In the fire service we use a term called “command presence”, which I’m sure is a product of our para-military history. We use it to describe an officer’s ability to lead without opening their mouth and when they do speak, people want to listen. Leaders with strong command presence stand confidently, look at people who are speaking; they walk with a certain rhythm that is smooth but not arrogant and you are confident following them. I’ll admit that it’s a little ambiguous and open for interpretation but I hope that I illustrated the point. The challenge when judging if a person has a command presence is being able to separate it from over-confidence or cockiness. We all need to be sure of ourselves at some point in our lives; for some it means thinking and acting bigger or better than they really are. Society has a wide variety of labels for these people. They want to talk about themselves and what great things they do. Others will have the skills/abilities to back up their huge self-confidence. These are the top sales associates who let everyone know that they are the best. We all love the person who is confident enough to lead others but humble enough to keep it in check. Pride is a double-edged sword. I’d like to suggest that people get their pride filled in two ways – artificially created in their own minds (writing checks with their mouths that they cannot cash) or it’s given to them by others, through well-deserved praise. And yet, we’ve all seen the person who is given praise (genuinely) and yet they have low self-confidence. They seem to miss the gifts (through praise) that others give them. Like all good double-edged swords, pride can be the source of great strength or can cut us deeply. We have two roles when dealing with our own command presence – be confident enough to be effective and humble enough to build up those that need it.
“A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.” Proverbs 29:23
When God talks about the pride that a man has, He is really looking at that man’s reaction to the gifts that he has received from God. The top sales associate will always talk about how hard they worked, how they beat the competition, how creative they got to sell the client or simply how great they are. This type of pride makes a man low in God’s eyes. They are focused on worldly attributes without any consideration to who gave them those gifts and opportunities. When things go bad, these types of people want to blame God but when the “world is their oyster” it was all them. God tells us through David that we have it all wrong. A man in lowly spirit (without pride) gains honor. This is not to mean that we shouldn’t be proud of what we’ve done or confident in our abilities, it means that we should remember who gave us the power to achieve these things. God is at work in our lives every day and we should never forget that. When we pray, we should be thankful for all that He has done for us. Most of us only “talk” to God in prayer when we are asking for help or need something. Imagine never hearing “thank you” when you did something for someone or gave them a gift. You wouldn’t stay connected to them very long. Tell God – Thank You. It will help you keep your pride in check. If you are not sure that you’re good enough (low self-esteem) remind yourself that God is with you and that you are glorifying Him in all that you do. My wife has said, “God doesn’t make junk”. We all have important parts to play in His plan, see your role and go on confidently.
When I read today’s verse, I immediately thought of the phrase “you are what you eat”. I realize that there is little connection between today’s verse and the phrase but lateIy I’ve been working hard to eat better and well; I digress. Leaders of all kinds must choose their words carefully. One of the most powerful tools a leader has is encouragement. There are so many stresses in people’s lives, in addition to their struggles to do the best work they can, that they often feel overwhelmed or simply disconnected from others. We rarely hear “good job” from the people we work with or those close to us. Sometimes, we are just too busy to say it or we don’t take the time to. For leaders, that can be a disaster. We have to acknowledge our people and the work that they do for us – even if it’s “their job”. A simple “thanks” or “nice work” can go a long way in motivating someone. We don’t know what is happening in their lives and this simple gesture can be what keeps them going. I used to work for a woman who did this all the time. At first, I was surprised to hear it because no one in military style organizations ever gives a compliment. It reminded me that I was doing good work and that someone appreciated it. The old saying is that “if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all”. If you never say anything nice or encouraging, then are people walking around thinking that you have nothing nice to say? It’s what comes out of your mouth that means more than what you think or write about someone. Well said is better than well written. Spread a little good will and watch the smiles. Then smile yourself, knowing that you were the cause.
