Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Links to Interesting Faith and Work Articles

  • 32 Leadership Books. Here is a diverse list of 32 leadership books recommended by Todd Adkins, Eric Geiger and Barnabas Piper on this episode of the 5 Leadership Questions Leadership Podcast. I’ve read nine of the books listed.
  • 12 Killers of Good Leadership. Ron Edmondson writes “It’s not that the person can’t continue to lead, but to grow as a leader — to be successful at a higher level or for the long-term — they must address these killers.”
  • Top 10 Ways Leaders Waste Time (And 10 Time Hacks to Help You). Cary Nieuwhof writes “Any idea what your time wasters are? And even if you do, any idea how to fix them? Here’s some practical help.”
  • 5 Leadership Questions about Public Speaking. In this episode of the 5 Leadership Questions podcast Todd Adkins, Daniel Im, and Barnabas Piper talk about leading and public speaking. What are good habits? Who are the best public speakers we’ve heard? How can someone improve at public speaking? What are the best resources to help someone improve?
  • 4 Ways Leaders Create Capacity in the Organization. Ron Edmondson writes” Leaders know the more capacity the organization has the more potential it has. And when the organization begins to exceed its capacity for too long things eventually staff. To spur growth – increase capacity.
  • Put Your Dreams to the Test. Last week, John Maxwell offered a special 5-part series on his daily “Minute with Maxwell”. Ownership. Passion. Pathway. Cost. Significance
  • Culture vs. Vision: Is it Really Either-Or? John Maxwell looks at how culture and vision work hand in hand.
  • Amazon: Easy to Critique, Easier to One-Click. Lisa Slayton writes “Healthy cultures are deeply intentional and develop over time when we implement values and invest in good people, processes, and environments. They needn’t be lavish, but they must value people for who they are, not simply what they do.”
  • Don’t Work Yourself to Death. Bill Peel writes “We all have periods when we need to move fast and work longer hours to meet deadlines. But these times need to be balanced with times when we slow down and rest—mindful that our welfare and success are always in God’s hands, not ours.”
  • 13 Multipliers that Elevate Average to Remarkable. Dan Rockwell shares how small multipliers can make service remarkable.
  • Faith & Work Ministries. More than a thousand ministries serve Christians in the workplace. These organizations offer an array of resources online, in print, and through personal interaction and mentoring. Here’s a helpful list compiled by the Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University.
  • Embedding Faith’s Roots into Your Work. Andy Mills developed the following perspective on what the Bible says about work. These 9 points provide a practical foundation for Christians asking what the Bible says about how we should approach our work.
  • Working for Fairness and Transparency in Agribusiness. Jason Kong is the general chemistry laboratory supervisor for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Read about how he integrates his faith and work.
  • How Introverts Succeed in an Extrovert World. As an introvert myself, I appreciated this article from Dan Rockwell.
  • Mentoring that Works. Mentoring that Works. Mark Miller shares ten helpful thoughts on mentoring
  • What Your Questions Reveal. In this video, Andy Stanley talks about three things your questions you ask will reveal.

book.reviews

Time for Every Thing by Matt Fuller. The Good Book Company. 144 pages. 2015
****

Time for Every ThingThis is another helpful book from the Good Book Company. The author is the Senior Minister at Christ Church, Mayfair in central London. Though I was not familiar with the author, over the years I’ve read several books about time management so this book caught my attention.

Fuller writes that many of us feel a famine of time, never having enough of it to accomplish our goals, constantly running from one thing to the next. He writes that obsessing about time, being burdened by a lack of time and feeling guilty all the time is bad. How we can get off this hamster wheel is what this book is about.

Fuller writes that time is a gift that we’re designed to enjoy. What needs to change is how our hearts view the 24 hours we are given each day.

In the first half of the book Fuller lays the foundation in terms of how we view time, busyness, and burdens. In the second half, he looks at how we use our time well (and avoid using it badly), in the areas of work, family, church and leisure.

He shares five helpful burdens that have been placed on us:

  • Religious rules
  • The need to prove ourselves
  • Striving to achieve respect
  • The expectations of others
  • The needs of others
  • Trying to be secure

He writes that feeling burdened is a sign that something is wrong in our view of life, because there is something wrong in our view of God. To deal with the above burdens that weary us, he looks at what Jesus is offering us. He tells us that only if we fully embrace what Jesus has done to win our salvation, and live out our status as someone who is saved—will we be able to take off the other burdens that he mentions.

Fuller looks at how to be busy, yet calm, by living our lives in dependence upon the Lord, rather than living functionally in independence from Him. He encourages us to live each day in trust, rather than with anxiety. He suggests two ways that we can waste our time – by being idle or easily distracted and by being focused on and dedicated to the wrong things. But Jesus has called us to make the most of the time that we have been given by him, to be used for him.

Fuller states that we need to look carefully at the competing demands upon our time and plan our time so that we don’t waste it. We need to consciously decide where we place boundaries on our use of time, or we will be at the mercy of others and boundaries will be imposed upon us.

The book ends with a number of examples of how people the author knows have chosen to use all their time in freedom in the area between neglect and idolatry.

He writes that we have to regularly make time to work out how best to use our time. All of our time belongs to the Lord. We must do all that we can to make the best use of our brief time here on earth. We do it trusting in him, serving him and following him, and looking forward to being with him.

I found this to be a helpful, theologically sound book on considering how to use the time we have been given by the Lord.

Kingdom Calling BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

Kingdom CallingKingdom Calling: Vocational Calling for the Common Good by Amy L. Sherman

I first read this book in a “Calling, Vocation and Work” class with Dr. Michael Williams and Dr. Bradley Matthews at Covenant Seminary two summers ago. King Jesus is on a mission to bring restoration in every sphere of society and has invited His followers to join Him in this Kingdom-advancing work.  Learn to deeply, creatively and intentionally steward your vocational power in ways that advance foretastes of the coming Kingdom of shalom for our neighbors near and far.

It’s an excellent book, so let’s read it together. This week we’ll look at Chapter 3: Why We Aren’t the Tsaddiqim.

  • In many of our churches, our gospel is too small. While it is rightly centered on the vital atoning work of Jesus on the cross, it fails to grasp the comprehensive significance of his redemptive work. Consequently, it fails to direct Christ-followers into the righteous lifestyle of the tsaddiqim, who gladly join Jesus on his grand mission of restoration.
  • The glorious truths celebrated in this too-narrow gospel do not, in themselves, capture the full, grand, amazing scope of Jesus’ redemptive work. For Jesus came preaching not just this gospel of personal justification but the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus’ work is not exclusively about our individual salvation, but about the cosmic redemption and renewal of all things.
  • One of the ways the too-narrow gospel permeates evangelicalism is through contemporary worship music. The incomplete gospel is not only preached from pulpits but also sung by worship bands. Much of contemporary Christian music cultivates and reinforces a me-and-Jesus mentality. And that matters, because theological shortcomings in the music we hear on Christian radio or sing on Sunday mornings affect our beliefs.
  • Not only is the me-and-Jesus gospel reinforced in many popular worship songs, it also permeates a good deal of the most popular Christian books.
  • The best discipleship books often were marked by a kingdom gospel theology. The most popular Christian books typically focused on the individual Christian’s relationship to God.’° To oversimplify, the books strongest on a robust theology that could undergird the life of a tsaddiq are generally not the books being chosen by the highest percentages of Christian readers.
  • Just as much worship music does little to move us beyond the individualistic, narrow gospel, many “Christian living” books reinforce that me-and-Jesus mindset.
  • With a reductionist understanding of the good news, Sider wrote, too many believers think they can simply accept the gospel and then “go on living the same adulterous, materialistic, racist life” that they lived before.”
  • Dallas Willard. His 2006 book The Great Omission is based on the claim that, because the narrow gospel prevails in evangelicalism, we gain converts but not followers of Jesus.
  • This too-narrow gospel focuses believers missionally only on the work of “soul winning.”
  • It has little to say about Jesus’ holistic ministry or the comprehensive nature of his work of restoration. It focuses on the problem of personal sin only, thus intimating that sanctification is a matter only of personal morality (rather than that plus social justice). It focuses believers on getting a ticket to heaven, but doesn’t say much about what their life in this world should look like. Put differently, it focuses only on what we’ve been saved from, rather than also telling us what we’ve been saved for.
  • If the too-narrow gospel is the first reason we aren’t the tsaddiqim, the closely related second reason is our inadequate views of heaven.
  • Against the popular view of heaven as an ethereal existence on clouds, the biblical view is that God will remake both heaven and earth and join them together forever.
  • Distorted understandings of heaven and the afterlife have a corrosive effect on Christians’ thinking about how to live this life in our routine, workaday world. If we (mistakenly) believe that at the end, the earth will be completely destroyed23 and that just our souls will live on forever, it’s a bit hard to imagine being tsaddiqim who are passionate for such things as environmental stewardship or cultural reformation.
  • But these aren’t the only reasons we’re not the tsaddiqim. Another key reason is that the very positions of prosperity and power that make possible righteous stewardship that can advance justice and shalom also serve as sirens calling us away from kingdom sacrifice.
  • The siren songs of prosperity make it imperative that preachers in middle-class and wealthier congregations urge their members to join small accountability groups. There they can ask one another the hard questions about how they are managing the faith-eroding qualities of privilege, wealth and power.
  • The problem of isolation. Finally, beyond this issue of troubling temptations, Lindsay’s research identified another problem: the insulation of Christian professionals from people outside their socioeconomic class.
  • Today, in cities at home and abroad, many of God’s children continue to cry out for justice and shalom. Evangelical churches in America have innumerable opportunities to rejoice these communities. This will happen when our churches produce Christ-followers who live as the tsaddiqim.

