Diligence

The word diligent is defined as, “Characterized by care and perseverance in carrying out tasks”. How can we live diligently? We can start by paying attention. The social movements that are occurring today are forcing people to pay attention; some for the first time. The racial issues that are being brought into focus are not new issues; we’ve simply ignored them for years (or forever). Many people are uncomfortable because the topic of racial inequality isn’t going away. They would rather focus on the physical damage rather than address the underlying cause. The issue will take perseverance to create change.

At work, we often pay attention to the details and generally try not to let things fall through the cracks; that’s diligence. The communities that we live in depend on all of us paying attention to the details: while driving, interacting with each other and maintaining an orderly society. Rules and laws provide the structure of a society that allows billions of people to live together.

Diligence also requires accountability; you must ensure you are meeting your obligations. We are responsible for each other and accountable to one another for our actions. Too often we see people going through life paying attention to only themselves and what they are doing. In the firehouse we used to call these types of people “one way’s”. They had only one way of thinking and it was all about their needs. We are all leaders in our lives no matter our position. As parents, we lead our families, as adults we lead children, as Christians we lead through our example. Regardless of your place of life you are a leader, so provide leadership diligently.

“If a man’s gift is … leadership, let him govern diligently…” Romans 12:6, 8

As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, if we are to lead, we must do it diligently. We must pay attention to the small things; the devil is in the details. It is easy to obey the straightforward commandments like not stealing or killing but what about the “details” of the other commandments; like not being jealous of what others have or putting other activities before worship with God, especially during football season.

Who is keeping you accountable for what is happening in your life? Confess your sin, give it to the Lord, repent and turn toward God. The good news is that Jesus took it all upon himself on the cross for us. Be diligent in your daily study and time with the Lord, it will make leading much easier. We often do not seek Christian leadership role models in our lives. Whether you have chosen it or not, God has chosen you to be an example for others. Do you carry out your Christian duties with care and perseverance? You don’t have to be the designated leader to have people follow you, but you do have to be aware that people will follow you, good and bad, so why not be better prepared?  You’ll be rewarded in many ways.

What is Right Anymore?

Famous business leader Peter Drucker once said, “The successful person places more attention on doing the right thing rather than doing things right.” We hear a lot these days from people who are quick to lecture about “doing what’s right” but they fail to define what “right” is. Honestly, “right” isn’t hard but we’re so determined that it be “our own version of right” that we’ve stopped considering that we might actually, be wrong. A large number of people have forgotten what “taking care of each” other means because they’re so focused on being right. There is a segment of the American public that wants to shut off welfare, suppress minimum wage and close up the borders to the “Land of the Free” who’s Statue of Liberty says, “give us your poor, your weak …” What is right anymore? Do we really understand the problems created by isolation and individualism? The discussions around the issue of wearing masks in public is a great example – required or voluntary, people have forgotten about the greater good.

I’ve written before about author Kent Keith, whose book “Anyway”, lists the ten paradoxical commandments of life. Paradoxical commandment number nine says “Give the world the best you have, and you’ll get kicked in the teeth; Give the world your best anyway”. You may have heard the phrase “No good dead will go unpunished”. We do good anyway because it is written on our hearts. It is certainly easier for us to do the things that: cause us less work, make us more money, won’t hurt anyone and won’t create a conflict or simply do something because everyone else is doing it. Being a member of a greater society isn’t easy. It is what separates us from the animal kingdom. All leaders have an obligation to do the right thing, all the time, and to continue to do it even if it isn’t popular or appreciated. Integrity can be described as doing the right thing even when no one is watching. We are however, never alone.

 “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins.” James 4:17

God is always with us, in thought, word and deed. He knows what is in our heart and see’s even the little things we say and do. So, when we know better and don’t do it or when we take the easy way out, we sin. There are a lot of things we do as a result of the old Adam in us; things that result in sin. There are no degrees of sin, they are all the same and we sin daily.

