The Foundation and the Fire

What Gospel Preachers, Pastors, Leaders, and Teachers Must Understand

Gospel teacher, the Bible teaches that your work will sooner or later be exposed. Whether you build a true building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, build a weak building on Jesus Christ, or teach an altogether false gospel (and those are the three categories), God will expose your work sooner or later – and that with fire. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 says:

11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw–
13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

However you teach, preach, minister, and lead, you are accountable to God for it: “the Day will disclose it.” Paul writes the same earlier, “He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.” Every minister is the same: an underservant accountable to God alone – not to numbers, not to other ministers, not to evangelical organizations, not mainly to the congregation, but to God alone.

So ask yourself two simple questions:

  1. Do I believe verse 11, “No one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ,”? Do I believe that Christ, not my words nor my ingenuity nor my attendees, is the foundation? Do I feel that deeply in my soul? Do I live and teach and preach that fact? If I do, servanthood and accountability in the ministry will flow out of that Spirit-filled fact.
  2. Do I believe 1 Corinthians 2:2, Luke 24:27, Luke 24:44, 2 Timothy 3:16, and a host of other passages which teach that teaching and preaching Jesus Christ alone from all the Scriptures for the salvation of sinners is the central, foundational, essential criterion by which all “Christian” ministry will be judged? If I do believe this, teaching Christ from the whole Bible will be not a chore, not a boredom, but a blessing of the “wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 3:15).

If, however, you believe #1 but not #2, then your work will soon be exposed by the purifying fire of God Almighty.

If, even worse, you believe neither #1 nor #2, then verse 15 doesn’t apply to you, because you are not a Christian. Your life, rebelling against Jesus Christ’s lordship from head to toe, is no Christian life at all and will be consumed with fire.

We see then that this passage is not about heretical teachers but weak ones. Heresy – including the prosperity “gospel” lies (1 Timothy 6:6-10) – kills both the teacher and its believers.

Sob-Stories, Guilt, and a Freed Conscience

A Long Con on the Streets of Raleigh, NC

The other night I was out talking to folks on the cold downtown streets, and a homeless man approached me. Let’s call him, “Pierre.” I’ve met Pierre before, even buying him groceries late one night a few years back.

And I’ve seen him around town since then, growing out his beard and wandering aimlessly. Pierre has learned over time to use his weepy eyes, his sob story about his long lost family, and his quavering voice to get cash out of well-meaning urbanites. The other night he was at it again.

Pierre ingratiated himself by offering to help me with whatever I might need, sitting to talk and acting like he wanted to listen. For a solid half-hour, he seemed humble and ready to listen. So much so that I forgot the three years of data that shows otherwise.

As I packed up to leave, Pierre asked for a sandwich. Since I had already given him a snack, I didn’t think this was necessary, but he persisted. There I felt that old feeling – and this is yet another reason we can’t trust our wayward “feelings” – guilt. I felt guilty for not wanting to help him, as though I were responsible to feed every homeless person in my city.

I felt guilty because I’ve heard so many lying, cheating, stealing sob-stories and become hardened to them. I felt guilty because I thought Jesus would just help the guy.

So I bought him the sandwich (which prompted this resolution based on what I’ve learned). But then I felt worse. How’s that?

How and Why Evil Sob-Stories Grip the Conscience
The reason we feel so bad is because those stories are so bad – but not in the way we think. Those sob-stories, affected with all the facial and vocal contortions of a stage actor, are evil not because of what the person claims to have experienced, but because of their hidden motives.

In many cases (to leave out exceptions), the storyteller just wants to steal. He wants to steal your hard-earned cash, your dignity as an image-bearer, and your responsibility to love. He does all this by lying to you.

A lie? That seems harsh. Here’s how it works: the storyteller turns your desire to love on its head by hiding the truth – he is likely too lazy to work and has been for some time. He just wants money for nothing. He’ll say anything he thinks you’ll believe just because he wants a handout.

We could make obvious connections to the current handout system in our beloved US of A, but we’ll hold off for now. The point here is this: the truth is hard to tell when you’re dealing with a professional liar. And handing him money only prolongs and multiplies the problem.

Many, many homeless (and not homeless) people lie for a living to get a quick buck, and as Christians we ought not be bound to their lies. We ought not be bound to even prove them wrong. We ought not let our conscience be held to their standard of handing out money. That’s a lie, and I need to stop believing it.

Then How Should We Love?

