Category Archive: Monday Manna

  1. Importance Of Perfect Timing

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    February 4, 2019 – Rick Boxx  A lot of things go into the realization of success in business: Quality workmanship and service. Execution of a novel idea. Effective leadership and direction. Those, for the most part, are factors we can manage. One factor, however, that we often overlook is timing. Especially, perfect timing.

    In his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing,Daniel Pink addresses the importance of timing as it affects productivity and ultimately, our success. A Wall Street Journalarticle summarized his findings, pointing out ways Pink suggests for better allocating our time at work throughout the day.

    His research discovered that we are “smarter, faster and more creative in some parts of the day than others.” Confirming these conclusions, Russell Foster, a neuroscientist, claims, “The performance change between the daily high point and the daily low point can be equivalent to the effect on performance of drinking the legal limit of alcohol.” That may seem like a startling comparison, but it is probably very accurate for assessing when we can do our best work.

    Personally, I have learned that my best time for writing is early morning. My mind is fresh after a good night’s sleep and ideas seem to flow more quickly and smoothly. Not everyone, of course, is a “morning person.” Some people do their best work in the late morning, in the afternoon, or even late at night. The key is to realize when you are most productive and make certain to safeguard that time from unnecessary distractions.

    In reading the Bible, I have found it interesting to find that it places a high premium on our effective use of time – and timing. For instance, we are told, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity…”(Ecclesiastes 3:1). We can apply this principle in a number of ways, but one of them is that there is a best time for us to pursue our work, meaning we should strive to schedule other important, but non-work activities for other times during the day, week or month.

    Another passage, Ephesians 5:16, emphasizes the urgency for “making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” This does not mean time in itself is inherently evil, but time passes quickly. Not capitalizing on the time we have can result in failure to achieve desired goals and objectives. At the very least, we will have missed out on the opportunity to pursue those projects when our productivity and efficiency levels are at their peak.

    Looking at the example of Jesus Christ, we find that He also designated specific times for doing certain things, including prayer and time alone with God the Father. Jesus was much in demand, and at all hours of the day people were thronging around him, whether as observers or seeking His attention to address specific needs they had. For this reason, He devoted many early mornings to time alone, even from His disciples. 

    Mark 1:35 tells us, Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”Many people I know realize how important it is for them to begin the day by focusing on their relationship with God, knowing they will require His direction, wisdom and strength to carry out the work and deal with challenges they face later on.

    As the adage reminds us, timing is everything. There is a time to work, a time to rest, and time to play. Also, a time to ensure that we sustain a strong, growing relationship with the Lord.

    Copyright 2019, Unconventional Business Network (formerly 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 or to sign up for Rick’s daily Integrity Moments emails, His latest book and inspiration for their new ministry name, Unconventional Business,provides “Five Keys to Growing a Business God’s Way.”

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. When you think of the importance of timing – perfect timing – as it relates to your work, what comes to your mind?


    1. Most people do have certain times during the day when they feel most productive and creative? Have you found that to be true for yourself? If so, what part of the day is that – and what do you do to ensure you optimize the use of that time?


    1. At the end of the workday, do you ever evaluate whether you have made the most of your time that day? How do you feel if you conclude your time could have been better spent – that you failed to practice “perfect timing”?


    1. If even Jesus made certain to set aside time for prayer and spiritual renewal – what many people would call a “quiet time” – what does that say about us?


    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:  Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; John 7:1-9; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Colossians 4:5-6; 1 Peter 3:15

  2. How To Turn Routine Work Into ‘Showtime’!

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    January 28, 2019 – Robert J. Tamasy  The majority of people, according to studies, muddle through the workday with all the enthusiasm of someone watching paint dry. For them, the words “work” and “necessary evil” are synonymous. But is this the way it should be?

    Recently I read an article about a fellow named Fred, a grocery store checkout clerk. Buying items at Fred’s lane is a dazzling experience, one many shoppers actually anticipate with great eagerness. Bcause when someone buys groceries at Fred’s cash register, it becomes what some observers have called “show time.”

