Equipping followers of Christ to engage in their everyday work as the work of God, so workplaces are invigorated, communities flourish and culture is renewed to the honor and glory of the Lord.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

"The Eyes Of All People Are Truly Upon Us"

Few would contest that Christianity played a significant role in the development of early America, and the integration of Christian beliefs with everyday work was a hallmark of the Puritan mind. This mindset was summarized by Pastor George Swinnock, who said, "The pious tradesman will know that his shop as well as his chapel is holy ground." 

Such was the life of John Winthrop: Puritan, lawyer, businessman, and Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony for 12 years.

Winthrop is well known for an admonition he gave fellow colonizers in a sermon delivered aboard the flagship Arbella, in 1630. It was an admonition based upon the words of Jesus, who declared, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven." Winthrop's exact words were: "For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us."

Both John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan made reference to the "city on a hill" idea, in political speeches. Kennedy was more specific than Reagan, when he stated in 1961, "...I have been guided by the standard John Winthrop set before his shipmates on the flagship Arbella three hundred and thirty-one years ago, as they, too, faced the task of building a new government on a perilous frontier. 'We must always consider', he said, 'that we shall be as a city upon a hill—the eyes of all people are upon us.' Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us—and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill — constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities."

Yet something important is missing from Kennedy's speech, and Reagan's, too. It's what Winthrop went on to say next: "So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God's sake."

We'll not hear this part of Winthrop's message in political speeches soon. But it describes our condition perfectly, as I see things. 

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Friday, December 20, 2013

The Greatest Christmas Gift

[This post first appeared December 25, 2009.]

One of my favorite carols is Joy To The World. The words are by Issac Watts, based on Psalm 98:

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth, with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.

Some say Joy To The World is not about the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. They say it is about His second coming, not His first. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy_to_the_World.)

The joy that is sung about, then, is a future joy that will occur when Christ returns, to “make the nations prove the glories of His righteousness,” in that full expression of His Kingdom-yet-to-come. But for me, the song makes as much sense as a celebration of the first coming of Christ.

While I’m looking forward to that full and perfect expression of Christ’s Kingdom-yet-to-come, I’m also celebrating the Kingdom-already-here. Jesus is Lord of all. Today! Not just in the future, but in this present moment also (Acts 2:36; 10:36).

Of course the Kingdom of God is not fully recognized yet, or perfectly functional right now. This will happen when Christ comes the second time. But the domain over which Christ is King (that is, His King-domain) includes both Heaven and Earth today.

This is the greatest Christmas gift: Christ the King has come “to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.” Right now.

Our Savior came to make His blessings to flow through carpenters, cops and CEOs who are reconciled to God, and reconciling all things to Him, including their work things! That's the idea behind Christ's coming in the first place. See II Cor. 5:17-20 and Col. 1:17-20.

So, no more let thorns infest the ground. By God's amazing grace, let's put our work gloves on, go to our workplaces after the Christmas holiday and pull up some bramble bushes--and plant some redwood trees.

Joy to the Earth! the Savior reigns; Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat the sounding joy!

Merry Christmas.

And now about ducks: Although I'm not a Duck Dynasty aficionado, one would have to be living under a rock to not be aware of this week's reaction to the father of the Robertson family, Phil, saying [in his own 'straight talk' way] that sodomy is a sin [along with fornication, adultery...and more]. It is rare to hear sin called sin these days, especially from pop icons. (It is becoming increasingly rare in the church.) For those who may not be aware, the Duck Dynasty television program has one of the largest audiences in the USA, with some 11 million weekly viewers, which is remarkable considering the family concludes each program with a prayer "in Jesus' name." Just in case you haven't heard, last night the family issued a statement: Robertson Family Response.

Here's Albert Mohler's comments on CNN about the matter, along with comments by Wilson Cruz, of GLADD: http://youtu.be/kqn3cwF5Zig

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Over 1.5 Million Hits

When we continue to hear about schools not allowing students to sing Christmas carols, it's refreshing to see one community that's not concerned about the P.C. police. Three cheers for the Yupiq Eskimos of Quinhagak, Alaska!

