Book Review: The Dead Rise First: Rapture Countdown by Alton Ragan & Robert D. McLaughlin

October 2, 2010 at 2:25 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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Alton Ragan & Robert D. McLaughlin in their new book, “The Dead Rise First:  Rapture Countdown” Book One in their End Times series published by Vessel Publishers LLC lets us experience a new take on the rapture of the Church and the Tribulation.

The Apostle, Paul, writes in his first letter to the Thessalonians about an event commonly called The Rapture or the taking away of the Church, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NKJV) We have always been taught that the dead rising first then the living joining them in a wonderful union in the clouds with the Lord is a simultaneous event, however the authors, Ragan and McLaughlin put forth a different viewpoint in this novel.  What if there is a time delay between the trumpet blast, the dead rising and then the union in the clouds?  What would the dead talk about?  What would the living saints do with this precious time before they are called upward?  This is the premise that Alton Ragan and Robert D. McLaughlin explore in their book.

The story takes place in the small town of Jordan, Oklahoma where an event has happened and now all electricity has been cut off to the town.  Nothing works, no cars, cellphones and the residents feel that it is a terrorist attack because of the nearby Air Force base.  Then the situation becomes even more frightening as friends and relatives who are dead are showing up again and telling of the moment to come when they will meet the Lord.  When the cemeteries are checked  graves that family members feel should have been open are still closed while graves that no one would believe the previous occupant could ever be with the Lord are open.

This is not a horror story.  The events portrayed in this book will happen, in this order who can say?  However the message of salvation is clear there will be an accounting and we all need to be ready for this event.  This is an interesting story with an interesting viewpoint.  I am looking forward to the next book to see where the authors will take us.

If you would like to hear interviews with various authors about their books please go to www.kingdomhighlights.org where it is available On Demand.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Hamby Media.   I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Anchored in Light: Understanding and Overcoming the Five Deadliest Threats to Your Faith by Carl Prude, Jr.

October 5, 2013 at 5:23 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:
Carl Prude, Jr.
and the book:
Anchored in Light: Understanding and Overcoming the Five Deadliest Threats to Your Faith
Leafwood Publishers (September 10, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ryan Self for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Carl Prude, Jr. is a former pastor, a popular conference and workshop speaker, and a personal development specialist. He founded and directs Centermark, an organization that helps people reach new levels of personal and professional growth through discovering and developing their core strengths. He currently serves in several leadership roles at the Rock Church & World Outreach (a 23,000-member congregation in San Bernardino, California) and as part of the Riverside County Sheri’s Dept. Chaplain Corp. He lives with his family in Moreno Valley, California.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

In Anchored in Light, former pastor Carl Prude Jr. takes an honest look at the shifting trends in today’s faith community and tackles some of the difficult questions about faith and society. You’ll be surprised at some of the answers. This book addresses five of the deadliest threats confronting the faith community today, and presents the keys to vibrant spiritual living in the face of unique twenty-first century challenges.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 240 pages

Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (September 10, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0891123474

ISBN-13: 978-0891123477

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

LOST IN FAITHParadox in Paradise

Faith.

Faith is God’s watermark on the universe. It’s his thumbprint. It quietly maps his movements with unmistaken accuracy. Where he’s been, where he is, and where he’s going.

By faith we press our faces against the clouded window of the supernatural realm—fogged over on one side from our anxious intercessions…misted on the other by God’s reassuring breath from what he’s spoken.

By faith our eternal destination is re-assigned. With it we overcome life’s obstacles and possess life’s promises. The broken parts of our lives are made whole by faith. Faith is a prized seed that has to be cultivated diligently, because all seekers ultimately must learn to live by faith intimately.

But I have a question for those of us who belong to the community of faith…is our faith failing us today?

Consider recent statistics show that certain social behaviors (once reliable indicators of the distinctions between believers and nonbelievers) now point to lifestyles running at a virtual dead heat.  For instance, in the United States the divorce rate for first marriages among non-churchgoers is about 44%.  How does that compare to the divorce rate for first marriages among church attendees?  About 42%—too close for comfort.

Other studies show that some of the highest divorce rates in the country aren’t found in liberal states like California or New York, but in Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma—the heart of America’s conservative “Bible Belt.”1  Most of us would have thought the opposite to be the case.

Similarly, regarding other bellwether social practices ranging from premarital sex to drinking to lying, polls show the gap closing fast between the conduct of believers and non-believers.2

Of course moral fidelity isn’t the only yardstick for spiritual fitness; still, these trends are saying something we can’t afford to ignore. In fact, they should disturb us enough to cause us to drop our hymnals, cough up our communion wafer, and wonder out loud, “What in hell is going on in our churches?”

Take a moment and answer the following question honestly: which bothers you most; the razor-thin margin between the lifestyles of believers and non-believers, or the phrase, “What in hell is going on in our churches?”

Remember, these statistics aren’t just faceless numbers on a piece of paper—they represent millions of real people whose spiritual experiences just aren’t fully working for them.  On the other hand, the undeniable sway of modern culture in the faith community is much more an indication of where we’re headed based on where they’re headed, than where we should be going based on where we’ve come from. Whatever your answer is, there’s clearly something wrong, but what?

Perhaps Rick Warren’s runaway best seller, The Purpose Driven Life, gives us a clue. It exposed a surprising hunger for identity and purpose among people of faith—surprising because for thousands of years neither our purpose nor our identity has changed.  As people of faith our purpose has always been simple: to honor God by allowing his light to shine in and through us to every internal and external place where darkness still has influence.  Our identity is equally clear; we all share an unmistakable birthmark—a logo so unnatural that the Romans who first observed it had to develop a word just to describe it—agapao.3

We need to look deeper to understand exactly what people in today’s faith community are really hungering for. What do we see as our actual purpose, identity and priorities?

It’s not such a simple answer, mainly because today’s faith community is as complicated as it is wonderful. For example, some see their priority as their family.  For others, it’s their set of religious beliefs.  For still others, it’s their particular church community.

One assembly regards healing and miracles as the benchmark for their spiritual validation, another looks at community service and missions, while still another sees it as rising social status or material gain.

One group’s meetings center on the worship and praise experience, another’s emphasizes evangelism, while still another group focuses on spectacular, supernatural demonstrations.

From our pulpits we’re presented with as much variety as a Skittles factory; sermon styles ranging from mono-droning lectures that force us to dig our fingernails deep into our thigh just to stay alert, to caffeinated screaming about something so abstract the speaker doesn’t even bother to connect it to a scriptural text.

All these expressions flow from the handiwork of a God who loves minutes and millenniums, the ordinary and the extraordinary, and silence as much as noise.

To the casual observer, today’s faith community is all over the place—but in a sense that’s okay, because at times life really is all over the place.  Still, so much convergence within the faith community has added to a gradual erosion of the believers’ once clear spiritual identity.  Our efforts to keep pace with each new spiritual movement has left many of our spiritual identities so smudged that they’re nearly unrecognizable—like a homework assignment that’s been crumpled, tossed out the window, run over by a muddy tire and left in a wet drain ditch.

