Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Giving Jesus Complete Control

When Jesus gave Peter a lesson in fishing, Peter learned a lot more than how to increase his fishing productivity. Jesus intervened in Peter's business dilemma and gave him instructions on how he could catch fish, even though Jesus’ methods were unorthodox, even though Peter didn't think it would work. Jesus knew what he was talking about, and Peter caught so many fish that his nets almost broke.

It’s interesting to note Peter's response when he sees all the fish in the net. He responded in humility because he knew his own heart, and he had not fished by faith. He never believed for a minute that he would catch even one fish. So, when the nets started to fill up, Peter was again reminded that Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth—and of fish!

And as he is reminded of who Jesus is, he sees his own faithless, arrogant heart and knows his unworthiness to even be in the presence of Jesus Christ. Notice that the result of this experience for Peter is:  First, he had success. Second, he understood Jesus better. Third, he saw himself more clearly.

I doubt Peter was as cocky or arrogant about his prowess as a fisherman after this. After all, the Carpenter had given him a lesson in fishing he would never forget. I also imagine he invited Jesus' advice and help in the future when he faced a fishing dilemma. He had learned that Jesus was his source, whatever his problem, because he is Lord.

Jesus longs for us to allow him to be a part of every area of our lives, to invite his control over the mundane, the everyday, the business matters of our lives, where we have in the past just tried to do everything ourselves. 

And as we learn to do that more and more, not only will we find that we're more successful at what we do, but more importantly, we'll become better and better acquainted with Jesus, his power, his authority, and his concern for our needs. And as we know him better, we'll become more and more humble, recognizing how powerless we are and how much we need him.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

                                                                                                         Luke 5:8

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Responding with Gentle Words

Do you ever have to deal with customers who are demanding and unkind? Or co-workers who just love to argue? Or managers who bark orders instead of issuing instructions? Harsh words definitely stir up my anger, and I imagine they have a similar effect on you.

There are moments that test our self-control. If we allow anger directed at us to control our response, we will have allowed a rude person to pull us down to his or her level. That means, of course, that he or she wins, even though he or she was wrong and we were right! It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s how it works.

Offering a gentle answer, however, has the same effect as a slow leak in a balloon. Just as the air gradually leaking from a balloon prevents a sudden loud pop, so a gentle word turns aside the force of an angry word.

Gentle answers often begin with empathetic statements such as:  “I can understand how you feel,”. . . “Well, it’s no wonder you’re upset,” . . . or “There’s obviously been a misunderstanding; let me see what I can do.” But sometimes you may need to be more creative in finding a “gentle answer”’ it may involve changing the subject, or ignoring the harsh words and trying to help that person instead. 

Gentle answers let others off the hook. Gentle answers relinquish the desire to strike back. Gentle answers accept some blame, regardless of who’s right. Keep your words gentle and kind. Not only does this work well in defusing a difficult encounter, but it also saves you a lot of time and energy.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

                                                                                                                                                Proverbs 15:1

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Inquire of the Lord

This passage reveals a fatal mistake made by the children of Israel. Joshua and his people were doing very well, and all the neighboring countries were frightened of them because of their victories and the power they had from the Lord. 

One of their neighbors, the Gibeonites, decided to trick Joshua into a peace treaty. So they made themselves look tired and dirty, like they had traveled a long way, and came to Joshua asking for a treaty. Here was a business transaction facing the Israelites. The men of Israel looked at the outward evidence, decided it looked like a good deal to them, and signed the bottom line.

They found out later that they had been deceived. The facts were not as they appeared to be, and they had made a strategic mistake. Why? Because they trusted in their eyes and their minds, and did not inquire of the Lord. 

There are times we don't think we need to consult the Lord; it's just a cut and dried situation, in our view. So we make decisions in our own strength, based on our human reasoning, and that gets us in trouble.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Leaning on our own understanding is the norm especially in the business world. But, as Christians, we should take all our decisions to the Lord and ask for his wisdom. Sometimes our own understanding is very shortsighted and incomplete. We need the eternal wisdom of our Savior; we need to inquire of the Lord.

The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

                                                                                                                                       Joshua 9:14-15

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Clearing Your Conscience

In speaking before Felix the governor, Paul was able to honestly say that he always tried to keep his conscience clear before God and man. Having a clear conscience is the best stress reducer you’ll ever find. 

I lived ten years of my business life away from God, doing my own thing, with a deteriorating lifestyle that did not bring glory to God. For ten years I had a heavy conscience. When finally I came to the end of my own rope and gave my life back to God in complete surrender, I was amazed to see how wonderful life was with a clear conscience. 

I had actually forgotten what it was like to be able to think about what you had done the past day or week or month and have no heavy conscience about it. I had forgotten how sweet it was to go to bed at night with no regrets. I had forgotten the freedom of knowing there was nothing that could be found out about me to embarrass me or shame me. 

If you’ve been living with something on your conscience, you may have forgotten how wonderful it is to have a clear conscience. Let me urge you to do whatever you have to do to keep that clear conscience before God, and then of course you’ll have a clear conscience before people as well. When you don’t lie, you don’t have to worry about covering up. When you do your work well, you don’t have to worry about getting caught. When you’re true and loyal to your relationships, you don’t have to worry about being found out.

