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, January 19, 2018

Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist, and author of Man's Search for Meaning, as he appeared in 1964, which was 19 years after his liberation from a Nazi concentration camp. He died in 1997, at the age of 92.

Photo by Prof. Dr. Franz Vesely, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15153593

While I don't agree with all of his ideas, Viktor Frankl offers profound insights regarding meaning. 

Frankl maintained: "Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone's task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it."

Frankl's opportunity to implement his "concrete assignment which demanded fulfillment" came in 4 Nazi concentration camps during World War II. These camps taught Frankl to focus on internal attitudes, since he was powerless to change his external circumstances. Frankl was able to bring great meaning to the most miserable conditions. Helping others to do this became his life-mission.  

"Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost...What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us." [Emphasis by Frankl]

As for "what life expected from us," Frankl meant the responsibilities we all have as co-participants in life. He later wrote: 

"Freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibilities. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by the Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast." [Emphasis by Frankl]

So great was Frankl's sense of responsibility that he sidestepped a plan to escape with a friend, so he could remain to help others. "I did not know what the following days would bring," he wrote, "but I had gained an inward peace that I had never experienced before."

Shortly after his liberation, Frankl walked for miles through the countryside. "I stopped, looked around, and up to the sky," he attested, "and then I went down on my knees." He had just one thought in mind: "I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and He answered me in the freedom of space." 

Frankl concluded his concentration camp account with: "The crowning experience of all, for the homecoming man, is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear any more--except his God."

Friday, January 12, 2018

"Arbeit Macht Frei"

Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist of Jewish descent who spent two-and-a-half years as a prisoner in 4 Nazi concentration camps, including the infamous Auschwitz. In his book, Man's Search for Meaning (which he wrote in 9 days), Frankl details his horrific experience. This book is not pleasant reading. Yet by the time of Frankl's death in 1997, Man's Search for Meaning had sold over 10 million copies, being translated into 27 languages. 

When he was asked how he felt about the book's success, Frankl replied: "I do not at all see in the bestseller status of my book an achievement and accomplishment on my part but rather an expression of the misery of our time: if hundreds of thousands of people reach out for a book whose very title promises to deal with the question of a meaning to life, it must be a question that burns under their fingernails."

Photo of a guard tower at Auschwitz-Birkenau by Jacomoman (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

"Arbeit Macht Frei" is German for Work Sets You Free. 

This statement greeted throngs of common people like you and me who, as though cattle, were transported in boxcars to concentration camps of Germany and Poland in the '40s. These were unimaginable camps of horror and slave labor. 

In the context of a Nazi concentration camp, the banner Arbeit Macht Frei was absurd. In these horrific places, prisoners knew they could only be set free through death. If the work did not kill them, the gas chambers would. 

In writing Man's Search forMeaning, Frankl said: "I had wanted simply to convey to the reader by way of a concrete example that life holds a potential meaning under any conditions, even the most miserable ones. And I thought that if the point were demonstrated in a situation as extreme as that in a concentration camp, my book might gain a hearing. I therefore felt responsible for writing down what I had gone through, for I thought it might be helpful to people who are prone to despair."

Is your job a pain in the...neck? Do some co-workers bug you, like lice? Is your boss a brute? Our circumstances pale in comparison to Frankl's. Our employers don't come close to S.S. guards, and our co-workers can't hold a candlestick to double-crossing prisoners known as "Capos." 

It's worth considering how one 37-year-old in a concentration camp, surrounded by disease, human dung and despair, discovered how to bring meaning to those circumstances over which he had no control.

Realizing he was powerless to change the external factors, Frankl worked on internal factors.

"Don't aim at success," advised Frankl, "the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself."

Dedication to a cause greater than oneself? 

Surrender to a person other than oneself? 

Was this the key to Frankl's survival?

It's Truth that sets people free. Not work.

Next week I'll share some of my favorite Frankl quotes. Because they're true.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Sounds Good, But...

I took this photo while in Indonesia about 10 years ago with a group of graduate students from Bakke Graduate University, led by Dr. Ray Bakke, author of A Theology As Big As The City. We went to the waterfront in Jakarta one morning (not the beach), where we received permission to board one of the sailing ships that was being unloaded. Yes, sailing ships. These ships functioned on wind power to get from island to island, with no engines. The particular ship pictured above was full of lumber being carried off the ship by men who worked 12-hour days, unloading beams by hand, carrying them on their shoulders down a plank to the dock, for $9 per day. This was a challenge to my theology of work. I had to ask myself, "Could I experience 'God's pleasure at work' doing this job?" Frankly, I don't think I could do this work for a single day. Maybe not a single hour.

