How Will You Measure Your Life?

I have read the book How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon at least three times. It is a business book that inspires me to live a better life. It is not a Christian book, but it helps me more intentionally live a life that honors Jesus Christ.

The book focuses on three areas: 1) having a successful and fulfilling career, 2) having strong relationships with family and close friends, and 3) living a life of integrity. The authors take principles of the business world and apply them to these three areas. Each time I read the book, I am surprised and pleased that it affects me deeply.

As Christians, we are called to live a life worthy of the calling we have received in Christ Jesus. We are called to live a life that honors the Lord. We are called to live in light of eternity. This business book by Harvard Business School staff challenges me to do these things.

I share this book recommendation in case you are a high school senior thinking about what you will study in college or a college student considering your career. Thinking about these ideas, topics, and principles now will give you direction for the future and protect you from future heartache.

How will you measure your life? What will you pursue with your time and talents? How will you prioritize your family and close friends? How will you honor the Lord and live a life of integrity? 


The Master Plan of Leadership

When I was in college, I was introduced to the book The Master Plan of Evangelism by Dr. Robert Coleman. It had a profound effect on my view of leadership. I recently decided to read it again, and it continues to challenge and inspire me.

Dr. Coleman highlights Jesus’ strategy of training twelve disciples and equipping them to lead and to share the Gospel broadly. Jesus’ master plan was to raise up a small number of leaders to lead the early church.

“One must decide where he wants his ministry to count–in the momentary applause of the popular recognition or in the reproduction of his life in a few chosen men who will carry on his work after he is gone. Really it is a question of which generation we are living for.” (p 37)

Jesus did not neglect the masses. He healed them, he taught them, and he even feed them. Yet he focused more on a small group of followers, his disciples. Jesus cared for the masses, and he trained up a few to continue to care for the masses after he was gone. He wisely cared for the masses into the next generation and beyond.

As a leader, this challenges me to consider who I am training to take my place and lead when I am gone. This is the best way to care for my school, my students, and my community. This is an effective way to lead, and it is effective way to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If Jesus used this strategy, most likely it is a wise plan for us too.

I highly recommend Timothy Keller’s book The Prodigal Prophet, which is focuses on the story of Jonah.

The following section from the book describes Jonah ... and me. I was challenged, and I hope you will be too.

“So Jonah had a problem with the job he was given. But he had a bigger problem with the One who gave it to him. Jonah concluded that because he could not see any good reasons for God’s command, there couldn’t be any. Jonah doubted the goodness, wisdom, and justice of God.

We have all had that experience. We sit in the doctor’s office stunned by the biopsy report. We despair of ever finding decent employment after the last lead has dried up. We wonder why the seemingly perfect romantic relationship—the one we always wanted and never thought was possible—has crashed and burned. If there is a God, we think he doesn’t know what he is doing! Even when we turn from the circumstances of our lives to the teaching of the Bible itself, it seems, to modern people especially, to be filled with claims that don’t make much sense.

When this happens we have to decide—does God know what’s best, or do we? And the default mode of the unaided human heart is to always decide that we do. We doubt that God is good, or that he is committed to our happiness, and therefore we can’t see any good reasons for something God says or does, we assume that there aren’t any.” (pp 15-16)

We can trust God. We can trust his goodness, his wisdom, and his justice. We may not always understand his ways, but we can trust his character.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LordFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:7-9)

In the closing chapter of Galatians, Paul reminds us of a simple truth: We reap what we sow. He roots this truth in the character of God, and he concisely states we reap what we sow. To drive home his point he first stresses the negative: If we sow to the flesh, we will reap destruction. In other words, don’t sow to the flesh.

Then Paul reminds us of the rewards of sowing to the Spirit: Eternal life. Then he immediately encourages us to not give up. Paul knows firsthand that life is hard and doing the right thing is not always easy. Paul understands that we do not always immediately see the good rewords of sowing to the Spirit. He tells us to not give up. God is faithful. We will in time reap a harvest.

What are you sowing? Where are you sowing? What will you reap?

Walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. Do not give up. Continue to faithfully sow to the Spirit. It is worth the effort. It is worth the wait. You will reap a harvest.


