Category Archive: Monday Manna

  1. Learning From the Mistakes of Others

    Leave a Comment

    “Why do you want to be mentored?” That was the question I asked the young man sitting across the table from me at a local restaurant. A mutual friend had suggested to Todd that he meet with me since he had expressed an interest in having someone mentor him in both his professional and personal life. 

    His answer surprised me: “I want to learn from your mistakes.” I smiled, thinking here was a man in his late 20s that already had the wisdom to recognize that you do not have to learn exclusively from your own errors and poor decisions. You can learn from people that have already traveled along the path you are following – and you can benefit from what they have learned through trial and error.

    As it turned out, he and I did not begin a one-to-one mentoring relationship because he already was meeting with several other men in various mentor-like capacities. With many younger men lacking even a single man to meet with, I concluded Todd already had enough help. But his comment caused me to reflect on the many times I have done the same thing – learned from the mistakes others have shared with me, along with their successes.

    I would not have the passion I have today for helping others learn how to effectively integrate their faith in the workplace if it had not been for others that showed me it could be done. And they honestly told me about times when they had failed, when they had yielded to the temptation to cut corners to achieve goals, even though they knew it would be a breach of their personal integrity. 

    It was through failures like these, however, that they learned the importance of setting boundaries, of affirming their commitments to excellence and honesty before they came to a moment of decision. Difficult decisions become easier, they taught me, when they are made long in advance of the crisis.

    Men like these also taught me about their trials, failures and successes in areas such as marriage, parenting, handling finances, dealing with anger and other troublesome emotions, and sexual temptation. I, too, have been privileged to learn from the mistakes of others.

    The Bible offers many character studies of men that strived to follow and served God, yet sometimes stumbled along the way. I have found these stories very encouraging, not only by learning specifics of their failures, but also realizing God does not demand perfection, only a sincere desire to follow Him, along with a willingness to repent in times of failure. The 10th chapter of 1 Corinthians offers great insight with only two verses:

    Recognize other people’s failures and take them to heart. There is a saying that if we fail to learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Colleagues and friends can only be bad influences when we allow ourselves to repeat their wrong actions. “All these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

    Do not overestimate your own strength. One of the benefits of learning from the mistakes of others is realizing we could make the same errors. If we are wise, we will take preventative steps to avoid a repeat of those failures. As another saying tells us, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall!”  (1 Corinthians 10:12).

     

    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.  Have you ever taken the opportunity to learn from someone else’s mistakes? If so, give an example of when you did this – and what you learned.

    2.  Has anyone ever been given a similar opportunity to learn from your mistakes? Explain your answer.

    3.  Can you think about a time when you should have learned from hearing about or observing another person’s mistakes, but instead proceeded to replicate the error? What were the consequences for you?

    4.  This “Monday Manna” points out that numerous case studies are presented in the Bible of people who made serious mistakes, yet were forgiven and restored in their relationship with God. Can you think of any specific examples? Knowing that individuals like this failed, yet were not abandoned by God, does this encourage you in considering your own actions? Why or why not?

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

     Psalm 119:9-11; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 4:7-10; James 1:12-15; 1 Peter 2:18-25


  2. The 5 P's of Ethical Decision-Making

    Leave a Comment

    Not long ago I heard author and speaker Lee Strobel give an excellent message on what he called the “5 P’s for making ethical decisions.” I thought his insights would be good to present in “Monday Manna.”

    The first P he mentioned is Purpose. When making a challenging decision, it is critical to remember your purpose. If your purpose is to make money, you will often make the wrong decision. However, if your purpose is aligned with biblical principles, your decision will lead to a much different result.

    As 1 Corinthians 10:31 teaches, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Everything followers of Jesus Christ do should be for the purpose of glorifying God. When that becomes the motivation behind ethical decisions, difficult workplace decisions become easier.

    The second P Strobel cited was Prayer. He stressed the importance of praying about hard decisions, seeking wisdom and guidance. We also should pray, according to Strobel, for the moral conviction and courage to do the right thing. Many times we know the right thing to do, but need the courage to do it.

    James 1:5 teaches, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” The next time you face a challenging ethical dilemma, take Strobel’s advice and pray boldly for God’s wisdom, then trust He will provide it.