Some try to dismiss these developments with clichés like, “the church is just getting worldlier and the world is getting churchier.”  On the surface there appears to be some truth to this, but a closer look shows this to be just an excuse that sidesteps the real issue.  After all, people in “the world” aren’t expected to have it together in the first place—the same can’t be said for people who’ve been called “the light of the world.”

As children of eternal hope, we all want to finish our races strongly, anticipating the words that will make our efforts all worth it: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  But too many believers today are closer to throwing up their hands in frustration and saying, “that’s it, I’m done!”, than they are to hearing, “well done.” It’s a problem that’s simply gotten too big and too ugly to ignore.

In an effort to regain their lost spiritual equilibrium, people of faith change churches, change worship habits, change devotional routines and even change faiths. These tactics don’t work because they don’t get to the root of the problem.

This book pierces through all the religious formality and temple smoke, and uncovers the guilty parties responsible for the current spiritual crisis.  More importantly, it provides a clear pathway forward for people of faith everywhere.

What’s Really Troubling the Waters?

Exactly what has doused the flame on the altar for so many people in today’s faith community?  The simple answer is things that they’ve experienced—unsuccessfully. Hardships and complexities that don’t fit neatly into a doctrinal box or philosophical slot. Here are some examples:

“My doctor just diagnosed me with cancer, but before I could tell my wife, she announced that she’s leaving me for someone else…how do I handle this?”

“It seems like I’ve achieved everything I set out to do in life…so how come I feel more like killing myself instead of celebrating?”

“I went through some terrible things as a child…now that I’m an adult how can I keep these memories from robbing me of the joys of life?”

“Our church meetings feel more like a Multi-Level-Marketing rally than a worship service.  The focus used to clearly be the cross and the lost…lately I feel like I’m lost. I’m not sure where we’re going or what we’re doing!”

“Everybody I’m around really tries to push me to do my best, EXCEPT my family.  They’re so unsupportive and negative…and we’re all supposed to be Christians! They throw a wet blanket on anything I try to do!”

“I don’t seem to enjoy our church services or women’s group activities as much as the other women around me…I feel like I just don’t fit in, is there something wrong with me?”

“Why are there so many ups and downs to life…when will things settle down for me?”

“I’ve made some poor choices in life…I’ve owned up to them, and, in some cases paid a dear price. I really want to move on, but there are people close to me who just won’t let me get beyond my past mistakes. I really care for them, but I wonder if it’s time for me to just cut the ties with them and get a fresh start somewhere else?”

“Our pastor divorced his wife and married another woman in the congregation. He taught so strongly about making marriage work…and now this! I feel bad about staying at this church, and even worse about leaving. How can I trust his leadership? I’m just confused!”

“My three-year old child died of heart disease.  He suffered all of his short life, and although we prayed and fasted it seemed like God just looked the other way. What was the point of all the pain this has caused for our family?”

“It seems that only certain people at our church get “blessed” all the time.  New houses, new cars, raises on their jobs…the list just doesn’t stop!  I can’t even pay my utility bills, and my car is about to be repossessed.  I tithe and I’m a faithful volunteer in the children’s ministry. Does God show favorites or is there just something wrong with my faith?”

“One of our youth pastors was recently arrested and convicted for molesting young boys. I was horrified to discover my grandson was one of his victims! To rub salt in the wound, our church tried to cover it up for over a year. It was a major chore getting his parents to let him go to church with me in the first place. Now, not only has this destroyed my relationship with my daughter and son-in-law, but how can I forgive myself for what’s happened to my own grandson?”

“My older brother’s been diagnosed with mental illness, but our church leaders insist that he’s possessed by an evil spirit! They say he’s brought it all on himself because he’s never belonged to a church.  They seem to have no idea what our family is really going through. Now—when we need them the most—they’re treating us as if they wish we’d just go away. I’m starting to hate these people!”

I’ve served as a leader in the church for over two decades. I have strained relationships with my family, my children don’t want anything to do with church, and all the people I’ve tried to help over the years have run after the newest Christian fad. In all my years no one has ever come up to me and asked, “Pastor, are you okay?” I know my reward is in heaven, but why do I feel so empty now?
These issues all come from real situations involving real people, and they aren’t that uncommon in today’s society. However, within the sanitized church community, where our expectations are different, they strike us with surprising force—like a vicious Mike Tyson blow that cracks the sternum.   They leave us desperately gasping for air, even in a faith environment where others are breathing just fine.  Inevitably, it’s these types of experiences that can cause us to lose our grip on our faith—especially if our pastors, priests, ministers or spiritual leaders aren’t well enough equipped to help us work through them.

These kinds of incidents jostle the hopes and derail the lives of millions of believers, leaving them feeling that their faith amounts to little more than a handful of dried-out, crumbling Play-Doh.

Lost In Faith

What I’ve described in the previous paragraphs is a condition I call the Lost in Faith Experience.  Here’s a list of the most common symptoms:

a sense of spiritual disillusionment

a growing sense of spiritual frustration

despondency about spiritual truths and realities

new-founded doubts about scriptural authenticity

apathy towards church-related activities that once provided joy and satisfaction

trending towards choosing to substitute faith-centered activities with other activities

an agitated attitude regarding spiritual topics

a reluctance to participate in anything new in the faith community

fragmented spiritual focus

a diminished prayer life

a general attitude of disappointment towards God

detachment from friends within the faith community

boredom with matters of spirituality
But here’s one of the most compelling traits of the Lost in Faith Experience—these believers, though adrift, still love God, and don’t want to abandon their faith altogether.  Although discontent in their faith, they’re not disconnecting from their faith. They’re trying to hold on and gut it out, even though their spiritual lives aren’t satisfying,.

If you can identify with any of what I’ve described, don’t feel discouraged—you’re not alone. This Lost in Faith Experience is more prevalent among people of faith than those within the faith community understand—or are willing to admit.

For example, recent polls show that as many as 70% of all members of Christian-related churches say they’re not satisfied with their spiritual lives. 70% of anything is high, and in this case it’s alarming. This number represents a surge that sweeps past the borders of denomination, race, gender and age.  Scores of believers, caught in its wake, are stranded with unsure footing and an unclear pathway forward.

Finally, here’s help.

The Five Furies

For nearly two decades it’s been my privilege to serve in different leadership roles within this wondrous faith community. I’ve served as a church planter, founded two non-profit religious community organizations, held the offices of Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, Assistant Pastor, as well as several regional and local positions as Director of this or that.

But for me, it’s never been about the office or the title; it’s always been about the people. I’ve shared many moments of public joy with people from all walks of life, and just as many moments of private sorrow.  I’ve seen the sacred as well as the strange. I’ve sat in church business meetings with other pastors who had loaded pistols in their briefcases (in case the meeting didn’t go the way they wanted), and I’ve sat at somber bedsides with families as a loved one closed their eyes for the last time and slipped into eternity.

