Do You Have 30 Minutes for God?

“I don’t have time.”

“I’m too busy.”

At one time, these were my mantras whenever somebody would speak to me about investing time each day to read my Bible and go to God in prayer.  One day, it hit me. Am I really too busy for God? Can I not find 15 to 30 minutes for Him during my supposedly “too busy” day?

Here’s how I spent my time: I set a morning alarm that went off just in time to allow me a quick shower, wake the kids, skip breakfast and rush to work. After working all day I dodged traffic, talked a little bit with my wife, ate dinner, sometimes helped the kids with homework, watched TV, set my alarm and went to bed. All to repeat itself day after day, week after week. Nope, I clearly had no time for God. Or so I thought.

To be honest, I do not recall the exact circumstances under which God convicted me of my misuse of the time He gives me each day – but He did. So one night I set my alarm to wake me 15 minutes earlier than usual, and with that extra 15 minutes I would get up before anybody else and begin reading my Bible. The rule was no Facebook, no Twitter, no email and no news until I had completed my daily reading.

Studying Jeremiah

Travel Bible study. Taken 9.15.2013, Chicago, IL

You know what? It didn’t take long for God to bless that investment of 15 minutes each morning. He blessed it by connecting me more closely with Him. I approached my day with a different attitude than I had before. And if, for some reason, I missed my morning Scripture time I felt it throughout the day.

You see, God created us to be in relationship with Him; Not just for one hour each Sunday morning, but always. He reveals Himself and He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible. The Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, is rich with words to us from God Himself. If we never open our Bible, if we never read His Word, we deny ourselves access to the deep relationship God wants with each of us.

Over the last two years I have read through the Bible in its entirety twice. I am more in tune with who God is and how I am to relate to Him than ever before. Through my (almost) daily Bible reading, God has given me a filter through which I can discern truth from fiction, sound teaching from false teaching. I believe I am a better husband, a better father, a better employee, a better boss, and a better friend. No, I’m not perfect – not even close. But God has used my daily investment of time to sanctify my life and help me become closer to the man that He wants me to be.

My daily time with God has grown to 30, sometimes 45 minutes. You know how time seems to fly when you’re engaged in conversation with your best friend? That investment of time is no longer a burden. On the contrary, I cannot imagine my day without Him.

Through technology, God has given us a wonderful tool to aid in our reading and study. I use The Bible App on my Kindle Fire and on my iPhone. The app offers access to Scripture in a variety of versions. It offers a plethora of Bible reading plans of various lengths. Even when traveling on business, I have God’s Word available to me in an easy and convenient format. It is through this app that I have read the entire Bible twice in two years time, and through it I have embarked on my third journey through Scripture in 2016.

“I’m too busy.” No, you’re not.

“I don’t have time.” Yes, you do.

Don’t let the devil keep you from your Lord. Today is the day; why not begin today?

My Theme for 2016

I abandoned the notion of the New Year’s Resolution several years ago, and 2016 is no exception. But as I sit here in the wee hours of the first morning of the new year, having been awakened by a squeaky dryer and a yearning for a good cup of coffee, two things come to mind that I choose to set as my theme for this year. One is a passage from Scripture and the other is a quote from a well known country & western singer.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” ~ Micah 6:8 NASB

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” ~ Brad Paisley

What does a Micah 6:8 man look like? And how can I make Micah 6:8 the overriding theme of my 2016 book?

God says through the prophet Micah that He requires three things of me:

  1. IMG_3045

    Memorial Lutheran Church, Katy TX

    To do justice. When I think of justice, I think of fairness. I think of treating others as I would like them to treat me. While these things are true, justice is a far weightier concept than that. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23) As leaders in the synagogue, the Pharisees were often more concerned with how others perceived their practice of religion rather than leading their congregation to a broader understanding of God. They elevated themselves above those whom God had called them to minister. Justice here puts each of us on an even plane. Yes, I am to practice the disciplines of my faith, not to glorify myself but to align myself more closely with God. At the same time, I must seek to serve and minister to others in whatever way and by whatever means God calls me. The Bible says that we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God (see Romans 3:23). A Micah 6:8 man never seeks to elevate himself above those around him – in church, in his family, at work – anywhere, any time.

