Category Archive: Monday Manna

  1. What Is The Value Of Customer Service?

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    August 21, 2017 – Robert J. Tamasy   Recently I was among nearly 500 people affected when a local medical facility decided to close a specialized care center that had served our area for 15 years. The patients, many of whom had been going to the center for years (10, in my case), were understandably disappointed and upset. “Irate” was a better description for some of them.

    We all were encouraged to transfer to a new, state-of-the-art, much larger facility operated by the healthcare organization in another part of the city. For many, however, that meant an additional drive of 20-30 minutes each way, depending on traffic, and having to deal with less than ideal parking accommodations at the site. Considering many of the patients are elderly and not very mobile, or recovering from recent major surgery, moving to the new center was not an appealing option.

    To justify their decision, the healthcare officials used terms such as “full utilization of a newer facility,” “advanced equipment and supportive technology,” “continuous improvement model,” “resources allocated for optimum service,” and “high rankings in key metrics.” Terminology like this might warm the hearts of corporate executives, number crunchers and stakeholders, but not the patients living in my area. They could not help but feel forsaken. Nowhere did the officials state the decision had been formulated with the best interests of the patients – the customers – being foremost in their concerns.

    So, what is the value of customer service? Can – or should – business economics and efficiencies always justify reducing or making dramatic changes to established services? Throughout my working career, I have experienced decisions of this type on numerous occasions. They are never easy. Sometimes they are justified and unavoidable; cuts may be necessary to ensure survival. At other times, however, decisions justified by dollars and cents might make good sense fiscally, but could be detrimental to long-term relationships with customers.

    If profits are paramount, customers and their interests can easily be discounted. But if disgruntled customers vote with their dollars and go elsewhere for services and products, profit-based decisions can lead to calamity. The Bible suggests how to weigh decisions between profits and people:

    Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Balance decisions by awareness of the needs and concerns of customers who will be affected. “Be sure to know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds…the lambs will provide you with clothing and the goats with the price of a field. You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed you and your family…” (Proverbs 27:23-27).

    What would you do if you were them? Substantial cuts or changes in services may be necessary, but if you were the customer affected, how would you feel and react? Might there be any more acceptable alternatives? “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).

    Is greed the primary motive? Profits serve as rewards; they also can be reinvested for a company’s growth. However, it’s important to remember the value of focusing on others. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

    © 2017. Robert J. Tamasy has written Business at Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace; Tufting Legacies; coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring, and edited numerous other books, including Advancing Through Adversity by Mike Landry. Bob’s website is www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com, and his biweekly blog is: www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com.

     

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. Have you ever been affected by a major change instituted by a business or organization that caused you inconvenience, or even hardship? If so, what were the circumstances – and how did you respond to the decisions made?

     

    1. How would you approach reaching a decision – and then implementing it – that you knew would have a negative impact on people within your organization, or its customers?

     

    1. What does “knowing the condition of your flocks” have to do with these kinds of decisions, where changes are not eagerly received – even strongly opposed by those involved?

     

    1. In your experience, how important are profits in the decision-making process? When greed and the desire to make more money are primary motivating factors, what – if anything – can be done to influence decisions that are reached?

     

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about principles it presents, consider the following passages: Matthew 10:45; Luke 22:27;
    Romans 12:10; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:7

  2. The Power Of Admitting, ‘I Don’t Know’

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    August 14, 2017 – Jim Mathis   I was at a business seminar where the instructor advised attendees to never say, “I don’t know.” She said a better response is, “That is a good question,” or “Let me find out for you.” That sounds reasonable until we realize it denies the obvious – that we really don’t know everything, and sometimes it is not possible to find suitable answers to all our questions.

    Since then I have noticed how many times I say, “I don’t know.” One morning at the tax office where I was working, the receptionist asked me why her computer said 10:30 when it was actually 9:30. I said, “I don’t know.” If I had been the IT person, I probably would have told her it was a good question and I would try to find the answer, especially since it might be indicating an even bigger problem. But not being a computer expert, a simple “I don’t know” seemed my best response. I once had a friend who cautioned about chasing “rabbit trails,” getting sidetracked by questions we did not need to answer.

