Business

Wednesday Wisdom: From the Pen of a Fourteen Year Old

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My youngest daughter and her cousin started a charity organization called Hearts4theWorld awhile ago.  You can read about their organization over at Hearts4theWorld.net. They started off with a bang, but, as is often the case, are now struggling to keep the public’s interest.  In her blog there, my daughter has expressed some of the feelings, frustration, and thoughts about the last few months. As I was proofreading it for her, her thoughts encouraged me. If we feel like we are definitely doing something the Lord wants us to do, we need to keep doing it until He makes it clear that we should stop. But sometimes that is hard and discouraging, as these two young girls are finding out. I am proud of the lesson my daughter is learning, written here by her, and believe her thoughts will encourage you, too–

Have you ever had that feeling where you wanted to do something important, something big? What did you do with it? Did you waste it? Did you start… And then when it got a little bit too hard, did you quit? Or did you follow through?

We had all these questions when we were thinking about starting Hearts4theWorld. We got the motivation to do something, something bigger than we had ever done before. But when we thought through it a little more, we realized that this might be a little harder than we thought. How would we send the Bibles where they need to go? Who would hand them out? How would we get our name out there? Would people even like our bottle cap creations? We had to think about all of these questions. We prayed a lot about everything, because we knew that we would get nowhere without God. God provided us with an awesome link in Haiti, and there began our mission. In the beginning, our friends and family bought from us and told their friends. We were so excited and everything was working out perfectly! But as time continued, business slowed down, likes on our page decreased, and views on our Etsy site got fewer and fewer. We were confused, we were disappointed, and weren’t sure what exactly went wrong. But we knew we couldn’t give up. We decided not to quit in the beginning and aren’t gonna even think about it now.

But, we have to admit, we did think it might be easier if we just took a “break” for a little while. But we knew that’s not what we should do. As people say “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. We thought about other things we had done in life. Did we give up when something went wrong? Of course not! We kept on trying! So as we’re at this point, where we’re just not quite sure how to put our business out there for people to see and to like what they see. We decided not to give up, but to completely and totally lean on God. After all, He is the one who planted this idea and love for the world in our hearts. So He can do what He wants and in His own time! After all, patience is a virtue! ;) But that’s not to say that we’re just gonna stand back and say God run the business! No! Of course that’s not what we mean. We’re obviously going to keep trying new ideas, but we just want to put everything that we do in God’s hands and in His time.

So what does this mean for you in your life? Well the point we’re trying to get across is never give up. No matter if it’s a sport, an instrument, school or a mission like this! And if you have motivation to do something (If it’s motivation to do something good) then go for it! What do you have to lose? Maybe you’ll say “It’ll be embarrassing if it doesn’t work out” or “My friends wouldn’t think this would be cool”.  Who cares?! All that really matters at the end of the day is did you do your best and do it for the glory of God? Now I’ll be honest, I was a little embarrassed at times because it’s not like there’s a lot of kids starting their own organizations or anything. But then I would think… What is our goal in life? Is it to fit in and be “cool” or is it to honor God in everything I do? You have to make that decision for yourself. But for us, the answer is clear. So we hope you think about what we’ve said and make your own decision to rely on God when your dream isn’t working out exactly as you had planned.

This blog post and others are found here.

How to Succeed in Business

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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.

 

My journey with CQTS

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It all started over a year ago.  Maybe it even goes further back than that. When you find out you have a condition, it is hard to know when it really started.

I think it started when I purchased my iPhone and downloaded a dictionary.

Suddenly, my iPhone seemed a necessary study tool to have by me during quiet time.

And then my iPhone was joined by the very helpful iPad with all of its wonderful Bible Study tools.  How amazing to have maps and commentaries and Bible dictionaries at my finger tips all for a few dollars.

And, so, I settled into a nice little pattern of having these tools beside me.

Until one day I realized: I had a classic case of CQTS:

Compromised Quiet Time Syndrome

While these two little gadgets did help me with Bible study, the disadvantages were many. You see, each time I would hear a little ding that I had a text, I would click it…immediately. If I saw a little notification number, I would feel the need to check it…immediately. Until one day, I realized that these helpful little gadgets had become very large hindrances in my walk with God.

Basically, I was telling God to hold because I had something more important to do.