No matter the situation or who was involved, I’ve always been driven by one thing: the possibility of helping one more person improve the quality of their life by improving the quality of their faith.

I can’t count the counseling and prayer sessions I’ve had over the years with people who’ve lost their spiritual traction and fallen prey to this Lost in Faith Experience. Sometimes these meetings were formal appointments, but in many cases they were impromptu encounters that happened in a parking lot, in the bleachers at a high school football game, or on an early morning jogging track.

In my prayerful, continual search for answers, I began to notice five distinct, harmful patterns emerge…five murky, unmistakable recurring syndromes. In every instance where people had fallen victim to the Lost in Faith Experience, at least one of these patterns was a factor.  In many cases, two or more were present.

In time, it became clear that the frequent appearance of these patterns wasn’t just coincidental, nor was it merely symptomatic. These patterns were at the very root of the Lost in Faith Experience. The Lost in Faith Experience flowed out of them—not the other way around. I call these five troubling syndromes the Five Furies.

The “Fury” label comes from a reference found in the last book of the Bible:

But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!

He is filled with fury [italics added], because he knows that his time is short (Rev. 12:12).

The word “fury” in this passage is translated from the original Greek word, thumos. Thumos is commonly used in classical Greek language to describe the violent movement of nature; air (i.e., a violent tornado), water (i.e. a devastating tsunami), or land (i.e. a powerful earthquake).  It’s an unavoidable, destructive force that damages anything in its path.

In his epic work, the Iliad, Homer uses the word thumos to describe the uncontrollable wrath of Achilles, the poem’s ruthless main character.  When applied to living beings, thumos portrays a deep, driving rage that consumes its host, often taking them over the edge of insanity.  Thumos is the worst kind of uncontrollable boiling rage. It’s the kind of bad happening we can feel and see coming from miles away.

The Five Furies represent Satan’s rage, and they carry all the destructive force that the word thumos implies. They ruin lives and destroy the things around us that we hold dear. However, unlike a hurricane or a tidal wave, we hardly ever see them coming. They don’t register on spiritual Richter scale like a violent earthquake. No, they’re unassuming and deceptively quiet—their danger smolders beneath a non-threatening appearance.

Part of their genius is in their design. Remember, they come from the heart of Satan, and it’s important to understand that above everything else, Satan is a lying deceiver. From his introduction in the Garden of Eden, Satan’s nature has been deceptive; “the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness” (see 2 Cor. 11:3). The very last time he’s mentioned in the Bible he’s still described as a deceiver; “The devil, who deceived them” (see Rev. 20:10). His deceptive personality is changeless and unredeemable. These Furies represent his nature well.

He sends these destructive Furies into the faith community in unmarked packages. They don’t look like something we’d typically guard against (i.e., adultery, domestic violence, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idol worship, witchcraft, etc.). In fact, they don’t necessarily look like…anything.

They have all the appearance of normal everyday life; nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to cause a raised eyebrow. Once they arrive we allow them to stay because we didn’t see them coming.

When left undetected, each Fury goes to work with deadly patience. Systematically, they produce microscopic punctures in our spiritual makeup. Unholy pinholes. These punctures become spiritual leak-points through which the virtue God gives us to overcome life’s challenges all slowly leaks out. Like a flattened tire with no visible signs of damage, we lose our ability to retain our inspiration.

When one of these furies is working in our lives, no matter how much time we spend praying, studying, or pouring out our hearts in worship services—the benefits of these activities don’t last long enough to positively impact our lives.  When we find ourselves in need, we turn to draw from these wells of virtue, only to find that our buckets are leaking.

The Five Furies convert stable believers into leaky people—people who look godly, but respond to situations in a worldly manner. These Furies are unassuming as they are lethal.  I consider them five of the deadliest threats facing the twenty-first Century faith community. Let’s take a look at each one briefly.

Fury #1: Processing without Progressing

Each day comes with a buffet of circumstances, choices and challenges. Blessings as well as misfortunes. Things we anticipate as well as things out of the clear blue. Good as well as bad.  Each of these occurrences needs to be addressed properly, and when we don’t handle them properly they tend to collect into cluttered piles stuffed into the corners of our souls. These piles undermine our sense of peace, wear away at our ability to fully enjoy our accomplishments and blessings, and make it difficult for us to find stability in our walk of faith.  The Processing without Progressing Fury leaves the believer feeling lost, inept and despondent.

Fury #2: Running When You Should Be Walking And Walking When You Should Be Running

This occurs when people of faith don’t have a sense of peace about the use of their time, resources and talents. They constantly anguish over projects and activities—always glancing over their shoulders for the better choice.  They persistently second guess themselves while agonizing over whether their activities harmonize with God’s will for them.

Am I running ahead of God or lagging behind him ?  Am I in step or out of step with his timing for me? Have I missed my “season?” The Running When You Should Be Walking And Walking When You Should Be Running Fury leaves the believer feeling anxious, out-of-step with God’s perfect will for them, and prodigal. They worry about running out of time before they’ve done what they were put on the earth to do.

Fury #3: Entrenched in Stench

This Fury involves mental or emotional baggage firmly lodged in a person’s life, leaving them spiritually crippled. This baggage comes in two main flavors: unhealed wounds from the past, and new toxic experiences. Old junk and new garbage; either of which can be devastating to the life of faith.

While believers try to hide behind painted-on smiles and upbeat religious clichés, the betraying stench of this intangible garbage still leaks through.  The Entrenched in Stench Fury leaves the believer with a broad range of unhealthy perspectives—from bitterness, to anger, to low self esteem, to hatred, to blaming others for their own chronic dissatisfactions…the list is virtually endless.  People suffering from this Fury often have a sense of unresolved pain that offsets any other achievement in life, no matter how impressive. They often feel pessimistic and mentally paralyzed.

Fury #4: The Assimilation Mutation

This Fury represents the typical but harmful one-size-fits-all approach to service within the faith community.  As members look to become more involved, they’re often squeezed into old molds. Their spiritual identity and individuality is often shoved out of sight in the process.  True, they’re busy. Yes, they’re productive.  But they’re also stifled, which leads to disheartenment—and they can’t figure out why.

The Assimilation Mutation isn’t typically part of a malicious plot, which makes it even more difficult to identify and resolve.  For many believers, the eagerness to make themselves available for service within the faith community is the first step into a world in which they end up feeling used, manipulated, downgraded and disregarded. The Assimilation Mutation leaves believers looking vogue on the outside, but feeling vague on the inside.

Fury #5: Are We There Yet?

This Fury represents the challenges associated with the gap between actual spiritual growth and our expectations for spiritual growth.  People of faith spend thousands of hours in prayer, studying the scriptures, participating in worship services, and listening to sermons—only to discover that instead of actually “running” their races like well trained athletes, their running style would more accurately be described as a stumble-thon towards the finish line—with plenty of scraped-up knees, banged elbows and a few displaced teeth along the way.

