September 2008


Resisting temptation is impossible for us to do alone. For so many years I tried to do it on my own, and never got anywhere with it. The problem is I tried to do it without the power of the Holy Spirit. I tried to be a self-reformer. I love this passage by Tozer:

Christianity takes for granted the absence of any self-help and offers a power which is nothing less than the power of God. This power is to come upon powerless men as a gentle but resistless invasion from another world, bringing a moral potency infinitely beyond anything that might be stirred up from within. This power is sufficient; no additional help is needed, no auxiliary source of spiritual energy, for it is the Holy Spirit of God come where the weakness lay to supply power and grace to meet the moral need” (Tozer, 1950, pp. 88-89).

All we have to do is learn to admit failure and accept God’s power and help. Slowly, after way too many years, I’m getting there.

— Tozer, A. W. (1950). God’s Pursuit of Man. Camp Hill, PA: Wing Spread Publishers.

Sometimes when you read more than one book at a time, you get an interesting synergy going on. Awhile back, I posted on my attempts to overcome some sin, which had kept me from a more intimate relationship with God. Then I read this passage from the book Soul Revolution by John Burke:

Sometimes God does seem to miraculously remove a behavioral problem, but more often, he leads us in ways that force us to grow up, to become spiritually stronger, that require our willing cooperation in a more relational, daily way. I’m convinced that if God simply removed the behaviors, we would soon turn back to the same beliefs or practices that formed those behaviors. We’d be no better off than before. Instead, God leads us down a path of growth that deals with the inner disease of constant disconnection from God (sin), not just the outward symptoms” (Burke, 2008, p. 144).

This is so true. How many times did we really appreciate the things in life we were given rather than ones we had to work and earn? Now, before you think I’m saying we solve our own problems, that’s not what I mean, or what the author meant. We need God in order to overcome our sin, and it’s only be connecting with God on a moment-by-moment basis that we can achieve that victory.

Where’s the synergy? I’m also reading God’s Pursuit of Man by A. W. Tozer, and this section stood out to me:

The Christian message rightly understood means this: The God who by the word of the gospel proclaims men free, by the power of the gospel actually makes them free. To accept less than this is to know the gospel in word only, without its power” (Tozer, 1950, p. 27).

This made me think of how lost (and miserable) I was when I was a “church-goer” without the power of the gospel in my life. I knew where I should be, I knew where I wanted to be, but I didn’t know how to get there. It’s only in the last year that I’ve begun to figure out the reasons behind that disconnect…which is also the problem, my disconnected life with God.

God doesn’t want us to remain mired in our old lives. “What was it [the sacrifice on the cross] all for? That He might pronounce us technically free and leave us in our bondage? Never” (Tozer, 1950, p. 27). He wants us free, and He wants us in a daily relationship with Him, but we have to be willing.

— Burke, John. (2008). Soul Revolution: How Imperfect People Become All God Intended. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

— Tozer, A. W. (1950). God’s Pursuit of Man. Camp Hill, PA: Wing Spread Publishers.

The more I read by C. S. Lewis, the more I wonder what it was like to be around this man. He has a clarity of thought and logic that is truly remarkable. The more I read this book, the more I saw my own failings and struggles in the pages. We all struggle with temptation, but the more we realize the strategies used by Satan, the less likely we will be to fall prey to them, which is why I liked reading this book. I’ve even thought about going through the book again, chapter by chapter, and create a “cheat sheet” of the temptations and attacks used in each chapter. Then I would schedule time to review them on a regular basis. It might keep me from falling for his strategies more often than I do. But the more I can stay connected to God through prayer, the less I would need that cheat sheet anyway.

One of the sections that really hit home for me is related to prayer, or I guess what we should call, relationship with God. Screwtape is talking about how to keep our relationship with God derailed:

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for this is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention” (Lewis, 1942, p. 59).