    Willingness to admit we don’t know everything might be an indicator of wisdom. We should have a desire to learn continually; that is how we grow in every area of our lives. However, assuming every problem has an easy answer, or we should somehow know the answer to every question, is naïve.

    When I was in the fifth grade, sometimes the teacher would ask the class a philosophical question, such as, “Why are we here?” I remember one of my classmates responding, “We can look it up in the encyclopedia.” I suppose the student had heard all the world’s knowledge was contained in those 20 volumes, and for us, it certainly looked like it. (These days we don’t need encyclopedias. We can just “Google” the answer.)

    Today, I know a lot of things. Time, study and experience have taught me much. I am willing to pass along anything I know to anyone willing to listen, but since I don’t know everything, I am quick to admit, “I don’t know.” If nothing else, we can always suggest where or who someone might go to for the answer.

    Sometimes admitting to ourselves, “I don’t know,” is a good thing in our relationship with God. We encounter a major obstacle at work, we pray about it, and then wonder how He can resolve it: “I don’t know.” Unexpected financial issues arise and we pray about that. How can God fix this? “I don’t know,” we say. And yet, He does.

    The Bible is very clear on many matters, but there are things about God – and what He says in the Scriptures – that are not as easy to understand. This is why Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey wrote in their book, In His Image, “Jesus Christ became the visible, finite expression of the invisible, infinite, inexpressible God.” We cannot understand everything about God. If we could, He wouldn’t be God.

    We can be like the leaders of the Old Testament city of Berea, who received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what (the apostle) Paul said was true (Acts 17:11). Because as Paul wrote elsewhere, “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people” (Colossians 1:26). Our desire should be to know God as intimately as possible.

    However, we must also acknowledge God’s eternal truths are beyond full human understanding. This is why Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Trusting in God, in the workplace and our private lives, sometimes involves being willing to admit, “I don’t know.”

    Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and operates a school of photography. He formerly was a coffee shop manager and executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. How do you feel when someone asks you a question and you have to acknowledge you do not know the answer? What is your typical response?

     

    1. What is your reaction to the suggestion that instead of saying, “I don’t know,” replying, “That is a good question” or, “I will try to find out for you”? Have you done that? If so, what has been the result?

     

    1. Considering the area of faith, and our relationship with God, how comfortable are you with admitting that in understanding His ways, often we must admit, “I don’t know”?

     

    1. Have you ever had a discussion with another follower of Christ, or someone who is seeking to know God, who asked a tough question? Did you simply say you did not know the answer, or did you respond in a different way?

     

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Job 40:1; Psalm 40:5, 92:5, 145:3;
    Proverbs 25:2; Isaiah 40:28, 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-34

  3. 5 Steps To Success, Modeled By Nehemiah

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    August 7, 2017 – Rick Boxx   Some people view the Bible strictly as a religious book, failing to see its relevance for every day. However, it can serve as a very practical, common sense guide for any aspect of life – including the business and professional world. No better example could be cited than the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. A trusted adviser to Persian king Artaxerxes in the 5th century B.C., he dreamed of rebuilding Jerusalem, reduced to mostly rubble for more than 140 years. The account of Nehemiah shows five key steps he took that paved the way for restoring the city:

    1. Prayerful assessment. Learning Jerusalem was in ruins, Nehemiah’s heart broke. He prayed fervently before approaching the king to ask his blessing to pursue the reconstruction project. After receiving approval, Nehemiah then went to Jerusalem and quietly assessed the damage for three days before taking action. Nehemiah 2:13 states, “So I went out at night…inspecting the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were consumed by fire.” If you desire a new project or your team to be successful, start with prayer, then objectively assess the situation.
    2. A compelling vision. For nearly a century and a half, no one had revived the city of Jerusalem; few people believed it was possible, or even necessary. Nehemiah, however, had a much bigger vision. For it to become reality, he needed the locals to catch his vision. He said to the people, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17). If you desire a team to follow you, communicating a compelling vision for the future is crucial.
    3. Find the right leaders for leverage. In those days, the high priest was very powerful. If that leader did not participate, few would follow. Along with the high priest, Nehemiah knew local business leaders would be very influential. With God’s help, he managed not only to engage business leaders in rebuilding certain sections of the wall, but also convinced Eliashib, the high priest, to lead the charge. Nehemiah 3:1 tells us, “Eliashib, the high priest, and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate.” To form a strong team that gets results, recruit and leverage people of influence.
    4. Build collaborative teams. More than 40 sections of the wall around Jerusalem needed repair. Each team could have focused on their piece of the wall, but without collaboration their section would become an island easily toppled. They needed to work together – to accomplish the bigger goal of rebuilding the wall, and to fight off enemies. “From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor” (Nehemiah 4:16). With collaborative teams, Nehemiah overcame opposition. If you desire a strong successful organization, build teams that work together.
    5. Encourage commitment and accountability. When adversity comes, teams either fall apart or become stronger together. A good leader recognizes this and addresses adverse situations accordingly. Nehemiah and his team received multiple death threats; they were understandably scared. Nehemiah was at risk of losing his workers without their strong commitment. He encouraged them by saying, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14). He later encountered internal conflict as well, requiring that he hold his leaders accountable to God’s standards. If you desire a successful project or business, encourage commitment and accountability.
    Copyright 2017, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from “Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx,” a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more about Integrity Resource Center or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments, visit www.integrityresource.org. His new book, Unconventional Business, provides “Five Keys to Growing a Business God’s Way.”

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. What do you think of using the Bible as a guidebook for everyday practical matters in the business and professional world? Do you agree its principles are useful for the workplace? Why or why not?

     

    1. The first step in Nehemiah’s success in the effort to rebuild the ancient city of Jerusalem was prayerful assessment. Have you ever taken that approach when preparing to start a major project, praying before moving into action? Explain your answer.

     

    1. How do you respond to the progression of steps Nehemiah followed as he pursued the reconstruction of Jerusalem? Are there any of the steps that you would consider unnecessary? If so, why?

     

    1. Why can it be difficult to build collaborative teams having strong commitment that are willing to submit to accountability in their performance?

     

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Proverbs 27:17, 29:18; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:17

  4. ‘You Are Now Entering The Mission Field’

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    July 31, 2017 – Robert J. Tamasy   When you hear the term “mission field,” what comes to mind? Typically we think of a distant land, with people living in an alien culture, speaking an unfamiliar, even strange language. Have you ever thought about the mission field that exists right outside your office or cubicle, or the people you will encounter during your next sales call?

    Years ago, a friend of mine, Ken Johnson, established a ministry to business owners and top executives. One of his goals was to help each member recognize that they were missionaries – in their office buildings, manufacturing plants, and sales territories. In fact, Ken had little signs printed that he gave to everyone affiliated with his Christian Network Teams. The signs read, “You are now entering the mission field.”

    Nowhere does the Bible specify that the only people who qualify as “missionaries” are those under the direct authority of a church or mission agency, or that their income must be generated solely through charitable contributions. For that reason, a business or professional person working with individuals who do not claim to be followers of Jesus Christ can rightly consider himself or herself a missionary.

    When Jesus commissioned His followers near the end of His time on earth, He directed them to “therefore go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Nowhere in this command did He indicate this must be done only within an institutional, religious context.

    Similarly, in Acts 1:8 Jesus declares where serving others in His name should take place: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” In saying this, Jesus was describing the entirety of the known world at that time. He was instructing His followers, “Tell people about Me wherever you go, whether it is in the office next door, your neighborhood, across the city, or in a totally different part of the world.”

    Thinking about this, it indicates that regardless of the source of our incomes, we are charged to serve as representatives of Jesus Christ – what CBMC calls “marketplace ambassadors” – wherever we go. We do not need a specific call to leave our professions or move to another part of the world. As someone has wisely said, God wants us to get involved with other people where we are – because we obviously cannot serve God where we are not.

    Over its nearly 90 years of existence, CBMC has seen many thousands of men and women come to know Jesus Christ in a life-changing way, and many of them have grown to become faithful and zealous ambassadors for Him not only in their own cities and nations, but also wherever they travel and conduct business. A literal translation of Matthew 28:19 is, “As you are going, make disciples (followers) of Jesus.” Wherever we go – wherever opportunities God provides take us – we are to serve Him and reach out to others with His Good News.