An Overview of Growing Up Christian – Part 3

As church kids, we can tend to view ourselves as being pretty good and not having sinned much—at least no really awful sins. Although we would never say it aloud, we are tempted to think God got a pretty good person when he chose us to be part of his kingdom. We tend to erroneously see ourselves as having little sin and as having been forgiven of little sin. This way of thinking leads to a second danger church kids face: a lack of appreciation for the saving and forgiving grace of God.

In Transforming Grace, Jerry Bridges defines grace as, “God’s free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment.” That is us—you and me, guilty sinners who deserve God’s judgment. But do we really believe that we are guilty and deserve judgment? Our appreciation for the grace of God is directly proportional to our understanding of this simple fact.

Our amazement of our Savior depends primarily upon our understanding of the huge separation between us and God and the great work he accomplished on the cross to bridge this great divide. A key to passionately loving God is in knowing that we have been forgiven of many sins.

Ephesians 2:3-5 says, “…we were by nature objects of wrath. But God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Through Christ, we went from objects of God’s wrath to objects of his love; from death to life; and from eternity in hell to eternity in heaven.

This is not a new message to us church kids; if we have heard it once, we may have heard it a thousand times. The problem arises when we don’t truly believe we need to be saved from very many sins and, therefore, don’t really think we need the gospel. We church kids are dead in our transgressions and are daily forgiven much, even though we aren’t always mindful of it.

Amazement of God flows from a heart that deeply loves God. Jesus spoke about this love in Luke 7:36-50. As Jesus ate with some Pharisees, a sinful woman came into the room. She washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed Jesus with perfume. The Pharisees stared in shock. They couldn’t believe Jesus would allow this sinful woman to be near him—let alone do these things to him.

Jesus responded by telling a simple and powerful story followed by a probing question.

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them loved him more?” (Luke 7:41-42)

The Pharisees correctly answered that the one with the larger debt would love the moneylender more. Jesus then explained that the sinful woman demonstrated such lavish love for him because she realized how much she had been forgiven. Those who realize they have been forgiven much, love much, and those who think they have been forgiven little, love little (Luke 7:47).

Jesus told this story to challenge the perspective of the Pharisees and to commend the love demonstrated by the woman. At the same moment, he rebuked the self-righteous Pharisees and held up the woman as an example of whole-hearted devotion. Jesus’ words apply just as much today as they did two thousand years ago, and they contain a valuable lesson for those of us who have grown up in Christian homes.

Jesus clearly connects our appreciation of the forgiveness of God with our love for him. When we realize Christ died on the cross for each of our sins, we will love him much. When we understand Jesus experienced the wrath of God in our place, we will love him much. When we realize we have been credited with the righteousness of Christ when nothing in us is worthy, we will love him much. And when we consider God will accept us into heaven for eternity because of this finished work of Jesus Christ, we will love him much.

Jesus also connects our lack of understanding of the forgiveness of God with loving him little. If we fail to see the depth of our sinfulness or we do not think we have much to be forgiven, we will love him little.

Are you amazed at the forgiving and saving grace of God in your life? If you are, don’t ever become dull to it. Christ’s work on the cross is truly amazing. If you are not, seek today to understand your huge debt before a holy God and cultivate a heart that stands amazed.

An Overview of Growing Up Christian - Part 2

I think the most significant danger church kids face is false assurance of salvation—assuming we are saved even when we are not.

We grow up in a Christian culture with Christians all around us—family, church, and friends. Because we do the things Christians do and we are surrounded by Christians, we tend to assume we are Christians too. But just as standing in a wheat field doesn’t make someone wheat, being raised in a Christian environment doesn’t make someone a Christian.

We tend to believe we are Christians because . . .
- Our parents are Christians
- We believe God exists
- We faithfully attend church and youth meetings
- We pray
- We read and know much about the Bible
- We prayed the sinner’s prayer or went forward during an alter call
- We were baptized
- We sing worship songs
- We listen to Christian music
- We are basically good, moral people, especially compared to the world
- We attend a Christian school or Christian college

What gives you confidence that you are a Christian? The list above refers primarily to external actions. Each could in fact be a fruit of salvation—a good work or action of a believer. But each could also be nothing more than an unbeliever conforming to his environment (to please parents, fit in with peers, etc.) while there is no saving faith in his heart.

