The Forgotten Guidelines

Many years ago, a skinny kid with a pickup truck and a riding lawn mower started a lawncare business. (Yes, that is him in the photo above!) A year later he got married (to me) and started a family. All the while, the company was quickly growing and the demands on his time increased exponentially. Summer droughts came and money was tight. But this kid, who soon grew into a man, was committed to two guidelines from scripture that aren’t very popular–

Resting on Sundays and Tithing 10%.

We rarely hear anything about either of these anymore. Oh, every once in awhile we hear about giving–especially if there is building project in the works– but we rarely, if ever, hear about keeping the Lord’s Day.

Are these things something we have to do? Of course not. There is nothing we have to do to be saved. Some cults would teach that if you don’t keep the Sabbath, you aren’t saved. And some groups would imply that giving to their ministry is the paramount command of God. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth! If that is what you are hearing, then you are in a false system.

But I do believe there are reasons to seriously consider making these two things a part of our lives. Here’s why–

Let’s look first at the Sabbath Day. When God created the world, He set a pattern to work six days and to rest on the seventh. The week, set up by God in Genesis 1, comes directly from the Bible. The author of Hebrews also references this week set up by God in Hebrews 4, carrying the idea of this rest over into the New Testament. When God specified the seventh day for rest, we know it wasn’t because He needed it. He doesn’t need to sleep or slumber. So why did He do this? I believe He did this not only for His own glory but because He knew that man would need a pattern of rest. Carm.org puts it this way–

On the seventh day, which is the Sabbath day, the day of rest, Christians cease from their work, just as God did. But where we need to be replenished, God does not.

So let’s go back to that kid for a moment. When Eric started our company, he could have easily worked 24/7. The work was there and plentiful and he was full of energy. But he had been taught that Sunday is a day of rest and chose to abide by this even as a young man going into business. As we look back now, we see how this not only provided him with the rest he so desperately needed, but perhaps even saved our marriage and family during those tough years of building the business.

The other day we were talking to a young man who has ventured out on his own to start the same type of business. As he shared about his summer, he talked about how he was working seven days a week– long days with rarely a break. We encouraged him to consider making Sundays a day of rest. For himself and for his family. Owning a company is demanding. Customers want things and they want them now. Establishing that your trucks will not leave the property on Sundays is a simple–and I believe God-given–way to take a much-needed break after a long week.

Of course, some people have jobs in which this is not possible. I do get that. But if we can do this, perhaps it is time to give this some reconsideration. How kind of God to provide this pattern in Genesis 1 that His people can follow,  providing us one day of rest from the work of the week.

So let’s move on to tithing. This one is so different from what it used to be. Or at least from what I remember it being. Growing up, I was taught that you tithe 10% to your church. Period. Oh, sure, there were some parachurch organizations that you gave to but that wasn’t where your main giving went to. It was your church. Since then, there has been an explosion of parachurch organizations. Many of these ministries are good ones and in need of funds. There is nothing wrong with giving to these. But our churches still need our 10% to function. Our pastors need their salaries, our churches have electric and oil bills and need to buy office supplies and pay their secretarial and janitorial staff. This can’t be done unless its committed members are tithing.

I heard someone once say this– “Give to your church first and then give to other organizations.” This is good advice. I remember hearing it and thinking Yes! That makes a lot of sense! I only wish I could remember who to give the credit to for this statement. Of course, this is not a biblical mandate, by any means, so this is a very personal decision that each person needs to work out on their own.

As an aside, I will add here that in the recent years we have made the choice to give only to charities that are committed to spreading the Gospel. Oh, I can’t say we don’t give $10 or $20 here and there to other charities, but we want the bulk of what we give to go towards spreading the true and unadulterated Gospel. Even many charities labeled “Christian” are not spreading the Gospel but, instead, are focused only on fixing temporal situations. Of course, there is nothing wrong with digging wells and providing medical care, but if we aren’t sharing the Gospel, then all of that work has no eternal value. It is critical to care first and foremost for their souls. We really try to make sure that this is the case for the charities we support.

But some of you are probably thinking something like this: I can’t even give 10%, much less anything over and above that.

I get that. I truly do. When we got married, we started life out with (my) college debt. We lived very meagerly in a small apartment. Every dollar counted. We didn’t have much and giving 10% of what we did have meant real sacrifice. It was difficult to place that check in the offering plate each week, but we had been taught by our parents that you give, no matter what.

And, now, looking back over all of those years, we wouldn’t change a thing. God was so faithful! He always provided for us. Always. We had some lean years but we were always able to pay our employees. We always had enough to eat. We could always pay our bills. Not always on time–but they always got paid!