Quotes about Faith and Work

  • We succeed at our very best only when we help others succeed. Jim Collins
  • It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task that will affect its outcome. Coach K
  • If it is important to you, you will find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse. Coach K
  • A life lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before one audience that trumps all others – the Audience of One. Os Guinness
  • Before you tell me what you know, start by proving what you can do. Action builds credibility. Brad Lomenick
  • When I hear somebody say ‘I’m going into full time ministry’…I want to throw up…because it communicates…that there’s a part-time option, and there isn’t. R. Paul Stevens
  • We don’t build trust when we offer help. We build trust when we ask for it. Simon Sinek
  • To a man who lives unto God, nothing is secular, everything is sacred. Charles Spurgeon
  • Leading from the middle – celebrate those below you, collaborate with those beside you, and anticipate for those above you. Brad Lomenick
  • Leader, most likely you will control the lid on your leadership potential by how well you empower others. Ron Edmondson
  • Successful leaders have buckets of wisdom filled with things that didn’t work. Dan Rockwell


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MOVIE REVIEW ~ The End of The Tour

The End of The TourThe End of The Tour, rated R
***

This film is a fictionalized look at the story of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace, which took place after the 1996 publication of Wallace’s groundbreaking epic novel, Infinite Jest. The film is directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) and Lipsky’s book Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace was the main resource used by the screenwriter Donald Margulies.

Most of the film takes place during the winter in my hometown of Bloomington/Normal, Illinois where Wallace taught at my alma mater, Illinois State University, though the film was actually shot in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wallace had taken a teaching job at Illinois State University in 1993 while working on the final draft of Infinite Jest.

The film opens in 2008 as Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) hears that Wallace (Jason Segel) has died from suicide. He then pulls out the cassette tapes of his interviews with Wallace and we relive their time together twelve years earlier after Lipsky convinced his editor at Rolling Stone to send him to Bloomington to interview Wallace.

Wallace lives in Bloomington by himself with his two dogs. His life and his book speak of loneliness. He seems to be rather self-absorbed, to the point of it sapping his joy. About the only time we see him truly feeling joy is when he is dancing, at of all places a local Baptist church.

During their five days together Wallace tells Lipsky about his life, how he feels, what he thinks, what terrifies and fascinates and confounds him as they travel to St. Paul, Minnesota for the last stop on his book tour and then back to Bloomington. Wallace is always concerned about how he or his writings will be perceived by others, even down to the reason why he always wears a bandanna. Even with his newfound acclaim, he seems to always want to be seen as a regular guy. Throughout, Lipsky is recording Wallace and scribbling down notes for his article.

Joan Cusack portrays Patty, who escorts Wallace and Lipsky around St. Paul on the book tour. Mamie Gummer (Ricki and the Flash) portrays Julie, and Anna Chlumsky stars as Sarah, his former girlfriend from college. They hang out with Wallace and Lipsky in St. Paul eating and watching movies. But Patty, Julie and Sarah are just bit players in this film as the focus is squarely on Lipsky and Wallace in what could be a good stage play. And both actors deliver strong performances. I was particularly impressed with Segel, not having seen him in many films in the past.

I didn’t know anything about Wallace or his book despite the fact that he taught just down the street from our home, but the excellent acting performances in the film kept my attention and I found myself fascinated by the complicated and flawed Wallace.

Lipsky envies Wallace’s writing success and is looking for an angle for his article, perhaps something controversial, such as his rumored heroin use. In their short time together they develop a relationship, though Wallace can never truly relax around Lipsky, constantly being concerned with how he will be portrayed in the article Lipsky will be writing about him.

Wallace shares his bouts of depression and a time when he was on a suicide watch. We don’t find out anything specific about Wallace’s spiritual beliefs, but a quote from St. Ignatius of Loyola on the wall of his bathroom was of interest:

St. Ignatius

The film is rated R for language, including some sexual references. It is a good study in broken cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13). How we reach our goals and are at the pinnacle of success, but it still doesn’t satisfy; it doesn’t bring true joy. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the movie!

 


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4 Thoughts on Communications

Brian Tracy quote on communicationAs each day goes by I become more and more convinced of the importance of good communications in every facet of life. I hear every day at work how a lack of good communication impacts productivity and/or morale. Good communication is important in non-profit or church situations, and of course in family or personal relationships.  To be effective, we need to communicate effectively.

There is much to be said on this subject, and I’ll have additional articles in the future. For now, I want to share four initial thoughts:

  1. Know when communication should be face to face. Just as Gary Chapman writes about our “love languages”, I believe we also have a primary communication language. You’re probably aware of those people who don’t respond to your emails, but almost instantly respond when you send them a text message. Other people prefer to communicate verbally on the phone. My communication language is email. But surpassing what our communication preference is, is the means of communication required for a particular situation. If you’re dealing with a sensitive issue, or what is referred to as a “crucial conversation”, your communication should be face to face if possible. If that is not possible, the next best means would be a phone call. Sending an email may be easiest or most convenient, but it’s probably not the best means of communication in those situations. Have you had situations when you sent an email when you really should have met face to face, or if that wasn’t possible picked up the phone?
  2. Tone in electronic communications. Related to the above item, the tone of an electronic (email or text) communication is open to interpretation by those who receive them. The tone that the receiver interprets is often based on their relationship with the person who sent the communication. For example, if I have a great relationship with you and you send me an email, I may not think anything about it. However, if I receive the exact same email from a colleague that I’ve had conflict with in the past, I may take it completely differently. So use good judgement about when to use electronic communications. If you have to communicate in this manner, and if it is with someone that you have not had the best relationship with in the past, even if the communication is routine in your eyes, be careful of how the receiver may interpret it. After you write it, read it from their perspective. How might they receive it? Then edit it as necessary until you are comfortable with it. Have you found yourself “reading” in a tone that perhaps may not be there because of who the communication is from?
  3. Communication to clarify roles and responsibilities on a team. Over the past few months I’ve heard of a few situations in which team dysfunction could have been eliminated and team harmony increased if the leaders would have taken the time to clarify roles and responsibilities of the team. By not doing so led to conflict, suspicion and dysfunction. If you are a leader, remember to do this, especially with a new team or when new team members are added to an existing team. If you are team member and see that this is needed, press your leader to do so. Have you been on teams when the lack of communication about roles and responsibilities has negatively impacted the team?
  4. To be effective, communication must be timely. My aim is to provide information in a timely manner with those I work with. There may be times I receive feedback on, or need to provide feedback to, a team member. I try to share that feedback promptly, rather than waiting for our next scheduled meeting. In other situations, I will receive information that others need in order to perform their jobs effectively.  I owe it to them to get the information to them as soon as possible. There are many other situations in which it’s important to communicate in a timely manner. What are some examples that you can think of?

These are a few initial thoughts about good communications. More will come later in future articles. For now, what thoughts do you have on the subject of effective communications?


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A Few of My Favorite Things: 4 Recommendations for You

A Few of My Favorite Things
I want to share with you four things I regularly look forward to. Two are daily, one is weekly and one is monthly. Here they are:

  • Tim Challies’ blog. I start my day with reading Tim Challies’ Informing the Reforming blog and his Ala Carte post. This Monday through Saturday post includes Kindle deals that he recommends, interesting and helpful links and a quote of the day. This is required reading for me.
  • Albert Mohler’s The Briefing podcast. Each day Dr. Albert Mohler presents The Briefing, a podcast with daily worldview analysis about the leading news headlines and cultural conversations. This is required listening for me.
  • Ligonier Ministries’ $5 Friday. Each Friday, Ligonier Ministries (R.C. Sproul’s ministry) offers a selection of their resources for just $5 on their website for their $5 Friday promotion. I’ve gotten some excellent deals in the past and I check out their selection each Friday morning.
  • Christianaudio’s Free Audiobook of the Month. Each month, Christianaudio offers a free audiobook to be downloaded from their website. The new audiobook is available the first day of the month, and can be downloaded anytime during the month. I’ve gotten several outstanding resources for free from Christianaudio. They also offer occasional sales, so it’s a good idea to get on their mailing list so that you can hear about the sales.

