Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Can we afford new technology?

Are you as concerned about the future as I am? Think about it... $4.00 for a gallon of gasoline? If that's not enough look at the cost of food and housing these days. I remember when I graduated from high school, I was paying around $1.32 for a gallon of gasoline for my car. To rent an apartment we'd spend no more than about $350-$400 a month at the most. My wife and I rented in our early days and finally we saved enough to buy our first house for $12,000. We were the proud owners of a used mobile home and we were very happy to be owning something rather than renting all the time. After living in the mobile home for a few years we sold it and bought a small but very nice 3 bedroom home for our growing family for $52,000. Scraping enough savings to pay down 10% was tough but we did it. Brenda and I both we're making about $10.00 per hour at the time. We were on a tight budget but we could make it if we both worked as many hours each week that we could. Those days were over 20 years ago!

About the only thing to remain the same these days for most of our children moving away from home is the pay. Although minimum wage has gone up some over the years. The take home pay for most couples starting out today is almost like it was in my younger years. They have about the same income, yet their expenses today compared to what ours were then are staggering. Let's look at some comparisons.

Income then... Between my wife and I was right around $38,400 annual income.
Here's a list of some of our expenses then.

  • House payment or rent was $450 monthly = $5,400 annually.

  • Gasoline was $1.32 per gallon.

  • Food was half the price that we pay for it now. I remember Libby's canned vegetables on sale for 5/$1.00. Mac and Cheese for 10/$1.00. The sales were great and the food was really very inexpensive then. Back then we didn't pay for bottled water (who ever heard of such a thing, tap water was free!)

  • Television, was free. (no cable or satellite) Sure you didn't have but three stations to pick from, but even with the hundreds I have to choose from now, I still can't find anything worth watching most times. (Cable wasn't around yet)

  • The phone bill was minimal cost. (no cell phones were invented yet.)

  • Internet, not around yet.

So just looking at house payment, Gasoline for our cars, Food, TV, Phone, and Internet, the differences are staggering in the cost associates with today's young people just starting out on their own.

  • Monthly house today... $650-$850 minimum rent or house payments in many cases, usually more. Payments at a minimum are way up.

  • Gasoline $4.00 per gallon. Gas has tripled!

  • Food has tripled!

  • The phone bill is double what we paid, but now let's add on our cell phones.

  • Internet use is additional, something we never had in the past.

  • TV is no longer free, add on lots more for this as well.

Let's see, everything has gone up except for our wages??? How can we make it today?

I believe there is an answer, but we're not going to like it. Unless our young people can afford the cell phone, they shouldn't have it. If they can't afford the gasoline they certainly can't afford a car payment, they need something that they can afford to buy and chances are it won't be cool, whatever it is. The Internet should be a privilege that you should have only if you can afford it. The TV is an easy fix, buy a DVD player and watch movies once in a while, or get just the basic cable if you can afford it. The problem with today's young people are that they want to live the same lifestyle as if they are making the same income their parents make. I don't quite understand this logic. In my day I knew that the only thing I'd ever have, I would have to pay for and buy myself. I think having parents that are struggling to make ends meet week after week does that to you. The reality is that we must live within our means, and so many of us don't. When this happens we become slaves to the things we own, or at least to the things we think we own. In many cases the bank owns them because we're using their money to get these things. Proverbs 22:6 The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender. It's dangerous ground to live on. Especially in today's environment we should be very frugal, very expense conscious. Even if our young people are very tight and very expense conscious, the road ahead of them today is much more difficult than it was in my younger days. The technology is wonderful, but it comes at a very high cost. A cost that many can't afford today. I'm afraid it's going to get worse before it ever gets better. Hopefully we'll come to our senses soon.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Have we fallen asleep?

I don't know what it's like to suffer for the gospel, to be persecuted for my faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord. As I think back over my life, honestly, no persecution or any that I would call persecution has come to me because of my faith. I've had a few doors shut in my face as I tried to witness and maybe I've gotten the evil eye or they appeared uninterested as I shared, but no real persecution. As a matter of fact the only persecution I've really experienced living my life for Jesus has been from other Christians that criticize my faith or my motives for what I do. There are many Christians that would rather tell their brothers and sisters in Christ where they're failing and messing up, than tell a complete stranger about the love of Christ and the pending doom that awaits them if they don't repent of their sins and be saved. Yes, we can discourage others in Christ and think we're helping in some way, but who have we told about Jesus this week? I mean really, where are our priorities? I really can't ever recall being persecuted for my faith in Christ, and that's sad.

