Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, Chapter 9
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
A few of you have asked me to post about the progress of Gospel Translations since its public launch in September 2007 so here it is! Through the generosity and talents resident in Sovereign Grace Ministries, we were able to produce a video that explains the vision behind the Gospel Translations Project. We were also very glad to be picked up by a number of influential blogs like Girl Talk, Desiring God blog, Ligonier Ministries blog and Justin Taylor's blog. My blogging friend, Marcus Goodyear was kind enough to blog about us as well.
More importantly, fifteen months since its launch, we have over 750 translated resources online in 31 different languages -all for free. Some of these translations are in commonly spoken languages like Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese - others are lesser known like Telegu, Suomi and Igbo. We recently launched a Spanish language wiki site with over 350 Spanish resources from contemporary authors such as John Piper, DA Carson, CJ Mahaney and RC Sproul as well as a smattering of works from profoundly wise"dead guys" like Charles Spurgeon.
We now have a database of approximately 400 translators and many of them are actively at work making gospel centered materials available in their native language. We are deeply grateful and humbled by their faithful, passionate work for the sake of the gospel.
As we enter 2009, please pray for us as we continue to build this ministry -
- We are focused on building a readership base - please pray for the success of this objective
- We are also in great need of funding to continue beyond September 2009 - please pray that God will provide the needed financing.
We trust that God initiated this work and if so, He will supply all that is currently lacking in terms of resources and financing. If you feel led to volunteer or give toward this initiative, please visit our website for more information.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Now, it's easy to dismiss this as another episode from a spoiled professional athlete. But, have you ever done something like that? Maybe you didn't express your frustration over talk radio but what about complaining over the water cooler with a few of your colleagues? Have you ever had a problem with your boss but instead of speaking directly with him, you chose to express your "opinion" with others? Here's another twist - do you find it easier to fire a terse email rather than to speaking directly with the person concerned?
If so, you're like many of us. It's so easy to see the foolishness in Clinton Portis' response, but not quite as easy to acknowledge similar sinful behavior in ourselves. Aren't you glad that God doesn't judge us in the same manner that we judge others? This isn't about condoning Portis' actions or response - it's about how we can use the his poor example as a window into our own sinful hearts... and through repentance and faith toward God, change the way we communicate at work.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Happy Thanksgiving! It's a time for thankful reflection for family, friends and good health. That's absolutely appropriate but many of us will overlook the blessing of our jobs, co-workers and simply the ability to work.
Earlier in my working life, I've been apt to take my job for granted. However, a number of years ago, following the dotcom bust, I was out of work for an extended period and in some ways, it was the best thing for me. I realized how much I took for granted. I had proudly assumed that I was always employable because that my skills were "in demand". Sure, I acknowledged that it was God who provided for our needs as a family but I didn't truly believe it.
Nine months of unemployment has a way of curing that attitude. I realized that God does provide for me even when I don't truly appreciate it. I realized that if God didn't give me the ability to work, equip me for work or provide the opportunity to work, I would really be destitute. It made me grateful that He does all these things for me.
As we head into economic uncertainty, here are a few things to be grateful for -
- The ability to work. To have the strength and skills to work is something to be truly be grateful for.
- The opportunity to work. If you've ever been unemployed for a lengthy period of time, you know what I'm talking about. When times are good, we assume opportunities will always abound but it's God's kindness that we have work.
- Our co-workers. We spend nearly a third of our week at work and many meaningful social interactions occur at work. Some of the best friendships are developed at work. OK - some of our co-workers aren't so easy to get along with. But even those challenges can be God appointed. They are meant to serve us by helping us grow in patience, kindness and our response may offer an opportunity for the gospel to be preached.
- Finally, we can be thankful that our work doesn't define us. We're made in the image of God - our work is not just provision for us, it's a means for worship. So our work isn't the ultimate, God is. It's a blessing to be able to work without work enslaving and defining our lives.
Do you have any other thoughts along these lines? What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?
Friday, November 14, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, p. 370
Monday, October 27, 2008
This is a powerful video from Desiring God Ministries, highlighting the power of our words.
We can often take the words we speak so lightly, not being aware of how they affect others. James 3 speaks to this -
"For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water."
I found this video very helpful in making that point. Share your reaction with us.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) ; The Expulsive Power of a New Affection (Discourse IX)
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
How do you deal with tough financial problems? What tempations do you experience in such times?
