Wednesday, August 31, 2011


What are you worried about right now? Is it a major project? A potential promotion? Are you worried that your boss could explode at you at any minute for no reason? Is your workplace talking layoffs?

There's a lot of issues that cause people anxiety in their work. We think about those things, obsess about them, lay awake at night wondering. Sometimes, creative ideas come from those ruminations, but that's the exception, not the rule. Maybe that's why Jesus emphasizes peace and freedom from worry so much. In Matthew 6:25, He says "do not worry." In John 14:27, He says, "My peace I leave with you." Earlier in that chapter, He says "let know your heart be troubled" (verse 1). Peter tells his readers to "cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you" (5:7).

There were probably few things that were more frightening to fishers like Peter and John than a fierce squall. Winds on the Sea of Galilee could come out of nowhere and be very dangerous to any boats caught out on the waters. So the storm described in Mark 4:35-41 must have been terrifying. Yet Jesus had the peace to be asleep in the back of the boat. When these desperate men awoke Him, He said to the storm "Peace be still" (verse 39). The Bible says that the disciples were amazed that "even the wind and the waves obey Him" (verse 41).

If the winds and waves of their lives obeyed Jesus, don't you think the wind and waves in your workplace will obey Him as well? The same One who says "Don't worry" in Matthew 6 created the earth in Genesis 1 and still commands it in Mark 4.

That doesn't mean everything always works out perfectly at work. Your project may not succeed. You may miss out on the promotion. Your boss might explode at you for no reason, or you might be laid off. It's easy to be at peace when everything is working out for you. But even when the wind and waves are at their worst, Jesus says "focus on Me, I am the peace."

Monday, August 29, 2011


At my previous university, I taught at least one section of communication ethics every semester. We would discuss Kant, who thought that lying was never acceptable, under any circumstances, and every student would universally condemn that as too rigid. Throughout most of the semester, they would latch on to various versions of situational ethics.

One of my favorite moments in that course was when we would discuss Sissela Bok's book called "Lying." Students had to read the book by a particular moment in the course and write a brief paper about it. But the point of the paper was really to make sure they'd read so we could all discuss Bok's ideas. Bok believed that there were exceptions to Kant's universalism such as lying to save someone's life. But she believed that such exceptions were rare enough that very few of us would ever face them. When have you had to lie to save someone's life? Bok's rule of thumb was to think of lying as the option of last resort--always a bad idea, but sometimes the only option available. She called this the Principle of Veracity, that truth is always preferable to lying except in extreme circumstances. Bok also said that we're not really the best judges of when it's ok for us to lie. We should think about what it would be like if our peers knew about this lie--what would they think about us?

Now apply these ideas to workplaces. Lying is common in many organizations. We can all point to the Enron's and Countrywide's, but that's ducking the point in two ways. First, it's laying the blame on all the employees of those companies when many were also victims. Second, lying doesn't have to involve big issues and cost billions of dollars to be wrong. Fudging a timesheet or padding an expense account are both lying. So is making excuses for not coming in to work when those excuses are not legitimate. Flattery is a form of lying. Office politics are often based on deception.

Little "white lies" are all around us. You might think they're not a big deal, but I think there's two problems with even the smallest of lies. First, God says be honest. "Let your yes be yes and your no be no." Honesty honors God while dishonesty dishonors Him. Second, little lies increase our tolerance for dishonesty. We may have to tell bigger lies to cover up a little lie. Or we may just be more comfortable with medium sized lies because the smaller ones come so naturally. Lying becomes a habit, something we say before we even think about it. Remember, the problems with executives at Enron, Countrywide, and all of the other companies involved in scandals of the past decade didn't start out big. No one starts out to tell really outrageous lies. They start small. The lies grow and grow.