    The third P in Strobel’s list was Principles. He urged his audience to make decisions by testing them against biblical principles. He said 50 percent of ethical decisions are based on emotion. Emotions like fear, greed, or anger can lead to very poor decisions. Pausing to consider how your proposed decision aligns with what the Bible teaches is more productive.

    Psalm 119:9 teaches, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” When you face ethical dilemmas, do not let emotions rule. Pause, pray and seek help in God’s Word.

    Strobel’s fourth P was People. When faced with a tough decision, do not make it alone. Involving wise, trusted people in your ethical decisions has many benefits, including receiving good counsel, forcing you to be transparent, and adding built-in accountability. For years, I led a small group of CEOs. Many times, regardless of the issue, we found someone with insights that were helpful for arriving at a wise decision.

    Proverbs 15:22 teaches, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Being a leader can be lonely at times, but it does not have to be. When faced with a challenging ethical decision, allow other people to be a part of your decision.

    The final P was Popular Opinion. However, Strobel took this principle in a different direction. He recommended when confronting a difficult decision, consider what the popular opinion might be – and then be prepared to do the opposite. God is not concerned with what the majority of people think.

    In Isaiah 55:9, God teaches, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Ethical decisions based on popular opinion can be disastrous. Be courageous and, if necessary, take God’s opposing path instead, Strobel advised.

     

    Copyright 2013, 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.  When faced with a difficult ethical decision, what is the process that you typically follow?

    2.  What do you think of the principles offered for ethical decision-making?

    3.  Which of those principles do you think would be most difficult to apply? Do you disagree with any of the principles suggested? Explain your answer.

    4.  How does seeking the advice of other people you know and trust differ from letting your decision be guided by popular opinion?

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

     Joshua 1:8; Proverbs 12:15, 24:5-6; Romans 1:21-23; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 3:17,23; Thessalonians 5:17;


  3. Passion At Work and Life: Loving What You Do

    Leave a Comment

    Some time ago I came across a poster containing what is called the “Holstee Manifesto,” a provocative challenge by leaders from Holstee, a company that seeks to promote entrepreneurship, especially for individuals living in areas of extreme poverty, through goods it designs and produces.

    Perhaps you have seen this intriguing statement. Since I encountered it for the first time, my wife and I have essentially adapted it as our own because it says what we have always believed. 

    The Manifesto is too lengthy to present here in its entirety, but from its start, the declaration emphasizes the importance of pursuing passion in life. Here are excerpts: 

    “This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love…. Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.”

    If you have not seen the Holstee Manifesto before, I would encourage you to Google it and read through it. It captures in simple fashion a way for experiencing a fulfilling life without making it complicated. The statement does not reference God or spirituality, but as I have read it and pondered what it says, I realized it finds agreement with principles in the Bible. 

    In fact, a more spiritual expression of the Holstee Manifesto could be, “Don’t try to find God’s plan for your life; find our what makes you come alive, because God wants people who have come alive.”

    Legendary singer and songwriter Bob Dylan said, “If you are not busy living, you are busy dying.” To put it another way, there must be more to living than simply existing. 

    This is what I have discovered, especially as years have passed. If you cannot pursue things you love –things that ignite your enthusiasm and fill you with energy and motivation – you are shortchanging yourself. We are all uniquely created with different gifts, talents, skills and interests. The question is how to leverage our uniqueness and differences not only to achieve self-fulfillment, but also to make the greatest contribution to the world around us. Here is some advice from the Bible:

    It must start with God. God created each of us, giving us the unique blend of traits that help to make us who we are and what we do. By getting to know Him, we become equipped to better know ourselves. “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:3-4).

    The focal point should be God. A fulfilling life involves not only what we do, but also why we are doing it – our motives. There can be no higher motivation than to serve and honor God. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). 

    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 are your reactions to the Holstee Manifesto, at least the portion of it reprinted in this “Monday Manna”?

    2.  Do you agree with the Bob Dylan statement, “If you are not busy living, you are busy dying”? How, in your opinion, can we engage more actively in the process of being “busy living”?

    3.  If someone were to ask you what you feel great passion about, what things you love to be doing the most, how would you respond? Do you feel you have the opportunity to pursue your passions today? Why or why not?