We are not perfect, and God knows that, which is why He gave us an example to follow – Jesus. Despite the examples of how to live a Holy life that Jesus gave us, we can’t help ourselves. Our gracious God knows this too and He sent Jesus to not only be our example but to reconcile us with Him. Jesus took upon himself, the punishment for all of ours sins so that we could have forgiveness and eternal life with our Father. Jesus demonstrated love and obtained the forgiveness for ALL of our sins. No matter what has happened, turn away from the sin in your life and turn toward God seeking forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

A Good Name

A good reputation or a good name is hard to come by but can be lost very easily. Your success at work and I’d argue, in life, is directly linked to your reputation. Spend a moment and think of a leader or person in your life that you’d like to emulate or is someone that you really enjoy speaking with. Maybe it’s someone that has helped you in your career or trained you in something new. Now ask yourself, have I done any of these things for others? It’s difficult for us to know what our own reputation is; at least what people really think of us. Taking time to reflect on your own reputation and to answer these questions may help you measure how good your name really is.

Society has placed a lot of emphasis on being successful (riches) and we are often judged by the things we have. The good news for today is that we can see that changing. People are becoming more concerned with making a difference or experiencing what life has to offer than they are with amassing wealth. The “tiny house” movement is a great example. I had a friend once asked, are you being significant or successful? He suggests that being significant to someone or to others is far more important than any material success you may achieve. I couldn’t agree more.

Proverbs 22:1 “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

Every day, we all have the opportunity to demonstrate our faith by being an example of living a Christian life. To create a good name, you can show others your compassion, caring, understanding and patience. Being aggressive in business has been rewarded with bonuses and perks but these things may all be at the cost of your good name.

We learn from the message in Proverbs that it is better to be esteemed rather than rich. Today, we are faced with a mountain of challenges but in the end, we should be striving to make a difference. God will provide great riches beyond this life and He will give you the most important of all good names – Saved One. Leadership is not about getting something; it is about giving yourself to others, to share what you know so that others can become significant. We are all leaders to someone in our lives – whether we know it or not. Jesus led the disciples and showed the way of Christian living. St. Paul lead the churches of the region through his letters and moral support. If God can use St. Paul, while in jail, to provide leadership that has lasted for more than 2000 years, how hard can it be for us to be significant?

Know How and Why you are Following?

Why do people follow those in Leadership positions? Is it because they HAVE to or is it because they are inspired to? We have many people whom we choose to follow and for a number of other reasons besides being inspired or being forced to because of their position. Some we follow because they are fighting the cause that we believe in (shared ideology) or some because they represent the same group that we associate with. What happens when our ideology or group association no longer line up with “norms” of the leader(s)? How do we lead others in our own lives; through coercion or inspiration? How/what are we following?

In our lives, we are all leaders or followers depending on the situation. At home, you may be the leader and other times, you are the follower – just ask a long-married man what role he has most often. Good followers, however, do not follow the leader blindly; they first understand the mission of the leader and follow them to make things better. What kind of a follower are you? Generally speaking, followers inspire others and in turn become leaders.

Even designated leaders must learn to be good followers. Unfortunately, we often see people in leadership positions who demand allegiance from their followers but they fail to act in the same way to those they follow. What kind of follower are you? Do you demand from those you lead something you won’t give as a follower yourself or do you leave your followers in the dark about where you are headed? Leadership is advanced ten-fold when we lead by setting a good example. The bottom line is that we all need to work toward common goals for the betterment of the greater good. Effective leadership and followership foster an atmosphere that inspires innovation, allows people time to explore ideas and be creative which will pay dividends in morale and may produce better results and make the changes that are needed.

“Come, follow me,“Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” – Matthew 4:19

Jesus provided us with great examples of leadership. He was a great follower too – he fulfilled the prophets, flawlessly obeyed the Ten Commandments and never wavered in His ideology through and with His Father’s will. We will never be perfect, but we can use Jesus’ examples in our lives. When Jesus said “I will make you fishers of men” we know it was his way of saying: I will give you the tools, the strength, the time, the understanding, the guidance and an example to follow so that you, my disciples, will lead people to me.

