Servitude

We’ve been doing a little remodeling the past few weeks and I found myself going through some old paperwork. In it, I found my baptismal and confirmation certificates along with a card from my confirmation. I never knew who my “God Parents” were but I finally do now. Unfortunately, they have both passed away. As I read the note that came with my confirmation papers, I was drawn to the idea of servitude – serving others and being served. I have no idea why I kept the note but it’s meaning is far more impactful today than it was when I received it. Even after all of the classes that I attended for confirmation, there are no better lessons than what life teaches you and how God reveals Himself throughout your life. Here is what the note said:

The best and most meaningful things in life are those which cannot be seen, or touched, but which are felt. On this special day, the meaning of your faith is very real to you. Life has its deepest meaning in Christ. May the sacredness of this time be a rich reminder of your Christian faith, not only in this day but throughout all of your life. May God fill you with His love as you follow the living Christ. May the Holy Spirit give you guidance that your life may be full, and that you may receive the abundance of God’s grace forever. May joy be in your heart today in the knowledge that Christ is your Savior, your friend and your guide.

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:26

When I work with the military, I am witness to multiple examples of servant leadership and it always reminds me of Jesus Christ. Jesus was THE servant leader. He knew what was in store for himself but He served us anyway. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, performed miracle after miracle and always did it with our best interests in mind. He was often called Teacher and He served in that role as well. Jesus was determined to reach as many lost souls as He could before His Father would call Him home. Servant leadership means that we give up control of the effort so that others can learn and grow.

In our lives, we can serve those that we are trying to lead so that they may become stronger; we are the ones making sacrifices for the betterment of others. Jesus’ sacrifice was beyond compare but we are all better off because of it. We are free from sin because the servant leader put us before Himself. We all make sacrifices in our lives but some do it in hopes of getting something in return. Jesus made a sacrifice not to get something in return but to share something with all of us – eternal life. The bonus for Him is that He gets to share that with us. Go out and serve others not because you need something but because you have something wonderful to share, a message of hope and salvation.

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Reliable

Reliability. I’ll bet that when you hear that word, the first thing that will pop into your mind is a product of some sort. It is either a car or an appliance that we generally associate with the word reliability. What about people, do we consider them reliable? We might use dependable but reliable? People will let us down and are flawed from conception; I’ve even heard others quip that “you can depend on people to let you down.” The difference is very subtle, being reliable means that you will be able to get the same result over and over and dependable means worthy of reliance or trust. How reliable are you? Do people seek you out for help or advice? If you are in a leadership position, you need to be both reliable and dependable. Being reliable can take a toll on your time management. You will find that when people seek you out for help, you spend a lot of time with them and your own “work” takes second place yet it still needs to get done.

When people seek you out, you are actually functioning as a coach for them. Good coaching can turn into mentorship, which is a great professional development tool for both parties not mention a huge source of personal satisfaction. Whom do you rely on? Do you have someone reliable in your work life? We are sometimes too proud to ask for someone to help us or give us advice. Finding someone who is reliable enough to be a coach is rare; be sure that they are willing to help at this level. If you are fortunate enough to be someone whom people consider reliable, consider sharing your gifts with them at this higher level.

“And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” Acts 2:21

It’s ironic that when I hear the words reliable and dependable, I don’t immediately think of the Triune God. As I reflect on it, I have to assume that it’s because I never have to think twice about God’s reliability and just writing that, makes me smile. There are millions of people in this world that don’t see it that way. They will base their assessment of God’s reliability on the number of answered prayers they receive, the quality of their life or the types of works they perform – trying to gain God’s favor, so that He’ll be more reliable and dependable. Our LORD and Savior is Jesus Christ, He intervened on our behalf to gain God’s favor.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be Saved” (Acts 2:21) means eternal life for everyone calling, no strings attached. God is reliable and dependable. He keeps His promises to His people; we just have a hard time seeing them because His time and our time are not the same. God always listens and comforts us; we simply don’t always recognize it. It’s the unexpected coffee that a co-worker brings to you when you need it or the refund check that arrives the week that your rent is due. Turning your life over to God and trusting in Him means that you never have to think twice about whether He’s reliable or not. After all, He did send His one and only Son to suffer for us so that we can share eternal life Him. It certainly sounds like He’s in it for the long haul, how about you?

Pride

In the fire service we use a term called “command presence”, which is a product of our para-military history. It is used in the military to describe senior leaders. We use it to describe an officer’s ability to lead without opening their mouth and when they do speak, people want to listen. They 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. We have a wide variety of labels for those people.

They want to talk about themselves and what great things they do. Others will have the skills/abilities to back up their confidence. These are the top sales associates who let everyone know that they are. 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 it 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 pride that man has, He is really looking at man’s reaction to the gifts that he has received. 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 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, they 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. Most of us only “talk” to God in prayer when we are asking for help or need something. 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

Say What?

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 the verse and the phrase but I’ve been trying to make better food choices and well; I digress. Leaders of all kinds must choose their words carefully. One of the most powerful tools a leader can use is encouragement. There are so many stresses in people’s lives, in addition to their struggles to do the best work they can, they often feel overwhelmed or simply disconnected from others. We rarely hear “good job” from people we work with or those close to us. Sometimes, we are just too busy to say it or we simply 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 “good work” can go along 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 by it because this was the first time that I worked professionally outside of a military style organization and no one ever gives compliments there. 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, 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 at 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 it stopped. 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 thoughts about stealing or wishing harm on to someone, gossip and in some cases, we’ll act on them. We are all guilty at one point in time or another; but we are always unclean. The good news is that Jesus Christ wrapped us in pure white clothing whereby making us clean when he took our sins with Him to the cross. We are always clean with our faith in Christ. No tricks, no works, no negotiations, simple forgiveness from the grace of God. Now that should make you smile!