Thursday, February 28, 2008

How a Christian Finds a Job

A couple of weeks ago, we explored how a Christian deals with losing his job. But what if you're actually looking for work? Are there biblical guidelines for how a Christians should approach this pursuit?

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?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Quote of the Week

“Only by seeing our sin do we come to see the need and wonder of grace. But exposing sin is not the same thing as unveiling and applying grace. We must be familiar with the exponents of its multifaceted power, and know how to apply it to a variety of spiritual conditions. Truth to tell exposing sin is easier than applying grace; for, alas, we are more intimate with the former than we sometimes are with the latter. Therein lies our weakness.”

Sinclair Ferguson

Saturday, February 16, 2008

How a Christian Loses His Job

Whether you've been fired, retrenched or euphemistically, "let go", losing your job can be a difficult trial to walk through. Given that an average person will have 10 to 12 jobs in a lifetime of work, losing your job at least once during that span of time, is actually a likely scenario. The question isn't whether it'll happen to you, but rather how you plan to deal with it when it does happen.

Can a Christian lose his job, yet keep his integrity in the process? How do you get fired and glorify God?

Perhaps, we can take a cue from renown Puritan preacher, Jonathan Edwards. That's right, Jonathan Edwards, one of the leading theologians in church history was once fired from his job. I was recently reading through A God Entranced View of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, when I came upon this astonishing fact. Jonathan Edwards was voted out of his church - in essence, fired by his congregation, in a landslide vote of 230 to 23. The reason for his dismissal principally centered around his opposition to admitting non-Christians to the Lord's Supper. Jonathan Edwards stood for biblical principles and surprisingly, lost his job for it.

Perhaps more surprising is how Edwards responds to this wrong treatment. Even though wrongly dismissed, there appeared no trace of bitterness. His farewell sermon on 2 Corinthians 1:14 - "as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus." - sweetly testified of his gracious disposition toward his congregation.

Edwards also continued to serve his former church, agreeing to preach every Sunday until they found his replacement...which he did for 15 months.

I realize that a pastor's call is special in some ways but how many of us would remain to serve our employer after we've been wrongfully dismissed? I've never been fired or wrongly dismissed, but I'm not sure I would have responded with such generosity or grace.

I also recognize that there's a big difference between getting fired for lack of performance and losing your job because you're standing firm on a biblical principle. But the point here isn't to dwell on the different reasons people lose their jobs. Rather, we want to consider how a godly man responds when it does happen...even when he's been wronged.

Here are other points to consider if you do lose your job -

1. Like Edwards, resist temptation to become bitter - at the company for "not appreciating your contribution", at co-workers for "playing office politics", at the person responsible for "making you look bad". We know how 90% of the world would like to respond, here's your chance to respond differently because of the new life birthed in your heart.

2. Be accountable - in some cases where a lack of performance is identified as a reason for dismissal, be open to recognize how your sin or deficiencies may have contributed to that outcome.

3. Set your heart on the gospel - our comfort comes from the knowledge that because of Jesus' loving sacrifice for us, God remains committed to bless us.

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31-32)

4. You may not know where your next paycheck is coming from, but resist the temptation for self-pity. Instead, look ahead joyfully, treasuring Christ. Here's how David looked at his life in the midst of nay sayers.

"There are many who say, "Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!"
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

(Psalm 4:6-7)

Regardless of how you lost your job, how did the experience affect you? What did you learn through the process? Even if you've never lost your job, what advice would you offer?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Gospel Translations

Since April of last year, I have been involved in starting a non-profit ministry called Open Source Mission. Together with partners like Sovereign Grace Ministries, Desiring God, 9 Marks and Ligonier, OSM has launched an initiative called Gospel Translations. Our goal is to make gospel centered materials available online for free in multiple languages. Think of it as a "wikipedia" for biblically sound content - feel free to check out the Gospel Translations website.

The work of translation is done by a network of committed, volunteer translators who collaborate together to translate articles and books from authors like John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Mark Dever and C.J. Mahaney, among others, into other languages. Although the Gospel Translations website currently features only two language resource pages (Spanish, Chinese), we actually cover 18 languages and will be bringing translated content in the other languages online over the next couple of months. Since our launch at the end of September, we have now translated over 80 articles and a number of smaller books.

We were grateful to be featured on the Desiring God blog this past December and also on the Worship Matters blog. If this stirs something in your heart and you're interested in helping us, there are a few ways you can join our effort (none of it involves money!) -

1. If you're bilingual, you can signup as a translator or reviewer.
2. If you're a blogger, you can help us "spread the word" by posting about our initiative.
3. If you're not bi-lingual, you can also help out as an administrative volunteer to work on loading up translated articles and books.
4. You can spread the word about our initiative the "old fashion way", simply by telling others about it. We especially want to connect with ethnic churches or fellowships.

We think that making Christ centered books and articles accessible to growing churches worldwide can be strategically important and we hope that the Gospel Translations project can play a part in that growth. What do you think about our initiative?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Quote of the Week

"The first facet of the glory of Christ's person is that through the wisdom, power and love of God, He, the God-man exists. The Father's agent in creation has taken created human life into Himself for all eternity. It sounds fantastic but it is true. This is a great and mighty wonder, a mystery in the full theological sense, a reality that only God could cause to be. Endless praise is the only fit response."

J.I. Packer, The Glory of Christ, p.48

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Shattered Dreams and Mid Life Crisis

My blogging friend Ted Gossard posted yesterday on how mid life can be a difficult time for many. Here's a brief excerpt from his blog:

"Recently I heard that age 44 is either the average or median age for adults worldwide feeling at their lowest. Of course we refer to this as "mid-life crisis." By that time there is a sense of having given up on one's dreams. And one is vulnerable then, to make huge mistakes."

Having just turned 44 myself, this naturally caught my attention. I must say that I'm actually as happy as I've ever been in my life. Yet, there is no doubt that mid life can pose particular challenges. As Ted correctly mentions, many difficulties stem from the realization that your dreams or aspirations might not be fulfilled. One of the first posts on this blog was on this very topic as I was reading through the book, Lost in the Middle by Paul Tripp. The point then and now, is simply that mid life doesn't really cause new problems (ok, maybe a few). Mid life actually reveals who we really are - what we really worship and who we truly love.

Ted says that mid life can lead a person to making "huge mistakes". If so, what are the keys to navigating through this period successfully? I'm no expert since I'm in right in the throes of the mid life but here are a few thoughts that have been helpful to me -

Every day is a gift - Some people hate the thought of getting older and diminishing faculties but what's the alternative? It's arrogant to take our lives for granted. Every day we have, to live together, to love others and to experience the grace of God in this present life, is truly a gift. It is not owed to us.

Dream new dreams - There's no doubt that I'm a dreamer - it's how God made me. As I've often remarked in jest, it's both a blessing and a curse! As our dreams are lost in mid life , we can trust God to give us new dreams and new aspirations, often reshaped with renewed purpose. Rather than resisting this, perhaps we can look forward in anticipation to what He'll do.

Trusting God - I know it can sound trite and simplistic but it's not. Taken from Jerry Bridges' book from the same title, this means knowing God as all powerful, all loving and all wise. Our dreams are in God's hands and He will do as He desires. Yet, we can take comfort that He exercises His will lovingly with untraceable wisdom.

It also helps me to remember the cross of Christ. In the wisdom of God, His divine love was extended to us according to His sovereign plan...maybe we can trust Him with our dreams after all.

What is your experience? Even if you're not in the throes of mid life, do share your thoughts.