Sunday, July 28, 2013

What Is Your Value-Add?

I was having a conversation with some people who were concerned about changes in their company and how that may impact them. They were worried that certain organizational changes could result in their job disappearing. It’s a legitimate concern. Businesses will often try to get rid of inefficiencies by reorganizing, and it’s not uncommon to see long-time employees let go because their skillset either isn’t applicable to today’s business needs or because the business believes it can get that need met in a more cost-effective manner. So having been a part of these scenarios in the past, I encouraged the group to consider how they add value to the business goals and how their skillset compares to overall market needs. But walking away, the thought occurred to me: “Most people just don’t know how to think that way.”

A guy shows up to his job for 20-30 years, sometimes working late and missing out on other life opportunities. He’s committed to the company and assumes the commitment is mutual. Then one day, he discovers that his job no longer offers value to the business. Perhaps Human Resources has determined that his activities can be performed by a much less experienced person or maybe technology has made the role obsolete. In short, there’s either no value add or a perception by the business that better value proposition exists. Pink slip in hand, the guy walks out the door to discover the rest of the world has no need for his services… at least not at a wage he can afford to accept. To make things worse, after a few decades in the work force, he’s probably also at a point where he has a family that’s relying on his support. How could this happen? 

Think about it: companies have replaced their Personnel departments with “Human Resources”. To them each person is just another resource in the company, and resources are used based on their perceived value. I’m not saying it is right, and in fact I believe just the opposite. The employer / employee agreement should have greater mutual loyalty, where the employer upgrades a person’s skillset along the way and rewards years of loyal service. But that is not the world in which we live. 

In today’s world, each employee needs to take responsibility for maintaining marketable skillsets and communicating his or her value add to others. It’s extra work, but worth the effort to mitigate the risk of job loss. In risk management, risks are prioritized based on the impact and probability that the risk will occur. If both the impact and probability of losing one’s job is high, then an updated resume and additional certifications are probably a wise idea. However, if the impact and probability of job loss are low, perhaps because of other income, then preparatory action is probably not required. The bottom line is that everyone needs to prayerfully assess their situation and ask the Lord for discernment, wisdom and faithfulness in how to prepare.
So why all this business speak and how does it relate to the things I normally write about?
Well, there are a couple answers to that question. The night after my conversation with these people, I was wakened several times by the Lord with this question: “What is your value-add?” His question hit me on multiple levels: what is my value-add in business; what is my value-add in my family; what is my value-add in my community; what is my value-add in the Kingdom? My initial response was to think as the world thinks, where a person’s worth is related to what they have to offer… in other words the value of what they can do. But that’s not representative of Kingdom values. The Kingdom values even the “least of these”, the little ones, the poor, the broken, the outcast. It is not necessarily the pastor of televised mega-church that will be honored in heaven – he has already received a reward on earth. Rather, it’s the man who, without anyone apparently watching, decides to live a life that’s pleasing to God: who takes time to help the stranger in need; who loses sleep to help his daughter with a school project; who doesn’t take moral shortcuts; who strives for sexual purity; who encourages others along this sometimes difficult but very worthwhile way. Our value-add to the Kingdom is determined by who we are and not by what we do; rather, what we do is determined by who we are. 

As a new believer, I was advised by a mature Christian to “not just do something; sit there.” It was a comical twist on a common saying that implies everyone needs to be productive. The advice I received helped me to understand that sometimes we need to stop and reflect, to draw close to God in prayerful meditation, before we can be truly effective. But the question “What is your value-add” brought back another truth from the advice I had received: I have value just by being. It’s like Immanuel Kant pointed out (roughly translated): no man is a means to an end, but every man is an end in himself. Each generation of believers needs to be reminded of this fact: God loves us for who we are and not what we do. 