In this inspiring video, a project by the 5th grade class of the local state school, the wider community pitches in. The clip, created three years ago, now has over 1.5 million hits:


If the video does not play, click this link: http://youtu.be/LyviyF-N23A

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Friday, December 6, 2013

The Greatest Aims Of Our Faith

The most important command, Jesus said, is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." The next most important, He said, is to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:36-40).

Is your co-worker your "neighbor?" Even in Jesus' day, people were asking who their "neighbor" was. One thing's for sure, it's someone in close proximity! Today, we're usually closer to our co-workers than to our literal neighbors.

This doesn't minimize the importance of getting to know who lives across the street, but it's in the workplace where we have the most frequent and weighty opportunities to live out one of the greatest aims of our faith: to love our co-workers (and employees) as much as we love ourselves.

So what exactly does that look like at work?

We are patient with all our co-workers, and those we employ.

We genuinely care for their well-being, and express that care through action.

We affirm their abilities, and celebrate their success.

We don't try to impress them with our own success.

We are civil and polite.

We don't take advantage of them.

We are not irritable with them.

We forgive and forget their offenses.

We encourage their honesty, and discourage their dishonest ideas.

We help them lift heavy work loads.

We believe in them.

We hope for their best.

We stick with them through tough times.

We're there for them when they need us.

Does this all sound familiar? If you know your Bible it does. It was written by Paul the Apostle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in First Corinthians 13. (I just tweaked it a bit to apply to the workplace.)

Onward and upward.

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Friday, November 29, 2013

My Personal Board Of Directors

This post first appeared on March 4, 2011. It is my most frequently visited post, exceeding all others by nearly 3 to 1:

I invite you to take out a clean piece of paper, and write the following at the top: My Personal Board Of Directors. (Yeah, I know it sounds like you’re back in school, but humor me. I think you’ll be glad you did this exercise.)

In the middle of the page, draw an oval to represent a large conference room table. Print your own name at one end of the table. Around this table, print the names of others who currently influence you the most, in a positive way. They may be living or deceased. They may be people you have not met, such as authors, media personalities, sports figures, or musicians. These are the voices you turn to, listen to, and learn the most from. These are the voices you take seriously when you want counsel, ideas, motivation, companionship, guidance, or a boost of confidence. Limit the number of Board Members to six or seven.

Now write a short description by each name that identifies the reason he or she is on your Personal Board of Directors. For example, “He always makes time for me,” or, “She never makes me feel like my ideas won't work.”

Finally, write a short personal note to one of your Personal Board Members (a living one), thanking this person and letting him/her know that he/she is on your Board, and why. Better yet, write a note to all of your living Board Members.

I was taught this wonderful exercise by my friend Dr. Kathy Koch (pronounced cook), Founder of Celebrate Kids, Inc. (http://www.celebratekids.com/). With her permission, I have shared it with many others.

Several of my Personal Board Members have sat at my table for more than 30 years. My wife has been on my Personal Board for over 40 years!

What a difference these people have made in my life! They are the vital friends I cannot afford to live without.

Who is on your Personal Board of Directors? Maybe you cannot limit it to six or seven. Get a bigger piece of paper. Thank at least two of them today, and be sure to let them know why they are on your Board. You will be glad you did, and they will be glad, too.

Oh...one more question: Did you include Jesus on your Personal Board?

He's been on mine for 55 years.

Thank you, Lord!

John Taylor (left) and Bill Laney (right) have been on my Personal Board of Directors for 30+ years.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Why The Church Is So Silent

The following is by our friend Darrow Miller, co-founder of Disciple Nations Alliance, from his blog, Darrow Miller and Friends, reprinted by permission: 

Jihadists have a slogan: “First the Saturday People, then the Sunday People.” That is, "First we will kill the Jews, then we will kill the Christians."

Today, Christians are being persecuted from Nigeria through North Africa and the Middle East into Asia. Their places of worship are being destroyed, their girls and women are being raped, their homes and villages are being savaged and shattered. Christians are being targeted for mass killings as well as individual assassinations.

