Most of us probably approach the subject of wisdom from only one angle.
We simply want to know what to do next. Let’s call this particular wisdom. Perhaps you are looking to buy a new car and you want to make the right choice. Or it could be a career decision or any number of current decisions.
For starters there is popular wisdom. In many ways this is not wisdom at all, but if we have bought into the surrounding culture’s mentality, we think we are wise. I’m not sure you want to pray for this type of wisdom.
Many have unknowingly bought into the flavor of the day. But anyone can go along with the crowd. Absalom was all style and no substance, which incidentally makes many politicians, celebrities, and sport’s stars our modern-day heroes. But Absalom proved to be deceptive, and he hurt a lot of people.
With that in mind let’s dig a little deeper. Perhaps a good place to start is to read and reflect on the two chapters mentioned above. Here’s the bottom line: We can be wise and unwise at the same time. Full of wisdom and devoid of wisdom at the same time. Seems paradoxical, but a very real reality.
There are four main characters in those chapters, and they all possess wisdom. Not all wisdom is used wisely or for positive reasons. Some actually use their wisdom in order to manipulate others. Sad, but true.
That in itself calls for wisdom.
We’ll come back in the next post to discuss the types of wisdom you need to pray for. Until then read and reflect upon the two chapters mentioned above.
Excuses. We use them all the time. Sometimes we quite frankly just don’t want to do something.
Maybe some are legit, but could we be hurting ourselves, could we be holding ourselves back from reaching our full potential?
We have to ask, don’t we?
In the church world several scenarios tend to come up regularly.
1. We may be encouraged to schedule some time for Bible study.
Excuse: I don’t have the time.
2. Could you serve in this area perhaps greeting or children’s ministry?
Excuse: That’s not my area of giftedness.
3. This week would be a great time to start tithing.
Excuse: I can’t afford to give that much.
4. Would you like to join us this week in small group?
Excuse: The time frame doesn’t work for me.
You get the point. Granted many of our excuses are genuine. Moses certainly seemed to have some legitimate reasons for not wanting to do what God asked of him. In Exodus 3-4 Moses has the incredible burning bush experience with God. Following that God commissioned Moses to return to Egypt and be the leader and main spokesman for Israel.
To be honest public speaking always seems to rated at the top of our fears, so Moses reluctancy is reasonable. Or is it?
Now Moses appears to have good excuses for not responding to God’s call. But then all excuses seem plausible or we would not give them. Moses seems to be lacking self-confidence in his speaking abilities, but then who hasn’t felt linguistically challenged at some point.
Is that a good reason not to go?
God didn’t think so. In fact, God eventually got angry.
And thankfully Moses did ultimately go.
So what was the outcome? Moses became the greatest leader in the Old Testament, and perhaps in the entire Bible, next to Jesus.
The bottom line: Moses’ excuses were keeping him from his full potential. I’ll bet he was glad that God kept on him. What if God had given up and said,”Fine, don’t go, I’ll find someone else.”
How sad that would have been. Not only for Moses but for the nation of Israel and ultimately even us.
So the next time someone asks or challenges you, before you give an excuse ask yourself: Is my excuse holding me back from my full potential?
Jesus seemed to always be busy, yet never in a hurry.
What about Moses? If he had been running red lights he would have surely missed the burning bush.
Just those two examples alone seem to indicate that if you are in a hurry you are not fully present.
When you and I (assuming you too have found yourself always in a hurry) are in a hurry we:
* run red lights.
* want others to hurry and finish their story.
* fly around corners on the roads and in the stores.
* don’t have time for others.
* skip our Bible reading and our prayer time.
* miss things, opportunities, and valuable lessons.
* listen less attentively.
* don”t call others when we should.
* fail to carve time out just to think.
* change lines in the store…more than once.
* are obnoxious to others.
You get the point. Hurry needs to go!
No wonder the late Dallas Willard said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
So for the last couple of weeks I have tried, somewhat successfully to do just that.
Recently I had the opportunity to attend the ACC Basketball Tournament. That meant that I had to buckle down and attack my upcoming message as I would be gone for three days. When it came time to leave Carol and I did not have to hurry to get there. I had allowed plenty of time.
When it came time to leave early Sunday morning I once again left early enough so I would not have to hurry back. Life is stressful enough. Why hurry and add to it?
Also just the other day I had to go to Lowe’s for two small items. First though I needed to take care of something in the customer service line. The woman in front of me had several items to return and it got complicated. Typically when in a hurry I’m sure I show it. However, I looked at my daughter Heather and said, “Let’s go get the two items and come back.” So we did. No stress. Minutes later there was no one around and we breezed out of the store.
It actually felt good to not be in a hurry.