Anxiety, perhaps? It's not uncommon for some of us to be tempted in this area. In the midst of mounting bills without corresponding income, we can be tempted to anxiety. How we can sustain such financial drain, we wonder?
How about unbelief? I remember when I was out of work in 2001. It was the post dot-com bubble era - it seemed like companies were shutting down every week and employees were being laid off daily. After several months of not finding work, I began to wonder if I'd ever get another job again!
A couple of weeks ago, I heard a message on Sunday by CJ Mahaney about how many of our struggles stem from spending much of our time listening to ourselves, instead of speaking to ourselves. Sounds a little confusing, doesn't it? The point of the message is that we spend much of our time, listening to our own negative, sinful thoughts -anxiety, unbelief, anger, etc... instead of actively speaking God's truth and promises to our own souls.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
What do you think? Please share your thoughts on this.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
For the modern Christian, commitment to hard work is somehow at odds with spiritual maturity. Yet, that view seems to be strangely out of step with the Puritan work ethic. It seems to me that a biblical worldview, the kind held by Christians from a different time, didn't shy away from hard work but rather embraced it. In fact, some of the most godly men in Christian history were marked by both spiritual depth and productive, hard working lives.
Here are a few examples -
Charles H. Spurgeon was remarkable in his work ethic and productivity. Besides his regular duties as pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, he found time (with the help of two secretaries) to answer over 500 letters week. He wrote numerous books including the Treasury of David, a seven volume commentary on the Psalms. He also published a monthly periodical called The Sword and the Trowel. In his relatively short lifetime, Spurgeon founded a Pastor's College (now called Spurgeon College) as well as the Stockwell Orphanage. His perspective regarding hard work was captured in this advice to young pastors -
"We are all too much occupied with taking care of ourselves ... We shun the difficulties of excessive labour.”
John Wesley, the Methodist founder was a prolific preacher. Traveling on horseback, he preached 2-3 times a day. He too, wrote several books and yet found time to found orphanages and charities. By the time of his death, he left over 135,000 "members" of his ministry with over 540 itinerant preachers, forming the basis of the "Methodist" movement.
George Muller, a contemporary of Spurgeon, spent much of his life devising "large and liberal things for the Lord's cause". As a pastor in Bristol, he preached three times/week. He also founded five orphanages, which cared for over 10,000 children in his lifetime. George Muller is rightly known for his faith toward God but he was also a remarkably hard worker.
There's no doubt that these are unusually gifted and godly men but they're also examples of hard work. Just a couple of things to remember when it comes to work -
1. Work shouldn't be defined as simply in the context of a career or paying job. What my wife does in taking care of our family, homeschooling our boys offers as much opportunity for her to engage in God glorifying work as my job offers me. When we mow the lawn, keep order in our lives, fix up the home, discipline our children - that's work too.
2. We may work and may live productive lives but that offers no basis of righteousness before God. It is truly all of grace. Whether we're working hard or not, our basis of approaching a holy God stems from Christ and His finished work on the cross.
How do you think about hard work? Do you embrace it or shun it? How do we think about hard work biblically?
Friday, August 22, 2008
J.C. Ryle, Holiness, p. 204
Monday, August 18, 2008
I've been reading Mark Dever's book - The Gospel & Personal Evangelism, in part because it's an area of much needed growth in my life. I don't often share the gospel with others and in particular, I seldom do so at work. Yet, I'm convinced that a normal, thriving Christian life is marked by regular practice of personal evangelism.
Apparently, this isn't just my problem. In speaking with other Christians, I've discovered that many of us fail to regularly share the good news of Christ redemptive work. So why don't we evangelize more often? In his book, Dever offers a number of excuses/reasons for our failure but a couple caught my attention:
"Evangelism could cause problems at work" - Now, we certainly don't want to be irresponsible with the use of our time at work. If our practice of evangelism during work hours impedes our ability to work responsibly, it could bring disrepute to the very message we wish to share. However, for every person who might fall into that trap, I believe there are many more who neglect to share the gospel precisely because it could legitimately cause problems for us at work. Active evangelism could invite ridicule from our co-workers or possibly hinder our prospects for promotion. In other words, sharing the good news of our Savior could actually cost us something and we are ensnared by what the Bible calls "the fear of man".
