Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Does it Matter if the President is a Christian?

Here's why I ask - it's been rumored that Obama is a closet Muslim.   It's also been debunked but the false rumors persist.   As a result, there has been significant interest in his "spiritual journey".  

McCain, typically private about such matters, has referred to his Christian faith in speeches and on the campaign trail.   Sarah Palin has excited the conservative evangelical wing of the Republican party, in no small part because she unashamedly a professing Christian, upholding Christian values.

It seems to be a political tradition for Presidential candidates to tout their "street cred" as Christians.   I don't necessarily blame the candidates - they are playing the sandbox we've all created for them.   I have to admit, in some ways it makes me sad when the name of Christ is leveraged as a political tool rather than compelling worship. 

So it made me wonder - does it really matter if the next President is a professing Christian?  If so, why?  Does it matter if the next President ends up being Muslim or Mormon?   Also, if an authentic Christian faith becomes a litmus test, how can any of us be an adequate judge of such matters?   I have enough trouble discerning my own heart, how can I be equipped to test the heart of another?

I'm not saying that ethics and morality are unimportant.  On the contrary, I think they are highly important but looking for the Christian label before we vote doesn't seem to be wise or biblically sound.    Using our best judgment, we ought to vote the best person for the job, taking into account - qualification, experience, character and ethics.   And, we ought to pray for wisdom.

What do you think?  

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Quote of the Week

"How do we face troubles with peace, rest and equilibrium?  The ultimate way to handle the troubles of life is not just through prayers of petition, but through worship..."


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Speaking Good News in Financial Turmoil

This week was an especially tough one on Wall Street. The demise of Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG headlined news for most of the week. Even if you don't make your living in the financial industry, you'll feel the effects of its turmoil. Your nest egg might look just a little smaller this week or perhaps your company might be cutting back spending. If you're looking for a new job, it might seem just a little harder going. Or maybe you're doing just fine but your neighbors aren't.

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.

Here's how it might be applied in times of personal financial turmoil - instead of passively listening to our own thoughts of anxiety ("we'll get crushed by this mounting bills") or unbelief ("I'll never find a job"), we can actively proclaim to our own souls, God's unfailing promise to provide what we need -

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:31-32


"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing." Psalm 34:8-10

Speaking good news - that's what we need in the midst of any turmoil.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quote of the Week

"Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world"

Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984)

How Blogging Has Changed My Life

I wouldn't blame you if you didn't care.   But, I was tagged by Ted Gossard with this meme and it did originated from LL Barkat...so how could I not respond?  However, I've decided not to tag anyone else and hence I've broken one of the meme rules.  

I started blogging around the middle of 2006 so it's been a couple of years.  I have to admit there have been times I've thought of packing it up but just knowing that I'll disappoint the mass of readers out there (all three of you) has kept me going.

So here are the five ways blogging has changed my life

1. Through blogging, I've met some really great people, and their interaction with me has truly enriched my life and I'm grateful for it.   Wonderful folks like Marcus Goodyear, LL Barkat, Ted Gossard, Susan/Halfmom, Craver, and many more.

2.  I have less time because of blogging... although recently, I've simply blogged less frequently.  I started by blogging every other day, then three times a week and eventually twice a week.   Although I've been told it's really only 1.5 times/week since one of the posts is a "quote of the week" which is kind of cheating. I guess.

3.  Even though I've spent my entire professional career in high tech, blogging offered an entry point to learn about new web 2.0 technologies.   It's kept me on the cutting edge of what's going on in technology with wikis, facebook, twitter, etc...   Let me digress and tell you why it's so important for a high tech professional like me.   [Warning - boring high tech blurb coming]. 
The way technology is created and adopted has changed over the past 10 years.  It used to be that really complex technology was developed for big business and then it filters down to smaller businesses and eventually the consumer market - think email, accounting software, fax machines, laptops.    But that's not how it works now - the flow of technology innovation and adoption is actually in the opposite direction.   Technologies like IM, blogs, Skype were built for, and adopted by, consumers and then migrated to the corporate environment.  Fascinating, isn't it?  