    Adam Holz’s article in Our Daily Bread reports Fred is “amazingly fast, always has a big smile, and even dances (and sometimes sings)! As he acrobatically flips unbreakable purchases into bags.” What sets him apart is the zeal he has for his work. We have all experienced cashiers who barely stifle a yawn as they scan our purchases, but Fred’s contagious joy can transform mundane shopping experiences into a brief adventures.

    I have heard of other exceptional workers who have determined to transform ordinary work into a delightful events. The woman at one of our local hospitals comes to mind. She greets cancer patients as they arrive at the door of the clinic, bracing for another doctor’s exam or chemotherapy treatment. With a bright smile and an energetic greeting, the greeter seeks to change a patient’s grim mood into one of optimism and anticipation.

    Sadly, such workers are notable because they are so rare. They could methodically carry out their responsibilities and no one would complain. But they have resolved to turn their work into happy experiences, lifting not only their own spirits but also those of everyone they meet. For those of us who follow Jesus Christ, this also should be our goal in the workplace, as these verses point out:

    Who are you serving? We should keep in mind that ultimately, it is not a human boss or customer we need to please. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23).

    Who you are representing? Our actions – as well as our attitudes – serve as a reflection of God, whose desire is to work in us and through us. If we are to attract others to Him, they should find something attractive in us as well. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

    Why you are working? Wise King Solomon used his wealth and power to sample everything life had to offer. This was his conclusion: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the Lord” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people were as eager to work with us as they are to pass through Fred’s checkout lane?

    © 2019. Robert J. Tamasy has written Business at Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace; Tufting Legacies;coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring, and edited numerous other books, including Advancing Through Adversityby Mike Landry. Bob’s biweekly blog is:

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. Have you ever observed someone who was a joy to watch because he or she seemed to find so much enjoyment in their work? If so, describe that experience.


    1. Why do you think so many people view their work as “necessary evil” or drudgery? Is this the perspective you have toward your own work? Why or why not?


    1. How do you think people can change their attitudes toward their jobs, approaching them more as a joy and a privilege than as drudgery, or even agony?


    1. Which of the Bible passages cited about work stands out the most to you? Why does it seem especially meaningful or challenging?


    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about principles it presents, consider the following passages: Proverbs 12:11,24, 18:9, 21:5, 22:29; Ecclesiastes 5:18, 12:13-14; Colossians 3:17

  3. The Tension Between Working And Waiting

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    January 21, 2019 – Ken Korkow  When I was growing up, my mother often said, “All good things come to he who waits – so long as he who waits, works like heck while he waits.”

    Yes, my mom and dad were both focused and driven. They had survived the Great Depression and did not want anyone in their own family to have those experiences. Therefore, the values and virtues of hard work – even at the cost of other things – were vigorously imparted into our mindsets.

    I remember thinking as a boy, “When I grow up, I will NOT be like my dad.” But I became exactly like him, not just hard-working but also driven, focused on completing the task and reaping the rewards that came with it. Fulfilling the adage, “An apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” I had patterned my life after my father to the extent that I often heard someone say, “You’re just like your old man.”

    Please understand, I inherited many positive traits and gained good lessons from my parents. And I appreciated those. However, the older I get, I have learned to rely less on the power of my own flesh and instead act upon the recognition that my real identity, purpose, and manner of living come from the Lord.

    Please consider the words of Hannah Whitall Smith in her classic daily devotional book, Streams in the Desert:

    “A quiet spirit is of inestimable value in carrying on outward activities; and nothing so hinders the working of the hidden spiritual forces, upon which, after all, our success in everything really depends, as a spirit of unrest and anxiety.

    “There is immense power in stillness. A great saint once said, ‘All things come to him who knows how to trust and be silent.’ The words are pregnant with meaning. A knowledge of this fact would immensely change our ways of working. Instead of restless struggles, we would ‘sit down’ inwardly before the Lord, and would let the Divine forces of His Spirit work out in silence the ends to which we aspire.” 

