The Ministry of Competence

Dorothy Sayers (Creed or Chaos?, p56-7):

The church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him to not be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours and to come to church on Sundays. What the church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.

The God of Manual Labor

One of the surprising things about Jesus is that He came to us as a manual laborer, an ordinary carpenter. The Greeks would have wanted a philosopher-king; the Romans would have preferred a brave and noble statesman. Interestingly, our Sovereign God came in the garb of an ordinary laborer from the backwaters of Galilee.

In ancient cultures, people had great disdain for ordinary work. They stigmatized manual labor like farming and caring of children as work fit only for servants. The Egyptians wouldn’t eat with ordinary Hebrew shepherds (Gen. 43:32). Pharao’s daughter found Moses in the river and her first mothering instinct was to hire a Hebrew servant to take care of the baby (Exodus 26:10). Continue reading The God of Manual Labor

That’s Why We Call It a Church “Service”

The Hebrew word AVODAH (work) in Genesis 2:15 is rendered as “service,” “work,” or “craftmanship” in many places in the Bible, yet at other times it is translated as “worship.” Avodah is the word used to describe the back-breaking hard work of the Hebrews making bricks as slaves in Egypt (used four times in Exodus 1:14).

Interestingly, the same word is used of the skilled workers who built the tabernacle (Exodus 35:24); the fine craftmanship of linen workers (1 Chronicles 4:21); and in the context where Solomon assigned priests for their temple ministry in 2 Chronicles 8:14.

The point is that whether they were making bricks, crafting fine linen, or leading people in corporate worship, the Old Testament teaches a seamless connection between work and worship.  Continue reading That’s Why We Call It a Church “Service”

How Is Flipping Burgers An Act of Worship?

Your work is your worship.

Really?

How is stacking boxes in the warehouse an act of worship? Is taking calls from irate customers an act of worship? Where’s the worship part in flipping burgers?

I know the idea sounds preposterous to our ears. The gap between work and worship in our personal experience is too wide. No matter how much we are told that work is worship, we just don’t feel their connection. Yes it is true that one of the Hebrew root words for work is the same for worship. Yes it is true that God is a working God, and that makes my work more of a privilege than a duty. I can comprehend the idea in my head. But what good is all that when I have to drag myself to the office every single day? How does this help me deal with the dull ordinariness of my job?

In our victory group yesterday, the guys and I talked about these questions. I mentioned that God could have easily made chairs and tables and cabinets to be picked like fruits from trees. Why did He have to leave it up to us to cut down a tree, do some wood work, and create chairs, tables, and cabinets? Why did He heave to “rely” on our creativity to make furniture? Or God could have easily made lechon grow in gardens. Why would He burden us with processing this food using a combination of tough manual labor and ingredients?

The answer is that by giving us work, God gave us room to participate in His creativity. Like a mother allowing a child to help wash the dishes when she could very well do a fine (and better) job at it, God invites us to build and create something out of the raw materials He made. He gave us trees so we could make chairs, and maybe ships, and skyscrapers, and art, and bonsai, and a thousand other useful things. Work delights us because our creativity testifies to the fact that we are indeed created in His image in a “like Father, like children” manner. Step back a little and let that sink in.

The fall of man, however, impaired our high vision of work. We are supposed to look at work as a happy privilege and a delightful gift. Instead, our fallen natures blurred it and made us see work as a monotonous burden. The first time we report to a new job, we see clearly how delightful it is to find work we like. This delight takes an ugly turn once the initial excitement wears off and work becomes a daily routine. We don’t see the privilege anymore. What we see is the monotonous flipping of burgers, filing of reports, and tabulation of data. Instead of the joyful privilege of participating in the delightful work of God, we only notice the soul-crashing deadlines and the boss’ impossible demands. Because of this, we default to mindless routine until we burn out and ask God for a change of job, industry, calling, or vocation.

I believe the problem is not the job or the line of work. The problem is the blurring of the vision. The problem is us losing sight of the wondrous privilege of building something out of the raw materials God gave us. Copper workers usually don’t see this. They work on this seemingly boring mineral in the morning and check out of work in the afternoon. Nothing eventful happens outside of the repetitive jokes and endless factory stories. If they only knew that their jobs make iPhones possible, they could have taken pride each time they see an iPhone commercial on TV or in print. These talented copper workers don’t need a change of jobs; they need to peel their eyes and see that their jobs actually help turn the wheels of the world forward.

I believe the same thing is true for Christians. Many of us probably don’t need a new job. What we need is a high view of work redeemed by the gospel of Christ. We need to see our work stations with fresh eyes. We are not just doing 8am-5pm duties: we are building, creating, and shaping something just like our Father does. The moment we realize this is the moment our work becomes our calling.

It’s Okay to Cringe at our Preaching Series on Sex

Did you cringe at yesterday’s preaching on sex? I did. And we all should. Here are three reasons why it is okay to cringe at this preaching series:

1. It’s cage fight between the gospel and today’s culture of sensuality. The preaching yesterday made many people squirm on the inside because while we believe the gospel in our hearts, our bodies have a secret liking to the world’s culture of sensuality. I know it was not an easy topic to preach about. I understand Pastor Kix’s struggle to speak truthful words without offending our cultural sensibilities. Some words sounded a bit sleazy to my ears but I think more than the issue of word choices, the preaching was very unsettling because it brought to light the part of our lives that we would rather not surrender to the scrutiny of God’s Word. When the Bible exposes things that we secretly love to keep, it triggers our natural instinct to grab a cover and pretend we are fine. Continue reading It’s Okay to Cringe at our Preaching Series on Sex

That Awkward Moment When the Church Talks About Sex

It’s here. The topic that I (half) hoped would never appear in the preaching calendar of Victory is finally here. Sex. What does the Bible say about sex? Should the church talk about it? Do you have to be pure (for at least four weeks) to be qualified to talk about it in your discipleship group? Do you need to be married to preach it? How do you talk about it with a straight face in your victory group? Do you worry that if you admit your struggles, your spiritual leadership would be ruined? And what do you do when someone in your group sounds obviously proud (and unrepentant) of his experience? Continue reading That Awkward Moment When the Church Talks About Sex