We Are a Treasure Bearer

2 Timothy 1:14  "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you."

2 Timothy 1:14 “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”

Imagine with me for a moment that you were on a trek deep in the mist-veiled Llanganates mountain range between the Andes and the Amazon.  You have heard the stories of this lost treasure of Inca gold and on your trek you have found this fabulous treasure of Inca gold and gems long-ago hidden from Spanish conquistadors.  You are overwhelmed with excitement about the find, the extreme riches that this will provide, and the blessings and gifts you can share with your family, friends and community.  You are making your way back home and recognize the great responsibility that comes with this treasure and realize the significant positive impact this can make on your world.  You are pregnant with anticipation and excitement to share this gift of unimaginable riches.

Have we forgotten? Do we not remember that we are children of the almighty God.  Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans 8:16-17 “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”  As believers in Christ, we are fellow heirs with Christ and have a treasure far more valuable than Inca gold, a treasure of eternal life in the presence of our creator, redeemer and king.  We have a great responsibility that comes with bearing this treasure.  We realize the significant positive impact this treasure can have on our family, friends and community.  We bear the greatest gift one could offer and all we have to do is share this gift with others. 

Have you ever bought the perfect gift for someone?  A thoughtful gift that expressed your personality, filled a need, and would greatly please the person receiving the gift.  Can you recall the excitement and anticipation of watching them receive the gift?  One Christmas, I got my parents a gift certificate for a balloon ride.  They never would have guessed this gift and I could not wait for them to open it.  I attached a small basket to a balloon, put the gift certificate in the basket and wrapped it up in a box.  I knew it would be a life memory that they would have forever and enjoy the experience.  I think I received more enjoyment giving the gift than they did experiencing the gift and remember giving this gift decades later.

Brothers and sisters in Christ we bear this great treasure of inexpressible joy and eternal life to give.  Why does it seem so difficult to share this gift?  Is it simply a mindset or perspective where we do not recognize that the message of God’s love is such a great treasure and gift to share?  Do we think of it as a chore to share that may end up in rejection or worse, offensive?  I write this not because it comes easy to me, but that I must remind myself that I bear the greatest treasure ever given to man and it is my privilege to share this treasure with others.  The message is simple and the gift is truly amazing beyond all that we can think or imagine.  God loves us.  He chose the Jewish people and gave Moses a system that illustrates the high cost of sin in that blood needed to be shed through sacrifice to atone for our sins.  He then sent Jesus, His son, to shed His blood and be the ultimate sacrifice for sins.  That if we believe Jesus is God’s son and he was sacrificed for our sake, and raised from the dead then we are saved from our sins and judgement deserved from our choices. This gift was given not only to the Jews, but to all men of all nations and is not something that we can earn from doing right, but a gift if we simply believe.  It is not our burden to bear, but our treasure to share.  Remember that you have the greatest treasure ever given to mankind.  Maintain this perspective, be overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation again with the opportunity to give this gift to others.

The following is message given by Billy Graham ministries.

God loves you and has a plan for you!

The Bible says, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” — a complete life full of purpose (John 10:10).

Man is sinful and separated from God.

We have all done, thought or said bad things, which the Bible calls “sin.” The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The result of sin is death, spiritual separation from God (Romans 6:23).

The good news?

God sent His Son to die for your sins!

Jesus died in our place so we could live with Him in eternity.

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

But it didn’t end with His death on the cross. He rose again and still lives!

Would you like to receive God’s forgiveness?

We can’t earn salvation; we are saved by God’s grace when we have faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. All you have to do is believe you are a sinner, that Christ died for your sins, and ask His forgiveness. Then turn from your sins—that’s called repentance. Jesus Christ knows you and loves you. What matters to Him is the attitude of your heart, your honesty. We suggest praying the following prayer to accept Christ as your Savior:

“Dear Lord Jesus,
I know I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness.
I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead.
I trust and follow you as my Lord and Savior.
Guide my life and help me to do your will.
In your name, amen.”

Billy Graham Evangelistic Foundation

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Theology in Manufacturing

God CreatedYou might be thinking “Theology in Manufacturing”?  Where do you find God in manufacturing?  For some reason manufacturing lost its identity and image in the hearts and minds of America.  Somehow we decided that manufacturing was “yesterday’s jobs” that could be outsourced to other emerging countries who would take these dirty low-wage jobs and manufacturing was not worthy of remaining a part of the esteemed American economy.


