Favorites

There’s an old expression for someone who was the teacher’s favorite student, the “teacher’s pet”. Every kid in the class despised the teacher’s pet. They felt like the “pet” always received preferred treatment, got away with a little more social freedom than the other kids and seemed to get better grades. Children don’t realize the importance of following the rules, doing your work and getting along with others. These are the types of behaviors that these kids displayed to earn the title “teacher’s pet”. As we grow up, we often fall back into behaviors or feelings that we once had as children. I would bet that there is someone in your place of work or an organization you belong to that reminds you of a “teacher’s pet”. A co-worker or colleague who the boss seemingly treats better than anyone else or who has a little more leeway when it comes to using their discretion. Annoying isn’t it?

I wonder what our fourth grade selves might say to us when they see how we are reacting. Are we jealous because they are getting attention? What is it that they are doing that has put them in this “superior” position? What aren’t you doing? Supervisors have a responsibility to avoid these types of circumstances in their work places. It’s hard not to give high performers extra responsibility, more challenging assignments and a little more understanding when they make mistakes. Good supervisors however, will engage all of their employees to find out what they want to accomplish that will support the mission of the company. They will give employees the right challenge to match their skills and desires. They shouldn’t give them an accounting project if they don’t have any practical experience. Avoiding favoritism is hard for a supervisor but it critical for the overall team’s success.

“…God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Acts 10:34-35

Imagine if God actually had favorites. Now imagine being one of them! What kind of things could you do or what kind of things would you know? The truth is, we are all God’s favorites. If we think about the people or places in our life that are our favorites; we always give them special treatment. We’ll visit a favorite restaurant multiple times or the friend that we think of first when we want to go out for a night or have an extra ticket to an event. This describes the difference between God and us; He has no favorites. We are all equally loved, no matter what our place in life is.

John 3:16 says “God so loved the world…” It doesn’t say that God loved a special few or that He loved His favorites, He loved the WORLD. God showed His love for us by saving us through His son Jesus. He didn’t offer to save His special friends or those that serve Him or specifically anyone other than those that fear Him, do what is right and have faith in Jesus as their savior. God’s promises are clear and no amount of works or giving or special prayers will get us eternal life. We have it simply through God’s grace, which means, we are ALL His favorites.

 

Compassion

What does compassion mean to you? People often believe that it is the ability to feel sorry for others and while some believe that it is showing care for others. I’ve talked about showing grace towards each other as means of sharing the teachings of Jesus, which has been called – being compassionate. I’d suggest that the answer to what is compassion is really all of the above and may include several other aspects that I haven’t touched on. Personally, I find that compassion is best served with part humility and a big component of being genuine about the subject. I’ve had a few people in my life that, after I speak with or see them, I’m left feeling great. They have such a demeanor that you can’t help but be warmed by your interaction with them. They are kind, giving and rarely have anything negative to say.

Compassionate people bring calm, understanding and positive emotions into our lives. They teach us how to look for the good in all things and how to accept the things that we cannot change. Most of us are compassionate about homelessness, poverty, children and the sick. There is a great line in the movie “Back to School” starring Rodney Dangerfield when he’s describing a teacher he has; “He seems to care, about what I don’t know”.

What do you care about and are there things that you should be more compassionate about? Our lives go so fast that we can miss opportunities to be more compassionate about more things. Commit to being more positive and strive to be the type of person that when you leave someone, they have a warm feeling inside because you were there.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13

God cares for and has compassion on us in all of our weaknesses. How many of us would stick with friends or family that constantly failed to meet our needs or respect what we’ve asked of them? We are weak from the original sin in our lives, yet God is compassionate towards us. Are you that compassionate with people in your life?

As a parent, I am compassionate with mistakes that my kids make, or the challenges that they present or the needs that they have. I’ve often said that the best supervisory training is parenting. God, our Father, has compassion on us too. We see His compassion most brightly in the form of a Savior sent to redeem us for all eternity. I do not fear God as the Psalmist did because of God’s compassion towards me and the grace that He gives me through His son Jesus Christ. Jesus intervened on our behalf with God and now we all can live in peace through Him. Just thinking about it gives me that warm feeling inside.

