Tag Archives: integrity

Glorify God at Work by John Piper


How to Glorify God at Work

Just home from two weeks in Australia, I am brimming with thankfulness to God for his people there, and for the pleasures of working with them in Brisbane and Sydney and in the mountains of Katoomba.

One of the conferences was called Engage. It was focused on “young workers,” which, in their lingo, means young professionals in the workplace. I was asked in an interview if I thought this focus was a good idea. I said yes, because of 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

So they asked: How can young workers glorify God at work?

Here’s the gist of my answer.

Dependence. Go to work utterly dependent on God (Proverbs 3:5-6; John 15:5). Without him you can’t breathe, move, think, feel, or talk. Not to mention be spiritually influential. Get up in the morning and let God know your desperation for him. Pray for help.

Integrity. Be absolutely and meticulously honest and trustworthy on the job. Be on time. Give a full day’s work. “Thou shalt not steal.” More people rob their employers by being slackers than by filching the petty cash.

Skill. Get good at what you do. God has given you not only the grace of integrity but the gift of skills. Treasure that gift and be a good steward of those skills. This growth in skill is built on dependence and integrity.

Corporate shaping. As you have influence and opportunity, shape the ethos of the workplace so that the structures and policies and expectations and aims move toward accordance with Christ. For example, someone is shaping the ethos ofChick-fil-A restaurants with this video.

Impact. Aim to help your company have an impact that is life-enhancing without being soul-destroying. Some industries have an impact that is destructive (e.g., porn, gambling, abortion, marketing scams, etc). But many can be helped to turn toward impact that is life-giving without being soul-ruining. As you have opportunity, work toward that.

Communication. Work places are webs of relationships. Relationships are possible through communication. Weave your Christian worldview into the normal communications of life. Don’t hide your light under a basket. Put it on the stand. Winsomely. Naturally. Joyfully. Let those who love their salvation say continually, Great is the Lord! (Psalm 40:16)

Love. Serve others. Be the one who volunteers first to go get the pizza. To drive the van. To organize the picnic. Take an interest in others at work. Be known as the one who cares not just about the light-hearted weekend tales, but the burdens of heavy and painful Monday mornings. Love your workmates, and point them to the great Burden Bearer.

Money. Work is where you make (and spend) money. It is all God’s, not yours. You are a trustee. Turn your earning into the overflow of generosity in how you steward God’s money. Don’t work to earn to have. Work to earn to have to give and to invest in Christ-exalting ventures. Make your money speak of Christ as your supreme Treasure.

Thanks. Always give thanks to God for life and health and work and Jesus. Be a thankful person at work. Don’t be among the complainers. Let your thankfulness to God overflow in a humble spirit of gratitude to others. Be known as the hope-filled, humble, thankful one at work.

There are more things to say about glorifying God in the workplace. But this is a start. Add to the list as God gives you light. The point is: Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or work, do all to make God look as great as he really is.


Recent posts from John Piper —

Thumb john piperJohn Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.

Excuses versus being mentally strong

 Explanations and excuses are not the same thing. It is rare to hear someone say, “Sorry I’m late. I should have left my house sooner.” You will much more likely hear, “Sorry to keep you waiting but traffic was terrible,” or, “I would have been on time, but I had to stop at the store and it was really busy.”

There is a critical difference between an explanation and an excuse: An explanation accepts full responsibility for a mistake. An excuse places blame, minimizes liability, and tries to avoid consequences.

Source: visivastudio/Shutterstock

Explanations are pivotal to repairing your relationships and learning from your mistakes. Excuses, on the other hand, hold you back. Trying to convince others—or even yourself—why your shortcomings are justified can be self-destructive. Despite the problems associated with excuses, for many people they have become commonplace.

Excuses Deflect Responsibility

When young children get caught misbehaving, they often blame someone around them: “He made me do it.” Grown-up excuses are slightly more sophisticated, whether it’s a student telling his professor, “I couldn’t get that paper done because my computer wasn’t working,” or a man telling his partner, “I can’t help that my ex-girlfriend keeps calling me.” But the underlying message is the same: “It’s not my fault.”

Sometimes people assume excuses will help them escape consequences. By saying, “I shouldn’t be to blame,” they expect others to take pity on them and not hold them accountable. Unfortunately, excuses can become a way of life. Some people insist that everything from their stress load to their difficult childhood is keeping them from achieving their goals.

Yet, covering up your mistakes with excuses damages your relationships as well as your reputation. How can someone trust you to do better next time if you claim that today’s mistake was completely out of your control? Before you can begin convincing someone that you won’t let it happen again, you need to accept personal responsibility for your behavior.

Excuses Temporarily Relieve Uncomfortable Emotions

Shirking responsibility temporarily relieves feelings of shame, guilt, and fear. According to a 2014 study(link is external) in the Journal of Consumer Research, claiming you didn’t have a choice in the matter reduces emotional discomfort in the short-term. Researchers discovered that when people justified their behavior by saying they were “forced” to indulge in guiltypleasures, they experienced fewer negative emotions.

For example, when participants experienced pressure by others to blow their diet, they were less likely to worry about the long-term consequences of overindulging since they were convinced they “had” to do it. But when offered options without the same pressure, people who indulged experienced regret.

Clearly, blaming others for your choices can relieve the uncomfortable emotions that accompany acceptance of responsibility. Rather than trying to escape uncomfortable emotions, build mental strength so you can tolerate the discomfort.

Create Results Not Excuses

You can learn from your mistakes by looking for explanations. Accept full responsibility for the way you think, feel, and behave without blaming other people or circumstances. Don’t waste valuable time and energy trying to justify why you shouldn’t be held accountable.

