Sunday, December 21, 2008

Egypt and the Christmas Story

Mathew 2:13 reads, “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.’”

As a part of the lesson, a Sunday school teacher asked each of her students to draw a picture of a story from the Bible. After collecting the drawings, she noticed that one little boy's drawing depicted an airplane with four people abroad. Curious the teacher asked what the picture was. The boy answered, “This is Joseph, Mary and Jesus’ flight to Egypt. The teacher then asked who the fourth person was in the picture. The boy replied, “That’s Pontius the pilot.”

The flight to Egypt is “a small incident in the Christmas story, usually overlooked and seldom portrayed in church pageants; [however, it] looms large in the salvation narrative. Occurring immediately after what often is presented as the climax of the story—the visit of the Magi—Joseph has another nighttime encounter with an angel. This time, God’s messenger tells him to flee with his family to Egypt. They had just entertained Eastern celebrities bearing fabulous gifts for their child-King. Now, abruptly, they are to run for their lives. And the destination—Egypt.

“The phrase ‘out of Egypt’ appears in nearly 150 biblical texts. This ancient enemy symbolized oppression and slavery, and often God’s people would recall that the Lord had freed them and delivered them from that place. Yet God says, ‘Go to Egypt.’ What is Joseph thinking and feeling? His first encounter with an angel announced a ‘virgin’ birth. Then, the baby, born in a stable, was visited by shepherds and kings. And now, this!

“We don’t know Joseph’s thoughts, but we do know his actions. He obeyed. And Jesus escaped Herod’s murderous wrath. And we celebrate Christmas. ‘But,’ we protest ‘we’d obey too if we knew God was talking!’ Really? He speaks to us daily, but do we listen? Unlike Joseph, we have God’s written Word, filled with direction and instruction. May we, with Joseph-like faith, obey and get moving.” (Dave Veerman)

Christmas is a wonderful time of giving and remembering all the wonderful gifts we receive from the Savior of the world. We give gifts to family and friends but what gift can we give to Jesus. All the possessions we have are actually things Christ has already given or loaned to us. While we should give of our possessions to build the Kingdom of God, is it really a gift if we are simply returning to Christ something that is already His? There is one thing we have to offer to the Lord that is not already His—our will. Our obedience is the gift we can truly give to Christ this Christmas. May we give Christ the Christmas gift of obedience and follow His example when he said, “Father . . . not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

“The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. . . when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!” (Neal Maxwell)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Constantly Seek Improvement

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”
-Ecclesiastes 9:10, New International Version

Satan tries to persuade us to be content with just getting by. The Lord rebukes those who are satisfied with their condition in life, who are content with the way things are, and who don’t seek change and improvement. We are always in need of improvement. If you say “I . . . have need of nothing” (Revelations 3:17, King James Version) and “do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked,” (Revelations 3:17, New International Version) the Lord will see you as being lukewarm (apathetic) and will cast you out as He said in the book of Revelations, “ . . . because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelations 3:16, English Standard Version) The Lord expects us to continually seek improvement.

The Parable of the Fig Tree
The Savior teaches this principle further in the miracle and parable of the fig tree found in Chapter 11 of Mark. Jesus, walking with His disciples, came to a fig tree that had no figs on it. When Jesus saw that there were no figs upon the fig tree, He cursed the fig tree, and the next day it was withered and dead. This miracle is different from all the other recorded miracles of Jesus that were performed for relief, blessing, and beneficent purposes. This appears to be an act of judgment and destructive execution. A key to understanding this miracle and parable is found in verse 13, which reads, “It was not the season for figs.” (Mark 11:13, New King James Version) The fig tree didn’t have figs on it because figs were not in season. None of the trees had figs on them—why did Jesus destroy this tree? On his tape entitled A Higher Standard of Excellence, Mark Gorman states that at 2 a.m. God told him the meaning of these passages. When the inspiration came, he sat straight up in bed and God spoke to him saying, “If all you are doing is what comes naturally to you, I am not impressed. If you are only producing when everyone else is producing, so what. If you are just keeping up with the crowd, big deal.” To impress the Lord, we must strive for excellence and do more than just what comes naturally. We must not just produce fruit when it is in season—we must produce fruit everyday. We must rise above mediocrity. We must rise above just getting by. We must excel.


“I say to you, Search the Scriptures! If ever you tire of them in seeking a rule of faith and a standard of morals, search them as records of history. The Bible contains the only authentic introduction to the history of the world. It is a book which neither the most ignorant and weakest, nor the most learned and intelligent mind can read without improvement.”
-John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

“The Price Paid for Your Liberties”

On this Veteran’s Day may we each remember in our prayers to thank the Lord for the valiant men and women who have served and sacrificed for our Nation.

“Between 1775 and 1783, some 200,000 Americans took up arms against the British Crown. About 25,000 became prisoners of war, most of them confined in New York City under conditions so atrocious that they perished by the thousands. Evidence suggests that at least 17,500 Americans [70% of those imprisoned] died in these prisons.” (Edwin Burrows, Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War, Basic Books: 2008)

“From September 15, 1776 to November 25, 1783, nearly the entire period of the revolutionary war, New York remained in the hands of the British, and was made the head-quarters of the foulest tyranny over helpless prisoners ever known in the darkest ages of the world. The [prisons] of Europe never furnished such a picture. Jerusalem within, besieged by the Romans without, never felt the horrors of the New York prisons . . . American officers, and the most eminent Whigs, who fell into the hands of the British were confined [in a prison run by provost marshal William Cunningham]. Here was the theatre of Cunningham’s brutal conduct toward the victims of his spite. The prisoners were formally introduced to him and their names, age, size and rank, were recorded. They were then confined in the gloomy cells, or to the equally loathsome upper chamber, where the highest officials in captivity were so closely crowded together, that when at night, they laid down to sleep on the hard plank floor, they could change position only by all turning over at once, at the words, right—left. Their food was scanty and of the poorest kind . . . Little delicacies, brought by friends of the captives seldom reached them; and the brutal Cunningham would sometimes devour or destroy such offerings of affection in the presence of his victims, to gratify his cruel propensities.

“Thus for many months gentlemen of fortune and education who had lived in the enjoyment of the luxuries and refined pleasures of elegant social life, were doomed to a miserable existence.

“[Many of the American prisoners of war were kept in prison ships by the British.] The name and character of each prisoner were registered when he first came on board. He was then placed in a hold, frequently with a thousand others, a large portion of them covered with filthy rags, often swarming with vermin. . . they were allowed to remain above till sunset, when they were ordered down with imprecations, and the savage cry, ‘Down, rebels, down!’ The hatches were then closed, and in serried [compacted] ranks they lay down to sleep, if possible, in the putrid air and stifling heat, amid the sighs of the acutely distressed and the groans of the dying. Each morning the harsh order came below, ‘Rebels, turn out your dead.’ The dead were selected from the living . . . and thus conveyed in a boat to the shore by his companions, under guard, and hastily buried.

“So shallow were the graves of the dead on the shores of the Wallabout [a small body of water in Upper New York Bay along the northwest shore of the New York City borough of Brooklyn], that while the ships were yet sending forth their victims, the action of the waves and the drifting of the loose sand often exposed the bones of those previously buried. Year and year this revolting exhibition might be seen.” (W.T.R. Saffell, Records of the Revolutionary War, (Baltimore: Charles C. Saffell, 1894, p. 304-306)

One of the prisoners “Captain Bridsall asked Cunningham for a pen and paper to write his family only to have the provost marshall call him ‘a damned rebel’ and run him through the shoulder with his sword. Another prominent Queens County patriot, blind old Elias Baylis of Jamaica, who had been severely beaten by his British guards while imprisoned in the New Utrecht church, was then hauled to New York and turned over to Cunningham, who had him beaten some more. He languished there for two months, consoling himself, it was said, by singing the 142nd Psalm: ‘Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.’” (Edwin Burrows, Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War, Basic Books: 2008, p. 22) After months of much suffering he died and was taken to his heavenly home.

Cunningham viewed the prisoners as traitors who had committed treason against the Crown which was punishable by hanging. “The most outrageous of all the crimes committed by Cunningham was the hanging of 275 American prisoners of war without trial and in utter repudiation of all existing articles of war. The ignominious and undercover hanging of war prisoners was a blot on the British military government. All of these Patriots could have betrayed the cause of liberty and independence in exchange for their lives, but preferred death. All they had to do was to sign a document of allegiance to the Crown and receive a free pardon by enlisting in His Majesty's Army or Navy.” (Retrieved November 7, 2008 from http://www.longislandgenealogy.com/prison.html) Not one of these prisoners betrayed the cause of liberty and independence to save their life.

