In writing my book, I actually ended up laying the groundwork for about 4 other books as well. I didn’t set out to do that, but I found that seeing the things I wanted to say over the next few years from the perspective of the whole enabled me to make this book better.
Thus, I’ve cut a lot out of the book. A lot of that will be the framework for future books, but some of it might be interesting on the blog as well.
So here’s a short section of what I cut from the chapter on suffering and productivity (“productivity in a fallen world”), but which I thought you might enjoy. The inspiration for this point was, I think, one day when I got in the shower, and the soap was gone. Then, when I walked down the hall to get more soap, the handle on the closet broke. It had already been a crazy week, and I thought “this is ridiculous; we don’t normally think of stuff like this as suffering, but it is super frustrating to have all this little stuff always go wrong.” At some point after that Isaiah 35:10 came to mind and the mention of “sighing” in that passage made sense.
Sorrow and Sighing Will Flee Away
In fact, there is a remarkable statement in Isaiah 35:10:
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Here’s what’s remarkable. The redemption of creation will be so comprehensive that not only sorrow will be gone, but so will sighing.
Sorrow here refers, obviously, to the big things: sadness and grief which we feel over great losses, especially the loss of a loved one.
Sighing, on the other hand, refers to small frustrations. When you walk down the hall to get another bar of soap from the closet, for example, and the handle on the closet door breaks as you open it. That’s a small frustration which has just created more work for you. When these sorts of small things happen, we often sigh. It’s not sorrowful and is incomparable to the major suffering going on in the world. But it is frustrating and is one more illustration of the fact that we are living in a comprehensively fallen world. And, when enough of these things add up, it’s demoralizing.
Isaiah is saying: there won’t even be the slightest hint of sighing in the new heavens and new earth. Everything will be so completely perfect that not only will sorrow be banished, but even the slightest degree of sighing as well. Everything will always go just as it should.
When I was at ETS two weeks ago, one of the sessions I went to was on a biblical view of economics. Wayne Grudem argued for a largely capitalist framework (which I agree with) and Craig Blomberg argued for a “third alternative” between capitalism and socialism.
I think Blomberg was confused, not rightly understanding the definitions of capitalism and socialism, and thus not realizing that there is no “third alternative” here (though there are degrees). But, it was great to hear Blomberg, as he is a very solid NT exegete and theologian (his essay on the Sabbath in the recent Perspectives on the Sabbath: Four Views is excellent, for example; on the other hand, I cannot recommend as highly his book on money and possessions, Neither Poverty Nor Riches, because I think it suffers from much of the confusion that was evident in his presentation at ETS).
In the question and answer session, one objection Blomberg made to capitalism was its tendency to create a proliferation of useless items, such as pet rocks and those really dumb singing fish you can put on the wall.
Now, the first point to make in response here was made by someone in the audience who had actually bought a pet rock during family night with his kids a few weeks ago, and it made for a memorable experience. I myself think pet rocks are pretty neat (though I don’t have any), though I think those singing fish really are quite atrocious. So much is in the eye of the beholder. Who gets to make the call? The point of capitalism is: you. You get to make that call, not the government. Amen.
The second point, though, is that there is nothing in capitalism itself which says people need to make pet rocks or annoying singing fish. The essence of capitalism is simply that people are able to pursue whatever endeavors are of interest to them. Capitalism does not say you have to make singing wall-mounted fish to make money; it does say that, if that’s what you want to do and you can (somehow!) get people to buy them, you are free to go for it.
So, I defend people’s right to make those singing fish that I hate so much. But, having recently been to Australia and overdosing (probably) on souvenirs for the kids, and right now feeling like my wife and I are starting to drown in the “stuff” that accumulates after 13 years of marriage and having 3 kids and so forth, I have a better proposal.
Even though we are in the midst of a quite severe (and long-lasting!) economic downturn, we are still a society of extreme abundance. An economist friend of mine recently pointed out that the US produces 1 billion units of clothing per year. The number could even be 100 billion; I can’t remember for sure. But it was simply massive.
I’m glad we produce a lot. I think that is a partial fulfillment of the creation mandate, and that it is good, not evil. However, I suggest that we could get by with producing less of some things in order to produce more of other things. We need more pastors. We need more missionaries. We need more people devoted to serving those in need. We need more people devoted to the causes of fighting large global problems, like extreme poverty and corrupt leadership. Many of these things cannot in themselves be done at a profit, but can and must be done.