Examine your role in executing the problem. Take time to discover exactly where you went wrong so you can use that information to improve. By being able to say, “Yes, that’s my fault. Here is how I will avoid making that mistake next time,” you increase your chance of success.

Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do(link is external), a bestelling book that is being translated into more than 20 languages. To learn more about her personal story behind the viral article turned book, watch the book trailer below.

Leadership skills always need work, refinement and study. Ministers are no exception

I spent twenty years in corporate finance, I spent 29 years in the Coast Guard Reserve, 4 active duty during the War On Terror, four years as a pastor and a modest amount of sports participation. I certainly don’t speak on leadership as an expert. But I certainly do try to keep growing and learning and trusting that God will put me where He wants me and equips me to be the leader I should be.

So maybe when I go back to a good article that I see on leadership, it is to share something that both of us need to continually remind ourselves of and work on. All the areas that I’ve participated in require meaningful leadership. I’ve seen real live examples of good, sometimes great leadership and likewise really poor. While most people don’t think of pastoral ministry as an area of leadership, there’s no doubt in my mind that ministry requires leadership skills. The challenges to ministry require many skills and in an era that sees more challenges and antagonism then ever to Christianity, ministers must be better leaders then ever. The church has done enough damage to itself as the result of weak, vacillating and accomodating ministry, now more than ever pastors need to stand up as leaders for Christ and for those who trust them with ministry.

“Inc Magazine” is a great source of managerial and leadership information and an article by Peter Economy is a great reminder of the skills necessary for successful leadership (http:///www.inc.com/peter-economy/leadership-how-to-get-from-good    Mar 14, 2014). In summary  lots of effort, relentless pursuit of knowledge, constant practice and willingness to accept failure. Having had three different careers, the need for continual study, read, go to seminars and further education are a requirement, it doesn’t take much to fall off the beam.

Vision – Christian ministry should be an obvious area of having a vision, come on, God gave us His revelation in the Bible. If you can’t work from there for vision, you may want to reconsider ministry as a career. Now obviously ministry takes place in different environments, so your vision has to take into account facility, neighborhood, resources, but always has to be to the glory of God and to make disciples of those in your parish.

Communication – Ministry is teaching me over and over you have to use every means of communication available, you have to repeat your message over and over, even when people are begging you to stop and when your sick of hearing your own voice, you repeat your message again.

Collaboration – I’ve had a few opportunities at collaboration with people who aren’t in my church and in areas that you’d think might exclude the church. Despite what an antagonistic media and other aspects of the culture try to propagandize, business, education, government, sports almost anything you can think of benefits from leadership in ministry. Too often those in the church are easily intimidated and chased away from the arena. Pastors have constitutional rights too and there is nothing to exclude them from any aspect of society and with a scarcity of talent and resources anyone who tries to exclude them should themselves be removed from authority. The stakes are too high, while there is a lot of phoniness and lack of preparation by people who just hang out a shingle claiming to be a pastor, there are many, yea like me, who have extensive training and experience and it would border on negligence to exclude anyone with that background from other areas of society.

Decisiveness – There has to be a high level of decisiveness in ministry as much as any areas of leadership. While all leaders have serious barriers to overcome, those in the ministry have to endure a lot of challenges in probably a lot more respects. The public sector is probably the worst offender. While it is the “public” sector there is an element that seems to feel that their area in the “public” sector is their private domain. That has to be challenged by leaders in the corporate areas, religious areas and other parts of society. Religious leaders have to learn to confront those who loosely throw around nonsense that they don’t even understand. Too many seem to think that they only have to know slogans and cliches, and little substance. These people have to be decisively confronted and overcome. They do not own their office, if they do not function in that office for the public good and the church is as much the public as any group or individual, those people have to be removed and frankly prosecuted, they are undermining public administration, education and public safety.

Integrity – Ministers are held to a higher standard of integrity than anyone. Sure there are those who fail, but by far, I would compare ministers to ANYONE in ANY walk of life, by far. The world will continue to treat Ministers as mascots and with lightly veiled contempt, we have to push back, with integrity and often function under difficult circumstances with dignity and integrity.

Inspiration – Napoleon said “A leader is a dealer in hope.” The one thing that the world lacks most of all is hope. Oh the church has had its failures and has been less than inspiring in the last few generations, with many notable exceptions, but ministers have to start to assert the truth in Jesus Christ. The only hope of anyone, anywhere is in Christ. We’ve seen massive, almost cataclysmic failures in government, corporations, education, science, medicine, none are immune to failure and many of these sectors edge closer to a time that they need to either radically redo how they do business or be overturned and rebuilt. Christian ministry should provide inspiration, not just in terms of the Resurrection, but in terms of Christ being the only hope for the world in the here and now. More and more man tries to compose fraudulent codes of conduct and ethics, all of which they try to exclude themselves from or justify why they are special exceptions. Christian ministry has one mission, to faithfully proclaim the hope, promise and Lordship of Jesus Christ, that can take many forms, but the only thing that truly inspires is in Christ and we must be the faithful proclaimers of same.