“The imprisoned and dying patriots, in the dark hours of 1780, when nearly all hope of independence had fled forever, and when the deserter and traitor stalked over the land in fearful combination, reached forth their skeleton hands, wrote, and bequeathed this task to their countrymen in their dying hours: ‘If you are victorious , and our country emerges free and independent from the contest in which she is now engaged, but the end of which were are not permitted to see, bury us in her soil, and engrave our names on the monument you shall erect over our bones, as victims who willingly surrendered their lives as a portion of the price paid for your liberties, and our departed spirits will never murmur, or regret the sacrifice we made to obtain for you the blessings you enjoy.’ . . . If there is any class of patriots more deserving of the gratitude of a nation than another, it is these captives, who dwelt in the dungeons for their country’s sake.” (W.T.R. Saffell, Records of the Revolutionary War, (Baltimore: Charles C. Saffell, 1894, p. 307, 323)

Today we have to choose liberty and independence or bondage to government. Today some Americans are betraying the cause of liberty and independence by seeking and accepting Government handouts. We must resist and fight against the idea that the government should provide the necessities of life. As responsibility is shifted from the people to the government, freedom is eroded. Today some Americans are choosing bondage and the illusion of government security over liberty and freedom. Today some Americans are willing to sell their freedom for government bailouts and other government assistance. Today some Americans are willing to sell their freedom for government-provided health care. Today America is facing economic challenges but we must resist and fight the temptation to accept Government assistance. It is during times of trial and crisis that many will sell freedom for government support. This may provide temporary relief but in the long run government intervention will only make the situation worse. Any society that gives up liberty in hope of security will find they lose both. Slavery is the result of seeking the illusion of government-supported security. Freedom and security are only to be found in our own liberty, industry, and production.

A classic example of people selling themselves into bondage for government support is found in the Old Testament. Instead of saving for a future time of need, the Egyptians relied upon the government to support them in the event of a disaster. When the disaster of famine hit, they were unprepared. As a result, they were compelled to exchange their money, livestock, land, and their lives (selling themselves into slavery) for government support. (See Genesis 41:54–56; Genesis 47:13–26)

Today, we need modern patriots to resist and fight against the unconstitutional and tyrannical efforts of the American government. The God of heaven sent some of the wisest, noblest, and bravest men and women to lay the foundation of a free America and God has again sent many wise, noble, and brave men and women to help preserve it. We, the blessed beneficiaries of the suffering and sacrifices made by our revolutionary ancestors, face difficult days in America. If the current trends of increasing government are not reversed, America will no longer be the land of the free and home of the brave, but the land of the slaves and home of the dependants. Action must be taken to once again establish a government which follows the inspired Constitution. May God bless each of us to be modern patriots full of the faith, courage, and determination needed to preserve and restore freedom. May we honor by our actions and always remember the revolutionary patriots who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to secure our freedom.

Special Christmas Offer
“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” -Garrison Keillor

Education is essential to the preservation of freedom against the politicians who would have us ignorantly vote ourselves into bondage. To help spread the principles of freedom, I am offering a special Christmas discount on case orders of the book Does Your Bag Have Holes? 24 Truths That Lead to Financial and Spiritual Freedom. You can order a case of 22 books (each book comes with the abridged audio book on CD) for only $99 with free shipping. That is only $4.50 per book – 75% off the retail price. I believe this book will make a wonderful Christmas present for many on your Christmas shopping list. To order simply go to http://www.doesyourbaghaveholes.org/ and add a case(s) of 22 books to your cart. Then redeem the coupon "Christmas" and the price of the case will be reduced to $99 per case or you can mail a check for $99 for each case with “Christmas” written in the memo box to:

Does Your Bag Have Holes? Foundation
428 E. Thunderbird Road #504
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This is a limited time offer so please order today. All proceeds from the book are used by our non-profit Foundation to further our educational mission to inspire the world to learn and live the principles of freedom. Thank you for your order and helping us share these powerful truths will others.

“Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They're never
fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal.” -Lenore Hershey

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

QUIET STRENGTH

As the head coach, Tony Dungy led the Indianapolis Colts to Super Bowl Victory on February 4, 2007. Dungy has been involved in a wide variety of charitable organizations. He and his wife, Lauren, are the parents of six children. The following are insights and principles from the life of Tony Dungy which he shares in his book Quiet Strength.

Parenting
“My parents talked regularly about . . . their visions of what we could do. . . More than anything, my mom and dad focused on exercising our brains, building both knowledge and character. My mom and dad wouldn’t tell us, ‘Here are the steps: A, B, C, D.’ Instead they allowed us to figure things out for ourselves and to explore and grow. . . [My] parents encouraged us to follow our dreams and told us that if we wanted to do something, we could do it. And they said, if we did it the Lord’s way, for the right reasons, we would be successful. Not that we would win every game or be wealthy, but that we would be successful in God’s eyes if we did the things that glorify Him.”

Uncommon Talent
Tony Dungy’s coach while he was at the University of Minnesota taught him, “Success is uncommon and not to be enjoyed by the common man. I’m looking for uncommon people because we want to be successful, not average.” Dungy wrote of this teaching saying, “Listening to Coach Stoll, I knew I had a greater chance of becoming uncommon by my efforts than I did by my natural gifts. Some players are uncommon because of their God-given natural abilities . . . Others have to work to become uncommon. Steve Kerr of the Chicago Bulls shot five hundred free throws a day to make himself uncommon. The truth is that most people have a better chance to be uncommon by effort than by natural gifts. Anyone could give that effort in his or her chosen endeavor, but the typical person doesn’t, choosing to do only enough to get by.” Chuck Noll taught, “Champions are champions not because they do anything extraordinary but because they do the ordinary things better than anyone else.”

Power from God
In 1977, Tony Dungy signed as a player with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tony wrote of this team, “In addition to many great players, that team included some really solid Christians. Because of our physical and rough style of play, we weren’t necessarily seen as a group of believers. But even head coach Chuck Noll, who was a devout Catholic, often used Bible verses to inspire us. . . Larry Brown, Jon Kolb, Donnie Shell, and John Stallworth all really worked hard to put God first in everything they did, everyday. . . those Steelers invited me into their Bible study . . . There I was exposed to guys I respected who were constantly in God’s word—always praying and reading their Bibles together. These professional players were not the weak . . . they were some of the biggest, toughest guys I had ever met. And yet they were drawing their strength and purpose from God.”

Life Balance
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll often preached the importance of time away from the office, and we knew it wasn’t just lip service. Chuck lived out his message. . . His philosophy was “Get the work done so you can enjoy the other parts of your life.” While coaching at Kansas City, Dungy sometimes found himself on the job at 3 a.m. with the head coach watching film. Dungy wrote, “After those crazy hours, however, I vowed that if I ever had the chance to make the schedule myself, I wouldn’t spend or allow my assistants to spend that much time in the office. With Chuck Noll, I had seen firsthand that it was possible to work fewer hours and still be successful.”

Success
“God’s definition of success is really one of significance—the significant difference our lives can make in the lives of others. This significance doesn’t show up in win-loss records, long resumes, or the trophies gathering dust on our mantels. It’s found in the hearts and lives of those we’ve come across who are in some way better because of the way we lived.”

Delegation
“I knew from watching Coach Noll and Denny Green how I wanted to do things as a head coach. I hired top-notch people, trusted them to do their jobs, and then came to grips with the fact that I wouldn’t be coaching as much. I missed that; coaching was what I had always done, and now I had to fight the urge to coach everyone. If I wasn’t careful, I would end up coaching through or around some very good assistants, which would lessen their credibility with their players. I knew I had to make sure I didn’t inadvertently devalue the coaches in the players’ eyes by not letting them do their jobs.”

Benefits of Pain
Dungy’s son Jordan was diagnosed with congenital insensitivity to pain. “Jordan is missing a gene, it turns out, and therefore doesn’t feel pain the way other people do. Some experts think he might not feel any pain at all. For example, like most kids, Jordan loves cookies. . . Jordan would reach right in [the oven] to pull out the piping hot cookie sheet with his bare hands. Then he would begin to eat the cookies without even realizing he was burning his hands and mouth in the process. Even a trip to the emergency room didn’t help him understand he was injuring himself. . . I think at one time or another every one of our children has gone running through the house at full tilt. Looking backward at a sibling in hot pursuit or waiting for a pass, they inevitably slam into a wall with the side of their head. They’ve all done it—once—and then, because of the pain, they’re careful not to let it happen again. Jordan, on the other hand, does this kind of thing repeatedly and gets up smiling. Without the painful consequences, how is he to learn? . . . Before we had Jordan, I hadn’t thought much about the way God uses pain to protect us from further negative consequences down the road. With Jordan, this has become obvious. Pain prompts us to change behavior that is destructive to ourselves or to others. Pain can be a highly effective instructor.”

Personally Releases Players
“I have never liked cut days during training camp. Those are the days when we have to reduce our roster from eighty players down to sixty-five, and then finally to fifty-three. . . I actually make it worse on myself because I bring each player in to talk with me personally . . . it’s awkward and painful every time. I used to think that all head coaches did that, until I received a call from an agent who wanted to thank me for the way I had released his client. It was the player’s third time being cut, he told me, but the first time that a coach has ever spoken to him personally. That surprised me, but it also reinforced my resolve to continue doing it that way no matter how tough it was.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Miracle of Forgiving Others

“Obsessing on grudges keeps them alive; forgiveness forces them to die. Moving on gets you back to business.” –Jon Huntsman, Sr., Billionaire and Philanthropist

One of my mentors shared the following story about a group of teenagers who went for a picnic in the desert outside of Phoenix. While they were playing, a rattlesnake bit one of the girls on the ankle. The girl and her friends pursued the snake and after about 20 minutes were able to find the snake and kill it. Once the snake was destroyed, they headed to the emergency room. A couple days later her foot and leg had swollen almost beyond recognition. The tissues in her limb had been destroyed by the poison, and a few days later it was found her leg would have to be amputated below the knee. It was a senseless sacrifice, the price of revenge. How much better it would have been if after the young women had been bitten, there had been an extraction of the venom. (H. Burke Peterson, “Removing the Poison of an Unforgiving Spirit,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, p. 59)

It is difficult for us to forgive those who have injured us. Dwelling on the evil done to us becomes an erosive and destructive poison. Nelson Mandela wrote, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” Holding a grudge has the power to pull us to the depths of hell while forgiveness exalts us to the heights of heaven. The Lord directs us to forgive those who injure us but that does not mean that feelings of resentment, anger, and injustice are ignored or eliminated. We must learn to respond to the feelings of resentment, anger, and injustice with forgiveness, and guard against the natural tendency to respond with the sins of bitterness, hate, and revenge.

