Monday, January 30, 2012

Delighting in Anonymity for the Sake of Christ

That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!"

Unlike other gospel authors, apostle John chose anonymity rather than identifying himself by name.  Referring to himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loves" wasn't just an act of humility but also of one of delightful endearment.   John was celebrating the essence of his identity - the simple fact that Jesus loved him.

Too often I can end up locating my identity in all the wrong places

Sometimes I will locate my identity in personal performance - "top performer", "great father", "loving husband", etc...  It's about how well I'm doing in all the roles I play.

On other occasions, my identity is found in my position - "project leader", "senior executive", "doctor", etc..

Often, the opinions and perceptions of others can form the basis of my identity - "respected", "wise", "smart", etc...

The problem is that all these pose a no-win scenario.  For I find myself crushed emotionally when I do poorly, when I fail to live up to my own performance or when I fall short of what others may think of me.   In those occasions, I'm often despondent and discouraged.

Even worse than a poor showing is a good one.   Should I do well even for a brief season, it only serves to reinforce my misplaced identity, trapping me in an ever tightening grip.

My hope is to do as John did - to pursue anonymity for the sake of a better delight - to be known and loved by Christ.    When stories that intersect our lives unfold, whether at work or in other spheres of life,  how would you seek to be known and remembered?   Would you be satisfied simply to be known as one whom Jesus loved?

Monday, January 02, 2012

Starting the New Year with a New Attitude

"The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year.  It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose, new feet, a new backbone, new ears and new eyes.... Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective"

GK Chesterton

If you're looking for a helpful bible passage to start the New Year, you might consider this excerpt from Philippians 3:

"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.   Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."

Philippians 3:7-8

Paul's claim from this passage both challenges my soul and refreshes me as I start a New Year.   Paul's reference of "gain" speaks to his heritage, his place of honor, perhaps even his very identity - everything that contributed to a sense of his own righteousness before God..   All of which he counted as loss for the sake of knowing Christ.   Knowing Jesus Christ - it's a pursuit so rich and fulfilling that it warrants our setting aside of all counterfeits that might steal our attention away from this holy pursuit.

I'm provoked to look upon my life for vestiges of boasting in my own achievements - the very elements of my life that bring me respectability and honor - the ones that can so easily rob me of my dependence in God.   I pray for the echo of Paul's words to power my life for this New Year.  May I take no confidence in my gifts, abilities, intellect or skills.  May I neither seek, nor rest upon the praise of men..   Instead, may I draw my identity and worth from Jesus Christ - from the fact that I know Him and am known by Him.

"Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own,   Bur one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 3: 13

I'm just starting out, I'm not there yet but I plan on pressing on.    


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