What do you need to do today to have a clear conscience before God and man? Don’t delay whatever it is. You’re in for great stress relief and new joy when you do.

So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

                                                                                                                    Acts 24:16            

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Critical Heart

I’m pretty quick with the criticism. I can size people up before they open their mouths. And yet, I always want people to give me a break. Can’t you understand that I’m busy, and that’s why I didn’t speak to you? Don’t you see how tired I am and that’s why I seemed abrupt? Surely you realize that I have an appointment in ten minutes and I can’t be late?

Jesus has given us some very practical and important directives about being critical and judgmental. If we want people to give us a break and not judge our book by its cover or jump to unfair conclusions, we’ve got to do the same for them.

Often we judge people by their bad moments and then we keep that image of their bad moment with us at all times. Think about your rushed days and bad moments–would you want your reputation to be damaged because someone saw you at a bad time and kept that impression of you uppermost in his or her mind? 

If we want others to be kind in their judgments of us, to give us a break, then we must extend the same privilege to them. A judgmental, critical spirit is anything but Christ-like. Hold your critical thoughts and tongue today; tell yourself you probably don’t know the whole story; choose instead to think of some positive things about that person. Remember, every time you choose to judge someone else, you are heaping judgment on yourself.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

                                                                                                                                                Matthew 7:1-2

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Trivialities of Life

For a Christian, I think the best definition of a triviality is anything that has no eternal significance. Now, there's no way to completely rid our lives of trivialities. We have to brush our teeth and make coffee, chit-chat with friends and co-workers, get the mail and take the clothes to the cleaners, for example. hey are trivial, but they are a large part of our everyday lives.

However, some people are tormented by trivialities. They fret and fuss about those things which have no eternal significance, and are easily upset if something trivial goes wrong.

If the trivialities of life get to you too easily, ask God to make you aware of what is trivial and what is not. When I catch myself becoming upset or consumed by some triviality, I ask myself, "Mary, what difference will this make in twenty-four hours?" I find that a great majority of those trivialities which are tormenting me at the moment won't make a bit of difference tomorrow. This really helps me to recognize trivialities quickly so I can laugh at them, turn them over to the Lord and forget them.

As believers we have the unbelievable ability to turn trivialities into eternal happenings. How?  Use those short conversations to give someone a pat on the shoulder, a word of encouragement, a small compliment. While you're doing those trivial duties, sing songs to encourage yourself, memorize Scripture, listen to good music. When you're driving along with your family, turn the conversation to wholesome and encouraging topics. These kinds of things transform otherwise trivial, insignificant moments and duties into eternally significant moments.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

                                                                                                                                Colossians 3:17

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Gaining Eternal Perspective at Work

A young boy was reading a thrilling mystery book when his mom insisted he put the book down and do his chores. "But, mom, I'm in the fourth chapter and the villain has the hero in his clutches. Looks like he's going to die! I can't quit now." But mom insisted so hurriedly he flips to the last chapter and reads the final page. He then bounds into the kitchen where his mother is waiting and says, "Wow, that old villain is doing real good in Chapter 4, but just wait till he gets to the end of the book. Is he in for a surprise."  It looked liked disaster in Chapter 4, but when you know the end, then Chapter 4 takes on a whole new perspective.

You go to a job where God is irrelevant to the people around you. Where his name is used only in profanity, and they seemingly give no thought to God as Creator, Ruler, or Sovereign. You're in a daily environment where a commitment to Jesus Christ is looked upon as foolish, naive, laughable. When you apply biblical principles in your everyday world, people take advantage of you, ignore you, or discount your ideas altogether.

You're walking the straight and narrow, but what for? Where does it get you? The other team does what they please, and get ahead for it.

I want to encourage you to remember one thing:  The final chapter has been written, and we know what the end will be. Maybe you're in Chapter 4 t­oday, and you need to flip to the end and read the last page. It's already been written, and I can tell you the outcome:  Jesus wins and those of us who are his followers will win and reign with him. Read Revelations 20, 21, and 22 today. 

Remember, God has not lost control of this world. He is bringing it to its end in his time and for his purposes. He is Sovereign and he still reigns in heaven. 

However, as it is written, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”                                                1 Corinthians 2:9

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Impose Discipline

I find myself trapped in this human dilemma:  I have a strong drive to accomplish and achieve, but I am not a naturally disciplined person. I am learning a very important lesson:  Lack of discipline is self-inflicted suffering! If I refuse to impose discipline on myself, I will inflict suffering on myself.

What I've also learned is that when I start to lose discipline in one area of my life, it spills over to others. For example, if I let down my discipline and eat all kinds of things today that I know I shouldn't eat, I'm likely to skip the exercise program in the morning, because I'll think, "Well, what's the use of exercising after you ate all that pie yesterday!"

Where is your discipline weak? Is it eating habits, exercise, organization, time management, laziness or procrastination? Choose one—just one—and begin a prayer campaign. Admit to God your weakness when it comes to discipline in that area and ask for strength.

Then design some gimmicks or structures that force the discipline on you. Ask for help; tell people what you're going to do so you can be held accountable. That will help to impose that discipline.  Then, just do it! Start today! You're going to discover that adding discipline to your life is indeed the road to real life. You'll get rid of guilt, feel good about yourself, and know that you're using your gifts, time and energy as God wants you to. 