Wisdom of Martin Luther

On one of my many flights, I was reading from a book titled “Concerning Christian Liberty” written by Martin Luther. Of course, it is a reprint but it has been an interesting read from someone who brought Christianity into everyone’s hands. His study and perspective are based on the writings of the bible; his insights are raw and his life was fascinating. Anyway, as I read this before Easter, I couldn’t help but think that his words provide another great summary of what Christianity is. Enjoy the exerpt:

“Christ was sent for no other office than that of the word… What is this word, and by what means is it to be used, since there are so many words of God? As the Apostle Paul explains: to preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if one believes the preaching. Martin Luther references this verse to justify his comments: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”(Romans 10:9) 

“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes”(Romans 10:4) and the just shall live by faith. For the word of God cannot be received and honored by any works, but by faith alone. Hence it is clear that as the soul needs the word alone for life and justification, so it is justified by faith alone, and not by any works. For if it could be justified by any other means, it would have no need of the word, nor consequently of faith. But this faith cannot consist at all with works; that is, if you imagine that you can be justified by those works, whatever they are, along with it.

 Therefore, when you begin to believe, you learn at the same time that all that is in you is utterly guilty, sinful, and damnable, according to that saying, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”(Romans 3:23) 10There is no one righteous, no, not one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”(Romans 3:10-12)

 When you have learned this, you will know Christ is necessary for you, since He has suffered and risen again for you, that, believing in Him, you might by this faith become another man, all your sins be remitted, and you being justified by the merits of another, namely of Christ alone. Therefore, the first care of every Christian ought to be to lay aside all reliance on works, and strengthen his faith alone – more and more, and by it grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who has suffered and risen again for him. Faith, which is the brief and complete fulfilling of the law, will fill those who believe with such righteousness that they will need nothing else for justification.”

May the Peace of Christ and the Grace of God be with you this week!

 

 

Good People Doing Bad Things

When I taught supervisory development classes, I always included a section on ethics. It is quite predictable that the topic of good people doing bad things comes up when you discuss supervising people. The situation always starts out with something innocent, like deciding who will do the dishes in a fire station but ends up on the front page. I know it seems like a big leap but imagine that the determining factor in doing dishes was bouncing a ball at a hanging plant; last one to hit it, did them. Soon enough, that was no longer challenging, so the loser had to hold the ball between their knees. This gradual progression eventually ended with the loser holding the ball between their cheeks (yes, those cheeks) with their pants down. Grown men, life saving professionals had degraded themselves into that – good people doing bad things. As a result, one person lost their job, one was demoted and two were suspended.

Temptation is all around us in this life whether at work, at play, on-line or simply hanging out with friends. We don’t realize it is happening until it’s too late. So ask yourself, what am I being tempted to do? Am I involved in something that is progressing slowly that appears innocent but could lead to something more serious? Sometimes we justify our actions if we believe that no one is being hurt by our action or if “everyone is doing it”. There is an expression in NASCAR “if you’re not cheat’n you’re not try’n”. Stop yourself from getting so comfortable that you end up with your proverbial pants down.

8Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1Peter 5:8-10

Good people doing bad things can be found all around us. We often ask how or why they could do it but Peter knew the answer long ago – your enemy prowls around looking for someone to devour. We don’t just wake up in the morning and decide to do something bad; we’ve been lulled into it over time. People all around the world are suffering the same internal turmoil. Fortunately, we are better off as a society because the number of people resisting is greater than the number falling. God told us that we would be tempted but He also promised to be with us as Peter reminds us of in verse 10.

Whether you have been tempted and successfully resisted or you failed; God’s glory will restore you. Jesus died for our sins and stands with us before God to be declared “not guilty” no matter what bad thing we’ve done. It is our faith in Jesus Christ and God’s grace that we are saved. Through the writings of Peter, God tells us that He will make us strong again. He also tells us that the best way to resist it is to stand firm in our faith. This is more than firmly believing and attending church; it is also regular devotional reading and study of God’s word. Putting God first in your life will prepare you for the fight with the devil and will help you be on alert for the temptations while having the strength to be self-controlled.

Playing a Fool

Once in a great while, I’ll share something about a project that I’ve worked on. Most of what I do in management consulting is pretty straightforward and not very glamorous but I meet great people and love working with municipal governments. So far this year, I have spent most of my time working with the US Military; I’ve spent the better part of the past six weeks working on military assignments in Washington, Texas and Georgia. I’m considered a subject matter expert (SME) but I really just share the experiences and knowledge that I’ve gained over the years; there is nothing magical about what I do.

As an “expert”, some people may consider me wise. What I do may not be magical but it is important for the military that I share what I know. Our municipal clients genuinely appreciate the work we do and take the suggestions that we offer very seriously. In contrast, a poser is someone living by the adage “fake it until you make it”. We see these types of people often our lives; some talk politics as though they are an expert while others share their “expert” opinions on the outcomes of the games played the past weekend. Listen to how these people start their sentences – “I would”, “If I were”, “In my opinion” or my favorite one is; “What should have happened, was”. These phrases are all focused on them or their own point of view. Leading and guiding are not selfish acts but ones in which you share your power and position. Beware of the fool who does not share as a part of the team in search of a solution.