So why do we tithe? We know that God doesn’t need our money. So what’s the deal? I love how Dave Ramsey puts this

So why does He ask us to give 10% to Him? Tithing was created for our benefit. It is to teach us how to keep God first in our lives and how to be unselfish people. Unselfish people make better husbands, wives, friends, relatives, employees and employers.

Once again, we see that this is a guideline that blesses us. That it was given for our good and our benefit. What a kind God we serve. Something that would seemingly cost us a great deal actually ends up blessing us!

Resting on Sundays and Tithing 10% require something from us, don’t they? They require sacrifice and discipline. But the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice. We have seen this in our own lives and in the lives of others. Don’t despair if you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. You can do this. I believe when we choose to honor God and the patterns He has set before us in scripture, He enables us to follow them. He will walk with us each step of the way.

 

 

Do You Love Money?

Eight Questions to Ask Yourself

2Men

Mr. and Mrs. Smith live in a 6000 sq ft house in a wealthy neighborhood and vacation at their second home on Grand Cayman several times each year. Mr. Smith is a top executive at a major corporation and drives a Jaguar.

Mr. and Mrs. Jones live in a small rancher in an even smaller town. Mr. Jones works at a local factory and drives a Ford truck. Their only vacation each year is to a cabin in the mountains that has no electricity or running water.

Which one of these couples loves money?

Most of us–without any thought at all–would tend to say that of course it is Mr. and Mrs. Smith. There would be no discussion. No thoughtful contemplation. We just assume that if someone is rich they must love money.

Which may be the case.

But isn’t always the case.

Let’s take their vehicles. A new teen driver miscalculates and backs into their vehicle in the driveway. Mr. Jones has a fit! He grows angry,  resentful, and may even let out a few curse words. On the other hand, in the same scenario, Mr. Smith is gracious and kind and tells the neighbor not to worry about it. Now which of these men do you think loves money (and his stuff)?

Or let’s take a look at their homes. What if Mrs. Jones won’t let anyone come to her house because she is obsessed with cleanliness? She doesn’t want anyone to ruin her carpet or to put marks in her cabinets and so she never practices hospitality. She spends all her time cleaning and making sure not a speck of dirt exists anywhere but no one ever gets to enjoy her home because she doesn’t want anyone to mar her perfect masterpiece. Mrs. Smith, on the other hand, while having a beautifully and professionally decorated house, welcomes others to her home regularly. She loves to play hostess and does her own cooking and cleaning. Her home feels lived-in and comfortable. Which of these women loves money (and her stuff) more?

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

Having money is not equal to loving money

AND

Loving money is not equal to having money

They are two separate things and we should treat them as such.

Many years ago, my husband and I bought a large SUV for our growing family. It was a nice car, already a few years old, and affordable for us. I was excited about our new vehicle and can vividly remember how awful I felt when someone made a derogatory statement to me about it, implying that we loved money because we had chosen to drive such a car.

I had to really think through that. Did we have an inordinate love of money? That is a question we all should wrestle through, but what vehicle we drive is not generally an indicator.

Instead of judging ourselves and others based on the stuff we have, we’d be better to judge based on our attitudes about the stuff we have. Here are eight questions we can ask ourselves to make sure we are holding on to our material blessings very loosely–

1. Do we use what God has given us to encourage others and to further God’s Kingdom or do we hoard it all to ourselves?

2. Are we quick to let others borrow our things? If someone needs something that we have, do we let them use it? Or are we too worried about it being broken or never returned?

3. Do we grow angry and resentful if someone breaks something of ours? Or do we treat them like we would want to be treated?

Okay–I have to insert a quick story here about this. One evening, our oldest daughter had a group of friends over. They were playing a Wii game in the basement, using our brand new flat-screened TV. After a bit, our daughter came upstairs with one of her friends. Tears ran down the friend’s face as she shared that she had accidentally let the Wii remote fly from her hand and hit the TV. It had damaged the screen pretty badly and she was SO sorry. We all watched to see how my husband would react. And he did not disappoint. It is one of the reasons I love him so much. He kindly told her that it was “just a TV” and not to worry about it and then sent them back downstairs. This wasn’t an act and he didn’t huff and puff about what had happened after she had left that evening. He really took it all in stride. Stuff has never mattered that much to him and this incident was just one more confirmation of that. He has taught me to always love people more than stuff.

4. What is driving us? Do we work to supply for the needs of our family (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12) and to glorify God (I Corinthians 10:31)? Or are we working feverishly so that we can buy a nicer car, a bigger home, and the latest gadget?

5. Are we generous? Do we give freely and often and without reserve when we see a need?

6. Do we grow resentful if someone forgets to pay us back? Do we fuss and fret and make assumptions about them? Perhaps we even gossip about them to others?