Why do I not have persecution in my life? I'll tell you why. I'm not out there in the trenches trying to reach the lost and engaging myself in the fight, that's why. Oh sure, I write great little words of encouragement so that we can feel good about ourselves in our daily walk with the Lord, but the reality is this... I should be suffering for the gospel. A country, like ours, that has been blessed with so much, can fall asleep and become lazy. We become content or complacent in our work and zeal for the Lord. Persecution is opposition. It's about a fight! You walk away from being persecuted sore, weak, and exhausted. Yet deep inside you are revived and alive, because you have delivered the gospel message in spite of the cost, in spite of the opposition, and you know that it's not about you anyway, it's about the gospel and your ability to spread it to those that need to hear it whether they like it or not, whether they think they need to hear it or not. We need persecution to drive us and motivate us to action. It's seems strange to want persecution, and I'm sure there are some reading saying, Steve be careful what you ask for, you may just get it. And that right there is the problem isn't it? Be careful! The Lord might just use you. He might make you suffer for the Kingdom... be careful what you pray for. Your life of material things could be lost, and everything you've worked hard for could be gone. You better watch out. Yes that's the advice we get now days from our Christian brothers and sisters... play it safe, don't be too hard on yourself, God loves you man, it's ok.

No it's not. People are dying and going to hell everyday because we're playing it safe.

..............I'm sorry to vent like this. I'm just wondering if my time that I write could or should be better spent doing the Lord's work in other ways. When I think about this blog, I realize that I average around 350 hits a week. Now I know that's not a lot compared to other blogs of interest, but it used to be around 25-30 hits a week this time last year. So I'm surprised at how many folks are reading what I've published here. How many people have I lead to Christ this year so far? None, that I know of. I know they could read my blog and give their life to Christ after being convicted of the Holy Spirit to do so, but I venture to say that most people that read this are already saved and belong to Christ. If that's the case... then how effective is what I writing? I've said it before in a previous post. It would better for you to stop reading what I'm writing and read your bible instead. How much more effective would that be? The time you take to read what I've written may have prevented you from digging into God's word, it may have taken the place of reading His word, kind of like it does with me and the time I spend writing. How much more could I have read in God's word, could I have prayed, could I have witnessed, if I wasn't writing? I suppose a lot more could be done. But the real question is this... Would I have read my bible more? Would I have studied more? Would I have prayed more? Would I have witnessed more? I don't know? I just don't know.

The only reason that I can think of to keep writing is this... I think it's important that we as Christians share between us, the struggles and the weaknesses we have in our faith. I'm not saying it's right to be weak, we should be strong and victorious in our faith and our walk, after all look at the power we have within us to overcome. But often we're not strong. I have to be careful not to say, it's ok (I do that a lot), maybe it's better to say that I know how you feel because I struggle too. You are not alone, there are many like us out there if we would just admit it. Stay the course, read your bible, and let's get back in the fight! The battle awaits us! There are people waiting for you and I to tell them about the good news of Christ. As we sit comfortably in our churches this Sunday, may we be reminded that the church is not a building of comfort with air conditioning and great music etc. The church is God's people. As God's people are we reaching out to the lost and inviting people into the family of God? Or, are we simply a social club of Christians? Are you being persecuted for your faith? If not, then we have to ask why? Don't we?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Have you ever asked this question? I think we've all asked it or wondered it from time to time. Especially when we see good Christian people suffering an illness or injury that is tragic in nature. We think to ourselves... "Why would God allow this to happen to them?" I mean, "He God! He could have protected them from this terrible thing, right?" Well the answer of course is Yes he could, He's God, He can do anything he wants. So our next question might be... "Why doesn't he protect us then from bad things like Cancer or illness, or terrible auto accidents that injure or even kill our loved ones, or what about the terrible storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters that hurt or kill people, or any other bad thing that you can think of? Why are we not protected from all that stuff?

Well I'd like to take a look at this a different way if you will. Let me ask you this question. Do you believe the bible teaches you that you can earn your way into heaven? You've probably answered... NO WAY! God's gift of salvation does not come from works lest any man should boast. It's a free gift to all who repent of their sin and give their heart and life to Jesus, making him Lord of your life. Good answer! So you would say that no one is good enough to get into heaven without the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior? YES! OK, but what about Billy Graham, if any body's earned their way, I mean he's it isn't he? Of course the answer is still no. He may live a more Godly life than most of us, but he's still is a sinner saved by God's amazing grace, and even though he may strive to live a life of obedience, he still has an old nature that battles within him with his new nature (Holy Spirit.) Has he been made righteous in the site of God? Yes he has, but it's not because of what he did, it's because of what Jesus did on the cross for him and the rest of us that believe. Another way to say this would be to say that we are not good people, we're sinners in need of saving! The bible tells us that we are as filthy rages in the sight of the Lord. Because of our sin we all fall short of God's glory and none of us measure up. We're not good people, we're sinners. So when we say things like... Why do bad things happen to good people, were saying their good in comparison to other people, which of course they may be. Lets face it, some people are just down right mean and hateful, while others are friendly and polite to just about everyone they meet. Some are giving and loving while others are rude and selfish. It's easy to see the difference and when we see people that live their life as a sacrifice to the Lord and they practice in their actions how the word of God says we should live. It's easy to see why we would be confused and ask... Why Lord? These people are living their life for you yet they're suffering so much. It seems terrible bad things are happening to them and here sits these bad people and they seem to be wealthy, have great health, and living the good life, while at the same time speaking out against you Lord. Why? Why do you not protect those that belong to you???

