Monday, April 23, 2012

What Are Your Excuses?

There are lots of excuses for not living out your faith at work. How closely to your excuses match some historical reasons given by Bible characters?

Adam has the distinction of giving the first excuse in history--"the woman you gave me made me do it." Followed immediately by "the devil made me do it." (Gen. 3)

Saul told Samuel that he wasn't obeying God but that it was for a good cause (to worship the very God he was disobeying, 1 Sam. 15).

As a man was inviting guests to a great banquet, they were all too busy with other things (Luke 14).

The man with one talent was too afraid to do what his master wanted (Matt. 25).

And of course, the king of excuses would have to be Moses. While watching God's presence in the form of a bush bonfire, Moses had one excuse after another ("they won't believe me, I don't speak well, I just don't want to, etc., Exodus 3).

What's your excuse for not living out your faith at work?

Monday, April 16, 2012

That Doesn't Make Sense

When you compare what God says and what a lot of people in business say it takes to succeed, it doesn't always make sense to follow God at work.

Jesus said to love your enemies. God calls us to love the unloveable. As Christians, we should forgive even when others hurt us deeply.

How are you at obeying the tough things?

If you struggle, you're not alone. Saul was good at trying to follow God while balancing what made sense. In 1 Samuel 15, Saul was commanded to completely destroy the Amalekites. But that didn't really make sense to him. The sheep and cattle could be used to reward the troops. Keeping the king alive would give Saul a great trophy. Saul obeyed God as long as God's commands made sense to Saul.

Be careful at trying to use common sense to make decisions. Follow God, even when it doesn't fit with what others are telling you.

Monday, March 26, 2012


How much are you praying at work? I was thinking about that question the other day. There's a lot for which you should be praying.

Be sure to
pray for your supervisor (1 Timothy 2:1-4). It doesn't matter whether you like him/her. God tells you to pray for those in authority over you.

Pray about the decisions you make (Joshua 9). That's not just the big decisions (although certainly you should be taking those to God. Pray for even the smallest decisions.

Of course, you should also be
praying for everyone around you that doesn't know Jesus (Matthew 9:36-38). Pray that God will send people (maybe you) into their lives to show them the way.

If there's something worrying you, pray for that also (Philippians 4:6-7). Know that your Father knows what you need.

It seems like an oversimplification to say that's a lot to pray for. Make prayer part of your work.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Finding Just the Right Words

A few weeks ago, my daily reading passage was Matthew 10 where Jesus sends out his apostles to tell the Judean people about Him. As He gives them instructions, one of the things that He says is "do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time, you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." To be honest, I didn't think much about that particular passage at the time (it's verses 19-20).

Then, two weeks ago, someone came to me. This person wanted to talk to an unbeliever about Jesus but she wasn't sure what to say. I thought of Matthew 10:19-20. The context is different (Jesus was telling His disciples what to do when they were arrested), but I think the passage applied, just the same. After the conversation, this person felt she said all the wrong things, but as she described what she said and the questions the other person had asked, it seemed to me like she had said everything she should have said.

I think one of the biggest reasons that we don't tell others about Jesus is that we don't know what to say. I think another big reason that we don't tell others about Jesus is that we don't think about it. This person's experience reminded me about two things. First, sometimes I don't feel enough desperation regarding the people around me that need Jesus. Second, when I'm telling people about my faith, I don't need to worry about what I say--I just need to open my mouth and let the Spirit work.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Gentle and Calm or In Your Face

I was reading something today that really made me think about how we talk to others. In Matthew 17:24-27, Peter asks Jesus about paying taxes. Jesus first makes a comparison between earthly kingdoms and heavenly kingdoms. Jesus tells Peter where he can find money for the tax. But first, and this is what I thought was particularly relevant, Jesus says “But so that we may not cause offense…” Another version says, “not to offend.” In other places, Jesus emphasized treating others gently (Matthew 11:28-30 and 12:20). What’s interesting is that Jesus did not treat everyone gently. In Matthew 12, he had strong words for the religious leaders. He drove merchants and money changers out of the temple with a whip! Why were those circumstances different? Why was it ok to offend in some situations but not in others?

I think there is at least one difference between the times where Jesus is confrontational and the times when he does not want to offend that is relevant for us. When it comes to sharing God’s kingdom, Jesus is bold and unapologetic. When it comes to talking to people in day-to-day interactions, especially if those people are not in powerful positions, he is gentle and careful to not offend.

In terms of relating to us and to our workplaces, when you are telling people about your faith, you should be bold and unapologetic. When you are confronting something that is wrong (such as unethical business practices), you should be courageous and true. When it comes to other interactions, you should be gentle and look to not offend.

Monday, February 20, 2012


As I was thinking about today's post, I looked back at the last year's analytics data. Like many websites, I have software that counts the number of visitors and the pages that they look at. I was just curious regarding what posts were the most popular ones. The introduction that's linked to "about this blog" was easily the most popular. The second most popular posts were "grace" and "ambition."

