Category Archives: Legacy

Planning with an Eternal Perspective

This time of year many of us are starting to think about making plans for 2015. Business owners and executives are evaluating how 2014 has gone and will work on business plans for 2015. There are of course the New Year’s resolutions that many of us are beginning to think about. God encourages us to plan; He tells us that in many Bible verses including Proverbs 21:5 (NLT) Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty. Many of our plans are focused on bigger and better results than last year.

Something we need to keep in mind however is that God’s plans come before ours. He tells us again in Proverbs 19:21 (NLT), You can make many plans, but the lord’s purpose will prevail. Jesus’ brother James makes a point by warning us against being overly self-confident: Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15 (NLT)

Life Disrupted

Many times our plans and our lives are disrupted by things beyond our control, like lack of sales in our business, key employees suddenly leaving, children making poor decisions, or an overwhelming illness or death of a family member. These are situations that we should be thinking about when we are doing our planning. What if things don’t go as we planned? What are our contingencies? What if our days in this life are fewer than we planned? What about those left behind? I’ve seen this in my own family a number of times in recent years.

The first plan everyone needs is the one that addresses where they are going to spend eternity when they die. Every person will spend eternity somewhere and there are only two options. The first and best is spending it in God’s presence, otherwise known as Heaven. The second and worst is spending it away from God’s presence, otherwise known as Hell. If you don’t have a definitive answer to this question, that answer must become a priority for you because you don’t know the number of days you have. The only plan that works for getting into Heaven is the one where you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord of this life and personal savior out of Hell into Heaven. God has given us free will to make our own choice in this matter, so it is up to you. Here are a few places you can hear this explained in greater detail: Whiteboard Salvation, Peace with God, Know God, Life Questions

Evaluate Where You Are

Assuming you’ve made that choice already in your life, do your plans submit to Jesus’ lordship and God’s plans for you and those you influence? Every December in each of our C12 groups we take a Christ-centered retrospective look at the results of our past year’s activities, focusing on the eternal perspective. We do this in the form of a personal audit of ten soul searching questions, scoring ourselves from 1 to 10. Using the scores from this audit our members can adjust their business and personal plans for 2015, spending time and resources on reordered priorities. Here’s the list of the ten questions without the expanded background:

  1. You spent more time with The Lord.
  2. Your family relationships strengthened.
  3. You spent more time listening and relating to your team members on a one–to–one basis.
  4. You saw the people that you deal with more as objects of your personal ministry than as objects to be exploited for your personal gain.
  5. You are even slightly less acquisitive than you were a year ago.
  6. You are truly more thankful for what you have and content with all aspects of your life.
  7. You have more peace in your heart.
  8. You learned more about your profession and are able to apply greater technical expertise in your field.
  9. You took measurably better care of your body.
  10. More eternal fruit has been produced through and around you, due to your effort and influence while abiding in Christ.

 

The How To

So, how do we go about planning with an eternal perspective? It starts with reading God’s instructions to us, which are given in the form of His Word through the Bible. If you aren’t reading it on a daily basis then you are missing part of the instructions of how you are supposed to be within God’s will (unless you’ve memorized the more than 30,000 verses). Second, you need to pray regularly and ask for wisdom and guidance from God. This helps you to see as clearly as possible, given that we are trying to be obedient to a God who is invisible and doesn’t speak audibly to us. Third, get advice from others; “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” Proverbs 15:22 (NLT) This advice can come from a board if you are a business owner or a small group of others who are trustworthy resources if you are not. This is one of the primary benefits that the C12 Group provides to its members. You want your advisers to be like minded and caring enough to confront you when you are making poor choices.

What kind of plan has an eternal perspective? If you have a business, you should be incorporating ministry plans into your business plan; how will you share Christ with your employees and their families, with customers, vendors, suppliers? What ministries will you support and what will that support look like? If you don’t own a business, you can incorporate the same concepts into your personal plans, focusing on family, co-workers, friends and neighbors. A common requirement that you will find in these plans is that of time. It takes time to serve others and it takes time to build relationships, two of the most practical ways you can have an eternal impact. You will need to build time into your plans so you don’t spend all of it on short term, temporal things. C12 Group founder Buck Jacobs’ book A Light Shines Bright in Babylon does an excellent job of describing practical ways a business leader can live out these principles.

