Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

Two Common Mistakes Christian Business Owners Make

Far too often we can let little things slide but recently I read an article titled “Never Walk by a Mistake.” It served as a good reminder of the importance of correcting even what seems like a small thing.

walk-byGeneral Ann Dunwoody was walking down the street when she saw a soldier in uniform walking with his hands in his pockets. Anyone who’s spent time in the military knows that this is a big no-no. Dunwoody could have literally walked by the mistake and not addressed it. It’s something small, it wasn’t impacting anyone at the time, and the kid probably just forgot. It wasn’t anything overtly heinous. As a general, though, she knew that if she didn’t correct the error, she would be, by the sin of omission, setting a new lower standard for that soldier. So rather than letting it slide, she approached him, kindly addressed the problem (rather than yelling at and demeaning the young guy), and reinforced the ideas of discipline and attention to detail.

Here is what intrigues me: by not correcting the error, we are actually setting a lower standard, which is obviously not acceptable.  After reading  an article by Jerry Bowyer entitled “Are Christians Allowed to Get Rich?” I saw that there is a standard set for Christian business owners and there are at least two mistakes that lower that standard:

  1. Not Understanding Your Purpose and Calling
  2. Not Understanding You are a Steward, not the Owner

1. Purpose & Calling

Typically, when we speak of  “calling,” business owners are not the first to come to our mind. We tend to immediately think of those with a more sacred calling, like pastors or missionaries.  David Green, the founder of Hobby Lobby is “the son of a pastor, and the brother of a large cohort of pastors, pastor’s wives and missionaries.”  Like many Christian business owners, “David felt that there was something not fully Christian about his passion for running a successful store.” When he would talk excitedly about his business, his saintly mother would ask him, “Yes, but what are you doing for the Lord?” Obviously his mother meant well, but had a limited understanding of God’s calling.

work-is-our-calling-400We usually make the same mistake when we categorize our work (or business) as secular, separating it from the sacred (calling). Rather than sensing the pleasure of God  through our work, we often consider our work less than God’s calling. It seems that David Green felt like a black sheep because the rest of his family were “ministers” while he was in business. However, when we serve others (in our work), we are actually serving the Lord, not just men (Eph. 6:7) and can fulfill the call God has placed on our lives. Here is a great piece of advice: Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord … (Col 3:23).

In time, David Green discovered that God can use a merchant just as well as He can a pastor. It seems that business was his purpose and calling after all and was a means of engaging in the great commission. I love what he said in the interview with Jerry Bowyer: So I believe I have a calling on my life; I think we all can, no matter where we are, be anointed. I sense God’s anointing on my life as a businessman.

2. A Steward, Not an Owner

It would certainly be valuable to listen to the audio interview with David Green as he provides insight on how Hobby Lobby endeavours to incorporate biblical principles into its business. He speaks about the importance of avoiding long term debt and he says, “We go into debt when we think God isn’t moving fast enough,” which identifies our lack of contentment.

DGreenThe part that I found most interesting is the corporate structure of Hobby Lobby, where the shares are owned by a trust rather than by family members. This speaks to the fact that the Green’s are stewards of the company and the corporation is actually held in trust. This means if the company was to be sold, 90% of the value would go to a foundation and subsequently distributed to the Lord’s work. Typically, a business is passed down to the next generation, then the next, but in the case of Hobby Lobby, the family cannot actually touch the assets. Since these assets are seen as under God’s ownership, the corporate structure reflects that and is actually referred to as a “stewardship trust.” 

God owns it all, like Psalm 24:1 clearly states, is a statement Christians agree with in principle but despite this knowledge, we often live like we are the owners.

If you are a Christian business owner or a Christian financial advisor, accountant or lawyer directing business owners, please listen to the audio recording for just 10 minutes (start from 14 minutes to 24 minutes).  It is easy for Christian business owners and Christian financial professionals to be “conformed to the world” when it comes to business structure and advice. What I heard is transformational because it is based on biblical principles.  If we choose to ignore these principles, we are setting a lower standard than has been laid out for us.  Does the legal structure of your business align with your theological structure? Does the corporate structure represent the interest of the steward or the interest of the owner?

