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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • contentmentContentment and Ambition: Friends, Not Enemies. Dave Kraft writes “I want to learn how to be content and, at the same time, be ambitious for God and his purposes and plans. I see a solid understanding of true biblical contentment and true biblical ambition to be wonderful friends–not dangerous enemies.”
  • Serving the Church and Selling Mattresses. Carey Anne Bustard interviews Jeremy Rhoden, co-owner of a small business and a trustee at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary about his work.
  • Staying Godly in a Godless Workplace. Rick Segal writes “Very few, if any, awake one morning and decide all of a sudden, “Today is the day I’m going rogue. Enough with all that honesty stuff. From now on, I’m all about corruption.”
  • How I Work: An Interview with Daniel Patterson. Joe Carter interviews Daniel Patterson, Chief of Staff at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, about his work.
  • 6 High-Yield New Year’s Resolutions Every Leader Should Make. Carey Nieuwhof writes “You will have some resolutions that are specific and personal to you—which is great. But there are some goals that every leader could benefit from accomplishing.”
  • 6 Ways to Win in 2016. In this “Tuesday Tip”, Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “If you want to ensure your place among the winners, if you want to make next year the best year of your life and career, there are six little strategies you can use.”
  • The Exponential Leadership Goal for 2016. Dan Rockwell writes “Successful leadership pivots on developing leaders. Leaders, who don’t develop leaders, become bottlenecks.”
  • The First Step of Highly Successful People. Dan Rockwell writes “The ability to try one more time – in new ways – propels you forward. If you can’t begin again in new ways, frustration and irrelevance await.”
  • How to Boost Your Energy. In this episode of the This is Your Life podcast, Michael Hyatt and Michele Cushatt discuss how to boost our energy.
  • Tim Challies QuoteGoals. In this “Minute from Maxwell”, John Maxwell encourages us to be growth-oriented, rather than goal-oriented.
  • Three Indicators Your Email Should Have Been a Meeting. Eric Geiger writes “Some meetings could have been an email, but some emails should be meetings. There are times that people, in attempts to handle things efficiently, resort to an email when a meeting would have been more effective.”
  • A Leader You Can’t Live Without. Dan Rockwell writes “The greatest test of leadership is what happens when you’re gone.”
  • Excuses. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell says that it’s easier to go from failure to success than from excuses to success, and that excuses just don’t fit into a leader’s life.
  • My Five Favorite Personal Productivity Tools. Eric Geiger shares the five productivity tools he uses most often.
  • The Hardest Thing Leaders Have to Do. Dave Kraft writes the hardest things for leaders to do are “Learning how to get along with many different kinds of people, starting with those who misunderstand you, often followed by those criticizing you, judging you, labeling you, questioning your motives, questioning the authenticity of your walk with Jesus; sometimes questioning everything and anything. It always hurts and it’s always painful on multiple levels.”
  • Work Redefined. Why do we work? What is the purpose of our work, which can take so many hours in our day? This reflective illustration shows how we are divinely placed, wherever we work. It is our opportunity to worship the God who made us by the excellence of our endeavors. Watch this less than two-minute video from the folks at the Work as Worship Network.
  • Myths of Bold Leadership. In this video, Andy Stanley debunks the myths of bold leadership and states that very leader has the potential to lead with boldness.
  • Five Reasons a Team Lacks Joy. Eric Geiger writes “A joyless team harms the people on the team and those the team serves. Here are five common reasons joy eludes a team.”
  • Three Differences Between Busyness and Productivity. Eric Geiger writes “Busyness can give the allusion of productivity as people are doing things, as meetings are happening, and as emails are being sent and read. But not all busyness is valuable. In fact, busyness can mask a lack of productivity.”
  • 16 Tips for Getting 90 Percent of Your Work Done Before Lunch. Neil Patel writes “You can get 90 percent or more of your work done in the morning. Around the time people are groping for the next shot of caffeine, you’re shutting down your Macbook and chilling out.”

Book Review:

Do More BetterDo More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies. Challies. 120 pages. 2015
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There is much of value in this small book written by popular blogger and author Tim Challies. It is extremely efficient, well-organized, easy to read and practical. He states that he wrote the book because he wants his readers to do more of what matters most and to do it better. He writes that readers will get the most from the book if they read, observe, and imitate—at least at first. As time goes on, they can incorporate those tips they find especially helpful and discard the others.

The author begins by helping the reader to think about their God-given purpose and mission. He writes that there is no task in life that cannot be done for God’s glory, and that God saved us so that we could do good works and in that way bring glory to him. He states that productivity is effectively stewarding our gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. Productivity, and the book, are about doing good to others.

He looks at three productivity thieves: laziness, busyness, and what he refers to as the mean combination of thorns and thistles. He states that busyness and laziness are both issues that arise from within. They are deficiencies in character that then work themselves out in our lives.

He writes that while the book will emphasize tools and systems and other important elements of productivity, nothing is more important than our own holiness and godliness.

He begins by having the reader create a list, using a productivity worksheet you can download at a web site provided in the book, of each of their areas of responsibility, targeting five or six categories, with no more than nine. He helpfully shares his own list. He then asks the reader to list the roles, tasks, or projects that fall under each area of responsibility. He has the reader define their mission for each area of responsibility. The primary purpose here is to guide us week by week as we schedule our time and make decisions about where to spend our time.

He states that you can do more good for others if you have fewer roles and projects than if you have more. He considers goals to be to be a helpful, but optional component of productivity.

He then discusses tools, indicating that many people try to be productive with tools that are poorly suited to the task. He tells us that our productivity depends to a good degree on identifying and using the best tools for the job and then growing in your skill in deploying them. He states that effective productivity depends upon the below three tools and the relationship between them.

  • Management tool. A task management tool enables you to capture and organize your projects and tasks. He recommends Todoist (todoist.com) as the task management tool. Todoist will capture, organize, and display your projects and tasks while notifying you about the most urgent ones.
  • Scheduling tool. A scheduling tool enables you to organize your time and notifies you of pending events and appointments. He recommends Google Calendar (calendar.google.com) as the scheduling tool. Google Calendar will hold and display your important events, meetings, and appointments and, through the notifications function, alert you ahead of any pending meetings or appointments.
  • Information tool. An information tool enables you to collect, archive, and access information. He recommends Evernote (evernote.com) as the information tool. Evernote is a powerful piece of software that enables you to capture almost any kind of information.

The principle that he uses in organizing our productivity systems is: A home for everything, and like goes with like.

The author tells us that these three tools work together to help plan your day, and the tools work together to help you get things done throughout the day. Thus, your day has two phases: planning and execution. He calls his planning phase his Coram Deo, a Latin phrase that means in the presence of God, and one that I use as the title of my blog.

He states that there are always a few things that are undeniably high priorities and a few things that are undeniably low priorities. But the majority will fit somewhere in the middle, leaving you to make difficult decisions. He also writes about things we should stop doing because they don’t fit into our priorities, much like Jim Collins “stop doing” list.

He discusses the concept of a Weekly Review, in which he looks at the question: How can I serve and surprise in the week ahead? Whereas the daily planning session is tactical, a weekly review is strategic. He writes that that our system will function well when we make time for this review and it will begin to sputter when we do not.

Two helpful bonus chapters are included:

  • Tame Your Email-6 Tips for Doing More Better with Email.
  • 20 Tips to Increase Your Productivity

He includes helpful “Action” steps after each section. For example “Choose at least one habit other than productivity that you will pursue as you read and apply this book.”

If you are looking to increase your personal productivity, check out this book. It’s a quick read and if the concepts are applied it can reap huge dividends.

Visit http://www.challies.com/do-more-better for worksheets and bonus material to help you get started.

10 Favorite Faith and Work Quotes of the Week

  • John Wooden QuoteLord, since it is you who feed us and you who meet our needs, ordinary human labor such as farming, cooking, knitting have great dignity. They are means by which you love your creation. Help me to sense that dignity so I can do the simplest of tasks to your glory. Tim and Cathy Keller
  • We’re not going to have the impact we want if we don’t manage our energy. Michael Hyatt
  • Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God. Dorothy Sayers
  • Work is rearranging the raw materials of a particular domain to draw out its potential for the flourishing of everyone. Tim Keller
  • Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming. John Wooden 
  • Vocation is the specific call to love one’s neighbor. Martin Luther
  • Work is the expenditure of energy (manual or mental or both) in the service of others, which brings fulfillment to the worker, benefit to the community and glory to God. John Stott
  • All honest work is worth doing for the glory of God, and we may find ourselves called to do any honest work that we’re fitted for. J.I. Packer
  • No one wakes up wanting to be managed. We wake up wanting to be led. Brad Lomenick
  • Real work is a contribution to the good of all and not merely a means to one’s own advancement. Tim Keller

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

Don't Waste Your LifeDon’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Crossway. 192 pages. 2003  

Other than the Bible, this small book by John Piper has had the most influence on my life. It played a key role in my returning to seminary after ten years in 2005. I have read it almost each year since it was published in 2003. Listen to John Piper describe the book in this less than two-minute video.