  2. To love kindness. Jesus also said, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) How do I want others to treat me? I bet we all want pretty much the same things: to be treated with dignity and respect under any and all situations and circumstances. What would this world look like if each of us put these words of our Lord into practice? What would it look like if each of us actively sought to help meet the needs of others as they seek to help us meet ours? If each of us sought to live our lives under this mandate of Jesus’, kindness would abound. Isn’t it worth a shot?
  3. To walk humbly with your God. The Pharisees, seeking to trap Jesus, asked Him what is the greatest commandment in the Law. Jesus replied, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Notice who these two greatest commandments are NOT about: they’re not about me. They are about Him and His creation. Even the Ten Commandments reflect this, as the first four address our relationship with God and the last six address our relationship with others – our neighbors. A lifestyle of walking humbly with my God demonstrates a focus on Him and the people He has placed into my life. It does not seek a position of superiority over either.

IMG_3046As I look back over the pathway of my life thus far, I am thankful that God has chosen to gift me with a vibrant and an ever-growing faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. I look forward to continuing that journey with Him during 2016 as He wills. For my part, I will seek to be in His Word daily, converse with Him through daily prayer and meditation, worship with fellow Christians each Sunday, and seek to live out Micah 6:8 in all areas of my life. 2016 is a leap year, thus we all have an extra page to write in this brand new, clean book we’ve been given. With God’s help, my 2016 book will be pleasing to Him and to those around me.

Happy New Year!

On Donald Trump, Terrorism, Divisiveness and Change

Trump

Photo credit: slate.com

Donald Trump sure has struck a nerve. Today I read a news article reporting that Trump now has a 20-point lead over his GOP rivals according to the latest CBS/NY Times poll. Here is a link to the story. Although I am not a Trump supporter, I get it. There is a perception by many of inaction by the current Administration. There is frustration and concern among many Americans that we have a government that is completely out of touch with mainstream America, as it appears to operate primarily for the personal benefit of those holding office. I share many of these perceptions. Donald Trump is challenging the status quo and the status quo doesn’t like it.

San Bernardino should have been a huge wake-up call to the nation, for San Bernardino proves that there are terrorists living among us. They have blended into society. They act and behave as you and I do, at least in public. They hold jobs. And they wait for their time to strike. In these trying times, Americans want strong leadership from Washington. We want a president who is clearly tuned in to what’s going on and who has a plan to address it. We want to be assured that our government has our safety and well being in front of mind. Unfortunately, many of us perceive just the opposite from President Obama. Trump’s proposals for dealing with terrorism, albeit controversial, are at least proposals of some sort of action. And, while I disagree with his proposals, I get it.

obama speech

Photo credit: foreignpolicyblogs.com

But let’s pause for a moment. Even among my doubts and concerns, I believe that our government is hard at work trying to address this problem. The United States has some of the best intelligence gathering forces in the world, and I believe our government has information that is probably quite rich. I trust that there is a plan, or at least a plan in the works. Is it realistic, or even prudent, to think that the president will call a press conference, take the lectern, and cite chapter and verse of all this work and our plans for defeating terrorism? Of course not! Setting my perceptions of governmental inaction and ineptitude aside, I really don’t believe that the president and his advisors are sitting on their hands on this issue. That just doesn’t make sense. I think it’s time for those of us who have been so critical of Mr. Obama to cut him a bit of slack. This is not an easy problem to solve.

I also think it is time for we Americans to take a collective deep breath. We are divided, and our divisiveness does not help matters; it makes them worse. My Facebook feed is replete with what I call “Facebook Pundits”: These are people who are self-declared experts on what the government should or should not do to address terrorism and other issues facing our great nation; People who refuse to listen and consider opinions and statements by those with whom they disagree; People who demonize the liberal or the conservative whose views and opinions differ from their own; People who post half truths, and even blatant lies, in sorry attempts to forward whatever agenda they’ve chosen to support. Mark my words: this divisiveness will bring down our country long before ISIS or any other enemy does. It must stop, and it must stop now.

vote

Credit: usvotefoundation.org

America was founded on several wonderful principles, one of them being the fact that we are not subjects of our government; our government works for us. We have a process of electing individuals to serve at our will from the President through Congress; from state governors through local town councils. Whether we voted for the individuals in office or not, we must unite around them. We must lift them in prayer. We must join together and present a united front against those who would threaten our national and personal security. When we disagree with our government or with one another, we must do so civilly and respectfully. And as we do so, we must hold those whom we have hired to represent us accountable for their actions or lack thereof by becoming informed, offering constructive feedback, and exercising our right to replace under performers via the power of our electoral process.

