pastors could listen to those believers describe the challenges, opportunities, frustrations, and questions they face on the job? For the past several weeks Leroy Hurt and I have been planning a county-wide forum to create just such an opportunity.

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Friday, November 11, 2011
We hear a lot these days about "knowledge workers.” One Harvard professor says, "The future belongs to knowledge workers.” Americans, writes Glenn Reynolds in a Popular Science article, "increasingly disdain manual labor.” In this thought-climate, Paul’s instructions to first-century Christians seem almost quaint . . . read more...
Saturday, November 26, 2011

Imagine the difficulty in doing your work wholeheartedly if you’re afraid focusing on the job distances you from God. To think that way pits your work against your walk with God. It seems as if the job competes with your faith for your attention.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011
How are believers in very different cultures to authentically live out the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ in their workplaces? read more...
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
In a world of 7 billion, what difference can your work make? read more...
Monday, April 16, 2012

In recent conversation, a medical doctor mentioned how often he has seen those who retire from their work die shortly afterward. His comment was in line with a Shell Oil company study which found that people retiring early at 55 experienced twice the death rate of those who retired at 60. Why? Many factors probably explain this, but one of them may well be the loss of purpose.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The other day, I googled on the phrase "jobs on everyone’s mind” and received 1,150 hits. When it comes to work, people worry about it, watch movies about it, spend their best waking hours doing it, love it, hate it, and politicize it. And people talk about work everywhere—except in most churches.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A survey of 60 Christian employees made up the research core of my just-completed DMin. Dissertation. One of the 41 questions asked: "Are you aware of any resources that provide instruction and encouragement for believers in the 21st century work world?” More than 60 percent (37) said . . . 

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

In last week’s blog, I promised to review some of the books now available as resources for Christians in the work world. A day or so later, I received an email suggesting that I review The Integrated Life by Ken Eldred. That book is part of my library—so here goes. . . .

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Monday, June 11, 2012
What do you do if your work is suffocating your prayer life? That’s how Alvin Ung described to Paul Stevens what was happening to him. "Paul,” he said, "do you really think it’s possible to grow spiritually while I’m working in my crazy, relentless job?” read more...
Sunday, September 02, 2012
Friday, October 05, 2012

"I think people don’t like to talk about this divide very much.” Those words from a student in response to a question I posed to two online classes on Work, Calling, and Human Dignity. The "divide” to which he referred is the gulf between so-called "sacred” and "secular” work. The question to which he responded: "What effect does the sacred/secular divide have on how Christians often perceive the dignity of work?”

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

In the last blog, I focused on several responses of doctoral and masters students in my online classes to this question: "What effect does the sacred/secular divide have on how Christians often perceive the dignity of work?” This post continues on the theme of "loss” so often expressed in their answers to that question.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

The last two posts reported on how doctoral and masters students responded to the question: "What effect does the sacred/secular divide have on how Christians often perceive the dignity of work?” The word "loss” sums up their responses—loss not only to the gathered/scattered church and to the Kingdom of God, but also to individual believers.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

How can Christians in the workplace make the gospel attractive (Titus 2:10) to unbelievers? Think of it this way. The voice on a radio commercial urges you to spend $19.95 on a filter pitcher. An hour later you watch a TV ad that shows the same unit turning a rusty stream from a faucet into crystal-clear water. Which message are you more likely to trust? We’ve known since kindergarten that show-and-tell works far better than tell-by-itself.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

The virgin birth of Jesus was clearly the work of God. Yet he did this work within a setting prepared by the work of human beings. As we celebrate Christmas, the story of the God-Man’s birth can remind us that God uses our work in doing his work.

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Friday, January 25, 2013
If work is "ministry,” what does that look like? What shape should such ministry take in a paid job? In unpaid work? In the efforts of the entrepreneur? In the labors of a retired (redeployed) person? read more...
Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How can you commune with God in a workplace full of people who don’t—and who may even oppose it? Is communing with God a good work best done in a "house of worship” where we enjoy the backing of everyone around us?

