Category Archives: Christian Living

Are you Called or Driven?

In our Bible class yesterday at church, we discussed James 2.14-26:

“14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” a and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

We also looked at Ephesians 2.8-10:

“8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

The thrust of what our teacher was saying is that we are saved only by grace, but our salvation, our faith, is evidenced by “good works” which God has prepared for us to do.

For whatever reason, during the class, the Holy Spirit was bringing to my mind the warning passage in Matthew 7:21-23:

“21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ”

How are the connected, if at all? How could people do such wonderful things and NOT know Christ? I believe the answer is as follows:

Those in Matthew 7 focused on the results, not on knowing God. I wonder, honestly, if some who do so many great things for Christ really knew him. I recall spending my freshman year at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. Their motto is this: “To know Him and to make Him known”. That’s the right focus and the right order. I will suggest that no matter what we accomplish on this year, none of it matters if we don’t know Christ on an intimate and personal level.

Those in Matthew 7 were highly talented people who were likely seen as being very spiritual and rather successful. I think it would be tough to imagine that these folks were not both popular and seen as spiritual leaders since they could drive out demons and perform miracles.

Those in Matthew 7 were NOT accomplishing the Will of God. It’s hard to imagine that God didn’t want demons driving out or miracles performed, but then again, we have trouble understanding how evil spirits could be sent by God to torment Saul or incite David to take a census or be allowed to afflict Job. It’s not as if once the demons are eradicated that God can now do His work. That is such an immature view of God. No, God can do His work and accomplish His will just fine even when the demonic are present.

We are saved with a view to us doing “good works”. The catch here is that we don’t get to choose or define what a “good work” is. Only God gets to do that. And Ephesians 2.10 is clear: He is preparing us for the work and He is at work in the future preparing the work for us so that when we are called to do the work, the work is prepared for us to be successful and we are prepared to do the work successfully.

Now, we can mess this up in a number of ways. One way that Christian Business Owners – people who are highly talented, smart, energetic and so forth – can mess this up is to see into the future what could be and then decide that it should be and that the combination of the two represents God’s call on our business. I would suggest that we can be led astray from what God is calling us to do when we mistake our drive to be successful for God’s call on our lives.

A “good work” has the following characteristics:

  1. It is a work which God has prepared in advance for us to do
  2. It is a work that God has prepared us to do
  3. It is a work that we learn about through time spent with God
  4. It is a work that is an outgrowth of our faith

With reference to #2, let’s bear in mind that if we can accomplish the work solely through our own talent, then I would question if it is a “good work”. There is much we can accomplish apart from God, but our achievement in “good works” simply must be born in our relationship with God. What is God calling you and I to do? What “good work” has He prepared for us to do?

Our faith in Christ is evidenced by our doing good works. Good works are those which accomplish the will of God. We can do spectacular things which appear to be accomplishing God’s will without ever knowing Christ. We will only know what those good works that God has prepared for us to do are by spending time with God, hearing His voice, knowing Him intimately.

If you do the latter – no matter what you accomplish – you will be doing good works. If you do not do the latter, you are in danger of being told to leave His presence because He “never knew you”.

Bill English

Keeping Yourself Pure and Why it Matters

What happens to a Christian Business Owner when he is in bondage to impurity?

Even though the current DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Revision 5) publish by the APA (American Psychiatric Association) does not include sexual addictions as a stand-alone diagnosis (http://www.projectknow.com/research/sex-addiction-effects/), the effects of constant attention to sex and sexual elements in one’s life has devastating effects on a Christian Business Owner’s ability to fulfill his role as a steward of that which God has given to him.

Note: Even though I’m using the male gender in this article, it should be noted that the population of women who are addicted to sex is on the rise. While their numbers dwarf in comparison to the numbers of addicts for males, it is a growing problem that will need to be addressed by the Christian community.

Paraphilia is a word used in this area to describe (also known as sexual perversion and sexual deviation) the experience of intense sexual arousal to atypical objects, situations, fantasies, behaviors, or individuals. Such attraction may be labeled sexual fetishism. The previous version of the DSM (DSM-IV-TR) describes paraphilias as “recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors generally involving nonhuman objects, the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one’s partner, or children or other nonconsenting persons that occur over a period of six months” (criterion A), which “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” (criterion B).

