September 27, 2011

Kids Are Full Of It

As I've been reading through Proverbs another common theme has jumped out that might make some folks a little uncomfortable. It can be found throughout the book of Proverbs but is summed up pretty well in Proverbs 22:15.

"Folly is bound up in the heart of a child but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him."

Yep, that's right Scripture basically says there are times where the only thing that will get through to a child is a good ole fashioned butt whooping. It's just the nature of childhood to be foolish & childish, & there are some lessons that can only be learned the hard way. This principle crashes hard into the conventional wisdom of our warm fuzzy, politically correct, the kids are always right world.

I'm not saying a time-out, the naughty spot, sitting in the corner & all those other ways of disciplining children aren't effective. What I am saying is that there are lots of ways to administer discipline, & we should make use of all of them. Sometimes sitting a kid down is all they need, but we've all seen that kid that made us think, "Well all he needs is a good whooping!" When you have multiple tools to get the job done, you'd be foolish to think a one size fits all approach works.

Parents, use ALL the options available to us to discipline our kids & to teach our kids the path of wisdom. They're not going to figure it out on their own. They must have your help, & sometimes it's better for them to hurt a little now than be allowed to wander into an area that's going to cause long term, deep hurts that last for years. If you have to tear that little rear end up every now & then do it, because Scripture makes it clear that your kids & my kids are full of it (foolishness), & sometimes the "rod of discipline" is the only thing that will drive it out.

September 23, 2011

Don't Even Try

As I've been reading through Proverbs this month, a theme has been woven throughout the entire book that I want to look at today because it kind of jumps off of what we looked at earlier this week about disputes & arguments. Check out Proverbs 23:9,

"Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn your prudent words."

Wednesday I said we should be willing to drop some disputes before they ever stop because of what's at stake. There's another reason why we should drop it before it ever gets started. According to this verse, a fool isn't going to listen anyway, so don't even try.

Have you ever had someone in your life who consistently asked for your advice & then just as consistently ignored it? Frustrating isn't it? Having worked with students for over a decade I have lots of those stories. A student wants some advice on a situation, but when they get solid, wise, biblical advice, they ignore it. The truth is they didn't want advice; they probably wanted validation. When you or I don't give it to them, they either give to themselves or keep asking until they find someone who gives it to them. They're going to do what they want no matter what. The Bible calls those people fools.

If there are people in your life who consistently ignore wise counsel, dont' even try to correct them or guide them because it's going to fall on deaf ears. Those people aren't interested in what's right or what's beneficial. They are simply interested in doing what they want, no matter the cost or consequences.

Be careful how you pour out your advice & wisdom. Be sure you're not throwing "pearls to the swine". Instead watch those who claim to want your guidance, & invest in those who demonstrate it by their actions.

September 21, 2011

Just Drop It

Today as I continue to share some things that are jumping out to me as I read through Proverbs, I want to jump back to Proverbs 17 & talk about something I read this week that has continued to stick with me. In Proverbs 17:14, we find this nugget of wisdom,

"Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out."

If you're like me, you love to be right. I mean you LOVE it. There's nothing like making that decisive point that makes the other party realize how misguided or misinformed they were is there? However, if you're like me you may have also learned that being right can come at a cost. When you or I are driven by being right, we put a relationship in jeopardy. Solomon & the others who contributed to the Proverbs understood this. That's why this verse is there.

An argument can be a devastating thing, so we need to carefully weigh the cost of starting one. We've all gotten into disputes & arguments where somewhere along the way we thought, "Why are we even arguing about this?" or even worse we think, "What were we arguing about again?" It's amazing how are need to be right can drive us into a heated dispute but along the way that issue that we thought was so important somehow gets forgotten in the middle of the argument!

What if we started to drop it? What if we started to drop the little things that don't really matter & aren't worth the time, energy, & damage that will result from the battle? I know, some of you think that being right is the most important thing in the world, but if you can't correct someone lovingly then you're totally missing the whole "love your neighbor" part of following Jesus. Truth is vitally important but so are people & so are our relationships. I love what Jon Acuff said yesterday, "It's impossible for me to love my neighbor when my need to be right, overwhelms my desire to be righteous."

Next time you're tempted to dive in head first into an argument, remember what you might be unleashing, consider how you might be seeking RIGHTNESS over RIGHTEOUSNESS, & whether or not you could just drop it.