It really takes wisdom to balance the plans of a good steward, using the talents and resources God has given you to serve Him in the short term and with an eternal perspective. Don’t delay the planning and don’t do it alone.

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Do You Know Your Purpose?

“Christian CEO’s and business owners building great businesses for a greater purpose” is the C12 Group motto. That purpose that every C12 Group member and area chair shares is honoring God in the way we conduct our businesses and serving Him according to our talents and abilities. That purpose has an eternal perspective, which helps us when we are faced with challenges in this life, whether those challenges are in our businesses, our families, our churches or our communities. A greater purpose helps you overcome and it helps you deal with circumstances that prompt the question “Why?”

Do you have a purpose for your life? Is it to accumulate wealth or stuff? Is it to have the most pleasant life experience you can? Is it to be recognized as a leader in your community? These are all things our American culture promotes on a daily basis. If you hear it often enough, you can start to believe those are purposeful things, especially if you don’t have any other source of truth. So, where do you discover your purpose, where do you discover the truth? My answer is that it all starts with the Bible.

The Bible is what God has given us to begin to know Him and understand His plan for all of humanity, as well as our individual role in that plan. That plan applies to both here in the present on this Earth and in the future eternity. If you don’t believe in God I challenge you to read the Bible and see if your opinion changes. You don’t even need to read it all at first (everyone can gain wisdom from reading the entire Bible at some point in their life, preferably multiple times). Just read a few books in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. If you aren’t willing to take that step consider reading a book or two like “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel or “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller. If you aren’t much of a reader you could start with Josh McDowell’s web site providing answers to skeptic’s questions, http://www.josh.org/resources/study-research/answers-to-skeptics-questions/. If you truly want answers, seek out a Bible reading evangelical Christian in your community and invite them to coffee or lunch and begin a dialogue.

Do you believe God exists but you don’t see Him active in your life or you’ve experienced loss and can’t understand why God is letting that happen to you? Again, you need to invest some time and effort in searching for answers. God doesn’t turn His back on us, but He also doesn’t always grab us by the shoulders and turn us around when we turn our back on Him (that free will thing, He can’t force us to love Him). A book written by a pastor who lost his adult son in an accident may be helpful, it is “Hope For Hurting Hearts” by Greg Laurie. Another is Tim Keller’s “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering”. Keller and his wife both have experienced life changing diseases. The previously mentioned books and web site are still relevant for you as well. That coffee with a Christian idea is a good one for you too.

What about you who are Christ followers but don’t have your purpose figured out? The first question I would ask you is how much time do you spend with God on a daily basis? What kind of relationship do you expect to have with someone if you never talk to Him or listen to Him? I realize it’s a little harder because He is invisible and very rarely audibly speaks to anyone, but it’s worth the effort. Don’t just show up for an hour or two on Sunday and expect the relationship to be the same as when you spend time every day reading His Word (the Bible) and talking to Him about the things in your life (prayer). There are plenty of Bible reading plans available to help you develop a new habit. Bible.com offers apps for multiple platforms. One of the best books on prayer that I have recently read is Philip Yancey’s “Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference?” Instead of the coffee with a Christian idea, you need to make a bit more of a commitment, get together with two or three other Christ followers (men with men and women with women for transparency reasons) who all want to live out their purpose and help each other discover how to do that (it’s called discipleship).

Here are some other ways I stay plugged into what God wants me to know about His will for my life (in addition to the daily Bible reading and prayer):

  • Going to a Sunday service where I worship Him and give thanks for His provision, listen to some Bible teaching from someone who studies the Bible for a living and spend time in community with other Christ followers.
  • Listening to Christian music that is uplifting as well as sometimes challenging.
  • Listening to other Bible teachers in addition to the one I listen to on Sunday (Greg Laurie is one of my favorites, http://www.harvest.org/radio/ways-to-listen.html)
  • Reading books like the ones I’ve shared.
  • Spending time with other men on a regular basis encouraging and challenging each other.

I hope you find your purpose and more importantly I hope you find God through the person of Jesus Christ, not just for this brief time on Earth, but for all of eternity. Eternity without being in God’s presence will be horrific and I don’t wish that on anyone.

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What’s My Faith Story?

