On Your First Job, From Dad

It’s rare that I post something of a non-theological nature, but I thought I would share a bit of my personal life this week.  My oldest daughter is taking her first job (a retail job at the mall).  Here are some “Dad thoughts” that I shared. I pray they may also be of use to those starting this phase of life.


As you enter the working world, a couple of thoughts from someone who loves you (and happens to hire, manage, mentor, and unfortunately fire people.)

Congratulations! The fact that you’re even stepping up to the plate and taking a job sets you apart from nearly half of the people in this country.  Never take for granted that a job, any job, makes you a contributor; A giver in a land and culture dominated by takers. Employment is something to be proud of.

With that said, there are a few things I’d like you to know.  A few principles that, if understood, will greatly aid you as you move into the next 40+ years of working life:

1. Nobody owes you anything.  That may sound harsh, but your job isn’t guaranteed. It’s not owed to you. The company you choose to work for is in the business of business, not in the business of giving people jobs. The fact that your employment allows them to make money is, at the very basic level, the arrangement. Never forget this.

2. Employment is a trade: You are trading your time and effort for money.  This sounds obvious, but you need to understand this.  You are trading a priceless commodity for cash. If you don’t determine for yourself the balance of this exchange, you’re going to get overworked, underpaid, and miss out on life.  Only you can determine what this balance looks like.

3. Earn your job every single day.  When you leave work ask yourself “Did I do enough today to earn the right to come back tomorrow?”  There are people who are content to do as little as possible to stay employed. Don’t be one. You aren’t above hard work or getting your hands dirty. Show initiative. Before you leave for the day ask your boss if there’s anything else that needs to be done. Separate yourself from the pack.

4. Learn your business. What do Abercrombie & Fitch, McDonalds, and Barnes and Noble have in common? They’ve invested in buildings, inventory, and people to do one thing: Make profits for their shareholders.  The only difference is in how they do it. Learn how your employer makes money, and help them make more. Better service? More sales? Less waste? If you don’t know, ask your boss. If your boss doesn’t know, ask their boss. You’re now prepared to take the job of the boss who didn’t know.

5. Learn everything. Learn the entire business. Use free time to learn other roles. The more you know, the more valuable you are to your employer. The more valuable you are, the more you make.  I personally know a board member of a Fortune 500 retailer who started in the shoe department.  It doesn’t matter where you start. Learn everything; How to run the registers, how to close out registers, how inventory works. Ask questions.

6.  Work to serve. Our faith teaches us that our vocation is the way by which God blesses the earth. There are no worthless or insignificant jobs.  While it’s obvious that the farmer raises food for us to eat and the truck driver brings it to our town, some aren’t so obvious: The person taking the trash out at the fast food restaurant ensures that our meals aren’t contaminated. There are no worthless jobs, and nobody who shows up and puts in an honest days work is to be looked down upon. Ever.

7. Find mentors. Starting at the bottom? Good. Learn the business from the ground up. Learn from everyone; from some how to lead, and from some how not to lead. When you find those you respect, tell them.  Ask them questions. What do you need to know to make the next step? What do they wish they would have known at your age? What can you do to improve yourself, your team, and your company?  I can count on one hand how many people have done that who have worked for me. I remember them by name, and they’ve all been successful.

8. Be the CEO of You, Inc.  A mentor once told me that in the business relationship, the only person negotiating for you and your family is you.  That means that you need to intentionally manage every aspect of your working life; How much time are you willing to trade for money? How much are you worth? What do you want to do? How do you gain the skills to do what you want? Is this the right company for you to do it?

9. Integrity. Work hard. Your work is a reflection of you, your family, and your faith.  I can’t overemphasize the value of hard work and integrity. Over the course of your career, your integrity can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Never sell it.  I’ve seen people end their careers by selling their integrity. Don’t do it. If it’s not yours, don’t take it. If you didn’t earn it, don’t take it. Don’t “fudge” your hours or expense reports. If it’s $9.84, it’s $9.84, not $10.  Your integrity is worth more than $ .16.

10. Enjoy yourself.   Enjoy the people you work with. You’re going to spend a lot of time at work. Get to know people and what matters to them. Your co-workers aren’t tools to use, they’re people who are making the same time-money trade that you are.  Everyone in a company has an important role; the CEO is no more important than the first-day high school student folding t-shirts or taking orders at the counter. Don’t believe me? Ask the company who lost millions in stock value over high school employees making stupid YouTube videos while on the clock. Whether you’re the CEO or the grocery bagger, never judge your worth or anyone else’s by title or salary. I’ve scrubbed toilets and I’ve flown on the company jet and I’m no better now than I was then.  Treat everyone you work with the respect they deserve. Like you, they’ve earned it by stepping up to the plate.


