Category Archive: Monday Manna

  1. Thanksgiving: Not a Game of Comparisons

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    Just about every culture has a time for celebrating the harvest and thanking God for another year’s provision. In the United States, Thanksgiving goes back to the early colonial times. Even though most of us are not farmers, millions of people still take time to show gratitude to God for providing for our needs.

    There is a curious thing about this annual holiday, however: It has become easy to confuse “thanksgiving” with comparing. For instance, it is not uncommon to hear people say something like, “I am thankful for all I have because there are many people who do not have it as good.” Or, “I am thankful that I have a job, because there are a lot of people who are unemployed.”

    While statements like these seem like expressions of gratitude, they also seem a little bit like saying we are thankful that we are not like THOSE folks. I wonder: When did the observance of Thanksgiving Day become a game of comparisons. 

    Being thankful should not be about seeing how much better off we are than some other people. Instead, it should be about willingness to be content and happy with who we are and whatever state we find ourselves – not compared to someone else.

    This day should be about being grateful for the small things that make life worth living. Not only material things, but also things like health (or having peace and hope in the midst of poor health); friends and family that we love; and the abilities and innate gifts that we possess that we can use for the benefit of others. Looking down on someone less fortunate than us – or looking up to people we consider more fortunate than we are – is never healthy.  

    Thankfulness should look a lot more like contentment than searching to find somebody that in some way appears less fortunate than we are. The apostle Paul stated it this way: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11-12).

    I realize “contentment” is considered a dirty word in some circles. After all, should we not always be striving for more? Not necessarily. Jesus told His followers, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

    On the other hand, contentment should not be confused with complacency. Other words for contentment are happiness, or peace of mind. It has to do with knowing yourself, having an honest appraisal of who you are and what you can do, and knowing that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. 

    For some people this is a hard statement, but it is essential nonetheless. We should accept who we are and where we are, be happy to be alive, and show gratitude for every breath we take. More than anything, Thanksgiving should be the time of year when we pause to give special thanks to God for being alive and having the ability to love and care for one other.   

    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. Jim is the author of High Performance Cameras for Ordinary People, a book on digital 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 does “Thanksgiving” mean to you?

    2.  Being honest, when you take time to be thankful – whether on Thanksgiving Day or at any other time – what kinds of things are you most grateful for?

    3.  Have you ever thought about Thanksgiving Day being, as Mr. Mathis suggests, a “game of comparisons”? Even if it is, what is wrong with that? Explain your answer.

    4.  How do you respond to the idea that true thanksgiving requires a willingness to be content with ourselves and the circumstances surrounding us, good or bad?

    If you would like to look at or discuss other portions of the Bible that relate to this topic, consider the following brief sampling of passages:

    Psalm 30:11-12, 75:1, 92:1-5, 100:1-5; Philippians 1:3-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3, 5:16-18


  2. Virtues of Hard Work and Determination

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    If someone were to ask you what is the primary factor for achieving success, what would be your answer? 

    That was a question Kent Humphreys, a consultant to corporate executives, wondered about. Everyone in the business and professional world desires to attain success, but for many individuals, success seems just beyond their reach. So what are the key ingredients for success they might be lacking?

    In his book, Letters to Workplace Leaders, Humphreys cites a survey in which people were asked, “Of the successful people that you have met, which of the following is the main reason for their success?” Two answers were selected far above all of the others: hard work and determination. 

    Hard work was the most common answer, chosen by 40 percent of the people surveyed. But determination was a close second, cited by 38 percent of those responding to the question. It was interesting that these far surpassed other possible success factors, such as knowledge, luck or good fortune, and influential contacts.

    If he had been included in this study, noted American inventor Thomas Edison most likely would have agreed. He once offered this intriguing observation that relates to success: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” 

    We live in an age when it seems many people do not want to exert the necessary effort – hard work and determination – to succeed, and then wonder why others manage to excel while they do not. They regard themselves as “entitled,” rather than being responsible for earning those things they desire: status, career advancement, influence, monetary and material rewards. 