"Other things seem more urgent" - This is simply the tyranny of the urgent. It's the weak excuse of a hurried life that has little time for what is truly important. To be honest, it's one of my greatest hurdles to regular evangelism. I get so caught up with the pace and responsibilities of work that I forget about those who are around me. I forget that many of them live without the joyful hope of an eternity with God, but rather face a real prospect of judgment. In view of eternity, what could be more important than sharing the good news of Christ and His work? Yet, I am often too hurry to even consider those around me.
After reading and pondering the early chapters of the book, I've had to face another reality of my lack of personal evangelism. It is simply that I do not love "my neighbor" as I ought. I like them well enough to have lunch with them, to discuss our families or share how I spent my weekend. But I'm not moved to actually share this eternal message with them, especially if I suspect that it's not going to be well received. It's embarrassingly true - I love tranquility more than sharing the gospel with my "neighbor" at work.
Is there hope for someone like me? I'd like to think so - starting first with repentance for my heart so lacking in love for my neighbor. In doing so, I need to affirm the good of the gospel for me personally, considering the favor that is shown to me in light of the cross. I also need to invest my confidence in God's transforming work through the gospel, not in my performance. It's not a question of whether I'm "doing evangelism right" but rather my faithful proclamation of the gospel. If the gospel is truly "the power of God for salvation" as Paul asserts in Romans 1:16, then I need to trust in its life giving power to those who are dead in sin.
Any other advice for someone like me? How about you? Are you sharing the gospel regularly with those whom God has placed around you at work? What hinders you?
Monday, August 11, 2008
Sunday, August 03, 2008
If not excusable, it is at least understandable that we might trip over this. After all, as card carrying members of the digital age, haven't we been conditioned to equate "new" with "improved"? In this Web 2.0 world of blogs, social networks and iPhones, there's always a new version of something waiting to be unveiled. And, let's face it - we just like new and shiny...at least most of us do.
Yet, the idea that new is necessarily better is a notion we should actively resist. Sure, the latest iPhone is probably better and cheaper than the prior model but when it comes to the really important things, new isn't typically better. Things that really matter in life, things of eternal value, are by definition, timeless and old.
Have you fallen into the "new is better than old" trap? I wouldn't blame you at all but here are a few points to consider as you take inventory of your life -
What you read - Do you take the time plumb the wisdom of old classic books instead of the latest bestseller? C.S. Lewis had this to say about the benefits of reading old books:
"It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between...Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books."
Practical advice - When it comes to advice, is new, novel advice really better than old, trusted and proven? When you're making critical decisions on your job or your personal life, where do you go for trusted, pragmatic advice? What's the best source of wisdom when you need insight on how to run your business or how to raise a family? Unfortunately, many Christians wouldn't think to look to Scripture before they checked out the latest business blog or parenting seminar. While they might affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, at a functional level, they deny its sufficiency for practical living. We are so easily seduced by the latest insights by the congnoscenti of our day, aren't we? But how do those insights compare to God's revealed wisdom found in the Bible?
Proven paths - I'm all for innovation and creativity but I'm also in favor of not reinventing the wheel. This means honoring time tested institutions and practices. For instance, it's become popular to deconstruct the traditional institutions of marriage and church, noting their many, apparent failings. But these institutions aren't just cultural innovations, they were established and set apart by God and hence, holy. Dismantling or redefining these instutions isn't just fruitless, it's foolhardy.
In some other areas, these proven paths aren't quite as significant but the notion that we should pay attention to them is still applicable. At work, instead of perfecting the latest career enhancing techniques, perhaps we could focus on old fashioned values of hard work, integrity and accountability. These values may seem antiquated but they actually might work in your favor.
What do you think? Are you, like me, often captivated by the "new and shiny" instead of focusing on old, timeless truths?
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Last week, our family listened a wonderful message by John Piper called "Four Mistakes I Hope You Don't Make". It was addressed to the graduating class of a program for college age students but I think the points he makes are applicable to all of us. The gist of his message revolved around four mistaken assumptions that Christians can make as we navigate our way through life.
The first mistake he highlights is the assumption that big is better than small. It struck me how easily we're preconditioned to this mistake since we live in an age of mass consumerism and discretionary wealth. Let's face it - we are attracted to large and flashy, not small and modest. According to the National Association of Homebuilders, the average size of a home has increased from 1400 square feet in 1970 to 2330 square feet in 2004. As consumers we're demanding bigger portions and the food industry is only too willing to comply - in 1998, the large soda at Burger King was 32 oz...by 2002, it was "supersized" to a 42 oz drink. Bigger portions must be better, right?