Sure it’s all about smoking marijuana, what makes me happy

Gonna kind of step off the deep end here so stand by for serious squawking.
Burt Helm in Inc Magazine (Dec 2013/Jan 2014 p 56) about the corporate culture in Boulder, Co. Their local historian pleading not to “unfairly reducing Boulder to a playground where smug eco-liberals puffed legalized marijuana and compared triathlon times.”
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, gotta be a duck. “We’re so much more complex than that” says local historian Carol Taylor. No, no you’re not you think your sophisticated intellectuals with your degrees in Women’s Studies, how is that any kind of serious academic pursuit. Degrees issued from “prestigious” colleges, that are just really “degree mills”. No academic benefit, just a huge amount of money for a name and connections.
These are people who sit around and tell each other how good they are because they lobby for government to spend more taxpayer money, while they don’t give to anything and find ways to avoid any kind of tax.
They tell each other how good they are by finding ways to justify killing babies, elderly, anyone who really doesn’t stack up so that they can of course pursue much higher goals like legalizing marijuana. These are the same people who in the 60s and 70s told everyone that abortion, divorce, should be easier, but would never become common place. Yea, welcome to your short-sighted ignorance, where both are epidemic, tearing apart families, creating the last two generations that have known the most unstable, insecure lives in history outside of war zones, famine zones, etc.
Yea, good for you, you have so much money, most of which is mommy and daddies, who just gave you money petted you on the heard, and sent you on your way. That way you could have teen-age sex, abortions, drugs, you know the 90210 life-style that you strive for and that yo think is so edifying.
Good for Burt Helm, he writes “it’s hard to keep a straight face”. I may be taking his comment a little out of context, but boy it is. You have a bunch of people who are an inch thick and a mile wide.
Yea, good for you , you make big bucks. Yea, people who have very little integrity, who expertly appeal to the lowest common denominator (yea, marijuana for example). Principle takes a back seat to “what’s in it for me” (actually that is the principle they live by). There big social solution is legalizing marijuana, and they couldn’t care less how it affects the vast majority of people. Try being in my inner city church office where people spend so much time trying to con you out of a bit of money. How many times have I heard about someone who was just at our food bank, who just went out and sold about $40 worth of groceries for a joint. “Yea kids get free lunch and breakfast at school, I don’t have to worry about food.” Wow, if these pretentious fops from Boulder ever lived in a real place, got a dose of reality, these boors from Wellesley, Harvard and Smith Colleges who have always lived on “opm” (other people’s money). They don’t know what they’re talking about and they don’t care, “don’t try to confuse me with the facts, I’m so much smarter than you.”
So long as I get my way, because I have all my life, I really don’t care how much what I do creates a more decadent, debauched society.
Common denominator? It’s all about me, I’m my own “god”, it’s what makes me happy, yada, yada. Then when it all falls apart, they get bailed out by others, but of course, it’s someone else’s fault. Someone didn’t let me smoke a joint and get mellow. Yea, they really think that way. God is God, we are saved, we are only fulfilled in our lives through Christ. It just baffles me, I am showing you Christ, you show me a joint. There is life and life more abundant, or there’s sitting around with a joint, making money off of your self-centered lusts.

Christian version of “g” factor

Pastoring is still such a new experience and adjustments. Twenty-nine years in the military, twenty years in corporations, I know the phrase has gotten kind of trite, but really, failure wasn’t an option. Failure happened, but you worked to find alternatives, to minimize the impact of failure. There just doesn’t seem to be that sort of dedication in the average, even above average Christian, pastor or laity for that matter. Rich Karlgaard is a great writer for Forbes and his article “Smarts in Business is not about IQ”, is right on the mark. (Forbes Magazine  December 13, 2013 p 46)

I don’t know if it’s an excuse or a genuine fear, but Christian’s usual cop-out is “I don’t know enough to talk to other people about Jesus.” It’s not really about what you know, the average person isn’t going to ask you technical questions, the Bible, it is about relationship, staying in touch, being tenacious.  You’re tough and tenacious at the office, why can’t we be the same when we are talking to someone about the Lord of your life, your Savior?

“The smartest people in business are not those who have the highest g; they are those who regularly put themselves in situations requiring grit. These acts of courage accelerate learning through adaptation.”

It’s the old ‘you only learn by doing’ philosophy. Be honest, you see situations where you should be talking to someone about Jesus and then avoid getting involved. Witnessing requires a level of comfort and the only way you will be comfortable is by looking for the opportunities and jumping in, I assure you no one is going to bite you. It’s not a works thing, it’s not required for you to be saved. But Scripture tells us that we will be known by our fruits, seems to me the average Christian’s fruits on display to the world is “run away!!”. How does that show the world our devotion to Jesus?

Karlgaard’s observation is a challenge to us to jump into the fray and be less concerned about our precious dignity and more concerned about how the Holy Spirit is working through us: “By facing up to the task of making a call, frequent callers put themselves on a faster learning curve. They discover more rapidly what works and what doesn’t. They’re quicker to learn techniques that overcome rejection. Thus, their success yield will improve…The act of making lots of calls also helps a person learn self-discipline and understand the rewards of delayed gratification.”

Yes, it is all about the Holy Spirit and what He does. We can’t talk someone into the Kingdom, we can’t by our own power be saved. But we can be faithful, we can trust what the Holy Spirit is doing with us in relation to someone else. This is the most important aspect of someone’s existence, eternal salvation. Care enough about them to trust the Spirit’s leading and then know that your reward waits for you when the Father says to you “…well done good and faithful servant You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'” (Matt 25:21). Let’s talk about it Wednesday morning 10am at First St Johns, mid-week Bible study Coffee Break. 140 W King St, park right behind the church.