Which brings me full circle, back to Donald Trump. I’m glad he has the government establishment and the elitists in the mainstream media in a tizzy. I’m glad he’s calling them out and speaking his mind. But I cannot support him because Trump epitomizes the divisiveness and name-calling that I believe is very problematic for our country. I believe he could do considerable damage representing America to the world in his style and demeanor. Under the current Administration, our country has become more divided than ever. We need a leader at the helm who will set the tone I described above; one who will seek to unite our divided nation and lead us to a brighter and more prosperous future. Based on what I’ve seen from Mr. Trump to this point, he is not that man.

Right now things are looking rather grim. We need change. How about taking the lead? Let’s resolve together to be the change we seek. Let’s resolve not to continue to throw gasoline on a fire that is nearly out of control. Rather, let’s resolve to treat others – all others – with the dignity and respect each deserves as a child of our Creator. If each of us will do so, we won’t have to wait until January 2017 for change. The change can start right now.

Syrian Refugees – Where Do You Stand?

This is a tough one. On one side, we have those who believe ISIS is using the Syrian refugees as camouflage for smuggling operatives into the United States. On the other side we have those who dismiss that idea, citing similar fears in American history; think Nazi infiltrators blending with Jewish refugees and the rounding up of Japanese Americans into concentration camps to mitigate the threat that they supposedly presented – both of these during WW II and neither, as far as I know, actually posing a threat in hindsight. They also cite a lack of hard evidence that ISIS does, in fact, have operatives hiding amongst the Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the United States.

Sadly, in the middle, we have thousands of people who have been displaced from their homeland through no fault of their own. These people pose no threat to anyone, yet because of a perceived threat to local and national security, many Americans including several candidates for president and 31 state governors oppose their entry into our country.

My Facebook feed is rife with strong positions on both sides of the issue. I get it. People are scared, and rightfully so given the tragic recent attacks on innocent people promulgated by ISIS. But are we too scared? Are we, in our fear, playing right into ISIS’ hands?

Personally, I don’t believe that ISIS needs the refugees to help them smuggle operatives into our country. They are already here and in touch with ISIS leadership. Don’t believe me?

Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson told CNN on February 8, 2015 that there are individuals living in the United States today who have contact with ISIS and other terrorist groups who have “a desire to conduct an attack” on U.S. soil.” http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/02/08/homeland-security-chief-terrorist-sleeper-cells-us-poised-attack

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, not normally a pundit I cite, reported on May 7, 2015 that “ISIS says it has sleeper cells in 15 states, ready to strike.”  http://www.msnbc.com/hardball/watch/is-isis-setting-up-cells-in-america–441764419625

CNN quoted Michael Steinburg, head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division on February 3, 2015, “there are individuals that have been in communication with groups like ISIL who have a desire to conduct an attack.” He further said that those people are living in the U.S. right now, but the term “sleeper cells” is too simplistic, because the threat is much more complicated and diffuse. http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/politics/fbi-isis-counterterrorism-michael-steinbach/

Google “United States Sleeper Cell” for a plethora of additional examples.

So what’s my point? Simply this. No one can dispute the fact that thousands of innocent people have been displaced from their homeland through no fault of their own. These people need help. They need compassion. And I believe we Americans ought to offer it to them. I do not believe, based on what I have read and heard thus far, that accepting some of the refugees into our country presents a plausible threat to the point that it is reasonable to turn them away. ISIS does not need them to carry out its mission. In fact, I would venture to say that ISIS probably welcomes the distraction that this argument offers, given the news reports cited above.

As a Christian I am called to love my neighbor. When asked to define who is our neighbor, Jesus told a parable in which a Samaritan, loathed and despised by the Jews of that time, was the neighbor to the man who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead alongside the road. (See Luke 10:25-37).

I choose to honor Jesus by loving those who are in need, and I trust that God will protect us as we do so. For I know that the war is already won through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Let us dispense with the fear. Let us look upon these people with the same level of compassion we would want if we were in their position. Let us be Jesus to those who need to see Him through us.

While we’re at it, let’s dispense with the personal verbal attacks on those with whom we disagree. I see both sides of this dilemma; I have chosen the side on which I stand. You are free to choose yours, too. Let’s not attack each other just because we happen to disagree. Never forget that we Americans are all in this together.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2015 Photo Some Days – Flu Shot Season

I am blessed to work for a company that provides flu shots for all employees who want them. They also offer shots to family members at a discount. I caught the flu several years ago. It came on really fast while I was at work. By the time I got home I could barely move, and it had me down for a week. Sadly, I know others whose lives were lost at the hands of the flu. Don’t be a victim. Doctor permitting, get your flu shot, too!