USNS Bob Hope

Manufacturing is in my DNA.  My father worked for the big steel companies and I saw 4″ thick steel cable drag lines that he sold and were used in mining.  I heard about the navy ships and aircraft carriers that were built with precision weight steel that he sold to get top performance and speed.  I saw video of the launching of underwater structures taller than the empire state building for new oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.  During my career I had the privilege to work for manufacturers where we supplied components to OEM companies.  I participated first hand in the emergence, growth and eventual transfer of manufacturing to other countries first with Compaq Computer and then with Motorola and Nokia.  This was a fantastic time to live and experience the rapid growth and change in manufacturing and participate directly in the great technological advancement that radically changed our lives and culture.

Compaq Computer Manufacturing Lines Houston Texas

Compaq Computer Manufacturing Lines Houston Texas

I saw these companies build factories overseas, install the most modern equipment, train these emerging countries how to operate and hand over our manufacturing knowledge and experience.  First it was appliances, then computers, cell phones and then automotive.  I saw plants close and friends lose jobs or move to start a new life in Mexico or China.  I questioned whether I should leave manufacturing and start a new career in the service industry.  I tried that for a year as I sought to employ manufacturing techniques and operational metrics to the staffing industry.  During this year I had the chance to reflect and consider what I really wanted to do and decided I had to be involved in a career that made something.  I convinced myself that manufacturing was a noble career and there were niches that were relationship based, high value, service oriented and could be profitable and sustain growth in the United States.

The remainder of this article is my case for why manufacturing is a noble career and why I have chosen to put my God-given talents, finances, and energy to build a custom plastic injection molding company and why I founded the Gulf Coast Medical Device Manufacturers and Greater Houston Manufacturing Association to advance the image of manufacturing in Houston.  “Theology in Manufacturing” may seem a little extreme and is not making manufacturing a religion, but will reveal manufacturing as an honorable career that creates great value and is a worthy endeavor to apply your gifts and talents.

God introduces Himself as a manufacturer

Michaelangelo Creation of Adam

Michaelangelo Creation of Adam

How did God chose to introduce Himself to us?  Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God Created”. Choosing to introduce Himself as creator and describing the act of His Creation express the very essence of God and nature of Him.  The fact that He “spoke” creation into existence through His Word tell us of the mighty power of His Word.  Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the [a]worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”

The incredible imagination and beauty of His creation is never ending.  The perfect order, balance and physical laws that cause the the universe to work in perfect harmony exhibit his careful planning, architecture and engineering.   The power, grandeur and immensity of His creation testify to His awesome power.  Psalms 8:1 “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have [a]displayed Your splendor above the heavens!” Clearly the act of creation reflect the almighty glory of our God and He gives high value to creation.  

Psalms 8:3-9  “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?  Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!  You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

The final record in Gods creation was to create man in His image.  Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  We are created in the image of God.  When we participate in the act of creation we manufacture value and testify to the glory of our God.  Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  Creation and Manufacturing can be a “calling” to bring glory to God through your work.  Regardless of the role you play in the manufacturing process you can glorify God in your work. Colossians 3:23-24  “23 Whatever you do, do your work [w]heartily, as for the Lord [x]rather than for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward [y]of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

Manufacturing Expresses the Attributes of God 

Manufacturing encompasses the achievement of the entire creation process in human terms.  Manufacturing brings out the best attributes that God put in us and give us the privilege to reflect His glory back to Him when we participate in the act of creation.  Manufacturing comes to life in the process of working together to create a product.

Imagination  – The inspiration and power to dream of a new invention to improve our life or solve a problem.  The expanse of the universe, the diversity in the creatures that swim in the waters, fly in the air or crawl on the ground, the uniqueness of each individual testify to the unsearchable imagination of God.  He has given some the inspiration and talents to imagine a better world and create products to improve life.

Design and Engineering – Manufacturing includes the process of design and engineering to collect information, brainstorm ideas, modeling, testing, evaluating and improving on the idea.  I have lumped both of these disciplines together for simplicity as volumes of books have been written on the worth of these disciplines.  God reveals Himself and fills us with His wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to participate in the creative act of design and engineering of products to bless us with enhanced quality of life.

Exodus 35:31-35 31 And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all [a]craftsmanship; 32 [b]to make designs for working in gold and in silver and in [c]bronze, 33 and in the cutting of stones for settings and in the carving of wood, so as to perform in every inventive work. 34 He also has put in his heart to teach, both he and Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with [d]skill to perform every work of an engraver and of a designer and of an embroiderer, in [e]blue and in purple and in scarlet material, and in fine linen, and of a weaver, as performers of every work and makers of designs.

Planning and Organizing – Efficient manufacturing requires planning your materials, time and resources.  It requires ordering these resources in a way to maximize efficiency to eliminate wasted movement and loss of resource.  God instructs us commit our work to Him for His glory and if we follow His instruction we will prosper.