Our identity is in Jesus, not in our job title/description

AJ Sherrill is the pastor of Trinity Grace Church in Manhattan, NY. In an earlier post I wrote about New York City being the unhappiest metropolitan area in the country. I haven’t seen any research, but NYC is the hub of those who seek to make their fortune. Let’s face it only so many are going to do that, the vast majority are going to fall short. When you’ve staked everything on achieving what only a few will realize, the result will usually be unhappiness, or however else you want to characterize the despondency associated with “failure”.
May sound a little harsh and I’m not saying that is my perception, but it is the perception of many in the world, particularly those people that supposedly “matter”. When we have staked everything on our “success”, it leaves very little room for anything else in our life; family, integrity, self-fulfillment, God.
Pastor Sherrill quotes Abraham Kuyper (Leadership Journal Summer 2014 p84), “the 20th century Dutch journalist, theologian and politician. His famous proclamation, ‘There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!” “…is the reminder that should resound in the ears of every Christian in the workforce.”
Let’s face it, that is not the case. As soon as most of us hit the threshold at church, we have to beat the Baptists to “Country Buffet”, get home for football and then try to relaxe before we get back to the “real” world on Monday. Hey I’m not disputing that you have to work hard and focus on your career. I’ve never said you shouldn’t, but when you become so immersed, may I even say obsessed, you lose your identity in the Body of Christ and you become your job title/description. “…far too many are over-identified with their work as the context to achieve identity rather than express identity. When our identities are not settled in Christ, we subconsciously put them up for negotiation – and that negotiation is usually based on our ‘success’ or ‘failure’ we experience in the marketplace. Am I good enough? Is my future secure?”
When we lose our identity to anything/one, other than Christ we are already at risk to being dragged back into the cares and temptations of the world. We trust in God’s providence and sovereignty in our life, not how the workplace treats us. My experience in the corporate and military world has been that as a Christian you’re often not going to be treated “fairly”. It’s not necessarily an issue of success and failure, you may be marginalized because of your faith. So what does that mean? You give up? As Pastor Sherrill points out: “Unitl Christians in the workforce find freedom from over-identification they will only view work as meaning, while never getting around to approaching work as mission.” This is Christian integrity, I’m certainly not telling you can’t be all you can be in your vocation, you should be. As I’ve discussed before working for your “master” as if you are working for Christ. But to maintain your integrity, your identification has to be in Christ. You can be a good/great Indian chief, but being a great Indian chief in Jesus is what we strive for.
Pastor Sherrill quotes Richard Rohr: “When you get your ‘Who am I/” question right, all the ‘What should I do’ questions (begin to) take care of themselves.” Perhaps in terms of how I can be a great Indian chief for Jesus, instead of just great for my own fame, fortune and personal fulfillment.
This is a challenge we face in all our areas of life, how to be a Christian, father, husband, child, employee, citizen, but the workplace is what dominates so much of our life and is probably the area that encourages us to shed our Christian identity. It’s as if the workplace is not what Kuyper says, Jesus only can claim ‘mine’ to the time outside of the office. Of course that erosion continues to the point where we only see ourselves as Christians on Sunday morning and for only a few hours then. Jesus lived a life of integrity and sacrifice. What we presume to offer back two, maybe three hours at a church where we think we should be comfortable and entertained. This is for the men, speaking to you I’d like to say this is not being the strong man of integrity. This is an attitude of entitlement and frankly presuming to think that it’s all about you and that you are in control. If you are at any point of being a mature man, you know that you are not really in control. When we know that God is in control, that He does love us, but He also expects us to step up and be strong, courageous, and to act with Christian integrity in all of the areas of our lives. There is no integrity in the attitude where you throw Jesus some crumbs, expecting that it really results in your comfort and pleasure, especially when we remember what He did for us.
Let’s keep talking about it, Wednesday mornings 10 am at First St Johns, we have coffee and some sort of pastry, good discussion, we’re still going through Dr Gene Veith’s book, and a way to break up the week to be built up and restored in Jesus. 140 W King St, park right behind the church.

“Tolerance” in the church is undermining the integrity and credibility of the church

