Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Doctrine of Vocation: A Strong Argument Against Pacifism

I have come to give you life

And to show you how to live it

I have come to make things right

To heal their ears and show you how to forgive them

Because I would rather die

I would rather die

I would rather die

Than to take your life

How can I kill the ones I'm supposed to love

My enemies are men like me

I will protest the sword if it's not wielded well

My enemies are men like me

Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
It's like telling someone murder is wrong

And then showing them by way of execution

When justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war

The ones who always pay are the poorest of the poor

-Derek Webb

Is Derek Webb a pacifist? Probably. Does that bother me? Maybe. Could I explain why? Not really. Until now.

Whenever I heard this song, a process of thought would begin to churn the cream of confusion. Is war really justifiable in light of Christs' teaching? Do we excuse the soldier by way of semantics, calling it killing rather than murder?
What about capital punishment? Is the judge that sentences the murderer to death pardoned for his actions? What about the guy that "pulls the lever" or "pushes the button"? What about the jury of the accused? Is retributive justice condonable in an "Age of Grace and Forgiveness"?

One of C.S. Lewis's arguments for Christianity was its coherence, or it's ability to make all things fit together. He said, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." The doctrine of vocation is one color in the full spectrum of light that allows us to see clearly.

What if I was to decide that people who exceed the speed limit in the parking lot of our apartment complex are deserving of capital punishment, and then proceeded to execute each one with a single shot to the head through their windshield? It would be unethical, illegal, unbiblical, and sin. I am not called to legislate. I am not called to enforce the law or to prosecute those who fail to abide by it. I am most certainly not called to put them to death. But that doesn't mean that it would be wrong for everyone else as well. Those who have been nominated into legislature (ex. Congress) have been given the authority (although nominated by the people, the authority is derived from God Rom. 13) create a law that dictates the speed limit. Those who have the proper education, physical ability, moral fitness, can pass the civil service exam, and then survive Police Academy, may then go on to become Police Officers. They have the authority to see to it that the speed limit is enforced and may even exercise limited prosecutive authority. And so on, through the Prosecutor, Judge, and although my example is a bit exagerrated, even the executioner that injects the lethal dose of Potassium Chloride has been given authority, by God, do carry out their respective duties.

That's not to say that these people cannot sin against their profession. In the example of the executioner, he/she does not have the authority to execute at will. Just sticking a lethal dose of Potassium Chloride into his enemy's neck just because, is not what he was commissioned to do. Likewise, a soldier who has been commissioned by his country to carry out acts of war has not been given the authority to rape women. But as long as that soldier is acting within the commission he was given by his authority, he is within God's will, with the exception being a commission to deny Christ.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Doctrine of Vocation

As I continue to search for oases in this dry sojourn, I have certainly found a source of refreshment in a book titled, "God at Work, Your Christian Vocation in all of Life" by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.

It may not seem likely that in a season of darkness a book about vocation would bring much to bear on discouragement or disillusionment. It seems that grace lurks where you least expect it. Which shouldn't suprise me, knowing that it is grace that seeks me, not vice versa.

Anyhow, the book has been interesting, enlightening, as well as encouraging. This post is to primarily to point you to Mr. Veith and say that it is well worth the $10 you will spend on it at Check it out here.

Obviously, the doctrine of vocation is simple enough to grasp. However, like so many other aspects of the Christian life, just grasping the concept isn't the goal. Jesus didn't come to teach theological concepts about spiritual life that we are to embrace in some rational, stoic fashion (even though that is what I have primarily done as has my wife). He taught us who He is in spite of who we are. You can understand that in a rational sense, or you can be embraced by that truth and caught up in rapture realizing what that means for your life. It will affect the way you brush your teeth, drive to work, respond to pain, treat your children, spouse, neighbors, and friends. It will truly change your life when the Spirit leads the information out into your living.