The ambition post was one that I wrote at the beginning of 2011. As I think about the upcoming year and my goals, it's all too easy to focus on the accolades that I hope come from accomplishing those goals. It's a powerful temptation to think about getting ahead, receiving praise and money for what I plan to do. It's not that God is against success--just see what He did for Joseph. But that success should never be the goal. Our goal should always be to use our talents to honor god through our work.

It was a little disappointing to read the ambition post and know that I struggle with that temptation just as much now as I did on January 5, 2011. Which is why I'm glad the grace post was just as popular. It's critical to remember that God sees my growth as a process, not a one-time event. He knows that I'm going to struggle and fail. And He loves me (and you) anyway.

As I began this year, I made goals for the year just as I always do. But this year, one of my earliest posts on this blog was about grace again. It makes it easier to remember that, when I mess up, God is still there.

Monday, February 13, 2012


This weekend, my wife and I watched the movie “Facing the Giants.” In the movie, the main character, Grant Taylor, is a high school football coach who hasn’t had a winning record despite six years at his school. He has parents that are call on the principal to fire him. One of his assistants is less than supportive. His players doubt him and the program. Basically, just about everything that could be going wrong in his professional life is going wrong.

Like a good movie, everything worked out in the end for Coach Taylor. But what I really liked was what he said to his players at a pivotal point in the movie. “It’s not about you…When we win, we’re going to praise God. When we lose, we’re going to praise God.”

The only way you can honor God when things are going right is if you recognize that life and all its accomplishments are not about you. Coach Taylor demanded that his players give 100% of themselves to whatever it was that they were doing—
God wants our best work. But after that, the rest is up to Him.

What giants are you facing? Feeling pressure to perform or else? Feeling like everything that you tried fizzled out? Surrounded by people who expected failure? Remember to give 100%. But after that, remember that the rest is up to God. Win or lose, all you have to do is honor Him.

Monday, February 6, 2012

An Invitation to a Relationship

Why honor God in the workplace? It's not because doing so makes you holy (Ephesians 2:8-9). One way to think about it is that the opportunity to honor God at work is an invitation to a relationship with God in this aspect of your life.

Last Sunday, I heard a sermon on John 5:39-40 (and the context around those verses). The Pharisees were experts in the law but never made the connection between scriptures and relationship with Jesus.

Think about that in the context of the things in this blog. You can follow all the things in the Bible that connect to work. But if that doesn't lead you to relationship, you've missed the point. Whether it's honesty in reporting expenses, loving the unlovable coworker, or treating your boss or subordinate with respect, living out your faith at work is your opportunity to be in relationship with Jesus in a major part of your life. The reverse is also true. Trying to compartmentalize where focus on Christianity on Sunday but focus only on work on Monday through Friday means that for 8ish hours a day, 5 days a week, you are removing yourself from a relationship with Him.

As the week begins, think about work as an invitation to join in relationship with your Savior. If honoring God at work feels like a list of do's and don't's, putting relationship at the center tends to take the burden away.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Do Not Let Your Heart Be Troubled

John 14:1; John 16:33

I talked with someone last week who was very nervous about today. She starts a new job this morning. While that's very exciting, there's also some anxiety that's a natural part of that change. There are new people to meet and hope that personalities click. There are tasks to learn and hope that you can do them well.

In John 13-17, Jesus is giving a charge to His disciples. These messages may not have been given that the same time (i.e., Jn 14:31 where Jesus says let's leave but then keeps talking), but they have the same message and context. Jesus is about to be crucified and He wants to give His followers some last minute encouragement. They are about to have a lot to be nervous about.

I want to draw you attention to something He says early in these chapters and two things He says later.

First, in 14:1, Jesus says "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me." Immediately after that, He explains the big picture--I'm coming back for you.

Second, in 16:33, which is the end of His speech to the disciples, He says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Not "I'm going to make everything rosy for you." In fact, Jesus says, you will have troubles. But again, back to the big picture--I'm coming back for you.

Finally, in chapter 17, Jesus prays for Himself, for the disciples with Him, and for all believers. He covers the situation in prayer.

As you're facing situations that make you nervous, uncertain, or anxious, remember this. Trust in God. You'll have troubles, but Jesus has overcome everything around you. Cover the situation in prayer.

Monday, January 23, 2012

When Bad Things Happen

John 9

I heard a sermon a couple of weeks ago that really hit home. When bad things happen to you at work, how do you respond? Think about that for a minute. It could be someone else getting an account that you had wanted. You might be passed up for promotion or even lose your job. For me, it's usually a bad class or some of my research being rejected. A common response to bad things that happen to us at work is to ask "why". "God, why is this happening to me?"

That's probably exactly what Jesus' disciples thought when they asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind" in John 9:2. They saw that something terrible had happened to this man, and they wanted to know why. But look at the next verse. Jesus tells them that they are asking the wrong question--"this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."