    © 2017. Robert J. Tamasy has written Business at Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace; Tufting Legacies; coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring, and edited numerous other books, including Advancing Through Adversity by Mike Landry. Bob’s website is www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com, and his biweekly blog is: www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com.

     

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. When you hear the word “missionary,” what words or images come to your mind?

     

    1. What is your reaction to the idea that you are a missionary, regardless of what kind of work you perform each day? How does the thought that “you are now entering the mission field” change your perception of or attitude toward the people you encounter over the course of working each day?

     

    1. The term “marketplace ambassador” has been mentioned? What does that mean to you? What would it look like for you to become – and act like – a marketplace ambassador?

     

    1. As you think about it, what kinds of obstacles come to your mind when considering serving as a missionary in the business and professional world? How can those obstacles be overcome?

     

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about principles it presents, consider the following passages: Isaiah 43:4; Mark 16:15; Colossians 4:5-6; 2 Timothy 2:2-6; 1 Peter 3:15-17

  5. The Need For A Personal ‘Margin Call’

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    July 24, 2017 – Rudolfs Dainis Smits   The word “margin” has many meanings and applications. Even for the workplace. The Merriam-Webster dictionary, for example, says it can mean, a bare minimum below which or an extreme limit beyond which something becomes impossible or is no longer desirable. It can mean the difference between profit and loss. If equity in your account – value of securities minus what you owe the brokerage) – falls below the maintenance margin, the brokerage can issue a “margin call.” This forces the investor to either liquidate his/her position in the stock, or add more cash to the account.

    Problems arise when due to a lack of margin we cannot cover losses or exceed specified limits, when we fall short on cash or no reserves to meet the demand. Without a built-in buffer (margin), results can be stressful, painful, and even catastrophic. There is a different kind of “margin,” however, that applies to each of us regardless of how much we have in financial resources. In his book, Margin, Richard A. Swenson, M.D. writes:

    “Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.”

    Many things compete for our resources today, causing many of us to live outside of a reasonable margin in terms of time and personal resources. Full schedules, families, businesses, ministry, demanding goals, the speed of progress, technology, and our desire for success also have depleted us emotionally, physically and financially. Pursuing material things, we have sacrificed our cognitive (mental and emotional) needs. This has left us short of uncommitted personal time necessary for well-being.

    Swenson writes, “The disease of margin-less living is insidious, widespread and virulent.” He explains most of us do not even know what margin is; we don’t understand what margin-less living means, but we certainly feel the pain. The physician offers this description:

    “Margin-less is being thirty minutes late to the doctor’s office because you were twenty minutes late to getting out of the bank because you were ten minutes late dropping the kids off at school because the car ran out of gas two blocks from the gas station and you forgot your wallet.” Can you identify with this?

    Margin has been sabotaged by progress and demands of success. We hear talk about sustaining a green Earth. But how about a “sustainable” and “green” lifestyle? Margin has to be supported which requires living contentedly in the shadow of progress and supposed “better living.” The Bible tells us true peace of mind with God and spiritual well-being require contentment:  “…constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Timothy 6:5-7).

    Margin does not just happen – we must fight to keep it. My work in the construction industry has taught me to bid on projects and allocate work resources with sufficient contingencies and funds for unforeseen obstacles that inevitably arise. Our work, business budget, or family schedules should also include buffers and time margins to accommodate unexpected expenses and developments. The Scriptures advise us, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?…what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? (Luke 14:28,31).

    © 2017. Rudolfs Dainis Smits, MATS BArch Dipl. Arch architect & business owner; currently Design & Technical manager for Hill International – Project and Construction Risk management; former chairmen and board member of CBMC Latvia; founding member of Reformed Baltic Theological Seminary, Riga, Latvia and former Europartners board member.

     

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. “Margin has been stolen away, and progress was the thief. If we want margin back, we will first have to do something about progress” (Richard Swenson M.D.) Do you agree with the author that 21st century reliance on progress, materialism and the demands of success have stolen away margin in our lives? Explain your answer.

     

    1. In what particular area of your life (emotional, physical, financial, or time) do you believe margin has been stolen from you? How and when did you recognize this, and how has it affected your quality of life?