Beset with recurring characters flaws, bound to certain bad habits, surprised at how easily they still react negatively when certain buttons are pushed, unable to consistently walk in certain disciplines of faith, demonstrating a lack of spiritual maturity in specific areas of life.  The Are We There Yet? Fury leaves the believer feeling frustrated, unworthy and discouraged about their spiritual progress.  While others are soaring, they only seem to inch along at less than a snail’s pace.

Anchors in the Storm

The scriptures teach that God provides a pathway to victory for every trial or temptation we face. Just as there are five Furies that cause the Lost in Faith Experience, there are five key anchor tenets that help us overcome them (a different anchor tenet for each Fury).  These anchor tenets are firmly secured to the bedrock of eternal truth. They hold fast to the unchanging light of truth, even in times of thickest darkness. Let me briefly introduce each one.

Space Yourself

The Space Yourself anchor tenet addresses the Processing without Progressing Fury, showing the spiritual keys to effectively managing each occurrence or circumstance as they come. Spacing Yourself strengthens the bond of trust in our relationship with God, and provides a clear guide to keeping life refreshing and moving forward vibrantly, fruitfully and decisively—regardless of what we have to deal with.  By the way, if you think this has anything to do with time management—think again.

Pace Yourself

The Pace Yourself anchor tenet addresses the Running When You Should Be Walking and Walking When You Should Be Running Fury, teaching the keys to insure that we maximize ourselves from moment to moment.  It shows us how to understand God’s timepiece for our lives and more importantly, how to guarantee we’re synchronized with him .

Waste Yourself

The Waste Yourself anchor tenet addresses the Entrenched in Stench Fury. It shows how to effectively resolve and rid ourselves of the bondage from emotional or mental scars—past or present

Place Yourself

The Place Yourself anchor tenet addresses The Assimilation Mutation Fury. This anchor tenet provides key insights into understanding, cultivating and protecting your personal and spiritual identity, even amidst pressure to conform to standards that everyone else accepts.

Grace Yourself

Finally, the Grace Yourself anchor tenet addresses the Are We There Yet? Fury, breaking down the four stages of spiritual growth and demystifying the spiritual transformation process—from the beginning wretch-undone starting point all the way to soaring-on-wings-of-eagles stage.

Space Yourself.

Pace Yourself.

Waste Yourself.

Place Yourself.

Grace Yourself.

Not only do these five anchor tenets lay the foundation for recovery from the Lost in Faith Experience, they also help the believer reestablish a pathway forward—a pathway that’s both fruitful and rewarding.  Learning how to apply any one of these anchor tenets effectively will make a tremendous difference in your life. If you’re able to develop all five of them you’ll change your life forever (and have a tremendous positive impact on those around you).

Silent but Deadly

Earlier in this chapter, I said these Furies are five of the deadliest threats to the twenty-first century faith community. I understand that some feel that other more serious problems are pounding harder on the faith community’s door. Problems like world hunger, economic collapse, human trafficking, drugs and drug wars, incurable diseases, pornography, the rise in number of non-essential abortions…the list goes on and on.

I agree that these are serious problems, and we should be concerned with them, but none of them (of themselves) present a lethal threat to the faith community. In fact, the faith community has answers for all the problems mentioned above. The message of faith, and the power of mercy and grace working through the life of the believer can bring relief and healing to people affected by these social ills.  What’s more, dealing with these kinds of problems has always been part of our mission—to be salt and light to the world.

Others may point to specific enemies of the faith community as bigger threats. Enemies like post-modernism, or legislation aimed at stripping the faith community of its influence, its civic privileges, and even its right to exist.

While serious, this kind of persecution isn’t new, and it tends to produce growth in the faith community—not decline.  Historically, this kind of pressure has strengthened the faith community’s resolve and solidified its will to exist.  It forces believers to rely on God with greater intensity, laying aside distractions as they, with one accord, seek God’s help in time of trouble.

The furies listed in this book have earned the label of the five deadliest threats to the twenty-first century faith community for two reasons—the sinister ways they enter our lives, and the quiet, unrelenting devastation they cause once they’re there.

These threats appear without notice, like the dust that quietly settles on the floor just beneath the headboard. They find an unguarded place in our soul and blend in with all the other safe material we store.

They are spiritual parasitic infections. Like most parasites, they thrive and throb beneath the surface, becoming disgustingly fat at the expense of their unwitting hosts. We (the faith community) provide housing for these deadly Furies. We nourish and feed them. We even unknowingly infect each other. As Walt Kelly said in his well-known Pogo comic strip, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

These Five Furies pose a serious threat to every member of the twenty-first century faith community—without exception. Not only do they infect those we see as fickle and spiritually uncommitted, but they also infect people who’ve held strong spiritual belief; the ones we consider stalwarts and mainstays of the faith community.

Once established, they methodically work to create millions of tiny leak-points in our souls. They don’t use spiritual explosives to blast a gaping hole in our belief systems—no, that would attract our attention and we’d respond to it immediately. They don’t even try to remove anything important from our spiritual inventory.  They just make these tiny, tiny holes that leak ever so slowly, but ever so consistently.

In the meantime we maintain our normal spiritual routines.  We keep leading worship and distributing food to the poor. We help with the youth ministry and serve as ushers. We preach on Sundays and teach the midweek Bible classes. We give to missions programs and visit local prisons.

One day, we shake ourselves to rally to some spiritual need, and discover, like Samson, that the familiar river of spiritual power has become a dusty, dried-out riverbed.

These Furies are poured into the molds of endurance and cast in the furnaces of patience. They are in no hurry. The leaks they cause can go undetected for years, even decades—until it’s too late. They work little by little until our virtue tanks can no longer retain what God pours into us.

In the end, they don’t cause us to plunge headlong into blatant transgression against God. Instead, they simply deflate us, stealing the bite first, knowing that the bark will die later. They leave us inept and lukewarm…fit to be spewed out of the mouth.

I mentioned earlier that 70% of people in today’s faith community are dissatisfied with their current spiritual experience.  Of this group, 90% say they have no intention to abandon their faith.  The sad reality, however, is that over 45% of this at-risk crowd will, in fact, become casualties of this crisis. Statistics show that they’re simply not going to survive.

Let’s not deceive ourselves; the demands on the believer in the twenty-first Century are more challenging than any preceding age. According to scripture, as the clock for this age winds down we’ll see a number of noticeable changes in the world. One such change will be a phenomenon called The Great Falling Away (see 2 Thess. 2:3).

The Great Falling Away refers to a sweeping abandonment of faith in God. This defection will be on an unprecedented scale, diminishing the ranks of the faith community throughout the earth. The Five Furies are the exact kind of threat that can weaken the faith community and lay the groundwork for such a catastrophic event.

In spite of the tremendous damage caused by these Five Furies, the good news is the five anchor tenets presented in this book are even more resilient. They are reversing the effects of the Five Furies and bringing relief, recovery and spiritual freedom to believers at an encouraging rate.  These tenets are true anchors in light, holding the believer firmly in place against the thumos forces that rage against the twenty-first century faith community.