The answer is... He does protect those that belong to him. It's called eternal life! We must never forget that this world we live in is a bad world. Satan and his demons rebelled against God and they were cast out and they have fallen to earth. Earth is their world now, their home. This world we live in is not our home if you belong to Christ. We've been protected and secured in our faith. We belong to Jesus Christ and one day we'll be removed from this world and we'll be in the presence of Almighty God in heaven. The promise is that one day we'll stand before God and even though we don't deserve eternal life, Jesus will speak on our behave. He'll say to the Father, this one belongs to me and he's been made righteous by my blood that I shed on the cross for him. This one put his faith and trust in me. He repented of his sin and made me Lord of his life. I know him! We have a relationship.

It's from this day on that we'll be good, we'll be pure, and we'll be holy. But today, we're not good. Even the best Christian is still a sinner saved by grace. Yes it hurts us to see good people suffer, we don't think it's right. It just doesn't seem fair. But we must never forget that this world is full of evil. Bad terrible things will happen to anyone at any time as we journey through it. It's random at best. As we live in a world that has the influence of Satan, well, even Innocent bystanders are going to get hit by the flying debris every so often. There's no one safe from it. A person under the influence of Satan can walk up to you and blow your brains out with a gun, and it doesn't matter that you were thought of as a good person. This world is a mess. The good news in all this is... this is not our final destination. With the Holy Spirits leading and guiding us we have the strength and the courage to get through everything that comes our way. Good or bad, we'll make it through, because we know this isn't all there is in life. God does protect us from bad things, we have eternal life in God's love. Some don't!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hang on for the ride!

Matt said... GREAT BOOK!!!! be careful reading it, you might do something radical! It's amazing to see that things still can happen just like they did in the book of Acts. May we be willing and ready just as Yun.

Matt, thanks for the reply to my last post. The book, "The Heavenly Man" truly is a modern day example of Paul's journey through the book of Acts. The word you used... Radical, is what God's awesome power is all about isn't it? Nothing we do in and of itself amounts to anything, but with God's power, amazing things happen. Another comment out of that book that really stuck with me was when Brother Yun said, "The best we can ever hope to do when God is moving is to try and hang on for the ride." When God moves... look out! What a blessing to experience that kind of awesome power. Usually however to experience something of that magnitude comes at a huge sacrificial price. We must be willing to go wherever, whenever, to whomever. When we get to that place of obedience... God can use us. Now we just have to hang on for the ride! One of the best examples of this is found in Matthew Chapter 4.

Matt 4:18-22
(18) One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers-Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew-throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.
(19) Jesus called out to them, "Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!"
(20) And they left their nets at once and followed him.
(21) A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called to them to come, too.
(22) They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.

THE REST IS HISTORY, and those four were a huge part of it! As I think about that day, I'm sure none of them awoke that morning thinking, "Hey, today I bet we'll be leaving everything behind and going on a mission trip with Jesus." Nope, it was probably more like, "I wonder how many fish we'll catch today?" Their idea of fishing and Jesus idea of fishing were completely different. The point is this... Talk about hanging on for the ride. A willing obedient heart, is what God desires from us, just as he did with the first Disciples he called to follow him that day on the shore.

Matt, you and your family are standing on that shore today. You've been called to leave everything behind and go fishing for men. Of course it's not the first time you've been called and I imagine it won't be the last. God has this amazing way of constantly directing our lives when we're obedient and truly his followers. Your willingness to follow and obey is a light for us all. I'm so thankful that when God calls Disciples today, that we have those that are still willing to drop their nets and leave everything they own behind trusting in the Lord to provide when He says, come! May God bless you and your family on this next journey in your life.

May your fishing nets break from the abundance of your catch!