And all the time, the world seems to care very little. Influenced by cultural relativism, the West too often denies Islamist evil, pretends there is no clash of civilizations. “We must not critique another culture,” they say. Because of the West’s dependency on oil, governments are loathe to condemn Saudi Arabia’s promotion of their own militant form of Islam known as Wahhabism. The Saudis have spent $2-3B a year since 1975 to build mosques, Wahhabi schools (madrassas) for children, and Islamic institutes at major Western universities. All of this is funded by oil money. Money spent by the West to buy oil is seeding the West’s own destruction.

But it is not just the cultural relativists and Western governments that are silent. The church in the West is virtually silent about the persecution and decimation of our brothers and sisters in Christ in much of the 10/40 window. (See Kirsten Powers’ condemning article in The Daily Beast titled A Global Slaughter of Christians, but America’s Churches Stay Silent.)

The Jihadist vision is one of externally imposed law, legalism, and tyranny. They hate the Judeo-Christian worldview and the civilization of freedom it produced. I understand why Jihadists are opposed to Christians and Jews. What I do not understand is why the church is so silent. Why doesn’t the church in the West stand with her suffering brothers and sisters in Muslim countries? Indeed, we should side with Jews and moderate Moslems—our fellow sons and daughters of Abraham—who are being slaughtered by the Islamists. Even more, we should uphold and defend our fellow Christians. If we cannot stand with them in their hour of need, against what injustice will we ever stand?

Maybe Western Christians are silent because we are too comfortable.  Francis Schaeffer said that the two primary values of modern life are personal peace and affluence. Perhaps the church has been discipled by the culture. Perhaps personal peace and affluence have become the culture of the church. To challenge injustice and oppression might disrupt our comfort. Perhaps the church is silent because we want to be comfortable.

May God raise up a new generation of Christians whose god is not comfort.  May it be a generation concerned about injustice and oppression, a generation that will stand in word and deed with the suffering church.

In response to the question "What do we do?" see Darrow's follow-up post here.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

The Answer

For 30 years, starting in 1958, my Uncle Roy and Aunt Georgialee Mayfield lived with a group of 600-700 indigenous people in the Philippines, called the Agtas. They raised four children among this tribe, learned their language, put their words into written form and taught the Agtas how to read.

Why? Because the Agtas did not have the Bible in their own tongue, and the Mayfields wanted them to be able to read the Word of God, and know the Savior of which The Book spoke. In three decades, the Agta New Testament was complete.  

Roy estimates that by 1994, half the tribe had committed themselves to following Christ. “It was primarily through the Agta leadership and witness of individual believers that the Agta Church grew,” my Uncle tells me. “When the Agta New Testament was dedicated [in 1993], isolated Agta communities from a large geographical area were invited to participate for a two day affair. This experience motivated them to hold a gathering the following year. And for the past 20 years the annual Agta Christian Convention has been a venue where some find Christ for the first time, and others grow in their spiritual walk with the Lord.”

Roy and Georgialee are now retired. But not idle! Roy has been working on an English version of the New Testament, which sprang from his own desire for a "more readable translation." One that was "clear and flowing."

I can personally attest that Roy has succeeded in reaching this goal. I started reading Roy's translation about a year ago, and it is indeed "clear and flowing." I must tell you, it is my favorite version of the New Testament.

I am excited to let you know that Roy's translation of the Gospel of John, which he calls, The Answer, is now available in e-book form. I can't think of a more fitting Christmas gift than this remarkable translation of The Gospel of John, and I urge you to buy a copy for yourself and several as gifts for friends. You will not be disappointed. (At $2.99 per copy, you can buy quite a few!)

The Answer is Roy's initial publication of the Living Water New Testament, coming in due time. Roy says, "I am praying that The Answer will become an effective means of interesting more non-Christians in the hope we have in Jesus Christ."

Order here.

Roy and Georgialee Mayfield teaching Agtas to read their own language.

