Category Archives: Business

portfolio review



Evening“, Caspar David Friedrich (1774 – 1840), 1824
Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany

Luke 12:32-24

For Sunday, August 11, 2013
Year C, Proper 14

The investors among us know that it’s helpful to complete reviews of our portfolios periodically.  Which holdings are doing well?  Which are doing poorly?  Does the strategy still make sense?  This passage is an invitation to complete a portfolio review on our very lives.

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (v. 32). To what extent do we live in financial fear and accordingly constrain what God wants to do with us?  If we really believed we are being given God’s kingdom how  might we live differently?  Earlier in our lives, my wife Heather and I took this to heart by leaving the business world to serve the church in Russia.  The fear we had in doing so was completely unjustified.  We never lacked.  Sure, there were days where there was only a dollar in our earthly account, but this was returned to us 100 times in lboth secular and eternal rewards.  You and I are being given the kingdom of God, and we would do well  to set our financial (and vocational) priorities accordingly.

Sell your possessions and give to the poor” (v. 33).  Is your inner voice speaking as mine does?  “Yeah right.  Who actually does this?”  The people who do this are smart investors who understand that a clutter of possessions merely chokes the joy out of life.  We don’t need to sell our homes and cars to begin to experience the blessing to which this verse invites us.  How about starting with all of the junk in the garage and in the basement?  What if we sold this stuff used the proceeds to bless someone else in need?  Have you ever heard of eBay?  Where is the downside?  With a positive experience from this first step the sky might be the limit.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (v. 34).    How much of my  treasure is in my 401(k), IRA, and bank accounts?  Alternately, how much of my treasure is in the eternal investments I’ve already made, am making, and will make?  Is the next car or the next career move really going to bring me greater life satisfaction?  Or is the real payout in seeing how I can use my current car and my current position to make eternal investments that can neither be stolen away nor rust into oblivion?   Is my treasure in the here and now or the there and then?

Let’s each use this day to complete our own portfolio reviews.  Where am I letting fear cloud my judgment?  What possessions could I sell to enjoy greater simplicity while also being a tangible blessing to someone else?  Is my portfolio more focused on the here and now or the there and then?
How is God speaking to you through all of this?  What is one thing he is prompting you to do about it this week?  Would you be willing to share it here so that we are mutually encouraged and you are duly emboldened?

from whence comes character?


Galatians 5:1, 13-25
For Sunday, June 30, 2013
Year C Proper 8

I participated in a seminar last week called “The Speed of Trust” which is an offering of Franklin Covey.  One of the seminar’s key insights was that organizational capacity flows from trust which in turn flows in significant measure from character.  Yet from whence flows character?

Contemporary secular education of either the secondary or post-secondary variety doesn’t seem much interested in the answer.  In a milieu obsessed with tolerance and diversity character sounds constricting.  Yet who can argue with what Franklin Covey is suggesting?  Trust does flow from character and we all know it.  So if one knows one’s character is flawed (read “everyone”) where ought one go for repairs?  As good as the Franklin Covey course was it’s not nearly as good as the gospel in this regard.

What drags us down is what Paul refers to in these verses as our sin nature or “flesh”.  We are corrupted beings in that we’ve been alienated from the one who created us and without whom we are naturally  pulled toward “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.”  If you doubt the veracity of this observation please observe that genus of newly loosed humans known as college students at the large public university near you.  Sure, as we mature, many of us settle down, and reign in the darker demons of our nature, but what if instead of settling for this, we could replace this corrupted nature with a new nature that tends not toward these depravities, but is instead pulled in the opposite direction.  This is the presence of the Spirit in the lives of Christians.  “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness,and self-control.

