Where Theology and Sports Collide

Today TGC has a TGCVocations interview that I did with Kurt Earl, founder of Compete4Christ.

Kurt is a teacher and coach who has done incredible thinking on how the gospel applies to coaching and athletics. Check out the interview, as well as Compete4Christ, to get a taste of his thinking.

And, of course, as a huge Patriots fan, I had to ask at least one question about the Super Bowl this Sunday: what does each team have to do in order to win? His answer was very enlightening and actually reflects principles that are just as applicable in organizations and leadership generally as they are in football.

January 28, 2015 | Filed Under Vocation | Leave a Comment 

Learning from the Heroes of the Faith — Especially Old Princeton

This is an interview with Gary Steward, a good friend of mine going all the way back to seminary and author of the just released Princeton Seminary (1812 – 1929): Its Lives and LeadersI highly commend his book for everyone!

How did you get interested in Old Princeton?
While I was a student at South Dakota State University, I came across a cassette tape of a lecture by Iain Murray, where he commended three particular books by the great Princeton theologians, saying: “if a young man gets hold of those books and they get hold of him, I believe that he’s got something, for life.”  To my knowledge, this was the first time I had heard of the Princeton theologians.

A few years later I discovered the wonderful two-volume set of books on Old Princeton by David Calhoun.  I found these books to be absolutely thrilling.  They opened my eyes to the wonderful world of the Princeton theologians and their rich theology and history.

Why is Old Princeton so important for us today?
The writings the Princeton theologians left us are a treasure trove of rich theology that the evangelical church desperately needs to rediscover today.  They are not only intellectually deep but are also clearly presented so that most will find books like A. A. Hodge’s Outlines of Theology to be very accessible.  In their theological writings, they provide responses to more liberal varieties of Christianity that are profoundly helpful and enduring for evangelicals today–thinking particularly of Hodge and Warfield’s Inspiration and Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism.  

The Princeton theologians also plumbed the depths of religious experience in their writings, seeking to distinguish between God’s common grace, his regenerating special grace, and the varieties of counterfeit grace which have merely emotional or sociological explanations.  Archibald Alexander’s Thoughts on Religious Experience is so helpful in this regard.

What made Princeton Seminary such a unique place from its beginning in 1812 to its reorganization in 1929?

The theologians of Old Princeton fused together the rich historical theology of the Reformed tradition together with the Great Awakening’s emphasis on conversion, piety, and religious experience.  The brought together what so many have wanted to separate.  Not only were they Bible scholars and theologians of the first order, they were also outstanding pastors and teachers as well.  In our day, seminaries and graduate schools have tended to value educators who are technical specialists in one isolated field only.  Old Princeton reminds us of the value of scholarship that integrates the disciplines, as well as the necessity of integrating of life, thought, and experience as well.

Why do “Christians need history, and Christians need heroes,” as you say in your video?

We live in an age that does not overly value the past.  Technology fascinates us, not history.  Christians, however, need a living appreciation of the past in order stay grounded and humbled.  Christianity is a faith rooted in history, and Christians are instructed in the Bible to: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7 ESV).  History gives us perspective, and it gives us hope for the future as well.  It keeps us from being taken captive by fads and can give us real wisdom for the living of our lives.

Christians need heroes well.  Heroes can encourage, strength, and inspire us.  They can helps us develop steadfastness, courage, and conviction.  Some historians are cynics and take a misplaced pleasure in pointing out the flaws of heroes and in tearing down the heroic.  I think we can admit that all of our heroes (apart from Christ) are severely flawed, but this does not keep us from the need we have of them.  We don’t want to worship our heroes, but we can and should be inspired by the truly heroic and courageous examples we find in others.  Look no further than the “Hall of Faith” heroes listed in Hebrews 11 for biblical warrant.

Which Princeton theologian is your favorite?
This is a hard choice.  Probably Charles Hodge, with J. W. Alexander being a close second, and Archibald Alexander a close third.  Warfield, Miller, and Machen are up there as well!

How did theological education under the Princeton theologians differ from theological education today?

Theological education at Old Princeton was a very personal matter.  After its first decade, the total number of Princeton seminary students was between one and two hundred.  The professors all lived within a short walk from the main seminary building and were very accessible to their students.  Often students would be in the homes of their professors.  They would eat together, pray together, worship together, and interact with each other in class.

