• How To No Longer Fear Death

    Death is a funny thing because it is one of the most pervasive things in life and yet we attempt to ignore it as much as we can. On the last page of Alain deBotton’s  great book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work he says the reason why we throw ourselves into our work is to distract us from our impending death. He thinks that “death should find us as we are building up our matchstick protests against its waves” (326).

    Why is death so scary that we would do anything to ignore it? I think there are four reasons:

    1. Death brings the loss of control.  In our last moments we know that we aren’t in control and any myth of control over our lives we had when we were young and vital is now gone.
    2. Death brings a feeling of incompleteness and failure. We get to the end of our lives knowing that no matter how we have lived our lives, there were things we didn’t do or conversations that we didn’t have that we should have. There were also those times that we have done or said things that we regret. These things give us a sense of failure and incompleteness.
    3. Death brings separation from our loved ones. Unless we believe in an afterlife death will permanently separate  us from those we love.
    4. Death leads to a realm of unfamiliarity. Unless we have assurance of heaven (or hell) the realm of death is shrouded in secrecy. We do not know what our postmortem fate will be, that is, assuming there is life beyond the grave.

    Humans have been struggling with the concept of death and our mortality since Adam was around. In fact, the French philosopher Luc Ferry, writes in his book  A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living that all philosophy and philosophical systems are projects of salvation that are trying to save us from our own mortality. It is interesting that, as an atheist, Ferry would then say this about Christianity:

    The Christian response to mortality, for believers at least, is without question the most ‘effective’ of all responses: it would seem to be the only version of salvation that enables us not only to transcend the fear of death, but also to beat death itself. And by doing so in terms of individual identity, rather than anonymity or abstraction, it seems to be the only version that offers a truly definitive victory of personal immortality over our condition as mortals.  Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living, 90

     

    Ferry says that Christianity has the most effective response to death. When Jesus died and rose again we believe that Jesus in effect “killed” death. Therefore because of the gospel we no longer fear death. As Hebrews 2:14-15 says:

    Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

    In Jesus’ incarnation, death and resurrection God destroyed the grip of death on us and the result is that we can no longer fear death.

    The question is have you put your faith in Jesus? If you have death has lost it’s sting!

    If you would like to come and hear what else I have to say about how Jesus destroys our fear of death please come to my church Resolved this Sunday. The details are here. 

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  • Will There Be Work in Heaven?

    It is easy to think that work is a curse. Especially when you are working long hours or you have a job that you don;t really like. A lot of people think that, in heaven (if they believe in it), we will be doing nothing but lounging around relaxing. The idea is that heaven will be one long summer holiday. But does the Bible really teach that heaven will be free of work?

    Isaiah 2:2-5 contains a beautiful, expansive vision of the heaven.

    In the last days

    the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
        as the highest of the mountains;
    it will be exalted above the hills,
        and all nations will stream to it.

    Many peoples will come and say,

    “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
        to the temple of the God of Jacob.
    He will teach us his ways,
        so that we may walk in his paths.”
    The law will go out from Zion,
        the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
    He will judge between the nations
        and will settle disputes for many peoples.
    They will beat their swords into plowshares
        and their spears into pruning hooks.
    Nation will not take up sword against nation,
        nor will they train for war anymore.

    Come, descendants of Jacob,
        let us walk in the light of the Lord.

    In light of the question about work and heaven biblical scholar Ben Witherington’s  comments are very helpful:

    When Isaiah envisions the eschatology age, or the last days, he does not envision a massive work stoppage. What he envisions is a massive war stoppage, if we may put it that way. The point of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks is so that weapons of war may be turned into tools of work. When Isaiah envisages the final or eschatology state of affairs, his vision of shalom, well-being, peace, is not a work less paradise, but of a world at peace worshiping the one true God and working together rather than warring with each other. Ben Witherington, Work: A Kingdom Perspective on Labor, Xiii- XiV

    The application of Witherington’s comments is that work is not something that is alien to the plans and purposes that God has for humanity but it is something that is deeply ingrained in them. Your job, as long as it is not unethical or illegal, is not a curse but one of the ways that God uses to sanctify you and to bring about his purposes in the world. Work, therefore, is part of God’s good creation order. I wonder if we viewed work in that way would our job satisfaction go up? I think it may.

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  • Book Reviews for December 2014

    I have recently come back from three weeks paternity leave and so I had more time to read. Here are the books I have read (or finished) in the last month:

    What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics by RC Sproul

    I have a rule when it comes to RC Sproul and here it is: if he writes a book buy it and read it. Yes he is that good! This book is a brilliantly accessible and yet tightly argued book outlining the basics of Reformed Theology. I read it with some young leaders at Resolved and they greatly profited from it. Buy this book if you want a solid introduction to Reformed Theology or you want a refresher.

    Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture by R. Paul Stevens

    From 1999 until 2005 Stevens was the David J. Brown Family Professor of Marketplace Theology and Leadership at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada and this book is the fruit of his thinking into how the Bible interacts with work. In this book he outlines how different books of the Bible contribute to our theology and practice of work. There are some gems in this book but a lot of the time I had issues with his exegesis and application. There are better Christian books on the subject of work that you can buy before this one.

    Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky

    This is one of the best books I have read this year. In this book, Belsky, outlines his method for turning ideas into reality. The book is divided into three sections:

    1. Organization and Execution
    2. The Forces of Community
    3. Leadership Capability

    And Belsky shows how you need all three aspects to have a culture of execution. The system that Belsky uses is straight forward and all his ideas are ready made to be used. This is a book that all leaders and leadership teams need to buy, read and apply.

    Work: A Kingdom Perspective on Labor by Ben Witherington

    Ben Witherington has written a easily digestible book on the theology of work that is theologically rich. Witherington comes from a distinctly Arminian perspective and so I do take issues with some of his exegesis and theology. That being said, here is a book that will make you think hard about how the gospel impacts your work.

    Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin

    I always find Godin’s stuff inspiring and Linchpin was no different. The thesis of this book is that a Linchpin emotionally engages with the work he or she does and does work that matters. Work that matters is work that touches people and that is done one time. If you need an inspiring read in relation to your work buy this book and read it.

    Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin Deyoung

    I never have read a book by Deyong that hasn’t been extremely helpful. This book clocks just over 100 pages and is brilliant in thinking through the causes for our crazy busyness as well as the way we are connected all the time as well as the crazy way we parent nowadays. Deyong has loads of helpful application throughout this small book too. I want everyone in my church to read this book. It is that good!

    Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business by Wayne Grudem

    I was disappointed by this book. Not because it wasn’t biblical or wasn’t helpful in some areas. I was disappointed because I thought the treatment of business was quite shallow. Each chapter is over and done with after a few pages and follows a repetitive pattern. We await a longer treatment on the gospel and business from Grudem in future which we are assured will have more depth.

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  • To My Beautiful Bride on Our 5 Year Anniversary

    I love you more today than when I said “for better for worser”

    I love how you make me better in every way.

    I love how do an amazing job of encouraging me when I’m down, rebuking me when I need it, laughing at me when I need humbling and being a constant source of fun and joy in my life.

    I love how you are an amazing mother two both Emma and Niels. It is a testimony of how good of a mother you are that all Emma wants to be is a mum!

    I love how you are passionate about Jesus and an amazing encouragement to the girls who call Resolved their spiritual home.

    I love how you put the interests of others before yourself.

    I think God for you every day. Other than the gospel, you are the most obvious evidence of God’s grace in my life. I can’t wait to love you for the rest of our lives. “For richer for poorer. For better for worser.”

    Kate and I

     

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  • Would We Have Human Rights Without Christianity?

    One of the things I love about our culture is the commonly held idea of human rights. But where did this come from? Is this belief in the equality of all human beings one that all cultures in all times have held? The noted French atheist philosopher Luc Ferry, in his great book A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living, says that humans rights, as we now have them, came from a particular religion:

    But there is more: by resting its case upon a definition of the human person and an unprecedented idea of love, Christianity was to have an incalculable effect upon the history of ideas. To give one example, it is quite clear that, in this Christian re-evaluation of the human person, of the individual as such, the philosophy of human rights to which we subscribe today would never have established itself. It is essential therefore that we have a more or less accurate idea of the chain of reasoning which led Christianity to break so radically with the Stoic past.

    Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living, 60

    Ferry is saying that Christianity is the reason that we, as a society, believe that all humans have dignity as this was simply not held by anyone outside of Christianity in the Roman world. So next time you argue and campaign for the fair treatment of asylum seekers, the release of sex slaves or some other wonderful human rightS initiative make sure you realise that you are arguing your position because you have adopted the Christian idea of the equality of all people.

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  • What is The Key To Making Your Ideas Happen?

    As a person with a creative background I find coming up with ideas easy. It is the execution of those ideas that I find hard. Scott Belsky has written a great book that all leaders should read called Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality in which he says that the next idea that I have could be the thing that will kill my execution of the first idea:

    As we move further along the trajectory of execution, we are liable to get lost in the “project plateau.” We know we’re on the plateau when we are overwhelmed with Action
    Steps and can see no end in sight. Our energy and commitment—and thus a willingness to tolerate the sometimes painful process of execution—are naturally high only when an idea is first conceived. The honeymoon period quickly fades as Action Steps pile up and compete with our other ongoing commitments. Our ideas become less interesting as we realize the implied responsibilities and sheer amount of work required to execute them.