My approach in writing this book is no different than my approach to personal one-on-one ministry.  I realize that people today demand instant answers and even faster results.  However, I’ve learned that when it comes to matters of authentic spiritual health, hasty solutions rarely last.  While I appreciate speedy service as much as anyone, I’m much more interested in being effective over the long term than efficient in the short run.

Because of this, my aim isn’t in writing the shortest book or providing the quickest answer. In some cases, I’m not rushing to get right to the point, because there are simply too many important stones that need turning over along the way. I’m writing this book because I’ve seen firsthand how its message stops the spiritual bleeding, reverses the trends, and rescues lives from further devastation.

I assure you that there’s reason and reward to my methods. The model has been proven effective.  With nothing less than your spiritual wellbeing at stake, the risk is too high to take a lesser approach. I’m concerned with seeing the goals accomplished, not merely the tasks completed.  I’m interested and invested in your long-term spiritual success, health and welfare—not just in giving you a breather from life’s troubles.

One of the ancient books of wisdom instructs us to make gaining an understanding a high priority (see Prov. 4:7).   It’s almost impossible for us to overcome what we don’t understand. That’s why in each chapter I take the time to analyze these Furies; where do they come from, how they become established in our lives, why are they flourishing now?

After that, I present the solutions—and that’s not a drive-thru presentation either. God not only wants us to finish our races, but finish them gloriously. When we don’t prepare properly we run well, but don’t finish strongly…if we finish.

If you’re suffering from any form of the Lost in Faith Experience, here are a set of tools to help you regain vitality and energy in your walk of faith, and move your life forward fruitfully and purposefully.  The pathway forward for each person reading this book is just that—personal, but it always begins with the very next step.  So, let’s turn the page and begin the journey back to wholeness.

1 Elliott, Diana and Simmons, Tavia. Marital Events of Americans: 2009. Washington DC: U S Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2009.

2 A New Generation of Adults Bends Moral and Sexual Rules to Their Liking. Barna Group, accessed November 11, 2012, http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/13-culture/144-a-new-generation-of-adults-bends-moral-and-sexual-rules-to-their-liking.

3 Swanson, James A. Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (electronic ed.) (DBLG 26, #3). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

First Hired, Last Fired: How to Become Irreplaceable in Any Job Market by Anita Agers-Brooks

August 22, 2013 at 4:21 am | Posted in Books | Leave a comment
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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:
Anita Agers-Brooks
and the book:
First Hired, Last Fired: How to Become Irreplaceable in Any Job Market
Leafwood Publishers (August 13, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ryan Self for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Anita Agers-Brooks is a business and inspirational coach, certified personality trainer, productivity specialist, certified team training facilitator, marketing specialist, and national speaker. She is a member of the Christian Writer’s Guild; graduate of Christian Leaders, Authors, and Speakers Seminars; co-founder of The StoryWriting Studio; and speaker on circuit for Stonecroft International Ministries. As a founding partner in The Zenith Zone, she’s dedicated to helping business owners, managers, and employees grow and thrive. She travels the country teaching others from her personal experiences and research.

Visit the author’s website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

First Hired, Last Fired shows readers how to use the valuable wisdom found in the ancient text of the Bible to avoid becoming disposable in this challenging marketplace. Through timeless wisdom, simple solutions, and easy-to-apply principles, readers will find meaning in their work lives, and deep satisfaction from committing to a job well done. Through practice, the reader will learn to look deeper into the Bible for relevant help with current issues.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (August 13, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0891123202

ISBN-13: 978-0891123200

AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:

The Joseph Factor
“Anyone can be replaced.” Often quoted, but is this an irrefutable truth? Or can someone become so valuable at work it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing the job? I asked these questions in a two-year investigation to find out why some employees are favored and why others are easily discarded.
As part of my search, I considered my own experience as a manager. I’ve encountered a few rare employees who demonstrated integrity to such a degree they became irreplaceable to me as a supervisor. I’ve fought to keep these people in my workforce, and, when they left, things weren’t the same. Whether they knew it or not, these savvy folks set themselves apart by following centuries-old patterns.
There are formulas for success proven through millennia of practice.

Irreplaceable employees dare to be different in a systematic way.
My examination of facts took me deep into the heart of the Bible. Whether you believe in this ancient text or not, it’s hard to argue against its time-proven wisdoms. In my research, I discovered more than eight hundred passages related to work or labor. I believe if we studied and applied them today, a powerful and united workforce could result.
Where debt buries us, untold riches await our unearthing. Instead of giving jobs away, nations would rise to a place of leadership in the world’s commerce. Pride would fall prey to humility rooted in a commitment of integrity. But it starts with the individual.
Let’s face it, many people believe they work smarter, harder, and better than their peers. But do their ethics, their productivity, and their attitudes support this belief? In today’s cynical world, can individuals still impact their job, family, community, nation, and the globe for a greater good? Can you become irreplaceable? I’ve seen the difference when people work God’s way and when they don’t. You get what you give.
Gary’s story is a prime example. For this book, I interviewed more than one hundred employees in various fields. The following fictionalized account portrays a compilation of a sad reality played out in businesses around the world. Let’s peek inside the mind of a man who believes he’s underappreciated and justifies his weak behavior.