In reference to the sermon “Upon Resentment” given in 1726 by the English Bishop Joseph Butler, Jeffrie Murphy writes, “In that sermon, Butler started to make a case for the legitimacy of resentment and other vindictive passions—arguing that a just and loving God would not have universally implanted these passions within his creatures unless the passions served some valuable purpose. The danger of resentment, Butler argued, lies not in having it, but rather in being dominated and consumed by it to such a degree that one can never overcome it and acts irresponsibly on the basis of it. As the initial response to being wrong, however, the passion stands in defense of important values—values that might be compromised by immediate and uncritical forgiveness of wrongs.” (Jeffrie G. Murphy, Getting Even: Forgiveness and Its Limits, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) p. 18–19)

Although we forgive our neighbors of their wrongs against us we still work to prevent the injury from being repeated. People who are abused should forgive their abuser, but also work to hold the abuser accountable for their actions and prevent further abuse. A person who was the victim of a dishonest businessperson should not seek revenge or hate the offender but could take action to remedy the wrong. We must fight against sin but not allow bitterness, hatred, and revenge to control our thoughts and actions. As the apostle Paul taught, “Be ye angry, and sin not.” (Ephesians 4:26, King James Version)

From Bitterness to Love
The abuse of children, whether sexual, physical, or emotional, is one of the most serious problems society faces. The emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical damage of abuse is very real. I know this first-hand because when I was a little boy, I was sexually abused over many years by a close relative. I pray that no child will ever have to experience the hell I have gone through as a boy and as an adult as I have overcome and conquered the harmful effects of abuse. Initially, my reaction to the abuse were feelings of anger, hatred, bitterness, and vindictiveness. I prayed for help in dealing with these emotions and felt directed to forgive and let go. As I forgave my offender, the Spirit filled my heart and soul. The feelings I had of hate and revenge were replaced by feelings of love and concern. It is hard to describe the emotions that resulted from forgiving. Initially, I felt there was no way I could love someone who was guilty of such horrendous crimes against me, but through the power of Christ and forgiveness it was made possible. That is one of the miracles of forgiveness—it not only removes hate, bitterness, and vindictiveness, but it also replaces it with love, peace, and concern.

In January 2001, I was talking to my mom on the phone, and we began talking about the abuse of my childhood. My mom asked, “Have you forgiven him?” I said, “Yes, I have. I forgave him years ago.” Tears came to my eyes and pain filled my heart as my mom described the pain and struggles she experienced as a result of her son being abused by someone she trusted—someone she loved. My mom then said, “I can’t forgive him.” Although she is one of the kindest, most caring Christians in the world, she could not forgive him for hurting her son.

In the fall 2005, I got a call from my mom to tell me she had forgiven the relative responsible for the abuse. She related the experience to me over the phone, and I asked that she write it down and send it to me. Below is my wonderful mother’s experience with forgiveness:

I had known for a long time that I needed to forgive Henry [name has been changed] for sexually abusing my son. I kept postponing it because I felt that if I forgave him, then I would be condoning it somehow. One morning I felt prompted that I needed to go through the process of forgiving him and letting go of all the hurt and anger.

I felt prompted to go the cemetery where he was buried and prayed for the help of the Lord to take away this burden that I had carried with me for so many years. I began to share my feelings and told the Lord that I was really ready to let it all go. I knew that holding onto it was keeping me from progressing spiritually.

I went to the cemetery where Henry was buried. After spending some time at Henry’s grave site, I felt prompted to go and run around the track at the high school. I thought that was strange because I am definitely not a runner. I usually walk for exercise but cannot run very far. As I was thinking about this, the story of the leper Naaman who went to Elisha to be healed came to my mind. Elisha told Naaman, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” (II Kings 5:10, New King James Version) But Naaman rejected the counsel for he expected a mighty miracle. “Naaman became furious . . . and went away in a rage.” (II Kings 5:11-12, New King James Version) Naaman’s servant then spoke to him saying, “If the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (II Kings 5:13, New King James Version) Naaman then went and washed seven times in the Jordon and was healed.

I figured I better follow the prompting, so I went to the track and thought maybe I could run around one time. As I began to run and my heart began to beat faster, I felt a burden being lifted off of me. My heart felt good, and I knew that the Lord was blessing me with the ability to forgive. I then felt a great remorse for being unforgiving for so long. I asked the Lord for forgiveness for not acting upon this sooner. I felt a peace come over me that was so wonderful and I actually felt changed physically and spiritually. I walked around the track another lap and said a prayer of gratitude to Heavenly Father for His great love for me and expressed appreciation for the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ, which heals what we cannot heal on our own. Just as Naaman’s leprosy was healed by washing in the Jordon, my hurt and anger were healed by forgiving.

Conclusion
Blame and grudges keep wounds open and allow the wrongs of others to control our lives. Forgiveness is not easy, but it is the balm that heals our wounds and frees us to choose our destiny.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lessons from the Life of Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart

Joke of the Week - “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” -Proverbs 17:22
As the Rabbi finished the day’s lesson at the Hebrew School, a boy raised his hand and then asked, “Rabbi, there is something I need to know.” “What’s that my child?” answered the Rabbi. “Well according to the Scriptures, the Children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, and the Children of Israel fought the Philistines, and the Children of Israel built the Temple, and the Children of Israel were always doing something important, right?” “All that is correct,” agreed the Rabbi. “So what's your question?” “What I need to know is this,” demanded the boy, “What were all the adults doing?”

Quote of the Week - "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise." -Proverbs 13:20
“I [Jesus Christ] am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” –John 10:10, King James Version

Lessons from the Life of Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart

The following are quotes from Sam Walton taken from his autobiography, Sam Walton: Made in American

Abundance
“The more you share profits with your associates—whether it’s in salaries or incentives or bonuses or stock discounts—the more profit will accrue to the company.”

“We have always paid our executives less than industry standards, sometimes too much less. But we’ve always rewarded them with stock bonuses and other incentives related directly to the performance of the company. It’s no coincidence that the company has done really well, and so have they.”

Becoming Debt Free
“From the time I took out my first bank loan—the $1,800 to buy that ice cream machine for the Ben Franklin [store] . . . I was never really comfortable with debt. . . By 1970, we had . . . thirty-two different stores . . . Helen and I were also in debt up to our eyeballs—several million dollars’ worth . . . but I wanted out of that debt in the worst way.” Sam Walton decided to take the company public to pay off debts. He wrote of the day of selling his first public offering of stock saying, “I experienced one of the greatest feelings of my life, knowing that all our debts were paid off. The Walton family only owned 61 percent of Wal-Mart after that day, but we were able to pay off all those bankers, and from that day on we haven’t borrowed one dime personally to support Wal-Mart. The company had rolled along on its own and financed itself.”

Continually Improving
I have always [been] somebody who wants to make things work well, then better, then the best they possibly can. . . I was never in anything for the short haul; I always wanted to build as fine a retailing organization as I could.”

Entrepreneurship
“Like most other overnight successes, it was about twenty years in the making.”

“After we got the first three stores up and running, I knew it would work.”

Faith
“I have always gone to church and Sunday school every Sunday; it [is] an important part of my life. . . I was a Sunday school teacher for a while too.”

Frugal/Invest
“We accumulated funds in Enterprises rather than throwing it all over the place to live high.”

Hard Work
“[As a boy], I’d get up early in the morning and milk the cows . . . and I’d deliver it after football practice in the afternoons. . . I also started selling magazine subscriptions, probably as young as seven or eight years old, and I had paper routes from the seventh grade all the way through college. I raised and sold rabbits and pigeons too . . . I learned from a very early age that it was important for us kids to help provide for the home, to be contributors rather than just takers. In the process, of course, we learned how much hard work it took to get your hands on a dollar, and that when you did it was worth something.”

Hiring
Sam Walton was able to hire people who had the characteristics needed to build and manage the growing company. He would ask potential new hires if they and their families went to church. He also evaluated their personal finances saying, “If a fellow could manage his own finances, he would be more successful managing one of our stores.” He sought to hire those who had developed work ethic in their youth saying, “I’ve always preferred to hire people who had to . . . work their way through school.”

“My role has been to pick good people and give them the maximum authority and responsibility.”

Humility
“Exercising your ego in public is definitely not the way to build an effective organization. On person seeking glory doesn’t accomplish much.”