    Recognizing the importance of hard work and determination, however, is not new. In fact, the Bible – written thousands of years ago – speaks extensively about both. In the Old Testament’s book of Proverbs, for example, we find numerous statements about the virtues and benefits of hard work and determined effort:

    “He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment” (Proverbs 12:11)

    “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor” (Proverbs 12:24).

    “The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on” (Proverbs 16:26).

    “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). 

    This link between hard work and determination is also addressed in the New Testament. The apostle James understood this when he wrote, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him”  (James 1:12). 

    Perseverance blends hard work and determination into a winning formula. If you find yourself facing a trial in your workplace, a formidable challenge, remember there is no substitute for hard work and determination. 

    Copyright 2012, 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 book, How to Prosper in Business Without Sacrificing Integrity, gives a biblical approach for doing business with integrity. 

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1.  Think of some successful people that you know personally. To what would you attribute their success?

    2.  Can you think of examples of individuals or even teams, whether in the business and professional world or elsewhere, that have managed to achieve true successes without hard work and determination? 

    3.  In your opinion, does it seem some individuals are almost “allergic” to hard work, choosing instead to adopt an attitude that they are entitled to experience success and all that comes with it – without exerting the necessary effort? Explain your answer.

    4.  The passage from the book of James states a person that perseveres through trials is blessed, and will receive “the crown of life” from God. What does this mean to you?

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:

    Proverbs 10:4, 13:4, 14:23, 18:9, 20:4; Luke 14:28-30, Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4


  3. The Gain Is Not Worth The Pain!

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    Looking back over the news headlines the last two years, there seems to be a recurring pattern with many top business leaders and sports figures – a severe fall from places of privilege, wealth and honor to places of public disgrace and ridicule. 

    Whether it be senior officers of banks that engaged in manipulating rates; senior investment officers that recommend investment clearly that are conflicts of interest; or the executive leadership of a prestigious university that covered up major moral failures. All have either lost financial fortunes, positions as leaders, respect from the business public, and or personal freedom because of very bad decisions.  When making these decisions, they probably believed they could “get away with it” and would not be found out. 

    If I could interview each of these leaders, now that they have experienced extreme loss, I would ask if the perceived and or real gain from their actions was worth the price they have paid, are now paying, or will pay in the future. In most cases they probably would admit they made terrible mistakes and if they had a “do over,” many would choose a different course of action.

    Business leaders have a tendency to believe we can do anything we choose to do because “it’s MY company.” CEOs and top executives professing to follow Jesus Christ should know better. It is not our company we are running. It is God’s company He has assigned to us to steward for Him for a brief period of time. One day He will ask us for an accounting of what we did with what He gave us.

    So a question we must answer today is this: How can we prepare ahead of time to give a good account for our stewardship? Let me offer some suggestions I think can help keep us on the right track:

    1. Would you be willing to open up every part of your business operation, including accounting records, and let Jesus Christ examine every document, process and procedure? Could you give Him a clear, honorable explanation of every detail of your operation?
    2. Would you be willing to let your spouse and friends look at your calendar the last 90 days to see where you have gone, who you have met with, and then them examine your recent smartphone records to see who you have been calling?
    3. Would you be willing to let your pastor and friends at church look at the websites you have been visiting on your business and personal computers?
    4. Do you have anybody in your life with whom you are accountable, professionally and personally?

    If you could give an honest yes to all four questions, you are probably in good shape with both God and your critical constituents. If not, it is time to repent your wrong conduct and make restitution to anybody you have wronged before you suffer a tremendous fall. Most of the time people will forgive if they really believe we are sincere and prepared to alter wrong thinking and wrong actions.

    A verse in the Bible’s Old Testament states, “Your sin will find you out!” (Numbers 32:23). Business and sports leaders I have referred to apparently did not believe this. But in each case they were found out! 

