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.

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.

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.

Imitate God’s Love

I’d imagine that this year’s Easter celebrations were different; some might say weird. While gathering in fellowship and worship are the usual ways we celebrate the most important day of the year, we all found that it isn’t the only way. Easter is the day we are shown God’s love and the love of Jesus Christ who suffered for us but rose in celebration of the victory over sin so that we might have eternal life with Him and God our Father. We all need a little more love these days!

I’d like to suggest that we bring Christ’s example of love into our lives even more today. We know Jesus as compassionate, caring, understanding, patient and overflowing with love. We all need to show compassion for each other, those we know and those we don’t know. During these tough times and bombardment of information we are under, one thing that is missing from it all is common sense and an acknowledgement of human behavior. People are going to make mistakes, or they’ll act in ways that we don’t understand. We need to show understanding and patience to each other; every “gathering” of two or three people is not an afront to social distancing guidelines. Be patient with those around you, be slow to anger and disappointment, it shows that you care. All of these things combined show your love towards others, just as Christ loves us.

 Ephesians 5:1,2 – “Be imitators of God… as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us…”

We are so blessed that God loves us. When God handed down the Law contained in the Ten Commandments, the Israelites were afraid because they had seen God’s wrath firsthand. As they continued to live according to their own ways, God spoke to them through the prophets giving the promise of a Savior. God wanted to be close to His children, but sin was preventing that. God sent His only Son into this world to take upon the cross all of our sins on that Good Friday.

Jesus suffered for us because of our sin, but He knew that it would bring reconciliation with God. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The ultimate sign of love just for us – even if we didn’t deserve it. God knows what we need. We cannot live without sin as Christ did, but we can live a life of love as Christ showed us to. Be an imitator, show others your love and when they ask you why or how you can do it, don’t hesitate to tell them where your strength comes from.

Shepherds

This verse is generally perfect when discussing accountability at work or as a bridge to a “take care of your people” writing. Given today’s emotional climate, I’d like to simply focus on shepherding. Looking after the flock is an essential function of leadership, no matter what position we’re talking about. The real issue is how you do it; as a herder you can walk behind them as they walk along the path and keep the strays in line or you can walk in front leading the way knowing that you’ll still have them when you turn around as a Shepherd does. We’re seeing various forms of the shepherd concept of leadership in these trying times, crisis leadership is crucial in getting people to follow. Sheep herders use dogs to chase around the edges to keep the herd moving forward; if you see someone using others to “chase around the edges”, check the leadership style of the one you’re following.

We need leaders who are looking after us and our needs and who aren’t sending others or themselves out to chase the edges. In a time of crisis, we are ALL leaders and can shepherd people toward calm by being reassuring, direct, honest and accountable. As a greater society, we owe each other a little bit of personal accountability – stay home if you are sick and commit to helping those in need. When we return to a state of equilibrium, the world around us will look much different. Everyone will need to work together so that we can all rise up from the new normal. You could be the next shepherd; will you lead from the back or boldly from the front?

Ezekiel 34:12 “As a Shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all places where they were scattered…”

We are God’s sheep and it is great to have a Shepherd that cares about us as much as He does. He gave up His son for our salvation and ever lasting life. God is always present in our lives and will come to our rescue, even when we’ve put distance between us. God’s “rescue” does not mean that we will get what we want, it may mean that we get just enough because the real rescue happened on Easter Sunday. We need to do our best and prevent the need for a rescue in the first place. We should be spending time with God, praying, reading the word and spreading the good news.

Today, more than ever, we need a strong leader. God gave us the perfect one, Jesus. He is patient with us as we make mistakes, He’d hold us accountable as He did with the disciples but, in the end, no matter how many mistakes we make, Jesus will rescue us (usually from ourselves) as the Shepherd does with His flock. On Easter, we were given the grace of God in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. While you are focusing on being a good Shepherd in your daily life or in your vocation, focus also on being a good sheep (follower). Rejoice that your Father cares so deeply that He will risk a lot to rescue you from all of the places that you can scatter to or from all the trials that this world can throw at you.

Go Confidently into 2020

I’d like to end this decade with a reminder for us all and another departure from my usual format. Let’s start this week with the verse, very appropriate for both the Christmas holiday that just past and the start of a new year.

“God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:19

This is why we had Christmas – so God could reconcile with the world. His people, born of sin, could not be with Him in eternal life unless we had a savior. This is great news! But think about what this verse means for you in 2020. God is NOT counting your sins against you! Sin is not measured by severity; every sin is the same and we can’t stop ourselves from doing it – no matter how hard we try. Just as we think we are living really good lives and following the commandments, we will sin again. If you become so confident that your godly life is more pleasing to God – you’re sinning. The complaining that you do about your boss or that one family member – you’re sinning. We can’t help it!

