Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Quote of the Week

"...scripture speaks of conduct of business ... as a corollary of the cultural mandate which posits a good creation, once corrupted by sin and Satan, now partially redeemed, and into which God calls his people to serve. This means that business is a legitimate part of undertaking the stewardship of creation to make a human imprint on the earth."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Making an Impression at Work

I recently read a thought provoking quote by renown pastor, Tim Keller about the importance of integrating faith and work. Here's what he said -
"...when most Christians enter a vocational field, they either - a) seal off their faith from their work and simply work like everyone else around them, or b) simply spout Bible verses at people to get their faith across. We simply do not know how to think out the implications of the Christian view of reality for the shape of everything we do in our professions."

For the record, I don't see very much of (b). With a few exceptions, most Christians in the workplace are too sophisticated, culturally aware and perhaps somewhat fearful, to spout Bible verses ad nauseam. However, the alternative isn't particularly encouraging. In fact, Keller's statement is not only true, it's also a sad commentary on the state of Christian influence in the workplace.

The fact is that for many Christians, the essence of their work life - the motivations for work, the methods and means of work as well as the resulting work - has little in common with the faith they profess. This can be self incriminating in many ways as I examine my own life but as I read Colossians 4:5, I'm also provoked by the daily opportunity in front of me.

"Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. "

Here's what's exciting - we have an opportunity to walk in wisdom toward those outside of the faith - folks that we encounter everyday in our daily interactions at work. We have an opportunity to both demonstrate and declare the wisdom of the gospel in numerous, small, seemingly insignificant and sometimes mundane moments that make up our days. We can make gospel impressions by the way we treat others, by the quality of our work and by the motivations of our hearts.

Think of your day as a series of gospel impressions over an extended period - weeks, months and even years. Then ask yourself this - what impression have you left with your co-workers?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quote of the Week

"The ideal human existence is not eternal leisure or an endless vacation - or even a monastic retreat into prayer and meditation - but creative effort expended for the glory of God and the benefit of others."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finding Significance in All the Wrong Places

Just read a great article by Mark Galli on Generation Y's pursuit to "make a difference" in the world. Mark Galli is the managing editor for Christianity Today and an insightful writer. He brings up a number of great points about how a well-intended focus to make a difference can really be "ego masked as altruism".

Think of it as the dark side to the search for significance and arguably, it's not simply limited to the Gen Y populace. Truth is, the striving for significance can be life long and unrelenting.

What makes this a confusing topic is that the desire to "make a difference" isn't necessarily bad. In fact, it most circles and circumstances, it's actually something to be admired. After all, far better the desire to make a positive impact than the trivial wasting of a life. After all, isn't the cultural mandate in Genesis 1 to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it", a command to make a positive difference in this world?

Yet, when the search for significance is not rooted in an understanding of our identity in Christ, it is a harsh master. Seeking significance can easily become another means for self-justification and self-glorification - "if I feed the poor and heal the sick, my life will matter". Finding our identity in what we do leads us to make idols of our own accomplishments. This is as true for the businessman who sacrifices family for fortune as it is for the misguided missionary who finds justification in his sacrificial good works.

What guides us toward a right pursuit of significance?

I believe it starts with rooting our identity and delight in God. Delighting in our place as creatures made in His image, restored into fellowship with our Father. Whenever, I depart from regular meditation on my identity in Christ and the work of grace in my life, I begin to strive for significance in various, small, unprofitable ways. If unchecked, this striving becomes louder and more prominent in my life.

We need to remind ourselves of the privilege we have to serve the living God, yet doing so in a very particular way - that is, serving with an awareness that God "is not served by human hands as if He needed anything since he himself gives to mankind life and breath and everything". (Acts 17:24). This means realizing that "service to God"is less about doing something for God as it is receiving grace from God. When we serve, we are the beneficiaries of his grace, to do his work.

Finally, the one point Mark Galli makes is one worth remembering - that God honors and recognizes the little things in our lives - the greeting of a stranger, the kindness to a child, caring for an aging parent. In other words, making a difference "in the small" matters as much as changing the world.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Quote of the Week

"We are not primarily called to do something or go somewhere; we are called to Someone. We are not called first to special work but to God. The key to answering the call is to be devoted to no one and to nothing above God himself."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pursuing Happiness at Work

Happiness in the workplace isn't something that has typically received much attention. The high tech business world that I work in isn't exactly the most nurturing of environments. People aren't as much concerned about your state of happiness as they are about the status of your projects.