Proverbs 16:3 “Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.”

Proverbs 16:9 “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”

Colossians 3:23-2423 Whatever you do, do your work [w]heartily, as for the Lord [x]rather than for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward [y]of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”

Leadership, Teamwork and Communication – Manufacturing requires Leadership, Teamwork and Communication.  Leadership is the ability to influence those around you.  Teamwork is the ability to accomplish more through the effort of a group and communication is the vehicle by which you accomplish both.  The Bible reveals God’s wisdom to us and provides many illustrations of leadership, teamwork and effective communication with men such as Moses, Joseph and David, but none more that Jesus.  No on has influenced the world more through leadership, teamwork and effective communication than Jesus and His disciples continue to this day to carry forward the “good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 . . . there has been born for you a Savior.”  No one has modeled leadership, teamwork and communication better than Jesus and if we follow his instruction we will prosper. 

Psalms 25:4-5 Make me know Your ways, O LordTeach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.

Deuteronomy 29:9 – “So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.”

Problem Solving – Those in manufacturing understand that working through problems is the path to eliminating waste and creating value.  We work to find truth as a means to solve these problems.  Understanding the issues and finding solutions requires wisdom and is worth pursuing.  Often the solution is what creates a competitive advantage and tremendous value to the organization when found.  Manufacturing allows us to draw on the wisdom God provides and return glory to him by following His truth.

Proverbs 2:2-4 “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, [a]Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures”

James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Management – As leaders we seek God’s wisdom in finding truth and knowing what the right thing to do.  As managers we seek to apply discipline in training men to do things in the right way.  God’s word provides the wisdom and instruction on how to train and equip us to do this work.  The Holy Spirit, who lives in us, blesses us with characteristics to make our efforts effective and reflect God’s love to others.  When we reflect God’s wisdom in training men and manage by demonstrating the characteristics of the Holy Spirit we will be much more effective in building a productive team that respect each other and gives glory for their efforts back to God.

2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

John 13: 34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness,self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Analysis and Continuous Improvement – In manufacturing we establish a cycle of success by setting goals, measuring our performance, evaluating our progress, and setting new goals.  We seek to learn from our mistakes and become better from turning from our old ways and pursuing new goals.  I can’t help but see similarities in how the Holy Spirit works in us to recognize our own deficiencies and pursue improvement through the miracle of redemption given as a gift by God Himself and continuous practice to follow the right path by following God’s word.

Psalms 119:66 “Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in Your commandments.”

Ephesians 1:7-8 – “In [a]Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He [b]lavished on [c]us.”

Psalms 119:9-11 – “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Your word. 10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments.  11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.”

Manufacturing is a noble and honorable profession where we share in the act of creation that creates high value and was uniquely inspired by God Himself.  Innovation and manufacturing are at the heart of the success of America and has created enormous advancement of prosperity and wealth for all nations who manufacture.  I believe you cannot separate manufacturing from innovation as innovation is birthed by solving problems through employing the processes involved in manufacturing.  Manufacturing in America is in a period of renaissance and the image of manufacturing is improving as we recognize the value and importance to our nation.  It is good to be a manufacturer and it is a great place to employ the unique gifts given to you by God to use for His glory.  Manufacturing requires and exercises the characteristics uniquely created by God in man and gives us the privilege to reflect His glory back to Him through our achievement.  I am proud to be a manufacturer and to know my creator better through participating in all of the manufacturing process.

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Big Sky Backpacking

Ben and Jeff in Bob Marshall Wilderness Montana

One of the great privileges a father has is to give his blessing to his son or daughter.  To memorialize the fact that your love for them is beyond circumstances or performance. To celebrate their practice of making good choices that follow the values that you have taught and modeled for them.  To recognize their transition from a boy to a man and the responsibility that comes with that transition.  To offer grace and encouragement for the times that they fail and the knowledge that you are there to help them anytime that is needed.  This is one of the great privileges of being a dad to your kids and I hope that I have communicated all of these truths consistently during their growing up.  I have planned for each child to carve out time to intentionally mark this event so that they will have a specific memory to point to that was the time that they were celebrated for the man or woman they have come to be.