    Such a perspective, of course, runs counter to the typically urgent, must-get-it-done philosophy that governs so many of us as we undertake our daily work responsibilities. However, experience has taught me that there also is great benefit from an determined effort to cultivate a quiet spirit and practice stillness despite the chaos that may surround us. Here are a couple of principles I have learned and applied from the Bible:

    Be willing to slow down and wait on God, rather than trying to make things happen ourselves. In our fast-paced, high-stress world, it takes great resolve to step off the treadmill and trust in God to guide us and resolve the difficulties and challenges we might be facing. It requires faith, but I have learned trusting in the Lord has never failed me. “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted  among the nations,I will be exalted in the earth’” (Psalm 46:10).

    While slowing down, we also should present our concerns to God. Worry and anxiety are constant companions for many of us in the workplace, but usually they are counterproductive emotions. The more we worry, the less we accomplish. Prayer, on the other hand, can accomplish much more than we could imagine. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).

    The Bible urges us to work – and work diligently. But it also teaches there are times when it is best to wait, be still, and watch to see what God can do.

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

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. Do you agree with the statement that good things come to those who wait – as long as they are working as hard as they can while they wait? Explain your answer.


    1. Why is it so difficult for us to be still and to wait, especially when we need to bring a project to completion, have a deadline to meet, or must find an answer to a pressing problem at work?


    1. In the quote by Hannah Whitall Smith, she states, “There is immense power in stillness.” Do you believe this? Why or why not? And if so, what would this power be?


    1. Can you think of a time when you decided to “be still” and chose to wait, even if reluctantly, when everything inside you screamed that you had to keep working? If so, what was the outcome?


    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Psalm 37:4-7; Proverbs 3:5-6, 16:3,9, 19:21, 21:21,30; Matthew 6:25-34, 7:7-12

  4. What Will You Remember 20 Years From Now?

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    January 14, 2019 – Jim Mathis  The magazine ad for Lufthansa Airlines asked, “What moments will you still remember in 20 years?” As I showed it to my wife, she and I agreed that the things we had done earlier in the year would still be fresh in our minds 20 years from now. That included spending a week in Paris, followed by a photography trade show in Germany.

    Our next question concerned what were we doing 20 years ago that stood out vividly in our memories today. We both immediately thought of our trip to Sweden and Norway in 1998. We flew to Stockholm along with my Swedish mother and her new husband. After a few days in Stockholm, we took the train across Sweden to Oslo, Norway, stopping to track down ancestors along the way. From there it was the spectacular train ride across Norway to Bergen.

    We enjoyed that beautiful town, taking a high speed boat up the coast, seeing fjords and fishing villages, before catching the railway back to Bergen.

    However, there are a few periods in our life when nothing stands out. For example, the 1980s have proved to be kind of a blur; I would have to look at the pictures to jar my memories. That is one of the great values of photographs in books and albums, especially when we record dates and captions to allow memories of good times with family and friends to come flooding back.

    Having spent most of my life as a photographer and operating photography businesses, I always tell people I hope they are documenting their lives, good times and bad, with photographs they can enjoy many years later. However, the images stored in our minds can be just as valuable, especially when they involve important human relationships we have enjoyed. I appreciate what the Bible has to say about this:

    It is all about people. Many people devote their lives to the pursuit of goals and achievements, whether it involves professional advancement or acquisition of material things. But those all are fleeting. We can lose the “stuff” we possess, and even the most prestigious job opportunity is temporary. One day we will leave and be replaced by someone else. People – the meaningful relationships we establish with them – are things that will endure.Since you are precious in My sight, Since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life”(Isaiah 43:4).

    Investments we make in people pay eternal dividends. Accomplishments are forgotten and our possessions get old and wear out, but the positive contributions we make in the lives of others last forever. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth” (3 John 4).