But lately, there's been a "happiness movement" in the workplace. Books like The Business of Happiness written by former AOL executive, Ted Leonsis and Delivering Happiness by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh are just two examples of how happiness in the workplace is taking center stage.

There's no getting away from this reality - if you're unhappy at work, you're probably going to be unhappy in life, especially since the majority of your waking hours are spent at work. What if you don't like your job? Perhaps you're not intellectually stimulated, feel unappreciated or you don't like the commute. Maybe, you're having trouble fitting in and getting along with your co-workers.

The point is - what do you do if find yourself consistently unhappy at work? (other than firing up your resume and calling it quits)

There's no shortage of helpful resources with practical tips on how to get back on track in your work life. If you don't believe me, doing a Google search on how to be happy at work = 576,000,000 results. I'm sure that there's goodness somewhere in the 576 million results but as I pondered this recently in my own life, I came across the following in Psalm 90 -

"Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days" Psalm 90:14

I'm not eschewing the practical advice like "reframing your goals" or "take a 10 min break every couple of hours" but this verse from Psalm 90 seems to be pointing to something different. It's looking for happiness outside of myself or my present circumstance. In fact, it points to help outside of this world - which at times seems like the only place you can possibly find happiness. And, don't miss this - the psalmist is crying out for an experience of God's unfailing love because he believes it to be the essential ingredient to his happiness. He believes that knowing and experiencing God's love - the comfort of His nearness, the treasure of His presence, the faithfulness of His promises - is the key to rejoicing and gladness all his days.

The question for us is whether we're similarly convinced of this.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Quote of the Week

The truest lengthening of life is to live while we live, wasting no time but using every hour for te highest ends. So be it this day.

C.H. Spurgeon, Faith's Checkbook, June 22

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why Boasting in Your Humiliation is Good for Your Soul

"Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation..."

I've been pondering the seeming irony of this verse for the past couple of months. To the lowly, James instructs to boast in their exaltation but the rich are told to focus on their humiliation. It's counter-intuitive to way this world works but it's the way the invisible, other-worldly kingdom of Christ.

Many of us will, at times, find ourselves either as lowly or rich, depending on the circumstance. The focus of my meditation however, has been on what it means for the rich Christian, to "boast in his humiliation". The idea of humiliation in this context is stark and extreme. Boasting or making much of our humiliation does not come naturally to any of us, even less so for those who are rich or powerful. Yet, it's exactly the prescription James offers for those who are rich in the assembly of the church.

More importantly, how does one boast in his humiliation. Here are four ways that you may find helpful if on occasion and circumstance, you find yourself counted among the rich.

1. Consider our own mortality and finitude -

Reading James 1:10-11 in entirety sheds light on this -

"Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation and the rich in his humiliation because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits"

The rich person ought to boast in his humiliation because he will pass away - his wealth, fame and power will not last. Boasting in your humiliation means reminding yourself and anyone around you) that your wealth and power is finite and will pass with time. It also means that you want live to as to demonstrate that this is true.

2. Live to pursue God, not wealth, power or fame

The admonition assumes that the rich man is pursuing wealth as the aim of his life. But boasting in our humiliation means demonstrating the folly of this approach. The wise rich believer who chooses to do this, will pursue God instead of wealth or self-aggrandizement of any kind.

3. Make plans with deference to God's will

James 4: 13-16 speaks to the mindset that undergirds this kind of plan-making. It is the kind of plan making that not only seeks to discover God's will but also depends on God's power to accomplish the objectives of the plan.

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

The temptation for some of us is to invest trust not in God but in our ability to execute well-crafted plans. When you're in a position of relative wealth or power, you might not be aware of your daily need for God's provision. God calls such presumption - evil boasting. Rather, we ought to make our plans with deference to God's will and with an awareness of our need for His blessing.

4. Remember your true identity.

Boasting in our humiliation means keeping in mind our true identity as sinners saved by the grace and generosity of God. While there isn't a particular verse in James that clearly illustrates this, it is unquestionable that James himself understood this. He chose to address himself as "...servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" even though he was, humanly speaking, the brother of Jesus. In the words of Paul, James chose to count his familial relationship "as loss" for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus. Whether rich or poor, we were spiritual orphans, adopted into God's family and now we enjoy full privileges only as a result of God's kindness.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Quote of the Week

"It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything"

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, p. 127

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How a Christian Leaves His Job

For the past two weeks, sports media outlets like ESPN have been filled with incessant talk and angst about Lebron James' free agency decision - will he leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, his hometown team? Who will have the benefit of his considerable skills - Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls?

