Work as a Ministry

“I have always thought it was a shame that more people don’t go into “giving” professions. In fact, I have occasionally felt pangs of guilt that I didn’t choose a career that was completely focused on serving others. I have deep admiration for dedicated and hard-working clergy, social workers, or missionaries, and I wonder why I haven’t abandoned my career and moved into one of those kinds of jobs.

While I have not completely abandoned the idea of one day doing that, I have come to the realization that all managers can—and really should—view their work as a ministry. A service to others.

By helping people find fulfillment in their work, and helping them succeed in whatever they’re doing, a manager can have a profound impact on the emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual health of workers and their families. They can also create an environment where employees do the same for their peers, giving them a sort of ministry of their own. All of which is nothing short of a gift from God.

And so I suppose that the real shame is not that more people aren’t working in positions of service to others, but that so many managers haven’t yet realized that they already are.”

Patrick Lencioni 

Making Decisions

The irony of writing an article on decision-making is not lost on me. As an incredibly young man, the amount of tough calls and life altering decisions I’ve made is laughable.

Thankfully amidst a world full of options, choices, and decisions, God has provided me with the same Holy Spirit and the same Word he’s provided everyone else to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).

Like many, I’ve attempted the time-tested and failed methods of decision-making:

  • Flipping to random pages in the Bible.
  • Counting seeing a double rainbow as a “sign”
  • Feeling some inner peace.
  • Dreams (most likely inspired by Chipotle).
  • Making a decision based on what I “felt” after fasting.
  • The good old “flipping a coin”

Each and every one of these methods were more often than not rooted in a deep sense of anxiety and lack of trust in the Lord. If I’m honest, making a decision is difficult. The stakes are so often high and life-altering.

ONE: Humbly Submit to Biblical Commands and Principles

If there was but one thing I needed to hear on a regular basis regarding decisions, it’s that my decisions have to be submitted to the commands and principles of Scripture. Deuteronomy 29:29 reminds us that “the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Stuart Scott wisely reminds us that “if we make a decision based on biblical commands and principles alone we can fully trust that we are pleasing God in our decision and fully trust that He will providentially (by circumstances out of our control) change our choice if it is not within His decreed will.” [1]

Whether it be a direct command that makes the decision for us or a principle or statement, following this first step in decision-making always leads us in the right direction.

J.C. Ryle also reminds us in his book Walking with God that we must always use the Bible as the starting point for our decision-making:

“The Bible must be our standard.  Whenever we are confronted with a question about Christian practice, we must apply the teaching of the Bible.  Sometimes the Bible will deal with it directly, and we must go by its direct teaching.  Often the Bible will not deal with it directly, and then we must look for general principles to guide us.  It does not matter what other people think.  Their behavior is not a standard for us.  But the Bible is a standard for us, and it is by the Bible that we must live.”

TWO: Seek Out Pastoral Oversight

So often decisions are made outside of this necessary step in decision-making. For me in particular, I found this part of decision making process essential in deciding who to marry and when to get married. However, there have been many times where I have made decisions without pastoral oversight and found myself fulfilling the wisdom found in Proverbs 18:1-2:

“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

The author of Hebrews also confirms this:

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

THREE: Carefully Ask the Right Questions

I have found that the questions provided by Stuart Scott in his materials on biblical decision making to be some of the most helpful questions to examine my heart as I attempt to lead my family in making godly decisions:

