Tim Challies: “So many young Christians have stunted their spiritual growth through what I callpornolesence. Pornolescence is that period when a person is old enough and mature enough to know that pornography is wrong and that it exacts a heavy price, but too immature or too apathetic to do anything about it.”
It’s Never Too Late To Become A Great Dad
“He grew up in a dysfunctional family and bounced through the foster care system, an unlikely background for someone destined to lead an evangelical family-equipping organization. But that’s just where Jim Daly finds himself today, as the President and CEO of Focus on the Family. Daly’s first book, Finding Home, detailed his difficult childhood. His latest book, The Good Dad: Becoming the Father You Were Meant to Be, shows that a rough upbringing need not ruin one’s ambitions of leading a healthy family.”
I’ve been blown away by one of the books on my summer reading list, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKweon. It’s one of those “Where have you been all my life?” kind of books and it’s come at such an opportune time in my own life as I’ve just hired a virtual assistant, and I’m also deciding what to cut from my life in order to do less better.
That matches the basic value proposition of Essentialism: “Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”
Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. Especially in our interconnected world, there are far more activities and opportunities than we have time and resources to invest in. Many of these are good, even very good, but few are vital.
So what’s the essential difference between an essentialist and a non-essentialist? It can be summed up in this diagram.
In both images the same amount of effort is exerted. In the image on the left, the energy is divided into many different activities. The result is that we have the unfulfilling experience of making a millimeter of progress in a million directions. In the image on the right, the energy is given to fewer activities. The result is that by investing in fewer things we have the satisfying experience of making significant progress in the things that matter most.
The latter requires hard choices, discipline, and trade-offs. But, as McKeown says, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” Or as Jim Collins found out in How The Mighty Fall, “the undisciplined pursuit of more” was a key reason for most corporate failures.
McKeown hardly needs to make the argument that the modern world has turned many of us into non-essentialists, but he traces this damaging trend to three factors:
1. Too many choices causing us to lose sight of the most important ones.
2. Technology and hyperconnectivity have increased the strength and number of outside social influences on our decisions.
3. The idea that we can do it all.
He underlines the necessity of fighting this trend with the story of hospice nurse Bronnie Ware who recorded her dying patients’ most common regret. At the top of the list: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
To avoid such a sad end, “requires not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials, and not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but cutting out some really good opportunities as well.”
And that’s where Essentialism excels as it presents a clear four-step process that begins with developing an essentialist mindset and takes you all the way through to execution.
1. ESSENCE: THE MINDSET OF AN ESSENTIALIST There are three deeply entrenched assumptions we must conquer to live the way of the Essentialist: “I have to,” “It’s all important,” and “I can do both.” To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.”
2. EXPLORE: DISCERNING THE TRIVIAL MANY FROM THE VITAL FEW Essentialists systematically explore and evaluate a broad set of options before committing to any. Because they will commit and “go big” on one or two ideas or activities, they deliberately explore more options at first to ensure that they pick the right one later.
3. ELIMINATE: CUTTING OUT THE TRIVIAL MANY The key to making our highest contribution may be to say “No.” The real question is not how can we do it all, it is who will get to choose what we do and don’t do.
4. EXECUTE: REMOVING OBSTACLES AND MAKING EXECUTION EFFORTLESS Essentialists invest the time they have saved into creating a system for removing obstacles and making execution as easy as possible.
I do have some reservations about applying this rigidly to the Christian life and particularly to Christian ministry, partly because of the danger of developing a self-centered spirit, and partly because God can easily turn what seem to us to be trivial time-wasters into massive ministry opportunities and gains.
However, despite these cautions, I believe the vast majority of us would not only benefit spiritually from this book but also become more effective and fruitful in our various callings and ministries.
Did you hesitate? Even for a second? Then you have a warped Calvinism. And there’s lots of it around.
When our son or daughter asks that question we must be able to look them in the eye and say with all the certainty we can muster and all the passion we can summon, “Yes, my son (daughter), God wants to save you.”
Verse to prove it?
1 Timothy 2v4 which speaks of God our Savior “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Sadly this “simple” statement of profound truth has been both perverted and explained away over the years.
