Coram Deo: Beyond Dualism to Consecration

Coram Deo is about living every moment of our lives before the face of God–in his presence, under his authority, and for his glory–whether in the sanctuary, in the home or in the marketplace and the public square.

That being the case, we have chosen the term Coram Deo for an exciting new training opportunity from the DNA. We have captured the DNA’s best teaching and carefully condensed it into a set of video presentations and readings. Organized into a 12-week interactive course  with other students or a self-study at your own pace, this is the same teaching you would receive at a five-day Vision Conference, the DNA’s flagship training program.

This post is the final in a series that unpacks the biblical idea of Coram Deo. (The entire paper is available here.)

Paul encourages us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23). Whatever you do means just that. Gerard Manley Hopkins said in a sermon, “To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dung fork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should.”[1] In a slightly different vein, Mother Teresa has been quoted as saying, “We do not do big things; we do only small things with great love.”[2]

Coram Deo was part of the legacy of Martin Luther and the reformation

This is the great recovery of the biblical theology of vocation wrought by Martin Luther and the Reformation. This is a discovery that can transform our lives and work today.

The great Dutch theologian, pastor, educator, and prime minister Abraham Kuyper spoke with passion to the church in the Western world to renew the vision of her call and to return to her first love. Written at the dawn of modern secular materialistic culture, Kuyper’s clarion call is just as relevant to us today:

No sphere of human life is conceivable in which religion does not maintain its demands that God shall be praised, that God’s ordinances shall be observed, and that every labora (work) shall be permeated with its ora (prayer/worship) in fervent and ceaseless prayer. Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand, in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind, in the world of art, and science, he is in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of his God, he is employed in the service of his God, he has strictly to obey his God, and above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God.”[3]

There are not two worlds to live in, nor two types of lives to live. All of life, including the hours of my work, is to be lived coram Deo, for the advancement of God’s kingdom, for the glory of the Lord of heaven and earth.

Clearly, living coram Deo means that we are not to make a separation between the sacred and the secular. The secular dwells in the presence of the sacred. The secular is infused with the sacred But as the Reformers understood, there is a realm of distinction that we are to make. This distinction is between living a consecrated and living an unconsecrated life. A consecrated life is the life lived coram Deo, in worship, soli Deo gloria. A consecrated life is one that glorifies God. It is one that models God’s glory as a person lives under the lordship of Christ, who himself represented God’s glory on earth. A consecrated life is a life dedicated to God in all its parts. It is sanctified! An unconsecrated life is one where a person functions as a Christian only in the religious part of life or when it is convenient. One person may be a godly auto mechanic while another is an adulterous evangelist. One may be a godly farmer while another is a corrupt pastor.

To be consecrated is to be “devoted or dedicated to the service and worship of God.”[4] We worship God in our work as we connect the whole of our lives to his divine purpose, a redemptive purpose expressed throughout Scripture as the kingdom of God. The biblical concept of work is that a person’s work is his or her unique contribution to God’s kingdom. As we explored in the previous chapter, our occupation is the place where we are deployed to occupy ourselves “occupying territory” for Christ and his kingdom. This is the principal business of the Christian’s life.

In the midst of a fallen world, we are to seek to live moral lives. In the midst of injustice and corruption, we are to seek justice. In the midst of cultures that are often brutal and uncaring, we are to love mercy. In the midst of power and arrogance, we are to walk humbly with God. We are, in some small way, to be incarnations of Christ in this broken world. Our place of work is to be where we put flesh on our prayers, “Let your glory be over all the earth” (Ps. 57:5) and “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Kingdom life and principles are to be brought to bear in the midst of our life and in the sphere of society where we work.

Leland Ryken captures the radical effects of this biblical view of work in Redeeming the Time:

Obviously this view of work renders every task of intrinsic value and integrates every legitimate vocation or task with a Christian’s spiritual life. It makes every job consequential by claiming it as the arena for glorifying God, and it provides a way for workers to serve God not only within their work in the world but by that work [italics added].[5]

This is the call each of us needs to hear today: that it is possible to live an integrated life of value and purpose in which we serve God by our work in the world. It is possible to live a life of consecration rather than separation.

Missionary to India E. Stanley Jones has captured the kind of people we are called to be, the kind of people we long to be, in The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person. He writes that our occupation is framed within the wonder of the kingdom of God:

That kind of person sees God, not in a vision, but sees God working with him and in him and backing him. He sees God at work everywhere. The universe becomes alive with God—every bush aflame with him, every event full of destiny, life an exciting adventure with God. You see him at work in you, in events, in the universe. He talks with you, guides you. You work in the same business, in the same occupation—the Kingdom. And it is the most thrilling, exciting business and occupation in the world. All else is tame and inane—dull. Here you are working at the biggest job, on the biggest scale, at the most worthwhile task, at the greatest outcome—the kingdom of God on earth [italics added].[6]

When we understand that all Christians are to live all of life coram Deo, we understand that we are all in Christ’s mission force. We are all missionaries!