Yet this isn't just a modern (or post-modern) malady. It is actually the folly of our fallen condition to assume that "big" is necessarily better than "small". Jesus told a parable to illustrate the folly of covetousness and ever seeking "bigger barns":
And he told them a parable, saying,
Not into building bigger barns? Don't be too sure that this doesn't apply to you.
This shows up in our lives in many different ways. Sometimes, we fail to recognize God's purposes in small beginnings and modest achievements. Perhaps we're in a perpetual search for a better, higher paying, more fulfilling job. Or maybe we're silently dissatisfied that our big dreams aren't being fulfilled. The truth is we're often easily discontented with what we have or where we are, presently.
But God has a different perspective, doesn't He? By His measure, bigger isn't always better. He chose David, a smallish, young shepherd boy in preference to his older, bigger brothers. He is the God of the mustard seed that grows to the largest of trees. God may start us in modest surroundings but He has glorious plans for His elect.
Do you naturally assume that big is necessarily better than small? How have you been tempted to make that mistaken assumption? What encouragement from scripture or elsewhere can help us regain a right focus?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi Co., shared advice she received from her father - "assume positive intent" in your interaction with others, especially when they don't agree with you. Here's an excerpt -
My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From him I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different...In business, sometimes in the heat of the moment, people say things. You can either misconstrue what they're saying and assume they are trying to put you down, or you can say, "Wait a minute. Let me really get behind what they are saying to understand whether they're reacting because they're hurt, upset, confused, or they don't understand what it is I've asked them to do."
Seems like good advice, doesn't it?
I've also heard this principle phrased differently as the "assumption of goodwill". Regardless of what you choose to call it, I've found this to be a helpful practice in business/work interactions, especially in situations where there is great opportunity for misunderstanding. If I'm tempted to react negatively to something someone has said or done, it's often because I've judged their intentions to be negative, malicious or even hostile. When I make that leap, I've erred. Regardless of their true intentions, I've judged them and started down the slippery road that leads to conflict.
I have no reason to believe that Ms. Nooyi is a Christian but I was just wondering - is there any biblical basis for this "assumption of goodwill" principle or is this just another example of the "power of positive thinking" run amok?
Yet, of all people, shouldn't Christians extend the assumption of goodwill towards others in the workplace? If so, why? Please share your thoughts.
Monday, July 07, 2008
R. Albert Mohler Jr. , Culture Shift, p. 4
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
"Does God want us to love our jobs?"
"Does God ultimately care what kind of job we hold?"
He expands on the second question by pointing to Paul's example and words -
"While Paul ministered to churches, he made tents which must have been an arduous and tedious task. He could have grumbled and complained about his job. After all, he was Paul, the apostle and church-planter extraordinaire. And yet, he responded with such words:
The reality is, God never promises that we would have a job that we enjoy doing. Because God has given us His absolute best in His Son (Romans 8:32), and since that absolute best is actually the ultimate means by which we can have true and lasting joy, anything else is merely grace upon grace. If we don’t truly appreciate this wondrous truth, then we will always be searching for something that will never fully satisfy us."
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
The work/faith movement is often focused on drawing attention to biblical purpose in our daily work and most of this I applaud. Yet, as Sam correctly says - God doesn't promise us a satisfying or fulfilling job....just like He doesn't guarantee health, wealth or the American dream. In whatever circumstance we find ourselves, He insists that we find our satisfaction, delight and joy in Him, not simply His blessings.
So, how should a Christian think about a job he doesn't like? Here are a few thoughts -
1. Be grateful. Even in a job you don't like, there is much to be grateful for. He has given you work to do and that alone is a blessing (as anyone who has experienced prolonged unemployment will tell you). He has also blessed you with the physical and mental capacities to perform the work he's given you.
2. Trust God for a greater purpose. While doing his "job" as an apostle, Paul found himself in prison. Did he view this as an inconvenient detour from his mission? No, instead he viewed his imprisonment through the eyes of faith in a sovereign God. He believed his imprisonment served to advance the God's purpose.
"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly."
What might God be doing in the midst of your unsatisfying work?
3. Experience God as good. Most of us are familiar with Psalm 34:8 that says "taste and see that the Lord is good". We often neglect to quote the second part of that verse that says "blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him". The psalmist intended to inform us that experiencing God doesn't occur in the ether of good feelings or in a vacuum devoid of trouble. Instead, we taste and see God as good when we take refuge in Him in the midst of difficult circumstances.