Lower Margin, Higher Volume
“I bought an item for 80 cents. I found that by pricing it at $1.00 I could sell three times more of it than by pricing it at $1.20. I might make only half the profit per item, but because I was selling three times as many, the overall profit was much greater. Simple enough. But this is really the essence of discounting.”

Mission
“I have concentrated all along on building the finest retailing company that we possibly could. Period. Creating a huge personal fortune was never particularly a goal of mine. . . We are committed to using our personal resources for as much benefit as possible—in the areas we feel need the most help, employing the methods we think hold the most promise. . . Those companies out there who aren’t thinking about the customer and focusing on the customers’ interest are just going to get lost . . . Those who get greedy are going to be left in the dust. [We] must adopt a philosophy of servant leadership.

Perspective on Money
“Money never has meant that much to me, not even in the sense of keeping score. If we had groceries, and a nice place to live, plenty of room to keep and feed my bird dogs, a place to hunt, a place to play tennis, and the means to get the kids a good education—that’s rich. . . We don’t need to buy a yacht. And thank goodness we never thought we had to go out and buy anything like an island. . . We just don’t have those kinds of needs or ambitions, which wreck a lot of companies when they get along in years. . . I just don’t believe a big showy lifestyle is appropriate. . . I have done everything I can to discourage our folks from getting too extravagant with their homes and their automobiles and their lifestyles. . . folks who just can’t hold back will go ahead and leave the company. . . It goes back to what I said about learning to value a dollar as a kid. I don’t think that big mansions and flashy cars are what the Wal-Mart culture is suppose to be about.”

Persistence
Before Sam Walton founded Wal-Mart, he lost his first store, a Ben Franklin variety store, after 5 years of hard work his landlord took his business as a result of clauses in the rental agreement. Sam Walton wrote of the experience, “It was the low point of my business life. I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. It really was a nightmare. I had built the best variety store in the whole region and worked hard in the community—done everything right—and now I was being kicked out of town. It didn’t seem fair. . . I’ve always thought of problems as challenges, and this one wasn’t any different. . . The challenge at hand was simple enough to figure out: I had to pick myself up and get on with it, do it all over again, only even better this time. . . I had a chance for a brand-new start, and this time I knew what I was doing.”

Risk
“Nobody wanted to gamble on the first Wal-Mart. I had to put up 95 percent of the dollars. . . We pledged houses and property, everything we had.”

Sharing Information
“Sharing information and responsibility is a key to any partnership. In our individual stores, we show them their store profits, their store’s purchases, their store’s sales, and their store’s markdowns. . . and I’m not talking about just the managers . . . We share that information with every associate, every hourly, every part-time employee in the store. . . Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners. The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them. If you don’t trust your associates to know what’s going on, they’ll know you don’t really consider them partners.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Columbus’ Mighty Prayer

Christopher Columbus had an inspired dream of crossing the ocean. He petitioned many people to find somebody to invest in this inspired dream. Finally, after 20 years, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand agreed to support his venture. Columbus wrote of his struggle, “Our Lord unlocked my mind, sent me upon the sea, and gave me fire for the deed. Those who heard of my [adventurous enterprise] called it foolish, mocked me, and laughed. But who can doubt but that the Holy Ghost inspired me?” (Jacob Wassermann, Columbus, Don Quixote of the Seas, (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1930) p. 19–20)

On the evening of August 3, 1492, Columbus left from Spain with three ships, the NiƱa, Pinta, and Santa Maria. On October 10, 1492, 68 days after leaving Spain, Columbus’ crew began to lose hope of ever reaching their destination. The crew expressed fear that the nearly continuous winds blowing from east to west might make it impossible to return home. Frightened that they would die at sea, his officers and crew demanded that they turn back and return to Spain. Columbus could only answer that God had given them the weather to take them this far, and He would give them proper weather to get back home. Unconvinced that the matter should be left entirely in God’s hands, Columbus’ crew threatened to kill him if he did not consent to their request. Columbus urged them to reconsider and proposed a compromise. Columbus suggested that if land was not found after two more days, they would turn back. The officers and crew accepted the compromise. That night in his cabin, Columbus, “prayed mightily to the Lord.” (Words written by Columbus in his ship log, October 11, 1492; Bill Halamandaris, The Heart of America: Ten Core Values That Make Our Country Great, Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 2004) p. 30)

On October 11, they spotted land birds and other signs of nearing land and at 2 a.m. “. . . on October 12th, with the Pinta sailing ahead, the weather cleared. In the moonlight one of the sailors on the Pinta, Juan Rodriquez Bermejo, saw a white sand beach and land beyond it. After his shout of ‘Land! Land!’ the Pinta’s crew raised a flag on its highest mast and fired a cannon.”(William D. Phillips, Jr. and Carla Rahn Phillips, The Worlds of Christopher Columbus, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992) p. 152–153) They had arrived at an island which Columbus called San Salvador (holy Savior), which today is an island in the Bahamas. Columbus wrote of naming the island, “I named the first of these islands San Salvador, thus bestowing upon it the name of our holy Saviour under whose protection I made the discovery.” Columbus had achieved his inspired dream of sailing the Atlantic and the world was changed forever because one man refused to quit. Columbus wrote of his journey, “God gave me the faith, and afterwards the courage so that I was quite willing to undertake the journey.” Columbus achieved a grand victory because he had the courage to press forward when all others had lost faith.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

4 Lessons Learned from a Talking Donkey

In the Old Testament we find the story of Balaam, his donkey and the angel of the Lord. “Balaam was riding his donkey to Moab, and two of his servants were with him. But God was angry that Balaam had gone, so one of the LORD’s angels stood in the road to stop him. When Balaam's donkey saw the angel standing there with a sword, it walked off the road and into an open field. Balaam had to beat the donkey to get it back on the road. Then the angel stood between two vineyards, in a narrow path with a stone wall on each side. When the donkey saw the angel, it walked so close to one of the walls that Balaam's foot scraped against the wall. Balaam beat the donkey again. The angel moved once more and stood in a spot so narrow that there was no room for the donkey to go around. So it just lay down. Balaam lost his temper, then picked up a stick and smacked the donkey.
When that happened, the LORD told the donkey to speak, and it asked Balaam, “What have I done to you that made you beat me three times?”
“You made me look stupid!" Balaam answered. “If I had a sword, I'd kill you here and now!”
“But you’re my owner,” replied the donkey, “and you've ridden me many times. Have I ever done anything like this before?”
“No,” Balaam admitted.
Just then, the LORD let Balaam see the angel standing in the road, holding a sword, and Balaam bowed down.
The angel said, “You had no right to treat your donkey like that! I was the one who blocked your way, because I don’t think you should go to Moab. If your donkey had not seen me and stopped those three times, I would have killed you and let the donkey live.”
Balaam replied, “I was wrong. I didn't know you were trying to stop me. If you don't think I should go, I'll return home right now.” (Numbers 22:22-34, Contemporary English Version)

There are four extremely valuable lessons we can learn from this story

Lesson 1: You must learn to effectively receive criticism and correction.

The Bible states, “You can trust a friend who corrects you, but kisses from an enemy are nothing but lies. (Proverbs 27:6, Contemporary English Version) A true friend will tell us when we are off course or need correction even though it is not what we want to hear. Their love and concern for our well-being will supercede the natural desire to avoid the conflict or ignore the issue. As states the Sicilian Proverb, “Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty.”

The Lord will correct us when we get off course. The apostle Paul wrote, “. . . God disciplines us for our good . . .” (Hebrews 12:10, New International Version) “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves. . .” (Hebrews 12:6, English Standard Version) Discipline and correction help us get back on track when we have strayed. The quicker we can recognize we are wrong the more quickly we can get on the right path. A Wal-Mart executive said of Sam Walton, “He is less afraid of being wrong than anyone I’ve ever known. And once he sees he’s wrong, he just shakes it off and heads in another direction.”

These proverbs can help us remember Lesson 1:
“Despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction.”
-Proverbs 3:11, King James Version

“Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path; he who hates correction will die.”
-Proverbs 15:10, New International Version

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”
- Proverbs 19:20, New International Version

Lesson 2: Some things that you believe are bad and harmful to you are actually for your good.

When bad things occur in our life, there is a natural tenancy to get upset and metaphorically hit a donkey. However, our challenges and struggles enable us to learn and grow. If our afflictions could speak to us as did Balaam’s donkey they may have a similar message saying, “Why are you getting mad at me, I am just trying to help you.” We must learn that all of our afflictions will work together for our good.

Since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, the earth has been filled with thorns and weeds. The Lord spoke to Adam saying, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food.” (Genesis 3:19, New International Version) Is the fact that the earth is filled with weeds and requires hard work to sustain our lives a bad thing? Would life be better if there were no adversity, pain, or opposition? The Lord created a world of opposition for our benefit. He told Adam, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake.” (Genesis 3:17, King James Version) Life was not designed to be an existence of endless bliss. Life was designed to create greatness in each of us. Trials and afflictions are for our good. 2 Corinthians 8: 2 reads, “A great trial of affliction . . . [will] abound unto . . . riches.” 1 Peter 1:7 reads, “Trial of your faith [is] much more precious than gold.” Peter teaches us to rejoice in our trials saying, “Think it not strange concerning the fiery trail . . . but rejoice.” (1 Peter 4:12-13, King James Version)

The prophet Isaiah teaches that adversity and affliction are good for the growth of our spirit like bread and water are good for the growth of the body saying, “The Lord give[s] you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction.” (Isaiah 30:20, King James Version)

We are all familiar with growing pains. Growth is a source of pain, but it is good pain. Sometimes the best people experience great pain because they are ready to learn and grow. The Savior teaches in the parable of the vine, “. . . every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2, New King James Version) Pruning is the process of cutting off branches. Someone unfamiliar with the pruning process may think that the person pruning the vine is trying to punish, destroy, or kill the tree. While pruning does cause pain, its purpose is not to injure, harm, or punish. On the contrary, the pruning process will eventually lead to a higher level of production. For after much tribulation, cometh the blessing.

