Those Were the Days

Student Ministries Pastor Jon Kelly shares a message titled “Those Were the Days”, from Ecclesiastes 11:8-10.

Ecclesiastes 11:8-10 (NLT)

When people live to be very old, let them rejoice in every day of life. But let them also remember there will be many dark days. Everything still to come is meaningless.

Young man, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do.

So banish grief and pain, but remember that youth, with a whole life before you, still faces the threat of meaninglessness.

Youth is wasted on the young, but life is wasted on the sinful.

A well-lived life…

  • is enjoyed.
  • recognizes the dark days.
  • realizes an account must be given.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What was the best memory you had of 2013?
  • Tell one thing you REALLY hope happens in 2014.
  • What was a difficult time you had last year?
  • Name one thing you can do to honor God this year.

The Courageous Heart

Pastor Jay continues his “Guard Your Heart” series this week, with a sermon titled “The Courageous Heart”, from 2 Chronicles 17:1-6.

2 Chronicles 17:1-6 (ESV)

Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place and strengthened himself against Israel. He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim that Asa his father had captured. The LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel. Therefore the LORD established the kingdom in his hand. And all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD. And furthermore, he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah.

Seek a courageous heart.

  • The courageous heart stands up against false gods.
  • The courageous heart can stand against the enemy.
  • The courageous heart waits on the Lord.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • How would you explain courage?
  • Does having courage mean not being scared?
  • Have you ever stood up for something you believed was right?
  • How does God give us courage?

The Godly Vocation

by Jay Beuoy

Introduction:

I remember it like it was yesterday. We sat together listening with rapt attention. The speaker at our college campus ministry was dynamic, funny and challenging. The upshot of his message was simple. Coming out of college with any degree from any university, we were already equipped to serve the Lord on the mission field. “You already know more from growing up in Sunday school here in the U.S. than most of the peoples of the world will ever know about the Gospel.” 

Though he probably qualified his words at some point, all we really heard was, “God is calling all of you to leave your comfort and your homes and serve Christ overseas —if you’re committed enough.” Additionally, probably without stating it clearly, he was saying that there are good Christians who serve in spiritual vocations, and then there are the losers who cannot or will not accept the challenge. They serve themselves by going into secular employment, making money, buying homes and raising families in the ease and comfort of the good ole USA. 

My wife and I went overseas after college and served the Lord in a Christian ministry for four years, and I don’t regret a minute of it. I also went on to seminary and have been in the pastorate ever since. But my contentment with that outcome does not make the original overzealous message correct. The church has long struggled to hold a balanced view of vocation.

The History:

Before the protestant reformation, the Catholic Church taught that the only vocations from God were for those going into a spiritual order. The rest of Christendom, the laity, was simply in the world and less spiritual for it. 

One of the hallmarks of the reformation was a doctrine known as the “priesthood of all believers.” All who are within the new covenant of the Gospel are holy and set apart. Their professions are not “secular” in some sense of being cut off or bracketed out from their life in God. Their whole life is a priesthood to God. (ESV 1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6). This movement gave birth to what has been dubbed “the protestant work ethic.”

Unfortunately, pietism and many streams of evangelical theology seemed to move away from that original reformation understanding. Over time, we have erected a similar distinction as Medieval Catholicism. We might not express this in the pages of an evangelical theology textbook, but we make distinctions between vocation to ministry and vocation to secular employment. You never hear of anyone saying, “I’ve prayed about it and really feel God is calling me to be a plumber.” 

The Scripture: 

What does the Bible teach about the employment of our time at work, home and in society overall? Are some vocations holy? Are some secular? Is one of God and the other of the world? 

Within God’s sovereign design of the world, He has chosen to give us useful and important pursuits. From the moment of man’s creation, God gave men tasks. Were those tasks in the garden secular or sacred? When God put man there to tend his creation, it was holy because it was God’s will and order of nature. When God brought animals to Adam to be named, this business, too, was holy because God gave it to Him.

