Thursday, January 26, 2006

Rob Bell - Hip Dude with Cool Videos But Be Wary!

Today I came as I was checking out a blog I frequent, I came accross a book review of Velvit Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell. I was quite interested to see what it said because I had seen one of Rob Bell's videos and saw his book in a store. For those of you who do't know Rob Bell, he is a the kind of guy who puts the 'hip' in discipleship. He's got the bleached blond hair, the post-modern coffee house intellectual glasses, etc.

Anyways, the book review brought up 5 problems with Bell's writing. All 5 being in conflict with what the Bible says.

1. His View of the Bible as metaphor
2. His Understanding of the Christian Faith
3. His View the Nature of Sin
4. His View of God’s Faith in Man
5. His view of the Nature of the Atonement

The most scary was Bell's view of God's faith in man. Here is is a quote from the book review with the Bell's words in italics:

The self-ward bent of Bell’s teaching continues when he speaks of God’s
faith in man. Bell adopts his self-professed rabbi Ray VanderLaan’s teaching
that Jesus chose his disciples just like every other rabbi of his day - because
he believed in their innate abilities. In one of the most painful parts of the
book, Bell reminds us of the story found in Matthew 14:22ff. where Peter rushed
out of the boat to meet Jesus walking on the water. Peter began to sink and
Jesus rebuked him for his lack of faith.

“Who does Peter lose faith in? Not Jesus; he is doing fine. Peter loses
faith in himself. Peter loses faith that he can do what his rabbi is doing. If
the rabbi calls you to be his disciple, then he believes that you can actually
be like him. As we read the stories of Jesus’ life with his talmidim, his
disciples, what do we find frustrates him to no end? When his disciples lose
faith in themselves.....Notice how many places in the accounts of Jesus life he
gets frustrated with his disciples. Because they are incapable? No, because of
how capable they are. He see what they could be and could do, and when they fall
short if provokes him to know end. It isn’t their failure that’s the problem,
it’s their greatness. They don’t realize what they are capable of....God has an
amazingly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing
things. I’ve been told I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. But
what I’m learning is that Jesus believes in me....God has faith in me.”

In fact, according to Bell, God has such great faith in the abilities
of men that Jesus “left the future of the movement (the church) in their hands.
And he doesn’t stick around to make sure they don’t screw it up. He’s gone. He
trusts that they can actually do it.” This is a shocking reinterpretation of the
Christian faith. When the gospel becomes the message of God coming to earth and
dying on a cross to help men believe how great they really are--something is
horribly amiss. This has the stench of blasphemy.

I completely agree that this has the stench of blasphemy. According to the Word of God in 1 Corinthians 1:26:

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise
by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But
God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak
things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world
and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that
are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in
Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God that is, our righteousness,
holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast
in the Lord."

With all this in mind it must be said that when I first saw the video with him, I enjoyed it. I think it had a great message. I guess this just shows that we need to be careful. Just because a guy has a cool video or two doesn't mean that we should listent to his every word.

Another thing that came to mind was that because the video I saw was cool and hip and had emotional music, it had more effect on my emotions as opposed to my head knowledge. For instance, if a 60 year old preacher in a suit on Sunday morning gave the same message, it would not have had the same impact. Maybe guys like John Piper and D.A. Carson should give their sermons with cool music and just casually talking while walking towards the camera and more people in the post-modern mindset would appreciate it. I guess this goes to show that the medium has a large effect on the message.

If this has interested you I encourage you to read the whole review, which is linked at the top of this post.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Level 5 Leadership

"You can accomplish anything in life, provided you do not mind who takes the credit" Harry Truman

As I read the chapter, I was underlining key points, and was ready to summarize it all for this entry when I found that the author had a chapter summary at the end. I figure that the author can summarize his point better than I can, so I am just re-writing some of his key points. I think they get the general message of what I learned from this chapter. The only thing you miss is the many examples of where these points were actually found.

Another quick key point is that "Level 5 Leadership" is a term the research team came up with after analyzing the 11 CEO's, as oppose to a fixed ideology that they are applying to these leaders. These are the things that stood out in the good-to-great CEO's from the comparison CEO's (CEO's from companies that were in the same industry and time as the good-to-great companies).