Roy (far left) and Georgialee with three of their four children and Agta friends.
Roy with an Agta friend testing his work. Roy was trained as a Wycliffe Bible Translator, doing graduate studies in linguistics at the Universities of North Dakota and Oklahoma, as well as Indiana University. He was trained to "translate in a way that does not read like a translation." As Roy puts it, "Any literary work calling itself a translation must be as understandable and idiomatic for the modern reader as the original was to the original readers of the content." After 30 years of applying this principle to the Agta New Testament, Roy has applied the same principle to his English translation of the Gospel of John, called, The Answer.
Roy and Georgialee are currently living in Carnation, Washington.
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Friday, November 8, 2013

Questions That Plague

In 2007, American artist Jimmy Grashow began work on what might be his "final epic."  Inspired by the great baroque sculptor Bernini, whose fountains grace Rome, Grashow set out to create his own "fountain." A "fountain" so intricate, exquisite, and so large, it was not finished until 2010. Grashow's "fountain," however, was not made of marble. It was constructed from cardboard. 

Grashow's work wasn't really finished until 2012. That's because his plan from the start was to set his masterpiece out in the open, so rain would turn it to mush. On April 1, 2012, Grashow set it outside, and six weeks later, he laid the dilapidated mess to rest in a dumpster.

In The Cardboard Bernini, film maker Olympia Stone follows Grashow through his creation's life cycle, from conception to dumpster. We watch as Grashow painstakingly carves details on a huge cardboard fish: "It's very important that you do this right," he says, while carving out the back side of the scales, which nobody will see.

Viewers are confronted with questions that plague postmodern artists like Grashow: "What is the point of art, or the creation of anything beautiful that doesn't last?" And, ultimately, as Stone puts it, "What is the point of our lives in the face of our mortality."

As I watched this remarkable film, I marveled at our Creator's design of human beings as image-bearers of Himself, capable of extraordinary works of beauty, as Grashow and Bernini demonstrate. Through this film, I celebrated Grashow's humanity, as he celebrated it himself. I was blessed by his loving and devoted relationship with his wife, by his adult children, by his joy in living and his warm encounters with friends.

Yet, I was saddened. Saddened to see Grashow's fear of death, his sense of emptiness, and the absence of divine meaning in the work of his hands. I was saddened, once again, to realize how great a thief the postmodern "worldview of nothingness" really is, as seen in Grashow's faith that "everything dissolves in eternity."

This faith would have been inconceivable to Bernini, whose favorite book was Thomas รก Kempis' Imitation of Christ. According to historian Paul Johnson, in Art: A New History, Bernini "believed that God had endowed him with unusual gifts and that, in return, he must make exemplary use of them to glorify his Maker and to make the world share his faith."

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Starting A New Tradition

Our granddaughter, Aria, graces the cover of my wife's book, Fun Family Christmas Devotions: Advent Guide for Busy Parents

I know it's just November 1, but sometimes thinking ahead is smart, especially when it comes to starting a new tradition.

Christmas is not a new tradition, of course. But it has become so highly commercialized, that keeping the real meaning of it before the minds of children (and our own minds, too) is not always a piece of fruitcake! This is especially true when parents are busy, which seems to be the case for every family we know.

One way to address the challenge is to create a lead up to Christmas Day after your regular family Sunday dinner times during the four weeks prior. This is a way to build great Christmas memories, nurture faith in children's hearts, and keep the significance of Christmas at the forefront of the season.

Several years ago, my creative wife, Kathy (the only one I have, actually), wrote a delightful little guide to help make this a reality. This full-color, illustrated book is full of simple dramas, Christmas songs, crafts, games, and food ideas to help bring the wonder and joy of Christmas to life throughout the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas Day.

You may take a look at the content here.

This book comes with a CD of joy-filled Christmas music done mostly by family members. (Don't worry. It's far better than home movies.) If you'd like to get this book for 50% off, and free shipping within the USA, call toll-free 877-624-0230 within the US.

To get the discount, just say you're a reader of the Worldview Matters blog. [The discounted price is $10.]

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Friday, October 25, 2013

It Liberates

"Forgive me, Lord. I want to fly helicopters."

Speaking to a group of Christian school principals recently, I shared this true story to illustrate the need for putting "theology of work" back into the school curriculum:

One day, I have this conversation with a young man I’ll call “Jason.” He's a committed follower of Christ, and a recent graduate of Bible school. Jason loves to do street evangelism, and his greatest thrill is to lead people to the Lord. Wonderful!