Last week I cited a Gallup poll showing that 87% of workers worldwide are not engaged in their work. They don't like their jobs. I shared a statement from Bonnie Wurtzbacher, a follower of Christ who was serving as an executive with Coca-Cola at the time I interviewed her, who relayed something she heard from her pastor: "We don't find meaning in our work, we bring meaning to our work."

Sounds good. But...how would that statement go over with the man pictured above, doing his back-breaking work for 12 hours a day? Even though the pay these men were receiving was about twice the amount considered to be a "livable wage" in Indonesia, I suspect these men did not look forward to Monday mornings. 

If you have a job that doesn't really fit you, and you have the ability to find work that better matches your personal strengths and God-given gifts, I suggest you find it. Yet, many people around the globe don't have this luxury. If you do, see a trained [Christian] career counselor who can help you find a job that better matches your strengths, gifts and calling. 

But even if you are able to find a better job fit, bear in mind that no matter what sort of work you do, there will always be "chores" that are painful, unpleasant or downright loathsome. My friend Mark Warren, a professional "calling coach" in Bellingham, Washington, once told me that if people have a job that "energizes" them 60% of the time, they are very blessed indeed. It's the exception, not the rule. 

We all have unpleasant "chores" connected with our work. This is the reality of labor in a fallen, broken world. Whether these "chores" occupy 95% of the workday, 5%, or somewhere in-between, will vary from person to person. 

One of the great things about the biblical worldview is that it does not shield us from such difficulties, nor does it tell us to imagine these difficulties do not exist. We do not deny that the pain exists, nor do we call the pain something it is not, but by God's grace, we bring meaning and purpose to the pain, in the middle of it--head on--as Christ did on the cross. The biblical worldview does not provide a way around the pains associated with work, but through them. 

More next week. Hang on. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Take It From A High School Student Who Knows

For a turn-around year, get some turn-around ideas. 

According to Gallup's World Poll, 87% of workers around the world are not engaged in their work. 

News flash: Most people don't like their jobs! 

Are you shocked? Probably not. Maybe you're among the 87% yourself! If you are, there's good news for those willing to take the time to understand God's purpose and design for work itself: You don't have to change your job to become engaged in your work

That's because we don't find meaning in our work, we bring meaning to our work!

But how?

The answer to that question is why the God's Pleasure At Work course was created.  

Though written for high school students, the God's Pleasure At Work e-course is fitting for adults of all ages. One student wrote: "I learned so much more than I could've imagined...I learned so much personally that I cannot wait to use in the future and share with others. I believe all Christians should read this book and soak in all the goodness just like our class did over the course of this year."  

Take it from a high school student who knows: this course is for you.

John Beckett, Chairman of The Beckett Corporation (the North American market leader in combustion products used in heating and cleaning equipment, found in 50 million US homes), calls God's Pleasure At Work "the finest and most practically helpful publication ever produced on this subject."

We're humbled by Dr. Beckett's endorsement. But decide for yourself! Take a free "test drive" today, right here.

For an independent review, click here

If you're among the 87% not engaged in your work, this can be your turn-around year. But to "negotiate the curve," you'll need some turn-around ideas!  

The complete God's Pleasure At Work course comes in a Curriculum Pack with a 180-page e-text, more than 50 video clips, a 48-page full color Participant Guide, a 54-page "extra" called, The Lost Purpose for Learning, plus a step-by-step Facilitator's Guide, if you want to take a group (or your own sons and daughters) through the course.

To purchase, click here. 

This course is worth the effort even if you are engaged in your work. You can always be more engaged!

If you have any questions about this course, or how it might be used in your context, contact Worldview Matters® here.

View the 90-second video below. If it does not play, click https://youtu.be/4CJt_CxbaYo

Friday, December 22, 2017

Far As The Curse Is Found

Today's post first appeared 8 years ago. It has been my tradition ever since, to post it on the Friday before Christmas.

Photo by Jeff Weese (Flickr: Nativity) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The dynamic Christmas carol Joy To The World, by Isaac Watts, was based largely upon Psalm 98: "Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth, break forth in song...for He is coming to judge the earth, with righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity." 