It's "over the top" and resulted the unthinkable - eclipsing coverage of the World Cup Finals! On Thursday night, Lebron James announced in an ESPN special show that he was going to the Miami Heat. It was followed by a heated response from the Cleveland Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert. Gilbert characterized Lebron's actions, in particular, the manner in which he made and announced his decision as "a several day, narcissistic, self promotional buildup...". While Gilbert's response was particularly edgy, he was not alone - many others in the media found it distasteful.

The point of this post isn't about Lebron's character or his choice to leave Cleveland Cavaliers. Most of us won't be playing professional sports anytime soon and when we leave our place of employment, it won't be as public. However, I'm wondering if there are lessons to learn from Lebron's actions that can apply to how our own employment opportunities. In this high paced, transient, corporate world we live in, many of us will have more than 10 jobs in our lifetime. Sometimes we're forced to leave our place of work due to a termination, but often, we'll have opportunities presented to us. What's the right way to leave a job that happens?

I'd like to suggest that "love for neighbor" is one of the primary issues we should consider when we are presented with our own "decision". Unlike marriage, we're not expected to stay in a job "for better or for worse" or "till death do us part". However, as Christians, we're called to act in a loving manner, not simply in the context of the church and family, but in all of life... including our place of work. This means that when we are considering to leave our place of employment, we should do so with kindness and care toward those we work with.

We should ask ourselves the following questions and wrestle with the answers-

"Is this a good time to leave?" - if you're in the middle of a project, your role is critical and people are counting on your contribution, it's probably not the right time. Trust that God will make an opportune time for your departure such that you won't alienate your fellow workers and cast a bad light on the reputation of Christ.

"How will my departure affect those who remain and how can I make that transition easier?" - if you choose to leave, then do so in way that can makes it easy for the organization to transition your departure.

"How can I be sure not to demonstrate respect for those who remain - fellow employees and management" - hint: no gloating about your new wonderful job (... and no ESPN special show to promote yourself and publicly humiliate the team you're leaving)

"How can I recognize the good things about the current place of employment and how I've benefited from it" - think about all you've gained in experience, friendships that have enriched you, help that you've received over the years .

Anything I've missed here - what are your thoughts?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Quote of the Week

"Therefore human desires to increase the production of goods and services are not in themselves greedy or materialistic or evil. Rather, such desires to be more productive represent God-given desires to accomplish and achieve and solve problems. They represent God-given desires to exercise dominion over the earth and exercise faithful stewardship so that we and others may enjoy the resources of the earth that God made for our use and for our enjoyment."

Wayne Grudem
, Business for the Glory of God, p.28

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Leaders Are Always On

Harvard professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter blogs about how a leader's words and action are always on display. Failure to remember this can be costly as former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown can attest to. A carelessly spoken word when he assumed microphones were off, may have indeed cost Brown the British election.

Kanter explains -

"At a rally shortly before the election, Prime Minister Brown was asked some awkward questions about foreign workers that he answered politely. A few minutes later, he was heard over an open channel and later the broadcast airwaves complaining to aides for exposing him to "a bigoted woman". His insult and apology dominated press coverage... There is no "off" switch for leaders."

Most of us will never attain such lofty positions of leadership but the lesson is a good one. If you plan to lead, you need to be aware that your words and actions are always on display, especially in our current social media infused world. The burden of leadership is that people are watching and they often take their cues from what we say and do. Here's what Kanter says -

"Followers can be acutely attuned to the merest hint of a leader's state of mind and act on their assumptions, sometimes tragically."

Yet, for the Christian, it is not simply the eyes and ears of men that should concern us. Our speech and actions are always before God. We are regulated by His Spirit. Our hearts are convicted when we speak unkindly or carelessly. We are called to account for our secret actions. In a way, we are truly "always on" - not simply in front on men and women but before the Audience of One.