How have you seen arguments & disputes in your own life damage relationships? Was someone's desire to be right at the core of it?

September 19, 2011

The Dynamic Duo

As I've continued to read through Proverbs this month, I came across this verse today. It's Proverbs 19:2,

"It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty & miss the way."

Did you get that? Zeal, passion, & excitement are great, but if that's all you've got, you're not going to go very far. Zeal & passion have to be complemented by knowledge & wisdom. Without knowledge, information, & wisdom, passion can take us down some weird paths. When we combine these two qualities, great things can happen in us & through our leadership.

How many of us have ever started talking about something that we were very passionate about, but very soon we revealed just how little we actually knew & understood about the situation? How many times have we gotten all fired up about something & got started only for it to fall apart because we didn't really know what we were doing? In both cases we had a lot of passion & enthusiasm, but it's simply not enough.

If you're passionate about something, marry that passion to a desire to learn & gain understanding. Passion gives you the drive, but knowledge, wisdom, & understanding give you the direction. So don't run on passion & excitement alone. Seek wisdom, understanding, & knowledge about whatever it is that makes you come alive, & when you complement your passion with real understanding, you will go further faster as a leader.

September 16, 2011

Who Checks Your Motives?

Have you ever sat back & watched someone & wondered, "Why in the world are they doing that?"

Do you think that someone has ever looked at your life & asked themselves, "What is he/she thinking?"

We've all done it. We've all seen someone do something or say something, & we think to ourselves, "What?" However, I bet if we actually asked that person what was going through their head & what their motivation was, they would give us a reason that makes complete them.

Proverbs 16:2 says this:

"All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord."

Have you ever noticed that we always seem to have a really compelling argument for why we do what we do? If you're like me, you can talk yourself into just about anything. In fact, some of the things that we now look back on with regret, we at one time thought was a really good idea. You've probably wondered to yourself, "Why did I do that? How did I think that was a good idea?" Well, this explains it.

We always think we're in the right, even when we're dead wrong. The only person who can really weigh our motives honestly is God. With that in mind Solomon goes on to tell us,

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, & your plans will succeed."

Since we can always talk ourselves into thinking we're right, we need to have some other filter that we can use to gain some insight on ourselves. That filter is God's will revealed through His Word. Proverbs is loaded with the concept that wisdom comes through listening to outside instruction, & there is no better outside instruction than God's Word. God's Word has this really uncomfortable way of pointing out where our lives are out of alignment with His plan for His people, & when we're confronted with that we get to choose whether we want to be a fool or a person of wisdom. If you want to wear the label of fool, then ignore God's Word & do what you wanted anyway, but if you don't really want to be known as a fool, then redirect your life to get into alignment with the path God has laid out in His Word. Then your plans will succeed because your plan is built first & foremost on honoring your Heavenly Father & staying faithful to the path He has for His people.

September 14, 2011

Rotten To The Core

This morning as I continued to read through the book of Proverbs, I came across Proverbs 14:30 which says,

"A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones."

Is that graphic or what? Rotting bones? Think about it, even after we die & our bodies are buried, someone can come back years later & our bones will still be there. Obviously the decay that's spoken of here is intense if it could be characterized as "rotting the bones".

The root of the decay is envy, & our culture trains us to be master's of envy. Of course, we would never call it that. Nobody would call themselves greedy & envious; other people are but not us. But has the average American & American family leveraged every minute of their day & penny in their bank account in order to pursue the "American Dream" simply out of some innate drive? No, our nation & so many of our families are caught in the current plight out of sheer envy. We have to have what "everybody else" has. We have to do what "everybody else" is doing, & in the end we're exhausted, broke, & disillusioned. After all shouldn't having it all & doing it all makes us feel like we've arrived? Why then are our families maxxed out financially, physically, & emotionally? Why are so many families weaker than they've ever been?

It's simple. Envy. We want what we think everybody else has, but the truth is we don't really know what they've got or what they're doing. In addition to that, why in the world do we want to live somebody else's life. Why would we want to waste our life trying to have someone else's. Envy is simply telling God, "What you've given me isn't enough. The life you've given me, the things you've provided for me, all of it isn't enough. I have to go out & get more because You & Your plan aren't enough." In the end instead of building something, we begin to rot, from the inside out. Our envy rots us at the core. It leads to resentment not only toward God but toward anyone that we perceive has what we think we have to have. Left unchecked, envy will rot & destroy our lives & our relationships, even if we get the stuff we want! We may have the stuff, but we'll be alone.