To acquire a disciplined life, you will have to pay a price. But it's a big bargain. Go for it!

He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.

                                                                                                                                                Proverbs 15:32

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Suffering in the Workplace

Have you ever suffered in the workplace for doing good ? A friend of mine once refused to falsify some government reports as instructed by his employer and as a result, he lost his job. He was unemployed for quite a few months before finding another job and that caused his family a financial hardship. He suffered for doing good.

I think of another woman who was caught cheating on the books where she worked. She had actually filtered money for herself and it eventually caught up with her. She lost her job, too, but she suffered for doing evil.

Suffering is never enjoyable, whether you’re suffering for doing good or doing evil. But there is a great reward for those who do God’s will, who do the right thing regardless of the personal cost, and suffer for doing so. Peter goes on to tell us “So, then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” 1 Peter 4:19.

So, if you're suffering slander or malicious treatment on your job, make sure it's for doing good not evil. And if you are suffering for doing good, take joy that you are counted worthy to share in the suffering of Christ, and “continue to do good” regardless of the consequences.

Keep a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 

                                                                                                                1 Peter 3:16-17

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Avoid Gloating

There was a time in my career when I worked for a very difficult man. I spent many unhappy days in that job because of the way he treated me and others. After about a year God revealed to me that I had great malice in my heart toward him. 

I certainly had never thought of myself as a malicious person, but there it was all over my heart: dirty, ugly malice. I wanted bad things to happen to him. I dreamed about him making some gigantic mistake and being fired. I wished and hoped he would get his “comeuppance.” That is malice.

Years later after we had both left that company I heard of some stumbles he had made. I guess you could say he got what was coming to him. What goes around comes around, and all that. But, by God’s grace, I had gotten rid of that malice toward him, and I was very saddened to hear that things were not going well for him. It brought no satisfaction or joy to learn that he had stumbled.

We should never gloat over someone else’s misfortune, even if they brought it on themselves. First Corinthians 13 reminds us that Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth 1 Corinthians 13:6. Dig deep in your heart today and see if there is any malice hiding there. If so, get it cleaned out fast and let God’s love fill your heart instead.  

Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.
                                                                                                                                         Proverbs 24:17

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Accepting Change as Opportunity for Growth

A woman came to work for me who had never touched a computer. After forty years in the workplace, she was now faced with the challenge of learning to use a computer. I learned later that she was frightened about the prospects of learning this new technology, but she determined in her heart that she wouldn’t let a computer defeat her, and claimed the promise that she could do all things through him who gave her strength. She was convinced Christ would give her the ability to learn to use a computer. And she did!

CHANGE! We don’t like it, do we? But in order to thrive in any work environment today, we need to be adaptable. This wonderful promise from Philippians is a great one to hold on to when you’re facing an uncomfortable challenge.

Don't be afraid of change. Remember that you can only grow by changing, so the change you’re facing could be a hidden blessing. You can trust God to give you the strength, the knowledge, the aptitude, the patience, and the attitude you need to make that needed change.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
                                                                                                                Philippians 4:13

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Overcoming Fears of the Future

Many people are dealing with the harsh reality of layoffs and “rightsizing.” Has it happened to you? Perhaps you’re facing the possibility of accepting a position with less pay, or losing that overtime money, or doing without that big bonus you were counting on.

This is a good time to check out what and who you really trust. Employment and financial insecurity can quickly reveal some hidden fears within us. Losing that security—or even just having it threatened--can make us see how much we’ve depended on ourselves instead of our God. 

There have been nights that I’ve lain in my bed, sleepless, wondering where the money was coming from to meet my needs. Those were faithless nights of panic and worry. I’m learning to go back to the basics of this wonderful verse and remind myself that God has committed himself to take care of me and meet all of my needs. His riches in Christ Jesus are beyond measure and overflowing. Therefore, I can–and must–learn to trust him.

If you're facing job or money insecurity today, ask God to make this a time when you learn to trust him in new ways. You may discover that this can be an incredibly meaningful time of learning to trust God.

                And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
                                                                                                                                Philippians 4:19

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

When a Co-worker Tries to Make You Look Bad

Have you ever worked with a person who tried to make you look bad and undermined your position with the boss, in order to make himself or herself look better? How should a Christian react and respond in this predicament?

Of course, we always start with prayer—lots of prayer for this person, as well as for wisdom and understanding. Prayer really helps us gain God's perspective, and without that perspective, our reactions are bound to be less than Christ-like.

Next, find a way to communicate openly with this person, to confront his or her behavior. Obviously, you will need to tailor your approach to fit the circumstances of your own situation, but a few things are important to remember. 

Have you ever noticed that Jesus frequently confronted people over a meal? There's something about sharing a meal together which presents a good environment for touchy discussions. Invite this person to lunch or dinner, your treat, and see if you can open up the communication channels.

Remember that your choice of words is most critical. Give those words much thought and prayer.  If you start by saying, "You know, I’m really sick and tired of the way you always try to make me look bad so you'll look good," you're not likely to have much success. However, you might promote a good communication session if you say, "You know, I think we both recognize the value of a pleasant working environment, and I want to do whatever I can to make that happen. I have sensed some difficulty in our working relationship, and I thought it might be helpful to just talk about it and see if we could find some common understanding that would alleviate that tension.”

