Everyday Faith: Life’s Big Questions

The Thinker

Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…(1 Pet 3:15).

What is the meaning and purpose of life?

At the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry He called to those who would become His disciples, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of Men.” (Matthew 4:19). At the end of His earthly ministry He spelt out the mission of the church: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

In the book of Acts we see how Jesus empowered His church to Go: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). For these reasons (as Paul wrote to the Corinthian church) the gospel of Jesus Christ is of first importance (1 Cor 15:3-4). So for followers of Jesus the question of life purpose is clear: it’s all about the Great Commission and sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yet how many people take the time these days to think deeply through searching questions such as the meaning and purpose of life? Bill Mast, Area Director for Search, leads an Everyday Faith seminar showing us how to stimulate respectful and sensitive dialogue about life’s big questions.

Bill began with the parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin in Luke 15, reminding us that in God’s economy each person is of infinite value to be adopted into the family of God. We’d have to be heartless not to care. As an atheist pointed out in Bill’s video, “If you’re convinced of the Truth, then how much do you have to hate me not to share it?

                                                  Prayer. Friendships. Dialog.

Bill reminded us that we don’t need the gift of evangelism to share truth. Anyone can share truth in easy, winsome ways. Consider these key points from Bill’s presentation:

  1. Begin with One.  Think intentionally about the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20) as we go about our daily lives. “Start with prayer,” Bill urged. Begin with just one person in our existing network of relationships (i.e. family, neighbors, co-workers, or recreation groups). Keep it simple. Be intentional.
  2. Two Principles.
    1. Evangelism is a long-term relational process, not a one-off event. Love people unconditionally (Mt 22:37-40). Build long-term friendships regardless of the outcome. Invest prayerfully in the lives of others for their welfare and benefit.
    2. God is responsible for the results. Results come to fruition, not immediately, but over time. Take the pressure off yourself. God doesn’t expect us to be successful, just faithful. (See John 4:35-38 and 1 Cor 3:5-7).
  3. Three Barriers. Barriers may need to be crossed to foster dialog about life’s big questions. Barriers can be emotional (unpleasant memories from the past experiences); intellectual (commitments to alternative worldviews and assumptions); or volitional (willful, determined refusal to consider different perspectives). What’s the best way to cross these barriers? Build deep friendships.

Make time for deep conversations

Make time for meaningful work — remember the Managing Me seminar? In the busyness of life, we’re often too preoccupied to think deeply about our God-given calling as well as substantive relationships, meaningful dialog and real community.  Bill provided helpful ideas for overcoming barriers, finding common ground, and shifting beyond small talk to deep conversation. Some examples:

  • Ask friends over to lunch some time and simply ask questions that invite deeper conversation. “I’m curious. Tell me about your faith background. What was that like?”
  • Listen respectfully. Seek clarification, understand reasons, and carefully follow the logic: “What do you mean? How did you come to that conclusion?”
  • Be transparent. Share what you believe and give good reasons. (1 Pet 3:15). If you honestly don’t have answers to questions you’re asked, simply say so: “Actually that’s something I’d like to think more about and perhaps research. I’ll get back to you on that.” Then continue the conversation. Learn to dialog well. Enjoy one another’s company. Learn together. Build community.

Learn from the Master.

Observe Jesus engaging with others (e.g. John 4:7-42). Jesus models meaningful engagement about profoundly important questions. Build bridges, not barriers. Inquire gently. Encourage personal discovery. Seek clarification. Invite questions. Enjoy the conversation. Be a faithful friend. Leave outcomes to God.

Heavenly Father, may we come alive to the magnitude of the love, blessings and graces You’ve poured upon us in the gospel! The good news of the gospel is truly breathtaking, its implications staggering. We’re hungry beggars sharing Bread. Not to share would be heartless. By your Spirit, guide honest inquiry into the most important matters of life. And, when You open the door, help us share the gospel of Jesus Christ faithfully, honestly and winsomely with those You bring across our path. We trust You for the outcome. In Jesus’ matchless name we pray. Amen.


The photograph in this post is of The Thinker, by French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), which was inspired by Dante’s Inferno and possibly Michelangelo’s fresco The Last Judgment. The Thinker was part of a larger sculptural commission begun in 1880 called The Gates of Hell. (Makes you think — doesn’t it?)

(This post was written by Warwick Alcock, Director of Strategic Operations, Village Schools of the Bible.)

Everyday Faith: Life’s Big Questions

Everyday Faith: Managing Me


Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph 5:15-16).