Daniel shows us the way

Ben loves the outdoors and enjoys anything that involves exploration and engagement with nature.  To celebrate this occasion with Ben, I called my close college friend who pastors a church in Kalispell Montana and we planned a 3 day father son hike and fly fishing trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness National Park in Montana.  The weather was perfect and the scenery was spectacular.  The stars on a clear Montana night and the unspoiled wilderness testify of the God that loves us and created us for His glory.  Other than the game warden that arrived on horseback while we were fishing with licenses back in the car a 2 day hike in from the trailhead, we did not see another human.  We didn’t catch many fish, but that was not because the fish were not there.  The memories of hiking on blistered feet and bruised shoulders will fade and we will be left with an experience that we can share the rest of our lives.  What a privilege it was to me to introduce Ben to my friend Daniel and to share this time with our sons together.  I am proud of the man that Ben is becoming and look forward to being his father, friend, mentor and encourager in the decades to come.

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Boaz Demonstrates How to Develop High Performance Companies Through Culture, Leadership and Management

Ruth 2:4 "Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, "May the Lord be with you." And they said to him, "May the Lord bless you."

Ruth 2:4 “Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the Lord be with you.” And they said to him, “May the Lord bless you.”

Is it not so amazing how you can read the word of God many times and depending on your circumstances the spirit reveals something new and fresh that you have never seen before?  I was studying Ruth this week and was so impressed by this one verse.

Ruth 2:4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the Lord be with you” and they said to him, May the Lord bless you.” 

Such a simple verse that I would normally pass it by, but in my current situation I was impacted by the leadership demonstrated by Boaz and inspired to be different. I will highlight three evidences of the leadership style of Boaz that are foundation principles in every company and directly contributed to his great success.  These can also be applied to establishing and nurturing core values and harmony in your family.

Culture – The cornerstone of any company is their culture.  Culture is established and nurtured by the leader.  Notice the way that Boaz establishes and supports his culture by his greeting to his staff.  “May the Lord be with you.”  The greeting suggests that he sees great value in his relationship with the Lord and puts his own trust for his well-being and the well-being of his staff with the Lord.  Don’t miss the insight in the staff’s reply. “May the Lord Bless you.”  Not only does this acknowledge the trust in the Lord, but also supports the culture Boaz has established.  In our culture it so commonplace for the workers to be critical and cynical of management or ownership.  With Boaz’s staff they pray that Boaz would be blessed by the Lord.  As leaders in our organizations we need the prayer and support of our staff.

Leadership – The leader must not only internalize his vision and feelings, but must      actively verbalize his convictions to influence his team.  Boaz had conviction in his faith and trust in God.  He could have kept his faith to himself not wanting to offend those from other tribes or beliefs.  However Boaz verbalizes his convictions to his staff with encouragement and promotes the culture of trust in God and God’s involvement in our lives.  He was not proselytizing his staff, but was simply living out his faith and praying that the Lord be with his staff.  As leaders seeking to promote a culture in our organization it is our responsibility to speak our convictions and share our perspective.

Management –The story tells us that Boaz was a man of great wealth and owned the      field they were harvesting.  He could have been at the house and let the servants do the work, but he was in the fields with the workers.  He could have called his field supervisors to his office and give them instruction, but he went out to the field where the work was being done.  By going in the fields he could observe the situation, see how the reapers were reaping, he could hear directly from more people and be in a better position to make good decisions, and build good will with his servants by going out to them.  Popularized by management styles at Hewlett Packard and written about by Tom Peters, MBWA (Management By Walking Around) has been taught for decades as a way to build rapport by “wandering” around.  The idea is that random sampling of events and informal discussions facilitates improvements and morale.

List the actions you can take today to promote your culture, leadership and management of your business or family.

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Congratulations to Drew Applegate for Completing the Galveston 70.3 Ironman

1 Phillipians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

1 Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I have enjoyed training and participating in triathalons for many years and enjoy the challenge and the satisfaction in conquering something that seems too big to accomplish.  I believe endurance is developed by pushing on when everything tells you to quit.  Once you realize you can make it your confidence and ability to endure grows and you learn just how far you can push your body.  I appreciate anyone who even considers putting themselves in this position.  To aspire to tackle a big challenge that you know will push your body to the physical limit and will require you mentally overcome all the signals telling you to quit is a rare trait.  I am proud of Drew for not only aspiring to take on this difficult race, but committing to do it even though he had some injuries and lots of excuses that could make quitting easy.  He chose to take on the challenge and pushed himself beyond any distance that he completed in training.  A 70.3 Ironman involves swimming in open water 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles and running 13.1 miles.  It requires planning, physical endurance, pacing, and most importantly mental toughness.  You have to plan out your fluid, energy, speed and most importantly talk yourself through the mental battles that compete in your head over the many hour race.  This was Drew’s first race and he finished!  The weather was “sketchy” and he was one of the only ones without a wetsuit.  He had suffered with an Achilles tendon injury that prevented him from running and we all were leaving an open door to back out.  He was determined not to back out and to finish.  The whole family spent the weekend in Galveston to cheer him on.  Congratulations to Drew Applegate for this big accomplishment.