Have I arrived? Absolutely not.
But I have learned why Willard said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
So that’s the challenge. Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.
Perhaps one of the best places to start is to identify what’s holding you back.
In my own life I have identified eight things that get in the way. Just being able to identify them has proved helpful.
Just looking at these eight things may help you realize how easy it is to be less productive. These things seem to be ubiquitous. You are always fighting them.
So what’s the plan to overcome these hindrances? That’s coming in the next post.
The fact is, we live in a quitter culture. People walk away from their jobs, their spouses, their new year’s resolutions, and their churches.
Near the end of the apostle Paul’s ministry some of his coworkers abandoned him. That absolutely amazes me. Just the thought of being able to serve alongside Paul fires me up. But people left him. My guess is, based on typical human reasoning, they had “good reasons” for leaving Paul high and dry. After all, they had “justifiable concerns” of Paul.
Over the years I have followed some pastors with incredible ministries. Men like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, and Perry Noble. Their stories are similar. They have all had good friends and coworkers abandon them, and of course, all left for “good reasons.” In every case it was the pastor’s fault.
So I’m sure it was the same for the apostle Paul.
Perhaps those who abandoned Paul were concerned that his prison sentence showed that God was not in his minstry.
Whatever their reasoning they left. But under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul in 2 Timothy 1:16 is asking God to greatly reward Onesiphorus who stood with him and encouraged him while he was lanquishing in prison. “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains...”
My guess is you will cross paths with someone this week who has been abandoned by someone. They are feeling incredible loneliness.
Stay alert and take the time to step in and encourage. You will be glad you did. And God may just happen to shine on you, and even your family.
The NBA season is winding down and things are getting tense. The Miami Heat tend to have more pressure than some of the other teams. They supposedly put together a dream team a couple of years ago in hopes of winning a championship.
Fortunately they have been able to win back to back championships the last two years. Prior to those championships, their star player, Lebron James, appeared to struggle at key times, i.e. the end of the game. He has been labeled as a bad closer. Before he was criticized for not coming up big at the end of games with a clutch, game winning shot or play. Fair or not that was the word in the media.
Now I can’t say for sure, but is it the pressure? We all play differently under pressure. Michael Jordan loved the pressure and always wanted the ball at the end of a close game. He typically delivered.
But let’s look at the pressure in our own lives. Perhaps it’s a job interview. Some great employees are terrible at interview time. Why? Does the pressure of getting the job hurt their chances?
What about your child who just had a stellar year on the soccer field. Put them in the tryouts for the next level and they have a bad showing. Is it the pressure to perform?
Is it the constant scrutiny? More than likely it is due to increased performance expectations? As a parent it’s a trap that we can easily fall into. Over the years I have watched parents become visibly upset when their child struck out in baseball, missed a shot in basketball, or missed a kick in soccer. As if our kids needed more pressure.
Pressure. You can’t escape it. It shows up repeatedly. And when it does it robs you of joy and takes the fun away from the event.
So what can we do to counteract the downside of pressure?
1. Learn to relax. If you miss the basket, will it matter in ten years. For Lebron it may, but not for you.
2. Lighten up with others including your kids. If will be much more fun and enjoyable. It will definitely make the ride back home more enjoyable.
3. Love the pressure. Be excited that you are the one in the position to score. You got the second interview. You have the ball with three seconds left. Relish the moment and make the most of it.
4. Learn from any failures. No one, absolutely no one is perfect under pressure all the time. Learn from it and move forward.
Be honest, where are you allowing pressure to hurt your personal performance?
The problem is when it is toxic. Of course, at times it is very noticeable. It may appear in the form of anger, drama, hatred, gossip, secrets, moodiness, the silent treatment, and unhealthy competitiveness.
Think about a toxic culture that you are or were a part of. It happens even in families. It only takes one family member to ruin a family dinner, a family vacation, a family cookout, or a family birthday party.
While we can all relate to a current or previous toxic culture, I am sure that we ourselves had nothing to do with it. It’s so easy to see it in others, but not ourselves.
Way back in the Garden of Eden when sin entered into the human race so did toxicity. And who stepped in to deal with it? God did. And He set the example for all of us.
At New Hope I consider monitoring and maintaining a healthy culture to be one of my biggest responsibilities. Our culture is far more important than our strategy or vision.
Whether I am meeting someone over a cup of coffee or attending Sunday morning or attending a team meeting it is always something I look forward to. I attribute that to our healthy culture.
To have the right people in the right places with the same vision is fun. Now I don’t have to tell you that unhealthy cultures are not fun. So why do we stay in them or settle for them? No doubt at times we move too slowly in fixing the culture. We allow one of our kids to continue on with a bad attitude or we do the same thing at work.