-          Scott Allen and Darrow Miller

__________________________________________________________

Adapted from LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day, chapter five “Coram Deo: Before the Face of God” pp. 55-68. Copyright © 2009 by Darrow L. Miller, Published by YWAM Publishing, a ministry of Youth With A Mission, P.O. Box 55787, Seattle, WA  98155-0787. All rights reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews.



[1] Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 1998), 200.

[2] Kathryn Spink and Mother Teresa, Life in the Spirit: Reflections, Meditations, Prayers, Mother Teresa of Calcutta (New York: HarperCollins, 1983), 74.

[3] Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1942), 52.

[4] 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, s.v. “consecrated.”

[5] Ryken, Redeeming the Time, 104.

[6] E. Stanley Jones, The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1972), 159.

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Family Champions Wanted May 6

Family and marriage and children … all God’s inventions, all important to him, all vital to the health of communities and nations.

Is there a purpose to marriage beyond the latest cultural fad? A purpose that transcends romance and harmonious relationships, however worthy these may be?

Today the waves of cultural forces push and pull against marriage as God intended it. To speak of family as dad, mom and kids is considered hateful.

family movie IrreplaceableInto this mix, the folks at Focus on the Family have created an opportunity to equip Christians to “bring Christ to the culture” with reference to this important subject.

“The film follows host Tim Sisarich as he consults with experts around the globe to determine whether the concepts of traditional marriage and family are meaningful, or somehow outmoded.

“Throughout the film renowned experts and commentators speak on a range of topics related to marriage, including the rise of “anything goes” sexuality, the dramatic increase in fatherlessness, the decline in the perceived value of having children, and the importance of male and female.

“Contributors to Irreplaceable include Michael Medved, Eric Metaxas, Dr. Roger Scruton, Dr. Anne Moir, Helen Alvaré, Jonathan Last, Carey Casey, and many others.”

Read the copy, watch the trailer, order the tickets. See you there May 6.

IRREPLACEABLE THE MOVIE

What is Family? Each one of us has a desire for significance—a desire to belong. And the family is where those deepest longings are fulfilled.

When the family is weakened, society suffers. But strong families make the world a better place.

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Truth and Love: It’s Not Your Father’s Pulpit Anymore

Pity the pastor who has to consider what could happen if he speaks the truth.

Time was when the preacher set the tone and the church shaped the community. Now it’s more like the other way around. As Darrow has said, If the church doesn’t disciple the nation, the nation will disciple the church.

So today, the cry from the pew sounds much like that from the public square: Don’t offend. Show tolerance in your speech. Don’t be hateful!

Christians who care about speaking the truth in love—no matter which side of the pulpit they stand on—feel hard pressed to find the way forward. It’s sink or swim in the soup of political correctness. Christ-followers who want to think carefully and well about their witness, who want to earn a hearing among their neighbors and still faithfully confess Christ … well, it’s all so complicated!

Or maybe not. Challenging, yes. But not so complicated.

Many of our readers have no doubt read these words from an earlier time (words usually attributed to Martin Luther but see this):

If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.

Stonestreet on speaking the truthOur friend, John Stonestreet has elaborated the same thought with a very helpful video commentary, The Walk Plus the Talk: Why Truth and Love are Inseparable. As noted on the video page, John “issues a dire warning to Christians: If you’re eliminating portions of Scripture that offend modern sensibilities, you are making a bargain with the devil.”


-
Gary Brumbelow

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Coram Deo: The Glory of God in the Face of Christ

Coram Deo is about living every moment of our lives before the face of God–in his presence, under his authority, and for his glory–whether in the sanctuary, in the home or in the marketplace and the public square.

That being the case, we have chosen the term Coram Deo for an exciting new training opportunity from the DNA. We have captured the DNA’s best teaching and carefully condensed it into a set of video presentations and readings. Organized into a 12-week interactive course  with other students or a self-study at your own pace, this is the same teaching you would receive at a five-day Vision Conference, the DNA’s flagship training program.

This post is the third in a series of four that unpacks the biblical idea of Coram Deo. (The entire paper is available here.)

