August 25, 2019

Crossway is holding a sale on the e-book of Family Vocation:  God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting and Childhood, the book I wrote with my daughter, Mary Moerbe.  All this week, you can buy it for only $3.99.

Today when we hear about “vocation” and even the “doctrine of vocation,” we think of the work that we do to make a living.  But when the Bible talks about it–as well as Martin Luther who brought this teaching back into importance–the major emphasis is on the vocations of the family:  being a husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter.

Today, when so many marriages are having problems, when parents struggle over the best way to raise their children, when children themselves–whether growing up or as having left the nest–have tensions with their parents and siblings, and when the very institution of the family is being questioned and revised, the doctrine of vocation is startlingly illuminating, practical, and transformative.

Here is how the editors describe it on Amazon:

What does it mean to be called as a husband, a wife, a parent, a child? How does the grace of the gospel impact how we carry out our particular calling? How does God’s presence influence the struggles that families face?

Gene Veith joins forces with his daughter Mary Moerbe to explore these kinds of questions as well as the roles of calling and vocation in family life. Though we have little control over who is in our family (other than choosing a spouse and deciding to have children), God has placed us with specific people for specific reasons. Veith and Moerbe show how our roles are distinct and important to God’s plan for our lives—and that when we have a biblical understanding of those roles in our families, we can move away from common dysfunctions and toward forgiveness and healing.

Writing with sensitivity and wisdom, Veith and Moerbe address the common problems facing contemporary families: the crosses, the weaknesses, and the uncertainties. They articulate a compelling, biblical paradigm for creating and sustaining loving and forgiving families who maintain hope in the face of cultural pressure. This book is an important resource for all Christians, including pastors, counselors, and those working in family ministry.

This is a good gift for newlyweds and couples planning to get married.  It is also good reading for new parents.  Also for husbands and wives having problems in their marriages, or parents at their wits’ end.  But also the happily-married, the happily-parenting, and the happily-parented, who will appreciate seeing just how God is working in their families.

From August 25 through August 31, you can download the e-book, which usually costs $7.09,  for only $3.99.  You can also buy the paperback for $7.46, a markdown from the usual price of $15.99.  Go here, or click the icon below:

July 1, 2019

I just heard from Crossway that they are running a special promotion of my book God at Work:  Your Christian Vocation in All of Life.  You can buy the e-book on Amazon for a mere $3.99.

This is the book that explores the key concepts of the Reformation doctrine of vocation.  It has been instrumental in the current rediscovery of that liberating, transformative teaching, which shows Christians how to live out their faith in the workplace, the family, the culture, and the church.

The key concepts are that God Himself works through human beings in their various vocations as they sacrificially love and serve their neighbors in their ordinary lives.  In the everyday offices, tasks, and relationships that God calls us to (such as marriage, parenthood, work, citizenship, congregational life), we bear the Cross, struggle against sin, experience forgiveness, and so grow in our faith and holiness.

If you haven’t read it yet, I think you would find it helpful.  At any rate, you can save $12 by buying it here.

The offer is good through July 6.

If you want to learn even more about vocation, you’ll also want to read the book that I co-wrote with my daughter, Mary Moerbe, Family Vocation:  God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood.

Also the book commissioned by the Acton Institute on the socio-economic dimension of vocation: Working for Our Neighbor:  A Lutheran Primer on Vocation, Economics, and Ordinary Life.

Please excuse this commercial.  I didn’t make up this stuff about vocation.  This was a major emphasis of the Protestant Reformation and a big reason that movement had the impact that it did.  Strangely, even Protestants drifted away from these teachings.  I wrote these books to help recover this concept and to help other people benefit from it as I have done.  And they seem to be accomplishing those purposes.

 

June 19, 2019

The Barna Research Group, in conjunction with Abilene Christian University, has published a study entitled  Christians at Work.  It demonstrates that Christians’ awareness of the doctrine of vocation seems to have grown considerably over the past few years.  But I’m not sure the researchers or the subjects fully “get” the concept.

According to a summary, 50% of Millennials, 39% of Generation X-ers, and 37% of Baby Boomers say that “I feel ‘made for’ or ‘called’ to the work I currently do.”  It may seem odd that people at the end of their careers feel less “called” than those at the beginning–especially since many Millennial young adults are not yet settled in the professions they have prepared for–but I suspect that the data is showing that younger Christians are more aware of the concept than the older generations.

But though the report keeps using the word “vocation,” the term has reference only to “work,” which of course is the emphasis of the study, but, properly speaking, our “callings” also have to do with family, citizenship, and church.  In fact, what we do for a living is subordinate to our vocations in the earthly estates that God has ordained, so that whatever we are doing to support ourselves and our family–whether or not it corresponds to “my unique strengths, talents, and capabilities” (as one survey question puts it)–is fulfilling our primary callings as husband, father, and citizen.  In fact, the report seems to play work and church involvement off against our work, as if they were not all facets of God’s calling.