     

    1. What could you change to regain some margin in your life? Consider the spiritual significance and wisdom of maintaining a reserve that we find in Jesus’s parable regarding the virgins who were warned to trim their lamps? ““And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut” ( Mathew 25:1-13). Applying this to your own circumstances, what does it mean to “trim your lamp?”

     

    1. S. Lewis wrote, “In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give.” How is contentment essential to maintaining your margin? Read Hebrews 13:5 and consider how to apply its principle at work or in your personal life.

     

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Exodus 34:21; Deuteronomy 5:21; Mathew 11:29; Hebrew 4:11; Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:8

  6. Empowering Employees To Thrive

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    July 17, 2017 – Robert J. Tamasy   Max De Pree, an American businessman and writer, has written several thought-provoking books drawing from his experiences and observations in the workplace. One statement I have found especially interesting is: “Leaders owe people space, space in the sense of freedom. Freedom in the sense of enabling our gifts to be exercised. We need to give each other space to grow, to be ourselves.”

    This insight seems particularly meaningful for me because nearly 16 years ago, a friend took that attitude when we decided to work together. Dave and I had known each other through our involvement with CBMC, including working together on the staff team. Not long after he started his own non-profit, Leaders Legacy, I was sensing it was time to do something new, so I met with Dave to solicit his advice.

    After we talked for a while, it seemed obvious that working together in Leaders Legacy could prove to be mutually beneficial. I will never forget what Dave said to me that afternoon: “Bob, if you ever need a place where you can flourish and become all God wants you to be, we have a place for you.”

    Up to that point I had experienced a fruitful career, enjoying many rewarding experiences as both a writer and editor. This invitation, however, promised to open doors I had yet to explore. And, as it turned out, my time with Leaders Legacy over the next 15 years provided many new opportunities that, I believe, did enable me to flourish professionally.

    The key was simple. I was afforded, as De Pree wrote, the freedom to exercise my gifts, talents and experience more than ever before. In a sense, I felt like a thoroughbred racehorse when the jockey loosens the reins and gives it permission to run full out.

    I had no complaints about my previous employers; nor do I wish to pat myself on the back in any way. It is just that in many situations, workers have unrealized capabilities – sometimes ones they fail to recognize themselves. Often it requires someone – the CEO, top management, even the supervisor, to say something like, “I see a lot of potential in you. But it is untapped. Maybe you do not even see it in yourself. I want to help you to become all that you can be.” Can you imagine how liberating it would be for a valued employee to hear that?

    From the perspective of the Bible, taking this kind of approach would be part of “loving your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), and “(doing) to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Another passage, however, addresses this important leadership trait in a different way. Proverbs 27:23-27 admonishes everyone in authority, those having responsibility for those entrusted to our direction. It talks about being discerning, striving to be sensitive to the needs of those around us:

    “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations. When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass from the hills is gathered in, the lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats with the price of a field….”

    Put the best interests of those working for us first – in most cases, it is also in our best interests.

    © 2017. Robert J. Tamasy has written Business at Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace; Tufting Legacies; coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring, and edited numerous other books, including Advancing Through Adversity by Mike Landry. Bob’s website is www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com, and his biweekly blog is: www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com.

     

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. Describe the working culture like where you work. Are staff members encouraged to grow and thrive in utilizing their talents, gifts and strengths?

     

    1. Do you think giving workers freedom to explore and develop their innate abilities is important for job satisfaction? Why or why not?

     

    1. What would be some of the challenges for companies in providing “space” for their employees, giving them the freedom to develop as De Pree described?

     

    1. The passage included mentioned flocks of sheep, using a shepherding analogy for dealing with people. Do you think this comparison is appropriate to the workplace? Explain your answer.

     

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about principles it presents, consider the following passages: Psalm 139:13-14; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 3:17,23; 2 Timothy 3:16-17

  7. Money And Happiness – Not Necessarily Related

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    July 10, 2017 – Jim Mathis   In addition to my regular business restoring old photographs and making executive portraits, I am also a tax professional for a national tax preparation services company. I have done about 1,000 tax returns in the past several years and earned the designation “Enrolled Agent – Master Tax Advisor.”

    Over time, this have given me a pretty good understanding of American’s financial situation. By talking with people and getting a view of their levels of happiness and contentment, and then looking at their finances through taxes, I have made some interesting observations.