God bless you,


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

God's will... WILL BE DONE

I've been reading a book titled, "The Heavenly Man." It's true story about Chinese Christian Brother Yun. It's about how God took a young, half starved boy from a poor village and allowed him mightily to preach the Gospel despite horrific opposition. He suffered prolonged torture and imprisonment for his faith. This book will test your own faith. As I read and saw how much Brother Yun suffered in his faith, I would often ask myself this question... WHY? Why did brother Yun suffer so greatly? This man of God would almost die several times in his life as he was severely beaten and starved. The beatings and the torture were unreal! All he wanted to do in his life was serve the Lord and preach the Gospel, which he did, even while being persecuted the way he was. There's a time in the book where he describes a beating so severe, that his legs were beaten and broken so severely that for the next few years he had to be carried everywhere in prison because his legs were no longer useful. They were too badly damaged and the severe pain he had in his legs everyday was unimaginable. He couldn't walk anymore, and that was the point of the beating... He would never escape again. The guards made it impossible for him to ever to walk again.

One day he knew the Lord was telling him to escape from prison. In an instant he knew. He sensed it and another inmate told him he was to escape as well. It was time to go, as he struggled to stand to his feet, he walked to a gate, not knowing how he was going to escape or what to do next he simply walked towards the next gate. The gate opened just as he got to it and another prisoner and a guard come through the gate as he walks right past them and goes through the gate as it was open at that perfect moment. The prisoner notices Brother Yun but the guard never sees him, even though he walks right past him. The guard is blinded to Yun's presence there. As Brother Yun walks across the prison yard he walks towards the final gate to the prison. It's heavily guarded and always locked. But this time Yun walks past all the guards in the yard, and they do not see him, he walks to the gate and it's not locked and he pushes it open and walks out to a cab waiting by the gate. He gets in and rides away in the cab. Not one guard saw him. The prisoners saw him walk right through the yard past all the guards and right out of the prison gate without any guard ever seeing him or ever acknowledging that he was even there. Brother Yun had the cab driver take him to a church leaders home and when he arrived they were expecting him because they too had a vision from the Lord that Brother Yun would be at their door. They already had food, supplies and clothes for him as they knew he would be there. From there they took him to a safe place while the whole city searched for his whereabouts. The Chinese government and prison officials were frantically searching for Brother Yun but of course he would not be found. Why? Because it was the Lord's will that's why.

Why is this story so important? Because it reminds us that with God, anything is possible. You can walk on crippled legs with God's power. Incidentally brother Yun's legs were healed that day, he was able to walk fine from that day on. Not before that day.... he was in too much pain and agony, as I said before he was carried everywhere, but God healed him so he could walk out according to His plan that day. All obstacles like gates and guards and locks will be opened and a pathway will be made for you if it's God's will. Another lesson is that we don't have to know the plan for God's plan to work, we just simply need to obey God when he tells us to go. He works out all the details. Another very important lesson is that God's plan can happen today, this very moment. When all seems lost, when all seems hopeless, God can change everything. In an instant your condition and your life can change. No matter what the odds, broken legs, guards with guns, prison gates and fences, transportation, food, clothes, shelter???? Whatever the need is not your worry. Our faith must always be that with God... anything is possible! Anything.

The next time you are facing a trial, when all seems hopeless and there just seems to be no way out. Never forget that with God, nothing is as we see it. God can heal, God can open doors that man can't. God can provide food and shelter when we can't see how. If it's God's will... then it WILL BE DONE.

I challenge you to read this book, "The Heavenly Man." Especially if you are facing a trial that seems impossible. This book will help you to remember what you already know in your heart. With God, anything is possible. Never lose faith.

The Uncertainty of Tomorrow

When I was young and naive, I thought that I could control my destiny. I really did! I believed that good things happened to good people. I believed that hard work and effort would always lead to prosperity and happiness. I always felt comfortable that I could control my life. I believed that if you raised your children to be polite and honest and taught them right from wrong that they would grow up that way. I always believed that my influence as a parent would far out weigh the influence of their peers but as I get older and more experienced in life I've come to learn a very important lesson that I guess we all learn eventually. No matter how hard you work, or how hard you try to impact tomorrow, tomorrow is a mystery known only to God.

Now I'm not saying we shouldn't work hard or try to plan for tomorrow and impact the rest of our lives. Of course we should because as we all know, we do make a difference in our lives as we influence others. The Bible teaches that we should raise a child up in the way of the Lord and he will return to it. This verse alone ought to give us as parents a clue to what's ahead. The reality is this... Raise them right, and they will return. It was never said they would go out and be perfect and holy in every thing they do because of this great work you did as a parent. The promise is however that one day, they will remember what they were taught them and they will come back. We need to rest assured that all the work and effort and teaching will someday return to them and they will realize what it all means. As parents our obligation and responsibility is to raise them up in the way of the Lord. To be a good example of faith for them. A role model of Christian behavior and when we mess up, as we will, then they need to see how we return to the Lord. This impression will be burned into their minds and one day they too will be returning to the Lord after they too realize what they've done.