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Jesus is Calling Your “NAME!”: Replacing Chaos with Truth in the Midst of Life’s Trainwreck

Re-Directing Your Confidence to Him In the Aftermath of a Train Wreck

Re-Directing Your Confidence to Him In the Aftermath of a Train Wreck

Many times I find myself anxious and not knowing which direction to turn.  Circumstances in my job and in life beyond my control are overwhelming me.  Problems are coming my way faster than I can even comprehend them and I “jump the tracks”. Mary Magdalene had approached Jesus’ tomb early in the morning to find the stone had been rolled away.  While Mary was weeping, Jesus approaches her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  Mary was distraught and overwhelmed.  Mary was confused, anxious, and trying to understand the situation.  It was then that Jesus said to her, “MARY!”  She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!”(Teacher)  As I read this text from John 20:16 what stuck out to me was the “!”.  When your kids have become distracted and engaged in doing something that requires correction.  When chaos and uncertainty come into your life.  When we are anxious, distraught, overwhelmed and have lost our confidence, we need re-direction.  When we put our trust in our own abilities, limited understanding and are shaken; we need to be alerted and recognize as children of the Almighty God He cares for us.  We need to take confidence in the many of God’s promises such as Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who is against us!”.   We need Jesus to call our name “JEFF!” and re-direct our attention and focus back on Him.  It is then, the fog clears and we can begin to replace our anxiety with confidence in His TRUTH.  He is calling your “NAME!” today.  Will you listen?

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Training Your Child to Make Good Choices

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

It has been said that we are all just 2 bad choices away from disaster.  Think about it.  You might receive forgiveness or be able to rebound from one bad choice, but two bad choices will almost seal your doom.  Our job as a parent involves training our children to make good choices so that when they are not with us or when they are adults they will make good choices.

Our daughter has been an outstanding gymnast progressing up the levels, winning or finishing in the top 3 in every event.  She trained over 20 hours a week and had one of the top all around scores in the nation for level 6 gymnasts in 2013.  As she progressed, the sacrifice to perform at this level increased.  She could not participate in other sports, could not enjoy being with the family most nights, could not participate in the school musical and on and on it went.  She absolutely loved gymnastics.  This summer she had a lingering injury and took 3 weeks off to go to camp and rest at home.  It had been years since she experienced this type of margin in her life and I think she recognized the sacrifice that was otherwise shielded by the non-stop routine of school and gym.  Following the break she went back to the gym and came home in tears saying she wanted to quit.  We listened, but this was not a decision that she could take lightly.  We had some long discussions about her talents, desires, dreams and wishes and instructed her that she should go back to the gym for two weeks, get back in the routine and see if her mind changed.  This was too big of a decision to make on emotion coming off vacation.  We told her that this was her decision and we would support whatever decision she would make.  If she decided to remain in gymnastics we would give her 100% support and if she decided to quit gymnastics that we would be excited for her decision and give her 100% support, but it was very clear that this was her decision and hers alone.

At 12 years old beyond trusting in Jesus as her Lord and Savior, this was the first really big decision she had to make.  As parents we had the privilege to allow her to think through the consequences, picture what life looks like on the other side of the decision, and completely own the responsibility of the decision.  Fortunately, either decision was not going to have significant negative consequences, but did make a huge difference on her young life.  It was exciting as a parent to be there over the next couple weeks to listen to her reason out and become comfortable with her decision.  In the end she decided to stop competitive gymnastics and enjoy more of her friends, participate in the school musical, run cross-country, and volunteer at the church with the children’s ministry.  As a family we got to have our little girl back for evenings, dinners, and weekends.  We will not plan our lives and schedules around the gym.  We are just a month or so beyond the decision and she is still very pleased with her decision.  As her parents we are very proud of her stepping up to make this decision on her own and support her along the way.  These are the great moments of being a parent and witnessing your young ones mature and grow in their ability to make good decisions.

During our lives we have lots of two degree adjustment decisions, but only a few ninety degree turns that shape our future and life.  Decisions of who is Jesus and what do I do with his claim, where we go to school, what career we pursue, who we marry, kids, and mid-stream career changes.  These are all life changing and life shaping decisions.  To give our children a place to practice and experience making a few of these decisions in the safety of their home before the consequences are so great puts them in a position for successful decisions in the future.  Be there for you kids.  Recognize the opportunities to help shape and develop your children.  Nothing will make you prouder than to share in their success.