Parable of the Renovated House
“Image yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996) p. 176) Jesus is the master carpenter and he wants to build us into something great. As taught the apostle Paul, “God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished . . .” (Philippians 1:6, New Century Version)

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I [the Lord] have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, King James Version)

Lesson 3: You can learn something from every person you meet—even a jackass.

There is something we can learn from each person we meet. Each person has unique insights and experiences we can draw upon. We should approach others with an open mind and a willingness to be taught. We should look for the good in others and everyone is doing something good we can learn from.

During the French and Indian War, the British General Edward Braddock, age 60 at the time, employed the help of a Virginia militia. One of the young 23-year old Virginia soldiers who was well acquainted with the Indian mode of warfare, modestly offered his advice, the haughty Braddock said, "What! An American buskin teach a British general how to fight!" (B.J Losing, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, (New York: George F. Colledge & Brother, 1848) p. 167) Braddock did not heed the advice and the British suffered a disastrous defeat and General Braddock was wounded by a shot through the right arm and into his lung. Following the injury to General Braddock, George Washington, with no official position in the chain of command, was able to lead and maintain some order and formed a rear guard, which allowed them to evacuate and eventually disengage. This earned him the title of “Hero of the Monongahela.” General Braddock was carried off the field by George Washington, the soldier whose advice he had rejected. Braddock died on July 13, 1755, four days after the battle. Before he died, Braddock left Washington the blood stained sash of his uniform. Washington carried the sash with him for the remainder of his life. Perhaps he carried the sash as a reminder of the cost of pride and of the necessary of being humble and teachable if he was to be successful in his efforts. Had Braddock listened to the advice of young George Washington his life may have been saved.

Lesson 4: If the path you are on is blocked, the Lord may want you to go in a different direction.

My first business venture failed, leaving me with thousands of dollars in business debt. I was newly married and I had no income. My wife was working earning $10 per hour but her income was not even enough to cover our $1,800 a month in debt payments. I now joke with her that she married me for my money, but the truth is she was my sugar mama. I was forced to put my entrepreneurial efforts on hold for a season and look for a job. I graduated with honors from business school and applied for dozens of jobs that were a good match for my skills, experience and degree, but I received rejection letter after rejection letter. I even apply at a call center that seemed to hire nearly everyone for a $6 per hour job and was rejected.

I now joke with people saying, “I had to start a business because I was the only person who would hire me.” I prayed to the Lord for help finding a job but got the answer that the Lord did not want me to get a job. I was supposed to start a business. This did seem to make any sense at this point in my life and did not seem like a possible option. I followed a prompting to start a lecture series at the university, which my wife supported even though it didn’t seem to make any sense since it would take a significant amount of my time and would provide no income. Acting in faith, we built the lecture series, which I and guests I invited in taught. Following one of the lectures by an invited guest, I was leaving the building about 1 ½ after the lecture had ended (I stayed to talk with the students and answer questions), when the guest lecturer pulled up outside the building. He rolled down his window and said, “The Spirit told me I needed to come back to talk to you.” We set up a time to meet. We began the meeting with prayer but were not sure exactly why we were meeting. He laid out the projects he was working on and ideas he wanted to pursue. I laid out my talents and experience and the project I was working on and wanted to pursue. We eventually came to a business idea that felt like the right way. We partnered on the new venture, with him putting up all the money and me putting up the time to build and manage the company. The company did over $1 million dollars in revenue the second year in business and over $10 million in the fifth year of business. What had seemed impossible became a reality through Christ. The Lord had blocked the job path because there was another path I was to take.

Conclusion
Long before Shrek had his run in with a talking donkey, Balaam had his life saved by one. If you apply the four lessons discussed above, you too will have a story to share about the time your life was saved by a jackass.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Becoming a Good Receiver

In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan helped a man who was robbed of his money and clothes and left half dead. The Samaritan bound his wounds, cared for him, and took him to an inn. The Samaritan also paid the host two pence to take care of the injured man and agreed to repay the host if the cost was higher. (Luke 10:30–35) The Samaritan had to first receive financial means before he could give of his means to care for the robbed and injured man. It can be understood, then, that to be good givers, we must also be good receivers.

What makes someone a poor receiver? One of the factors is a belief in the myth “I am not worthy or deserving of prosperity.” A belief in this myth prevents us from achieving our full financial potential. God is the ultimate giver. He wants to give us the gifts of prosperity and abundance. Our role is to learn to be a good receiver and accept God’s gifts. Many who do not feel worthy or deserving of financial abundance reject God’s gifts. What good is a gift if it is not received? A rejected gift hurts both the giver and the receiver because the receiver gives up the joy of the gift and the giver is denied the joy and blessings of giving the gift.

Don’t Rob Me of My Blessings
While serving in a missionary ministry in Hawaii, I associated with many wonderful Christians. The Polynesians regarded representatives of Christ with the same respect and honor as they did their chiefs. As I preached the gospel, people of all denominations would impart to us of their time, food, possessions, and money in support of the Lord’s work. They knew the Lord would bless them for their sacrifices.

On one particular occasion, when I was walking along the Kamehameha Highway, a car pulled up right along side me. As we were both in motion, a man rolled down his window and handed me a $20 bill. At first I didn’t realize what he was handing me but when I found that it was money I kindly refused and tried to return it. As I ran after the car the man said, “Don’t rob me of my blessings.” He sped away leaving me with a $20 bill I felt I shouldn’t have. Receiving gifts and money became a regular occurrence. Being new to Hawaii and not fully understanding the culture, I tried to refuse gifts and money that were constantly offered me. I quickly learned not to do this. Each time I tried to refuse the gifts, the giver would get upset and say, “Don't rob me of my blessings!” I learned that by humbly accepting gifts I could, in turn, faithfully promise the giver that they would be blessed for their sacrifice.

The Polynesians believed that the more a representative of Christ ate the more blessings they would receive. Joe, a 300-pound Tongan, took me out to eat and I ate until I couldn’t eat another bite. After we finished, Joe went to the cashier to pay for the meals. As Joe began to pay, the cashier said, “Sir, someone has already paid for the meals.” Joe looked around the restaurant and called out loudly, “Who robbed me of my blessings?” The restaurant went quiet. Joe was disappointed that he had not been able to pay for the meals and thus was robbed of his blessings. In an attempt to still receive blessing for feeding a representative of Christ, he told the cashier that we were going to eat again and this time not to let anyone else pay for the meals. This experience taught me not only to be a good receiver, but also to be a big eater.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Let Freedom Ring!

On March 23, 1775, there were some in the House that thought it better to have peace then fight for freedom. The House was leaning toward not committing troops against the encroaching British military forces. Patrick Henry rose to speak and said in part: “If we wish to be free . . . we must fight! . . . Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” (Orations of American Orators, (New York: Colonial Press, 1900) p. 59) The crowd jumped up and shouted “To Arms! To Arms!” Patrick Henry was one of the influential advocates of the American Revolution.

On the 4th of July in 1776 the Congress assembled in Independence Hall in Philadelphia to decide whether or not to officially accept the Declaration of Independence which reads in part:

"We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

As the congress was assembled, an elderly bell-man ascended to the steeple, and a little boy was placed at the door of the Hall to give him notice when the vote should be concluded. The old man waited long at his post and had his doubts saying, “They will never do it. They will never do it.”

The signing of The Declaration of Independence was a solemn act, and required great firmness and patriotism. It was treason against the government of Great Britain—an offense that was publishable by death.

At the signing, Benjamin Franklin is quoted as having replied to a comment by John Hancock that they must all hang together saying, “Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately,” (Jared Sparks, The Life of Benjamin Franklin, (Boston: Whittemore, Niles and Hall) p. 408) This play on words suggested that if they failed to stay united and win the revolution, they would surely each be tried and executed, individually, for treason.