More problematic is that much of the survey focuses on “satisfaction,” perpetuating the misconception that our vocations from God have to do with our self-fulfillment.  Some do, and some don’t.  Some vocations give us a sense of fulfillment some times, but not other times.  But “self” is not the point.

The purpose of every vocation is to love and serve the neighbors that the vocation brings into our lives (spouse; children; fellow church members; fellow citizens; clients; customers; etc.).  In the course of that service, we sacrifice ourselves for others, experience trials and tribulations, fall into sin and repent and receive Christ’s forgiveness, and so grow in our faith and our sanctification.

But there was one question that related to serving our neighbor:  “I want to use my gifts and talents for the good of others.”  Among Millennials, 67% agreed; among Generation X-ers, 60%; among Baby Boomers, 57%.

The oft-criticized Millennial generation of Christians seems to have more of a sense of vocation than us Baby Boomers.  That bodes well, though we all have more to learn.

 

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay, Pixabay License

 

 

April 2, 2019

The magazine Interest Time has a special issue on vocation.  The lead article “Vocation: How God Provides for Us” by Demian Farnworth is an excellent introduction to the concept.  The issue also includes an interview with me, in which, among other things, I tell how I first discovered vocation.

Interest Time is a publication of the Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF), a financial services organization that handles savings and investments for congregations and their members and that provides loans for church buildings and other worthy projects.  The LCEF has nearly 60,000 investors, and this magazine goes out to them, but it’s available online.

The special issue actually is more than just an introduction, since it brings out many facets of vocation that go deeper into the concept.  The lead article, which is unsigned but Demian–a Senior Content Writer for LCEF–admitted to me that he is the author, not only draws on my three books but on the insights of other folks:  Ft. Wayne seminary professor John Pless explained  how vocation is related to justification, baptism, and sacrifice.  Deaconness Betsy Karkan discussed vocation as gift, which entails not only blessings but also crosses that we have to bear.  Pastor Andrew Preus explained how vocation “contains”–but is not identical with–occupation:

“An occupation,” said Rev. Andrew Preus, senior pastor of two Lutheran churches in Iowa, “is what you do within your vocation. Vocation contains an occupation. The occupation serves the vocation.”

“A father, for example, works as a plumber to support his family as well as other families, his church and even to pay taxes to give revenue to whom revenue is due.”. . .

“Father is instituted by God,” Preus said. “Christian is instituted by God. Plumber isn’t. You can, without sinning, stop being a plumber. You can’t, without sinning, decide to stop being a father.”

The issue also included an interview with me, conducted by Demian.   Here is a sample from that:

When did you know you should write about vocation: 

I had been asked to speak to a group of Christian artists, and, in the course of trying to find a topic, I picked up a book that a friend had given me:  Gustav Wingren’s Luther on Vocation.  I thought I knew what vocation was, but I was astonished at what I was learning from this book, things I had never heard before.  So I taught these artists about vocation, and when I saw the impact it was having on them—some were weeping with joy—I knew that I should try to make Luther’s teachings about vocation more broadly known.

What do you wish your younger self knew about vocation?

Vocation is not primarily about self-fulfillment, happiness, or success (though these may come).  Rather, vocation has to do with self-sacrificially loving and serving the neighbors whom our callings bring into our lives. . . .

What’s threatens the doctrine of vocation?

The cult of the self, which reduces our economic labors to self-interest, destroys families in the name of self-fulfillment, and ensures our isolation from the neighbors whom God calls us to love and to serve.

[Keep reading. . .]

 

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay, Creative Commons License

February 28, 2019

I’m in a reading group that just finished discussing Luther’s Two Kinds of Righteousness.  Friends, you have got to read this brief tract based on one of Luther’s sermons from 1519.  It’s from the early days of the Reformation, two years after the 95 Theses and two years before the showdown with the emperor at the Diet of Worms.  This is Luther at his very best.

Setting aside polemics, despite the tumultuous controversies of the time–this was also the year of the Leipzig disputation with Johann Eck over indulgences and the authority of the pope–this work is pure pastoral care.  It is one of the clearest, most penetrating, most profound, and most beautiful expositions of the Gospel–with stunning applications of Scripture–that I have ever come across.

And it is helpful in explaining something that we often overlook, that the “alien righteousness” we have in Christ is a real righteousness, delivering us from the “alien” sinfulness that we have in Adam.  When we are united to Christ by faith–as a result of His grace and the Holy Spirit’s work through Word and Sacrament–we are saved by His good works, which become ours, since we are members of His body.

Therefore a man can with confidence boast in Christ and say:  “Mine are Christ’s living, doing, and speaking, his suffering and dying, mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did.”  Just as a bridegroom possesses all that is his bride’s and she all that is his—for the two have all things in common because they are one flesh [Gen. 2:24]—so Christ and the church are one spirit [Eph. 5:29-32].