When approached and asked for a handout, how do we thus proceed? What else can we do besides offering cash and going along our way? Here are four options:

  1. Talk: If you have the time and want to talk to the person, by all means do so. Get to know them, explain Jesus’ life-changing work in your heart, explain how all of us have broken every one of His commandments and deserve judgment, connect this sin to our current struggles and hardships – yours and the other person’s. But don’t feel like you have to end by giving them a ten-spot.
  2. Direct: In many cities, there are multiplicities of ministries that put the poor into work-stay programs, job training, and the like. If your new acquaintance says she doesn’t want to go, it at least shows you where her heart is.
  3. Jobs: If you know of someone who would like to hire an entry-level worker (though often the reply is predictably, “I don’t have my papers”) or you would like to extend the offer yourself for lawn-mowing or shed-building employment, offer the poor person a chance to work. Imagine that! Work!
  4. Local Church: Should a poor person genuinely feel his need for deeper change, suggest attending a Christ-centered worship service in the area. Give specific details of name, place, and time. If you will be there, meet him promptly before service or offer a pick-up.

But What If She Says She’s Still Hungry?
It might seem “mean” to refuse money to a hungry person, but hunger is biblically a motive for work. “If he will not work, let him not eat.” Christians need to be willing to bear along God’s harder consequences in grace, too. Fear not, little flock: it is a gracious thing to relate this truth to a lazy person.

Of course, if we “feel led” to give money or food (I often give small servings of food, rarely money), we shouldn’t think we’ve necessarily sinned, either. If the poor woman lied to ensnare you, she bears the brunt of that responsibility, not you. But I write so as not to burden you with guilt and instead free you to love.

Conclusion: To Grow in Love
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a “harden-your-heart-in-the-name-of-materialism” approach. Just the opposite: we need to grow in love for the poor precisely by being more careful in the way we love the poor.

Notice that none of these ways removes the dignity of the poor person and his need to work. Think this through with your local church and remember that, in God’s law, the poor could glean off of landowners’ fields, but the owners didn’t do it for them.

Again, this is a love-thing, not a guilt-thing. How are we promoting the gleaning of work for the good of the poor and the glory of God?

The Chalmers Center Helps Without Hurting

In my last post, I mentioned Corbett & Fikkert’s excellent book, When Helping Hurts. Here is the organization connected with (inspired by?) the book: The Chalmers Center.

Check them out for financial literacy and economic programs in the Americas and in the Majority World.

Your Job Doesn’t Care About Your Family

Exposing a Popular Lie

I’ve been enough swanky, avant-garde offices to know that the new buzz-phrase is “we care about our employees.” It’s still chic for many companies to provide their employees exercise, health, counseling, and family services.

And everyone pays lip service to that most important of personal areas: the family.

Companies might have a family day (or they might, like one recent employer, even ban spouses from attending a company ballgame outing). Schools want teachers to care about and focus on their students’ respective families, but they often fail to provide the space for teachers to focus on their own families. More corporate-stye jobs are well-known for over-(yes, over)-working their employees, some past the point of even being able to see family members during the workweek.

So my thesis remains: when the rubber meets the road, your company doesn’t care about your family.

If your company, your manager, or your coworkers cared about your family, they’d act like it. But they don’t.

However, I know my readers are employees, managers, supervisors, coworkers, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, and grandparents, so I don’t want to end here but instead give some tips to those of us (all of us) who can change this:

  1. Make and seek clear employee expectations. Hours, pay, and any expected extra duty must be spelled out and agreed upon. Don’t be like the supervisor who once asked me why I wasn’t coming to an optional, after-hours get-together. I told him I was going home to be with my family.
  2. Past 40 hours, consider telecommuting or even reduced-pay options. Encourage prospective and current employees to think of the literal toll their beyond-full-time hours will take on their families. And, yes, it takes a toll. Both employer and employee must be honest about that up-front. Do you want employees who hate their jobs for asking too much and destroying their families? Didn’t think so.
  3. Take stock of the family life among your company’s leadership. If most of your managers are single, divorced, or headed for it, beware. Companies that place such people in supervisory roles implicitly value singleness over marriage. There’s a reason those people tend to be leaders, and they will lead out of their own view (or anti-view) of family.
  4. If you require weekends or holidays, make sure your employees get that time back with their families. Who wouldn’t want to be home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and summer vacation? You do, so treat your employees and teammates the same. Often companies act like this is “just part of the job;” it isn’t. It’s asking for more.
  5. Actually care for your teammates’ family lives. This doesn’t mean passing conversation. This means helping each other see that families are more important than companies. Always, always, always remember that. No two-decade career is worth missing your son’s childhood.
  6. Understand that a company’s pride will constantly strive against employees’ families. When a boss asks her employee to come in on Saturday or stay late on a weeknight, she is saying, “The company is more important than your family. If you don’t do this, you could lose your job.” Such situations always present difficult decisions, so think ahead.