These are a few things that I look forward to each month. Do you have others that you would like to share?

 


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Ben Carson One NationOne Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future by Ben Carson, M.D. with Candy Carson. Sentinel. 256 pages. 2014
****

When Dr. Ben Carson was asked to speak at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast he was a little surprised. He had already spoken at the event once, and the only other person who had spoken there twice was Billy Graham. Carson includes the text of his speech in the book. Immediately after completing the speech he was told that he had offended President Obama with his comments and needed to apologize.

Carson didn’t feel that he had said anything that would have offended the President and thus he saw no need to apologize. Many people positively responded to the speech and Carson was asked to appear on several news programs. Some encouraged him to run for president. From that time, he became the candidate that I wanted to support. Of course now we know that he is running.

This book outlines Carson’s vision for America, which is one of common sense. He first writes about what is wrong with America (political correctness; special interest groups; our country’s debt; bullying; voters voting along straight party lines instead of informing themselves on the issues and candidates, etc.) and then offers solutions. He discusses the importance of education, which he states will affect your entire life; things we agree on, and things we can compromise on. He calls for Americans to work together, regardless of their political party affiliation. He shares his ideas on how to reform health care in America and on taxation, using the tithe model from the Bible. He writes about the importance of humility, taking care of our family members when they can’t and the importance of positive role models. In discussing morality, he asks how we determine what is right and wrong. For Christians, we get that from the Bible. He then looks at current issues such as abortion, homosexuality and evolution, and the position that Christians tend to take on those issues.

Throughout the book he quotes several passages from the book of Proverbs. The book includes helpful “Action Steps” at the end of each chapter, for the reader to build on what had been covered in that chapter.

Here are a few helpful quotes from the book:

• “Disagreement is part of being a person who has choices. One of those choices is to respect others and engage in intelligent conversation about differences of opinion without becoming enemies, eventually allowing us to move forward to compromise.”
• “Compassion, however, should mean providing a mechanism to escape poverty rather than simply maintaining people in an impoverished state by supplying handouts. By doing this we give them an opportunity to elevate their personal situations, which eventually decreases our need to take care of them and empowers them to be able to exercise compassion toward others.”
• “While wisdom dictates the need for education, education does not necessarily make one wise.”
• “If Americans simply choose to vote for the person who has a D or an R by their name, we will get what we deserve, which is what we have now.”
• “Our founders did not believe that our society could thrive without this kind of moral social structure. In fact, it was our second president, John Adams, who said of our thoroughly researched and developed governing document, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
• “Many well-meaning Americans have bought into the PC speech code, thinking that by being extra careful not to offend anyone we will achieve unity. What they fail to realize is that this is a false unity that prevents us from talking about important issues and is a Far Left strategy to paralyze us while they change our nation. People have been led to become so sensitive that fault can be found in almost anything anyone says because somewhere, somehow, someone will be offended by it.”
• “We all have choices in the way we react to the words we hear. Our lives and the lives of all those around us will be significantly improved if we choose to react positively rather than negatively.”
• “There is no freedom without bravery.”
• “When the vision of the U.S. government included guarding the rights of people but staying out of their way, America was an economic engine more powerful than anything the world had ever witnessed.”
• “Sometimes one has to be humble enough to start at the bottom with a minimum-wage job even if you have a college degree. Once you get your foot in the door, you can prove your worth and rapidly move up the ladder. If you never get in the door, it is unlikely that you will rise to the top.”
• “Wisdom is essentially the same thing as common sense, the slight difference is that common sense provides the ability to react appropriately, while wisdom is frequently more proactive and additionally encourages the shaping of the environment.”
• “The human brain has billions of neurons and hundreds of billions of interconnections. It can process more than two million bits of information per second and can remember everything you have ever seen or heard.”
• “If we are to put an end to division, people from all political persuasions will have to stop fighting one another and seek true unity, not just a consensus that benefits one party.”
• “Saul Alinsky advised his followers to level sharp attacks against their opponents with the goal of goading them into rash counterattacks that would then discredit them. To avoid falling into this trap, those of us who are interested in civil discussion should prepare ourselves to refrain from reacting in fear or anger to those who disagree with us or even attack us.”
• “If most of the people in the country believe that America is generally fair and decent, it becomes more difficult for Saul Alinsky types to recruit change agents and for those on the Far Left to undermine our Constitution. Hence the constant bad-mouthing of our nation to impressionable young people, preparing them to be ripe for manipulation at the appropriate time.”

Carson’s next book, A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties, will be published October 6.

Openness Unhindered by Rosaria ButterfieldOpenness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. Crown & Covenant Publications. 2015. 206 pages  
****

The title of the book comes from the last verse of the book of Acts. The author begins the book by briefly telling her story, which she describes as messy, for those not familiar with her, or who hadn’t read her first book, 2012’s Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith.

She writes that sin and sex go together like peanut butter and chocolate, and that sexual sin is a fruit of pride and lust. One of the audiences she writes the book for are those Christians with unwanted homosexual desires. She writes that she is willing to offend someone for the sake of their soul.

As she writes the book Rosaria is a 52 year- old pastor’s wife who homeschools their younger children. She writes with kindness, grace and humility, indicating that she has more questions than answers to share. The book is theologically sound, as she quotes from respected authors and theologians throughout.

Rosaria includes many topics in this book including our union with Christ, pride, repentance, our identity in Christ and sexual orientation, sanctification, original sin and temptation. She writes that temptation is not a sin in itself. Christ was tempted, but did not sin. We cross the line from temptation to sin. She offers some helpful thoughts from John Owen’s book on indwelling sin, that we should:

  • Starve sin
  • Call sin what it is.
  • Extinguish indwelling sin.
  • Vivify righteousness and walk in the Spirit.

In discussing the concept of sexual orientation, she writes that it is unstable, changing, and harmful to believers who struggle with unwanted homosexual desires. The concept was developed by Freud to separate sexuality from its biblical view. Freud was influenced by romanticism, which saw experience as truth. He rejected the concept of original sin.

Rosaria writes that her view is that marriage by God’s design is between a man and a woman. In discussing what it means to be gay, she states that the meaning of the word has changed over time. She addresses what it means to say that you are a gay Christian given that gay is a term of identity. She helps to clarify terms that we hear all the time such as sexual attraction, sexual affection, sexual orientation and sexual identity. She asks whether sexual sin is a moral or physical problem.

In a particularly interesting part of the book she shares correspondence between her and Rebecca, a friend who identifies themselves as a gay Christian. Rosaria believes using the word gay to modify Christian dishonors God. She writes that using wording such as “living chastity with unwanted homosexual desires” is a better way of describing Rebecca than is gay Christian.

Toward the end of the book Rosaria has a helpful discussion on hospitality and neighboring. I particularly took interest in her discussion about the art of neighboring, where she and her husband placed picnic tables and chairs in their front yard to encourage hospitality. Thursday nights at their home is a prayer open house and a neighborhood prayer walk. She also addresses the importance of church membership vows.

The Epilogue allows her to provide an update on her life since the time Secret Thoughts was written, including the national attention that same-sex marriage has received in the United States. This is an important book on issues that are important in our culture today, and I highly recommend it. I also recommend Rosaria’s first book Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith.

If you are not familiar with Rosaria’s story, watch her message “Repentance and Renewal” from the 2015 Ligonier Ministries National Conference here.

Listen to Carl Trueman, Aimee Byrd and Todd Pruitt discuss the book on their Mortification of Spin podcast.

Thanks to Matt Smethurst of the Gospel Coalition for compiling these helpful 20 quotes from the book.

One Thousand WellsBook News:

One Thousand Wells: How an Audacious Goal Taught Me to Love the World Instead of Save It. This new book by Jena Nardella, cofounder of Blood:Water, releases this week. It’s a book I plan to read soon.

BOOK CLUBS – Won’t you read along with us?

