Archive for June 2016

What has been your greatest lesson about work?

I learned a lot about work from my dad, lessons about how and why to do it well.  I’ve shared some of those lessons in the last couple of weeks, and I will probably share more in the future, but I would love to hear from you.  What has been one of the most valuable lessons about work that you have learned?

“Every Good Endeavor” by Timothy Keller

Recently, my family came together during a difficult time, when my father had a stroke.  As we gathered together in the hospital, often our conversations would turn to our memories of the words of wisdom he had shared over the years.  Some of it was quite funny, but all of it was wise, so I thought it would be appropriate to share some of the wisdom I have learned from him through the years.  Some are a repeat of previous posts (because I had already been sharing his wisdom), and some are topics I haven’t shared before.  My father went home to be with His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on Sunday, May 8, 2016.  I grieve at the loss of my hero, mentor, and friend, but I rejoice at the celebration of his arrival in heaven.

This week, I am sharing a review of book that reflects some of the great lessons about work that he taught me.

Every Good Endeavor, Keller, coverI learned a lot from my father about the value of work, about work ethic, and about how to work well. He taught me things like, “ always give eight hours of work for eight hours of pay,” “work so that you make yourself more valuable to them than they are to you,” and “always leave in such a way that you’ll be welcome back.” He didn’t just teach me these (and many other) things, he lived them by example, and as a result I believe that today, as an adult, I work hard and I work well, in a way that honors God, serves others, and reflects excellence. Thank you, dad, for teaching me how to work.

As I was thinking about this over the last couple of months, I also heard a pastor at my church preach a message on work from Ecclesiastes, and he referenced a couple of other specific books, so, like I usually do when I hear a good book referenced that seems applicable to my life at that moment, I ordered them. One of those was the book Every Good Endeavor, by Timothy Keller, which I found to be an excellent book that looks at work from a biblical, Christ-redeeming point of view. Keller essentially walks through three steps:

  1. Work was modeled by God and given to us as something joyful and valuable, designed for the benefit of God, others, and us.
  2. When sin entered into the world (and by extension, into ourselves and into our work), the true purpose, value, and joy of work became and continues to be distorted and difficult.
  3. The redemption by Christ and the cross, in the process of redeeming our souls, also began the process of redeeming the work that we do, restoring its purpose and value.

The result, according to Keller, is that a saving relationship with Jesus Christ now gives us freedom from work – the realization that the fruit of our labor is not dependent on us, but actually rests in God’s hands, so all we have to do is serve in the work we’ve been given by the Father. It also now gives us freedom in our work – the ability and capability to work sacrificially, following the example of Jesus and working for God’s glory, and sacrificing ourselves for the good of others.

I found this to be a quite refreshing and biblical look at the value of work, and how we should be approaching the work we are doing regardless of what that job is. It seems that often people spend their time looking at the grass that appears to be greener on the other side of the fence of that “dream job,” rather than seeing how they can serve God in the tasks they have been presently given. If you have been struggling with finding meaning in your work, or with understanding what it means to work well, or with seeing your job as a calling, then I would recommend this book to you. I am grateful for the lessons on work that my dad taught me, and so for me, this book brought both affirmation and clarity to those lessons. Perhaps you haven’t had those lessons, in which case, get it and read it. It will help you to see your work through the lens of Jesus.

Week of June 13, 2016

“Quotable,” on living with integrity

“You have a responsibility and an opportunity to model integrity, and in so doing you will become a trusted leader that others are willing to follow.”

Choose To Live With Integrity

Recently, my family came together during a difficult time, when my father had a stroke.  As we gathered together in the hospital, often our conversations would turn to our memories of the words of wisdom he had shared over the years.  Some of it was quite funny, but all of it was wise, so I thought it would be appropriate to share some of the wisdom I have learned from him through the years.  Some are a repeat of previous posts (because I had already been sharing his wisdom), and some are topics I haven’t shared before.  My father went home to be with His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on Sunday, May 8, 2016.  I grieve at the loss of my hero, mentor, and friend, but I rejoice at the celebration of his arrival in heaven.

This week, I am sharing something I shared about a year and a half ago, and it wasn’t really “a saying,” but rather a lesson he taught me.