7. Am I envious of the stuff that my neighbor has? Am I always complaining about how little stuff I have or what I can’t afford? This indicates a heart that is wrapped up in material things and the love of money.

8. If everything I have was taken away tomorrow, would I be okay? Or is my security and happiness wrapped up in material things?

These are tough questions, but if we answer them honestly we will learn the truth about ourselves. The love of money is rooted deep within most of us. It is something for which we need to be on guard always and can never let get the upper hand in our lives. It is not a sin that only affects rich people, but has the potential to affect each and every one one of us that lives in a materialistic, western culture.

Surprisingly, the scripture tells us that the love of money isn’t only sinful but that it also has great potential to cause us much sorrow. I Timothy 6:10 tells us this–

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

“Pierced themselves through with many sorrows”. That is quite a picture, isn’t it? This tells us that loving money could quite possibly destroy our lives. We can see this in a multitude of ways–

►Elderly parents pass away and the kids find out that the will isn’t fair. Adult children fight for their “rights”, hurtful words are said, and the family is fractured beyond repair.

►Mom and Dad want a particular lifestyle. They believe it is their right to have the American Dream, no matter what it costs. Meanwhile, their children are left to their own devices and grow up, lost and lonely, selfish and spoiled, with no boundaries and no moorings. All for the sake of stuff.

►A man is obsessed with making easy money. He buys into a get-rich-quick scheme and loses his family’s life savings.

These are just three examples of a million that could be told. The love of money is a dangerous game and we best make sure we aren’t caught up in it. Let’s be good stewards of whatever God has entrusted to us, whether it be great or small. After all– it isn’t even ours, anyway.

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much;
and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.
Luke 16:10

 

iOS Frustrations

maxresdefault

Well, the iPhone saga continues on at this house. If you recall, it was only about a month ago that I had shattered my iPhone and blogged about the lessons I learned from that experience (you can find that post here). When I wrote that, my phone had not been fixed. I’d like to take just a moment to tell you the rest of that story, so you can fully appreciate the rest of this post.

After trying to replace the broken screen, I finally just decided to call the insurance I apparently had on the phone (but do not remember signing up for). When I called, the kind lady assured me that she would be able to help me and went on to explain that since they were no longer making the iPhone 5, I would be sent a 5s. A day later, my phone showed up. I moved the Sim card, restored my latest backup, and was up and running in literally no time at all. It was so easy.

Fast forward a few weeks, when my husband dropped his phone. But instead of the screen shattering, something happened with his sound. He could no longer hear any calls through his ear piece and had to take all his calls via the speaker phone. Once again, I was on the phone with the insurance company.

But this time it would not be so easy.

When I called, I was informed by the not-so-nice lady who seemed to have no idea what she was doing that I would need to fax an affidavit and proof of my I.D. to them before they could process this claim. They could not approve the claim before I did this. When I asked for her supervisor and explained that I had just made a claim on another phone without doing this, she told me this was standard and there were no exceptions. Hmmm. Okay. Slightly annoyed, I did as I was told. When the approval finally came through it was for an iPhone 5. No problem there. I found it curious, given what the agent had told me the month before, but not a problem.

A couple of days later, the phone arrived. When I went to get started exchanging the phones last night, the tiny screen of the new iPhone informed me that no backups could be restored until the operating system was updated. Upon investigating further, I realized that the phone they had sent me only had iOS 6. At that point, I knew we were not looking at some easy fix. This was going to take some time. I was starting to feel some pressure. It was already pretty late at night and Eric could not be without a phone the next day. Ok, he could but it would be extremely inconvenient. I found myself wondering why mine was the easy and upgraded one. He needs his phone so much more than I need mine. Anyway.

I updated the iOS as requested only to find out that now it couldn’t restore the backup because the new phone was now iOS 8 and his backup was in iOS 7. So. Much. Frustration. So now I had to update his iPhone. If you have an iPhone, you are aware that these updates take some time. We were now at around 11:15. I left his to update and went to bed. This morning at 6:15, it looked like it had not updated overnight. And the panic hit once again. Thankfully, it had updated (must have just been a glitch on the screen). To update the new phone, I had had to set it up as a new phone. And so now I had to go back and erase and reset the new phone so I could restore the backup.

I was finally able to get the new phone in Eric’s hands at about 7:30.

What a process. All because I did not start with the right iOS system.

What I am going to say now most people do not want to hear but the bottom line is this: If we start with right operating system, life is generally simpler. 

And, in life, the right operating system is found in the Bible. If we follow the standards set up for us there, we have a better life. I have even seen non-Christians live by the standards set up there and have a really good life because they are living a good, moral life by staying faithful to their spouse, being honest, loving their children and teaching them to obey and respect authority, being a good steward of their resources, and being a good worker. These things alone will keep us from experiencing an awful lot of consequences.