Here are the findings:

  • Every good-to-great company had Level 5 leadership during the pivotal transition years. "Level 5" refers to a 5-level hierarchy of executive capabilities, with Level 5 at the top.
  • Level 5 leaders embody a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious, to be sure, but ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves.
  • Level 5 leaders set up their successors for even greater success in the next generation, while egocentric Level 4 leaders often set up their successors for failure.
  • Level 5 leaders display a compelling modesty, and are understated in value. In contrast, two-thirds of comparison companies had leaders with large personal egos that contributed to the companies demise or continued mediocrity.
  • Level 5 leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable desire to achieve results. They are resolved to do whatever it takes to make the company great, no matter how big or how hard the decision.
  • Level 5 leaders display a workmanlike diligence. They are "more like a work horse than a show horse.
  • Level 5 leaders look out the window to attribute success to factors other than themselves. When things go poorly, however, they look in the mirror, and blame themselves, taking full responsibility. The comparison CEO's often did just the opposite - they looked in the mirror to take credit, while looking out the window to assign blame for disappointing results.

I like a lot of the qualities mentioned here. The only one that I am cautious of is the "doing whatever it takes to make the company great". I guess I just need to watch out for being pragmatic, letting the end justify the means. As a Christian leader I need to make sure that all steps along the way are honouring to God. I don't think what the author was talking about contradicts this, but it is just something to watch out for.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Moving from "7 Habits" to "Good to Great"

As I mentioned when I began blogging about the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I was asked to read 4 books on leadership by CCC, in order to develop in that area. I just finished reading 7 Habits and so now I am moving onto a book called Good to Great by Jim Collins. The subititle of this book is, "Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't"

The general theme of this books seems to be contained in the opening lines:

Good is the enemy of Great. And that is one of the main reasons why we have so
little that becomes great. We don't have great schools, principally because we
have good schools. We don't have great government, principally because we have
good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is
so easy to settle for a good life. The vast majority of
companies never become great, precisely because the vast
majority become quite good - and that is their main problem.

The first chapter outlines the process the author took in making this book. He wanted to study various companies that became great, and how that happened in order to squeeze out some principles that could be applied elsewhere. He ended up finding 11 companies, that after 15 years of being good, made a jump to become great, and then have lasted at least 15 years being great. He also found 11 other companies for direct comparison, meaning that they are in the same field of business as the corresponding good to great company, and had similar resources, etc, but never made the jump to great. He also found 6 unsustained good to great comapanies, which after a year or two of greatness, fizzled back down to being good.

The goal of reading this book for myself is to find and apply some of these principles that the author finds, in order to become greater in ministry, as well as life in general. Again, as with the 7 Habits, I hope to blog about some of the key things I am reading. I know what you are saying... Boring... but what can I say...It'll help me remeber what I am learning, and if I am just reading without applying, then I am not taking heed to the words of James 1:22-25:

22But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who
looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself
and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks
into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer
who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing

I know the author is refering to the law, but I think there is definatly an applicable principle here for us all.

Anyways, I will leave it at that, here comes "Good to Great"!

Ramsey Clark, What are you doing with your life?

As most of you know, Saddam Hussein is on trial for various things including war crimes. What you may not know, however, is that the person representing him is a man named Ramsey Clark. Ramsey Clark is a former U.S. Attourney-General under the Democratic Lyndon Johnson Government.

Now if you are thinking, how did this poor guy get stuck representing Saddam Hussein, think again. This guy wanted this case, and actually makes a living of representing people such as Saddam. A few years ago, he represented war criminal Slobadan Milosevic, former president of Yugoslavia who was responsible for the ethnic cleansing of many Albanians. Prior to that, Mr. Clark represented Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, a leader in the Rwandan Genocide. In addition to these people, he also has represented lesser known war criminals, as well as some involved in the Nazi concentration camps.

I am not completely sure why Mr. Clark wants to represent these types of people. I know that he is anti-Bush, anti-war in Iraq, etc, but I don't think that would be enough reason. But I do think that there might be something wrong with him. This guy went as far as even claiming that some of the killings Saddam ordered were justified. This is from an online encyclopedia: "Clark claimed that the massacre of 148 Iraqi Shi'ite men and boys in 1982 during the Iraq-Iran War was justified, as: "He [Saddam] had this huge war going on, and you have to act firmly when you have an assassination attempt".