When I was in elementary school (I think it was the fourth grade), I had an experience that opened my eyes to the importance of integrity.  If you would have asked me at that age what the word “integrity” means, I’m sure I would have had no idea, but this event helped me to realize the concept, even if I didn’t understand the vocabulary.  Although I don’t recall all the details, it became one of those defining moments of childhood that was seared into my memory.

Another child in my grade (he was not even someone who was part of my close group of friends) got in trouble for something and was sent to the principal’s office.  I don’t remember what he was accused of doing, but I do remember getting called to the principal’s office shortly after he was.  I was terrified, assuming that I must have done something wrong, but I had no idea what I might have done.  When I got to the office, I was escorted in, where I saw the other student sitting in a chair.  When he saw me, he turned and looked at the principal and said, “Please ask Jeff, he doesn’t lie, he always tells the truth!”

As it turns out, he had been accused of something that he had not done, and although I was simply another classmate, he chose to put his life in my hands, so to speak, because he trusted my integrity.  And the principal trusted me too!  It seems that, as an elementary student, I had developed a reputation of honesty among my peers and my teachers.  In my heart, I knew – even at that age – that I could lie as well as anyone and that I often made bad choices, but it was also a revelation to me that my choices of honesty at school had impacted how others viewed me and trusted me.  I played that event over in my mind many times during the next months, amazed at the realization of how important it was to have integrity.

But some heads are harder than others (mine in particular), and sin nature still gets in the way, so this was not a “one and done” lesson for me.  A couple of years later, I was in a convenience store with some friends, and took a candy bar from the shelf and put it in my pocket.  I did not have any money to pay for it, but I really wanted it and I was certain no one saw me.  We left the store and walked across the road to the church where my father was the pastor, and when we walked inside, my dad called me into his office.  He asked me if I had anything to tell him, and I said no.  He had me empty my pockets, and when he saw the candy bar, I told him I had bought it at the store.  What I didn’t know was that the store clerk, who knew my dad, had seen me take the candy bar and had called my dad.  I was caught and didn’t know it, and I lied.  My dad took that opportunity to help me understand the importance of honesty and integrity.  I remember flashing back in my memory to my fourth grade experience of honesty, and realizing that it’s pretty easy to lie, but that integrity takes work, and I had failed the test of integrity.

The Bible has a lot to say about integrity.  Sometimes it’s called honesty, sometimes uprightness, sometimes blamelessness, sometimes righteousness.  There are numerous verses in Proverbs that speak to it directly, there are many illustrations of it (both positive and negative) lived out in the lives of Bible characters.  Jesus Himself is the personification of it (“I am the way, the truth, and the life”).  Therefore I don’t think anyone would dispute that it is a necessary character trait for any Christian. I do think, though, that it may help us to see a picture of what it actually is.

Several months ago, I was visiting the church where I had grown up, and attending a small group class that my dad was teaching.  He happened to be teaching on integrity.  His outline listed a number of verses, among them the following:

  • I Chronicles 29:17 – I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.
  • Proverbs 10:9 – Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
  • Proverbs 11:5-6 – The righteousness of the blameless makes their paths straight, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.
  • Proverbs 20:7 – The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them.
  • Proverbs 28:6 – Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.

As he was teaching, I started searching online on my phone for the specific meanings of the Hebrew words in those verses, and I discovered something that I found to be very interesting.  It seemed that all of the words in those verses that were related to integrity appeared to come from variations on one of two different Hebrew root words: yashar and tamam.  I looked up the meanings of those two words and learned that yashar means straight, even, level, correct, or upright, and that tamam means complete, whole, entire, or completeness.  In combination, they give the idea of something that is completely and totally true and upright, not warped, and without falsehood.

So think about those meanings: straight and level, whole and complete.  That sounds like a good description of integrity.  The opposite would be crooked and uneven or wobbly, fractured and incomplete.  Then think about those ideas in the context of integrity: not telling the whole story, giving a half-truth, intentionally misleading, using or providing faulty information, sending someone down a wrong path – these are all things that reflect a lack of integrity. And they are all things that don’t belong in the character of a godly leader. This is the crux of ethics in leadership – maintaining integrity in all circumstances.  It’s difficult, especially in high-pressure environments, but necessary as a representative of Jesus Christ.  You have a responsibility and an opportunity to model integrity, and in so doing you will become a trusted leader that others are willing to follow.  As a Christian leader, you don’t have a choice: live with integrity.

Week of June 6, 2016