This week we look at Chapter 4: Magnifying Christ Through Pain and Death

  • Suffering with Jesus on the Calvary road of love is not merely the result of magnifying Christ; it is also the means.
  • The normal Christian life is one that boasts only in the cross—the blazing center of God’s glory—and does it while bearing the cross.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a gift to my generation of students. I pray that his costly message will be rediscovered in each generation. The book that set fire to the faith of thousands in my generation was called The Cost of Discipleship. Probably the most famous and life-shaping sentence in the book was, “The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Bonhoeffer’s book was a massive indictment of the “cheap grace” that he saw in the Christian Church on both sides of the Atlantic. He did not believe that the faith that justifies could ever leave people unchanged by the radical Christ they claim to believe. That was a cheap response to the Gospel.
  • A life devoted to making much of Christ is costly. And the cost is both a consequence and a means of making much of him. If we do not embrace the path of joy-laden, painful love, we will waste our lives.
  • The Calvary road is costly and painful, but it is not joyless.
  • If Christ is not made much of in our lives, they are wasted. We exist to make him appear in the world as what he really is—magnificent. If our life and death do not show the worth and wonder of Jesus, they are wasted.
  • What you love determines what you feel shame about.
  • Paul’s all-consuming goal in life was for Christ to be magnified. Christ was of infinite value to Paul, and so Paul longed for others to see and savor this value. That is what it means to magnify Christ—to show the magnitude of his value.
  • But how are we to magnify Christ in death? Or to put it another way: How can we die so that in our dying the surpassing value of Christ, the magnitude of his worth, becomes visible?
  • If you experience death as gain, you magnify Christ in death.
  • That is what death does: It takes us into more intimacy with Christ. We depart, and we are with Christ, and that, Paul says, is gain. And when you experience death this way, Paul says, you exalt Christ. Experiencing Christ as gain in your dying magnifies Christ.
  • Death makes visible where our treasure is. The way we die reveals the worth of Christ in our hearts.
  • The essence of praising Christ is prizing Christ. Christ will be praised in my death, if in my death he is prized above life.
  • If we learn to die like this, we will be ready to live. And if we don’t, we will waste our lives.
  • Daily Christian living is daily Christian dying. The dying I have in mind is the dying of comfort and security and reputation and health and family and friends and wealth and homeland. These may be taken from us at any time in the path of Christ-exalting obedience. To die daily the way Paul did, and to take up our cross daily the way Jesus commanded, is to embrace this life of loss for Christ’s sake and count it gain.
  • The way we honor Christ in death is to treasure Jesus above the gift of life, and the way we honor Christ in life is to treasure Jesus above life’s gifts.
  • We are always on the lookout for ways to justify our self-protecting, self-securing, self-pleasing ways of life.
  • The greatest joy in God comes from giving his gifts away, not in hoarding them for ourselves.
  • God’s glory shines more brightly when he satisfies us in times of loss than when he provides for us in times of plenty.
  • No one ever said that they learned their deepest lessons of life, or had their sweetest encounters with God, on the sunny days. People go deep with God when the drought comes. That is the way God designed it.
  • Christ aims to be magnified in life most clearly by the way we experience him in our losses.
  • When everything in life is stripped away except God, and we trust him more because of it, this is gain, and he is glorified.
  • But when all is said and done, the promise and design of God for people who do not waste their lives is clear. “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
  • What a tragic waste when people turn away from the Calvary road of love and suffering.
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FAITH AND WORK: The LEADERSHIP Issue

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles about LEADERSHIP John Wooden Quote

  • Are You a Hurried Leader? Selma Wilson writes “Are you a hurried leader? Out of breath most of the time trying to keep up? Are you drowning in emails, things to read, people to call, and not enough time on your calendar? Do you find yourself in your office more than out with your team? Do you look at all there is to do and sometimes it paralyzes you so you do nothing at all? If this sounds like you, then you are a hurried leader.”
  • 7 Common Ways Leaders Waste Time and Energy. Ron Edmonson writes “I firmly believe when we get rid of some common drains on our time and energy we dramatically improve our performance as leaders. With this in mind, I’ve observed in my own personal development some ways to eliminate time and energy wasters.”
  • Sleep: The Secret Leadership Weapon No One Wants to Talk About. Carey Nieuwhof writes “So here’s a leadership weapon almost no leader will talk about. In fact, in some circles, it’s embarrassing to talk about. Sleep.
  • Can You Lead? Mark Miller writes “Every leader needs to develop a certain set of competencies. To be even more precise, every leader should pursue mastery in five specific facets of the role. Ken Blanchard and I wrote about these five practices in our book, The Secret. The title was derived from the truth: All great leaders SERVE.
  • 4 Words Leaders Must Say on a Regular Basis. Eric Geiger writes “Leaders are always communicating, even when they are not talking. But what words must a leader say on a regular basis?”
  • Christian Leaders Desperately Need Four Kinds of Grace to Lead Well. Dave Kraft writes “I believe there is a big difference between me being at work and Jesus being at work.  I long to see his fingerprints all over what he is leading and empowering me to do…otherwise, what’s the point!”
  • Five Ways Leaders Can Get Fresh Eyes. Eric Geiger writes that a downside to tenured leaders is that they can lose their fresh eyes. He offers five ways to get fresh eyes on the organization/ministry you are leading.
  • 7 Powers of Weakness. Dan Rockwell writes “Arrogant leaders parade strengths. Successful leaders understand the power of weaknesses.”
  • How Leaders Can Avoid Burnout. In this edition of the 5 Leadership Questions podcast, Todd Adkins, Barnabas Piper and Eric Geiger address the issue of leadership burnout.
  • 11 Things I Believe About Leadership. Mark Miller writes “I heard a talk years ago from a well-known leader in which he stated several statements he called his “I believes.” These beliefs shaped his life and leadership. The idea of articulating personal beliefs made sense to me then and it still does today.”
  • 7 Effective Ways to Battle Discouragement In Leadership. Carey Nieuwhof writes “If you talk to most leaders long enough to get a real answer to ‘So how’s it going?” you will quickly discover that a surprising number of leaders are disheartened. Even discouraged.”
  • 10 Habits of Ultra-Likeable Leaders. Travis Bradberry writes “If you want to be a leader whom people follow with absolute conviction, you have to be a likable leader. Tyrants and curmudgeons with brilliant vision can command a reluctant following for a time, but it never lasts. They burn people out before they ever get to see what anyone is truly capable of.”
  • Three Kinds of Leadership Decisions. Dave Kraft writes “Leaders make decisions. That’s what leaders do; the greater the responsibility, the more that can be riding on each decision made.” He states that “Almost all of the decisions that are being made will fall into one of three categories.”
  • 7 Questions to Help You Develop Your Leadership Point of View. Paul Sohn shares these seven questions from Ken Blanchard’s book Leading at a Higher Level.
  • 7 Surprising Questions to Measure Your Leadership. Dan Rockwell writes “You can’t know how you’re doing until you’re measured.”
  • Beyond You Leadership. Andy Stanley discusses common objections and misconceptions about a “Beyond You” leadership style, and discusses the positive impact of leaders who fearlessly and selflessly empower those around them, as well as those coming along behind them.
  • Top 30 Must Read Posts on Leadership. Paul Sohn shares his always helpful must-read posts on leadership.Ken Blanchard Quote
  • 3 Reasons Your Team Needs Shepherd Leadership. Selma Wilson writes “Shepherd is most often used in reference to someone who herds, tends, and guards sheep. Your team could use your shepherd leadership, and here are three reasons why.”
  • How to Make the Difficult Look Easy. Mark Miller shares the fourth post in a series outlining a leadership eco-system that explains how leaders grow themselves and their influence. It also explains why so many leaders struggle. The four stages are Lead Self, Lead Others, Lead Teams and today, the final installment, Lead Organizations.
  • 4 Leadership Advantages of Introverts. Kevin Spratt writes “We tend to think that the best leaders are charismatic motivators who are able to be sociable and cast a compelling vision, which are important and valuable leadership tools. An introvert often has a different set of tools, and, with the right motivation, an introvert can be extremely effective.”
  • Extraordinary Leadership. Dan Rockwell lists qualities of extraordinary leadership. Which ones most resonate with you? Are there any you feel he left off of the list?
  • Vision. In this “Minute from Maxwell”, John Maxwell discusses taking the vision from “me” to “we”.
  • 50 Leaders for a Better Tomorrow. Bob Chapman writes “Our friend Shawn Murphy of Switch and Shift – who recently released a new book, The Optimistic Workplace – compiled a list of 50 leadership innovators changing how we lead for Inc. Magazine. It contains many friends of Barry-Wehmiller who’ve been featured on this blog: Amy Cuddy, Jacob Morgan, Tony Schwartz, Simon Sinek and Rich Sheridan; but other friends like Daniel Pink and Jeffrey Pfeffer, with whom we’ve also connected.” The list also includes a few of my favorites – Patrick Lencioni and Marcus Buckingham.
  • 3 Qualities of Every Great Leader. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “There are certain traits that great leaders exhibit. To the extent you can master and exhibit the same traits, you’ll be more effective in getting others to excel.”
  • 3 Powerful Ways to Solve Lousy Leadership. Dan Rockwell writes “The most dangerous quality of lousy leadership is the belief that they’re good leaders.”
  • “Be Strong and Courageous”: Two Key Ingredients for Effective, Biblical Leadership. Using the example of Joshua, Glenn Brooke writes “You stand in the company of leaders throughout history who needed encouragement and reminders. Be strong and courageous because God is with you.”

Nehemiah by Dave KraftBOOK REVIEW:  Learning Leadership from Nehemiah by Dave Kraft. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 84 pages. 2015
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I’ve previously enjoyed Dave Kraft’s books Leaders Who Last and Mistakes Leaders Make, and was looking forward to reading his latest book based on the Old Testament character Nehemiah.

Kraft writes that in Nehemiah’s story we see every facet of leadership lived out. He writes that Nehemiah receives a vision from God and then he casts the vision, recruits the vision and works tirelessly to insure the vision happens. In this short book, Kraft focuses on twelve leadership principles he sees in Nehemiah’s life. He includes helpful “Questions to Ponder” at the end of each chapter to stimulate your thinking as you consider your leadership role in light of these principles.

Kraft writes that leadership always begins with God. True spiritual leadership is getting on our heart what God has on His. The first task of leadership is to hear from God and let him form a vision. Kraft writes that if you don’t set the vision, you’re not the leader. Whoever is establishing the vision and goals in your church or team is the real leader. For the Christian leader, God must be the beginning, middle, and end of the vision.

Kraft writes that when a vision is clear, you have a way of measuring progress. When a company, group, team, or church is casting vision, it needs to be as specific as possible.

Kraft states that a leader is a person who is dissatisfied with the ways things are. He has a burden, a vision, and a call to see something different. He wants to see something change, to build a new future. He then begins to communicate what he thinks, and where he wants to go.

He lays out three aspects to leading:

  • Who the leader is: Identity
  • Where the leader is headed: Inspiration
  • How the leader brings others along: Investment

He tells us that anyone who has had a leadership role for any length of time knows that being judged, condemned, or having one’s motives questioned goes with the territory. Unfortunately, in many cases it comes from some of your key people and that’s especially hard to take. But, Kraft states, if everybody likes everything you’re doing, you are probably not doing anything of significant value. Leaders don’t lead and make decisions in order to be popular or appreciated.

Kraft writes that the wise leader confronts people and issues head-on by considering various solutions and then acting prayerfully and decisively. However, many leaders are cowards when it comes to confronting people, especially other leaders. He writes that he has known and worked with leaders who would rather quit and move on rather than confront people.

Kraft writes that it is powerful for leadership to often review what has been happening, both the victories and accomplishments as well as the difficulties. One of the things good leaders do is make a big deal out of victories regardless of the size. People are starving for encouragement and affirmation. Followers are hungry for leaders to express appreciation and affirmation, but seldom hear it.

He also states that leaders are at their best when they are calling followers to their best, not letting them get away with sloppy standards and sloppy living.

A leader should not be afraid to remind people what the organization or group values are and then hold followers accountable for those values.

Kraft states that Nehemiah exemplifies all the best in leadership. He is bold, courageous, confrontational (when it’s called for), and persistent in sticking with what he feels led to do. In his estimation, the book of Nehemiah is the best book of the Bible to study and learn exemplary leadership.