Tim Keller's New Book on PrayerPrayer BOOK CLUB

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. Won’t you read along with Tammy and me? This week we look at:

Chapter 4: Conversing with God

  • We have learned that prayer is both an instinct and a spiritual gift. As an instinct, prayer is a response to our innate but fragmentary knowledge of God.
  • As a gift of the Spirit, however, prayer becomes the continuation of a conversation God has started.
  • Christian prayer is fellowship with the personal God who befriends us through speech. The biblical pattern entails meditating on the words of Scripture until we respond to God with our entire being, saying, “Give me an undivided heart, that . . . I may praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart” (Ps 86:11–12).
  • Timothy Ward’s book Words of Life argues that God’s words are identical with his actions. He quotes Genesis 1:3, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
  • God’s words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing.
  • When the Bible talks of God’s Word, then, it is talking of “God’s active presence in the world.”
  • “Thus (we may say) God has invested himself with his words, or we could say that God has so identified himself with his words that whatever someone does to God’s words . . . they do to God himself. . . . God’s . . . verbal actions are a kind of extension of himself.
  • If God’s words are his personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God. “Communication from God is therefore communion with God, when met with a response of trust from us.”
  • The conclusion is clear. God acts through his words, the Word is “alive and active” (Heb 4:12), and therefore the way to have God dynamically active in our lives is through the Bible. To understand the Scripture is not simply to get information about God. If attended to with trust and faith, the Bible is the way to actually hear God speaking and also to meet God himself.
  • We know who we are praying to only if we first learn it in the Bible. And we know how we should be praying only by getting our vocabulary from the Bible.
  • Our prayers should arise out of immersion in the Scripture. We should “plunge ourselves into the sea” of God’s language, the Bible. We should listen, study, think, reflect, and ponder the Scriptures until there is an answering response in our hearts and minds.
  • That response to God’s speech is then truly prayer and should be given to God.
  • Your prayer must be firmly connected to and grounded in your reading of the Word. This wedding of the Bible and prayer anchors your life down in the real God.
  • The Psalms reveal a great range in the modes of prayer.
  • We would never produce the full range of biblical prayer if we were initiating prayer according to our own inner needs and psychology. It can only be produced if we are responding in prayer according to who God is as revealed in the Scripture.
  • In every case the nature of the prayer is determined by the character of God, who is at once our friend, father, lover, shepherd, and king.
  • We must not decide how to pray based on what types of prayer are the most effective for producing the experiences and feelings we want. We pray in response to God himself. God’s Word to us contains this range of discourse—and only if we respond to his Word will our own prayer life be as rich and varied.
  • We should not decide how to pray based on the experiences and feelings we want. Instead, we should do everything possible to behold our God as he is, and prayer will follow. The more clearly we grasp who God is, the more our prayer is shaped and determined accordingly.
  • The lesson here is not that God never guides our thoughts or prompts us to choose wise courses of action, but that we cannot be sure he is speaking to us unless we read it in the Scripture.
  • David wanted to build God a house, but God said, “No, I will build you a house.”
  • David wanted to build God a place that displayed his glory. God said, in effect, that he had a counterproposal. He would establish David’s royal family line and it would ultimately reveal God’s glory in a more permanent, far-reaching, and universal way.
  • The Word of God created within David the desire, drive, and strength to pray. The principle: God speaks to us in his Word, and we respond in prayer, entering into the divine conversation, into communion with God.
  • One of David’s descendants will take up a kingdom and never relinquish it, because of the divine power of his indestructible life
  • We who believe in him will ourselves become God’s “house”—a temple of living stones indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
  • God’s Word of power “dwells richly” in all believers, giving them hearts to praise, sing, and pray to God with a joy and reality that neither David nor John the Baptist could know
  • David found the heart to pray when he received God’s Word of promise—that he would establish his throne and build him a house. Christians, however, have an infinitely greater Word of promise. God will not merely build us a house, he will make us his house. He will fill us with his presence, beauty, and glory. Every time Christians merely remember who they are in Christ, that great word comes home to us and we will find, over and over again, a heart to pray.

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we’re reviewing:

Chapter 2: General Views and Analysis

  • No part of this Sermon can be understood truly except in the light of the whole. The whole is greater than a collection of the parts, and we must never lose sight of this wholeness. Unless we have understood and grasped the Sermon on the Mount as a whole, we cannot understand properly any one of its particular injunctions.
  • Everything in this Sermon, if we treat it rightly, and if we are to derive benefit from considering it, must be taken in its setting; and, as I have just been emphasizing, the order in which the statements come in the Sermon is really of supreme importance. The Beatitudes do not come at the end, they come at the beginning, and I do not hesitate to say that unless we are perfectly clear about them we should go no further.
  • There is a kind of logical sequence in this Sermon. Not only that, there is certainly a spiritual order and sequence. Our Lord does not say these things accidentally; the whole thing is deliberate. Certain postulates are laid down, and on the basis of those, certain other things follow.
  • Never discuss any particular injunction of the Sermon with a person until I am perfectly happy and clear in my mind that that person is a Christian. It is wrong to ask anybody who is not first a Christian to try to live or practice the Sermon on the Mount. To expect Christian conduct from a person who is not born again is heresy.
  • We always tend to forget that every New Testament letter was written to Christians and not to non-Christians; and the appeals in terms of ethics in every Epistle are always addressed only to those who are believers, to those who are new men and women in Christ Jesus. This Sermon on the Mount is exactly the same.
  • The Sermon is divided up into general and particular. The general part of the Sermon occupies v. 3 to v. 16. There you have certain broad statements with regard to the Christian. Then the remainder of the Sermon is concerned with particular aspects of his life and conduct. First the general theme, and then an illustration of this theme in particular.
  • But we can sub-divide it a little further for the sake of convenience. In V. 3-10 you have the character of the Christian described in and of itself.
  • Then v. ii, 12, I would say, show us the character of the Christian as proved by the reaction of the world to him.
  • v. 13-I6 is an account of the relationship of the Christian to the world, or, if you prefer it, these verses are descriptive of the function of the Christian in society and in the world. There, then, is a general account of the Christian.
  • From there on, I suggest, we come to what I may call the particular examples and illustrations of how such a man lives in a world like this. Here we can sub-divide like this. In v. 17-48 we have the Christian facing the law of God and its demands.
  • Then we are told of his relationship towards such matters as murder, adultery and divorce; then how he should speak and then his position with regard to the whole question of retaliation and self-defense, and his attitude towards his neighbor.
  • The whole of chapter vi, I suggest,’ relates to the Christian as living his life in the presence of God, in active submission to Him, and in entire dependence upon Him.
  • Chapter vii can be regarded in general as an account of the Christian as one who lives always under the judgment of God, and in the fear of God.
  • Certain things always characterize the Christian, and these are certainly the three most important principles. The Christian is a man who of necessity must be concerned about keeping God’s law.
  • Again one of the essential and most obvious things about a Christian is that he is a man who lives always realizing he is in the presence of God. The world does not live in this way; that is the big difference between the Christian and the non-Christian.
  • The third thing is equally true and fundamental. The Christian is a man who always walks in the fear of God-not craven fear, because `perfect love casteth out’ that fear. Not only does he approach God in terms of the Epistle to the Hebrews, `with reverence and godly fear’, but he lives his whole life like that.
  • Let me now lay down a number of controlling principles which should govern the interpretation of this Sermon.
  • What is of supreme importance is that we must always remember that the Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or of morals.
  • The Christian, while he puts his emphasis upon the spirit, is also concerned about the letter. But he is not concerned only about the letter, and he must never consider the letter apart from the spirit.
  • If you find yourself arguing with the Sermon on the Mount at any point, it means either that there is something wrong with you or else that your interpretation of the Sermon is wrong.
  • If you criticize this Sermon at any point you are really saying a great deal about yourself.
  • Finally, if you regard any particular injunction in this Sermon as impossible, once more your interpretation and understanding of it must be wrong.
  • There was a time when the designation applied to the Christian was that he was a `God-fearing’ man. I do not think you can ever improve on that-a `God-fearing’ man. It is a wonderful description of the true Christian.
  • So we must not only take the injunctions of the Sermon seriously. We must also check our particular interpretation in the light of the principles I have given.
  • I maintain again that if only every Christian in the Church today were living the Sermon on the Mount, the great revival for which we are praying and longing would already have started.

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Music News:musicnews

Music Quotes:

  • Wendell Berry’s take on the Golden Rule: “Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” Fernando Ortega
  • Modern worship leaders stand posed on stage, glorified by smoke and lights, then asked to point away from themselves to Jesus. Fernando Ortega

Song of the Week

At the Cross (Love Ran Red) by Chris Tomlin

Ever since first hearing this song from Chris Tomlin on the Passion: Take it All album in April, 2014, this has been one of my favorite songs. It has finally been released as a radio single and is getting the exposure it deserves. You can listen to an acoustic version of the song here.

There’s a place where mercy reigns and never dies,
There’s a place where streams of grace flow deep and wide.
Where all the love I’ve ever found,
Comes like a flood,
Comes flowing down.

[Chorus:]Love Ran Red by Chris Tomlin
At the cross
At the cross
I surrender my life.
I’m in awe of You
I’m in awe of You
Where Your love ran red
and my sin washed white.
I owe all to You
I owe all to You Jesus.

There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless.
Where my heart has peace with God and forgiveness.
Where all the love I’ve ever found.
Comes like a flood,
Comes flowing down.

