Kingdom and Company – An Owners Calling

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We recently considered a personal calling to serve the Lord within the workplace.  By sharing the gospel in words, decisions, and deeds we fulfill a call to be a light in the city of commerce.

But how does this call morph as we move into ownership?  Is our stewardship of the gospel expressed differently as an owner?

As owner, the company is under our authority.  Though leadership must be collaborative, it must  at times part the crowd and lead in a distinct direction.  Expressing vision is one of these leadership moments; it is at first singular than collaborative.

What responsibility does a leader have to express faith to the organization?  That depends on who the owner is and of what kingdom he hails.

A kingdom is described as a region under the control of a particular person;  the kings domain.  There are many kingdoms that control business;  each having a particular domain.  A board may control the assets of a corporation.  Government controls business law.  Professional societies control technical standards and professional conduct.

The kingdom of God pertains to the regions under control of the Lord.  A follower of Christ is part of the kingdom of God because he is under the control or influence of Christ. Everything under Christ’s domain is Christ’s Kingdom.

Should a business owner who knows the Lord bring the business within the domain of the Kingdom of God?  If so, it would mean the decisions of the business would be placed before the Lord for His direct influence.  Psalm 24:1 speaks to this ownership question:

The earth is the Lord’s and all it’s fullness.  The world and those who dwell therein.

The earth and the family of man is intended to be within domain of the Lord.  The degree of the Lord’s influence in the earth and the family of man is dependent upon the degree of man’s relationship and obedience to Him.

What extent should your business recognize the kingdom of God and be subject to it?  Other businesses in your market may not recognize His domain.  Why should you?

This situation has a parallel with each soul on the planet.  Though he died for us all, not all have believed in Him.  Though many company’s are owned by followers of Christ there are few examples to showcase.

It can be difficult to express faith in the marketplace yet we must.  There is pressure to keep faith speech from business so others are not offended; yet we know the gospel will offend some.  Not all our customers share our faith; yet many silently do.  Company’s are publicly harassed for biblically influenced policies; yet these companies stand out in the marketplace as an alternative to policies that are destructive to the soul.

We are expected to be bold for Christ.  Whether first century or 21st century Christian.  We are not to compromise the testimony of Christ to make peace.  We are to fully witness what He has done for us everywhere we go.

Have you been entrusted with a business?  Have you given it back to him in your heart?

A businesses culture reflects the values of its founder and current leader.  Are you a follower of Christ and a business owner?  If so, His worldview should be evident in your culture.  Indeed, His wisdom, knowledge, and understanding should be apparent in the business vision, mission, and purpose.

The assets of a business are under control of the owner, it’s a part of an owners kingdom.  If your business is the Lords, then He should have access to the operations, assets, alliances, ownership, and products to achieve His purposes.  If so, it is a part of His Kingdom.  If He has no influence then it is of the world and its kingdoms.

The Lord waits on each of us to place all we have into His hands, for His Kingdom’s purpose.  In return is access to His assets, alliances, and wisdom.  Placing our businesses in His hands allows us to stop serving Mammon in our workplace and instead seek the kingdom in our workplace:

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”  (Matthew 6:33)

How are others seeking the kingdom first as business owners?

  • Tyson Foods offers employees chaplain services at plants across America
  • Interstate Batteries owner encourages employees to receive Christ right on the company website
  • In and Out Burger places John 3:16 on the bottom of their cups.

Each are examples of owners operating their company within the  Kingdom of Christ.  What are your examples?  How can you as an owner give your company to the Lord to be directed for His purpose?

Operation City of Lights

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Is there a personal calling to serve Christ in the Marketplace?  I believe there is.  I  am a believer because of the testimony of others who spoke of Christ from two differing platforms; the ministry and the marketplace.

In San Francisco in 1995 I found myself suddenly the product of a broken relationship 2,000 miles from home.  Much was broken in my life including any relationship to my Father in Heaven.  As I cried out to one I did not yet know He answered me and said, “this does not happen to those who are right with Me”.  Immediately a  vision of my parents came to me and their love which has lasted their lifetime.  The message was clear to me, their heart for God was “right” in his eyes.  There was a way to be right with God.