When I ask Jason what occupation he wants to pursue, he turns his head to the side, looks up at the ceiling, and says, "Forgive me Lord.” Then (looking me straight in the eye), he declares: "I want to fly helicopters."

Flying really interests Jason, and he's particularly fond of helicopters. He loves everything about them. He tells me he wants to lift logs out of forests, in logging operations. Yet, it is evident to me that Jason feels tension because he doesn't see flying helicopters as a way to truly serve the Lord.

I ask Jason if he is aware of the First Commission. He says he hasn’t heard of the First Commission, so we turn to Genesis 1:26-28. Here is how it reads in The Message:

God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image, make them
      reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
      the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself..."
     He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
     "Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!..."

The Amplified Bible translates verse 28 like this: “And God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it [using all its vast resources in the service of God and man]…”

I share with Jason how flying a helicopter in logging operations fits beautifully into God's mandate to rule over creation. Jason can serve God and love people by lifting trees from forests to be hauled to mills and cut into lumber for building homes. Thank God for loggers!

Jason's face lights up. He has an epiphany. "I never thought of that!" he says. He suddenly sees a way to participate in the First Commission of Genesis 1:26-28 and the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, both with a clear sense of divine calling and purpose.

This is the beauty of a wholistic view of faith, work and Truth. It liberates.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Dirty Dishes Everywhere!

Can washing dishes be God's work? Isn't "God's work" what pastors and missionaries do, or doctors and nurses? Can house chores be God's work, too? Really? [The photo is one of our granddaughters, Emily, at our kitchen sink.] 

Building a solid Theology of Work and Human Flourishing [TOWHF] into the minds and hearts of the coming generation is the next big frontier in the "faith-at-work" movement. This is why Worldview Matters is taking serious steps to get TOWHF into the curriculum of Christian schools around the world.We call it the P-12 WRAP: Worklife Restoration and Advancement Project. [More on this another day.]

But the task is not complete without participation by parents in the home.

To help in this challenge, we developed a resource that parents [as well as teachers] can use to help young people put their daily work into the larger context of a biblical worldview. You might call this, "contextualization for kids." I call it, The Awesome Activator. But don't be fooled. This tool works just as well with adults!

Below is the layout. To enlarge the images, click on them:

If you want more, including a free blank version of The Awesome Activator to make copies for your family, or your students if you are a teacher (including an example of how George Washington Carver may have fill out one of these "thinking tools" with respect to his work with plants), click here.

If you are a school principal, and you would like to have an exploratory chat with me about how theology of work can be built into your already-existing elementary or secondary curriculum, I invite you to click here. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Salvation Of Souls And The Rebuilding Of City Sewer Systems

I don’t think we’ll know the complete answer as to why God created human beings until we cross over to the other side. Then I think we’ll look back and say, “Ahhhhhh….now I get it!”

But on the day God created humanity, He had something definite in mind. What in the world did God have in mind? Let's tweak the question a bit: What role did God have in mind for humans when He created Adam and Eve?

Remarkably, the Bible tells us exactly what role God had in mind. His intention from the beginning was to see a host of "image-bearers" [spiritual and rational beings resembling Himself] governing over the earth and all it contains: "Let us make man in Our likeness and image...and let them rule...over all the earth." That's the role God had in mind! He created us to be His Vice Regents, governing over the Blue Planet as image-bearers of Himself, engaging in that First Commission of Genesis 1:26-28.

Think about it! God created humans to resemble Himself, and gave us the responsible role of employing that likeness to rule over a planet! It doesn't get more awesome than this.

I like the way Chuck Colson put it: “On the sixth day, God created human beings—and ordered them to pick up where He left off!” That’s quite a responsibility—and honor. Talk about purpose, and meaning!

Ray Bakke, in A Theology As Big As The City, wrote: "We Christians are the only people who can truly discuss the salvation of souls and the rebuilding of city sewer systems in the same sentence." 

Why is this so? Because we are spiritual and rational beings created to govern over a material world. 

