Searching for Refuge in a World Beset by Storms

It is getting to the point where each morning I am anticipating a screaming headline about another man-made or natural catastrophe.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, shootings, accidents, lawsuits, accusations and turmoil have become our daily bread and butter. A 24/7 news cycle only perpetuates the anguish, tension and stress.  Is there any wonder so many people are angry, bitter and depressed?

When the world around us appears to be unstable and unpredictable it is normal to search for something, anything that can provide even a temporary refuge.  It may be coincidental however I believe there is a correlation between the general feeling of helplessness and malaise with the rise in the misuse of drugs and alcohol.  Artificial stimulants after all can mask reality and provide comfort albeit only as long as the artificial high is sustained.  When these stimulants fail, the depression and anxiety can often lead to violence, inward through cutting and suicide and outward through the madness such as we witnessed in Las Vegas.

When I was a young man I often allowed my emotions to rise and fall with the whipsaw of life.  The highs and lows were a repeat performance. As long as I was riding a high life was enjoyable, to the point that I made foolish decisions and choices because I felt that I was invincible.  During the lows I lashed out at friends and family and sought various temporary pleasures to distract myself from the fear and pain and anxiety.

It got to where I could never even enjoy the highs anymore because I started to dread the inevitable fall.  I would start to anticipate the lows and wonder whether THIS was the day that my luck would change.  It was not a great way to live.

After I found Christ I began to understand that it is foolish to trust that the world can offer security, stability and personal peace.  Humans are fallen so why should I expect that a person, institution, or man-made idea can ever provide true comfort?  This realization did two things for me: (1) it helped me to be more gracious, merciful and understanding in my interactions with people around me, and (2) I stopped looking for comfort in material things.  Instead I learned to “shed my skin” when I am confronted with stress and anxiety over something…like an outer coat I mentally remove it and then I lay it at His feet and pray that He will take the pain from me while giving me peace.

I would like to say this works every time but it doesn’t because I still fight the urge to shed the coat and trust.  However I can honestly say that when I am able to do this I almost immediately feel peace and calm flow over me.  It is as if the Father is saying to me, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this for you.”

I know that many of you are facing struggles, some that may be enormous and burdensome.  It may be work related, it might be your family or perhaps it is a health problem.  Managing the stress of these issues are keeping you awake at night, filling you with dread and maybe even physical pain and suffering from headaches, joint aches, back problems, or the malaise that comes with severe depression.  Try to gather the courage to give it over and let go.  Imagine the burden as a great heavy coat and then remove it and lay it down at His feet. Pray for peace and calm and ask Him to handle it for you.  If you can do this successfully you may learn what I learned, that the real rock and foundation upon which you can build a healthy, happy and successful life is the one built on faith in God.  Good luck and God Bless You!

Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful.  Colossians 3:15

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.   Philippians 4:7

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father, in truth and love.   2 John 1:3

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.   2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Depression: A Hidden Problem that Can be Overcome

The highs and lows of business, combined with the pressures to succeed from within an organization and in our own minds, are a breeding ground for depression.  Many executives feature typical “A” personalities where there is a constant need for new challenges and also new rewards.

Many years ago there was a book published with a title that jumped off the page to me: “If I Am So Successful, Why Do I Feel Like a Failure?”  I don’t recall the author, but the title was enough to ring an alarm bell in my head that continues in the distance even today.  The book tackled the problem of hidden depression among high achievers.

The naked pursuit of fame, wealth, personal attention and achievements. and power can become a powerful weapon that dominates your mind and your behavior blocking out the need for moderation, humility, reason, and balance in your life. It is like a drug, in that unless you are constantly fed new challenges, new victories, new accolades, and new rewards will drag you down to depths of despondency.  All that matters is what lies ahead, not what you have achieved.  Past victories are cast aside as “luck” or downplayed as less than desirable then the challenge or goal that lies ahead.

Sadly marriages, families and friendships often suffer fallout from this problem.  Marriages especially suffer as often successful people pursue extramarital relationships as additional “conquests” and as further validation of their success and personal appeal.  Love has very little to do with it.

Add to this mix the jealousy or the success of others (fed by social media) and the fear that what you have achieved is not good enough and you start to understand how many executives feel depressed and are unhappy with their work and their lives.

It does not have to be that way.  There are professionals who can provide counseling to help you manage this problem but for me a relationship with Christ has made the difference.

As I have grown in faith I have learned humility, patience, and the value of family commitment. I have also understood that I am a special creation, loved by God despite my faults, and designed to live a full  giving thanks for every blessing no matter how small.  I have found peace in who I am as a unique creation, without comparison to anyone else, and without jealousy or envy for what others may have.

