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 25, 2015

The Big Idea Behind Christmas

Today's post appeared six years ago, during my first year of blogging, and has been a Christmas tradition since.

One of my favorite Christmas carols is Joy To The World. The words are by Isaac 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 the song is not about the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, but about His second coming. 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.

This may be what Watts had in mind, but the song makes as much sense to me as a celebration of Christ's first coming. While I’m looking forward to that full and perfect expression of the Kingdom-yet-to-come, I’m  also celebrating Christ's King-domain already here. Jesus is Lord of all. Today! Not just in the future, but at this present moment (Acts 10:36-37).

Christ's Kingdom hasn't fully arrived, nor is it perfectly realized yet. 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 right now. He is holding it all together by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). Today.

This is the greatest Christmas gift: that Christ came “to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found.” His blessings flow through people who are reconciled to God, and who, in turn, are reconciling all things to Him, including the things of earth, far as the curse is found. Today! 

This is the big idea behind Christmas. (See Col. 1:16-20, and To Reconcile Not Only People But Things.)

So, no more let thorns infest the ground. By God's amazing grace, let's go back to work after Christmas, to 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! 

Far as the curse is found.
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Friday, December 18, 2015

A Nigerian Investment That's Really Working!

A wise school leader builds his office upon a rock. This is the office of Segun Gbolagun, Director of The Kingdom Citizens International School, in Jos, Nigeria.

Last week, we highlighted the Worklife Restoration and Advancement Project, or, as we call it, the WRAP. Currently, there are a handful of Christian schools in the USA and abroad that are involved in this project. Lord willing, there will be more to come. 

These WRAP schools are actively restoring theology of work to the curriculum in a way that is systemic, intentional and repeatable. It is a rigorous, multi-year process for each school.

In addition to the WRAP schools, Worldview Matters is working with selected cohorts of Christian educators involved in early education through graduate school. These specialized cohorts are in the United States, South Korea, Uganda, Guatemala and (starting in January) Bogotá, Colombia.

Each WRAP school and leaders' cohort participates in a 9-month distance-learning course developed especially for Christian educators, called, Increase Meaning: A Wholistic Approach To Christian Education. It is through this venue that Worldview Matters is able to train educators around the world without leaving our office in northwest USA. [Actually, anyone in the world can enroll in this course. For more information, click here.]

Thanks to a grant from the MustardSeed Foudation and Bakke Graduate University, we have been working for the past 1-1/2 years with a WRAP school in Jos, Nigeria, called The Kingdom Citizens International School.

You may know Nigeria as home to a vicious Islamist group called Boko Haram. This gang of thugs has killed 20,000 people since 2009, and displaced 2.3 million people from their homes, primarily in northeast Nigeria. Last March, the group declared allegiance to ISIS. The name "Boko Haram" means: Western education is evil. (How would you like to be operating a Christian school in this neck of the woods?)

Recently, in a conversation with Segun Gbolagun, the Director of The Kingdom Citizens International School, I asked him if they were in any danger from Boko Haram. "Oh, no," he replied. "Boko Haram is far away from us." When I asked him how far, he said: "Oh, they are about a six or seven hour drive from us."

This information was not all that comforting to me.

Last week I recorded a video call with Segun and Dot Reju, Pastor of The Kingdom Citizens Pavilion, the church that oversees this school. I want to share some of our conversation with you. I think you'll agree, this is a Nigerian investment that's really working!

If the video does not play, click here: https://youtu.be/q9C3Jbe_DLc

Friday, December 11, 2015

Worklife Restoration and Advancement Project

Why should Christians value machines?

On a fourth grade science test after a unit on pulleys and machines, Mrs. Curry included the following question: 

Why should Christians value work and machines?

Here are some of the answers she received: 

"Because they help us through life, and God gave us the material to make them."

"God wants us to use our brains to worship Him, and machines help people to worship God."

"Because God said to do work, and machines help us to do work."

"Because people can glorify God by building things that they have never built before."

"God gave us the thought of them and they make it easier to serve God."

"Because God made us to do work, not to just sit around and do nothing.  So when we work, we should want to do it easily if we have to do it all the time."

"Because God made us to do work and live. We should make it easier by using simple machines."

"Because it is God's purpose for us."

"God created people so people can invent machines."

I received this report from Dean Ridder, Headmaster at Isaac Newton Christian Academy, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Dean ended his message with: "Not bad for 10 years old."

An understatement.

Worldview Matters is working with Bakke Graduate University and the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics to restore a biblical concept of work via elementary and secondary education. We do this through the WRAP: Worklife Restoration and Advancement Project. We have been working with Dean's school for the past 2½ years. [For details about the WRAP, click here.]