The classroom experience was very interactive, with students often required to individually recite prepared answers on the theological material they were studying.  The classroom interaction and oral exams allowed the professors to adapt their presentation of material to fit each class’s particular needs.  A. A Hodge, in particular, seems to have viewed it as his responsibility not only to give theological lectures to his students but to Socratically engage his students and ensure their reception and embrace of orthodox truth.

January 23, 2015 | Filed Under History | Leave a Comment 

Made to Flourish: A Pastor’s Network for the Common Good

This is a guest post by Ben Stafford, a program associate at the Kern Foundation. Ben has an incredible understanding of the relationship between faith, work, and economics, and the role pastors need to play in helping build up the church more fully in a robust biblical view of vocation.

The Kern Family Foundation seeks to equip pastors with an understanding of the intersection of faith, work, and economics and empower them to lead their congregations in its active application. In pursuit of this, I would like to invite all interested pastors who see this to apply for membership in Made to Flourish: A Pastors’ Network for the Common Good.

Made to Flourish Pastors and their local church leadership teams are invited to embark on an exciting journey of knowledge-building and church implementation that will, by God’s grace, enable them to embrace daily work in homes, workplaces, and communities as a calling to serve others fruitfully and make the world a better place. In this way, the family, the economy, and the culture become arenas of service where our discipleship contributes to the flourishing of all.

What we have to offer:

Interested? You can apply to join here. Have questions? Email Ben here.

January 22, 2015 | Filed Under Vocation | Leave a Comment 

Come to Together LA This February


I’m very excited about the TogetherLA conference, which will be this February 26 – 28 with Tim Keller as the keynote speaker.

Tim Keller has helped call our attention back to the importance of cities in the mission of God. But what does it look like to actually love your city (in this case, LA)? That’s what this conference is about.

The aim of the conference is thus to “engage pastors, ministry leaders, non profit leaders, lay leaders, and marketplace leaders on what it means to love Los Angeles.”

I love the fact that it is for people in all areas of life, not just ministry. Christians in every type of vocation are called to engage and love their city for the glory of the gospel. TogetherLA is thus seeking to bring together Christians from every sector of society to learn about what this means for whatever vocation they have.

It is also bringing together an amazing and diverse range of speakers. Here is part of the description from the website:

At this event we will hear what churches and church planters are doing.  We will learn about partnerships in the city and ways to partner together.  We will discuss how social problems impact LA.  We will learn how LA is integral in shaping culture and why culture is important.  We will hear from leaders in the entertainment, arts, political, and business community.  And we will discover how the men and women of LA, Asians, Caucasians, Hispanics and African Americans are loving and engaging their city for the Gospel.

The conference will be divided into four parts:

Thursday:  The Church (church planting, church partnership, church renewal, and so forth)
Friday morning: Social problems in Los Angeles
Friday afternoon and evening: Culture and Los Angeles
Saturday: Faith and work

This conference will be an incredible opportunity for equipping and encouragement for those who are in LA. And even beyond that, it is in itself a model for how all of us, in any city, should be seeking to ask and answer the question of how we can love our cities most effectively.

You can learn more about the conference at the website, and register online.

Here is the trailer for the conference:

And here is also a brief video of Tim Keller talking about why you should come to TogetherLA:

January 21, 2015 | Filed Under Uncategorized | 3 Comments 

MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail: Do We Still Believe These Things Today?

A few weeks ago I read Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham JailIt’s reputation is deserved. His understanding of justice, and ability to articulate it, is absolutely incredible.

Here are a few of its key portions, summarized with some headings. And then at the end I have a few reflections on whether those who affirm MLK’s opposition to racial injustice, but aren’t just as zealous to care about other issues of injustice right in front of them, really believe his message.

Read more

January 19, 2015 | Filed Under Justice | Leave a Comment 

Freedom to Flourish

A great, 2.5 minute video that captures the core message of The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics:

This is a video worth returning to again and again when you need encouragement in your work.

January 16, 2015 | Filed Under Vocation | 1 Comment 

Writing Good Business Documents

These are notes I took several years ago over something I read on writing good business documents. I can’t recall what I had read, but these notes have always been helpful.