But when we start with the wrong operating system (known by the name ME), we run in to some serious problems. When we are dominated by our own selfish desires, pride, and lusts, we will probably not have such an easy life but instead will be forced to deal with some costly consequences.

Sure, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes bad things do happen to good people. But we have to stop pretending that we can–

–Eat all we want and not get fat.

–Let our kids disobey and be disrespectful and yet believe they will somehow follow the Lord when they get older.

–Be selfish and unloving and still have a good marriage.

–Buy what we want and not go into debt.

Life has consequences. And much of the heartache in this world is due to this rule of reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7). The really sad thing is that most times we are not the only ones who reap what we sow. The tragedies dealt by bad decisions are visited upon our children, our spouses, and our parents. Our choices can ruin lives.

My phone was so easy because I had started with the correct iOS. On the other hand, Eric’s phone was difficult and so frustrating because it did not have the correct iOS.

Let me encourage you to start with the right operating system today. This doesn’t mean we will live perfect lives (which you will understand immediately if you know me at all!), but it does mean that we will make a very purposeful decision to stop being guided by our own desires and wants and, instead, turn to God’s Word for directions on how to live. You will not only be pleasing Him by this choice, but avoid a lot of unnecessary heartache and sadness in your life.

 

If you appreciated this post, would you please take a moment to share it? Thank you.

 

 

Long-Term Benefits

texting

We were on the highway, headed back to our campground after a fun day of sight-seeing, when we came upon this extremely slow car in the passing lane. I find slow cars in the passing lane rather frustrating. I don’t care if someone prefers to drive slow, I just appreciate if they stay in the appropriate lane for their speed.

As we scooted to the right lane to pass them, I glanced in the car, expecting to see an elderly person.

Instead, what I saw confounded me. It was a young woman intently texting on her phone. In the passing lane. On a busy highway.

How dumb do you have to be if you are texting in the passing lane?? (My apologies to you if you have done this. I am not trying to be unkind, but common sense tells us that we shouldn’t text and drive at all, much less in the passing lane of a major highway!)

She is so typical of this day and age, where we just do not think through the possible consequences of our actions.

We are so focused on the present and what we want to do, that we care little for our own lives or the lives of those around us. And this is true in many other aspects of our lives, as well.

My husband and I were having a conversation with friends the other night and the subject of friendship with our kids came up. We are now at the stage where we are beginning wonderful friendships with our kids. But if we had tried to be their friend ten years ago, we would have sacrificed the friendship we have now. We had to delay our present desires (our kids to like us) for their future benefit (and our future benefit, as well).

Delaying gratification is not a popular concept these days. Think of all the dumb stuff we do on a daily basis because of the immediate gratification we receive–

~Eat when we aren’t hungry to fulfill the “appetite” of our eyes.

~Choose processed foods and mixes to save ourselves time.

~Give in to our child so we aren’t embarrassed or so they will like us.

~Buy something we don’t need or go into debt to “keep up with the Joneses”.

~Watch something crude and profane to get a few laughs.

Honestly, when it comes right down to it, many of us choose immediate gratification over long-term benefit all the time.

So what do we get if we decide to choose future benefits instead of immediate gratification? I can think of a few, very worthy things that you will probably receive (although there are always exceptions, of course)–

~We will not be haunted for life by the image of killing another human being because we were texting and driving on a major highway (this one is guaranteed, by the way–if you don’t text and drive, you won’t kill someone while doing it!)

~We will have a healthy body.

~We will stay out of debt.

~We will have obedient and respectful children (instead of the little tyrants I see running around everywhere these days! I shudder to think about what this world will be like as these undisciplined, self-centered kids grow up).

~We will become more like Christ.

As we grow more mature in Christ and exercise self-discipline in these areas, the decisions become easier because they become habits. The first few times we say no to that dessert or to buying something that we can’t afford, it hurts terribly. The first time we hold our ground with our kids and provide consequences for their fits, we will feel just awful inside. The first time we turn off that TV show or radio station, we will feel disappointed. But, if you can stick with it long enough, it gets easier because it becomes a habit. And before you know it, you have taken some leaps and bounds towards a better life.

I don’t know if the girl who was texting will ever have to pay the ultimate price for her stupidity. It seems that oftentimes many people get away with the Russian Roulette game they play every day. But we need to do the right thing, even if we never experience negative consequences.