During these days of uncertainty... know this. They're adults and they're going to live their own lives. They're going to make mistakes and it's in those moments that we love them, pick them up, help them and most importantly keep living our life as a Godly example for them. The best thing we can ever do for our children, yes even when they're adults, is live our lives for our Lord. Remember, when they're not asking, "What would Jesus do?" They might be asking, "What would Dad do?" Hopefully, they'll see the same thing.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Quacks like a duck

You've heard it said that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, then it's probably a duck!

Matthew 7:15 says... "Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.

Wow stern warnings for us isn't it? BEWARE.. be cautious, pay attention, be careful or you'll be deceived. What appears to be genuine can be false or fake. The good news for us though is that we can tell the false prophets from those that speak the truth. Matthew 7:16 tell us how... You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? (17) A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit, a bad tree can not produce good fruit. In other words, if it looks like a duck.... it probably is.

What is the fruit of the spirit? You can look in Galatians 5:22. If a person doesn't have these characteristics in their life, then they might not be a Christian at all. Beware, the bible says of false Prophets. The bible tells us that a person that belongs to Christ has a marked changed in his or her life. They're different now. Their life will produce fruit because they belong to Christ. How do we know we belong to Christ? By the way we act. Our actions give it away!

(22) But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives; Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. There is no law against these things!

(19) When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear; sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, (20) idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, (22) envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these...

Galatians 5:24 says that... (24) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. (25) Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit's leading in every part of our lives.

A personal salvation experience changes us. There will be a difference in our life, we are a new creation! If we're not bearing fruits of the Spirit.... then Watch Out! There's a problem. Somethings just not adding up. One of two things could be happening here.

1. We don't really belong to Christ at all... a bad tree can not produce good fruit. or

2. We haven't nailed the passions and desires of our sinful nature to the cross, we're not obedient to the Spirit's leading. The question we need to ask our self is this... Have I completely sold out to Christ. Which Nature am I following and committed to?

Beware of those that say they belong to Christ but their actions don't measure up. But not only should we watch out for others... what about ourselves? How do we measure up? Take the test for yourself, let no one else be the judge... you look in your own mirror and ask yourself this question. Do I act and look like a Christian? Do I talk like a Christian? Do I walk like a Christian? Do the fruits of the Spirit describe who I am, or do the desires of the sinful nature describe who I am?

Be careful here... I'm sure you'll see yourself in both areas to some degree. Another way to help you here is to ask yourself this question. Am I more like Christ today than I was the day I gave my life to Him as my Savior? If you can answer yes to that question but can still see evidence of the desires of the sinful nature within you... there's hope! Most likely you do belong to Christ, you're simply struggling in obedience. The battle of the natures within you is causing you to struggle. The thing to remember though is this... The Spirit within you is more powerful than the sinful desires within you. There is no law against the Spirit... nothing can overpower the Spirit. So work on crucifying those passions and desires on the cross. Drive the nails by repenting of your sins and giving in to the Holy Spirit's leading in your life. If you can't answer yes to the question... Am I more like Christ now than I was the day I gave my life to Him as my Savior? Then repent and be saved!

God bless you.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mom's Day

Happy Mothers Day!
Today is one of those Holidays when we celebrate someone we love. I know we're supposed to let our Mom's know how much we love them everyday, but too often we don't. As we get older, as in my case 47 years old, our lives are filled with issues that take our focus off our own mothers. Especially if you live many miles apart, as in my case. I'm in Tennessee and Mom's in Kansas. Maybe once each year I get to see Mom and other than an occasional phone, my interaction with my Mom is very little now days.

But even though we don't see each other much, that doesn't lessen the impact she has on me everyday. I think about her often. I love her and appreciate the Mom and the friend that she has always been to me. As I watch my wife show her love and commitment towards our two son's, I'm reminded everyday of the love my Mom has for me and my sisters. It's a love that never ends. I'm 47 years old and live far away from my Mom, yet I feel her love every time we speak and see each other. My Mom's the best! She's a wonderful example of what a Mom should be to her children as they grow up, and she's a wonderful Mom to her son now that I'm supposed to be all grown up. I love her so much, and I write this knowing she doesn't own a computer and won't be able to view my comments about her... so I'll call her today and say it in person. I write this morning as I prepare to go to church, to remind each of you... It's Mothers Day.

For those of you that have lost your Mother over the years. Today is a day of loss. Today is a special day of reflection of the gifts she gave you while she was here. The best gift my Mom ever gave me was her love. It's unconditional, always has been. She reminds me of the love of Jesus. Never ending. never failing, and always present. I know you miss her. The love she shared with you can never be taken away and even better, we can share it with others. Honor her by sharing her love on someone else. That's what Mom's do best!

I love you Mom.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

RESPECT, the key to success

Respect for others.... What is it? What's it look like? These are just a few words I've listed to remind us of what respect is all about.

R ... Stands for RECEIVE. We receive / accept people for who they are.

