Sharing Lessons Learned in Marketing my Self-Published Book

(Note: I originally wrote this article for my publisher’s blog in mid-March.  However, I am not sure they are still maintaining it, so I will post it here.)

My book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession, was published by WestBow Press a little over one year ago.  Although it not a best-seller yet, I think it is well on the way to being a success.  I am seeing the impact of this book on the Kingdom of God, which is why I wrote it.  My unique approach to the theology of work is changing lives one person at a time only because it is solidly based on biblical principles.  Jesus said that His truth sets people free (John 8:32).

While speaking with a WestBow marketing professional a couple of months ago, I was greatly encouraged when she remarked that I was ahead of the pack.  She was surprised at the variety of creative approaches I had taken to put my book out there (which is what self-published authors must do).  She challenged me to consider some additional options in the near future such as advertising, podcasts, and developing a website.  I thought it might be helpful to other authors if I shared some of the things I have been able to do over the past year.

Giving books to strategic leaders

Before my book was even published, I had decided to target key individuals.  Once it came out, I mailed copies to a few leaders of faith at work organizations, two of which had published articles I had written on their blogs.  I also sent it to a several pastors and seminary, Christian college and university professors.  Last October, I attended the 2018 Faith@Work Summit in Chicago where I had the chance to follow up with some people I had sent my book to in the spring.  Additionally, I was able to put my book in the hands of other faith at work organization leaders.  I also gave copies to a three authors I had quoted in my book.  I was ecstatic to put a copy of my book into the hands of the co-author of the book Your Work Matters to God, which changed my life 30 years ago.

Soliciting book reviews

A couple of years ago, Bill Pence, who maintains the Coram Deo blog, had begun posting links to several articles I had written that were published on the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics blog.  I noticed that he also did book reviews.  Last spring I sent him an email, asking him if he would consider reviewing my book which had just been published.  He said he would, so I sent him a copy.  Last July, he posted an amazing five-star book review on his blog and also on my book listing on the Christian Book Distributors and Barnes and Noble websites.  A few months later, through a contact I made at the 2016 Faith@Work Summit, I was referred to Chris Robertson who was on staff with Made to Flourish and does occasional book reviews for The Green Room blog.  I met with him over lunch in Chicago in October, and gave me a very thorough interview.  Shortly afterwards, he posted a very generous and detailed review.

Using social media and blogs

This is the easiest and cheapest way to put your book out there. I mention my book quite often on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  I posted a book giveaway at Christmas.  When my book was nominated for the 2019 Christian Indie Awards, I asked friends to vote.  I posted pictures of my book in various bookstores on Instagram.  Over the last year I wrote seventeen articles for my blog; eight of them were posted on four faith at work organizations’ blogs.  I shared these links on all my accounts.  I also post relevant articles and memes on my Immanuel Labor Facebook page.

By the grace of God, my book was published.  By His grace, I have been able to get it in the hands of people who find it to be inspiring and who are sharing its positive message with others.  I believe that over time it will continue to reach more people.

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What do Christian High School and College Graduates Need to Hear?

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This time of year, I remember the numerous graduations I have attended for each of my children and their spouses.  It has been nearly ten years since my youngest graduated from high school and five years since he graduated from college.  Four years ago, I received my master’s degree.  These milestones are worth celebrating.  They are also opportunities to share some biblical truths that may guide these young men and women as they venture out into the real world.

One of the main reasons I wrote Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Professions: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work was to give Christians who are about to graduate some practical tools to help them to integrate their faith at work.  Let me share some excerpts from my book and two others.

Seek God first

Here is an insight from chapter 9 of my book, entitled Seeking God in our Vocation.

Jesus told His disciples “Seek first his kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31). . . How does He normally meet those needs?  God usually meets our needs indirectly through our jobs, which provide money to buy food and clothing for us and our families.  I see a very clear connection between seeking God first and finding the right job.

In addition, I wrote, “finding a career or job is going to be a spiritual journey for the Christian.  Your faith will grow in the process.  You must spend some time in the Bible, pray for wisdom, and trust God to lead you.  He promises that He will. (See Psalms 25:12; 32:8; 73:23–24; Proverbs 16:3, 9.)”