Best of all I know that the race I must run is not for material gain and personal fame, but a race to live a life pleasing to God so that I may inherit my birthright: eternal peace and joy in heaven with my Creator.

If you are feeling depressed today, open a Bible and find a Word to refresh you, redirect your steps, and bring you peace.  I’m praying for you!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.      Hebrews 12:1-3

Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer.  Romans 12:12

No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

 

 

 

Peace in the Family: Yes, it is Possible!

It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. Proverbs 20:3

I am fortunate to live with five women.  In addition to all the wonderful blessings that brings to my life it also means we occasionally are knee-deep in drama, strife and hurt.

Anger, bitterness, wrath, and jealousy find a way to poison every family and every relationship.  It is a fundamental flaw that arises from our prideful nature.  The “flesh” blinds us to our obligation to love and to be merciful as Christ loves us and offers mercy despite our sinful ways.

The absence of peace in a family, even in a work family, can make for some awfully painful days and nights.  Peace is possible.  Peace is preferable. Peace is what God wants for us.  It is possible for you, your spouse, and your children to deal with anger (a natural emotion) without sinning.  So then, how can we control our behavior to prevent us from using anger to accuse, provoke, and harm one another?

Having a relationship with God is the foundation to build better relationships with those in our families and at work.  First we need to understanding how God had every reason to choose wrath, anger and separation to deal with his rebellious creation yet gave his Son to die in our place and therefore receive mercy, grace and love instead.  Every since Adam and Eve, humankind has thumbed their collective noses at God.  For thousands of years God waited for his creation to get straight yet every rule was eventually ignored, every blessing eventually forgotten.  Noah’s flood and the destruction of Sodom were examples where God lashed out yet saved a remnant in the hope that we would change our ways.  It took Christ’s sacrifice on the cross however to finally build a passable bridge for humankind to return to the Father.

It is easier for us to forgive dinner being burned, to pause before cursing out a child who comes home late, and to be merciful when the car has a mysterious new dent when we understand how much God has overlooked in us.  If we also realize that God created each of us in His own image, and expects us to treat one another with the same unconditional love Christ showed to us on Calvary, we may find a slow path to anger.

There are times, I confess, when something my wife does or does not do causes me to get resentful and even angry.  When this happens, many times I make myself think about how Christ would expect me to respond.  I also think about how she and my children are gifts from God and if one were to treat a gift with disrespect you are essentially disrespecting the gift-giver. What an anger killer!

At the office, when you find an employee has done something to hurt a valuable client relationship it is easy to go from friendly to “your fired” in a matter of seconds.  Yet over the years I have checked my work anger by remembering that we are to “love our neighbors as ourselves” and boy have I done some dumb things in my career!  Now my only concern is “how do we fix this, together, and prevent it from happening again.”

In the end we are not perfect.  We will sin, we will get angry, we will fail.  Yet when we try to live Christ-like, and we go to scripture to seek God’s help in controlling our emotions, more often than not strife is eliminated or at least minimized.

There is an old song that goes, in part, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”  If the world were to watch a video playback of the last 48 hours of your life, would they see someone at home, at work and at play that they could admire?

Invite God into your life. Strive for peace at home and at work.  Be slow to anger.  Avoid provocation.  Use your words to lift up not beat down,  Find the positive in everyone no matter the situation and circumstances.  Correct with love and not violence.  If you can master this lesson I can assure you that peace and joy will be more abundant around you.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:16-18

The acts of the flesh are obvious… hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions.  Galatians 5:19-20

Finally, brothers, rejoice.  Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.  2 Corinthians 13:11

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the Little Things that Count

I have spent countless hours in the past in pursuit of the big deal, the next idea, the better job.  In every pursuit my focus was singular and the related stress, anxiety, distraction and consumption of time took something away from my spouse, my children and my friends.

I found it so easy to rationalize  my absence from home (physically and mentally) by telling myself that either “I am doing this for them,” or “after this one I will have the freedom to really enjoy my life allot better.”  Fortunately I awoke to the real truth.

The real truth is that when we forsake the “little things” such as investing in our spouses, our children, our parents and siblings and our friends, we are choosing to ignore the most important aspect of our lives:  the intimate and eternal need to love and be loved.  Not the love for work, or money or material things.  The type of love that can be returned, received, and deposited into our memory banks and that feed our desire for meaning and purpose.

For all that I have accomplished, nothing on my resume defines the real me.  When I look at my wife and my children, when I sit down with my sister and my parents, and when I take in a ball game or dinner with close friends I experience the joy of knowing I have a loving, purposeful existence.  When my daughter hugs me and says “thanks for spending some time with me dad,” the feeling I get is more powerful than any client, fee check or award I have achieved.

