Juicy Gossip

Today, we have to sort through a LOT of literal fake news, half-truths, whole-lies and rumors. Rumors come in many forms but are always the start of something bad, no matter how they were intended. So, what causes them in the first place? I’d like to suggest that if people don’t know what the facts are, they will tell the story that they believe to be true. This is especially true in the workplace. I may be naïve, but I do not believe that people start rumors for the sake of telling lies – unless they are a politician (myself excluded). One of the key responsibilities that leaders have is to keep the truth ahead of the story. Leaders need to be mindful of the “tidbits” of information that they share and of what information they don’t share. The most effective way to keep the truth ahead of the story is through regular transparent communications.

For many at work, communication looks like an email or a memo and for others, it’s communicating in person or by videoconference. The old saying is that the truth will set you free and, in this case, you will be free from rumor. If your organization is facing uncertain times, be truthful about what is happening and do not speculate. Leaving people with your speculation of what is to come will only set their minds free to build upon it and generate stories of their own. Rumors can have widespread effects on an organization. They can easily take on a life of their own as each person adds a little of their story to the one being spun; and a rumor mill is born. The rumor mill can only be defeated by facts and our job as leaders, is to fill them with facts.

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.“ Proverbs 18:8

Who doesn’t love a juicy bit of gossip? We love to fill in the blank when someone asks, “did you hear?” God gave us the Ten Commandments, in which He tells us about how we should treat our neighbors. Pretty soon the rumors we pass on become our truths and then these “truths” will start to fill our lives. Rumors are the devil’s work and he loves for us to spread them.

When we engage in gossip, we not only become more concerned about defending the “facts” we’re spreading but we are breaking God’s Commands; the real truths that God has placed before us. People also start to tell themselves “stories” about what God really says. Soon we begin to believe these as facts and we no longer feel the need to learn and live the truth He has provided us. God has communicated the truth to us through His inspired word of the bible. If the truth is what stops rumors, then we need to know the truth which we do by reading the word of God. Be filled with His truths and not those of the devil. Take in more than choice morsels and let it go down to the inmost parts so that you are satisfied and nourished by God’s word. The truth of God WILL set you free from the shackles of sin.

Being Present

Today, our church installed the new Associate Pastor. He has been an ordained Pastor for almost 15 years, so the ceremony was somewhat anti-climactic, from a personally significant standpoint. The one thing that became evident with the numerous Scripture readings and the message from the Circuit Pastor was that you could sense God’s presence in the service. They all defined what being a Called and Ordained Pastor is and they explained what the Biblical demands of being a Shepard to a flock really are. By the time it was over, the congregation had a clear understanding of God’s presence in the Call and in the act of being a Pastor.

What things have a presence in your life? There are so many things that compete for our attention these days that it may be hard to determine what is important. As parents, we need to be present in our kids lives – not a spectator but a presence in their lives. As a leader, we need to be present at work and as an employee, we need to be present at work. Distractions are everywhere so we must make conscious decisions to be present in the things we do. Think about the various roles you have in your life­ – spouse, parent, friend, employee, leader, coach, mentor, etc. Are you present in your roles? When we aren’t present because we’re distracted by our phone or we let something else take our attention, we might just be sending the message that we don’t care. Giving your full attention to those in your life is so very important, especially now in the times we live.

“I will put my dwelling place among you… I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” Leviticus 26:11-12

Do you feel God’s presence in your life? It can be hard to feel it sometimes, especially when things aren’t going the way we want them to. It would easy to imagine God getting distracted by all of the problems in this world and that we might be ignored. This is NOT the case or even possible where God is concerned. The Leviticus verses are telling us that God intends to dwell with us, walk among us and be our God. It’s saying “God will lead you through it all, get used to Him because He’s not leaving, He’ll live with you, walk with you and never leave your side. God will be here for the good and the bad times; you can count on Him – He is your God.

We are His people today because we believe; we see His actions daily and feel His presence. You might wonder where God is when you feel overwhelmed but if you stop and concentrate, you can feel God’s presence. He is in each word of the bible just as He is in your thoughts and on your heart. You need to simply concentrate and let God be present. As I’ve mentioned before, we can be easily distracted or have our thoughts consumed by other things, but God is never distracted! He is with us all of time and it is us who need to let Him in. Close your eyes, clear your mind and open your heart; God will embrace you.

My cousin Eileen passed away this week at the age of 53 from a short fight with cancer. Her daughter survived a fight a number of years ago when she was in her late teens but her nephew, who also had cancer did not; he was just a boy. My Aunt and Uncle have buried a grandson, a daughter, his parents and all of his siblings. Eileen’s passing is a stark reminder that nothing is within our control and at times, nothing makes sense. For months, the world has been very tumultuous. We’ve got the pandemic, police shootings, protests and politic unrest. It makes you wonder about the end-times. And, while all of this is going on, most people will just go about their business as if it doesn’t matter as long as it isn’t happening to them or in their community.

