Workplace Devotionals

April 5, 2011

Vision

What is Vision?

One of my favorite books is the book “Walden“, by Henry David Thoreau.  For those that are not familiar, Thoreau over the course of two years, built a house by the small Walden Pond, and for the most part lived alone, occasionally taking visitors or going to town for supplies.  He then wrote his thoughts and experiences in the book “Walden” as if they had occurred over the course of a year.

In the second chapter Thoreau writes, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

I focus mostly on what Thoreau says of wanting to live “deliberately.”  To be deliberate in what you do is to intentionally follow a certain course, to make your way based upon a certain decision or series of decisions.  Generally speaking, it is difficult to follow a deliberate path without knowing where that path leads; otherwise you’re deliberately walking, but not deliberately living.

How do we as Christians live deliberately, intentionally?  Following our own path might be deliberate, but it also might mean walking deliberately away from God.  Walking deliberately, in and of itself, is not enough.  Being Christian, we are called to walk not only deliberately, but deliberately in the path outlined for us by God.

Have you ever been walking alone in a path that wasn’t God’s?  It’s not a good feeling; you know it’s not right; you long to be with God.  Have you ever been in a place where you knew it was exactly where God wanted you to be?  It’s great!  Any trials or difficulties that come during that time, don’t seem so bad, because you know it is all for a purpose, and a vision that God has for you.

This path that we take or this end goal is what we like to refer to in the workplace as “vision.”  Without vision, your next step may keep you moving, but you’re not going anywhere in particular.  Having a vision for where you are going, or where God has for you, gives purpose, and intentionality to your actions.  Vision is important in business, just as it is in our Christian walk.

Where is “vision” in the Bible?

The Bible gives many examples of God showing vision to his people.  Sometimes it is a clear vision spoken directly to that person, sometimes it is indirect.  Sometimes it is a path to follow; sometimes it is a path for someone else.

In Genesis 15, we see an example of God giving a clear vision to someone and a path for them to follow.  God appears to Abraham in a vision, to give him a vision.  “He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”  God showed Abraham what the future of his family would be and gave him a course to move in that direction, a very direct vision for Abraham.

In Deuteronomy 34, God takes Moses and allows him to view the Promised Land, “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, ‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.'”  God gave Moses a vision, but a vision for someone else to follow, a vision that Moses played a central role in, but would not see to fruition.

In both these cases, a vision was given, but the two men were not able to see the completion of it, they were only able to play their role.

In Nehemiah, the vision given is implied, “They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.’  When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.'”  At this time, the walls of Jerusalem had been broken down the gates burned for decades.  This was not news.  Perhaps at this time, Nehemiah saw Jerusalem in a new way, and the reminder of the walls struck him.  Oh perhaps, as I believe, God gave him a vision.

How do we know God’s plan/vision for us?

God does have a plan for each of us.  We see several scriptures in the Bible of God giving specific visions to people.  If God has this vision for us, how do we know his will?  It’s a difficult question and one that I struggle with.  I haven’t discovered any particular magic formula for discovering the future.  My tea leaves never tell me anything.

There is one teaching by the pastor Andy Stanley, which stands out to me.  In his series “Discovery God’s Will” Stanley describes God’s will into three parts:  the providential, moral, and personal will of God.

The providential will of God refers to those things God is going to do, regardless.  God has a plan.  God’s plan will be carried out.  We see this throughout the Bible.  God uses men and women to accomplish his providential will, but God’s will is done.  God’s will for Abraham came through: a powerful nation was created.  God’s vision Moses came through: the Israelites conquered the Promised Land, albeit, without Moses.  And, God’s will came through Nehemiah: the wall was restored and a city was built in Jerusalem once again.  God’s will is done, and will continue to be done, all the way through Revelation.  We know God’s providential will through the studying and knowing of God’s word.

The moral will of God refers to the dos and don’ts God has commanded.  There are many commands by God in the Bible.  The Old Testament is full of laws and commands.  Commands are not reserved to the Old Testament, however.  In nearly all of Paul’s letters he includes a list of behaviors to focus on and behaviors to avoid.  One such example is in Galatians 5, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Of all the moral commands in the Bible, there is one that stands above all. In Mark 12 Jesus points out the greatest commandment: “‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”  What God is most interested in is us discovering Him, not His will.  He wants us to seek Him, and seek Him first above all else.  Knowing God is knowing God’s will.