He concludes the book with some suggestions on how to apply what we have learned from these leadership principles seen in the life of Nehemiah. I appreciated this short, but helpful look at leadership principles in the life of Nehemiah.

Quotes about Faith and Work10 Favorite Faith and Work Quotes of the Week

Leadership functions on the basis of trust. When trust is gone, the leader soon will be. John Maxwell

Allow your failures to be innovation benchmarks on your way to excellence and greatness. Brad Lomenick

Giving people real responsibility communicates that you trust them. Mark Miller

  • You discipline those under your supervision to correct, to help, to improve – not to punish. John Wooden
  • Work is a godly activity. Duane Otto
  • Essentially, your vocation is to be found in the place you occupy in the present. Gene Edward Veith 
  • One’s purpose anticipates design. What’s your purpose? Tim Keller
  • It is not freedom for a fish to sun itself on the beach. It is death. The question of freedom is: What were you made for? John Piper
  • Be the varsity version of yourself, not the junior varsity of someone else. Brad Lomenick

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

Don't Waste Your LifeDon’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Crossway. 192 pages. 2003  

Other than the Bible, this small book by John Piper has had the most influence on my life. It played a key role in my returning to seminary after ten years in 2005. I have read it almost each year since it was published in 2003. Listen to John Piper describe the book in this less than two-minute video.

This week we look at Chapter 3: Boasting Only in the Cross – The Blazing Center of the Glory of God

  • I plead with you: Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion.
  • One thing matters: Know Christ, and gain Christ. Everything is rubbish in comparison to this.
  • What is the one passion of your life that makes everything else look like rubbish in comparison?
  • Paul means something that will change every part of your life. He means that, for the Christian, all other boasting should also be a boasting in the cross. All exultation in anything else should be exultation in the cross.
  • Therefore every good thing in life, and every bad thing that God turns for good, is a blood-bought gift. And all boasting—all exultation—should be boasting in the cross.
  • We learn to boast in the cross and exult in the cross when we are on the cross. And until our selves are crucified there, our boast will be in ourselves.
  • You become so cross-centered that you say with Paul, “I will not boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The world is no longer our treasure. It’s not the source of our life or our satisfaction or our joy. Christ is.
  • Therefore every enjoyment in this life and the next that is not idolatry is a tribute to the infinite value of the cross of Christ—the burning center of the glory of God. And thus a cross-centered, cross-exalting, cross-saturated life is a God-glorifying life—the only God-glorifying life. All others are wasted.

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 what Lencioni has to say about Question 1: Why Do We Exist ~

  • Answering this question requires a leadership team to identify its underlying reason for being, also known as its core purpose.
  • An organization’s core purpose—why it exists—has to be completely idealistic.
  • In order to successfully identify their organization’s purpose, leaders must accept the notion that all organizations exist to make people’s lives better.
  • There is a darn good chance that your company—in fact, any given company—has not yet identified its purpose.
  • This leads to two problems. First, those teams don’t achieve a real sense of collective commitment from their members.
  • Second, and this is certainly related, those executives don’t see the company’s reason for existing as having any practical implications for the way they make decisions and run the organization.
  • Some executives, especially those who are a little cynical about all this purpose stuff, will say that their company exists simply to make money for owners or shareholders. That is almost never a purpose, but rather an important indicator of success.
  • When leaders set about identifying the purpose of their organization, there are a few critical factors they must keep in mind to give them a good chance at success. First, they must be clear that answering this question is not the end of the clarity process.
  • Second, an organization’s reason for existence, its purpose, has to be true. It must be based on the real motivations of the people who founded or are running the organization, not something that simply sounds good on paper.
  • Third, the process of determining an organization’s purpose cannot be confused with marketing, external or internal. It must be all about clarity and alignment.
  • So how does an organization go about figuring out why it exists? It starts by asking this question: “How do we contribute to a better world?”
  • The next question that needs to be asked, and asked again and again until it leads to the highest purpose or reason for existence, is Why? Why do we do that?
  • There are a number of very different categories of purpose, any of which can be valid. Identifying which category fits your organization’s purpose can be very helpful in focusing your discussion of why your organization exists because it better clarifies who the organization ultimately serves.
  • Customer: This purpose is directly related to serving the needs of an organization’s customer or primary constituent.
  • Industry: This purpose is all about being immersed in a given industry.
  • Greater Cause: This kind of purpose is not necessarily about what the organization does, but about something connected to it.
  • Community: This purpose is about doing something that makes a specific geographical place better.
  • Employees: This purpose is not about serving the customer, the industry, or the region, but rather about the employees.
  • Wealth: This purpose is about wealth for the owners.
  • An organization’s reason for existing is not meant to be a differentiator and that the purpose for identifying it is only to clarify what is true in order to guide the business.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles Patrick Lencioni quote

  • Four Productivity Lies. Tim Challies writes “I have invested a lot of effort in understanding productivity and emphasizing it in my life. Eventually I came to peace with it. But I only did so after addressing some of the prevailing lies about it.”
  • Entitlement. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell discusses what entitlement means to him.
  • 9 Ways to Glorify God at Work in Your “9-5”. Paul Sohn writes “I stumbled across a blog post from John Piper, which he spoke at a conference called Engage whose mission is to equip young professionals in the workplace. The 9 ways Piper he suggests how young professionals can glorify work are worth memorizing.”
  • Trust: A Currency For Christian Business. Chris Patton writes “As Christian business owners and leaders, we need people to trust us. We need employees to trust us so we can lead them. We want our customers to trust us so they will buy our products or services and remain loyal to us. Our vendors need to trust us to pay them accurately and on time or they will not continue to service us.”
  • Four Huge Distractions in Meetings and How to Fight Them. Eric Geiger writes “One of the biggest culprits of disengagement in a meeting are distractions. Distractions can steer emotional energy, creative thinking, and collective wisdom away from the important matters being discussed.”
  • Are You Putting the Gospel to Work? Steve Graves writes “Make no mistake; every community has men and women putting the gospel to work. Those who work next to them and live in community with them know them as catalytic vessels of salt, light, and the sweet perfume of the gospel.”
  • The Centennials are Coming. Mark Miller talks about the Centennials. He writes “They are a cohort of approximately 73 million young people born between 1997 and today. And guess what… in many areas, they see the world differently from previous generations.”
  • How I Work: An Interview with Melissa Kruger. Joe Carter interviews Melissa Kruger, a Women’s Ministry Coordinator, writer, wife and mother, about how she works.
  • How to be a Great Mentor. Dan Rockwell writes “Great mentoring is more than developing skills, helping people create connections, and navigating organizational politics.”
  • Lessons from the First 20 Years, Part 2. In this edition of the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, he concludes a conversation that explores the best, most effective leadership principles learned in the first 20 years of his organization.

LEADERSHIP:

Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week Bob Chapman Quote

  • The leader’s job is to inspire people to work together in the service of something greater than themselves. Eric Geiger
  • We are most likely to succeed when ambition is focused on noble and worthy purposes and outcomes rather than on goals set out of selfishness. John Wooden
  • Tell me how many things you’ve finished, not how many you’ve started. Dan Rockwell
  • We’re made for work and rest, not toil and leisure. Andy Crouch
  • We must find a purpose or cause to pursue otherwise all we have left are our imperfections to focus on. Simon Sinek
  • With all the negative going on in the world, it is important to lead with a mindful and open heart and be the change you wish to see. Ken Blanchard
  • Clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear. Marcus Buckingham
  • Your team will mirror you. If there is something you don’t like, you probably created it. Brad Lomenick
  • Leaders who attempt to make all the decisions are stunting the growth of their people and their organization. Mark Miller
  • When something bad happens you have three choices: You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you. Coach K

Matt Perman BookBOOK REVIEW:  Creating a Business Plan that Actually Works: Especially, But Not Only, for Faith-Based Organizations by Matt Perman. What’s Best Next. 33 pages.
****

Matt Perman is the author of the excellent 2014 book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. That book was so helpful (I’m reading it a second time with colleagues at work) that I’m going to be interested in anything that he writes. He is an important voice in helping people integrate their faith with their work. In fact he states that this resource will be especially helpful for those looking for a resource that makes the integration of faith and work explicit. He encourages us to see our work as an act of service, to the glory of God, stating it is at the heart of how to glorify God in our work and do your business plan in a gospel-centered way.

He writes that this short e-book was written to provide guidance for how to create a business plan that actually works––a plan that will truly help you in launching your new business, department, or other large initiative, without getting you stuck in the details of over-planning. It also gives specific guidance for how to create a business plan from a faith-based perspective.

He defines a business plan as simply a guide or road map for your business, new department, or other large effort. It will help us think through and articulate your mission and values, main objectives, core audience, comparison organizations or competitors, financial plan, core activities, marketing plan, and other key realities. A business plan is not just for those starting a new business. Perman states that if you’re starting anything or want to refine what you’ve already started, a business plan is a key step.

In looking at how to create a business plan that actually works and to do so in a way that relates to the Scriptures, we should learn from the best business minds (Jim Collins, for example), common grace realities as well as the Bible.

He takes the reader through each of the sections of a business plan and briefly explains what they mean and how it translates into the ongoing fabric of our business. He also includes some helpful resources that you may find useful. He stresses that the process of developing a business plan is as important as the final result; as the activity of thinking through your business or new endeavor in this way prepares you for effective implementation.

This short book contains much helpful information and is well worth your time to read it. I know I’ll be sharing what I learned here with others, including my sister-in-law who is the Director of a Pregnancy Resource Center.

StandOut 2.0BOOK REVIEW:  StandOut 2.0: Assess Your Strengths. Find Your Edge. Win at Work by Marcus Buckingham. Harvard Business Review Press. 211 Pages. 2015
****

I’m a big Marcus Buckingham fan, having read all of his books, with the exception of the one he specifically wrote for women. Eight years ago, when on the leadership team for a professional learning organization we brought him to our community as a part of his book tour for Go Put Your Strengths to Work, one of the most impactful business books I have read. He briefly revisits his “Love it/Loathe it” exercise from that book here, an exercise I continue to use both on and off the job.

Buckingham writes that although the strengths-based approach to managing people is now conventional wisdom, performance appraisal systems remain “stubbornly remedial”. In this new book, Buckingham has taken his StandOut strengths assessment (introduced in 2011) and dramatically increased its power.

A few of the enhancements are:

  • To make our strengths visible, he has designed a StandOut Snapshot that can be used to present the very best of ourselves to our teams and organizations.
  • To give us a way to keep learning, he has provided us with our own personal learning channel.
  • The StandOut assessment has been made to be a “front door” to an online performance system that is entirely strengths based. He wants us to think of StandOut as a toolbox, in which each tool is designed to tackle one aspect of performance management. To help us do more of our best work, the reader will receive a weekly “Check-In” tool that will capture our weekly priorities and track how engaged you feel week by week.
  • Leaders will find an employee survey tool that can be used to see what your team is thinking and feeling, as well as a performance tool to evaluate the performance of each member.

