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.

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.

 

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.

God’s Grace

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

Romans 3:19-31

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

Righteousness Through Faith

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

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

“Do what it says”

“Do what I say, not what I do” is an old expression used to describe a hypocrite. We seem to be hearing a lot from people these days that go out in public and profess one thing but then are caught doing another. How about these examples: the politician who talks about decency and moral values while carrying on affair with a young staffer or the Hollywood star who supports equality but is being accused of harassing women. What about us as parents or supervisors? Does hypocrisy exist in your life? Do you text and drive but tell your kids to leave their phones in their pockets? We see supervisors telling their staff to be productive but watch them take two hour lunches and then spend the afternoon reading about their fantasy football team.

As we enter tax preparation season, let’s consider this – is stealing wrong? If so, why is it okay to cheat on your taxes? All of us will tell those in our lives that we love them but do we do anything that shows them that we do? We can all go around and tell people to do things or tell them how to live their lives but we need to be ready to do the same things we tell others to do. We often hear people tell us what to do or what is expected of us and yet we fail to follow their direction because its silly or we don’t agree with it. Imagine how you would react if you found out that someone ignored what you asked them to do. It’s a matter of honesty, we should do as we say or do as we are asked. When does personal freedom end and anarchy begin?

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22

“I go to church on Sunday, why do I need to read the bible during the week?” “I’m a good Christian. I give money to charities and donate my time when I can”. How often have you heard these phrases or even said them? Many bible studies examine the concept of discipleship. One definition of disciple is a learner or growing in faith and knowledge. I often discuss the idea of being in God’s Word on a regular basis. “Do not merely listen to the Word”.

I am frequently reminded of a conversation that I had with someone who was struggling. I said that when you go to church, you are getting God on you and when you participate in the sacrament of communion that you are getting God in you. By studying the Word of God and putting it into practice you are also getting God in you. While this theory of mine is not based in sound theology, to me it makes sense. Becoming one with God is what He desires most for us. The bible is full of instructions for us about how to live our lives but if we don’t know what the bible says, then we can’t do it. Take time to start studying the Word given to us by God and then put those words into action. God has begun His good work in you; help Him by being a part of the work, you can’t lose.

“Group work”

I’m currently working on an assignment for the Army and I’ve been witnessing a variety of teamwork examples; both positive and negative. According to Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary, a group is defined as “a number of individuals assembled together or having some unifying relationship” and a team is defined as “a number of persons associated together in work or activity”. I’ve always been fascinated by the study of teamwork and leadership and I once found an interesting quote. According to Sharon Feltham, “Calling a collection of people a team and rallying them to the cause does not make them a team. A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to: a common purpose, a set of performance goals and a common approach, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”.

A group however, contains people with complementary skills and abilities who are committed to a leader’s goal. “A group supports the leader’s goals and the leader-dominated approach to goal attainment. Leadership is predominantly held by one person rather than the shared, fluid leadership of a team.” What this tells us is that in a group, the dominant viewpoint is represented; in a team, multiple, diverse viewpoints are represented. Decisions in a group are made by voting or implied agreement; decisions on a team are typically made by consensus. I believe this illustrates that people tend to use these terms interchangeably. Next time you join a work “team” make sure you understand who’s goals you are working to achieve.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

Remain in Jesus as He remains in you. Our faith in Jesus Christ gives us the strength to move through our lives here on earth. God loves us and has charted a course in our lives but we cannot do it alone! As the branch, we cannot bear fruit on our own; we must remain in the vine that is Jesus.

It sounds simple but the fact is that we need help to remain in the Word of God and strengthen our faith and understanding of the salvation given to us through God’s grace. The vine – Jesus, instructed us to worship with each other and to grow in our faith. He suggested that we form groups focused on a dominant viewpoint and not a team and its multiple viewpoints. We gather in a group to worship God, hear His word and receive the forgiveness of our sins through Christ our Lord and Savior. At times, we will support another branch when they need it and that branch will support us when we need it. No matter the situation, we must remain in the vine.

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak

During these times of uncertainty and frequent change, we need to get as many perspectives on an issue that we can. It’s easy to forget that our employees often have a very keen perspective of what’s happening in the organization that the leaders may not. The old expression “you can’t see the forest through the trees” has a lot of validity the further up the ladder you go. 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 statements that are made. Leaders need to listen to what is being said, not how it is being said. 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 say anything. These conversations are usually the time we simply justify why we are doing something 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. If you want honest feedback and assessment of a situation from your employees, keep your emotions in check. The employees are giving you a gift, accept it with grace and they’ll do it again. If you don’t accept the gift well, you’ll never get a second chance.

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

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.

Live Your Life

I’m sure that I’ve referenced the book by the late Charles Colson titled “How Now Shall We live” before but in case I haven’t, here is a short recap. The author was convicted of political crimes in the late 1970’s and sentenced to prison for his role in the infamous Watergate break-in under U.S. President Nixon. While in prison, he founded Prison Ministries. His book details the values that shape our Christian worldviews and begins to explain how our worldview points us in the directions that our lives can take. It is a great study of life and helps explain many of the teachings that most Christians hold true today using real life examples. It is a big book but worth reading if you need a little perspective or a detailed reminder of how we should be looking at the world around us.