Christianity is not a constricting undergarment.  Instead, it is an invitation to freedom from the pull of corrupted character.  Want to be a trusted employee, colleague, or friend?  Then let us exchange our corrupted characters for the new character offered us through faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.  “For freedom Christ has set us free.

the chaff heap of history

Kandinsky, "Yellow, Red, Blue", 1925

Kandinsky, “Yellow, Red, Blue”, 1925

For Sunday, December 16, 2012
Zephaniah 3, Isaiah 12, Philippians 4, Luke 3
Third Sunday of Advent

At one of my sons’ request, we started meeting two weeks ago to discuss the key features of the Christian faith.  We agreed to use the Westminster Shorter Catechism as the basis for our conversations.  Catechisms aren’t popular these days in evangelical circles, maybe because they sound so Catholic.  Yet replacing “catechism” with “conversation”, what better way to ground ourselves in what we really believe than to ask questions and formulate answers?   A friend recently pointed out that 85% of all evangelical kids are presently abandoning their faith after high school.  Is this because the counter case is so strong, or because their grounding is so shallow?

The first question I raised for my son was, “What is the chief end of man?”  I asked him, “How do you think most people today would answer this?”  Without hesitation he answered, “To get more stuff.”

This week’s passages offer a sharp contrast to this “get more stuff” view of life.  There is a God who loves us deeply; at present we are under punishment as a result of our alienation from him; yet God himself is at work to remove our punishment and reconcile us back to him.  Zephaniah puts it this way: “Be glad and rejoice with all your heart . . . The Lord has taken away your punishment.  The Lord … is with you; never again will you fear any harm.”   Isaiah concurs: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”  Luke then puts a point on the decision before us either to accept or reject the offer of redemption God offers to each of us through Jesus Christ: “His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

If the Bible speaks truth, those of us choosing to live to “get more stuff” are going to end up on the chaff heap of history.  Deep down, if we actually stop to think about it, we already know this.  We also know there is something far better intended for us.  The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.  It is the Advent of Jesus that has secured this end for each of us.

This is why the Apostle Paul could say to the Philippian Christians with such confidence and conviction: “Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything …  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Who’s your builder?

Psalm 127
For Sunday, November 11, 2012
Proper 27

My Dad was very successful in his business career as a banking senior executive in the days before “banker” became a pejorative. Yet as a college student I was concerned for him because I sensed him becoming a hostage to his own pride. I started praying for him the first line of this Psalm: “Unless The Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.” I prayed, “Lord, let my Dad see that unless you become his builder everything he’s building will come crumbling down.”

My sophomore year at Indiana University (Bloomington) I had returned home over Thanksgiving break. At 10:00 am in the morning Dad’s Allen Edmunds dress shoes announced themselves on the kitchen’s linoleum floor. I knew immediately something was wrong. Dad was never home mid-morning of a workday. I asked, “What happened?” He said, “Well. . . I was just fired.” I thought to myself, “Lord, I wanted you to break his pride, but I didn’t want to get him fired!”

Then God gave me a word for the moment. “Dad, I’m so sorry, but maybe this is a great opportunity to do something else. What would you really like to do if you could?” Over the next few months he gave this question serious thought. He also realized that his heavenly Father ought to become his builder. He bought a business named Tekra and over the rest of his career profoundly blessed many other. I know this because so many of them sought me out at his funeral to share what a profound blessing he had been to them both personally and professionally.

To each of us Psalm 127 puts this question: Who’s your builder? If you are content with a slumping sandcastle as the product of your life’s construction please feel free to carry on. If on the other hand you would like home that is an eternal legacy to the true, the good, and the beautiful, God is ready and willing to start construction immediately.

be careful what you ask for

Mark 10:35-45
For Sunday, October 21 
Proper 24

James and John were competitive guys.  They really liked being close to Jesus and his influence.  They worked out a plan and came to Jesus with a proposal: “Jesus, we think we’re well positioned to be your right and left-hand men, respectively.”  What Jesus didn’t say was, “You know, I’m impressed with your performance, so here’s a piece of the brass ring.”  What he said instead was, “Be careful what you ask for.

