Monday, October 03, 2011
"...when Christians work in the world, they will either assimilate into their culture and support the status quo or they will be agents of change. This is especially true in the area of work. Every culture works on the basis of a 'map' of what is considered most important. If God and his grace are not at the center of a culture, then other things will be substituted as ultimate values. So every vocational field is distorted by idolatry" - Timothy Keller
For many of us, work is a destination - "we go to work". Or we might think of work as a burden - "I'm swamped with work". But we seldom think of work as an active cultural hotbed - a set of shared, functional values, goals and beliefs firmly held and practiced by those at our workplace.
Tim Keller reminds us otherwise. According to him, we have two choices when we engage our work environment - we can either assimilate or be agents of change. Assimilation means adopting the values, goals and beliefs of the work environment - acquiescing to what the culture dictates as important or valued. The workplace culture may teach us to value recognition or money or status. It may instruct us on how to cut corners as long as no one catches you. The corporate environment may promote the appearance, rather than the substance of a matter. It may promote the brash and boastful rather than the meek and humble. All around us daily, we're confronted by the values of the organizations we serve and we can choose to accept them or to listen intently to God.
We can choose the alternative path - being change agents or disrupters for the sake of the gospel. Stepping out as change agents for the gospel starts with watching our own hearts - getting our own functional values and core beliefs aligned with biblical truth. Keeping at the forefront of our hearts, the treasuring of Christ as the source of our joy. Being change agents also means boldly stepping out to shape the cultural workplace by bringing to bear our beliefs and values formed in the hot furnace of biblical conviction. What does this look like? How about exemplifying grace by extending kindness to our co-workers when they deserve no such kindness. On occasion, it may mean taking a stand on a biblically informed ethical issue when others see it differently. Most of all, it means summoning the courage to speak gospel truth - calling our friends to turn away from their current course to follow Christ.
As Keller succinctly concludes - every vocational field is distorted by idolatry. We would be wise stewards of our vocations if we identify these false gods, disrupt the status quo and point the way to true satisfaction in the Eternal God.
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Monday, July 25, 2011
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Trust – it’s a necessary ingredient to any fruitful relationship but it’s of particular importance to a leader. The essence of leadership is about influence, not authority. You can make someone comply by force of authority, but to lead, you must have influence – and influence requires trust between the parties.
Saturday, July 09, 2011
Dorothy Sayers, Why Work?
Sunday, July 03, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Saturday, June 04, 2011
George Whitefield, Worldly Business No Plea for the Neglect of Religion (sermon)
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Saturday, May 21, 2011
A couple of weeks ago, I was catching up on my sports reading when an ESPN article by Rick Reilly caught my attention. It was a story of forgiveness involving New Orleans Hornet's star point guard, Chris Paul.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Monday, May 09, 2011
A week ago, media channels were abuzz - broadcasting the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. The news was met in many quarters by celebration in the streets and in the social media world – Twitter and Facebook lighting up with updates.
Almost immediately, many Christians felt uncomfortable about rejoicing over anyone’s death, even someone as universally opposed as Bin Laden. Others experienced no such internal conflict of conscience.
Christian leaders and influencers were just as varied in their responses. Check out their varied responses here.
Bible verses like Proverbs 24:17 seem to call for restraint in our jubilation over Bin Laden’s demise - “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles"
Yet, Proverbs 11:10 tells us that “when it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices and when the wicked perish, there are shouts of gladness”
What do we make of this seeming contradiction? How should we respond when our enemies are crushed? How does this square with our Savior’s command to love our enemies?
From the collective wisdom of the best biblical scholars and pastors we can draw the following insights –
1. Celebrate justice, not death
We may have to kill for just cause but we do not delight in the death of another because it means taking the life of one made to be an image bearer of God. It is perhaps why God says in Ezekiel 18:23 – “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”
In his book Love in Hard Places, D.A. Carson makes reference to Osama Bin Laden and says this –
“He is an evil man, and he must be stopped, but he is a man and we should take no pleasure in destroying him. Vengeance is the Lord’s alone “
2. Celebrate justice humbly
Even as we celebrate justice, we do so as ones forgiven much. We resist the subtle temptation to favorably comparing ourselves with Bin Laden. We know better – we deserve judgment but have received grace and mercy. So we celebrate justice humbly as ones who have received mercy rather than justice.