4. I've learned to appreciate my church and family more.   When you traverse the "Christian" blogosphere, you realize something pretty quickly - there are a lot of unhappy people out there. They are unhappy with the church they attend, their pastors, friends, family and even God.   It's made me appreciate just how good I have it.  I love the Internet but for everything wonderful you can do through the Internet, there's a ton of stuff that you cannot do.   There are limits to technology and those serve to remind us that God builds His church through living, breathing, touching, hugging, non-virtual, communities.

5. Blogging has permitted me to scratch a writing itch.   Apart from the couple of technology books I've written in my past,  I'm really not a professional writer.   I just like writing... the way some people love to paint or sketch.  And if God's wired you that way, you feel compelled to write.  Writing on a consistent basis also serves to clarify and organize my thoughts on certain matters concerning the gospel and how it's applied in our lives.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Right Time to Quit Your Job

Recently a friend of mine called me up, seeking advice about a new job opportunity. He hadn't been looking for new work but opportunity came knocking. We talked about the substance of this new position - the pros and cons but then we touched upon this point - is this the right time for him to leave?

Is it disloyal for an employee to pursue a better opportunity? I don't think so. Is leaving your current job for a better one always the right thing to do? Well, I'm not sure about that either.

Some think that in a capitalistic society, an employee has no obligations to the employer other than to do specified work for specified pay.... until someone else offers a better deal. But is that really the right way to approach our jobs? Let's turn the tables - what if you hired an employee, paid a fair wage, invested months in training, only to have him quit for 5%-10% more in salary. Does that seem right to you?

Others hang on to the idea that loyalty to your company is core value to be upheld. Yet in an environment where most individuals have numerous jobs in a lifetime, the idea of loyalty to company doesn't seem to ring true. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report that baby boomers typically hold 10.5 jobs from the age of 18 - 40. Furthermore, corporations typically aren't making decisions about your future employment based on loyalty so I'm not sure about playing that loyalty card. It sounds good but is the idea of being loyal to an employer, biblically supported?

What's the right way to think about this? Let me offer a couple of thoughts here that may guide the decision making process.

1. Love for Neighbor - I think the issue isn't really about loyalty. I'm not sure there is any biblical mandate to extend loyalty to a corporate entity. But I do think there is an issue of love for those you work with, for your supervisor, your customers, or other stakeholders. There is such a thing as a "bad time to leave your job"... not because it's bad for you but because it's bad for everyone else. If you're in the middle of critical project where others count on you, that's a bad time to leave. It's not loving to leave people in a lurch. Or like the scenario we discussed earlier - where an employee leaves after being trained but before really contributing, simply because he's been offered a better paying opportunity.

2. Fulfilling to Our Explicit Commitments - no company should expect you to stay until you retire but if you've given your word that you'll stay for some duration, you ought to live up to your commitments.

3. Honoring the Reputation of Christ - the timing and manner by which we leave our current employment can either bring honor or disrepute to Christ. Why and how we leave a job often speaks to others about what we value. If you value financial gain above all else, then leaving your current job for a better paying one is always the right choice. If pursuing fulfilling work is the greatest value, then you may be worshiping before the god of self actualization. Valuing the reputation of Jesus Christ means that your motives and actions will befit one who considers fame or fortune lightly when compared to the opportunity of magnifying Christ as your treasure.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts on this.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Quote of the Week

"All of God's giants have been weak men,  who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them"

Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor's Choice Sayings: A Compilation from His Writings and Addresses.  London: China Inland Mission, n.d., 29

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

In Praise of Hard Work

I'm not sure how it happened but somehow the idea of working hard is not in vogue anymore, at least not in some Christian circles. Perhaps it's a response to the countless men who unwisely compromised their families to climb the corporate ladder. Or maybe it's just a trait of contemporary, suburban Christian life where keeping the 40 hour work week is a mark of spirituality.

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?