"Why" or "why not" isn't the right question. Instead, we should be asking "how can God be glorified through this" or "what can God reveal through this."

From time to time, you hear a celebrity or professional athlete praise God for their success. That's great, and I'm glad they recognize that their gifts come from him. But how do those people respond to adversity? When bad things happen in their careers, can they still give honor to God? A great example of that is Colt McCoy's speech after the 2010 BCS title game. McCoy said that he knew in anything, that God is in control. Incidentally, God used that moment to give McCoy a national audience to share His faith, encouraging people to seek Jesus.

What about you? Think about the last bad time or negative experience at work. How did you respond? Did you search for answers, questioning why this was happening to you? Or did you look for how God was revealing Himself and how this situation might work for His glory?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Temptations Because of Motivations

Look at Jesus' first temptation (Matthew 4:3-4). "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." What's wrong with Jesus telling the stones to become bread? Nothing. God provided water for the Israelites through a stone--why would providing Himself bread from stones be a problem. There was nothing inherently wrong with turning the stones into bread. The issue would be the motivation. Depending on what translation you read, Satan was either tempting Jesus to prove that He was God's Son or suggesting that Jesus use His power to meet His needs rather than relying on the Father's sovereignty. It was wrong to turn the stones to bread because of who was telling Him to do it.

Think about your job. There are lots of things that you could do in your job that are morally neutral. But despite that neutrality, how you approach those situations still matters. Take this account or don't take it? Say this to my supervisor or not? Accept a new position or don't accept it? In cases where there is not a clear answer, are you choosing one path for self-serving reasons or other-serving reasons? Remember, Joseph got promoted from prisoner to captain of the prison to second-in-command of the most powerful country in the world, so God is not against success at work. But Joseph pursued God through all of those promotions.

What decisions are you making at work? Could be big ones, could be small ones. It could be that all of the options in a decision are good options. The question then becomes one of motivation. Whose voice are you following? Are you pursuing self-serving motivations or other-serving motivations?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Changes to This Blog

So after a bit of realistic reflection, I'm making a change to the number of posts per week. Looking at the upcoming semester, I'm teaching more students in more courses than I have in several years and I have a number of research projects that I need to give significant attention to. For the next several weeks, I wouldn't be able to post three times a week. After thinking about it, I've decided that it's probably better to shift to one post a week, at least for now. One reason is that I want to be sensitive to getting my work done. I've posted before about fulfilling work obligations. I need to be focused on work during work time. And I need to spend family time focusing on family. A second reason is that I see the content slipping a little bit. My original purpose was to catalog what the Bible says about work. Having finished that, I've been going back and thinking more about how general passages related to our workplaces. That's fine, but keeping up with the pace has forced me to publish some posts that probably needed to be better thought out.

So, this will be the last non-Monday post, at least for a little while. An exception to that might be if anyone wants to submit a guest post. Let me know if you're interested.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Peace, Perfect Peace

A couple of Sundays ago, the church that I attend sang the hymn "Peace, Perfect Peace." As we sang, I couldn't help but think about this blog, particularly during the second and last verses. Think about this during your work week:

Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

It is enough: earth's struggles soon shall cease,
and Jesus call us to heaven's perfect peace.

Googling the name of the song brings up several versions that you can listen to. Do that this morning and start your day thinking about the peace of Jesus. What was true in 1875 when this song was written is true today.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Grace, Again

Romans 5:6-8

It's easy to think about things we should be doing better this time of year. That's what New Year's resolutions are all about. On Wednesday, I suggested that you make commitments for how you're going to better honor God at work in 2012.

You're not going to follow-through on those commitments perfectly this year. I hope that you follow through more than the average resolution, but the fact is that you're not going to be perfect when it comes to living out your faith at work. You'll be fine until a coworker does something annoying, and you'll respond with unloving sarcasm. Or you might make it through that but there's that expense account, and it's almost expected that you pad the numbers a bit. Or that might not be an issue, but it's too tempting to join in the boss-bashing around the water cooler. We all know that there are times when we mess up.

That's why I like Romans 5. Paul says that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Beautiful!

Don't think of those commitments as a tight rope that you have to walk without falling. Make the commitments and don't use grace as an excuse to slack off. But know that Jesus gave everything for you so you wouldn't have to live in fear.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Taking Stock of Where Things Are

The beginning of a new year is a time like no other time. It's the point at which past and future meet. What I mean by that is that the beginning of a new year is one of the best chances we have to reflect on what we've done and think about where we want to be. That's why this is everyone's favorite time of year to make resolutions.

How were you at living out your faith at work? I did better last year than I've ever done before. But I still fell short a number of times. What about you? Take 10 minutes to write down a few ways your faith shaped how you worked last year. Then take 10 more minutes to write down a three ways you can better glorify God at work in 2012.

One last thing--don't think of these as resolutions (which usually get broken by February). Think of these as commitments to honoring God through everything you do.