Note: The DSM-IV-TR names eight specific paraphilic disorders (exhibitionism, fetishism, frotteurism, pedophilia, sexual masochism, sexual sadism, voyeurism, and transvestic fetishism, plus a residual category, paraphilia—not otherwise specified). Criterion B differs for exhibitionism, frotteurism, and pedophilia to include acting on these urges, and for sadism, acting on these urges with a nonconsenting person. Some paraphilias may interfere with the capacity for sexual activity with consenting adult partners. Noe that in the DSM, a paraphilia is not diagnosable as a psychiatric disorder unless it causes distress to the individual or harm to others.

The negative effects of impurity are as follows:

  • Less time spent doing hobbies or hanging out with friends and loved ones.
  • Loss of productivity at work and at home due to the distraction of the sexual addiction.
  • Financial problems related to overspending in an attempt to satisfy the sexual addiction.
  • Loss of employment due to absences, accessing restricted content on the job, workplace sexual harassment, or any other problem related to sexual addiction.
  • Increased chance that substances will be abused.

People who are in bondage to sex and impurity often describe their lives as:

  • Abnormal.
  • Sick.
  • Guilty.
  • Anxious.
  • Ashamed.
  • Regretful.
  • Depressed.
  • Uncomfortable.
  • Numb.
  • Hollow.
  • Empty.

But the relational side-effects are difficult as well:

  • Loss of trust because of lies, deceit, and denial of hurtful things being done.
  • Difficulty in achieving real intimacy, either because of violations of trust that have occurred or because sexual partners are looked at more as objects than as individuals.
  • Failed relationships due to infidelity, lies, or lack of trust.
  • The chance that sexual addiction will lead to legal problems if the behaviors escalate to illegal activities, such as child pornography, soliciting sex, exposing yourself, rape, or any other violation of the law.

So, now that we’ve taken a look at the general effects of bondage to impurity, we need to ask the question with which we started: How does living in bondage to sexual impurity manifest itself in Christian Business Owners? I will suggest that there are five devastating effects:

Lose God’s blessing and start to live under curses (2 Chronicles 7.14)

I have written about 2 Chronicles 7.14 elsewhere on this blog (here, here, here and here), so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say that until you repent of your sin and turn away from it, God will not be able to bless you. Instead, you will live under His curses. You don’t want to live under God’s curses.

The larger point, from 2 Chronicles 7.14 is that your “land” (think “my business”) will not be healed (assume your sin is causing problems in your business) until you repent of your sin. Keep living in sin and your business will continue to be unhealthy – sick – diseased and so forth. Your cash flow problems might look like a collection problem, but consider that God is causing your customers to pay late. Your employee problems might look like training and maturity issues, but consider that God is causing enmity to exist between yourself and your employees that cannot be resolved by training courses. It may be that, no matter what you do, your business is deteriorating. You’re living under the confusion, curses and rebuke (Deuteronomy 28.20, 28) that comes from God when we, as Christians, live in sin.

I would suggest you get on your knees and see what sin you have that needs to be confessed before God, repent of your sin, then listen to His voice to see what your next steps are, both in life and in your business.

We lose our strength to discern and fight the spiritual battles that a Steward of God will need to fight

Your business does not belong to you – it belongs to God. Everything we have comes from God. We are merely stewards of that which God has given to us. When we live in sin, we lose our sensibilities (Deuteronomy 28.20, 28) and our arrogance kicks in, causing us to think that we can handle it – we can do it on our own. You know, Samson killed over 1000 men in his defense of Israel, but it took only one woman to bring him down. If you can no longer spot the spiritual battles that you’re in because you’ve lost your spiritual radar due to your own sin, then it will be no wonder that Satan will play you like a puppet. As a business owner, can you discern when you’re in a spiritual battle?

Lose your honor and dignity

Assuming your sin comes to light, you’ll lose your honor and dignity in the company of your church, your personal network and your business network. Is your impurity worth it?

Lose your wealth

You’ll lose your wealth either by spending it on one or more women or by your business deteriorating to the point of bankruptcy. But either way, the Bible promises that you’ll lose your wealth. Just consider the first part of Proverbs 5:

7 Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say.

8 Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house,

9 lest you lose your honor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel,

10 lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich the house of another.