4. Prayerfully consider a different job. There's much more that could be said about how to seek a new job and we covered this in a prior blog post. But the point here is that it isn't wrong to seek to change a bad situation or pursue a more satisfying job. Just be careful not to invest your hopes and joys in a new job. As Sam tells us - ultimately, it won't satisfy.
Does God care about the kind of job we have?
Is it God's will for us to have satisfying work?
What do you think?
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Mark Mullery, Senior Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I'm on vacation this week but I've entered into it somewhat tired. Several weeks of regular business travel coupled with a hectic schedule has left me weary and this week at beach has come at the right time . I desperately need to be refreshed - physically, emotionally, spiritually. I'm not sure if this is your experience but my state of weariness is usually accompanied with a loss of perspective, a tiredness of the soul as well as physical strain.
Vacations are fine for sleeping in, enjoying family time and healthy recreation but it's only part of the solution. What I need is the kind of rest that restores both my body and my soul. I need to respond to my Savior's kind invitation to come to him.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
This particular invitation from Jesus is only for those who are weary - the strong, sufficient and carefree need not apply. It's a promise for those who are burdened - by the anxiety of unfinished to-do lists, the nagging guilt of unmet goals and responsibilities greater than they can bear. Please don't get me wrong, I love vacations. Times of recreation and opportunities for leisure are great. But the rest we need is found in a Person - Jesus Christ is the true Sabbath. That's what I'm meditating on, even as I enjoy the sand and surf this week.
What causes your weariness?
How do you get rest when you become tired?
How do the cares and burdens of this world affect you?
Friday, June 13, 2008
I haven't blogged for a while...things have been very busy. Let me get back into the swing of things by sharing a video on The Gospel Translations Project, an initiative that I've been involved in starting, over the past year. I know I've mentioned it in a couple of past blog posts but this video captures the heart of what Gospel Translations is all about.
If you're a translator, please consider joining our initiative. If you know others who may be interested in The Gospel Translations Project, please help spread the word by blogging or referring others to our initiative.
God has graciously allowed us to form great partnerships with Sovereign Grace Ministries (who produced this video), Desiring God, Ligonier Ministries, 9Marks, among others. We've also benefited from the encouragement of local churches. We trust this work will be a means to bless the nations with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Mark Dever, Preaching the Cross, p.36
Friday, May 23, 2008
"Success connotes that a purpose exists, and is defined by whatever that purpose is...There is a purpose which we are made for, and then there are purposes which bear our own design. The latter are both subsequent and subordinate to the former, just as we creatures are subsequent and subordinate to the Creator."
What Andrew is saying here is actually quite profound. We often think of success in our own terms. Especially in this postmodern age, it's not unusual for many to view success as "whatever you make of it". Andrew's point is that true success is, in fact, defined by fulfilling the purpose for which we are created - namely, to glorify our Creator.
Isaiah 43:6-7 specifically informs us of this purpose.
I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.
Andrew elaborates on his point that it is the Creator who determines the purpose for His creation -
"If I invent a new device, the glockenfurst, to tell time, it is only a good glockenfurst if it does in fact tell time. It doesn't matter if someone else thinks my glockenfurst is beautiful, tastes good, or holds down paper in a breezy room. Those are not its purpose. I say so because I created it. And so it is with people--we exist to glorify God and everything else is secondary."
Think about this - "we exist to glorify God and everything else is secondary".
- Are you managing a thriving business? If your life is not lived as a reflection of God's glory, it's secondary at best.
- Are you working to build a ministry to serve thousands? It doesn't really matter if you're not doing it for God's glory.
- Finishing projects on time and under budget? It only counts, if God is honored.
In this excerpt from his entire comment, Andrew explains why he holds this view -
"I cannot be a 'successful beekeeper' if I defame God with my speech. Here's why: I was born a person, made in God's image and bearing his chosen purpose, before anyone told me (or I realized for myself), "Hey, I would be good at beekeeping." I am a failure so long as any one of my many self-selected purposes are in conflict with my Creator's purpose for me."
The point is that the material result of our work isn't the only thing that matters. How and why we do our work actually matters far more. As created beings, we should labor for the honor of our Creator, doing so in a manner that reveals Him as glorious.