Does that mean you can’t work extra? No, but it does mean that your company may well misunderstand the work/family balance. Such a work environment, while not initially toxic, is always unhealthy and may well toxify your marriage and family.

Every company’s view of family is being lived out in its employees right before you. If many employees have unhealthy/dying/dead family lives, chances are that the company aids that. Don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. No job is worth your precious family.

Good Deeds And/Or Gospel?

I intentionally inverted the order in the title, because Paul gives us the correct connection in Titus 3:4-8:

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,
but according to his own mercy,
by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that being justified by his grace
we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things,
so that those who have believed in God
may be careful to devote themselves to good works.
These things are excellent and profitable for people.

As someone who struggles to be devoted to “good works” that are “excellent and profitable for people,” hearing a ton of “do better” from well-meaning advisors, it is refreshing and life-giving that God doesn’t do that here.

Let me repeat: the Lord of the universe, all-wise and powerful, full of zeal for His glory and compassion for His children, doesn’t just tell us to “be devoted to good works” first. Instead, He teaches his leaders to remember the gospel (v.4-7): that God saved us in His goodness, not because of our own, through the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ, who justifies us and gives us a sure hope of eternal life. Then, because of this, he wants us to be zealous for good works.

Note the order: gospel, then good works. Gospel then good works. It’s not the other way around.

When people have a “works” problem, they really have a heart problem, and only the gospel addresses the heart. Good works can “adorn” the gospel (Titus 2:10), but never are the gospel.

So, when I fail in good works, remind me of the gospel. Remind me of God’s grace in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit to helpless sinners like me. Remind me that Christ died to redeem me from lawless deeds and purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14).

Then, and only then, there is a place to explain these good deeds. But, please, don’t just tell me to do good works. That’s “do stuff.” That’s legalism. That’s not the gospel.

Eight Reasons I Use Evernote

[Disclaimer: I am not getting paid or otherwise compensated for telling you about Evernote. I just like it, use it a lot, and want to help other folks.]

Maybe a couple of years ago, I randomly heard about Evernote. Since then, I’ve learned there at least eight good reasons for a researcher, writer, teacher, preacher, and family man like me to use Evernote:

  1. You can put your stuff in there. Pretty much anything you write down, type, find online, or need to keep can be saved into Evernote. And it’s easier to later find than using some OS search bar.
  2. You can remember important facts, figures, and info. Applying for a job and need recent success rates? Evernote is the perfect place to file these facts together for quick access.
  3. You can archive all your research. If you read, ponder, and discuss on the web, Evernote is a great place to archive the articles, posts, and sites that interest you the most.
  4. You can spread out your research. Find and open any single article or separate articles into separate windows whenever you need to “spread out” your research to compile it, review it, or write a new piece.
  5. You can type and file all your writing in one place. Eight different folders for various types of writing? With Evernote, you can file and organize these together, saving time and trouble when you search for that old poem about the beetle at the gas station.
  6. You can save pictures, audio, and handwriting. Recent updates include audio, webcam, and handwritten notes. You can even attach pdf’s and pictures. So if you can write it, type it, picture it, or record it, you can file it in Evernote.
  7. You can search it all. The search bar helps you search through certain notebook stacks, notebooks, tags, or whole documents to find just the right article, like which gift your wife wanted for her birthday or how to build the bunk-beds for your kids.
  8. You will use it more than you think. You’ll wonder how you ever worked and filed without it.

There’s lots more I haven’t yet explained, but you can go over to Evernote.com and see that for yourself. They have handy how-to videos that will keep you learning for weeks. Oh yeah, it’s also free (you can upgrade to premium if you need more space).

20 Minutes of Core Non-Boredom

How I Work Out

I make no claims to being a workout guru. There’s plenty of them out there. This post is for those folks who say, “What do you do, and why?” or “How is it that you’re in better shape than last year?” or even “Why are you crawling across the floor like a spider?” Friends, this is for you.