Coram Deo includes our every day workWhatever our occupation, we are called to live twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, before the face of God and to worship God with all of our life, including our work. God is the beginning and center of all things. Since the time of man’s rebellion against God, as recorded in Genesis 3, man has chosen to “be as God.” Man has put himself at the center of the universe. There is no greater manifestation of this than the secular materialism of post-Christian Western society. Individually and corporately, in family, church, and civil society, we need to let our lives be framed by the great statement used by the Reformers—soli Deo gloria, for the glory of God alone.

What is God’s glory? What does it mean to live in and for God’s glory? And why are we meant to do so? Scriptures across the Old and New Testaments witness to the nature of God’s glory.

First, Scripture reveals that God’s glory is part and parcel of reality; it is a result of who he is, a fact of his unsurpassable, infinite greatness and goodness. The apostle John expressed God’s glory in this way: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). God himself is the light we all see by. This is why John wrote of Jesus, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understoodit” (John 1:4–5). The Old Testament tells us, “The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory” (Isa. 60:19). The New Testament affirms this: “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev. 21:23). God is life and light; outside of God is death and darkness. That’s just the truth. God’s glory is our light.

Second, the whole of Scripture shows that we glorify God by making the truth about God known to others, not from God’s point of view so that he can say “I’m great!” or “I’m good!” but so that the whole earth experiences his greatness and goodness, so that his whole creation is restored to his original intentions. Where God reigns, there is life and light. Where God reigns, his truth, justice, and beauty are manifest. We work for the day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14).

In a Holy Scripture full of mysteries, we find a God so great, so full of glory, that no human can see him and live (Exo. 33:20). We see a God who inspires people to call out to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Rev. 6:16). Yet he is a God who for our sakes “made himself nothing, taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:7). With these truths in mind, let’s look at more of what Scripture says about the glory of God.

All glory is found in God because all belongs to God.

  • Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. (1 Chron. 29:11)
  • For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Rom. 11:36)

God’s glory is rooted in his nature and character. From eternity, he, the One and Only God, manifests goodness, love, faithfulness, and wisdom.

  • Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Exod. 33:18–19)
  • When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, “He is good; his love endures forever.” (2 Chron. 7:3)
  • Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. (Ps. 115:1)
  • To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Rom. 16:27)
  • Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Tim. 1:17)

The nature of God’s glory is revealed in his works of creation and redemption.

  • The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Ps. 19:1)
  • Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. (Ps. 96:3)
  • To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen. (Rev. 1:5–6)

What would seem impossible—that the glory of the infinite God be made manifest in human form—became a reality. The life of Jesus Christ perfectly and tangibly represents the glory of the one eternal God.

  • The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. (Heb. 1:3)
  • The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
  • For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6)

If we want to understand God’s glory, we need only look at the face of Christ. As we consider what it means to live constantly in the presence of God and work solely for the glory of God, we can meditate on the Christ who does nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility considers others better than himself (Phil 2:1-11). This is the God who longs to dwell with us, who invites us to live intimately in his presence. This is the God who calls us to work with him—soli Deo gloria.

-          Scott Allen and Darrow Miller

__________________________________________________________

Adapted from LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day, chapter five “Coram Deo: Before the Face of God” pp. 55-68. Copyright © 2009 by Darrow L. Miller, Published by YWAM Publishing, a ministry of Youth With A Mission, P.O. Box 55787, Seattle, WA  98155-0787. All rights reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews.

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Shaping the Generation of the Future

Failure to see the future coming condemns societies to poverty.

One of the things I have heard over and over again in my years working among the poor is the fatalistic mantra, “We are poor and there is nothing we can do about it!”  People who think this way have succumbed to the lie that “History is something that happens to you.” Nothing ever changes, nothing ever will. There is no future, only the past. There is no vision for the creation of wealth and human flourishing.

In the West today there is a rampant narcissism. There is no past and no future, only the endless present. There is no delayed gratification so that the future may be better for our children and grandchildren; there is endless consumption, the use of credit cards to mortgage our future. Instant gratification is the mark of the modern generation. We see this in the global economic collapse of Europe in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Our consumerism is consuming us. It will lead to the pauperism of the global economy.  In a materialistic society, we live for ourselves and for the moment.

This manipulation of property and wealth so as to maximize short-term gain and personal consumption is captured in the Greek word chrematistics. In contrast is the Greek word oikonomia, from which we get the English “economics.” Oikonomia means the management or stewardship of a household so as to increase its value for the benefit of all its members into the future.

“’The mind of the present age acting on the mind of the next,’ as it has been happily defined by a living writer, is an object of concern to every being endowed with intellect, or interested either through love or hope, in another generation.”