Yea, rant alert, I’m not even sure how this is going to come out, but I’ve really felt I have to deal with this. I’m hoping instead of the usual knee jerk reaction of the world that I be given the benefit of the doubt, so try to over come the narrow minded lashback and hear me out. While this discussion was prompted by an “Inc Magazine” article about integrity. The discussion has been rattling around in my head and was prompted by an encounter with at least a couple with whom I have the issue.
(The article at issue is from the “The Art of Strategic Influence” produced by GE Capital, the article is in the Dec 2013/Jan 2014 issue p 8), we good with all the attribution stuff?
“…the factor that often spells the difference between success and failure is ‘strategic influence’. Today, an executive’s strategic influence is not nearly as dependent on authority as it is on integrity, and on the strong ties forged with people inside and outside the organization who respect that executive’s knowledge and point of view and respond positively to them.”
OK, now my perspective in this context, the world seems to think that all the churches should come together, you know the cheesy “coexist” bumper sticker, ya, I know, bumper sticker philosophy. Well frankly that’s where most of these people are coming from, about an inch thick and an inch wide, i.e. do not know from whence they speak. That is an issue of integrity, where does anyone come off throwing their “opinion” around, when they just don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s not a matter of perspective or opinion, it comes down to what is genuine, has integrity. As a proof of that, we have become more detached from God and what He has taught us and we have more dishonesty (think corporate, political scandals of the last thirty years), more corruption, violence on a scale that is becoming out of control, on a scale that was unimaginable even a century ago, warfare in the twentieth century resulted in more death and violence then every century in history, combined. All of this while the world continues to deny genuine belief and worship to God and worship of self, of personal opinion and choice. There is no integrity and no one cares the least about it, it’s my way or no way.
Well that effect extends to those who profess Christ. I’m not saying that they are not genuinely saved in Christ what I am saying is that without any real preparation, they presume to teach and preach on Christ’s behalf and often just don’t know what they’re talking about. At the same time they presume to criticize the established church, because the church won’t recognize their ministry. Ya, sort of like asking the American Medical Association to recognize a guy who with no medical training sets up in the strip mall doing heart surgery. Ya! Really! To that extent. There is spiritual poison in the world, poison that will kill physically and spiritually, that is, it messes up people’s minds and bodies and puts there eternal life in the resurrection in jeopardy. To those who presume to be a pastor, they really don’t care, it’s all about them and what they teach and don’t try to confuse them with the facts.
These little groups are usually the result of one person, maybe a husband and wife or small group and they decide to pull together a group. As far as that goes, great, but then they decide, well with no other background they go ahead and start telling people how they should worship, that it should be about what they want and what makes them feel good and really nothing much in terms of what God wants, what He’s trying to do in people’s lives and how He is trying to make us mature in Christ. Nasty stuff like Jesus’ passion, martyrs, standing up for Christ in a hostile world, well they don’t want that, what a buzz kill! They want a “god” whose there to make them all happy and smiley, gives them what they want, when they want it.
These are people who haven’t put in the time to genuinely learn what God has been teaching His people in His revelation for two millenia, no, they have a better idea and if God wants He can get on board, but they really know what’s best. There is no attempt to lead from a position of preparation and truly being trained to really help people in Christ, creating an environment of respect and integrity, they’ve learned how to put together an organization that is all about people pleasing and God? Well He should just respect that, and the established church should too. I’m not letting the Church off the hook, the liberal/flatline, uhmm mainline church has been caught up in the people-pleasing mode also and has made itself look pathetic and irrelevant, which most of these churches are. Hey, even as a Lutheran, I will give credit to the Roman Catholic church, we may not agree on a lot, but the Roman church has maintained, doctrinal and liturgical credibility, albeit credibility has suffered in other areas. But ya, let’s get over that too, really from business, to government to education to the medical establishment, there’s been enough lack of integrity and credibility to go around. Let me fire back on those who love to quote the Bible but don’t know enough about the Bible to fill a thimble, “let those who are without sin cast the first stone”. Those in any other institution, have at least, if not more, than their share of sin, so get over your bigoted attitude toward the Church of Christ.
Let me cut to the chase, if you don’t put in the time and work to truly become a legitimate Christian leader, pastor, than you have cheated and that is a lack of integrity.
As the writer of the Inc article writes: “It begins with networking, progresses to relationship building and culminates in a strong bond characterized by a high level of trust and respect, to the point where the person values your opinion over most.” These little groups expect the church to endorse their little efforts, they tell me I should trust and respect them, but then give me no basis whatsoever to do so. If you want to truly be what you profess, put in the time, make the sacrifice and continue to do so. There is way too much mediocrity in the world as a whole, why should I lower my standards, compromise all my work and effort to indulge someone’s uninformed opinion?
The lack of integrity of these little groups and frankly many in the flat line/main line church reflects on the credibility of the Christian church as a whole. When the church is raising up men who are genuinely (or should be) concerned with the spiritual health of society as a whole and each individual and when there are a bunch of groups who think it’s all about jumping around, doing people-pleasing productions, just plain “make me feel good”. Groups that make the church, as a whole, look frivolous and irrelevant. Look at society. Do you see a lot of genuine spiritual health? Luther said that a Christian pastor is a “seel sorger” a “soul doctor”, one who is responsible for the spiritual health of those He is called to lead. Is it spiritual health when the prescription isn’t about you and the cancer of sin that’s eating your soul, and it’s about making you happy, simply being a people pleaser? A lot of these people who presume to take spiritual leadership really need to take a hard look and remember that those who teach and preach are going to be held to a higher account at the final judgment. If these people are seen to be frivolous or worse, spiritual poisoning, how can a truly righteous, holy, perfect God not condemn them? Maybe they should get over themselves and submit to genuine Christian discipling. How long will the church tolerate being a joke, because a bunch of people presume to speak for Christ and make us all look like a laughing stock to the world. How long will this damage to the church be tolerated by those who truly want to be disciples of Christ and are indulging and supporting false churches? When will we as leaders in the church take Christian spiritual health seriously instead of as a party and realize the tremendous benefit that we can bestow on society as a whole? How can the church be a positive influence, a credible partner with all the aspects of society, when we do not denounce those who treat being a faithful Christian as just a frivolous party?

Wired by God, for God

Interesting how you can hear of the Higgs-Boson particle (yeah, I know what?). The so-called God particle from a year ago, published all over until reporters and editors found out what it really meant, then not so much yada-yada.
But when genuine scientific findings are made confirming over and over how, not only are we designed, but how the entire universe is designed, well that doesn’t get any newspaper ink.
Case in point, the recent “Leadership Journal” (Summer 2014) which goes into detail as to how our brains can be or are wired to be receptive to God.

Leadership Journal develops this rather extensively and it goes into some heavy detail, which I will attempt to lighten. I’m going to do a few blogs on this so that I can digest it betterand hopefully spew it out to you somewhat intelligentyl . I would like to add that if you are in ministry or any kind of lay leadership you really should get Leadership Journal it’s just an outstanding publication.