Think of a family member, or a coworker that you have worked with a lot.  When you are doing a project, writing a memo, creating a reconciliation; you do certain things as you are doing that thing, because you know it’s what your manager wants.  Because you have spent time with them, because have worked closely with them, you know their will.  It is not entirely different with God.  Spend time with him, spend time in his Word, and you will being discovering God’s will.

Stanley explains the connection between the three parts of God’s will by saying, the more familiar we are with the providential will of God, and the more obedient we are to the moral will of God, the easier it will be to discover the personal will of God for our lives.

Stanley illustrates it like this:  The providential will of God is a road, it’s the path that is going somewhere, with or without you, because God’s will, will be done.  The moral will of God is like the guardrails.  They protect you and keep you on the path.

The personal will of God refers to personal decisions and plans for our lives.  The path you travel is on that road.  How exactly God will show his personal will for you, I can’t say.  Perhaps he will speak directly to you, speak to you through a friend, or you will discover it through scripture.  When God called me the first time to go on a mission trip in college, I heard his voice speak to me.  I don’t know how I knew, but I knew.  When he called me back to go again, I heard no voice, only the overwhelming presence of God and the confirmation of others.

While I don’t know the plan God has for each of you, or the way he will communicate that plan to you, there are a lot of tools that God gives us.  (1) God gives us his scripture.  We have the opportunity to read about his providential and moral will every day. (2) Through prayer we can speak to God, and petition God.  (3) God gives us other people in our lives.  Very often in the Bible, God calls through other people.  God appoints Saul as king through the prophet Samuel.  God called David to repentance through the prophet Nathan.   God called Rebekah to be Isaac’s wife through a servant.

I believe God has a plan for each of us.  Seek Him, His commands, and His morals, and he will reveal His vision for your life.

October 10, 2010

First things First

We know that it is our mission as Christians to serve and worship God.  When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  One way that we love God is through giving God from our time, talent and treasure.

I think that it is important to give not just of our time, talent and treasure, but to give the first and the best.  It is easy to find examples in the Bible the importance of the giving the first of our treasure.  Genesis Chapter 4 tells the story of Cain and Able.  Verse 3 says that Cain brought some of this fruits, but that Able brought the fat portions of firstborn of his flocks, the best and the first.  God’s displeasure with Cain’s offering was that he was not giving the best portion of the first as Able was.

Later, in the giving of the law we learn about first fruits offerings and tithing.  In the various feasts and sacrifices that the Israelites are commanded to make, they are told to “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.” Exodus 23:19.

Giving the first and best of our time may be harder to distinguish.  We see a story in Luke 10:38-42 of two women and the example of how they are spending their time.  While Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to him teach, Martha works to make preparations for Jesus and the others that are visiting.

Martha often gets the bad rap in this story, but lets think about her situation more. As we see in other passages in the gospels, there is often very large crowds following Jesus as he travels the countryside, and often the people are not well prepared for the journey, as there are a couple miracles recorded of Jesus feeding thousands.  Mary, Martha and their family were good friends of Jesus, so it is natural in that culture, that Jesus would come stay with them.  So with Jesus, and also staying at Martha’s house, would be the twelve disciples and perhaps dozens of others, all without food.  Martha saw this great need of all these people, and in her way of reaching out to them, began working hard to make preparations for their visit.  It’s not wise for us to condemn Martha for the work she was doing, as we often make a similar mistake of not seeing where we are failing to put God first in our lives.

Martha, then tries to tell Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help.  Again, I don’t think Jesus condemns Martha here, but lovingly tells here, that Mary has sought what is best, first.  What Martha was doing was good and necessary, but she did not put first things first.  Mary saw what was best, and saw that the most important thing to be doing was sitting with Jesus, listening to his teaching.  Mary put Jesus first, before the other “necessary” activities.

We also have this opportunity to put God first in our lives.  The Jews celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday, the last day in their week.  Christians observe Sabbath on Sunday, the first day of the week.  The Sabbath gives us the opportunity to start our week focused on God, to rest and reflect and remember that it is God who is first in our lives.  We can also remember to pray and take time for God each morning, to know that we work by His grace, for His glory.