E ... Stands for EDIFY. We strengthen our brothers and sisters, we lift them up.

S ... Stands for SUPPORT. We show our support when they need it most.

P ... Stands for PATIENT. We're patient and enduring of others.

E ... Stands for ENCOURAGE. We encourage others to be their best.

C ... Stands for CARING. We care about them. They matter to us.

T ... Stands for THANKFUL. We're thankful for what they do for us.

As a business leader I've learned that when working with two groups of people... associates and customers, respect for each other is critical to the success of the business or organization. As the leader of the business I must have respect for and show respect for those I supervise and lead. As the leader of the business I must have respect for and show respect for the customers that frequent my establishment. If I ever fail to have RESPECT for either group of people... the business slides towards failure. Oh sure there are many other factors that can contribute to the ruin of a business, but without respect for people, you have no hope of success, even if you do everything else perfect.

You see we must realize and understand that we can not have an effective business without our associates. We also can not have a successful business without our customer base.

Mistreat either one, and you've shot yourself in the foot. Your wounded, you're not healthy anymore and even though your not dead... a time of healing must take place. That's just the way it is.

So how do we shoot our self in the foot? Well for one, we forget that we're only as successful as those we lead! The more we teach, the more we appreciate, the more we develop and encourage others to be their best, the better they perform and satisfy the needs of our customers. The worst thing that can happen to a leader is to shoot all of his help. I know it sounds silly... but leaders do it all the time. We shoot our help when we become disrespectful and fail to treat those we lead with respect. We talk down to them, we yell at them, we mistreat them, and we soon forget we needed them. When our associates feel that we don't value them anymore... you've shot yourself in the foot. You think your shooting them but your not... your shooting yourself. Your inflicting yourself with a wound that can be fatal.

Another way we shoot our self in the foot is to forget how important the customer is to our business. I'm amazed at how quickly we can become offended or upset with a customer, and without thinking we shoot our self right in the foot by forgetting that the customer is our Boss. I think this happens when we think it's our business and I'm the one that calls the shots around here, but that kind of thinking can get you killed! Everything we do in business we do to gain another customer. When we mistreat the customer, they leave and take their business somewhere else. No one in their right mind, would walk up to customers walking in their door and say, "Hey stop right there, you know I think you'd rather go down the street to the next business and let them take care of you there." Sounds silly doesn't it? Well we do this everyday when we fight or argue with customers. When we ignore customers, or when the customer senses that they are of no value to you. We don't smile, we're not helpful and we send that silent message that we wish you weren't here. It's like we feel the customer is interrupting our day or something... When we find our self feeling this way, we've lost our perspective on things and we've shot our self in the foot. Yes were wounded again.

You really want to inflict a fatal wound to your business? Then fail to show respect for both the associates and the customers at the same time. Now that's a recipe for disaster.

Look around at any business you go to and you'll see the signs of either respect or disrespect.

Are there happy faces on employees? Or are they disgruntled?

Do customers feel welcome there? Or would they rather get out as quickly as possible?

Do Managers appreciate their employees? Or are they reprimanding them in front of others?

Do you sense teamwork among the employees? Or a family feud?

Do you hear employees talking about others favorably or negatively?

Are the employees focused on you as the customer, or themselves?

Are the leaders setting a good example for the employees? Or are they taking advantage of their position?

You get the point! RESPECT is the key to success. Without it you've taken that key and locked the door.

My belief... My opinion... my experience... Respect begins at the top. If there is a lack of respect in the organization, then there's a lack of respect within the leadership of that organization. Everything rises and falls with the leadership. Is it no wonder when an organization fails the CEO is the first to go? Why do they always fire the head coach of a losing team? Think about it... the organization always reflects the leadership. You know the sad thing is this... none of us wake up in the morning planning to fail. We all want to achieve and perform. Sometimes however, we forget how important respect for the individual can be to our business? There's no room for lone rangers in the business world. We need each other to make it.

I write this as I see opportunities within my own organization. The challenge of course is to get everyone on board. Everyone understanding the importance of being respectful, especially as leaders. I think I'll share this posting with my management team in my next staff meeting as a reminder of how important respect is to the success of our business. I don't think we can be reminded enough, do you?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The weight of sin

Think about the weight of sin. Sin is a heavy load that's for sure. Our sinful nature can lead to consequences and penalties that have the potential to cause much suffering if we allow ourselves to be disobedient and not submit to the Holy Spirits guidance. Even though we've been born again as Christians, we still struggle in the area of obedience. Don't be surprised at this, the bible tells us this happens, and that's why we long for the day when we'll be absent from the body and with Christ in Heaven. The body, the flesh, is a sinful thing, but the soul that belongs to Jesus is promised eternal life and one day will be separated from the sinful body and the temptation to be disobedient will be gone forever.

