Friday, May 29, 2009

Sabotaging Our Faith Pt. 2

In last week’s column, I wrote about seven things that the Christian can learn from the article Seven Career Killers, by Erin Burt, with The author’s focus is on subtle ways to sabotage a career. The purpose of my column is to show that we can sabotage our Christian lives with some of the same problems.

Previously, I covered the first four, which are procrastinating, having a sense of entitlement, settling into your job description, and avoiding office politics. This week, we will cover the remaining three. The words from the original career article by Erin Burt with are in italics.

5. Not being a team player. Getting stuck with this label is one of the fastest career killers. While there are times that all of us would love to take a vow of silence and join a monastery, that is not the way God intended for us to live. There is ample evidence in the Bible, that God expects us to join together as believers. In that joining together, we are also to get along. Remember, that it wasn’t until the disciples were in “one accord” in the upper room, that the Holy Spirit descended. Likewise, unless we as Christians can “play nicely together”, we will never know the true awesome power of God. (1 Corinthians 12, Titus 2)

6. Not dressing the part. In an ideal world, you would be judged by your merits alone. However, we live in a visual society. How you present yourself can play a crucial role in the progress of your career. You want to look professional and in control, not sloppy and indifferent. How do we look to the world? In a recent sermon, I referenced a study which polled 1,402 adults who had not attended a religious service at a church, synagogue or mosque in the previous six months. The study, that was done by Lifeway Research, found that 72% of those surveyed, think the church is full of hypocrites. The people outside the church see the way Christians treat each other. They see the outward image that we sometimes portray, and they want no part of it. Paul refers to the “armor” that we should put on three times in his letters. In fact, the things he mentions in Ephesians 6 are exactly what we should wear each day. (Romans 13:12, 2 Corinthians 6:7, and Ephesians 6:10-19)

7. Failing to network. You've heard that networking can be a good tool to help you find a job, but maintaining your contacts after you're hired is critical to the continuing success of your career. It is possible to be a Christian without serving others. However, this is how we as Christians need to behave. We should all be about service. A good way to begin, is to find out what your spiritual gifts are, and then plug in to some ministry in your church. If there is not a ministry already in place that you see a need for and feel a passion towards, then speak with someone about starting it. There are many ways that we as Christians can serve one another. God does not call us to be saved and then sit down and wait on the second coming of Christ. He calls us to be “plugged in” to our church or our community of believers. (Matthew 10:32-33 & 18:20, 1 John 1:7, Hebrews 10:24-26)

There you have it, seven things that will sabotage your Christian walk. Know that it is not an exhaustive list. However, it is a good place to start examining how we conduct ourselves as children of God. My prayer is that we will heed these suggestions and be all that we can be, for the One who died and rose again for us.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sabotaging Our Faith

I recently read an article from the Kiplinger organization, which specializes in personal finance and business forecasting. The article was titled, “Seven Career Killers”. At the beginning of the article, the author mentioned obvious things that could get you fired from a job, like lying on a resume or stealing from the company, but focused the article on more subtle ways to sabotage a career.

As I read the article, I realized that we, as Christians, can also learn some things about how to be the best we can be, from these seven “career killers”. Therefore, in this week’s column, you get some career advice, along with some ideas about how to be a better follower of Christ. You get two articles in one! What a deal! I will cover the first four this week, and the last three in next week’s column. The words from the original career article by Erin Burt, with, are in italics, with my comments following in plain print. I have also included Bible references at the end of each item so they can be used in a daily Bible study or prayer time. If you would like to read the entire article by Erin Burt, click here.

1. Procrastinating. Remember the first time you put off studying for a test then crammed at the last minute and still got a decent grade? Many of us have been procrastinating since grade school and have done just fine, but that's a habit you have to break. Sometimes, God says to wait, but when He says move, He means right then! Even at 75 years old, Abraham wasted no time in leaving his home country when God called him. God expects nothing less of us. We as Baptists are terrible at this. Sometimes when God gives us a directive, we have to have a meeting, form a feasibility committee, who then turns it over to another committee, who has to wait until the next deacons meeting to get approval. Then, another committee must be formed to put the plan into action. In the meantime, countless ministry opportunities are missed. When God says go…GO! (Proverbs 6:6-11, Hebrews 11:8-10)

2. Having a sense of entitlement. Our generation was raised on instant gratification -- we're used to getting what we want, and getting it now. Just because we serve the Creator of the Universe, does not mean that we get what we want when we want it. Sometimes we are like spoiled children with our Heavenly Father. We think that because we serve Him, nothing bad should happen to us. In fact, that is the fallacy behind the age-old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Bad things do happen to good people, but bad things happen to bad people also. We think because we are “good” that we are entitled to good things. There is no hierarchy with God. We are all workers of equal status in His Kingdom. (Matthew 5:45, Proverbs 15:3)

3. Settling into your job description. You may have your set responsibilities, but you should always be on the lookout for opportunities to shine. How many of us have been asked to perform a task in the workplace and thought, “That’s not my job!” Just as we may be asked to do something outside of our job description at work, God often asks us to do things outside of our comfort zone in life. When I was in business, I would ask employees to do things that were not a part of their job. I was testing them to see if they would do what they were asked with no questions, and to see if they could perform above their current level of responsibility. God knows our abilities. He has no reason to test us to find out what we can or will do. However, He has a great need to show us what He can do through us, when we are willing to let Him. (Matthew 14:22-33, 20:1-16)

4. Avoiding office politics. When it comes to playing office politics, there is naughty and nice. Naturally, you shouldn't engage in backstabbing and gossiping. But avoiding politics altogether can be deadly for your career. Am I suggesting that there is room for such things in God’s Kingdom? Yes. When it comes to a directive from God, we have no choice but to stand for what God has asked us to do, in spite of how others feel about it. However, we also have a responsibility to make God’s message to the world, relevant to the world. In those cases, we should never compromise the message, but we should always deliver it in a way that can be understood by the receiver.
(1 Corinthians 9:19-23, 10:31-33)

Check back next week for the next three threats to our Christian walk!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Say What You Mean & Mean What You Say!