By unanimous vote the declaration was adopted and the blue-eyed boy outside the door began clapping his hands and shouted to the bell man above, “Ring! Ring!” The elderly bell man hurled the iron tongue of the bell back and forth one hundred times, proclaiming, “Liberty to the land and to the inhabitants thereof.” (B.J Losing, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, (New York: George F. Colledge & Brother, 1848)

The Declaration of Independence was official but the fight for freedom was just beginning. The Revolutionary War continued on for seven years. On August 8, 1776, General George Washington wrote the soldiers saying, “Allow me, therefore, to address you as fellow citizens and fellow soldiers engaged in the same glorious cause . . . there can be no doubt, that success will crown our efforts, if we firmly and resolutely determine to conquer or to die. . . We must now determine to be enslaved or free. If we make freedom our choice, we must obtain it by the blessing of Heaven on our united and vigorous efforts. I salute you, Gentlemen, most affectionately, and beg leave to remind you, that liberty, honor and safety are all at stake; and I trust Providence will smile upon our efforts, and establish us once more, the inhabitants of a free and happy country. I am, Gentlemen, your humble servant.” (Jared Sparks, The Writings of George Washington, Volume IV, (Boston: Ferdinand Andrews, 1838) p. 37-38)

The last major battle of the Revolutionary War was the Battle of Yorktown when the American and French forces achieved a large and decisive victory over the British, capturing over 7,000 of the British troops and forcing an unconditional surrender by General Lord Cornwallis on October 17, 1781. During the surrender, the British drummers played the march, “The Day the World Turned Upside Down.” The surrender of Cornwallis’s army prompted the British government to eventually negotiate an end to the conflict. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the Revolutionary War.

There were 217,000 American service members that fought during the eight year Revolutionary War. They suffered much sickness, privations, hardships and death, but their courage, desire for freedom, and reliance on the Almighty led them to an eventual victory. There were 4,435 that gave their life in battle and an additional 6,188 were wounding during the battles of the war. (United States Department of Veteran Affairs, Retrieved June 30, 2008 from http://www1.va.gov/opa/fact/amwars.asp)

With the 4th of July coming this Friday, I felt it an appropriate message this week to reflect on the lives of those who gave their all to secure the freedoms we now enjoy. Before you light off your fireworks on the evening of the 4th of July, may I suggest you have a moment of silence to honor the lives of those who fought to secure America’s independence and say a prayer of thanks to God for sending such men to secure the freedoms we enjoy.

On the fiftieth anniversary of The Declaration of Independence, two of the Founding Fathers who assisted in the drafting of the Declaration and served as Presidents of the United States passed away. In the spring of 1826, Thomas Jefferson’s health rapidly declined confining him to his bed. On the 3rd of July, he inquired the day of the month. On being told he expressed a fervent desire to live until the next day, to breathe the air of the fiftieth anniversary of his country’s independence. On the morning of the 4th after having expressed gratitude to his friends and servants for their care, he said in a distinct voice, “I resign myself to my God, and my child to my country.” At nearly the same hour John Adams passed away and the last words he uttered were, “Independence for ever!” (B.J Losing, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, (New York: George F. Colledge & Brother, 1848)

May we each this 4th of July, 2008, the 232nd anniversary of The Declaration of Independence, pledge our lives, fortunes and sacred honor to the work of freedom and declare the final words of John Adams, “Independence for ever!” If our freedom is to be preserved, the great men and women of this nation must again unite and work and fight for freedom as did our inspired founders.

May God’s blessings be upon you and the United States of America.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Leading By Example

Every moment of life we are each changing to a degree the world around us through our personal influence. We are either making the world more or less of a heavenly place.

We have all heard the phrase, “do what I say, not what I do.” This message has no power to influence others. If we do not do what we say, what we say has no power to motivate or impact others positively. In fact, we will have a negative effect. If we tell people to do things that we do not do ourselves, we become hypocrites and lose the confidence and trust of those whom we seek to lead. What we say is a method of influence, but it is only effective when it is aligned with what we do and who we are.

Sermons We See, by Edgar Albert Guest:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with men than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example is always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

Emerson wrote, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.” To be a Divine-Centered Leader, it is not enough to do what you say and practice what you preach. You must be what you teach. For example, let’s consider the principle of service. To operate on the highest level of influence, you can’t just teach about service or tell others they need to do it. You can’t merely go out and do service. You must be a service-oriented person. It must be a part of you. With this paradigm, you view service not as an action you do but as an attribute you possess. Thus, Divine-Centered Leaders do not merely teach about and do service, they are service.

A mistake some people make is that living a good life is sufficient to influence others for good. While it is true that people can learn just by observing what we do, the influence is the greatest when all three methods of influence: teaching, doing, and being, are utilized together.

John C. Maxwell is his book Developing the Leader Within You shares the following story of leading by example. “Benjamin Franklin learned that plaster scattered in the fields would make things grow. He told his neighbors, but they did not believe him. They argued with him, trying to prove that plaster could be of no use at all to grass or grain. After a little while he allowed the matter to drop and said no more about it. Early the next spring Franklin went into the field and sowed some grain. Close to the path, where men would walk, he traced some letters with is finger, put plaster into them, and then sowed seed in the plaster. After a week or two the seed sprang up. As they passed that way, the neighbors were very surprised to see, in brighter green than all the rest of the field, large letters saying, ‘This has been plastered.’ Benjamin Franklin did not need to argue with his friends anymore about the benefits of plaster for the fields.”

Jesus Christ Leads by Example
Jesus perfectly modeled the ability to influence others at the highest level – teaching, doing and being. Jesus taught the way to eternal life, showed it through his life, and actually is the way to eternal life. “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.’ It is not just that the Son of God brought light into a darkened and fallen world; He is the Light. It is not just that our Savior showed us the way; He is the Way. It is not just that Jesus of Nazareth restored the truth and taught the truth; He is the Truth. We have inherited a Greek notion of truth, one which emphasizes truth as something to be learned, a matter of the head. In fact, the Hebrew notion of truth was something we do and, more precisely, something we are, a matter of the heart.” (From address March 16, 1992 entitled “The Challenge of Christ-Centered Leadership” by Robert Millet)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Attributes of George Washington – A Great and Noble Man of God*

Humble
Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, wrote of Washington, “No man ever lived, more deservedly beloved and respected. . . [he] maintained a modest diffidence of his own talents . . . Possesst of power, possesst of an extensive influence, he never used it but for the benefit of his Country.” Washington recognized he was merely an instrument in the hands of God. In a speech following victory in the revolutionary war he stated, “I attribute all the glory to a Supreme Being . . . who was able by the humblest instruments . . . to establish and secure the liberty and happiness of these United States.”

Continually Learning
His higher education consisted of the lessons he took in surveying. However, during his lifetime he accumulated a library of more than 700 books, a great many which he studied closely. Washington’s step-granddaughter, Nelly Custis, wrote one of Washington’s early biographers: “It was his custom to retire to his library at nine or ten o’clock, where he remained an hour before he went to his chamber. He always arose before the sun, and remained in his library until called to breakfast.”

Defined and Lived His Values
As a young man, Washington copied out in his own handwriting the code of a moral life and strived to live by them. The last maxim read, “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

Prayed and Fasted Often
Before the War of Independence, Washington purchased a thin Book of Psalms which he carried in his coat pocket. The Psalms often found there way into his writings and prayers. History records many prayers from Washington and his men that God would act on their behalf. Washington issued many orders enjoining his troops to pray; to attend church services; to observe days of thanksgiving; and to spend days in fasting, humiliation, and prayer. He expected his troops to conduct themselves as Christian soldiers. There are accounts in Washington’s private letters and journals which record many references to an entire day spent in prayer and fasting.

Faith
He experienced many excruciating failures and defeats. He knew the task before him was too immense for him alone. He trusted in “a kind Providence.” Washington was filled with a faith in God knowing he need not worry about the harvest, only about the sowing and tending; the increase depends upon the Lord. Washington devoted a lot of energy attending to the religious life of his troops, which he considered indispensable to their success. In a speech Washington said, “You do well to wish to learn our art and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a great and happier people than you are.” Washington was a man of Faith who loved Jesus Christ and the Bible. After taking his oath of office upon the Bible as required by the Constitution, he kissed the Bible.

Servant
After victory, there were desires by some to make Washington king. The first Congress voted to pay Washington a salary of $25,000 a year (approximately $500,000 in 2006 dollars). Washington, however, chose to continue his work as an unpaid servant of the people. During his years as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army he took no pay. He would do the same during his eight years as the first president of the United States. He exemplified the words of the Savior, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11, King James Version)

Sense of Divine Mission
General order from George Washington on July 2, 1776 read, “The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. . . Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the cause, and the aid of the Supreme Being, in whose hands victory is.” Although the Continental Army lacked uniforms, sufficient powder, money, and a navy, they were fighting to be free and independent.

Uplifting Leader
Washington aimed his men high and drew more from them than seemed humanly possible. Yet he also maintained his composure when from all sorts of causes, their courage wavered, they broke ranks or ran. Leading a nonprofessional army, Washington often tasted that bitter cup. Yet he also knew how to pick his men up again, lead them on, and inspire them with the hope that they might do better on another day.

Grateful
On December 18, 1777, while he and his impoverished soldiers endured the cold winds and snow of Valley Forge, Washington asked his men to observe a day of prayer and fasting to give thanks to God for blessings already received, and to implore the continuing favor of Providence upon the American cause. Washington sometimes expressed dismay to those who did not recognize God’s hand in the war effort. In one letter he wrote, “. . . he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge [the hand of Providence].” Washington continually gave thanks privately and publicly to Almighty God.

*The majority of the content for this post was adapted from the book Washington’s God by Michael and Jana Novak.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mentorship—A Shortcut to Success

I received an email recently from one of the readers of my book about mentorship. Below are the answers to his questions.

Question: How were your mentor relationships formed?

