Created for a purpose

Have you ever experienced an empty feeling in life?

Have you ever felt like you were made for more than just to try to make yourself happy?

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
– Ephesians 2:10

It’s hard work for me to move my thought patterns away from ‘I need more (x)’ and towards ‘what did God create me to do with my life’. (x) has it’s place in life, but it’s not the reason for life, it’s just another resource. Here’s a great promise regarding resources that I’ve been clinging to.

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.
– 2 Corinthians 9:10-11

It’s interesting to look at the context of this passage. It’s not just about our own fulfillment. God gives us all an abundance of something, even though it’s not the (x) you think you need to be happy. The truth is someone else needs what we have.

We were all created for a purpose. Don’t let yourself and your lack of (x) stand in the way of discovering and pursuing it.

How do you find inspiration in business?

How do you find inspiration in your business?

I find inspiration in scripture, in customers’ needs, and in discovering how God has wired me up.

For instance, Proverbs has a multitude of business-applicable concepts buried in it, and there I find a lot of inspiration and encouragement to pursue righteousness and wisdom in business.

In business, my customers are very important, and listening to them and pursuing new ways to meet their needs will often yield new inspiration for products or services.

When I find something that meets a need for others & fits with the passions and skills God has given me, that’s a special place to be, and often leads to new ideas and opportunities.

Using social media to share the gospel

I just did a google search this morning to learn what’s being taught to Christians on how to use social media to share the gospel.

Here’s what I searched for.

“using social media to share the gospel”

It was surprising to me that the number of pages related to a Christian sharing their faith online was very small compared to the very high number of Mormon articles, so I’m doing my part to tip the scales the other way. This will not be a technical manual of how to use social media. Rather, it’s an encouragement to the Christian who has some hesitation about sharing their faith, online or otherwise.

Recently I’ve been working for a company that makes life-saving pharmaceutical products. My role is to make training videos to help new employees and others understand the science behind the processes in their factory. I admire their company culture, and take pride in the fact that my work plays a very small part in their much larger effort to save lives around the world.

One day I was thinking about it — my work saves lives — and had to stop for a moment because I realized something. No matter how amazing a medication is, it’s not enough. A person’s life span can be extended from 30 years to 80 years, but there’s no drug that can stave off death forever. Our power against death is feeble at best.

If a medication was created that prevented us from death, how much more would we want to share that with the world? Would we be embarrassed to work for the company that manufactures such a drug? I’d be scrambling to be first in line to help in whatever way I possibly could!

And yet we as Christians are often silent.

The gospel is earth-shattering in that Jesus died, was dead for three days after being horrifically beaten, stabbed, and tortured, and then returned to life, removed the stone from his grave, and walked the earth again with more power and health than he’d had before his death.

We get hung up on the cross, wallow in the torture and pain, fast for Lent, and forget to tell the world that Jesus is not dead, He’s alive, and not only is He alive, but He has promised life — eternal life — to those who believe and follow Him.

If we believe Jesus did this, what could possibly keep us from sharing that in every way possible?

Including social media.

Fear of Success

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. –Proverbs 3:5-6

This year has started out awesome for me. We had some vehicle challenges that I thought would be really expensive that cost less than a 10th of my expectations. I’ve had a ton of work with no signs of stopping. We are less stressed than we’ve ever been. Church is good. Family drama is low. The kids are doing great in school. While we still have a long way to go, life feels like it could be on a good trajectory.

God has always provided for us in every circumstance, but I feel that especially right now. However, I have this nagging little fear in the back of my head. It’s a fear of success. More accurately, a fear that a good moment in life means another crash at the end. It’s refreshing to not be as worried about tomorrow, but now I’m worried about six months from now, or a year from now.

The last time I had an awesome year, I thought it would go on forever and I thought it was because of how awesome I was. I started trusting myself, made some mistakes, and took some hits.

In the big picture, I think a healthy fear of success is a good thing. This nagging little fear is helping me to remember to continue to trust God, not myself, and for that I’m thankful. I’ve learned in the past that nothing I can do on my own can make my life better; I hope I can remember that and keep leaning on His wisdom, not my own, through whatever circumstances this year will bring.

I’d love to be more like the apostle Paul:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. — Philippians 4:11-13

Difficult circumstances produce results

I’ve been working on a series of scholarship recipient videos for the Christie Foundation in Champaign, IL. I’ve been very impressed with the drive, determination, and passion that I’ve seen in these young adults.

One of the recurring themes I’ve noticed is that many of the students we’ve worked with have a time in their lives that’s been extremely difficult. One young man saw his brother go through an intense battle with non-Hodkins lymphoma. Another student struggled with a degenerative muscle disease and faced the loss of her musical abilities. Another had a dream of being a soccer player, but suffered through repeated injuries and couldn’t continue. One woman we interviewed lost her child at birth.