Lydia Sigourney, Pg. 9

Lydia Sigourney and her generation were operating from an oikonomia framework. Their mindset was shaped by Judeo-Christian worldview. They recognized that history is linear; there is past, present, and future. The past was to be celebrated for its good things, the present enjoyed for the benefits of life, and the future dreamt of, anticipated and planned for.

Village childrenWe are to have an interest in the next generation. The pilgrimage on which God sent our first parents is multi-generational. We were commissioned to “be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth!” This is the social mandate to fill the earth, not with mouths to be fed, but with families of God-image bearers who can plan and work toward a flourishing future. In the biblical framework, people were able to be innovative and creative. They could dream dreams of places they had never seen or worlds they had never visited. Then these dreamers were to build in space and time, to fulfill the development mandate to bring progress to the earth.  Our children and grandchildren will inherit the future we build!

If we are endowed with an intellect; if we love the next generation; if we want to see it  flourish … then we must use the knowledge and wisdom we have inherited to educate those coming behind us. Not for ourselves, but for our children, our grandchildren, and the generations to follow.

- Darrow Miller

This post is the seventh in a series on maternal feminism.

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So-Called Same-Sex Marriage and the Language of Genesis

Same-sex marriage supporters sometimes say that Jesus didn’t even mention homosexuality, so how come Christians make such a big deal about it? After all, isn’t the New Testament more important for Christians than the Old Testament, where we find the Leviticus prohibitions on homosexual behavior? And aren’t Jesus’ words the most authoritative of all?

These are fair questions. A complete answer lies beyond the scope of a blog post or two. (This is especially true of the questions about interpreting the various genres in the Bible.) In this post let’s just consider what Jesus said. And the first thing to note is that Jesus rooted his theology of marriage in Genesis. He went all the way back to the creation to show God’s purpose for marriage. (God being the person who invented marriage in the first place, surely we can agree that his purpose for it transcends any human view of it.)

Gagnon speaks on same-sex marriageWhich brings me to Robert Gagnon, assistant professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Last year the Center for Politics and Religion at Union University and the Witherspoon Institute sponsored a Salt and Light Conference. Among the speakers was Dr. Gagnon, author of The Bible and Homosexual PracticeHis remarkable address is the source for most of what follows. (Go here and scroll down to view it.) In particular I was intrigued by an observation he made about the Hebrew terms for man and woman. The point is important to the whole discussion about so-called “same-sex marriage.”

According to Gagnon, Jesus’ key text on sexuality is Mark 10:2-12.

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” (ESV)

Jesus affirmed the Genesis account of creation as truth. That matters. Plenty of other creation accounts put no barrier in the way of same-sex marriage. But as Jesus pointed out, Genesis is very clear about the matter.

It’s true: Jesus did not expressly forbid homosexual practice. Or incest. Or bestiality. That doesn’t mean he was approving of any of them. Gagnon argues that, at least as far as the record indicates, no one was promoting or envisioning any of them in Jesus’s day, so we should not be surprised that he doesn’t expressly proscribe them. What Jesus did say was that Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 are normative. At the creation God defined all acceptable forms of sexual behavior. And Jesus elaborated on that. “The only sex Jesus allows for is that between man and woman in marriage.”

Gagnon’s 98-minute address is packed with extremely helpful insights. About 56 minutes in he makes a remarkable observation from Genesis 2:18-24. When God said “It is not good for the man to be alone” the word “man” is the term for sexually undifferentiated human: Adam. “It is not good for the adam to be alone.” Adam is not a gender specific word for a man, but rather a human drawn from the adama, ground.

From there, the narrative describes how God, in compelling fashion, demonstrated the unsuitability of any animal to serve as Adam’s counterpart. In the first object lesson in history, God (who knows where all this is going, of course) brings every animal before Adam. No suitable “helper” is found. The word speaks of one who is like but also different. A complementary counterpart. (My colleague, Darrow Miller, notes that the fundamental relationship in the life of the imago Dei human will reflect the Trinity, the divine, archetypical Counterparts of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.)

God puts Adam to sleep and, the Hebrew literally says, “takes one from Adam’s sides.” Almost all English versions say God took a rib. The New English Translation comes closer: “So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was asleep, he took part of the man’s side and closed up the place with flesh” Gen 2:21.

That’s when things get really interesting with reference to terminology. God closed up the flesh and brought the woman to the man who said, “This is at last bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She shall be called ‘Ish•sha,’ taken from ‘Ish!’”