Are you curious about my journey as a Christ follower the last 19 years? Or are you curious about what I was doing before that point 19 years ago? I’ll share some of both and hopefully you’ll find something to relate to. Please don’t be offended by the description of my experiences with different Christian U.S. denominations. I am not criticizing, just sharing my story. Remember that no one, including the clergy of any church, is perfect in God’s eyes. As a result we sometimes have less than perfect experiences in churches. That doesn’t mean you give up on God or stop going to church. If you have a bad meal or bad service in a restaurant do you stop eating out completely or even worse, stop eating?

As a young boy in rural Fond du Lac County in the 1960’s, I attended a large United Church of Christ congregation in Fond du Lac. I went to Sunday school and church.  When I was around 12 years old I participated in a confirmation class where I memorized the Ten Commandments and the books of the Bible, at least those are the parts I remember. In my teens we started attending a smaller rural UCC church (less than 100 folks). I was part of the small youth group there and also taught Sunday school. In 1979 I married my high school sweetheart who grew up in the Catholic Church. The first 9 years of our marriage was spent in the Air Force, moving around the world every few years. We mostly attended Catholic services on Sundays. We moved back to Wisconsin and settled in the Stevens Point area in 1991, becoming members of a Catholic congregation.

In the fall of 1993 I attended a nondenominational church service at a weekend business conference. The service was led by business people, not clergy. At that service I heard something different that got my attention. I heard that God wanted a personal relationship with me and that the only way that was going to happen was if I recognized that I couldn’t earn it, I had to realize Jesus Christ earned it for me and I could simply believe its truth, accept it and acknowledge it. I thought hard about the statement I heard many times in church, that Jesus died for our sins. Why did he die for our sins? Did he die for my sins? What are my sins?

I didn’t do anything about it at that event, but seeds were planted. In the spring of 1994 at another similar event I heard the same message presented. Like before, I was given an opportunity to publicly acknowledge my acceptance of the truth presented by standing up, which I did. We were given some good advice, which was to get a Bible to read and find a church that teaches from the Bible. Since I didn’t have a Bible I went out and got one. God blessed our family by leading my wife to the same truth at about the same time through other people in our community. We were led to an Evangelical Free Church of America denomination church and heard clear Bible teaching from the pulpit. We hadn’t really seen this in the churches we attended as children and adults.  Fortunately, there are many churches who do offer this kind of teaching.

So, what does our faith life look like now? We have our own Bibles, more than one translation, both print and electronic. We read from our Bibles daily, not out of obligation, but out of a desire to know and understand better the Creator of the entire universe, someone we will walk with in eternity, just like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. We worship together with other Christ followers on Sunday, singing great songs, listening to Bible teaching and socializing. We spend time praying, alone and with other Christ followers in various gatherings. We have served and continue to serve in various roles within the church and outside the church, trying to live out the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In the last 19 years we have gone from being nominal, Sunday Christians, to being fully devoted, 24/7 followers of Christ. My business is working with other business owners who also follow Christ and help them live their faith journey. Our lives have purpose and our children and grandchildren are following our example. We still have struggles like anyone, because we are disobedient at times or God is pruning us at times. We continue to mature, a never ending process.

I hope you have an opportunity to hear truth like we did. I hope you accept and acknowledge it like we did. I hope you were encouraged or provoked by my story. Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss your situation, I’m happy to try to help with advice if you want it.

Some Bible teachers I enjoy reading or listening to (not an exclusive list):

 

 

 

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Are You Relational?

I recently had the opportunity to share my testimony, my story about how I came to an intentional decision to follow Jesus Christ. As part of that discussion I was asked to share how a business guy saw the good news of the Gospel. I told the person that I was starting from an understanding that Jesus died for our sins as a statement or even a fact, but not of personal impact. I began to understand that Jesus died for me, so that I could have a personal relationship with the God of the Universe; that I could someday walk with the same God that Adam walked with in the Garden of Eden. I began to understand that I could also have a personal relationship with the other parts of the trinity, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Over the last 18 years of that relationship I have learned how to pursue it, how to listen, how to be aware of the feelings in the relationship. Like any relationship, it takes time, intentionality and purpose. There are times of elation and times of disappointment. The times of elation are a result of the blessings of grace and mercy and plenty. The times of disappointment are a result of my own misunderstanding or disobedience.