The above enhancements are designed to help you and your teams to leverage your strengths and manage around your weaknesses. The new tool is not just a descriptive tool but also a prescriptive tool. The StandOut assessment measures you on nine strengths roles and reveals your top two “strength roles”. The book provides you with a key to input and take the assessment, which will take about fifteen minutes. Your results will reveal how you come across to others.  Buckingham shares with the reader three lessons for building your strengths.  He calls the StandOut assessment an innovation delivery system. It delivers to those who complete the assessment weekly practical innovations, tips and techniques that you can use to sharpen your edge and win at work. I plan to share my assessment with team members and mentees and encourage them to take it as well.

Don’t Waste Your Life Book Club – Won’t you read along with us?

Don't Waste Your LifeDon’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Crossway. 192 pages. 2003  

Other than the Bible, this small book by John Piper has had the most influence on my life. It played a key role in my returning to seminary after ten years in 2005. I have read it almost each year since it was published in 2003. Listen to John Piper describe the book in this less than two-minute video.

This week we look at Chapter 2 Breakthrough – the Beauty of Christ, My Joy:

  • If there is only one life to live in this world, and if it is not to be wasted, nothing seemed more important to me than finding out what God really meant in the Bible, since he inspired men to write it. If that was up for grabs, then no one could tell which life is worthy and which life is wasted.
  • The driving passion of my life was rooted here. One of the seeds was in the word “glory”—God’s aim in history was to “fully display his glory.” Another seed was in the word “delight”—God’s aim was that his people “delight in him with all their heart.” The passion of my life has been to understand and live and teach and preach how these two aims of God relate to each other—indeed, how they are not two but one.
  • No one outside Scripture has shaped my vision of God and the Christian life more than Jonathan Edwards. His life is inspiring because of his zeal not to waste it, and because of his passion for the supremacy of God.
  • Delighting in God was not a mere preference or option in life; it is our joyful duty and should be the single passion of our lives. Seeking happiness in God and glorifying God were the same.
  • Here was the greatest mind of early America, Jonathan Edwards, saying that God’s purpose for my life was that I have a passion for God’s glory and that I have a passion for my joy in that glory, and that these two are one passion. When I saw this, I knew, at last, what a wasted life would be and how to avoid it.
  • God created me—and you—to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion—namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.
  • The wasted life is the life without a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.
  • The Bible is crystal-clear: God created us for his glory.
  • Life is wasted when we do not live for the glory of God. And I mean all of life. It is all for his glory.
  • We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life.
  • God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is.
  • We were made to see and savor God—and savoring him, to be supremely satisfied, and thus spread in all the world the worth of his presence. Not to show people the all-satisfying God is not to love them.
  • The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness.
  • Love has to do with showing a dying soul the life-giving beauty of the glory of God, especially his grace.
  • Every good work should be a revelation of the glory of God. What makes the good deed an act of love is not the raw act, but the passion and the sacrifice to make God himself known as glorious.
  • If you don’t point people to God for everlasting joy, you don’t love. You waste your life.
  • All heroes are shadows of Christ. We love to admire their excellence. How much more will we be satisfied by the one Person who conceived all excellence and embodies all skill, all talent, all strength and brilliance and savvy and goodness.
  • God loves us by liberating us from the bondage of self so that we can enjoy knowing and admiring him forever.
  • Would you feel more loved by God if he made much of you, or if he liberated you from the bondage of self-regard, at great cost to himself, so that you enjoy making much of him forever?
  • Now we see that in creating us for his glory, he is creating us for our highest joy. He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
  • That is the single, all-embracing, all-transforming reason for being: a passion to enjoy and display God’s supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples.
  • God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.
  • Jesus is the litmus test of reality for all persons and all religions. He said it clearly: “The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). People and religions who reject Christ reject God. Do other religions know the true God? Here is the test: Do they reject Jesus as the only Savior for sinners who was crucified and raised by God from the dead? If they do, they do not know God in a saving way.
  • There is no point in romanticizing other religions that reject the deity and saving work of Christ. They do not know God. And those who follow them tragically waste their lives.
  • Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

faith-work-cultureFaith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • parenting-quote5 Productivity Tips for Moms. Tim Challies writes “Together we found a way. We found a way to be productive—me as a pastor and a writer, and her as a stay-at-home mom, mentor, and church ministry leader. We found it and stuck with it. Even better, along the way we found out why it is so important for each of us to emphasize productivity—the best and highest kind of productivity—in whatever it is God calls us to do. My new book Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity tells a lot of what we discovered.”
  • The Counter-Cultural Vocation of Homemaking. Tim Challies writes of his wife “Aileen had options before her and made her choice. She chose the thing she wanted to do and the thing she felt called to do.”
  • Reputation. In this “Minute from Maxwell” John Maxwell talks about our reputations. They take a long time to earn but can quickly be lost.
  • Bringing about Courageous Change. Dr. Kent Ingle writes “In leadership, one of the hardest things to overcome is a person’s resistance to change. Whether it’s your own resistance or opposition from people you are leading, it takes a lot of courage to effect change.”
  • To Be or Not to Be Inspired. This post from Re:Focus suggests “Let’s not aim to inspire only those who we think will be inspired, or who have job titles we think have the possibility for inspiration. Rather, let’s talk about what we believe to everyone and give everyone the opportunity to be inspired and become a part of something that matters.”
  • 5 Things Millennials Need To Learn About Productivity Now. Tim Challies writes “God calls us all to be productive. You can be a productive student, a productive employee, a productive stay-at-home mom or even a productive retiree. If this is all true, there is an important implication: You can be an unproductive student, employee, stay-at-home mom and, yes, an unproductive retiree. So how can you know that you’re living a productive life? You can begin by ensuring you understand what God says about productivity.”
  • What Amazing Bosses Do Differently. Sydney Finkelstein writes “No behavior a boss adopts will guarantee happy employees, but managers who follow these five key practices will find that they will help improve well-being, engagement, and productivity on any team. The common denominator is attentiveness. Pay close attention to your employees as individuals.”
  • Why it is Unfair to Treat Everyone the Same. I always say that I don’t treat everyone the same, but everyone equally fair. Eric Geiger shares eight ways the people on your team are different.
  • mastering change7 Principles to Mastering Change. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “Despite the difficulty of not knowing the exact changes headed our way, if you’re leading a family, a team, or a company, people expect you to lead them through the change.  Indeed, it’s one of the four tasks that every leader has to master.”
  • Five Signs Your Team is Not Really a Team After All. Dave Kraft writes “So, is the team you are on truly a team or just a group of people who happen to work for the same organization? Why not ask your fellow team members to honestly evaluate the team?
  • Four Practical Ways to Avoid Burnout. Eric Geiger follows up an earlier article on burnout with those helpful suggestions.
  • Showing Appreciation at the Office? No, Thanks. Sue Shellenbarger writes, “The workplace ranks dead last among the places people express gratitude, from homes and neighborhoods to places of worship.”
  • Dear God, Thank You for This Crummy Job. David Rupert writes “Rather than let my employment challenges drag me down, I’ve decided to take back the workplace for God’s glory, and I’m doing it through an attitude of gratitude. The seed of thankfulness was first planted by scripture, “In all things give thanks.” It was watered by Ann Voskamp, with her book, One Thousand Gifts, where she dares me to “live fully,” right where I am.”
  • 4 Keys to Difficult Conversations. Kevin Lloyd writes “If you’re the type who can slip into bad conversation practices such as: being too emotional, getting defensive or just not having a tough talk with someone, maybe this will help you.”

making vision stickMaking Vision Stick by Andy Stanley. Zondervan. 80 pages. 2007.
*** ½

This small book on vision is one that I recently read for a second time. Stanley is pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, the second largest church in the United States. I have listened to and benefited from his “Leadership Podcast” for the past few years.

He writes that this is not a book for those whose organizations have not developed their vision yet, but rather for those leaders who want to make their vision stick. He has described vision as a mental picture of what could be, fueled by a passion that it should be. He writes that one of the greatest challenges of leadership is making vision stick.

Stanley writes that it is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that those within their organization understand and embrace the vision of the organization. However, when a leader blames their followers for not following, the leader has ceased to lead. The leader has to communicate things in a consistent and coherent manner.

He gives five steps to make your vision stick:

Step 1 – State it Simply Stanley writes that people don’t remember or embrace paragraphs, so the vision must be simple and memorable. He uses the One Campaign as an example. Their vision is “To make poverty history”. He indicates that if the vision is unclear to you, it will never be clear to the people in your organization. For your vision to stick, you may need to clarify or simplify it. The vision that Stanley has for his church is “To create a church that unchurched people love to attend”.

Step 2 – Cast it Convincingly He uses Nehemiah 2 from the Bible to illustrate this step, stating that it is the ultimate illustration of casting vision. The wall had been torn down for a long time. Nehemiah casts the vision for why they need to rebuild the wall now. The three parts to this step are:

  1. Define the problem. People have to realize how serious it is and what is at stake if they don’t get on board.
  2. Offer a solution. A vision is convincing when people are able to see the connection between the problem and how the organization is offering a solution. Every vision is a solution to a problem. Stanley writes that: “Buy-in hinges on your ability to convince them you are offering a solution to a problem that they are convinced needs to be solved”.
  3. Present a reason. This is the reason that action must take place now. This is the answer to the questions “Why must we do this?” and “Why must we do this now?”

If the people in your organization don’t feel the problem, they will not be excited about the solution. You need to craft your vision as a solution to a problem. Organizations need to position themselves as a solution to a problem.

Step 3 – Repeat it Regularly Stanley writes that regardless of how often you think you’ve repeated your vision, it’s not enough. He recommends discovering within the rhythm of your organization when the best time is to cast and repeat vision. At Stanley’s church the best times are each January (when they have their highest attendance) and May (when they are recruiting volunteers for the fall). The repetition is done in numerous ways (sermons, emails, recorded messages on CD, mail-outs, etc.).

Step 4 – Celebrate it Systematically Stanley writes that the leader has to find ways to celebrate the vision. When you catch somebody living out the vision the way you need to celebrate it. Stories do more to clarify than anything. They bring emotion to phrases and sentences in the vision statement. He goes on to state:

“Celebration clarifies the win. People will repeat what is most often celebrated. Every organization celebrates something. But if your vision doesn’t align with your celebrations, I assure you that what’s celebrated will overpower the vision and determine the course of your organization”.

Additionally he suggests that the first question that should be asked in the weekly staff meeting is “Where have you seen (vision statement) lived out this week?”