The remedy: Peace. Peace with who you & your family are, peace with how God has provided for you & your family, & peace with your place in life. When peace begins to waver & you begin to think you need what others have, call it what it is: envy. Then ask yourself, "Why do I think I have to have that or do that or be involved in that?" Usually the honest answer will be less that motivating. Find your peace in God & the plan that He has for you. You'll never find it in trying to replicate someone else's life.

September 12, 2011

Are You Listening?

Today as I was reading Proverbs 12, I ran into one of the most common themes found in the Proverbs. Proverbs 12 opens with this line,

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid."

Did you get that? Through Solomon & the other writers of Proverbs, God is basically calling a group of people stupid! Who are these idiots? It's the people who will not listen to the advice, correction, or input of others. In verse 15, it says that fools think that their way is always right. They can't imagine listening to someone else's perspective. However, the wise person listens to advice, perhaps even seeks it out.

There is some tension in this though. Who do you listen to? Do you listen to anyone who has "advice" for you? After all, if you have ever led anything, whether it's a multi-million dollar corporation or a Little League baseball team, you know that you get plenty of unsolicited advice. So do you listen to all of it & act on all it? No! Here are a few guidelines I use to filter the "advice" that comes with being a leader while still trying to exercise wisdom by respecting the correction, wisdom, & advice of others.

1) Always Listen To Those Who Actually Have A Relationship With You.
Hear these people out. They have a vested interest in you & the ministry or organization you lead. These people are less likely to simply be trying to get their way.

2) Always Listen To Someone Who Is Willing To Talk To You Personally.
If someone either comes to you directly or sets up a meeting with you in order to share some input or advice, you should honor their willingness to deal with things directly. When you get emails or notes from people who want to give you their input or perspective, try to meet with them one on one. If they refuse or give you the run around, that should tell you they're more interested in getting their way than working with you & seeing you & the organization succeed.

3) Ignore Anonymous "Advice".
If someone can't put their name behind their "advice", then it's not worth your time. Period. In fact, if there's no name on it, I wouldn't even bother reading it. There's a good chance that it will be loaded with misinformation & attacks against you. When you read that stuff, your inclination will be to try & fix it, but you can't because they weren't a big enough person to even put their name on it. It will become nothing but a distraction that will pull you away from your mission.

Remember, listening doesn't necessarily mean implementing, but it does mean seeing the other person's perspective. Giving someone an honest hearing sometimes is all they need. They need to know their feelings & ideas have will be taken into consideration, even if it doesn't translate into implementation.

So are you stupid, or are you listening? Who are you listening to? Are you listening to the right people? Are you getting distracted by the wrong people?

September 9, 2011

It's Obvious

The last couple of days I have been reading through Proverbs 8 & 9 as our church as a whole has been invited to read through the book of Proverbs for the entire month. As I was reading one big thing jumped out of these two chapters.

Wisdom & foolishness are obvious.

That's right, both of them are obvious. We tend to think that foolish behavior is obvious, but wisdom somehow is mysterious, even elusive. However, take a look at these two chapters. In these chapters wisdom is personified. Also in these two chapters wisdom builds her house at the highest point in the city. She prepares a great banquet & sends out messengers & maidens to issue an the invitation for all to come to her home. It's a metaphorical invitation to leave our current way of life & embrace the wisdom of God & a life built on the wisdom of God.

However, at the same time the Bible tells us foolishness is just as obvious. In Proverbs 9 foolishness also has her house at the highest point of the city. She also calls out inviting people come to her home. The way of foolishness is obvious. The invitation onto the foolish path is just as obvious.

Two things jumped out at me in these chapters. First, we have to stop pretending that godly wisdom is somehow this mystical thing that only some people can aspire to. Wisdom calls out to everyone. The Bible says wisdom calls out to the simple. You know what that means? It means you don't have to be the most intelligent person in the room in order to discover & embrace godly wisdom. Secondly, the difference between wisdom & foolishness is not how obvious one is & the other isn't. The difference is in how easy the two paths are. The path of foolishness doesn't require discipline or understanding. Foolishness even calls out that "stolen water is sweet." Foolishness is lazy, undisciplined, & ignores the obvious path of godly wisdom & makes excuses like, "That's just the way I am." That may be true, but it doesn't have to be that way forever.