Here my hope is found
Here on holy ground
Here I bow down
Here arms open wide
Here You save my life
Here I bow down
Here I bow down


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

this.n.that-small

CURRENT EVENTS:

  • Ten Things to Remember as the Presidential Campaign Season Gets into Full Swing. Kevin DeYoung suggests the following ten things to keep in mind as the 2016 presidential race begins.
  • Reflections on a Planned Parenthood Protest. John Piper offers seven short reflections on the August 22 protest at the St. Paul Planned Parenthood facility. You can also listen to his prayer from the event.
  • The 7th Planned Parenthood Video and 4 FAQs. Justin Taylor shares the video, a summary and four helpful questions.
  • Ashley Madison and Who You Are Online. Tim Challies writes “One of the great deceptions of the Internet is that it allows us to think there are two parts to us, the part who exists in real time and space, and the part who exists in cyberspace. But events like this ought to make us realize that when you go online you display and expose who and what you really are. And who you really are will eventually find you out. God will not be mocked.”
  • Christianity and “The Good Wife”. Mike Niebauer writes “Though not a “family friendly” show (this is not 7th Heaven—there are frequent sex scenes that are unsettling despite broadcast television regulations), The Good Wife may be the best option for those tired of seeing the negative stereotypes of Christians that have become cliché in Hollywood. It presents a fair and in-depth examination of the impact of faith and unbelief on individuals and their overarching perception of themselves. This is accomplished without the kind of moralizing that would make it a Christian niche program ignored by the viewing public.”

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

CHURCH LIFE AND THEOLOGY:

  • Theology for Every Woman. Aimee Byrd writes about how she went from opening a coffee shop to writing about theology.
  • Legitimacy. Malcolm Gladwell helps us understand how the process by which ideas are debated, opinions are formed, and a process is communicated can have more to do with whether the idea is embraced as truthful. But Gladwell also helps us understand why the truthfulness of an idea isn’t always as important as the legitimacy of it
  • How Martyn Lloyd-Jones Helped Start the PCA. I’m an elder in, and member of a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) church. I enjoyed reading this article from Nicholas T. Batzig about Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones role in helping to start the denomination.
  • The Church is Not a Ghetto. R.C. Sproul writes “The church is not a ghetto or a reservation. True, the world wants to put us there, to force us out of the world into the four walls of the church building, outside of which we are never to speak of sin or the salvation that comes only in Christ. However, we don’t have to let the world do that.
  • What Would I Lose if I Lost Worship? Tim Challies writes “Worship is a rivilege, to be sure. But it is also a requirement, a responsibility. And the greatest responsibility and the greatest privilege in worship is to bring glory to God.”
  • Help Me Teach the Bible: Dan Doriani on James. Here is Nancy Guthrie’s latest episode in her helpful podcast series. I had the pleasure of having two courses with Dr. Doriani at Covenant Seminary.
  • 3 Things to Remember Before You Criticize Someone’s Theology. Justin Taylor writes “There are at least three exhortations worth remembering about criticism: (1) understand before you critique; (2) be self-critical in how you critique; (3) consider the alternatives of what you are critiquing.”
  • When ‘Discernment’ Leads to Disaster. Albert Mohler writes “There are big lessons here for every church, every denomination, and every Christian institution. Once biblical inerrancy is abandoned, there is no brake on theological and moral revisionism. The Bible’s authority becomes relative, and there is no anchor to hold the church to the words of Scripture and 2,000 years of Christian witness.”
  • Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Preaching and Principles. Jonathan Master writes “It is a testimony to the grace of God that someone in another country, whose death occurred when I was a young boy, and whose churches I never attended or visited should have been used in such a way in my life.”

SPORTS:

  • Home Run Lands on Top of Foul Pole. Marcell Ozuna of the Miami Marlins pulled off the rare feat last week, drilling the top of the left field foul pole at Marlins Park.

JUST FOR FUN:

  • Free Tuition. Ball State University freshman Lem Turner hit a half-court shot and won $3,546 — the equivalent of free in-state tuition for one semester.
  • Twenty-Five Really Weird Things Said to Pastors. Thom Rainer writes “Few people are truly aware of the constant requests, complaints, and criticisms pastors and other church leaders receive. I must admit, however, I was surprised when I asked church leaders on Twitter to share some of the more unusual comments they have received.”

JUST FOR FUN QUOTES:

  • There are some things in life I’ll just never understand, like how a donut store can run out of donuts. Kevin DeYoung
  • Took my kids to Mount Vernon. My 2-year old still insists it’s the home of Curious George. Jim Gaffigan
  • Am I the only one who gets paranoid in coffee shops like people are looking over my shoulder and peaking at my laptop? Trip Lee
  • Each of my kids has somehow mastered throwing a ball exactly one yard short of where I am standing. Jim Gaffigan
Doug Michael Cartoon

Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

Favorite Quotes of the Week

  • One answer to the Planned Parenthood counter sign (“Don’t take away our care”): “We only want to take away your killing not your care.” John Piper
  • Sin is a sovereign till sovereign grace dethrones it. Charles Spurgeon
  • The ultimate test of any civilization is how we treat the most vulnerable… what we do to our children. Our world has lost its direction. Ravi Zacharias
  • An unkind heart is the worst. It is a plague to its possessor, and a torment to those around him. Charles Spurgeon
  • The gospel frees us from the relentless pressure of having to prove ourselves and secure our identity through work. Tim Keller
  • The key question in order to change you is not ‘What would Jesus do?’ but “What has Jesus done for you?” Tim Keller
  • The Gospel is not good instructions, not a good idea, and not good advice. The Gospel is an announcement of what God has done for us in Jesus. Michael Horton
  • I was not born to be free. I was born to adore and to obey. C.S. Lewis
  • The unfolding shame of the Ashley Madison hack is an opportunity for repentance, grace, and the gospel. Hope pastors and churches are ready. Andy Crouch
  • Compare these statements: (1) “Life is short. Have an affair.” (Ashley Madison ad) & (2) “Know this, your sin will find you out.” Numbers 32:23. Albert Mohler
  • We are secure, not because we hold tightly to Jesus, but because He holds tightly to us. R.C. Sproul
  • Because of the gospel, God doesn’t remember our sins against us. Because of the gospel, let’s practice that a lot more with each other too. Scotty Smith
  • Preach the gospel at all times; use words, which are necessary. Justin Taylor
  • I believe the holier a man becomes, the more he mourns over the unholiness which remains in him. Charles Spurgeon
  • If Christians win a battle by using worldly means, they have really lost. Francis Schaeffer
  • How have we come to a place in society where millions of babies can be slaughtered and disposed of in the name of progress? Shocking but real. Ravi Zacharias
  • Freedom is not doing whatever you want whenever and with whomever, it is knowing what you ought to do and having the freedom to do it. Burk Parsons
  • Even the most casual events are connected to God’s purpose for His people from all eternity. Alistair Begg
  • Most people want Jesus as a consultant rather than a king. Tim Keller
  • Life is about Jesus. We are not here to tell our story, but His. Francis Chan
  • We may not have “that peaceful, easy feeling” the Eagles sang about, but the gospel announces “having been justified we have peace with God” Michael Horton
  • No one goes to heaven by parroting a prayer, being baptized, or joining a church, but by believing in Jesus Christ with humble submission. Steven Lawson
  • Being nice while wearing a gold cross around your neck isn’t a form of evangelism. Telling others all about that cross is. Burk Parsons
  • Sin rarely seems sin at first beginnings. J.C. Ryle
  • Repentance is a characteristic of the whole life, not the action of a single moment. Sinclair Ferguson
  • What is the chief end of preaching? To give men and women a sense of God and His presence. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

connecting faith and work

  • You Can Jump Start Your Growth Starting Today. John Maxwell discusses his new book Jump Start Your Growth, released last week.
  • Work is Worship. You may have seen this before, but this creative 2:45 minute video on work is worship is worth a second watch.
  • The Invisible Force Behind Amazing Teams. Mark Miller writes “The invisible force behind all high performance teams is their sense of community.”
  • Feeling Stuck? Here are 8 Ways to Push Through. Brad Lomenick writes “Sometimes we just feel stuck. Not that anything is really wrong, but more the sense that we’re not going anywhere. That place where you sense that things are okay, but not great. Where it seems like you are just going through the motions. Dependable and reliable, yes. Consistent, absolutely. But not necessarily bringing your A-game.”
  • Being Gospel Centered at Work. Matt Perman offers two simple ways to begin letting the gospel impact your work right now.
  • Collaboration. Mark Miller shares four obstacles to radical collaboration that his team is working to overcome.Amazon-Logo
  • Amazon Values and the People of God. Eric Geiger writes “While one may love being a customer of Amazon, many would hate to be an employee.”
  • Explore Faith & Work: CFW Manifesto. Check out this short and creative video from the Center for Faith and Work.
  • Work and Cultural Renewal. Tim Keller writes “I like the term ‘cultural renewal’ better than ‘culture shaping’ or ‘culture changing/transforming.’ The most powerful way to show people the truth of Christianity is to serve the common good.”
  • What Your MBTI Personality Type Says About Your Career Destiny Infographic. Paul Sohn shares this interesting infographic with the details of the four dimensions of personality type coupled with predictions on how much you’ll earn, how many people you’ll supervise, and even how much you’ll like your job.

