Advice for “Our Strange New World”

A long but worthwhile read for the weekend. Carl Trueman argues the massive change to attitudes about gay marriage and LGBT+ recently are symptoms of changes in attitudes about what it means to be a person.

Regardless of what you believe about these issues, this is for Christians struggling to understand, and love, this world that Christ died for. Trueman’s 6 suggestions for Christians and the church largely fall under what C.S. Lewis might call Mere Christianity, and applicable to many situations.

This was shared by my former pastor on his personal page. It took me a few days to find the time to read it, but I didn’t give up…

(Estimated reading time 20 minutes, but worth it!)

The Lord Cares Even for Your Wilderness

If you are like me, some days feel very eventful and productive, but other days remind me of the saying: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”  There are times when we all wonder: Who cares about what I did today?  Did today matter?  Did anyone notice?

When recently reading Psalm 29, verse 8 struck me, which says: “The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.”  Why is this verse here?  Earlier in the Psalm, the voice of the Lord thunders, shatters the tall cedars of Lebanon, and flashes like fire.  Who cares about the wilderness?  It reminded me of the tree falling with nobody around.  Why does it matter?

It matters because the Psalmist (David) wants us to know that God’s power exists even where we can’t see it and in ways we may see as inconsequential.  However, to Him, nothing is inconsequential, and no detail is too small.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:30 that “even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”  If a tree falls in the wilderness, God cares about it even if nobody else does.

Psalm 29 closes with “May the LORD give strength to his people!  May the LORD bless his people with peace!”  His strength and peace are available on good days and bad.  On days we feel motivated and days we don’t.  On eventful days and on days we feel we are in the wilderness with nobody to hear.

Today, God will notice you, and will work in ways that you may only know when you look back on them from eternity.  No tree falls without His knowing about it.

May His strength and peace be with you always.

The Eternal Work of Eden, Heaven, and Earth

As the Covid-19 pandemic recedes, many are finding that the work they did before the pandemic doesn’t seem as important or meaningful to them now.  People are quitting their jobs or retiring early so often, we created a new catchphrase: “Great Resignation.”  Also, many workers, especially younger ones, are demanding that their employers become more vocal and active on social and political goals they agree with, or they will leave.[1]  In short, people are asking for reasons to go to work outside of their employer’s actual business, beyond the job itself, and in addition to the paycheck it provides.   None of this is entirely new, but the pandemic has made it a much bigger issue.  Is work itself meaningful?

As a partial response to this frustration, today’s post will make three points about work before the Fall, in the Garden of Eden, and what that means for our future in heaven and the place of work in our lives now.  We start with an idea from Genesis that is sometimes missed:

#1 – “Not all the world was Eden”
As noted by Michael Heiser in his book The Unseen Realm[2], Eden’s geography is limited and defined in Genesis 2:8-14.  Also, when God expels Adam and Eve from the garden in Genesis 3:23-24 we know that they are still on earth, but no longer in the garden.  God didn’t create a new place for them to go but removed them from the part of the earth that was Eden.  While Eden was a paradise, it was not the entire world.  Which leads to the second point:

#2 – The original task of humanity was to make the entire Earth like Eden
In Genesis 1:28 we read: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”  Heiser notes on this verse that “the earth needed filling” and that “it makes no sense to subdue the garden of God.”

Eden was a perfect pattern which mankind was to learn from and apply to the rest of the world.  God’s creativity in Eden was a model for human creativity everywhere else.  The pre-Fall world was not a world where there was no work left to be done, which suggests that:

#3 – Work is Eternal
A popular view of heaven is that it is a leisurely place where we don’t have to work.  Images of angels playing harps and finally being able to kick back and relax come to mind.  Some hope in heaven partly for this reason – that they’re tired of working and can’t wait for it to be over.  However, in Genesis 2:15 “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  Adam had a job to do in Eden, and God’s people will have jobs to do in heaven.  Work is not only part of our current fallen world, but a part of our eternal destiny as well.  This may seem like bad news to some of my readers, but does the idea of doing nothing for eternity really appealing when you think about it?

We can be encouraged because the actual hope of heaven is always greater than we can imagine.  As Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  While in heaven we will work, it will be thoroughly meaningful and fulfilling.  Every person will be perfectly suited for their tasks and doing exactly what they were designed to do.  No longer will work be cursed by “thorns and thistles,”[3] where labor means pain and you only benefit “by the sweat of your face.”[4]  Work will not be gone, but redeemed and perfected.  Heaven will not be what we expect, but God promises it will always be better than our expectations.

Work is Now
For now, this means that whether you’re working at a job, at home, retired, a student, a parent, or in any role in this world, as God’s creativity was to be reproduced by Adam and Eve, the character of Jesus is being developed in His people in this world, and will be fully reproduced in heaven.  In the Lord’s Prayer, part of the meaning of “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) is that we should live as much as possible in this world in the same way we would in heaven.

Christians are God’s agents in this world to glorify Him and make Him known, in our jobs or in any other roles we find ourselves in.  Heiser cites many examples from the Bible which show that “God works through figures like Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, the prophets, and the apostles. But the pattern extends to us, to all believers. There is nothing we do that God could not accomplish himself. But he has not chosen that method. Rather, he tells us what his will is and commands his loyal children to get the job done.”

In heaven your job will not be what it is now, but for each of us, whatever role we have, whatever our circumstances, our job is to take the gifts of creativity and character God endowed us with and make this world a bit more like Eden.