Finally, remember that you don't have to cover everything in one conversation. Be willing to take baby steps, and allow time to help.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
                                                                                                                                          Colossians 4:6

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Working with Total Integrity

Have you ever been faced with an ethical decision on your job? Were you ever tempted to adjust those figures a bit to make yourself look better? Or cut a corner here and there on the expense account for a few extra bucks in your pocket? Or lie to your boss to avoid blame for a problem?

Maybe you’ve been asked or urged or told to do something unethical. Like lying about your boss’s availability, or your product’s capability, or your company’s service. The ethical decision you face is a simple one; it’s not difficult to figure out what is the right thing to do. But it may not be easy for you to make that decision because you may indeed put yourself or your job at some risk.

Remember what Solomon taught us: When you walk in integrity, doing what you know is the right thing to do whether it’s easy or not, your path is secure. You’re on solid ground. You don’t have to lie awake at night wondering if you’ll be found out. You will walk securely. 

On the other hand, if you take the crooked path, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, you compromise your integrity and risk your testimony for Jesus Christ. You put yourself on a crooked path, and eventually it will be found out. Even when no one else is watching, God knows.

                The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

                                                                                                Proverbs 10:9

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Your Work Reveals Your Character

Did you ever realize that your work tells what kind of person you are? The Bible tells us that the works of God reveal to us what kind of God he is. The beauty of his creation, the majesty and grandeur of his universe give us a clear view of his character and his personality.

That's true of us, as well. Now that's a little scary, when you think about it. Just suppose someone who doesn't know you at all was asked to write a description of you based upon an audit and inspection of your work. What would that audit reveal?

Are you careful to do your work with thoroughness, or would your work reveal a careless attitude? Does your work show that you are considerate of the person at the receiving end or at the next stage of your work? Or would the inspector conclude that you're in a hurry to get through and get going, because your work is sloppy?

When your work involves dealing with other people, would it reveal an attitude of respect and concern for others? Do you think the inspector would conclude that you care about other people, and you treat everyone with respect? Or would it reveal that you are callous toward other people, that you can’t be bothered to be kind and considerate? 

As I look at the work of God's hands, I know so much about his loving, caring nature. I see all around me evidence that he is a merciful and bountiful God, a God who wants to bestow blessings and goodness on me. His work reveals his character to me.

Our work reveals our character as well. At the end of each day we need to ask ourselves what kind of impression our work has left behind us. Think about the week that is just behind you. Would you be pleased to have someone describe you based on the work you've done this last week? It's a good question we need to ask ourselves frequently.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
                                                                                                Psalm 19:1-2

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Motivating Words

Are you responsible to train someone on your job? Whether you’re a manager, a trainer, or an experienced co-worker, you’re likely to have some training assignments, formal or informal. There are also those occasions when you must require certain performance or behavior from your employees or co-workers. How can we motivate and inspire others to do what has to be done?

Solomon advises us to use pleasant words. We still catch more flies with honey than vinegar, as they say. It’s amazing how differently people react to the same message given in different words. I can say, “I have a suggestion. . .”, or “You’ve got to do this right away. . .”, each followed by my instructions. Which words do you think would be more pleasant? 

The New American Standard Bible has a slightly different translation of this verse from Proverbs 16: “The wise in heart will be called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” Sweetness of speech is the art of making your words easy to swallow. It is not hypocrisy or phoniness; it is the wisdom of thinking ahead and choosing words that create a positive rather than a negative reaction.

As a Christian manager or trainer or fellow employee, remember that your choice of words can make all the difference in whether people want to follow you or not. Increase your persuasiveness and effectiveness today by choosing pleasant words that go down easy.

The wise in heart are called discerning, and pleasant words promote instruction.
                                                                                                Proverbs 16:21

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Work for Jesus

Have you ever been “passed over” for a promotion or raise that you knew you deserved? It can be discouraging not to get credit for our contributions at work. And yet, these things happen all the time.

We live and work in a world that is neither fair nor kind. That’s because the world is full of people who have a sin problem, including us! And that sin problem creates injustice of all sorts.

Injustice is one of my toughest hurdles. I always want to fight when I think my rights or someone else’s rights are being violated. As you can imagine, this tendency has gotten me into some hot water and created not a few problems in my work life. I have to remind myself continually that if I serve wholeheartedly as unto the Lord, the recognitions and rewards will come in due time. 

As Christians, we pick up our paychecks at your place of work, but our real job is pleasing the Lord and working for him. Our reward is waiting for us in heaven—but we can reap the benefits now, too. Just imagine how your stress level will drop as thoughts of vengeance and discontent are replaced with calm satisfaction over a job well done!

Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
                                                                                                                                            Ephesians 6:7

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Year of Sidestepping Jesus

Avoid. Bypass. Duck. Evade. Dance around.

Sidestep. We’ve all done it.

Avoiding eye contact in the church lobby with a woman you enjoyed working with on a committee at church until you had THAT discussion.

Crossing the street when you see a neighbor who just lost his wife in a car accident.

Letting your phone go to voicemail rather than answer a call from someone who frequently asks for help.