YOUR CALLING:

  • What is God Calling Me To? Your Past Could be Key to Your Future. Peter Beck writes “There are three callings of God upon man. First, there is the universal call to repentance and faith in Christ. Second is the call for all Christians to make disciples of others. Third, there is the call to vocational ministry, the one that compels some to give up their careers, their homes, their fiscal security, and head off to seminary (or at least log on) with grand hopes of changing the world for Christ.”
  • Taking the Time to Find Your Calling: Two Ways to Get Started. Ken Blanchard writes “It’s never too late to make changes in your life by taking advantage of your most precious commodity—time. Life is a very special occasion, so celebrate it by finding and honoring your authentic self!”

LEADERSHIP:Behaviors

  • The Behavior Leaders Fail at Most. Dan Rockwell shares that the behavior fail at most is asking for feedback.
  • Micro-Managing. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell discusses what it means to micro-manage.
  • The Global Leadership Summit 2015 Highlights. See this four-minute video of highlights from the recent leadership conference.
  • Leading from the Middle. In this episode of the 5 Leadership Questions podcast Todd Adkins and Barnabas Piper are joined by Brad Lomenick to talk about the strategic position that middle leaders have.
  • 10 Unforgettable Leadership Lessons. Faith Whatley shares some of the best advice received from leaders who have poured into her life.
  • Four Idols That Kill Leadership Development. Eric Geiger writes about how the idols of power, control, comfort and approval prohibit leadership development.
  • 15 Things I’ve Learned From Truett Cathy. I’m excited to finally get a Chick Fil-A in our community in a few days. Here, Paul Sohn shares 15 quotes from the Chick Fil-A founder.
  • What Great Managers Do. Marcus Buckingham writes “I’ve found that while there are as many styles of management as there are managers, there is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: They discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it.”

Quotes about Faith and Work

  • Work is a major instrument of God’s providence. It is how he sustains the human world. Tim Keller
  • What God initiates he orchestrates. Andy Stanley
  • If you want to keep everybody happy don’t be a leader; sell ice cream. Eric Geiger
  • Though I am in haste, I am never in a hurry because I never undertake more work than I can go through with calmness of spirit. John Wesley
  • On my calendar are but two dates: Today and That Day. Martin Luther
  • If you stop and do nothing until you can do everything, you will remain useless. Charles Spurgeon
  • Focus on controllable behaviors not uncontrollable circumstances. Dan Rockwell
  • Creating a sense of entitlement costs way more than you’d think. Malcolm Gladwell
  • The gospel frees us from a condescending attitude toward less sophisticated labor and from envy over more exalted work. Tim Keller
  • Nothing seems to be too foolish, nothing too wicked, nothing too insane, for mankind. Charles Spurgeon
  • A team is not a group of people that works together. A team is a group of people that trusts each other. Simon Sinek
  • You know your work is an idol when days off seem like obstacles rather than joys. John Starke
  • If you did something perfectly the first time you tried, you waited too long to start. John Maxwell
  • Don’t see people as a means to accomplish tasks. See tasks as a means to develop people. Craig Groeschel
  • Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say. Andy Stanley
  • Learning and development is like time-released medication: the benefits are derived over time. Mark Miller
  • Success isn’t something that just happens – success is learned, success is practiced and then it is shared. Coach K
  • Instead of insisting you’re right, respond by saying, “You could be right. Tell me more,” and then really listen. Dr. Alan Zimmerman
  • Let me give so much time to the improvement of myself that I shall have no time to criticize others. John Wooden

Faith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?

Kingdom CallingKingdom Calling: Vocational Calling for the Common Good by Amy L. Sherman

I first read this book in a “Calling, Vocation and Work” class with Dr. Michael Williams and Dr. Bradley Matthews at Covenant Seminary two summers ago. King Jesus is on a mission to bring restoration in every sphere of society and has invited His followers to join Him in this Kingdom-advancing work. Learn to deeply, creatively and intentionally steward your vocational power in ways that advance foretastes of the coming Kingdom of shalom for our neighbors near and far.

It’s an excellent book, so let’s read it together. This week we’ll look at Chapter 2 ~ What Do the Righteous Look Like?

  • A central premise of this book is that the average middle-class (or wealthier) Christian in America has been blessed with much from God-skills, wealth, opportunity, vocational position, education, influence, networks. We are, in short, the prospering. The purpose of all these blessings is simple to state and difficult to live: we are blessed to be a blessing. Our generous heavenly Father desires us to deploy our time, talents and treasure to offer others foretastes of the coming kingdom. Those who do so are called the tsaddiqim, the righteous.
  • Clearly, living as the tsaddiqim isn’t easy. It requires tremendous effort and intentionality. More importantly, it requires power from God’s Holy Spirit.
  • In studying the biblical scholarship on this concept, I’ve found that it is helpful to see righteousness as expressing itself in three dimensions or directions: up, in and out

UP

  • By up I mean that “vertical” dimension of righteousness that involves our reverent worship of and humble dependence on God. By in I mean the state of our hearts: the internal characteristics of righteousness captured by the phrase “purity in heart” and expressed through personal righteousness (what the wisdom literature calls “clean hands”). By out I mean the social dimensions of righteousness, that part of righteousness involving our interactions with our neighbors near and far. This comprehensive expression of righteousness marks the tsaddiqim.
  • The tsaddiqim live Godward. That is, the central orientation of their life is toward God.
  • Their Godward stance makes them people of prayer,
  • The tsaddiqim are deeply humble.
  • The Godward orientation of the tsaddiqim also means that they have an eternal perspective.
  • This aspect of righteousness suggests several implications for vocational stewardship. First, this “vertical” righteousness means that we affirm that the purpose of life is glorifying God, not self.
  • It does mean that we are called to resist the modern assumption that personal happiness and satisfaction are the highest and most important criteria when considering vocational decisions.
  • Second, a Godward orientation means that in stewarding their vocations, the tsaddiqim do not fall into idolizing their jobs or the organizations they work for. Perhaps the most visible expression of this is that the tsaddiqim are not workaholics. They seek to draw their primary identity not from their work, but from their relationship with God. Their Godward orientation helps them remember to be faithful to all the various callings he has placed on their lives in addition to their work, such as family relationships, parenting responsibilities, service roles within the church, and duties to community and nation.
  • Not idolizing work also means that the tsaddiqim seek discernment about the limits of their loyalties to their employer.
  • Third, this vertical dimension of righteousness means that we seek to do our work in active, functional, daily reliance on the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. The tsaddiqim practice God’s presence in the midst of their labors.
  • Relatedly, the tsaddiqim do their work “heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col 3:23 NASB). That is, they know their audience.
  • Finally, because the righteous are fundamentally Godward in their orientation, they view their work in eschatological terms.
  • The tsaddiqim have an eternal perspective.
  • They are confident in God’s promise to make everything new (Rev 21:5). They trust that in their work they participate in the new creation, even if that very glorious idea is somewhat mysterious to them.
  • From this eschatological paradigm, they celebrate the significance of human work and see it as a matter of “cooperation with God.”8

IN

  • The second aspect of righteousness concerns the state of our own hearts. This aspect involves both right personal conduct and, importantly, holy motivations and dispositions. The righteous seek not only to act rightly but also to be right inside.
  • Personal righteousness also involves the zealous pursuit of “putting off” the old self and “putting on” the new self that is spoken of in Colossians 3.
  • The righteous are also deeply grateful people who understand that all they are and all they have comes from God.
  • The internal dimension of righteousness also involves the disposition of our hearts toward compassion and mercy.
  • When the righteous “care about” justice for the poor, it means they are intensely passionate to see justice done for the poor. Their concern is deep, intimate and heartfelt.
  • Most of the teaching on the integration of faith and work emphasizes the importance of cultivating personal righteousness in the context of our daily labor. That’s understandable given the considerable ethical perils of the contemporary workplace. The Fall has affected both our work itself and the environment in which we do it. Because of the Fall, work has become toilsome and sometimes feels futile. Because of the Fall, both we Christians and our nonbelieving coworkers are sinners.
  • The righteous ask God to help them maintain “clean hands” on the job by refusing to lie, cheat, steal or engage in a workplace sexual affair.
  • Pastors need to remind their people that they can indeed, though Christ’s power, be different kinds of workers than the nonbelievers around them.
  • Pastors should remind their members that professionals enjoying success on the job may need an even greater discipline than those who are persecuted at work.
  • The tsaddiqim, by contrast, pursue the common good out of a keen awareness of the cries of those at the bottom. Knowing God is the true
  • owner of all they possess, they are willing to share their resources and talents for the rejoicing of the whole community.