 

 

Are You Hearing But Not Understanding?

Are You Hearing But Not Understanding?

Just over two years ago, I had surgery on my shoulder and I now visit a specialist every six months. Recently, I had another visit and I usually take my wife with me to help me understand since the doctor has a very strong French accent. Even though he speaks English, it can be very difficult to grasp the meaning of his words. During the appointment, he asked a question, but we just looked at each other bewildered because neither of us understood a word. He repeated it with the same result. He was saying “Ohh-ta-wah” in such a way that when it was placed in a sentence, we just couldn’t understand. After stating it the third time, we both realized he was asking if my surgery had been done here in Ottawa.

Have you ever heard someone but not understood what they said?

yesbymagnet_1Sometimes, language or dialect can be a barrier to understanding. I recall when we had friends from Ontario visit us in Newfoundland and we had a conversation with some locals. Our friends heard us speaking, but did not understand. Maybe I shouldn’t be shocked because the very tone of the common phrase, “Yes b’y,” actually changes its meaning.

The effort required to hear a sound compared to the effort required to process it, is exponential. Understanding is logically the step that follows hearing, unless, of course, it involves a politician.

prime-minister-trudeauPoliticians typically only say what they want us to hear and we have to dig deeper if we desire to get the entire meaning; otherwise our perspective remains limited. For example, the Trudeau government often claims it has cut taxes for middle-class Canadian families. A recent article helped me understand that while it did reduce the second lowest federal income tax rate (from 22 to 20.5 per cent), it also eliminated a number of tax credits, thereby increasing income taxes for Canadians who previously claimed such credits. Result: 81% of middle-class Canadian families with children are paying more in personal income taxes.

The Liberals quickly speak of reduced tax rates, but the elimination of tax credits enlightens our understanding of the issue. What we comprehend about any issue or even a person, depends on what we hear (and read).

perspectiveIf you think about it, the perspective from which you see things can be the very obstacle that prevents you from seeing another point of view.  (Doesn’t this graphic resemble a political debate? It totally depends on which side you are on).

The Bible has some interesting things to say regarding understanding:

  1. One instruction is to not depend on your own understanding. Maybe one of the reasons is that our own understanding limits our ability to understand others.
  2. Also, “By understanding He (The LORD) established the heavens.” What did God understand?  Was it an understanding of the power of sound and what is formed from vibrations? Maybe the reason God spoke was to cause vibrations to form the earth. What did He establish? Heaven represents an eternal dwelling place for believers. If God is an example for us then, the purpose of understanding is to establish something that is eternal and meaningful to others.
  3. Mankind has the capacity to understand the deeper things that are buried within a person. The purpose in a man’s mind is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.  If you think about your work, it may be important to understand others to bring clarity to them. Financial professionals can actually be a key to help clients see their inner purpose, why they have so much, or even why they have faced some troubles in life.
  4. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, so that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. Faith is not the opposite of reason, but actually a higher dimension of understanding. Think about the dreams within a person; they are actually unseen until exposed. If it is a dream of writing a book, it exists only in the mind of the author and only becomes visible when written.

In our work we should:

  1. realize “our own understanding” can be limited and should not always be relied on
  2. know we are called to establish something eternally significant through our lives
  3. understand others to expose the purpose that is often hidden deep within a person
  4. identify that faith can add a higher (or deeper) level of understanding

UnderstandingIn a conversation, an accountant told me he keeps his antennas raised when in discussion with clients. Since mankind is spiritual, our spirits are meant to be active and sensitive, which leads to an understanding of others. It is the spirit in man … that makes him understand. This depth of understanding is the requirement to draw out purpose.

In our efforts to understand others, how often do we simply rely on our own thoughts?  By ignoring our inner person (not having our antennas up), are we missing the greatest opportunities to explore the deep waters (purpose) hidden within others?