When society reaches a point that we have a proliferation of trinkets and other such things, it’s not a sign that capitalism has gone bad. Rather, it’s a sign that we need to use the freedom that capitalism affords us to point our efforts more fully in another direction — namely, the social sectors. We need more non-profit organizations, more churches, and more people going in to ministry and non-profit work in general. We can afford it. It will mean less singing fish, and perhaps less pet rocks. More seriously, maybe we won’t be producing exactly the 1 billion articles of clothing per year (which I am fine with as long as Banana Republic doesn’t go out of business). The point of our prosperity is not simply or mainly to enable us to keep buying more stuff, though the desire to accumulate is not evil in itself. The point of our prosperity is, rather, to divert some of our ability to accumulate more to efforts that focus more directly on using our abundance to meet pressing global needs.
I know there is one important consideration and possible objection here, which is actually a point I’ve made for years and that I make in my book (if I don’t cut the chapter due to length). And the objection is that I may seem to be pitting business against social good, when in reality it is business, not charity, which is the long-term solution to global poverty.
So I want to say clearly that I am not doing that. I do believe that business is the only long-term solution to large global problems like global poverty. And I’m not saying that when a person opens a business and makes money that he is not contributing greatly to the welfare of society. They are. But business cannot do this alone, because not all needs can be met at a profit, and there is injustice blocking the way in many instances. We need to be a society of both excellent businesses and great non-profits.
This is not anti-capitalistic, but is precisely the freedom that capitalism upholds and champions. Start the organization you want to start, not looking to the government to keep you afloat but rather, under the grace of God, your own efforts and ability to produce things of value. Capitalism is about freedom, and starting non-profits is just as much in line with capitalism as starting for-profits.
What I’m saying is that we are at a point as a society where the enormous wealth we have created virtually demands that we give much more consideration to using that wealth not to buy more things and enhance our own positions, but rather to fund those who are meeting the types of essential needs that cannot be met at a profit.
Don’t stop buying better things altogether, or even to a huge degree necessarily, but do direct more of your money this year to your church, to missionaries that are raising support and, for some of you, to starting organizations devoted to meeting pressing needs on a global scale.
I dusted off again recently Herman Witsius’s excellent essay “On the Character of a True Theologian.” As you can tell from the title, his emphasis is that a theologian is first a person of character, who loves God and believes what he teaches. Here’s one of the best paragraphs:
By a theologian, I mean one who, imbued with a substantial knowledge of divine things derived form the teaching of God himself, declares and extols, not in words only, but by the whole course of his life, the wonderful excelencies of God and thus lives entirely for his glory.
Such were in former days the holy patriarchs, such the divinely inspired prophets, such the apostolic teachers of the whole world, such some of those whom we denominate fathers, the widely resplendent luminaries of the primitive church. The knowledge of these men did not lie in the wiredrawn subtleties of curious questions, but in the devout contemplation of God and his Christ.
Their plain and chaste mode of teaching did not soothe itching ears but, impressing upon the mind an exact representation of sacred things, inflamed the soul with their love, while their praiseworthy innocence of behavior, in harmony with their profession and unimpeached by their enemies, supported their teaching by an evidence that was irresistible, and formed a clear proof of their having familiar intercourse with the most holy God.
So that is the character of a true theologian: he seeks knowledge not for its own sake, but in communion with God, and lives what he teaches.
But what is the doctrine of a true theologian? Luther answers this, and Witsius would agree:
Anyone who can judge rightly between the law and the Gospel should thank God and know that he is a true theologian.
In other words, a true theologian knows that we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone (the gospel) and not works (the law). This is what Luther rightly calls “the sum” and “chief article of all Christian doctrine.” “This is the beginning of health and salvation. By this means we are delivered from sin, justified, and made inheritors of everlasting life, not because of what we have done to deserve it, but through our faith, by which we lay hold of Christ. . . . Faith takes hold of Christ as a ring does a precious stone. Whoever has this confidence in Christ will be accounted righteous by God.”
At the foundation of the character of a true theologian is a doctrine, a truth, namely the gospel. This is what then enables a theologian to truly seek God, develop the character God requires, and live out the truth of the Scriptures.
This is an interesting, quick survey on motivation at Dan Pink’s website.
Dan Pink is the author of the excellent book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. This survey reveals if you primarily hold to a Type I or Type X view of human motivation:
Type I behavior: A way of thinking and an approach to life built around intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivators. It is powered by our innate need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.
Type X behavior: Behavior that is fueled more by extrinsic desires than intrinsic ones and that concerns itself less with the inherent satisfaction of an activity and more with the external rewards to which that activity leads.
