The reaping time will come. Our chief business is to glorify God by teaching the truth whether souls are saved or not; but still I demur to the statement that we may go on preaching the gospel for years and years, and even all our lifetime, and yet no result may follow.
They say, “Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but God giveth the increase.” I should like them to find that passage in the Bible. In my English Bible it runs thus: “I (Paul) have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”
There is not the slightest intent to teach us that when Paul planted and Apollos watered, God would arbitrarily refuse the increase. All the glory is claimed for the Lord, but honest labour is not despised.
I do not say that there is the same relation between teaching the truth and conversion as there is between cause and effect, so that they are invariably connected; but I will maintain that it is the rule of the kingdom that they should be connected, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Proverbs 12:15: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”
Proverbs 13:10: “By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.”
The Bible speaks highly of listening to advice and wise counsel. Now, when you are reading a book on a subject like management — take, for example, Marcus Buckingham’s First, Break on Rules — that talks about management based on research but isn’t seeking to expound the Bible, what are you doing?
You are seeking advice. Which, according to these verses, is a good thing.
By speaking of “advice,” these verses clearly have in view something other than biblical teaching. It surely includes that — such as when a friend gives you counsel based on the Scriptures. But there is also another category of advice that consists of just good wisdom. We experience this all the time.
When a plumber says “don’t put peanut shells down the garbage disposal,” you won’t find that in the Bible, but it’s good advice. When doctors say “don’t give A negative blood to someone with O plus blood,” that’s a form of advice — potentially life saving advice, actually (and, knowing this reality, it would be unethical to do otherwise).
So also when business thinkers and others do research on management and leadership and write about what is effective and what isn’t, and what serves people and what doesn’t, it falls into the category of advice. And the Bible affirms the value of listening to good advice.
So the best thinking on leadership and management, even if it comes from thinkers that aren’t writing from an explicitly Christian point of view, is still useful and important.
The Bible speaks highly of seeking out advice. And since advice, by definition, includes non-inspired general wisdom, in affirming the value of advice, the Bible is also affirming the thinking and research of extra biblical sources about matters of work and life.
These are from the notes I took from an article by Chip and Dan Heath (authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die):
- Don’t preamble—parachute in.
- “The first mission of a presentation is to grab attention.”
- A preamble is a laborious overview of what’s going to be covered. Don’t start with this. Don’t follow the “tell them what you’re gonna tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” Steve Jobs doesn’t present this way. Ronald Reagan didn’t present this way.
- Example: Rebecca Fuller presenting on tactile museum exhibits. She parachuted in by shutting off the lights and saying “this is what it’s like for a blind person in most museums.” It wouldn’t have improved here presentation to say “today I’m going to give you an overview of the challenges faced by the visually impaired in most museums.”
- “If you bring us face to face with the problem, we don’t need a lot of upfront hand-holding.”
The most important point: parachute it. “Telling them what you’re going to tell them” usually reduces interest.
This is a book about two words. Concerning them, the late James Montgomery Boice wrote, “May I put it quite simply? If you understand those two words — ‘but God’ — they will save your soul. If you recall them daily and live by them, they will transform your life completely.”
It is no surprise, then, that the human authors of Scripture use this phrase repeatedly to highlight God’s grace in every aspect of salvation. From Moses to Paul and just about everywhere in between, “But God” appears time and again at many crucial junctures in Scripture. It is the perfect phrase for highlighting the grace of God against the dark backdrop of human sin.
To the left of “But God” in Scripture appear some of the worst human atrocities, characterized by disobedience and rebellion. To the left of “But God” is hopelessness, darkness, and death. But to its right, following “But God,” readers of Scripture will find hope, light, and life. Following God’s intervention, the story of Scripture becomes one of grace, righ- teousness, and justice.
This book has been born out of my desire to better understand these two words, and how they are used in Scripture. Having searched through and referenced every instance of “But God” (or “But he,” “But you,” etc.), I have found that this phrase is used to describe God’s activity in nearly every great salvation story in the Bible.
“But God” marks God’s relentless, merciful interventions in human history. It teaches us that God does not wait for us to bring ourselves to him, but that he acts first to bring about our good. It also teaches us of the potential consequences if God were not to act. Scripture shows over and over that without God’s intervening grace, without the “But God” statements in the Bible, the world would be completely lost in sin and under judgment.