    Our “people impact” will sum up the impact of our lives. After commending his young protégé, Timothy, the apostle Paul told him, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). Later he declared, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). The work he had been called to was done.

    To his last breath, the apostle Paul’s focus was toward obedience to his God and service to the people God brought along throughout his journey through life. Those “pictures” were in his mind as he contemplated and evaluated the final moments of his life.

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

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. Thinking over the past year, what are the things you expect to still be remembering 20 years from now? What have been your most memorable moments?


    1. Looking at it a different way, thinking back to 20 years ago, what are the memories that continue to linger with you today? Why do they seem so unforgettable?


    1. Do you agree that relationships most often play an important part in our most cherished memories? Why or why not?


    1. Whether you have been diligent to keep photographs of key moments in your life, or you have just retained those “pictures” in your mind, what are some of the highlights you would find in your life’s photo album? How many of those images, do you think, will last beyond your lifetime – perhaps even for eternity? Explain your answer.


    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Proverbs 27:17; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Philippians 4:8-9; Timothy 3:10-11,14

  5. Perils Of Miscommunication

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    January 7, 2019 – Rick Boxx  There is a simple principle that underscores a common pitfall in communications: “It is not what you say – it is EXACTLY what you say.” Failing to observe this can cause significant, even disastrous problems in business, as well as for relationships, as I learned all too clearly at an event I was overseeing.

    It was a major business luncheon for our organization, and the event had gotten off to a good start. But as the guests began to finish their salads, I noticed that no lunches were being served. Even though our program was about to start, there were no meals in sight!

    Our guests were eventually served, and the presentation went on as planned, but the delay caused considerable anxiety for our team, as well as for the hotel’s staff. Only later did I learn that I had signed contracts that clearly stated that our event was to be held from noon to 2 p.m., instead of our accustomed 11a.m-1 p.m.

    Because of my error, failing to carefully read the documents for the events and not being able to correct the time difference, the hotel was understandably not prepared at our normal lunch time. We might regard this as a small miscommunication, but it proved extremely disconcerting to our meeting planners and could have disrupted an otherwise great event. Everything else on the contract was accurate – seating arrangement, number of guests expected, the menu, and other details. But a small miscommunication could have ruined everything.

    When we talk about communications, we typically focus on what is being said or written, along with how it is expressed. However, what is not said – in this case, confusion over the expected schedule for our event – can be as critical for determining success or failure. I have found the Bible offers excellent insight into the perils of miscommunication.

    Realizing that what we say or don’t say can lead to wrongdoing. In Ecclesiastes 5:6 we read, “Do not let your speech cause you to sin…”Paying attention to details, and having people check your work can help prevent painful miscommunications, whether they are spoken or in written form. My intent was definitely not to delay the meal service, but lack of intent can still lead to unintended consequences.

    Responding to potential mistakes. If I had determined to be more diligent to check and even recheck important details, such as the obvious one about when we and the hotel agreed the meeting would be held, unnecessary inconvenience could have been avoided.The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out(Proverbs 18:15).

    Recognizing that even small details can lead to failure. In a beautiful Old Testament book we read an appropriate warning:Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom(Song of Solomon 2:15).The context of this admonition is not the marketplace, but the idea still applies. The “little foxes” we encounter during the course of any workday may seem inconsequential, but if not attended to properly, they can create more disruption than we could ever imagine.

    As it turned out, despite the delay in serving our guests, our event proceeded pretty much as planned However, the outcome of my miscommunication could have been very different, a lesson I never forgot.

    Copyright 2019, Unconventional Business Network 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, His latest book, Unconventional Business,provides “Five Keys to Growing a Business God’s Way.”

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. When you hear, “It’s not what you say – it’s EXACTLY what you say,” what does that mean to you?


    1. Can you think of a miscommunication you experienced similar to the one described here? What were the consequences of that – was the impact very serious? How was it resolved?