General principles for proposals, memos, letters, and reports.

“Organization is the key writing principle. If you organize your documents well, you almost surely will have successful documents–even if you violate other writing principles….The ideas presented in a document should be structured in a natural but emphatic sequence that conveys the most important information to readers at the most critical times.”

Beginning Principles

1. The document should announce its organizational scheme and stick to it.

2. The ideas in the document must be clear and sensible, and comprehensible, given the readers.

3. The document should conform to the readers’ sense of what the most important points are and of how those points are arranged.

Main Principles

1. Organize information according to your readers’ needs. Consider their perspective and what they need to know, then order it so that the most pertinent goes at the beginning.

2. Group similar ideas. If you separate similar ideas, you create chaos.

3. Place your most important ideas first. Lead from major ideas, not to major ideas. This is not a science paper. If you lead to, you will provide unnecessary detail and be hard to follow. The strongest part of a document is the beginning, by virtue of its position. So begin with the most important ideas, and then support them afterward.

The scientific format. If you are writing a scientific paper, then you do lead to. This process is only acceptible if the readers will be as interested in the process of arriving at the conclusions as they are in the conclusions themsleves (in business, this is typically not the case–people are busy, and the point is not exegesis). In some scientific reports, therefore, this scheme is used: Abstract, summary, introduction, materials and methods, results and discussion (Fact 1, Fact 2, Fact 3, therefore), conclusions, recommendations (optional), summary (optional).

– The managerial format. Follow in all dcouments except sicentific documents written for scientific peers. It is the reverse of the scientific format. A desirable format is: Summary/Executive summary, introduction, conclusions (and recommendations), (because of) [Fact 1, Fact 2, Fact 3, Fact 4], results and discussion. Having the conclusion early in the report facilitates reading becasue the reader is given a perspective from which to understand the facts and data being presented.

Note: The principle of emphasis through placement extends to all documents and all sections of documents. Most important ideas should appear at beginning of the documents and of individual sections. The most important idea in most paragraphs should appear in the opening sentence. The most important words in a sentence typically come at the beginning of the sentence.

Note 2: A corrolary of this is that you should always subordinate detail. Place it in the middle of sentences, paragraphs, sections, and documents. Detail includes data, explanation, elaboration, description, analysis, results, etc.

Note 3: In lengthy documents, begin and end with important ideas.

4. Keep your setups short. Do not delay your major ideas any longer than is necessary. Do make sure to set up negative information well.

5. List items in descending order of importance.

6. In most business or technical documents, preview your most important ideas and your major content areas, and reveiw (summarize) major points at the end of sections.

7. Discuss items in the same order in which you introduce them.

8. Use headings, transitions, key words, and paragraph openings to provide cues to the documents organization.

9. Other. Most effective letters or memos should have a clearly identified action (a to-do statement). If no to-do, then needs to begin with a to-know statement. Title/subject line should reflect the to-do or to-know statement. The repitition between the to-do statement and title/subject line is deliberate.

January 15, 2015 | Filed Under Business | Leave a Comment 

Sam Storms on Insecurity in the Pastorate

Sam Storms, from his post What I Wish I’d Known: Reflections on Nearly 40 Years of Pastoral Ministry:

10. I wish I’d known about the destructive effects of insecurity in a pastor. This is less because I’ve struggled with it and more due to its effect I’ve seen in others. Why is insecurity so damaging?

• Insecurity makes it difficult to acknowledge and appreciate the accomplishments of others on staff (or in the congregation). In other words, the personally insecure pastor is often incapable of offering genuine encouragement to others. Their success becomes a threat to him, his authority, and his status in the eyes of the people. Thus if you’re insecure you likely won’t pray for others to flourish.

• Insecurity will lead a pastor to encourage and support and praise another pastor only insofar as the latter serves the former’s agenda and doesn’t detract from his image.

• An insecure pastor will likely resent the praise or affirmation other staff members receive from the people at large.

• For the insecure pastor, constructive criticism is not received well, but is perceived as a threat or outright rejection.

• Because the insecure pastor is incapable of acknowledging personal failure or lack of knowledge, he’s often unteachable. He will resist those who genuinely seek to help him or bring him information or insights he lacks. His spiritual growth is therefore stunted.