It may not be a common thing to write a book about two words, but these are no insignificant words. Indeed, everything Dr. Boice wrote above is true. If we understand these two words as the biblical authors use them, we will understand salvation—a salvation that is by grace alone, through Christ alone.
May the reading of this book, and of the biblical “But God” statements it contains, cause you to understand these two words, recall them regularly, and allow them to transform your understanding of God’s grace and thus transform your very life.
But / conjunction / (but): 1) Used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned. 2) Nevertheless; however. 3) On the contrary; in contrast.
God / noun / (How much time do you have?)
The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come” (from “Learning in Wartime,” in The Weight of Glory, 50).
He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
Spurgeon, from Counsel For Christian Workers:
Let no man be deceived with the idea that if he carries out the right, by God’s grace he will prosper in this world as the consequence. It is very likely that, for a time at least, his conscientiousness will stand in the way of his prosperity.
God does not invariably make the doing of the right to be the means of pecuniary gain to us. On the contrary, it frequently happens that for a time men are great losers by their obedience to Christ.
But the Scripture always speaks as to the long run; it sums up the whole of life [that is, including eternal life] — there it promises true riches. If thou wouldst prosper, keep close to the Word of God, and to they conscience, and thou shalt have the best prosperity.
These are from my notes on writing and are pulled from a bunch of books I read last summer. While the focus is how to overcome procrastination in writing, these principles can easily be adapted to be applicable for anyone, in about any context:
- “Almost all writers procrastinate.”
- Turn it into rehearsal.
- Lower your standards. Writers block is a product of some kind of disproportion between your standards and your performance. Get rid of the standards that inhibit you, write, then raise your standards during revision.
- Just start typing.
- Adopt a daily routine. “Fluent writers prefer mornings.”
- Draft sooner. Avoid over research, which makes writing seem tougher. Write earlier in the process so you discover the information you need.
- Discount nothing.
- Limit self criticism in early drafts.
- Set the table (= pull everything together and get things ready; make short plan).
- Find a helper.
- Keep a daily record of accomplishment.
When you Get Stuck
- Just start writing. “Writing is the means to achieving the clarity of what you should write.”
- It’s OK if you just produce a few pages a day for the first several weeks. Things will snowball if you get momentum.
A great article by Mike Horton on discovering your calling. Here’s a key point:
God does give us the desires of our hearts. He is not out to get us, or to make us wander the vocational wilderness forever. Sometimes we are “dumped” into short-term vocations which to us seem utterly meaningless and yet in some way providentially equip us with a skill which will be vital in our as yet unknown calling in life. We just cannot figure out God’s secret plan, but we can trust it and learn from natural as well as biblical sources how we might better discern our calling.
The questions, What are your skills?, What do you really enjoy?, What would get you up on Monday morning?, are in the realm of nature. Super-spirituality may look down on such mundane questions and try to steal into God’s secret chamber, but biblical piety is content to leaf through the book of nature. God has created us a certain way, given us certain habits, skills, longings, and drives.
Sometimes we over-spiritualize things and think God doesn’t care about whether we are in a role that is a good fit, or that considering our own desires and giftings in choosing what to do is somehow unspiritual.
Not true. Sometimes God will have us doing something that is not the best fit, but seeking the right fit is a good — and spiritual — thing to do. It is a matter of good stewardship to seek the best way to maximize the gifts, skills, and interests that he has given us.
Jonathan Edwards, in A Divine and Supernatural Light Immediately Imparted to the Soul:
All Moral Knowledge and business Skill from God
God is the author of all knowledge and understanding whatsoever. He is the author of the knowledge that is obtained by human learning: he is the author of all moral prudence, and of the knowledge and skill that men have in their secular business. Thus it is said of all in Israel that were wise-hearted, and skilled in embroidering, that God had filled them with the spirit of wisdom, Exodus 28:3.
Yet Flesh and Blood Reveals It
God is the author of such knowledge; but yet not so but that flesh and blood reveals it. Mortal men are capable of imparting the knowledge of human arts and sciences, and skill in temporal affairs. God is the author of such knowledge by those means: flesh and blood is employed as the mediate or second cause of it; he conveys it by the power and influence of natural means.
This is not Edward’s main point in the sermon — his main point is that apprehension of the truth of the Gospel and the beauty of Christ is given immediately by God (illuminating Scripture), whereas he uses means to bring about moral knowledge and skill.