Time for me to confess. No pretty, euphemistic way to say it.

I spent a year—at least at year—sidestepping Jesus.

I didn’t do it to be mean. In fact, I thought I did it to be kind.  You see, people I love dearly have developed an aversion to Jesus. They don’t want to talk about Him. They don’t want to hear about Him. And they vocally state that they no longer believe Jesus is God and that His death on the cross makes any difference.


My peacemaker instinct reared its head. What to do?

Continue to speak of Jesus despite awkward silences or perhaps hostile retorts?

Reframe Jesus to make Him more approachable?

Sidestep Jesus by talking in general terms about God rather than specifically naming Jesus?

Sidestepping Jesus seemed the kind, gentle way of keeping the peace. Or so I reasoned. And thus began my year, or more, of sidestepping Jesus.

When I wrote my book Storm Sisters, I carefully referenced God and included scripture verses. But I purposely limited my references to Jesus. I rationalized my decision: I want people who don’t believe in Jesus to open the pages of my book and think about the Bible and about God. I don’t want them to stumble over Jesus, particularly his birth, death, and resurrection.

After my book released, a friend said to me over coffee, “I read your book and liked it. I wondered why I didn’t see a lot of Jesus in it.”

Months later I signed on to work with the Alpha course (a series of interactive sessions that freely explore the basics of the Christian faith), confident that I had learned how to speak of Christianity in a peace-making, non-polarizing sort of way. A sidestepping-Jesus-sort-of-way.

When I glanced at our list of topics for our weeks together, Session Two gave me pause: Who Is Jesus?

 Really? Why couldn’t we save this topic for later in our discussion?  Ease into it in a sidestepping sort of way? After all, most of these people did not yet call themselves believers in God.

Well, we did not wait. We jumped in to Jesus on Week Two using the book Questions of Life by Alpha founder Nicky Gumbel. Nicky gives a clear, rational, historical defense of Jesus. Our guest speaker that day added to our reading, speaking earnestly and winsomely of Jesus.

Did people flinch? No.

Did people respond with angry retorts? No.

Did they ask questions? Yes.

Did we have a respectful conversation? Yes.

I watched and listened. And I began to squirm. Sidestepping Jesus suddenly no longer seemed a kind gesture; instead it appeared blazingly bright as something else—cowardice. Deep down, I knew I had sidestepped Jesus because I feared I could not defend Him against public scrutiny.
And yet, around that Alpha table that morning and later as we studied the Gospel of Luke together, Jesus held His own. I had seen this same phenomenon happen years earlier in a neighborhood Bible study as we studied and discussed honestly the Gospel of Mark.

On that Alpha morning, as my cowardice washed over me, I realized that by sidestepping Jesus, I had actually sidestepped the central focus of my faith—the very core of Christianity.

Forgive me, dearest Jesus. Forgive me.

Written By Afton Rorvik

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Confronting an Incompetent Boss

Should we ever confront an incompetent boss or take any steps to try to correct this kind of situation? I'd like to share some guidelines to consider in deciding whether or not to confront your incompetent boss. 

First, is this person's incompetence truly affecting the quality of the product or service that the customer receives? Is it truly causing unfair treatment for employees, others as well as yourself? Is she or he doing things which are contrary to your organization's stated standards and policies? In other words, is there a larger picture here than simply your own irritations and frustrations at having to work for an incompetent manager?

If you're convinced there is a larger picture, then confrontation may be advisable. But, again, this must be done with great respect for their authority. You look for ways to make suggestions for improvement without pointing the finger at them. You try to find a way to make it look like their idea to which you are contributing. You do everything you can not to undermine their own self-image as the boss.

Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness, as we read in Proverbs 16:21, and if we truly want to help our incompetent manager to improve, we have to make our suggestions with carefully chosen words. I am not suggesting we use flattery or deceit of any kind. But if we look long enough, we can find something good to say about them and to them, something positive to lead off with, some way to confront without seeming confrontational.

It's not easy; I know. But let me tell you this. It's a whole bunch easier than doing it the other way. If you've been stewing and fretting over your incompetent boss; if you're constantly frustrated because you want to get rid of him or her or tell them off; if you've been angry at having to put up with their incompetence–tell me, has that been easy? 

Of course not. It's more natural than following biblical principles, but it's not easier. It's harder - takes a much greater mental and emotional toll on you. Doesn't it make sense, then, to simply ask God to give you His perspective and His power to deal with your incompetent boss in a Christ-like way? The good news is, because of Jesus we have the power to do it. But we have to be willing to follow His principles and allow Him to do it through us.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dealing with an Incompetent Boss

If you've been in the business world very long, it's likely you've run into a manager who just wasn't doing the job right.  We need to know biblical principles in dealing with these people.

Someone once told me that you can learn as much from an incompetent or bad manager as you can from a good one, and I think that's probably true.  But the learning is more difficult and painful! 

One biblical principle we need to consider is our attitude toward those in authority.  While we recognize that level or position does not make anyone better than anyone else, Romans 13 gives us clear teaching on authority.  Verses 1 and 2 tell us:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

God has established authority as the order for the universe.  And if it were not for the principle of authority, we would have nothing but chaos.  The same is true in our business world.  Authority is essential.  