Because of this, some say the song is not about Christ's birth in Bethlehem, but about Christ's second coming, and the future joy which will occur when He comes to set all things finally straight, in that full expression of His Kingship.

While I look forward to the second coming, Joy To The World makes sense to me as a celebration of Christ's first coming, too. While anticipating that full expression of His Kingdom-yet-to-come, we can celebrate His Kingdom-already-here. 

Even prior to Bethlehem, I Chronicles 29:11 declared: "...all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all." Today? Psalm 103:19 says: "The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all." Now? Acts 10:36 puts it in the present tense: "He is Lord of all." 

Christ's Kingdom is not fully expressed on earth right now, that's for sure. There are weeds in His field, which He did not plant (Matthew 13). But the domain over which Christ is King (that is, His "King-domain"), includes both heaven and earth, right now. The whole field is His. The fact that not every human heart has received Him as King doesn't alter the fact that He is.

This is the world's greatest Christmas gift: that Christ came in human form “to make His blessings flow, far as the curse is found.” These blessings are flowing through redeemed people today who are reconciled to God, and reconciling all things to Him, including the things of earth, right now, far as the curse is found.  

So by God's grace, let's occupy until He comes again, by pulling up bramble bushes and planting redwood trees before the second coming arrives, shall we? It's our essential occupation.

Maybe Joy To The World is one of those "both-and" songs, celebrating His first and second comings.

Joy to the Earth! The Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ, while fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains, repeat the sounding joy! 

Far as the curse is found. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Viewing Their Work As "Imitators Of God"

George Swinnock, a Puritan pastor (1627-1673) declared, "The pious tradesman will know that his shop as well as his chapel is holy ground." How? Why? When?

Revolutionary approaches to education were developed in the 17th century on the heels of the Reformation, through such early "Noah Websters" as John Comenius (the "Father of Modern Education"), John Alstead, William Ames and Alexander Richardson, who stood on the shoulders of Luther and Calvin. These 17th century schoolmasters wedded the reformational idea of "calling" (or "vocation") with schooling, and changed the course of history. But their revolutionary ideas have now fallen on hard times.  

The wedding of calling with schooling can be seen in the Puritan Circle of Knowledge, as summarized here:

Step #1: God, the Prime Creator, initiates through His creation of all things.

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

Step #3: Humans imitate God by making "secondary creations" out of God's primary creation. This imitation is based upon their discovery and understanding of "the book of God's works," as well as "the book of God's Word." 

Step #4: God is glorified through the imitation of Him in occupations of all kinds, from shoe-making to carpentry.

Imagine employees at The Boeing Company viewing their work as "imitators of God," making beautiful and functional “secondary creations” [airplanes] out of God’s primary creations [metals, carbon, electricity, etc.], for the purpose of engaging with God's laws of "lift," so people may be transported safely from point A to point B. The secondary creations [airplanes] serve the needs of people, and glorify the Prime Creatorbringing glory full circle from God back to God. And in the process, these biblically-minded employees are professing their faith by their work, in "imitating God" through the making of airplanes. It is their profession. 

Have I lost my mind? No. I think I've found it!

Imagine a banker, a lawyer and a businessman all glorifying God by "imitating Him" through serving the financial needs of people, maintaining justice in the world, and providing needed goods and services for the community. The legitimate needs of people are met, God is glorified, and these biblically-minded workers go to the office each day fulfilling the First Commission (Gen. 1:26-28) in professing their faith by their work. They are professionals, in the best sense of the word professional.  

If this isn't culture-transforming, I don't know what is. And if this doesn't bring meaning to education, nothing will. The Circle of Knowledge begs to be be revived. 

Dr. David Scott notes: “The emphasis on use [in the Circle of Knowledge] fit in nicely with the practicality of the Puritan mind, providing a philosophical foundation for the working vocations…The human being as an artisan can follow in the footsteps of the Divine Artist. Through this circular pattern of the created order, humanity can fulfill its cultural mandate (Gen. 1:26-28) and returns glory back to God.”

Read David Scott's full essay, "A Vision of Veritas: What Christian Scholarship Can Learn from the Puritan's 'Technology' of Integrating Truth"  here.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Can Flying Helicopters Be The Lord's Work?

Heli-logging was first introduced in British Columbia.