  • Is this something I can thank God for? (Rom. 14:6; 1 Cor. 10:30; Col. 3:17)
  • Is this something that will glorify God? (1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Cor. 5:9)
  • Is this following the example of Christ? (Rom. 15:7-8; 1 Cor. 11:1; 1 John 2:6)
  • Is this beneficial? Does it promote my spiritual life? (1 Cor. 6:12-20 , used in a context of promoting sexual purity)
  • Is this a practice that over time will tend to master me? Will it stimulate a desire that will be difficult to control?
  • Is this an occasion where my “flesh” (sinfulness) is seeking to indulge itself? (Gal. 5:13)
  • Is this worth imitating? (1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 4:9)
  • Are you not seeking outside counsel due to wanting what you want? (Prov. 18:1-2; 24:6)
  • Is it self-serving at the expense of someone else’s benefit? (Rom. 15:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:33; Gal. 5:13; Phil. 2:1-4)
  • Will my choice affect others around me? If so, in what way?
  • Is it constructive? Will it promote the spiritual well-being of other believers if they engage in this practice that is permissible for me?”
  • Is there a God-given need for me to do this? (1 John 3:17-18, Acts 6:1-6, 2 Cor. 2:12-13)

Obviously this list isn’t exhaustive. There are plenty of other practical and often helpful ways of making decisions regarding specific issues that are available to you. Two that have been particularly helpful to me have been:

  • A Study of Decision Making Gods Way by Stuart Scott (unpublished doctoral dissertation for Covenant Theological Seminary, 1996).
  • Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung

FOUR: Remember God is Sovereign

Making a decision is so difficult. Some people will tell you that whatever decision you make is the right decision. Often it’s not the best decision.

Recently I made a decision I’d consider not the best I could have ever made. Those days after that decision had me wrestling with despair. It was then I had to turn to the sweet words in Romans 8:28-29:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

No one, not even me, regardless of the decisions they make, can fall outside of God’s will. It was that decision, although at first seemed wrong, that led me to realize I was not fully pursuing a life that was honoring God.

Stuart Scott says that “sometimes God’s word is a road map; sometimes it’s a compass.” In this situation, it was a compass that was pointing me back to the grace of the Father who had saved me through the cross.

Regardless of the decision we face, big or small, we all have the same things: God’s Word. The Holy Spirit. The Church.

With those things at hand, every man (even a young man with little experience making those “tough calls”) can walk forward with confidence in making that next big decision.

A Challenge to Young Leaders

A phenomenal word from Eric Geiger:

Earlier this week I pointed out that there are fewer leaders who meet the typical “leadership profile” for positions such as senior pastor. From a practical and purely demographic vantage point, there are fewer people in Generation X than the preceding Boomer generation, so there are currently less available leaders in the often sought-after 35-50 age range than there were 15 years ago.

Now is a great time for younger leaders to be cultivated and tapped for significant leadership positions. And some churches and organizations are handing the leadership reigns to younger leaders. As this happens, younger leaders are wise to heed the challenge the apostle Paul gave to the man he discipled—Timothy.

Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). 

Read the rest of his challenge here.

Catch Someone Doing Something Right

I was recently listening to a group of young leaders talk about their organization. I was almost brought to tears listening to them talk about some of their experiences and what they would change as they thought about becoming leaders.

“I actually thought everyone hated me until I was approached about being promoted,” said one leader. “It was really crazy.”

He wasn’t the only one.

“Actually I was the same way — I never really knew if I was doing something good or bad,” she said. Every single person in the group shared the same thing — although they had great experiences with the organization, few leaders had approached them and said “good job.” Some had never heard how they were performing.

It reminded me of the classic Ken Blanchard book The One Minute Manager, which I highly recommend. In the book he tells the story of a young “manager” who visits the organization that’s run by the “One Minute Manager.” One of the mottos in the organization is simple: “Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.”

In most organizations you’ll find managers or leaders trying to catch people doing something wrong. That certainly has to happen, but what a sad way to lead people. The best organizations and the best leaders have set clear goals and directives for their people and are watching them closely — not to micromanage them or to wait until they make a mistake, but to catch them doing something right. They watch their people closely so that they can be there to celebrate and encourage them when they do something right.

And when they catch someone doing something right, they’re direct and they’re specific. Here’s what Ken Blanchard lays out as rules:

  1. Tell people right from the start that you are going to let them know how they are doing
  2. Praise people immediately
  3. Tell people what they did — be specific
  4. Tell people about how good you feel about what they did right, and how it helps the organization and the other people that work there
  5. Stop for a moment to let them “feel” how good you feel
  6. Encourage them to do more of the same

I couldn’t help but be struck by how many people at even a great organization don’t hear specifically how they’re doing a great job. I’ll be working to catch someone doing something right.