But this is still a helpful and important point: All knowledge, including your knowledge of how to do your job and be effective in it, ultimate comes from God.
Mind like water is one of the main metaphors utilized by GTD. I’m not so sure, however, that it’s actually a good or biblical state of mind.
Note, for example, Tim Chester’s excellent description of the Christian’s prayer life in Total Church:
Calvin however, says a “sweet and perfect repose” is not the characteristic of the spiritually advanced but simply of those whose “affairs are flowing to their liking.” “For the stains,” he continues, “the occasion that best stimulates them to call upon God is when, distressed by their own need, they are troubled by the greatest unrest, and are almost driven out of their senses, until faith opportunely comes to their relief” (Institutes 3.20.11).
Biblical spirituality is not a spirituality of silence; it is a spirituality of passionate petition. If we are engaged with the world around us, we will care about that world. We will be passionate about people’s needs, our holiness, and God’s glory. We will not be still in prayer. We will cry out for mercy with a holy violence. If we are silent, it will be because in our distress, words have failed us. This is the spirituality of the psalms—a spirituality in which all of our emotions are engaged.
I would like to address decision-making in my book, as that is a key part of getting things done, but there isn’t space.
So, I’m posting here the four steps to making effective decisions that I would have developed a bit in the book. They are:
- Understand the objectives
- Consider the alternatives
- Consider risk
Very basic, to be sure. But it is surprising how often we go into important decisions haphazardly, without taking an intentional (albeit simple) approach.
A few weeks ago I posted some very practical ideas for engaging your neighborhood with the Gospel. To follow that up I have compiled 30 ideas for engaging people in your workplace. The workplace is an everyday context where many people spend the majority of their time. It is important for us to know what it looks like to bring gospel intentionality to our jobs. Hopefully this will help spark a few ideas for connecting with and blessing your coworkers.
1. Instead of eating lunch alone, intentionally eat with other co-workers and learn their story.
2. Get to work early so you can spend some time praying for your co-workers and the day ahead.
3. Make it a daily priority to speak or write encouragement when someone does good work.
4. Bring extra snacks when you make your lunch to give away to others.
5. Bring breakfast (donuts, burritos, cereal, etc.) once a month for everyone in your department.
6. Organize a running/walking group in the before or after work.
7. Have your missional community/small group bring lunch to your workplace once a month.
8. Create a regular time to invite coworkers over or out for drinks.
9. Make a list of your co-workers birthdays and find a way to bless everyone on their birthday.
10. Organize and throw office parties as appropriate to your job.
11. Make every effort to avoid gossip in the office. Be a voice of thanksgiving not complaining.
(As an aside, I’d recommend skipping item 12, “create a carpool.” I don’t believe in carpools!)
DA Carson has a helpful article on a biblical notion of individualism in last fall’s issue of Themelios.
The proper kind of individualism stems from the biblical reality of absolute truth. Standing for truth, in spite of the social pressure to do otherwise, is a manifestation of the right kind of individualism.
This leads to Carson making an interesting connection between absolute truth and a free society. It is often alleged that belief in absolute truth is what leads to tyranny. Ironically, it is actually the opposite — relativism leads to tyranny because it leaves the individual with no ground to stand on in opposing the abuse of power. Here’s a helpful quote he cites on that matter:
The reality of the situation is just the opposite of what we have been led to believe. Put simply, tyranny is not the inevitable outcome of an absolutist view of truth, but is, rather, the direct product of relativism. Likewise, tolerance arises not from relativism but from the very thing that our society anathematizes — the belief in absolutes
It’s a helpful article and it’s worth checking out the whole thing.
The pattern of the Christian life seems to be trial, deliverance, trial, deliverance, trial, deliverance:
“. . . my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:11-12).
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10).
The Christian life does not seem to be simply one long trial. There are phases. You enter a trial or difficulty, the Lord delivers you, and you learn to trust him more. You enter another, and he delivers you, and you grow more in faith. He doesn’t deliver us from trials by always keeping us from them, or always delivering us in the way we might expect, but he delivers us out of them all (cf. Psalm 34:19). Some trials are larger, and some are smaller, and some trials do of course last for our entire lives (ongoing health problems, for example). But a primary pattern throughout the Christian life, even within the long-term trials, seems to be trial, deliverance, trial.