    4.  At the close of this “Monday Manna,” it is suggested that we should include God in the process of striving to achieve a satisfying, fulfilling life. Do you agree? Explain your answer.

    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:

     Proverbs 22:29; Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; 2 Corinthians 5:14; Colossians 3:23-24


  4. A Solution Better Than Butting Heads

    Leave a Comment

    Last week’s “Monday Manna” looked at consequences of submitting to the insistent demands of our egos, doing whatever is necessary to ensure getting what we desire. Recently I came across an illustration from nature that demonstrates the virtues of very different behavior. 

    The story comes from Ulrich Zwingli, a leader of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland in the early 1500s. He and Martin Luther, the catalyst for the Reformation, were locked in a serious dispute, and Zwingli was at a loss in trying to resolve the conflict. He found the solution one morning while gazing at the side of a mountain. 

    He observed two goats approaching each other on a narrow path on the mountainside, one going up and the other going down. Upon seeing one another they stopped, then lowered their heads. It appeared they were about to charge each other. However, instead of butting heads, the goat ascending the mountain lay down on the path. The descending goat was able to step over the other’s back, and the animals were able to proceed unimpeded.

    If the goats had chosen to butt heads, one may have prevailed. But the result might also have been disastrous for both. So one bowed before the other, in effect humbling itself, which eventually enabled it to advance higher.

    How often do we see instances in the business and professional world of two or more people fixed on their goals and objectives, determined to not let anything stand in their way? When they do encounter opposition, they insist on butting heads, battling to a bitter and sometimes bloody conclusion.

    But consider the lesson Zwingli learned from the goats. One of them deferred briefly to the other, leading to a “win-win” outcome. Would not this approach have merit for resolving workplace conflicts? This principle finds ample support in the Bible. Here are some of the things it has to say: 

    Go lower to get higher. Being willing to defer to the interests of another should not be one-sided. Both benefit when they are willing to “submit” or be “subject” to one another.Just as a submarine goes under water, submitting or being subject to others means intentionally putting oneself under another. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). 

    Superiors and subordinates should yield to one another. The customary business model is for superiors to exert their authority over those that report to them, but the best leaders are ones having the interests of their employees at heart. “Slaves (employees), obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ…. And masters (superiors), treat your slaves (employees) in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven…” (Ephesians 6:5-9). 

    Work with an attitude of humility toward coworkers – and to God. Rather than demanding your desires, relating humbly toward others can win their good favor and support. ”Be submissive to those who are older…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (1 Peter 5:5-6). “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God” (James 4:6-7).

     

    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.  What do you think of the illustration of the two goats approaching each other on the mountainside?

    2.  Have you ever had a circumstance in the workplace similar to the potential conflict the goats were facing? If so, describe the situation and how it was handled.

    3.  When you hear termsj like “submit” or “be subject to others,” what thoughts come to your mind? Is it difficult to “submarine” yourself by deferring to others? Why or why not?

    4.  Which of the biblical principles cited seem most meaningful for you? 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:

     Proverbs 11:2, Proverbs 15:33, 16:18, 18:12, 22:4; 1 Corinthians 16:15-16; 1 Peter 2:18-20


  5. Afflicted By The 'Verdi Virus'

    Leave a Comment

    From the life of the operatic composer Giuseppe Verdi comes the story of one night when he performed a piano recital at La Scala in Milan, Italy.  After his final piece, the appreciative audience demanded an encore. Verdi, hungry for applause, chose a loud and frilly composition he knew would thrill the audience, even though it was, artistically speaking, inferior music.
     
    When he finished, the crowd stood again, roaring its approval. Verdi basked in the extended applause – until he saw his lifelong mentor in the balcony who knew exactly what Verdi had done. His mentor neither stood with the crowd nor applauded. On his face was a pained expression of disappointment. Verdi could almost hear his mentor saying, “Verdi, Verdi, how could you do that?”
     
    We could call this the “Verdi Virus” – the desire to control, the need to be approved. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche described it this way: “Whenever I climb, I am followed by a dog named Ego.” The ego swells when it is showered with praise. It craves power and success. And it is never satisfied with how much of these things it gets. 

    This problem is all too common, even in the so-called modern, sophisticated business and professional world. Men and women striving for attention, craving adulation, maneuvering for control to enforce the power of their wills. Almost every day we read or hear about leaders succumbing to the temptations of hungry egos.