Step 5 – Embrace it Personally Stanley states that: “Your willingness to embody the vision of your organization will have a direct impact on your credibility as a leader. Living out the vision establishes credibility and makes you a leader worth following. When people are convinced the vision has stuck with you, it is easier for them to make the effort to stick with the vision”.

He concludes the book by discussing how to know if your vision is slipping. He gives two categories of vision slippage indicators (ways to know when your vision is slipping):

  1. Projects, Products and Programs Stanley writes that leaders must keep their antenna up for new things that have potential to distract from the main thing. He states:  “Our approach stands in stark contrast to a practice many church leaders have adopted. I’ve actually heard this taught as a good approach to pastoral leadership. It goes something like this: When somebody comes to you with a ministry idea, tell them, ‘That’s a great idea! Why don’t you lead it?’ This is heralded as an effective way to involve people in ministry. I think it’s a great way for a church to lose focus. Vision, not people’s random ideas, should determine programming. Vision, not a cool PowerPoint presentation, should determine which initiatives are funded by your organization. Vision, not the promise of great returns, should determine which products are launched.”

2. Requests, Complaints and Stories Stanley indicates that requests, complaints and stories reveal a great deal about what’s on the minds and hearts of the people in an organization. He writes: “Consider this: if there was 100 percent buy-in to your vision by the people you work with, what questions would they ask? What kinds of stories would they feel compelled to tell? What would get on their nerves? Begin to listen. Really listen. If the people around you aren’t asking the right questions, telling the right stories, or complaining about the right things, your vision may be slipping.” He goes on to state that what people complain about communicates their understanding of the vision.

This short book contains much helpful information about how to make vision stick.

Quotes about Faith and Work

  • The sign of a professional is someone who makes the difficult look easy. Mark Miller
  • 75% of people are leaving jobs because of their leaders. Bob Chapman
  • Don’t let success go to your head. Don’t let failure go to your heart. Tim Keller
  • Wait for your opportunity to serve and have courage to catch people doing things right. Ken Blanchard
  • Little things make the difference. Everyone is well prepared in the big things, but only the winners perfect the little things. Coach K
  • Fridays are good. But if you are always straining toward Friday because you hate your job you should rethink what you do. Dave Ramsey John Maxwell quote
  • The key to great retention is selection. Mark Miller
  • People won’t care about you until they know that you care about them. Dr. Alan Zimmerman
  • I hate turning down good opportunities, but sometimes our no is more important than our yes. Discernment is a key to being successful. Ron Edmondson
  • The Christian leader is called to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. Henri Nouwen

Faith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?Don't Waste Your Life

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Crossway. 192 pages. 2003  

Other than the Bible, this small book by John Piper has had the most influence on my life. It played a key role in my returning to seminary after ten years in 2005. I have read it almost each year since it was published in 2003. Listen to John Piper describe the book in this less than two-minute video.

This week we look at Chapter 1 – My Search for a Single Passion to Live By

  • This was the story that gripped me more than all the stories of young people who died in car wrecks before they were converted—the story of an old man weeping that he had wasted his life. In those early years God awakened in me a fear and a passion not to waste my life. The thought of coming to my old age and saying through tears, “I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!” was a fearful and horrible thought to me.
  • Another riveting force in my young life—small at first, but oh so powerful over time—was a plaque that hung in our kitchen over the sink. On the front, in old English script, painted in white, were the words:

Only one life
’Twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

  • The message was clear. You get one pass at life. That’s all. Only one. And the lasting measure of that life is Jesus Christ.
  • What would it mean to waste my life? That was a burning question. Or, more positively, what would it mean to live well—not to waste life, but to . . . ? How to finish that sentence was the question.
  • That is what I heard in Dylan’s song, and everything in me said, Yes! There is an Answer with a capital A. To miss it would mean a wasted life. To find it would mean having a unifying Answer to all my questions.
  • But God was graciously posting compelling warnings along the way. In the fall of 1965 Francis Schaeffer delivered a week of lectures at Wheaton College that in 1968 became the book, The God Who Is There.1 The title shows the stunning simplicity of the thesis. God is there. Not in here, defined and shaped by my own desires. God is out there. Objective. Absolute Reality
  • Here was an absolutely compelling road sign. Stay on the road of objective truth. This will be the way to avoid wasting your life. Stay on the road that your fiery evangelist father was on. Don’t forsake the plaque on your kitchen wall. Here was weighty intellectual confirmation that life would be wasted in the grasslands of existentialism. Stay on the road. There is Truth. There is a Point and Purpose and Essence to it all. Keep searching. You will find it.
  • C. S. Lewis, who died the same day as John F. Kennedy in 1963 and who taught English at Oxford, walked up over the horizon of my little brown path in 1964 with such blazing brightness that it is hard to overstate the impact he had on my life.
  • Lewis gave me an intense sense of the “realness” of things. The preciousness of this is hard to communicate.
  • There was another force that solidified my unwavering belief in the unbending existence of objective reality. Her name was Noël Henry. I fell in love with her in the summer of 1966.
  • We were married in December 1968.
  • In the fall of 1966 God was closing in with an ever narrowing path for my life.
  • Finally she found me, flat on my back with mononucleosis in the health center, where I lay for three weeks. The life plan that I was so sure of four months earlier unraveled in my fevered hands.
  • In May I had felt a joyful confidence that my life would be most useful as a medical doctor.
  • Noël came to visit, and I said, “What would you think if I didn’t pursue a medical career but instead went to seminary?” As with every other time I’ve asked that kind of question through the years, the answer was, “If that’s where God leads you, that’s where I’ll go.”
  • From that moment on I have never doubted that my calling in life is to be a minister of the Word of God.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

christmas giftEvery Square Inch’s Christmas Gift Guide 2015. Bethany Jenkins writes “This Christmas, our faith and work channel—Every Square Inch—wants to celebrate products made by companies founded by Christian entrepreneurs. As entrepreneurs, they created something from nothing and, along the way, have given people jobs, contributed to the economy, engaged in ethical business practices, been generous with their neighbors, and expressed the creativity of God. Gift Guide 2015

  • Sudden Breakthroughs in Subtle Blind-Spots. Dan Rockwell writes “Truth be told, you have blind spots. The most common blind spot leaders have is believing others have them, but you don’t.”
  • More Significant than What You Do? Steve Graves writes “Who you work for is more significant than what you do or where you work.”
  • How to Be a Spiritual Influence at Work. Listen to Dr. Bill Peel on the radio talk show “Dr. Bill Maier-Live!” on how to be a spiritual influence at work.​
  • How to Witness at Work. Tom Nelson, in this article adapted from his excellent book Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work, writes “The excellence of our work often gives us the credibility to speak of the excellence of our Lord Jesus and to share the good news with our coworkers.”
  • 15 New Books to Check Out. Brad Lomenick recommends these new books. I plan to read Intentional Living by John Maxwell.
  • 6 Hacks for Better Work/Life Balance. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “If you’re like most people, you probably have some trouble managing your time. You may feel like you’re constantly hurrying or that you’re always short of time. You might even be the kind of person who paces in front of a microwave.”
  • We_Can_Do_It-231x3004 Ways to Better Engage Women in the Workplace. Lauren Hansen continues a series addressing specific questions related to ministry among women through the local church. This time, the question is “Do you have any suggestions about how our women’s ministry can engage professional women more effectively and encourage them as they minister in their workplaces?”
  • Seeking the Prosperity of Our Neighbors. Watch this talk from Amy Sherman, author of the excellent book Kingdom Calling, as she explains how why recognizing our vocational power is so important when seeking the good of our cities.
  • Struggling With Implementing Marketplace Ministry? 50 Ideas to Integrate Faith in the Workplace. The C12 Group asks “Are you looking for ways to transform your organization into your greatest mission field?”
  • How to Respectfully Distance Yourself from Negative People in Your Life. In this episode of his podcast, Andy Andrews answers a listener question on how parenting principles translate to respectfully dealing with the negative people in your business or personal life.
  • How I Work: An Interview with Thomas Kidd. In this edition of the series “How I Work”, Joe Carter interviews historian Thomas Kidd.
  • Benefits of a Common Language. Mark Miller writes “Leaders who create a common language can often make the difficult look effortless.”
  • Faith & Work Prayer Journey. Prayer is absolutely critical in our ability to discern our calling. This winter, the Center for Faith and Work (CFW) is offering two options to deepen your understanding of prayer and vocation with their online Faith & Work Prayer Journey, and their Faith & Work Prayer Nights.
  • Everybody Matters Podcast with Simon Sinek. Simon Sinek joins Bob Chapman on the Everybody Matters podcast.
  • Thriving Cultures Are Built With Recognition and Praise. Marty Fukuda shares five positive behaviors for leaders to immediately acknowledge.
  • 7-signs7 Signs it’s Not Really a Team. Ron Edmondson writes “In my world the word team is used almost on a daily basis. Most of us want to be in a team environment. However, in my experience working with churches – and it was true when I was in business also – more people claim to have it than actually do.”
  • Work Is Worship – Your Worklife is an act of Worship. This video from Work Life asks “Is your work a form of worship? Yes, it is! Worship and work should never become two different things. We worship when we work and we work when we worship, especially when our work is derived from God. It tells us in Genesis that in the beginning God went to work, and what he created was for his purpose and glory.
  • Success. In this “Minute from Maxwell”, John Maxwell talks about success from the perspective of starting with today.
  • Why Work? Because Work Matters. Steve Garber was the speaker at my graduation from Covenant Seminary last May and is the author of the excellent book Visions of Vocation. He writes about Dorothy Sayers book Why Work? “I think it is as a good a statement about work as anyone has written.”
  • Helpful Models. One of the main purposes of the advisory committee of the Oikonomia Network is to provide resources and support to all our network members, to help them develop pedagogical excellence. The first task has been to review syllabi, papers, videos, and other materials produced by our network schools. The first round of the committee’s review has just been completed. The committee has identified 34 helpful models that illustrate success in integrating work and economics in theological education. This got my attention as I respect two of the people on the Advisory Committee – Donald Guthrie, who formerly taught at Covenant Seminary and Tom Nelson, author of the helpful Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work.

Faith and Work Quotes

  • Change is the only constant— tied neck-and-neck with resistance to change. Dan Cumberland
  • Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better. Coach
  • People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing. Dale Carnegie
  • Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you. Augustine
  • Successful people become great leaders when they learn to shift the focus from themselves to others. Marshall Goldsmith
  • There are three actions of being a servant leader: being present, being accepting, and being creative. It’s not all about you! Ken Blanchard
  • Don’t ever get comfortable when you have the ability to achieve more. Coach K
  • Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top. John Wooden

John Wooden Quote

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

Don't Waste Your LifeDon’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Crossway. 192 pages. 2003  

Other than the Bible, this small book by John Piper has had the most influence on my life. It played a key role in my returning to seminary after ten years in 2005. I have read it almost each year since it was published in 2003. Listen to John Piper describe the book in this less than two-minute video.

