Category Archives: Government

Truth and Grace: How to Share?

The C12 Group focused on the issue of trust in this month’s business segment. Trust is a foundational element of our relationships in the workplace, family, friends, churches, schools, government, military and pretty much anywhere two or more people interact. One of the first building blocks of trust is engaging with truth. In addition to engaging with truth is engaging with grace. We in America are certainly being challenged today to engage each other with truth and grace. The double edged sword of technology allows us to share our thoughts and opinions very easily, but also in a way that can be harsh and demeaning. How do we engage with each other, pointing out when the truth is being misunderstood, but doing it in a way that doesn’t damage or even sever the relationships that are important for us to keep?

Let’s start with man’s definition of each of these terms. As is common in the English language, there are nuances to the definition of a single word. From Merriam-Webster, the definition of truth: the real facts about something; the things that are true; sincerity in action, character, and utterance; the body of real things, events, and facts; a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality. Again, from Merriam-Webster, the definition of grace (relevant to what I am sharing): unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification; disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency; the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful.

For me, all truth starts with the foundational truths that God exists, that He created the universe, including us, that He has a plan for the human race and that we are active participants in that plan. The foundational source of these truths that God revealed to us is the Bible. Abraham Lincoln said, “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.” Reply to Loyal Colored People of Baltimore upon Presentation of a Bible on September 7, 1864 (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 7:542). The apostle Paul writes in 2nd Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT).

When we engage in any relationship one of our tendencies is to assume wrong motives for the other person’s words or actions. This is especially true when engaging in social media, texting or emailing interactions because the amount of communication is very limited compared to an in person engagement with conversation and body language. There is a lot of personal history that we may know nothing about which has shaped this person’s view of the world and what truth they have been exposed to. This is one of the reasons I try to start new relationships, especially important ones, with sharing our respective life stories from birth to present day.

The foundational truth of grace is that God loves us so much that He gives us something we don’t deserve, eternity with Him, otherwise known as Heaven. That gift is only available through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior, which does require submission. Another aspect of that truth is that if we reject the gift, reject God and reject Jesus Christ as lord and savior, then we reject the outcome and will not spend eternity with Him, otherwise known as Hell. These are eternal decisions, not taken lightly. “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12 NLT).

If we are Christians who have accepted these truths, then how do we conduct ourselves in these personal engagements, sharing truth and grace? The Bible gives us instructions to do that. “Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:25 NLT).

Returning to the point about understanding motives, let me give you a practical example. I intensely dislike cigarette smoking (note I prefer these terms instead of “hate” which is a strong word, often wrongly applied). What is my history with this issue that is affecting my view of smokers? I did not like cigarettes the first time I tried them as a teenager. The odor is quite intense in a bad way for me. And most importantly, it is a fact that cigarettes cause cancer. My grandmother and father both died of cancer (not from cigarettes) and my wife is a cancer survivor. I have been and am in relationships with people who smoke. I know that quitting is very difficult and I empathize with that difficulty. But, the outcome of not quitting could literally be death. When I have a crucial conversation with someone about their smoking habit, I try to engage them by sharing what has shaped by view and try to help them see the truth of what they are doing and the truth of the potential consequences to themselves and their families. I don’t like their actions, but I do in fact love them as people and I am trying to engage them in a way that demonstrates that.

The same methods can be applied to any relationship and any discussion of differing views. Let’s civilly and respectfully share our stories forming our views and in the process share the truths that God has and continues to reveal to us each day. There are many opportunities today to have these discussions around marriage and family; the role of government in our lives; the freedom to live out our faith every day in every place, not just one day in one place; interacting with the world; and abortion to name a few. I have previously written about a great book with practical advice on how to have these crucial conversations: https://marcjmartin.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/get-better-at-having-difficult-conversations/.

If you are a disciple of Christ, then fill yourself each day with God’s truths from the Bible so you can continue to grow in sharing the truth with grace. Gather with fellow disciples in groups of three or four regularly and challenge each other to grow in these areas. Pray for wisdom and discernment each day. “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5 NLT).

