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Posts Tagged ‘opportunity’

There was a time when I would have said that worship was something I did on Sunday mornings.  To worship, I thought, meant to “go to church;” to sing hymns, participate in the liturgy, and listen to the pastor’s sermon.  While it’s true that this is worship, it is only one kind of worship.

Romans 12:1 describes a worship that takes place every minute of every day.  God’s Word says to me, “. . . In view of God’s mercy . . . offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Worship means living my life in such a way that brings glory to God.  If I truly believe that God had great mercy on me, a poor and miserable sinner, and that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life because of my sins, then I have opportunity to live like a new person.  I have opportunity to respond to God’s great love in a way that pleases Him.  That shouldn’t just be on Sunday during congregational worship, but on every day of the week and in ever circumstance.  The choices I make, the work I do, the way I serve others, the attitude I have – all of these common, everyday thoughts and actions are either worship of God – or self.

It’s far too easy to worship self.  I do this every time I insist on my own way, or put my needs before others, or whine, or pout, or feel sorry for myself.  But, to worship God, my Creator and Redeemer, I must “become nothing” so the Holy Spirit who lives in me can alter my thinking, choices and behavior.  How does this work?

Jenna is in college… and pregnant.  The father of the baby wants to marry her.  They love each other, but the timing is all wrong; after all, she has plans for a career, travel, and the joys of marriage for a while without children.  Her dreams are shattered.  But, in view of God’s mercy, Jenna has the opportunity to sacrifice personal desires for the life of another.  Her choice to adjust plans in order to welcome a precious new life is her spiritual act of worship.

Max is a grandfather.  The patriarch of his family.  He is plagued with one physical challenge after another.  He had wanted to be the strong one for his wife and family; instead, he is the one who needs constant care and medical attention.  But, in view of God’s mercy, Max has the opportunity to adjust his attitude and his plans for “life after 80.” Rather than wasting time by complaining, Max chooses to sharpen his wit and laugh in the midst of adversity.  He encourages friends and family by turning their attention toward running the race marked out for them (Hebrews 12:1).  This is his spiritual act of worship.

Since childhood, Jake had wanted to be a physician.  Between the university and med school, he served his country in the military as a medic.  On a routine mission, something went terribly wrong and Jake’s life was forever changed.  He endured a series of operations intended to restore the use of his hands, but it was the Holy Spirit who performed the miracle.  In view of God’s mercy, Jake had opportunity to sacrifice personal goals and, instead, travel a different path.  He entered seminary, married, and became a father.  Several  years later, Jake and his family became missionaries.  His spiritual act of worship made a difference in the lives of countless men, women and children who might never have known Jesus Christ without Jake.

Our everyday lives are filled with opportunities to worship God  At work, we have the choice to give the best we can offer… or just get by.  In the neighborhood, we have the choice to engage ourselves in serving others… or remain unengaged and self-focused.  At a party, on a date, or at a sports event, we have the choice to please God… or please ourselves.  In view of His great mercy, we are encouraged to think, say, and do holy things… things that please God.

How do I know what is pleasing to God?  He tells me in His Word found in Romans 12:2.  “Don’t conform any longer to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

What does worship mean to me?  The Holy Spirit has been patient with me.  Slowly (and against my will) opening my eyes to see.  To hear.  I’m beginning to understand that I have opportunities to worship with every attitude.  Every choice.  My behavior toward others.  Even my tone of voice.

Do I worship well?  No, I’m still a poor, miserable sinner.  But, in view of God’s mercy, I am a forgiven sinner.  Because of what Jesus Christ did for me, each new day is an opportunity to start over.  To try again.  To live differently than the world around me.  I am not captive to my past mistakes.  Because of Jesus, I have the freedom to make choices that are pleasing to God, but also a blessing to my neighbor.

My prayer is that I will worship on Sunday with thanksgiving and praise for what God has done.  God wants to see our faces turned toward Him.  But, even more, He wants to give to us.  I come to church on Sunday empty.  Used up.  Ready to be filled.  I don’t give to God on Sunday.  He gives to me.  He fills me with His Word and Sacrament.  Walking out the church door, and for the rest of the week, I have opportunity to live in response to His great mercy.

Each word, work, or service can be my worship — to His glory.

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How did we forget the meaning of vocation?

Gene Edward Veith, Jr. has done well to remind me.  I’m grateful.  He doesn’t know it, but he’s helped me to weave the teaching of vocation into Titus 2 for Life (www.titus2-4life.org ).   Gene Veith and I met when I was serving as President of Lutherans For Life.  We have mutual friends.   These days, I see his writings in many publications.  Good thing.  Through his many vocations, he is engaging the culture with the Biblical worldview.

His book, God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life (Crossway Books) and his recent article, “Arenas of Service” (WORLD,8-28-10) have been very helpful to me.  Somewhere in my instruction between home, catechism, and Bible classes, I’ve heard God’s call to live out my faith in whatever I do.  Of what good is my faith if it’s private or left in the pew?   Non-Christians often seem very committed to living out their particular belief.   But, many Christians act as if they’ve either forgotten or never been told what vocation really is.