One of the other answers to God’s question “what is your value-add” is something that calls for reflection and action. This is a time of preparation. Although everything seems to be well on the surface, there will be an abrupt end to the America as we know it. Each person should prayerfully seek wisdom on this and act accordingly. It could still be decades away, but it could also happen within the year. Along the way, we should probably think about it in risk management terms, letting the impact and probability drive your preparation activities.

copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Very Special Recipe

I heard a story years ago about a father and son conversation. The dad was trying to help his son understand the importance of being sexually pure, but the son thought his father was being unreasonable: 
“C’mon, Dad! Your standard’s a little unreasonably high, don’t you think?”
“I don’t believe so, son. God wants our best, and He doesn’t want it mixed in with anything else.”
“Yeah, but seriously, Dad, what’s a little bit of fun going to hurt? I mean, it’s not like I’m going to hell for a little action. I’m pretty good. You may not think so, but compared to most kids my age, I really am.”
“It’s not a matter of how you compare with others, son; it’s about living for God’s standards. And notice I said ‘for’ His standards, not ‘up to’ His standards. That’s where God’s grace come in…”
“Well, I think God’s grace is big enough for just a little bit of ‘sin’ so I don’t live a completely boring life, don’t you think, Dad?”
Realizing that the conversation was going nowhere, the father took a tactical retreat to think through some way to help his son realize that God's desire for our perfect obedience was for our own good. That night, the father brought a plate of freshly baked brownies out after dinner. The son loved brownies and immediately picked one up to devour it, but the father stopped him, explaining:
“Before you eat that, son, I want you to know that I made these with a special ingredient and that I made them with our earlier conversation in mind.”
“Thanks, Dad. No worries… glad you understand that a little bit of fun is okay.” 
“Well, yes, and just a minute before you eat that, son. Don’t you want to know the special ingredient I put in the brownie?”
At this point, the young man slowly put the brownie down, his curiosity obviously piqued. 
“I started thinking about why God wants us to strive for purity, and I confess that I had a hard time putting it into words. But then I had this idea. I know how much you like brownies, and of course you know God loves you even more than you enjoy brownies, right son?”
“Umm… yeah, so what’s your point?”
“But God wants you to be pure, right? He wants your perfect obedience, but after all, why wouldn’t just a little bit of impurity be okay? I mean, how could that mess up the whole thing, right son? That’s your point, right?”
“What’s in the brownies, Dad?”
“Well, it’s just a little bit. You won’t even taste it.”
“Dad… tell me.”
“If you can’t taste it, what does it matter? It’s just a little bit of impurity… just a secret, special ingredient. Why would a little, tiny bit of dog poop in the batter make a difference?”
Why indeed, does a little bit of impurity matter? I remember that story and for me, it hits home more than any argument. But I think the analogy would be more accurate if that special ingredient were a slow-acting, highly-addictive poison. That’s what sexual sin really is: it tastes good at first and it makes us want even more. It draws us in deeper than we intend to go: a long glance becomes a recurring thought; a compelling day dream drives a search for more gratification; a step into gratification pulls one into patterns of behavior… and so it goes until the unhealthy behavior patterns result in shame and betrayal. But in any given step in this process, there’s a way to step out and return to a pure lifestyle; the pressure, no matter how strong can be resisted and overcome. 
But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right… None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them… Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:21-23)
God delights in our turning back to Him and His ways. If you are reading this, I would say it’s no accident. Maybe you’re looking for freedom and a renewed purity. Maybe you know someone that is. Or maybe you’ve been hurt by someone who has been pulled down so much further than they ever thought they’d go. There is hope and there is healing. 

Live in purity. If you’ve strayed away from that, it’s not too late to return. If you know someone who has gone down the wrong path, you have an opportunity to encourage them in doing good. And if you’ve been hurt, you can learn to forgive… for your sake as much as for the sake of another.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Who is Jesus?