The marketplace witness came within two weeks in the form of a fellow geologist on a work site at Alameda Naval Air Station.  I let the team know I was moving back to the midwest.  She brought a Bible to me on my last day of work.  Inside she wrote of a love so great that she knew of personally, and one that I could know as well; the Love of Jesus Christ.  A love that could not be broken.

It would take another 10 months for me to hear the gospel, receive His sacrifice for my sins, and begin a love so great just as I witnessed in the marketplace 10 months before.  Yes, people are called to serve The Lord within the marketplace. I know first hand.

For good reason we esteem those in spiritual authority for the watch they have over our souls.  But that does not disqualify evangelism by those outside full-time ministry.  Nor does it excuse the rest of us from our command to make disciples.

We are all laborers for the harvest wherever He calls us, ministry or marketplace.  Paul seems to plead with us to recognize the special place of our calling by saying it twice:

 Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called (1 Corinthians 7:20);

and again,

Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called (1 Corinthian 7:24).

I was called as a geologist.  You are called to your profession.  We each are called to bring light, life, and the name of Jesus Christ to our personal marketplace.

Indeed, what you may devalue as a second-rate calling may be your special deployment.  The “operation faith” to which your life experiences and gifting by the Lord has prepared you.

You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14).   

You are set on a hill called “commerce” to be light.  Can I encourage you today to be that light to someone in need today in your workplace?  Can I prod you to consider a new purpose for your profession, occupation, or business?

But how are we to be light in offices, schools, storefronts, and organizations that are not asking us for the light?

That is simple.  It is by being yourself and not being less than yourself.

In each believer that is connected to and in love with The Lord is a wellspring of life.  The life takes form in prayer, encouragement, hope, faith, and love in the workplace.  More practically Proverbs is filled with practical advice on how we may apply the wisdom of God to nearly every imaginable experience in the workplace.  Consider the following in Proverbs:

  1. Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right (16:8)
  2.   The heart of the wise teaches his mouth and adds learning to his lips (16:23)
  3.   Without council plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established (15:22)
  4. He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live (15:27)
  5.   The ear that hears rebuke will abide among the wise (15:31)
  6.   He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding (15:32).
  7. In all labor there is profit but idle chatter will lead to poverty (14:23).
  8. He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy (14:31).
  9. He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction (13:3).
  10. The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor (12:25).

How we conduct ourselves in business is important to God.  It is a measure of the purity of our heart.  But none of us has been a light to others everyday.  We often fail to fully release to others what the Lord has placed within us.  I am guilty of missing opportunities to pray, believe, and speak in faith when it was most needed.

We need to form new habits day by day to consistently follow Christ at work:

  • Shine Where You Are:  God suggests that we should remain the “calling” in which we are called.  Make up your mind to fully serve Him where you are and stop waiting for a more holy calling.
  • Be Supernatural Where You Are:  He gives ideas to help and prosper us in our work.  He gives us prayer opportunities and wants to move through us.  Listen to the Holy Spirit to nudge you and wake you up to these opportunities.
  • Live Right in Your Marketplace:  Your decisions, world view, treatment of people, and your servanthood to others speak of who you are.  If you are not connected to him Monday through Friday there will be no light.  But, if you offer your work to Him daily His light will illuminate your marketplace.

Journey Toward A Destination Unknown

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A difficult part of following Christ is that we do not know the path upon which His plan will take us. Most frequently we get only one step at a time revealed to us. Then, all is quiet until we take that step. Lacking trust we say, “I just want to know how this will turn out. I want to know the way”.

None of us know the path our life will take, least of all a follower of Jesus Christ. There in lies the intrigue, the anguish, and the excitement of a walk of faith.

I can’t help but think, “if we were closer to the Lord we would more clearly see our future”. He is after all the author and finisher of our faith. We know He could see His path, He who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

Not so with us. Not so with Jacob. Jacob is known as the father of the 12 tribes of Israel but his early life would not indicate this final, victorious outcome. Consider his life. Jacob ran away from his home, friends, and family. He left the country and was pursued by his brother Esau. He was taken in by a nomadic family then tricked by its patriarch into serving seven years labor for a wife whose hand he did not ask for. In the middle of those desert years did Jacob know this path would lead him to the intended victorious end? It is unlikely. Rather, it is likely he thought he would be a refugee for the rest of his life.