    Before you choose to pursue the perceived “gain” the wrong way, consider whether it is worth the pain you ultimately will experience. 

    Lane Kramer is a Dallas, Texas business who founded The CEO Institute, a membership-based organization to help CEOs build world-class companies consistent with biblical principles and values. His website is www.ceoinst.com. 

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1.  Why do we have a tendency to believe that “nobody will ever know” if we take an inappropriate or clearly wrong action in our business pursuits?

    2. How do you keep yourself on “the right track”? Do you have a trusted friend or associate that cares enough for you to be brutally direct and honest, if necessary, should they believe you out of line? Explain your answer.

    3. Would you be willing to answer yes to the questions listed above, giving other people – and God – access to all of your professional and personal dealings and interactions? Why or why not?

    4. Do you believe that at the end of your life you will be asked to give an accounting to God for the way you ran your business or carried out your responsibilities in the workplace? 

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to review additional passages that relate to this topic, consider the following verses:

    Proverbs 10:9, 11:23, 12:19,22, 13:6, 16:2-3, 18:12, 21:2, 22:4, 26:24-26


  4. Do You Ever Wish You Could Stop Thinking?

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    My wife Liz says I do not know how to turn my mind off. I respond that because I do not have much of a mind to start with, I need to keep working with what little I have!

    But the reality, she is right. I plan, worry, experience stress and agonize over situations – real and imagined – far too much. This is probably out of lack of trust in God and also fear that if I do not attempt to manipulate and control, things will become even worse than they already are. 

    Over the years I have learned there is a practical remedy for this problem, and try to apply it as often as possible. Let me start with an analogy: I eat breakfast every day. My brother Jim says is the most important meal of the day, because if you are not home in time for breakfast you are probably going to be in a lot of trouble! But in addition to that, we are told a substantial breakfast is important for having the necessary energy and stamina for the day ahead.

    However, there is something more important than breakfast and the general practice of getting physical nourishment, in my opinion.

    Every day before I take my physical nourishment of the day I take spiritual nourishment. Why do I do this? Because, as I understand it and have come to believe, I am not a physical body with a spirit but a spiritual entity with a physical body. (Think about that for a while.) 

    For me this usually means that, no matter how demanding my schedule is for the day, I make a point of taking time to start it by reading a passage from the Bible and also from a favorite devotional to get my thinking headed in the right direction. A great spiritual leader once commented that he always began the day with an hour of prayer; if he were especially busy, he would start with two hours of prayer! 

    One morning, along with my Bible reading, using Oswald Chambers’ daily devotional My Utmost For His Highest, I saw the following. He cited a scripture passage and then offered some comments:

    ” ‘…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on’ (Matthew 6:25).

    “Jesus summed up commonsense carefulness in the life of a disciple as unbelief. If we have received the Spirit of God, He will squeeze right through our lives, as if to ask, ‘Now where do I come into this relationship, this vacation you have planned, or these new books you want to read?’ And He always presses the point until we learn to make Him our first consideration. Whenever we put other things first, there is confusion.

    ” ‘…do not worry about your life….’ Do not take the pressure of your provision upon yourself. It is not only wrong to worry, it is unbelief; worrying means we do not believe God can look after the practical details of our lives, and it is never anything but those details that worry us. Have you ever noticed what Jesus said would choke the Word He puts in us? Is it the devil? No – ‘the cares of this world’ (Matthew 13:22). It is always our little worries. We say, ‘I will not trust when I cannot see’ – and that is where unbelief begins. The only cure for unbelief is obedience to the Spirit.”

    I think this is good, practical wisdom to put into use as we confront our workplace challenges today. 

    Ken Korkow lives in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A., where he serves as an area director for CBMC. This is adapted from the “Fax of Life” column that he writes each week. Used with permission. 

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1.  Do you think too much – or tend to over-think, whether it is about workplace issues or personal concerns? If so, how does this affect you and others around you?