And this continues, in various degrees (with some seasons of peace, to be sure) until he delivers us from the final trial, which is death. Paul brings this together in 2 Timothy 4:18: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” That is, God rescues us from our trials here (“the Lord will rescue me from every evil deed”), and then delivers us from the final trial of death by taking us safely to be with him (“and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom”).
1. When a challenging circumstance or period of suffering comes to an end, that’s not just the natural outworking of things. That is the Lord delivering you.
2. We shouldn’t only look for the Lord to resolve all of our troubles in heaven. He resolves many now, and we should look for him to do so. This doesn’t give us an earthly mindset, centered on this world, because the point is that he resolves them to build faith in us. And then we trust him to rescue us from the next trial, and the next one.
Sometimes people criticize the Global Leadership Summit (which I live blogged last week) on the grounds that it brings in secular thinkers to speak at a Christian conference.
If secular thinkers were teaching theology or preaching, that would be a legitimate criticism. But they are teaching on the subject of leadership — which is a broad area which affects all of us and which most of us engage in, either through position or influence, in multiple areas of life.
Hence, I think the following John Wesley quote is applicable and a helpful reminder:
“To imagine none can teach you but those who are themselves saved from sin, is a very great and dangerous mistake. Give not place to it for a moment.”
John Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (London: Epworth Press, 1952; 1st Epworth ed.), p. 87, quoted in JP Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul, 54.
I’m aware of some follow-up criticisms that could still be made, and have been made. But this is worth thinking about a bit. And I’ll address the other issues, including Eric Landry’s post, if I can hit a decent stopping point in writing my book this week.
There are two types of work in this world. The first is the laborious kind, which I call “work with obligation.” It’s work that we do because of a contractual obligation. The second – very different – type of work that we do is “work with intention.”
When we are working with intention, we toil away endlessly – often through the wee hours of the morning – on projects we care about deeply. Whether it is building an intricate replica model of an ancient ship, or pulling an all-nighter to write a song or map out an idea for a new business, you do it because you love it.
If you can put “work with intention” at the center of your efforts, you’re more likely to make an impact in what matters most to you. So, how do we find (and foster) work with intention in our lives and projects?
Jesus’ sufferings were more than just physical. He experienced the full range of human suffering, to the greatest extent:
He was betrayed: “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48).
He was taken captive: “Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him” (Matthew 26:50).
He was deserted: “Then all the disciples left him and fled” (Matthew 26:56).
He was falsely accused by those in the crowd: “Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses cam forward” (Matthew 26:60).
He was spat upon and beat up: “Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying ‘Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” (Matthew 26:67-68).
He was falsely accused by those in authority: “But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer” (Matthew 27:12).
He was rejected: “The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them, Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified’” (Matthew 27:21-22).
He was scourged: “Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified” (Matthew 27:26).
He was mocked: “And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head” (Matthew 27:29-30).
He was derided: “And those who passed by derided him, waging their heads” (Matthew 27:39).
He died: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” (Matthew 27:50).
And he did all this willingly: “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39) and for our salvation: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
Here’s a key quote that illustrates the meaning of Jesus’ words “my power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9):
I sure hope I can bring this wheelchair to heaven.
Now, I know that’s not theologically correct.
But I hope to bring it and put it in a little corner of heaven, and then in my new, perfect, glorified body, standing on grateful glorified legs, I’ll stand next to my Savior, holding his nail-pierced hands.
I’ll say, “Thank you, Jesus,” and he will know that I mean it, because he knows me.
He’ll recognize me from the fellowship we’re now sharing in his sufferings.
And I will say,
“Jesus, do you see that wheelchair? You were right when you said that in this world we would have trouble, because that thing was a lot of trouble. But the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on you. And the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be.”
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” — Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899.
(HT: The ROWE blog)
My friend, Matt Anderson, has a piece in Christianity Today on a theology of the body. You might not agree with everything, but I commend Matt for giving attention and hard thinking to a much overlooked doctrine. And, the article is extremely well written. In my opinion, Matt is one of the best writers in evangelicalism right now.
Here are two core quotes:
Evangelicals desperately need, then, an ordered account of how Scripture informs our understanding of the human body and its uses. But with few exceptions—like James K. A. Smith and Amos Yong—evangelical theology is still playing catch-up. As Westmont College theologian Telford Work recently pointed out in these pages, the theology of the body is one of evangelicalism’s least developed doctrines.