This week we start by looking at the Preface of the book:

  • The Bible says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). I have written this book to help you taste those words as sweet instead of bitter or boring.
  • If you are a Christian, you are not your own. Christ has bought you at the price of his own death. You now belong doubly to God: He made you, and he bought you. That means your life is not your own. It is God’s. Therefore, the Bible says, “Glorify God in your body.” God made you for this. He bought you for this. This is the meaning of your life.
  • If you are not yet a Christian that is what Jesus Christ offers: doubly belonging to God, and being able to do what you were made for.
  • Glorifying God may mean nothing to you. That’s why I tell my story in the first two chapters, called “Created for Joy.” It was not always plain to me that pursuing God’s glory would be virtually the same as pursing my joy. Now I see that millions of people waste their lives because they think these paths are two and not one.
  • The path of God-exalting joy will cost you your life. Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it.” In other words, it is better to lose your life than to waste it.
  • If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full.
  • This is not a book about how to avoid a wounded life, but how to avoid a wasted life.
  • Some of you will die in the service of Christ. That will not be a tragedy. Treasuring life above Christ is a tragedy.
  • Remember, you have one life. That’s all. You were made for God. Don’t waste it.

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 Discipline 2: Create Clarity ~

  • The second requirement for building a healthy organization—creating clarity—is all about achieving alignment.
  • For all the attention it gets, real alignment remains frustratingly rare.
  • Within the context of making an organization healthy, alignment is about creating so much clarity that there is as little room as possible for confusion, disorder, and infighting to set in.
  • The responsibility for creating that clarity lies squarely with the leadership team.
  • There cannot be alignment deeper in the organization, even when employees want to cooperate, if the leaders at the top aren’t in lockstep with one another around a few very specific things.
  • All too often—and this is critical—leaders underestimate the impact of even subtle misalignment at the top, and the damage caused to the rest of the organization by small gaps among members of the executive team.
  • Thinking they’re being mature, leaders often agree to disagree with one another around seemingly minor issues, thereby avoiding what they see as unnecessary contentiousness and conflict.
  • What they don’t understand is that by failing to eliminate even those small gaps, they are leaving employees below them to fight bloody, unwinnable battles with their peers in other departments.
  • No matter how many times executives preach about the “e” word in their speeches, there is no way that their employees can be empowered to fully execute their responsibilities if they don’t receive clear and consistent messages about what is important from their leaders across the organization.
  • There is probably no greater frustration for employees than having to constantly navigate the politics and confusion caused by leaders who are misaligned.
  • Since the 1980s, many organizations have centered their clarity and alignment efforts around a singular tool that has been a major disappointment. What I’m referring to is the mission statement.
  • It can’t be denied that most mission statements have neither inspired people to change the world nor provided them with an accurate description of what an organization actually does for a living. They certainly haven’t created alignment and clarity among employees. What they have done is make many leadership teams look foolish.
  • What leaders must do to give employees the clarity they need is agree on the answers to six simple but critical questions and thereby eliminate even small discrepancies in their thinking.
  • Failing to achieve alignment around any one of them can prevent an organization from attaining the level of clarity necessary to become healthy. These are the six questions:
    • 1. Why do we exist?
    • 2. How do we behave?
    • 3. What do we do?
    • 4. How will we succeed?
    • 5. What is most important, right now?
    • 6. Who must do what?
  • If members of a leadership team can rally around clear answers to these fundamental questions—without using jargon and shmarmy language—they will drastically increase the likelihood of creating a healthy organization. This may well be the most important step of all in achieving the advantage of organizational health.
  • Answering these questions, like everything else in this book, is as difficult as it is theoretically simple.
  • It can be difficult, however,for a variety of reasons. First, as we explored in the last chapter, it requires cohesion at the top.
  • Second—and this is a big one—it’s often tempting for leaders to slip into a marketing or sloganizing mind-set when answering these questions, trying to come up with catchy phrases or impressive-sounding statements. This is a sign that the team is missing the boat and has been distracted from its real purpose: establishing true clarity and alignment.
  • Finally, answering these questions requires time.
  • Taking time to sit with the questions and ensure that all members of the leadershipteam understand what they mean and are truly aligned around the answers is essential.
  • There are no right or wrong answers. I mean, who’s to say what is right and wrong when it comes to setting the direction of an organization?
  • Waiting for clear confirmation that a decision is exactly right is a recipe for mediocrity and almost a guarantee of eventual failure. That’s because organizations learn by making decisions, even bad ones.


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Living an Intentional Life

God created me – and you – to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion – namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.

But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live it and die for it. And you will make a difference that lasts. You will not waste your life.    – John Piper from Don’t Waste Your Life

Since returning from the recent Ligonier National Conference, and re-listening to the messages, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live an intentional life. The messages at the conference really challenged me, especially “Don’t Love the World” by Kevin DeYoung, “Christ’s Message for the Church” by Sinclair Ferguson and “No Place for Truth” by Alistair Begg. I wrote in my reflections about the conference the desire to be more intentional about my prayer life and Bible reading. However, when you think about it, it’s likely that only a small percentage of each day is dedicated to those activities, as much of our time is already committed to our vocations, whether they be in the workplace, home or ministry. When we really consider this, how much of our lives is comprised of activities that we feel we have to do, be it because it’s an obligation, we don’t want to disappoint someone, or conversely that we want to please someone? I want to live my life according to the quote that John Piper shares was in his home growing up:Only One Life

Books that have in the past challenged me in the area of being intentional with my life have been Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Radical by David Platt. I have read each of those books multiple times. Conference messages and books are great, but the question is what am I (or we) going to do about it?

My wife Tammy has the following at the top of her “To Do” list:
Lord, I am Yours, Yours alone. All I am, and all I have, I devote to You. You have bought me with Your blood– let me spend myself and be spent in Your service. In life and in death let me be consecrated to You.

How are we going to apply what we’ve learned? How are we going to change our lives so that they are not wasted?

A few things that have been bouncing around in my head have been:

  • To be more intentional about my prayer life and Bible reading.
  • To be more intentional about the books I read.
  • To be more intentional about the blogs I read.
  • To be more intentional about the time I spend with my wife.
  • To be more intentional about the movies I watch.
  • To be more intentional about the television programs I watch.
  • To be more intentional about how I invest my life with (friends, family, mentees, etc.).
  • Overall, to be more intentional about the time I spend, wanting in the end to hear my Lord say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

What about you? What does living an intentional life mean to you?

You get one pass at life. That’s all. Only one.
And the lasting measure of that life is Jesus Christ.
-John Piper from Don’t Waste Your Life


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Coram Deo – Before the Face of God 9.4.2014

~ UPDATED PAGES ON THE BLOG ~

Movie Reviews:
• The One I Love, rated R
• Magic in the Moonlight, rated PG-13

Book Reviews:
Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

Quotable:
If you are a Christian, and you refrain from committing adultery or using profanity or missing church, but you don’t do the hard work of thinking through how to do justice in every area of life – you are failing to live justly and righteously. -Tim Keller from Generous Justice