 “Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips.”  Ecclesiastes 10:12

I never started this website to share my opinion; I started it to share leadership principles and God’s word. Over time it has moved from sharing leadership of the workplace ideas to discussing leadership of one’s life. Some say that I am wise but all I do is share what is already available and try to help my fellow disciples. A fool is consumed by his lips when he is just spewing opinion of which he has no real experience or education. A wise man however, is one who is experienced, educated and gracious. What kind of a disciple are you – a fool or a wise man?

When we read the Word and live by the word, we are both educated and experienced. We all make mistakes along the way but do we always learn from them? If we do, we remain wise. This time leading up to Easter that we call lent, is a time for us to reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It is also a time for us to reflect on the grace of God who sent us a Savior so that we could spend eternal life with our Father in heaven. This is a great time to become wise and help the fools to see that their focus is misplaced.

Difficult?

People can be difficult! Unfortunately, I can be one of those people. I’d imagine that if you considered your own life, you might be too. Rick Warren in his book “Purpose Driven Life” refers to difficult people as those who are, EGR – extra grace required. I’d like to think that my own bouts of “difficultness” are event driven but they seem to pop up more frequently when the stress in my life is high. I hope that is more normal than not. I have been known to force issues instead of letting them go. Not a trait that I am proud of. When I was in position of daily leadership, I found that I had a lot more grace to give than I do now. I now have multiple positions in widely different fields; each requiring different approaches to the people that I interact with. Sometimes grace is plentiful and other times it is not. Enough with the confessional, I’m simply a poor miserable sinner – that is the basic truth of the matter.

Sin and grace can go hand and hand. Someone offends you (sin) and you react; oftentimes negatively (more sin). People “talk it out”, make up and return to a congenial relationship (grace). When you consider the conflicts you’ve had or the times when you were less than pleasant, you probably lacked grace. If we were graceful in the beginning, we would not have been labeled “difficult” in the first place. Grace does not always beget grace but it sure helps keep things running a little smoother. Think about those conflicts and the difficult people in your life and ask yourself, have I given grace to this person or situation? Without question, it is a two-way street but someone needs to make the first move.

13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:13-14

We are all instruments for righteousness for God. Let that sink in for a minute. We are not just sinners, we are not unrighteous and we are not unworthy. We were brought from death, because of sin, to life with God. We have eternal life with God through our Savior Jesus Christ. God knew us so well that he intervened on our behalf and sent His Son to earth to live the perfect life, under the law, because we could not. We are preparing during the Lenten Season for the end of Jesus’ life here on earth and the beginning of our eternal life with God who intends to use us as instruments for righteousness. We can’t help but sin but God solved that problem.

Verse 14 is critical, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” We are all benefiting from God’s grace. It is not our adherence to the law or our gifts or our good works that gives us eternal life. We are all poor miserable sinners and there is no denying it. I’ve said before, there are no “degrees” of sin. God sees them all and forgives them all. He does this through His grace to us, His children, and our faith in Jesus as our savior. There is nothing difficult about that.

That time of the year

They say that this is the time of year that people are open to a suggestion to attend church. People are often searching for the meaning in their lives at this time of year. I’d imagine that it has something to do with another year going by or people talking about family but maybe, just maybe people are realizing that this time of year is about Jesus. For those that don’t know God, this can be a confusing time. For those that are questioning God’s role in this crazy world, this can be a time of turmoil in their hearts. For those that are lost, this can be a time of opportunity. So what time is it for you?

We should consider our own place in life as it relates to our faith in Jesus Christ and to God our Father. We are often reminded in the bible that Jesus knew what people were thinking and He often responded to them without a question ever being spoken. God knows what we are thinking too. We need to have a conversation with Him about our fears and our joys. God will bring peace. This is the time of year when we really need to remember that Jesus was, by God’s grace, a gift of peace to the world. We now have the opportunity to share in eternal life with our faith in Jesus Christ. That is something to start celebrating.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.” Isaiah 40:28

They also say that this is the time of year that results in more stress related illnesses than any other time. Can you imagine hearing complaints and requests from 100 people? If that isn’t a recipe for stress I don’t know what is. Take these 100 people and multiply them by millions or billions and that is the workload of God our Father. The amazing thing is that He isn’t fazed by it in the least.