I had spent at least the last five years telling my kids not to text while studying –it’s too distracting. I knew the danger of having a phone nearby. And, yet, here I was, doing what I had told my kids not to do. But instead of studying science or math, I was studying God’s Word. How pathetic was that??

And so I knew I had to find the cure for this condition. And guess what? The cure is quite simple, really–

Leave my iPhone and iPad on silent and far away from me during quiet time.

That’s it.

And so my healing from this syndrome continues. Some days, I forget to put my phone on silent and I can’t resist checking it. And some days, it is more difficult than others not to compulsively check what’s going on in the rest of the world and I fail. But I am definitely moving the right direction.

I know there are many who can’t relate AT ALL to this, but I am quite certain there are at least a few out there who CAN. I have seen the phones that barely leave the hand or the pocket, even in forty-somethings. We have become a culture that has put our texting and internet life before face-to-face relationships. I had become a person who had put those things even before God.  I am quite ashamed to admit that.

But, thankfully, my God forgives me (over and over and over again) and I am healing. I am glad to say I am better today than I was a few months ago.

And I realize: iPhones and iPads can be wonderful tools–but they are tools, not gods. It’s time many of us stop idolizing our gadgets and start making our relationships with God and people our top priority.

 

7 Ways to be an Awesome Employee

employeesMy husband and I have owned a business for…well, I guess this May will be 26 years now. For most of those years we have had the pleasure–and aggravation– of being the “bosses”.  While there are some advantages to being the “boss”, there are a few disadvantages, too. But we take our role seriously and truly desire to provide a good and pleasant place to work for our employees.

Some of those employees step up and are just an absolute joy to have with us, a few have been a nightmare, and then there is everything in between.  But all of these people walking in and out of our doors for the last 26 years have given us a good idea of what makes a good employee. And, before I go any further, I want to state here very clearly, since a few of our employees may stumble upon this, this list is in no way directed at any of our current employees. We feel absolutely blessed right at this moment and thank God for it. Life changes and employee nightmares come and go, but for right now–at this moment– while life is never perfect, we are blessed and we know it.

But, that aside, if you are an employee, either full-time or part-time, you may be interested in knowing what the boss thinks makes a good employee. It may be different than you think.

Here are seven ways to become a beloved and invaluable employee for your boss–

1. Be willing to take the blame and admit your mistakes if you mess up and then step up to fix the problem in any way you can.

2. Be honest. Bring integrity to all of your communication with others. Don’t steal. And before you say you don’t, keep in mind that wasting time by talking too much or making personal calls or surfing the internet during work hours is stealing.

3. Be willing to learn new things and take on extra responsibility. Take initiative and step up to new challenges. Take the initiative and think outside the box when solving problems.

4. Be flexible. Things happen that are outside your boss’s control. When the bad stuff happens, good employees can help take the sting out of it by not getting so ruffled if the routine breaks a bit.

5. Be company-minded. Take ownership of your job. Treat equipment and spend money as if the company was your own.

6. Be respectful. It does not go over so well when you act like you know more than your boss. Of course, in this day and age this can get a little tricky -because sometimes you DO know more than your boss in certain situations.  But even if you do, be respectful and kind in your communication — not condescending and arrogant.

7. Be friendly and courteous consistently to not only your bosses and managers, but also to your co-workers and the customers, always being willing to go the extra mile. Treat people kindly no matter your mood.

When one of our employees exhibits even a few of these qualities they become a very valued member of our team.

There are lots of verses in the Bible that talk about servants and masters, but when it comes to employees do these same principles apply? They probably do–

Colossians 3:22 — obey with sincerity, not as men-pleasers

Titus 2:9 – Be well-pleasing and don’t answer back

But, there is a flip side to this, isn’t there?  God’s Word also gives instruction to masters that may well be applied to bosses–

Ephesians 6:9 — do not threaten and do not show partiality

Colossians 4:1--be just and fair

Soooo….I am curious. What are some ways to be an awesome boss??  I’d really like to know what you think and would be interested in your suggestions.

 

a few favorite posts–

Well, I am all packed for my mission trip to Guatemala and have a few extra minutes. So I thought I would share a few of my favorite posts from the first year I started blogging. While I am away next week, I hope you enjoy reading these–

Why I Still Dress Up for Church

Playing in the Mud

SVL

The BIG Lie

Life Lessons I Learned at a Business Conference

 

Happy Reading! :)

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Work

Most of us do not enjoy working. We live for the weekends and the rest of the week is just what we need to get through to get to them. This is very unfortunate, because if you do your math, 71% of your week is made up of week days.  Only 29% are considered weekend days.  Of course, if you throw Friday nights in there it might be a little higher.