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Friday, February 08, 2013
Communion with God in our work often takes us out of our comfort zone. For the Christian, both the Fall and our Redemption contribute to discomfort in the workplace. read more...
Thursday, February 21, 2013

Last week’s blog on building community raised a question for a reader. Beyond practicing good manners, she wanted to know, what should go into seeking to build community and shalom into the workplace. In his book, Joy at Work, Dennis Bakke has identified one important community-building element. Bakke co-founded and served as the CEO of Applied Energy Services, a Fortune 200 global power company.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013
In John 17 Jesus prayed for a oneness among his followers that unbelievers can observe. If that oneness is invisible to them, how will they come to know and believe the Father sent Jesus? A weekend gathering of Christians may and should enjoy great unity. But comparatively few outsiders will witness it. read more...
Thursday, March 07, 2013

In our virtual-community age of Facebook and tweets, where do nearly half of us in America get most of our literal face-to-face time? On the job. There, we still read smiles and frowns, hear tones of voice, interpret gestures, and can actually touch each other. As those who recognize our God-assigned role of building community, we believers dare not overlook the opportunities right in our workplaces.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Evangelism in the workplace. Some think it’s the only significant reason believers are there. No, say others, it’s out of place on the job. Is it all? Or is it nothing? Maybe it would help those taking either position to relate evangelism to the community-building called for in our original job description.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

In my early teens Dad delegated to me the care of a half-acre of his 31-acre farm. The land was still his, but on "my” plot I did the work of plowing, discing, harrowing, planting, irrigating, weeding, harvesting, and marketing. The crop: Marblehead squash. Why did I feel so honored? Because Dad had entrusted something of his own into my care. I experienced the dignity of manhood as I managed what belonged to my father. That introduced me to stewardship.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013
Your work, stewardship, and the economy. What do they have in common? We talk a lot about the economy these days. But few know that our words economy and economics come from the New Testament Greek word for stewardship. For example . . . read more...
Saturday, April 13, 2013

This series of blogs has drawn its theme from the only time in the history of the planet when God’s will was done perfectly on earth as in heaven. That, of course, was the Genesis two-chapter account of the pre-sin era. In those chapters, we see our earliest ancestors getting—and beginning to carry out—our work assignments from God.

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Midway through my undergraduate years in Wheaton College, I married Sharon Cole of Seattle. The day after our wedding in her hometown, we started the 2,000-mile drive to Illinois. For the next three years, we made our home there. Sharon worked in Chicago, while I completed my college degree. After graduation, I worked as an editor/writer for Scripture Press Publications. We returned to the State of Washington in 1964. Let me hasten to add at this point that Sharon has read and okayed what follows.

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Friday, May 31, 2013
What does a bit of dialog from a classic war movie say to Christ-followers in the work world? read more...
Monday, August 12, 2013
Two main considerations influenced my selecting the domain name for this website. First, it was available. Second, I wanted to widen the concept of calling. For the most part, "the only people who speak of being ‘called of God' are ‘full-time' missionaries and pastors,” according to Paul Stevens in The Other Six Days (p. 72). read more...
Monday, August 26, 2013

Although they spend the largest block of their waking hours working, far too many Christians. . .

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why has God sent you into your workplace? Could one of his reasons be that he wants to bless your coworkers and your surroundings? Has God put you there so that they may receive his benefits? Is that a bit of a stretch? Consider the case of a workplace in Bible times.

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Friday, November 14, 2014
Friday, November 14, 2014
In his book, The Other Six Days, Paul Stevens says: "almost the only people who speak of being ‘called of God’ are ‘full-time’ missionaries and pastors” (p. 72). Why do so few Christians see themselves as called? Has the word "calling” itself taken on connotations that cloud the truth? read more...
Monday, March 02, 2015
On hold in a doctor’s waiting room? Stuck at the airport in a snowstorm? Try googling on the words, "Why are we here on earth?” The variety of answers will fill hours. read more...
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

In a secularized work world, how can you turn what you do into sacred work? By doing it in ways that carry out your core callings.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Communing with God (see previous blog) is our first "core calling.” What, then, is the second, as also seen in Genesis 1 and 2?

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

In this series of blogs, we’re exploring that searching question: Why are we here? As seen in Genesis 1 and 2, our first two core callings are communing with God and creating community. Let’s see how those same pre-sin chapters also unfold our third core calling.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

A Christian woman who had served 24 years as the Grenada County (Mississippi) Circuit Clerk resigned last month after learning of the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. She said, "I cannot in all good conscience issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples under my name because the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is contrary to God's plan and purpose for marriage and family.”

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