I love you. I respect you taking this step into responsible adulthood.


Now, head up… smile… and show ’em what you’ve got!



A Conversation: Experiencing Life-Change in Authentic Community

I’ve been so moved by personal testimonies of life-change recently that I’ve decided to “join the conversation” regarding “life change” in “authentic community”.  I think I’ve found a community truly “living out” this “message of hope” in a “radical” way…

Young people sharing their life-change with other young people; Spreading the message and creating  hope in authentic community.


“I was just living day to day. I didn’t really have anything to look forward to. As soon as (it) came into my life, I was like Wow, I never want the day to end.


“Sometimes I’ll listen to a lesson and think, oh yeah! Why didn’t I think of that!”


“Before, I was kind of sad and lonely.  My initial reaction was like, ehh, but when I heard about the conference, I really wanted to go.”


And what a conference! Thousands of people, great music, strangers linking arms and becoming friends around this message of hope.


“I’m here, 900 miles from my home with at this conference with a population 4 times the size of my town in this building.”


“Before, I had about 7 friends. Now I have about a few hundred.”

These are people who are committed, living radically, and not bowing to social norms. They are impacting their culture.

“These kids are taking these lessons to heart, we need to allow men to be sensitive and to care about one another and not call them weak for caring.”

Here’s more info if you’d like to make a decision to become a follower, and begin a conversation about radical life change in authentic community:


Get it?

Look, you can have those things.. ALL of those things (life-change, community, conversation, conferences, acceptance) around ANYTHING.

Share ground with the rest of the world if you like, but our call is not change the world or promote “life change”, we’re to proclaim the gospel of Christ crucified for sinner. The other stuff? While not bad, it’s subjective, and it’s certainly not unique.  Start preaching life change and you’re standing in line with the Bronies.  I’ll pass, thanks.

Your Bro (that’s brother, not bronie) in Christ,


“One Way Love” by Tullian Tchividjian: A review



It’s not every day that you get an e-mail from a well known Christian author and speaker. (OK, maybe that does happen to you everyday, but it certainly doesn’t for me). So, when I got an e-mail from Tullian Tchividjian, best selling Christian author, speaker, grandson of Billy Graham, and owner of a name you can’t pronounce… I was both thrilled and worried.

Thrilled at the opportunity to read it pre-release for review here…

and worried, because I’m not a fan of most of the “Christian” books which hit the shelves these days.

Could I be honest and bash what I felt to be a bad book or bad theology by someone who had been gracious enough to personally send it to me?  I’m afraid I could be, and while I can no more compete with Tullian’s popularity than I could his tan, I knew I’d have to.


Let me make this review as succinct as possible:

You need to read this book.  Correction, you need to read this book and tell other people to read this book. I have no tie to the author or the publisher, but I hope you buy a dozen copies of this book and give them away to your closest friends.


Because at this point in the churches history (even, especially in the reformed community), this message is desperately needed.

I may not win any friends for saying this, but here’s why we need this book and we need it now:

For the last several years, we’ve gotten a steady diet of the call to be radical.  Now I get it, I really, really love guys like Francis Chan and David Platt. Their example and plea to get off the sidelines and live in light of the gospel is not only necessary, it’s GOOD. But many young brothers and sisters went the wrong way (like our hearts are prone to do) and took these good examples as law… and soon began to question me on whether they were being “radical” enough. (To the point of questioning their “fruit” and very regeneration).

Again, no matter how much I emphasize that I don’t think guys like David Platt were advocating this AT ALL, it’s where it was taken.  In conversation, young brothers were struggling with whether or not they were “radical enough” or whether they needed to be reckless to be radical.  Law does what it does, and it condemned.

As I struggled through this with friends, I had to work through law and grace with each of them.  I remember thinking, “If we could somehow get ‘Law and Gospel’ to the masses, we could battle this problem.”

“One Way Love” is exactly that book.  I know Tullian to be a gifted communicator (Jesus+Nothing=Everything is an outstanding book), but the handling of Law and Gospel in this book is masterful.  While it’s the bread and butter theology of confessional Lutherans, it’s not something you expect to see in a (no offense) popular Christian title. Yet, here it is, in perfect form.


In an era where brothers and sisters are discovering the doctrines of grace and working out from a purpose-driven evangelical mindset, I’ve seen the struggle as one set of law is exchanged for another.  This book contains both the full weight of the law and the beautiful freedom of the gospel.

At the risk of sounding flippant, this is Walther’s Law and Gospel, within reach of the masses.

I give this book the highest recommendation I can give….

I’ll be giving this to my teen daughters and buying copies for their friends.


(By the way, Tchividjian rhymes with “religion”. Knowing that will win you major points at the next conference… you don’t want to be the other guy; the one that rhymes Sproul with owl)