One interesting observation: When most people think of productivity, they almost immediately tend to think in terms of Type X. Ironically, Type X is horribly detrimental to productivity in most cases. We are most productive (and, more important, enjoy what we are doing most) when we operate according to Type I.
One of the things that was a bit annoying at first about Mac OS X Lion is that Spaces and Expose were integrated into Mission Control. I like the changes overall, as it brings the best of both together in one place, but they also changed the location of some features I liked to use in Spaces.
In fact, they changed the location of these features so significantly that it is almost impossible to figure out on your own, without having to spend more than a few minutes (a critical usability problem, in my view).
I just found this article which outlines the changes made and how to access the old features in Spaces you may have liked but which aren’t immediately evident in Mission Control. Here it is in case it’s helpful to you as well.
Here are some notes I jotted down when I was working on the chapter in my book on mission statements. They are brief and scattered, but here they are in the event that they are helpful to you.
In my chapter, I go against a major problem in most books on productivity. Most of them talk about having a “mission” or “purpose” to your life, but they say “that’s a very personal thing, something for you to decide for yourself.”
I think that’s wrong. Pretty bad, in fact. The reason is that since we didn’t create ourselves, we cannot define our own purpose. God himself defined the purpose of life. What we need to do is identify the purpose he has defined, say it in a way that captures the unique angle on that he has placed in our life, and align ourselves around it. Or, better, align ourselves not first around our “purpose,” but the gospel, with our purpose directing us but the gospel empowering and defining us.
Interestingly, the Bible talks about the purpose of life a lot. You even see mission statements all over the place, especially in Paul.
Here are my brief, rough, notes:
Criteria any Potential Purpose Must Fulfill
Must create happiness. Flourishing. So when the Bible talks of “blessedness,” we are in this domain.
It must create a happiness that is eternal, not fleeting. And happiness that is great, in itself invincible, and that can endure through immense trial and difficulty.
What the Purpose of Life Is
Making God look good. Making “good reports” about him abound. Making joy in him abound.
But not just anything does this. Mercy is at the heart of it. And justice. And, you must really do it for his glory. Micah 6:8; Isaiah 1:18; 58:1-13; Mt 5:16
What This Does
You can fulfill it each day, and yet never fully complete it. There is always more.
It drives your actions, gives purpose, and cannot be exhausted or wear out.
Sinclair Ferguson’s observations here from John Owen on the Christian Life are full of incredible insight. The quotes are from Owen:
Every Christian lives by faith. The Christian character is not recognized by the degree of faith, but by its presence.
The growth of character will, however, inevitably be related to and dependent on the growth of faith. Weak faith will carry a man to heaven, “yet it will never carry him comfortably nor pleasantly thither . . . the least true faith will do its work safely, though not so sweetly.” Since “a little faith gives a whole Christ,” “others may be more holy than he, but not one in the world is more righteous than he.”
“The most imperfect faith will give present justification, because it interests the soul in a present Christ. The lowest degree of true faith gives the highest completeness of righteousness (Col 2:10). You, who have but a weak faith, have yet a strong Christ.”
But according to the example of Abraham, strong, or developed faith, brings glory to God. The character of a Christian therefore develops in proportion to his faith.
Excellent points. The weakest faith in Christ is sufficient to save, but the stronger your faith, the more pleasant your journey through life will be (pleasant = not free of suffering, but content in Christ) and the greater your character will develop.
Character develops in proportion to our faith. To grow in character, grow in faith. And to grow in faith, trust God to act on your behalf more and more in your daily life.
Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
I love that. The entire Old Testament is summed up in a single principle, and the principle is exciting: be radical and proactive and energetic in doing good to others — that is, treat others as you treat yourself, and how you would want them to treat you.
But, there’s a problem: Where’s the gospel?
This wouldn’t be a problem if Jesus just said “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The problem arises from the fact that he said this is the law and the prophets.
Didn’t Jesus also say “that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44) and that they foretold not only his suffering and resurrection, but “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:47)? The clear implication here is that the point, the essence, of the Old Testament is Jesus. Everything in the Scriptures points to Christ and is about him.
So, which is it? Are the law and prophets summed up as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or are they summed up as “repent and believe in the death and resurrection of Christ for the forgiveness of sins”?
It’s both, with the later — Christ — having supremacy.
In other words, even the command to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” which sums up the Old Testament, points to Christ.
Because we all break it.