And one final thing–of course, sometimes we fall back into our old habits as we strive to make good choices. That is where perseverance comes in. If you are reading this and are at a bad place and ready to give up, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue on! We can’t give up! Perfection and perfect rest will come soon enough, but for now we are here to labor on in our quest to become more like Christ, to share the gospel, and to glorify God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Graduating Seniors

IMG_7801revOne more child graduated from high school on Saturday. Three down –only one to go. Where in the world has the time gone? As I sat listening to the commencement speaker address the group of gifted kids that made up my daughter’s senior class, my mind started to wander (no reflection on the speaker–just on my easily distracted mind). What would I say if I had the opportunity to address these kids? Trust me, I am under no grand illusion that anyone will ever ask me to speak to a group of graduating seniors but it did make me wonder: what would I say to a group of kids ready to embrace life as an adult?

In some ways, it feels like just yesterday that I was the one hugging my friends, saying good-bye to favorite teachers, and smiling for the camera. But it wasn’t yesterday, it was a lifetime ago. And it is amazing what one learns in a lifetime. And so here it is in a nutshell–my commencement address to anyone who is finishing up an education, whether it be high school or college–

1.  Develop a deep love for the Word of God. Let it function as your guide and help for the many tough decisions you will be facing. Make it your moral compass. Many has been the time that my husband and I have said to each other that we don’t know what we would do without the Bible. It truly is a source of comfort, strength, and guidance—like a solid rock amidst the crazy sea of life.

2.  Who you marry matters–a lot. It will make or break your life. Make a decision right now to only marry someone who not only says they are a believer, but actually lives like they are one. You will spare yourself much, much heartache in the long run. I have seen so many young people make the wrong assumption that the person they marry will eventually be saved or they will change that bad habit, but, while it does happen on occasion, it is much more likely that you will end up in a very difficult marriage. Choose wisely!

3.  Make every decision with the desire to please the Lord.  Whether it be the smallest thing (what movie am I going to see tonight?) or the largest (what career should I choose?), seek the Lord’s will. Rather than trying to gratify your temporal desires now, live with an eternal perspective. I’d like to say this gets easier as you get older, and while in some aspects it does, as long as we are on a fallen earth, this is difficult to do.

4.  Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life has enough big stuff to work through without making the small stuff so significant. This one I have certainly learned (or shall I say continue to learn) firsthand. I have the personality that can get very easily distraught over something very trivial. It has taken many years –and still I sometimes catch myself doing it– to relinquish the worry and frustration over the stuff that just doesn’t matter in life. But I have learned that life is so much sweeter if you don’t let the small stuff get to you.

5.  Feed your mind well. If you spend your nights watching mindless television shows that mock all things Christian, you will never grow as a believer. Do not accept the mindless entertainment of this culture but, instead, think deeply, and then teach that to your children. Choose a church that will help you to grow in your knowledge of biblical doctrine and in the application of God’s Word. And remember–just because something has a Christian label, doesn’t mean it is Christian. Do you remember that verse about Satan coming as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14)? There are a lot of books, music, and other media that twist the truth just enough to be completely out of whack. Know the truth, so that you can spot the lies.

6.   Whatever you do, do it well. Some of you know what path you are headed on and some of you are still trying to figure it out. As you choose to go a direction, sometimes God will close doors and make it clear He wants you somewhere else. But whatever job you happen to be in right now–wherever He leads you–do your work heartily, as unto the Lord and not to men (Colossians 3:23). This world desperately needs people with a good and honest work ethic. Be that kind of worker.

7.  Feelings matter but the truth matters more. Be careful not to base your life on your feelings. This is especially hard in a culture where almost everything is based on feelings. You don’t feel like going to work? Just call in sick. You love that guy who doesn’t know the Lord? Just marry him. You don’t love that girl anymore? Just get divorced. You are depressed about having a baby? Just kill it.  But God calls us to live righteously even when our feelings don’t agree. Your life will end up so much better –in the here and now and for eternity– if you follow this advice: do what is right and don’t worry about your feelings.

8.  Make people a priority. Material stuff is very enjoyable. I mean who doesn’t like a cool car or a new iPhone? But keep people more important than your stuff. Don’t get so wrapped up in texting or the world online that you miss the potential relationships right in front of you.

9. And, finally, stay humble enough to learn from those who have gone before you. Learning from the elderly is not “cool” in our culture.  Youth, and all things young, are what it’s all about. But you will spare yourself much heartache if you take the time to ask godly men and women questions and then listen to their answers. Sure some of us older people can be downright irritating–we know it, too–but that is because we love you so much. Give us a break and don’t write us off completely because we have learned a lot and we would love to share it (at least most of us).

I know I will never have the opportunity to share this in front of a group of graduating seniors, but this is what I would say. I don’t mean any offense to the educational gurus out there, but let’s face it, by the time you are 35 or 40, no one cares where you went to school. In fact, they don’t even really care if you went to school. But they do see how you are living your life. Live a life dedicated to Jesus Christ and by doing so, go out and make a difference for Him. Live with conviction and integrity so that you will shine like a bright light in the midst of a very dark world. After all, that is what really matters.