    1. How can we be proactive in ensuring that such miscommunications are avoided? Of course, mistakes will inevitably occur at times. When they do, what is the best way for us to respond?


    1. What other “little foxes” can you think of, relating to communications whether individually or corporately, that can create considerable problems?


    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Proverbs 10:4, 14:23, 16:21, 19:11, 21:5, 22:3, 27:23-27

  6. Pondering And Preparing Proper Plans

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    December 31, 2018 – Robert J. Tamasy  What are your plans for 2019? Are you wanting to grow your business? Do you desire a promotion, or to find a new, more rewarding job? Maybe you want to make a complete career change? Or perhaps your greatest aspiration is to become an improved version of you?

    As another calendar year reaches its conclusion, it is time for many of us to again engage in two traditional activities: reviewing the past year, and planning for the new one. Planning has one advantage over reviewing. We cannot change the past, we can only assess it. In planning, however, we can start fresh, determining what we want to do, when, how, where, and even why.

    One common element of planning is the setting of goals. From a business standpoint, in light of what has transpired over the past year, as well as expectations for the future, we can formulate plans for achieving certain levels of profit, productivity and growth. Plans are also useful, of course, on an individual level. We can establish goals for personal and professional growth and advancement, assessing where we are and where we would like to be at some point in the future.

    We might wish to build on accomplishments over the last 12 months, or pursue important changes for the attainment of goals that have remained beyond our reach. The adage says, “You’re either getting better or getting worse,” so we strategize about how to get better in future days, months and years.

    Countless articles and books have been written about effective goal-setting and planning, but they rarely take into account teachings and guidelines presented in the Bible. These can be especially helpful for understanding the “why” of our goals and plans. So to assist as we engage in this annual process, here are just some examples to consider:

    Wealth. For many people, affluence is a major goal, the ability to attain a desired lifestyle. The Scriptures advise keeping a proper, realistic perspective. “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (Proverbs 23:4-5).

    Excellence. We should continually strive to do the best work we possibly can, not for our own benefit, but also in recognition of who we represent and ultimately serve. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve”(Colossians 3:23-24).

    Correct focus.How can we be confident that our goals are well-conceived? How can we be certain the plans we formulate are coming from the right motivations? “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

    Humility. In setting goals, we rarely consider virtues, such as humility. However, in many cases this is a quality that ensures enduring success. “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life” (Proverbs 22:4).

    © 2018. Robert J. Tamasy has written Business at Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace; Tufting Legacies;coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring, and edited numerous other books, including Advancing Through Adversityby Mike Landry. Bob’s biweekly blog is:

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. Are planning and goal-setting important activities for you at the end of one year and the beginning of a new one? What kind of process do you use for making long-term plans and establishing goals?


    1. If you have progressed in your planning for the next year, what are some of the goals you intend to pursue?


    1. What are your thoughts about using principles from the Bible as guidelines for goal-setting and planning? Have you ever considered doing that? Explain your answer.


    1. How can biblical teachings be factored into planning and the setting of goals? How do you think they might actually interfere with the planning process?


    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about principles it presents, consider the following passages: Psalm 37:4-5,7; Proverbs 3:5-6, 4:18-19, 16:1-4,9, 19:21, 20:24, 21:30, 27:1

  7. Focusing On The Gift — And The Giver

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    December 24, 2018 – Robert J. Tamasy  With another Christmas just the wink of an eye away, most of us are filled with expectations. These expectations, of course, are based upon how we perceive the annual holiday. For many, it marks the end of the calendar year, a time for seasonal parties and events, and perhaps a chance to take a break from day-to-day workplace demands. For some, Christmas is an annoyance, an unnecessary interruption to “life as usual.” Such people align with Scrooge, the star of Charles Dickens’s classic, A Christmas Carol,wishing “bah humbug!” to everyone daring to exhibit a festive holiday spirit.

    Purists regard Christmas as a solemn celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the arrival of God to earth in human form. Most of us, to some degree, see Christmas as a time for gift giving – and gift receiving. Little thought, however, is devoted to gift givers. Maybe that should change.