In some ways my relationship with God the Father is influenced by my own relationship with my father. As a young child I knew my father loved me; I would get a hug or kiss good night at bed time, we would spend time hunting, fishing and camping together. I also feared my father in those times when I was disobedient or broke the rules, because he would punish me for it. I know God loves me and yet I also fear Him. Those are both biblical statements which sometimes we have difficulty accepting. I can get a better understanding of those elements of our relationship by regularly reading the Bible, discussing passages with more mature Christians, by listening to good teaching, and by praying. Last summer my father died after six months of suffering with cancer. I miss him and through that loss have a greater hunger for a deeper relationship with God.

I have enhanced my relationships with the Trinity by entering into intentional relationships with other Christ followers. As I already mentioned, it takes time, intentionality and purpose. I have found that having a small group of men about the same age who have the same desire to be transparent and be transformed by reading and studying the Bible, praying together and processing our trials and triumphs has been instrumental in helping me build a better relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is what discipleship looks like in the modern era.

If you have been blessed with a spouse and children and even grandchildren, then you know that you have even more relationships to again take time, intentionality and purpose for growing, improving or even maintaining those relationships. To do so in our culture today will require choosing not to pursue some of the myriad of leisure activities available or to limit your time pursuing work and its fruits.

If you own a business you have a responsibility to pursue relationships with your employees. Depending on the size of your business, that may not be every one of them, but at least the ones who report directly to you. Make sure they know you care about them. Invest in them, not only from a business perspective, but from an eternal perspective. Let them know about God’s love, grace and mercy through your actions and your words. If you can extend that to their family as well, you will have a huge impact.

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Give the Gift of Mercy and Change Our Nation

Did you notice some confusing behavior from voters in our recent election? Here in Wisconsin we elected 5 out 8 Republican representatives to Congress, provided a Republican majority to the state Senate to go with the Republican Assembly and Governor, re-elected a Democratic President and most surprisingly elected one of the most liberal Democrats in the country as our Senator. Wisconsinites had to have voted for conservative Republican candidates and liberal Democratic candidates on the same ballot. One congressman stated this in fact happened in his district. Most of the media will be analyzing these results and focusing on demographic issues of race, age and gender, or on the range of the liberal – conservative spectrum. I don’t believe this is a political issue, this is a spiritual issue. To be more precise, this is a spiritual warfare issue.

God is always speaking to us through His Word, the Bible, and on Friday after the election I read these passages in Ephesians chapter 2:  1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. English Standard Version

The confusion among the electorate is being sown by Satan, influenced by their own selfishness, pride, and disobedience, just like we were before we were given the gift of mercy and switched sides in this war.  4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

A person (like me for instance) who has been offered the gift of mercy, accepts it, submits himself to Jesus Christ as savior and lord and pursues a deeper knowledge and relationship with God, will be transformed into someone who elects a God honoring government. That complete transformation takes place over time and requires discipling from others who have come to know these truths. Discipling doesn’t happen Sunday morning in an hour or two, just like evangelism doesn’t happen Sunday morning in an hour or two. Discipling happens in small groups of four to six men or women, studying the Bible, praying and learning how to love each other and share that love with those confused people around us. Expand that discipleship group to a missional community living out their faith 24/7 and you have real impact for the kingdom.

In order for our nation to be changed, we have to change one person at a time and that is up to each of us to do. We need to share the gift of mercy and grace with those around us at work and in our neighborhoods. This requires we obey the commands Jesus Christ gave us in John 13: 34”A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ESV

Note that word “disciple” again. We have to share our faith by building relationships with them, showing them love, not hate, offering them the gift of mercy through Jesus Christ, and then discipling them as they begin the journey of transformation. I was given this gift by someone who loved me, who gave me the opportunity to hear the truth of the Gospel very clearly and accept the gift. Eighteen years ago at the age of 34 and a child of the 60’s and 70’s with liberal ideas of what is okay, I began to be transformed. I wish I could say I was discipled early on that path, but that didn’t happen, not the way it should have, according to the biblical model. In God’s grace I was still transformed and continue to be transformed and thankfully that is now in a discipling relationship. Let’s all enter into discipling relationships, let’s all share the love of Christ with those around us, let’s all change our nation one new believer at a time, multiplied over and over through our personal sharing of this gift. It’s not going to happen from the desks of television and talk radio or even from the pulpits of the churches. It’s going to happen in the places we work, the neighborhoods we live in, the places we recreate in and the places we serve in.