If being successful is about glorifying God, then we ought to give more thought to what it means to glorify God in our lives. After all, everything else is secondary.
Do you agree with Andrew?
What do you think it mean to glorify God?
How do you pursue the glory of God in your work?
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God
J.I. Packer; Knowing God, p33
Thursday, May 15, 2008
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Instead, in Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus reminds us of what's really important.
1. We should seek the best interest of those who work with us, even as we do our best to serve the company or institution we work for. This means rejoicing with them when they succeed and comforting them when they fail.
4. We should communicate the good news of Jesus Christ in our words, deeds and motives. Loving others means sharing life giving truths with them - nothing more true or life giving than the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What other implications come to mind? Is love for others a true measure of success?
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time.... I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”
Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, p181
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Let's start with how Ted Gossard describes success: "I think of success in terms of 'the Jesus creed', that is to love God with our entire being and doing, and to love our neighbor as ourselves." Ted was referring to this passage from Matthew 22:35-40.
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him,
If "all the Law and the Prophets" depend on these two commandments, then any definition of a successful life, must surely take these commandments into account. Starting with the first part of Jesus' reply, let's consider how the first commandment - loving God "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" is part of a successful life.
It's not a stretch to say that most definitions of success would not include "loving God" as part of the description. It is simply not the way of the world we live in. Yet, for a Christian, is there a higher measure for success? Shouldn't the worth of all our endeavors be measured in terms of whether we are growing in our affection and knowledge of God?
I know that some of my greatest challenges at work have been opportunities to discover more about God, to learn to trust and treasure Him more. Most of those difficulties resolved into materially positive outcomes but not all of them ended up the way I might have desired. However, because God was at work in my life, all of those situations were helpful to my growth.
Certainly, there is a dimension of success that involves a material outcome like successful projects, wonderful friends, pay raises and awards. But, I think scripture teaches us that there is a greater dimension, hidden from view that is more significant. The joy obtained from a successful project or recognition, though real, is temporal and limited. Getting a glimpse of the God who created all things and yet is intimately invested in our lives, is priceless.
This the privilege of every follower of Jesus Christ - to live our lives in such a way to show that obtaining the love and knowledge of God is far superior than any material success we can receive.
Do you measure success in this way? Is this even the right way of thinking about success or is it just a cop-out for the Christian who can't cut it in "the real world"?
What does it mean to love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind? How does it work in your life?
When you hit a tough patch at work or at home, do you even consider how the unpleasant circumstances might lead you to love God more?
Friday, May 02, 2008
Redeeming love and retributive justice joined hands, so to speak, at Calvary, for there God showed himself to be "just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus."
J.I. Packer; In My Place Condemned He Stood; p.41
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I'd like to start an ongoing conversation about the topic of success - how we define it, how we pursue it and what it means to our lives. It might be a series of occasional posts or just a couple. Truthfully, I don't know where this will go but I thought it might be interesting.
How do you measure success? I believe that your answer to this question determines the aim and trajectory of your life. Here's my thesis - we will pursue whatever we define or picture success to be.
If you believe that success is best measured by "financial independence", you will make it your aim to obtain greater material wealth. If being successful means having a happy family and lots of friends, then nuturing those relationships become your priority . If you think of success in terms of prestige, respect or even some small measure of fame, then gaining acceptance and recognition by others becomes your pursuit.
This means getting the right, functional, definition of success becomes vitally important. Define it incorrectly and you may end up setting your life on a wrong trajectory...pursuing all the wrong things, for the wrong reasons.
I have no great insight about this but in view of how important this is, I've been thinking about how the Bible might instruct us about how to rightly define success. Before elaborating my thoughts on this, I'd love to hear your perspective -
How do you really define success?
What does it mean to you to live a successful life? How does work, home, relationships and God fit into that definition? Or does it?
What do you think the Bible has to say about defining success for us?
Inquiring minds want to know....
Friday, April 18, 2008
Steve Jeffrey, Michael Ovey, Andrew Sach; Pierced For Our Transgressions. p. 107
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Before jumping into how to disagree constructively, I'd like to say that it isn't necessarily virtuous or loving to simply "tow the line" when you're not in agreement. If someone is possibly making a grave mistake, choosing not to advise or warn them because we'd rather "keep the peace" is not loving. It could reveal what the Bible calls the "fear of man" which is a sinful response and a topic for another post altogether.