Does the work we do reflect the character of God?

We are blessed to have professor Art Hill (Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota),  lead the first of our Everyday Faith seminars. The seminar series addresses the Sunday/Monday gap, in other words, helps us translate our faith from Sunday church to Monday work. (By ‘work’, we mean not just the work we do to earn a living, but all the kinds of work we do in everyday life — at home or in the community — at any stage of life, anytime, anywhere. By ‘work’ we mean the things we do when we’re awake.)

The topic for the first seminar is the theology of work and everyday faith. Theology simply means the study of God. Sometimes the best place to study God is in everyday life in the workplace. God is always at work (John 5:17). It has been said that ‘work’ in its various forms is mentioned over 800 times in the Bible. Jesus worked as a carpenter. It’s significant that the vast majority of Jesus’ teaching relates to the workplace.

Clearly, our work is important to God. The workplace is the crucible of faith – where, as Jesus’s apprentices, with God’s help, we learn to apply our faith. One of the best ways to learn is together, from real examples, so we can see clearly in our mind’s eye how other people live out their faith in everyday life — and how we might do so too.

“My friend and I love to pray,” Art said simply, “May we pray for you?”

One of the first things Art did in our initial seminar series (at St Luke’s Church in Faribault, MN) was get down to the practical details of implementation. I loved the immediacy of the ‘let’s-do-it’ approach! Art showed us how simple and easy it is to be used of God to bless someone in their place of work – a server in a restaurant, for example. Earlier that evening I had had the honor of dining with Art at a local restaurant. “My friend and I love to pray,” Art had said simply, addressing our server by name “may we pray for you?” Our server had had a really tough week, and wanted us to pray. I could see how deeply she was moved, and could sense the pain in her life. In my judgement, this was, by God’s providence, a divine encounter. It was our privilege to pray.

During our seminar, we discussed this simple, practical, praying-for-a-server example of living out our faith in everyday life. It’s an easy thing anyone can do anywhere – not just in a restaurant. We role modeled it, practiced it, reviewed it — and practiced it again. What a profoundly practical way of translating theology into everyday faith. Just do it! Be ready for God to use us for His purposes in every situation, and pray for those God puts in our path.

Keys to executing God-given roles effectively

God calls us to specific roles in everyday life (for example, as spouse, parent, employee, or as a leader in the community). Art addressed a key problem common to us all. We’re busy — so busy it’s hard to even think meaningfully about living out our faith in everyday life. One of Art’s areas of research is personal task management — called ‘Managing Me’. What a blessing to learn from a world expert on this crucial topic! Managing ourselves is crucial if we’re to be available for God’s use in everyday life. Art took us through six key steps we can take to manage ourselves and our work better:

  1. Aim. Make sure we are crystal clear about our purpose. We are followers of Christ (Mt 4:19) who walk not without aim (1 Cor 9:26a).
  2. Sort. Identify incoming work, eliminate low-value tasks (including emails!), and triage those that remain, with God’s wisdom, per James 1:5a.
  3. Select. Pick the best purpose-related, beneficial task to do. In Ephesians 5:15-16a, we are exhorted to be wise, making the best use of our time.
  4. Do. Focus on getting the selected task done. Don’t wander off into interesting distractions (like day-dreaming about vacations to Hawaii!) Proverbs 10:4 exhorts us to work diligently.
  5. Review. Reflect, evaluate, learn and improve. (Incorporate Review into daily meditation and prayer — see Psalm 139:23-24.)
  6. Break. Take a complete break. Get good sleep. The rhythm of work and rest is important. (See Ex 20:8-10.)

It’s clear that if we put these steps into practice for each of our God-given roles we can more clearly image God’s character in our work, and be far more fruitful and effective in our God-given vocations in everyday life.

This summary of the ‘Managing Me’ seminar is just a very high level overview — I’ve not done justice to the comprehensive excellence of Art’s work. We were left with examples that go into much more detail about how these ‘Managing Me’ principles can be applied in every conceivable situation, so there were takeaways for everyone. Also, Art gave us a number of insightful passages from Scripture showing what God says about managing ourselves and our work. It’s crucial that we manage ourselves so we can use God’s gift of time wisely for His purposes and glory. Effective self-management is step one for Everyday Faith.

“Pray for our server!” Art reminded me.