    2.  Planning is good, but what happens when you mix planning with worry, fear and doubt? Explain your answer.

    3.  Mr. Korkow suggests that an effective remedy to thinking too much, even agonizing over various situations, is intentionally setting aside time for meditation, for studying the Bible and for pray? How do you respond to that suggestion?

    4.  What are your reactions to the quotations from Jesus and the commentary that follows? Do you think these principles are appropriate for the 21st century workplace? Why or why not? 

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to review some other passages that relate to this topic, consider the following verses:

    Proverbs 16:3,9, 19:21, 20:24; Isaiah 26:3, 41:10; Matthew 6:26-34; Philippians 4:6-7


  5. When Finish Well Means…Not Finishing

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    During the recent Summer Olympics we witnessed a recurring principle at work: Getting off to a good start did not guarantee a good finish. Runners that grabbed an early lead sometimes fell to the back by the end of the race. Swimmers making a fast start lost to competitors demonstrating a stronger finish. Gymnasts looked good in the first part of their routines, but bobbles or slips cost them dearly.

    In the past I have written about the importance of finishing well – and the difficulty in doing so. In the everyday work world we see the same phenomenon, at both ends of the spectrum: Admired business executives disgraced by ethical scandal. Young employees that start careers looking like future company stars, only to lapse into mediocre performance. How can we ensure the promise of a good start results in a strong finish? Consider this: A key to finishing well is being willing to not finish everything. 

    What does that mean? Some people are described as a “jack of all trades, master of none.” Basically that means excelling at nothing. Finishing well requires a clear sense of purpose, coupled with a good understanding of what you do well – and what you do not.

    The successful person, the one that finishes well, is usually one who capitalizes on strengths by devoting most of his or her time and energy to areas where those strengths can be maximized. That might mean not finishing some things if we cannot do them well – or if they are not worth being done by us.

    For instance, because I am a big-picture person, I have found it helpful for someone to oversee key details for me whenever possible. As I told an executive assistant years ago, “Your job is to catch things before I let them fall through the cracks” (as is my tendency). I am weak at handling details, and rather than putting considerable mental energy trying not to forget important details, it is better to find someone that is more skilled in that regard than I am.

    Someone has said, “To get something done, find a busy person to do it.” But that might mean depriving someone else of that opportunity. As British devotional writer Oswald Chambers has said, “Good is the enemy of the best.” Applying that the Olympics, some of those athletes could have done well in other sports. However, they determined which sport they did best and concentrated on that. As a result, they excelled and became champions. Rather than being good at one sport, they became great at another.

    Relating that reality to the workplace, there are many good things we can do as business and professional people. The question is, what are the bestthings for us to do – things that only we should do? Do those. The good things can be done by others. Here is what the Bible says about this:

    Never lose your focus. We need to have a clear understanding of where we are headed and not let distractions and obstacles take us off course, even if they seem attractive. As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). 

    Keep your eyes on the finish line. What is your goal? What is your mission? These answers will enable you to distinguish the “good” from the “best” in your personal and professional life. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).

    Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.

     Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1.  How do you respond to the statement, “A key to finishing well is being willing to not finish everything”? Does that sound selfish or self-centered – or does it serve as a reminder to not become consumed by less important matters? Explain your answer.

    2.  What do you think Oswald Chambers meant when he wrote, “Good is the enemy of the best”?

    3.  Can you think of any pursuits or activities that are preventing you from focusing on things that are most important at work – or in your personal life? If so, what steps might you take to free yourself of those diversions and distractions?

    4.  What can be the benefits of understanding your strengths and seeking to maximize them, rather than spending great amounts of time trying to improve areas of weakness?

