A Balanced Life

About 400 years ago Galileo conducted an experiment with remarkable results. According to the NASA website, the remarkable observation that all free falling objects fall with the same acceleration was first proposed by Galileo Galilei after he conducted experiments using a ball on an inclined plane to determine the relationship between the time and distance traveled. He found that the distance depended on the square of the time and that the velocity increased as the ball moved down the incline. The relationship was the same regardless of the mass of the ball used in the experiment. Simply stated, all free falling objects accelerate at the same rate. An object that falls in a vacuum is subject to only one force, gravity.

If a Christian makes a ball out of the major life categories, they end up with at least four balls to juggle. Mine would be family, work, community, and personal. As I juggle these four balls it is easy to see that some are larger and weigh more than others. The work ball is much larger and heavier than the community ball. I sometimes feel guilty having to spend much more effort and time keeping the work ball in the air than the rest. My guilt attempts to balance this juggling act. I attempt resizing the balls. It doesn’t work. The work ball is always the largest despite my best efforts. This frustrates me to the point of walking away from this juggling act until I realize that all the balls, despite their size and mass, are subject to one force; the Gospel.

If I believe the Bible, I must believe that all of life is all for the Gospel. If family, work, community, and personal time is accelerated by one force, namely the Gospel, then they are all in balance despite their size and weight. My life can never be balanced by resizing the balls. It can only be balanced by applying one single force toward all the balls…The Gospel.

One last thought…notice I don’t have a God ball in my juggling act. I don’t have one because there is no such thing if ALL of life is the Gospel. Besides, if there was a God ball it would be too large and too heavy to juggle.

Faithful in Business and All of Life

Bad guys are almost OK in my book as long as they live like bad guys. I never had a problem watching my favorite super heroes battle it out with their arch enemies. I knew just what to expect from the villain. The Joker would calmly explain to Batman and Robin just how his evil plan would unfold. The plan almost always called for the death of the dynamic duo, and the overthrow of law abiding, moral, social structure. In short, those bad guys wanted to rule the world and they let everyone know it. I don’t consider them hypocrites, they are simply evil.

Dealing with the Pharisees and Scribes, Jesus used the term hypocrites over a dozen times as recorded in the Gospels. A modern day definition of a hypocrite is as follows:

a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs. 

In order to be accused of hypocrisy one must live a double life. Jesus gave a devastating example in Mark 12:38-40. The Scribe in Jesus’ example is the perfect saint in all his religious circles, but when it comes to business he crushes the helpless.  Somehow the Scribe in the story found a way to create a wall or border that, when crossed, allowed him to be governed by very different principles.

A life of faith receiving a commendation from God appears never to have such walls or borders. Genesis 5:24 states that Enoch “walked with God”. The author of Hebrews records how Enoch pleased God by his life of faith and received a wonderful reward. The main idea here is Enoch didn’t have walls or borders that allowed him to live a double life. Enoch walked continually with God.

God was tickled pink with Enoch; Jesus was as displeased with the Pharisees and Scribes as he could be. Enoch’s life was all for God; the Scribe’s life was segmented partly for God and partly for the real world. If the American business owner finds they climb over a religious wall to attend church on Sunday and back across the wall to go to work on Monday, they can never live like Enoch and create the potential of living like the Scribe.

Work…the place of Worship, Service, and Purpose

If work is just the place you earn your living, you’ve lost your way. If you think differently about time spent at work than time spent at church, you’ve lost your way.

Work is Worship!

Most likely, work is the place where the Lord grants you the most opportunity to influence others. On average, people have the widest network of relationships and invest more time with co-workers than neighbors and extended family.

Would you believe work is all about God and relationships and your pay-check is simply an “add-on”?

I think Jesus had this very idea in mind when he taught us not to be anxious about anything…

Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. (Luke 12:31) 

Please watch the following video produced by Chick-fil-A and think about your relationships at work:

 

 

 

Life without walls (part five)

“Don’t do as I do, do as I say.” Who could trust a teacher that doesn’t follow his own advice?