11 At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent.

12 You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction!

13 I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors.

14 And I was soon in serious trouble in the assembly of God’s people

If you’re in bondage to impurity – then do whatever it takes to get free. Do it today. It’s the only way you can steward your business for God in a way that will be pleasing to Him.

Bill English

Do not Wear Yourself Out to get Rich

Proverbs 23.4: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint”.

Hmmm……

Are you serious? Turn away good customers who are ready to buy my products and services?

Yep.

Do you mean, work less even though I could make more money and thus give more money to God?

Yep. (Hint: God doesn’t need your money)

Are you kidding me? Restrain my sales team?

Yep.

Think about it.

Why would God have written this – intended for our good? I can think of at least four reasons.

First, when we throttle our businesses and our success, we purposefully create margin in our lives so that we have time for the things that really matter – time with God and with family. I’ve met way too many business owners who chase the next deal, loading up their over-worked staffs with more and more work because they are incapable of throttling themselves or turning down another deal. These individuals have no margin. They usually end up crashing, losing their marriages, key employees and losing their money too. They burnout. They didn’t build in margin. They tried to stuff too much work into too few hours.

Second, when we throttle our businesses and our success, we demonstrate that we love God more than money. Many successful business owners get a taste of success and they are instantly hooked. They become intoxicated. They become driven by their need for money – they love it – they love profits – they love wealth and riches. They pursue what they love and no matter how much they have, they always want more. Christians are not to be like this.

Thirdly, when we throttle our businesses and our success, we show our employees respect by not expecting them to work longer and longer hours to support more and more sales. We show that we want them to have a life outside of work and we support them by making sure their workload is reasonable.

Lastly, when we throttle our businesses and our success, we show that we value wisdom and understanding more than money or riches. Proverbs is constantly comparing the value of material wealth to wisdom and you know what? Wisdom wins every time. Have the wisdom…. It takes wisdom to show restraint, because only the wise understand the empty and fleeting nature of wealth.

Money and wealth will never make your happy. Never. Ever. Never. Never. Never. Never.

So don’t be fooled. Work hard – yes. Make money – yes (see Luke 19). But if you can make more by pushing yourself and your staff to being out of balance, then turn back and have the wisdom to show restraint. Money isn’t worth it. Turn your heart to Jesus Christ. Only He can fill that big, empty void you’re stuffing with money. Let Him fill you and you’ll find yourself having the wisdom to show restraint.

Bill English

How Open Should an Owner Be about Their Christian Faith?

Recently, I’ve had several Christian Business Owners ask me about how much of their faith should they openly display in their business.

Their question brought me back to my high school days in which one of my classmate’s father owned a business. I was going to see him about purchasing a yearbook advertisement when I couldn’t help but notice in his lobby this rather large sign on the wall:

“This business is dedicated to the glory of Jesus Christ”.

If I recall correctly, he had lost both his business and his wife about a year later due to his affair with his rather well-blessed secretary.

How much should a Christian Business Owner share about his or her faith with employees, vendors, partners, customers and the community? Interestingly enough, the Bible is silent on this question. When you consider the four core purposes for business – Products, Passions, Profits and Philanthropy – you’ll find that even in fulfilling the purposes God has for business, there is ample room for variation on the degree of intensity and the frequency of display in which Christian Business Owners can engage when integrating their business into their faith.

However, I find that Esther’s life can give us some principles to live out which will call all of us in business – to one degree or another – to display our faith in the marketplace. But it won’t be some pretty sign or pithy saying or eloquent web page. We’ll have to lay our lives bare and be willing to risk it all to stay faithful to Jesus Christ.

At this point, if you’ve not read the book of Esther, I would ask that you stop reading this article – go read the book of Esther and then return here to continue.

You didn’t go read it, did you? Ok – we’ll move on anyways.

Esther was a Jew who, through a series of events, became the Queen to Xerxes, a king who seemed to like food (he was always holding a banquet), money (he used the banquets to display all his wealth) and women (he made sure he enjoyed an endless supply of women and rated them on how well they pleased him). So, we have a guy who probably was fat, very rich, all powerful and loved sex. Other than the “all powerful” part, this seems to describe many men in American today. There really is nothing new under the sun.

