Monthly Archives: March 2009

Avoiding another miserable day at work

I just finished reading Patrick Lencioni’s book on job satisfaction, The three signs of a miserable job: A fable for managers (and their employees). It is a fast read and offers great insights on how to be a better manager, as well as how to find a job you truly enjoy. Like his other books, the first two-thirds of the book is written as a parable, where Lencioni weaves his principles into a creative, fascinating, believable story. The last third is a review and explanation of the principles.

Lencioni’s principles reminded me of Frederick Herzberg’s two factor theory of job satisfaction. Herzberg’s view was that people are motivated by six different “Motivators”–achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, promotion, and growth–and that people are demotivated by eight “Hygiene factors”–pay and benefits, company policy and administration, relationships with coworkers, physical environment, supervision, status, job security, and salary.

What Lencioni has done is to boil those 14 items down to three which he says contributes to a miserable job–anonymity, irrelevance, and immeasurement. Anonymity is the aspect that if people are not known for who they are, they will never be fulfilled. “People who see themselves as invisible, generic, or anonymous cannot love their jobs.” Irrelevance is the idea that “everyone needs to know that their job matters, to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment.” Immeasurement is the concept that “employees need to be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. . . Without a tangible means for assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate.”

I found the book very helpful and thought provoking. It prompted me to think how I view my own satisfaction as a pastor, as well as how I can encourage the staff of our church.

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Posted by on March 31, 2009 in Books, Leadership, Quotes


Grace is truly amazing!

“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of His grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace. Every day should be a day of relating to God on the basis of His grace alone.”

Jerry Bridges

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Posted by on March 30, 2009 in Quotes


The pain of watching truth get trampled

One of the sadder aspects of ministry is watching people who know the truth; who have been taught the truth; who have served as leaders in the church; choose to knowingly and willingly walk away from the truth. In previous generations, I believe they referred to it as the sin of the high hand. Sad is their decision and great is their fall.

Eli was a priest in Israel (1 Samuel 1:9). His sons, who apparently served in the temple, were worthless men who abused their position to rob the people (1 Samuel 2:12-17). Eli mentored Samuel, who was called by God to be a prophet (1 Samuel 3). Samuel, in turn, had two sons who abused their position as judges to pad their own wallets (1 Samuel 8:1-3). Two generations of people raised under the roof of truth and ministry, and yet who knowingly and willingly not only walked away, but who turned to evil.

This heartbreaking drama is played out far too frequently in real life. It is seen in the televangelist who falls into the very sins he condemns. It is seen in the couple who had a ministry to couples in crisis, and yet whose own marriage fractured to the point of one party planning to walk away, knowing full well that church discipline will follow. It is seen in a church that has the outward reputation for strong Bible teaching, yet inside the four walls the staff is known for silo building, turf protecting, and simmering conflict. It is seen in the seminary employee who embezzles funds.

It pains me to watch people who should know better act as if they have lost their minds. It ought not to be this way!


The forgotten spiritual discipline

I have been studying the subject of fasting this week for a message on Matthew 6:16-18. In that passage, Jesus instructs his followers,

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV)

In the past year, there have been three occasions where I felt led to fast in order to devote myself to prayer. On two occasions I faced decisions where I needed wisdom beyond what I possessed. On another occasion, I was burdened about the marriages of some friends. So I fasted for a 24-hour period and prayed throughout the day. I can’t say that it was the key to my spiritual growth or that it super-charged my prayers. I can’t say that I felt closer to God. But it was good self-discipline and taught me to depend on God. When my stomach growled, it was a good reminder to pray for those I felt led to intercede for on that occasion.

Beyond the connection with prayer, I can’t say that I knew much more about the subject. Thus, as I did my research, I tried to answer the basic “Who-What-When-Where-Why-How” questions. Here is a bullet point outline of what I learned:

What is fasting?

  • To fast means to go without food
  • Fasting is a voluntary practice and not commanded in the New Testament
  • Normal fast – go without food, but not water (Matthew 4:1-2)
  • Absolute fast – go without food and water (Esther 4:16)
  • Partial fast – go without certain foods (Daniel 10:2-3)

 Why do people fast? 

  • Fasting allows you to use the time you would spend in another activity to focus on your relationship with God
  • Fasting is always associated with prayer
  • Fasting demonstrates humility and dependence on God

 When do people fast?

  • Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-34; 23:26-32). NOTE: This is the only place in Scripture where fasting is commanded. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross did away with the Day of Atonement.
  • Seek God’s aid (Ezra 8:21-23)
  • Confession of sin (Nehemiah 9:1-3)
  • National crisis (Esther 4:16)
  • Intercede for others (2 Samuel 12:16; Daniel 9:3-20)
  • Mourning (Daniel 10:2-3)
  • Preparing for something new (Matthew 4:1-2; Acts 9:9)
  • Choosing leaders (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23)

How do people fast? 

  • Don’t advertise (Matthew 6:16)
  • Keep it between you and God (Matthew 6:17-18)

 How can people fast today?

  • Food – Skip meals to devote time to prayer.
  • Technology – Turn off your cell phone or unplug your computer and take a day of silence with no interruptions in order to focus on your relationship with God.
  • Possessions – Resolve to live simply and not buy new items in order to learn contentment. Give the funds you save to ministry.
  • TV – One author mentioned taking a 40-day fast from TV and using the time to read through the entire Bible during the 40 days.
  • 30-hour famine (World Vision) – Designed to teach students the meaning of hunger and to raise funds for world hunger.