Visions of Vocation Book Club Week 1Visions of Vocation

Steven Garber was the speaker at my Covenant Seminary graduation in May. Tammy and I are reading his newest book Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good. Below are passages we highlighted from our reading for the first week of our book club:
• Percy describes the novelist as “a physician of the soul of society,” and in his essay “Another Message in a Bottle,” he argues, “Bad books always lie. They lie most of all about the human condition.” That insight has become foundational to me, and it is a rare day that I do not draw upon it in conversations.
• Why is it that we care? Why is it that we see ourselves implicated in the world, in the way the world is and isn’t—and in the way it ought to be? And why does it seem that some do not care? I have thought about those questions for most of my life, and they continue to run through my heart.
• But it is also true that whether our vocations are as butchers, bakers or candlestick makers—or people drawn into the worlds of business or law, agriculture or education, architecture or construction, journalism or international development, health care or the arts—in our own different ways we are responsible, for love’s sake, for the way the world is and ought to be. We are called to be common grace for the common good. That is the vision of the Washington Institute, which is my work. Our credo is that vocation is integral, not incidental, to the missio Dei, and we work that out in many different ways in our teaching and writing, courses and curriculum. This book is an effort within that larger work, inviting you in its own way to “come and see” that this vision of vocation is being lived into by men and women, younger and older, who are committed to a faith that shapes vocation that shapes culture.
• “Seek the well-being of the city” was Jeremiah’s prophetic word to the exiles in Babylon, for “when it flourishes, you will flourish” (Jeremiah 29:7 paraphrase). To learn to see—to see ourselves implicated in history, to see that we share a common vocation to care not only for our own flourishing, but for the flourishing of the world—is the vision that has brought this book into being.
Chapter 1 To Know the World and Still Love It?
• More often than not, people want to do the right thing. They want their lives to matter, their visions to shape the way the world works for the common good, at least as they understand the good. In a thousand different ways they want their ideas to have legs. That is what makes Washington, Washington. Who we are and how we live together is the stuff of this city. Laws are imagined, laws are debated, laws are legislated.
• After the lecture, I noticed some young men who were a bit older than the typical undergraduate. They were a group of musicians who called themselves Jars of Clay. I knew of them, but did not know them, and they had their own questions to ask. So we talked and a conversation began that continues to this day. Over the months, they asked about books and essays to read and I was increasingly impressed with their moral seriousness. One day we talked about Africa and their desire to put their creative energy behind an effort to address its complex need for clean blood and water. I told them that a week earlier I had been in Phoenix, Arizona, speaking at a conference called “The Faces of Justice,” and had met a young woman named Jena Lee from Whitworth College who had impressed me with her articulate passion for Africa. It is a long story, but when Jena graduated that spring, she moved to Nashville to work with the Jars of Clay guys to begin Blood:Water Mission. Years later there are more than a thousand different projects in Africa that have grown out of Blood:Water Mission’s work. Jena has done a remarkable job, taking the band’s life and hopes, connecting them to hers, and birthing an organization that is healthy and responsible. The board has grown, and one of its prized members has been Clydette, who is still at USAID doing her work on the global threat of tuberculosis. She has brought all that and more to bear for the sake of the vision and work of Blood:Water Mission, with gladness and singleness of heart marking her vocation.
• To know the world and still love it? There is not a more difficult task that human beings face.
• How do we see what is awful and still engage, still enter in? How can we have our eyes open to reality and understand that we are more implicated, for love’s sake, now that we see?
• As Clydette and Jena have been my teachers, so has Simone Weil. In the 1940s, on the last night of her life, Weil wrote, “The most important task of teaching is to teach what it means to know.” To teach what it means to know? Found in the journal at her bedside, these were the final words of Simone Weil, the French philosopher who died in the 1940s. While her social position would have allowed otherwise, her own passions and commitments led her to the decision that while others suffered during the war years, she would eat only that which was available to the ordinary people of France. And simply said, she starved herself to death. Where did this seriousness of heart come from? Why did she see the world as she did? Why did the weightiness of the world mean so much to her? And why would knowing become that which mattered most? The ideas of Marx and Lenin and Trotsky failed her and her country, was there an answer to be found anywhere? She discovered it finally in the God who cries, the God who has tears. Among many essays that she wrote, there is one that I have loved most, called “On the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God.”
• Weil argues that it is in learning to pay attention that we begin to understand the meaning of life and of learning. What does she mean? To pay attention is to see what matters and what does not matter. It is to discern rightly, to choose well. Yes, it is to know as we ought to know, to know in a way that leads us to love. She calls this kind of study sacramental, as it is a kind of learning that is born of a love of God for the world—and in it a calling to love as God loves because we know as God knows. Her vision is formed by the story of the Good Samaritan, because in it she sees the primary issue as one of having learned, or not learned, to pay attention to things that matter.
• Two religious leaders, men much like the expert in the law, walk by and do not see a neighbor. They see a man, but do not see a neighbor—someone their law requires them to care for—and they pass by, having justified their indifference religiously, historically and sociologically. They had not learned to pay attention.
• In contrast, the Samaritan does see a neighbor and stops to care for him because he has learned to pay attention, to understand what he sees and why it matters. Weil also calls this kind of seeing sacramental, because it is a kind of learning that connects heaven to earth. Sacraments always do that—they give us the grace to understand that the universe is coherent, that things seen and unseen are equally real, equally true. And they allow us to understand that the most ordinary elements of life can be made holy—even our learning, even our labor, even our love.
• When we see all of life as sacramental, as the graceful twining together of heaven and earth, then we begin to understand the meaning of vocation, which in their very different ways are what the stories of Clydette, Jena and Simone Weil are each about. We can begin to see that all of life, the complexity of our relationships and responsibilities—of family and friendships, of neighbors near and far, of work and citizenship, from the most personal to the most public—indeed, everything is woven together into the callings that are ours, the callings that make us us.
• There is nothing we are asked to do that requires more of us than to know and to love at the same time. Mostly we choose otherwise. Mostly we choose to step away, now knowing as we do.
• Whether it is in the most familiar of relationships, as in marriage, or in the most far-reaching of responsibilities, as in the global AIDS crisis, when we begin to really know what someone is like or what something or someplace is like, the calculus of our hearts more often than not leads us to conclude that it will no longer be possible to love. How can we, after all? Now we know!
• One of my deepest commitments is to the “come and see pedagogy” of the Gospels.
• We learn the truest truths, the most important things, only when we look over the shoulder and through the heart, only when we can see that ideas have legs and that worldviews can become ways of life.
• So when I travel around the country and beyond, I talk about people I know who in their very different ways are connecting what they believe with the way that they live in and through their vocations.
• In fact, they are showing that it is possible to honestly know and to responsibly love as they take up the callings and careers that are theirs. And so time and again, I will say to those who have asked me to speak, “Come and see.” Yes, come and see that what I am saying is possible. People actually do live like this—and you can too.
• We do not have to play games with ourselves or with history, pretending that the world is a nicer place than it ever can be, that somehow really awful things do not happen, that horribly sad moments are not ours to live with and through.
• We do not have to decide that the only livable responses are the most perennial responses, the ones that human beings have made since the beginning of time, those of cynicism and stoicism. Both of course are ways of protecting our hearts from being hurt again, ways of “knowing” that do not ask us to love what we know.
• Rather they are ways of knowing that allow us to step away from history and from our responsibility for the way that history unfolds. They give us the ability to say no to the tragedies and heartaches of life, and to protect ourselves from being hurt by becoming too close to what will inevitably bring pain.
• We can choose to know what is going on in the world and still love the world. But we need good reasons to do so.
• And I began to wonder, Is there something that is more true than what I have believed? Is there an account of the universe that makes more sense of griefs like this?
• John does record, “Jesus wept,” but Warfield digs deeper and opens windows into the heart of God, incarnate in Jesus, who twice is said to have “groaned severely in his spirit.” He does what a good reader of the text will always do and asks about the meaning of John’s words. What he found surprised me. The very words that are used are the same ones that Greek poets used to describe a warhorse ready to enter battle, a stallion rearing on his hind legs, nostrils flaring, angry at what he sees and ready to enter the conflict as a warrior himself, even as he carries a warrior in armor on his back.
• There are moments when we can do nothing else than cry out against the wrongs of the world. It is just not the way it is supposed to be! Outrageous, it is outrageous! Tears matter, and sometimes they are very complex.
• We all cry—but what is important here is why we cry and when we cry and what our crying means for who we are and how we live.
• The tears of God are complex. They must be tears of sympathy, even empathy, as Aslan weeps for Digory’s mother and as Jesus weeps with his friends at the death of their brother. But sometimes they are also tears of anger at the unnaturalness of death, at the distortion of death, at the skewing of human hopes, as Jesus “groaned severely in his spirit” at the death of Lazarus.
• So, reader, come and see. In these next pages, you will meet my friends from near and far, men and women who incarnate the reality that we can know and still love the world, even in its wounds—perhaps especially in its wounds—whether they be in family or friendship, psychological or sociological, in economic life or political life, in the arts or in education, in small towns or on complex continents. As the poet Bob Dylan once sang, “Everything is broken.” Yes, everything, and so we must not be romantics. We cannot afford to be, just as we cannot be stoics or cynics either.
• But the story of sorrow is not the whole story of life either. There is also wonder and glory, joy and meaning, in the vocations that are ours. There is good work to be done by every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve all over the face of the earth. There are flowers to be grown, songs to be sung, bread to be baked, justice to be done, mercy to be shown, beauty to be created, good stories to be told, houses to be built, technologies to be developed, fields to farm, and children to educate.
• All day, every day, there are both wounds and wonders at the very heart of life, if we have eyes to see. And seeing—what Weil called learning to know, to pay attention—is where vocations begin.

Next week we’ll read chapter 2. Won’t you join us? To entice you, here are a few reviews of the book.

~ THIS AND THAT ~

IN THE NEWS ~

  • In our weekly Mark Driscoll update a Mars Hill Church member offers this article on forgiving her pastor. Read it here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2014/august/forgiving-my-pastor-mark-driscoll.html?paging=off
  • Gene Veith writes that “Fighting ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) is a worthy cause, worth dumping an ice bucket over your head.  The main beneficiary of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” is the ALS Association.  The problem with that group, though, is that they use a stem cell line from an aborted child.  There are, however, other ALS research organizations that honor the sanctity of life.” Read his article here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2014/08/better-places-to-send-your-ice-bucket-challenge-money/2015 Ligonier National Conference
  • Peter Jones and my favorite blogger Tim Challies have been added to the lineup for the 2015 Ligonier Ministries National Conference. The conference theme is “After Darkness, Light” and will be held February 19-21 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando. The conference features a strong lineup of speakers. In addition to Challies and Jones, speakers include R.C. Sproul, Kevin DeYoung, Sinclair Ferguson, Alistair Begg, Russell Moore, Stephen Nichols and more. You can find out more about the conference and register at: http://www.ligonier.org/events/2015-national-conference/
  • Kevin DeYoung, who pastors a church on or near the campus of Michigan State University writes that “With most major college getting whipped into a full frenzy, I thought it would be worthwhile to dust off a few thoughts about binge drinking on our nation’s campuses.” Read his thoughts here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/08/26/christ-and-keg-stands/
  • Recently the trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board elected David Platt to serve as president. Platt will be leaving his position as lead pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama where he has served since 2006 to take on this new assignment. Read here why Russell Moore is radically happy about Platt assuming his new position.
  • There sure is a lot going on of concern in our world these days – Russia/Ukraine, Ebola, Israel/Hamas, ISIS, Ferguson and you could add much more. I got a chuckle out of this cartoon from World Magazine.

Obama - World MagazineTRENDING TOPICS ~

SPORTS ~

TO MAKE YOU SMILE ~

PROBING QUESTIONS ~

 INTERESTING ARTICLES, VIDEOS AND MUCH NEEDED PRAYER ~

     BIBLE STUDY ~

     DEALING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE AND SITUATIONS ~

TIM KELLER ~

MOVIES ~

BOOKS ~Francis Shaeffer Book

  • This month’s free audiobook from Christianaudio is a good one. It is the classic How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer. Read about how to download your copy here: http://christianaudio.com/free/?utm_source=HomePage&utm_medium=InternalBanner&utm_campaign=FreeAudiobook
  • Great news! Banner of Truth is now offering e-books! They have released their first ten, including the classic Valley of Vision. Check out their e-book page here.
  • Not a Chance by R.C. Sproul and Dr. Keith Mathison, has been revised and expanded in light of recent scientific discoveries and ongoing attacks against God and reason, exposing the irrational claims of modern day science. Read about the new release and special pricing from Ligonier Ministries here: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/not-chance-new-sproul-mathison/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=ligonierministriesblog
  • Justin Taylor is starting a new series on novels that every Christian should consider reading. The first contributor to share their list is Kathy Keller. Read her suggested novels here.  Francis Chan book
  • Francis Chan and his wife Lisa have written a book on marriage You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. Christianaudio is offering a special introductory rate of $7.49 for the audiobook. In addition, all other Francis Chan titles are now 50% off at Christianaudio.com. Read more here.
  • UnPHILtered by Phil RobertsonUnPHILtered is the ultimate guide to everything Phil Robertson believes in. Balancing his sometimes off-the-wall comments with his strong focus on home and family life, it is sure to spark discussion, laughs, and a sincere appreciation for Phil’s unique approach to life. The book will be released this week.
  • Last week I re-read Radical by David Platt. The book ends with “The Radical Experiment”. Read about that here:  http://www.radicalexperiment.org/overview.html
  • NoiseTrade is offering a free download of the new book from Plumb. “Need You Now: A Story of Hope” is the incredibly honest and hugely encouraging new book by recording artist, songwriter, and performer PLUMB aka Tiffany Lee. Both laugh-out-loud funny and deeply moving, it is the story of beautiful and embarrassing moments on stage, the joys and trials of motherhood and unbridled forgiveness”. To download here: http://books.noisetrade.com/plumb/need-you-now-a-story-of-hope