Men Without Chests

Perhaps it’s because I’m married and have a daughter, or perhaps it’s because I’m feeling a little older lately — but I’ve become increasingly more aware of what can only be called small bursts of anarchy. It’s not the bloody guillotine or living-homeless-outside-Wall Street anarchy, but rather the small moments of the day to day that I see the tiny eruptions.

Andrew Walker pointed out an excellent piece by Mark Steyn entitled “Knockouts High and Low” in the National Review Online. In this article, he highlights for us C.S. Lewis’ book The Abolition Of Man: 

In his book The Abolition of Man, he writes of “men without chests” — the chest being “the indispensable liaison” between the head and the gut, between “cerebral man” and “visceral man.” In the chest beat what Lewis calls “the trained emotions.” Without them there is no honor or virtue, but only “intellect” and/or “appetite.”

Steyn describes the newest despicable “game” teens are calling “Knockout,” where a white (or Asian or Hispanic) victim is chosen on a street. A large group will roam the street looking for the victim, identify them, and attempt to knock him or her to the ground in one punch.

There’s a virtually limitless supply of targets: In New York, a 78-year-old woman was selected, and went down nice and easy, as near-octogenarian biddies tend to when sucker-punched. But, when you’re really rockin’, you can not only floor the unsuspecting sucker but kill him: That’s what happened to 46-year-old Ralph Santiago of Hoboken, N.J., whose head was slammed into an iron fence, whereupon he slumped to the sidewalk with his neck broken. And anyway the one-punch rule is flexible: In upstate New York, a 13-year-old boy socked 51-year-old Michael Daniels but with insufficient juice to down him. So his buddy threw a bonus punch, and the guy died from cerebral bleeding. Widely available video exists of almost all Knockout incidents, since the really cool thing is to have your buddies film it and upload it to YouTube. And it’s so simple to do in an age when every moronic savage has his own “smart phone.”

From here, Steyn leads us to Lewis’ brilliant comment that “No justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous” and also to Walter Williams statement that “A society’s first line of defense is not the law but customs, traditions, and moral values. They include important thou-shalt-nots such as shalt not murder, shalt not steal, shalt not lie and cheat, but they also include all those courtesies one might call ladylike and gentlemanly conduct. Policemen and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct.”

The reality is, as Steyn says, “Restraint is an unfashionable concept these day.” This is not a new thing. But in our specific culture, I do believe it continues to be a increasing reality. The daily run-ins I have with seeming barbarism and anarchy seems to increase on a daily basis, as if the front-page news is trying to break into my daily life experiences. It happens in the grocery store check-out line tantrums (by adults), the fast-food drive-thru line (ask a fast-food worker), the movie theater (is it just me, or do more people think they can drink beer and talk during movies than ever before?), and the general disrespect for authority.

I’m really not trying to sound like a stuffed shirt who is shocked that people act like people. I am saying that it’s more prevalent than before.

Destroyed by What We Love

Another individual that Steyn highlights in his article but for a moment is Aldous Huxley. Huxley, C.S. Lewis, and John F. Kennedy all died on the same day.

Huxley’s Brave New World hit on the themes of the destruction of civilization. In contrast to George Orwell’s 1984, in which humanity was destroyed by what it hated and controlled by pain, Huxley’s World was one in which humanity was destroyed by what it loved.

As Christians, we ought not be surprised to find truth in both Lewis’ understanding that without “men with chests” we find ourselves drawn into and destroyed by what we love — that is, ourselves. Whether it be unrestrained “visceral man” or “cerebral man,” the root of it all is a giving over to either “appetite” or “intellect”   (see “Theology of ‘No Church in the Wild‘” for recent cultural and musical example of both sides of this coin).