 

How to Succeed in Business

John_Deere_lawn_mowerrev

Twenty-six years ago, a kid, just graduated from college, loaded a used John Deere riding mower on the back of his old pick-up truck and went to work. All these years later, that kid and his bride (my husband and I) have learned a fair amount about running a business. If you are interested in starting your own company or are in the process of starting your own company, you may find these suggestions worthwhile–

1.  Have a thankful heart.  We often joke around about how we had NO idea what we were doing all those years ago. Eric didn’t go into business to make money.  He just did what he loved and what he believed the Lord was calling him to do. As his wife, I just went along for the ride. We didn’t pour over profit and loss statements or balance sheets. We probably should have done a bit more of that, but because we didn’t, we know that God has really protected and cared for us in this venture.  We have seen Him work in marvelous ways–helping us to meet payroll or feed our family in the lean years.  We try very hard to not take his grace and care for us for granted. A thankful heart, even in the midst of the hard times, is important.

2.  Plan for the worst. We try very hard not to over-stretch ourselves financially. We know that at the whim of a culture or the downturn of the dollar, our whole business could change. We keep that in mind as we determine what debt to take out. Eventually, we are trying to work it down to zero, but that takes time. However, we have made some progress and can already see some rewards of our efforts to reduce debt.

3.  Work hard. This sounds so simple, but we have noticed that there are so many who aren’t willing to put in the long hours necessary to get a business up and running. I think this is the main reason that we have been successful–because of my husband’s willingness to work hard (not mine–I don’t have near the same drive). Any success we have experienced is mostly because of the gift of hard work that God has instilled in Eric. We see so many people who want to go into business to make easy money. What they don’t realize is that the money doesn’t come easily at all and it takes a lot of hard, hard work and many, many hours. Especially those first five to ten years. Success can only be realized if you are willing to work hard.

4.  Don’t sacrifice your family. One of the things I appreciated early on was Eric’s willingness to meet the needs of his family despite the long hours. He always (aside from crazy springtime) makes time to talk to me and the kids.  He goes to sports games (most of the time) and plays basketball in the backyard. And, honestly, in our early years, one of the ways he did that was by following God’s command to keep the Sabbath holy. He kept Sundays work-free and our family is stronger because of it. Oh, don’t get me wrong–we did sacrifice as a family with dad’s long hours, but keeping the family a higher priority than the business is important for both the family and the business.

5.  Don’t give up! Persevere through the tough times.  I know sometimes people look at successful companies and assume that they just got lucky, but it’s not like that. At least it wasn’t for us. We have been through some very difficult times (and know that at any time we could go through them again). Eric just keeps going (and drags me with him, even when I feel like giving up!)  He refuses to give up and that has benefited our business over and over again.

6.  Treat your customers and employees like you would want to be treated. So often bosses treat others with condescension and harshness. We try very hard not to do that. Oh, we are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but we want our employees and customers to know that they are valued as people to us and that we realize we would not be where we are today if not for them!

7. Follow God’s way as written in His Word. We sometimes get frustrated when we watch (or hear about) other company’s taking money “under the table”, lying on tax returns, and not getting the proper licenses or insurances.  But, early on, as Christians, we made the choice to be on the “up and up” with everything we do and we have never regretted it.  We can sleep at night because we know that we are doing things as God would want us to and that is what matters most.

8. Don’t get stuck in status quo. No matter what business you find yourself, it is constantly changing. Don’t stick your heels into the ground and determine to stay where you are. That is almost a sure way to kill your company. We have ebbed and flowed with various trends through the years. We have adjusted and changed and moved, all according to where the industry was going. We continue to do this.

9.  Be Generous. Don’t hang on to any material blessing too tightly.  Use what you have to further God’s Kingdom and to support and encourage Christian brothers and sisters.

10. To God be the Glory. Sure, we may have done some things right, but we have done a whole lot more wrong. But through it all we have tried to honor God.  Any credit for any success goes to God alone.  Along with that is the realization that any success is fleeting in the scope of life. We put our future in God’s hands and trust Him completely.

These are just a few of the lessons that we have learned and put into practice over the years. When I asked Eric to read over this, his first concern was that I was bragging too much on him. And maybe it does sound like that. I do have a lot of respect for this man who is my husband. However, much of what we have learned has been through much heartache, tears, and many arguments. It was a long and difficult road.  My main desire here is to spare some of you the same grief we went through.

Many of you are not running companies, but many of these same principles can be applied to any job…any life. It is my prayer that these principles will be helpful to you, wherever you find yourself in life.