Answer:
I have had several mentors and several different mentors are references throughout the book. Some of the people I learned from I have only spoken to on the phone or taken to lunch one time. Others I have a more established relationship. For example, I have sought advice and help from other successful authors on marketing and promotion. I made a list of all the authors I had questions for and wanted to learn from and then began contacting them by phone, email and mail. I was not able to talk with all of them but I was able to talk with many of them and many were very willing and excited to help out an aspiring author.

Others I have established a relationship with. For example, Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, was someone I wanted to learn about book marketing from. He has sold over 100 million books. At the time I was working with a publishing company that produced and sold a magazine to corporations for employee training, and I knew that Jack Canfield wanted to do more in the corporate market. I worked with the publishing company and Jack Canfield to create a product that that was a win for both. Jack Canfield flew to Utah to meet with us and I established a relationship.

Here is how I worked with the two mentors that I had most involved relationships with. I was invited to hear a multimillionaire businessman speak by a friend. I went and liked what I heard and liked the guy. He stayed after to talk with people so I stayed until I had a chance to talk to him. I then found out when he was speaking and went to each of his lectures. I learned that after many of his lectures he went out to dinner with some of his partners so I asked if I could come and was invited. At the dinners I tried to sit next to him and asked questions and worked to establish a relationship. I learned that he wanted to write a book and at this time my first book had been published and I was writing other books so I proposed that I help him write a book for only $10/hour. He liked the idea and we began working on a book together. I was able to get paid to learn from him and shadow him as I was writing a book for him.

I first heard of the other multimillionaire who eventually became on of my mentors from my brother who saw him lecture at the local university. I was doing a lecture series at the university so I invited him in as a guest lecturer. I organized the lecture series because I felt prompted by the Spirit to do so and it provided a way for me to meet and establish relationships with successful people I wanted to learn from as I invited them in to speak. After I invited this person into teach and we met and talk, he wanted to meet with me to discuss potentially working together. He had a list of business ideas he needed an entrepreneur to build and I was looking for a business to build. After a couple meetings, we agreed on partnering on one of the business idea and we began working together. This was April 2001. Over the next 5 years, I learned a great deal from him and as instruments in the hand of God, we built the company to over $10 million a year in revenue with $2 million a year in profit.

Question: Do you have any suggested reads on mentorship?

Answer:
I suggest reading biographies of successful people. I have learned a great deal this way. One of my favorite biographies is Sam Walton by Sam Walton. He was always learning from others. In his biography he wrote, “I probably visited more headquarters offices of more discounters than anybody else—ever. I would just show up and say, ‘Hi, I’m Sam Walton from Bentonville, Arkansas. We’ve got a few stores out there, and I’d like to visit with Mr. So-and-So—whoever the head of the company was—about this business.’ And as often as not, they’d let me in, maybe out of curiosity, and I’d ask lots of questions about pricing and distribution, whatever. I learned a lot that way.”

Question: I have someone in mind but I'm not quite sure how to best establish the mentor relationship. Is there a formal process?

Answer:
There is no formal process I know of except those at some schools that have setup various mentoring programs. I personally have not had a formal process for my mentors. If you can come up with a way that you can help the person with a project they are pursuing or desire to pursue, you can usually get a meeting and present your ideas and then take it from there.

Conclusion: The Perfect Mentor
Jesus Christ is the perfect example to follow. We must strive to emulate the Savior by fulfilling his directive to “. . . always act like your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:48, Contemporary English Version) If we are to become truly successful and prosperous, Christ is our pattern. All the enabling and perfect virtues are to be found in the Master Jesus Christ. As we follow the example of the Savior, we become like the wise man who has built his house upon a rock. As we make Christ our foundation, we will avoid the great fall of foolish men who have built upon the shifting sands of business ethics and the marshlands of the philosophies of man. Much of the world seeks not the Lord as their guide but the blind “. . . and if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14, King James Version) We should seek our mentors among those who can say as the apostle Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1, New International Version)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Q&A with Bible Money Matters Blog

Last week I was asked by the Bible Money Matters blog to do an e-mail interview. Below are the answers to the questions I was asked.

Question: What prompted you to write this book?

Answer:
This book had its beginning in 1999 when I was working for a private Christian university. I had recently finished my first book on Christ-centered leadership and was working on a book discussing the grace of Christ. During this time, I was introduced to a multimillionaire who had recently moved into the area. We soon became friends and he asked if I would help him write a book on the steps to achieving financial freedom. My first reaction was that pursuing such a topic was worldly and could put my spirituality in jeopardy. I held the widely believed myth that “Money is Bad” (myth 23 of the book) and that being rich did not align with the gospel of Christ. After much thought, prayer, and spending countless hours with my friend, I realized I had many misconceptions about money and determined to add financial principles to my research, study, and writing.

Since that time, I have read hundreds of books on financial topics. I was concerned to find that many of the so-called success and financial books had no reference to God. I believe that trying to teach someone how to succeed without God is like trying to teach someone to swim in an empty pool. I discovered that the truly prosperous have learned to include God in all their actions, even those involving money. In the eyes of God, the world is not compartmentalized into temporal and spiritual, for all things (even money) are spiritual to Him.

Question: What would you say to those who dismiss your book as simply another book capitalizing on the "prosperity gospel" that has been so popular in some of the larger mainline churches?

Answer:
I would reply with this comment that I received from one of my readers: “When your book was first given to me, I was skeptical, assuming that you were some sort of rich Bible-thumping kook trying to ease his guilt over being rich by spreading half truths. I have come to see that nothing could be farther from the truth. This book you wrote has made me see things clearer than I ever have before, and I will surely try to spread these powerful truths to everyone I know. In a very real sense, I have been freed.”

Question: If you could tell someone 1 or 2 things they could do to improve their financial life, what would they be?

Answer:
1. Be Teachable
I did a book signing at Costco last Saturday. On multiple occasions after a passerby would read the title of the book, “Does Your Bag Have Holes?” they would answer the question aloud saying, “No. My bag doesn’t have any holes?” C.S. Lewis wrote of pride, “If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.” Put into the context of the book title, “If you don’t think your bag has holes, you are in trouble.” Be willing to learn. Just as it takes thousands of hours of study and practice to develop the skills of a being successful engineer, so also it takes hours of study and practice to master the principles of prosperity.

2. Set Financial Goals with a Plan to Achieve Them
“Only three percent of Americans are independently wealthy: they can live off the income from their investment capital” (Charles A. Coonradt, The Game of Work, (Salt Lake City: Shadow Mountain, 1991) p. xx). Studies have also found that only three percent of Americans have written financial goals. Most people do not achieve financial independence not because it is difficult or complicated, but because they simply have never created the goal and action plan that leads to independent wealth. Most Americans earn enough throughout their working life to become financially independent, but few create and follow a financial plan that leads to freedom.

Question: Your book comes with a definite Christian viewpoint. Do you think that even non-believers can get something positive out of your book, or do you think it will simply appear as foolishness to them?

Answer:
I have received comments from people of non-Christian faiths who have loved the book and benefited from it. The principles throughout the book of faith, prayer, humility, integrity, industry, and charity can be beneficial to all readers regardless of their religious beliefs. Everyone can benefit from the many wonderful stories in the book and topics such as how to raise productive and self-sufficient children, why bad things happen to good people, how to ensure an abundant life and retirement, and the six habits of successful entrepreneurs.
Question: In your book you talk about the 6 choices that people have to make, with their choices deciding where they end up in their financial life. Do you think that any one of those choices is holding more people back than the others, or is it a combination of all these bad choices causing people to fail?

Answer:
All men are born equal but become unequal as they make decisions. Every man chooses to obey laws differently. I don’t think there is any one choice in particular that leads people to failure. The life we live is an accumulation of all our choices. One may choose to play softball while another chooses to build a business. One may choose to turn on the television while another chooses to read books. One may choose to golf on his day off while another chooses to spend time with his family. One man chooses to listen to the radio on his way to work and another man chooses to listen to positive tapes. We are born equal, yet years later live diversely, all because we chose to live divine laws differently. The book Does Your Bag Have Holes? is designed to help people make the choices which lead to greater productivity, abundance, and success.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you . . . into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature. . . To be the one kind of creature is . . . joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.”

Question: In your book you talk about the 4 principles of prosperity. Do you think it is possible to be truly successful without buying into those 4 principles?

Answer:
Our lives are governed by laws and principles, such as the law of gravity. A child, though ignorant of the law, will still fall if he jumps off a ledge. The laws that govern wealth, health, and relationships are as clear and as binding as those that govern the earth, such as gravity. Regardless of whether or not we know or understand the laws, they always operate the same. We might want to eat 10,000 calories a day and not gain weight. We might want to smoke cigarettes, but not get lung cancer. We want to violate laws and principles and still have freedom and prosperity. This is as foolish as a farmer planting corn and expecting to harvest watermelon. Some might also expect financial abundance but learn nothing regarding the laws of wealth. This is as silly as a farmer not planting and expecting a great harvest. Our success or failure, our happiness or unhappiness, depends on our knowledge and application of the laws of success in our lives.

Question: Are there any final thoughts you'd like to leave my readers with?