    As you might expect, there is a disconnect between income and net worth. Some people with only modest income, have accumulated a lot of wealth, and many high-income people have spent it all and then some. A colleague and I were reviewing a tax return recently when I commented that this proves, “You can’t out-earn stupid.” Foolish people almost always spend more than they earn.

    Many people think if they made a little more money they would be happier. Probably not. If there is any correlation between income and happiness, it would be a bell curve, with the happiest people located in the middle. The lowest income and the highest income people, on both ends of the curve, are the least happy. In case you are wondering, surveys report that the highest percentage of people claiming happiness peaks at about $75,000 per year income. Earning more does not make people happier.

    Which brings up the eternal question, “Can money buy happiness?” I believe the answer is: It could, but it seldom does, because people spend it on the wrong things. A new car won’t bring happiness, but a road trip with good friends just might result in a lot of happiness – and fond memories that last a long time.

    If it is true that money in itself cannot buy happiness, could we use it in ways that can bring us at least some degree of satisfaction, fulfillment and joy? Yes – especially if we follow principles found in the Bible:

    Avoid extremes. As I mentioned, by far the happiest people seem to be those who would be categorized as neither poor nor rich, but somewhere in the middle. The challenge is to recognize what where the “middle” is. “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ’Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).

    Indebtedness can put people in physical and emotional bondage. Many times, “buying” things with credit can satisfy immediate desires, but the long-term cost can be devastating – and restricts financial flexibility in the future. “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).

    Sharing with others can bring great joy. Too often people take a dim view of giving, whether to help individuals or support charitable causes. However, knowing we can use some of our resources to lighten the financial burdens of others can be very rewarding. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

    Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and operates a school of photography. He formerly was a coffee shop manager and executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

     

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. What has been your experience in attempting to buy or experience happiness with money?

     

    1. Do you agree with the observation that the happiest people – regardless of society or culture – are neither the poorest nor the richest of people, but rather those whose incomes fall somewhere in between the two extremes? Why or why not?

     

    1. If it is true that money cannot buy happiness, why do you think so many people are intent on trying to prove otherwise? Explain your answer.

     

    1. When we think in terms of money and material resources, we typically think in terms of what we possess. How can happiness be attained not through gaining and keeping things, but rather by giving portions of them away?

     

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:  Proverbs 11:24-25, 13:11, 15:16, 19:17, 22:9; Acts 20:35, Luke 6:38, 12:13-21

  8. Overcoming Toxic Anger

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    July 3, 2017 – Rick Boxx   Years ago, my boss at the time appointed me to chair a taskforce to address a major problem in our company. For me, this became a political landmine, a classic no-win situation. My boss was likely hoping I would protect him from the possible fallout of the taskforce’s decision, but I did not.

    In its findings, the taskforce concluded the real issue was my boss’s approach to the problem we had been researching. Soon after my report was finalized and submitted, I received a demotion. My boss, who had been an advocate for me, became my enemy.

    For more than two years I fostered a toxic anger towards him. I felt unjustly treated and maligned. I had become the scapegoat for a problem of my boss’s own making. Seeking to strike back and gain a measure of revenge, every time I had an opportunity, I bad-mouthed this man to others.

    After carrying this weight of anger and bitterness, with no hope of the executive ever offering to correct the wrong he had done to me, I came to a startling, yet freeing realization: My anger had been hurting me much more than it had affected him. Even if my negative comments succeeded in diminishing my boss in the eyes of others, my anger was not appeased.

    Then I began to do something I should have considered much sooner – I determined to read, meditate on, and apply what the Bible teaches about anger, justified or not. For instance, Ephesians 4:26 teaches, Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” Thinking about his exhortation, it occurred to me that the sun had literally gone down on my anger hundreds of times, and the festering bitterness I had continued to feel was giving the devil ample opportunity to undermine what God was trying to do in me and through me.

    Then I began pondering Matthew 6:15-16, in which Jesus states, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Those were hard words to read; as I pointed an accusing finger toward my one-time boss, it seemed the other fingers on my hand were pointing back at me. Pondering this, the Lord convicted me that since I had not forgiven my former boss, why should I expect God to forgive me for my many sins? I realized that in addition to forgiving my ex-boss – even if he never asked for it – I also needed to ask God to forgive me for many things, including my unforgiving spirit.