After the Reformation, Christians held to three key teachings: the authority of Scripture, justification by faith in Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of vocation.  “Modern” and “progressive” thinkers work hard to ignore the first two.  As for the doctrine of vocation, well, it “faded from the church’s memory,” says Veith.

Vocation, as Veith explains, is like justification: It is God’s work.  Vocation is how God works through us.  God uses us to care for and govern His creation.  He uses our gifts and talents to make a difference.  We are called by God into vocations.

Vocation is more than a “job.”  Every Christian has multiple vocations.  Martin Luther, notes Veith, sorted them into four “estates,” or spheres of life that God established: the church, the household, the state, and what he called “the common order of Christian love.”

God calls His people to vocations in the church.  Pastors are called into the ministry.  God works through them to teach His Word, preside at His sacraments, and give spiritual care.  Laypeople are called, too.  They serve in human care, as elders or trustees, singing in the choir, teaching children, and caring for one another.

God calls His people to vocations in the family.  Marriage is a vocation.  Fatherhood and motherhood are vocations.  In fact, as Veith points out, being a brother or sister, a grandfather or grandmother, or nephew or niece are all vocations.

God calls His people to vocations in the state.   As citizens, we have responsibilities to our government and to our culture.  Some of us are called to serve in positions of government.  The United States is unique.  U.S. citizens, writes Veith, “have the unusual calling of being both subjects and rulers at the same time, since our democratic republic places the governing authorities themselves under the authority of the people who elect them.”  The Christian is to involve himself  in civic roles and cultural engagement.

The fourth vocation is “the common order of Christian love.”  God calls us to serve Him and others through our ordinary, everyday life and relationships with our neighbors.  Some may believe we serve God only by doing “church work,” but this isn’t what Luther and the other reformers taught.  We are not to withdraw from the world, but be engaged in it.  God transforms the culture through Christian men and women who use His Word in all areas of life.

We go to Divine Service on Sunday to find the forgiveness of Christ, feed on God’s Word, receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and grow in our faith.  Then, we go back out into the world — our families, neighborhoods, jobs, classrooms, voting booth, volunteer activities — to serve God by serving others.

Galatians 5:6 and 1 Timothy 1:5 remind us that the purpose of every vocation is to love and serve our neighbors.

Faith bears fruit in love.

“God doesn’t need our good works,” Veith quotes Luther, “but our neighbor does.”  Our relationship with God is based completely on His work for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  But just as God is hidden in vocation, Christ is hidden in our neighbors.

As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.

Matthew 25:40 reminds us that we love and serve God by loving and serving the people He puts into our lives — friends or strangers, easy to love or not, in good times or bad.

In some vocations we exercise authority.  But, think of how Jesus exercised His authority… He was a servant.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

This Word of God found in Mark 10:42-45 makes me ashamed because, too often, it’s all about me.  In my selfishness, I sin against my vocation.

Faithful to God’s pro-life Word, Veith writes, “Vocation clarifies moral issues.  Mothers are called to love and serve their children, not abort them or abuse them.  Doctors are called to heal their patients, not kill them.  Leaders are called to love and serve those under their authority, not exploit and tyrannize them.”

Here’s something else.  “Some actions are sinful when done outside of vocation but good works when done within vocation.  We have no calling from God that would authorize having sex with someone to whom we are not married.  But within the vocation of marriage, sex is not only authorized, it becomes the means by which God creates a one-flesh union, engenders new life, and builds a family.”

Veith explains that “vocation has to do with the priesthood of all believers.  A priest is someone who performs a sacrifice.  We no longer need sacrifices for our sins, since Christ, our great High Priest, offered Himself as our sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 9:26).  But, in light of that sacrifice, God calls us  (Romans 12:1)

. . . to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

We are not called to lord it over others nor are we called to obsess on self-fulfillment.  Vocation focuses away from self to others.

Fathers are living sacrifices for their families when they faithfully protect and provide even in weariness and frustration.  Mothers are living sacrifices for their families when they put their own feelings aside to encourage husbands and nurture children.  Workers on the job are living sacrifices when they do their best to serve both employer and customers.

Veith explains that “Christ, who is in vocation and in the neighbor, takes up all of these sacrifices, small or great, into His sacrifice.  And He loves and serves His creation by means of our love and service in our vocations.”

A Biblical understanding of vocation means that nothing we do to God’s glory is ordinary or insignificant.  Luther said that changing a child’s diaper is holy work.  In that vein, so is preparing a meal, changing a tire, looking after an unmarried aunt, being a good listener, doing homework, donating blood, sitting by the bedside of a dying spouse, being informed about candidates before election day, praying, training in purity, paying fair salary, and performing honest labor.  The list goes on… and on.

Our vocations are many.  God works through our vocations to serve others.  Trusting this, says Veith, changes the quality of what we do.  He’s right.  It changes the words we choose, the music we sing, the business we transact, the clothing we wear… even the table we set.

Thank you, Gene Edward Veith, for helping me review my vocations.  May God help me see every word and deed as opportunities to serve not self, but others.

Now, for the rest of you, move on over and sit a spell with The Blog of Veith www.geneveith.com

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