Art is a humble, godly man of prayer who raised Christ high, shared faithfully from God’s Word, and brought encouragement and wisdom to all seminar participants. I was completely absorbed. Before I knew it, time was up. What we learned together was how to manage ourselves and our time so we can be more effective for God’s mission. We learned how we can take simple steps to be the church more effectively (rather than being people who just ‘go to church’). And we learned how we can incarnate God’s love in the here-and-now of our everyday mission field, where, if we’re available to God, divine encounters happen.

Gracious Father, in the gospel you lavish us with your love. Launch us into your transforming story of redemption.  Help us walk in the Spirit, and live out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission in our everyday lives and vocations. Our desire, as an act of worship, is to bring everything we do under the lordship of Christ, and in so doing, testify to the gospel of your grace. We pray these things in the name of Jesus — who has promised to make all things new, including me. Amen.

(This post was written by Warwick Alcock, Director of Strategic Operations, Village Schools of the Bible.)

Everyday Faith: Managing Me

Savoring God for His Providence


The Basis for Providence

Since we are convinced from the Bible that God is the all-powerful Creator and Sovereign of the Universe, then it is necessary that this same Lord preserves and governs everything in the universe.  The Bible declares that God is creator and sovereign over all.

  • Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
  • Psalm 89:12 and 47 “Thou has created them…created the sons of man”.
  • 1 Timothy 6:15 “Only Sovereign, King of Kings and Lord of Lords”.

The Bible declares He is sustainer and preserver of everything in the universe.

  • Acts 17:28 ”For in Him we live and move and exist…”
  • Hebrews 1:3 ”And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”

Definition of Providence

Providence as a word is not found in the Bible.  Providence as a concept and reality is taught everywhere in the Bible.

Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine gives this definition for providence.  “God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them (2) cooperated with created things in every action, directing their distinct properties to cause them to act as they do, and (3) directs them to fulfill His purposes.”

The doctrine of God’s providence teaches us that God is always at work in His creation by giving His universe the properties that keep the universe going and fulfilling the purposes for which all things were created.

What are the Benefit(s) of the Doctrine of Providence for the Believer?

I consider this doctrine the safety net doctrine of the Bible.  The universe and all that it contains—including my life—is sustained and cared for by the loving Creator.  Just as he provides food for the birds of the air, so he provides all that I need to exist.  All created beings; both animals and humans are provided with all that is necessary for life from the providential decrees of God.

This means that my life is not subject to chance, fate or luck.  All that happens to me is the result of God’s perfect plan.  We agree with Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

(This post was written by Warren Coe, Executive Director, Village Schools of the Bible.)

Savoring God for His Providence

Let’s Recover the Gospel!


I am astonished that you are so quickly…turning to a different gospel. Gal 1:6.

The gospel has in today’s culture been rendered inaccessible by a combination of Biblical illiteracy, legalism and idolatry. The gospel needs to be recovered. It’s of first importance (1 Cor 15:3-4). It’s God’s power for salvation (Rom 1:16) which immortal beings long to look into (1 Pet 1:12). And it’s as much for non-Christians as for Christians. But before getting to the heart of the gospel, it’s helpful to consider what it’s not.


The gospel gets eclipsed by legalistic, externalized religion. Legalism gives a busy behavior-based ‘to-do’ list to get right with God: new spiritual disciplines to master, new devotional techniques to develop, new doctrines to learn, more tithing, more mission trips, more fasting, more praying, more accountability, etc. Even the new, cool, emerging Christianity focuses on externals: ‘old legalism in grunge clothing’ — as Summit church pastor J.D. Greear aptly puts it — which insists you think and behave like Millennials.

When I don’t measure up to performance-based spirituality, I feel rejected, worthless and miserable. Legalism preached from the pulpit wrings out large offerings – great for bringing in the money but worthless in God’s sight. Threats and action steps – however subtly they’re sprinkled with verses – shame people into behaving a certain way; but in reality this is empty religion. Legalism turns me into an immaculately obedient Pharisee, always at prayer meetings, the first to sign up – yet self-focused, proud and judgmental. People acting right without loving right have neither heart nor spirit. Legalism quenches the Spirit – it’s the opposite of the gospel.


Sixteenth century theologian and reformer John Calvin called the human heart an ‘idol factory’, constantly attaching god-like weight to things we think essential for life and happiness. What is the one thing I hope for in my future? What do I most worry about losing? What one thing have I sacrificed most for? What do I most prize in life? Answers to these questions reveal my idols: my corner of the American Dream: plenty of money, a comfortable house and a great retirement. I serve Mammon, and pay God off. I check the right boxes: I tithe, volunteer and do the occasional mission trip — and live just as I please. In reality, I’m saying no to God and the gospel. As with legalism, so too with idolatry – it’s a religious façade. (1 Cor 13:1-3).