John Ortberg points out that our brains are wired so that “mostly our behavior does not consist of a series of conscious choices. Mostly, our behavior is governed by habit.” (p 21)
We usually think in terms of “bad habits”, which we all have much too much of. Ortberg points out: “Habits are enormously freeing. They are what allows my body to be driving my car while my mind is planning next week’s sermon.” Yea, right, texting on my phone, shaving, applying makeup, eating a big sloppy burger (not my imagination, I’ve seen each in real life). Point is, there is so much we do in life that doesn’t require us having to make a deliberate action, much of what we do is habit and happens because of conditioning.
“But sin gets into our habits. “…what Paul meant when he talked about sin being ‘in our members.’ He was talking about human beings as embodied creatures – sin is in the habitual patterns that govern what our hands reach to and where our eyes look and words our mouths say. Habits are in our neural pathways. And sin gets in our habits. So sin gets in our neurons.” (p 21)

Quoting St Paul “…there is nothing good in our sinful nature.” Ya, I know a little harsh, but let’s face it, we have developed a lot of bad habits. “Paul is a brilliant student of human life who knows that evil, deceit, arrogance, greed, envy and racism have become ‘second nature’ to us all.” Harsh? Ya, but true. Even our best qualities when you hold them up to the perfection of our God, then ya, our “bad” habits are much more obvious and our good habits, at best, ho hum.

Ortberg notes that our willpower is just not going to cut it. Let’s face it, we try to do it alone and usually we are back to the races. “…acquiring new habits through which we can receive power from God to do what to do what willpower never could.”

Ortberg’s next line is compelling because there has been a long standing belief that the physical really doesn’t affect the spiritual. The physical is certainly about the mind. Is there really any doubt that when we abuse our body it affects our mind. I doubt that anyone would seriously question that physical abuse, bad diet, drugs, lack of exercise, affects the mind, certainly affects the chemical composition of the mind. Couldn’t the physical/mental attributes of the mind, if they are abused, affect our spiritual outlook? Trying to separate the physical/mental/spiritual is just a false paradigm. As Ortberg notes: ” Neuroscience has helped to show the error of any spirituality that divorces our spiritual life from our bodies.”

I say AMEN! There are many belief systems that try to make it just about the spirit, that the body is just a husk. POPPYCOCK. Gnosticism, an heretical Christian belief tries to make the material evil, the spiritual, as it were, good. That when the spiritual separates from the physical then it will be hunky-dorey. That attitude has infused itself through orthodox Christianity. the image of spirit beings sitting on clouds in heaven. Certainly physical beings can’t sit on clouds, but the question is; is heaven the end? Eastern religions believe that once we get it right, we leave the evil of the bodily and the material world and then (yippee, skippee), we become some sort of ethereal being and then drop into the ocean of all ethereal beings where our ethereality (no I doubt seriously that’s a real word) merges us with the universe. Again, yippee, skippee.

Why the gratuitous sarcasm? God created the material and He pronounced it good. This also includes our body which He intended to be perfect, incorruptible and eternal. Where else could it have come from? Unless the rapture happens tomorrow, our body will give out and we will, in the spiritual, be in the presence of the Lord. But again, is that the end? No! Not by a long shot. At the final judgment we will all be restored to physical bodies, those who are in Christ, the “Lamb’s Book of Life” will proceed from the judgment to the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem will be the world as God had intended. No doubt, it will be much like the world that we left, but it will be restored to perfection, it will be familiar but it will be restored to a perfection that we can’t imagine. Certainly we will be restored to our physical bodies, again, the way they were intended to be before we messed them up with our sin. These bodies will be strong, healthy, immune to injury or damage. We were made by God to be both physical/mental/spiritual and we will be restored to eternity perfectly in all aspects of our being.

In the meantime we will continue to discuss how the physical/mental changes our spiritual outlook as we continue to affect the mental by our habits old and bad or new and good. OK, at least hopefully.


Please let’s start taking marriage and child raising seriously

The following is from a post from a brother pastor, Eric Ekong.

“Is marriage obsolete? In a recent Pew Research poll, about 40 percent of Americans assert or strongly assert that marriage in America is obsolete. You probably know the dismal stats about the divorce rate in our country. Here are nine reasons people give that might explain the steady collapsing of marriage in America:

I assume that the relationship is probably going to break up at some point, and the breakup will hurt less if we were never married in the first place.
–Marriage is an exploitative, chauvinistic anachronism that heavily favors patriarchal control. Liberated women will more likely get what they want on their own.
–From the male point of view, women are giving it away these days. You don’t have to commit to her to get sex.
–Single parenthood is the new normal. African-Americans are already there with single-parent birthrates in some places above 70 percent. White folks’ single parenthood stats are following.
–My mom was a single parent, and I turned out fine.
–Marriage is something you can think about when your kids are raised and you are secure in your job.
–Cohabiting preserves your freedom of choice.
–Movies and TV shows relentlessly portray young men as either uneducated, clueless, reckless, socially inept, or violent. Why would any woman want to lock in her life to such a high-risk partner?
–I’m not going to get married until I find the perfect soul mate.

Are these the attitudes you want in your children’s minds? In your grandchildren’s? In your own spouse’s? If you don’t, God has a better way. Let’s give the divine designer a chance to explain to us how to be happily married till death us do part and how to build a family life that will give him glory.”

Me – People love to talk about how smart they are today, when it comes to marriage, commitment, living life in a strong and faithful manner, way too many people, have way too little discernment. How do you think this affects society as a whole? When the burden gets to be too much on those who are trying to live responsible, faithful lives, how do you think it will work out for the rest.

Point one – Yes, I guess if you have a fatalistic view of marriage it will fail. Hey how about this, grow up, make a commitment, live a responsible life and decide that you will make it work. In the meantime stay out of bed with anyone who isn’t your spouse. Oh yeah, I get it, all the excitement, none of the responsibility. How do you really think that’s going to end up?