But we see so much evidence that many people in authority are neither godly nor competent.  Can their authority be God-given?  Yes, even though they may not use their position well or appropriately, their authority is nonetheless from God, and as Christians we are to respect it.  To rebel against that is to rebel against God's order, and, Paul said, it will bring judgment on us.

Obviously, we're going to need special grace and strength to be able to submit to and respect incompetent management. 

First Timothy 2:1 - 2 tells us to offer requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving for everyone, for kings and all those in authority.  We are to pray for those in authority, and we are to pray for peaceful relationships with them.  Now, if you're dealing with an incompetent boss, have you been praying for him or her regularly?  This is where it starts, and until you begin to truly pray for them, you won't see much change in your attitude or in their behavior.

Smart employees understand that their job description includes making your boss look good.  The world uses that principle as a manipulative tool, but we have other reasons to do it.  First Corinthians 13 describes the kind of love we are to develop in our lives, a love that is like God's love.  And that kind of love "does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
One of the typical things that happens when we encounter an incompetent boss is that we talk about that person in derogatory ways.  It's easy to do.  A friend was sharing with me that her boss is very difficult and no one agrees with the way her boss runs the department.  She has no trouble gaining confirmation from her coworkers that her negative attitude toward her boss is justified; everyone feels the same way.

It's likely if you truly work for an incompetent boss that everyone else feels the same way you do, and therefore, at lunch and on breaks that's what you talk about.  Instead of covering up the offense, you repeat the matter and make the situation much worse.

If you work for an incompetent or difficult boss, stop talking about him or her to other people.  Pray for that boss; talk to the Lord; get counsel from respected Christians outside the company.  As Christians we are to ever be seeking to have God's love fill us and overflow through us to everyone in our lives, including our incompetent bosses.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Think About What You Think About

I want to talk about one of the most critical areas of your life and mine—our thought lives. Our thought patterns are controlling us in ways we often do not even realize. Truly we must learn to think about what we think about.

In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul says we are to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  Honestly, we are in a daily battle as to who will control our thoughts. And when we practice this most important principle of bringing every individual thought into captivity—making certain our thoughts stay within biblical guidelines—it is absolutely transformational. Most of your problems and mine begin with wrong thought patterns, and so often we don’t even know it because we don’t think about what we think about.

Philippians 4:8 gives us some clear guidelines for our thought:  "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

The secret to controlling our thought life is for us to agree to these limits and to bring our thoughts into these parameters. Let me illustrate it this way. Many of you have skated on a lovely frozen pond in winter time. You can go anywhere you like on that frozen surface with freedom and pleasure. 

But if you decide you want to skate further than the pond extends, you'll find it a little difficult. Once you leave the frozen surface, your skates will bog down, and you will lose all the freedom you've had on the pond. So, you decide to stay within the boundaries of the frozen pond, knowing that any other decision is foolhardy.

Do you get the picture? God has set boundaries for our thinking, and within those boundaries we have tremendous freedom. When we refuse to stay within those restrictions, we lose our freedom because we become victims of our own thinking.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Trusting God with Singleness

One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11:  “‘For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plan to give you hope and a future.'" That's a good verse to quote when you start to think that the future is bleak because there aren't enough Christian men to go around. God has good plans for you, with or without a man or marriage.

You can know a totally fulfilling life when your life is filled up with Jesus Christ. He has promised us life abundant, and that's exactly what he has for you. You may be missing it altogether because you're looking for it in one place—a Christian man—and the Lord wants to deliver through another avenue. How often have I missed a blessing God had for me because I was dictating the terms to God, while he was trying to get me to see he had a better idea? 

The scarcity of Christian men is not our major problem as single women. Our major problem is learning to trust God in every area of our lives. Most of our frustrations can be traced to our poor understanding of who God is, and to our failure to trust him completely. In my own life, I can see it at every turn: The more I know about God, the more I trust him. The more I trust him, the less I worry—about men or anything else. And the less I worry, the more I am contented and joyful and filled with the fullness of Jesus Christ.

Please don't be fearful about the possibility that you may never get married. You can trust God—he is trustworthy, and he has good plans for you, married or single.

In my book, Common Mistakes Singles Make, I discuss these issues and many more in greater detail.  I’d love for you to have a copy of this book.It is on sale this week for $4, this including shipping.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Common Mistakes Singles Make

I'm going to talk about some common mistakes singles make. I've written a book by that title, and believe me, I'm totally qualified to speak on the topic, since I'm single and I've made a lot of mistakes. 

If you're a single Christian woman, tell the truth: Have you ever said, "Where can you find a really outstanding Christian man?" I admit, it's not easy. I'm sure men think it's not easy to find just the woman they want either, but it's no secret that there are usually more women than men involved in church and Christian groups. 

What is your first thought when you see or meet a new Christian man? Let me guess: Is he single? Or Is he taken? That’s a pretty normal first thought, but we need to learn to immediately abandon that line of thinking. Grab that thought pattern and refuse to go there. So much of this battle is in our minds, so don’t allow yourself to think of men as potential partners.

It’s not wrong to pray that God will fulfill your desire to be married, but that prayer has to conclude with “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done,” as Jesus prayed. 