Make the decision today to be honest. It's not always convenient. It's sometimes uncomfortable or even dangerous to tell someone something other than what they want to hear. But it's the right thing to do.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mission Trips

I heard a sermon a few Sundays ago about what mission means. The preacher said that mission isn't necessarily a big task that we have to go somewhere to do. Mission is who we are as a church. He said that "God is a god who sends." That's an interesting idea. Acts 17:26 explains that God intentionally marked out the times and boundaries for the nations, and I've already posted about what this might mean in terms of God placing you here at this time. What if God has been preparing you to be a missionary in your workplace? Depending on where you work, you might be your coworkers' connection to Jesus. Perhaps God is sending you to your workplace.

If so, you cannot serve him living one life on Sunday and another Monday through Friday. You cannot fulfill your mission if you compartmentalize your life so that "church life" never intrudes during the work week. That's why it's so important to focus on Jesus every day, not just on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Something Unconventional

I was looking at some analytics on this blog today, and one thing that caught my eye was what people clicked on after they arrived here. The homepage is obviously the most common place that people start when they visit. Once they're here, the most common place to go next is the category "Relating to supervisors" on the bottom left under "Labels." That's kind of interesting to me. I wonder if, for many of you, one of the areas where it's hardest to live out your faith is in dealing with a boss.

Here's an unconventional tip for dealing with your boss, whether he or she is great or a tyrant. Pray for that person. No, don't pray that they go away or fall off a cliff. Pray for him or her. Ask God to give that person wisdom and courage. Again, not necessarily wisdom to see things your way. Look at 1 Timothy 2:1-4, especially verse 2. Pray for "all those in authority." That includes your supervisor.

Whether you're on good terms or struggling with your supervisor, pray for him or her. Watch what God does in your workplace.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Making Decisions

You know, sometimes I think it would be more efficient if God planned out our lives and put big neon signs in the sky to show us what directions to take. The pillar of cloud and fire that directed the Israelites might get lost in the sky now, but neon would get us there. And that way, we could be sure of being on the right track.

When you have a decision to make, seek God. And if His will in that decision isn’t immediately clear, make sure you’re taking care of the things that you can be certain of being His will: love Him, love others. If at that point, you still don’t have direction, it could be that the specifics of the decision matter less than honoring and obeying Him through either option.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Making the Most of Every Opportunity

Ephesians 5:15-17

“Time is money,” so the saying goes, the idea being that our time is a very precious resource. While the idiom itself isn’t particularly biblical, the sentiment behind it is. God wants us to take very good care of our time. Just to be clear, that doesn’t mean frantically trying to do everything that we think needs to get done—we’re not to be slaves to the clock. But it does mean that we need to carefully consider how we spend each minute. Look at Ephesians 5:15: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.” God wants us to live in such a way that we are taking care of the time with which He has entrusted us.

Why are we to do this? Look immediately before and after that quotation. Paul is encouraging the Ephesians to “live as children of the light” (verse 8). Verse 16 says to make “the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” The Ephesians lived in a society where people would try to corrupt their faith. Paul encouraged them to “not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (verse 17).

We, too, live in evil days. We, too need to make the most of every opportunity, which is why your faith is so important in your workplace. Don’t miss this opportunity to reflect Christ to others!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Psalm of Fairness

I wanted to follow up Monday’s post about not leaning on your own understanding of fairness with one more word on the subject from Psalms. You know, Psalm 1 is a funny chapter. Look at the first verse of the first chapter of Psalms: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” Verse 3 says “whatever that person does prospers.” The rest of the chapter is about how the wicked won’t do well. Wait a minute! That’s not how life works. That would be great if the righteous always prospered and the wicked didn’t. But we all can name good people that never seem to get ahead. And just as easily, we can probably all name bad people that get all the breaks.

Now look at Psalm 150. The last several chapters begin with the instructions to “praise the Lord.” The book closes with “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord” (150:6).

That doesn’t seem right. Chapter 1 starts with a statement that never seems to work out from our perspective, that the people of God will prosper while the wicked suffer. It’s hard to see that. So how can I “praise the Lord” when life seems so unfair?

When I was in college, a professor pointed out the issue with the two ends of Psalms and said that the key to the dilemma of praising God when things don’t seem fair was in chapter 73. Look at verses 3-13: “For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to humanity…this is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth. Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure.”