    Because at its heart, Christmas is about both the gift andthe gift giver. A familiar Bible passage tells us, “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” (John 3:16). In this single verse we read about both the Giver, God the Father, and the Gift, Jesus Christ the Son.

    It is amazing that a single event – the birth of a baby in a remote town called Bethlehem – would have such an enduring, worldwide impact. In many nations, on every continent, Jesus’ birth is celebrated in a variety of ways. Traditions for how the day is observed differ from culture to culture, but they all revolve about a singular declaration: “The Word [Jesus Christ] became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

    This Jesus went on to live an exemplary, sinless life; taught principles that work regardless of one’s belief system; died on a cross, making what Christians believe to be the once and for all atonement for the sins of the world; and rose from the dead, demonstrating not only victory over death but also the offer of eternal life to anyone who would accept this unique gift: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Another passage states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23).

    So we see a clear distinction. When we receive gifts during the Christmas season, or give them to others, our focus is on the gifts. “What will I receive?” or “Will they like what I am giving to them?” The central, original gift of Christmas – the Son of God – also encourages us to concentrate on the Giver, whose amazing gift of forgiveness for our sins reflects His love, grace and mercy, available to all who would receive this gift offered freely to them.

    But this gift goes far beyond just forgiveness, because it also presents to us the opportunity of new life, a fresh start. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 declares, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

    This Christmas, amid the festivities, sharing of good food, enjoying time with family and friends, exchanging of gifts, and for many of us, the assembling for celebratory worship, I hope you take time also to reflect, to ponder of the benevolence of the Giver, as well as the arrival of the Gift.

    © 2018. Robert J. Tamasy has written Business at Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace; Tufting Legacies;coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring, and edited numerous other books, including Advancing Through Adversityby Mike Landry. Bob’s biweekly blog is:

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. When you think of Christmas, what are the first things that come to your mind?


    1. Why do you think gift-giving is such an important part of many Christmas observances?


    1. Do you view the birth of Jesus Christ just as a religious or historical event, or as something of much deeper significance? Explain your answer.


    1. In considering the gifts of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins, as promised in the Scriptures, are these gifts you believe you have personally received? Why or why not?


    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about principles it presents, consider the following passages:
    Luke 2:1-20; John 1:1-4,12-14; Romans 5:1-2,8; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21; Galatians 2:20

  8. Shake It Off And Step Up!

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    December 17, 2018 – Jim Mathis  I was having breakfast with some friends when one of them mentioned a co-worker who was always having bad things happen. He had been suspended from work because he was late too many times. He was late because he ran out of gas. He ran out of gas because his fuel gauge didn’t work.

    Presumably, he could not afford to get the fuel gauge repaired because he was suspended from his job.

    Apparently he failed to realize that he could just keep track of how far he had driven and fill up every few hundred miles, even though the trip odometer makes a good substitute for a fuel gauge. His story of woe became even longer with additional problems arising due to not taking control of common situations.

    Our breakfast conversation then turned to choices. Important choices start at least as far back as high school; some can date back to our pre-school days. Every choice we make has an effect on our life. Sometimes even small choices have a huge impact for the future.

    This reminded me of the fable about the donkey that fell into a well, and nobody could figure out how to get it out. Eventually the townspeople decided to be merciful on the donkey by burying it alive in the well. They began to shovel in dirt, but with each shovelful, the donkey shook off the dirt and stepped up onto the growing pile of dirt. As dirt filled the well, the donkey continued stepping up. Eventually the mound of dirt inside the well had piled so high, the donkey was able to step out of the well onto level ground and safety.

    This story’s moral is a simple one: The donkey could have decided he was doomed and accepted his fate. He could have given up at any time and become buried under the dirt. Instead, he kept shaking it off and rising up under the challenge until he had overcome his dilemma and stepped out into freedom.