Sentiments from the Resurgence blog – “So we can be thankful that God is just and we can be very thankful that God is gracious"
3.How God feels about Osama’s death isn’t single threaded
John Piper offers a helpful, nuanced thought on how God might “feel” about the demise of Bin Laden. He starts by reminding us that God’s emotions are complex - like ours often are. Quoting Ezekiel 18:23, he makes the point that “in one sense, human death is not God’s pleasure” but citing Ezekiel 5, also reminds us that “the death and judgment of the unrepentant is God’s pleasure”
“Thus shall my anger spend itself, and I will vent my fury upon them and satisfy myself. And they shall know that “I am the LORD – that I have spoken in my jealousy when I spend my fury upon them”.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Friday, April 08, 2011
Thursday, April 07, 2011
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”- Philippians 4:13
Philippians 4:13 must surely rank among the most popular Bible verses for athletes, performers and anyone who’s up for a challenge. It inspires faith in the face of obstacles, trials and difficulties of any size. We pull it out for ballgames when we’re behind on the scoreboard. We refer to it when we’re taking on a big challenge at work. And we find ourselves strengthened by this precious verse when facing life trials such as major illnesses or death.
All of these are wonderful, legitimate expressions of faith toward God. However, it might be interesting to consider what Paul had in mind when he penned these eternal words. Perhaps a little more context to the verse might shed some light –
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 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 4:13 may be applied to the many and various challenges we face but for Paul, it was about the struggle for contentment. And who can blame him? Here’s the picture - Paul is in prison for the sake of the gospel, bounded in chains and under the watch of Roman guards. He has no idea if he’ll get out. He has no prospect of continuing the work he loves.
The fact is that sometimes our greatest challenge is securing true, heart-felt contentment in the midst of a tough situation. It can be elusive and difficult to attain. Perhaps that’s why Puritan preacher Jeremiah Burroughs referred to Christian contentment as a “rare jewel”. If you’ve ever found it virtually impossible to be hopeful and contented, you know exactly what he means. You understand that those impossible situations call for a Savior. That’s where Philippians 4:13 comes in – God has promised to help us gain contentment in those impossible situations.
If you asked Paul, he'd tell you that “doing all things through Christ who strengths me” means that God gives us contentment when we’re in a fruitless situations at work or in life. It dispenses hope when we encounter difficult relationships that aren't improving. It’s about being joyfully satisfied in God even when desperate circumstances show no signs of changing.
Finding hope in our struggle for contentment - that's what Philippians 4:13 is all about.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Monday, March 21, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
All of us watched in horror as scenes of tragedy in Japan unfolded this past week. Technology may bring suffering into our living rooms but it does little to help us grapple with the reality of people dying and a nation suffering. Most of us with a sense of helplessness. In fact, our limited capacity to help against the backdrop of such immense suffering can lead us beyond helplessness to hopelessness.
With that in mind, here are a few thoughts that I've found helpful -
Suffering is inevitable... but it is not arbitrary or purposeless. We can't always understand it but God is neither absent in suffering nor unaffected by it. Instead, God is at work to draw sufferers to Himself and to bring comfort to those who call on Him.
"...call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and your will glorify me" (Psalm 50:15)
Suffering is great... but our compassion is meaningful. Through the common grace of technology, God grants us the privilege to help those who are suffering across the world. Though our efforts may seem small, yet by extending practical help to those who cannot help themselves, we become channels of God's compassion.
Suffering calls us to prayer. We can do nothing greater than to pray for the people of Japan. We can bring their needs before the throne of God. We can pray for present comfort for all who are suffering - for mothers who mourn for lost children, for children orphaned by this tragedy, for those maimed and injured, for the hundreds of thousands who have lost homes.
We can also pray for the eternal comfort for those in Japan who do not know Jesus Christ. C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world". Oh, that this tragedy would awaken in them a longing for the eternal God. Here is a prayer for Japan from the Desiring God blog that could serve you in your prayers for this nation -
Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.
O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.
And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Paul Tripp, A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Monday, February 28, 2011
Recently, friends of mine faced significant criticism from co-workers for mistakes made on a critical project - mistakes that set the project back. Furthermore, not only had they made these errors, to their own disappointment, they also treated others disrespectfully along the way. They were, to some degree, reaping bitter fruit from seeds they had sown.
Never mind that they were working hard and doing their very best. Never mind that they did far more good than harm. Never mind that others had made mistakes as well. All that was in view at that moment in time were their mistakes and the resulting criticism.
How did my friends respond? They stood up in front of their co-workers and admitted their critical errors. They also apologized for the way they conducted themselves and I respect them all the more for it.
If it's unquestionably difficult to acknowledge a mistake in judgment, it would seem altogether unbearable to confess to character flaws like arrogance in a public setting. I've come to learn that "sorry" truly is the hardest word in business - "sorry for my decisions", "sorry for my impatience", "sorry that I let you down". Few say it even though many mistakes are made every day - by executives, middle managers and individual contributors. Particularly because most criticism is a blend of truth and error, it's so much easier to justify ourselves rather than working hard to extract the essence of truth in the complaint.