Sound familiar? Have you ever had moments thinking those very same thoughts? Asaph gives the answer in verse 16: “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me until I entered the sanctuary of God.” It just doesn’t make sense to us when we see things from a worldly perspective. It’s only when we understand our circumstances from God’s perspective that we can understand how “the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” can be blessed. And that understand is why we can “praise the Lord.”

Psalm 73 closes this way: “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.”

It doesn’t matter what seems fair or unfair according to the standards of our world. What matters is that we stay near God, that we make Him our refuge, and that we tell of His deeds. Don’t think about excuses for unfairness or reasons why people do the things that they do. Instead, accept that God is the only thing that really matters. And because He is, give Him praise.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lean Not On Your Own Understanding

So last week’s posts about life not being fair and about not being able to count on people around you were kind of “downers.” It’s not happy to realize that you have to be content with an unfair world where people fail to meet your expectations. Today is the other side of that.

What happens when life seems unfair? What do you do when it just doesn’t make sense? Look at Proverbs 3:5-7. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.”

Trust in the Lord. Lean not on your own understanding. Do not be wise in your own eyes.

When we try to understand things from a worldly perspective, they don’t always make sense. It’s only when we understand who is in control that we can deal with unfairness. That’s true at work or anywhere else.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Problem with People is That Their Human

One of the reasons why life seems so unfair is that we have expectations that are too high. Don’t label me a cynic or pessimist yet. We expect our boss to make promotions in a way that is completely rational in our eyes. We expect that, if we do our work well, everyone will always treat us well. We expect our subordinates, coworkers, and supervisors to be respectful and civil all the time. Basically, we expect everyone in the workplace to be perfect. You may be saying, “no, I don’t expect them to be perfect. But it’d be nice if they were reasonable.” But what you’re saying is that you’d like them to be reasonable all the time. In a sense, perfectly reasonable.

The problem is that the people around you are human. If you were surrounded by robots, you might not have to deal with people who act unreasonably, with disrespect or incivility. Robots don’t backstab you. They don’t make decisions based on their own ambitions or whims. If you worked only with robots, life might be fairer.

Sure, I’m joking to a great extent. But people can never live up to our expectations because they are human. We create an illusion of how things should be, but imperfect humanity never makes it all the way to “should be.”

Don’t read this and be depressed all weekend about how pitiful we all are. Don’t let this lead to cynicism or pessimism. Instead, be a realist. Know that people do good things, but underneath everything, we’re all sinners in need of a savior. It might help to remember times when you weren’t reasonable or fair toward someone else. Pray for the people around you. And extend them the same mercy when they mess up that God extends to you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Life's Not Fair

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is the end of Job. Job spends most of the book talking with his friends. They have several theologically-flawed reasons why Job is suffering. Job doesn’t buy into those ideas. Instead, he just asks God for an audience, an opportunity to plead his case. Basically, Job is saying that his suffering isn’t fair.

That’s a common complaint, isn’t it? “That’s not fair.” It’s not fair that you have to work for a particular supervisor. It’s not fair that your coworker got the promotion when you worked twice as hard. From the time that we’re children, we want things to be fair.

But look at God’s response to Job. God doesn’t say, “you’re right, it wasn’t fair.” God doesn’t even explain the reasons for Job’s sufferings. We have the benefit of the first two chapters that explain why Job loses everything—he never knew that God was proud of his faithfulness. No, God didn’t answer any of Job’s questions. Instead, He said, “who are you to question me?” “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?” (38:2) Job never learns the cosmic reason for the “unfairness”—but he does learn that he needs to trust God without questioning.

Life isn’t fair. Even though we can repeat the words, it’s still hard to accept. Joni Eareckson Tada explains that it’s like walking into a conversation and being asked for your opinion without knowing what’s been said before you arrived (Aug. 7). You don’t have all the information, and you don’t understand God’s purposes anywhere near enough to be able to judge fairness. And even if you could judge fairness, God’s version of fairness is very different from the world’s version.