In each of these stories, the intense experience of struggle and pain sparked a passion to pursue their respective areas of study, and shaped their future careers. Someday in the future, hundreds if not thousands of people will find help in their own painful experiences because of the character in these exceptional young people.

Romans 5:3-5 says, “… We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…”

We’d never wish suffering on anyone, but it happens. When it does, look for the resulting fruit. It could be sweeter than you’d expect.

Our Daily Bread

I’ve been thinking about the Lord’s Prayer a lot lately. It’s been a running audio track in my head that’s been begging for more in-depth study.

I see the Lord’s Prayer, not as an example of what we should do with our lips — not just to memorize and recite — but as a measuring stick by which we can ask ourselves, “Do I live in a way that my attitude towards life matches Christ’s attitude?”

One line jumps out this morning: Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)

The wisdom of asking God for our daily bread didn’t start with Jesus’ example to the disciples of how to pray — all the way back in Proverbs, we can find this mention of our daily bread.

Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. Proverbs 30:7-9

How often have we yearned for wealth and prosperity, and despised the blessing of daily bread God has already provided for us? I’ll raise my hand to that – I’m instantly guilty, every day.

I love this question from Marty Schoenleber at Trinity Church, because it’s been the question I’ve been repeatedly forced to answer since becoming self-employed, and has made the Lord’s Prayer, or at least one line from it, starkly real in my own life.

In what do you trust? If you can’t trust God with your daily bread, are you really trusting in him for everything else in your life?

Poverty vs. Wealth?

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. (Proverbs 15:16 ESV)

This verse, more than any other verse in the Bible, has caused me a lot of confusion in my business pursuits.

It’s easy to read this verse and associate being a Christian or fearing the Lord with poverty. It’s also easy to assume that it’s wrong to be wealthy, and that wealthy people have strife and don’t fear the Lord.

These ideas can attack and discourage a desire to be in business for personal profit, and can introduce a feeling of guilt when the cash comes in.

What I’ve missed is that this was written to the son of Solomon, the wealthiest heir in the ancient world. Solomon is warning his son against abusing his position and power, and pleading with him to worship God first, not money.

It’s not saying money is bad. It’s saying that wisdom/fear of the Lord is much more valuable than wealth alone.

Here’s the take-away for me: Wealth in the hands of a man who fears the Lord is a very good thing. It’s something we should not be jealous of or strive against, and it’s a good thing to aspire to. But the most important thing is the fear of the Lord, not wealth, in whatever life circumstance we find ourselves.

Plenty of Bread

Ever since I took the grand leap into full-time self employment my life has felt completely out of control.

More than one person has said I’m ‘living the dream’. Some days that’s true. But I’ve also been through some of the darkest days I’ve ever experienced.

Recently I discovered joy in reading through the book of Proverbs with a keen eye for business-applicable wisdom to help me approach my daily challenges with fresh eyes.

One mistake I made early in our move to Watseka was to put time and money into new ideas when we needed to be investing and improving in our core areas of business. I still struggle with this.

One of the Proverbs I found has helped me to be able to filter my pursuits a bit better. Check this out:

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. (Proverbs 28:19, 20 ESV)

It’s so easy to think that a new idea is going to be the golden ticket or silver bullet that solves all my problems. I’ve found though that our best times happen when I’m focused and working steadily rather than chasing rabbits in every direction.

The Proverbs 31 Husband

Recently I did a study in which I read through the entire book of Proverbs looking for every little scrap of wisdom I could find that could possibly apply to running a small business. I paraphrased and categorized each verse I found and made a list on my phone so I could easily refer back to it. I learned a lot.

And then I stumbled on something I’ve never noticed before that has nothing to do with business, and everything to do with being a good husband, and I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now.

I’ve seen a lot of devotionals, authors, etc. talk about the ‘Proverbs 31 wife’ – if you haven’t heard about this, read Proverbs 31:11-31. It’s basically a description of a ‘virtuous’ (perfect) woman. She’s smart in business, great with the kids, works her hands to the bone all hours of the day, and makes her husband look great in the local community.

I’ve never heard about the Proverbs 31 husband. That is, until I read the very last two verses recently, which read, “A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” The paraphrase that I keep thinking of is “Give her the reward she deserves!”

How often do we as men get so caught up in our own desire for stuff, or our endless search for self-worth, that we ignore or put down our wives in the process? I know I’ve done that on many occasions.

I’m not sure that Proverbs 31 was written as a guide to women on how to be perfect, as much as it was written to men to say hey, your wife is giving you everything she’s got here, give her what she deserves!

I hope I can live up to that.