But, the end of His life was different than he expected. He returned home with family and wealth surrounding him. He would be the patriarch of the 12 tribes of Israel, not Esau the elder brother who remained at home. And though he would migrate to Egypt to escape famine (saved by the Lord moving through his son Joseph), he would die with his amazing, growing family around him. His family would become a nation, Israel. It was a great end that neither he nor his family could have known in the middle of his life.

Such is the limitation of a walk of faith. We cannot see where our faith in the Lord is taking us. But our end will be great. If your life is not what you hope for today know that as you continue to follow Jesus he will bring you to a great place and purpose.

If you are standing in faith today but do not know the path to your end it is ok, neither did Jacob. If you do not know where you may live, earn a living, serve the Lord, or minister to others in the future, but instead are heading in the general direction Christ has laid out for you, it is ok. You are on journey to a destination unknown. If you place your faith in Him He will order your steps:

The steps of a good man are ordered by The Lord and He delights in His steps (Psalm 37:23)

Steps of obedience are what He asked of us, not plans. But when we look far in the future and plan our way we begin to trouble ourselves. Perhaps by planning we cross a line returning to life lived as before we knew Him. Perhaps excessive planning is evidence we are trying to become our own God, the master of our own life, rather than serving the Master with our life. Consider these two verses:

There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12).

The Lord brings the counsel of nations to nothing. He makes the plans of the people of no effect (Psalm 33:10).

The scriptures teach us that our steps are for obedience and plans are the Lords.

He doesn’t reveal too much to us, or does He? If we ask the Lord His plan, it may be different. The Lord gave overwhelming detail of His plans to David to build the sanctuary. The design he downloaded to David included dimensions, material list, design patterns, everything right down to the gold forks and basins. In 1 Chronicles 28:19 David said to Solomon,

“All this The Lord made me understand, in writing, all the works of these plans.”

He also reveled to David that Solomon would build the temple, not David. That was not David’s plan!

It brings us back to a fundamental truth. We are to pursue not our plans, but His, step by step. We are not to confuse His plan by trying to insert our plan into it.

Not everything has gone according to plan in my life. I am certain of that. I’ve missed many steps. But along the journey I feel the Lord patiently pulling me back onto His plan. It’s a plan toward a destination unknown to me. A funny thing has happened along the way. As I have followed Him I have been able to be a part of a small story in His Plan. Melanie and I felt directed to go to Florida to open a business office five years ago. While in Florida we were given an opportunity to be apart of His plan to launch a new campus church. It was an opportunity that came to us in one day without any plan on my part. It is a reminder to me that our life is to be about taking steps of obedience to follow His plan, not ours.

Articulating a New Business Worldview

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There is an agonizing yet accurate scene in Hollywood’s modern adaption of Noah’s Ark, Evan Almighty. The main character, Representative Evan Baxter, is asked who told him there would be a coming flood. He stands up in a US Congressional Hearing, in front of a nationwide audience, to the dread of his own family, and says, “God”.

The courtroom erupts, his pundits label him a freak and his wife leaves him.

The scene lays bare an unspoken commandment of the American marketplace; thou shalt not speak of faith in the workplace. Talk of faith is considered too much of a lightening rod to handle in our whitewashed corporate suites where diversity, acceptance, and placating others is the corporate doctrine.

Currently, it is rarely an acceptable cultural norm in the United States to discuss The Lord publicly in business. It is further taboo to state that The Lord influences your decisions and the decisions you make on behalf of the company.

You may be thinking that it would be unwise to discuss such a controversial subject in the marketplace. You may rightly state that it could be bad for business. Yet, what is the Lords’ perspective on this issue?

In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:6).

The Lord expects us to acknowledge Him not just with those who know him but even with some of those who do not know Him. He expects this for His Name’s sake; that His Name would be known among all men.