Furthermore, Luther explains the connection of this “alien righteousness” that we did not accomplish with our “proper righteousness”; that is, the good works that are the fruit and consequence of Christ’s righteousness in us.

Luther relates all of this to vocation.  That is, to the Christian life as we each, in our various capacities and walks of life, love and serve our neighbors.

Luther’s text for this message is Philipians 2:5-6:  “have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.”  He focuses not just on what this passage teaches about Christ but also on what this passage means when it says “have this mind among yourselves.”

I was struck by this passage, which specifies how we are to have the “mind” of Christ in our different vocations in the way we ought to empty ourselves–as Christ did–in love and service to our neighbors:

Whenever we, on the ground of our righteousness, wisdom, or power, are haughty or angry with those who are unrighteous, foolish, or less powerful than we—and this is the greatest perversion—righteousness works against righteousness, wisdom against wisdom, power against power.  For you are powerful, not that you may make the weak weaker by oppression, but that you may make them powerful by raising them up and defending them.  You are wise, not in order to laugh at the foolish and thereby make them more foolish, but that you may undertake to teach them as you yourself would wish to be taught.  You are righteous that you may vindicate and pardon the unrighteous, not that you may only condemn, disparage, judge, and punish.  For this is Christ’s example for us, as he says, “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).  He further says in Luke 9:55-56, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of; for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”

When “righteousness works against righteousness”!  Using our very righteousness to mistreat people and thus to be unrighteous!   This is an example of the subtlety and precision of this work.

So read the Two Kinds of Righteousness. free at the link (or buy it here or look it up in Luther’s Works, Vol. 32, pp. 297-306).  It’s exceedingly short, only 20 brief paragraphs!  So you probably have time to read it right now.  You will be glad you did.

Illustration by John Warner Barber, “Christian Similitudes” (1866), p. 103, via Flickr, Public Domain.

 

February 14, 2019

 

Rev. A. Trevor Sutton, the co-writer with me of Authentic Christianity:  How Lutheran Theology Speaks to a Postmodern World,  is working on a doctorate in which he is studying the relationship between technology and theology.  He has written some interesting articles lately that I wanted to pass along.

In Mr. Zuckerberg, Meet Martin Luther, he applies the doctrine of vocation to Silicon Valley.  Like the “Robber Barons” of the Gilded Age, the tycoons of Silicon Valley have been both lauded for their economy-and-culture-changing entrepreneurship and condemned for their all-too-human faults.  Trevor shows that not only in their influence but in the “digital interfaces” that they rule over, the CEOs of high-tech companies function much like the “rulers” whom Luther exhorts to serve their subjects.

Then Trevor connects technology to what Luther wrote about tools, in the context of vocation.  I’ll give you a sampling of that.

From A. Trevor Sutton, Mr. Zuckerberg, Meet Martin Luther:

Luther’s advice for Zuckerberg would extend beyond principles for social responsibility in leadership; he also wrote about technology. Similar to power and influence, technology should be used in service to neighbors. In The Sermon on the Mount (1538), Luther suggested:

If you are a manual laborer, you find that the Bible has been put into your workshop, into your hand, into your heart. It teaches and preaches how you should treat your neighbor. Just look at your tools—at your needle or thimble, your beer barrel, your goods, your scales or yardstick or measure—and you will read this statement inscribed on them. Everywhere you look, it stares at you. Nothing that you handle every day is so tiny that it does not continually tell you this, if you will only listen. … All this is continually crying out to you: “Friend, use me in your relations with your neighbor just as you would want your neighbor to use his property in his relations with you.”

In Luther’s mind, the methods and tools of one’s craft—technology—are rightly used when deployed in service to neighbors; needles, thimbles, beer barrels, scales, computers, and smartphones ought to enrich the lives of others instead of hurting, harming, or taking advantage of them. This implies also that those who create these technologies must also consider the ends to which they are being employed—to help or harm others. This understanding of technology suggests that the Silicon Valley creators of software, user interfaces, algorithms, and social networking platforms are more responsible to the individual users than the tech investors and profit margins to whom they’ve traditionally answered. One can imagine the widespread change that would occur if designers, programmers, and tech companies as a whole created their technologies with the well-being of their neighbors at the forefront of their minds. To be certain, this way of producing technology would also be very disruptive to the current economic paradigm.

Zuckerberg and other leaders in Silicon Valley possess considerable power through their social networking sites, whether they’re willing to say so or not. And while Luther may not be able to help us fix the inherent problems of our economic system, his theology of tools—that is, arguing that the technologies we create and employ should serve rather than take advantage of our neighbors—should at least give Zuckerberg and other tech leaders pause to consider, “for whom are we to fix things.”

 

 

Illustration via MaxPixel, CC0, Public Domain


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