    Such attitudes, of course, are hardly new. Egocentricity is as old as the Bible. Here are just a few of the examples it presents:
     
    Love for preeminence. In 3 John 9-11 it describes Diotrephes, “who loves to be first,” or as it says in another translation, he was “ambitious for the place of first distinction.” Ambition for prestige and control often leads to adoration, deserved or not, and no small amount of intimidating influence.
     
    Insistence on doing things our way. In the Old Testament, Numbers 22-24, we read about Balaam, who was the only Gentile prophet of the true God identified in the Bible. He obeyed God to a degree, but his heart went with the leadership of Balak, who opposed the Israelites. Balaam desired to obey God, but ultimately yielded to the temptation of gold. He had a head full of spiritual light, but a heart that was dark. Often the Lord permits us to do things we insist on doing, even if they are wrong. We want to do them. We push to do them. We even pray to do them. “Lord, why can I not have it?”
     
    Defiance against truth and wisdom. In 2 Chronicles 10-12 we find the story of Rehoboam, the insolent son of King Solomon. Rehoboam presumed his family legacy and power he inherited would cause the people to yield to his whims. However, having neither political wisdom nor an accurate understanding of his father’s trust in God, Rehoboam died proud and foolish at the age of 58. “And he did evil, because he never did decide really to please the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:14).

    How can we overcome pitfalls of pride and ego? Consider 1 Peter 5:5-6: “…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

     

    Robert D. Foster is the founder of Lost Valley Ranch near Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.A. A businessman and author of weekly business-related meditations for more than 50 years, he now resides in California. 

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1.  Can you think of a time when you – or someone you know – went to unusual measures to receive the attention and approval of others? Describe what that situation was like.

    2.  What are some of the negative effects of people seeking to feed their egos in the business and professional world? 

    3.  Is seeking to satisfy the demands of one’s ego always a bad thing to do? Explain your answer.

    4.  The antidote to the temptations of pride and ego, according to 1 Peter 5:5-6, is humility and a willingness to submit to God. How easy (or difficult) is that to do, in your experience?

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

    Proverbs 11:2, 15:33, 16:5, 16:18-19, 18:12, 21:24, 22:4; Philippians 2:3-4; James 4:10


  6. How Do You Handle Your Anger?

    Leave a Comment

    Two executives had become locked in an ongoing feud that was beginning to have a negative impact on their company. After all internal efforts to settle the dispute had failed, the CEO of the organization asked if I would be willing to try and be a peacemaker between the two. 

    Both men professed to be followers of Jesus Christ, so I thought that might make my job a bit easier. I would attempt to hear and understand both sides of the story and then seek to apply appropriate biblical principles for resolving the conflict.

    After interviewing each person separately, I brought them together and explained what I believed God desired to happen in this situation. Moments later I watched as God did an astounding work in both of their hearts. These two men looked at each other and embraced as brothers sharing a common bond in Christ. Then they prayed for each other, making a commitment to continue doing so in the future. 

    As I observed this spontaneous healing of their professional relationship, I thought of the words Jesus taught in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” 

    We live in a world – including the workplace – where animosity and adversarial relationships seem the rule rather than the exception. Competition, jealousy, vindictiveness and other destructive feelings leave little room for “peace” in the business and professional world. In fact, conflict is so commonplace, it seems the capacity for making peace has largely been lost. Hence the need for “peacemakers,” as Jesus pointed out. 

    I was privileged and blessed to be a part of something amazing God did in the lives of these two business leaders. It was not skills, profound insights or any special techniques that enabled me to facilitate this process to a successful conclusion. God did the work. However, it is true that He uses peacemakers to bring healing. He might want to use you, as well. 

    It is important to note there is a difference between peacemaking and “peacekeeping.” Peacekeeping often consists only in looking the other way, ignoring the conflict, and foolishly hoping it will just disappear on its own. This rarely is the case.

    Peacemaking involves intentionally and purposefully addressing the conflict – and all of the parties involved – with the goal of finding a solution that is acceptable to everyone. Ideally, the resolution represents a “win-win,” with no one feeling their needs or interests were not taken into account. 