So, how shall we live? Living a life of faith engages our ears, our hands and our hearts. It doesn’t mean we don’t use our other abilities but it also doesn’t mean that we simply watch our faith (eyes) or talk about faith (mouth), we really need to live it out. We use our ears to listen to the word of God and listen to the world around us. We can listen for the right time to witness or show compassion by listening to others as they share their troubles. We can learn about the messages of God through a number of mediums and bring it to use in our lives. Our hands can produce good work as a model for Christian living or to help others in need. Our hearts tell the rest of the story. As Matthew 6:21 says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When you finish the book by Colson, you will have been exposed to examples of how to live a life today that demonstrates your Christian values without ever having to quote the bible “to sinners” or preach on the street corners. Christian living is about doing, not sitting around talking about what the world needs.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22

Have you ever sat in a church service and felt like you were just going through the motions? Sure, you try and listen to the order of worship and maybe even lip synch the songs but your heart is just not in it. In today’s fast-paced world of short attention spans, it is becoming easier to just be physically present without being mentally engaged. I once had a conversation with a co-worker about what church meant to him and he described the services as being routine and an obligation. He wasn’t getting anything out them. I’d suggest that he was just listening the word. It is like walking in the rain with a raincoat on, you get a little damp but most of the water is repelled away.

The bible verse from James is telling us to not only walk in the rain but to do so without the raincoat; let the word soak you. Just listening to the word (going to services) is a means of deceiving ourselves. The only way we can do what it says is to become soaked by it. Understand the bible and its role in your life. Live your life in such a way that while you may not know the exact verse you are following, you do know that your behavior is a result of God’s word. Knowing the verses is important and will come later but the first step is recognizing that your understanding of the bible has formed your behavior. The word of God is like a warm shower, let it soak you and then enjoy the warmth it provides.

Rising Waters

Are you there for the people in your life? Your friends and family should be able to count on you when they are struggling. An important part of being a friend or being part of a family is knowing that you can count on each other. This week we received a message from a couple who are good friends telling us it has been too long since we last saw each other and suggested a few dates on the calendar to get together. It’s great having friends that you can count on to keep you grounded; like standing next to you in rushing waters.

Leadership at work includes providing direction, vision and support for your organization’s mission. Your employees should be able to count on you to be there for them when they are struggling. Leaders should want to help their people navigate through their challenges (waters) and when things get worse, you can stand by them so that they are not swept away.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you…” Isaiah 43:2.

You can feel confident that God will be with you through thick and thin. This is another promise that God has made; to be with us in all that we do and that nothing will sweep us away – we have eternal life through Him. 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.

If we develop trust and establish a relationship with our family, friends or the people we lead, they will have faith in us to believe that we will take care of them. We too then, need to develop our relationship with God and continue to learn about His promises. 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.

Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is a funny thing. In one way it makes us stronger and more focused than someone without it but in another, it makes us so determined that we lose the ability to see the simple things around us. It also has the ability to force us to do things that we might just otherwise simply blow-off. I’ve been pretty self-disciplined my whole life, I had goals to reach and found ways to complete them. When one road was blocked, I found a path that would lead me to another road headed in the direction that I wanted to go. This type of drive can become all-consuming and before you know it, you aren’t paying attention to the things that are changing around you. My son made an observation tonight that really hit home; once it set in. Speaking to my wife, his sister, and myself he said, “You guys need to just relax and chill a little”. We were all talking about the homework and projects we still had to work on and the tension started to rise. Of course, my answer to him was that when he has more to worry about besides which movie to go see or what electronic gadget to buy, and then he can talk to us about chilling out. In retrospect, he is probably right; we need to chill out a little bit. Between my re-election campaign in full swing, my schoolwork, my special projects, work and daily demands, I could use a little less drive and a little more chill. Self-discipline won’t let us ignore the commitments that we’ve made, nor should we. However, it should also teach us to balance our lives and take time for our selves and each other. Look around the world at the top athletes and you will see very self-disciplined people. You will also see people so absorbed in them selves that they lose sight of the things that matter most. Stay balanced!

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

God never intended for us to be timid; He wants us to be bold and social. We are supposed to be sharing His word with a world that needs salvation and we can’t do that when we sit quietly by ourselves. God’s Spirit gives us power and love to be there for other people or to openly share God’s message. We should have the confidence to stand tall in the face of all adversity because God has given us the strength to do it. No matter what is before you, you have the power of God’s spirit by your side. When you are troubled, turn to God for strength to knock those troubles down. God’s love for you will protect you and He is always there for you. One part of self-discipline is that we remember to do what God has asked of us. We may be driven in this life, have great goals for our careers, and can even pave new roads to success but if we are not disciplined to be faithful to God by growing and sharing in His love, what is the use? God says to us “chill a little” on those earthly wants and needs and give me a little time. Learn what God has in mind for us, learn what love really is and learn what real self-discipline is by knowing how Jesus gave His life for us. He could have changed course when things got bad or quit when He found out that He was to die. Jesus had the self-discipline to stay the course that God had chosen for Him. God isn’t asking much of us, just a little time with Him and less in this world. Go chill with God.