    To determine what God wanted me to do next, I read Matthew 5:23-24, in which Jesus says, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

    More than two years since my anger began, I finally started the process of reconciliation by calling my former boss – and asking his forgiveness. That did not fix what he had done, but at last I was free of the toxic anger and its devastating effects. Anger is an emotional cancer whose cure is forgiveness.

    Copyright 2017, Integrity Resource Center, Inc. Adapted with permission from “Integrity Moments with Rick Boxx,” a commentary on issues of integrity in the workplace from a Christian perspective. To learn more about Integrity Resource Center or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments, visit www.integrityresource.org. His new book, Unconventional Business, provides “Five Keys to Growing a Business God’s Way.”

     

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. What do you think of the term, “toxic anger”? Have you ever experienced anything like that? If so, explain what prompted it and what impact it had on you.

     

    1. Can such anger ever be justified? Are there ever times when harboring bitterness toward another person for what they have done can have positive value? Why or why not?

     

    1. One passage cited tells us to “not let the sun go down on your anger”? How can we go about putting this admonition into practice? Do you think this is important?

     

    1. Why should we resolve to forgive others for wrongs they have done to us, even if they never seek our forgiveness? Is it realistic to do so? What are the consequences of not forgiving someone else’s offenses?

     

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Proverbs 12:16, 14:29, 15:18, 17:27, 18:19, 29:8,11; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8

  9. Working Through Vocational Transition

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    June 26, 2017 – Jim Langley   Several of my friends have been dealing with new directions in their work life. These are not individuals just starting their careers, but mature workers who have given much to their respective companies for a good part of their lives. Some received substantial severance packages appropriate for their time of service, but even “golden handshakes” cannot take away the uncertainty of what lies ahead.

    None of these men is ready to leave the workforce to stay at home and live an unproductive life. Yet, until they find a new place to utilize their vocational skills and gifts, I imagine at times they will feel somewhat lost and will not know which way to turn. This happens when we become comfortable in our careers and fail to give thought to what God has planned for that next stage of our lives.

    Having enjoyed a long career as an insurance agent, I can relate. Early on I realized my job was on the line frequently, since I was continually asking for permission to work with new prospects. I have come to cherish that uncertainty over the years, trusting God will provide the clients who are willing to work with me and entrust to me their financial matters. In recent years, I have also experienced God directing me to hone my writing skills, even though it takes me away from income-generating activities. Yet through it all, He continues to provide for my family – and I must remain obedient to His call.

    The Bible provides one of the best examples of patience in waiting for God’s direction in 1 Samuel 16, where a young shepherd boy named David was anointed king of Israel by the prophet Samuel. From that day, the Spirit of the Lord was with David, but he had to wait many years before formally assuming the role of king. In the years between, he was hunted by King Saul and his men.

    After Saul’s death, David became king of Judah first, and later king of Israel in Jerusalem. In all, he reigned over God’s people for more than 40 years. The Bible tells us David was a man after God’s own heart, and even though he experienced times of great failure, he remained obedient to God until his death.

    Just as David patiently awaited God’s perfect timing to begin his reign, we must patiently await whatever God has planned for our lives. In Jeremiah 29:11 we’re reminded, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

    I am confident He has a plan for each my friends, whether they will go to work for another firm, start their own businesses, or devote their time to some special passion God puts on their heart – even if it means having to tighten their belts to make ends meet.

    Do not be surprised to one day find yourself in a situation similar to what these friends are facing, wondering what God has planned for your next chapter of life. My advice for them – and for you – is to trust He does have a plan for your future. Isaiah 60:22 states, “The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord, in its time I will do this swiftly.” That phrase, “I will do this swiftly,” has made me realize God’s timing is not my timing. But I have learned His timing is perfect, and we all need to be patient and strive to listen for His voice as He carries out His wonderful plan in our lives, for His glory.

    As Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs 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.” We are promised that God knows His plans for all who trust in Him. Our job, even though it is not always easy to do, is wait for His perfect timing!