So what would compel you to stand up and let your mistakes be counted? Would pragmatism or fear motivate you? "If I don't concede my mistakes... my coworkers will make life miserable...or I might lose my job..." Both may appear to be plausible reasons but from my experience, neither fear nor pragmatism serve as compelling forces for true humility.
Neither will cause us to do the unthinkable - to embrace the God-given opportunity to admit faults and confess weaknesses. Yet, there may be a better way noted in Philippians 2:
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."
Welcoming opportunities to confess our weaknesses comes through a renewed, humble mindset. A mindset similar to that of Christ. Instead of claiming his rights as equal to God, Jesus Christ "made himself nothing". He humbly sacrificed his life for the eternal good of others. This mindset is the right and responsibility of everyone who calls upon his name, who receives forgiveness of sins through Christ. Knowing his forgiveness means that we have faced our greatest criticism - our moral failure before God - and lived to tell the tale. It gives us hope and makes us courageous enough to say "I'm sorry" to those we fail presently.
When was the last time you apologized for your words or actions?
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Friday, February 04, 2011
Al Mohler, Culture Shift
Thursday, February 03, 2011
People are living longer than ever and rather than spend retirement years in frivolous pursuits, many are returning to the workforce. These former retirees are eschewing days on the golf-course for something more meaningful. Often they are pursuing these "encore careers" in education or other non-profit sectors.
Since the Bible does little to support the idea of retirement at 65, most Christians aren't typically the retiring type. Instead, we reminded that God calls and appoints us to bear fruit, presumably as long as we are able.
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you." John 15:16
Jesus may have been speaking to the disciples but his words are nonetheless applicable to us as well. Paul asserts as much in Ephesians 2:10 where he speaks us as having been "created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them". Consider this remarkable thought - God has prepared good works for us. A few of these works take on grand significance but most will seem mundane. Yet each act, big or small carries eternal significance in the economy of God's plan.
Leisure and entertainment may have their place, but it is God ordained work that occupies the centerpiece of our daily existence. By God's grace, may we be both faithful and fruitful in the work He has appointed for us.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
"Therefore, to avoid similar entanglements, the course which Christian men must follow is this: first, they must not long for, or hope for, or think of any kind of prosperity apart from the blessing of God; on it they must cast themselves, and there safely and confidently recline."
This is, to say the least, an uncommon mindset in corporate America. Yet, I'm intrigued by the radical call to disavow and disassociate oneself with any notion of prosperity that is apart from the blessing of God. It disposes of the false notion that success is naturally indicative of God's blessing. It beckons us to pursue God's blessing first and foremost, regardless of whether it results in material wealth or success. Calvin's exhortation is not unlike Jesus' instruction in Matthew 6 to "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you".
What about the Christian worker who encounters a lack of success? Does Calvin have anything to say to him/her in the midst of failure?
"Lastly, if our success is not equal to our wish and hope, we shall, however, be kept from impatience and detestation of our condition, whatever it be, knowing that so to feel were to murmur against God, at whose pleasure riches and poverty, contempt and honours, are dispensed."
All of us are subject to failure in this world. Part of this is circumstantial - we live in an imperfect, fallen world where sin abounds. Laziness, office politics, sinful judgments and contentious meetings are all evidences of this. Yet, another part is by design - we are limited beings - limited in talents, time and resources. Sometimes, we fail because of our sin, sometimes as a result of our limitations. The possibility of failure is a reminder that we need God all the time - not only in the difficult, unbearable moments of life but also in the small, mundane moments as well. Calvin reminds us of the importance of thinking rightly about God's sovereign will over our lives. To despise our lack of success or troubled condition is to murmur against God. It is to bring a charge against the one who "changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others" (Daniel 2:21)
Success - how we think about it, pursue it and respond when we don't have it - says so much about what we truly believe.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
David F. Wells, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams, p.41
Saturday, January 15, 2011
“Two things I ask of you, LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God"
This is presented to us as the prayer of a wise man, yet I would venture that most (if not all) of us have never even considered praying such a prayer - "give me neither poverty or riches, but give me only my daily bread". We would never consider to ask God to only give us what we need for today and no more - no "rainy day" fund, no nest egg for retirement, no set-aside for dream vacation, etc... Popular preacher Francis Chan elaborates on Proverbs 30:7-9 in this short, provocative video.
Is this a blueprint for how we ought to pray and live? How does this mesh with the conventional wisdom of saving and planning? Would you have the courage to pray this prayer and how would you respond if God actually answered?
It's easy to get lost in the myriad of questions that arise but don't lose sight of the God-centered motivation of this prayer request. It's all about God - not having too little so as to avoid the temptations that come with being impoverished - yet, not having too much such that God is no longer desired and possibly forgotten. This passage is about treasuring God and the worth of His name and not letting anything get in its way. Perhaps that's the kind of motivation we might be wise to incorporate into our prayers.