    Peace should be a hallmark of all who profess to follow Jesus Christ, and as such we have an obligation to assist in making peace whenever we can. It is not always easy – bringing harmony out of discord can be hard work. But we are exhorted to do it just the same. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). 

    Copyright 2013, 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.  Have you ever been involved in a serious conflict that was disruptive to those around you? If so, what was that like? How did it originate – and how was it resolved, if at all?

    2.  When you hear the term “peacemaker,” what does that mean to you?

    3.  Do you agree with the distinction between peacemaking and peacekeeping? Explain your answer.

    4.  Do you think that one’s spiritual beliefs can be an asset in working toward achieving peace, whether in the workplace, the home, or in the community? Why or why not?

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

    Proverbs 17:14, 18:19, 20:3, 26:21; Romans 12:18-20; Colossians 3:15


  7. Resolution For The New Year: Be Real

    Leave a Comment

    Innovations in the world of communications have been wonderful. We can use social media to stay in contact with friends and colleagues and reconnect with individuals we know from the past. Emails and texting have become a preferred way to communicate quickly. (Thanks to email, for example, this “Monday Manna” is reaching people in more than 20 different languages all around the world!) 

    The Internet has given us blogs through which we can share experiences and opinions with anyone interested in reading them. Skype is one way we can connect face-to-face with people thousands of miles away via computer. We can present videos on sites like YouTube, whether to entertain or convey a serious message. When phone calls are not answered, there is always voice mail.

    Who knows what the next communications breakthroughs will be? They are extremely beneficial and practical, but all lack one important dimension: personal touch. An old advertising slogan suggested, “Reach out and touch someone.” There is not much real “touch” involved in texting, sending emails, writing a blog, or even leaving a voice mail. 

    Researchers have determined only about seven percent of communication is verbal, meaning 93 percent is non-verbal: eye contact, body language, gestures and facial expressions, tone of voice, the pace we speak. So when we send an email or text, much of our message is missing. Not only that, but a gentle touch, a friendly smile or wink of an eye can only be exchanged in person. In an increasingly impersonal world, these “non-verbals” help us say, “You are somebody. I know you exist – and you are important.”

    So as we look ahead to a new year, maybe a worthwhile resolution would be to become more real – less artificial. Determining to “be there” for other people, despite our deadlines, pressures and tight schedules. The Bible has some useful observations about this:

    The impact of personal presence. When we are in the presence of others, we not only communicate with words, but also underscore our message through personal example. Jesus Christ understood this principle. The Bible says He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach(Mark 3:14). 

    The inspiration of being together. When we are together, having a common sense of mission, we can encourage and inspire each other: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

    The instruction of personal interaction. By spending time with one another, rubbing shoulders in the work environment, we can share wisdom, challenge one another creatively, and help one another grow professionally. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

    Enjoy the convenience of electronic communications. But remember, there is no substitute for face-to-face, eye-to-eye human interaction.

    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.  Which of the advances in electronic communications has had the greatest impact on you? On your business or organization? In what ways?

    2.  What is your reaction to the comment that a drawback of electronic communications is a loss of “personal touch” in our daily interactions?

    3.   How could you strive to incorporate more non-verbal communication in your workplace relationships? Do you even think that is important? Explain your answer.

    4.  Which of the biblical principles about human interaction and communication seems most significant or meaningful to you? Why?

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

    Proverbs 16:24; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Isaiah 43:4; Acts 13:2-3, 42-48; Philippians 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:2


  8. Restoring a Proper Emphasis For Christmas

    Leave a Comment

    Being a follower of Jesus Christ, I celebrate the birthday of Jesus on December 25, as do billions of other Christians around the world. No one knows for certain the exact date Jesus was born, but December 25 seems as good a day as any to observe His birth. 

    The Bible tells us wise men – “magi” – traveled a very long distance to bring gifts to the newborn baby who would become the Savior of the world. Because of that, it has become a tradition for friends and family to give gifts to each other as part of the global celebration.

    Giving and receiving gifts is one of the languages of love, a nice way to show people that we care about them and want to make an emotional connection with them. Thinking about a person and taking the time to select something we believe they would enjoy is a very real part of any relationship.

    It does seem, however, we have taken this custom to the extreme as more and more people forget about honoring Jesus and pour their energies instead into spending money they do not have for reasons that are not always easy to justify. That is one reason I enjoy going to “white elephant” gift parties. 