Answer:
I will leave you will these final words. You are a child of God and as such the seeds of greatness are within you. The only thing that stands between where you are and where you want to be is time and effort. You decide what your life will be like. It doesn’t matter what your past has been because you have the power to choose your future. Choose now to learn, change, and take the necessary actions to make your ideal a reality. Now is the time to live a life of excellence by living the principles of prosperity. Now is the time to be responsible, humble, honest, industrious, thrifty, and charitable. Now is the time to live by these words from the Bible, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, New King James Version) Your Father in Heaven wants you to experience the joys of prosperity and as you seek His help, God will give you inspiration and strength to achieve a life of financial and spiritual freedom. As you live God’s truths, you will achieve happiness, independence, and peace. You will be prosperous.

Top Ten Messages on Signs Outside of Churches

1. Looking for a lifeguard? Ours walks on water.
2. “Keep using my name in vain and I’ll make rush hour longer.” –God
3. Stop, drop and roll will not work in hell.
4. Wal-mart isn’t the only saving place in town.
5. Tithe if you love Jesus. Anyone can honk.
6. You may party in hell but you will be the barbeque.
7. Looking for a sign from God? This might be it.
8. Swallow your pride. It contains no calories.
9. Our Sundays are better than Dairy Queen’s.
10. Following the path of least resistance is what makes rivers and people crooked.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Lessons Learned from the Scratched Ferrari

I volunteer as the Scout Master in our local troop and am currently helping the boys with the Cinematography merit badge. For our script, we needed to film one of the scenes with a luxury car(s), so I arranged with one of my neighbors who has two beautiful Ferraris to film this scene at his home last week.

My five year old son came with me for the filming and was to have a part in the scene as an elf. We were in my neighbor’s garage and he was showing me the pictures on his wall of fame and shame (crashes) of his various vehicles. As we were looking at the pictures, we heard a crash and turned around to see a chair on the front of the red Ferrari. In front of the Ferrari was a raised workbench area with a chair on wheels. My son had accidentally knocked the chair off the workbench platform onto the Ferrari.

Lesson 1
C.S. Lewis taught, “Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.” (C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996) p.166)

A chair damaging my neighbor’s Ferrari definitely caught both me and my neighbor off guard and would certainly classify as a sudden provocation. My son ran and hid behind one of our friends who was with us, who later told me my son’s heart was beating extremely fast as he waited to see what would happen next. I was quite impressed by my neighbor’s reaction. He remained clam and said to my son, “That is why they make paint; I will be able to have it fixed.” From my interaction with this neighbor at church, my impressions were that he was a wonderful disciple of Christ. To see that his immediate reaction was one of patience, love, and concern for my son illustrated that my neighbor truly was a man who had the attributes of love, caring, and patience to his very core.

Lesson 2
When we arrived home after filming, I told Mitchell that even though it was an accident, he was still responsible for the damage that he had caused and he needed to give all the money he had worked for and had been saving over the last several months to our neighbor to help pay for the repair. Well, my son didn’t like this idea and began to cry saying, “I don’t want to lose all my money. I will have to start all over.” I explained to him that when we damage something that is not ours we have the responsibility and duty to pay to repair the damage. His crying continued as I had him take all the dollars and coins out of his savings jar and put them in an envelope for me to take to our neighbor.

As I write this I am reminded of incidences from the life of Abraham Lincoln, who on multiple occasions repaid debt and met financial obligations under severe distress. One of these incidences occurred in 1837, when Lincoln and others had incurred a large financial obligation. Many of those who owed the obligation were impoverished from The Panic of 1837 and none of the debtors were flourishing. Some sought to be relieved of the burden by seeking a legislative amendment which would have removed the obligation, but Lincoln objected to such action saying, “We have the benefit. Let us stand to our obligations like men.” These were trying times for each of those repaying the debt, and at this time Abraham Lincoln’s financial condition was described as worse than penniless because of the burden of debt upon him. At times he was unable to supply even his most pressing needs. Great sacrifices were made to make the payments and repay the debt, and finally after 8 long years the debt was paid in full. The painfully liquidated note is now framed and displayed in a banking-house at Springfield where all who enter may see. It serves as a memorial to the rectitude of the community during those trying times. (Alonzo Rothschild, Honest Abe, (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1917) p. 222-224)

Hopefully, this lesson will help my son learn the need to “stand to his obligations like a man.”

Lesson 3
I returned to my neighbor’s home with an envelope containing my son’s money and a blank check payable to him. When he answered the door, I explained my desire to pay to have the Ferrari repaired. I handed him the envelope and told him that my son had emptied his savings and that I had also enclosed a check to cover the cost to repair the damage. My neighbor handed me back the envelope and check and said, “You are a man of honor, but I can’t take this.” I replied, “I am responsible for the damage and I want to pay to fix it. It’s not fair for you to be responsible for it.” My neighbor then explained that he would be able to have it repaired and that I did not need to worry about it. He then said, “I view it as a donation—a gift.”

My neighbor extended grace to me. He agreed to pay for the damage to his Ferrari that I was responsible for as a gift. Likewise, Christ has paid the price for our sins so we do not have to. Through Christ’s grace, we can be freed from paying the penalty for our sins.

One of the principles inborn within each of us is the principle of justice and fairness. If I were to ask you, “At the final judgment, do you want to be judged fairly by Christ?,” what would you say? Many to whom I have posed this question answer yes. The reality, however, is that if we were to be judged fairly, we would all go to hell because each of us has sinned and thus broke the law. As a result, we cannot be saved in heaven if judged fairly. This is where Christ comes in—He is our Savior. He has paid the penalty for our sins and thus can extend to us His grace and mercy. Those who receive Eternal Life do so as a gift from Christ, not because they have earned it or deserve it.

My initial reaction to my neighbor’s gift was that it was not fair for him to pay for something that was my responsibility. Likewise, I think some have a hard time accepting the doctrine of the grace of Christ because it is not fair. It is not fair that we should receive a great reward like Everlasting Life as a gift. In an attempt to make things more fair, some try to earn or work for Eternal Life thinking, “Surely, I must have to earn such a great reward.” The Bible teaches that salvation “. . . is not dependent upon the merits (Romans 3:27), wisdom, or the works of man to any degree; it is given as a free gift to man through God's grace or benevolence.” (Sidney B. Sperry, Paul's Life and Letters, p. 174) The idea of being given eternal life when we haven’t earned it seems to violate the law of justice and fairness and thus is hard for some to accept even though it is true.

A wonderful story from the Old Testament tells of the Lord teaching the Israelites the doctrine of the grace and mercy of Christ. The children of Israel spoke against God and Moses and to chasten the children of Israel “the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it came to pass, that everyone that is bitten when he looketh upon it shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Number 21:6-9, King James Version)

This story in Numbers is an obvious type of Christ. The biting of the people by the serpents is symbolic of sin. Just as there was no way the Israelites could cure themselves of the bites from the serpents, so we can’t cure ourselves of sin or spiritual death, which we all experience because of the fall. The serpent on the pole or cross is symbolic of the atonement of Christ, while the request to look to the serpent and be healed or saved from the bites of the serpents is symbolic of accepting the Savior and thus allowing Him to save us. All the Israelites had to do was look to the serpent and live. However, there were many of the Israelites who did not look at the serpent because it seemed too simple, too easy. Their task was to look and be saved, but there were many who would not, thus choosing to perish. Today there are many who have not fully accepted the doctrine of the grace and mercy of Christ because it seems too easy. It just isn’t fair and thus they try to work their way to heaven.

“Many people, even some Christians, think about themselves through the eyeglasses of the law. Because these eyeglasses are perfection-oriented, they focus upon and magnify all of one’s failures. When such a person has a week in which everything goes well, then he feels good about himself. But if things are less than perfect, his self-esteem drops. In a fallen world, guess which state is more common! So these people become performance oriented in order to reach up toward perfection. It is a man-centered way to feel good about yourself. Using the “law-eyeglasses” dooms a person to failure every time. Perfection is the standard, performance is the method, and depression is the outcome.

“There is another way to attain a healthy self-esteem. It’s called the gospel of Jesus Christ. Listen to the words of Paul, ‘But not apart from the Law the righteousness of God had been manifested. . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.’ (Romans 3:21-24)

“Because I have accepted and trusted in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God now, through grace, sees me as righteous. It’s a whole new pair of glasses to see myself through! Here’s how these “glasses” work. As I put them on, the reality that first impresses me is that I see all men are sinners. Everyone is falling short of the mark. Then I look at myself. All the mistakes, failures, and sins are still there but now, through the eyes of faith, I see that grace has made me acceptable to God. I take a second look just to make sure it’s true. Yes, God in His perfection has accepted me totally apart from the law’s demands and my performance. This is great! Now I don’t have to perform to be accepted. Now I can accept myself. Now I can live with ‘me’ and really get to like me. I have a whole new outlook upon myself. There are Christians who’ve been saved for years but are still wearing the old law-eyeglasses! How regrettable! Let me make a suggestion if you find yourself to be one of these frustrated, performance oriented people. Are you uncomfortable? Go to the doctor and get a new prescription. You will find your new glasses in Romans 3:24. Throw away the old glasses and start living a whole new life! See yourself by faith, the same way God sees you. It will begin to affect you in new and wonderful ways because, as you think in your heart, so are you.” (Ken Radke, But Grace is Enough, (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1991) p. 71-74)

There is no other way to be saved but by grace. As taught the Savior, “I am the away, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6, King James Version)