The powerful scent of imitation leather and sandalwood caused Gary to sneeze. First Capital Mortgage Company’s board members were meeting tomorrow, which meant someone overdid the commercial air fresheners. Gary didn’t need cologne today. His clothes would smell of the earthy concoction by lunch.
He tried to smooth his rumpled shirt while he clocked in. The sound of male laughter caught his ear, so Gary made his way to the small group of huddled coworkers. He circled the group with a few friendly back-slapping and how-are-you greetings. Each man rewarded him with a varying degree of smile.
“Hey, are you putting money in the football pool or not? Everyone else is in, and the big game’s tonight,” Tom said.
“Yeah, I’ll stop by your desk before I leave today, I promise,” Gary said.
“As usual, a man of many words, I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Gary’s hazel eyes sparkled and he cocked his right eyebrow, “Hey, I keep my promises.”
Tom opened his mouth to respond but shut it just as quickly. Their chief financial officer, Mark, stormed up the hall wearing a focused frown. The huddled mass broke, and most of the men scurried to their posts, hoping Mark wouldn’t note the inactivity. Gary wasn’t fast enough and stood frozen in position, waiting for the assault.
When Mark caught you doing anything but work, punishment followed. It might not be formal, and Mark might not address the situation directly, but his reactions said you were on his blacklist.
Sensing danger, Gary offered Mark a verbal to do list.
Red-faced, Mark said, “Don’t tell me what you’re going to do, just do it. I’ve been waiting on that report for three days now, and it had better be on my desk by 3 p.m. No excuses this time.” He barely broke stride as he marched off to find his next victim.
After Mark left, Gary shrugged his shoulders. He muttered while he walked, “If Mark would just listen and treat me like a human being I might be able to finish that report. Every time I try to tell him my plans he gets annoyed. He should appreciate me. I try a lot harder than some of the people who work here. He doesn’t have to be such a jerk. If I were running this company, I’d listen to people.”
For months, Gary had tried. Small talk about the family, flattering comments, and even gifts hadn’t worked with Mark. Every attempt met a terse, “Don’t you have work to do?”
“No matter what I say, he just doesn’t like me.” Disappointed but determined not to give up, Gary stopped muttering and whistled as he headed to his desk.
Once there, he grabbed his coffee cup and fell in step with Christy. They chatted briefly on the way to and from the office lounge. Fifteen minutes later, Christy headed to her own desk as Gary sat down to work. His mind wandered while he popped his earplugs in. He scrolled to the new album he’d downloaded last night. He needed to focus; Mark would have his head if he missed another deadline.
Gary started his daily routine. He checked e-mail, updated his Facebook status, checked the activities of his friends, and tweeted. Then he added charges to the expense voucher from his recent business trip, before preparing to get into the report Mark needed.
Gary typed two sentences when his iPhone vibrated. His wife, Denise, said, “Hi, honey, I just spoke with the plumber and he’ll be at the house tomorrow, can you take off?”
“I’m not sure. Mark’s really on me today. Can’t you do it?”
Denise sighed, “I’ll see, but if I’m gone tomorrow, I can’t leave in time to pick Emma up from practice tonight. Can you get her at five?”
“Yeah, I’m sure I can sneak out a few minutes early. Do you want me to get something for supper?”
A heavy breath signaled Denise’s relief, “That would be great. Oh, I’ve gotta go, here comes my manager. Love you.” The line went dead.
Gary put his phone back in his shirt pocket, clicked on Mark’s report, and then stopped. He realized he needed to check his bank balance. He pulled up the online information and got his checkbook out. He hoped there was enough to pay the plumber. A few minutes later, an assistant manager walked by, so Gary clicked on the overdue report until the coast was clear. He pulled his account back up and after a quick reconciliation was relieved to find there was enough money for the house repairs.
He looked at his watch and gasped. It was almost time for lunch, and he hadn’t even started that report. Beating back a twinge of guilt, Gary pushed hard for the next hour and twenty minutes. He even worked ten minutes into lunch to make up for the time he’d wasted in the morning.
The afternoon passed uneventfully. Gary finally put the last touches on his report just before two thirty. He sent a text to share the good news with his wife, and breathed deep with satisfaction. He wondered aloud, “Why do I put things off? It’s not so bad once I get started.”
Gary smiled sheepishly as Tonya walked by his cubicle and gave him a puzzled look. His outspoken musing must have been louder than he thought.
He celebrated the report completion by walking across the office to see Tom. They bantered about the upcoming play-offs. Tom challenged Gary with, “Put your money where your mouth is buddy, and give me five bucks for the pool.”
Gary chuckled as he dug the money out of his wallet. They were still laughing when Mark walked up behind Gary. The cloud on his face promised bad news.
“Th-tha-a-at report’s on m-my desk and ready to go.”
“Grab it and bring it to my office, I need to talk to you.”
Gary felt queasy as he walked the hall toward Mark’s office. He knocked on the door and entered at Mark’s terse invitation. As Gary sat down, he saw Connie, the human resource manager. Gary flinched when Mark shut the door behind them.
“Gary, we have to make cuts. There’s no way around it. The banking industry is suffering along with the rest of the nation in this recession. Positions must be eliminated, and yours is the first to go. Connie will help you clean out your desk. The necessary paperwork is done.

You will get two weeks of severance pay, and we certainly wish you the best of luck. I’m sorry.” Mark’s tone of voice wasn’t as soft as his final words.
With that Gary was dismissed, shocked into speechlessness. The report lay untouched on Mark’s desk.
Connie escorted Gary to his desk. He numbly filled a box with all his personal items. When he was done he took a last look at a piece of furniture he no longer recognized. Now empty of possessions and personality, it looked as bare as his soul felt.
Security came and walked beside Gary as he shuffled out the employee entrance for the last time. Head down, tears dangerously close to spilling, he noticed the door that had become invisible to him. Not since his early days of employment had his enthusiasm prompted him to push hard and prove himself. As his comfort in the company grew, his ambition waned. Soon, his routine mirrored that of fellow employees.
Now, however, he realized he would never cross this threshold again. Like many other people, he joined the ranks of the unemployed. Nausea punched him in the stomach as he stepped into the sunlight, and Gary wondered how any of this happened.

Whether your job is hidden behind the scenes or you stand in front of the public saying, “May I help you?” meaningful work makes life worth living. Some are tasked with juggling the people and work processes as a manager, knowing full well they won’t please everyone. Some try to keep up with ever-changing demands of bosses, who can’t seem to make up their minds.
Many employees simply don’t realize they have the power of choice in determining their outcomes. Without realizing it, they often give their own jobs away. It’s as if an invisible thief sneaks around the corner and picks their pockets, plucking all but the lint. They never see it coming.
Most workers don’t consider lost time theft. However, there is no difference between stealing time and stealing cash. Managers often meet people who wouldn’t steal twenty dollars from their employer but take hundreds in time wasted.
Often, employees avoid personal responsibility by casting blame on each other. Factories, offices, construction sites, restaurants, service industries, and more are susceptible to attack. When employees engage in personal e-mails, Internet play, text messages, phone calls, inappropriate personal conversations, or other non-work-related activity, the risk is significant. Consider the following equation as an example:
• 2 employees paid $10.00 per hour × 6 inappropriate 15-minute distractions = $30.00 the thief has stolen

• 3 hours per day × 5 days = $150.00 per week stolen

• 3 hours per day × 20 work days = $600.00 stolen monthly

• Multiply this figure by 260 work days per year and the annual cost = $7,800.00
But the employer is not the only one to suffer. As procrastination rises and motivation decreases, individual employees lose inner satisfaction and peace. Employee raises, benefits, and sometimes the job itself are forfeited when a business struggles to make ends meet. The bottom line: everyone suffers.
I’ve employed people with college degrees whose behavior made them an employee I could do without. By the same token, I’ve hired folks with no credentials but who were teachable and acted on their desire to do more. It isn’t a matter of intelligence—people can learn—it’s a matter of what you do with what you learn. The difference is simple: study God’s word and do something positive with the information inside.
In the book of Genesis, a man named Joseph put his heart into his work. His actions caused him to receive favor. He treated other people’s property like his own. He worked as if he owned the business.