The same applies for any particular doctrine, but especially the doctrine of vocation because this is where we live. Martin Luther understood this well, and wrote about it. In his book he writes, speaking about the lowly servant girl, and what would happen if she were to apprehend the doctrine of vocation, she, "would dance for joy and praise and thank God...with her careful work, for which she receives sustenance and wages, she would obtain a treasure such as those who are regarded as the greatest saints do not have." "How could you be more blessed or lead a holier life?" "In God's sight it is actually faith that makes a person holy; it alone serves God, while our works serve people. Here you have every blessing, protection, and shelter under the Lord, and, what is more, a joyful conscience and a gracious God."

Luther also wrote to the servant girls, "If you do your household chores, that is better than the holiness and austere life of all the monks."

In closing, if you or anyone you know is struggling with the humdrum life of an unimportant, meaningless job, get and absorb this book and this doctrine!


Lesson #1 - Puffed Up with Knowledge

"Thinking you understand the gospel but applying it only to salvation is like barely releasing your sail and slogging through the waves." -Dee Brestin-

For the past seven years of my walk with the Lord, I had been warned against being "puffed up with knowledge". Well, it happened anyway. Don't get me wrong...there is a place for knowledge, but it is useless without applying it. I know...we're all guilty of that to some degree, but that still doesn't make it right and good.

For quite some time now, I have longed to understand what it means to "apply the Gospel" to your life. I had read and listened to teaching. I understand that we can take all of life and see the Gospel in it all, but for some reason I just couldn't get my arms wrapped around what that looked like aside from "knowing" it. I can give you the Gospel. I can give you biblical counsel. I can tell you lots of spiritually wise things, but there was something lacking. Until we moved here, I couldn't tell you what that was. But now, with the Lord's help, I see what I is/was the "affection" for Christ...the ability to "know" Christ as a real person. I haven't known Christ as my personal Friend. There hasn't been much of anything "personal" in my view of my relationship with the Lord. A good way to put it...knowledge disconnected from my heart.

By His grace, things are changing. My affection for Him is growing as I have had to depend on Him alone through the various trials and hang-ups I've faced since moving. What has had the most impact is seeing and experiencing His intimate and specific care for me through each difficulty. He has made Himself known to me by specifically confirming things I've read through hearing them again the next week at church or/and confirming the things I've heard that week in church through my readings the next week. Travis and I have had conversations before church and in service the pastor would speak specifically about whatever it was we were talking about. It has been amazing.

Now, has God always been caring for me intimately and specifically? Absolutely! But did I have the eyes and heart to see it? NO! I believe the Lord took me to the place where I could no longer carry myself with my knowledge and wisdom, my position in leadership, my reputation, my personality, my strengths, or my relationships. But He's picked me up and carried me to a place where none of that matters...where He is all I have to rely on to carry me because I can't do it anymore. And quite frankly, I don't want to. My will is broken. In His arms...that's where I am.Here is a scripture that the Lord moved in someone during service on May 10th to share with the rest of the was for me...Him specifically caring for me.

Isaiah 43: 1-4
But now, thus says the Lord,
your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
"For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I have given Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your place.
"Since you are precious in My sight,
Since you are honored and I love you,
I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life.

If you read on to verse 5 it says "Do not fear, for I am with you;". Again, I believe He meant it for me.

You know what's changed? God hasn't...but He changed me. I expect to hear from Him when I go to church, when I read His Word, and when I fellowship with His people. I expect Him to answer prayers. I expect Him to encourage me. I expect to see Him in all things. I expect Him to care for me intimately and specifically.

I have to say, I've been tempted to dwell on the question and thoughts of...why did it take almost eight years to understand these things...look at the time wasted....I could have been enjoying the affection for Christ all these years instead I had been getting "puffed up with knowledge". Instead, I reject those thoughts and remind myself of His sovereignty...His goodness...His faithfulness....His infinite knowledge and wisdom....His Word that says "God causes ALL things to work together for good to those who love God , to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8: 28). As my pastor said in one of his sermons "delay never thwarts His purposes, it only polishes His work". Once again we see that His ways are not ours.

The cool thing is, even with all the knowledge and wisdom I have, I couldn't have taught myself any of this. HE alone receives ALL the glory...He will share it with no one.