    © 2017, all rights reserved. Jim Langley has been an agent and chartered life underwriter (CLU) with New York Life since 1983 and an active member of CBMC of Santa Barbara, California, U.S.A. since 1987. Adapted from one of his “Fourth Quarter Strategies” discussions, these are designed to “light a fire under Christian business and professionals to become more effective in the marketplace for Jesus Christ.” His website is: www.fourthquarterstrategies.com

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. When was the last time you were confronted with a significant career transition? Maybe you are in the middle of such a transition right now. How are you dealing with it?

      

    1. Why is a major change in job responsibilities, assuming a totally new job, or even changing careers, among the most challenging and stressful times of our lives?

     

    1. Is there anything we can do to make this time of waiting easier? What are some reasons God may choose to make us wait on His answer to our prayers for direction, whether for our work or for other areas of our lives, rather than responding immediately?

     

    1. Do you believe, as Mr. Langley suggests, that God truly has a very clear, perfect plan for your life? Why or why not?

     

    If you have a Bible available, here are some other passages you might consider that relate to this discussion: Psalm 25:4-5, 27:13-14; Isaiah 60:1-2; Matthew 6:25,31-34; Romans 8:28-30; and
    2 Timothy 4:7-8

  10. Not Providing Principles We Cannot Implement

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    June 19, 2017 – Robert J. Tamasy   Recently I had the opportunity to spend time with Albert, a longtime friend who served as a leader in CBMC for many years. He was guest speaker at a retreat, and discussed about some of the things he has learned about applying biblical principles in his businesses, as well as his personal life.

    One of the life-changing insights Albert said experience has taught him is, “God will never give you a principle in His Word that you cannot implement.” He added, “When you follow biblical principles, you can never go wrong.”

    This was not an empty declaration. My friend proceeded to cite example after example of times when, even if it seemed counter-intuitive, he chose to follow guidelines from the Scriptures and discovered to his delight that they worked as promised. Albert was not saying that heeding biblical principles is always easy, or that outcomes will always be as we hoped. But as he commented, “A loving father will never ask you to do something that is not good for you – and the Lord is our loving Father.”

    This started me thinking: What are some of these principles from the Bible that God gives, assuring us He has established them with our best interests at heart? Books could be written about this topic, but here are some examples that came to mind:

    We do not work just for ourselves. We start our careers typically thinking in terms of “my work,” “my job.” The Bible teaches, however, the work we perform is part of our divine calling, and the talents and giftedness we possess, and even opportunities that come our way, are from God. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). 

    There is no harm in having to wait. Many of us are action-oriented people, and having to wait for goals and desires to be realized tests our patience to the limit. But if we find ourselves having to wait, God has a good reason for it. “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). 

    Difficulties in life can be stepping stones for spiritual growth. When we encounter hardships, we are prone to explore alternatives for escaping the circumstances. But it is often the crucible of adversity that teaches us the greatest lessons from God and leads to spiritual maturity. “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:3-5).

    You cannot out-give God. Generosity does not come naturally for many of us. We cling to our paychecks and profits, reasoning, “It’s mine. I earned it.” We act as if giving to others, even worthwhile charitable causes, could result in our running out of resources for ourselves. But 2 Corinthians 9:7 states, “God loves a cheerful giver.” Jesus also taught we need not worry about not having enough: Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you(Luke 6:38).

    © 2017. Robert J. Tamasy has written Business at Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace; Tufting Legacies; coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring, and edited numerous other books, including Advancing Through Adversity by Mike Landry. Bob’s website is www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com, and his biweekly blog is: www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com.

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. From your own experience, how do you react to the statement, “God will never give you a principle in His Word that you cannot implement”? Can you think of any times when that did not hold true in your life?

     

    1. If you agree with the following statement, “When you follow God’s principles, you can never go wrong,” what are some other principles that come to mind that you have found working effectively when put into practice?

     

    1. Looking at one of the principles cited, why is it so difficult for most of us to have to wait before seeing something come to fruition?

     

    1. Have you experienced firsthand how God can use adversity or hardship to teach us, as well as to shape us into the people He wants us to be? If so, give an example – and explain what you learned through the process.

     

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about principles it presents, consider the following passages taken from the book of Proverbs alone: Proverbs 11:23, 11:25, 12:1, 14:29, 15:22, 17:14, 21:5, 23:19-21, 26:10, 27:17, 28:20

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