I believe it is productive and healthy for believers in business ownership and leadership positions to acknowledge in the work place that The Lord is influencing their decisions. I believe it is a legitimate and even preferred route to guiding the ship of business to consult and lead with the Lord when compared with consulting with men and women only, as with secular leadership.

If we have prayed for The Lord to guide a decision and He gives direction it would stand to reason in the business meeting we would say something like, “I have prayed to find the best solution to this problem and I believe The Lord is telling us to go this direction”. Instead we communicate the counsel without acknowledging the Counselor, if we ask the Counselor at all. In this manner we censor ourselves and miss an opportunity to witness Christ in our business.

But what if our staff has non-believers? Well, you routinely lead staff using principles that you have learned over time but that they may or may not understand yet, correct? Not all your staff has the insight of the CEO but you don’t try to guide the ship of business by only the lessons they have yet learned, do you? If so, we each would have to bone up on our knowledge of accounting, IT, and organizational structure. These disciplines are not known by all but each are used to guide the company. So, it is ok to lead the company with principles not yet understood by all.

But it is not easy to acknowledge the Lord publicly in business. I remember leading a business development meeting with staff from around the country and I was trying to describe how expanding services would bring more clients and more revenue into the company. I drew a parallel by saying, it’s like the Bible says, “open up the windows of heaven and I will pour out a blessing. Giving more services to clients opens up more windows through which we may be blessed”.

Within two weeks the company president flew in to tell me that it was ok to have faith but you just can’t express it like you may want in the work place. In effect, the company wanted to censor faith speach. He used a quote from St. Francis of Assisi to help me, “Preach Christ everywhere and when you must, use words”.

Well, I learned of Christ by people who were not afraid to speak about Christ. I remember in 1995 a geologist in San Francisco gave me a Bible on the job knowing Jesus was what I needed, and what I didn’t have at the time. Monks are not soul winners.

Forget the monks, what does the Word say about this? In Acts 5:27-29, the Pharisees say, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” But Peter and the other apostles answered and said:

“We ought to obey God rather than men

We ought to obey God in the workplace in addition to men, and sometimes, rather than men. So what do we do if we are censored or persecuted? What if we are released from employment? What if we are overlooked from promotion due to reasons of our faith? Do not fear, instead:

  • Bless (Romans 12:14) – Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
  • Cry Out to God (Psalm 119:86) – All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.
  • Endure (1 Corinthians 4:12) – We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it.
  • Delight in the Law of the Lord (Ps 119:92) – If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
  • Be Blessed (Matthew 5:10) – Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Suffering and Growing – 3 Gifts To Get You Through the Fire

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Ann Graham Lotz walked through an 18-month period in her  life not long ago when she “went through a cluster of storms that left her emotionally gasping for breath.” A hurricane downed 102 trees in her yard, a fire consumed her husband’s dental office, her oldest son was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery, the health of both of Anne’s parents faltered, and a contractor made off with all the remodeling money from the Lotzs and did NONE of the work.  What was Anne’s response to this suffering?  She chose to trust God through it (Ann Graham Lotz: Faith and Our Suffering)

We work much of our lives seeking to avoid suffering.  We insure against it.  We fret and frazzle, “What we would do if this happens?”  Yet, it is a critical requirement for our personal and spiritual growth. It is suffering.

Suffering brings prolonged pain.  Emotional pain can come to us from those we love.  Financial pain can come from the loss of a job in a declining economy.  Physical pain of sickness and disease may come from unknown root causes.  Each bring pain.  Many times these events are outside our control.  Other times they are a direct result of the choices we make.

Yet, despite the cause and irregardless of our responsibility, suffering is part of the refining fire of life.  Though we seek to eliminate all pain and suffering, pain and suffering are required to grow personally and spiritually.  Suffering can push us toward The Lord.  Our inability to change our circumstance can teach us humility.  A humble heart is required to know God.

There is encouragement in these words:

Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job.  Instead, be glad the you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced.  This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner (The Message Bible, 1 Peter 4).