    The original white elephant concept involved giving one’s enemies a gift they had to spend money to house and maintain, without receiving any real benefit from it. A white elephant gift amounts to a useless object that creates a hardship for the recipient. Although this practice was conceived with malice of intent, the modern version is usually taken as a joke, resulting in a lot of fun.

    Several years ago my wife and disposed of 75 percent of our possessions, moved from a four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment, and pledged to live more simply and tread more lightly on the earth. From that point of view, we realized most gifts would be white elephants, because it turns out it can be a lot harder to sell something or give it away than it is to buy it in the first place.

    Maybe the time has come for us to change our Christmas emphasis from buying things to remembering some of the principles Jesus gave to us. He taught many things, but His central message was love and forgiveness. He pointed out anybody can love their friends; the real test is being able to love your enemies and forgiving those that hate you. 

    I think Christmas closely preceding the New Year is a wonderful idea. What better way to start a calendar year fresh than to follow Jesus’ teaching and forgive those who have wronged us and seek to reconcile with anyone we have had tense relationships with during the course of the previous year?

    Let me make a suggestion as we celebrate Christmas and anticipate the close of 2012: Next year let us Spend Less, Love More, Forgive Everyone, Serve Others. 

    If you make a sincere attempt at doing these things, I believe you will experience positive results beyond anything you could have imagined. Remember, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but to save it through him” (John 3:16-17).

    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 and your family celebrate Christmas? How much emphasis do you place on the exchanging of gifts?

    2.  Do you think too much emphasis is placed on gift giving at Christmas, and not enough focus is given to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ? Explain your answer.

    3.  Are you familiar with the practice of giving “white elephant gifts”? Mr. Mathis observes that many of the things we possess amount to white elephants because they are not essential for everyday living and often are more trouble to maintain than they are worth. Do you agree? Why or why not?

    4.  What steps could you make to ensure that Jesus, whose birth is commemorated every Christmas, becomes more central to your own personal celebration of this day?

    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: 

    Isaiah 9:6-7; Micah 5:2-5; Romans 5:15-17, 6:23; 2 Corinthians 9:12-15; James 1:17


  9. Finding Help In Times of Adversity

    Leave a Comment

    An old cowboy spent years working cattle ranches where winter storms took a heavy toll among the herds due to freezing rains and howling, bitter winds that piled snow into enormous drifts. Temperatures often dropped below zero degrees. Most cattle would turn their backs to the ice blasts and slowly drift downwind until finally a boundary fence would stop them – and there they would die.

    But American bison or buffalo acted differently. Animals of this breed would instinctively head into the windward end of the range. They would stand shoulder to shoulder facing the storm blast, heads down against the onslaught. Typically, this resulted in the survival of the herd. There is a valuable lesson to learn from them: Face the storms of life head-on!
     
    We need to understand the winds of adversity. I remember extremely difficult times when I was tempted to “throw in the towel,” stick my head in the sand, or blow the whistle to call it quits. My good friend and author, Jerry Bridges, had some great answers for me in his book: Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, especially in the chapter, “Growing through Adversity.” I also memorized Psalm 46:1 and found help in the hour of crisis: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
     
    Author and speaker Napoleon Hill has said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” What is this seed he is talking about? In the Bible’s Old Testament we find numerous examples:

    * Abraham, in the book of Genesis. He spent years of learning how to obey, whom to obey, and when to obey. Along the way Abram experienced detours, disputes and disappointments. But God rewarded his faith and obedience, even in the face of adversity and uncertainty.

    * Job, in the book named after him. He had experienced years of prosperity, happiness and success. Then the roof caved in on his life, the walls fell out, and he became a total failure in the eyes of many – he lost his family, fortune, fame and fitness. Understandably he lamented, “God breaks me with a tempest, and multiplies my wounds without cause” (Job 9:17). But then he discovered the importance of waiting, even if it requires weeks or months. He learned the value of patience in adversity. “Though He slay me, I will trust Him,” Job was able to say. When a promise seems to fail, Job discovered, you can always trust the One that makes the promise.
    * Joseph, also in the book of Genesis. His life amounted to years of riding a 24-hour rollercoaster. In moments, he went from the paternal favorite in his family to the pit; from a position of prominence to prison; from the pen to the penthouse; from plight to prime minister. Eventually he was able to say to his betraying brothers, “You thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good” (Genesis 50: 30).
     
