Tag Archives: eternity

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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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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