July 7, 2015

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work

by Steven Dilla

July7

 

*The Summer Reading Series is designed to equip our growing community with curated book recommendations that can shape faith and sharpen cultural insight.

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work | Summer Reading Series
Excerpt from Chapter Nine: A New Story for Work

The particulars of how the gospel works out in each field are endlessly rich.

What are some of the idols of business, for example? Money and power certainly top the list. But remember that an idol is a good thing that we make into an ultimate thing. 

Corporate profits and influence, stewarded wisely, are a healthy means to a good end: They are vital to creating new products to serve customers, giving an adequate return to investors for the use of their money, and paying employees well for their work. 

Similarly, individual compensation is an appropriate reward for one’s contributions and is necessary to provide for oneself and one’s family. But it is not our identity, our salvation, or even our source of security and comfort. 

The Christian worker or business leader who has experienced God’s grace — ­who knows “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20) ­is free to honor God, love neighbors, and serve the common good through work.

At one level, this should all seem to go without saying. The idea that businesses should advance the social good has been regaining its proper place in the last decade, helped along by the string of business scandals in recent years.

Yet despite this growing consensus, it is probably fair to say that the implicit assumptions in the marketplace are that making money is the main thing in life, that business is fundamentally about accumulating and wielding power, and that maximizing profit within legal limits is an end in itself. 

The reason is that sin runs through the heart of every worker and the culture of every enterprise. The result is polluted rivers, poor service, unjust compensation, entitlement attitudes, dead-­end jobs, dehumanizing bureaucracy, backstabbing, and power grabs. This is why it is so important for us to be intentional in applying the counter-­narrative of the gospel to business.

To be a Christian in business, then, means much more than just being honest or not sleeping with your coworkers. It even means more than personal evangelism or holding a Bible study at the office. Rather, it means thinking out the implications of the gospel worldview and God’s purposes for your whole work life —­ and for the whole of the organization under your influence.

Summer Reading Series

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work  to God’s Work
Timothy Keller
Dutton, 2012

Today’s Readings
Joshua 9 (Listen – 3:46)
Psalms 140-141 (Listen – 2:44)

Summer Reading Series
Find devotionals and more reading suggestions on TheParkForum.org.

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July 6, 2015

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

by Steven Dilla

July6

*The Summer Reading Series is designed to equip our growing community with curated book recommendations that can shape faith and sharpen cultural insight.

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered | Summer Reading Series
Excerpt from Chapter Five: A Question of Size

I was brought up on the theory of the “economies of scale” — that with industries and firms, just as with nations, there is an irresistible trend, dictated by modern technology, for units to become ever bigger.

Even today, we are generally told that gigantic organizations are inescapably necessary; but when we look closely we can notice that as soon as great size has been created there is often a strenuous attempt to attain smallness within bigness. The great achievement of Mr. Sloan of General Motors was to structure this gigantic firm in such a manner that it became, in fact, a federation of fairly reasonably sized firms.

In the affairs of men, there always appears to be a need for at least two things simultaneously, which, on the face of it, seem to be incompatible and to exclude one another. We always need both freedom and order. We need the freedom of lots and lots of small, autonomous units, and, at the same time, the orderliness of large-scale, possibly global, unity and coordination.

For constructive work, the principal task is always the restoration of some kind of balance. Today, we suffer from an almost universal idolatry of giantism. It is possibly one of the causes and certainly one of the effects of modern technology, particularly in matters of transport and communications. 

An entirely new system of thought is needed, a system based on attention to people, and not primarily attention to goods — the goods will look after themselves! It could be summed up in the phrase, “production by the masses, rather than mass production.”

What is the meaning of democracy, freedom, human dignity, standard of living, self-realization, fulfillment? Is it a matter of goods, or of people? Of course it is a matter of people. But people can be themselves only in small comprehensible groups. 