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to review additional passages that relate to this topic, consider the following verses:

    Matthew 28:19-20; Luke 14:28; John 19:30; Philippians 3:10-11; 2 Timothy 4:7


  6. Effective Leaders Impart A Bigger Vision

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    When my daughter, Megan, said she desired to become an occupational therapist. I did not understand this vocation or what such work would entail. That was before we attended an open house at Kansas University Medical Center’s Graduate Program for Occupational Therapy.

    The program director first greeted all of the parents and prospective students, then proceeded to inform us that an occupational therapist’s job is “to discover the dreams of the patient, then help them overcome their challenges to achieve those dreams.”

    I had to marvel at this powerful picture of the impact an occupational therapist can have. The program director must have been a wise leader, because she could have described daily duties and would have been accurate in detailing what an occupational therapist does. Instead, she inspired and encouraged these students with a vision for changing lives. And in the process, she gained the support of parents who felt great enthusiasm about the meaningful roles their children could play in people’s lives.

    We see many biblical examples of the principle of inspiring followers with a great vision for the future. In Deuteronomy 3, for example, God said to Moses, “But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” God was not just giving Joshua an assignment – He was imparting vision for leading the Israelites. 

    A savvy leader inspires others with a vision bigger and more important than the specific responsibilities involved in performing the job. You might know the story of the brick mason observed chipping at a large piece of granite, working as part of a large construction crew in Europe. When a passerby asked what he was doing, the mason replied, “I’m building a cathedral!” That man had vision. 

    The challenge for us as leaders is in communicating this vision, enabling people to see their work as bigger than themselves. It starts with us – you cannot give away something you do not possess, so we need to have the greater vision ourselves before we can pass it on to others. That is why I was so impressed by the description of what an occupational therapist actually does.

    We spend so much of our time in business focused on the bottom line, striving for profits, that we often lose sight of a greater vision. In your company, you know the products and services you provide. But what is your vision – how can your business make a positive, meaningful difference in the lives of people that you touch? Here are two biblical examples. 

    Make clear what you expect them to do. When Jesus initially approached His future disciples, He needed to convince them to leave their accustomed work as fishermen. He simply gave them their new job description: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

    Communicate how lives can be changed. At the close of His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ made clear to His followers what He expected them to do: “…go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). 

    Copyright 2012, 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 book, How to Prosper in Business Without Sacrificing Integrity, gives a biblical approach for doing business with integrity.

     

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1.  How do you think you would have reacted upon hearing the program director describe what an occupational therapist does? Explain your answer.

    2.  Have you ever worked for someone that inspired you to view your job in a larger way, as being much more than the specific responsibilities you were to carry out? Perhaps, like the brick mason that focused not on the block of granite, but rather the cathedral in which it would be placed? If so, how did that leader convey that vision?

    3.  Does your company communicate a greater, grander vision for what you should be seeking to achieve as parts of a corporate unit? Why or why not, in your opinion?

    4.  What are some of the challenges leaders face in casting a greater vision to employees and getting them to embrace them with enthusiasm? 

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:

    Isaiah 60:22; Jeremiah 29:11, 33:3; Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6; Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 2:2,15


  7. 'I Cannot Wait Until I Retire'

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    We live in interesting times as business and professional people. I am a part of a generation in the United States that has been given the nickname of “Baby Boomers,” and for many of us, the primary aim at work is to retire. 

    Case in point, I recently overheard a conversation at a party. A man who was nearing retirement commented that he could hardly wait until he could quit his work. He said he hated his job and the only reason he continued going to work each day was he needed the money. 

    I did not say anything to him, but my thought was, “What a pitiful way to live.” I cannot imagine going through life hating what I spend the greatest portion of my time doing. Some jobs are more rewarding than others. But even when I experience discouraging days, I still love what I do. At times in my life the work I was doing might not have not been inspiring, but the people I encountered on a daily basis were inspiring to know and interact with.

    When I hear people talking yearningly about retirement, I always think about the intrinsic value of work. In fact, there are many references in the Bible that speak to the nobility of work. Colossians 3:23, for instance, says we are to work with all our hearts at whatever we do. After all, it says, ultimately we are working as for the Lord. 