"I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned"

Matt 12:36

Monday, May 24, 2010

Quote of the Week

"It's natural and healthy to hope for ourselves, but it's provincial and unhealthy to hope only for ourselves. Egocentric persons curve in on themselves. With only their own interests at heart, and only their own futures in view, they eventually harden themselves into a small, snail-like shell... But the person who keeps her head up so that she can look out toward the future of others - this is a person with some range to her hope. This is a person who has been enlarged by the Holy Spirit."

Cornelius Plantinga, Engaging God's World, p.12

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How Do You Handle the Poison Cup?

Just finished reading an interesting article from Vincent Bacote on what he calls the "poison cup". The poison cup is what happens when ambition meets with fame or recognition. Bacote's article is based on the recent announcement that renown preacher John Piper, is stepping down for a period of time in order to address "several species" of pride in his life, stepping away from "the poisonous cup of international fame and notoriety".

Bacote explores the question of ambition, fame and pride by asking this soul penetrating question -

"What is it about the pursuit of our ambition, our legitimate and godly desires for success in vocation, that can become poisonous when it meets that admiration and recognition of others?"

It's a difficult but necessary question to ponder and answer, even if you never become as famous as John Piper. All of us, in our respective spheres of influence, can be tempted to thrive on fame and recognition. We can find greater delight in the praise of our clients, coworkers and the CEO than in the praise of God. We can breath in the rarefied air of recognition for "a job well done" or being viewed as "indispensable". Perhaps in a far less dramatic way, we are all susceptible to the "poisonous cup".

Assuming most of us cannot simply take a leave of absence from our work, what can we do about this? How do we crucify our love for the "praise of men" and cultivate true humility?

No absolute answers but here's a thought - we ought to hold lightly to any honor we may receive - whether it comes by way of our position, wealth or ability. In fact, Proverbs soberly reminds us that praise from others is a test of our soul -

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.
Proverbs 27:21

We can also aim for something better. While many have faltered by taking sips of the poisonous cup, John Piper and other godly men show us how to deal with the poison cup of praise and fame. You have to deal with it radically. You make the changes you need to, even if it means taking a leave of absence. You take radical steps when you realize that fame, notoriety and praise of men pale in comparison to hearing your Father say "well done, good and faithful servant". One of the chief ways we battle our unhealthy desire for recognition is by seeking recognition from the One whose praise is ultimately valued. We can refrain from feeding on the praise of men by seeking praise from God.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Quote of the Week

"The fact that earth is not our ultimate home explains why we experience difficulty, sorrow, and rejection in this world. It also explains why some of God’s promises seem unfulfilled, some prayers seem unanswered, and some circumstances seem unfair. This is not the end of the story."

Rick Warren, What On Earth Am I Here For? p. 45

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Motherhood - Integrating Faith and Work

Even in Christian circles, most discussions about work and faith tend to focus on our work as "professionals" - teacher, scientist, businessman, social worker, software developer,etc... When we limit our discussion to the realm of our professional career, we miss out on much of the work we do in our other roles as neighbor, father, daughter, citizen... and mothers.

On Mother's Day, the honor we lavish on mothers for the faithful love and nurturing of their families is absolutely appropriate. However, we sometimes overlook the sheer hard work, mothers put into the glorious call of mothering. In fact, the oft-quoted Proverbs 31 calls attention to the faithful, labor of the exemplary wife and mother. It's not just the finer attributes of her character that are admired but also her industry and initiative -

She seeks wool and flax and works with willing hands. v. 13
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household.... v. 15
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. v. 27

This excellent woman is also commended for what can best be described as an entrepreneurial spirit, coupling it with the willingness to work hard.

She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands, she plants a vineyard. v. 16
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. v. 18
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchants. v. 24

I can't help but think of how this spirit of willing labor and creative initiative is evident in the mothers around me. My own mother was extremely hard working, always laboring to make a better life for her family. And now, I see similar traits of selfless service in my wife who seems to always put the needs of everyone in the family above her own. The work of mothers is typically not the focus of books written about Christian perspectives on work. Unfortunately, this kind of labor is often assumed and seldom appreciated - but it is exactly the kind of labor that exemplifies well the intersection of faith and work. It is the kind of work that God honors and rewards - not just on Mother's Day, but everyday.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Quote of the Week

"Everything material we have, including money, is either a tool or an idol. If we fail to use it as a tool for God's intended purposes, it mutates into an idol."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Quote of the Week

"God wants worshipers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship"

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Art of Work

I'm reading through Linchpin by Seth Godin, the best selling author and marketing guru. He offers a simple but valuable insight on how work is transformed into art when we invest what he calls "emotional labor" into our daily work.

