Saturday, June 30, 2007

Quote of the Week

"To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here."

Jonathan Edwards (1703 - 1758)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Summer Reading List

Summer is a time for the beach, hammocks, lazing around and ... reading. Here are the books I plan to read this summer and why they're on the list.

Church History in Plain Language
by Bruce L. Shelley

Like most evangelicals, I know far too little about church history but I'm convinced that learning about church history will give me an appreciation for the doctrines that I hold dearly.

What Jesus Demands From the World
by John Piper

What can I say - it's one of the newest Piper books. I read almost everything he writes and benefit from it. Plus I got it for only $2.97 a couple weeks ago when they were running a special on their website. That particular offer is over but...FYI - if you'd like to get this or any other Piper book, Desiring God is running a special through midnight Thursday - every book is $5!

The Long Tail by Chris Andersen

I've heard good things about this book on the new economics of the web 2.0 model - I'm looking forward to reading it.

The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity by Philip Jenkins

Philip Jenkins is a leading authority on global church growth and this book is the definitive reference on that topic. I'm working on an initiative that will serve the global church so this is particularly interesting to me.

What books are you planning to read this summer? Share your list with us.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Quote of the Week

"Christianity is the only major religion to have as its central event the humiliation of its God."

Bruce L. Shelley
Church History in Plain Language, p. 3

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Overcoming Workplace Negativity

I'm on vacation this week so instead of a regular post, this is an excerpt of an article I wrote for The High Calling. You can read the rest at the recently redesigned High Calling website.


Some people can find the dark cloud in every silver lining. These individuals are all too ready to pounce on the latest idea or the smallest breakthrough—so they can tear it down. Let me be clear. I'm not talking about constructive advice here. A thoughtful counter-point can be essential to the decision-making process.

But I'm referring to people who have a commitment to pessimism. They always view the glass as half empty. They are chronic naysayers, and they are an occupational hazard in this fallen world.

How should we respond to their negativity at work? My guess is that most of us don't respond well. Negative comments can feel like an attack on our ideas, and sometimes we respond with a counter attack. On other occasions, we may immerse ourselves in fruitless introspection over a criticism because we're afraid of making a mistake. After all, the last thing we want to do is prove those nay-sayers right!

When we respond like this, we're far too focused on ourselves and the judgments rendered on our ideas... (Read the rest of the article here)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Quote of the Week

"Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee;

for Thou hast formed us for Thyself,
and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee"

St Augustine - The Confessions; Book 1, Chapter 1

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Build Right By Not Serving God?

Well, not exactly. However, Acts 17:24-25 should make us pause when we think about doing any kind of work as service to God. Paul addressed the gathering at the Areopagus with these words.

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else..."

Most of us see service to God as commendable but there is a kind of service that doesn't bring pleasure to God. It's when we serve Him "as if he needed anything".

Of course, we'd never intentionally "serve" God in this way. Yet, if you've ever been tempted to think that your gifts and contributions are important or vital to His work, you may be falling prey to this faulty thinking. And let's face it, from time to time, we're all tempted in this way. We're particularly vulnerable to this thinking whenever we're involved in noble and right causes. We may be tempted to assign importance to our participation and anchor our righteousness in our own work.

So what's the alternative? How about taking a different view? Perhaps we should view our work not so much as service to God, but as a means of being served by Him. Mind you, not by reducing God to a "vending machine" for our whims and desires as the prosperity gospel adherents have done. Instead, see a Sovereign God who calls us, directs us and provides all that we need to accomplish His will.

Whether we're building a business, a family or a ministry, it's our privilege to do so. God is not pleased when we do so grudgingly or with an inflated view of our importance. The reality is this - no matter what you're building or how gifted you may be, God doesn't need you to accomplish his will. He can use anyone. The fact that He employs us for His work is a gift to us, allowing us to work alongside Him.

Building right means the emphasis isn't on our service to God, but on God who graciously serves us by permitting us to participate in His work.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Quote of the Week

"I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God
believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as 'God on the cross'.

In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?"

John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p.335

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Build to Gain the Reward

Commenting on my last post, Mark Goodyear posed a couple of interesting questions. Rather than paraphrase, I'll let his comment speak for him -

"...the only success that has any significance is whether we are transformed into the image of our Creator. Still, I imagine an entrepreneur trying to build a business wants to do more than conform himself to Christ. He or she wants to do both--conform to Christ and build a financially successful business. Is it wrong to want both? Are they incompatible?"

Mark's questions dovetail with an important point in the "how to build" series of posts - Build to Gain the Reward. I find Mark's first question particularly intriguing. How do we think about pursuing success and pursuing God simultaneously? I think at different points in our lives, we've all experienced the inherent tension between both pursuits.

Here's how I think about this in my life - I'm building to gain a reward. Whether we're building a business or working on a project, the aim is to receive a reward from God. This might include the satisfaction that comes through using our creativity and completing a task. It might also include monetary reward that comes from having a successful enterprise.

Yet all these rewards pale in comparison to this - the reward of knowing and experiencing Christ. It is by far, the greatest gain we can receive because it is of greatest value and eternally lasting. A passage that captures this for me is found in Psalm 73.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

(Psalm 73:25)

I love Psalm 73 because it captures this tension between pursuing success in this life and the treasure of knowing Christ. To me, verse 25 is the pinnacle of the psalm because the psalmist resolves the tension by concluding two things -

1. There is no treasure that compares with knowing God.
2. Knowing the living God is sufficient for all his desires.

This verse has become a wonderful guide as I build and pursue success. The truth is I want rewards of all kinds when I work and build. I love rewards and I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with that. Yet by God's grace, most of all, I want the everlasting reward of knowing God. He is the Treasure of everlasting value.

What do you think? How would you answer Mark's questions?