 

 

 

Why are Thoughts and Prayers Insufficient?

Why are Thoughts and Prayers Insufficient?

The headline in the National Post read:

‘Your thoughts and your prayers are insufficient’: Jimmy Kimmel tearfully calls for gun control

Is America’s national Thoughts and Prayers Strategy (TAPS) no longer working? That is a question raised in an article in Maclean’s magazine making statements which can be disturbing to the Christian community.

Here is one example: Unfortunately, there is growing evidence that TAPS may not be delivering the results we would expect from appealing to an omniscient and all-powerful deity.

In other words, thinking about others and praying to God is simply not effective and the results are not clearly evident. We ought to think more about what is really accomplished through “thoughts and prayers” because it seems to be terribly misunderstood, especially in light of recent incidents of violence.

The power of thinking is impactful on the person having the thoughts and only impactful on others when those thoughts are expressed.  Many have probably quoted the proverb that says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” If a person then, is consumed with thoughts of murder and killing, and those thoughts are not taken captive, they will eventually be acted upon and that person can become what was thought about. I would suggest that this is exactly what takes place when murderous acts happen; the thoughts transform the person to become what he is thinking.

The idea expressed in the Maclean’s article is that the thoughts and prayers of US congressman are somehow supposed to alter the behaviour of the American people. Let’s get it right; the thoughts and prayers are to comfort after an event like these incidents  (Las Vegas, USA and Edmonton in Canada) and should not be trivialized.  Maybe it is true that the thinking around gun control needs to change in order to make America a safer place, but please don’t diminish the effectiveness of “thoughts and prayers” for the people impacted by these sorts of incidents.

A most challenging statement for many Christians is this one: This data is very surprising when you consider the power of beseeching God. You would think parting the Red Sea, or smiting the Egyptians with a plague of frogs, would be far more difficult than just reducing gun violence. It is worth noting, however, that most well-known examples of successful celestial intervention in earthly affairs are over two millennia old.

Pray for LVHe goes on to cite the reasons for the non-response from God, which could be denominational, or we are not praying enough, or the wrong people are praying, or praying wrongly (kneeling or not, with eyes open or eyes closed).

When I read these statements it upsets me because in my 50+ years on earth, I have seen God’s intervention. As a matter of fact, without it I would have only been here for 5 years because meningitis would have taken my life. We need to think deeper about the true purpose of prayer.

“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” – Soren Kierkegaard

From this quote, we see the focus is really about bringing change within the person who prays. Therefore, the focus of “thoughts and prayers” is actually more about changing the thinker and pray-er rather than those being thought about or prayed for. However, I certainly can testify that both can be transformed by prayer. I wonder if we have really missed the true power of prayer and thereby dismissed its effectiveness. Isn’t prayer about relationship with God, communicating with Him regularly rather than someone we call on only in crisis? Relationship with God through prayer is meant to change us. When prayer changes us, that’s when we can be an influence for change.

Just think for a moment about what God said when he created earth and also man. He said, “Let them (man) rule over the earth.” Mankind has been placed in a position of authority and influence by God, within nations to effect change as it is needed.

“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” – Corrie ten Boom

Think about it –  we often use prayer to God as a spare tire. When there is a major incident or crisis, we call out to him. Prayer is meant to be our steering wheel which actually sets our course. It is meant to be part of our lives daily, not just when we have a blow out.

Does God intervene today? Maybe someone like paraplegic Joni Eareckson Tada, who had her neck broken as a teenager is much better qualified to answer this question:

“God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves”

She calls suffering “a splash of hell” but maintains that a “splash of heaven” can be found through intimacy with Christ in the midst of it. And she can say so because she has found it to be true. The first part of that statement is strikingly similar to Jimmy Kimmel’s statement, “It feels like someone has opened a window into hell.” The problem is most are missing the “splash of heaven” since intimacy with Christ only comes through “thoughts and prayers” on a regular basis, not just at times like this.