The fall of man into sin did change and complicate the arrangement, but it did not take away the mandate to fill and subdue the earth. Only now man was told that his work would be made more difficult: “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (ESV, Genesis 3:18-19).

Later, the writer of Ecclesiastes surveys this arrangement from a wistfully philosophical standpoint: “What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (ESV, Ecclesiastes 3:9). Even after the fall, God, in common grace to man, has given him both labor and the fruit thereof. So Jesus could say of God’s goodness respecting our labor, “…For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (ESV, Matthew 5:45). Within God’s structure of His universe, he has seen fit to give men talents and gifts for labor.

In other words, God has ordained that man work and that he take enjoyment and meaning from it. That work is not something apart from his pursuit of God. Rather, it is inextricable from his relationship to his Maker. 

Surely, though, someone might say that having a call to gospel ministry, its preaching or advancement is a higher or better calling. Paul certainly recognized the privilege of preaching Christ. He could speak of it as a special grace. “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.” (ESV, Ephesians 3:7).

But being employed in the full time ministry did not cause Paul to diminish the gifts of others. Paul taught that to each person a gift had been given and that one was not more important than the next. He applied these principles to gifts within the body for the service of the church.

At the same time, Paul affirmed all manner of labor. To the Thessalonians he wrote, “and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (ESV, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

There are no holy and non-holy vocations for believers, no radical distinction between sacred and profane. All have gifts. All are called to some labor whether in work related to the church and the gospel or in labor of other kinds. The controlling principle for all our endeavors always comes back to this, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (ESV, Colossians 3:17)And, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (ESV, 1 Corinthians 10:31).

Even the slave, whose labor was constrained, could know that his labor was seen and accepted by God, “rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.” (ESV, Ephesians 6:7-8)Amazingly, the worst kind of work ever devised was still a work that could honor God, if offered with a sincere heart.

Conclusion:

There is a call to full-time service in gospel ministry, and we celebrate that call in those who sense it and show the requisite character and giftedness. Those called to it are aware of the grace of that call. However, God calls us all to work (whether for pay or not), and He counts that work as done unto Him when done for His glory. 

Of course we should all be radically engaged in supporting missions and evangelism. We ought to all be ready to explain the gospel when we have opportunity. But, there is nothing wrong with loving God, living a humble life, working with our hands or in another profession, taking care of our families and serving the Lord in our local church. We should each pursue our vocation, one of an almost endless number of possibilities. We might even hear someone say, “I really sense that God has called me to be a plumber.”

The Trusting Heart

Pastor Jay continues his “Guard Your Heart” series this week, with a sermon titled “The Trusting Heart”, based on Psalm 28:7.

Psalm 28:7 (ESV)

The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.

The trusting heart takes hold of the Lord.

  • By faith the heart takes hold of the Lord for help.
  • By faith the heart takes hold of the Lord for guidance.
  • By faith the heart takes hold of the Lord for salvation.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • When you have problems at school, where do you go for help? What about at home?
  • How do you know when to trust someone?
  • Where do you go for spiritual questions?
  • What answers to questions have you found in the Bible?

A Glad Heart

Pastor Jay continues his “Guard Your Heart” series this week, with a sermon titled “A Glad Heart”, based on Psalm 4:7.

Psalm 4:7 (ESV)

You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

We ought to pursue a genuinely glad heart.

  • A genuinely glad heart reaches beyond what is common.
  • A genuinely glad heart finds joy in God’s goodness and provision.
  • A genuinely glad heart finds joy in God’s word.
  • A genuinely glad heart finds joy in God’s salvation.
  • A genuinely glad heart finds joy in God Himself.

Parent Connection Questions:

  • What is something that makes you really happy?
  • What is one thing that made your heart happy this past week?
  • Can you be happy during a sad moment?
  • How can God make our hearts happy?