The First Commission gives me high purpose in mowing my lawn, and ridding it of moles (one of the greatest challenges to human governance known to man, and a sure sign of the curse). It brings meaning to taking out the trash, and cleaning the drains on the roof. It gives great purpose to my work of writing, speaking, consulting and coaching.

Of course, not every moment is a pleasure. Moles in the lawn aren't fun. But I always come back to the astounding realization that I am a spiritual and rational being made to govern over a material world.

This is the role God had in mind--and still does. 

Each time I mow the lawn, I am reminded of the First Commission. No joke.

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Friday, October 4, 2013

There Never Was A Democracy That Did Not Commit Suicide

My friend Joe Harper, an attorney, wrote an excellent piece explaining the difference between a democracy and a republic. As a follow-up to last week’s post, The Problem With "We The People," I’m posting an abbreviated version of Joe’s piece, with his permission:

Democracy is from the Greek demos, meaning people, and kratos, meaning government. The literal translation is government by the people, and this certainly has great appeal. Under a democracy, the majority rules without restraint of a given body of law. Indeed the law is whatever the majority say it is. 

Under a republic, the law is more than just politics, and is not dependent upon which group has the most power. The law is consistent, predictable, reasonable, and seeks truth and justice.

Why does it matter if the United States is a Republic or a democracy? A simple comparison between the two demonstrates why. Democracies are inherently unjust and unstable and have always ended in tyranny. John Adams even warned: "Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide." 

With the increasing polarization and viciousness in politics, and the overt campaigns for more power illustrated by the constant concern over which party will gain or keep control over the House and Senate, it would appear that though our Founders and our Constitution established a Republic, we may have already degenerated into exactly what the pols and pundits already say - a democracy. How did we get here? By failing to adhere to the fundamental truth that there is a right and wrong. Failing to abide by the Biblical principles upon which our Nation was founded. Allowing God to be purged from our legal jurisprudence and replacing Him with the concept of evolutionary operations and moral relativism. 

We know from history that unless confidence in the law is restored, democracy will continue to overtake the republic and soon collapse it into tyranny. Tyranny is already showing signs as individual rights are beginning to be infringed upon, starting with religious liberties. Confidence can be restored, however, but it must start with a return to values and principles that created confidence and stability in the law in the first place. This means reversing the purge of God from our legal system.

For Joe's full post, click here.

If you are an American, and you pledged your allegiance "...to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God...,"  did any of your teachers explain what you were pledging your allegiance to? If you're a teacher, there's a teachable moment here.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

The Problem With "We The People..."

Christian school principals in the State of Kentucky, where I was the guest of Dr. Randy Ross, Regional Director of the Association of Christian Schools International in the Ohio River Valley, who is standing with me in this photo (on the right).
This is what is missing in America today: Our children are being brought up in an environment without respect for God and His Word, and therefore no regard for what He has to say about anything. The outcome is a host of adults who have no regard for God or the Bible.

This is the problem with "We The People..." When the majority of voting citizens are brought up in an environment with no respect for God and His Word, they vote the way they see it. Naturally. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand why America is going the direction it is.

Last week I had the privilege of sharing with Christian school principals in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia on the topic of what makes a Christian school "Christian," and how to keep it that way. It's no secret that some schools, like Harvard and Yale, start out strongly Christian and end up...well, something else.

The case for authentic Christian education, and the compelling need for it, is stronger today than ever. By "authentic," I mean education that connects the dots, by "contextualizing" every academic subject within the bigger picture of a biblical world-and-life view. This doesn't mean we tack a Bible verse on the end of a lesson, or just open class with a word of prayer. It means helping students to see how every academic subject makes sense when it is viewed within the context of God's larger frame of reference. Putting all things in that context is the challenge, privilege, mission and mandate of every Christian teacher--and parent as well.

While visiting these principals, I gave them a small taste of what is coming to the Bible Belt. I did this by showing them a short clip of street interviews my wife and I did a couple of years ago in Seattle. In doing back-to-back interviews for well over an hour, with people who gave us permission to record their comments and share them with the world, not a single person made reference to the Bible, in response to a question that past generations most certainly would have. Even in Seattle.

