Monday, October 03, 2011

Wanted: Christian Disrupters at Work

"...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

The Wisdom and Folly in Planning

“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”  Proverbs 21:5

The Bible encourages planning as wise living and that’s a good thing since we seem plan all the time.  We plan our projects, we prepare for vacations, we strategize our next career moves, we make plans for the weekend.   You could say that it’s impossible to live responsibly without planning and preparation.

However, the Bible also issues warnings related to planning as well.

“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 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.
James 4:13-16

James warns us of a certain folly in our plans.   A very real problem with our planning is that it can too easily drift into godless presumption.  This is easier to do that you might imagine since the very essence of planning is to identify work items, assign resources, set schedules and mitigate risks - all of which can be done without God in view.  

We can plan without praying.   We can prepare without trusting in God.   We can strategize without taking God’s sovereign hand into account.  This kind of planning is not commendable no matter how well executed.   Instead, God calls this type of planning - arrogant and evil. 

God calls us to a different kind of planning - dependent planning.   We are to hold onto plans that are malleable before God.  God-centered plans may be well thought through but are always subject to and dependent on God’s providential will,   Godly planners know well their need for God and plan accordingly.  They understand that success rests not in their plans but in God Himself. 

May we strive to be such godly planners.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Quote of the Week

"There is no fatigue as wearisome as that which comes from lack of work"

C.H. Spurgeon (1834 - 1892)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Christ's work both in the church and in the hearts of Christians, often goeth backward that it may go the better forward."

Richard Sibbes,  The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, p.85

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Regaining Trust When Trust is Lost

 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.  

Unfortunately, in this broken world we live in, trust is often compromised.   Spouses betray each other, politicians lie, public figures disappoint.  

As leaders, we may find ourselves in a place where trust has been compromised.  Perhaps we’ve disappointed others by our behavior or words.   What can we do to restore trust when trust is broken?   
Before we get to that, let’s explore what it means to trust.   There are two dimensions of trust – character and competence.  

Character speaks to the attributes, values and motivations of the person or institution.    It raises questions like the following -

“Is the leader humble?”
“Is she kind?”
“Is he a man of integrity?”
“Does the institution pursue truth?

It surprises some to hear this but character alone is not enough to secure trust.   You also have to be competent.   When you trust someone, you are confident, not simply in their intentions and motivations toward you, but also in their advice and their ability to help you.   For example – when you invest trust in your car mechanic, you’re counting on his character - that he will not cheat you by billing you excessively – and on his competence – that he will be able to fix the problem at hand.

So back to our question – what can you do to restore trust when trust is lost?  Here are 4 things to consider:   (Disclaimer: nothing original here – it’s a combination of things I’ve learned from reading, observing and painfully experiencing)

Talk straight – speak honestly and openly.   No spinning the message, no sweeping under the rug.   Invite others to do the same.   Trust cannot be restored when we’re afraid of expressing ourselves to each other.  A leader can facilitate straight talk is by being vulnerable.  Lead the way by letting your guard down.  This is step one in the road to restoring trust.

Confront the brutal truth - acknowledging the truth about a situation is essential to fixing the fundamental problem of mistrust.   That’s why a common complaint about politicians that have lost the trust of the public is that they “just don’t get it”.  One way to face the truth is to let those you’ve wronged to openly give you feedback without retribution or correction.   I’ve been in situations where I’ve lost the trust of individuals even though I haven’t explicitly wronged them.   Yet, in both humility and care for others, I needed to put aside the temptation to defend myself but focus instead on how they have been affected by my leadership.  

Make It Right (as best you can) - Making it right starts with bearing the burdens of others.  Understanding how our leadership (or lack thereof) has affected them.   Sometimes when trust is lost, it’s due to an irreversible situation but if possible, you need to make amends and offer reparations.  It also means proactive mitigation - making the kind of changes that prevent the same situation from occurring again.   Regaining trust requires us answering the question – “what assurances can you offer me that this won’t happen again?“.

Follow Through - Actions speak louder than words.   Those whom you may have wronged - your constituents, followers and friends are looking for results.   Placating them but not following through with actual results will compromise everything else.   It will further disillusion them.    This means both fulfilling commitments made to them and continuing to be accountable to them.   Here’s what I mean - it’s not enough to simply address the problem in the current moment but to continue to humbly inquire if you’re on the right track.   Leaders that restore trust willingly make themselves accountable to those they lead on an ongoing basis.

