Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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A Prayer for the New Retiree

Heavenly Father, I thank you for a good night of sleep so that I can live this new day that you have created with energy, joy and enthusiasm. As the Psalmist wrote:

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Thank you for blessing me with a wonderful career at a good organization. I loved my job and the many people over the years that I was blessed to work with. I am convinced that I was doing the work that you had intended for me. Continue reading

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I’m Retired….Now What?


I was never one who counted down the years to retirement. Until the day I left the organization I worked at for nearly 38 years I loved my job and the people I worked with. So, how should Christians think about living for God in retirement? Is it all about taking it easy, sleeping in, traveling and playing golf? Or perhaps taking a part-time job and doing some volunteer work?
John Piper has been helpful in shaping my thoughts on retirement. He writes that the Bible doesn’t explicitly talk about retirement. We don’t, for example, read about Moses or the Apostle Paul retiring at age 65. Piper writes: “Finishing life to the glory of Christ means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement.” He charges us to: “Live dangerously for the one who loved you and died for you in his thirties.” I know this may be unpopular with some, and some may object to this concept, feeling that they deserve to take it easy after working in jobs for perhaps fifty years. But I believe that type of thinking may be culturally based and ultimately unbiblical. Continue reading


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4 Recommended Books on Calling

During a message I gave last year on living on mission for God, some in attendance indicated that they were not familiar with the subject of calling. That doesn’t surprise me. We don’t often hear terms such as calling and vocation used today. If we were to admit it, many of those we work with, and perhaps some of us, view work as a necessary evil. Most don’t look at their work as a vocation, a calling, or even a career. No, it’s just a job. They embrace Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” philosophy, celebrate reaching “Hump Day”, ask “Is it Friday yet?” and get the “Sunday Night Blues” as they think about going to work on Monday morning.

The dictionary has two definitions of calling that are relevant here:

  • A strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.
  • The vocation or profession in which one customarily engages.

In The Call, the most helpful book I’ve read on our calling as believers, author Os Guinness tells us that our calling is deeper than our jobs, our career, and all of our benchmarks of success.  We should not let our jobs define us and give us our identities. However, we spend so much of our waking time doing our work, this can certainly happen. Think of when you meet someone. You ask them what they “do”. We can become what we do. Guinness tells us that calling reverses such thinking, and a sense of calling should precede a choice of job and career. The main way to discover our calling is along the line of what we are each created and gifted to be. So, instead of thinking that you are what you do, calling says to do what you are. Continue reading


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Living on Mission for God

This summer I spoke on the topic of “Living on Mission for God” at the “By the Way” Conference at the Lexington Community Church in central Illinois. It was a great time at the church, as my wife Tammy and I got to meet many wonderful people and visit with their pastors. I wanted to share a brief summary of the message I delivered at the conference.
The theme of the conference was being mission minded in our everyday lives. I looked at how we – whether we work in a large organization, a small non-profit, are a stay at home mom, a student, farmer or are retired – can live out the mission God intended for our lives. How can we live on mission for God?
Drawing on the scriptures and a number of excellent books I have read, I started with some foundational information, looking at God’s mission in creating the human race and redeeming us for His glory, the mission of the church (the “Great Commission”), and how we can be a part of God’s mission as individual believers.  I summarized this section by indicating: Continue reading


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Knowing God’s Will for Your Vocation


Do you consider your work as a job? Or do you consider it a calling or your vocation?  Dr. R. C. Sproul defines vocation as being a divine call, a holy summons to fulfill a task or a responsibility that God has laid on us.  I like to think of what I do Monday through Friday as a calling or vocation.
As Christians consider their vocations, one thing that we want to assure is that our vocations are in God’s will. But how do we know that? A question we might ask could be “How do I know that I am in God’s will for my vocation?” I was recently helped in this area by re-reading R.C. Sproul’s small book Can I Know God’s Will?  (Note: The e-book version of the book, and all of the books in his Crucial Questions series, are available free). It is a very practical thing for us to know what God wants for our lives.
Sproul writes that whatever else we are, we are creatures involved in labor. God Himself is a working God, and from the very moment of creation, He conferred on our original parents the responsibilities of work. He also reminds us that work was given before the fall, and that work was part of the glorious privilege granted to men and women in creation. Sproul tells us that it is impossible to understand our own humanity without understanding the central importance of work.
Ready for a bit of theology? One thing that Sproul points out that we might not be aware of is that there are different aspects of God’s will. He helpfully leads the reader through the different ways in which the will of God is addressed in the Bible. First, he addresses the decretive will of God. That is the will by which God decrees things to come to pass according to His supreme sovereignty.  God said, “Let there be light” and there was light, for example.
He then talks about the preceptive will of God. The precepts, statutes, and commandments that God delivers to His people make up the preceptive will. They express and reveal to us what is right and proper for us to do.  Sproul tells us that the decretive will of God cannot be broken or disobeyed. It will come to pass. On the other hand, there is a will that can be broken, the preceptive will of God. God’s preceptive will can be disobeyed, and indeed it is broken and disobeyed every day by each one of us.
Sproul writes that the top priority of Jesus is that we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. All other things will be added to that.  I would phrase it that if we seek to obey his preceptive will, the will of God as revealed in Scripture, then our field of vocation is wide open to us.
In discerning our vocational calling, he gives us four important questions to consider:

  • What can I do?
  • What do I like to do?
  • What would I like to be able to do?
  • What should I do?