If today’s employee invested like Joseph, I believe the world we live in might look different. The change could start with you.
You have more power than you think. With intent, you can influence the world around you for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of others.
In its simplest form, integrity is doing the same thing whether you think someone can see you or not. At a deeper level, the power of extraordinary integrity shocks others to pay closer attention. Try it.
The next time you’re sitting with other employees and gossip ensues, especially if you take part in any way, go back and apologize for your participation. Even if you simply listened but didn’t speak.
Listening alone gives the impression that you condone the words of complaint and back stabbing.
Later, when you walk up and say, “I need to apologize,” most people will automatically ask, “What for?” This is your opportunity to say something like this, “I shouldn’t have talked about Nancy behind her back. I’m sorry. I was wrong.” Leave it at that—period.
Excuses, blame, or qualifiers, like the word but, can negate anything else you say. It also shifts blame to someone else. For example, “I shouldn’t have talked about Nancy behind her back, but when I heard all of you, it slipped out.”
You must confess in purity and honesty with genuine remorse for this to work. Don’t say anything about others—stick to what you did.
Take courage and become a hero in the workplace. The world needs more heroes. Since many of us spend more time with people at work than we do with our own families, what greater place to witness by our actions the life of Jesus Christ? Can you imagine him gossiping?
Don’t worry about what others think, whether they laugh at you, or even turn on you. What’s the worst thing someone might say behind your back, “I don’t really like her, but I have to admit, she gets the job done.”
Or do you prefer, “I thought he was supposed to be a Christian, but he spends more time talking than working”? The results depend on the pattern of your work habits. The choice is yours.
The model of Joseph shows us a secret to success in the workplace. Applying his wisdom can make you different. Joseph stands out as a man who not only impacted his immediate surroundings, but, because of his consistency, he saved individuals, families, commerce, and nations from destruction. His life made a huge difference. I can’t imagine anyone else doing what Joseph did. He was irreplaceable.
Several factors point to the reason why.
• Joseph believed in his God-given dreams. Though he was hated and others were jealous, he accepted his circumstances. Even when he was mocked and his brothers plotted to destroy him, Joseph submitted while he waited for his dreams to become reality (Gen. 37:5–20).
• Joseph endured torment at the hands of those with evil intent. He required mercy so he could be rescued from the clutches of disaster (Gen. 37:21–22).
• Joseph knew his limitations and went willingly when his brothers sold him out for their own personal gain (Gen. 37:26–28).
• Joseph needed blind faith. He didn’t realize a rescue attempt was made after he was gone (Gen. 37:29).
• Joseph’s dreams took him to foreign places, and he was put in relationship with strange people. Because he believed God and followed with his whole heart, Joseph was favored by the Lord. God blessed those Joseph served, and he influenced many others (Gen. 39:1–5).
• Joseph proved himself trustworthy by his common patterns of integrity. He conducted himself the same way whether anyone else could see or not. Even when there was an appearance of impropriety, Joseph did not make excuses or blame others. He waited in the darkest place for God’s favor to shine (Gen. 39:6–23).
• Joseph helped those in need. He cared enough to ask why they were sad and interpreted their God-given dreams for them. Then he clearly communicated the request on his own heart (Gen. 40:1–15).
• Joseph spoke the truth, even when it wasn’t what the other person wanted to hear. Even though it must have been painful (Gen. 40:16–22).
• Joseph held on when hope seemed to be lost to the selfishness of others. Over the passing of years, he fulfilled his duties and took care of everyday business (Gen. 40:23, 41:1–8).
• Joseph was ready for the task when he was finally called back to service. Prepared by practice and pattern, he did not, however, take credit when it wasn’t his due (Gen. 41:40).
• Joseph didn’t slouch, play, or waste time when times were easy. Instead, like the ant, he took advantage of the opportunity. He worked hard and saved from the bounty. He prospered both professionally and personally because he was a wise steward over the blessings he and his master received. He trained others to do the same (Gen. 41:41–54).
• Joseph didn’t hoard his abundance. He shared with those in need. Even those who had hurt him in the past. He remembered his dreams and trusted that the hardship was part of the plan to make him better (Gen. 41:55–57; 42:1–6).
• As a man of integrity, Joseph wasn’t afraid to be bold in making his point. He demonstrated his authority and showed strength as the man in charge (Gen. 42:7–38; 43; 44).
• Joseph showered mercy on those who mistreated him, and the truth finally came out. He accepted the larger plan at work and blessed those who had cursed him. He shared his wealth with his former enemies (Gen. 45).
• Joseph didn’t steal from his employer. He turned everything he collected over to the one who owned it. Joseph was content with what he had been given. He didn’t resent not having more (Gen. 47:13–26).
If it hadn’t been for Joseph’s practice of integrity, many would have suffered and died.
Every company you work for, or with, affords you the honor of being a Joseph to them. Ask God to bless the work of your hands and that the overflow of those blessings would spill onto those around you.

Treat the business as if you owned it.
Ask that your company would affect the county, state, and federal, and global governments in positive ways. And keep your eyes open for opportunities to take action in accordance with the examples of those who obeyed God’s formula for successful living.
I wonder how Gary’s life might look had he chosen to practice integrity like Joseph.

Music filtered into Gary’s fuzzy mind. Praise music, energetic and uplifting. He twisted onto his side, tempted to hit the snooze, until the aroma of Maxwell House Breakfast Blend rousted him from the last vestige of sleep. He palmed the off button on the clock, leaned over, kissed his wife lightly, and got up. He scuffed to the kitchen.
“Thank goodness for automatic timers,” Gary said to himself while he poured a steaming cup of dark brew and settled at the table with his Bible. He bowed his head and prayed for wisdom, then dug into his study of Joseph.
A page of notes, two cups of coffee, and thirty minutes later, Gary closed his Bible and put everything away. He headed to the bedroom to wake his wife and get ready for work.
Gary listened to a message on the radio as he drove to the office. The speaker hit many of the same points he’d found in his personal study earlier. He chuckled and shook his head, “I hear you. Thanks for setting me straight.”
When he walked inside the building whistling, John, one of his coworkers said, “What are you so happy about?”
“I’m just rejoicing in this day the Lord has made,” Gary said.
“You’re nuts, you know that? Didn’t you hear about Mike? He’s the fourth one in two days they’ve let go. Who knows, we might be next.”
“I heard, but I’m not going to let it keep me from doing my job.

This is where my faith meets the road. I trust God more than my fears.”
“Like I said, you’re nuts.” John shook his head and skulked down the hall.
Gary clocked in and walked toward the growing pitch of men’s laughter. As he approached, Tom said, “Hey buddy, do you want in on the football pool?”
“I appreciate it, but no thanks. I’d better stick with earning my money.”
“Is a measly five bucks going to break you?” Tom elbowed the guy standing next to him.
Gary chuckled, “It isn’t that. My convictions simply won’t let me waste it. Five dollars could go into my children’s college fund, or even better, could help feed someone who’s starving. I appreciate the invite, but I need to get to work. I already clocked in.”
“Suit yourself. Always gotta be the do-gooder.” Tom turned his back to Gary, signaling disdain.
As Gary continued toward his office, he heard snickers and a few loud guffaws echo from the group of men. He prayed silently as he walked, “Lord, give me strength to do what will honor you and help others.”
Christy fell in step beside him as he finished the prayer. “Do you want to grab a cup of coffee with me?”
“Thanks, but I drank some at home.”
They arrived at the desk, but Christy hesitated while Gary settled

in. “I’ve been meaning to ask if you want to have lunch sometime?”
Gary’s fingers froze on the keyboard where he’d entered his password.

