Friday, May 30, 2008

Quote of the Week

"Your life will soon be intersected by God, whether by the Lord's return or your death. And how will that coming be for you? Will you find yourself prepared by the truth about the cross or will you find yourself caught out, unprepared, if this passing world were going to last forever."

Mark Dever, Preaching the Cross, p.36

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Measure of Success - Fulfilling Our Purpose

A few weeks ago, when I asked how you might define success, there were a number of very thoughtful responses. Here's one from Andrew -

"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

Quote of the Week

What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. "This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3)
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

The Measure of Success - Loving Others

Most Christians understand that being successful cannot be simply measured in terms of successfully run projects or material gain. In fact, those parameters may be some of the most unreliable indicators of success. This is how Jesus puts it –

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.

And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

We've discussed how a growing love for God is a key measure of success but what about love for others? If being successful at work is in part measured by our love for others, then we ought to consider its practical implications. Here are a few that come to mind –

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.

2. When it becomes necessary to exercise discipline or correction, we should do so in kindness and with the best interest of the fellow employee at heart (see #1). For those in positions of authority, it is helpful to realize that care is sometimes conveyed by means of correction or discipline. Just ask any parent.

3. We love others when we see and relate to them as persons created in the image of God and not simply as resources to "get the job done" or projects completed.

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?
Please share your thoughts on this.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Quote of the Week

“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

The Measure of Success - Loving God

Over a week ago, we explored the idea of success - how we define it in our lives. Thanks to all who took the time to comment on how you define success. It was both interesting and helpful to receive the various perspectives. I'd like to pick up on a few of the comments and expand the discussion over the next couple of weeks.

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, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

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

Quote of the Week

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