If I’m honest with myself I know I am in a helpless predicament. I drift into legalism. I lapse into idolatry. I fear: failure, mediocrity, being discovered, becoming a laughingstock. I hide my shortcomings, exaggerate my accomplishments, and bend the truth. So who am I functionally worshiping – God or me? My problem is my twisted and distorted heart to which these sins come as instinctively as breathing. That is my depravity — a radical, pervasive corruption as a consequence of my fallen nature. I’m wayward and rebellious at heart, and helpless to fix it (Ro 7:21-24).

Good News

That’s why the gospel is such good news! The God of the universe has reconciled us to Himself, His Son Jesus having died as a substitute for our sins. All who repent and believe have eternal life in Him (John 3:16). It’s what 4th century theologian, St. Athanasius, described as the great exchange: Christ became my sin so that I could literally become His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). On that basis salvation is complete. God accepts me and loves me as unconditionally and completely as he loves Christ. And with all the glory and splendor and power that raised Christ from the grave, He will appear again to take us home! We receive this extraordinary grace in simple repentance and faith. It’s a free gift. This is astoundingly good news!

The gospel changes everything

It’s one thing to know about the gospel; having it burst alive in one’s soul is another. Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards likened it to the difference between knowing honey is sweet and the sweetness of honey bursting alive in one’s mouth.  The gospel, said Edwards, is like a supernatural light imparted by the Spirit of God. “I felt my heart strangely warmed,” said Methodist founder John Wesley of his conversion experience. The goodness and majesty of God explodes in the heart, spiritual eyes are opened; hard hearts burst alive with righteous, godly passions; and new creatures remade in God’s image are launched into gospel-saturated lives committed to God’s redemptive mission for the world! John Wesley’s warmed heart was the initial fuse that led to his covering 250,000 miles (the distance from here to the moon) preaching two or three times a day as he co-founded the Methodist movement. The sheer dynamism of the gospel is extraordinary!

Love at the heart

Where does such spiritual vitality come from? Divine love is at the heart of the gospel. The gospel alone has the power to melt hearts that love God and others. Divine love birthed in reborn spirits releases the Spirit-life that pours through God’s new creatures. The Great Commandment is an outflow from the gospel. So long as God’s people abide in Jesus – spending time with Him, making their home in His love, saturating themselves in His words and reflecting on the gospel — then His love will be the soil out of which all outworkings of the fruits of the Spirit will naturally grow. All of God’s promises find their “yes” in Christ! “Here am I – send me!” (Is 6:8) is the worshipful response of God’s grateful people. The joy of obedience comes from being saturated with the life-giving power of the gospel.

An illustration of grace

In the 1862 historical novel Les Misérables, French author Victor Hugo explores the nature of law and grace. In an unforgettable scene, the law catches up with runaway convict and thief Jean Valjean, who collides with surprising grace. “This man is my friend,” says the victim of Valjean’s theft, “And you forgot these,” he says, putting more valuables in Valjean’s bag. With no charge being laid, the police must release their captive. Valjean’s encounter with grace is powerfully transformational: Valjean is permanently and radically altered, his soul having tasted something from a completely different world. Valjean becomes a new man. Such is the transformational power of grace at a human level – how much more transformational at a divine level.


What about obedience? Obedience to commands is an essential part of the Christian life, but the power for transformation does not come from it. It comes from the heart-melting love and grace of the gospel; it’s an outflow from gospel conviction. The gospel produces audacious faith, a desire for holiness, and all the other graces that mark the Spirit-filled life. Not one iota of obedience earns any salvation. Relationship with Jesus depends not on my performance for Jesus, but on His performance for me. The work of salvation is finished (Jn 19:30). Obedience cannot save — but it is the inevitable outflow of authentic spiritual rebirth and a the essential mark of a living faith (Ja 2:26).

When our lives are not gospel-centered

Over the years, perhaps we’ve misunderstood the Bible as a book of pragmatic rules or formulas for successful living — which is lifeless moralism — or we’ve marginalized the gospel in some other way, having been blind to its real significance. If so, Cover-to-Cover is a great help.