 

Wednesday Wisdom: The Incompatibility of Faith and Anxiety

SONY DSCIn this current day it is not difficult to find something to worry about. The economy, financial woes, diseases and illnesses, the future of our country and the church, and struggling relationships are just a few things that can cause us to worry. But our generation doesn’t have the corner on the anxiety market. Throughout the ages, people have struggled with anxiety and fear. Thankfully, the Bible speaks to this sin (yes, it is a sin and not a disorder).  In God’s Word we find that not even a sparrow falls unless it is God’s will. When we worry we forget just how big and powerful God is. We forget that His will, His timing, and His ways are not ours.  Of course, this is so much easier to write than to live out. John MacArthur wrote a blog series on this topic on his Grace to You website last fall and I want to share one post here today. You can find a link to the whole series after this post. I hope you are challenged by this as much as I was–

If you worry, what kind of faith do you manifest? “Little faith,” according to Jesus (Matthew 6:30). If you are a child of God, you by definition have a heavenly Father. To act like you don’t, nervously asking, “What will I eat? What will I drink? What will I wear for clothing?” is to act like an unbeliever in God’s eyes (vv. 31-32).

Christians who worry believe God can redeem them, break the shackles of Satan, take them from hell to heaven, put them into His kingdom, transform their nature, and give them eternal life, but just don’t think He can get them through the next couple of days. That is pretty ridiculous. We can believe God for the greater gift and then stumble and not believe Him for the lesser one.

The Worrier Strikes Out at God

Some might say, “Why make a big deal out of worry? It’s just a trivial sin.” No, it is not. I suspect many mental illnesses and some physical illnesses are directly related to worry. Worry is devastating. But more important than what worry does to you is what it does to God. When you give in to worry you are saying, in effect, “God, I just don’t think I can trust You.” Worry strikes a blow at the person and character of God.

The Worrier Disbelieves Scripture

It breaks my heart to hear some Christians say, “I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture,” but then live as perpetual worriers. That’s blatant hypocrisy. It is incongruous to say how much we believe the Bible and then live in doubt and worry that God won’t fulfill what He has said in it.

The Worrier Is Mastered by Circumstances

When you or I worry, we are choosing to be mastered by our circumstances instead of by the truth of God. The uncertainties and trials of life pale in comparison to the greatness of our salvation. Jesus wants us to realize it doesn’t make sense to believe God can save us from eternal hell, but can’t help us in the practical matters of life. The apostle Paul reflects a similar desire in Ephesians 1:18-19.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

When you catch yourself worrying, go back to Scripture and have your eyes opened again.

The Worrier Distrusts God

When we worry, we are not trusting our heavenly Father. That means we don’t know Him well enough. Take heart—there’s an effective remedy: study the Word of God to find out who He really is and how He has supplied the needs of His people in the past. That will build your confidence in Him for the future. Stay fresh in God’s Word every day so that His truth is constantly on your mind. Otherwise Satan is apt to move into the vacuum and tempt you to worry about something. Instead, let God’s track record in Scripture and in your own life assure you that worry is needless because of God’s bounty, senseless because of God’s promise, useless because of its impotence to do anything productive, and faithless because it is characteristic of unbelievers.

Find this entire post here, and the entire series on attacking anxiety here.

 

Wednesday Wisdom: The Pledge

signature

What are our rights as Christians? Do we have the right to a beautiful home and two cars? Do we have the right to have a healthy family? Do we have the right to be happy?

Perhaps most of Christians’ heartaches, contentions, and worries are born because of this thinking that we have special rights.

I came across this pledge the other day, written by a Sunday School teacher named Russell Kelfer. He was a Bible teacher at Wayside Chapel in San Antonio, Texas for over 20 years and has left us many lessons, poems, and stories. But perhaps nothing he wrote is so convicting as this Christian Pledge. Could you sign this?

____________________________

Having been born into the kingdom of God, I do hereby acknowledge that God’s purchase of my life included all the rights and control of that life for all eternity.

I do further acknowledge that He has not guaranteed me to be free from pain or to have success or prosperity. He has not guaranteed me perfect health. He has not guaranteed me perfect parents. He has not guaranteed me perfect children. He has not guaranteed me the absence of pressures, trials, misunderstandings, or persecution.

What He has promised me is eternal life. What He has promised me is abundant life. What He has promised me is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, meekness, and self-control. He has given me all of Himself in exchange for the rights to my life.

Therefore I acknowledge this day the relinquishment of all my rights and expectations, and humbly ask Him by His grace to replace these with a grateful spirit, for whatever in His wisdom He deems to allow for my life.

