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Immanuel Labor, God’s Presence in our Professions Review by Kym ThorpeRussell Gehrlein
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
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In Immanuel Labor: God’s Presence in Our Profession, author Russell Gehrlein lays out a practical theological viewpoint of work. Gehrlein’s own work experience is varied - he has degrees in mathematics and biblical studies, has been a youth pastor and a schoolteacher. He is a retired army master sergeant with more than twenty years of active duty. Currently, he works for the army as a civilian. Over the course of his studies and his unique career path, he has developed an understanding of the theology of work and in this book, he shares what God says about work in the Bible.
After the first two chapters of introduction and background, Part 1: Biblical and Theological Foundations establishes the groundwork for a Biblical understanding of work and its purpose and value. He explains that God is a worker and shows that Scripture is full of references to the works of all three members of the Trinity. It follows then, that because we are created in God’s image, we are created to be co-workers with God. Also discussed are God’s purposes in work and the connection between God’s presence and our work. It is this connection that sparked the title of the book, Immanuel Labor, and the idea that God makes his presence known us when we are doing the work, he has given us. Many examples from the Bible are given in this section, including David, Nehemiah, and Paul. There are also discussions about how sin affects our work, and what expectations we should have about work during eternity.
In Part 2: A Practical Approach, Gehrlein gives guidelines for applying all that theological understanding to the day-to-day concerns of choosing a vocation, finding a job, and honoring God in all the work that we do. Gehrlein acknowledges that finding a suitable career path is often difficult and that it is a spiritual journey, and then goes on to offer very practical advice on considering our calling and purpose in the workplace. More down-to-earth advice follows in the areas of employer and employee relationships, compensation, working mothers, and how to approach unpleasant tasks in the workplace. An entire chapter is dedicated to giving a biblical perspective on several special career fields including the arts, education, blue-collar work, and the armed forces; and another chapter deals with vocational Christian ministry.
Most of the chapters in this 244-page book are short, and each one ends with a set of questions for small group discussion or for personal reflection. This would make an excellent small group study since many of the questions focus on the Scripture passages and are designed to encourage deep and thoughtful conversations. It would also be a valuable resource for a high school or college student, or any young adult making decisions about possible career paths. The book is well-researched and very well written, with an impressive list of resources and an extensive Scripture index for reference and further study.
The book is available for purchase at the publisher’s website and other online retailers.
-Product review by Kym Thorpe, The Old SchoolhouseⓇ Magazine, LLC, September 2019