Three Causes
A trifecta of causes birthed my workout regimen:

  1. Family Man: I don’t have much time to work out right now, and I probably won’t for the next 20 years. I had to figure something out.
  2. Bad Back: I can’t just run for an hour in the morning or go play pickup basketball every other night. I have to be thoughtful about doing core exercises.
  3. (Former?) Athlete: This means I like to go hard. Plus, I get bored with the same stuff. Running the same loop day after year? Not for me. I need variety (think P90X without the $70 DVDs).

20 Minutes of Core Non-Boredom
These brought “20 Minutes of Core Circuit” to life. Basically, it rotates through 5-7 core exercises per workout and rotate 3-4 exercises for each component. Each exercise gets 1-2 minutes, then we go straight on to the next, or take a breather and water if injury or blackout feels imminent. We may go for 18-30 minutes, but 20-22 is about right. For example:

Monday
Exercise #1: Bicycle crunches
2: Decline pushups
3: Wall squats
4: Wide-grip pullups
5: Jacknife (combined pushups and lower abs)
6: Side planks (for obliques)

Wednesday
1: Spiderman pushups
2: One-legged squats
3: Mountain climbers
4: Weighted situps
5: Weighted lunges
6: Weighted neutral grip pullups

Friday
1: Balance ball drills
2: Offset-hand pullups
3: Weighted dips
4: Side leg-ups (hanging, knees up to chest)
5: Straight planks
6: Ball-grab pushups

Structure and Variety
This program provides me with structure and variety. The structure is two-fold. Time is structured by weekly frequency (3-4 workouts/week), workout length (18-30 minutes), and component length (1-2 minutes). Exercise components must be within the “core” areas of the body: chest, back, abs, upper legs, obliques.

The variety comes from mixing up the exercises so I don’t get bored. P90X calls this “muscle confusion,” but it really is just  a good workout system. Notice this system never repeats a single exercise in the same week, but it worked each of the core areas at least once (often twice) per workout.

Anywhere, Anytime
The final cool think about 20 Minutes of Core Circuit is that you can do most (not quite all) of these exercises anywhere: a park, your living room, the back parking lot at work, your backyard. You just need a few tools and you’re good to go!

A Year of Results
I’ve been doing this for almost a year without missing more than two in a row. This has usually been due to travel, but, even then, it’s still very do-able. This workout has put me in twice the shape I was in a year ago: I’ve dropped a safe amount of weight while building lean muscle and strengthening my core.

I hope this helps some of you; it sure has helped me! Feel free to write in and tell me what you do.

Computers Can’t Cover Laziness

The Bible says that love covers a multitude of sins. Some educators need to be reminded: computers aren’t granted the same benefits.

Another quote from Heather Macdonald’s excellent Washington Examiner piece:

To be sure, all students today need computer skills. That is a different proposition, however, from thinking that using computers to convey knowledge can compensate for a lack of self-discipline, perseverance, and a desire to learn (or, failing such a desire, fear of the consequences for not doing so).

In other words, parents, teachers, and administrators, don’t expect technology to cover up for the fact that you haven’t trained, motivated, and disciplined your children/students to learn. Don’t throw your teaching responsibilities in front of a television, like a teenage baby-sitter who can’t handle playing with children not her own.

As Macdonald deftly observes, too many parents and schools confuse the necessity of technology skills with the necessity of technology-based education. But purely tech-ed doesn’t change anything about a child’s inherent laziness; it only gives him a slicker outlet.

Learning is hard work, and all of this insistence on touch-screens, vibrant colors, and “larger than life” activities only obscures the fact that students don’t like hard work. But learning has always been and will always be hard work, so the motivation must come from within, as Jesus taught, not from without.

Teach a student why he should love learning, and he’ll love learning for life. Teach him how to play on an Ipad, and he’ll be content to do just that, sitting in his parents’ basement for ten hours a day deep into middle age.

Child Labor, Entitlement, and the Lost Gulf in Between

Yesterday, we took our high school students to the local museum of history. An exhibit on the third floor decried the supposed atrocities of children working in North Carolina factories and farms early in the 20th century. But, like most strange, side-angled pieces of quasi-socialist art, it got me thinking: are our children really better off today than 100 years ago?

To wit:

  • Would you prefer a young man or woman with an inbred work ethic, or an inbred entitlement ethic?
  • Which group is more prepared to succeed in adult life, premature adults or grown children?
  • Which generation is better prepared to run and lead our country, the former child laborers or the former child slobs?