OUT

  • Also mandatory for the tsaddiqim is what we might call social righteousness.
  • Social righteousness is about how we treat our neighbors near and far. It is about how vertical love toward God is expressed in horizontal love toward the world he has made and the people he has created.
  • Social righteousness is nurtured when we look “out” at our neighbors near and far and deliberately consider how to advance their good.
  • Part of looking out involves considering the needs of those among whom we work. First, we simply have to see them. We have to make room in our hearts for caring about others. From this heart of compassion springs tangible action.
  • Looking “out” also involves considering the needs of all the stakeholders in our work, such as vendors, customers, partners, investors or neighbors (people living in the communities where our employing organization’s facilities are). The call to do justice is applicable in all these relationships.
  • Finally, looking out means taking seriously our potential role in encouraging institutional transformation. This begins within our own workplace.
  • Institutional transformation includes actions that can move an entire industry to higher standards of quality or safety or financial transparency or energy efficiency or racial diversity-or other social goods.
  • The call to righteousness in this book in no way replaces the doctrine of full reliance on Christ and his righteousness.
  • The church is supposed to be a collection of the tsaddiqim-people of deep personal piety and intense passion for the kingdom of God.
  • Those committed to stewarding their prosperity for the common good, of people who think creatively and strategically about how to deploy their talents to advance foretastes of the kingdom.

The Advantage by Patrick LencioniThe Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. Jossey-Bass. 240 pages. 2012

Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite business authors. His books The Advantage and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team are among my favorites. I recently started reading and discussing The Advantage with two colleagues at work. I’m sharing key learnings from the book and this week we look at

BEHAVIOR 4: EMBRACING ACCOUNTABILITY

  • Even well-intentioned members of a team need to be held accountable if a team is going to stick to its decisions and accomplish its goals.
  • Peer-to-peer accountability is the primary and most effective source of accountability on the leadership team of a healthy organization.
  • When team members know that their colleagues are truly committed to something, they can confront one another about issues without fearing defensiveness or backlash.
  • The leader of the team, though not the primary source of accountability, will always be the ultimate arbiter of it.
  • So—and here is the irony—the more comfortable a leader is holding people on a team accountable, the less likely she is to be asked to do so.
  • At its core, accountability is about having the courage to confront someone about their deficiencies and then to stand in the moment and deal with their reaction, which may not be pleasant.
  • Unfortunately, it is far more natural, and common, for leaders to avoid holding people accountable. It is one of the biggest obstacles I find preventing teams, and the companies they lead, from reaching their full potential.
  • Many leaders who struggle with this (again, I’m one of them) will try to convince themselves that their reluctance is a product of their kindness; they just don’t want to make their employees feel bad. But an honest reassessment of their motivation will allow them to admit that they are the ones who don’t want to feel bad and that failing to hold someone accountable is ultimately an act of selfishness.
  • Some leaders don’t realize they have an accountability problem because they are more than comfortable confronting people about issues regarding measurable performance.
  • That is indeed one form of accountability, but it’s not the most important kind. The kind that is more fundamental, important, and difficult is about behavior.
  • It involves a judgment call that is more likely to provoke a defensive response.
  • The reason that behavioral accountability is more important than the quantitative, results-related kind has nothing to do with the fact that it is harder. It is due to the fact that behavioral problems almost always precede—and cause—a downturn in performance and results.
  • Whether we’re talking about a football team, a sales department, or an elementary school, a meaningful drop in measurable performance can almost always be traced back to behavioral issues that made the drop possible.
  • It’s difficult to overstate the competitive advantage that an accountability-friendly organization has over one where leaders don’t hold one another accountable.
  • It’s worth pointing out here that people often confuse accountability with conflict because both involve discomfort and emotion. But there is an enormous difference between the two. Conflict is about issues and ideas, while accountability is about performance and behavior.
  • A good tool for teams that want to improve their ability to hold one another accountable is something we call the team effectiveness exercise.
  • The greatest impact is the realization on the part of leadership team members that holding one another accountable is a survivable and productive activity, and it will make them likely to continue doing it going forward. And in some situations, the eventual result is particularly powerful.
  • Losing a team member is not at all a common outcome of building a culture of accountability. In most cases, team members simply learn to demand more of one another and watch their collective performance improve.
  • I’m often asked whether leaders should hold their people accountable privately during one-on-one sessions or in more public forums with the whole team, like during meetings. Although every case is a little different, generally I believe that on cohesive teams, accountability is best handled with the entire team.
  • When leaders and team members call one another on issues in front of team members, they get benefits that don’t occur when it takes place individually.
  • First, when accountability is handled during a meeting, every member of the team receives the message simultaneously and doesn’t have to make the same mistakes in order to learn the lesson of the person being held accountable.
  • Second, they know that the leader is holding their colleague accountable, which avoids their wondering whether the boss is doing his job.
  • Finally, it serves to reinforce the culture of accountability, which increases the likelihood that team members will do the same for one another.
  • When it comes to addressing relatively serious issues, or matters of corrective action in which a leader is wondering whether a member of the team might not be worthy to be on the team anymore, then everything changes. These are best handled privately, in a one-on-one situation, to respect the dignity of the person being held accountable.
  • The leader is often well advised to let her people know that she is addressing the situation to avoid unproductive and dangerous speculation.


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3 Ways to Face Change

Ken Blanchard Quote on ChangeWhat? Me… change?

I can see my wife Tammy smiling about the fact that I’m writing an article about change. Bill Pence and change do not necessarily go together. If you look up change agent in the dictionary my name would not be the first one you would see. But I have changed over the years – I’ve had to. We all have to. We live in a life of constant change – at work, with technology, etc. For example, I used to buy most of my books at the local Barnes and Noble and my music at the local Best Buy. Now, I purchase e-books that are instantly downloaded to my Kindle and digital music that is instantly downloaded to my iPod.

Change can be good or bad and people face change in a variety of ways. Here are three of them:

  1. People Worry About and Fear Change. In his book Pivot, Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes that people spend more time worrying than thinking constructively. He references a study which revealed that 95 percent of worries are unwarranted, though we don’t know that at the time of course. He states that worry is a total waste of time and will destroy your positive attitude, and it can destroy your life. Some people pray about change, while others become anxious about it. We fear or worry about change regarding jobs, relationships, health, etc. I have certainly worried or feared change. What kind of changes have you worried about recently?
  2. People Resist Change. As people face change they can resist or oppose change. They like things just as they are today. Can’t you hear them saying, “But we’ve always done it this way!” They would be OK if they still used typewriters, landline phones, and listened to their music on vinyl albums. They wonder why they can’t keep the boss they have a great relationship with and supports them so well. Or why do they have to move…..again? I used to be one who resisted change or was change averse. Would that describe you?
  3. People Embrace Change. I think the healthiest position on change is to embrace it. A big change for me was the death of my Mom when she was only 60 years old. I was very close to my Mom. I don’t think I would have ever changed departments in the organization I work at halfway through my career if I hadn’t lost my Mom. After that huge loss, a mere job change seemed small. Today, to help me with possible change I try to be proactive and get ahead of the change. In one instance when I thought I might need to reskill to be a Project Manager I sought out a mentor to help me prepare for that possible change (which didn’t happen). In another instance, when faced with a major change that would impact me, I volunteered to be a part of the group that would work out the details of the change (this didn’t happen either). In both instances, I tried to take action that would help me deal with and help to embrace these changes. What do you do to help embrace change?

Change is something that we are all facing. How do you handle change? Do you fear it, worry about it, resist it or embrace it?


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

Abortion by R.C. SproulAbortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue by R.C. Sproul. Twentieth Anniversary Edition. Reformation Trust Publishing. 207 pages. 2010
****

I first read this important book when it was published in 1990. Since that time I’ve heard Dr. Sproul mention several times that it’s one of the worst- selling of his 90-plus books. It was updated in 2010, and features an extended Foreword from George Grant, who helped to update the book due to changes over the past twenty years. In light of the recent Planned Parenthood videos, and the fact that over a million babies are killed every year in the United States alone, I decided to read the book again.

Sproul examines the ethical implications of abortion, looking at the issue from the perspectives of biblical law, natural law, and positive judicial law. He makes it clear that while he will examine arguments from both sides of the debate, he is convinced that abortion on demand is evil. He shows that abortion is against the law of God, against the laws of nature, and against reason. He states that the book is addressed primarily to those who are not sure about the ethics of abortion. He addresses the issue in a biblical and logical manner, not using inflammatory language.

Sproul writes that many if not the majority of those who oppose abortion are driven by religious convictions. He states that at the heart of the abortion issue rests one overarching question: Is abortion a form of murder? Or, to say it another way, does abortion involve the willful destruction of a living human person?