We must learn to think in terms of an articulated structure that can cope with a multiplicity of small-scale units. If economic thinking cannot grasp this it is useless. If it cannot get beyond its vast abstractions and make contact with the human realities of poverty, frustration, alienation, despair, breakdown, crime, escapism, stress, congestion, ugliness, and spiritual death, then let us scrap economics and start afresh.

Are there not indeed enough “signs of the times” to indicate that a new start is needed?

Summer Reading Series
Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
E. F. Schumacher
25th Anniversary Edition — With Commentaries
Hartley and Marks Publishers, 2000

Today’s Readings
Joshua 8 (Listen – 5:55)
Psalm 139 (Listen – 2:26)

Summer Reading Series
Find devotionals and more reading suggestions on TheParkForum.org.

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July 3, 2015

Just Mercy

by Steven Dilla

July3

*The Summer Reading Series is designed to equip our growing community with curated book recommendations that can shape faith and sharpen cultural insight.

Just Mercy | Summer Reading Series
Excerpt from the Introduction

When I first went to death row in December 1983, America was in the early stages of a radical transformation that would turn us into an unprecedentedly harsh and punitive nation and result in mass imprisonment that has no historical parallel. Today we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. 

The prison population has increased from 300,000 people in the early 1970s to 2.3 million people today. There are nearly six million people on probation or on parole. One in every fifteen people born in the United States in 2001 is expected to go to jail or prison; one in every three black male babies born in this century is expected to be incarcerated.

We have shot, hanged, gassed, electrocuted, and lethally injected hundreds of people to carry out legally sanctioned executions. Thousands more await their execution on death row.

We’ve created laws that make writing a bad check or committing a petty theft or minor property crime an offense that can result in life imprisonment. We have declared a costly war on people with substance abuse problems. There are more than a half-million people in state or federal prisons for drug offenses today, up from just 41,000 in 1980.

The collateral consequences of mass incarceration have been equally profound. We ban poor women and, inevitably, their children from receiving food stamps and public housing if they have prior drug convictions. 

We have created a new caste system that forces thousands of people into homelessness, bans them from living with their families and in their communities, and renders them virtually unemployable. 

We also make terrible mistakes. Scores of innocent people have been exonerated after being sentenced to death and nearly executed.

Finally, we spend lots of money. Spending on jails and prisons by state and federal governments has risen from $6.9 billion in 1980 to nearly $80 billion today.

My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. 

I’ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.

Summer Reading Series
Just Mercy
Bryan Stevenson
Spiegel & Grau, 2015

Today’s Readings
Joshua 5 (Listen – 2:38)
Psalms 132-134 (Listen – 2:42)

Summer Reading Series
Find devotionals and more reading suggestions on TheParkForum.org.

 ___________________________________

This Weekend’s Readings

Saturday: Joshua 6 (Listen – 4:47); Psalms 135-136 (Listen – 4:23)
Sunday: Joshua 7 (Listen – 4:58); Psalms 137-138 (Listen – 2:13)

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July 2, 2015

Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership

by Steven Dilla

July2

*The Summer Reading Series is designed to equip our growing community with curated book recommendations that can shape faith and sharpen cultural insight.

Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership  | Summer Reading Series
Excerpt from Chapter One: What is Humility and Why Does it Matter?

Humility does not mean humiliation, even though both words are offspring of a single Latin parent (humilitas). Nor does it mean being a doormat for others, having low self-esteem or curbing your strengths and achievements. Jim Collins’ work reminds us it is possible to be humble, iron-willed and successful, and they frequently go together. 

Having strong opinions is no hindrance to humility either. One of the failings of contemporary Western culture is to confuse conviction with arrogance. Humility, rightly understood, is a potential antidote to the hateful political and religious rhetoric we often hear: Left versus Right, Christian versus Muslim and so on.

I want to argue that the solution to ideological discord is not “tolerance” in the post-modern form we frequently find it, the bland affirmation of all viewpoints as equally true and valid but an ability to profoundly disagree with others and deeply honor them at the same time.

Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself. More simply, you could say the humble person is marked by a willingness to hold power in service of others.

There are three key thoughts in this definition. First, humility presupposes your dignity. The one being humble acts from a height, so to speak, as the “lowering” etymology makes clear. True humility assumes the dignity or strength of the one possessing the virtue, which is why it should not be confused with having low self-esteem or being a doormat for others. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is impossible to be humble in the real sense without a healthy sense of your own worth and abilities.

Second, humility is willing. It is a choice. Otherwise, it is humiliation. 

Finally, humility is social. It is not a private act of self-deprecation—banishing proud thoughts, refusing to talk about your achievements and so on. I would call this simple “modesty”. But humility is about redirecting your powers, whether physical, intellectual, financial or structural, for the sake of others. 

One of the earliest Greek texts on this topic, written about AD 60 to the Roman colony of Philippi, puts it perfectly: “In a humble frame of mind regard one another as if better than yourselves—each of you taking care not only of your own needs but also of the needs of others.”

Summer Reading Series
Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership
John Dickson
HarperCollins Publishing, 2011

Today’s Readings
Joshua 4 (Listen – 3:31)
Psalms 129-131 (Listen – 2:03)

Summer Reading Series
Find devotionals and more reading suggestions on TheParkForum.org.

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July 1, 2015

Rulers: Gospel and Government

by Steven Dilla

July1

*The Summer Reading Series is designed to equip our growing community with curated book recommendations that can shape faith and sharpen cultural insight.

Rulers: Gospel and Government | Summer Reading Series
Excerpt from Chapter 6: An Introduction to Christian Social Ethics by Dr. David Clyde Jones

The institutional separation of church and state, or more precisely, the separation of the government of faith communities from the government of civil society, is a separation devoutly to be wished. But that is not at all the same thing as the separation of religion and politics. 

The separation of church and state is highly desirable; the separation of religion and politics is simply impossible. Why is that? Because politics is the domain of public policy, and public policy proposals are inevitably the expression of some world-and-life view, some conception of the common good to be aimed at for human beings living in community. Public policy proposals are worldview dependent, and worldviews, theistic and non-theistic, are religious in nature as ultimate faith commitments.

This is especially important for the principle of sphere sovereignty sketched above. Not only are the governing authorities of church and state distinct, but also participation in the cultural spheres is religious activity on the part of believers just as much as their corporate worship and diaconal ministries in the visible church institute. 

That all of life is religious in this sense is important for understanding the full meaning of religious liberty. The idea of freedom of religious faith and practice was a long time in coming in political philosophy and remains a matter of controversy down to the present day.

Why [then] should we have such a work as Ministry to State? The rationale for special ministry to those in civil government is their special role in the government of civil society, a role that directly affects everyone and presents particular temptations for “selling out” one’s convictions in the pursuit of power and yielding to the temptation to the abuse of power once it is obtained. 

I think no one has captured this better than Martin Franzmann, [in his prayer] “For Charity Toward Men in Office” —

O God, remember in Your mercy
the men who bear the burden of this majesty,
men like us, easily bent by the pressure of temptation,
by the impact of expediency.
Remember them and strengthen them when they are moved
to shade the truth to their own ends,
to withhold what should be told,
to distort what must be told,
to disclose what does not serve our common weal.
Keep intact their honor and their credibility.

Summer Reading Series
Rulers: Gospel and Government
Charles M. Garriott
Riott Publishing, 2014

Steve Bostrom, a reader of The Park Forum, wrote the essay, “God, Give me the Humility of Jesus” that appears in Chapter 5 of this book.

Today’s Readings
Joshua 3 (Listen – 2:45)
Psalms 126-128 (Listen – 1:58)

Find devotionals and more reading suggestions on TheParkForum.org.

___________________

FAQs

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