The point of the Old Testament in teaching the Golden Rule was not simply, or even mainly, to point the way to right behavior. It was first of all to say: “Look, you don’t live this way. None of you. And that’s a big deal. Israel went into exile for this. So you need a savior. You need to be rescued from your sins, from your hypocrisy in treating others the way you precisely would not want to be treated if you were in their position.”
And the rescue from our sins is Christ.
The Old Testament, in other words, points to Christ not only through symbols and types and prophecies of his coming, but also through indicting us of our sin and showing our need for him. It shows us the problem (our sin and consequent separation from God ) and the solution (faith in Christ and our consequent fellowship with him).
And then, having been justified in Christ apart from works (for we don’t have any), then we go forth eagerly and enthusiastically doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.
We still fail much, but we are now improving and growing and doing it without, at least all of the time or to the same extent, committing the greatest sin of all: ignoring Christ in our doing of good.
Here’s the best way I’ve ever heard it said: The law drives us to the gospel, and the gospel then frees us to obey the law. That’s the meaning of Matthew 7:12 (the Golden rule) and Luke 24:44-47 (a form of the Great Commission).
Or, in other words, that’s the meaning of the whole Bible.
This is simple, and it reflects John Dickson’s definition of humility in Humilitas (“willingness to hold power in the service of others”). From Jim Collins’ latest, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All:
The greatest leaders we’ve studied throughout all our research cared as much about values as victory, as much about purpose as profit, as much about being useful as being successful.
This Friday morning (November 11th) I’ll be speaking at the Social Media Shepherds monthly event on “How the Gospel Should Shape Your Web Strategy.” It will be 8:00 – 9:30 am at Bethlehem Baptist Church (downtown campus), 720 13th Ave S, Minneapolis, room 203 (upstairs and to the left).
For anyone in or around the Twin Cities interested in web strategy and social media, it would be fun to see you there.
Looks like you can also RSVP and get more info on Facebook.
I’m going through my in box after letting things collect for a while I attended to some major projects. Here are four books I’ve recently obtained that I’m looking forward to reading:
Jim Collins’ new book.
I know Jim Collins only writes about one book every ten years or so, but I can barely keep up because they are so packed with incredible insight. Good to Great and Built to Last (his best, in my view) were so helpful I spent 12 hours taking notes over each of them (and then more time reviewing the notes and writing out further thoughts).
Jim Collin’s books are among the best, bar none, that you can read on how to lead your organization effectively (or, if you aren’t in top leadership, create a pocket of greatness wherever you are).
Get all of Jim Collin’s books if you haven’t, read them, take notes, then read them again.
I hope I can do that with Great by Choice in a timely manner!
Tim Keller’s new book.
I need to read more on both marriage and parenting. I am so far behind on my parenting reading that I didn’t finish Making the Terrible Twos Terrific until our oldest was 6. Fortunately, our third just turned two, so there’s still hope with that book. And, I think I can get to this book in much less time than it took me to get to that book on the Terrible Twos.
Tullian Tchividjian’s new book, on the sufficiency of Christ. Excellent subject, excellent title. Sounds like he discusses this in the context of the most challenging year of his ministry, and so it will be combined with lots of personal stories and insights that he gained through a period of suffering. Looking forward to this a lot.
John Dickson’s recent book. I heard John speak at the Global Leadership Summit this August, and his presentation was the best message on humility I have ever heard. I love, love, love his definition of humility and think it is right on: humility is holding power in the service of others.
I’m hoping to get to these soon. I have about 20 books on social action and ending global poverty lined up to read as soon as I can, then I hope to get through a bunch of books on parenting, and in the midst of that I hope to fit in these and a bunch of others.
A friend of mine in my small group just published this book with Microsoft Press. I’m impressed. Way to go, Phil!
For any out there in IT who work with SharePoint, this book looks like a helpful resource worth checking out.
To say that is not to say it is the best article on leadership ever written, though it certainly ranks up there.
Rather, it’s the most important because of discipline-altering conversation it started and change it created.
The article is “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?,” (pdf) by Abraham Zaleznik. It was written back in 1977 and published in Harvard Business Review.
As HBR later summarized, Zaleznik argued that “the theoreticians of scientific management, with their organizational diagrams and time-and0motion studies, were missing half the picture — the half filled with inspiration, vision, and the full spectrum of human drives and desires. The study of leadership hasn’t been the same since.”
The conversation that Zaleznik’s article started, for example, is behind John Kotter’s classic 1990 article “What Leaders Really Do” (pdf) — which may take the title for the best article on leadership ever written.