This is where I continually find myself…engaging in reading, surfing, worrying, or a hundred other things, rather than talking with God. It’s a continual struggle to me. I’ve tried to examine why I think I resist talking to God more than I do, but the core cause is still elusive. It shouldn’t be this hard. Deep down, I have a sneaking suspicion though it’s my attempts to still hang onto control over my life.

— Lewis, C. S. (1942). The Screwtape Letters. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

Over the years, I’ve read a number of text books, magazine articles, and leadership newsletters about motivating employees. From what I remember, they tended to be rather “one-dimensional.” At least I’m remembering it that way based on an article I read in July-August’s Harvard Business Review. Now, I could be all wrong on this, but from what I remember, most of what I’ve read was about finding out what motivated am employee, and focusing your efforts on that. I suppose it could have meant multidimensional, but I tended to take it as finding out if people wanted more money, position, importance, recognition, etc. But this article by Nitin Nohria, Boris Groysberg, and Linda-Eling Lee made me think.

The part that really hit me at first was the authors claim to have identified drives that could explain almost 60% of the variance in whether an employee was motivated or not. Hmm, that’s a pretty good percentage when you think about it. If you know your employees well, and you can hit at least 60% of those areas that motivate an employee, and possibly more as you get to know the employee, you would have one extremely motivated workforce. And what company wouldn’t love to have employees that were that motivated.

The drivers that they identified in the article are:

  • The drive to acquire – we all want to earn money in order to buy what we need to survive, but by structuring rewards such that poor performance gets the same as excellent performance, motivation is destroyed.
  • The drive to bond – “… the drive to bond accounts for an enormous boost in motivation when employees feel proud of belonging to the organization” (pp. 80-81). This is where leadership can really shine. If we can create a culture of caring and trust within companies, employees will bond easily and also defend (#4) against competition much more aggressively.
  • The drive to comprehend – “We are frustrated when things seem senseless, and we are invigorated, typically, by the challenge of working out answers” (p. 81). I really appreciate this concept, because I have been in situations where decisions were made that had I known the reasoning behind the decisions, I know I would have fought harder to accomplish the end result.
  • The drive to defend -“Fulfilling the drive to defend leads to feelings of security and confidence; not fulfilling it produces strong negative emotions like fear and resentment” (p. 81). I know I would rather defend against competition in the world than be insulated from it and not know why things aren’t doing as well.

The article presents an interesting statistic: if you take a company in the 50th percentile in its industry, and are able to improve on one of these drives, the company would only increase to the 56th percentile. But if you engage the employees on all four drives, it rises to the 88th percentile. That’s a significant gain!

What’s the leader’s drive in this knowledge? I can give you a quick, non-altruistic one; imagine your bonus if you are able to increase productivity to drive the company’s profits up that much in just a few years?

— Nohria, N., Groysberg, B. & Lee, L. (2008, July-August). Employee Motivation: A Powerful New Model. Harvard Business Review, 86-7/8, 79-84.

I loved this mornings devotion from Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening:

“I will rejoice over them to do them good.”
– Jeremiah 32:41

How heart-cheering to the believer is the delight which God has in his saints! We cannot see any reason in ourselves why the Lord should take pleasure in us; we cannot take delight in ourselves, for we often have to groan, being burdened; conscious of our sinfulness, and deploring our unfaithfulness; and we fear that God’s people cannot take much delight in us, for they must perceive so much of our imperfections and our follies, that they may rather lament our infirmities than admire our graces. But we love to dwell upon this transcendent truth, this glorious mystery: that as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so does the Lord rejoice over us. We do not read anywhere that God delighteth in the cloud-capped mountains, or the sparkling stars, but we do read that he delighteth in the habitable parts of the earth, and that his delights are with the sons of men. We do not find it written that even angels give his soul delight; nor doth he say, concerning cherubim and seraphim, “Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, for the Lord delighteth in thee”; but he does say all that to poor fallen creatures like ourselves, debased and depraved by sin, but saved, exalted, and glorified by his grace. In what strong language he expresses his delight in his people! Who could have conceived of the eternal One as bursting forth into a song? Yet it is written, “He will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” As he looked upon the world he had made, he said, “It is very good”; but when he beheld those who are the purchase of Jesus’ blood, his own chosen ones, it seemed as if the great heart of the Infinite could restrain itself no longer, but overflowed in divine exclamations of joy. Should not we utter our grateful response to such a marvellous declaration of his love, and sing, “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation?”