Third, we can give God the first and best of our talent.  Our talent is often observed in the jobs that we do.  Most people are working in a job that uses one or many talents that they have.  We are able to exercise our talents in the work that we do.  When spending time at church on Sundays, or starting the day at home, or during the commute to work, it is good to remember that even in the work that we do, we are serving God with our talents.  We can give ourselves to our jobs, working hard, because it is for God that we work.  The best example of this is the verse in Colossians: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

So today, I encourage you, in the way that you use your time, talent, and treasure, give your first and your best to God, for everything we have comes from God, and we can show our love for God by giving our first and best to Him.

April 5, 2010

Taking the fall…of man

Filed under: Uncategorized — ejwcpa @ 5:33 pm
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You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

Paul talks about how in his society, a man would scarcely give his life for a righteous or even good man, people have little interest in giving up their life.  Perhaps a man would give up his life for his own child, but in few other circumstances.  Jesus not only gave up his life, but gave up his life for the wicked, the sinners.  While man would scarcely give up his life for the best of man, Jesus meanwhile gave up his life for the worst of man.  We would not even take the fall for even the most minute, trivial thing, in fact, when anything small bad happens in our lives, it is the American way to immediately sue everyone, nothing can be our fault, of course, so we’ll find someone else to fault.  But Jesus, blameless, without fault, took the fall of man, took the sin of the world and died on the cross for us – something against all comprehension.  What an amazing sacrifice that Jesus made.

Remembering this sacrifice in our daily lives is central to being Christian.  Some comparisons came to mind as I heard this passage read.  It reminded me of what life was like in a CPA firm.  There’s a popular blog called “Stuff Accountants Like,” maybe you’ve read some of it maybe not.  It might only be funny (or sad) if you’ve worked in a large CPA firm.  It takes a sarcastic and humorous look at the little things that are popular in a CPA firm.  Number nine on this list is “Throwing People Under the Bus.”  It reads like this:

For accountants, getting thrown under the bus ranks somewhere on the scale between daily and weekly. If an accountant is not currently being thrown under the bus, you can rest assured that: (1) they will soon be under the bus or (2) they are actively throwing other people under a bus. This is easy for you to remember since there are no exceptions.

Throwing someone under the bus means to blame somebody else and have them take the fall. It is important to note that this does not mean the person being blamed actually did anything wrong. Also, people generally throw the people working for them under the bus, and not the other way around (though it does happen).

Many problems that accountants have (work is incomplete, budget is catastrophically blown, hatred towards fellow officemates, etc.) are addressed by throwing people under the bus. It is important to note here that this doesn’t mean the problem is solved. Some managers have a reputation for throwing people under the bus, which they’ve earned for good reason.

What can you take away from this lesson about accountants? When working with accountants, you will get thrown under the bus for no good reason and probably often. So if you can’t avoid working with accountants, you should make sure that you are the person in-charge, and that way you can opt to throw or not throw your team under the bus.”

I read this blog entry right about the time that I was currently being thrown under the bus, so it really rang home.  I would imagine that this scenario is probably prevalent in most people’s workplaces, though probably not to the extent that it takes place in a CPA firm.  In our workplaces, and in our country, taking responsibility has become so foreign, that making others take the fall, regardless of blame, is now the norm, and this blog entry is a good illustration of that norm.

We can demonstrate the behavior that Paul talks about in this passage, not necessarily by dying, but by first taking responsibility for our actions, and taking the fall for our own mistakes, rather than passing the blame to others.  This can be a hard thing to do, considering that taking the fall can often mean missing a promotion or hurting our reputation.  But we have faith in knowing that our rewards do not come from men but come from God.  Jesus has already taken the ultimate fall for us.  When we are in the kingdom, God’s measure of success is not the same as man’s measure of success.  Jesus points this out in the beatitudes, saying that the attitudes and types of people that are often shunned or looked down upon in the world are praised by God.

Taking the fall and the responsibility for mistakes may often result in short term delays in worldly success.  But Paul implores us in Philippians 2:3-4 to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Our mission on earth, as Christians may be different than the goals of many of those around us, and our success is measured differently than our workplaces may dictate.  But this does not mean that we will not achieve reward.  We have the greatest father in the universe, and father who loves us and wants to give us good things (Matthew 7:9-12).  Be patient, run the good race, and while worldly success may not come to you in the way you’d expect, success will come in God’s kingdom.

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