“What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’” Matthew 15:11
This was Jesus speaking to the Pharisees when they saw the Disciples eating with dirty hands. But that isn’t where the story stopped. I usually don’t add more bible verses to the weekly devotion but it seems to fit here. In Matthew 15:17-20, Jesus went on to say: 17“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’”
We have to ask ourselves here: what’s in our hearts? Do you go through your life with the “do as I say, not as I do” attitude? In the end, we are all “unclean”. Every one of us will say something hurtful, have immoral thoughts about stealing or wishing harm on to someone, gossiping and in some cases, we’ll act on them. We are all guilty at one point in time or another; we are unclean. The good news is that Jesus Christ wrapped us in pure white clothing when he took our sins with Him to the cross. He made us clean for all of eternity through our faith in Christ. God knows what is in our hearts and hears what comes out of our mouths, yet He has cleansed us and given us eternal life. No tricks, no works, no negotiations, simply forgiveness given to us from the grace of God. Now that should make you smile!
Worry can consume a great deal of time in someone’s life. As children, our mothers warned us to “wait until your father comes home” and then we spent hours worrying. I suspect that there has been a little less worrying going on these past 6 months when you compare it to the last 3 years. The economy seems to be turning around and the stock market is stronger than ever. Yet, somehow we are comfortable worrying. I created phrase in our house a year or so ago when I said, “let’s worry about worrying, when there is something is something to worry about”. We were falling into the trap of worry before we even had a problem. We learned after my surgery that there is a plan for our lives; we simply needed to let it reveal itself to us. Humans want to be in control of everything and when we can’t adjust the circumstances around us, we start to worry. We do it so often that worrying has become second nature to us. We worry about things at work, we worry about things at home, in the stock market, in pro sports, on our drive to work and we worry about ourselves. I would challenge you to stop worrying and start living your life. I’m not suggesting that you become reckless but start to look around at all of the great things in your life and look at how they are connected. These are not random events that just happened because the timing was right, they are connected events that if you look hard enough, you’ll see the plan before your eyes. Let circumstances unfold without your intervention or delay your action just long enough to see the real “whole story”. If you are a supervisor or leader, you should be working to keep your staff from worrying. Keep them in the loop on issues and be honest. It’s hard to worry about something when you know the facts. Ask employees what they worry about, you might be surprised by the answers you get. Many of their worries may not even be work related but you might be able to help them through. Worry is wasted energy and emotions so don’t fall into the trap. You control your reaction – worry or action, the choice is yours.
“25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:25-26
Luke answers the question about worrying or not – worrying will not add to your life, so why do it? As believers, we know three things about our lives: 1) God has a plan for us 2) Our time here on earth has already been determined and 3) Our trust is in God. We are, however, logical thinkers by design. God gave us free will to live our lives. I’ll argue then, that if you believe God has a plan for you and that you trust in Him, what do you have to worry about? If we cannot add a single hour to our own lives, then what is the point? Is worry the creation of Satan to take us away from our trust in God? I don’t know the answer but I know that far too many people turn away from God because they get lost in worrying and find ways to satisfy that emotion which in turn reveals more worry, etc. There is only one being that can weave that sort of confusion in our lives. Let God take that worry from you, He likes to hear what is troubling His children. God will be there for you no matter what you are worried about, give Him your troubles. Let God work in your life and you’ll be amazed at the great things that he will reveal. Put your trust in God and less on your own ability and He will be there for you. If you knew that worry was a tool used by Satan, would you keep worrying about things? Let God worry about worrying, that’s why He sent us a savior in Jesus Christ – so we don’t have to worry.
They say, “temptation is everywhere”; I have to believe it. We see so many things everyday that it’s amazing we all aren’t financially and morally bankrupt. (I know that’s arguable but go with it.) There is an old leadership saying: “don’t ask your people to do things that you wouldn’t do you yourself”. It doesn’t mean that if you can do it yourself, you should. It’s about having people do things that are dangerous, improper, illegal that you wouldn’t do yourself but you’d be willing to sacrifice them to do it. It sounds horrible (and it is) but it happens. It is usually in a very subtle way when a supervisor “suggests” an edge over the competition but isn’t really serious in providing specific direction on how to do it but does give specifics about the “reward” for such a victory. All of us at some point have been tempted to “get” someone at work to simply “show them” who we are. Most of the time we don’t act on it but when we do, we usually don’t feel good about ourselves when we do. Temptation at home can be strong too. We are tempted to buy something we really can’t afford and when we do buy it, we get buyers remorse. We end up paying it off after a few months (or years) on the credit card and swear to never do it again. The consequences are minor so we don’t worry about doing it again when temptation comes knocking. We will keep answering those temptations until we have a significant event that changes our behavior but that can be too late. The financial ruin, job loss or broken relationship that follows not only rocks our faith but the outlook we will carry for the rest of our lives. I’d like to say don’t act on them but as I started, “temptation is everywhere”. The key is recognizing the temptation and turning to truth about what is proper and what you actually afford.