Final word on this - I've seen good leaders demonstrate this in many different settings and I've tried to practice the same.  I don't know they do it but for me, the impetus and strength to do so is rooted firmly in gospel truth.   

Speaking openly and honestly comes from knowing that there is such a thing as objective truth and that it proceeds from a God of truth for our good. ( Psalm 119:160 , John 17:17 )

Confronting the truth in any situation is easier once you've confronted the cosmic truth that you're a sinner before a holy God.   ( Romans 3:23 ).   

Having the strength to act humbly and courageously emanates from the gospel - that God humbled himself by sending his Son in human form to bear our sins.   ( Philippians 2: 5-8 )

We become motivated to bear the burdens of others when we consider the burden Christ bore for us on the cross and walk in love toward them.   ( Galatians 6:2 )

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Quote of the Week

We have had to learn.. that in all the world there are only two sources of real wealth: the fruit of the earth and the labor of men; and to estimate work not by the money it brings to the producer, but by the worth of the thing that is made.

Dorothy Sayers,  Why Work?

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just God, cannot long retain it."

Abraham Lincoln,  Letter to H.L. Pierce, April 6, 1859

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Our Forgotten Call - Gospel Proclamation in the Workplace

As Christians, we’re called to proclaim the gospel – the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection to secure eternal life to all who respond in faith to Him.   Yet, doing so in the workplace requires a rare blend of wisdom and courage.  In his article, Ditch the Safety Talk, Work Dangerously, David Rupert draws attention to the challenge that many Christians in the workplace face on a daily basis – the reluctance to proclaim the gospel in an increasingly secular workplace.

In my experience, Christians in the workplace will often mute or attenuate their Christian witness for fear of drawing a negative reaction from their co-workers or employer.   Yet, God has called all Christians to the holy task of gospel proclamation.   Ordinary Christians sharing the good news in both word and deed in every sphere of life is God’s appointed means to spread the good news.

So why are many Christians unable to do so effectively and what can we do to change this?    I have a few thoughts to offer (none original to me) –  

First, we must remind ourselves of the good news.   If some of us are honest, we’ll admit that we’ve functionally forgotten the essence of the gospel.  Many of us have been Christians for so long that we’ve forgotten why the gospel is good news in the first place.   Could it be that we’re reluctant to share the gospel because at some level, we’re not convinced of its essential value?   Friends, this is where we must start – to remember that sins forgiven and eternal life in the presence of God is not simply good news – it’s the best news of all.   We will have little inclination to share the gospel unless we live in the joy of it.

Second, we must pray.   In a recent Sunday sermon,  Mark Mullery, the senior pastor of my church,  made the following point  “talking to our friends about God starts with talking to God about our friends”.   I find that I become more attentive to the needs of those around me when I make a habit of praying for them.   I also become more aware of how God is at work in the lives of my co-workers to bring them to saving faith.

Finally, we need to exercise courageous wisdom.   Many of us succumb to what Proverbs calls the “fear of man” – a fear that we’ll be rejected or even reprimanded in a severe way for our faith.  Yet, we need to grapple with this reality – the call of the Christian is costly.   God will not excuse a cost/benefit analysis that finds obedience to Him wanting.   We have to take risks for the sake of the gospel and that means being willing to proclaim the good news whenever opportunity arises.  A great starting point for many of us is to simply stop censoring ourselves.   Instead of attenuating our Christian experience for the masses at work, we should simply speak honestly about our ordinary lives – how we spent Sunday, how we make parenting choices, how we cope with our fears and dreams.   If we’re living anything resembling a Christian lifestyle, it will undoubtedly provoke questions and conversations.    We need to be bold but we also need to be wise - "walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your words always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person" (Col 4:5-6).  

Simple as all this sounds, it isn’t easy. As I mentioned earlier, it takes a rare blend of courage and wisdom - the kind that you can’t muster up but thankfully, God by His grace, can supply.   

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Experience is not what happens to you.   It is what you do with what happens to you.   Don't waste your pain; use it to help others."

Dr. Rick Warren,  The Purpose Driven Life

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Without doubt, persons may very honestly and commendably be employed in following their respective callings, but yet, if they are engaged so deeply in these, as to hinder their working out their salvation with fear and trembling, they must expect  the same sentence with their predecessors in the parable, that none of them shall taste of Christ's supper: for our particular calling, as of this or that profession, must never interfere with our general and precious calling, as Christians."