When I was young, denominational lines between churches separated the Body of Christ in America. A person was encouraged to never talk about religion or politics, and the denominational walls remained intact. In my life, I have seen a lot of change within the church. People have been searching for something more than a set of traditional beliefs and the interaction across the former boundaries has changed the Christian landscape in America. And while it’s great that believers from different denominations have been able to interact and pray in unity, I’ve been saddened recently by a realization that the Church’s transformation may have some undesirable consequences. In many ways, Christianity is being watered down and as a result, doctrinal victories are being forgotten.

Take for example the deity of Jesus. Once an incontrovertible tenet of Christianity, I was surprised to find it challenged on separate occasions by a couple men with whom I’ve met with in Bible study and prayer. One of these men, I’ve known for over ten years.  I don’t doubt the good intentions of these men, but “the road to hell is filled with good intentions”. And without an understanding or appreciation of church history, we are vulnerable to falling back into deceptions that have already been exposed.

Pagan propaganda in recent years has challenged Christ’s deity, claiming it was all just a strong-arm tactic of the emperor Constantine, that it was used to solidify his political powerbase through the church as it met in Nicaea. Now it is true that hundreds of bishops convened at the emperor’s invitation to meet on the topic of Christ’s divinity; some participants even came from outside the Roman Empire. Most of these bishops had lived under years of persecution and had repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to die for their faith; this is a fact that pagan propaganda conveniently leaves out. Also, there were no quick decisions. It was not a short meeting, but it took place over a couple months at the end of which an overwhelming majority affirmed the teaching of the apostles: that Jesus is both divinely one with Father God and yet somehow separate. The council decided to document their position so that all of Christianity could unify under this statement of faith. This document has become known as the original Nicene Creed, and of the reported 318 bishops, only two refused to affirm these words:
We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, light of light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of the same substance with the Father, through whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men and our salvation descended, was incarnate, and was made man, suffered and rose again the third day, ascended into heaven and cometh to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost.
Those who say: There was a time when He was not, and He was not before He was begotten; and that He was made out of nothing; or who maintain that He is of another hypostasis or another substance [than the Father], or that the Son of God is created, or mutable, or subject to change, the Catholic Church anathematizes.
(see http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11044a.htm)

The church leaders of the time felt this truth about Jesus’ deity was so important that they “anathematized” anyone who refused to subscribe to it. An anathema is a formal ban or excommunication, so the decision to anathematize anyone who refused to subscribe to this belief meant there could be no Christian fellowship with a person who refused to believe in Jesus’ deity.  

At the time, there were some leaders who thought this last part of the Nicene Creed was extreme, and had I been in their position, I think it would have been difficult for me as well. But then what is the alternative? Without a strong statement, what would prevent the errant teaching? This was a different age, where information travelled slowly. And in essence, the Nicene council was simply reiterating what the original apostles had taught and which is described in Scripture. But more than that, they had spent time trying to explain the truth to these men, to listen to and understand their perspective and ultimately concluded that their differences were too great to be considered as one. The deity of Jesus was just too essential to the Christian faith and fellowship was not possible if it watered down the message.

The council of Nicaea affirmed what the apostles’ writings had already clearly stated. John, friend of Jesus and one of the original church leaders, did not leave anything to wonder about Who he believed Jesus to be. He opened his gospel account with a clear description, asserting that Jesus was actively involved in creation. Using a literary tool clearly reminiscent of Genesis 1. John wrote:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
It’s clear reading through the rest of John 1 that the “Word” is Jesus and that He is both God… and yet somehow separate. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (v. 14) As prophesied by Isaiah and clearly explained in Matthew’s gospel account, Jesus is both God and man… Emmanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). 

There’s so much more I could write about Who Jesus is: the King of all the universe, the perfect Lamb Who was sacrificed to pay the price for sin… my sin, my legally appointed representative in an eternal courtroom whenever an accusation comes up against me, and my big brother who has always watched out for me. As both God and man, His authority can’t be questioned and His understanding of the human situation can’t be denied. 
copyright ©2013 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/