Sproul writes that every Christian is gifted of the Lord to fulfill a divine vocation, and that along with the gift, God gives a desire or a motivation to make use of that gift. Any vocation that meets the need of God’s world can be considered a divine calling. A vocation is something that we receive from God. God usually calls us inwardly and by giving us certain gifts, talents, and aspirations, and His invisible sovereign will works in the background to prepare us for useful tasks in His vineyard.
Other thought-providing questions that will be helpful in discerning our vocational calling are:

  • What would I most like to do if I didn’t have to please anyone in my family or my circle of friends?
  • What would I like to be doing ten years from now?

Sproul concludes with:
“As Christians, we have been called to be spiritual salt in a decaying world, to be spiritual light in the midst of darkness. We are to be wise stewards of God’s gifts and talents. That means striving to be the most honest, patient, hardworking, and committed workers we can be. It means settling for nothing less than excellence. God help us to live up to His high call for each of us.”
So where does that leave us in seeking God’s will for our vocation? I would recommend praying about it and following the helpful questions above. You probably won’t need to worry about being out of God’s will if you choose to live in Illinois vs. Florida or Texas, for example. Also, reflect back on Sproul’s comment that any vocation that meets the need of God’s world can be considered a divine calling. And for our millennial readers, remember that you don’t have to perfectly fulfill your passion and happiness in your choice of work.  Instead remember Jesus’ words:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  (Matthew 6:33 ESV)
Enjoy this related message from Dr. Sproul’s series Knowing God’s Will, entitled “God’s Will and Your Vocation”.


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My Favorite Books on Faith and Work, Calling and Productivity

I have a passion for integrating my faith and my work and talking to others about how to do it. Over the past few years, I’ve read a number of helpful books in the faith and work, calling and productivity genres. Below are my favorites:

Five Books on Integrating Faith and Work

  • Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Tim Keller with Katherine Leary. Keller helps to illuminate the transformative and revolutionary connection between the Christian faith and the workplace. He encourages believers to think about their work through the lens of a Christian worldview. He structures the book around three questions: Why do we want to work? Why is it so hard to work? How can we overcome the difficulties and find satisfaction in our work through the gospel? This book introduced me to Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Center for Faith and Work, something I would like to model in my community.
  • Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson. Nelson looks at Os Guinness’ discussion of our primary and secondary callings in his excellent book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life and focuses on our secondary calling (to do a specific work) in this book. He looks at work through a biblical lens in the first section of the book and focuses on how God shapes our lives in and through our work in the second section.  The author, who is a pastor, includes helpful “Questions for Reflection and Discussion” and a “Prayer for Our Work” at the end of each chapter. He mentions that the Center for Faith and Work at Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church (mentioned above) has been a catalyst for his church to think more intentionally about equipping their congregation in vocational mission.
  • God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith. This book is an exposition of the doctrine of vocation and an attempt to apply that doctrine in a practical way to our life in the twenty-first century. He first looks at the nature of vocation: the purpose of vocation, how to find our vocation, how God calls us to different tasks and how He is present in what we do in our lives. Then he looks at specific vocations (as a worker, in the family, as a citizen, and in the church), and specific problems common to them all.
  • Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy L. Sherman. This is a book about vocational stewardship that is primarily written for pastors and ministry leaders, particularly those already committed to leading missional churches (those that seek to follow King Jesus on the mission of making all things new). It would be an excellent book for these leaders to recommend to those they lead to help them integrate their faith and work.
  • Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good by Steven Garber. The author invites the reader to “come and see” that the vision of vocation he writes about is being lived out by men and women who are committed to a faith that shapes a vocation that in turn shapes culture. He writes that there is not a more difficult task that human beings face than to know the world and still love it. A recurring question that he asks throughout the book is “Knowing what I know, what will I do?” This book is best read slowly as he weaves in stories to illustrate his points.

Two Books on Calling

  • The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness. The author writes that there is no deeper meaning than to discover and live out your calling. He states that there is no calling without a Caller, and if there is no Caller, there are no callings, only work. He states that it is never too late to discover your calling, which is deeper than our jobs, our career, and all of our benchmarks of success. He discusses our primary and secondary callings and the two distortions (Catholic and Protestant) that have crippled the truth of calling. An excellent abridged version of this book is available entitled Rising to the Call.
  • The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins. This book is an excellent introduction to the subject of calling. It’s easy to read, interesting and practical. The book is organized into three major sections – Preparation, Action and Completion. In those sections he covers seven overlapping stages of calling – Awareness, Apprenticeship, Practice, Discovery, Profession, Mastery and Legacy. In each stages he uses interesting stories to illustrate the stage. In the Appendix, he includes a summary of the seven stages, seven signs you’ve found your calling and seven exercises to complete. He also includes questions for discussion that will be helpful if you’re reading and discussing the book with others.