Both articles remind me of Churchill’s point that “the hard part is not winning the war; it’s persuading them to let you win it.”
And, to be honest, the biggest obstacle to “winning the war” — whether that means accomplishing your mission as a ministry or non-profit, or transforming your industry and creating great products worth talking about as a for-profit — is often managers.
It just has to be said.
There is a paradox in my saying that. For I agree whole heartedly with Marcus Buckingham that the manager plays a critical, essential role in the modern organization. We need managers, and they are key to creating strong organizations.
But what we need, as Buckingham also shows (see his fantastic book on management, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently) is real managers. That is, managers who trust their people and don’t have an inflated sense of control and risk aversion.
The problem is not management, but management gone bad. Managers too often focus on obstacles and what can’t be done rather than what can be done and how to find creative ways around the obstacles.
We need good leaders, and we need good managers — managers who manage right. And the last I checked, a militant commitment to mediocrity was not part of the definition of management.
Perhaps understanding leadership a bit better will help us all become better leaders and managers. To that end, I offer both of these articles.
Gene Veith, in his article Our Calling and God’s Glory:
Christian’s preoccupied with their families, struggling to make ends meet, living their mundane lives “are all in a state of holiness,” according to Luther, “living holy lives before God.”
Good design is good business. This is starting to be recognized more and more, but there is still a long ways to go for the importance of good design to truly take root.
This is a helpful Fast Company article from 2005 on how “in a global economy, elegant design is becoming a critical competitive advantage. Trouble is, most business folks don’t think like designers.” It shows how design-oriented companies think and operate, and why this matters.
And, this is relevant not just for businesses, but churches, ministries, and all non-profits. Good design matters because people are emotional as well as rationale. To care only about the utility of a product is to fail to treat people holistically. (And, interestingly, the result is most often less helpful products as well.)
Michael Horton’s new book, For Calvinism, is now available.
I haven’t read it yet, but as with everything else by Horton that I have read, I am sure it will be excellent. Back in college, I also found his book Putting Amazing Back into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Gospel, which is also on the doctrines of grace, to be a very helpful introduction to these truths and a good book to give to people. It was very clear, easy-to-read, biblical, and written with grace. I am sure that For Calvinism will be the same.
Here’s the summary from the back cover:
The system of theology known as Calvinism has been immensely influential for the past five hundred years, but it is often encountered negatively as a fatalistic belief system that confines human freedom and renders human action and choice irrelevant.
Taking us beyond the caricatures, Michael Horton invites us to explore the teachings of Calvinism, also commonly known as Reformed theology, by showing us how it is biblical and God-centered, leading us to live our lives for the glory of God.
Horton explores the historical roots of Calvinism, walking readers through the distinctive known as the ‘Five Points,’ and encouraging us to consider its rich resources for faith and practice in the 21st Century.
As a companion to Roger Olson’s Against Calvinism, readers will be able to compare contrasting perspectives and form their own opinions on the merits and weaknesses of Calvinism.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the video:
“The unwasted life is the life that puts Christ on display as supremely valuable.”
“A God-centered theology has to be a missionary theology.”
“The need of the nations who do not know the name of Jesus is an immeasurable need. It is an infinite need.”
“2.6 billion people live in unreached people groups.”
Tony Reinke, in his excellent book Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books:
What types of books should Christians read? Scripture is the most important book, and the highest priority for our reading. Christian books can teach us valuable lessons about God, the world, our sin, and our Savior.
But in this chapter I want to focus on the value of non-Christian books. By that term, I mean any book not authored by a converted Christian or written from an explicitly Christian motive. What should we do with all these books? Should we burn them? Should we treasure them? Should we read them in secret under the bedsheets with a flashlight?
My conviction is that non-Christian literature — at least the best of it — is a gift from God to be read by Christians. These books are, in the words of Spurgeon, gold leaf compared to the gold bars of Scripture, but they are gold, and they do have value.
He then discusses seven benefits to reading non-Christian books. I’d love to reproduce the whole discussion, as it is an excellent outline on how to think about the relationship between common grace and saving grace, but to see that you’ll have to get the book! But here are the seven benefits he goes in to:
- Non-Christian literature can describe the world, how it functions, and how to subdue it
- Non-Christian books highlight common life experiences
- Non-Christian books can expose the human heart
- Non-Christian books can teach us wisdom and valuable moral lessons
- Non-Christian books can capture beauty
- Non-Christian literature raises questions that can only be resolved in Christ
- Non-Christian books can echo spiritual truth and edify the soul