Despite His followers set backs, Jesus was always there to pick them up, help them understand and lead another day. He gave them opportunities to serve and circumstances to teach the Word of God. Are you a fisher of men? The Lord has blessed you by putting you in a unique position as both a leader and a follower. Remember what Jesus did, how he led, and put that to good work. The work of a follower is important to. Understand the mission and do your best. Reading the bible, daily devotions and deliberate Christian living are keys to being a good follower and you will attract those that need a leader. In the end, you are already a fisher of men.

Listen Carefully

During these times of uncertainty, it is easy to jump to conclusions about things that we really don’t understand. The unrest that has seized the United States is multi-faceted and we need to understand as many perspectives on these issues that we can. It’s easy to make conclusions based on the soundbites of our favorite news outlet or twitter account holder. We forget that many “ordinary” people have a very keen perspective of what’s happening that we may not. The old expression “you can’t see the forest through the trees” has a lot of validity the further removed you are from the problem. Personally, I have led a life of privilege, so it is important that I work harder to understand the issues. As James reminds us, “be quick to listen”; you might be surprised by what you hear. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.

The deeper down you dig, the less polish you’ll find on the things you hear or the statements that are made. All leaders need to listen to what is being said, not how it is being said and what side actions are taking place. Don’t focus on the actions but focus on the root issue. We’ve all been locked up for weeks (emotionally and physically) and what we’ve seen the past four days is not surprising to those of us that work in the Homeland Response field. These are desperate actions to what are perceived or actually desperate circumstances. Unless you are a person of color, you cannot begin to understand why this is happening unless you start listening – carefully.

Search for the facts, they may not be stated in a way that you’re used to hearing them. Be slow to speak, let the speaker get everything out before you begin to say anything. These conversations are usually the time when we simply justify why something is happening or why we can’t change. Resist the urge to become angry in the face of criticism; remember there can be more than one right answer to many problems, keep your emotions in check. When people exchange their thoughts, they are exchanging gifts, accept it with grace and they’ll do it again – the dialog now begins. If you don’t accept the gift well, you’ll never get a second chance. Many people today haven’t had their “gift” accepted very well and are lashing out.

James 1:19 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to heed these words as well. Listen to the words contained in the bible; be slow to speak about why that isn’t realistic or how it’s impossible to follow the example of Jesus Christ. How often do you actually hear the Word, is it only in worship? The Word is a guide for us to learn and apply but it’s hard to do when you only hear it once a week. As you listen to the Word, let the meaning sink in. Look for what is being said beyond the words. Jesus often used parables as examples and honestly, they can be confusing too. Be patient and meditate on the Word of God, it will come to you.

Be slow to become angry or frustrated when you read the bible as you compare your life to what you are reading. Remember, God gave us the Law in the Old Testament and salvation in the New Testament. Don’t feel guilty about how you lead your life, Christ died for all of our sins – past, present and future. No day will go by without sin in your life. Some people think that that acting in a Christ-like manner just won’t work because they have too many “problems” in their lives or have done too many “bad” things for God to forgive. Nonsense! God sent His son to save the world and not condemn it. If no day can pass without sin, we would all be condemned if it wasn’t for God’s grace in our lives. Those with faith in Jesus Christ are saved.

Mentoring

Whether you say counselor, teacher, mentor or instructor they all mean the same for someone who is a supervisor/leader. If you are a leader, you have a responsibility to develop the skills and knowledge your personnel. People want to progress in their positions and are generally interested in learning; regardless of their position. As a leader, people look to you for help with problems or seek your input as they try new things. Your responsibility is to help them problem solve; not solve their problems but help them work out a solution. It might be easier to simply do it but you will not allow them to learn; you must be the teacher or counselor.