The bold sentences really stood out to me. I love the mountains and nature, and I feel more connected to God when I’m in them, but God doesn’t delight in that part of His creation. God only delights in us…in me. As broken and messed up as we all are due to sin, God does delight in us when we’re His children. Definitely a grace moment!

— Spurgeon, C. H. (1995). Morning and evening : Daily readings (September 21 AM). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

I was thinking about something last night while reading the Bible. Over the past 18 years I’ve worked in IT (information technology), and the last 10 years mostly as a manager of IT in the pharmacy industry. I’m pretty good at what I do. I’m by no means great, but I can get the job done. For example, I can plan ahead so that my team and I can start tearing down a data center in Chicago at 1:00 on Friday afternoon, have everything crated and loaded onto trucks by 8:00 that evening (or 6:00 if the second truck had arrived on time), fly to Memphis to meet the trucks, uncrate everything, rack and stack the servers, hook up the data circuits and the routers, change the configurations on firewalls, fix a few minor problems, and be done by Sunday afternoon. When the users come in Monday morning, they don’t even know that everything was moved over the weekend, except for the fact that they got off early on Friday.

But if you stop and really think about this, how can you take pride in your “gifts?” I didn’t create myself, I didn’t give myself a predisposition to technology or the logical thinking it takes to solve problems or to be able to plan projects. I didn’t teach myself to be good at encouraging people, or to care about them beyond the work they do for me. My father and both my brothers are lawyers, so I suppose, by genetic predisposition, I should have a tendency toward the love of law and of argumentation. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

When God made us, he gave each of us a set of gifts or skills. But when we discover these gifts, and get good at them, don’t we tend to take pride in how good we are? Isn’t that sort of silly?

What is the faith? What do you believe? What do I believe? What does the Bible say? In today’s world, with all the relativism that exists, it can even be hard for Christians to agree on the same core concepts of Christianity. And that is why Chuck Colson wrote this book, to lay out the core beliefs that define Christianity. And that can be a minefield these days. But one quote from the book I really liked was developed by the “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” group. It goes like this: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity” (Colson, 2008, p. 143). I really like this quote. In the past, I’ve taken Catholics to task for a number of their doctrines, but I realize that was wrong. Rather than disagree with them, I should have discussed, and agreed that most of the differences between us are minor.

Christians are told to love one another, but so many of us (myself included at times) focus on the differences, and in the end not only create ill-will among Christians, but fail at showing the love of Christ to non-believers. But how many of us who disagree with others about a fundamental belief of the faith, have really researched it and considered the different sides? God has made me much more open to listening to differences of opinions lately.

I do hold a strong belief in the orthodox tenets of Christianity; a triune God, substitutionary atonement, the virgin birth of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, salvation by faith alone, sanctity of life, etc. If you’ve ever felt weak on some of these, I’d suggest you grab this book. Chuck does a great job of articulating the core Christian beliefs.

I like the way that Chuck describes the entirety of the faith.

Christians must see that the faith is more than a religion or even a relationship with Jesus; the faith is a complete view of the world and humankind’s place in it. Christianity is a worldview that speaks to every area of life, and its foundational doctrines define its content. If we don’t know what we believe – even what Christianity is – how can we live it and defend it? Our ignorance is crippling us” (Colson, 2008, p. 28).

This is a hard concept for a person raised in modernity, where Sunday is different than Monday through Friday, but I’m getting there.

— Colson, Charles. (2008). The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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