• The insecure pastor is typically heavy-handed in his dealings with others.

• The insecure pastor is often controlling and given to micromanagement.

• The insecure pastor rarely empowers or authorizes others to undertake tasks for which they’re especially qualified and gifted. He won’t release others but rather restrict them.

• The insecure pastor is often given to outbursts of anger.

• At its core, insecurity is the fruit of pride.

In summary, and at its core, insecurity results from not believing the gospel. The antidote to feelings of insecurity, then, is the rock-solid realization that one’s value and worth are in the hands of God, not others, and that our identity expresses who we are in Christ. Only as we deepen our grasp of his sacrificial love for us will we find the liberating confidence to affirm and support others without fearing their successes or threats.

January 15, 2015 | Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

How Can I Help? A Children’s Book on Vocation

Gene Veith’s daughter, Mary Moerbe, has published what looks like an excellent book on vocation for kids called How Can I Help? God’s Calling for Kids.

As you know, Gene Veith is the author of the excellent, defining book on vocation in our day, God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of LifeHis daughter’s book takes these concepts and applies them to kids.

Here’s the Amazon summary:

God sends people to help in little ways and big ways. He calls all of us to love and to serve others, to help however we can no matter how old or young we are. Christians have multiple vocations: at work, in church, as citizens in society, or as family members.

A child’s call to love and serve is the same as an adult’s.

Work = developing their talents
Church = going to Sunday School and learning about God
Citizens = learning how to act and behave in public
Family = learning to honor their parents

How Can I Help? teaches children that God
1. provides for their needs, sometimes through others he places in their life
2. works through them to help others
3. has a plan for their life no matter what vocation they choose
4. sent Jesus who was not just a helper, but their Savior

That description captures the doctrine of vocation so well that even adults can learn from it. Notice four crucial things.

First, vocation is about serving others! Jesus placed a high priority on service. What we often fail to realize is that the Scriptures actually bring these teachings together into an actual doctrine — namely, the doctrine of vocation. The heart of the doctrine of vocation is that we are all here to serve, and we serve others through our daily work and roles.

Second, right along with this, we are also served through others’ vocations and, more than that, it is ultimately God himself who is working in all of this. When we are serving others, it is God working through us to meet their needs. Likewise, when others serve us, it is ultimately God working through them to meet our needs. Hence, the doctrine of vocation points us to an understanding of life that is infused with the presence of God, and glorifies him as the ultimate servant (which is the ultimate mark of greatness — Matthew 20:25-28; Acts 20:35).

Third, notice how the summary captures the essence of work as “developing [your] talents.” Though the book may not go into this in detail, I think that captures something very important. We often think of work as something ultimately done to earn money and make a living. But that is a very reductionistic view of work. It treats people merely as economic beings, rather than people who are in the image of God and full of incredible potential that is worth developing. So developing our talents and using them for the good of others (in a way that is profitable and meets our needs) is actually a fundamental, essential aspect of our work.

Some people have gone so far as to say it is selfish to seek to develop your talents in your work. I think that is ridiculous. In fact, I think that work is thankfully a zone where God protects us from the bad theology of these zealous over-spiritualizers by actually mandating that we care very much about the exercise of our gifts in our work — not just making money.

Fourth, vocation applies to everyone, even children. It is an amazing thing that, as Gene Veith says, even “being a child is a vocation.”

This looks like a helpful book for helping anchor young children in this very important doctrine, right from the beginning of their lives.

January 14, 2015 | Filed Under Vocation | Leave a Comment 

Generous Justice

Tiim Keller speaking on his book, Generous Justice

In my view, this is one of the most important books anyone can read this year. This message gives a good summary of the content in 30 minutes.

I love the way he starts, pointing out how “many who are concerned about justice are not concerned about justification by faith alone; many who are concerned about justification by faith alone are not concerned about justice.”

This is something that needs to change — and, fortunately, is (slowly) changing. It is especially interesting that, as Timothy George points out in his book The Theology of the Reformers, one of Luther’s own burdens was to establish that “Christian ethics…is grounded in justification by faith alone.”

Keller shows what that means.

January 14, 2015 | Filed Under Justice | Leave a Comment 

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