MUSIC ~

  • Tim Challies takes a crack at the ten greatest hymns of all time here. Did he leave out any of your favorites?
  • Christian rapper Shope has released a new EP. You can listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/allofshope/sets/shope-ep
  • Lecrae’s Anomaly will be released September 9. He has released four songs thus far for those who have pre-ordered the album. All four are charting in the top 44 on iTunes Hip-Hop/Rap chart, which on August 27 contained only 43 songs on the Top 200 not marked “Explicit” (of which 4 were Lecrae’s). He is truly making a difference in this genre. The latest song to be released “Say I Won’t” (featuring Andy Mineo) is also coming in at #10 at the overall iTunes top songs chart.
  • Lecrae is on the cover of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) Magazine. Download it here: http://www.ccmmagazine.com/getcurrentissue/
  • Dylan - Basement TapesThe Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 from Bob Dylan and the Band will be released November 4. The Basement Tapes Complete brings together, for the first time ever, every salvageable recording from the tapes including recently discovered early gems recorded in the “Red Room” of Dylan’s home in upstate New York. Garth Hudson (of The Band), worked closely with Canadian music archivist and producer Jan Haust to restore the deteriorating tapes to pristine sound, with much of this music preserved digitally for the first time. The six disc collection compiled from the summer of 1967 recordings, will feature 138 tracks and cost $59.99 on iTunes. Read this article from USA Today about the new collection. 
  • Bruce Springsteen has written a children’s book Outlaw Pete, based on his 2009 song of the same name. Read about the book here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2014/08/28/bruce-springsteen-childrens-book-outlaw-pete/14728461/
  • The hidden gem on 20, Jars of Clay’s 20th anniversary celebration album is “If You Love Her”, inspired by Blood: Water Mission (http://www.bloodwater.org/)

You go find water
You go find water
If you love her
If you love her
If you love her
If you love her
At all

You can watch Jars of Clay singing this beautiful song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YlW0j47OSQFaith-and-Work

Integrating Faith and Work:  Connecting Sunday to Monday

Book Review:
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

Whats Best Next Poster

 What's Best NextWhat’s Best Next Series – Part 5

 What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. Zondervan. 352 pages. 2014

We continue with our overview of this new book on productivity from a Christian perspective. I’ve highlighted a number of passages and would like to share some of them from chapter 11.

I’d encourage you to read the book along with me, and to visit Matt’s website at http://whatsbestnext.com/ and in particular The Toolkit: http://whatsbestnext.com/toolkit/

 

Don’t Waste Your Life at Work

Next to the Bible, this book has had the most impact on my life. I’ve tended to read the book each year since it was published in Don't Waste Your Life-0012003. There are many things I would like to share below from “Chapter 8: Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5”.
• It would be a mistake to infer from the call to wartime living in the previous chapter that Christians should quit their jobs and go to “war”—say, to become missionaries or pastors or full-time relief workers. That would be a fundamental misunderstanding of where the war is being fought.
• The war is not primarily spatial or physical—though its successes and failures have physical effects. Therefore, the secular vocations of Christians are a war zone. There are spiritual adversaries to be defeated (that is, evil spirits and sins, not people); and there is beautiful moral high ground to be gained for the glory of God. You don’t waste your life by where you work, but how and why.
• The call to be a Christian was not a call to leave your secular vocation. That’s the clear point of 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. Therefore, the burning question for most Christians should be: How can my life count for the glory of God in my secular vocation?
• Our aim is to joyfully magnify Christ—to make him look great by all we do.
• Boasting only in the cross, our aim is to enjoy making much of him by the way we work. The question is, How? The Bible points to at least six answers.
1. We can make much of God in our secular job through the fellowship that we enjoy with him throughout the day in all our work.
• When the saints are at work in their secular employment, they are scattered. They are not together in church. So the command to “remain there with God” is a promise that you may know God’s fellowship personally and individually on the job.
• One way to enjoy God’s presence and fellowship is through thankful awareness that your ability to do any work at all, including this work, is owing to his grace.
• This is the way God speaks to you through the day. He encourages you, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). He reminds you that the challenges of the afternoon are not too hard for him to manage: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). He tells you not to be anxious, but to ask him for whatever you need (Philippians 4:6), and says, “Cast all your anxieties on me, for I care for you” (paraphrase of 1 Peter 5:7). And he promises to guide you through the day: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
2. We make much of Christ in our secular work by the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry.
• So if you go all the way back, before the origin of sin, there are no negative connotations about secular work. According to Genesis 2:2, God himself rested from his work of creation, implying that work is a good, God-like thing.
• To be sure, when God sends us forth to work as his image bearers, our ditches are to be dug straight, our pipe-fittings are not to leak, our cabinet corners should be flush, our surgical incisions should be clean, our word processing accurate and appealing, and our meals nutritious and attractive, because God is a God of order and beauty and competence. But cats are clean, and ants are industrious, and spiders produce orderly and beautiful works. And all of them are dependent on God. Therefore, the essence of our work as humans must be that it is done in conscious reliance on God’s power, and in conscious quest of God’s pattern of excellence, and in deliberate aim to reflect God’s glory.
• When you work like this—no matter what your vocation is—you can have a sweet sense of peace at the end of the day. It has not been wasted. God has not created us to be idle. Therefore, those who abandon creative productivity lose the joy of God-dependent, world-shaping, God-reflecting purposeful work.
• True personal piety feeds the purposeful work of secular vocations rather than undermining it. Idleness does not grow in the soil of fellowship with God. Therefore, people who spend their lives mainly in idleness or frivolous leisure are rarely as happy as those who work. Retired people who are truly happy have sought creative, useful, God-honoring ways to stay active and productive for the sake of man’s good and God’s glory.
• So the second way we make much of God in our secular work is through the joyful, trusting, God-exalting design of our creativity and industry. God created us for work so that by consciously relying on his power and consciously shaping the world after his excellence, we might be satisfied in him, and he might be glorified in us. And when we remember that all this God-exalting creativity and all this joy is only possible for undeserving sinners like us because of the death of Christ, every hour of labor becomes a boasting in the cross.
3. We make much of Christ in our secular work when it confirms and enhances the portrait of Christ’s glory that people hear in the spoken Gospel.
• There is no point in overstating the case for the value of secular work. It is not the Gospel. By itself, it does not save anyone. In fact, with no spoken words about Jesus Christ, our secular work will not awaken wonder for the glory of Christ. That is why the New Testament modestly calls our work an adornment of the Gospel.
• So one crucial meaning of our secular work is that the way we do it will increase or decrease the attractiveness of the Gospel we profess before unbelievers. Of course, the great assumption is that they know we are Christians.
• Should Christians be known in their offices as the ones you go to if you have a problem, but not the ones to go to with a complex professional issue? It doesn’t have to be either-or. The biblical mandate is: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23; cf. Ephesians 6:7).
• So the third way we make much of God in our secular work is by having such high standards of excellence and such integrity and such manifest goodwill that we put no obstacles in the way of the Gospel but rather call attention to the all-satisfying beauty of Christ. When we adorn the Gospel with our work, we are not wasting our lives. And when we call to mind that the adornment itself (our God-dependent, God-shaped, God-exalting work) was purchased for us by the blood of Christ, and that the beauty we adorn is itself the Gospel of Christ’s death, then all our tender adornment becomes a boasting in the cross.
4. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning enough money to keep us from depending on others, while focusing on the helpfulness of our work rather than financial rewards.
• The curse under which we live today is not that we must work. The curse is that, in our work, we struggle with weariness and frustration and calamities and anxiety.
• Able-bodied people who choose to live in idleness and eat the fruit of another’s sweat are in rebellion against God’s design. If we can, we should earn our own living.
• How then do Christians make much of Christ in working “to earn their own living”?
• First, by conforming willingly to God’s design for this age. It is an act of obedience that honors his authority.
• Second, by removing stumbling blocks from unbelievers who would regard the lazy dependence of Christians on others as an evidence that our God is not worthy of following. “Work with your hands . . . so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). We honor God by earning our living because this clears the way for non-Christians to see Christ for who he really is. Aimless, unproductive Christians contradict the creative, purposeful, powerful, merciful God we love. They waste their lives.
• Third, we make much of God by earning our own living when we focus not on financial profit but on the benefit our product or service brings to society.
• This is paradoxical. I am saying, yes, we should earn enough money to meet our needs. But, no, we should not make that the primary focus of why we work. In other words, don’t focus on mere material things in your work. Don’t labor merely with a view to the perishable things you can buy with your earnings. Work with an eye not mainly to your money, but your usefulness. Work with a view to benefiting people with what you make or do.
• So don’t labor for the food that perishes. Labor to love people and honor God. Think of new ways that your work can bless people. Stop thinking mainly of profitability, and think mainly of how helpful your product or service can become. You are not working for the food that perishes. Your goal is to enjoy Christ’s being exalted in the way you work.
• None of us in our vocations should aim mainly at the food that perishes—leave that to the Lord. We should aim instead to do the will of him who sent us. And his will is that we treasure him above all else and live like it.
• If we simply work to earn a living—if we labor for the bread that perishes—we will waste our lives. But if we labor with the sweet assurance that God will supply all our needs—that Christ died to purchase every undeserved blessing—then all our labor will be a labor of love and a boasting only in the cross.
5. We make much of Christ in our secular work by earning money with the desire to use our money to make others glad in God.
• So my point here is that, as we work, we should dream of how to use our excess money to make others glad in God. Of course, we should use all our money to make others glad in God, in the sense that our whole life has this aim. But the point here is that our secular work can become a great God-exalting blessing to the world if we aim to take the earnings we don’t need for ourselves (and we need far less than we think) and meet the needs of others in the name of Jesus.
• God clearly tells us that we should work to provide the needs of those who can’t meet their own needs.
6. We make much of Christ in our secular work by treating the web of relationships it creates as a gift of God to be loved by sharing the Gospel and by practical deeds of help.
• But now I want to say that speaking the good news of Christ is part of why God put you in your job. He has woven you into the fabric of others’ lives so that you will tell them the Gospel. Without this, all our adorning behavior may lack the one thing that could make it life-giving.
• Christians should seriously ask not only what their vocation is, but where it should be lived out. We should not assume that teachers and carpenters and computer programmers and managers and CPAs and doctors and pilots should do their work in America. That very vocation may be better used in a country that is otherwise hard to get into, or in a place where poverty makes access to the Gospel difficult. In this way the web of relationships created by our work is not only strategic but intentional.
• In conclusion, secular work is not a waste when we make much of Christ from 8 to 5. God’s will in this age is that his people be scattered like salt and light in all legitimate vocations. His aim is to be known, because knowing him is life and joy. He does not call us out of the world. He does not remove the need to work. He does not destroy society and culture. Through his scattered saints he spreads a passion for his supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples. If you work like the world, you will waste your life, no matter how rich you get. But if your work creates a web of redemptive relationships and becomes an adornment for the Gospel of the glory of Christ, your satisfaction will last forever and God will be exalted in your joy.
Peace