Surprisingly unhealthy cultures can infiltrate the church. One pastor who is well known for training other church staffs writes, “…we thought we’d find the biggest need would be new methodology. We were wrong. The greatest need was for unity…Some actually thought they could serve God effectively while undercutting and backbiting and carrying around hurt, resentment, and bitterness.”
In other words, many churches tolerate toxicity. As I said, we have all done it. Whether at home or at work.
Here is a short acrostic that has helped me. A.C.T.: When I haven’t ACTed it has taken an emotional toll. I am sure you can identify. Just do the following three things with a teenager, a spouse, or a coworker. You will be glad you did.
Analyze my current relationships. Do I have the relational capital to speak the truth in love? It’s amazing to me that in some marriages a couple seems to lack this and is afraid to bring up and discuss the very things that are destroying their marriage.
Clarify expectations. Have I been clear about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior?
Take responsibility for shaping the culture. Perhaps I need to discipline one of my kids. Perhaps at work I need to make it clear that a particular behavior is unacceptable. Perhaps I need to encourage more. Maybe I just need to be more kind. You get the idea.
We can all define a healthy culture and a toxic culture. Amazingly we often settle for the latter. Let’s ACT and inspire a culture that is characterized by love, fun, encouragement, warmth, humor, and passion!
As I get older I often tell Carol that I when I can no longer keep up on the court I will hang up my basketball shoes. Now that will be a tough day. Right now my goal is to be able to play until I’m sixty. Keep in mind most of the guys I play with are in their late twenties or thirties.
Fortunately for me I was blessed with some speed in the game. Actually it was speed not skill that often kept me on a team.
But the reality is as I age I will slow down. And when the day comes that I can no longer keep up, I will stop playing.
Now think how uncomfortable that is. How often does someone in the workplace approach their boss and admit that they are not keeping up? How hard is it to approach someone and tell them they are no longer keeping up? I still recall the days in steel erection where some guys just could not keep up, and we had to let them go.
One day you and I will leave our jobs. One day I will have to quit playing basketball. One day you and I will have to stop driving our cars.
Those will be tough days. But they are coming. And yes, it will continue to be one of life’s most difficult questions.
Am I still able to keep up?
Recently I had coffee with a friend who had worked with Lou Gerstner, one of my favorite CEO’s. Back in the 1990’s IBM was about to go under. They reported the biggest corporate loss of all time, and Gerstner was brought in to restructure and rebuild the company.
While initially IBM was forced to lay people off, today they boast a workforce of 400,000 and the company is thriving. However, in the midst of the turmoil Gerstner fired the #1 producer in the company!
Why would he do that? Because the employee operated against the cultural value of teamwork. On a side note I totally understand. At New Hope Church we believe people are hurting and living with a great deal of stress. The church should be the one place they can come and be accepted and welcomed. If you have a hard time accepting everyone, then you would be uncomfortable in a leadership role at New Hope. One of our core tenets is a welcoming atmosphere.
Back to IBM. After they fired their #1 producer what was the fallout? There wasn’t one. The company never missed a beat.
Think about it. The #1 producer was not indispensable.
As Seth Godin said in his book Linchpin, “Every day, bosses, customers, and investors make hard choices about whom to support and whom to eliminate, downsize, or avoid.”
In most fields tenure is no longer a guarantee. You must show up every day living out the company values.
Perhaps now you know the answer to the question, “Are you indispensable?”
Some good, and some not so good. So we have had discussions as to how you treat and respond to difficult superiors.
Years ago I worked in retail for a while, and from my perspective the manager was very different. I never got close and never really had a conversation with him. To be honest, my point of view may have been skewed. However, my immediate boss in the jewelry and silverware department was incredible.
At any rate, the day came when the manager of the store approached me about taking on a large in-house project. Basically I would be doing him a huge favor. This was before bar codes and my job was to go throughout the store and essentially give every item an identifier according to the method of my choice.
It was all to be done manually and I could have declined. However, I gladly accepted the challenge.
All of us will be asked to do things that we may not be excited about, but if our manager or superior asks us, why not jump at the chance? I once asked a guy who worked for me to take out the trash and he balked. Let’s just say that that did not go over well with me at all. At the same time I gained a little insight into his character.
Sure I understand human thinking. Why make the boss look good? Why help him out? That’s basically what I was doing for my former manager. But I had no problem with that.
It’s so easy to be self-centered and walk away from projects that do not interest us. But you are better than that. Furthermore the project you walk away from may be the very thing that will aid in your personal development.
This week while others are complaining about the boss, have the character to perform well, take the initiative, go the extra mile, or display a positive behaviors.
What can you do today to set the mood for the entire week at work?