Somewhere along the way too many of us have been tricked into believing that love is weak, distracting and foolishly interferes with our goals to get ahead.  So many in my circle have broken marriages, distant children, and lonely lifestyles.  What good is it to love in a NYC penthouse alone?  How meaningful is it to surround yourself with people who are there only for the money, fame and power (as long as it lasts) but could care less about the real you?

God hard-wired us to need love more than any other experience the world has to offer.  Without it we are empty, sad, and lonely.  No job or bank account, no thrilling business deal can make that go away.

Take stock of your life.  How much are you investing in the “little things” that bring the real happiness we were all created for? Find the right balance.  Take the time to stop and get off the merry-go-round for a bit.  Slow down and love.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. Galatians 5:13

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Romans 12:10

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 John 3:11

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:5

Wearing Your Faith on Your (Work) Sleeve

Anyone who has known me personally since 1998 knows that I am a committed Christian.  They know this because I try to live a Christ-centered life and I am not ashamed to admit my faith. However it took me many years to have the courage to share my faith in the workplace.

It is not unusual for people of strong faith to hide who they are in the workplace.  We tend to avoid discussions of religion, God and social or moral issues.  There is a palpable fear for many of us that if we open up this private area of our lives to our business colleagues or even our clients, there will be unwanted consequences:  Strange looks, stares, whispering, stereotyping, accusations of intolerance, and even discrimination.

Our faith is not incompatible with our workplace.  Christians have historically been peacemakers, advocates for the weak, a refuge and a source of comfort for the lost, the broken, the fearful and the weary.  We offer hope and peace, mercy and grace in a world that is often wicked, evil and cold, and a workplace that is sometimes not much better.  Why not reach out in brotherly and sisterly love, compassion and concern for our fellow workers?

I am not advocating that we corner our cubicle neighbors and give our testimonies, belt out Gospel songs, read our Bibles aloud to them during lunch, or recruit them for the next church missions trip.  I am saying that despite the impression many have that our faith is not welcome in the workplace, it is very clearly needed there just as everywhere else in this broken world today.

God did not call us to be ashamed of our faith, nor to hide it from the world.

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. Mark 8:38

No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. Luke 8:16

I have made the subtle gesture of placing my Bible (the one I read during lunch at work) on my desk. I have done this now for 7 years.  In that time I have had many people notice the book and say things like, “Are you a Christian?  I am too” and even “I knew you were a Christian!”  With that opening I was able to share my faith without fear and without hesitation.  At their request I have even prayed for, over and with clients throughout the years…the feelings I experienced when I did this was simply amazing!

In fact, since I have stopped hiding my faith at work I have met dozens of very successful and some really powerful men and women in my industry who are strong believers.  Sharing that faith together created a unique bond that increased our mutual respect,  strengthened our business relationship, and opened some interesting doors.

I have attended more conferences, business meetings and work social events then I care to recall where people had no issue sharing their intimate thoughts, dreams and desires…sometimes offensive, sometimes foolish, oftentimes inappropriate. Anyone who has spent time in earshot of the bar at a business conference knows exactly what I am saying. Under the circumstances what then do you have to lose by letting your fellow workers, and even clients know that you have found a relationship with the Lord to be a significant and defining aspect of your whole blessed life?

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14

 

 

Why is their So Much Suffering When we Have a Loving God?

The tragic rain and flooding that is, at this moment, still threatening the lives and property of people living in Texas,  is an event that deserves all of our prayers and support.  The devastation that is unfolding there is a reminder that our lives on this Earth are temporary and fleeting.  Any moment death and destruction can visit our doorsteps.

Often when the worst happens we cry out “where is God?”  Certainly a loving father would not sit by idly and watch as his creation, young, old, men, and women, are simply swept away to a violent death.  This is something even a mature person of faith will struggle with because the Bible speaks of God’s love for his children and his desire that we lived blessed lives.  So why the contradiction?

The answer is complicated and not easy to accept.  We have free will which means that God gave us the ability to make our own choices.  This means the choice to follow Him but also the choice to live where we want, to respond to serious threats around us in a manner that increases our protection, and to educate ourselves how to manage life’s risks and challenges.  Government leaders have been placed in positions of earthly authority over us and have the free will to enact laws, assign resources, spend tax dollars in the manner they feel appropriate to protect the welfare of citizens, as we have the free will to choose those we decide are best prepared to lead us.

Earth is not our permanent home.  Death is not a permanent end.  Although humans are fixated on creating majestic lives and lifestyles on Earth and fear death, this is contrary to what the Lord has instructed us.  We are to avoid the excesses of this world, and live with the promise of a better and eternal life of joy that awaits us in heaven.