"Art is unique, new, and challenging to the status quo.... Art cannot be merely commerce. It must also be a gift... Art is not limited to art school, or to music or even to stage. Art is any original idea that can be a gift. It takes art to make a mom happy on the first day of nursery school... It takes art to construct the plans for the English Channel. Most of all, art involves labor. Not the labor of lifting a brush, or typing a sentence, but the emotional labor of doing something difficult, taking a risk and extending yourself."

Seth Godin, Linchpin, p.86

There is something wonderful and biblical about the idea that Godin is advocating. I have no reason to believe that Godin is a professing Christian but he is on to something! So much of work even in Christian discourse is viewed in transactional terms - do a specific volume of work for a specific return in monetary value. When we think of our work exclusively in these terms, we miss the essence of what God intended. We lose the soul of God glorifying work - the opportunity to imitate our Creator God through our work.

In Genesis 1, God worked in Creation by creating the Universe ex nihilo (out of nothing). Imitating Him in our work isn't simply about working ethically - it also includes working creatively. While we cannot create ex-nihilo, we are called to use our gifts to put our world into order, to explore new opportunities and nurture existing opportunities.

In other words, we are called to create art through our work.

Are you an artist through the work you perform? Are there opportunities for you to imitate God by work creatively and investing emotional labor?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Quote of the Week

"The only way Jesus will save himself, and save his people, is by hanging on that wretched cross, in utter powerlessness. The words the mockers use to hurl insults and condescending sneers actually describe what is bringing about the salvation of the Lord.

The man who is utterly powerless - is powerful."

D.A. Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, p. 24

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Living with Limitations in Life and in Work

"You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it"

Psalm 139:5-6

I’m a dreamer – I love thinking about what’s possible. I’m inclined to look at life through the windshield, rather than rear view mirror.

People just like me don’t take well to boundaries or limitations, either in life or in work but the reality is that they do exist for each of us. Some limitations are circumstantial or temporary. Other limitations may be physical and more permanent in nature. Some have to do with relationships, either at home or at work. Others pertain to our own makeup – our limitation in talent or ability.

It's interesting that Psalm 139 indicates to us that God may be behind these limitations – it is God who hems us “in behind and before”. It is God who lays His hand on us.

I’m also provoked by David's response – “Such knowledge is too wonderful to me. It is high, I cannot attain it”. He sees God’s limiting hand but he doesn’t fight it … it’s mysterious and puzzling but “wonderful” nonetheless. He is simultaneously humbled and amazed by it.

I don’t often see limitations in life that way – I sometimes struggle to see God’s hand. When I don’t understand, I’m often perplexed instead of amazed. But God is faithful and kind to help me – He’s taught me and continues to teach me – He’s gently leading me to trust Him.

I’d love to hear how you deal with the limitations in your life – at work, at home, in your community. What happens when you don’t have the ability to do what you once could? How do you respond when you realize your dreams won’t be achieved? How do you deal with the harsh reality that you're simple not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough to accomplish your goals?

How should we respond?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Quote of the Week

"An honorable, God glorifying approach to work does not involve a continual obsession with productivity. We are called not only to be workers, but also to be children, spouses, parents, church members, citizens, and stewards of God's material gifts. God's call to us is to have the right attitude toward each role, resulting in the right priorities."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pondering the Prodigal God

I learned something new this week and I thought I'd share it - apparently, the word prodigal doesn't mean what I thought it meant. I've always assumed that prodigal meant "wayward" as in "the prodigal son" but it turns out that prodigal means something else altogether -

prodigal [prod-i-guhl]

- adjective

1. wastefully or recklessly extravagant;
2. giving or yielding profusely;
3. lavishly abundant;

Sometimes when long held perceptions give way to new perspectives, you gain new ways of appreciating old truths. I was first drawn to look into the meaning of the word when the title of a book by Tim Keller (The Prodigal God) caught my attention. Although I haven't yet read the intriguingly titled book, I find myself pondering the ways in which God might be considered "prodigal"

How has God revealed Himself to be "recklessly extravagant"?