Gagnon points out that when Adam says this he is looking back “retrospectively from his current reality as the now differentiated male. What was the undifferentiated human is now male and female.” This gives new meaning to what the narrator says next: “Therefore an Ish shall leave his father and mother and become joined to his Isha and they shall become one flesh.”

marriage by definition not same-sex marriageOne flesh was divided into Ish and Isha. Then, in a creative act as poetic as it is profound, God brings Ish and Isha together to make one flesh. Thus we have in the Two-in-One human a derivative reflection of the Three-in-One God.

Man and woman are two parts of one wholistic picture of human sexuality. Another man is not the counterpart to a man, or another woman to a woman. Only a man to a woman and a woman to a man. That’s the point of the Genesis text. That’s what Jesus preached.

Genesis-defined marriage is not simply a union but a reunion. Same-sex unions do not bring together two halves of one whole.

-          Gary Brumbelow

 

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Coram Deo: Made for God’s Presence

Coram Deo is about living every moment of our lives before the face of God–in his presence, under his authority, and for his glory–whether in the sanctuary, in the home or in the marketplace and the public square.

That being the case, we have chosen the term Coram Deo for an exciting new training opportunity from the DNA. We have captured the DNA’s best teaching and carefully condensed it into a set of video presentations and readings. Organized into a 12-week interactive course  with other students or a self-study at your own pace, this is the same teaching you would receive at a five-day Vision Conference, the DNA’s flagship training program.

This post is the second in a series of four that unpacks the biblical idea of Coram Deo. (The entire paper is available here.)

Coram Deo 2 graphicThe word coram is derived from the Latin cora, which means “the pupil of the eye.” It is translated “in person,” “face-to-face,” “in one’s presence,” “before one’s eyes,” “in the presence of,” “before.”[1] The second word, Deo, is the Latin word for God. The key idea in the phrase is intimate, personal relationship. In this case, God intimately knows me. Nothing is hidden. And I am to consciously seek to live all of my life in the presence of God—“before the face of God.” Some have used the concept of “the audience of one” to describe this lifestyle. Puritan pastor Cotton Mather (1663–1728) put it this way: “Let every Christian walk with God when he works at his calling, and act in his occupation with an eye to God, act as under the eye of God.”[2] Even the great English poet John Milton (1608–1674) captured the sense of living under the gaze of our Heavenly Employer: “All is, if I have grace to use it so, As ever in my great task-Master’s eye.”[3]

Made for God’s Presence

What these Christians who walked before us recognized was that humans were made to walk in God’s presence. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals himself as the “Infinite-Personal God,” to use Francis Schaeffer’s term. In Genesis 1:26, God reveals not only that he is the Personal God but also that he is Community: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” Before the creation of the world there was the intimacy of communion and communication between the Persons of the Trinity—the One and Many God.

God made man is his image so that man might have relationship with his own kind (other humans) and also to have communion with his Creator. The intimacy of God’s intention is found in Genesis 3:8–9: “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’”

This same sense of communion is found in the wilderness wanderings when God instructs Moses to build a tent for him so the presence of the transcendent God may dwell in the midst of the Hebrew camp. The Hebrews were living in tents, and God so desired to identify with his people that he wanted to “tabernacle”—live in a tent—just like his people. “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you” (Exod. 25:8–9).

Perhaps the most remarkable demonstration that God’s intention is to have humans dwell in his presence is that he chose to enter history as a vulnerable baby. The Incarnation marks the high point of God’s communion with man in that the Son of God became the Man, Christ Jesus. Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible captures the thrill of the intimacy of the Incarnation in John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.”[4]

The Greek word used for “tabernacle” in Exodus 25:8–9 in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), skenoo, is the same word used in John 1:14. It means “to fix one’s tabernacle, have one’s tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle” or “to dwell.”[5] This is a powerful image of God’s desire and intentions for us to dwell in his presence, “before the face of God.”

God continues to take the initiative and offers to restore intimacy with us through his Son, Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul writes, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel” (Col. 1:21–23). In redemption as in creation, we find that God desires for his people to dwell in his presence.

Work as Worship

One of the primary themes of the Reformation was that we are justified by faith and we are to live by faith, before the face of God. The apostle Paul writes of our justification by faith clearly in Ephesians 2:8–9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” When we come to God, we come in faith—with empty hands. Good works will not save us. Rather we stand directly before God only by his grace, through faith in the only intermediary, Jesus Christ.[6]

Just as in salvation we stand before God by faith, Scripture witnesses that we are to live daily before God in faith. Once dead, we are now alive in Christ. Paul writes of this throughout his letters, perhaps nowhere as clearly as in Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Truly those “who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness [will] reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).