    Like the donkey, in the business and professional world we often find ourselves deep in a “well” of difficulties, with people shoveling dirt on us, trying to cover us up. This leaves us with a choice: We can either become buried by the adverse circumstances, or keep stepping up to confront the new challenge.

    In the Bible, we can find many examples of individuals and groups that determined not to succumb to their problems. They would pray for wisdom, sometimes for outright deliverance, then devise strategies to address their challenges. This is why passages like Romans 5:3-5 tell us to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us.”

    This means rather than bowing down to the pressures of adversity, we can rely on God’s strength to endure our hardships, grow through these experiences, strengthen our resolve, and overcome our challenges so we can excel and thrive, both personally and professionally. James 1:3-5 offers similar sentiments: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

    One could say that we are never completely out of the “well” as long as we are still walking around on Planet Earth. There are constant challenges to face and dirt to be shaken off as long as we live. With God’s strength and guidance, we can overcome them. Keep stepping up!

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

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. Why do you think some people seem to encounter one problem after another, each one compounding what’s gone before? Do you agree with Mr. Mathis that these adversities can often result from choices we have made in the past?


    1. Had you heard the fable of the donkey before? What lessons or practical insights does it provide for you? What deep “well” do you find yourself stuck in at the moment?


    1. If you are familiar with some of the stories in the Bible, who can you think of that was able to overcome extremely difficult circumstances by rising up to face and overcome them?


    1. How can someone seek the power, guidance and wisdom of God for facing times of great difficulty and hardship? Have you had experiences like that yourself? Explain your answer.


    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Habakkuk 3:16-18; Psalm 27:114; Matthew 6:1-12; James 1:5-7,12; 1 Peter 1:6-9

  9. Compassion For ‘The Least Of These’

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    December 10, 2018 – Austin Pryor  With Christmas fast approaching, churches and Christian relief organizations are encouraging us to have a charitable and giving spirit toward the poor. This is good. But may I suggest that care should be taken so the breadth of our compassion is neither too broad on the one hand nor too narrow on the other?

    How can it be too broad? Many Christians use Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25 as the basis for exhorting the church to care for society’s downtrodden. Yet, picking up the text in verse 37, we read (emphasis added): “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine,you did for me.’”

    Interpreting this parable to refer to all of the world’s poor, both Christians and non-Christians alike, is to inappropriately broaden it far beyond its scope. Throughout the New Testament, the primary usage of the word “brothers” is in reference to Christians. The secondary use is to refer to fellow Jews. Nowhere can I find it ever used to refer to humankind in general. Also consider:

    • Matthew had earlier taught who the “brothers” of Jesus were.“‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brotherand sister and mother’”(Matthew 12:47-50).
    • The apostle Paul had a similar view about God’s children and Jesus’ brothers: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship…. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers”(Romans 8:14-29).
    • There are many verses that specifically tell us to give highest priority to the needs of believers in Christ versus those of society in general. Among others, they include: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…. Share with God’s peoplewho are in need” (Romans 12:10-13). “Suppose a brother or sisteris without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”(James 2:15-17).

    Am I saying that we are not to assist the poor who do not share our faith? Of course not. In fact, I would argue for demonstrating greater compassion for them, not less. However, while our benevolence should include material needs, it should lovingly be paired with the gospel message. Should we not provide people who don’t know Jesus Christ with food for their souls, which are eternal, as well as for their earthly bodies which are, after all, only temporal?

    Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry…. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever’”(John 6:35).

    Austin Pryor has 39 years of experience advising investors, and is the founder of Sound Mind Investing newsletter and website. He’s the author of The Sound Mind Investing Handbook,which enjoys the endorsements of respected Christian teachers with more than 100,000 copies sold. Pryor lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with Susie, his wife of 53 years.

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. Does the Christmas season cause you to be more considerate of the needs of those around you – and around the world – who have significant needs? If so, how do you typically respond to those needs?