Chiefly, I'm thinking of how God exhausted the treasure-house of heaven by sending the True Treasure, Jesus Christ on a rescue mission to redeem a world lost in rebellion.

He exhausted His wealth to make us rich (2 Corinthians 8:9)
He extravagantly loved those who loved Him not (Isaiah 53:3)
He laid aside His cosmic kingship to be the lowliest servant so as to rescue a race of rebels (Philippians 2:5-8)
He suffered immeasurable injustice to set the guilty free. (Luke 23:46-48)
He, the Perfect Righteous One became sin in order to make sinful men, perfectly righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21)

It turns out that the story of the Bible is more about the Prodigal God than the prodigal son. Just thought you should know.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Quote of the Week

"It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lord - lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodness - that you are on the verge of understanding the gospel and becoming a Christian indeed. When you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink. If you follow through, it will change everything: how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, your sins, your virtue. It’s called the new birth because it’s so radical."

Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, p.78

Monday, March 01, 2010

Knowing Precedes Trusting

Have you ever had a hard time trusting God? Yeah, me too. Maybe you need to trust God for the healing of a fractured relationship or perhaps you're waiting on Him to provide a better job. Sometimes trusting God is just plain hard, isn't it?

Several years ago, when I was going through a difficult time, I was struggling to trust God when I happened upon this verse from Psalm 9:10

Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

For those who are truly acquainted with God's character and nature, trusting Him becomes the natural conclusion. At the time, this verse spoke to the heart of my problem - trusting God wasn't simply about "naming and claiming" or mustering more faith mojo. It's all about knowing...because knowing precedes trusting. My problem was that I didn't rightly perceive God. I didn't know His name - I had a very limited view of His true nature and character. I thought of Him as a sovereign ruler but not as one who is also kind, gracious and committed to bring about good things in my life.

Where do you start on this journey of growing in faith and trust toward God? Here are three things I've found helpful -

1. Start with reading the Bible. God is uniquely revealed to us through Scripture and reading God's word will help shape our perception of God.
2. Meditate on His character. It's not enough just to read... we ought to let the revelation of God through Scripture take root by meditating on His revealed character
3. Cultivate faithful friendships. Growing in trust toward God is a community project - you need friends to remind you of who He is, especially in the midst of trials and tribulations of life.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quote of the Week

"More than other idols, personal success and achievement lead to a sense that we ourselves are god, that our security and value rest in our own wisdom, strength and performance. To be the very best at what you do, to be at the top of the heap, means no one is like you. You are supreme"

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p.75

Thursday, February 18, 2010

We Are Slaves Of What We Crave

You've probably heard about how "money can't buy happiness" but seldom from folks as wealthy as Austrian millionaire, Karl Rabeder. Mr Rabeder came to this realization and proceeded to put together a plan to give his $4.7M fortune away... all of it.

"My idea is to have nothing left. Absolutely nothing."

Like many, Mr Rabeder used to pursue material wealth as a means to a happier life -

"For a long time I believed that more wealth and luxury automatically meant more happiness,"

Even though he knew better, over the years he never had the courage to give up the trappings of the "good life". However, over time, he came to a new and counter-cultural conclusion - he was enslaved by his possessions.

"I had the feeling I was working as a slave for things that I did not wish for or need...there are lot of people doing the same thing."

His conclusion upholds an unequivocal principle - "we are slaves to the things we crave".
We don't actually have to possess things to be enslaved by them... we only have to want or crave things for them to have a hold on our lives.

Jesus' words from Luke 12:15 serve as a sobering reminder for us -

"Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

It's not simply possessions that we are to guard against but rather against "all covetousness". We can be poor and yet covet. Unguarded, we could find ourselves placing our hopes of a better life in the riches and possessions of this world. The problem with coveting is that the treasure we pursue is not worthy of the purpose for which we were made.
On the contrary, if we desire fellowship with God, we will find ourselves joyfully and satisfyingly captive to Him.

If like Mr Rabeder, we find that "we are slaves of what we want", then perhaps it would be appropriate to ask - "what is it that you really want and is it ultimately satisfying to your soul?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Quote of the Week

"Satan takes no vacations. The moment we are content in this fallen world, the dangers return - not least the danger of over-contentment. Without being contentious, prepare for conflict; without being combative, equip yourself for the 'good fight' (2 Tim 4:7). It will last at least as long as you live."