Do you enjoy what you do?  Are you able to glorify and praise God as you work in the office, flip hamburgers, fix somebody’s leaky faucet, repair a car engine, buy stocks on Wall Street, argue in the court room, plow a field, cut hair, pick parts on an assembly line, or change a diaper?

I believe our true character is what shows when we are working. It’s not hard to be happy and light-hearted when we are doing something we enjoy. But when we are going through the daily grind of wherever the Lord has placed us, then it becomes a little harder.  Even if we generally love what we do, we all have bad days…days when we wonder how we ended up in this job…days when we wonder if there couldn’t possibly be something better out there.

Labor Day was created to pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894.  Whether we are one of the highest paid doctors in the country or a stay at home mom raising the next generation, if you live in the United States, you are an  American worker.   Are you able to thank the Lord for the blessing of your job this Labor Day?  There are many who do not have one and wish they did.

Let’s spend today enjoying picnics with family and friends, but let’s not forget to thank God for the privilege to work.

The Reign of Incompetence

“Ummm…just a second…I will go check.”  The young man who was on the phone with my husband was less than unsure.  Eric impatiently waited as the young man went to look for the needed item.  When he came back he stammered out an explanation of the item in his hand.  That is when Eric realized that he didn’t even have a clue what he was looking for.

Now, you might think  that we are being awfully hard on this young man, but the fact of the matter is, what Eric needed was a very basic item found in a hardware store.   He should have been able to call and get a quick yes or no.  But, instead, he ended up on the phone with someone who was incompetent.

A few weeks later we went out to eat and fell into the hands of an incompetent waitress.  She was a pleasant girl, but seemed to be struggling with the very basics of her job.   It was a frustrating meal, as we all would try to catch her attention and she wouldn’t even look our way.

We all run into incompetent people now and again, but am I the only one who feels like it is becoming more and more often?  So what can we do?

First, we should realize that the clueless person is a person with feelings.  Chances are they were thrown into the job without proper training.  Or perhaps they are trying to do a job for which they are not suitable.  Hopefully, they figure that out sooner rather than later, but our rudeness isn’t going to help them either way.  And, as a Christian, we are responsible to treat them with courtesy and kindness, no matter how frustrated we may be (so much easier to write than to do!)

And then, second, I can’t help but think that we, as believers, should never be found to be incompetent.  Oh, I know that there are those beginning days of a new job when we are uncertain about things.  But we should learn as quickly as we can, always thinking about the next thing, and working hard to know the job.  Colossians 3:23-24 are two of my favorite verses.  They say: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.  

As believers, we are to do all we do with our best effort, for we are serving the Lord, not men.   This is hard to remember when you are in a job atmosphere where workers slack off when the boss isn’t around.  Or where there is great laziness and disinterest in the job.  But, as believers, we are called by God to be competent, diligent, and hard-working, despite the crowd around us.

And, just a word of caution, this is not the popular thing to do.  Oh, your boss will love it (if you don’t have an incompetent, lazy boss who is worried about you surpassing him!)  but your co-workers may grow resentful; they may even call you names.  Be prepared.  Doing what God calls us to in all aspects of life isn’t always easy.  In fact, I would venture to say it is usually the rockier route to travel.

And, finally, as parents, business owners, and teachers, let’s work hard to instill this passion for doing the best job we can into our children, employees, and students.  Let’s expect competence and diligence from them.  Let’s encourage their hearts, while demanding excellence.  It is up to us to train the next generation.  How are we going to do that if we lazily do our own thing?  We have a responsibility and we need to take it seriously.

Incompetence may reign in our culture – but it doesn’t need to reign in the lives of ourselves or our families.  Let’s show that we are different because we serve the Lord.  Are you ready to travel the rocky path and do what’s right, no matter the cost?

Java Joe’s and the Death of a Dream

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There is an old brick house we pass each year on the way to the beach. One year I saw that this house had become Java Joe’s, an adorable little coffee house. It looked like a great place to enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend and I wished I live closer. But then I noticed a year or two later that Java Joe’s looked deserted. I wondered why it looked closed on a weekday. It seemed so odd. And then last week, on our way to the beach, we passed it again and saw that the building is for sale. Sadly, I realized that the cute little coffee shop is no longer in existence.

