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