If you are not a disciple of Christ, investigate these truths with an open heart and open mind. Thanks to technology (another gift from God) we can easily access many places to do that. The best source again is the Bible and you can start in the book of John: https://www.bible.com/bible/116/jhn.1.nlt. Talk to someone you know who is following Christ and you see that person living it out in a God honoring way. Feel free to contact me as well.

Here are some other resources:

http://www.timothykeller.com/books/the-reason-for-god

http://www.josh.org/resources/free-book-downloads/

http://godlife.com/

 

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Filed under Christian Life, Discipleship, Government, Self-improvement

Time for a Convention of States

If you look at any polls rating the public approval of the president, of Congress and of the Affordable Healthcare Act you will find a majority of Americans disapprove of all of these. You will also find a majority of Americans agreeing that the country is headed in the wrong direction. (www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/latest_polls). The large numbers of citizens who disapprove of our current Federal government are the result of decades of professional politicians more interested in serving their own interests than the interests of this country and its citizens. They have lost sight of the real world that most of us live in.

The Federal government is not solving problems for its citizens, it is instead creating them by becoming increasingly intrusive in all of our lives, with regulatory and tax burdens beyond the scope imagined by the framers of the Constitution. They have overspent our hard earned dollars and there is no end in sight. Neither political party is interested in curbing this abuse of power. The executive branch continues to enact regulations that place an unnecessary financial burden on small and medium businesses that employ the majority of Americans, especially outside of the metropolitan areas of the country.

If, like me, you are one of the citizens who are among the dissatisfied, but aren’t sure what to do about it, there is an answer. The answer is found in Article V of the Constitution, which allows for a Convention of States to be called by the legislatures of two thirds of the states (34 of the 50). Here’s what happens: 34 states submit applications for the same issue; Congress is required to call the convention; commissioners debate, propose, and vote upon possible amendments; proposed amendments are sent to the state for ratifications; and if 38 states ratify, the proposed amendments become part of the Constitution. There are a number of possible amendments that could be discussed at the convention, including term limits for Congress and the Supreme Court. Read more about the process and how to get involved at http://www.conventionofstates.com/learn-convention-states-0.

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Filed under Business, Economy, Government, Uncategorized

Use Your Business Platform to Educate

At our December C12 Group meeting I facilitated a spirited discussion about the misunderstandings that a significant portion of the population had of the fiscal cliff situation. The elements of the fiscal cliff problem combined government overspending, a weak economy, poor communication, arrogance and a lack of business knowledge, among other things. We spent a good deal of the time in our discussion about the gap between business owners and much of the population in understanding economic issues. So how do we close this gap, how do we help people understand that free enterprise is the economic engine of our country and taking more money from it and giving it to the government will make things worse, not better?

As I have written before, the core of these truths are biblically based and we need to continue to share the Gospel and disciple people so they can learn them, understand them and apply them to the world around us. We also have to keep the eternal perspective a higher priority than the temporary one of this life.

Beyond sharing the Gospel, we Christian business leaders should be using our platform to educate our employees, customers, suppliers and vendors. We can do this through company meetings, newsletters, corporate web sites and social media. We need to educate ourselves, arm ourselves with knowledge and information and share it in a productive way.

What are some of the areas that we should focus our time on? One of the first should be that the federal government is not good at solving problems or taking care of people. Given that truth, giving them more money doesn’t make sense either. Compare how poorly the government does at just about anything with how well private companies and ministries do solving problems and caring for those in need.

A key to understanding free enterprise and its positive impact on everyone is basic business math. Use your own business’s numbers or use hypothetical numbers if you prefer, but spend some time teaching the basics of revenues, cost of goods, gross profit, expenses and net profit. In the discussion of expenses highlight how much of those expenses are payroll and benefit expenses and how those are impacted by the decisions of our federal government. Explain how small business owners are taxed on corporate profits that most of the time don’t make it to the owner’s personal bank account.