Jesus was a perfect pattern which we are to learn from and apply to everything we do in this world.

[1] There is less news coverage of people who don’t want politics in the workplace or who have different social and political goals and might leave their jobs to find a less politicized workplace.
[2] Heiser, Michael S. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible.  (2015).  This post draws from pages 49-52.  I’m not unaware that this book (and many others I read) might be controversial to some, but I learned a lot from it and saw several passages of Scripture in a different and sometimes better light.
[3] Genesis 3:18
[4] Genesis 3:19

Happy 1st Anniversary to Driving Toward Morning!

Fellow travelers,

Although the blog was registered earlier, May 20, 2021, is the date of the first post and so today I wish Driving Toward Morning a happy 1st anniversary!  Thank you to everyone who has read, liked, and commented on the blog.  A special thank you to anyone who has shared it with their friends, or used what they found here to encourage others.

I am thrilled to still be writing and encouraged by the impact it’s had on my life, from challenging me when I am complacent, from encouraging me to be more public with my faith, from growing deeper connections with friends and family, to creating some new connections with other bloggers.  As the “About” page here says: “Purpose #1 of this blog is to force me to think about, ponder and organize my thoughts around Christianity’s relevance to my life and to others. Purpose #2 is to proclaim the truths of the Gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ into our present world.”

Although I thought for years about starting this blog, where I thought I had a plan, I found that things ended up differently:

  • Aiming for more than a post every two weeks seemed like too much, and it would take over a year to write the main ideas I had.  I’ve posted 115 times so far, but oddly most of those early ideas remain unfinished and unposted.
  • I intended Facebook as a way to advertise the blog to others.  Instead, I started a Facebook group in October, which became a driver for me to post more frequent, shorter, and often devotional-like content.
  • I initially struggled to keep posts under 2500 words, sometimes breaking things up into 2 parts.  Now the average post is less than 700 words, with some less than 100.
  • Keeping a thread going through multiple posts was harder than expected.  I’ve started and (so far) dropped several threads and series.

So, a lesson of year 1 is that planning is often futile!  On the “About” page of the blog I wrote very early that “If the Lord wills, I will continue to write and do this or that. (James 4:15)”. I don’t know how long this will last and what it will evolve into, but I’m grateful for the outlet and for any encouragement it has brought to its readers.

What to expect in year #2 (other than to expect the unexpected):

  • Re-blogging.  I plan to re-post existing content in an effort to post more consistently, to bring back some posts I liked or that got good responses, or to bring back topics I intended to continue, but didn’t.  Hopefully I can tie up some loose ends.  “Rewind Wednesday” is probably where these will end up.
  • An attempt to be more predictable about the size/length of posts.  On Facebook, I’m going to add a reading time estimate above each link to the blog.  Also, I’m going to try and keep the longer posts to a regular cadence.  Maybe reserve long reads for the weekend?
  • More posts on history, more holiday posts, more groups of (hopefully) thought-provoking quotes, but also perhaps posts on books I’m reading.

Lastly, the “About” page also says that “As a layman, I have only my own experience in life, study and prayer to offer.  This is not a ‘proof’ blog, but an encouragement blog.  As a writer, I consider how to stir up my readers to love and good works.  (Hebrews 10:24)”  Don’t be shy about letting me know how I’m doing.

Working on this blog has encouraged me, and I hope it has encouraged you as well.  Every one of us has something important to offer for God’s glory and for the benefit of the world around us.

This Mother’s Day, Celebrate the Caregivers

I was recently invited to a workshop on “Caregiver Bias,” which was explained as a problem in our society that people who take care of children, older or sick relatives, or others in need don’t do as well in their careers.  In addition, they said, since Caregiving is more often done by women than by men, these social norms are discriminatory and need to be corrected.  The workshop was part of a broader Diversity and Inclusion initiative, which includes support for women’s reproductive choices.

But shouldn’t Caregiving for children, the elderly, the sick, and the needy be what we celebrate and admire most?  Shouldn’t we choose Caregiving?

In that spirit, for this Mother’s Day post, I choose to salute a diverse set of Mothers:

  • I salute those mothers who choose to serve their families and communities full-time.  Those who volunteer on the PTA, at the local church and food pantry, and who make the school plays and concerts run smoothly.
    I salute the working mothers who choose to make time for the PTA, their church or food pantry, and the school play.
  • I salute those full-time mothers who choose to keep their calm when asked “so, what exactly DO you do all day?”
  • I salute those mothers who choose to run their own business in a way that allows time for them to spend with their children.
  • I salute those mothers who didn’t plan on having children but choose to love and care for them always.
  • I salute those mothers who choose a partner who can focus on Caregiving where they can.
  • I salute those who choose to support those in need who are someone else’s children and relatives, as if they were their own.
  • I salute those who choose to support the choices of all mothers, even if their choices aren’t what they would choose themselves.

Mothers[1] very often sacrifice for the benefit of others, and this Mother’s Day let’s celebrate and admire them all, especially the ones who demonstrate that Caregiving might be the most important career of all.  Let’s be biased in their favor, not today but every day.

After all, aren’t our careers a way to provide what not only we need, but also what others need and can’t provide for themselves?  As suggested by the Apostle Paul a long time ago:
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” – Ephesians 4:28

[1] Fathers do too, but this is Mother’s Day.  Look for my Father’s Day post about a month from now.