What influences your life most? The splash of hell? Or the splash of heaven?

Why Do You Work? Why Retire?

My last post created a great deal of interest because it dealt with the question: “Do you go to work or to a job?” One response received was, “In two weeks I will go to neither,” meaning the reader would be retiring.

This set me to thinking further about what I stated: “It is only when you do what you were born to do will you really find fulfillment.” In reality, you can be paid to do a job and once you complete it, then you either move on to something else and/or you retire. This is where I believe your work (what you were born to do) is different than your job (what you are paid to do). Why would you ever want to stop doing what brings you fulfillment? If you were born to do something, when should you cease doing it? In other words, why retire?

In some cases, it may make sense financially to retire. Maybe you qualify for a full pension and working longer is not necessarily increasing your retirement benefits anyway. So why continue working? When I started working, it was partially out of necessity. The need for income and supporting family is a valid reason. With my children raised, my reason for working has shifted; now work is more about purpose.  I know several people who can easily retire from their work, yet they choose to continue.

eric liddell

Consider the life of Eric Liddell, a devout Christian and missionary to China, who felt it a priority to run in the Olympic games. His sister felt that his training for the 1924 Olympics deterred him from returning to China. He said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel His pleasure.” We usually would not class running or involvement in a sporting activity as spiritual, or God honouring, but more a physical activity. For Liddell, running wasn’t just a fun activity but a God honouring one.

You cannot argue with a person’s experience; Liddell was passionate about fulfilling God’s purpose for him (missionary to China) yet he ran to honour God and feel His pleasure. For Liddell, the line between secular and sacred was erased.

eric olympic gold

The mistake we often make is in categorizing our work as secular, separating it from the sacred, rather than sensing the pleasure of God in our work. Here is a great piece of advice: Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord … (Col 3:23). The reality is that when we serve others (in our work), we are actually serving the Lord, not just men (Eph. 6:7). If we can say when we work we feel His pleasure, it will be most difficult to retire from that work.

Speaker and author of “The New Retire-mentality,” Mitch Anthony says, “Don’t retire from something but retire to something.” We are all born with purpose and if you are at the retirement stage, remember it can be a great opportunity to feel His pleasure!

 

 

How Churchill Advised The Queen

How Churchill Advised The Queen

the-crown-netflixWe recently watched the new series”The Crown” on Netflix. It is a drama series that chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II.  It is quite amazing how the cast resembles the people we have watched for decades in different forms of media.

While we may not know if many of the scenes or words spoken are all exactly true, I found some advice Winston Churchill gave the young Queen to be very interesting. As she was leaving on a flight to tour some countries in the Commonwealth, he instructed, “Never let them see the real Elizabeth Windsor. The cameras, the television; never let them see that carrying the crown is often a burden. Let them look at you but let them see only the eternal.”

Churchill was telling her that although people will look at her, she must determine what she lets them see. In essence, the Queen needed to represent the crown more than herself. Her priority was to put the interest of the crown ahead of her own delight. This entails self-denial, sacrifice and service for the higher purpose of the crown. Churchill instructed the Queen to display the eternal, or higher calling.

We are seen everyday by others but what do we let them see?

While we may not live the life of a Royal, we all have choices to make about how we are seen by others. We all have opportunities to “let them see only the eternal.” We try to be at our best when we have an important meeting, but are we intentional about who we represent? For the Queen, she was called to represent something that existed before she was even born.

The fact is eternity is set within the heart of each of us, even commoners, and whether we recognize it or not, we are all representing something greater than ourselves. That also means there is a grander purpose in the conversations we have than we realize.

At times, I have felt my life lacked meaning and purpose. However, I now know that during those times, I failed to recognize the eternal in my day-to-day life. It is too easy for us to become focused only on the routine of the day and overlook the opportunities to have an impact that is eternal. Consider the words you share and the advice you provide to others. In many cases it has a greater impact than you realize.