    The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes has many admonitions to work hard and enjoy it. Ecclesiastes 3:22 says, “So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?” In the popular paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, it says, “So I made up my mind that there’s nothing better for us men and women than to have a good time in whatever we do – that’s our lot.” Work may be difficult and challenging, but God designed work also to be enjoyed.

    Proverbs 22:29 says, “Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings.” You might say the secret to success is to do good work and then show it to people. Today we call that “product and marketing.” I believe the emphasis should be put on the product and not the effort to persuade people to purchase it. In other words, “Make good stuff.” If you do, you will have no trouble selling it.

    When we work in this way, the idea of retiring becomes much less appealing. In fact, I am not at all looking forward to a time when I may not be physically able to do what I do. When I get to that point I might have to stop out of necessity; but I do not intend to stop working just because the calendar says I have put in enough time. Connecting retirement with how much money a person has saved also seems like a rather trivial pursuit.

    There is very little guidance from the Scriptures on the subject of retirement. The word is rarely used, and when it is, it means to “withdraw.” Is the main goal of work simply to reach a time when you can withdraw from productive living? The only actual reference to retirement in the Bible pertains to Levites, priests instructed to retire at the age of 50 – but even then they were to continue to assist younger priests. 

    The idea of retiring as we know it today is a recent phenomenon, largely a 20th century idea brought on by longer life spans and the Industrial Revolution. Only in the past 60 years or so has retirement become something many people would aspire to. Only a few generations back, retirement was thought of as “too old to work” or “being put out to pasture.” Unless you are ready to be put out to pasture, learn to enjoy your work! 

    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. Jim is the author of High Performance Cameras for Ordinary People, a book on digital 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 view your work? Do you hold a predominantly positive – or negative – attitude toward it? Explain your answer.

    2.  How have your opinions of retirement been shaped by the culture in which you live?

    3.  Based on what you have read in this “Monday Manna,” do you think there might be a need to adjust your view of work to conform to the biblical view? Why or why not?

    4.  What changes, if any, could you make in your work – or other kinds of work you would like to do – to make it more enjoyable, so you would no longer find it necessary to regard retirement as a desired “escape”? 

    If you would like to look at or discuss other portions of the Bible that relate to this topic, consider the following brief sampling of passages:

    Numbers 8:23-26; Proverbs 10:4-5,7, 11:30, 12:11, 13:9, 16:26, 20:13, 21:5, 23:4-5, 27:18;


  8. If I Could 'Do It Over Again'

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    There are times when I wish I could have some “do overs” in my life.

    One of the first things I would change, if I could, would be not investing the time and money that I did in getting my MBA. Yes, my Master in Business Administration degree was a “stepping stone” to my first job. Yes, it provided a good network of relationships. And yes, the degree gave me confidence. But it was similar to the diploma that gave the scarecrow confidence in the classic film, “The Wizard of Oz.” He did not really need it – he only believed that he did. 

    In my pursuit of the MBA, which many business leaders consider a prerequisite to success in the work world, I learned many things that just were not pertinent – or even true.

    No, I am not a Luddite – one of those people that resist progress or change. I just try to be realistic and practical. In my everyday search for bottom-line truth, I have always strived to find what really works.And time and experience have taught me that most of the “knowledge” acquired during the quest for an MBA does not work. Let me give you a case in point: finances. 

    While I was a student, our MBA mantra was: “The function of business is to maximize profits within legal and ethical constraints.” I learned that, believed it, and adhered to each word.

    In the process I became the head of several different organizations. I had the “toys,” the material rewards that come from making profits the top priority in your company. I became wealthy, beyond anything I could have imagined.  However, as I continued this quest to ”maximize profits within legal and ethical constraints,” swallowing that philosophy completely, I became a manipulating “people user.” I left a trail of broken relationships in my wake, and nearly lost my marriage in the process.