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Camp Applegate – Dewberry Pickin

family mission statementI am a water person, but sadly we don’t live on the water.  So, we make the most of what we have.  I have been writing about the adventures we find in the heart of the city of Houston in a series entitled Camp Applegate.  These are easy and fun things to do as a family by exploring and enjoying the nature that surrounds our neighborhood.

My daughter and I have been spotting the dewberries for several weeks in the fields behind our home, hoping that we would have a good crop for her May birthday.  We invited our family over for dinner and berry picking.  We drove the 4 wheelers and walked to a field on the other side of the property where we found lots of ripe dewberries.  Dewberries are related to blackberries.  The berries themselves are difficult to harvest. They grow on thorny vines,  which make for dense nests to protect the berries. Unfortunately for berry  lovers, they taste good. Very good.

Family activitiesDewberriesWe ended up with a large bowl full of ripe berries for cobbler.  Tonight the kids worked together to make the cobbler which we enjoyed for dessert with some Bluebell Ice Cream.  Nothing can beat it.  What a great way to enjoy being together and building lifetime memories.  I hope you will be encouraged to find fun things to do with your family, create memories and maybe even learn to enjoy Texas dewberries.

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Our Life Is Our Ministry – Considerations For Workplace Ministry, Part IV

It does not matter where you work or what you do.  If you work with and around people your presence, attitude, actions and words are consumed in the social order of your organization.  Remember who you are through your relationship with Christ.  Remember that you have been set apart for the work of the Holy Spirit.  You are different because the very Spirit of God lives in you and your interaction with co-workers, vendors and customers directly impacts their lives.  This is where most of us serve.  We serve as teachers, truck drivers, salespeople, customer service agents, managers, purchasing agents, schedulers, line workers, designers, welders, machinists, engineers and in every role in every type of company or organization in existence. We practice and live out our Christian faith in the real world.  We make decisions, we relate with people and we make mistakes in our professions.  The confidence in which we have in the future, the way we treat others, the words we say, and the relationships we make all are part of our life and our calling as disciples of Christ in the world and workplace we practice our trade.

I am going to share a few illustrations from my own experience in hopes that it may give you practical examples of how you can demonstrate characteristics of a Christ follower in the places you work.  Keep in mind that there is not one “right” way to live our your Christian faith in the workplace.  Your personality, role and calling to share with others and minister is unique to you.  Some may have the gift of evangelism and be bold in your ministry.  Others may have the gift of counseling or prayer.  God has given each of us talents and gifts that we are to use for His glory and to lead others to Him.

Practical Illustrations:

How you respond to crisis – In early 2004 I was leading the effort to rebuild a small company following the loss of a big customer and recession of 2002.  It was a privately owned family business and the owner had a heat attack.  He went in for by-pass surgery and experienced complications that nearly took his life.  For months we did not know if he was going to survive.  As a family business the employees job security and confidence in the future was connected to the owner, who had led the company for more than 50 years.  During that period I would periodically bring in the managers and leaders of the business to give them updates.  My job as the one responsible for the company was to provide confidence that the business and their jobs were safe so I would report on the reality of his condition, but give assurance that plans were in place to continue the operation.  The people listened to every word to help them understand their future.  In my role I had the opportunity to share the source of my confidence.  Following the medical update that sometimes looked hopeless, I would say regardless of the circumstances I know that God is in control and that my confidence was in His plan for us.  I would conclude by inviting all to pray with me and lead the group in a prayer for his healing and for our business.  When faced with a crisis people will watch how you respond.  My reaction was only natural and demonstrated my hope and confidence in the future was in our God.

Pray for co-workers – I am not as comfortable with straight evangelism in the workplace.  One morning many years ago I was compelled to pray that God would give me the opportunity to share about Jesus that day at work.  Several hours went by and I was now in the heat of the work activity and had completely forgotten about my prayer that morning when I heard a knock on my door.  A young woman who worked in customer service came in and sat across the desk.  What happened next was amazing.  She simply asked how to become a Christian?  Chills ran through me as I recalled the forgotten prayer of the morning.  I told her of the prayer that morning and shared with her and prayed with her to accept Jesus as her lord and savior.  Evangelism is not my gift or style, but God gave me the privilege to respond to His work in her life.  What a gift for me to participate.

Today in my role of the company I sign the payroll.  Each week I am presented with a stack of checks that I sign.  I have the privilege to reflect on the personal needs that I know of and recognize the fact that many are in the midst of trials that life brings.  Having a weekly schedule allows me to fulfill my commitment to pray for every employee and trust in God to work in their lives so that they can testify to His glory.