    The Bible teaches what we could call “The Law of Increase”: “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never to be any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over” (John 12:24). Sometimes the appearance of death is merely a harbinger of greater life.

    When hardships come your way, and they will come, remember and cling to this truth: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in the time of adversity” (Psalm 46:1).

    Robert D. Foster is the founder of Lost Valley Ranch near Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.A. A businessman and author of weekly business-related meditations for more than 50 years, he now resides in California. 

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1.  How do you typically react when faced with adversity in any of its various forms?

    2.  What do you think of the example of the Hereford cattle that, instead of turning away from the harsh weather stood side by side and faced the adverse conditions head-on? How might you apply that principle where you work?

    3.  Give your reaction to the biblical examples of Abraham, Job and Joseph. Do you think their experiences are relevant for the uncertain, turbulent, unpredictable business and professional world of the 21st century? Why or why not?

    4.   Mr. Foster repeats the passage, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in the time of adversity”? Do you believe this? Explain your answer.

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

    Proverbs 2:7-8, 17:22, 18:14, 24:10; Romans 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; James 1:2-8

     


  10. Rude and Disruptive…or Respectful?

    Leave a Comment

    There seems to be an epidemic of callous, disrespectful behavior in today’s workplace. Yet, strangely enough, such demonstrations many times are not penalized. Sometimes they are even rewarded!

    According to a study mentioned in an article in the prestigious Wall Street Journal, employers often pay more for rude and disagreeable employees. The study discovered employees difficult to work with actually earn, on average, 18 percent more than their more agreeable peers. Imagine investing payroll, taxes, benefits, training, and considerable time in employees, only to have them become disruptive by shouting at you in a staff meeting and slamming the door as they depart.

    Despite this potentially divisive impact within an organization, some executives allow themselves to be manipulated by intimidating, overbearing staff members. But at what sacrifice? Disagreeable employees, according to another study, can exact an even greater cost to the organization. Uncivil behavior often the results in increased employee turnover. This could be because workers become upset by continual conflict; others might lose respect for superiors that fail to discipline acceptable behavior. 

    “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” is an old saying that needs to be revisited. Employers have every right to emphasize the fact that working for their company is a privilege, not a right, and self-centered, disruptive speech and behavior will not be tolerated.
     
    If you are an employer, hiring people that respect others and are agreeable is a better path. Employers need to make themselves aware of the temptation to become bullied into paying more than they should for rude behavior, even when valued talents and skills have contributed to the company’s success are at stake. Appeasing employees that disrupt the organization and show no respect for others – especially those for whom they work – eventually proves destructive for everyone involved. 

    Therefore, in hiring new staff – as well as conducting periodic performance reviews – stressing the importance of respect and cooperation should be an important part of the process. A wise supervisor looks for and promotes those who respect others and demonstrate humility in interacting with others. Here are some principles the apostle Peter offers in the Bible’s New Testament:

    Respect should be expected at all times. Demonstrating consideration and understanding to others should be a universal practice, regardless of a person’s position in an organization or their perceived “worthiness” of being respected.“Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).

    Respect for authority should not be optional. Some people would say, “I will show respect only to people that earn my respect.” From a biblical perspective, however, respect should be shown regardless of what the other person does. “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God” (1 Peter 2:18-19). The word “slaves” may sound out of place for the 21st century workplace, but the relationship Peter was referring to applies to that of employer and employee.

    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.  Have you personally witnessed rude and disrespectful behavior in your workplace? If so, describe it and how persons in authority addressed it.

    2.  Do you agree with the contention that callous, offensive behavior in the workplace is on the increase? What do you think might be factors contributing to this?

    3.  If you observe disrespectful behavior not being corrected appropriately, do you think this justifies your acting in a similar manner? Why or why not?

    4.   One of the Bible passages cited tells slaves (or employees) to submit to those in authority over them, even if they are harsh and unjust. What do you think about this?

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

    Proverbs 20:2, 21:1; Matthew 6:24; Ephesians 6:5-9; Philippians 2:3-4, 1 Peter 3:15-16, 5:5-6