My thoughts are... what are you doing with your life? I mean, what sort of pleasure can you get from defending, and giving council to these sorts of people. This doesn't mean that I think they aren't entitled to recieve legal council, but you think that it should be hard to find people who would even want to represent these sorts of humans, let alone one person who wants to represent them all.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Going through life with Christ

One of the cool things about being a Christian is that you can begin the day knowing that God created the Universe. After that, everything else just falls into perspective. I mean, as a Christian I believe that God loves me, and has a plan for my life, including the small details.

I can’t imagine waking up believing that the world came from a big bang or random molecules coming together to form this universe. I mean, the reason I know that the sun will rise tomorrow is that God made it to do so. The sun rose yesterday, it rose today, and I am certain that it will rise tomorrow. Now if the world came from random chance, then why is the world so ordered? I don’t mean that we will always feel like or lives are in order, but that there are many examples (including the sun rising every day) that show that this universe couldn’t have came from random chance, but instead intelligent design.

Also, if the universe did happen to come into existence by some random chance, then what is the purpose of life? As humans, we are just accidents that just happened to be smarter than all the other living creatures? We hope to live until 70 and then die, and then what? One person said it like this: “If there is no God, than life is as meaningful as arranging furniture on the sinking Titanic”. I mean, it might be nice to fluff the pillows, but this ship is going down!

Or what value does it give to our day-to-day lives? We go to work for 8 hours a day, working for a company so that the CEO gets big bucks, go home, watch TV or go on MSN, go to sleep, and then go back to work. That doesn’t sound so good to me.

But getting back to waking up and knowing that God exists created the universe, and loves me makes all the difference. I know God created me to have a relationship with Him, and that I can make a difference in this world by introducing other people to this God, and then when I die, I get to spend eternity with Him. Knowing these truths makes the little things in life that bother so many people, fade away and seem insignificant in view of His glory.

Just think, this is how God looks at the earth...

How hard can it be for him to manage my problems? God is good.

Habit 7 - Sharpening the Saw

Habit 7 is taking time to sharpen the saw. We can labour for hours trying to cut down a tree, but if we take 5 minutes to sharpen the saw we can do it in minutes. Sharpening the saw is investing time into the greatest asset you have – you. It is renewing the 4 dimensions of your nature – physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional.

The Physical Dimension

This involves taking care of our physical bodies – eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Most of us think that we don’t have time to exercise. But if we think about it, 3-6 hours of our week out of 168 in a week is a worthwhile investment, especially if we consider the tremendous benefits we would gain in the rest of our 162-165 hours of the week. A good exercise program doesn’t have to be with a gym, but should allow us to grow in three areas: endurance, flexibility, and strength.

One of the greatest benefits we will get from exercising is the experience of developing habit 1 – Proactivity. Many times we won’t feel like exercising, but if we can overcome that by looking at the benefits of exercising, and follow through in doing it rather than wimping out, we will see ourselves grow.

The Spiritual Dimension

This dimension involves who you are deep down, and renewing that centre in order to keep focused on what is most important. Spiritual renewal involves an investment of time, and it is a quadrant 2 activity that is important, but rarely gets done because it is not urgent. Martin Luther said, “I have much to do today, so I need to spend an extra hour on my knees”.

The Mental Dimension

Most of our mental development comes from our schooling. But once we graduate, does that mean we are done learning? It shouldn’t. Proactive people find ways in order to develop in this manner, whether they are in a class taking a course or not.

One great way to continue growing in this dimension is to read. You can go into the minds of the smartest and brightest in all of history. The person who doesn’t read is no better off than the person who can’t read.

Another way is to write. Journaling or blogging is a good way of keeping track of what life is teaching you. Also, writing letters or emails to people that go beyond the shallow and into the deep allows us to grow and learn from others.

The Social/Emotional Dimension

This dimension focuses on habits 4-6 and dealing with others. In order to be effective in this avenue, we must be in line with our principles so that we can be free to let others see into us. When this happens, we are able to be open, which in turn allows others to be open, and we can all be more effective.

We can also help others by seeing their potential, even if they are not currently meeting it. We can help them in becoming proactive. When this happens both you and they can get more done.

In all these 4 area we need to practice balance. Ignoring one area hinders the others.

The Upward Spiral

Renewal is the principle that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement. Moving in an upward spiral requires us to learn, commit, and do on increasingly higher planes. If we are learning a lot, but not committing to it and applying it, we are fooling ourselves if we think we are becoming more effective.