Take a look. Then say a prayer for "we the people" who make this country home: http://youtu.be/jsHiSLgTLv4.  

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Remarkable Courage

This map of Indonesia shows the locations of schools (elementary, secondary and post-secondary) that have been established by The Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology, also called "SETIA," located in East Jakarta. The lines go out to schools in rural, under-developed areas of the country that have been "left behind." They are also areas of recruitment by radical Islamic groups.

Why would a seminary in Indonesia be planting elementary and secondary schools? Shouldn't they just be planting churches? What's going on here?

What's going on is the Gospel of the Kingdom at work in Indonesia. By "Gospel of the Kingdom," I don't mean the Gospel of Personal Salvation (although personal salvation is included), but the Gospel of Reconciliation, that Christ may have preeminence in all things--in heaven and on earth (please see Col. 1:16-20).

This calls for reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic, because "things on earth" include business things, civil things, agricultural things, artistic things and family things. Neighborhood things. Educational things. Legal things. This is the wholistic Gospel, that not only provides blessed hope for eternity, but blessed hope for the here-and-now.

This vision has come at a high price for the Arastamer School of Theology. It is a price most Americans can barely conceive, and it demands remarkable courage. 

Such as the time when Dr. Matheus Mangentang, Director of the School of Theology, received word direcctly from the leader of one of the most radical Islamic groups in Indonesia that he was going to kill Matheus. What did Matheus do? He invited this radical leader to meet him for dinner. (What would I have done? I would have called the FBI and installed a serious alarm system around my house!) 

Matheus met his adversary face to face. When they got together, the radical Muslim leader wanted to know why Matheus was unafraid. This opened a deep conversation. When the Muslim leader saw that Matheus was working for the common good of Indonesia, the two men became friends. And they remain friends today.

But all has not been rosy for the seminary in Jakarta. In July of 2008, it was attacked by an angry mob, armed with metal clubs and machetes. As police evacuated students and staff, the attackers threw acid and slashed students with swords. The school was literally driven out of the city.

For a more complete account of this matter, and to find out what happened next, I urge you to view the stunning video contained in this link: http://www.memverse.com/stt_setia. If you think you have problems, take a look. More importantly, if you want to see grace in action, click the link.

With Matheus Mangentang and his wife, Ester, at the Business as Mission, Indonesian Economic Development Conference three weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

"They Showed Us By Their Faith And Lifestyle"

Jamek Masque, in Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, built in 1907.  [Photo from Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams (Earth), licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic, from Wikipedia.]

After reading last week’s post, David Oliver (British author of Love Work, Live Life!), sent me this note about his experience in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, immediately north of Indonesia:

"I went up the Menara tower overlooking the city and purchased an audio tour guide. As I got towards the end of the tour (station 12 in the tower) I realised afterwards that this had of course been carefully choreographed as I stood looking out over row upon row of golden topped mosques.

The commentary ran as follows: 'In the 14th century, Indian [Muslim] traders came to our land and showed us by their faith and lifestyle that we could be freed from the shackles of Buddhism. So we embraced their faith and their language and have done till this day.'"

Let those words sink in: "…[they] showed us by their faith and lifestye...” Traders? Sellers of widgets? Business people? “…so we embraced their faith…” Today, 61% of the population of Malaysia is Muslim.

Therein lies an important message for Christians. What's the message? I hardly need to say it. But on the other hand, maybe I do.

Let me start on a positive note, by sharing hope from Indonesia. I became aware of this two weeks ago, while speaking at a conference for Indonesians in America. The conference theme was "Business as Mission and Indonesian Economic Development." 

One of the other speakers was Dr. Matheus Mangentang, Director of The Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology, a seminary established in East Jakarta in 1987. By 2007, this school had become the largest school of theology in Indonesia.

As I heard Dr. Mangentang describe his work, I realized this school is not your typical school of theology, and Matheus is not your typical school director. They do not advertise for students, and their goal is not to raise up theologians. They are raising up nation-builders.

A wholistic approach to Christianity has led them to plant scores of elementary and secondary schools throughout Indonesia, among populations "left behind." This is where their students come from, and this is where their students return. They come from undeveloped communities and return to them, engaging as Christians.