    1. What do you think of Mr. Pryor’s admonition that in responding to requests for charitable giving, that we should give neither too broadly or narrowly? How do you think that would look like in a practical sense?


    1. When you read terms in the Bible such as “brother and sister,” how do you interpret what they mean?


    1. Why do you think it is important to respond to people outside the family of God with the Good News of Jesus Christ, as well as seeking to address their physical needs? Do you agree with taking that approach?


    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Proverbs 3:27-28, 11:24-25, John 4:10-13; 2 Corinthians 9:6-14; Hebrews 2:10-11

  10. Pitfalls Of The ‘Peter Principle’

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    December 3, 2018 – Rick Boxx  Years ago, the business world became captivated by a book called The Peter Principle, authored by Dr. Laurence J. Peter. The book focused on an common pitfall of leadership advancement: If we continually promote high performers, we will eventually advance them to a level of incompetence. In other words, success in one level of endeavor does not guarantee success in levels of greater authority and responsibility.

    Even though Dr. Peter’s book was first published more than 40 years ago, this “Peter Principle” continues being practiced today, often to the detriment of individuals and the organizations that employ them. According to the Harvard Business Review, researchers Alan Benson and Kelly Shue tested this theory by studying how well sales people performed when promoted to sales management positions.

    Benson and Shue discovered high-performing salespeople often were not good managers, affirming the Peter Principle. When offered a promotion, some people accept it for the additional compensation that comes with it. Or they take the new position out of pride, desiring status or authority that goes with it, rather than to humbly and honestly consider their skill sets, evaluating whether the proposed role would be the best fit for them. Failing to perceive they could become “square pegs” struggling to fit into “round holes” can lead to unnecessary failure.

    For instance, people whose persuasive and people skills enable them to excel in sales might lack the necessary leadership or administrative skills to effectively handle the challenges of managing and directing others. Such a promotion could prove to be more of a penalty than a reward.

    The consequences of moving high performers into very different new roles are significant on several levels. For a company, ideally every individual would be situated in positions where they can both excel and thrive. The adage about a chain being only as strong as its weakest link applies to people being promoted beyond their capabilities.

    In sports, not all stellar athletes are suited to experience equal success as managers, coaches or sports executives. Similarly, promoting someone to a role that requires different skills and gifts can prove frustrating for everyone. Some individuals may find great joy and fulfillment in their current position, but become miserable in another role for which they are ill-suited. At the same time, those assigned to report to them could become stifled in their own productivity.

    The Bible offers insight into how to avoid this dilemma:

    Seek wisdom to discern how best to utilize people’s talents and abilities. Effective leaders learn to understand the people who work for them – their skills, interests, goals and limitations. Advancement decisions should be made with all of those factors in mind.Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds(Proverbs 27:23).

    Do not let pride or ambition misdirect your career. Without question, excellence should be recognized and rewarded. “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men” (Proverbs 22:29). However, ambition and the desire for recognition can lead to poor career decisions. Proverbs 29:23 teaches,“A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.”

    If you desire honor for your work, concentrate on what you do best and ask your company to reward your successes appropriately.

    Copyright 2018, Unconventional Business Network. 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 His latest book and inspiration for their new ministry name, Unconventional Business,provides “Five Keys to Growing a Business God’s Way.”

    Reflection/Discussion Questions

    1. When you hear the term “Peter Principle,” what comes to your mind?


    1. Have you seen this Peter Principle in action during your work experience? Has it ever directly affected you, or people with whom you have worked? Explain your answer.


    1. What are some of the consequences of promoting people “to their levels of incompetence”? Or to state it a bit more kindly, beyond their levels of competence?


    1. How can a good leader discern whether a high performer in the company is suited to receive a promotion, or should just be recognized and rewarded for their work and remain in the same position? Similarly, how can someone honestly evaluate whether they should accept a promotion if offered, when they are highly effective in the work they are currently doing?


    NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Proverbs 11:2, 12:9, 15:33, 16:18; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26