Teaching requires great patience and a commitment to helping others achieve success. Think back to your favorite teacher/mentor, what made them great? Chances are good that they were: caring, interested in you, passionate about the subject, inspiring or willing to share their knowledge. Do you do that for your people? They will appreciate it and you’ll see benefits from improved morale, higher productivity, improved creativity and generally a problem free workplace.

“But the counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”        John 14:26

The great counselor, called teacher by many was, of course, Jesus Christ. John the Baptist was telling everyone of “one greater than I” whom the Father would send to continue teaching and ultimately pay for our sins with His life. Despite the teachings of Jesus, people still remained doubtful. Even after his crucifixion and resurrection, people remained doubtful.

Since the beginning of time, God has been teaching by using man as an instrument of delivery; a living power point presentation if you will. God has inspired men to do great things; Noah, Moses, John and Paul all did God’s work through His inspiration. God has put great teachers in our lives – some show us what to do while others show us what not to do. God has put you in a place to do great things so He can help others. Honor God by following Jesus’ example in your life, be the “teacher” for others to understand the hope that you have in Him.

God’s Grace

Every once in a while, I like to post verses that stand on their own. We have too many people talking these days and I don’t want to be just another voice on the internet. Last week I talked about the law and our freedom from sin. This week explains the whole concept in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Verse 20 is key for our understanding of our relationship to the law. We see again in these verses how we are free from sin and that it is nothing but God’s grace and our faith in Jesus that frees us from our sin. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, but we can be absolutely sure of God’s love for us and our freedom from sin. I’d like to suggest that you read the verses that follow and reflect on what they mean to you. Hopefully, they mean something more meaningful or insightful than the last time you read them.

Romans 3:19-31

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

Righteousness Through Faith

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

We are Free!

Reading today’s verse got me thinking about all of the things in my life that pull me in multiple directions or control my time and energy. When you stop and think your daily activities – well, maybe not these days but in general. I know that using the term “slave” isn’t the most appropriate term since it is a reflection of a period when humanity was it worst but, it does describe how something, or someone can have complete control over you. As human beings we like to be in control of the things in our lives and the path that we take. When we have little or no say, we feel enslaved. Right now, is a good example of having no control in your life.

At my peak, I function in at least four different capacities in my life. As a local government consultant, an elected official, a military contractor and a husband/father. These are all awesome roles that I play and are hopefully meaningful to those that I serve. The challenge is that they are usually more in control of me than I am of them. What things are controlling your life? Often, they are things that we simply can’t do without – our job, our family or our parents. Sometimes we can actually effect change that will free us; like spending less time with a friend who taking an emotional toll on us or a hobby that has started to consume ALL of our free time. One of the keys to happiness is to spend time on things that are meaningful to you and that bring joy into your life. Figure out what those things are and break the chains on everything else.

34Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:34-36

We are a slave to sin. This is one of those things that we cannot control. We can’t control or manage it and no matter what we do; we will sin. Jesus said a number of times that we are in Him and He is in us. We also know that what was given to Jesus has also been given to us. This verse reminds us that we are free from sin because Jesus took all of our sins with Him on the cross. He set us free from sin! It’s amazing to me the number of people who feel that they are not worthy to even go into a church because of their sin. “I have to get right with God, first” they say.

We are all “right with God” because of Jesus! The Son has set us free from sin. We are no longer under the law but we have been made right with the law thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus for our salvation. It is pretty clear in the Bible that God has granted our salvation and eternal life in heaven through our faith in Jesus Christ. I am in awe of that! Despite my daily sins, God continues to forgive me. When we hear about grace and mercy, this is the first thing that should come to our minds. We are free indeed! Consume your time with things that are pleasing to God, spend time in the Bible reading God’s word and give your talents freely to those who need it. Let others know what freedom is all about.

I’ve Got Mine!