In Cover-to-Cover Bible Survey, we trace the Scarlet Thread of Redemption from Genesis to Revelation. Already in Genesis 3:15 the gospel is clearly anticipated. It’s thrilling to see how the gospel weaves together every book of the Bible and points to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at the heart of the gospel. Keeping in mind God’s master-narrative – creation, fall, redemption and consummation – helps us consistently focus on the person and work of Jesus, the main character in the entire Bible. The gospel is of prime importance, says Paul (1 Cor 15:3-4): it’s central to God’s message. It expresses the heart of God.

At Village Schools we encourage journaling (writing) as a way to slow down from the busyness of life, and marinate in the Scriptures as an act of worship and transformation. As we do so, we recover the centrality of the gospel in our lives, come alive more fully to Jesus, and pray God’s truth deeper into our hearts so we can grow and bear fruit (Col 1:6).

To conclude:

  1. Let’s plead with God to open the eyes of our hearts, and fill us (Eph 1: 17-19; 3:16-20; 5:18). If we’re spiritually blind, we have no idea we’re missing out on anything at all. Let’s pray for spiritual sight, encourage one another on the journey, help each other seek Jesus in every part of Scripture, and listen for His voice.
  2. Let’s embrace our identity in the gospel, and preach the gospel to ourselves daily. As Martin Luther once said, We need the gospel every day because we forget the gospel every day. The gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life, it’s the fuel that keeps us going and growing (Col 1:6). Whatever spiritual challenges we have in life, the cure is the gospel. It speaks to every area of our lives and into every situation. Through Bible study and prayer, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to take God’s word deeper into our being to cure undiscovered regions of unbelief. Always begin again with the gospel: let’s abide in it, swim in it, make our home in it and see more and more of our life in it.
  3. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice. Both the Holy Spirit and Satan point out our sin, but in completely different ways for radically different purposes. Our Accuser deceives us into mistaking his voice as the voice of the Holy Spirit: “You’re terrible! You’re no good. What a miserable failure. You’re such a disappointment!” Satan’s is the voice that accuses and demoralizes. The Holy Spirit’s voice is utterly different: “I have made you my child. I have taken away all your sin. I love you fully, completely and unconditionally. Live that way!” He reminds us of our identity in Christ and encourages us to live accordingly. The Holy Spirit releases the Spirit-life in our heart (Gal 5:22-23). His is the voice that redeems, takes us deeper with Jesus, and frees us to live a life of abundance and joy!

The gospel is the key. It’s of first importance (1 Cor 15:3-4). May our lives, with God’s grace, always reflect this profoundly important truth.


  1. Greear, J. D. Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. B&H, 2011.
  2. Greear, J.D. Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to know for sure you are saved. B&H, 2013.
  3. Smith, S. Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith. Baker, 2011.

(This post was written by Warwick Alcock, Director of Strategic Operations, Village Schools of the Bible.)

Let’s Recover the Gospel!

41 Years of Marriage to a Beautiful Woman

So It Began

WArren & MarlysIn 1974 I jumped into a VW Beetle and drove from San Jose, California to Chicago, Illinois with a college friend.  We were beginning seminary together.  I was dead serious.  No play.  No fun.  No girls.  It was New Testament Greek, Old Testament Hebrew, theology and the Bible.  I looked  forward to long hours in the library and great theological discussions over a cup of coffee with classmates.  Then I met Marlys.

She was a farm girl from Iowa–petite and pretty.  Mind you, I’m not that superficial, looks were important but I had a few other qualities on my list of the perfect woman. She had to be athletic and play basketball.  She had to be a neat person and not messy. Most importantly, the woman of my dreams had to love the Lord with all her heart.  I found all three qualities in the woman who became my wife in 1976.


Marlys and I are celebrating forty-one years of marriage.  After all those years and seven children later, she continues to hold my heart with her beauty and grace.  Marlys is a nurturing mother.  She has a listening ear.  Her patience and long suffering amaze me.

In my brief sixty-eight years of life on earth, I have made two great decisions.  First and foremost, I have repented of my sins and called on Jesus Christ for eternal life. Second, I asked Marlys to be my wife.  Both decisions changed everything.

Long ago a man by the name of Lemuel wrote a tribute to an excellent wife.  “An excellent wife, who can find?  For her worth is far above jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good and not evil all the days of her life…she girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong….She extends her hand to the poor and she stretches out her hands to the needy…Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying; ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’  Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”  (Proverbs 31:10-30)

Thank you, Marlys for forty-one wonderful years!

(By Warren Coe, Executive Director, Village Schools of the Bible.)

41 Years of Marriage to a Beautiful Woman