George Whitefield,  Worldly Business No Plea for the Neglect of Religion (sermon)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Quote of the Week

"The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation." 

C.S. Lewis,  The Weight of Glory, p.27

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chris Paul, Uncommon Forgiveness and the Gospel

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.

In 2002, five young men robbed and brutally murdered Nathaniel Jones - Chris Paul's grandfather.  In the words of Reilly, they "jumped a 61 year old man, bound his wrists, duct taped his mouth and beat him with pipes until his heart stopped".  You'll have to read Reilly's article to grasp the profound impact of this had on Chris Paul.  He loved his grandfather and was deeply grieved by the loss.

Thankfully, justice was served. The authorities caught the perpetrators and they are serving time for their brutal crime. End of story, right? Not so.

What makes this interesting is that in the years after the incident, Chris Paul demonstrated an unusual mercy and kindness to the men who took his grandfather's life. He has forgiven them and may even advocate for their sentences to be reduced. In Paul's own words -

"Even though I miss my granddad, I understand he's not coming back. At the time it made me feel good to know that they went away for life. Now that I'm older, when I think of all the things I've seen in my life? No, I don't want it.."

I don't know if Chris Paul is a Christian or even religious but his example offers a picture of forgiveness. Real forgiveness is always remarkable - it gets our attention - it moves us. Perhaps it's because we know how difficult it is to forgive in a broken world. We sin and are sinned against. We need forgiveness for own failings and we need to forgive others. Yet, it seems beyond us - more than we can bear. Perhaps because it is.

You know what's more remarkable than Chris Paul's story of forgiveness? The gospel. The good news that actually starts with the bad news of a rebel race turning from the all-wise, all-loving and all-powerful Creator God. It's a remarkable story that speaks of a sacrifice by Jesus Christ, God's only Son to bear the sins of all who trust in him.  A sacrifice so profound that it changes lives for all eternity. It brings the spiritually dead to life.

"And you were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world... But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved - and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Chris Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus"

There's a reason why stories like Chris Paul's affect us. Perhaps it's because when we hear them, we get a glimpse of what divine mercy looks like. Deep down in our hearts, it reminds us of the mercy that we need every day.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Quote of the Week

"A Christian theory of leisure is rooted in the nature of the world that God created and in human nature as created by God to live in that order. At the heart of God's creation is something gratuitous - an exuberant going beyond what is strictly necessary to maintain life"

Monday, May 09, 2011

Should We Celebrate the Death of Osama Bin Laden?

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”.

Both are true. God is vehemently opposed to wickedness while lovingly and patiently calling image bearers to repentance.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quote of the Week

"It is quite natural - actually quite easy - to be enthusiastic if your work is prominent, but less natural the more hidden it is, as the conductor of a great symphony orchestra revealed when asked which instrument was the most difficult to play. 'Second violin', he answered. 'We can get plenty of first violinist but to get someone to play second violin with enthusiasm - that is a problem!' "

R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, p. 153

Friday, April 08, 2011

Quote of the Week

"You may feel you are in a nothing job. Because of the Curse, your job may involve painful toil and little satisfaction. But you can glorify God where you are by your heart attitude. You may feel your job is not holy but it is if you see it so and do it for God's glory."

R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, p. 151

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Finding Hope in the Struggle for Contentment

“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

Quote of the Week

"Your work is a sacred matter. God delights in it, and through it he wants to bestow his blessing on you."

Martin Luther, 1493 Exposition of Psalm 128.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Living Every Moment for God

This blog is inspired by Abraham Kuyper's famous quote delivered at the dedication of the Free University -

"There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!"

The powerful idea that Jesus Christ lays claim to "every square inch" of our lives is not new but it bears reminding for us who easily forget. It may indeed be an old truth but sometimes we need new ways to think this. Recently, reading and reflecting upon Ephesians 5:15-17 helped me think of God's sovereign claim over our lives in a fresh, new way.

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."

Time - we're called to make the best use of it an not to squander it - because days are evil. This passage reminded me that Christ lays claim, not only to every sphere of our lives but also of every moment of our existence. Every hour we spend sleeping, every minute we're awake, we are spending the currency of time - God's gift to us. Every moment of our lives either at work or at play, we ought to be pursuing God's will for our lives, lest we waste this precious gift.

To paraphrase Kuyper - "there is not a split second in all of human existence over which Christ who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!"

