Sunday, July 27, 2008

Quote of the Week

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bigger Isn't Always Better

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 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, "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."
(Luke 12:18-21)

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

Quote of the Week

"There is not one little blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make men rejoice"

Jean Chauvin (1509 - 1564)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Assuming Positive Intent

Earlier this year, Fortune magazine featured 25 leading public figures from all walks of life, sharing "The Best Advice I've Ever Got". Frankly, not all of the advice was particularly inspiring or even interesting, but one did catch my attention.

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

Quote of the Week

"Love of neighbor for the sake of loving God is a profound political philosophy that strikes a balance between the disobedience of political disengagement and the idolatry of politics as our main priority. As evangelical Christians we must engage in political action, not because we believe the conceit that politics is ultimate, but because we must obey our Redeemer when He commands us to love our neighbor"

R. Albert Mohler Jr. , Culture Shift, p. 4

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What If You Don't Like Your Job?

I've enjoyed every job I've held but I know that isn't the case for everyone. Some find themselves working in jobs that are less than satisfying...some even hate their jobs. Many Christians regard job satisfaction as a God given right and find themselves questioning why God hasn't blessed them in this way. Sam Shin asks these thought provoking questions on his excellent Gospel Prism blog -

"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:

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 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."

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."
(Phillipians 1:12-14)

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?