Marriage is a partnership, that too many men and women today think can be manipulated and played with. How about we all decide to be grown ups and truly commit to what is best for each other and children, and quit playing games. Exploitive? I’m not saying there aren’t bad situations, but the reality is this, the highest rate of poverty is on unmarried mothers. Married women, have a much lower rate of poverty, men will step up and provide. The nasty swill of those people that compose the media love to take isolated situations, make them the rule, distribute their extremely poor “work” to people who gullibly swallow it and there you have it. Broken families, no mutual responsibility and this nonsense that too many women believe that the government will give them all they want. Afterwards and I’ve seen plenty of “afterward” pictures, you have women living in substandard housing with children they can’t keep up with and the spiral continues down and down. Hey there are women that do step up and manage, but I would bet you anything that they would tell you it was much harder then it had to be.

Single-parenting is not a “norm”, it may be the situation, but if people were truly honest about their platitudes “it’s all about the kids”, they would try as much as possible to raise them in a family of a man and a woman. That is how children are raised the best, the research shows it over and over again. There are exceptions, but really, why would you want to try to be the exception, when you can step up and do what’s best for children. Be honest, it’s not about the kids, it’s just about you.

OK, fine, marriage and children are only for when you have a secure home. OK, when do you think that will be? Yea, right, come on. If that’s the standard, then a further standard should be this: “Until such time I am ready to raise children like that, I’m not going to put myself in the position where I could have children.” Yea, people like to get all righteous at one end, then the other end, ahhhh, not so much.

“Cohabiting preserves your freedom of choice.” and “I’m not going to get married until I find the perfect mate.” Seriously? I don’t even know how people can say this with a straight face. Yeah, “choice”, while you’re making your “choices”, what do you think the other person is doing? This is just a recipe for disaster for both of you. The person who says this thinks they’re cool and is showing they’re clueless. The “perfect mate”? There isn’t one and even more ironically, you certainly aren’t the perfect mate either. Hmmm, you want perfect, but you aren’t even close to being able to offer it. Yeah, let me know how that works out.

For a society that loves to tell people how smart they are, wow, “don’t care about tomorrow”, “don’t care about another person”, “don’t care about my kids”, “don’t care about the society I live in”, I could go on and on, but you get the idea. All the research and much more importantly God, emphasizes the importance of the family, of commitment, of sacrifice, of truly living like a mature human being. When you live like a mature human being, and everyone else does, we have a great society and it helps everyone to grow and be secure. When we have a society where everyone says “it’s all about me and the heck with everyone else”, well how do you think that’s going to end up? Find a way to make it happen, quit making excuses, quit trying to have it your way and then stick someone else with the consequences. You may think you’re smarter, but it will catch up to you and then all of a sudden just a world of hurt. And you’re going to sit there wondering why no one will help. Why? Because they’re busy being self-centered and selfish like you’ve been. Not so smart, huh?

A “draft for the ages”? Certainly eternal consequences.

I’m sure you’ve heard the “big news” by now, the first openly homosexual man to be drafted by an NFL team was drafted by the St Louis Rams. I was watching the NFL channel coverage of the draft and you would think a cure for cancer, or getting rid of ref’s entirely and having entire games called by video had just happened. There are about 1,700 players in the NFL at any one time. The NFL has been around since the 1920’s, (albeit with far fewer teams), so conservatively somewhere around 100,000 men have played in the NFL and one of them is finally homosexual. Listening to the coverage you’d think that because Michael Sam is homosexual that this is somehow as Sporting News called it, “A Draft for the ages”. Huh? Not too hyperbolic?

A little context and a lot of this is coming out of the Boston sports station that I’ve listened to for years and no, these guys are actually pretty liberal. But they did have some context. The guy was drafted 249th, way down. By a team that is in desperate need of any kind of notoriety, the St Louis Rams. It seems clear there were better players, but hey, despite the fact that there have been tens of thousands in the NFL, and no doubt some were homosexual, does tend to undermine the argument of the number of homosexual men in the population, significantly less then the guesstimated 10% that the liberal media likes to throw around. One of the guys commented that this guy will probably be playing arena football in a couple of years and it will be an “oh yeah, he was the guy back in the 2014 draft.” They also made an interesting comparison to the Tim Tebow drama of a couple of seasons ago. This is a guy who turned around the Denver Broncos and got them into the playoffs. What happened to a guy who has done so much good humanitarian service in the Name of the Savior? The Patriots gave him a shot. A team with the best winning percentage of this century, three Super Bowls, a team with integrity. A coach Bill Belicheck who uses that lame red flag as sparingly as any coach in the league. (May his tribe increase, I want to watch football, not a bunch of legalists fussing about the latest rule changes and video checks. Play football, get on with it and quit whining) Well frankly the NFL is by far the whiningest sport in professional sports. Anyway a team stacked with talent, always in the hunt, but always looking for guys with integrity. They couldn’t keep Tebow, but the whole scenario is, I don’t know, odd?

Interestingly enough in my devotional reading today Henry Blackaby writes on this very subject. Do we coddle people in their sins? No! Do we love them? Do we care for them, do we keep trying to reach them for real life in Christ? Absolutely! Hey, we are all sinners, we all have our issues, but as Blackaby writes: “You are not acting in true friendship if you condone disobedience or even if you look the other way.” Amen brother! Now of course I will probably end up taking heat for this, but for the life of me, help me, explain why it is somehow commendable that we are supposed to be dancing in the streets because a guy who will probably never be on an NFL roster and sleeps with another guy who was drafted 249th. Have we really gotten this messed up as a society?