This apothegm is a laser focused definition of hypocrisy. One who speaks this way, or better said, one who teaches this way, is likely to see their students confused, angry, and rebellious. As a leader, husband, and father, the most efficient way to build deadly walls in relationships is to live life as a hypocrite.

I realize this brings nothing new to the table. Everyone experiences hypocrisy; from parents, bosses, co-workers, and governments. All react the same way toward hypocrisy, with clenched fists and gnashing teeth.

Studies reveal clearly that children will be more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol and drugs, and live in a host of other harmful ways if they grow up observing their parents doing the same. It’s not effective teaching your children the dangers of tobacco with a pack of cigarettes in your pocket.

Again, this is nothing you didn’t already know. It’s nothing you haven’t already experienced. It’s obvious.

There is a type of hypocrisy, however, that is less obvious. Paul warns the church in Corinth:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

(1 Corinthians 13:1-2, ESV)

This is one of the most amazing statements in the Apostle Paul’s teaching. Think about what he is saying. As a leader, you have studied to the point that your knowledge is vast. This knowledge is truth and it is powerful. It is building faith in you that is strong enough to move mountains. Yet, you lack the one thing that makes it all valuable; “LOVE”. How can this be?

Listen to what R.C. Sproul Jr. stated in a recent blog to pastors,” It is more important to us and our sheep that we would learn to believe more, than that we would find more to believe.” 

He continues saying, “Divinity is not a body of knowledge to be mastered like geology.” The Bible is not a book to be dissected like Moby Dick. We don’t go to Scripture to study the Word, but to begin to learn to have the Word study us. We go to pursue not advanced degrees but the fruit of the Spirit. We go to lose our reputations, not to gain them. We go not to be thought wise, but to learn what fools we are.

The people that you lead don’t simply need more information. What they need more is someone to lead them, to show them the Way. They need to see you repenting. They need to see you wrestling with your sins. They need to see you preaching the gospel to yourself, not because you like the sound of your voice, but because you hate the sin that yet remains, and you need grace. They need to see you rejoicing in the fullness of His promises, and mourning both sin and its fruit in your life.

As we relate to one another, I am convinced that the single most powerful moment on earth takes place when a father repents before his wife and children; when a leader repents before his employees. So, is the knowledge in your life under-girded by love? If it is you will live a life repenting before our Holy God. This is the litmus test of love. This is a life free from hypocrisy.

Life without walls (part three)

The joy of responsibility

I get seasick. I hate that. I dream…My fantasy is me, the captain of a ship, not just any ship, a tall ship, with sails unfurled. Departing the bay into deep seas, I call out commands to the crew. The crew jumps at my every command as if their very life depends on it. My wife by my side, scantily clad, clings to my side with adoring eyes. As the crew cries out dangers… enemy ships, storms, beasts from the deep, my only response is “Aaarrrrrrgh”.

The reality of this situation would be much different. About the time the ship crossed the bay and the sea began to rock the boat and the trade winds began to blow, my wife would be wrapped in a heavy windbreaker, (she gets cold easy), and I would be hanging over the side puking my toenails up. Instead of “Aaarrrrrgh” it would be “Blaaaah”.

Sometimes there is a great chasm between fantasy and reality. Therefore, “Captain Mike” is an oxymoron like “Jumbo Shrimp”.

To use the words “joy” and “responsibility” in the same sentence in our culture seems to be an oxymoron. Our culture views responsibility as a curse not a blessing.  In the work place, workers are striving to do less and be paid more.  However, in the Christian realm, we should view responsibility as a blessing and an indication that our Lord is pleased to use us to bring honor and glory to His name. In other words, we have been awarded responsibility.

In the larger scheme of Christian living, how brightly we shine as the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16) is a function of our becoming who the Lord has called us to be. If you are a leader it’s not because you are leader material, it’s because you have been ordained. When leaders see that they have been chosen, then and only then will they function in the world as the Lord intended and have the spiritual, life changing influence and power that is rightfully given.