    I am not trying to condemn everyone that has earned an MBA, but I understand too well how that course of academic training can skew a person’s goals and values. I have since come to embrace something far better than an MBA. What is better than an MBA? It is the realistic, practical, bottom-line truth that comes from only one source: the Bible.

    You see, the Bible talks a lot about finances, too. In fact, it says more about finances than it talks about heaven and hell! For more than two decades I have become a diligent student of the Bible and have concluded it holds more truth, more practical guidance for everyday living – including the workplace of the 21st century – than 1,000 MBAs could even hope to offer.

    The New Testament summarizes the value of learning and applying the Word of God: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man (and woman) of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

    My best advice for business and professional people is to study God’s Word every day. If you do this with sincerity and an honest, open heart, you will be amazed at what it has to say about your life – and your work. Without question, it is life-changing. 

    Ken Korkow lives in Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A., where he serves as an area director for CBMC. This is adapted from the “Fax of Life” column that he writes each week. Used with permission.

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1.  Do you have an MBA, or know someone that does? What do you think have been the benefits of having an MBA? What do you think about the concept that the primary function of business is maximizing profits within legal and ethical constraints?

    2.  Do you agree with Mr. Korkow, or do you think an MBA is an important ingredient for success and advancement in today’s business and professional world? Explain your answer.

    3.  How do you respond to the statement that studying and applying the Bible is much more valuable – and useful – than a prestigious MBA? 

    4.  Did you know the Bible has much to say about finances? If you did, can you cite some examples? If you did not, does this make you more curious to read the Bible and discover what it says on that topic? Why or why not? 

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to review some other passages that relate to this topic, consider the following verses:

    Joshua 1:8-9; Psalm 119:9-11, Ephesians 2:10, 4:14-16; Colossians 3:16-17, 23-24


  9. How Do You Approach the Start of a New Day?

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    When you awaken to prepare for another workday – especially a Monday – what is your typical attitude? Are you filled with enthusiasm and anticipation, looking forward to opportunities and challenges the day will present? Or do you experience feelings of frustration or even dread, wishing you could get back into bed, pull up the covers, and forget about going to work? 

    If you fall on the negative side of this equation, there could be many reasons: Deadlines you face might seem overwhelming; you could be facing serious conflict with superiors or coworkers; you may not be a good match for the work you are asked to perform; or the job you have held for a long time could have grown tedious and routine, causing you to feel bored and uninspired rather than eager and energized. 

    Other reasons for disliking work might come to mind, but your mind itself could be a primary factor: the attitude you allow yourself to have toward your work and your workplace. Even though we cannot always change our circumstances, we can choose our attitudes toward our circumstances. 

    I am not a “power of positive thinking” person – but I am a person who ascribes to positive believing. This is why I like to start each day – sometimes before I get out of bed – by silently repeating a favorite verse from the Bible: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). If I truly believe that, that God has seen fit to give me a new day, filled with opportunity, new experiences and unexpected encounters, I can approach it with optimism and expectation. 

    Most days never turn out exactly as I have anticipated. A friend I did not expect to hear from gives me a call or sends an email, leading to meaningful interaction. Out of the blue someone contacts me and asks if I would be interested in a new writing or editing project; something totally off my planning grid. I start working on one task but must shift my focus onto something else, and then I realize the original task was not as urgent as I had thought, so I could postpone it for another day. 

    Nearly six years ago, after successfully coming through open-heart surgery, I determined to regard each new day as a “gift.” Not one of us has tomorrow guaranteed, but surviving a major event like that has a way of impressing that reality on you. So while I recognize not every day will be enjoyable or easy, if God has given it to me, there must be a good reason – and I can look forward to whatever the day presents.

    Here are principles from the Scriptures to consider when embarking on a new day:

    Regard each day as an opportunity, not an imposition. As the saying goes, “our days are numbered.” So we should appreciate what we have and make good, wise use of the time give to us. “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). 