Paul spoke about all of these realities in Romans 1:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

What Do We Do? 

I think anyone can decry the decay of society, and point out the root and heart at the debasement of our culture. Anyone with eyes can see the depths of our depravity and can identify both major incidents and small sparks of barbarism and anarchy. The real question is what do we do with what we see?

We don’t despair.

We don’t hate.

We don’t walk away.

Instead, we stand today as a prophetic minority in our culture. As Christians, we know the end of the story, and it’s not a doom and gloom story we’re told to be preaching. It’s one of victory over the very things we’re seeing in our culture today. As Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has said, “We were never promised the culture would embrace us.” Instead, we have been called to be salt and light in a dark world, standing as defenders of an increasingly unpopular faith and moral system.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16

MANHOOD 101: Making Decisions

I had the great pleasure of contributing to The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s latest series on “Manhood 101.” Believe me, I’m no expert but I made my feeble attempt to add to the conversation, primarily by standing on the shoulders of other great men I’ve learned from during my short time here on planet earth. You can read my contribution to the series here.

The irony of writing an article on decision-making is not lost on me. As an incredibly young man, the amount of tough calls and life altering decisions I’ve made is laughable.

Thankfully amidst a world full of options, choices, and decisions, God has provided me with the same Holy Spirit and the same Word he’s provided everyone else to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).

Like many, I’ve attempted the time-tested and failed methods of decision-making:

  • Flipping to random pages in the Bible.
  • Counting seeing a double rainbow as a “sign”
  • Feeling some inner peace.
  • Dreams (most likely inspired by Chipotle).
  • Making a decision based on what I “felt” after fasting.
  • The good old “flipping a coin”

Each and every one of these methods were more often than not rooted in a deep sense of anxiety and lack of trust in the Lord. If I’m honest, making a decision is difficult. The stakes are so often high and life-altering.

// MANHOOD 101: Making Decisions //

Packing Up: How to Fight For Your Family in Transition and Change

My latest article is over on the men’s channel at today:

If you asked me a few years ago if in the span of three years I’d get married, graduate college, have a baby, live in three states, and work three different jobs — well, I’d probably slap you.

Yet here I am once again with a sore back and tape residue on my fingers. Mmm. The sweet smell of cardboard.

Change is scary and complicated. It’s so easy to be paralyzed by doubt, despair, confusion, or stress. Sometimes it’s all of those things at once.

Perhaps most difficult about change — whether it be a major life change or simply the the few hours after work — is remembering that it’s not about me.

It’s not my transition. It’s not my move. It’s not my change.

As the boxes pile high or the baby gear fills up the second bedroom, the ongoing struggle with selfishness rises. What better excuse to neglect others than I have so many details to take care of these next few weeks. Yet more than ever, my family needs me.

With that in mind, I offer you four keys to fighting idolatry in our greatest of transitions and change — whether that be a new baby in the family, a major job change, or a move across the country (or in my case all of them at the same time).

// Read the latest at // 

Essential Books for High School Seniors

Some of the most helpful things I have received in the course of my life come in lists. One of my favorite lists has always been the recommended book list.

I believe that the transition from high school to college in many ways is one of the most important transitions in your life — and one of the most exciting!

Untitled-2-copyBecause of this, I’ve created the Essential Books for High School Seniors cheat sheet for High School students, parents, grandparents, or anyone who’s thinking about giving a gift or helpful book to a high school student. In this cheat sheet you’ll find:

  • My absolute favorite book on growing in holiness
  • The best book out there to prepare yourself for college (and to prepare Mom and Dad for college)
  • A book that actually changed my life 
  • Bonus notes and bo
    ok recommendations

Best of all, it’s FREE. In order to receive your copy simple fill out the form on the right-hand sidebar and I’ll send you the link to the FREE copy of Essential Books for High School Seniors. 

You can sign up for updates by clicking here. Once you’ve completed the initial process of email confirmation you’ll be sent your copy of Essential Books for High School Seniors.