Not to be crude, but I suspect he enjoyed all kinds of sex – I doubt little was outside his range of enjoyment. Recall at the beginning of Esther, he wanted to display the beauty of wife for everyone to see – which meant he wanted to display her body fully naked to show all the men what he could enjoy at any moment, any time, at his discretion. She was just another luxury he had that others didn’t have. His arrogance was profound.

So, Esther makes it all the way to being his Queen without ever revealing her identity or her religion. Commentators have taken her to task for this, roundly criticizing her silence about her beliefs. I’m not so sure I’m all that critical of her. One can’t really know what it was like to have such luxuries given to them in exchange for pleasing the most powerful man on earth sexually. Today, we would call her a trophy wife or a “kept woman” or at the worst, a prostitute.

Yet, the writer of Esther doesn’t condemn her for her silence. Instead, the writer focused on God having placed her in her position of favor with the King so that His people could be saved. Much like Esther, as business owners, we have been entrusted with position and a platform in our communities.

Through another series of events, Esther becomes the only person on the planet who could save the Jews from complete eradication from the face of the earth and through her bravery along with three days of fasting before the Lord, God saves his people.

Now there are two macro points that I believe can be applied appropriately to Christians who own businesses. The first is this: silence about your beliefs is not condemned in this story. Now, before all you folks who protest that we should never be silent about our beliefs, I want to point out that there is a certain decorum that is expected in the business world about how faith is lived out – especially from those who don’t believe the way we do. Even within Christian circles, there are different level of comfort and expectations about how one goes about sharing their faith appropriately. Don’t be so quick to judge others if you don’t share your faith regularly. And if you do, check your arrogance at the door. God hasn’t made you like another and vice versa. I can’t find a place in the Bible where we are commanded to openly share our faith in the marketplace.

When I first started in business, we had daily prayer sessions at my business. I made it clear that no one was forced to attend and that non-attendance or attendance at the prayer times would have no effect at all on performance reviews. After about a year, it became clear to me that some used those times to get out of meetings in which they should have participated. It caused problems. My staff was about half Christian, half not. Those who didn’t believe didn’t say anything, but I received back-channel messages that all were not enthusiastic about the prayer times. I, myself, found it was more and more difficult to attend due to my travel schedule and my heavy meeting load when I was in the office. The prayer times eventually faded away and I didn’t try to resuscitate them. Was I wrong? I don’t think so.

I’ve met some business owners who open meetings with prayer. I was one of them. I’ve met others who feel it is wrong to share your faith with employees due to the power imbalance between an owner and an employee. I’ve often wondered how I would react if I worked for a Muslim employer who took time, with half the staff, to pull out their mats and pray toward Mecca. How would I feel? Would I be drawn to Islam as a result? Or would I resent that those who shared my employer’s faith got, essentially, an extended break to practice their faith while I was expected to work? Would I judge he quality of their work more closely because of their openness about their faith? Probably. I’m human, you know.

How open or silent you are about your faith with your employees, I’ve concluded, is a decision to be explored between you and God. I am not in a place to tell you what to do or not do. I believe this is one area in which we need to allow freedom and difference – and to value those differences.

The second point we can learn from the story of Esther is this: God has given us a position of status and a platform for speaking out at the right time by entrusting us with a business in the marketplace. I will suggest that as time passes, more and more of us will be called to risk everything we have to stand up for God. Esther risked her life to stand up for her people and God. He may very well ask you to do the same. I think the question will be whether or not we will be faithful to God, even if it means losing our business and our source of income, not to mention our reputations and influence. In the face of death, Esther stood up. Will you stand up? Will I?

The legal environment in which we operate is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity. The cleavage is widening and the divergences are become more profound. I don’t think we’re too far away from the Bible being labled as hate speech by the LGBTQ community and seeing them use the court system to create a set of laws that will profoundly call us to faithfulness and suffering. Christian businesses are under attack. There is a growing segment of our society that sees us as the real terrorists in America. Just read So many Christians, So Few Lions if you don’t believe me. Do you have a proper theology of suffering? Are you prepared to suffer for Christ?

So, in short, how much of your faith should you share in your own business – that’s entirely up to you and the Lord, in my opinion. On the second point, if God calls you to suffer publicly for Him and lose your business, will you stand up? Will you lose it all for Christ? On this question, I fear many more Christian Business Owners will be called by God to suffer. I think the jury is out on how many will be faithful.