In another note, Dean relayed: 

"Our enrollment has grown by 10% since last year (and is still growing--we have families still actively participating in the enrollment process for this year). When I was asked to what do we contribute this growth when enrollment is dropping at Christian schools in our area, I had a good answer. 'People are hearing about our efforts to elevate the level of biblical worldview integration and incorporation of theology of work in our classrooms, and are responding to it.'"

Below is a clip of another INCA teacher, Mrs. Greer, having a conversation with 5th grade students on the topic of ecosystems and work. Here is an example of authentic Christian education, helping students to think about all things, including work, in the context of a biblical frame of reference:

If the video does not play, click here.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Accidental Executive

The Book of the Year. (My year, that is.)

One of the best books I've read on the intersection between the biblical worldview and the world of business came out this past year. It's called, The Accidental Executive, by Albert M. Erisman.

I don't say this just because Al is a personal friend, and we attend the same church! I say this because his book is full of rich insights, from cover to cover. As I read the book, I kept saying to myself, "How can Al keep pulling so many insights out of the life of Joseph? Just when I think he can't possibly come up with another insight, he comes up with another great insight!"

The Accidental Executive is a truly exceptional book that deals with theology of work in the context of life itself. What makes the book particularly good, is that Al relates so much of what he learned from the life of Joseph to his own experience as Director of Technology for The Boeing Company. Al's real-life stories are not only the happy experiences, but the not-so-happy ones, too. And that's just like Al. He's the real deal.

I highly recommend you get this book for anyone on your Christmas list who works in the world of business. Actually, what Al pulls from the life of Joseph applies to everyone. Just get it.

Allow me to introduce you to the man behind the book, via this short video recently done by Centered Stories:

(If the video does not play, click here: https://vimeo.com/125599429.)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Exercise

Here's a great Thanksgiving exercise worth doing annually.

Take out a clean sheet of paper, and write the following at the top: My Personal Board Of Directors.

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 six or seven 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. They may be people you've known for decades. 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.

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 at least one of your Personal Board Members (a living one), or a phone call, thanking this person, letting him/her know that he/she is on your Personal Board of Directors, and why.

I was taught this great exercise by Kathy Koch, Founder of Celebrate Kids, Inc. (http://www.celebratekids.com/). With her permission, I have shared it with many others over the years.

Several of my Personal Board Members have been at my table for more than 35 years. My wife has been on my Personal Board for over 45 years!

What a difference these people have made in my life. They are the 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 one or 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. It will be a Thanksgiving gift to treasure.

One more question: Did you include Jesus on your Personal Board?

He's been on mine for 58 years.

Thank you, Lord!

John Taylor (left) and Bill Laney (right) have been on my Personal Board of Directors for 35+ years.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The People We Can't Afford To Live Without

Two are better than one. Especially at work.

We seem to be living at a time when friends are more necessary than ever. What may come as a surprise to many, is that a person who has a best friend at work is seven times more likely to be engaged in his or her job. This may seem counter intuitive, but it is the discovery of Tom Rath.

Who is Tom Rath? He's the best-selling author of How Full Is Your Bucket?, StrengthsFinder 2.0, and Vital Friends: The People you Can't Afford to Live Without.

Rath puts meat on the term friend. He does this by identifying eight different types of friends. As I summarize his eight types below, I urge you to think about the people in your own life who fill these various roles. And consider how you might be filling one or more of these roles in other people's lives: 

Builder: a person who motivates you to accomplish things you would not otherwise accomplish.

Champion: a person who sings your praises to others.

Collaborator: a person who has similar interests, and shares those interests with you.

Companion: a person who is always there for you.

Connector: a person who introduces you to others (without being asked!).

Energizer: a person who gives you a boost.

Mind Opener: a person who challenges you to think outside the box.

Navigator: a person who provides guidance for you.

As I read Vital Friends, I couldn't help but think of the people in my life who have filled the roles described by Rath. It was easy for me to see why he calls these the people we can't afford to live without.

As King Solomon put it, in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12,

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor;
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Friday, November 13, 2015

This Pastor Doesn't Say It Any Longer

"The most important thing happening this week in our city is what's happening right now in this sanctuary!"

That's what Dr. Vic Pentz, Senior Pastor at Peachtree Presbyterian, Atlanta, Georgia, used to tell his congregation on Sunday mornings. But this pastor doesn't say it any longer.

Has he backslidden?