(Note: For more on this topic, see the article I wrote two years ago which was published in the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics blog.)

 Examine God’s design

Once we determine to seek God first, when choosing a major in college or narrowing down which jobs to pursue when we graduate, we do need to do some self-assessments.  This involves examining how God has designed you.  He made you for a purpose!

From Immanuel Labor, “Ask yourself these questions: What has God specifically designed you to do based on your interests, accomplishments, skills, and experiences?  What are you most concerned and passionate about?  What have others noticed in you regarding your gifts?  (See Proverbs 15:22.)

Hardy, in Fabric of this World writes, “We ought to take seriously the doctrine of divine providence: God himself gives us whatever legitimate abilities, concerns, and interests we in fact possess.  These are his gifts, and for that very reason they can serve as indicators of his will for our lives.”

Listen to your heart

A key step in this process is to listen to our hearts.  I do believe that is not always in our best interests to merely follow our hearts, without using the wisdom that God provides.  However, we should listen to our hearts; God gives us godly desires when we seek Him first.  (See Ps. 37:4.)  I have often heard well-meaning Christians quote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9).  Somehow, they have forgotten that New Covenant believers have been given a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26).  God gives us clean hearts.  We are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  With this new heart, we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart (Prov. 3:5) and love God with all our hearts.

Again, in Immanuel Labor, I counsel, “Finally, keep listening to what God says about your vocation.  It may change over time. . . Sherman and Hendricks confirm what I have heard for some time that ‘the average American will change careers—not just jobs—four times or more in his life! … He has designed you with a set of skills and motivations to do His work in the world today.  But His work may take many different forms in the course of your working years.’”

All Christians enter into “full-time Christian work”

In chapter 13 of Immanuel Labor, I discussed the sacred vs. secular divide, where we seem to elevate vocational ministry above ordinary labor.  This idea was described by Sherman and Hendricks in Your Work Matters to God as the “two-story” view of work.  I boldly stated that the popular opinion many Christians have held that worldly work was unworthy was clearly off the mark.  I emphasized, “The things of eternity and time are both important to God. He is present with us here and now.  All of life is sacred to God, and all who work are necessary for humans to flourish on this earth.”

Sherman and Hendricks provide a powerful conclusion to this discussion:

“What ‘really matters’ to God is that the various needs of His creation be met.  One of those needs is the salvation of people, and for that He sent Christ to die and He sends the Church to tell the world about what Christ did.  But in addition to salvation—obviously a need with eternal implications—mankind has many other needs.  Just because many of them are temporal needs does not diminish their importance to God, nor does it diminish the value of the work done to meet those needs.  In fact, God thinks they are important enough to equip a variety of people with various abilities to meet those needs.  Furthermore, in meeting the legitimate needs of people, a worker is serving people who obviously have eternal value.  In other words, the product of the work may be temporal but those who benefit from the work are eternal.  So we find that whether or not the product of our labor lasts into eternity, our labor is full of eternal implications.”

I am hoping that some of these insights will inspire graduates to take their Christian faith into their workplaces, schools, the military, or wherever God calls them to learn and serve.

Mentoring in Five Words or Less

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“Wax on; wax off.”

This well-known phrase was spoken by Mr. Miyagi in the movie The Karate Kid.  He was teaching his young pupil how to defend himself by giving him tools to work with in the form of disciplined movements that would become muscle memory and pay off later when needed.

I still hear this brief expression used in a similar context at my workplace occasionally.  Translated, I think it means something like this: “Don’t worry about the size of the project.  Stay focused on the basics.  Keep on doing the simple things right, and you will be able to accomplish the mission.”

A few positive words at the right time can go a long way to encourage someone.

As a civilian supervisor in the military setting where I work, I am constantly coaching, teaching, and mentoring.  Here are several other examples of short phrases I use often to get my point across, without having to launch into a lengthy lecture.  Approximate translations are in parentheses.

“Good job!”  (Keep on doing what you are doing.  You made a difference today.  I appreciate your efforts and positive attitude.)

“Next slide.”  (Used by me to signal that it is time to rapidly move on to another topic of discussion, usually away from something that could be perceived as borderline offensive. Originally used by my Sergeant Major in Korea when he was done chewing me out.)