Monday, March 21, 2011

Quote of the Week

"There are no first-class and second-class Christians because of their varying jobs. All work is sacramental in nature, be it checking groceries, selling futures, cleaning teeth, driving a street sweeper, teaching or painting trim. Everything we do, ought to be done to the glory of God."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Praying for Present and Eternal Comfort for Japan


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.

" 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.

Read the rest of the prayer here

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Deep and lasting security, resilient hope, and sturdy rest of heart and mind can only be found vertically. You will only know the rest for which you seek when you begin to embrace the astounding reality of who you are as a child of God. If you are God's child, you are the object of love of the Person who rules everything there is to rule."

Paul Tripp, A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Sleep is a Gift

Sleep - apparently, we aren't getting enough of it. According to this Time article, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that a third of all Americans are getting less than the recommended minimum of 7 hours of sleep. In a separate study, research has shown that a lack of sleep is linked to depression and higher mortality rates. Then I read this Harvard Business Review blog post on why sleep is more important than food

This sleep crisis hit home for me last week. In a men's small group meeting, a few of my friends confessed how getting a full night's sleep had become extremely challenging. One friend told of how the combination of health challenges and anxieties can get the better of him to the point that he sleeps only 4-5 hours a night.

What should be so natural and easy is becoming so difficult for many of us, entangled in cares of life and a myriad of challenges ranging from physical ailments to chronic anxieties. It also reminded me that sleep is a gift - one that we often take for granted until it becomes difficult.

It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2

God gives... we receive. It's that simple, yet profound. Let's pray for that we might receive the gift of sleep rom our Creator who knows that we were made to rest.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Think about this: the advertising industry spends untold billions of dollars each year trying to steal your time by making you believe that recreation, not work, is the ultimate source of personal fulfillment... a life free of responsibilities...not working, not investing yourself in others... not making the most of every opportunity, as the Bible teaches us"

Monday, February 28, 2011

Uncommon Words for the Workplace

"I was wrong..." It doesn't matter what comes after the start of that sentence, admitting you're wrong is still one of the hardest things to do in life. Not surprisingly, it also figures to be some of the most uncommon words in the workplace.

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

Quote of the Week

"Learning to pray doesn't offer you a less busy life; it offers you a less busy heart."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Saying No to Self Promotion

Self promotion. In this social media saturated world, it's become second nature to market yourself. We're a nation obsessed with our personal brand. It shows up all over our lives but especially in our workplace.

After all, if you don't "toot your horn", who will? What's wrong with a little self promotion, anyway?

Here's a different perspective from Luke 14.

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, 'Give your place to this person, and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place to that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

What are the "places of honor" that you assume in your workplace? Are you spending time on self promotion instead of serving and letting your performance speak for itself? By scheming, strategizing and positioning to be recognized, are you missing out on an opportunity to see God work?

Consider this thought - it's always more satisfying to trust the host and have him promote you to a place of honor than to strive to do it yourself.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Quote of the Week

"... business is a legitimate part of undertaking the stewardship of creation to make a human imprint on the earth."

R. Paul Stevens, Doing God's Business, p.24

Friday, February 04, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Love of neighbor - grounded in our love for God - requires us to work for good in the City of Man, even as we set as our first priority the preaching of the gospel - the only means of bringing the citizens of the City of Man into citizenship in the City of God."

Al Mohler, Culture Shift

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Working Until You Drop

Here's an interesting article from USA Today noting that after years of decline, the labor force participation of workers over the age of 65 is now at 17%. It's not particularly surprising if you consider that the life expectancy in the US has risen to over 78.4 years.

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

Quote of the Week

"Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you."

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 151

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

John Calvin on How to Think About Success

The Desiring God blog poses questions about success and draws answers from the wisdom of reformer John Calvin. On how to battle the sinful pursuit of success and power, here is what John Calvin says -

"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

Quote of the Week

"Christians are called to be exiles from the world, however personally painful that exile may be. they are supposed to be aliens to the world's darkness as they seek another city, "whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10)."

David F. Wells
, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams, p.41

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Prayer of the Wise: Don't Give Me Too Much

How much is too much when it comes to wealth? Even though most of us have more than what we need to sustain a basic lifestyle, we are typically clamoring for better than what we have right now. It's unthinkable that we would pray to God to limit his blessing to us but it's exactly what we discover in Proverbs 30:7-9. Two things are asked for. The first is the protection from falsehoods but it's the second part of the request that I find most intriguing - "give me neither poverty or riches".

“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.