In our lives, we are constantly fighting a war against ourselves. We are worried about our jobs, the economy, the bills that are piling up and the latest news from our doctor. Worry sets in and we slowly start to panic – war has been declared. Pastor Greg Brown wrote a great book titled “The Seven laws of Breakthrough” in which he describes a journey that we take moving through our lives. At each level, we achieve strength and confidence just before we breakthrough the ceiling to the next level. He points out that when we breakthrough, we are once again on the floor. It is a great relief to know that we are not alone; we will not be challenged beyond what God knows we can handle. While we might think that we can’t possibly take any more and we feel like the waters are rising quickly, we should also feel the comfort and peace in knowing that He will be with us. Its easy to write – don’t worry about things, but when you know that you are not alone, it should make it a little easier to.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1b-2

We have all heard people say or we have said it ourselves “God has a plan for you”. Some believe that the circumstances in their lives are merely chance happenings and that God doesn’t get into those details of your life or worse yet, that there isn’t a God at all. God does have a plan but it’s being revealed on His timeline not ours. A day or a year in God’s eye is not the same as an earthly one. Many of you will agree that “this life” is complicated and filled with all kinds of problems and trials. Can this really be part of God’s plan? It sure can be! God will only give us what we can handle and He wants us to grow in our faith and in our lives.

We cannot grow if we are not challenged; this is when breakthroughs occur. We all learned to crawl before we walked and mastered that before we started to run. These too were challenges and like the events of today; they exist for specific reasons. God, our Father, wants us to grow and like any parent who helps their baby take those first steps, He is there with us holding our hands for balance. As things get harder and the waters turn into rivers, He will be there, so we are not swept away. God’s grace and love are with us every day, sometimes you need to simply stop and realize it. Don’t rely on God only when you pass through the river, get to know Him and see what happens when you are only passing through the waters. Thank Him for His care and presence in your life.

Where Did Humility Go?

When I read the verse for today, I immediately thought about how people treat those in the service industry. Our son always goes over the top when he encounters someone who is taking care of him. I’ve remarked before that it isn’t hard to be nice. Unfortunately, in today’s pandemic world fueled by politics, it seems that people hard a hard time simply being nice to each other. Before this year, we could ignore the politicians and go about our lives. We’d complain about how we missed the customer service of the past, but we’d still be civil to each other. It seems that a week can’t go by without another viral video of someone losing their mind about wearing a face mask.

Ask yourself, how have I been treating people lately? Do I treat people in the service industry like indentured servants or fellow human beings? We all encounter a variety of people each day and each one needs something a little different from us. Today more than ever, we need patience, humility and gentleness. It is important to remember that at work, there are four different generations in the workplace today and each needs its own approach whether we are leading them or working with them. One thing that doesn’t change with the generations is that patience, gentleness and humility will go a long way toward maintaining harmony both at work and in this crazy time we are living through.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

This verse is one of God’s directions for us. He teaches us, through St. Paul, how we should treat and live with each other. I haven’t yet found a person who enjoys the company of someone who isn’t humble and treats people poorly. We tend to tolerate these people in our lives because we have to, not because we want to. We are taught to love all of God’s creatures but some people make that very hard! Remain patient and tolerant, God is teaching you something. How do you act toward others? Are you the person that people merely tolerate? Are you gentle and humble with those who serve you or work with you? Take time to examine yourself and apply the direction that God is giving us.

Jesus demonstrated these attributes in His life. When the Disciples couldn’t understand the lessons Jesus was teaching, He never gave up. When the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with trick questions, He loved them anyway and was gentle with them. Even on the cross, Jesus asked for mercy on those that were crucifying Him. I often say that if people are going to quote from the Bible that they should be reading the whole book and not just a few selected verses that make their point. In order for us to live as St. Paul suggests, we need to be reminded of God’s patience with us and we can do that by reading God’s word.

 

The Future

I’ve recently been doing some research on leadership and team building. An organization losing its bearings is always the end result when either of these components are missing. Most organizations or should I say, most employees want to know what direction they are headed in. This is very important for employees today; more so now than in any other time. Today’s employees believe in the higher purpose of an organization and tend to resist “because I said so” leadership styles.  Creating a vision is the single most effective way to get people to support any proposed change or altered direction. Employees can lose sight of and will need to be reminded of, an organization’s core values and purpose.

Organizational leaders need to construct an envisioned future that describes what the organization stands for now, what the future looks like and how it will get there. The biggest key to successful visioning is sharing the plan with everyone in the organization. Setting goals and objectives that describe the milestones along the way will help turn a wish into a reality. Employees should participate in such a way to help re-define the benchmarks because they have a unique perspective within the organization. Communication throughout the entire process is the best way to keep the vision in front of everyone. If leaders tell people where they are headed and then get out of the way to let them work toward achieving that goal, amazing success can be achieved.

“…He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Zechariah 9:10

The Old Testament is the visioning process of the bible. God gave us a look into what He could do and what He wanted for us. God spoke through angels and in some cases; He spoke directly to ordinary people telling about His vision. God even went so far as to get out of the way and let us work. Of course, we know what we did along the way and failed to meet His expectations. If we were employees, God would have fired us! Like a great Father, He never quit or gave up on us.