Two Books on Productivity

  • Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies. This new book is an extremely efficient, well-organized, easy to read and practical book. The author’s aim is to help the reader do more of what matters most and do it better. He writes that our productivity depends to a good degree on identifying and using the best tools (management, scheduling and information), for the job and then growing in your proficiency with them. He also discusses concepts such as a “Weekly Review” and includes helpful “Action Steps” at the end of each section.
  • What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. The author states that the book is about getting things done and making ideas happen with less friction and frustration from a biblical perspective. He helps the reader think about productivity as Christians. He aims to help us live the life that God has called us to live and live it with maximum effectiveness and meaning. He introduces us to the concept of Gospel Driven Productivity, which looks at not only what the Bible has to say about getting things done, but also learns from the best secular thinking. He uses the DARE Model – Define, Architect, Reduce, and Execute.

These are my favorite faith and work, calling and productivity books. Do you have others to add to the list?


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4 Reasons Why I See Leadership as a Calling

MaxwellIf you are pursuing a leadership position and someone would ask you why, would you have a good answer for them? Is it for the perceived power, money, prestige, title or status that comes with a formal leadership position? Or do you consider it a calling?

Now I guess I should first define what I mean by “calling”. Dictionary definitions of calling include:

  • A strong desire to spend your life doing a certain kind of work (such as religious work), and
  • The work that a person does or should be doing.

The Bible speaks of calling a number of times. For example, we are called to God in our salvation. A good passage to illustrate this meaning of calling is in the so-called “Golden Chain” of Romans 8:30:

And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Os Guinness has written in his excellent book The Call, that our primary calling as followers of Christ is by Him, to Him, and for Him (think of the above verse). Our secondary calling, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for Him. Our secondary callings can be our jobs or vocations. It is the latter meaning of calling that I am writing about here.

Now I never intended to be a leader. It wasn’t something that I pursued. I guess I would call myself a reluctant leader. As an introvert, who tended toward shyness and a lack of confidence, being a leader was certainly a stretch and to be honest, it still can be at times.

When working for a contract cleaning company while attending college, one of the managers reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to take on a little more responsibility. The new assignment would result in a few cents more per hour so I said yes. As time went on I would take on more and more responsibility. And just like that, I’ve now been in a leadership position at a Fortune 100 company for more than 35 years, an elder in my church for nearly 20 years, and have served on the leadership team for two professional organizations. Today, I can say that I see leadership as a calling.

I’m still an introvert and still learning daily how to be a better leader. As a life-long learner, I hope that continues for as long as I live. See my article about what I’ve learned from the leaders I’ve been blessed to work with here. John Maxwell often states that leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less. I continue to strive to be a leader that others will want to follow.

In my “Calling, Vocation and Work” class near the end of my time at Covenant Seminary, we were assigned to write a course paper on a vocation. I chose to write on leadership; in that paper I wrote:

Although leadership was not the direction that I thought I would go while in college (nor was I a believer at that time), it is the vocation that God has placed me in and equipped me for. The Scripture verse that I most associate with my work is Colossians 3:23: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. (ESV)

Why do I see leadership as my calling? Here are four reasons:

  1. Being a leader, particularly a servant leader, aligns well with my faith (see my article “4 Reasons Why I Aspire to be a Servant Leader”. I enjoy coming alongside people (team members, mentees, etc.) and doing whatever I can to help them solve problems, develop and succeed in their vocations. After all, I see Jesus as the greatest example of being a servant leader. An excellent book to read on this subject is Lead Like Jesus: Lessons from the Greatest Role Model of All Time by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges.
  2. As a leader, I help to drive results. Driving results helps my team or organization to succeed. There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from leading a team to a goal or achievement.
  3. As a leader, I help people to be successful. Ken Blanchard writes that he tries to help everyone “get an ‘A’. I like to help the members of my team rise to the level or position that they are capable of (and interested in). I also enjoy helping emerging leaders to get into a formal leadership position through mentoring relationships.
  4. As a leader, I help people to play to their strengths. I’ve seen the powerful difference a change in work assignments that better align to an individual’s strengths, can make. People are more energized, excited and passionate about their work when we can find them work that aligns to their strengths.

Those are just a few reasons why I feel that leadership is a calling for me. But we can also have multiple (secondary) callings. Jeff Goins in his book The Art of Work talks about having a portfolio of callings. If someone were to ask you what your calling is, what would you say?