Telling God there is only one option for our lives and insisting that marriage is the only acceptable plan demonstrates our total lack of trust in a God who created us, knows us better than we know ourselves, and has good plans for us.

Do you find you are feeling sorry for yourself or commiserating with other single women about the shortage of men? This is an easy trap to fall into, but I urge you to discourage these conversations.

They certainly do you no good and they can keep you mired in negative thinking.

Not having a man in your life is not the end of the world. You’re not in an eternal holding pattern. Life doesn’t begin with marriage! While it’s totally normal to desire marriage and a family, it’s a sign of maturity when you can trust God with your future. And that battle is in your mind!

If you’re single or know someone who is, you might want to get a copy of my book, Common Mistakes Singles Make. It is on sale this week for $4 this including shipping.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Think About What You Think About DVD Bible Study Sale!

You've heard the phrase that our computer age has generated: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Well, it's not only true of computers; it's also true of our minds. 

One important element in creating a right thought life is to carefully guard what you put into your mind.  If you put garbage into your mind, your thought life will reflect that input.

What do you read? Trashy novels, trivial magazines, secular newspapers? Do you spend more time reading God's Word and good Christian material than you do reading the world's literature, even if it's not necessarily evil? You will never change your thinking if you're reading trash, or failing to read the Bible consistently with top priority over all other reading.

What do you listen to? Are you soaking up the world's music? Much of the lyrics are absolutely evil.  Those lyrics get into your mind. What kind of conversations do you listen to? Do you subject yourself to off-color conversations, gossipy conversations, critical conversations? Your thinking won't change with that kind of input going into your mind.

If you will change the input into your mind, you'll be amazed how your thinking will change. Of course, an essential is the Word of God, poured into your mind regularly and systematically. Scripture memorization is a fantastic way to program your mind correctly. Good reading has helped me immensely. 

I simply can't over-emphasize the importance of guarding your mind closely. The world we live in is full of garbage, and we've become desensitized to it. Remember, garbage in, garbage out. 

For right thinking we are promised two wonderful things in Romans 8:6: "The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace."

Life and peace.You can't buy them, you can't earn them, you can't manufacture them. They come to you as a result of having a mind set on the Spirit of God, having a thought life that stays carefully within biblical boundaries.

This is such an important Christian principle, that I’ve written a book on it and now we’ve produced a DVD Bible Study entitled Think About What You Think About. I am convinced that in my own life, the pathway to freedom and joy is to learn to think about what I think about and bring my wrong thought patterns into the captivity of Jesus Christ.

This new DVD Bible study is available and you can use it individually or in a group setting. It includes seven lessons, and is designed to be easy to use, with my commentary on the DVD for each lesson and a participant’s guide for discussion. And it gives you much more help in how to be set free from the wrong thought patterns of your life. Believe me, whether you realize it or not, you may be suffering greatly because you’ve developed some truly wrong thought patterns and they are holding you in bondage.

I can testify to you, as one who is still learning this principle, that it makes wonderful differences in your life. I hope you’ll consider getting this very reasonably priced DVD Bible study, perhaps using it in a small group setting or on your own. I truly believe it will help you apply biblical principles that can be a true turning point in your life.  The Think About What You Think About DVD Bible Study is on sale this week at 20% off. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Defeating Discouragement

Have you ever had an experience like Alexander from the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? For me, it has been a terrible, no good, very bad few months.  

Now discouragement is something I don’t feel very often, but all these little problems are starting to cause a feeling of defeat in my life. Thankfully, I recognized early on how I was feeling and saw my need to rely on God through this trial. But during this time I have to constantly remind myself to turn to God to sustain me and not earthly things.

In Mary Whelchel’s Bible Study Defeating Discouragement she focuses each chapter on someone from the Bible who has been discouraged. It was so great to read that I am not the only one that wants to run away and sleep all day when facing tough situations. It’s been going on for thousands of years!

Elijah (1 Kings 18:36-40) needed rest in the middle of his struggle and ate for health to continue his journey for Christ. How important is this to realize that rest is needed while facing trials and so is eating for health. I often feel guilty when I rest b/c I have a long list of “to do’s” running through my head and yet, after reading this story, it was comforting to see it is not a sin or laziness to “rest” when in the midst of the storms in our life.

God also led Elijah to Elisha (1Kings 19:19-21). Elisha was Elijah’s encourager to keep on going on.  I want to encourage you today, wherever you may be, to pray and ask God to bring an Elisha into your life to help love you through whatever trial you may be facing. 

"Hope is one of the missing ingredients in our lives when we are discouraged. God wants us to have hope, and that’s why we have the written scriptures. They give us hope. Therefore, as you and I study these godly people of the Bible, it will build our hope and faith.”  Mary Whelchel

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 1: 4

For more helpful and biblical advice on how to defeat the discouragement, you may be facing now, order a copy of Mary Whelchel’s Bible Study Defeating Discouragement.  Our Bible Studies are on sale this summer for only $5.  Take advantage of this deal by calling 630-462-0552 or order online.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Become a Barnabas on the Job

Become a Barnabas on the Job

Do you have a nickname?  Often we get stuck with nicknames from our childhood, or sometimes people will pin a nickname on us based on a certain characteristic, and it may not necessarily be flattering.  However, there is one person in the Bible who was given a nickname because of a very wonderful trait.  His name was Joseph, but the apostles called him Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement.  You’ll read about it in Acts 4.