God sent us a Son to save the world. Jesus continued to reinforce the vision of “everlasting life” and reminded us of the promises of God our Father. Some people have a hard time reading the Old Testament. When you read it now, read it like a vision of what was to come and as a description of the power that God possess. He was able to overcome armies, flood the earth and cast famines to ultimately overcome Satan. We have a simple responsibility now; stay connected to Him through faith in Jesus Christ as our one and only savior. The goal is simple – everlasting life. The vision is beautifully described throughout the bible, be sure to take the time to find where.

Development

“Equip you with everything good”; sounds like a tall order to fill if you are in a leadership position. It can also be perceived as an insult if you are the employee. I’m suggesting that you view “equipping” as a means of employee development. As leaders, we have the obligation to develop our people and equip them for everything good. We can be so busy taking care of the business that we often let our responsibility for employee development fall away. We should make it a priority and work with each member of our staff to help them achieve more than they thought was possible. Set a regular meeting time and help the employee establish reasonable goals for their career or even for their personal lives.

Personal goal setting is hard for employees to do. People don’t often practice it in their lives so when they are asked to do so at work, they freeze. You might have to suggest some direction or offer options. Help them set short-term goals that are easily achieved so they know what success feels like. Once they see that the developmental goals are for them, they will start to bring their own needs to the meeting. Your success in “equipping” can be measured by increased productivity or job satisfaction by your staff or even if they advance into other positions of increased responsibility. Today’s Millennial workforce is hungry for this type of leadership and you can be the one to equip them for everything good.

“May the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will…” Hebrews 13:20, 21

You should work in your vocation to the glory of God, doing His will. You have been blessed with the ability and the responsibility to lead others; God has equipped you with everything good for doing His will. How do you feel about the other areas of your life, are you equipped? Most of us took advantage of the opportunities that were put in front of us at some point in our lives.

We have to remember that God works in mysterious ways and sometimes we simply don’t always recognize what He’s doing in our lives. When was the last time you attended a bible study or read a book that contained a message from God? These are tools that God will use to equip you for doing His will. Take advantage of the equipping that He is doing and seize upon the opportunities to do His will and witness to others. You will never know when the words you choose or the actions that you take will make the difference in someone else’s life.

Freedom?

We just celebrated Independence Day in the U.S this past weekend. A time for us to reflect on being free from the control of the King of England and what being free really means. It is ironic that our road to freedom started with riots and protests. Also ironic, at this point in our history, the U.S. is still struggling to be “the land of the free”. We have racial inequality that honestly has never been resolved. Our forefathers and the founders of our democracy were slave owners; it was an unfortunate part of life in those times. No human being should ever be owned. In fact, when you look back in history, the human race was pretty barbaric towards one another. In the Roman Colosseum, they watched “man vs. beast” events for entertainment. So, owning another human being wasn’t too far removed. Sure, over time these events stopped but it was over 1800 years before slavey did.

The United States declared war on itself over this very issue in 1861. Citizen fought citizen over the “right” to own another human being. For four years, this war went on and it is estimated that as many as 750,000 people died. Despite efforts ensure that “All men are created equal” and the changes to the constitution ensuring “equality”, the reality was that things were never equal; for another 100 years, racial inequality persisted. The Civil Rights act of 1964 was supposed to “fix” it but here we are in 2020 and we still have not achieved balance.

So why this tirade, you might ask? The hypocrisy is killing me! For weeks I’ve been hearing, watching and reading “Christians” go on about statues and rioting without the slightest care toward the HUMAN BEINGS involved in this issue. No one is talking or writing about the racial inequities that exist – they never did, and they aren’t now. Myself included! None of us can truly understand the challenges of being Black in America (or the world) but we should surely be empathetic and work toward solutions that genuinely put everyone on a level playing field. I’m not talking about wealth distribution, but we’ve got to invest in strategies that will work. In leadership, I often say that a vision is needed for people to get behind a leader. What do we envision our future looking like? When you strip away all of the politics, all of the “I’ve got mine” beliefs, and the other distractions, ask yourself what is really on your heart and who put it there?

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

God knows we are easily distracted; look how long it took for Eve to get distracted/tempted from the one rule they had “Don’t eat from the tree in the middle of the garden”? God set in our minds and hearts that we will find Him when we seek Him with all of our heart. This isn’t a “microwave” solution: fast and when we want it. The lesson here is that we need to become immersed in God’s word, seek him with all of our heart; not just a minute or two and only when we need Him. The only true way forward in today’s world is with a God loving heart and spirit.

Spend time with God, everyday. If you are like everyone who receives e-mails, you’ll read 15 minutes of “funny” e-mails, check the stories on a news website or spend an hour looking at the feed on Twitter. Are you devoting that much time to seeking the Lord with all your heart? God is always accessible to hear your prayers, accept your thanks, receive your praise and forgive your sins. God can be that old friend who you tell all of your secrets to but like your dearest of friends, it doesn’t happen overnight. God has done so much for us and He just asks for us get close to Him and to seek Him with all your heart.

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?