Perversions and Evasions
Some have used it to support universalism, the idea that God will save everyone. However, that view ignores the rest of 1 Timothy which clearly speaks of some being lost (1:13; 3:6; 4:1; 5:24; 6:9-10); it also rejects many other parts of the Bible.
Others have used the verse to deny election. They say, “If God wants to save everyone in general then He did not choose anyone in particular.” But then we have to cut out multiple verses and chapters which do teach particular and individual election (e.g. 1 Cor. 1; Rom. 9).
Then there are those who say that as the previous verses are about civil government, “saved” here means physical preservation. However, Paul goes on immediately to speak of Christ as mediator and redeemer, and in the pastorals “salvation” most commonly means deliverance from sin (1 Tim. 1:15; 2 Tim. 1:9; 3:15; Tit. 2:11).
Some Calvinists, out of a well-meant desire to honor the sovereignty of God, change the meaning of “all” to “all the elect.” They say, “If God wills the salvation of all, then all will be saved as God’s will is never thwarted. But not all are saved, so all here must mean all the elect.”
This is very logical; but is it biblical? Is it the meaning that Timothy and the church at Ephesus would have understood when the letter was being read? Would they have made all the steps of logic required to get “all” to mean “all the elect?” Would they not have taken the words in their plain and simple meaning? God desires ALL to be saved
God’s Two Books
But not all are saved, so how do we understand this text without dishonoring God and making Him look defeated in His desire and will? The answer is found in the two books of God we find in Deuteronomy 29:29:
The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever that we may do all the words of this law.
God’s Private Book contains the things that He has decreed will happen or not happen from beginning to end of time. They include all the events of tomorrow, when and how we will die, the end of the world, the names of the saved, and so on. As its name suggests, this is a private book for God’s eyes only. He has not revealed the contents, will not reveal them, and we must not enquire into them either. God keeps that book behind the counter and forbids us from trying to look into it.
God’s Public Book is what He has revealed in the Bible, which, as Moses said, is all we need to know, believe, and do. It’s on the counter, open, and available for study.
In God’s Public Book, God often expresses a desire for certain things to happen that do not actually happen because He has not written them in His Private Book. For example, God desires all people keep His moral law which does not actually happen.
God also forbids things in His Public Book which He has decreed to happen in His Private Book. For example, in the Bible God forbids betrayal and murder and expresses His desire that no one be a victim of this. Yet, in His Private Book He ordained that His Son be betrayed and murdered (Acts 2:23).
Biblical but Illogical?
This is sometimes called an antinomy, a logical contradiction that cannot be resolved. Although we cannot square them in our minds, we must hold both because both books exist and are true.
Maybe if we personalize this, it’ll become clearer. Ask yourself, “Does God want me to live a holy life or an unholy life?” His Public Book tells me that He wants me to live a holy life (1 Peter 1:16). But it doesn’t happen. Does that defeat God or take Him by surprise? No, His Private Book contains all my sins and all my successes. His Public willis “thwarted,” but His Private will never is.
Now take the question, “Does God want me to believe the Gospel?” According to God’s Public Book, “Yes” (Isa. 45:22; 55:1; Ezek. 18:23; 32; 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9). But I never did it at all for 22 years and I still don’t do it perfectly or steadily. Again, no surprise to God, as His Private Book contains all my ups and downs, my faith and unbelief.
The Kiddie Question Test
Finally, back to our first question. When our child asks, “Daddy, does God want to save me?” the last thing you do is go to God’s Private Book, and say, “Well, I don’t know honey, because I don’t know if you are one of the elect.” Put that book down. That’s God’s Private Book. You have no right to it and there’s no benefit in it for you.
Instead, pick up God’s Public Book and on the basis of 1 Timothy 2v4, say, “God wants to save you with all His heart! He doesn’t want you to perish.” So, repent and believe the Gospel with the assurance that if you call on the name of the Lord, you will be saved (Rom. 10:13).
If you can’t say that, your Calvinism fatally fails the Kiddie Question Test.
When Callings Clash
Melissa Kruger explores the biblical idea of submission: “What are we to do when our obedience to God or the betterment of his people collides with the call to submit to our husbands, churches, or governments? Two biblical principles can guide us as we seek to honor God in our submission.”