“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;” James 1:13
Wouldn’t it be nice to never be tempted by evil? It must be one of the “perks” of being God! Now that we’ve established that we are not God, we have to look at who is tempting us. Sometimes it’s just the “old Adam” in us; the human nature that “justifies” our actions to do something small or with minor consequences. There are times when it is the devil that is tempting us. The “original sin” we all have came from the devil and he is still working everyday to turn us away from God. He plants small doubts, jealousy, envy and want in our heads. We can easily “justify” doing anything – “I’m owed”, “no one will notice”, “everyone else is doing it”, or “I need this” are a few examples. Every time we justify a temptation to ourselves, act on it and then feel remorseful, we’re simply allowing the devil to win another round. Sometimes, we blame God for not being “strong enough” to block these temptations or our actions and others will blame God for constantly testing us. It is not God’s work; it is the devil at work! Stay strong in your faith, remain connected to God’s word, pray daily with thanksgiving and ask for God’s help. The “right answer” is within you; you simply must look beyond the devil’s rationale for the truth.
In a few days it will be the Fourth of July holiday, the celebration of our country’s independence. Yesterday, I returned home from four days in Washington DC. You see signs of our founding fathers everywhere and the power of our government on what seems like every corner. I visited the Jefferson Memorial for the first time on this trip. I’ve been to DC more than half a dozen times in the past couple of years but never wanted to “go all the way over there” so I’d just skip it. This trip I decided to see the monuments at night and the Jefferson Memorial didn’t look that far after visiting the MLK Memorial. I was wrong but that’s another story. When you see the quotes from great leaders like Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and MLK you are inspired as an American. The interesting thing about all that history however is, we have no idea what they really went through to get us to the point of “One Nation Under God”. Not too far from the Lincoln Memorial are the Vietnam Memorial Wall, the Korean War and the World War II Memorials. These four memorials all represent some of the “actions” that have kept our country free since July 4, 1776. Again, these memorials tell of men and women who sacrificed it all for us to be free in circumstances that are unimaginable to most of us. This Fourth of July is not just a celebration of our country’s birth but is a celebration of those that have fought, here and abroad, for us to remain free. Some did it with words and pens, others with swords and rifles, but they all did it for their love of the Greatest Country on Earth – the United States of America.
“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1John 3:18
When I first saw this verse I was ready to write about love and honesty but following my DC trip, love of country seemed more appropriate. We “love” a lot of things in our lives – dessert, a TV show, a movie, our clothes/shoes, our cars, food and even our electronic devices. Some people “love” things so much that they post about them on Facebook, Twitter or Insta-Gram. None of these are what God had in mind when he inspired the writers of the bible. We can tell people we love them, we can write them poems or letters or in today’s case we can tweet it but how do we show it? People will say that they love their fellow man when they write a check to a charity and others by volunteering. It’s important to remember, sharing God’s love isn’t about works. It’s not about how many checks you write or how many hours you volunteer at the homeless shelter or how many doors you knock on to share the word. We have God’s love because we believe which isn’t dependent upon anything we do. We are instructed with this verse to love with actions and in truth. The old phrase “actions speak louder than words” is best applied here. Don’t go around professing your love for God but cheating every chance you get. Don’t write or say: “You’ll be in my prayers” but then never pray. All of us, God’s children, have been given the gift of God’s love; not only was it written for us in the bible but it’s shown everyday by His actions in our lives. Let’s celebrate ALL of our freedoms this week: as a nation we enjoy certain freedoms and as a sinner, we are free from eternal punishment through our faith in Jesus Christ. We have these freedoms today because of courageous acts by many; we should never forget them.