For Christians who understand that we are saved by grace through faith, the whole concept of work has been transformed to that of worship. Paul told the Roman believers, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers [and sisters], in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Rom. 12:1; italics added). Scottish historian and social critic Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) has captured the wonder of what our forefathers understood: Laborare est Orare, Work is Worship. . . . All true Work is sacred; in all true Work, were it but hand-labour, there is something of divines. . . . No man has work, or can work, except religiously; not even the poor day laborer, the weaver of your coat, the sewer of your shoes.[7]

In 1520 Martin Luther published a short work called The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. As this tract began to circulate around Europe, it resulted in a firestorm that transformed entire cultures’ thinking on life and work. An anonymous story is told about two priests who read the pamphlet when it reached Holland. The following is part of what they read that so changed their way of thinking:

The works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but that all works are measured before God by faith alone. . . . Indeed, the menial housework of a manservant or maidservant is often more acceptable to God than all the fastings and other works of a monk or priest, because the monk or priest lacks faith.[8]

This tract challenged the two priests about the nature of salvation, the nature of the church, and the nature of work. Up to that point, their church had been open to the parish seven days a week. After reading the pamphlet, they announced that the doors of the church building would be opened on Sunday but closed the rest of the week.

That was a shocking change. What could they have been thinking? Through Luther’s writings, the priests had come to see that the work their parishioners did six days a week was no less sacred than the work they themselves did, that is, if each worked in faith. They understood that people did not need to visit the church building daily to do their “spiritual” service or to add a measure of holiness to their days. Both the clergy and the “laity” were to live every day of the week, every hour of the day, in all they did, coram Deo, before the face of God. Both those laboring in the community’s church and those laboring in the community’s fields, houses, and shops had the potential to worship God in their work. It was not the nature of one’s work but the faith with which one worked that mattered.

-          Scott Allen and Darrow Miller

Adapted from LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day, chapter five “Coram Deo: Before the Face of God” pp. 55-68. Copyright © 2009 by Darrow L. Miller, Published by YWAM Publishing, a ministry of Youth With A Mission, P.O. Box 55787, Seattle, WA  98155-0787. All rights reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews.


[1] William Whitaker, WORDS, s.v. “coram,” http://www.archives.nd.edu (accessed May 27, 2009).

[2] Cotton Mather, “A Christian at His Calling,” quoted in Ralph Barton Perry, Puritanism and Democracy (New York: Vanguard, 1944), 127, quoted in Leland Ryken, Redeeming the Time (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995), 106.

[3] John Milton quoted in Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 28.

[4] Robert Young, Young’s Literal Translation (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1997), S. Jn. 1:14.

[5] Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, s.v. “skenoo.”

[6] 1 John 2:1.

[7] Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present (1842; Project Gutenberg, 1996), www.gutenberg.org/files (accessed May 27, 2009).

[8] Martin Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520; Project Wittenberg Online Electronic Study Edition, 2002, www.ctsfw.edu (accessed May 27, 2009).

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Babies’ Bodies Fire Hospital Heating Plants

The bodies of at least 15,500 aborted and miscarried babies have been incinerated as medical waste in 27 National Health Service hospitals in England during the last two years. This according to Sarah Knapton’s article in the British paper The Telegraph. Two of the hospitals used the lifeless bodies as fuel for “waste-to-energy” to generate heat for the hospitals.

bodies of Nazi victims and babies treated the same

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H26996 / CC-BY-SA

There is a horrible similarity between the modern British waste-to-energy facilities and the German ovens of World War 2. They both efficiently disposed of human bodies. The Nazis, and the NHS staff, considered the bodies of imago Dei humans to be “waste.” The only difference is that the Germans were simply disposing of the evidence of their evil deeds, while the British were providing heat for hospitals. The irony is both inescapable and heart breaking.

Such a story indicates how completely we have “caught up” with the “civility” of the Nazis. Consider this: such horror has gone on for a number of years without major coverage in the press! When it was reported, this vile news was not splashed across the front page of The Telegraph but placed in the “Health News” section.

How hard is the modern heart toward human life, and especially life of the most vulnerable. The culture of death so present in the evil of the Nazis is again fully present in today’s world. Moderns don’t think twice about aborting pre-born babies, or using their bodies to fire furnaces.

As Friedrich Nietzsche prophetically concluded, if God is dead, anything that has its existence in God’s existence is dead, too! Francis Schaeffer, the Christian apologist, showed the clear connection between ideas and their consequences, “If God is dead, then man is dead, too.”

Ideas do have consequences! We witness this historically in the depreciation of human life as government policy.