Have you ever said something to someone that was hurtful? Maybe you were trying to get a reaction from them, but you had no idea they would be devastated by your words. Once you realized how much you had hurt them, you tried to make them feel better by saying, “I’m sorry, I was only kidding with you!”

The problem with this is that you were not kidding. You meant the hurtful thing you said and then lied about it. Our words and actions cannot be erased by trying to convince others that we are “joking” with them. No matter how much we try to fix the problem or take away the sting of our words, the scar remains on the other person’s heart forever.

The Bible says that we should watch out for this kind of behavior. Proverbs 26:18-19 reads, Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, "I was only joking!" As Christians, we especially have an obligation to say what we mean and mean what we say.

A few weeks ago, a Bloomington, Minnesota man was driving down Highway 77 with a friend in the passenger seat. The passenger asked his friend to pull over on the bridge’s emergency lane. Apparently he had consumed too many beverages, and he needed to “go”.

He got out of the car, climbed to the side of the bridge, and then looked back at his friend who was waiting in the car. He then decided to play a little joke. He pretended to fall off the side of the bridge. Ironically, the action of pretending to fall, caused him to slip, and he actually fell off the 30-foot high bridge into the marshy area below.

This man was threatening to fall off the bridge, as a joke on his friend. He knew that his friend would be concerned and upset if he fell, so he played upon that fear. However, he got more than he bargained for when he slipped. The joke was no longer a joke.

As Christians, we should always speak the truth into each other’s lives. While there is certainly room in the life of the Christian for humor, finding it at the expense of someone else is unacceptable. If we say something, it should be honest and truthful. Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37 NKJV)

We cannot count on what the advertising industry tells us about merchandise on the market. We have trouble believing what the politicians continue to promise. We certainly cannot believe most of what is passed around on the Internet. Unfortunately, we also know that our family and friends are subject to misleading us from time to time. Therefore, in this age of sarcasm, skepticism and falsehood, it is even more important for Christians to be the voice of integrity, encouragement, and honesty. Commit this passage from James to memory, and think of it the next time you speak to someone.

A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue—it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women He made in His image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! My friends, this can't go on. A spring doesn't gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don't bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don't bear apples, do they? You're not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you? (James 3:3-12 The Message)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Free Gift

When I was a kid, I used to read a ton of comic books. I had a few favorites like Batman and Sad Sack, but I basically read whatever I had. Comic books were always full of ads. Most of the time, the ads wanted you to send money for some cool toy or other items that you couldn’t find in stores.

I loved nothing more than to order these things that were advertised. The 4-6 week wait for it to arrive by mail was excruciating. I remember running to the mailbox each day to see if the item had come. I ordered such things as Charles Atlas’ bodybuilding course, Sea Monkeys, and science kits. (If you don’t know what Sea Monkeys are, you are probably too young to have seen the ads. Just click here “Sea Monkeys” to find out.)

I used to love playing with Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, so when I saw the ad for 120 cars for $1, I sent my money in right away. As I waited for my package to arrive, I dreamed of how much fun I would have with that many cars! The day finally arrived. I tore open the package and found 120 plastic cars with plastic wheels that would not roll. I was devastated. That was my first lesson in not believing everything you see in the world of advertising.

One day last week, I noticed a coupon that my secretary had with her. It caught my attention because it said in bold letters, “OUR PERFECT GIFT TO YOU!” I asked to see it to read more. The name of the store was printed in much smaller print below the headline. At the bottom there was the word, “FREE”, also in bold print. Then below that, in much smaller print, were these words, “Signature collection item of your choice”. This was followed by very small print that read, “With any pre-assembled gift set purchase.”

So, let me get this straight. You’re going to give me a free gift! How great! Oh…you mean I have to buy something in order to get the free gift? Yep. It’s right there in the small print.

A gift that you have to do something to get may be a gift, but it isn’t free. I understand the whole gift with purchase idea. I used to buy after shave as a gift for my grandfather and would usually get an umbrella or something. We used to give away items at the bank when people opened accounts. However, we never said it was free. There is simply no such thing as a free gift that has requirements to it.

I am thankful that we have received the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. There is not a thing we have to do to earn it. Good deeds cannot earn it, coming to church cannot earn it. All the goods of the world cannot buy it.

When Simon the Sorcerer offered to give Peter money, for the ability to lay hands on the sick to heal them, Peter was indignant. He replied, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin." (Acts 8:20-23 NIV)

You cannot buy this wonderful gift that God has given us. You do not have to wait on it, as I did those packages I ordered as a kid. You will not be disappointed in its power and blessings. It is freely available to all who hear God’s voice.

If you would like to know more about this wonderful gift that God has so graciously given us, please feel free to contact me or any Christian friend. Any of us will be thrilled to talk with you about it.

And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)