    Redeem the day before it is lost. The one commodity we all have in common is time. And we cannot save it for use on another day. Once an hour has passed, it is gone forever, so we should consider how to use it for greatest advantage. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, for the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). 

    Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1.  When you awoke this morning, what was your attitude toward the day ahead? 

    2.  What are reasons you could have for feeling dread instead than enthusiasm about an approaching workday?

    3.  Do you agree that although you might not be able to change the circumstances of your work, or even the people you work with, you can choose to adjust your attitude toward them? Why or why not?

    4.  The verse is cited that states, “This is the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Do you believe this? And if you do, what difference should it make in how you approach each new day? Explain your answer. 

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to review additional passages that relate to this topic, consider the following verses: 

    Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 3:9-13; Matthew 6:34; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 3:17,23


  10. Need For An Enduring, Unchanging Worldview

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    Many universities and corporate trainers teach business ethics from a perspective sometimes referred to as “moral relativism.” This basically means they do not believe in objective truth; to them, truth is in the eye of the beholder. As a result, according to this way of thinking, whatever an individual regards as right is good enough. 

    Personally, I disagree with this philosophy. If truth is something we can mold and shape according to our desires and preference, then the person that conducts business in an unscrupulous, predatory manner is as “ethical” as the individual that seeks to uphold the highest standards of honesty and integrity.

    The Bible describes this type of belief system when it states, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Even thousands of years ago, people rejected the existence of objective truth. This is not a “modern,” 21st century concept.

    As an employer, even if we do not subscribe to moral relativism, it is important to remember everyone has their own worldview, and they live and act according to it. For instance, if they are self-absorbed, they will likely make decisions and act according to what benefits them most. If they make decisions based on family values they have learned, that could be good – or it could be bad. What if you discover too late that they were raised by mobsters, swindlers or criminals? You might not like those “family values” being brought into your company! 

    Although you cannot change or modify the worldviews of individual employees, you can seek to clearly communicate the “worldview” by which you want your business or department to be run. This is where mission statements, vision statements and value statements are extremely useful. They put on paper the standards, policies, overall goals and objectives the company desires to achieve and maintain. 

    These statements express your beliefs, the foundational principles that govern your practices, offer the “big picture” of what you hope to accomplish, and verbalize truth as your company perceives it. 

    A big question facing many of us in the business and professional world today is one that was raised by Pontius Pilate, who served as judge at the trial of Jesus before His crucifixion. Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). He was suggesting truth – and the “right” worldview – is whatever one wants it to be. 

    However, my experience has taught me that if everything is true, then nothing is true. I have learned the only objective truth that is time-tested and will help you in standardizing and solidifying your company values is the Bible. Psalm 119:152 teaches, “Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever.” Many other verses in that Psalm also affirm the enduring, unchanging truths, precepts and principles established in the Word of God. 

    If you desire to oversee or be part of an ethical workplace, I recommend you establish a worldview that lasts forever, one that does not change according to the need of the moment or shifting whims of society. The Scriptures provide the only source for that. They worked well in the 1st century – and they are good for the 21st century as well.

    Copyright 2012, 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 book, How to Prosper in Business Without Sacrificing Integrity, gives a biblical approach for doing business with integrity.

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1.  What are your thoughts about “moral relativism”? How would you define “truth”?

    2.  How do you think a person’s worldview affects how they work and approach their business responsibilities?

    3.  Does your company have a mission statement, or expressions of its values or vision in written form that are available to employees? If so, what impact – if any – do they have on how everyone sees their role in the company? If not, do you think such tangible, verbalized statements would be of value? Why or why not?

    4.  Mr. Boxx states the Bible should be the ultimate source of objective, time-tested truth? Do you agree? Explain your answer.

    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:

    Psalm 19:7-11, 119:9-11, 33-37, 105; Proverbs 11:3, 13:6; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12

     

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