Sproul states that he is convinced that if it could be proven that the destruction of unborn babies is in fact the willful destruction of living human beings, the debate on abortion would be all but over, and the law of the land would as clearly prohibit abortion as it does all forms of homicide. He addresses the important question of when life begins and states that the answer a person chooses to that question often determines his or her position on the abortion issue.

He discusses the issue of the sanctity of life, stating that in biblical terms the sanctity of human life is rooted and grounded in creation. He states that the Bible clearly indicates that unborn babies are considered living human beings before they are born, and that the weight of the biblical evidence is that life begins at conception. Sproul writes that the fear of divine judgment governs his actions regarding abortion. He is firmly convinced that God hates abortion and will judge it thoroughly.

He states that before we ever pick up any surgical instrument to destroy a developing human fetus, we must be certain we are acting justly, and asks the following helpful questions:

  • What is your conscience telling you on abortion?
  • Why do you hold the position you hold?
  • How did you arrive at your conclusions?”

He addresses the role of government, stating that the foundational obligation of all government is to protect, sustain, and maintain human life. The protection of human life is at the heart of the role of government.

He addresses many of the common objections to the elimination of legalized abortion on demand. He talks about the effective strategy of using the language of pro-choice, rather than pro-abortion. Sproul’s purpose is to convince the undecided that the pro-life view is the proper ethical option, stating that the evidence is overwhelming that an embryo or fetus is a living human being.  He states that for those who are uncomfortable with the pro-life, pro-abortion, or pro-choice positions, there is another possibility: undecided.

He states that only a small number of abortions involve rape or incest, and abortions performed to save the lives of women are exceedingly rare. The real issue is abortion for convenience or because the child is simply not wanted.  He discusses the obvious alternative to abortion is to put the baby up for adoption, stating that families who adopt children provide a model for pro-life activists.

Helpful summaries of the major points of each chapter and discussion questions suitable for group study are included at the end of each chapter. Two appendices are included:

Appendix A: A lengthy testimony on the beginning of human life.
Appendix B: Helpful pro-life resources.

I highly recommend that you read this well-reasoned book on a very emotional issue in our country.

 Recommended Resource Logic on Fire

Logic on Fire: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
****

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a great preacher who was best known for his time at London’s Westminster Chapel. Although he died in 1981, more than 1,600 of his sermons are available online for free download at the MLK Recordings Trust. A few podcasts of his sermons are also available on iTunes. In addition, many of his sermons are also available in book form, including Spiritual Depression, which I recently read.

This well-made documentary about the life and ministry of Lloyd-Jones is directed by Matthew Robinson. It contains three DVD’s:

  • Disc 1: Feature Film, which is comprised primarily of interviews with family members, pastors and theologians shot in historic locations across Wales, England, Scotland, and the United States. The disc also includes three extras, including fascinating recollections from Iain Murray and others about the 1966 National Assembly of Evangelicals organized by the Evangelical Alliance when he called evangelical pastors to leave denominations that contained both liberal and evangelical congregations and his dispute with John Stott.
  • Disc 2: Six additional special features.
  • Disc 3: One section (on Lloyd-Jones) from Behold Your God: Thinking Biblically, a new 13 DVD series on discipleship.

Also included is a beautiful 128-page book, which includes biographic information about each of the 42 interview participants in the film, including daughters Elizabeth and Ann, Lloyd-Jones’ grandchildren, pastors and theologians such as Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Ian Hamilton, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Paul Washer, and Donald S. Whitney. Iain Murray’s reflections were particularly interesting due to his close relationship with “The Doctor”, serving as his assistant.

The book also features a director’s statement from Robinson, thoughts on the music score from Gregory Wilbur (I’ve previously enjoyed his album My Cry Ascends: New Parish Psalms), and the transcript of four sermons used in the film

I particularly enjoyed the footage filmed inside of Westminster Chapel and the recollections of his daughter and grandchildren.

I thoroughly enjoyed this package, which includes a wealth of information about Lloyd-Jones, and is very well-done. This will be most appreciated by pastors who respect Lloyd-Jones. I recommend that pastors find time to watch at least the feature film, if not more, with their leadership teams.

 Book NewsFree Audiobook on Abortion. Christianaudio is making Compelling Interest: The Real Story Behind Roe vs. Wade by Roger Resler free.

The Biggest Story. Kevin DeYoung writes about his new (and first) children’s book The Biggest Story, due out August 31.

 Studies in the Sermon on the Mount Book Club – Won’t you read along with us?

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London.

The obvious question with which to start is this: Why should we consider the Sermon on the Mount at all? Why should I call your attention to it and to its teaching? I suppose fundamentally, therefore, my main reason for preaching on the Sermon on the Mount was that I had felt this persuasion, this compulsion, this leading of the Spirit. I feel the particular reason for doing so is the peculiar condition of the life of the Christian Church in general at the present time.

  • I do not think it is a harsh judgment to say that the most obvious feature of the life of the Christian Church today is, alas, its superficiality.
  • I am thinking not only of modern evangelistic activities as compared and contrasted with the great evangelistic efforts of the Church in the past-the present-day tendency to boisterousness, for example, and the use of means which would have horrified and shocked our fathers; but I also have in mind the life of the Church in general where the same thing is true, even in such matters as her conception of holiness and her whole approach to the doctrine of sanctification. The important thing for us is to discover the causes of this.
  • I would suggest that one main cause is our attitude to the Bible, our failure to take it seriously, our failure to take it as it is and to allow it to speak to us. Coupled with that, perhaps, is our invariable tendency to go from one extreme to the other. But the main thing, I feel, is our attitude towards the Scriptures.
  • Our approach to the Bible is something which is of vital importance.
  • The commonest cause of all this is our tendency so often to approach the Bible with a theory. We go to our Bibles with this theory, and everything we read is controlled by it.
  • There is nothing so dangerous as to come to the Bible with a theory, with preconceived ideas, with some pet idea of our own, because the moment we do so, we shall be tempted to overemphasize one aspect and under-emphasize another.
  • This particular danger tends chiefly to manifest itself in the matter of the relationship between law and grace. That has always been true in the Church from the very beginning and it is still true today.
  • Is it not true to say of many of us that in actual practice our view of the doctrine of grace is such that we scarcely ever take the plain teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ seriously?
  • What does the Sermon on the Mount mean to us? Where does it come in our lives and what is its place in our thinking and outlook? What is our relationship to this extraordinary Sermon that has such a prominent position in these three chapters in the Gospel according to St. Matthew?
  • For whom is the Sermon on the Mount intended? To whom does it apply? What is really the purpose of this Sermon; what is its relevance?
  • There was once the so-called `social gospel’ view of the Sermon on the Mount.
  • But of course the real answer to this view of the Sermon on the Mount is that it has always ignored the Beatitudes,
  • Another view, which is perhaps a little more serious for us, is that which regards the Sermon on the Mount as nothing but an elaboration or an exposition of the Mosaic Law. I feel it is totally inadequate if for no other reason than that it, also, fails to take account of the Beatitudes.
  • Then the next view I want to mention is what we may call the `dispensational’ view of the Sermon on the Mount. A dispensational view of the Sermon on the Mount, saying that it has nothing whatsoever to do with modern Christians. It is meant `for the kingdom age’.
  • Another very important consideration is that there is no teaching to be found in the Sermon on the Mount which is not also found in the various New Testament Epistles.
  • The Sermon on the Mount is nothing but a great and grand and perfect elaboration of what our Lord called His `new commandment’. His new commandment was that we love one another even as He has loved us. The Sermon on the Mount is nothing but a grand elaboration of that.
  • The dispensational view is based on a wrong conception of the kingdom of God.
  • There is nothing, therefore, so dangerous as to say that the Sermon on the Mount has nothing to do with modern Christians. Indeed, I will put it like this: it is something which is meant for all Christian people. It is a perfect picture of the life of the kingdom of God.
  • The great purpose of this Sermon is to give an exposition of the kingdom as something which is essentially spiritual. The kingdom is primarily something `within you’. It is that which governs and controls the heart and mind and outlook.
  • This is how Christians ought to live; this is how Christians are meant to live.
  • The man who is truly forgiven and knows it, is a man who forgives. That is the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount at this point.
  • Why should we study it? Why should we try to live it?
  • He died in order that I might now live the Sermon on the Mount. He has made this possible for me.
  • The second reason for studying it is that nothing shows me the absolute need of the new birth, and of the Holy Spirit and His work within, so much as the Sermon on the Mount.
  • There is nothing that so leads to the gospel and its grace as the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Another reason is this. The more we live and try to practice this Sermon on the Mount, the more shall we experience blessing.
  • I suggest to you it is the best means of evangelism.
  • If you read the history of the Church you will find it has always been when men and women have taken this Sermon seriously and faced themselves in the light of it, that true revival has come.

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