When Paul exhorts the church at Rome to “offer [their] bodies as living sacrifices,” he is commending to them a spiritual act of worship. Our bodies, and what we do with them, matter to God. They’ve been given as a gift—a gift meant to be returned to his service. As evangelicals, the pattern for our sacrifice must be the pattern of the Cross, and the power for our giving must be the power of the Resurrection. Otherwise, our ethics will be moralism and our spirituality will be disconnected from the unique revelation of God to man in the incarnate person of Jesus Christ.
Matt blogs at Mere Orthodoxy and is also the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith, which I highly recommend.
As is well known by now, Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, withdrew himself as a speaker at the Leadership Summit this week. Starbucks did not say why, but most speculated it was because of an online petition by an activist group accusing Willow Creek of being “anti-gay.”
Bill Hybels ended that speculation and addressed this issue at the Summit on Thursday. His response is a model of combining graciousness with truth and conviction. Here are two key quotes:
“If the organizers of this petition had simply taken the time to call us, we would have taken the time to explain to them that Willow is not only not anti-gay; Willow Creek is not anti-anybody. Our church was founded on the idea that people matter to God — all people. People of all backgrounds, colors, ethnicities, and sexual orientation. The mat at every door on this campus reads “welcome”. . .
“Now what is true is that we challenge homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out the sexual ethics taught in the Scriptures which encourages full sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage and prescribes sexual abstinence and purity for everybody else. But even as we challenge all of our people to these biblical standards, we do so with grace-filled spirits, knowing the confusion and brokenness that is rampant in our fallen world.”
- Up Next: Michelle Rhee on Educational Reform
- Interview with Michelle Rhee, Former Chancellor of DC Public Schools and Education Reformer Featured in Waiting for Superman
The summit is just ending now, and I’ll be heading back home shortly.
This has been a lot of fun and an excellent experience. I’m grateful to the Willow Creek Association for the opportunity to have been one of the guest bloggers here at the leadership summit. I learned a ton, and I hope that all of you were able to follow along a bit through the posts. This has been quite a packed two days!
I am pretty tired right now, but if I can I’ll write up some concluding thoughts when I get the chance.
Talking about vulnerability. Good follow-up to a talk on humility.
How he came to this view on the importance of vulnerability: His faith, the example of his dad growing up, experience as a consultant right out of college — they were told “always look smarter than your clients, etc.” Wasn’t real.
The desire to avoid vulnerability in our society stems from our over valuing of avoiding suffering and difficulty. People say “no, always be on, always make yourself strong.” But there is something attractive about people that are humble and vulnerable.
The three fears that keep us from being vulnerable.
1. Fear of losing the business
Another way to say it: Fear of being rejected.
Rejection is something we are called to — Christ was rejected. We have to be willing to be rejected. “Enter the danger.”
We have to speak the kind truth. Can’t have “terminal niceness” in our churches. We fall into it because we don’t want to be rejected.
People are hungry for those who will tell them the kind truth.
Don’t be afraid of being rejected. 8 out of 10 times you won’t be. But sometimes you will — and you have to accept that.
[My observation: Just make sure you really are accurate about the truth and what needs to be done and how you are assessing the situation. If you tell the kind truth, but are actually wrong, that's not helpful!]
2. The fear of being embarrased
When we’re serving others, we have to do things that could embarrass us. We need to be willing to say “I don’t understand that.”
Your job is not to look smart, but to help them do better. If you are editing yourself to manage your own image, people will not trust you and you will not inspire them.
Be willing to ask dumb questions!
Celebrate your mistakes.
3. The fear of feeling inferior
Be willing to put yourself in a lower position. This is what Jesus did: washed the disciples feet.
Sometimes people aren’t going to reward you for doing the dirty work. But you should do it anyway.
This is about honoring your client’s work: being so interested in them that you care more about their success than your own.
There’s a standing ovation for Lencioni.
(Note: Lencioni just found out he was speaking this week, as he took Howard Schultz’s slot after he withdrew.)
Really looking forward to Patrick Lencioni’s message. He has been a major influence on my thinking.
Here are a few posts influenced by and interacting with his thinking:
- Bad Meetings Generate Real Human Suffering
- A series I started on The Three Signs of a Miserable Job
- A New View on Non-Profits
- Don’t Aspire to Mediocrity