“The Creator of the ends of the earth” has more power than we can imagine, even in our wildest dreams. God is pleased when we call out to Him for help, seek His guidance or simply to say thank you. He has the patience to work with us because He loves us and wants to be close to us. “He will not grow tired or weary”. We were made in His image and He wants us to be just like Him – not tired or weary but strong and full of love. Send your cares, fears, worries, concerns, anger and thanks to Him because “His understanding no one can fathom”. We have no ability to understand how He can do it and why He wants it but we can be assured that His love for us is greater than we can imagine too. Take care of yourself with good food, good love, good sleep, good times, good prayer and the greatness of God.

Reformation Day!

I never really understood how the modern-day churches came into existence until I became a Lutheran. There have been books, books and more books written about the Reformation and then there is the history behind the different “versions” of the Lutheran Church. I don’t want to engage in a discussion about the differences between the various churches in existence today except to say that, the world of religion would not be the same if it were not for Martin Luther. Today is Reformation Day. It commemorates the posting of Martin Luther’s 95 theses’ on the doors of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg Germany in 1517. Martin Luther was a Catholic Priest who was translating the bible from Latin into German when he started to truly understand what the messages were. Martin Luther began sharing the Word of God with lay people for the first time in history. Until his acts of disobedience, only the Priests of the Catholic Church were reading the bible and selecting verses to be shared.

One of his strongest positions was on the practice that freedom from God’s punishment for sin could be bought with money. He became an outlaw under Emperor Charles V and was eventually excommunicated by Pope Leo X in 1520. Martin Luther gave the Bible to the people and began teaching that the Bible was the only source of God’s Word. His “freeing” of the Bible into everyone’s hands became the birth of all Christian religions we know today. Martin Luther was also very antagonistic toward those of Jewish faith and believed in a very strict interpretation of the teachings of the bible. No matter what denomination you worship in, if you are reading the Bible, you have Martin Luther to thank. Happy Reformation Day!

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. 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. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Romans 3:20-26, 28

These verses show us where Martin Luther’s mind was at in 1517. The practice until then was for people to pay the church to forgive their sins and that it was only the Priests that could forgive sins. As a former Catholic, I remember going to confessional, telling my sins to the Priest and being forgiven after I recited prayers to God, the Saints or the Virgin Mary. Confession of sin is still a paramount tenet of Protestant religions and we should do so without hesitation. The key that Martin Luther wanted us to know is that you can speak directly to God about your sins and that they are forgiven because we have all been justified by God’s grace alone. No special payments, no works, no special prayers; just God’s grace and love is what has saved us.

Direction and Need

I read an article this morning about the leadership needs of the Millennial Generation. The styles of leadership that worked well in the past will not work today or at least in the near future. Millennials view leadership in a new way, believe that a leader’s personality is important and they believe that businesses should have a bigger impact on society. They are not concerned about the hierarchy that comes with traditional leadership but value a leader who uses more collaboration and cross-functional teams. They desire employee/personal 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 find people’s limits and their desires through employee coaching. Good coaches will listen to the employee more than they talk, paraphrasing their 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.

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

God also is concerned about our personal growth and as a good coach, He will be faithful to us; God keeps His promises. 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. God 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 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 through Jesus. 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.

Crystal Clear

Providing direction to our team members is one of the most difficult aspects of being a leader. We’d like to believe that people would see a need, understand what has to be done to meet that need and then execute it without us ever having to say anything to them about it. Now that would be utopia! We have to provide clear direction to our team so that they can function within set boundaries but we also need to provide them enough freedom to make decisions within those boundaries without the need to “check in” with us.

Weekly team meetings can help bring everyone together and are a great place to review the boundaries. Each team member should share what they are working on and what they need help with so that other team members can assist them if necessary. Knowing that your team members need help can also provide you with insight as you look to distribute new workloads or find ways to help those that are struggling. If you have several team members struggling, the problem may be in the way you distribute work or in how you give direction. Take a few minutes to find the answers to the cause before you start pushing your team harder, the trouble spot could be you.

Psalm 19:8 – “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

The direction and commands we have received from God are pretty clear, yet we try to interpret them to meet our own needs. Many people argue that the Bible can be vague and has room for interpretation. This, of course, is the work of the devil in our minds. We were conceived in sin and carry that burden with us from birth. We are assured that salvation is found in the Life of Christ through the grace of God our Father.

There is an old expression that we are born twice but only die once. We are physically born on earth and then again born into the life of Christ through baptism but we will only die once from life on earth to enjoy eternal life with Christ and God our Father. The bible has provided us with these truths, over and over in radiant words and images – giving light to our eyes. We are able to see eternal life through that light. Following the commands may be difficult and we will fail at keeping them – original sin is to blame for that. Despite those failings, God has given us His grace and we can be assured of eternal life through Christ – that is crystal clear!