Don’t misquote or misunderstand, I’m not advocating child labor or the repeal of child labor laws. But wonder with me for a moment: when we gained a supposed “fair treatment” for children, what did we lose?

From working with children and adolescents for the last 14 years, I’d say we lost a lot.

Son, Get Ready to Carry a Load

Ten Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me, Pt. 2:
Son, Get Ready to Carry a Load

In part 2, we turn to finances. Working at home for an allowance and getting a high-school job are just baby steps, and living as a single college student and then a grad is kindergarten stuff. Providing for an entire family is the real deal (I’m assuming here that, for the health of your future marriage and family, you want your wife to work really hard . . . in your home).

Here’s what changes: when you’re a child and a young man living at home, you pay zero of your own bills. Your parents do it all (see where this is going?). When you’re a single man in college, and even after, you likely split your bills with your many roommates. Even if you don’t have roommates, it’s very unlikely that you’re supporting anyone else.

When you get married (“stop test-driving your girlfriend“) and subsequently have children (and you should), that all changes. All of it.

You are no longer “an army of one,” making cash and going out to play. You are now the captain of an army, all of whom depend on you to lead with love, provide with responsibility, and protect with thoughtfulness. Your home-army won’t be working jobs outside the home –  and, even if your wife does, it’s still your job to provide.

All of the financial responsibility for your wife, your children, yourself, and anyone else you should take in along the way now falls on you. Just you.

So what do we do? Three things:

  1. Ask God for help. We can’t faithfully lead and love our families without special grace. Unbelieving fathers may do it here and there, but they can’t even lead their own children to Christ. We need Jesus to help us, gentlemen. Learn that in prayer first.
  2. Be on the lookout for your calling as a worker. This is known as “vocation,” and you find it not by looking mainly inside but outside at the places and ways you can best serve. I used to be afraid of having a career, as though it would define me. Now I see it as a service to others.
  3. Mentally prepare yourself for raising a family. This takes deliberate thought and preparation. Am I going to spend this money on another movie or save it for an engagement ring? Am I going to buy another shirt or spend it on books for my son? Even if you’re young yet, these thoughts will help you prepare.

I could wish that I had known these things, but God has been gracious. Leading a family is a load of work, but it’s a happy burden when carried along by Christ.

****
Ten Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me:

  1. Son, You’re Going to Get Dirty 
  2. Son, Get Ready to Carry a Load

“A Vehicle for Profiting from the Misery of America’s Poor”

Over at George Mason University’s History News Network site, Professor Mark Naison explains “Why Teach For America is Not Welcome in My Classroom“:

Never, in its recruiting literature, has Teach for America described teaching as the most valuable professional choice that an idealistic, socially-conscious person can make. Nor do they encourage the brightest students to make teaching their permanent career; indeed, the organization goes out of its way to make joining TFA seem a like a great pathway to success in other, higher-paying professions.

Three years ago, a TFA recruiter plastered the Fordham campus with flyers that said “Learn how joining TFA can help you gain admission to Stanford Business School.” The message of that flyer was “use teaching in high-poverty areas a stepping stone to a career in business.” It was not only profoundly disrespectful to every person who chooses to commit their life to the teaching profession, it advocated using students in high-poverty areas as guinea pigs for an experiment in “resume-padding” for ambitious young people.

What Teach for America ought to do, in other words, is to call the best and brightest students to a lifetime of teaching. But, since TFA only uses the impoverished to advance short-term teachers’ power and other careers, Naison says that they have become “a vehicle for profiting from the misery of America’s poor.”

My Wife Does Work . . . In Our Home

In the past few years of schoolteaching, I’ve often been asked the backloaded question, “Does your wife work?” The mere posing of the question brings me half a laugh and half a gasp. I generally to answer pleasantly, “Yes, she does work, very hard, in our home, with our children.”

But the whole conversation goes deeper than two or three sentences can show. Like the well-written banter of a good drama, every phrase carries meaning:

Does your wife work?” The whole question assumes something, namely, that – lest they be left to gallivant around town on their husband’s money – every wife should be working outside the home. Let’s examine that biblically for a moment. Titus 2:3-5 says,

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

So Paul tells Titus to teach his church about their roles as older women, younger women, older men, and younger men. He tells the older women to disciple the younger, and in that discipleship to teach them to be the kind of family-first women that will honor “the word of God.” That’s a high calling.

So, the very question is at its essence anti-biblical: “Does your wife work (primarily outside the home)? Because she should.”