Let’s take a look at Scripture:

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

(Philippians 2:12-18 ESV)

Paul gives his readers an admonition in verse 12 that has confused many people over the years.  He says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”.  Many have interpreted this to mean that we can earn or work for our salvation.  Of course, this is not true.  He has already taught us in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved by grace so that no one could boast about their works that earned them favor with the Lord.  What Paul means in verse 12 is that we are to diligently follow through in our search for being more like Christ in our minds and our behaviors until we are complete in Him.  After all, Paul has already told us in Romans 8:29 that the Father’s will for us is that we be conformed to the image of His Son.  It is our responsibility to pursue that goal.  Paul uses the words “fear and trembling” to indicate the seriousness of our mission.  This is not a reference to literal fear but to careful and cautious concern, a sober approach to the responsibility that it is ours to accomplish the task.

A second concept that we need to focus on is that we need to accept the resources that God provides.  In verse 13, Paul says that it is God who works in us to will and to do for His good pleasure.  We see that there are workers in both verse 12 and 13.  In verse 12, we do the working and in verse 13, it is God who does the work.  This is not at all confusing if we focus on the fact that we are to “work out” – experience, maximize – what God has deposited in us by our salvation in Christ and the in dwelling presence of His Holy Spirit.  If the Lord had not done His work first, there would be nothing for us to work with.

 

We have often heard people say that the Christian life is a matter of “letting go and letting God”, but this is not true.  The Christian life is a divine-human cooperative.  However, that doesn’t mean that our salvation is part God’s work and part ours.  God accomplishes our salvation by grace and grace alone, but then He gives us the opportunity to respond to His grace with faith and obedience. Leaders respond to His direction in their lives through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

 

We have been given everything that we need to be leaders that find great joy in responsibility. To make a difference, we will have to be different.  To be different, we have to take seriously our responsibility to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, depending on the Lord who is at work in us to fulfill the task that is ours. The most different thing about us will be our joy!

 

 

Life without walls (part two)

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” I visit Las Vegas, Nevada on occasion. I see no point in gambling against insurmountable odds. I enjoy quiet country settings more than glitz. So why go? Business takes place there. The primary drivers of the Las Vegas economy are tourism, gaming, and conventions, which in turn feed the retail and restaurant industries. About 20,000 business conventions “happen” in Vegas annually.

The advertising firm R&R Partners, is best known for creating the advertising campaign slogan “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” for the City of Las Vegas. The campaign brought Las Vegas a record-breaking 37.4 million visitors in 2004. Our culture obviously loved the thought of departing the “normal life box” and diving into the “fun and exciting box” Las Vegas offers.

Southwest Airlines offers discount travel called “Wanna Get Away” fares. Don’t get me wrong, I love this airline, but they are taking advantage of our escapism culture as well. A great number of people buy “Wanna Get Away” fares to Las Vegas.

There is nothing wrong with taking vacations. There is nothing wrong with attending business conventions. There is nothing wrong with the proper amount of leisure in life. The problem raises its ugly head when you are attempting is escape responsibility. When you have lost the joy of ordained headship, you are in a state of rebellion. God awarded you the job, you should be rejoicing. Sure it’s hard. Sure it has its moments of stress. However, knowing you are in the place that God has for you, and knowing you are being obedient to the call…well, that’s paradise! Nothing brings greater joy!

Check your attitude. If “I deserve a break” is anywhere in your head, you have big problems. Let’s take a look in Scripture…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

(Genesis 3:1-6 ESV)

This is the story of the fall of mankind into sin. This is the point in the story that is spelled REBELLION. Satan played Eve like a fiddle. How did this happen? It seems that Eve is alone with Satan in the garden. Well, Adam is somewhere close physically, he ate too. But spiritually where is Adam? I think he’s in Vegas. (Or something like that)  Maybe after naming all the animals and getting hitched to Eve he felt he needed a break.

My point is, Eve needed the ordained head of the family to be on duty. Not grudgingly, but rejoicing! What if Adam being on duty cried out, “Hey, get away from my wife!”

Well, you get the picture. Rejoicing in our responsibility as ordained leader is the first step in living life without walls. Rejoicing in our responsibility is rejoicing in Christ.