Thanks, IMA!

Did you get your flu shot?

Did you get your flu shot?

2015 Photo Some Days – Photobomb for Charity

The semi-finals were hard-fought, even as temps soared into the 90's

The semi-finals were hard-fought, even as temps soared into the 90’s

IMA Dallas’ annual Sandblast charity event took place on September 17, 2015 and was a smashing success. Benefitting Junior Achievement of Dallas and the IMA Foundation, we moved our venue this year to the Sandbar Cantina & Grill in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood. Several of IMA’s business partners and clients participated in the event. I was particularly impressed with the skill and stamina of many of the volleyball teams, as they continued to play hard as the mercury climbed into the mid-90’s yesterday afternoon.

Sandblast Photobomb!

Sandblast Photobomb!

Of course, we managed to have lots of fun in the process of raising money for these worthy causes. For me, the personal high point of my day was FINALLY delivering my first-ever photobomb! Indeed, I have attempted to bomb many a portrait as the phenomenon has gained in popularity, but have always managed to be busted prior to the shot. This, however, was perfectly timed as two of my coworkers posed for the camera. We work hard at IMA, and I feel particularly blessed to work with a group of good, fun-loving people.

But all joking aside, we raised $15,000 for Junior Achievement, and that is a worthwhile achievement in and of itself. It is indeed a blessing to work for a company that gives so much to the communities in which we live and work.

IMA Sandblast is an annual event. If you have interest in joining us next year, give me a shout. It’s lots of fun and supports a very worthwhile cause.

Sandblast 2015 raised $15,000 for Junior Achievement Dallas!

Sandblast 2015 raised $15,000 for Junior Achievement Dallas!

Cold Call Snafu

Surely you want to talk with this guy!

Surely you want to talk with this guy!

Those of us who cold call as part of our sales strategy know how difficult it can be to get that prospect to answer the telephone. I keep track of such things, and my personal average is a live person in only 7% of calls. I typically leave a message, and I feel especially gratified when a prospect actually returns the call. It’s rare, but it does happen. I received such a return call yesterday evening. I was on I-635 in Dallas headed westbound towards home when my cell phone rang:

Me: “This is Jeff, how may I help you?”

Caller: “This is Jan Brady.” (I changed the name. I had a crush on the real Jan Brady as a boy. Might as well pretend I spoke with her on the phone!) “My receptionist gave me a message that you called while I was in a meeting this afternoon. I don’t know who you are, but she felt I should return the call.”

Crap. The name rings a bell but I sure as heck can’t place the company she’s with. I made almost 50 calls this afternoon. And to make matters worse, I’m moving at 70 miles per hour and she is talking very fast, so of course I didn’t catch her name when she first said it. Buying time and hoping she’d say the name of her company I continued.

Me: “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name. Would you mind repeating it and letting me know who you’re with?”

Caller: “It’s Jan Brady. I live in Dallas and I own a business here. You called me. Do you not know who I am?”

Double-crap. No. I don’t.

Me: “Ma’am, I’m so sorry. I’m in my car and I don’t have my notes in front of me. What company are you with?”

Caller: “This is a solicitation call, isn’t it. My receptionist knows I don’t take solicitation calls and this is why. I’m just one of hundreds of names on a list to you; you have no clue who I am, do you?”

Me: “Ms. Brady, I represent IMA. We are a regional insurance brokerage firm, and we help our clients mitigate their total cost of risk. I am actually very selective about the companies I choose to contact, and I wouldn’t have called you if I didn’t think that we might be able to add value. I apologize for the confusion. You see, I have my office phone set up to automatically forward calls to my cell so that I don’t miss a client if I’m out of the office when they try to reach me. It’s part of the way I serve my clients, and I mean no disrespect.”

I figured it was best to be succinct in my honesty; perhaps I could salvage this call.

Caller: “I have no interest in speaking with you. Remove me from your call list.”

Click.

Of course, I have replayed this call time and again in my head. I’ve banged my head against the proverbial wall. I gave myself a good cussing out. When I arrived in the office this morning I checked my call list from yesterday afternoon and found Jan Brady. I removed her from my call list – for now. And, first thing this morning, I turned off the automatic call forwarding feature on my office phone.

Some day, when Ms. Brady is a client, I’ll relate this story and we’ll share a good laugh. Until then, back to the phones.

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