As you interact with other people, it’s great when things work out well. But they often do not. Things aren’t fair. Remember that they don’t have to be. What’s important isn’t fair versus unfair. What’s important is God.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Princeton Professor Advocates for Faith at Work

There was an article a couple of months ago in the Princeton Alumni Weekly that talked about Princeton Professor David Miller, who is the director for the Princeton University Faith and Work Initiative. Read the article about Miller and his program here.

I really appreciated this. The author profiles Miller who believes that faith and work can be intertwined. Similar to the ideas in this blog, Miller felt coming out of college that he was told to live two separate lives--his work life and his church life. After 16 years in international finance, Miller saw that the two might not need to be separated.

The part of the article that most stood out to me was when he talked about the advantage that a person of faith has in the workplace over an athiest. You might not think about your religion as an advantage at work, but the article author quotes Miller as saying:
"One aspect of having a worldview grounded in faith or metaphysical things is that you have a different perception of time. You think in terms of eternity, and how you live this life matters for one’s eternity. If you have a longer sense of time infused by some spiritual tradition, it also means you treat the marketplace differently."

As you work, do you focus on eternity? How does that focus shape the way you interact with people at work? How does that focus change the way you do your job?

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Gift God Never Gives

God gives us a lot of amazing gifts. There's salvation. And that would be enough. But He showers down blessings on us, even in times that are tough.

But there's one thing that God will never give. God will never give us the right or the responsibility to take revenge. God says, "it is mine to avenge" (Deuteronomy 32:35). Leviticus 19:18 says "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself." New Testament writers also emphasized that this means Christians should not look for revenge on their enemies. Paul told the Romans not to take revenge (Romans 12:19) and the writer of Hebrews told his readers that revenge belongs to God (Hebrews 10:30).

There will always be people who cross us at work. It's part of dealing with other people, people who are also sinners. When they do, the temptation is to look for ways that we can get them back. When you do that, you are judging between you and them. You are saying that they are wrong and need to be punished. And God warns that He, and He alone, is able to do that.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What Does It Mean to Be Blessed?

Whenever something goes right in our lives, we're apt to say we're "lucky." I was recently convicted about that and now I say I'm "blessed." Whatever good I'm experiencing is because of God's grace. We talk about blessings from God being those things that He gives us--food to eat, people who love us, maybe our jobs (especially in this economy), health, etc. And no doubt, those things are certainly blessings from our God who loves us more than we can imagine.

But there's another meaning for the word blessed. Part of the confusion comes between "blest" (which was the past tense of bless but isn't used as much any more) and "blessed" (which had a different meaning in the Bible). Blessed carried the idea of an enduring joy, regardless of circumstances. So while you might feel "blest" by the things God gives you, "blessed" carries a deeper sense. So when Jesus says "Blessed are the poor in spirit..." (Matthew 5:3), he's not saying that the poor in spirit are going to have blessing raining down on them, that they will feel great about their circumstances. He is saying that the poor in spirit will have a deep, enduring joy because "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." That joy is not dependent on their circumstances--in fact the circumstances may be quite troubling (John 16:33). That joy comes from understanding their place as it relates to God's Kingdom.

This meaning is very different from what we typically think of when we hear the word blessed (or blest) in our conversations. God doesn't promise any of us blessings beyond grace and the hope of heaven. What He does promise is that, if we tune our hearts to Him, we will have the kind of attitude that doesn't depend on our present circumstances. That sounds like a blessing that I want to have.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bringing Your Faith to Work

Bradley Moore recently wrote about five rules of spiritual engagement at work. For me, #2 and #3 are the toughest. His second rule of spiritual engagement at work is to recognize that it's not about you. Your job isn't about you. It isn't about your salary or your accomplishments or your promotion. Your job is about God (just like every other part of your life). It's easy to say that, much tougher to really live that out. His third rule is to surrender to greater purpose for your work. Once you realize work is not about you, you are able to surrender to God's purpose. You become His instrument. You work for Him.

Think about those things this week. Your work is not about you. There's a greater purpose for what you do.