Photo by Phillip Capper - Flickr: Logging the Town Belt, Wellington 18 April 2005, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15358577

Continued from last week...

A young friend of mine who had recently graduated from Bible school came to visit. When I asked what he enjoyed most about his Bible school experience, he said: “Going into the local town to do street evangelism.”

Wow. It’s rare to find a young man who enjoys street evangelism! 

But when I him asked what profession he wanted to pursue, I received an unexpected reply.

Cocking his head, he looked up at the ceiling and uttered: “Forgive me, Lord.”

Then he turned to me, looked me straight in the eye, and declared: “I want to fly helicopters.”

(Forgive me, Lord?)

His dream was to fly helicopters in logging operations, lifting cut trees from the forest floor, bypassing the need for building roads, and keeping things looking nice.

Yet, this young man obviously felt guilty. Heli-logging was clearly not on his shortlist of “the Lord’s work” occupations.

I asked if he had heard of the First Commission. He was unfamiliar with this term, so we talked about Genesis 1:26-28, where it is written: Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our likeness and image, and let them rule…over all the earth...”

I pointed out how heli-logging fulfills the role God had in mind for human beings. I shared how we can love God and love people by lifting logs from forest floors with helicopters, bringing them to trucks to be hauled to mills, where they can be shaped into lumber for building homes, and other useful things people need.

For the first time in his life, this young man saw how he could fulfill his God-given role as an Earth-Tender, ruling over trees through heli-logging. In this work, he could love God and love people! 

Can flying helicopters be the Lord's work? 

You tell me. 

The lights went on for this young man that day. He looked at me, with face aglow, and declared: "I never thought of that before!" 

We discussed how he could also evangelize loggers.

If the chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever, as the Westminster Catechism says, then the chief role and function of man is to govern well over Planet Earth and all it contains. The two go hand in glove! It's the First Commission. 

Let’s restore it to our schools, homes and churches, before we lose yet another generation to Platonic Dualism.  

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Most Under-Valued, Under-Preached Truth

Who tends Planet Earth?
(Photo by NASA/Apollo 17 crew, by Harrison Schmitt or Ron Evans. Public domain.)

If someone asked, "What's the purpose of education?,” what would you say?

I'd say: "The purpose of education is to equip the next generation to govern well over this physical, material world.”

Are you shocked?

Not long ago, I was speaking to a group of Christian school teachers, and I posed “the question” to those in the room. But before anyone could reply, I answered my own query. 

You could have heard a pin drop. I paused to let the weight of my answer sink in.

Someone broke the silence by asking, “Would you mind repeating that?”

After repeating it, I asked the group if anyone had told them that before. No one had.

I have asked this question to Christian students, parents and teachers. So far, not a single person has responded by saying, “The purpose of education is to equip the next generation to govern well over this physical, material world.”


My guess is, the answer is too “earthy” for most Christians’ sensibilities.  

Yet, I contend that not seeing this as the purpose for education is why so many pastors don’t believe in Christian schools, why we lost the “culture war” in this country, and why so many young people are leaving the church. We lost the very meaning and purpose for living--and thus our purpose for learning.    

Yes, education is for strengthening character. Yes, education is for practicing self-government under God. Yes, education is for developing one’s talents, gifts and abilities to their highest potential. Yes, education is for learning “good citizenship.” And it’s for getting a “good job,” too. But the bigger question is: to what end?

I believe the purpose of education must be seen in the context of our assigned role and function on Planet Earth. The role God had in mind for humans is no mystery. He stated it plainly in Genesis 1:26-28, Then God said, "Let us make man in our likeness and image, and let them rule…over all the earth...”

News flash! Humans were created to govern over this physical, material world! We were made to be Earth-Tenders! That's our assigned role, whether Christians or not.

I believe this is the most under-valued, under-preached Truth in all of Scripture. Fulfilling our assigned role well [that is, fulfilling it in harmony with the Creator's purposes and design] brings glory to God, and serves the common good.  

For more, click here.

Friday, November 24, 2017

We Were Late For Lunch...And No One Cared

Kristi Pananas is a kindergarten teacher at Grace Christian School, a Worldview Matters "WRAP" school in Staunton, Virginia. In the above photo, Mrs. Pananas is with Ella, a student who asked a question that turned a 20-minute math lesson into a 45-minute “worldview lesson" that was so engaging the class didn’t care about being late to lunch! Mrs. Pananas writes: “Recently, during a kindergarten math lesson, I introduced patterns: red, yellow, red, yellow; smiley face, star, smiley face, star; ABAB, etc. We practiced a few different examples. And then, the neat stuff happened.” The rest of the story is below, in Mrs. Pananas own words. (Thank you, Kristi.)