My thoughts turned towards the owner who first dreamed of opening a coffee shop someday. I imagined how he must have found the proper piece of real estate to make his dream come true. He probably excitedly prepared plans to turn the old house into a coffee shop and was filled with anticipation as opening day approached. I wondered if the first few months were all he hoped or if it seemed destined for failure from the beginning? This owner had a dream and he went for it! But the dream died the day Java Joe’s closed permanently. Perhaps the owner moved on to bigger and better dreams or maybe he gave up and still bares the scars of his dead dream. I don’t really have any way of knowing.

But I guess all of us have had to say good-bye to dreams at one time or another. They are hard, hard moments. Perhaps it is a wayward child entrapped in a life of abuse. Or a failed business that we poured our heart and soul into. Maybe we have never found Mr. or Miss Right and we have had to say good-bye to our dreams of  marriage and family. For some of us, our children will never know their grandparents due to an untimely death. For others of us, we are finding it impossible to have a family at all because of infertility issues or the children we do have are handicapped in some way and their future isn’t what we longed for for our child. Perhaps we suffer with a chronic illness and have had to realize we can’t do what we had always dreamed of.  And many have said good-bye to their fairy tale dreams of the perfect marriage while they flounder in the real world of being married to a sinner. So many dream deaths. So many tears. So much sadness. If you have lived on this fallen earth then you have had to say goodbye to a dream.

How do we handle the death of our dreams–especially the ones that we hold so near and dear to our heart? Oftentimes, the disappointment and lingering ramifications are invisible to others, making it even harder to work through it all. Most of us don’t share our deepest innermost feelings with the world and so we bare the pain and grief all alone. We are filled with a desire to shout out–

I am in mourning here! Why don’t you care?!?

But the world just keeps going on, business as usual. It doesn’t care. No one cares.

That is the lie we tell ourselves.

But is it true?

Eventually, if we are believers, we understand that it’s not true. That the God of the universe loves and cares for us (Psalm 55:22; I Peter 5:7). We remember that He is Sovereign and All-Powerful. We submit to His will and we make a purposeful choice to have a good attitude, asking Jesus to shine brightly through us, even through life’s disappointments. We choose to grow stronger, instead of bitter, when we have to say farewell to a precious dream.

Is it easy? Absolutely not.

Is it instant? No way. 

But it is possible.

It is all a process of submission and leaning on the Lord for strength. We seldom remain unchanged when working through the death of a dream. The question to ask ourselves is this:

Will I become more like Christ or will I cave in to my bitter, hopeless feelings?

Paul tells us that all is loss, when compared to knowing Christ. I can’t honestly say that I feel that way all of the time but my goal is to grow to that place where I can say along with Paul:

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).

And so we remember, once again, that we are a tiny speck on the timeline of the universe. Smaller than a speck of dust. And we remember that God is God. He can see the whole timeline. And so we move forward, knowing that God is with us–even through the death of our dreams.

 

Are You Sure About That?

The headlines read “26 Years Later, Haven’t Lost Anyone”. The article went on to give the lawn company’s philosophy and why they never – yes, it said NEVER – have lost a customer. Having owned a lawn company for 25 years, my husband first recognized the impossibility of this statement. And then he started laughing as he realized that he was actually bidding some work for one of their unhappy customers. The credibility of that company and of the newspaper that ran the article was thrown into question after reading what we knew, firsthand, to be an outright lie.

Around this same time, our daughter was in a car accident with another driver, a young girl. There were not any witnesses of the incident and the young girl proceeded to lie about what had occurred. Our auto insurance is headed to battle over it, as the dents in the cars tell the true story and they believe they will be able to prove it was not our daughter’s fault.

We also had two incidents with buying mowers recently. In one, a verbal agreement was made and we were on our way to pick it up (a drive of several hours) when we were called and told that he had sold the mower to someone who had offered to pay him more. In the other case, we traveled to Philadelphia to pick one up, being told it was in mint condition, only to hear a tap in the motor.

So, what do all of these stories have in common? Integrity.

No longer do people feel it necessary to be truthful in advertising…to keep their word…to be honest in their interactions with others.  Instead they do whatever is to their own advantage, with no concern for the truth.