     

    The easiest and most seductive escape from project plateau is the most dangerous one: a new idea.  New ideas offer a quick return to the high energy and commitment zone, but they also cause us to lose focus.  As the new star rises, our execution efforts for the original idea starts to fall off.  The end result?  A plateau filled with the skeletons of abandoned ideas. although it is part of the creative’s essence to constantly generate new ideas, our addiction to new ideas is also  what often cuts our journey short.

     

    To push your ideas to fruition, you must develop the capacity to endure, and even thrive, as you traverse the project plateau. You must reconsider the way you you approach execution. The forces you can use to sustain your focus and renew your energy do not come naturally. Making ideas actually happen boils down to the self-discipline and the ways in which you take action.

    Scott Belsky Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality, 70-71

    So in the end what is the difference between someone that executes and someone that doesn’t? It is simple, the difference is discipline. The one who sticks at executing the idea even through the grinding hard work that is not fun will see that idea be realized the person that doesn’t “grind it out” will not. As Thomas Edison says “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

    Where do you struggle with execution?

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  • What if I Choose a Job That is Outside God’s Plan For Me?

    One of the biggest fears Christians have is stepping outside the plan God has for their life. This is especially true with work. “What if I want to be a dancer and yet God wants me to be a missionary?” Someone may ask and this type of questions typifies this fear.

    The solution to this conundrum is the trusting in the providence of God. Trusting in the providence of God means that God is using all things to bring about his plans and purposes and therefore we can trust him because he has got it all under control. R. Paul Stevens applies the doctrine of the providence of God to our work in this way:

    By contrast, divine providence asserts the directional and purposeful character of human history and personal destiny. It means that God is even more interested in our life‐purpose than we are. As in the case of Esther and Mordecai, our lives are not a bundle of accidents. On the contrary, there is a divine providence at work in even seemingly meaningless or mundane moments.

    The above understanding of God’s providential ordering of our lives should stimulate confidence, gratitude and faith.  It means that God intends to bring the whole human story to a worthy end. This is reason enough to inspire hope and risk‐taking. It means that even mistakes get incorporated into God’s overall purpose. Career decisions are rarely irrevocable. To recognize this is to reduce the weight of decision making. We are saved from arrogant egoism and cringing fear. A saying attributed to Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, strikes a deep resonance with our experience: life is lived forward but understood backwards. Looking backwards we can see the hand of God.

    R. Paul Stevens, Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture, 76

     

    If God is sovereign that means whatever we will do is part of God’s plan for us. This doesn’t give us license to be reckless with our lives but to trust God and not live under the weight and potential guilt of having to choose “The perfect job that God would have me do right now”.

    Choose something you love to do for work and work at it with all your might to the glory of God and relax because God has got it all under control.

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  • Prayer Letter December 2014

    This is my first day back after three weeks of paternity leave. So, as you can imagine, I have plenty to be thankful for and plenty for you to pray for.

    Thank God for the safe arrival of Niels David Kristensen. And give thanks that the whole family is doing well!

    Thank God for a relaxing three weeks of paternity leave. We had a lot of fun as a family in this time and I feel ready and enthusiastic about to get back to work.

    Thank God for our Church, Resolved Church, who were amazing at serving us by cooking us meals and giving us a bunch of clothes and practical gifts!

    Thank God for the family and friends that served us in so many little ways also. We have been truly cared for in this time!

    Please pray for my beautiful wife Kate who will now be being a great mum to two very energetic kids.

    Please pray that we would parent our children with grace and love and that both Niels and Emma would grow to know and love Jesus.

    Emma and Niels

    Pray that I would serve my family and put them before myself.

    Give thanks for my job and pray that many people would come to know, love and serve Jesus as Resolved.

    Pray for the Resolved weekend away in 2015. I am doing four talks on the relationship between our work life  and the gospel. As you can imagine there is a lot to say and only four talks to say it in. Please pray for wisdom and discipline in preparing these talks.

    The fact that you are praying for my family, my church and myself means the world to me!

     

     

     

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  • What Makes a Job Meaningful?

    “When does a job feel meaningful? Whenever it allows us to generate delight or reduce suffering in others. Though we are often taught to think of ourselves as inherently selfish, the longing to act meaningfully in our work seems just as stubborn a part of our make-up as our appetite for status or money. It is because we are meaning-focused animals rather than simply materialistic ones that we can reasonably contemplate surrendering security for a career helping to bring drinking water to rural Malawi or might quit a job in consumer goods for one in cardiac nursing, aware that when it comes to improving the human condition a well-controlled defibrillator has the edge over even the finest biscuit.

    Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, 78-80

    I think de Botton is spot on here. But what if you don’t find any meaning in your work, should you change your job? Not necessarily. The point is not a career change but a perspective change. It is try to get some time to figure out how your job helps people and/or generates delight in people. It is when we go from meeting to meeting and task to task and we never stop to think of the way that God may be using our work to enrich the lives of others do we lose sight of the meaning in our jobs.

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