Bill English

Sorry, Christians Don’t Get to Retire

I have referenced how I believe that we will need to work well into our 70’s because I simply don’t believe that most have saved enough to be independently wealthy and whatever safety nets that are provided by the Federal Government will have negligible effect in 15 or 20 years.

But I’ve not dealt with retirement, as a concept, directly until now. So let me be direct and blunt:

The Scriptures do not support the notion of retirement.

Retirement implies stagnation, non-productivity and ceasing of growth. It has been retired. It is no longer useful. No longer helpful. No longer “part of the game”.

Sorry, Christians don’t get to become useless, unhelpful, irrelevant and unproductive. It’s not part of God’s plan and it’s not part of His will.

Work is a gift from God. Work existed before the Fall, so work is not a result of the fall nor is work part of the curse that God placed on Adam. I can find no place in the Bible where there is even a hint of support for our American concept of retirement – sitting back, relaxing every day, being non-productive and living off the money we have saved or inherited.

What I do find are passages like this:

Isaiah 60.21-22:

They are the shoot I have planted,

the work of my hands,

for the display of my splendor.

The least of you will become a thousand,

the smallest a mighty nation.

In Psalm 1.3, the Godly person is one who:

…is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

whatever they do prospers

In 1 Corinthians 3.6, Paul uses the imagery of growth when he talks about him planting a seed, Apollos water but giving glory to God because He is the one who causes a person to grow.

One can even point to Philippians 1.3-5, where Paul writes:

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

The idea is that God never stops working in us to grow the “good work” and that He does so until the “day of Christ Jesus”.

The passages I have cited at the tip of the iceberg. There are literally dozens of passages that indicate that God is creative and that He wants us to work and grow until we reach heaven.

Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t sell your business as you get older, but it does mean that as a Christian, you’re not allowed to sit back and do nothing. You must be growing – developing – learning – becoming – until the day you see Christ face to face.

Sorry, Christians don’t get to retire.

Christian Business Owners Never Stop Learning and Growing

Proverbs 8.10-11 says this:

10 Choose my instruction instead of silver,

knowledge rather than choice gold,

11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies,

and nothing you desire can compare with her

The command is pretty clear: choose instruction and knowledge over money and wealth, because the wisdom that you gain from instruction and knowledge is more precious than any wealth you can accumulate.

There are many things worth more than money and wealth, the Bible teaches. This is just one instance where material wealth is deprecated in relationship to something else that God gives us. Another example is 1 Peter 1.3-7:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. [emphasis added]

Note that Peter tells us our faith is more valuable than gold – more valuable than material wealth.

It is a common temptation for Christian Business Owners to desire wealth because we have such a strong potential for creating it. When we own a business, our potential to create wealth is greatly enhanced when compared to a person who is employed with a predictable salary. And frankly, it is fun to make money. There is a feeling of satisfaction that we get when we’ve closed a big deal or earned a sizable bonus. Such reinforcements to creating wealth can build within us a deep desire to make more money – to get that feeling of satisfaction over and over, stronger and stronger.

Yet Proverbs tells us that we should pursue knowledge and instruction ahead of pursuing wealth creation. Peter reminds us that our faith is worth more than any retained earners we’ll create on our balance sheet.

Another common temptation for Christian Business Owners is to “pack it in” – to coast. To reach a certain age and then stop growing and developing, whether personally or professionally. When we do this, we’re running counter to the given assumptions of the Proverb’s passage – i.e., that we’ll be in a state of always growing and developing. Don’t let the lure of wealth with its’ comforts and perks cause you to stop learning and growing. Keep pursuing knowledge and instruction – keep pursuing learning and mentoring. Never stop. Don’t give up. Keep going. Why? Because those who stop growing become ineffective and unproductive for the work of the Kingdom (2 Peter 1.5-11):

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, our work is for the Kingdom of God, not for our businesses. Anything that gets in the way of advancing the Kingdom and our holiness and sanctification should be jettisoned. This includes “coasting” as we get older.

Be sure that your heart is not set on accumulating wealth. And be sure that you’re learning and being instructed, regularly, persistently.

Bill English

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