Pray with co-workers – For me I am occasionally presented with opportunities to pray with employees.  I am very careful not to overstep boundaries or make people feel uncomfortable.  There are occasions such as funerals that is natural for me, as the leader of our company to share of God’s grace to His glory.  If it is known that someone is going through a particular sickness or trial, I can ask how they are doing and if I can pray for them.  When invited, taking the opportunity to pray with them right then can be a great ministry and let them know you are sincere in your concern and recognize that the Bible tells us that God cares for them and is able to heal their illness or carry them through their trial.

Give credit to God for His glory – As we live life and trust God in our personal and business life we see His provision, we experience His healing, and we trust in Him for our future.  I Peter 2:5 says that we are to be living stones or living testimonies of the great things God has done in our life.  Recognize that God cares for our business life and give Him glory for the difficult pruning that allows us to grow and the success that we enjoy.

Manage our own actions – By my sink I have a poem “Walk a little Plainer Dad” that talks about how our kids watch our every move and that we should be the example that they can follow.  It is the same in our workplace.  Our peers and co-workers are acutely aware of you actions.  Do you come early to work to study the Bible?  Do you have a reference Bible handy.  Are you different because of the Holy Spirit that lives in you?  Do you demonstrate the characteristics of Jesus?  Do you serve others?  Do you love all people?  Do you use your tongue to praise God, lift others up and discipline in love? It is said that I would rather see a sermon any day.  Living out your love of God and faith in Christ in the midst of a messy competitive world is a great testimony.

Admit when I am wrong and show grace – It is not uncommon for me to make a mistake or have to bear the consequences of someone else who made a mistake.  How we handle these situations is a strong testimony to God’s grace.  Recently one of our engineers made a huge mistake in calculating the cost of a job.  As a result I had to go back to the customer, admit the mistake and try to work out something that would be satisfactory to both parties.  I was fully prepared to take responsibility and accept the loss.  Fortunately, our customer agreed to work with us.  We accepted a lower margin and they worked to accept a higher price that was not able to be passed on.  In this situation no one felt worse than our engineer who was in error.  It was not a time for discipline, but a time for grace.  We all make mistakes and God gives grace.  Sometimes we are spared from our bad choices and sometimes we reap the consequences of our bad choices.  In our circumstances we will bear a portion of the lost and am thankful for my customer who is also a friend and fellow believer that abide in grace.

Make right choices – We all have the same amount of time and how, we use this precious resource is a reflection of who we are and what are our priorities.  Making it a priority to be involved in a church fellowship, serving the community, and making a commitment to attend every week establishes your trust in God as a priority.  The hours you work and the activities that you participate in also represent where you put your priorities.  Making right choices that are in line with your faith testify to the reality of your faith and the importance of following Christ.  Again, good choices that are rooted in following Christ will minister to others.

Be available – I am a list maker and find satisfaction in checking off the list.  The downside of this is that I work like a bee going from flower to flower and don’t waste any time knocking off the next task.  The result is that I convey that I am busy and don’t want to be bothered.  I have to recognize this characteristic and be disciplined to linger from time to time.  I may ask a couple open-ended questions and wait through a sometimes awkward time of silence until they fill the gap.  When I take the time to stop and a few extra seconds to listen I then get to “peel back the onion” and see what is below the surface conversations that take place all day.  When we are available to listen and let others share we demonstrate another characteristic of Christ.  Do you think anyone has ever been busier than Christ?  He had a short time to change the world, yet much of his ministry was taking the time to stop in the midst of life to talk to a women caught in the act of adultery, to meet with a woman fetching water at a well, to recognize a tax-gatherer in a tree and take the time to share a meal with him.  Taking the time to recognize others and linger a few moments to allow them to open up communicates our concern for them and opens the door for communication.

Respect boundaries – I have been asked a number of times if I would be interested in leading a workplace Bible study.  In my role I have not felt that it was appropriate for me to lead a Bible study.  I am certain that many may argue with me on this point, but this is an area that I have sought council and decided that this may put me in a conflicted spot as the President of the company.  Would it be looked at as a way to get close to me?  Would it breed jealousy?  Would it be viewed as trying to proselytize the organization?  I am called to love others first.  If I start with loving others I am free to lead in love, discipline in love, give grace in love, serve in love and celebrate in love.  In the spirit of Christ’s love there will be many opportunities that open doors that I can appropriately share the Bible and use the Bible as my reference for decisions that I make and as a foundation that I can stand on.  We have many religions in our company and I find it important to balance respect for individual boundaries while being genuine to my own faith and beliefs.  I do not feel that I need to hide my beliefs, but be authentic to my faith and respect the faith of others.  It is not I that work, but the Holy Spirit that works in the lives of others.  When I respect boundaries then I can be able to catch the opportunities that God presents to me.