A little girl [Ella] raised her hand and asked, “What does God think of patterns and does he like them?” Wow!

I put my worksheet aside, sat down and knew that this discussion was more important than the “math” lesson. I asked the question back to the class.

And the following were some of the answers:

The first little boy said, “We know God likes order so he must like patterns because patterns are in order.” We had previously talked about how God is a God of order, not chaos. I thought, “They are getting it, they remember, this is important to them!!!”

Hands were flying, and everyone wanted to be part of the discussion.

Another student added, "God ordered the days, he made all things….” We had talked about creation, and how our calendar was in order, and what God thought of that.

And another remembered, “God made animals with patterns.” Patterns were related to camouflage and a way of protecting animals, and God did that.

We discussed how God made people with patterns: 2 eyes, 2 arms, boys/girls. How God doesn’t make mistakes when he creates anything. How we are all created perfectly and in a special way and are made in His image (patterned after God).

To answer the question about, “does God like patterns?“ everyone agreed that he does!  He made rainbows, and they are patterns. He likes pretty things. He wants to enjoy patterns; they thought that God wanted us to like patterns, too. We talked about how God is creative and thinks of everything.

A 20-minute math lesson turned into a 45-minute worldview lesson initiated by a child with a heart wondering about God. We were late for lunch...and no one cared, and kindergarteners always care about snack and lunch (and recess)!

I was amazed and proud. We had been in school less than a month and the kiddos were using the questioning that they hear at school…“what does God think/feel about...?” These kiddos are 5 and 6 years old! I can only imagine what the rest of the year will be like. God is at work in the hearts and minds of these kindergarten students.

*  *  *  

Postscript: If you are a teacher, or a parent, wondering what sort of questions the teachers at Grace Christian School are asking to prompt “worldview conversations,” click here for examples. Use them yourself!

Mrs. Pananas with another student, Max.


Friday, November 17, 2017

600-700 Illiterate People

The Living Water Translation does not read like a translation, although it is a true translation, not a "paraphrase." It flows in the most natural way--with supernatural effects. 

In 1958, Roy Mayfield, and his wife, Georgialee, a young American couple, made their new home among a remote group of 600-700 illiterate people called the "Agtas," in the northern Philippines, as Wycliffe Bible Translators. 

Roy and Georgialee raised their four children in this community. They learned to speak the Agta language, put their words into written form, and taught the Agtas how to read their own tongue.

Why? Because the Agtas did not have the Bible in their own language, and the Mayfields wanted them to read the Word of God for themselves [as Luther wanted Germans to be able to do], and to know the Savior's love and will for their lives. After 30 years, the New Testament was complete. They stayed another 10 years, and by 1994 half of the Agta group had committed themselves to Christ. 

“It was primarily through the Agta leadership and witness of individual believers that the Agta Church grew,” says Roy. "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.”

When Roy returned to the United States, he did not stop translating. He turned his attention to writing an English version of the New Testament, which sprang from his own longing for a "more readable translation." One that was "clear and flowing."

I can personally attest that Roy succeeded in reaching his goal! His translation is indeed "a more readable translation." It is really "clear and flowing."

Roy calls it, The Living Water Translation. It is my favorite translation of the New Testament, and my wife's favorite also. She spends hours reading it while soaking in the tub! (Well, not hours in the tub at once...)

The Mayfield translation has not yet been "discovered." I want to get the word out. It is a treasure hidden in a field. To order your copy, click here. You'll be glad you did! Give yourself an early Christmas present--and someone else, too.

Take a look at the photos below, courtesy of my Aunt and Uncle, Roy and Georgialee Mayfield:

Roy and Georgialee teaching a group of Agtas to read their own language.

Roy (far left) and Georgialee with three of their four children and some Agta friends.
Roy with an Agta helper, "testing" his choice of words. Roy was trained in linguistics at the Universities of North Dakota and Oklahoma, as well as Indiana University. As a Wycliffe Bible Translator, Roy 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 applied the same principle to his English translation of the New Testament, calling it, The Living Water Translation. To read sample chapters, click here.