  • In 1932-33, Stalin instituted the Holomodor – extermination by starvation, of approximately ten million Ukrainian nationals.
  • Hitler’s Third Reich killed six million Jews and five million other “undesirable” people in the Holocaust.
  • Today, China is terminating the lives of a million baby girls in an outrageous gendercide.

We wrote about Chinese abortion and your face cream here. And now, in “civilized” Britain, aborted babies and stillborn babies are used for fuel to heat hospitals. What unspeakable evil comes next?

These things should not surprise us as each example is cut out of the same whole cloth of ideas. Atheism, by its nature, is informed by a godless and thus “lifeless” universe and creates a culture of death.

It’s time we pushed back, not simply against the policies and practices of death, but also against the principles and paradigms (the whole cloth of atheistic culture) that produces the practices. The callousness of moderns to allow this to happen is the fruit of the whole cloth, the culture.

Thankfully Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of the National Health Service, has at least a memory of the sacredness of human life. Keogh has ordered the practice of incinerating baby’s bodies to be stopped. But what of the cultural consciousness of all those hospital and energy plant workers who made no distinction between the baby’s remains and so much “rubbish”?

In my lifetime, the world has always condemned, with horror, the murder of the Jews and the burning of their bodies by the Nazi’s. Man’s inhumanity to man continues today and at a horrible scale.

-          Darrow Miller

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Atheism: It’s Not Just What You Know, It’s How You Know

atheism fails the epistemology testRecently we published a post, “Take It From the Darwinists: “We Deliberately Ignore the Evidence.” The gist of the piece was that Darwinists have openly admitted that they ignore scientific evidence which refutes atheism. In other  words, evolutionary scientists refuse to consider evidence contrary to their paradigm. We’re not talking about missing the evidence that doesn’t support their paradigm; we’re talking about ignoring it. Intentionally.

In that post we pointed to material from Nancy Pearcey’s book, Total Truth. Nancy’s husband, Rick, operates The Pearcey Report. You might be interested in an item published there recently. As the provocative title suggests, it’s a natural follow-up to our post about Darwinism.

If God is Dead, So is Science!

 

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Coram Deo: Before the Face of God

Coram Deo is about living every moment of our lives before the face of God–in his presence, under his authority, and for his glory–whether in the sanctuary, in the home or in the marketplace and the public square.

That being the case, we have chosen the term Coram Deo for an exciting new training opportunity from the DNA. We have captured the DNA’s best teaching and carefully condensed it into a set of video presentations and readings. Organized into a 12-week interactive course  with other students or a self-study at your own pace, this is the same teaching you would receive at a five-day Vision Conference, the DNA’s flagship training program.

This post is the first in a series of four that unpacks the biblical idea of Coram Deo. (The entire paper is available here.)

The Bible reveals God as the all-powerful creator of everything (Col. 1:16). He is portrayed as the Supreme Ruler over all creation (Mt. 28:18) who orders and holds together the entire cosmos (Col. 1:17). He is not neutral towards His creation. He loves and delights in it (Gen. 1:31). But all is not as it should be. The Bible reveals sin not as an isolated spiritual ailment, but as somthing that has radically disordered the cosmos (Rom. 8:19-22). The redemption that God provides through Jesus will result in a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1) – not just saved human souls. While Jesus is our savior and redeemer, he is much more. He is the savior of the whole world – the redeemer of the entire cosmos (Jn. 3:16). The Bible reveals Christianity not as a religion, but as a comprehensive view of the universe—the only view that aligns with reality. This understanding of Christianity is not new. Indeed it is very old. It was concisely expressed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Church at Colosse:

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together… For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross 

– Colossians 1:15-19

Here we read Paul’s doctrine of creation, his understanding of the sovereignty of God, and his awareness of Jesus as the redeemer of the universe. In short, Paul presents us with an all-encompassing Christian view of the universe. In this passage the words “all” and “everything” appear six times. Centuries later, this same all-inclusive Christian worldview was expressed by the great Dutch statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) this way: “There is not a square inch of the universe over which King Jesus does not claim, ‘Mine!’” Yet today, for many Christians, this comprehensive view of reality has been obscured.

The Sacred-Secular Fallacy

Today, there is a tendency for some to divide the world into mutually exclusive compartments. One component is labeled “sacred” and has to do with the spiritual life and presumably eternal things. Everything else goes into a “secular” category. For those who hold this divided view of reality, the consequences are profound. While they may love Jesus as their spiritual savior, they may fail to honor him as Lord over all areas of life. An invisible line divides their personal faith in Christ, their church attendance, worship, prayer life, and Bible study from other areas of life such as their work, leisure time, or care for their physical bodies. Anything that is labeled “secular” is assumed to be of little concern to God. Christianity is narrowed down to a scheme for spiritual salvation. The cross is a ticket to heaven and little more.