Know that the Lord’s power, mercy, and goodness are around the corner of your suffering.  God has given us three great gifts in the midst of suffering.  Three powerful choices we have:

  1. The power to choose our attitude
  2. The faith to believe despite our circumstances
  3. The strength to trust Him when we do not understand

Knowing that suffering cannot be avoided is freeing.  Understanding that suffering brings refinement will help you identify its purpose in your life.  So, suffer, grow, and move on!

Rise Above Mediocrity – 5 Steps to Create Your Masterpiece

When we create in life the world is changed.

Jeffrey Steele, singer/song writer, leaned back from the microphone to hear about a hundred voices gain strength as his faded, still strumming his guitar.  He smiled and listened as they sang his lyrics back to him in a hushed voice:

What hurts the most
Was being so close
And having so much to say
And watching you walk away
And never knowing
What could have been
And not seeing that loving you
Is what I was trying to do

The song made famous by Rascal Flatts was written by Jeffrey Steele. He sang it at a YMCA benefit at Puckett’s with BWSC in Nashville last Sunday night. I saw in that moment how his creativity, in this case, his song, his creation, filled him with joy as he heard others sing his song back to him.

When we create in life the world is changed. We are fulfilled as we hear the world sing back our song. Reflecting on the satisfaction in Jeffrey Steele’s smile I thought of the times when I have been most creative in my work; the design of new systems, authoring, leading new teams, taking a step of faith.

Yet, honestly, in the workplace rarely is individuality and creativity expected or encouraged. Yes, with Apple and other standouts we recognize it in product design and function. But in professional service companies and many other organizations we seem to reach only to the expectation of the client or leader, rarely do we dare go higher.

We must learn to encourage the creative in our work. Creativity rises above expectations to bring something new to life.  It brings something new or something old in new way. A creative solution can deliver profit and new products by finding new paths that take fewer resources and less time. New paradigms are an act of creation.  When we each work with creativity something unique from our God-given ability and our life experience is birthed. Michael Hyatt frequently says it so well; we each bring our unique experiences and gifts to every endeavor.  In so doing something entirely new is added to the world.

Here are five steps to bring about your creative ability in the workplace:

1. Live beyond your chosen profession. Realize you are not defined by your profession. No profession or career can capture all the diverse talents,temperaments, and soul of each person. David in the Bible was not just defined by his Kingly role; he was creative; a psalmist, a lover of God, a warrior, and architect.  He was a renaissance man!

2. Live beyond the expectations of others. Many including those most close to us do not know our future, just our past.

3. Live beyond the expectations of the current task. Many of our endeavors require a modest effort to succeed but when we imagine something better with extra effort we can produce greatness.

4. Live above the routine. Routine and habits have benefit but if taken to extreme they stifle the creative. Change your routine by doing something you normally would not do to recharge your creative energy.

5. Live beyond the natural. Many times I have been prompted by The Lord to take a slightly different path than the expected, and following His supernatural lead, extraordinary opportunities and life experiences have been birthed.

What gives you the most satisfaction in your life, in your career, or in your family?  How is your workplace allowing creativity in your work?

Your Worth

On what will you base your worth?

On what will you base your worth?

Worth the price.  Worth the payment.

What is your worth?  What is the payment given for you?

Worth is defined as “good or important enough to justify payment“. Worth may justify payment of an employees salary.  Worth may justify the love and labor by parent for child.

Is your worth defined by what others think of you? And what if others see no worth in you?  What is your worth then?  Is your worth affected by the performance you give others?  Is your worth affected by how you look today versus how you looked 20 years ago?  Is your worth affected by others’ words?  Is your worth affected by their thoughts?

Worth the price.  Worth the payment.

Many would say in the marketplace your worth is clearly defined.  They would say your worth to the company is the sum of the revenue you earn and the value of your relationships.  Each reduce down to money.  Essentially, they say your worth is defined by money. Human captial.

But marketplace Christians are required by love to see others through the eyes of the Lord.  Marketplace Christians have a higher report than the balance sheet.  At Christmas we are reminded that:

In the fullness of time God sent His Son to redeem us (Galatians 4:5).

A Son that would later redeem (pay) for the price of our sin with His life.  A life cannot be defined by money. Why did God do this? Why did He give something so precious to Him?

Your worth.

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