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Leaving a Legacy That Matters

What is your legacy? This is a question fresh in my mind as my father completed his earthly journey on June 29th, succumbing to cancer at the age of 70. His legacy is apparent in the four children, thirteen grandchildren and five great grandchildren who lovingly surrounded him in his final days. In his own quiet and private way he modeled how to be a servant to others and that model has been duplicated in the following generations.

As followers of Christ, beyond family, what other legacy will we leave? Will it be material possessions, a business, a reputation or another generation who not only knows and follows Christ, but also shares the good news of eternal salvation through Christ? What does that look like in our culture today, in our workplace, our marketplace? Despite what certain elements of the media, government and culture may try to promote, we do have the freedom to live out and share our faith in all places at all times. This freedom is even greater if you have been blessed to be the owner of a business.

Buck Jacobs, founder of the C12 Group, an executive level peer group for Christian business owners, wrote a short handbook for us owners on how to leave a proper legacy by integrating our business and faith (“A Light Shines Bright in Babylon”). In this book and also through the C12 Group, practical ways of using your business as a ministry are shared, with the intent of building a great business for a greater purpose. The most obvious is to use the profits from your business to promote God’s kingdom by giving to deserving ministries. There are many great examples in the business world like Stanley Tam and R.G. LeTourneau on how to be an obedient steward of these resources. Read “Kingdom Companies” by Jorg Knoblauch & Jurg Opprecht for their stories and others who are using their businesses to build the kingdom.

What you may not realize is that you are always sharing the gospel, whether you intend to or not. You are doing it through the ways you conduct yourself in your business, in your relationships with your employees, your customers, your vendors, everyone you interact with. You may have an impact on thousands of people through your business relationships! That is quite a mission field isn’t it? Our testimony is especially evident in these relationships when there is conflict. In these situations can these people distinguish you from any other business relationship that they have? Do you use Biblical principles to guide you through the many decisions you make in the course of operating your business? Do you have a commitment to integrity and quality in the products or services you offer the marketplace?

If you are actively following Christ in all you do, then He will be evident in your business relationships as well as your relationships with family and friends. The foundation of these relationships will give you credibility and authority to promote Christ through other means. You can have Bibles, New Testaments, Bible Promises or other Christian books in your lobby, you can put scriptural art work on your walls, you can have times of prayer available for any who want to join you and you can publicly thank the Lord for your organization’s success when you experience it. C12 provides a list of 101 marketplace ministry ideas for its members, so there are a number of practical things you can do to use your business as a vehicle for ministry.

None of these practical things will work though if you are not actively living out your submission to Christ in all that you do. In fact, if you are publicly promoting biblical principles and concepts, but not following them yourself as evident in the way you conduct yourself in business, then you are having the exact opposite effect you are intending. You are being hypocritical and undermining not only your ministry, but also the ministry of all others who are actively sharing the gospel.

So be honest about how well you are representing Christ not only on Sunday, but every day, every hour, every minute, every second of your life. Pray that you be in step with the Holy Spirit, getting guidance and direction for the decisions and interactions you will be involved in each business day. Build a legacy that matters for all of eternity, not just one that will end up a faint memory or dust in the wind.

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Do I Have Anything Important to Say?

People who know me well will not be surprised when I say I’ve thought a lot about whether or not to start a blog. I have a tendency to analyze things awhile before I act if I have the luxury of time. The analysis, or more accurately, discussion in my head that I’ve conducted in the past few weeks has led to the conclusion I that I do have important things to say. Whether anyone agrees with that or not and is interested in those things will be evident over time. What will I write about? I am concerned about the direction our culture, our nation and even our world is headed. I will share those concerns and ideas about how we can make positive changes. The ideas are mostly from other people and sources. My life has changed dramatically over the last few years by business, by relationships through intentional discipleship and by death. I consider myself a life-long learner, a flawed person continually growing and changing by actively following Christ’s teaching, example and guidance. I hope you find some benefit in reading what I share.

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