There is an old saying, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” We can be so afraid of ourselves or of our lives that we simply give up trying. For some people, this fear can be paralyzing. They are afraid to try things or to explore new ideas because they are afraid to fail. Others will get so down on themselves because of sin that they give up on getting to know God. They’ll say, “God could never forgive me for what I’ve done”. God has already forgiven them, you and me! Our sins have been erased through our faith in Jesus Christ. He took them all to hell and left them with the devil. Sin has no place in our lives. God does not and will not count them against us because He loves us as any Father would love His children.

Start 2020 confidently and don’t worry about sin being an anchor in your life. We are all special people in God’s eyes, so go strongly, boldly and confidently into the next decade – like you can’t fail. Trust in God, rely on Him for guidance and strength and see what happens. Happy New Year!

Walking in Darkness

Communication is a true art. Books have been written about how to do it better. How many times have you had a fight with someone only to find out “that’s not what I meant”? We all need to keep communications open with the people that we interact on a regular basis. For men, we can go months without speaking to a good friend, pick up the phone and call, and then carry on like no time has past. Unfortunately for us, we try this same approach with many of our other relationships and we fail miserably. Leaders are best served when they engage in what some call “touching base” and others call “checking in”.

The world around us is changing constantly and people need to know what is going on around them. If they are worried about the latest rumor, they won’t focus on their job and then you’ll be forced into communicating with them under unpleasant circumstances. The old saying “you can’t treat people like mushrooms” is true; keeping them in the dark and feeding them crap just won’t work. People need light and encouragement from their leaders. When we engage people in sharing the facts, regardless of how the circumstances may “look”, they will appreciate knowing that they are truly part of the team.

“The people walking in the darkness have seen a great light: on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

Living in the shadow of death without hope of eternal life is unimaginable to me. The sad truth however, is that there are people living in those shadows. They walk in darkness and despair without hope because they don’t know about the light of Christ. The problems of their lives become overwhelming and they sink further into the darkness. This time of year is especially troubling for some; they need to know that people care.

Witnessing to people is one of the hardest things that we can do because we feel so exposed by the possibility of being rejected. Sometimes we’re not confident in our knowledge of bible verses or we simply don’t want to be pushy. It takes courage to overcome these fears. Ask God for help. Maybe this blog post is that help. You don’t need to go around quoting the bible or offering street corner sermons. Simply reminding people that there are options and that no matter what they’ve done, God loves them. If nothing else, share your story and talk about how your life is filled with the light of God. We have seen a great light! Now, go and share it!

Love Covers…

“If everyone was perfect like you and I, we’d have a lot fewer problems” was something my mother would jokingly say. We all have imperfections and weakness that we expect others to overlook but often we have trouble overlooking them in others. If you reverse my mother’s saying – “If everyone was just as cracked and broken as we are, we’d have a lot more problems”. Imagine the personality imperfections that you have (I know it’s hard too) and then add them to the people you deal with on a regular basis. By the way, they get to keep the imperfections that they already have. How does that picture look? Rick Warren in his now famous book “The Purpose Driven Life” talks about giving people a little more grace. He calls them “EGR – Extra Grace Required” people. These are the people who really test you and your ability to overlook their imperfections.

I would imagine that we all have them in our lives but if you are an EGR person? Have you taken personal stock of yourself to see how you treat others or what demands you put on those around you? Are you tolerant of others? As a society we can better coexist if we become more tolerant of each other and our differences. Unfortunately, we have people in this world guided by the opportunity to take advantage of the weaknesses of others. I would suggest that we all give the same grace to others that we receive and if you still feel under appreciated, give more.

“Whoever would foster love covers over an offense” Proverbs 17:9

We are often reminded of Jesus telling us to turn the other cheek. I suspect that this is the way we heard about being tolerant of others. Sure they will strike you, but give them the other cheek too. As I wrote last week, what if God wasn’t tolerant with us? On some level, we offend Him every day and yet He still loves us. As in all cases, God does as He says; fostering love to cover over an offense.

I make the connection with this verse to fostering grudges, seeking revenge or retaliating against others. None of those things foster love. They feel good because they are the work of the devil and he wants us to go against what God wants in our life so he gives it a little extra. No, I’m not saying that all things that feel good are a product of the devil. The fight of good verse evil in our lives is constant and when God is winning, the devil will make evil feel just a little better. Love, patience and compassion are just a few of the actions that we can take toward each other. God has filled the bible with behaviors that if everyone followed them, we’d have a lot fewer problems.