These are a few of the personal consequences, but there are other consequences as well. When this divided understanding of reality takes hold within a church, it results in the separation of the church from its surrounding culture. Sunday worship services and vocations in “full time Christian service” are assumed to be more valuable than seemingly “secular” pursuits in areas such as the arts, law, politics, social services, care for the physical needs of the poor, and so on. Little effort is made to connect the core doctrines of the Bible to cultural and civic life. Little effort is made to encourage church members to serve as salt and light (Mt. 5:13-16), bearing witness to the truth in all areas of society. Evangelism is pitted against care for the poor. “Full-time Christian service” is pitted against careers in law, business or politics. One compartment is higher and the other lower. The church is sealed off from society. It exists in a Christian “ghetto” with its own sub-culture of language, media, and entertainment. When the divided mindset impacts churches, they become impotent and ineffective at impacting culture. Rather than discipling the nations as Christ commanded (Mt. 28:18-20), the values and dominant beliefs of the surrounding culture begin to influence and shape the church.

Despite this, there is cause for great hope. God is at work in our generation. He is active around the world leading his bride back to a comprehensive, undivided understanding of reality. He is reminding his followers that he is Lord not merely of some limited spiritual realm—he is Lord over all! He created the spiritual and the physical realms and cares for them both. He seeks to be glorified not only in the church building, but also in the home, the school, the company, the courthouse and the houses of government equally. Furthermore, he is reminding his bride that while he passionately and actively seeks and saves lost people trapped in sin (1 Ti. 2:4), his redemptive plan is far grander. He is about the business of redeeming all things distorted through the Fall (Col. 1:19-20). It is this all-encompassing redemptive agenda that he calls his Church to participate with him in.

The 15th century European reformers had a motto that reminded them, in a very practical way, of God’s comprehensive concern for all areas of life and all spheres of society. The phrase was “Coram Deo” which means “before the face of God.” All of life is to be lived before the face of God and to his glory. There is no higher, no lower—no sacred, no secular. God is Lord of all.

Coram Deo graphicCoram Deo is both liberating and challenging. It holds the power to free us from a debilitating mental dualism. It provides a fresh, faith-expanding perspective—one that leads to a newfound freedom to enjoy embodied human life in all its wonder. It opens the door for us to take new interest and delight in God’s magnificent creation. It liberates us to explore vocational alternatives outside of “full time Christian service” and still know that we are both serving and glorifying God.

As whole churches gain this new perspective, they escape from the Christian ghetto as Christians infiltrate the culture, taking with them the power of God’s Word lived out in human flesh. Coram Deo can lead to social and cultural transformation. Yet it is challenging because it shows us that our faith must impact our entire lives.  When we truly grasp this concept, we realize we can no longer withhold certain segments of our life from God. Jesus wants our whole lives—every part—to glorify him. He wants us to join him in advancing his Kingdom in all areas of culture and all spheres of society. For those who have been trapped within a divided mindset, this can appear to be a fearful and radical step. Yet he promises that when we join with him, our burden will be easy and our yoke will be light. The responsibility of advancing the Kingdom belongs to God, yet he gives us the privilege of joining with him. When we do, he supplies the strength we need to do things we could never do on our own.

Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer

To understand the concept of Coram Deo, you must start with God and His comprehensive Lordship over all of creation. His Lordship is true on three grounds.

First, God is the Creator of the world and all that is in it. The book of Genesis reveals that God’s artistry was both good and beautiful, in harmony with God and with itself. The physical realm, like the spiritual realm, is sacred. It is all God’s creation.

Second, God sustains all of his creation today. We see this in Colossians 1:17: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together,” and in Hebrews 1:3: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

Third, in Christ, God is at work redeeming all of his creation. The apostle Paul writes, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:19–20). God continues his work of reconciliation through Christ until Christ returns at the end of time (Eph 1:7-10).

For these three reasons, the dualistic sacred-secular paradigm is untrue to reality. There is no dichotomy in God’s mind. God has made, sustains, and is redeeming one world, not two, and Christians are called to live in one world.

- Scott Allen and Darrow Miller

 

Adapted from the foreword of Beyond the Sacred-Secular Divide: towards a Wholistic Life and Ministry, pp. 13-16. Copyright © 2011 by Scott D. Allen, Published by YWAM Publishing, a ministry of Youth With A Mission, P.O. Box 55787, Seattle, WA  98155-0787. All rights reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews.

 

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