This has made Matheus a target among radical Muslim forces. Next week I'll share how he responded when the leader of one of these notorious groups informed Matheus he was going to kill him. I was dumbfounded.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Not Part Of The Muslim Mindset

[This map of Indonesia is public domain.]

Indonesia is a fascinating country. It has some 17,000 islands (I say "some" because a few disappear at high tidean Indonesian joke), with 240,000,000 inhabitants. It is the fourth most populous nation on the planet.

Last weekend I spoke at a conference in Columbus, Ohio, where Christian Indonesian college students and young working professionals currently living in the United States gathered to focus on how business can positively affect Indonesian communities, particularly underprivileged people in rural areas. 

Many non-Indonesians are surprised to learn that 88% of the Indonesian population claims to be Muslim. In fact, Indonesia has more self-proclaimed Muslims than any other nation on earth. The number of Muslims in Indonesia exceeds the number that are in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan combined! 

How did it happen that this part of the world, far from the Middle East, came to have such a large body of Muslims? Michael Baer, in Business As Mission, writes: 

"I once asked an Indonesian Christian why the country had become so predominantly Muslim...She said that when the Western Christians came, primarily from Holland, they built missionary compounds and missionary churches and expected the Indonesian people to come to them. The Muslims, on the other hand, came as traders, farmers, merchants, and businesspeople and simply lived among the natives."
Dr. Darrell Furgason, a friend of mine who holds a Ph. D. from the University of Sydney in Religious Studies, and is an expert on Islam, has this to say:  

"In places like Africa and Indonesia, the church has been intellectually crippled, with one hand tied behind its back. Western missionaries generally brought the Gospel in the way they learned it, as a purely soul-saving faith, with no real bearing on anything else--religion was a mostly personal matter, nothing to do with things like politics, science, law, economics...African people were given the Gospel, but not how to build a righteous nation, how to apply Christianity to everything...Muslims see their faith as all-encompassing..."

The "Sacred-Secular Split" [SSD] is not part of the Muslim mindset. Yet, regrettably for all nations, it is the mindset of far too many Christians. Take 2.5 minutes to hear what Dr. Aila Tasse told me about the problem of "SSD" in northern Kenya, where his organization, Lifeway Mission, plants churches in Muslim communities [http://youtu.be/o5qHFe6O1uU]

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Friday, June 28, 2013

I Could Have Used The Help Of A Freelancer

As is my custom, I’ll be taking a summer break from blogging to re-charge my batteries. 
I have enjoyed “peeling the onion” this past year regarding the role of education in preparing the next generation to make intentional connections between the biblical worldview and daily work. Not only in future work as adults, but current work as students.  Although it was once standard fare at early Harvard and Yale, "the doctrine of work" has disappeared from Christian education, at least in an intentional and systematic way.

I believe this is a big key to cultural transformation. When people go to work with a biblical Weltanschauung and apply it within every sector of society, God goes to work too.

In closing, let me say a word to Christian school leaders: 

I know what it’s like to be a busy school head, attending to "the urgent" and dealing with non-instructional matters demanding so much time and energy that the essential task of equipping teachers to integrate the biblical worldview throughout the curriculum gets lost in the shuffle. 

During the 14 years I served as headmaster of a Christian school, I could have used the help of a freelancer,  providing customized assistance to fit the needs of myself and my staff—as well as my budget. 20 years later, I am able to serve in ways I would not have dreamed possible when I needed this kind of help.    
Each school is unique, and the needs of its staff and leadership vary.  I will be happy to develop a customized plan with any Christian school principal who wants to work with me, to whatever degree of involvement is deemed most fitting for your school and your budget, until my quota is full.

If you have not considered developing specific standards and benchmarks for the "doctrine of work" throughout your elementary and secondary school curriculum, please take another look at David Oliver’s guest post: click here.  Whether you move to that level or not, I would count it a privilege to come along side you. My coaching services vary from as little contact as two hours a month, to as much as two hours a week. For more informationclick here.  

The process starts with an exploratory chat. This costs nothing but a bit of time. To set your appointment, click here.

See you in September!

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