Imagine people calling you a name that signified you were an encouraging person.  I can’t think of a greater compliment, can you?  I want to show you how you can become a Barnabas in your workplace; you can be known as a person who encourages others.  A good friend, Traci Mason, has compiled these ideas and allowed me to share them with you.

Now, mind you, this will take some time and effort on your part, but the return on your investment will be eternal!

So, here are some practical ways you can become a Barnabas where you work:

Ø  Write notes.  Handwritten notes are almost extinct.  Keep a supply of note cards and encourage colleagues by placing a note on their desk, in their mailbox, or in their hand.  It’s easy to make personalized cards on our computers now; so get creative and write a note just to encourage someone.

Ø  Send e-cards.  It’s really easy to send an e-card to your coworkers just to let them know you are thinking of them.  You can even send the same card to multiple addresses.  Employees receive messages that make requests and give instructions.  They would surely welcome something more pleasant in the in-box, and an e-card would be a pleasant surprise. 

Ø  Remember birthdays.  Find out the birthdates of coworkers, put them on your calendar, and simply give each coworker a birthday card to help them celebrate their special day.  I’ve begun doing that for the women in my church, and we send out birthday cards here too, and I’ve been amazed at how many people are encouraged to receive a special birthday card—and it’s so easy to do!

Ø  Smile!  Did you realize that by a simple smile you could cheer someone up and encourage someone?  Smiles are contagious and can brighten the atmosphere where you work.  When talking to or passing by others, just turn up the corners of your mouth and flash them a radiant smile.  Costs you nothing, and it could really make a difference in someone’s day.

Ø  Greet people!  As you enter the workplace, greet coworkers with a simple, “Good morning.”  You never know the energy it took for others to arrive at work.  A pleasant greeting can start a person’s day off right and possibly help them forget about their troubles.

Ø  Be the Welcome Committee.  When a new employee joins the staff, introduce yourself and offer to be of assistance.  Help that person find his or her way around, offer to have lunch together.  Think how comforting it could be to that new colleague, because being the new person can be challenging and a little frightening.

Ø  Share your lunch.  Purposely take more than you can eat for lunch and invite a coworker to eat with you.  Or if you baked something special and have some leftovers, bring it in for others to enjoy. You could go the extra mile and ask them ahead of time to share lunch with you the next day.

Ø  Offer to help your boss.  That’s what I said—offer to help your boss.  Instead of running from work or assignments, ask your boss what you can do today to help him or her, especially if you know that your boss is under a lot of pressure.  Bosses need help just like everybody else, yet often they are overlooked.

Ø  Be sensitive to the sniffles.  Working while you’re sick isn’t easy.  When those in your work environment suffer with colds, give care packages.  Items such as cough drops, soup, tissues, tea or peppermint will provide relief and help them get through the day.

Ø  Acknowledge good work.  Even if you’re not a manager, you notice when coworkers do good things, and often they are not acknowledged.  You could acknowledge it with a word, or an email, or a written note, just to let them know that someone notices the effort they put into a job and it was appreciated.

Ø  Offer to pray for a coworker.  There are many times when a coworker shares a worry or concern with you, either personal or job-related.  Instead of allowing it to degrade into a griping or gossip session, simply offer to pray for that person.  You may not be able to pray at that moment on the job, but you can assure them that you will remember that situation in prayer.  I believe you’ll find that some coworkers will begin to share prayer requests with you when they realize that you’re willing to pray for them.

Ø  Listen.  If a coworker wants to share a problem with you, take the time to listen and give that person your devoted attention.  Obviously, you need to be careful not to take advantage of time you should be working, but a listening ear can be one of the most encouraging things you can do for a coworker.

Ø  Be a good employee.  It’s not always easy to submit to your boss, but that is what Christians in the workplace are to do.  When given instructions, follow them—unless they would cause you to compromise your integrity.  Remember, you are working for Jesus and he is your true boss.  Just being a good employee will be encouraging to your boss, if no one else, but it also sets a good example for others.

Ø  Take second place.  Be willing to be the last in line, to take the worst seat, to let someone else take credit.  That’s not easy to do sometimes, but it’s the servant attitude that Jesus had, and we need to have it as well.

Ø  Apologize.  If you’ve made a mistake, done something you should not have done, said something you should not have said, own up to it as soon as possible and simply apologize.  A friend of mine says the biggest difference between her and her coworkers who are not believers is that she apologizes more than they do!  Well, an apology can go a long way toward relieving tension in relationships, and it will indeed be an act of encouragement.

I often think of that old song, Home on the Range, where never is heard a discouraging word!  You remember that song.  Well, wherever that range is, it’s not where most of us work, is it.  So, we need to become Barnabases—people who refuse to be discouraged, and instead, offer words of encouragement to those around us.  It’s what Jesus would do, and we need to be his ambassador right where we work.

This should be a trademark of a Christian—to be an encouraging person.  And whether you have the gift of encouragement or not, we can all learn to be encouragers.  I trust these simple ideas I’ve shared with you will cause you to stop and think about what you can do to be a more effective encourager—to be a Barnabas in your workplace.