The lack of concern about the truth in this culture is truly frightening. But the lie that there are no moral absolutes has seeped its way into the culture so thoroughly, that now we are reaping the consequences. And they will be heavy consequences. You could see it happening twenty years ago. I remember a song in the 80s talking about this change in teaching absolute truth to our public school students. You could see it happening when TV sitcoms would (and still do) glorify and make light of someone telling a lie to get something they wanted. You could also see it coming, when parents started to set examples of lying on their taxes and being dishonest about sick days and why they couldn’t come to the phone. Another big red flag was when a person’s “happiness” became the ultimate goal for life.  You see, these things set the stage for a generation that has no respect for the truth, unless it is to their advantage.

So, as a Christian (and, hopefully, as one who practices telling the truth), what are we to do? Well, first and foremost, of course, is that we stand out in this culture by being honorable and trustworthy. We should tell the truth, no matter what the outcome (Proverbs 14:5). We also need to be unwavering and to set a godly example as we teach our children the importance of honesty and integrity.

Another important thing we need to do in this day and age is to listen to everything with the proverbial grain of salt .  Whether it is in the newspaper, on the TV news or on a reality show, or even hearing a story about someone else’s tragic circumstances from a friend, we shouldn’t be so quick to believe what we hear.  So many are the agendas and slants given to stories, that we need to be really careful in what we believe.

As I write on this topic, I find myself filled with sadness at the state of this culture. I could see it coming and now I realize that we are here.  I also know the inevitable outcome of a country that holds no respect for the truth. But, alas, here we are. And so it is our duty and responsibility to live the Christian life with integrity in a culture that holds no esteem for the truth.

 

 

Starting with the Right Account

I glared at my computer.  Why wasn’t this balancing?  I glanced down over the screen, trying to spot something that may have been entered wrong.  I was in the midst of trying to balance one of my business accounts and it just wasn’t working.  Have you ever had that problem?  You work and work to figure out why you are a few dollars off?  Only this time it was about $65 and I was determined to figure out the discrepancy.  There were only a few transactions for the whole month, so this should have been a piece of cake.  And then it hit me!  I was balancing the wrong account.  We have two accounts that happen to have very similar balances and I had accidentally brought up the wrong account.  I could have worked all day but it would never have balanced.

After I had scolded myself about making such a stupid mistake and wasting some valuable minutes, I couldn’t help but apply this to life.  You see, so many of us start at the wrong point with our Christianity.  We want to start with ourselves instead of with God. We come to God so He will meet our needs. We want to find our purpose.  We want to experience God’s blessings.  We desire for all to go well with us.  We believe that God wants us to be “happy” and so we pursue happiness instead of godliness. We praise God for finding us beautiful (which I still just can’t seem to find a verse to support) and we sing songs of worship that are ME-centered instead of God-centered.

We start with the wrong account of “me” and because of it, we can never seem to balance our Christianity.  I know this isn’t a popular thing to say but here it is:  True Christianity is about repentance of sin, self-denial, holiness, and glorifying God alone.  We need to repent of the sin that makes us unacceptable to God and come to Him with humility and a grateful heart for the gift of salvation He has graciously provided through His Son’s death and resurrection.  Upon salvation, we should start  living for Jesus, instead of ourselves.

John 3:30 says:  He must increase, but I must decrease.  Matthew 16:24 says:  Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  

Did you catch that?  We are to decrease.  We are to think less and less of ourselves the more mature we grow in Christ, so that people are seeing more and more of Christ.  We are to deny ourselves our own personal desires for the sake of God’s Kingdom. For some, it may mean going to prison or dying for Christ.  Others endure ruined reputations, ugly rumors, and broken relationships because of their dedication to Christ.  But we are to glory in this persecution, because Christ’s purposes are supreme! (Matthew 5:11-12)

Because Christianity has become so ME-centered, it has rendered many of us useless for the sake of God’s Kingdom.  We dedicate so much time to finding our personal purposes and “helping” God to bless us materially, that we aren’t even concerned about the souls of the lost.  We become so wrapped up in declaring our “rights” and “personal freedoms” that we step all over weaker brothers and sisters, not caring for their fledgling walks with Christ.  We rationalize our behaviors and choices, all the while hurting the Kingdom of God.   We seek personal pleasure and justify it under the banner of the “freedom we have in Christ”.  It is absolutely tragic.

We need to start with the right account!  We need to start with God, instead of ourselves.  Ironically, it is only when this happens, that we will find the joy, blessing, and peace that our souls long for.

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