“We have a great team!”  (I am grateful for the folks I get to work with every day.  We work well together and get the job done.)

“Army strong!”  (It’s time to be mentally tough in the face of stressful situations.  My former NCO in charge said this one to me often.)

“Backbone!”  (I say this one word to young and old NCOs alike, to remind them that they are the backbone of the Army.)

“You got this.”  (I completely trust you.  I am here to help if needed, but I know you will be able to make this happen to standard.)

“Thanks for what you do.”  (You may not see it, but your efforts have supported and defended the Constitution today.)

This last one is from my wife, in the context of interacting with exasperated fellow preschool teachers.

“That’s life with kids!”  (Lighten up! Give them a break.  They are only children.  Lower your expectations and be patient.)

I encourage you to try to mentor others on your team, those above you, below you, and next to you, with a few positive words.  Sometimes less is more.

Ruth – a Woman Out Standing in her Field

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I have wanted to address this subject for six months.  Forgive me for being so ruthless.

Last October, my wife and I attended the 2018 Faith@Work Summit in Chicago. (You can read my reflections on that event here.)  One of my favorite parts was a workshop led by Mark Greene, Executive Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.  His topic was “Connecting How We Read the Bible to Faith at Work in Practice”.  Mark gave the table groups an exercise to identify what is relevant to being a disciple at work from the story of Ruth.

The book of Ruth is normally taught as pointing to our future “kinsman-redeemer” Jesus, which it is.  However, I was amazed at the number of theological insights we were able to pull out of this great story, much of which is set in the context of working in an agricultural business.

Let me share a few observations from Ruth that support several key concepts from my own theology of work as described in my book Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession.  Here we see that work is an important part of our spiritual journey, that God provides for our needs through our work and the work of others, that godly employers treat their employees with integrity, and that God sovereignly places us at the right time and place for His eternal purposes.

Work is a part of our spiritual journey

As we look at this story about someone who at first glance appears to be a relatively obscure Moabite woman, we cannot help but see how God uses this one sacred workplace in her life.  God was present with Ruth every step of the way.  This season of her life built her faith.  I imagine that Ruth saw this job as an illustration of God’s faithfulness from this point forward.

We see in verse 1 of chapter 1 of the book of Ruth that there was a famine in the land. This was a fairly common occurrence in this region of the world.  Famines have played an important part of other OT narratives such as Joseph and Moses.  Perpetual dry seasons have had devastating consequences on the economy, causing God’s people to look to Him to lead them to other places where they could fulfill their family responsibilities.  God will sometimes get our attention in a time of need to get us where He needs us to be for a mission that we do not know about.

My point is that the need to find work put Ruth in a position of dependence on the Lord and His people, which brought her to an employer who was going to change not only her life, but would impact the lives of generations to come.  I will discuss this element in more depth later on.

As I look back over my own forty-year spiritual journey working as a junior/senior high school math teacher, church youth minister, U.S. Army chemical operations specialist, and federal government worker, I see clearly how God’s hand guided me every step of the way to build my own faith make me more like Christ.  He used my family responsibilities and current economic circumstances to lead me to just the right job at the right time and place for His glory.

God provides for our needs through work

In chapter 2, we see Ruth’s willingness to work to provide for her and her mother-in-law.  Ruth told Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain, behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor” (verse 2).   The practice of leaving some of the grain or other crops for the poor to pick up was called gleaning, and was regulated in the Mosaic Law.  (See Lev. 19:9-10.)  There is genius in this provision, as it gives dignity to those who have to work for the food made available to them, and not just get a handout.  Not only did God provide an opportunity for Ruth to work in meeting her own needs, God provided workers who assisted in meeting Ruth’s needs as well.

Godly employers treat their employees with integrity

Boaz, as the owner of his own business, cared for his employees well.  He exemplified what we read in the NT, where Paul told employers the church in Colossae, “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven” (Col. 4:1).

Our table group noticed that this was a diverse workplace.  There were males and females and foreigners among the Hebrew workers.  Boaz ensured his employees were treated with integrity.  He gave them a godly greeting, “The Lord be with you!” (v. 4), and they responded in kind.  Boaz knew there was someone new in his midst (v. 5).  He asked Ruth to make herself at home with the other girls (v. 8).  In addition, Boaz warned the men that worked for him to leave her alone; he would not put up with any sexual harassment (v. 9).  Boaz showed hospitality to Ruth; at mealtime, he invited her to sit with him (v. 14).  I would say that Ruth had a pretty good first day of work!  No wonder she decided to come back another day to see what God had in store.