You be the judge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YboJIUVm8Cc

Friday, November 6, 2015

Poor Atlas

Dr. Robert Osborn is the Executive Director of Wilberforce Academy, St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a brother we greatly respect, and Wilberforce Academy is a work our readers should know about. I asked Bob if he would write a post about his work with international students, which he kindly did here. My wife, Kathy, and I have had international students living with us off and on for 40 years. These students have come from Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East. We have touched many nations through our home and our family. But Bob carries the process much further.

Poor Atlas.

The entire globe was on his shoulders. 

Now, imagine a lever by which you can leverage the future of the nations that span that globe.  And imagine not having to leave your home in the process, but actually having the opportunity to impact the destiny of whole nations from your doorstep.

Welcome to the world of international student ministry and Wilberforce Academy.   While churches invest large amounts of funds to transport families overseas where missionaries often spend years wrestling with major cultural, linguistic and religious obstacles that make sharing the Gospel difficult, God has dropped more than a million international students in North America (and three million elsewhere around the world).  In many cases, the finest brains come to North America because of our renowned universities. 

They are at our doorsteps, waiting for our welcome. Many are open to the Gospel, especially those from Mainland China, which sends the largest percentage of international students (more than 1/3rd of the overall total).

Not only do some of these students find Christ here, but at the Wilberforce Academy we’re also preparing these students to creatively, courageously, skillfully, and intelligently apply a Christian worldview to the challenges facing their societies and workplaces.  We call these students whom we mentor “redemptive change agents,” that is Christ-animated agents of change whose horizons are denominated by the Kingdom and whose academic training, when brought under the yoke of Christ, yields rich fruit.  By the grace of God, we prepare them to be advanced professionals skilled in making known Jesus Christ and His healing balm throughout their nations.

Thangboi has founded two Christian schools in Northwest India, while Emmanuela prepares to depart for Cameroon in 2016 where she will design children’s curricula for Cameroon’s churches and public schools.  Ricardo advocates in Jamaica’s courts for his country’s most vulnerable children.  Nearby in Haiti, Abbel champions a vision for teaching Christian worldview to his people while also managing programs for Compassion International.  In Zimbabwe, Masango teaches conflict resolution skills, while, in Togo, Ameido will very soon arouse the entrepreneurial potential of her country’s young college graduates who now only wait for government jobs.  Kisongo, from his base in Minneapolis, is transforming the church landscape in eastern Congo because of his teaching on a Christian worldview, and, very soon, he hopes to also empower the development of businesses that will create desperately needed wealth.

The world at our doorsteps awaits.  Will you rise up with the love of Christ, and a desire to teach the only worldview that matches the shape of reality?  Will you then train these future leaders who await your hospitality and your friendship, and help them to disciple their nations?

If you do, you will be leveraging what Atlas could only carry.

And you will know blessing unimagined.

For more about Wilberforce Academy click here. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

They Set A New Course For History

After the reformational work of Luther and Calvin some 500 years ago in northern Europe, biblio-centric pioneers of education such as John Amos Comenius, John Alsted, William Ames and Alexander Richardson, developed new and radical ways of "doing school." In the process, they set a new course for history.

One of the lost treasures of their remarkable (and forgotten) approach to education is the Puritan Circle of Knowledge.

It had four stages, as follows:

#1: God initiates things through His original creation of everything out of nothing.


#2: Humans discover what God has made. This discovery is a big part of what education is about.  


#3: Humans imitate God by making “secondary creations,” based on their understanding of His initial creation.


#4: God is glorified through imitation of Him via vocations of all kinds.

So the shoemaker imitates God by making beautiful and functional “secondary creations” that serve the needs of people and reflect the original Creator via imitation, thus bringing glory back to God. The furniture maker imitates God by making beautiful and functional “secondary creations” that serve the needs of people and reflect the original Creator via imitation, bringing glory back to God. The banker, the lawyer and the businessman also glorify God by serving the financial needs of people, bringing justice to the world, and creating employment for the community via the imitation of God through vocation, and in so doing, communities flourish. 

I have no doubt this is why the Puritan pastor George Swinnock said, “The pious tradesman will know that his shop as well as his chapel is holy ground.” Done in the right way, with the right attitude, for the right reason, any “secondary creations” that imitate the original Creator, will glorify Him and bless people. It's true whether making shoes, running banks or rearing children. That’s what “vocation” was about for the Moravians, the Puritans and other followers of Christ just a few hundred years ago.

Reformational ideas like this one laid an economic foundation for a new nation. To recover such ideas would change the course of history once again. This is what Worldview Matters is up to, in cooperation with the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, and Bakke Graduate University. Pray for us.

For more on the Circle of Knowledge, see Dr. David Scott's, "A Vision of  Veritas: What Christian Scholarship Can Learn from the Puritans' 'Technology' of Integrating Truth." Click here.