On the other hand, though, the “work” part of the assumption is a good thing. Proverbs 31 tells us that the excellent, hard-to-find wife is like an nocturnal ant-army:

She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens…
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.

So, yes, my wife should be working, but not mainly in the way this question means it. The Proverbs 31 woman works hard, mainly for her own family.

“Yes, she does work . . .” Of course she works. If she didn’t, if I didn’t, and if anyone doesn’t, that person is a sloppy, sluggish worm burping, grazing, and floating through life. They don’t deserve even to eat. So that can’t be the question.

So I try to both agree and disagree with the question. First, I’m saying, “Yes, you’re right. She should be working.”

But then I’m disagreeing. . .

“very hard . . .” Before I state my exact disagreement, I want the questioner to know something: my wife works very hard. Whatever you think about what she does, you need to know that she works as hard or harder than your or I do. You need to know that working in the home is no joke.

“in our home . . .” Instead of making my disagreement sound disagreeable, I try to phrase it as a clarification. “My wife does work – just not where you think she should. She works in our home, on our family.” The questioner needs to know that this work I’m describing is the work of a home-maker, and it’s not easy.

“with our children.” The final phrase is meant to point out that God means wives to truly build the family, and not just “keep house.” The excellent wife is the earthly glue that holds a family together. She doesn’t just “cook, clean, and do laundry;” she thinks, plans, acts, and oversees the family while the husband is providing for the family.

She is his vice president of operations; he authorizes her to do everything necessary to care for the family while he is gone. She is her family’s main lover, laugher, counselor, schoolteacher, organizer, purchaser, tailor, caterer, interior decorator, and on the list goes.

Conclusion
While none of this is meant to be a slam on the questioners or wives who work mainly outside the home, we must acknowledge that God’s plan is for the wife to work mainly inside the home, loving her husband so he doesn’t have to do the wife’s job and caring for her family by wearing a million feminine hats. The excellent, home-making wife truly is a gift. I know mine is.

The Slippery Slope of Success

Reading Hebrews 11:23-26 today, I realized something. I’m not like the Moses of these verses. Here, Moses chose rather to endure ill treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered Christ’s suffering greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking to the reward.

Far too often, we Americans wink at work-related sins in the name of “success.” But that “success” is worldly to the core. It is characterized by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life.

So I asked myself, “Did taking on Christ’s reproach and loving God’s people characterize my last year at work? Or did I rather work for the wrong reasons – the fleeting pleasures of sin and the treasures of America?”

Here are four handy ways to find out if you’ve slipped off the path of faithful reproach to seek after trophies of sand:

  1. Do you first look for your boss’ approval? You say, “But my boss should know when I do something good. It’s part of my job.” Maybe, but as soon as you did it, did you wish he knew?
  2. Do you love to tell other people about your work successes? When work comes up in a conversation, do you love to be defined by how well you’re doing at your job? If so, you have begun to use your vocation as your savior.
  3. Do you work more for money and gifts than to worship God and love others? Oooh, this one hits home. “But I am supposed to provide for my family!” You sure are, but you’re not supposed to do it mainly for money, or for people, but for God.
  4. Do you often choose work over being with God and His people? “Oh, but I had to be faithful at work.” You should absolutely work hard, for as long as you’re signed up to be there. But did you prefer to stay and work instead of praying and reading your Bible, loving your family, and serving your local church?
  5. Are you afraid to be bold for Christ? I have known very many teachers who were afraid to preach the gospel for fear of losing their jobs. Guess what – they’re losing their faith instead. They counted the treasures of America greater riches than the saliva-soaked hate-speech they’d get for preaching the gospel. They looked at the wrong reward.

So, when you get to work, are you working for the treasures of Egypt, or turning from false treasures to be called a fool for Christ? Too often, I’ve forgotten that Jesus calls us to lay down our lives – yes, even our work lives – for His sake.

Life Isn’t About You

David Brooks’ NY Times piece debunks the “go find yourself” message we preach to college graduates:

Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.

Help for Your Work

Talking to one of my buddies recently, I realized that I hadn’t publicized my favorite productivity site: What’s Best Next.

Run by Desiring God Strategy Director Matt Perman, What’s Best Next focuses on productivity as the product of faith in Jesus. In other words, Matt’s foundation is that knowing Christ makes us “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

Here are a few series I’ve found most helpful:

Matt’s writing is readable, clear, and helpful. Enjoy.

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