How do you agreeably disagree? Here are some of the things I try to keep in mind -
1. Disagree Charitably. Remember the adage pertaining to Christian disputes (attributed to Augustine) : "in essentials - unity; in non-essentials - liberty; in all things - charity". When we're in the midst of disagreement and eager to make our point, it's easy to forget to treat each other with love and kindness. I know that I can often become impatient or intolerant. I find reading 1 Corinthians 13 is a helpful antidote for my uncharitable disposition.
2. Disagree Humbly. As I've reminded my children (and myself) from time to time - we were wrong on the most important issue in human history. We were born into rebellion against God - we were on the wrong side. And on the wrong side we would have stayed except for the mercy of God. With that in view, perhaps we should enter into disputes at least aware of the possibility we might be wrong. It isn't sinful to be confident about your position. Just be aware that you're not always right and might not be right this time. Here's the good news - God gives grace to the humble.
3. Disagree on the Issue, Not with the Person. If you're disagreeing with a decision - keep the conversation on the issue. Resist the temptation to make it personal. Don't be drawn into making comments like "you're lowering the morale in the office" but rather "this decision is leading to lower morale".
4. Learn to Listen. When we're disagreeing, we're eager to make our point and we fail to listen to the other side. The Book of Proverbs is replete with passages on how the wise listen but fools don't.
"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." Proverbs 12:15
5. Disagree Directly. Simply say what you mean. Do it gently, kindly and certainly lovingly but be direct. Sometimes I see individuals using humor to hint at a problem or insinuating a problem but yet not speaking plainly. This practice lacks honesty, is disingenuous and can lead to more conflicts. Speak openly...just do it with love (#1) and humbly (#2).
6. Be Inclusive and Work on the Issue Together. It's natural to take opposing, adversarial positions. However, at times it's possible that you can come to the problem in a fresh way and work on it together. If it seems difficult to imagine how you could get to that point, I'd suggest starting by using inclusive language - using "we"/"our"/"us" instead of "I"/"you"/"my"/"your".
I'm sure that there's more to be said on this topic but this will do for now.
Do you have additional thoughts or advice on how to disagree constructively? Please share them with us.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Milton Vincent, A Gospel Primer p. 14
Sunday, March 30, 2008
If you're a leader in any capacity, you know how difficult it can be to get others to agree with your point of view. Much of our time is often spent figuring out how to influence and convince those we lead, especially when we're faced with crucial decisions. But, have you considered that you ought to spend more time encouraging disagreement or opposing viewpoints?
In this Harvard Business School article, Garry Emmons points out how important it is to facilitate dissenting viewpoints when engaging important decisions. He also notes how even experienced leaders often falter when they make no room for disagreement.
"Consider the costs to organizations, large and small, when dissent does not or cannot surface: Abjuring rigorous debate about its merits, a youthful president John F. Kennedy essentially rubber-stamped a 1961 plan to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, resulting in one of the biggest U.S. foreign policy fiascoes in decades. During a 1996 commercial expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest, several climbers, including two of the world's most experienced professionals, died in part because junior team members didn't speak up when their expert leaders ignored their own core operating principles surrounding safety."
The truth is that most of us do not want to "rock the boat". We prefer to "go with the flow" when a consensus opinion is established. I think it is part of our fallen nature to do so - we love the praise of men, preferring others to think well of us, rather than to express honest disagreement.
Yet, if you believe what Emmons is saying, it is the wise leader who makes room for constructive dissent and pursues alternative viewpoints. In some ways, it's unnatural to do so but it's essential to mature leadership and it's the gospel minded leader who is best able to cultivate this approach to decision making. Here are a couple of reasons why:
First, it takes true humility to pursue and make room for alternative opinions in your collaborative process. While it's true that decision making isn't best accomplished "by committee", a humble, gospel informed world-view helps us recognize our limitations. No matter how sure we may be, it is possible that we may be wrong and the Bible offers much encouragement to seek the advice of others... even when the advice does not line up with our own views.
Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
Second, it also takes real courage to honestly pursue other opinions. Encouraging "dissent in decision making" means potentially exposing your errors. It means having a disregard for our own reputation while we seek for the best possible solution. Frankly, most of us do not naturally possess the kind of courage needed to put our own reputations on the line. Perhaps we fear rejection... or we may fear the loss of respect... for some of us, we fear facing our limitations.