One of the biggest issues that no one in government at least seems willing to tackle is the size of the federal debt and its continued growth unabated. We need to make clear the consequences of letting this continue which include downgraded credit ratings, devalued currency, and the size of the debt eclipsing the gross domestic product and ultimately more recession or even depression.

Here are some sources to help you educate people on these issues:

Take some time to read through the information from these sources. Use the platform that you have to share it with people through meetings, seminars, newsletters, blogs, and social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Do something else you probably haven’t done in a while, share it and your opinion with your elected government officials, including our president. (http://www.usa.gov/Contact.shtml)

Someone has to lead our nation through these obstacles; Christian business leaders have the talents, tools and biblical wisdom to do it. Step up to the challenge!

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Filed under Business, Christian Life, Discipleship, Economy, Government

The Potential Impact of a Christian Business

What is the role of a Christian business owner in today’s economy? In this election you will hear politicians share about their plans to create jobs. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t create jobs; businesses and their owners create jobs. Here are some statistics from the U.S. Small Business Administration (http://web.sba.gov/faqs/faqIndexAll.cfm?areaid=24).

 Small firms:

•    Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
•    Employ half of all private sector employees.
•    Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
•    Generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years.
•    Create more than half of the nonfarm private GDP.
•    Hire 43 percent of high tech workers
•    Made up 97.5 % of all identified exporters and produced 31 % of export value in FY 2008.
•    Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.

 These are all good things, especially in much of our state of Wisconsin where there aren’t many 5,000+ employee large corporations. Without government interference, we can do a lot of economic good.

 But, what else does God have for us to do? He has a purpose for us and our businesses beyond employing people. He even tells us that in His Word, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10, NIV 1984. How do we live out that purpose, what are these good works? We are to be Jesus’ hands and feet as we live out our calling through family, friends, the Church and those we serve in the marketplace. Note that a calling is not just for pastors, missionaries, or other professional ministry leaders. Christian business owners are called to be effective stewards of the financial resources God has blessed us with. We are called to transform our culture one relationship at a time. We are called to use our influence to share the message of the Gospel near and far.

 Consider how God built His Church. As recounted in “Why Work?” (Nancy & Howard Olsen, M3 Planning, 2006), the Christian faith was birthed and flourished in the marketplace. Jesus, a small town carpenter, recruited His disciples in the marketplace where He also made 122 of His 132 New Testament public appearances. Of His 52 parables, 45 had workplace settings. The gospels were written by workplace professionals. After Pentecost, the explosion of believers happened all over the city. Those working with Paul to reach the Gentiles typically led lives which blended business and ministry. Of the 40 divine interventions recorded in Acts, 39 occurred in the marketplace. When the Jerusalem temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., the early Church moved its center to Antioch, a vital merchant trading center. Fast-forwarding to America, our founders coupled faith with work in establishing a free nation under God. The subsequent great awakenings in our history gained their momentum in the marketplace.

What does this mean for us? It is certainly far more comfortable to view our vocation as simply a 40-60 hour-per-week job. But, there is no separation of faith and work. The Puritans had it right in seeing our vocation broadly as God’s call to social, economic, civil, and church engagement as we serve His purpose, using our God-given talents and opportunities to serve others. Jesus did not say “go to church,” but rather He called His people to “be the Church and go out”! We all have areas of our lives where we like to spend time and devote energy, often to the exclusion of other priorities. Whether we’re workaholics, doting parents, “can’t say no” church volunteers or obsessive hobbyists, we must be careful not to reshape God’s call on our life into a lopsided focus on one or two things while ignoring others. Read the Bible daily, pray for direction, guidance and wisdom, be accountable to other Christians and live out what Paul wrote to the Ephesians. You will be blessed and through you your employees, their families, your customers, vendors and ultimately, the nation will be blessed.

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Filed under Business, Christian Life, Economy, Government, Uncategorized