What we need is to be refreshed! We need to be relieved from this weight of sin upon us. When we repent (turn away from our sin) God promises not only to wipe out our sins, but to bring spiritual refreshment! The message of salvation includes the call of repentance- acknowledging our personal sin and turning away from it. Repentance may seem hard at first, because it's difficult to give up certain sins. After all our body is comfortable in sin, just as a pig is happy rolling around in the mud. But God cleanses us. He blots out our sins, he removes them from us and makes us clean. We no longer feel good in the mud of sin.

Acts 3:19
(19) Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.

Sin is heavy, it's a weight that keeps us from being alive and refreshed. Refreshment come to us only through the Lord Jesus Christ. His presence within us is the key. When we repent, were converted, born again. We now have the Holy Spirit within us, and the Spirit (the presence of the Lord) is where we receive our joy, peace and most of all, times of refreshment. It's refreshing to know that we'll have eternal life isn't it? Now that we've been converted (we're no longer slaves to the sin that separates us from our loving God), we need to drink in daily the refreshing living water. As Hosea promised, "Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth" (Hosea 6:3). Do you feel a need to be refreshed?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Do you believe everything you read?

Go to the Christian book store and what do you see? Shelves filled with books about how to improve your marriage, how to cope with fear, how to be a better spouse, parent, or friend. Books of every possible topic known to mankind. I'm not saying these books aren't great books... they are. They're great because those books are filled with guidance that can help us when we're struggling with a particular issue in our lives. Folks that have been through what we're going through can give us their perspective and even their advise on what worked for them or maybe what didn't work for them. We can read about the choices the author made and the consequences of those choices. Lessons can be learned. Maybe if we heed their advise we can avoid going through the same pain and suffering. Several books are written by experts in their field. They're masters on the subject. They've taken the time and energy to find out the details and the specifics of the issue. They've studied and have written it down so that we can be better educated and able to make better decisions on the subject. I for one understand the importance of sharing life experiences as well. I do it through my blog all the time. I'm not an expert by any means... anyone that knows me can tell you that. I'm simply a layman, a sinner saved by Grace that feels the need to write and encourage others in what little way I can. The question I ask is... Do you believe everything you read?

Of all the books written I know of only one that we should believe everything we read in it. It's the bible. It's the only book in the bookstore that is completely accurate, completely truth, and completely God's word. Our problem however is our inability to comprehend it fully. It's more than our logic or intellect can understand or comprehend on our own. What we do understand is only because it was revealed to us by the Holy Spirit within us. The danger of all the books written, or blogs posted (including mine) is they are mans word's and man's understanding of God's word. When we share our thoughts and understanding of God's word with others, we run the risk of misleading someone. The danger is that they will only hear the words of man rather than the voice of the Spirit. So we must understand that the Holy Spirit must be our guide. He alone is the true and correct way. He alone is Holy and pure.

Be cautious, be alert, be diligent and most of all, be sensitive to the leading of the Spirit within you. I thank the Lord for the opportunity that I have to share the love of Christ with others through my blog. Just understand and know this... I only post to give you a vision, a glimpse of a man of weakness and many opportunities and struggles. Yet through it all, as with most people, our life experiences shape us into who we are. Through the Holy Spirits guidance and our own personal stubbornness mixed together, whatever I say must be taken with the understanding that I am only a man. Everything you read, other than the Holy Bible, must be measured up to the word of God. If it doesn't line up with God's word, then don't do it.

Final note: Isn't it sad that if we as Christians truly believe that the Holy Bible is the only book that we can believe every word of.... why don't we read it more? My book shelf is full of books about spiritual leadership, books about christian living, commentary about the life of Jesus, and many other subjects about spiritual things. I'm currently reading a book titled, "The Heavenly Man" it's about a man, brother Yun, and his life of persecution in China as he lead so many others to believe in Christ. What an incredible read.

The point is... if the bible is the only book we can fully believe every word of, why do we not know it better. If it truly is our source of strength and power, why do we read it so little? We'll go to church and listen to the Pastor, but we won't open up our bible and read it and meditate on it. We'll read blogs and books about spiritual things but not once open our bible during the day. I would even venture to say this... Many Christians haven't even read their bible all the way through completely, yet we claim that it's our Lord's letter to us as Christians. It's his words of love for us. He tells us how to live. Everything we need to know is in this book. Maybe the next time you log on to read my blog... stop before going any further, turn off the computer and pick up your bible and read it instead. Now that's the best advise I can give anyone.