Win at all costs! An expression that we heard often in the 1990’s and it seems to be making a comeback as we start to struggle with recovering from the effects of the pandemic. “I’ve got mine, sorry you don’t.” I wrote last week about people wanting more from corporations and that the workforce is starting to look at the bigger picture – corporate responsibility that is socially conscious. Today, more than ever, we need to understand that together we conquer, divided we fall. What happens when we give up everything to “win”?

How aggressive do you play to win? Do nice guys really finish last? If we all look into our pasts, chances are good that we will see times when it appears that or perhaps, we actually did; forfeit our souls to get ahead. What is worth trading your soul for? The riches of the world are very appealing: new cars, bigger houses, a boat, jewelry and the like. These are the material things of this world that we are reminded about throughout the bible, not to pay attention to but to keep our focus on God. Be careful of the circumstances that don’t feel right, but you can’t understand why. They are from your soul telling you not to give part of it away.

Matthew 16:26 “What good will it be for a man if he gains the world yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

As the days and months ahead drag on, we need to be living according to God’s word more than ever before. What can a man give in exchange for his soul? We may gain much in this life but if we do little with it, we will be very disappointed with our results. We are assured by John in the second part of verse 3:16 “for whoever believes in him will have eternal life”. We can rest assured that God will keep his promises to us.

What obligation do you have to God? We should be willing to be faithful servants to Him and we can do that by putting our beliefs into action. Leading by example in your everyday life, like a good Christian, with truth, ethics, nobility, compassion and with God as your guiding force is a good place to start. Oftentimes, it is always “just one more time” for us – one more time to bend the numbers and I’ll have the next promotion or one more time to gossip about a co-worker and I’ll get the best assignment or one more time to take care of myself before I care about others or simply, I’ve got mine and no one else deserves it because I worked hard for it. There are now and there will certainly be people who will need our help – homeless, unemployed, uninsured and the hungry. What can you offer? Today, if you’re still focused on the gains of this world, turn away from what you’re doing, turn away from what you’ve done and live your life as if your soul depends on it, it just might!

Temptation

I want to take a break from the real issues of today and get back to why I started writing these in the first place; let’s talk about leadership. We see changing profiles in leadership that guide those “in charge”. In the early 20th Century it was the autocrat and today we’re seeing a workforce drawn to those with “personality and charisma”. Some today even believe that businesses should have a bigger impact on society. We are witnessing that in many of the commercials we see in this time of social distancing. The workforce today values employee growth, making a positive contribution to society and their own well being.

One thing that has not changed: Leaders have a responsibility to challenge their people to grow. Employee growth, personally and professionally, help improve their creativity and morale. It is possible to push people too far or into a direction that they are not interested in or prepared to perform. A good leader will determine their people’s limits and their personal desires through employee coaching. Good coaches will listen to an employee more than they talk, paraphrasing the employee’s desires to ensure that they understand what the employee wants and will set goals with (not for) the employee. This ensures that they are part of their own destiny. Once an employee knows what they want to achieve, a leader can help them reach and achieve more.

 “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear…”        1 Corinthians 10:13

God also is concerned about our personal growth and as a good coach, He will be faithful to us; God keeps His promises to be faithful. The struggle between God and Satan remains strong and the old Adam in us can be tempted quite easily. We know God loves us and that despite our free will to choose, He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. Our sin and our inability to follow the Ten Commandments is why God had to send His only Son to be our savior; with Jesus Christ we are free from the bondage of our sin.

God is active in our lives, providing options for us to choose from in how we live. He is working His plan in our lives despite our free will choices. God wants us close to Him and, through the bible, has given us the best plan to live this life. Our faith in Jesus and in God’s grace, is what allows us to be tempted and fail at times but to still have forgiveness of our sins. God is faithful! He kept His promise of salvation for us all by sending His Son to die for our sins. We all sin and may at times feel unworthy; God’s grace and the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross makes us all worthy regardless of our own actions.