God places us in a job for His purposes

The last chapter of this narrative (Ruth 4:17 and 22) indicates the main reason that this story is a critical part of the canon.  We discover that this love story between Ruth and Boaz, which is set in the context of working in a grain field, put Ruth in the lineage of both David and Jesus.

I love the way that this narrative was crafted.  The writer indicates that God’s hand was directly involved in bringing Ruth and Boaz together at Boaz’ field.  When Ruth decides to go out to the fields to find grain, we read these words: “As it turned out, she found herself working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelich” (Ruth 2:3).  No one reading this from the lens of faith would miss the obvious nod to the sovereignty of God.  It did not merely turn out that way.  God designed it to be this way.  He orchestrated this divine appointment.

What about us?  Does God place us at just the right time and place so that we will meet the people He wants us to meet to perhaps shape future generations?  I maintain that He does.

In closing, I want to emphasize that there are a number of narratives in both the OT and NT that occur in workplace settings.  When we spend time meditating on how God’s people worked, what is being taught about work, and what truths we can apply at our own work, we will find that the God who was present with workers then is still very much present with us in our jobs now.

A Tale of Two Kingdoms

Two KingdomsA couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Army chaplain who leads a Thursday lunch Bible study I have been attending had just begun a series on Daniel.  In reviewing the context of the book, he emphasized that the Israelites had gone into exile in Babylon, which was the first time that they as a nation were separated from the land God had promised them.   Men and women who wanted to be faithful to Yahweh had to learn how to serve in two kingdoms, God’s and the world’s.  The chaplain reminded us that he church is in the same situation as the Israelites in exile.  Christians are members of the Kingdom of God, yet live in the kingdom of this world, run by Satan himself.

Last week, the chaplain was going to be on leave, so he asked me to lead the study.  He wanted me to tie in what he had taught about Daniel with what the NT teaches about how we can serve God in our secular jobs.  As I reflected on the idea, I came up with a way to graphically describe how the environments where God’s people were progressed from Genesis through Revelation over several distinct phases and to discuss the impacts on work.  At the very least, this study reinforced my observation that the theology of work is influenced by and influences all of the various elements of a systematic theology, such as the attributes of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Fall, the church, salvation, sanctification, and eschatology.

Let me summarize some of the patterns I identified in my study.  I focused on answering the following questions for each of the five major time-periods that the people of God found themselves: Who is in charge?  Where are God’s people?  Who else is there?  Who is missing or coming?  What are the implications on work?

Phase 1 – OT Prior to/After the Exile

In this phase prior to and after the exile, God is sovereign over all.  He has been from the creation of the world.  (The white throne at the top of the circle which looks like a large letter “L” indicates that God is on it.)  Psalm 24:1 states, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”  We also know from a number of places in Scripture that Satan has been given temporary rule over the world (as indicated by the black throne).  (See Job 1:6-7; John 15:18-23; 1 John 2:15-17.)  However, his time is short (Rev. 20:10).  God’s people were in one place, either heading towards or living in the Promised Land.  Gentiles were also there, but were seen as God’s enemies.  The work of God the Father is evident, and there are hints of work then and more so in the future by His Son and the Holy Spirit.  The foundation for a theology of work is based on the creation or cultural mandate where we read that God created us to be His co-workers (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:15).

Phase 2 – OT During the Exile

During this time-frame, God’s people are being disciplined for their rebellion.  God is still sovereign, despite the fact that foreign kings rule God’s people.  Satan continues to reign.  The majority of God’s people are captive in a foreign land.  The Gentiles are still seen as enemies.  The prophets speak of a coming Messiah and the work of God’s Holy Spirit.  God’s people find themselves working for Gentile bosses, but like Daniel, they can continue to glorify God.