There are two paths that we can take. There are two invitations being sent out to us. Which one will we choose to accept? Which one will we make the path of our life?

September 7, 2011

Double-Edged Proverb

This month our church is going through the book of Proverbs as we also go through a weekend teaching series on Proverbs. Over the course of the month I will be sharing some of my thoughts as I read through the Proverbs day by day. I won't cover all of them, but when something really jumps out, I'll talk about it.

Yesterday I was reading through Proverbs 6 which is just crammed with a bunch of warnings against foolishness, laziness, & adultery/lust. Wedged right there in the middle of this proverb is this:

"My son, keep your father's commands & do not forsake your mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, & the corrections of discipline are the way to life..." Proverbs 6:20-23

The direct context for these verses is the following instructions concerning immoral women, lust, adultery, & all the junk that comes from falling prey to our own desires. However, there is an obvious broader application. It's clear that the point here is that the instruction of one's parents is vital to growing & living a healthy & potentially godly life. When we hear these verses taught we immediately go to the point of "children, obey & respect your parents" which is great, but this proverb is double-edged.

Shouldn't we also ask parents to evaluate what it is that they are teaching their children. As parents, almost everything we do communicates a lesson or value to our children. We can take our children to church programming as much as we want, but if our real, everyday message doesn't reflect biblical, godly values, then which message do we really think is going to win out in our children's lives?  Whatever we teach will guide; it will speak to our children; it will echo in their hearts & minds. What are we teaching?

September 5, 2011

Labor Day Recommendations

I thought I'd change things up for the holiday by recommending some reading, music, & entertainment ideas to you. Checking out these recommendations might give you some insight into how I think & where I'm coming from.
Books I'm Reading & Re-Reading
Think by John Piper-Great stuff from one of the smartest guys in ministry
The Seven Checkpoints For Youth Leaders by Andy Stanley & Stuart Hall-Classic

Songs On Heavy Rotation
"Barton Hollow" by The Civil Wars
"Poison & Wine" by The Civil Wars
"Waves" by Bela Fleck

Blogs I'm Visiting
Jenni Catron-Check out her series "Leading At All Levels".
Ron Edmondson-Ron has had some solid stuff lately.
Bowman Family-Features great pics of my gorgeous daughters & my wife's take on things.

TV Shows Worth Your Time
White Collar on USA-It's smart, funny, & has great cast chemistry. New season in January.
Seinfeld-Been watching a bunch of re-runs lately. I actually forgot how great this show was.

September 2, 2011

Are You Losing Or Are You A Loser?

We can all think of teams, organizations, & even churches that can never quite get it together. Even when they have the right resources, the right people, & the right timing, they somehow manage to blow it. At the same time, we can also think of groups who have a less than glowing history of success, but then all of a sudden they make the turnaround & find success. Look at the Boston Red Sox. They've had talent, money, & opportunities to succeed, but for generations they found ways to lose, sometimes to obviously inferior opponents. Now however, they are one of the powerhouses of baseball & have won more championships in the last 10 years than they had in 80 years prior to that.

So what's the difference between losing & being a loser? Is it as simple as your "record"? I don't think so. I think it's a little more subtle. I think the difference is your perspective on losing because we're all going to lose, & there's at least a decent chance we'll have as many or more defeats as victories.

The Difference Between Losing & Being A Loser
Is Determined By Whether You Endure Losing Or Tolerate It.

When you endure losing, you're still actively pursuing the win. You still expect to win, & as a result you still have a chance to taste victory. However, if you, your team, & your "fans" begin to tolerate losing. The chances of real victory are virtually erased. Just like the football team who thinks they're going to lose before they even put on their pads, organizations & ministries who simply tolerate their losing as "that's just the way things are" might as well not even show up because the end has pretty much been decided.

I really think it's this subtle difference in how we view losing that makes us a loser or not. When we as ministry leaders think that we just cannot break through a certain barrier, then we probably won't. When a business internally admits that growth just can't happen because "we've never been able to do that before", then they're right; growth won't happen.

If you have any influence with a team, organization, or ministry, challenge those you work with to endure the losses, learn from them, & press on toward the victory. The minute you tolerate losing, you've resigned yourself to the fact that neither you nor God can do great things through your leadership.