When the Gospel divides

In Matthew 10:34-36, Jesus stated one of the unpleasant realities of the gospel.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (ESV)

Rather than bringing peace on earth and making everyone happy, sometimes the gospel brings division. Because some believe the message and others do not, lines get drawn, sides are chosen, and weapons are reached for.

These verses have been played out in our community in recent days.

A Christian organization wanted to start an after school Bible class at one of the local schools. According to the laws of the land, all school clubs have equal access to meeting space. So the principal said “Yes” and the club started meeting. Not surprisingly, some parents objected to having a “religious” group meeting at a public school. Rumors were started, complaints were filed, decisions were questioned, and bad feelings escalated.

As I have watched the drama from afar, I realized I was watching Jesus’ promise being lived out in real life. Sometimes the gospel divides because some choose not to believe.

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Posted by on March 27, 2009 in Culture, Scripture


Preaching from the ESV

I recently started using the English Standard Version of the Bible (ESV) when I preach on Sundays. For many years, I studied from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and preached from the New International Version (NIV). While I felt the NASB was more accurate since it was a “word-for-word” translation, it was sometimes awkward to read. The NIV was easier to read, but being a “thought-for-thought” or “dynamic equivalent” translation, it was not always as accurate. Last fall I was introduced to the ESV and now I can enjoy the best of both worlds. As a word-for-word translation, it is faithful to the original texts and extremely accurate. The translators also focused on clarity of expression and literary excellence, which makes it easy to read. For an understanding of how the ESV is different from other translations, click the link.

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Posted by on March 25, 2009 in Preaching, Scripture


The Mom Song

Remember all those wise words of advice and encouragement your mother said to you over the years? You don’t? Then watch “The Mom Song” and relive the happy memories. It is incredibly creative and well done.

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Posted by on March 24, 2009 in Fun, Parenting, Videos


Action-oriented Bible study

In his book, Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God, author and pastor Mark Batterson makes the case that it is time to stop praying and start acting out what we believe.

“I’ve been challenged by the action-oriented approach to Scripture proposed by Peter Marshall, former chaplain of the United States Senate.

I wonder what would happen if we all agreed to read one of the Gospels until we came to a place that told us to do something, then went out to do it, and only after we had done it, began reading again? There are aspects of the Gospel that are puzzling and difficult to understand. But our problems are not centered around the things we don’t understand, but rather in the things we do understand, the things we could not possibly misunderstand. Our problem is not so much that we don’t know what we should do. We know perfectly well, but we don’t want to do it.

Please don’t misinterpret what I’m trying to say. Pray about everything. Then pray some more. But at some point, you need to quit praying and start acting. . . . When Christianity turns into a noun, it becomes a turnoff. Christianity was always intended to be a verb. And, more specifically, an action verb. The title of the book of Acts says it all, doesn’t it? It’s not the book of Ideas of Theories or Words. It’s the book of Acts. If the twenty-first-century church said less and did more, maybe we would have the same kind of impact the first-century church did.

Some of us live as if we expect to hear God say, ‘Well thought, good and faithful servant!’ or ‘Well said, good and faithful servant!’ God isn’t going to say either of those things. There is only one commendation, and it is the by-product of pursuing God-ordained passions: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!'”

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Posted by on March 23, 2009 in Books, Quotes


Passionate pursuit of God’s will

“When it comes to doing the will of God, God-ordained passions are far more important than any human qualification we can bring to the table. In fact, God often uses us at our point of greatest incompetence. That way He gets all the credit.”

Mark Batterson, in Wild Goose Chase: Reclaim the Adventure of Pursuing God

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Posted by on March 22, 2009 in Books, Passion, Quotes


Dangerous prayers

I have been studying The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-15 for this week’s sermon. Two thoughts have jumped out. One is how dangerous this prayer really is. You should not pray this prayer unless you want God to transform your life. You should not pray this prayer unless you are serious about playing your role in fulfilling the requests. The second thought is that because it is so meaningful, it is not surprising that the enemy has tried to turn this into an oft-repeated and meaningless prayer.

Here’s a summary of what I have learned.

Matthew 6:9-15


9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, God is both personal and powerful. He is intimately acquainted with our concerns, yet he is sovereign over the universe. We can come into his presence, but we should come with awe.
hallowed be your name. May your name be honored.  God’s name reveals his character. The better we know who God is, the more we will want to honor him.
10 Your kingdom come,  May your rule be obeyed. Since the kingdom comes by conversion, we are praying that people will come to know Christ as Savior. Since the kingdom comes by commitment, we are praying that people will allow Christ to be Lord of their lives, beginning with us.
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  May your will be accomplished. If I am serious about this request, I need to ask myself two questions: 1) Does God have the right to do with my life whatever he wants, if it will accomplish his will? 2) Have I submitted myself to God’s will?
11 Give us this day our daily bread,  Please meet our needs each day as we depend on you.  We depend on God for all of our needs. There are no long-term guarantees.
12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  Please grant us forgiveness and a forgiving spirit. While we don’t earn salvation by forgiving others, we do demonstrate the reality of our salvation by how we treat others.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Please protect us from falling into sin. While we recognize the benefits of trials, we don’t want to be in any position where we might fall into sin.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. This prayer is lived in community.
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Posted by on March 21, 2009 in Prayer, Scripture