Don’t fall into the dangerous trap of false assurance. Take some time to examine your relationship with God. Search your heart. Pray. Don’t make the mistake of basing your salvation upon what you do or your environment. Genuine salvation is a matter of the heart. It is based on faith alone—faith in God’s character, his promises, and the work of his Son on the cross.

Scripture encourages us to examine ourselves, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (II Corinthians 13:5-6)

To do this we need to look at our actions, our motives, and the fruit in our lives. We need to pray, read the Bible, worship God, attend church, and confess sin. But it is possible to do all of these things and not be motivated from a heart that truly loves God and wants to live for him. There is a difference between saying a simply prayer over a meal and communing with your Lord and talking with your Heavenly Father. There is a difference between reading the Bible just like any other book and reading it as the genuine words of God which breath life and give clear direction to our lives. There is a difference between singing a song and truly worshiping your Sovereign Lord.

When you look at your actions, the motives behind your actions, and the fruit of your actions, what do you learn about your heart? Have you every asked one of your parents their thoughts? How about a friend whom you respect?

If you are saved, I hope this self-examination increases your faith all the more. God is at work in your life and will continue to help you grow in him.

If you are not saved, I want to urge you to pause and pray. Ask Christ to make himself real to you. Ask him to be Lord of your life, transform your heart, and enable you to live all out for him. This is a prayer he is eager to answer.

What a shame it would be for someone to grow up in a Christian home, attend church his whole life, assume he was a Christian, and yet not truly be saved. Sadly, this happens more often than we would like. Don’t let this happen to you.

Believe that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (I Corinthians 5:21)

An Overview of Growing Up Christian – Part 1

Over the next few days, I will give an overview of my book Growing Up Christian.

I have a deep love and burden for young people growing up in the church today. I grew up in a strong Christian family and have personally experienced the blessings and challenges church kids face. I have worked closely with Christian teens over the past 24 years as I have worked in Christian schooling.

The aim of the book is to urge teens to develop a genuine faith and a walk of their own and seek to love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds. But, having Christian parents and attending church every week does not guarantee this.

Have you known anyone who seemed to be a Christian throughout his teenage years, but when he went off to college dropped his faith and stopped following God? Have you known anyone who actively participated in youth meetings and church missions trips, but after high school no longer pursued God or the things of God?

Sadly, I know too many people like this, and you can probably quickly list a few names yourself. Growing up around Christians does not make anyone a Christian. Nor do we inherit our Christianity from our parents. We need a faith and a walk of our own. We need to personally know and respond to the gospel message. We need to personally respond to the call of our Lord on our lives. And we need to personally live for Christ.

Growing up in a Christian home is an amazing privilege. We are taught so much – the stories and truths of Scripture, the basics of the gospel, the attributes of God, and so much more. We are also protected from much – immoral movies and television shows, ungodly friends, inappropriate music. Our parents demonstrate a love for God and us by teaching us and protecting us.

Being raised in a Christian environment – home, church, and often school – is a great blessing, but there are also some dangers that church kids face. Dangers? Yes, I really do mean dangers – tendencies that we need to watch out for and pitfalls to avoid.

I will be getting into the details in blogs over the next few days, but let me give you a preview.

Dangers we need to watch out for:
1. Believing we are saved when we are not
2. Lacking amazement of how God forgives our sins and saves us
3. Loving the world more than the things of God
4. Failing to develop personal, biblical convictions
5. Battling our sinful behavior but not our sinful heart

Let me end with one of my favorite quotes. It is from Holiness by J.C. Ryle,

“I ask the children of religious parents to mark well what I am saying. It is the highest privilege to be the child of a godly father and mother, and to be brought up in the midst of many prayers. It is a blessed thing indeed to be taught the gospel from our earliest infancy, and to hear of sin, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and holiness, and heaven, from the first moment we can remember anything. But, oh, take heed that you do not remain barren and unfruitful in the sunshine of all these privileges: beware lest your heart remains hard, impenitent, and worldly, notwithstanding the many advantages you enjoy. You cannot enter the kingdom of God on the credit of your parents’ religion. You must eat the bread of life for yourself, and have the witness of the Spirit in your own heart. You must have repentance of your own, faith of your own, and sanctification of your own.”

Please check back in over the next few days as we continue to discuss the blessings and dangers of growing up Christian.