His thoughts jumped into hyperdrive. “Stay calm. It’s an innocent request. Lunch won’t hurt anyone; it’s harmless. But be honest, you do think she’s cute. Besides, what would Denise think? How would you feel if your wife had lunch with a guy she thought was cute? And remember Joseph. Look at the trouble Potiphar’s wife caused him.”
“I appreciate the offer Christy, but my wife and I have an agreement.

Thanks for asking though.”
Christy’s face turned red, and she flounced away.
Gary pulled up the report he needed to finish and wiped unhealthy guilt from his mind. Though he didn’t want to embarrass her, Christy’s heart wasn’t the one he vowed to protect. Denise held that honor.
Forty minutes later, Gary e-mailed the finished report to Mark, the CFO of First Capital Mortgage. Two days early. He helped one of the guys finish up a big project, then started the research for a presentation Mark wanted him to work on next. Engrossed, Gary worked five minutes into his break. The vibration of his iPhone alerted him Denise was calling.
Gary pulled the phone from his pocket, “Hi honey, what’s up?”
“I got a hold of the plumber, and he can be at the house tomorrow. Can you take off?”
“I don’t think it will be a problem. I’ll talk to Mark and make sure. I’ve got a presentation to prepare, but I can work on it from the house. I’ll call you at lunch and let you know.”
“How much do you think it will cost?”
“Probably not more than a couple of hundred, but don’t worry, we can always pull from our emergency fund if necessary.”
“Good. Don’t forget, Emma’s got practice until five, so I’ll be home shortly after. I’d appreciate it if you could start supper. There’s a casserole and the makings of a salad in the fridge.”
“No worries. I’ll see you at home. Love you.”
“Me too. Bye.” The line went dead.
Gary stretched his legs, stepped out to breathe some fresh air, then went back and jumped into the research again. He hardly noticed when Mark walked up to his desk.
“Can I see you in my office?”
Adrenalin coursed through Gary’s veins, “Sure. Do I need to bring anything?”
“No. I’ll meet you there in five.”
Mark walked away and dread caused Gary’s racing heart to skip a couple of beats. He rattled a mental list of projects to himself and found everything either finished or well on its way. He double checked the planner on his phone to make sure he didn’t miss anything, but again, all seemed in order. But Gary knew deep cuts were in the making. Their business suffered from the financial barrage of

a nation in distress.
Like a man walking death row, Gary made his way to Mark’s office. Outside the door, he tapped.
“Come in,” Mark said in his matter-of-fact manner.
Gary entered and sucked air when he saw Connie, the human resource manager, sitting next to an empty chair. Without uttering a sound, he walked into the room, noting a lack of oxygen around him.

Connie nodded toward him in silence while he held the armrests and eased into the seat.
“Gary, we have to make cuts. There’s no way around it. Positions must be eliminated.”
Gary squirmed, and the chair squeaked beneath him.
“I understand.”
“I’m not sure you do. I asked Connie to bring your personnel file.” Mark patted a manila folder lying on his desk. “Your record is spotless. From my own observation, you keep your head down and do whatever I ask. I can count on you to get any job done well and on time. You take initiative, but don’t step beyond your authority level. Most notably, I don’t see evidence of money or time wasted, especially with office gossip. Even your travel expenses come in thirty percent lower than others. This company could use more employees like you.”
Instant heat caused Gary’s face to flush. “Thank you, sir.”
Mark continued, “In the last three years, we’ve only had two complaints about you.”
“You did? What for?” The words slipped from Gary’s mouth of their own accord.
“Nothing to worry about. Trivial and unfounded claims. It turns out both were driven by the same individual. He was misguided enough to think the way to get ahead was by making you look bad. It backfired. He’s no longer with us.
“For a time, the accusations made me question you, but your actions proved you’re a man I can count on.”
Gary’s thoughts flew to the man Mark referred to. He was a game player. As a result, Mark rode Gary hard for several months, but when Gary thought he’d reached breaking point, it stopped. The other man ended up losing his job. Suddenly, Gary realized Mark was talking again.
“. . . sorry about that. But it taught me a lesson. There’s something different about you, and we’d like to tap into that potential. We can’t know what the future holds, but if someone of your caliber would teach your secrets to our other employees, we might flip this downturn up. You’ve proven yourself trustworthy. We need help. And I think you’re the right man for the job. What do you say?”
Gary wrestled with how to answer. He wasn’t sure of the question.

He decided on straightforward. “Pardon me, but I don’t understand

what you’re asking.”
Mark chuckled and leaned forward, his fingers interlocked over Gary’s employment file. “That’s one of the things I like, you’re not afraid to clarify. I’m offering you a promotion of sorts. I can’t give you a raise at this time, but where others are let go, you still have your job. I’d like you to work with human resources to retrain those we keep and start new hires off on the right track. Are you interested?”
Gary’s shoulders softened and he expelled air he didn’t realize he’d held. “Yes sir, I am interested. You can count on me.”
“Great. Connie, can you get things rolling?”
“Yes sir.”
Mark stood, signaling dismissal of the meeting. He extended his hand across the desk. “I expect good things. Don’t let me down. And one of these days, I’d like to find out what makes you different.”
Gary kept his eyes on Mark’s while he lowered his head slightly, pursed his lips, and shrugged his shoulders. “I try to be a Joseph. I ask God to bless our company through the work of my hands.”
“Hmm, interesting. Maybe we can schedule lunch and you can tell me more.”
Gary pumped his boss’s hand, “It would be my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity,” then walked out behind Connie. Gary couldn’t wait to tell his wife. He missed Connie’s small talk as he followed her to her office, distracted in a silent prayer of thanks.

Today’s job market is tough. With heroic effort, employees who choose God’s way refuse to justify inappropriate behavior. Heroes don’t offer excuses, and they’re not blinded by entitlement. Heroes remember they were hired to earn a paycheck, not simply collect one. Heroes don’t waste their employer’s money; instead, with integrity, they work the same whether someone can see them or not.
As you read on, I urge you to conduct your own fact-finding missions. At the end of each chapter, you will answer three investigative questions designed to help you decide whether you are taking every precaution to protect your job, your family, your employer, and our economy. Can the Joseph Factor improve your life?
Follow your dreams and leave justification behind. Answer the investigative questions and dare to be different. Become irreplaceable. Become a leader. But remember, great men and women first learn to follow in humility.
Investigative Questions
1. Do you labor for profit or does mere talk lead you to poverty?

(Prov. 14:23).
2. Do you work as working for the Lord, not for men, since

you know that you will receive an inheritance from the

Lord as a reward? (Col. 3:23–24).
3. Is your behavior excellent among your coworkers so that

because of your good deeds, as they observe them, you glorify

God? (1 Pet. 2:12).

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