God bless you. May God comfort you and give you peace. May your heart be filled with a hunger to study God's word. May each of us seek to be revived, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and willing to go and do God's will. May our actions and thoughts bring glory to our heavenly Father. Thank you Lord Jesus for loving us, even as weak as we are. We love you Lord. Amen.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Tough Love

I share this only because I believe that too often when we're vulnerable, insecure, or fearful of what to do next, we quit thinking for ourselves and we begin listening to everyone else's opinion on what to do next. Now there's nothing wrong with getting the opinions of experts or good friends, but we must realize one important truth. They are not you and they are not living your life! They are giving you advise from the outside. They don't feel the pain that you feel. They don't have the fear that you have. They don't know all the circumstances and for them it's easy to give advise and suggestions. Their hearts are in the right place and they genuinely care for you, but they are not you. They do not fully understand what you are going through and for this reason you must think for yourself.

As my son was going through his drug addiction, Brenda and I as his parents were torn on what to do. We knew he was lying to us about his drug use, we knew he was buying drugs and using but we could never get through to him when we talked to him. He'd always lie and he was good at it. He was an expert at making us as parents feel like we were horrible when we would question him about it and he would act so shocked and hurt that we didn't trust him anymore. Drug addicts are very good at playing on your feelings and emotions to get what they want. The experts all said, you're enabling him if you keep baling him out of jail, if you keep allowing him to come back into your home after he's used. You need to set ground rules and if he breaks them, kick him out on the street, and let him suffer the consequences of the lifestyle he has chosen.

We could never do it, and from all accounts, according to the experts we were enablers, helping to fuel his addiction because we didn't practice what they called... "tough love." You know what I think tough love is. It's the love you show your child even when you see they are destroying their life. Its' the love you give your child even when they refuse to obey you and listen to you and still go down that road you know leads to death. It's the love you show to them by never, ever, giving up on them and no matter what... you go through it with them and help them. It wasn't till I said to myself... "I don't care what anyone says, I can't kick my son out of the house and you know what... it's ok." I don't have to feel bad or be labeled an enabler by doing what I feel is right for my son."

Don't get me wrong... the advise is good advise that I was getting, and I'm getting it from people that have been through it and know what's best. They understand that as a parent, were blinded as to what to do, because we do love them so much and I do understand that we may be enabling them. So the advise is good advise. But that's all it is. Advise. If you decide that it's not right for your situation or your circumstances, then don't do it just because someone says you should. Listen to them, soak in what they're saying, realize they know because they've been there... then, THINK FOR YOURSELF.

The hardest thing for me as a Father was hearing all the advise from so many people on what we should do, what we could have done differently or should have done differently. Advise on how we should react or behave and what we should do next. Most of the time the advise was good but often I felt was too harsh and unnecessary. Finally, I said enough. The Lord and my wife and I will work through this together. That's when I had peace. Did everything go well? No. Did we make all the right decisions? No. But they were our decisions and I could live with that. My son is doing well now, the road for him as been long and hard and it will be for many years to come. The road for my wife and I has been long and hard, and it will be for years to come. But it's ok.

The good thing about all of this is that I've learned that my life is not about what I can accomplish in it. It's not about what we gain and collect along the way. It's not about our kids going off to college and having great careers. It's not about living the high life or making millions. It's about our love for each other and when it's been tested and it still shines through with kindness and genuine forgiveness... it's beautiful.

Doesn't God show us tough love? How many times do we disappoint Him in a day? How many times do we disobey or even run in the opposite direction of his advise? Yet he always takes us back and he loves us no less than he did before. It must be tough to love like that? NO... it's not really. What's tough is making up your own mind to do so even when the world says... "let him go." "You have to live your own life, his poor choices are not your problem." "You have you're own health to be concerned about." "It's costing you too much emotionally and financially." "He did this, not you, he needs to suffer this on his own." "Kick him out of the house when he breaks your rules." Do this, do that, say this, say that.....

I'm sorry, but I can't. My love for my son is so tough... that I will endure with him till the end. My strength in this comes from the Lord. I'm not saying it's easy, I just believe this is how it should be. So judge me as you will. I've learned a long time ago that the only important judge in my life is the one that holds my soul. God almighty will be pleased that my wife and I have suffered for my son's sake and I know my son appreciates it as well. I know that one day... if not already, my son will be overwhelmed with the kind of tough love we have shown for him through these years. My hope and prayer is that God's love will flow through him to his children when they don't live as they should, or to his friends when they do the things that disappoint him. My hope is that he will never leave them or forsake them, that no matter how tough it gets, he'll stick it out and stay the course because that's what Jesus did for him on the Cross.

I don't know what you're going through. But I do know you're going through something, we all are! Seek council, seek the Lord's guidance and allow him to guide you, then think this thing through for yourself. Make up your own mind what to do and then DO IT. The Lord will be with you as you go on this journey. You won't be alone... I promise you! Yes, even if you mess up. Yes, even if you make the wrong decision. You won't be alone and knowing that fact is what gets you through it.

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

God bless you.