There are so many more applications that I could share, but will end with the instructions that Jesus gave to his followers in the sermon on the mount recorded in Matthew 5.

Matthew 5:1-16:  When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the [a]mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

[b]Blessed are the [c]poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the [d]gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Disciples and the World

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how [e]can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a [f]hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a [g]basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Our relationships, careers, circumstances and culture are evolving.  The core beliefs that God has clearly given us in his word are unchanging.  How we effectively apply them in our daily lives and exercise our gifts and talents for His glory will change and are unique to each of our environment and circumstances.  It is my prayer to be an effective steward of the talents He has given me and give testimony of the great things he has done and is doing in my life in all areas of my life.  It is my privilege to share my thoughts and experience with you in hopes to be an inspiration and encouragement in the authentic and genuine exercise of your faith at home, work, recreation and worship.

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Our Life Is Our Ministry – Considerations for Workplace Ministry, Part III

So how shall we then live?

God’s word is complete, providing instructions and illustrations as to how we shall live.  His Word covers every human institution, reveals God’s character and His perfect love toward us.  As Christ followers or disciples of Christ we seek to model the life that Christ lived for us.  The entire new testament and specifically Paul’s letters to the church and his friends are full of exhortations and specific instructions how to follow Christ’s example.

 Romans 6:4 – Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

 Ephesians 4: 17-24 – So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

In our family we have established a list of core values or core beliefs.  It is those statements that describe what we believe and what we stand for.  It is impossible to categorize these or separate these from how we live our lives.  We cannot have one set of core values that we believe in on Sunday and another that we follow during the week. We cannot have one set of values we believe in at home and another in the workplace.  Core values establish who we are and are unchanging.  If our actions are not reflective of our core beliefs then we at a minimum deny ourselves and as Christians deny our faith.

When graduating from college I had a fear that the workplace would challenge my values and relatively untested faith.  I had a fear that I would be required to participate in activities or be faced with temptations that would lure me into decisions contrary to my values.  I determined that I would strive to operate in a way that I would not compromise the values that I stood for and try to learn how to properly live out my faith in the workplace.  In my various roles in sales and management and in the various companies and cultures that I operated in I have considered and practiced this strategy.  I have made many mistakes and course corrections.  I have had men who have walked beside me for decades that I could share my thoughts about how to appropriately live out my faith in a secular workplace.  The circumstances of my responsibilities and influence have changed and, as such, my strategies to appropriately live out my Christian faith in the marketplace have evolved.  I would submit that there is no “one size fits all” approach to properly being a disciple of Christ in the workplace.  The position you hold in the company, the culture in which you operate, the size of the company, the rules of the company, the people in which you work, and the influence that you have all impact the way you should act.  In my personal journey located in the “Bible belt”, where being a Christian is common and in my position of leadership in a small privately held company I have come to agree with a few guidelines.  Guidelines that are consistent with my calling as a Christian and as a business leader.  Guidelines that I believe are appropriate for other men and women in the workplace who wrestle with the question of how then, being a Christian, can I be consistent to the calling of Christ to be His disciple and be an effective producer and leader in the marketplace.  Fortunately the Bible has much to say with how we are to operate in the workplace.  The early church was made up of laymen.  Men who were fishermen, farmers, blacksmiths, herdsmen and other trades that came together as a “church” or body of believers for worship, fellowship and instruction how to be a “Christ follower.”  There was no category of “full-time ministry” as if there was a higher calling to be a preacher or pastor.  There was no separation between their vocation, community and faith.  Family, friends, neighbors, laborers, managers, and landlords came together under the common goal of being Christ followers.  They followed the instructions of Christ and the apostles and lived out their faith in all of their lives.

So, How shall we then live?  The following are six points to consider and follow to help you be a disciple of Jesus in the workplace.

1.  There is no distinction between “full time ministry” and living out our daily life at home, work, worship or recreation.

2.  We all have been given gifts by God and are responsible to exercise our gifts and talents to the best of our abilities.

I Corinthians 12:4-7Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

3.  We are first called to love others.

I Timothy 1:5 – “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”

4.  We must earn the right to be heard.

 5.  We must be living testimonies – I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.

John 13: 13-15  1You call Me Teacher and Lord; and [b]you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.

6.  Work to a high standard Colossians 3:23 – ”Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,”

The last part of our 4 part series provides some of my own personal experience and the practical ways I have sought to apply these principles in my workplace.  I hope that these provide ideas and inspirations to see your ministry be effective in the life and the relationships you make in every area of your life and work.

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