If we view our lives understanding that this world is temporary and that death is merely a doorway  to another better place it helps us to cope with tragedies such as what is happening in Houston now.  This does not mean should not mourn for those who are lost, nor support or attend to those who are injured and homeless, or work to prevent similar tragedies for occurring through better preparation, training and education. It does mean though that we must recognize that pain and suffering are a necessary part of life on this Earth,  but that even in the midst of the worst God promises that there is so much more in store for us that will wipe every tear, brighten every face, soother every pain and calm every fear.

God offers us peace and hope in the face of every disaster.  We need to cling to that promise and trust in His Word.

The time is short…this world in its present  form is passing away. 1 Corinthians  7:29-31

Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  1 John 5:4

There are heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies, but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind and the splendor of earthly bodies is another…The body that is sown (earthly) is perishable, it is raised imperishable.  1 Corinthians 15:40, 42

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whomsoever should believe in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.  John 3:16

“Father God, please bless those who are suffering this very moment in the midst of the disaster in Texas.  Comfort those in pain, bring hope to those who are lost, bring peace to those in fear. Bless the first responders and rescue workers as they do their jobs. Remind us all that this is not our home, and that there is a place you have prepared for us where tragedy never strikes, where death is defeated, and where perpetual joy awaits us. Amen.”

 

 

When We “Get It,” We See Real Victory

When we realize that what God offers as victory is easy, because we become free, and what man offers as victory is impossible, because we are enslaved, we finally “get it.”

The world offers up material goals that keep us all on a treadmill trying in vain to reach the carrot just a few yards a head of us.  We do all we can to get it, too often leaving behind family, friends, and quiet time.  We sacrifice day and night for the elusive prize.  Those of us who are “fortunate” enough to get the carrot find that as soon as we devour it a new and bigger “treat” is placed ahead of us and off we go again, the treadmill spinning wildly with the most recent material victory in the rear view mirror, well out of our mind.

God offers things the world cannot: true peace, true joy, and true victory.  His rewards bring us happiness that lasts.  They also help us embrace the type of truths that can smooth the bumpy ride of life for us, with our loved ones, our friends and our co-workers.

Talk to people who are financially successful…very few are ever truly happy and fewer still can get off their treadmill.  After all there are still more treats to chase after!

Then talk to people who are mature in their faith.  They too are successful but in a different way.  They have successfully run a different race, a race to achieve the goals that our loving Father has for each of us.  Goals designed to bring out the best in us and achieve true happiness for us.  Along the way they also have accumulated enough material things to bring them worldly joy because their Father has blessed them for their obedience and commitment.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.…”  Hebrews 12:1,2

BEWARE OF YOUR JUDAS, HE IS OFTEN HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT

Judas convinced himself that by going behind the back of someone he claimed to love and engage with Christ’s enemies that he was advancing his own, better understanding of the mission of Christ. He abandoned love, abandoned friendship, and set into motion events he never expected because he was blinded with his own selfishness and self importance. Rather than being a trusting supporter of Christ, he became an antagonist competing for a vision he never established, a mission he never truly understood, and an end result (money, status and fame) that was never part of the equation.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Matthew 7:15 NIV

Judas looked just like the other disciples but he was merely biding his time until his true self would emerge….he couldn’t help it because he never really was a true follower. This is why the Bible warns us to only invite people evenly yoked into our inner circle.

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV

“Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.” Deuteronomy 22:10 NIV

I have found that very often someone close to you is only a superficial friend and confidante. These people are the whisperers, who seek to create conflict and sow seeds of discord in your inner circle. When you rely on your inner circle for advice and support this can be very dangerous. Like a Cancerous growth it must be removed before it spreads and causes total death. Loving separation is the only solution.

In business as in life it is very important that we make judgments and decisions about with whom we share our thoughts, ideas and secrets based upon real introspection, testing and time.

 

Death is nothing at all…..

Written by Henry Scott Holland (27 January 1847 – 17 March 1918) was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxfordfb

Clarity in the Midst of Confusion

But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Matthew 15:9

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. John 4:23

We must be discerning of the true Word and wary of those who seek to amend, supplement, and take out of context the true Word of God. This is why the Lord commands us to “come out of the world” because it is easier to follow man’s version of God than the Truth. The Bible must be the standard against all other things are measured, because either the Bible is sufficient or it is just another book and means nothing.

Men are filled with empty platitudes, and self righteous advice they themselves cannot even follow. They pretend they have all the answers, that they can “save the world” and “heal the planet” and “secure peace” when men are weak, self centered, selfish, egotistical, devious and deceitful.

God has a way for us to weather the storm of deceit and chaos around us, while preparing ourselves for a much greater glory than could ever be found on this earth. Today when so much seems chaotic, it is comforting to know a God that is solid, dependable, compassionate and loving and to see clearly when and where men create confusion.