Phase 3 – Jesus on Earth

Things are radically different in this first NT phase.  God the Father is sovereign over all, but there is more.  He is physically present in His Son Jesus, who is called Immanuel, God with us.  John the Baptist stated at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry that “the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matt. 4:17).  Satan still reigns over the world, and makes his evil presence known.  God’s people are identified as those who believe in Jesus, both Jew and Gentile, who are mostly in Jerusalem.  Jews and others who do not believe Jesus is Messiah are not His sheep (John 10).  Jesus teaches that the Holy Spirit will come upon and dwell in those who are His sheep (John 14:16-17; Acts 1:8).  Jesus taught us to render to Caesar and to God the things that belong to them (Matt. 22:15-21).  This implies that His disciples can live and work under two kingdoms, serving both God and man.

Phase 4 – The Church Age

In Acts 1, Jesus ascends to heaven, where He sits at the right hand of the Father. Thus begins the church age, where we are now.  God is sovereign.  Jesus is no longer here physically, but He is Lord and is very much present through the Holy Spirit who indwells each Christ-follower.  Satan still roars about as a lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  God’s people, exclusively followers of Jesus, both Jew and Gentile, are now scattered around the world.  Non-believers are all around us; the fields white unto harvest.  We know that Jesus will come again to judge and to reign.  As the church living in two kingdoms, whatever we do, we are told to submit to our human bosses, working as unto the Lord, not merely for men.  We serve the Lord Christ (Col. 3:22-24).

One KingdomPhase 5 – Consummation (Heaven Comes to Earth)

Without getting into any debates about the sequence of possible eschatological events such as the tribulation, rapture, or millennial kingdom, let me present a simplified version of how this age ends: Jesus returns to earth, the dead are raised, unbelievers are judged and sent to Hell, and Christians are ushered into a physical heaven on earth.  The Gospels seem to paint such a picture.  (See Matt. 16:27, 24:30-31, 25:31-46; Mark 13:26-27; Luke 21:27; John 5:28-29.)

In this final phase, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are on the throne.  Satan and his worldly kingdom are nowhere to be found.  (Hallelujah!)  Jesus has returned, seated at God’s right hand.  All of God’s people are in heaven, which is now on earth for eternity (Rev. 21).  No one else is there besides Christ-followers.  Satan and all unredeemed sinners are out of the picture for eternity.  What are the implications on work?  Well, there may be work to do.  If so, it will be painless, fruitful, and free from interpersonal conflict since there is no more curse (Rev. 22:3).

Closing thoughts

Although this may have been a little deeper than most of my studies, I hope that it was helpful to see how the idea of serving in two kingdoms has been with us since the exile, but is only temporary.  The Kingdom of God is very much at hand.  Let us represent it well in the world.

(For more on this topic, see my article on the eternal value of work that I posted on my blog three years ago, or read chapter 8 of my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession.)

How God Uses our Failures at Work

(This article was written for the Nashville Institute for Faith+Work blog.)

Let’s face it.  Fear of failure at work is a struggle for almost all of us, regardless of our gender, race, or economic status.  I know that it has been a struggle for me at times.  The fear of doing or saying something that gets us in enough trouble to be fired makes us anxious.  For those who own their own business, the thought of it failing can be overwhelming at times.  We don’t want to let our families, employees, or customers down.  As Christians, we don’t want to let God down.

The Bible teaches us that failure is one of the main tools that God uses to make us more Christ like.  He transforms us through these experiences, if we allow Him to do so.  In addition, God sometimes opens up new opportunities to serve Him.  Let us explore these concepts further.

Failure is transformational

Gene Veith, in God at Work, provides an astute observation.  “Failures in vocation happen all the time.  Wise statesmen find themselves voted out of office.  Noble generals lose the war.  Workers lose their jobs, maybe because they are not good at what they do, despite what they thought.”

Failures get our attention.  They cause us to reevaluate our spiritual maturity.  God often uses the failures we experience to humble us.  This reminds of us our limitations, makes us more willing to depend on God, submit to His commands, and be open to His leading in our lives.

Peter gives us some hope, reminding us of God’s restoration power after we have been broken: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).

Failures can open new doors of service

One who failed miserably at work was the late Chuck Colson.  He was one of President Nixon’s most trusted staff members.  After the Watergate scandal, Chuck went to prison.  God got hold of him there, and Chuck went on to start Prison Fellowship.  As a direct result of his imprisonment, he became one of the most influential Christian leaders of our modern times.  He was radically transformed through his failure, enabling him to minister to so many because of his deep understanding of God’s grace, forgiveness, and transforming power.