We have no business telling someone that their sin is just skippity do da and you just go ahead and do whatever you want. Sam is 24 years old, actually a little aged for a NFL draftee, but still, let’s face it a kid. Someone who has a long way to go in life. Where do we adults come off encouraging this guy in his lifestyle? “Jesus never gave relief to people who were under conviction… Jesus brought no comfort to him [Zaccheus] as he dealt with his sin (Luke 19: 1-10)… Neither did Jesus excuse disbelief. We never find Jesus saying, ‘Well, that’s all right. I know I’m asking you to believe a lot and that’s not easy.” This nonsense that Jesus was the Great Enabler, is just that nonsense! Did Jesus give love and compassion? Absolutely! He is always helping us in our sin, we are always sinning. But when our lifestyle is just basically “I don’t care what God wants or doesn’t want, I only care what I want and that’s what I going to do!” This bizarre idea that Jesus is supposed to tell someone “that’s ok, it’s not your fault, you’re a victim or subject to your genetics, blah, blah and whatever you need to do, well that’s just ok (Oprah style)” is just not faithful to Scripture and is just not what we want for a society. Haven’t we seen enough in a society that says I don’t care what’s good, bad or indifferent to anyone else, I’m going to do what I want to do and how it damages anyone else (including me) well too bad. These are the same people that are going to expect a government agency (read the taxpayer) and yes, even more bizarrely, the church to swoop in and pick up the pieces after the inevitable crash and burn.

“Don’t ever try to ease the discomfort of someone whom the Holy Spirit is making uncomfortable! Be careful not to communicate to your friends that you find their lack of faith acceptable … or being comfortable with sin.” That just makes so much sense, the Holy Spirit is pushing on someone to really look at their life as a whole, outside of Jesus, and their sin. Trying to get someone to really realize how far they are lost in their sin and some nice gooey “Christian” in true Oprah style tells them: “…don’t you worry baby, it will be alright, you’re not a bad person, don’t let people tell you, you do what makes you happy…” Ok, that might help their self-esteem, but it’s the same old idolatry. Our feeling good about ourself is more important than what the Holy Spirit is trying to do. “God, what I want, is more important than what you want!” How do you think that will play out in eternity?

Peter King of Sports Illustrated in his blog says that the Michael Sam selection is his pick as the highlight of the draft. He glorifies ESPN’s decision to run uninterrupted and unedited the saga up to and including when Sam kissed his, oh I don’t know, companion, SO,… Really??? So much for unbiased journalism. How on earth does this rate anymore then a shake of the head? If this is what this guy wants to do, if this is what the NFL wants to do, hey you’re grownups, you make your own decisions. But somehow lionizing this moment, trying to make it comparable to some major points in American history? Give me a break and as I wrote before, a 249th pick, someone who will probably never wear an NFL uniform in a regular season game, in a league that has numerous issues with players dealing with legal issues, questions involving gambling and who can forget the great “wardrobe malfunction”, drug abuse, a league that is often derisively referred to as the “National Felon’s League”. There’s no doubt in my mind that the majority of people in the NFL are people of integrity and good judgment. But more and more those in the NFL who just push for the buck, cheap publicity, a general disregard for common decency are dominating professional football. How do you think that will work out for football, for fans of a league that is becoming more debased?

When do those in the NFL who long for a sport of decency, integrity, sportsmanship, an inspiring product, start to push back against the element in the NFL that seems to want to drag the league down to the lowest common denominator? A league that disposes of a Christian who wins (Tim Tebow) and then two years later lionizes a 249th pick solely on the basis of the fact that he sleeps with another guy?

I will admit it, I will probably stay a Patriots fan, because, despite their own situation with former tight end Aaron Hernandez. To their credit, they immediately cut all ties, they did not play around with the situation. It’s an organization that is generally recognized to be high quality in many respects. But it’s teams and people like the Patriots who are going to have to start to restore the credibility of a league that is becoming more of a symbol of questionable virtue.

Yeah, all will be held accountable by God, even those of the great and powerful NFL. The NFL may be an American icon today, but what does that really matter when the final judgment comes. In the meantime, as Blackaby so aptly points out, we don’t do anyone a favor by patting them on the head, telling them not to worry about what God says and send them on their way.

Please do me one more favor, for all you amateur theologians who love to do the “judge not…” that’s not what it means, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, do yourself a favor, stop making yourself look ridiculous and either learn or just be honest and say, “We don’t care what God says, we are going to sin, our blood is on our hands.” Hey so be it. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 4: 1-3: “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,…” This is Paul giving directions to a pastor that he is mentoring. Likewise directions to me a Christian pastor. I’m really tired of the world trying to make a virtue out of obvious sin, admit it, quit trying to justify it, be honest. The world is steeped in sin and trying to justify it with utter nonsense. Christian teachers, the Bible, tell me what is God’s will, that’s what I’m responsible for, that’s what I will teach, convince, rebuke and exhort. At the end of time I can stand before the throne, and yes I will have my own sins to deal with, but in the end I look forward to hearing those words from the Father “‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
That’s my responsibility, the Holy Spirit put me where I am, and I can only be responsible to Him and not to a world that loves to rationalize, justify, cavalierly flout was is virtuous and what is good. If the NFL and the media treated this as a note, fine and move on. But the hyperbole surrounding this has been absurd. Don’t tell the rest of the world that this is a “draft for the ages”, it’s a footnote, if you think it’s otherwise, you really do not live in the real world.