 
_________________________________
Your signature here
 
 
 
 

January Joy Challenge #2: Finding the Balance

1093389_26813298rev

Balance is very important in the life of a Christian, but most of us have a very, very difficult time finding it. You see, somehow we have to find the balance between —

Accepting where the Lord has placed us

and yet,

Continuing to learn and grow from the trials

And between–

Accepting and resting in the grace of God to cover all of our sins

and yet,

Striving to be more pure and holy with each passing day

And between–

Accepting the way God has made us

and yet,

Never giving up on improving ourselves

This is all especially personal to me, because about this time in life (speaking only for myself, you understand), I am not always accepting with much of anything (just being honest here). My kids are almost grown up and I find myself nearing the end of the only full-time job I ever wanted. I don’t look like I want to look. I often don’t act or react like I think I should. I am frustrated that I haven’t progressed more as a Christian. And, a few years ago, I started to realize that happy endings are mostly in movies. Thankfully, there are a few in real life, but even those take a ton of work. Mostly, you just do the best you can with what you are given.

And, look, I have a great life. I know I do. I am not complaining–not a bit. But, somehow, I have to figure out how to accept who and where I am–right now– without giving in to complacency and apathy. And that’s what is so hard. And that’s where joy comes in.

You see, if I can’t accept the circumstances in which God has placed me or in who God created me to be, then discontent will reign in my heart, pushing out joy (Romans 9:20; Psalm 139:14; Philippians 4:11). But if I am too accepting of myself or of my circumstances, then there is no desire to change for the better, also pushing out joy (Philippians 3:12; I Corinthians 9:24-27; Romans 12:1-2) . And, so, somehow we have to find the balance.

So how exactly do we do this?  I confess I am not totally sure. But maybe we should start with this week’s challenge:

Take some time this week to do an inventory of yourself.  Think about what you don’t like about yourself or circumstances. Are they things you can change or are they outside your control?

Prayerfully, give the things you can’t control to the Lord (you know–things like the scar on your face, your husband’s horrible boss, the wayward adult child). In fact, go a step further, and thank the Lord for these things, for they have probably led you to a deeper walk with the Lord.

And then, look at the things you don’t like that you can control (things like a huge amount of debt, laziness, bad temper, extra pounds) and develop a plan to start working on them, yielding them prayerfully to the Lord.

Of course, sometimes issues get lost in the big black hole between the can control and the can’t control –things like marriages and wayward teens. Okay then, if that is the case, we do what we can do and then submit the outcome to God, praying confidently for His will to be done. After all, we know it is His will that our marriages stay together and that our teens follow hard after Him.

This challenge is a little deeper this week and a little more work, too. But, I truly believe that until we can find the balance, we will either be stuck in the land of discontent or find ourselves in the fields of laziness and apathy. May we always be striving, instead, for the life of balance, which will lead us to deeper joy.

Joy Killers

IMG_6316rev

Yesterday, I shared some excerpts from a sermon by Spurgeon on the Joy of the Lord. As I thought about his words, I thought of how often I desire to walk in the joyful sunshine of God’s light but then choose, instead, to walk through the dark, cold shade of my own sinful choices.  What are some of those sinful choices–or what I like to call Joy Killers–that are so effective in leading us to the shady side of the street?  The list is probably endless, but here are a few that came to mind–

 Joy Killers

  1. Holding a grudge
  2. Entertainment that glorifies what God hates
  3. Caring too much about what people think
  4. Loving money
  5. Eating more than your body needs
  6. Wasting time
  7. Gossiping about someone else
  8. Caring more about your physical health than your spiritual health
  9. Watching too much news
  10. Anger and Frustration
  11. Caring too much about what you look like
  12. Focusing only on what’s wrong in the world
  13. Making yourself and your needs your top priority
  14. Complaining
  15. Criticizing
  16. Trying to fix, control, and manipulate people and circumstances
  17. Taking something that isn’t yours
  18. Envy and jealousy
  19. Sex outside of marriage
  20. Hating someone
  21. Putting sports (or anything else) ahead of the spiritual welfare of your family
  22. Language that is filthy and crude
  23. Pretending to be someone you are not (hypocrisy)
  24. Abusing our bodies with substances
  25. Twisting scripture to make it mean what you want instead of what it really does
  26. Living only for today, with no thought for eternity

Many on this list are specific things listed in scripture as sin (see Galatians 5). Others are simply unwise to do if we want to live a life of joy. There are so many others that could be added. We humans have been very creative at concocting ways to steal our own joy!

I have been really convicted lately that we need to pray that we (and those we love) would hate sin. No, we will never be perfect here on this earth, but if we have a heart that is yielded to the Lord and we desire to be pure and holy, it is then, and only then, that we make it possible to have deep, abiding communion with our heavenly Father, thus leading to true and lasting  joy.

Do you have anything to add to my list of Joy Killers?