D.A. Carson, For the Love of God Vol II, p.30

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Integrity - Does It Matter Without God?

I recently read an interesting interview with Michael Jensen, a Harvard Business School professor who has written on the topic of integrity. In the interview, I liked how Jensen defined integrity, not simply as a set of values but as wholeness.

"An individual is whole and complete, when their word is whole and complete, and their word is whole and complete when they honor their word."

Jensen also speaks highly of the importance of integrity, especially for optimal performance or effective "workability". In other words, without integrity, nothing works.

"Integrity is important to individual, groups, organizations and society because it creates 'workability'. Without integrity, the workability of any... person, group or organization declines; and as workability declines, the opportunity for performance declines. Therefore, integrity is a necessary condition for maximum performance"

All good stuff - if there's anything I applaud, it's promoting the high value of integrity in the workplace. Every great organization is built on integrity and Michael Jensen is right - integrity is essential for optimal performance. That's because integrity fosters trust.... and trust is the basis for great collaboration, creativity and teamwork.

However, I think Jensen whiffs on a critical point when he sharply delineates between integrity, morality and ethics.

"Integrity is a purely positive proposition. It has nothing to do with good vs bad. Morality and ethics, on the other hand... deal with matters of good or bad, right vs wrong."

In the interview, he draws comparisons between the law of gravity and the "law" of integrity, insisting that it is devoid of moral component. The problem with Jensen's view is that it simply isn't true - you cannot separate integrity from its moral component and when you do, you're left with a hollow shell. It's the kind of "integrity" that's shaped by pragmatism but devoid of value. It's ultimately weightless and insignificant. If the primary reason for integrity is simply because "it works", we miss the very point of integrity altogether.

There are two primary reasons why I think Jensen has it wrong -

1. First and foremost, the Bible in fact, draws a clear, straight line from God to the very notion of integrity. God is described as a God of integrity. Integrity makes sense for men and women because it radiates from our Creator, who is Himself full of integrity. Integrity is an essential component of who God is. The fact that God keeps promises and deals justly with His Creation are all evidences of His integrity.

God also demands integrity from us. God is deeply interested in just, honest business dealings - "a false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight". He is in fact so committed to integrity that He blesses those who walk in integrity - "The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them." (Proverbs 11:1, 11:3)

2. If integrity is truly about wholeness of the individual, as Jensen says, then wholeness has to involve more than just keeping your word in one particular area of your life. What would Jensen say about a business man who keeps a high standard of integrity in his business dealings but unfaithful as a husband? True integrity is more than just a collection of actions/decisions, it's about the whole person in all of life.

Can integrity be separated from morality, ethics or accountability to God? What do you think? What does living a life of integrity mean to you?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quote of the Week

"The temptation we humans face, which Jesus faced in the wilderness, is to snatch at the world to use it for our own pleasure or glory. But when we bring a symbol of the created world before the creator God in gratitude and offering, we are symbolically saying that he is the creator, and that we have no rights over creation independently of him."

N.T. Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship, p. 9

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Are You Living in Abundance or Scarcity?

It's a question of perspective - how do you view the world around you? Do you see a world limited by scarce resources or overflowing with abundance? This is a matter of huge importance for most of us. Living under the rule of scarcity can lead us to a hording, selfish mentality If we believe that success, wealth, ideas and valued resources are limited, we can be tempted to think "me first" and be less inclined to share.

But the Bible paints a picture of God as loving and generous to His creation.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights

Psalm 36:7-9

This is fundamentally important to us - if we believe that God created this world to be overflowing and abundant, our approach to life changes dramatically. We can rest knowing that God has provided this world with more than we need. Seeing God as gloriously generous and ultimately creative, shifts our perspective from hording to sharing. We can imitate our Creator by being generous with our time, our money or our success. Imagine the kind of life we would live as a result of believing in a loving and generous God who has created a world of abundance -

We would share accolades with others.
We would give generously to those who lack.
We would volunteer our time to worthy causes.
We would rather serve than be served.
We would value community more than privacy.
We would rather give than receive.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Quote of the Week

"Mercy is a command of God, yet it cannot simply be a response to a demand. It must arise out of hearts made generous and gracious by an understanding and experience of God’s mercy. It is the hearts of the congregation that must be melted until they ask, 'Where is my neighbor?' "

Timothy Keller
, Ministries of Mercy, p.135