The gospel can help us here. Our fears are mitigated by the gospel reminders that we're lovingly accepted by God - He is on our side for our good, regardless of our performance.
We can be bold in seeking help from others, making room for opposing views, confident that God will work all things for our good, even disagreements.
How good are you at encouraging others to disagree and giving them freedom to do so?
For a future post, perhaps I'll discuss the following:
What does the Bible have to say about constructive disagreement? Can Christians honestly disagree and how should we engage this process?
What about the biblical reproof against dissension in the church? How does that play into what we're saying here?
Of course, I'll probably be wrong but I'll have friends who won't be afraid to tell me...if I'm willing to ask.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
"I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
Jesus Christ (John 11:25-26)
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Unlike what was communicated on news channels all week long, at our meeting there was no gloating over a powerful, arrogant man who simply "got what he deserved". There was no self righteous musing over how someone so smart could "self destruct" so publicly. We didn't wonder how the former crusading governor known as "Mr Clean", could have lived a double life.
We didn't do that because we simply know better - we know ourselves and we know the nature of sin. We understand that we're more like Eliot Spitzer than we'd like to acknowledge. We're aware of the deceitfulness of sin and our propensity as fallen men to wander from the grace of God. We know that it's the grace of God that keeps us from self destructing. As one of the men in our group said - "That could be me, it could be any of us...it's God's mercy that He rescued us from the penalty and power of sin...it's God's grace that keeps us in Him and keeps us from falling..."
The meeting gave me much to think about. I'm grateful for men who speak words of gospel truth to me - reminding me of how the grace of Jesus Christ has shed light upon my darkened heart. It is also evidence of God's kindness to us as Christians. When God places us in the community of a church, He does so to protect us and care for us.
Don't you wonder how different it might have been for Eliot Spitzer if he had the benefit of such grace? Last week, amidst much of the news about Spitzer, this is what I read from Psalm 32:1
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
Eliot Spitzer had so much - power, career, fame, wealth. However, as far as we know, he didn't possess what was most important - he didn't have sins covered, a clean conscience and peace with God. Perhaps we should pray for him, that through this trial, he might be drawn to the One who offers these priceless mercies.
Friday, March 07, 2008
The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable."
John Piper, Hunger for God, p.14
Thursday, February 28, 2008
For many Christians, exploring the possibility of a new job, often triggers questions about how to find "God's will". At times, discovering the will of God can appear to be a mysterious, mystical experience. Yet, is this the right approach to important life decisions? As I've considered new career opportunities that have come my way, I've found tremendous help from the book, Finding God's Will: A Pagan Notion? by Bruce Waltke.
In the book, Waltke questions the wisdom of "finding God's will". In fact, he asserts that many of our attempts to do so can be rooted in unbiblical practices. Instead of finding God's will, we should be actively pursuing God's help in making the critical life decisions.
Waltke also outlines a six step approach to gaining God's guidance. Although I generally look skeptically upon the simplistic, methodological approaches, I believe his proposed steps actually bring clarity to the potentially confusing decision making process. Here are the six steps, outlined in his book -
1. Read the Bible - God has actively revealed His will to us in the Bible . All that we need for life and godliness are available to us in scripture. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
2. Develop a heart for God - "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4). God often leads us by working through our desires but it starts by getting our hearts aligned with His.
3. Seek wise counsel - Getting help and advice from other godly men and women is part of God's plan for guidance.
4. Look for God's providence - God is at work in the circumstances of our lives, orchestrating events for our good and His glory.
5. Use good judgment - God isn't expecting us to mysteriously sense His will but rather, He expects us to use our minds and exercise good judgment. Does the opportunity or decision make sense to you?
6. Miraculous divine intervention - This is the last consideration and in Waltke's opinion, should be viewed as exceptionally unusual. In fact, he says that there is no New Testament evidence of God intervening miraculously as a response to seeking His will. However, I presume Waltke includes this as a possibility, since God may do as He wishes and has certainly intervened miraculously for other reasons.
One key point he makes is that these steps should be viewed sequentially in order of priority. In other words, you shouldn't seek counsel from others (step 3), if you haven't first spent time reading your Bible (step 1) and developing a heart for God (step 2).
What do you think of Waltke's approach? Also, Waltke's book doesn't speak directly to the challenges facing a job search but rather addresses the general issue of obtaining guidance in any decision making process. What would you add that might be helpful for a Christian to know when he/she is seeking a new job?