How would you like to help me choose my summer reading?
During semester time, my reading is often confined to the subjects I’m teaching – Old Testament Exegesis, Counseling, Leadership, The Minister & His Ministry. In the summer, though, I try to read a bit more outside the box. I do that partly for my own enjoyment, partly to learn about and be inspired by other people’s lives, but also to stimulate fresh thinking and widen my worldview by reading in areas I don’t usually have much time for. It’s also a great way to get up-to-date sermon illustrations.
Here’s my “cheerful” reading list from last summer, and I’d love it if you could help me put together one for this summer. Below are the books (with their Amazon descriptions) that are topping my list right now. You can help me by choosing the books you think I should read first (you get five votes), and by suggesting other books you think should be on that list. They can be old books or new books, politics, fiction, non-fiction (if you must), biography, theology, history (not too much blood and guts please!).
Once the votes and suggestions are in, I’ll read and review as many as I can over the next couple of months.
And what do you get out of it? Well, apart from the reviews I’ll be posting, hopefully my thinking and writing will be refreshed for your benefit too.
So here’s the list I’ve put together so far – in no particular order. You don’t need to have read the book to vote for it or suggest it. Go on, challenge me. You don’t need to enter your email or anything like that. Just five quick clicks to give me hours of reading pleasure. And hopefully some reading ideas for yourself too!
“Who better to write about leadership than a world-renowned CEO known not only for his business skills but also for his life of faithful integrity? Drawing on decades of executive-level experience running a Fortune 300 company, chairman emeritus and former CEO of ServiceMaster, Bill Pollard, offers insight into what it takes to thrive—both professionally and spiritually—in the high-stakes, high-pressure world of corporate America as well as in the home. Reflecting on life-changing encounters with influential leaders such as Peter Drucker, Warren Buffet, and Billy Graham, Pollard invites readers to learn from his own successes and failures, sharing tips and principles for leading well and pleasing God.”
“In this captivating travelogue, a veteran missions mobilizer leads readers to experience global Christianity, exploring the faith and lives of Christians living in some of the world’s most perilous countries.”
“Randy Lewis bet his career that he could create an inclusive workplace at one of America’s biggest corporations where people with disabilities could not just succeed, but thrive. No Greatness without Goodness is the powerful story of a corporate executive who, after watching the world through the eyes of his own child with autism, Austin, realized that we all have a greater responsibility to make the world a better place for everyone, including those with disabilities.”
“The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.”
“Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain.”
“SPECIAL HEART is a deeply touching personal story told through the eyes of a journalist as he faces the most daunting challenge in life – far more frightening than reporting from battlefields, infinitely more momentous than interviewing newsmakers of the day: caring for his critically ill newborn son. Baier reflects on past challenges as he looks forward with hope, chronicling the steps on his path to national prominence as a television anchor, as well as his unexpected journey into the world of pediatric cardiac disease.”
“Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter more have to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, optimism, and self-control.”
“Out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.”
“An Invisible Thread is the true story of the bond between a harried sales executive and an eleven-year-old boy who seemed destined for a life of poverty. It is the heartwarming story of a friendship that has spanned three decades and brought meaning to an over-scheduled professional and hope to a hungry and desperate boy living on the streets.”
“Find God’s vision for your job. Reclaim God’s vision for your life. Many Christians fall victim to one of two main problems when it comes to work: either they are idle in their work, or they have made an idol of it. Both of these mindsets are deadly misunderstandings of how God intends for us to think about our employment. In The Gospel at Work, Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert unpack the powerful ways in which the gospel can transform how we do what we do, releasing us from the cultural pressures of both an all-consuming devotion and a punch-in, punch-out mentality—in order to find the freedom of a work ethic rooted in serving Christ.”
The four oldest Duggar girls share their hearts and their core beliefs, explaining that it’s all about relationships: with self, with parents, with siblings, with friends, with boys, and with God -their most important relationship of all.
And now for the big vote. You can enter suggestions anonymously by clicking on “Other” in the poll. Or simply leave the titles in the comments. Anyone can see the results – you don’t have to vote – by clicking on results. Thanks for your help!