I am reminded of my own failures at work.  I was let go from my youth ministry position in July 1985.  During the first few days of a summer vacation, the senior pastor called me at home and asked me to come in for a meeting.  He informed me that the church no longer needed me to be the youth director.  I had been fired!

However, God had a greater purpose in mind.  This providential detour in my career set in motion an unexpected vocational journey that God eventually worked out for my good and for His glory.  God redirected my life’s work by nudging me to consider joining the military, which I did in February 1986.  I spent twenty years on active duty.  Thirty three years later, I still work for the U.S. Army as a Department of the Army civilian.  I was able to serve God in a greater capacity than I would have experienced in full-time vocational Christian ministry.

Stories of failure in the Scriptures

There are many examples of men and women in the Bible who failed.  Let me focus on a few failures that occurred at work to illustrate God’s power to transform and open new doors.

A well-known illustration of how God transformed failure at work is King David.  His moral failures were his own doing.  He committed adultery and murder.  He chose poorly and suffered the consequences of his decisions.  Ultimately, he repented and confessed his sin (see Ps. 51:1-4).  Despite his sins, God used David to pen much of the book of Psalms.

What about someone who was perceived as a failure because they were doing what God had called them to do?  The Scriptures are full of examples of men and women who suffered for their faith.

The one that best illustrates this is Jesus.  The religious establishment of the day treated Him as an enemy.  They misunderstood Him.  They persecuted Him, tried to trap Him, arrested Him, and eventually shouted to the Romans, “Crucify Him!”  Jesus died a criminal’s death, seen by many as a man who was a total failure.  That is, until Easter Sunday confirmed His victory.

The Apostle Peter reminds us how to respond when we experience the kind of undeserved suffering that Jesus went through.  Peter instructs us to live good lives in order to overshadow the false accusations they may make about us (1 Pet. 2:12).  He exhorts us to submit to our employers, even those who give us a hard time (1 Pet. 2:18).  He said it was a good thing when we endure “the pain of unjust suffering” as Jesus did (1 Pet. 2:19-21).  Peter taught that we should not be surprised when we suffer for our faith; we are to rejoice (1 Pet. 4:12-13).

How do we allow God to work through failure?

Let me remind you of some biblical principles on how to handle failures at work:

  • Do not be surprised by failures; we do not know what a new day may bring (Prov. 27:1)
  • If we think that we cannot fail, our pride will inevitably cause us to fall (1 Cor. 10:12)
  • When our failures are due to our own sin, we need to repent and confess it to God (1 John 1:9); be reconciled and confess our sin to others as appropriate (Matt. 5:23-24)
  • When we do fail, we need to rest in God’s promise to work out all things for His children, even failures, for our good and for His glory (Rom. 8:28)
  • God makes us more compassionate as a result of our failures; it opens doors to pass on the comfort we received from God in our situation to those in the same situation (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

In closing, here is a powerful quote from a former seminary professor.

In Balancing Life’s Demands, Grant Howard exhorts those who are struggling at work.  His sage advice is based on a proper understanding of Gen. 1-3 that lays out God’s purposes of work and the thorns and thistles that are a direct result of the curse God put on our work due to Adam’s sin.  “Is your work hard?  God put that challenge into it.  Is your work frustrating, boring, repetitive, even frightening?  It could be a result of the curse.  It could be your attitude.  Maybe you need to change your job.  Maybe you need to change your attitude.  Maybe you need to do both!”

My prayer is that these truths will comfort those who need comfort and empower those who need courage to press on or take that leap of faith into a new chapter in your spiritual career journey.

(Author’s note: Portions of this article were taken from my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work, published by WestBow Press, 2018.)

Working for Shalom Where God Places Us

How can a Christian make a difference at work?  How can we bring order out of chaos?  How can we bring peace, hope, and truth into an environment of discord, despair, and relativism?

I addressed the topic of bringing righteousness and reformation to the workplace in chapter 13 of my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession.  I brought together some great Scriptures and several quotes from a variety of writers and speakers.  God used these truths to challenge me to boldly be Christ’s representative in my own job.