Being a leader in the Christian sense means not assuming a place of privilege but rather putting others before yourself.  It means giving your life away that others may live and thrive.  This applies to leaders who are Christians regardless of where they are found, whether in business or on their hip anti-pulpit bar stools.

A Christian in leadership is not chief but servant.  What do you really want?  To become a tyrant who lords it over everyone else or to follow the Lord who gave his life literally that we might live and thrive where we are today?

Where’s the beef?

Rembrandt, “The Apostle Paul”

2 Corinthians 6:1-13
For Sunday, June 24, 2012
Proper 7

Where’s the beef?  In a nutshell, this is what the Apostle Paul is asking the Corinthians in this passage.  He says, “As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain” (v. 1).   For Paul the gospel was everything.  He had himself received the grace of God deep within his person and understood its significance.  This is what propelled him forward in “troubles, hardships, and distresses” (v. 4).

As I’ve heard my friend and pastor Steve Sonderman puts it: “The greatest gift you can give to another person is your own spirituality“.   Paul could point to the reality of the gospel as made manifest in his own life.  No one could ask of Paul, “Where’s the beef?”.  He was 100% Ground Sirloin.

Can we say the same?  Are we just playing at Christianity or maybe just pursuing it professionally?   The validation of Paul’s ministry was not in the title “Senior Pastor” or even “Apostle”.  The validation of his ministry was the extent to which he opened wide his heart (v. 11) in a ministry of service to others.   As we live today in our families, in our workplaces, and in our churches, may we experience the blessing of doing the same.

Reader’s Corner:
Based on this passage is the Apostle Paul someone you would enjoy meeting?  Why or why not?

betrayal and the purpose of God

The Apostle Matthias. Workshop of Simone Martini.

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
For Sunday, May 20, 2012

Seventh Sunday of Easter 

Often it is the betrayal of those closest to us that hurts the most. Imagine how the original twelve disciples must have felt when one of their own, Judas, turned out to be a traitor to their cause. This wasn’t just any cause: this was Jesus, supposed Savior of the World.  “Judas, how could you do it?!”

In these verses the Apostle Peter offers some helpful guidance for dealing with betrayal.  First, says Peter, recognize that betrayal will happen.  Peter quotes Psalm 69:25 which speaks of a place being deserted.  The discerning reader may ask, “But how does Peter get from a place being deserted to Judas deserting Jesus?”  Peter is not suggesting that Psalm 69:25 predicted Judas’ betrayal.  What he is suggesting is that Psalm 69 in its entirety speaks to how to find God when one is in over one’s head.  The Psalm teaches that whilst we may find ourselves in such a predicament God is still there, still sovereign, and will show the way forward.  Betrayal will happen but God is still present.

Second, says Peter, remember that God’s purpose is bigger than betrayal.  Peter now quotes Psalm 109:8.  Just as with the quotation above Peter is not thinking of this verse in isolation.  He is thinking of the Psalm as a whole.  David Gooding notes in his commentary on Hebrews (one of my favorites on Hebrews and one of my favorite commentaries period) that quotations from the Psalms often function like prophetic icebergs.  One verse is visible above the surface, but there is a lot more going on in the depths beneath.  Psalm 109 speaks of wicked and deceitful men and what to do about them.  What should be done?  “Let another take his place of leadership.”  Men may betray God’s purpose, but God’s purpose is bigger than betrayal.

The betrayal of Judas was a volcanic explosion yet it is just such upheavals that produce the richest of soil in which future growth can flourish.  Matthias took Judas’ place. He flourished as the gospel flourished in the rich soil created by a terrible betrayal.

Stinging from a betrayal?  Remember, God is still here, and his purpose is bigger than whatever betrayal has befallen you.

Reader’s corner
Have you been blessed by this blog?  Might you then take a minute to contribute to it?  My ambition is to serve and bless others through this ministry of writing and feedback of would be a blessing to others and feedback of both a reinforcing or constructive variety is invaluable.  Thank you!