Take a look at your wife…see how beautiful she is. She wants you to kill spiders, hang curtains, put up shelves and pay the mortgage; REJOICE! Take a look at your kids… they want you to play “I spy”, take them to soccer, put food on the table, buy the latest fashions, and pay for college; REJOICE!

It’s all GOD! It’s all good! REJOICE!

Life without walls (part one)

One can’t throw a rock without hitting a consultant encouraging leaders to segment their lives by building walls. “You have to learn the art of separating job from family”…and on and on goes the advice. If you sit and think about that type of advice it seems logical.  It is obviously well received because nearly every busy CEO and Entrepreneur is attempting to do just that. They think it wise to carve up the day assigning hours and sometimes even minutes into neatly prepared time slots called “quality time”.  Even if they aren’t so organized they can be found in single thread fashion either working, playing, resting, worshiping  etc… They are found desperately running from time slot to time slot attempting to “balance” their day.

I bought into this idea and for years I ran my legs off from time slot to time slot “keeping everyone happy by giving them their allotted quality time.” Guess what…IT DOESN’T WORK, EVER! And it never will. According to the Word of God, life wasn’t ever meant to be divided. Here’s my main defense from Scripture…

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

(James 1:5-8 ESV)

Now before I begin I want to make clear that I am not talking about an executive taking their toddler daily into the boardroom and changing poopy diapers during the morning meeting. I am talking about a way of life that goes way beyond the physical but has the most profound impact on the physical. So don’t get hung up on the “how do I get work done with my family right by my side (physically) every moment of the day” type thinking.

It is good to live in wisdom. There is one source of wisdom: God. The passage in James is all about wisdom. Notice James introduces the passage by saying, “If anyone lacks wisdom let him ask God who gives generously…” (verse 5) James is talking to Christian brothers in this passage.

Now, let me begin by asking the question, “What normally happens when we segment life?” This is what happened to me and what happens to most I talk to about their experience; I build a career box, a wife box, a kids box, a family time box, a church box, a ‘my time’ box, a vacation box, and yes a “God” box. Then I spend all of my time desperately running from box to box pouring in quality time. Each time I arrive at a box I immediately start thinking about the next box to visit and feel guilty that I am not spending more time in my boxes.  Worst of all, I spent a great deal of effort making sure that no one escaped their box. It just wouldn’t do to have the wife escape from her box and go roaming around in my career box. That would mess up my whole system. My main point is, when you segment life like this you start playing God instead of seeking and asking God.

There is only one box and everything is in it and God owns it. There are five main patriarchs in the Old Testament; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Job. Of course, there are more than five patriarchs. All of Jacob’s sons are patriarchs and others to boot, but the story focuses mostly on these five. As I study these five, I don’t see any evidence that they ever segmented life. All of the stories flow with this simple theme: When they looked for the wisdom of God they received it and life was good. When they played God, life was broken.

Again, my main point…No one can segment life and not play God. No one has the ability to wield that kind of power. Besides, every family is unique. And to make life even more complex, every day inside every family is unique. There is no way to keep everyone in their proper box every moment of every day. It just doesn’t work. So my suggestion to you is stop trying.

The person desperately running from box to box lacks wisdom. And they show that there is doubt about God’s ability to make life what it should be. James calls this person a double-minded man. This rare expression was possibly coined by James. It suggests a man who has two souls; he is as unstable as a person with a split personality. You aren’t multiple people. You aren’t a husband, father, employee/employer, preacher, friend, and neighbor. You are simply, YOU! There is one box, GOD! Listen to the psalmist:

I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.

(Psalm 119:113ESV)

The poet is of a single mind; he loves God and His law. Consequently, he is stable, unlike the double-minded man. It seems to me that the Bible teaches that a wise person doesn’t try to segment life but spends all their time seeking wisdom; in other words, seeking God.

Is life really as simple as praying…”Lord make my wife, kids, boss, employees, friends and neighbors abundantly satisfied as I seek hard after YOU”…? Well, Yes! Hey, I think I’ll pray that prayer today.