I would like to share some excerpts from my book.  I am hoping they will inspire you to walk in Jesus’ resurrection power to bring His peace to a world that so desperately needs it.

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It all belongs to God

A few years ago, I heard a powerful message on the Focus on the Family radio program given by Grammy award-winning Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae at Liberty University. He spoke on the topic of engaging our culture.  I was moved to tears.  The verse he quoted several times is Psalm 24:1, which says, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”

Here is a transcript of a portion of this message that can be seen on YouTube:

“God gives us this cultural mandate to subdue the earth. We are called to build this alternative city. What does it look like when we have healthy families, when we have biblical views on business and economics and law and politics? We’ve redeemed them instead of letting Satan, the prince of power, just drain the life out of them. These things belong to God. Economics belongs to God. Politics belong to God. Family belongs to God. Medical science belongs to God. God created science! So we go into culture and say, “This is not yours, Satan. This is not yours, world, flesh. This belongs to God.” And I am a representative of His kingdom here, to demonstrate what it looks like when a redeemed person enters the workplace and says, ‘This belongs to my God!’”

Did you get his point?

Through our faith in Jesus Christ, we have been redeemed so that we can go into all areas of society to bring Jesus’s message into our workplaces through our words and actions.  Satan, the flesh, and the world may have corrupted much of what we see around us, at least temporarily.  But since it all belongs to God, we can be salt and light, do things the way they were meant to be done, God’s way, and turn things around for everyone’s benefit.

Many speakers I have heard over the last few years quote Abraham Kuyper from a speech he gave in the late 1800s: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!”

God’s charge to the exiles in Babylon

A passage that I kept running into in my research for the book was Jer. 29:4-7.  God gave the exiles a somewhat surprising exhortation, telling them to build houses, plant gardens, get married and have children, and thus increase their numbers.  Yahweh continues His ironic commandment to His people taken to a strange land.  He says that the Israelites should “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (verse 7).

Hugh Whelchel, Executive Director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, in his book, How Then Should We Work?, wisely ties this passage in with the cultural mandate from Genesis 1:28.  He points out the clear connection between the command to Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” with the command to the Babylonian exiles to “build houses and settle down” or “marry and have sons and daughters” (Jeremiah 29:5–6).  He also sees that as they “seek the peace and prosperity of the city” (Jeremiah 29:7), they are also exercising “subduing” and “ruling” functions.  He says that by doing so, they are “reweaving Shalom.”  I absolutely love this insight!

Whelchel continues, “God meant them to be a blessing to the world even while they lived in Babylon.  God intends the same for us.  We are called to work for the shalom of the city, whatever or wherever that city is, where God has put us.  We are to be a blessing in our time and place.  This is possible only because we have found our identity in Christ, the Prince of Shalom.”

Whelchel spurs us on with this statement: “Motivated by the Cultural Mandate and inspired by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, through our vocational calling we have the opportunity to transform our communities, our nation, and the world. Our effectiveness will provide a catalyst for sustained cultural renewal.”  Amen!

How do we do this?

Sherman and Hendricks, in Your Work Matters to God, offer this challenge to the average worker, which I used to read when I taught on this topic many years ago. It still resonates now.

“The key to bringing the culture and the Church back together; to renewing the workplace and reforming the Church; to choosing Christ as the Lord of life, rather than leaving Him out of the system—may well be a movement of people who are known for their hard work, for the excellence of their effort, for their honesty and unswerving integrity, for their concern for the rights and welfare of people, for their compliance with laws, standards, and policies, for the quality of their goods and services, for the quality of their character, for the discipline and sacrifice of their lifestyle, for putting work in its proper perspective, for their leadership among coworkers – in short, for their Christlikeness on and off the job. What could an army of such workers accomplish?”

Just like the Israelites that God sent into exile, God sends us exactly where He needs us to go in the power of the Holy Spirit as Christ’s representatives so that we can do what He needs us to do with those who need the work we will provide.

I trust these concepts will encourage you and give you a vision of how God can use you in your ordinary professions, which are indeed sacred if your work is done for God’s glory.  God’s presence in our work will make a difference in the people and the institutions where He sends us.