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.

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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!

What’s True Anymore?

It’s so hard to determine what the truth is anymore. Our connection to current events is almost instantaneous and right away someone is analyzing the what really happened and then telling us the “facts” behind the story. A recent study shows that young people are being driven away from organized religion in huge numbers. More than half of those surveyed do not consider them selves Christian anymore. We see moral decay all around us in the news these days from public officials under investigation to, and as friends pointed out this weekend, long time marriages breaking up. Our friend pointed out that technology has made it too easy and tempting to look for greener grass. It seems as though people are having a hard time telling truth from fiction anymore.

Leaders have a responsibility to be truthful at all times. People deserve the truth and when leaders are truthful, their followers can begin to understand what is at stake. Trustworthiness is the number one personality trait that people look for in a leader. People have to trust you as their leader; your word is your truth. No one wants to hear the latest spin you’ve got or the “company line” when they ask questions or see you in action; they want the truth, plain and simple.

John 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is the truth.”

Fortunately, the bible is filled with God’s truths. We have been given examples of God’s promises and his fulfillment of them. There is no spin on anything in the bible and the only “company line” is “Love the Lord Your God”. The devil would love for you to begin creating your own version of the truth or even your own “take of God’s word”. Life can create doubts all around us; sometimes we are not sure who or what to believe anymore.

Despite all of this confusion and our own lack of understanding, God keeps His word and provides for all of our needs. He gives us eternal life in exchange for one simple act: Love the Lord Your God through your faith in Jesus Christ. This truth gives us a life better than we can imagine here on earth. So, despite all of the uncertainty around us, we can all rest comfortably knowing that we can find our truths in the bible and in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Who Cares?

What does compassion mean to you? People often believe that it is the ability to feel sorry for others and some believe that it is showing care for others. I’ve talked about showing grace towards others as means of sharing the teachings of Jesus, which to some is being compassionate. I’d suggest that the answer 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, who leave me feeling great. They have such a demeanor about them that you can’t help but be warmed by your interaction with them. They are kind, giving and rarely have anything negative to say.

The speaker at commencement last week offered several suggestions about having a successful career and life. One of the tips was to eliminate negative people from your life because they drain the energy out of your life. 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. What about the all of the other things in our lives that you can or should care about? 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 about and has compassion on us in 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 all weak from the original sin in our lives, yet God is compassionate towards us. Would you be 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, as 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.

By the Grace of God

Everyone needs a break once in a while. When we work with the same people all of the time, we can get on each other’s nerves. Often times we can simply brush off the issue and move on but every once in a while, we just can’t. My mother joking says: “if everyone were perfect like us, we would not have these problems”. How true is that? In my case, I don’t think I could handle another person like me. What do we do with these people who annoy us or create problems? We can’t ignore them, stop being engaged at work or socially; so most of us simply give them a little grace and move on. We are giving grace even when we justifying the behavior of the person by saying, “oh, that’s just Bill”. Rick Warren in his book Purpose Driven Life, describes difficult people as being EGR or extra grace required people. This really sticks with me every time I encounter someone challenging. As he points out, the real key in life is not to be one of these people. To give someone a little extra grace is to not hold the annoyance against them, listen to the intended message instead of the actual message, and don’t take what they say personally. Southern ladies frame in with the phrase, “Bless her/his heart” when they give a little extra grace. No matter how you do it, the important part is to give the grace; not because they deserve it but because you can.

7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – “ Ephesians 2:7-8

God is constantly showing us grace in our lives. He gave His only Son for us so that we might have eternal life with Him. He has forgiven our sins, not because we deserved it but because He loves us. God’s grace is larger than we can imagine. We sin every day yet, He forgives us. We doubt His love and question His work in our lives and yet, He still loves us. We take Him for granted, live our lives to satisfy ourselves, worry only about what we need and yet, He still keeps His hand on our lives. For me, little else is needed to define what God’s grace really means. God sent a Savior to bring us close to Him, so that we might have eternal life through Jesus. It is through God’s grace that we have been saved but not grace alone. We also need to have faith in Jesus as our Savior. Jesus is the one who took all of our sins to hell, left them behind and when He rose on the third day, He took His seat at the right hand of God to intervene on our behalf. He turns to God and says, “They are worthy, just like me”. Rejoice in God’s grace knowing that He gives it to us as gift through our faith in Jesus Christ.