Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 5 February 2019

Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves.  1 Timothy 6:2 (NIV).

Perhaps none of us in America can imagine this kind of predicament:   being a slave who follows Jesus while serving a master who also follows Jesus.   It’s true.  We can’t truly imagine it because we aren’t slaves.   There is no American citizen alive today who was an American slave, is the child or grandchild of a slave, or has any personal experience with legal slavery in the United States.  It was outlawed as a legal institution 154 years ago.   Yet, back then, it was very real.   There were real slaves and masters believing in the same Jesus while one lived in cruel servitude to the other.   Yes, slavery still does exist as a criminal exercise on this planet, even within the United States.   But that isn’t what we’re talking about (yet hold the thought).

Perhaps the closest parallel we of the 21st Century could draw is supporting a boss who you know believes in God.   We aren’t talking about supporting someone who says they believe yet says or does things to rebel against Him.   I’m more talking about supporting a boss who is harsh, tough, demanding.   Perhaps a leader or manager who insists that you always give your best, always hold to the highest standards, always demand more from you.

You know, like Jesus would.   Jesus could be hard and demanding of people who were egregious offenders, people like the Pharisees.   Yet He was also demanding of His closest friends, even as He usually interacted with a softer approach.   You and I, we like to say that we’d give Jesus worship, faith and (at least) respect, right?

Perhaps He has given us hard taskmasters in our lives to serve purposes that we don’t fully see.   Perhaps He allows others in our lives to push us to do things that reveal the best in us; iron sharpening iron.  Perhaps God works on us, collectively and individually, through authorities (as my pastor friend, Phil, recently reminded in a sermon).    Perhaps we should respect the boss, the CEO, the leader, the US President, because God is working even through them.  Perhaps God even still allows slavery in our world so that others might be reached by Him, through it.

Perhaps?   Yes.   Yes indeed, Jesus does all these things to us and for us and for our overall good in His Kingdom.   Knowing that, shouldn’t we do our best to render respect and honor to those above us even if they sometimes seem like slave masters?   Perhaps.   You know the answer.

For further reading: Philemon 16, Proverbs 27:17, 1 Timothy 6:3.

Wonderful Savior, we often fail You through things like slavery.  Thanks for Your patience, and teach us today to respect authorities, bosses, and leaders over us.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 16 October 2018

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV).

After talking about excommunicating wayward members, Paul then shifts to urging Timothy (and us) to pray for authorities.   The church leaders of then (and now) are authorities in our lives.   So are police, governments, the UN, bosses, corporate CEOs of companies whose products we use, pastors and leaders, and senior family members (in fact, all senior citizens).

Tell me, progressives:   when was the last time you prayed for President Trump?   Or my conservative friends, how often did you (or do you) pray for President Obama, or Ms. Pelosi, or George Soros?   If you’re like me, in this regard, you’ve failed.   You and I don’t usually pray for those with whom we disagree (or just don’t like).   If you don’t like President Trump or his policies, you may not be praying in thanksgiving for him.  If you didn’t like President Obama or his policies, chances are you didn’t pray in thanksgiving for him, either.

That’s a shame.   We’re losing great opportunities here because Paul recognized that prayer and thanksgiving (especially) are active, vital ways to participate in peoples’ lives, even those of far-off, remote leaders.   They are pure “get to” activities.   We get to pray for the president, our employees in Congress, and others we elect to do things for us that we can’t do ourselves. We get to pray for our bosses, managers, and executives that they would make good use of the time we entrust to them.   We get to pray for our parents, and for seniors who have lived long, useful lives that can teach us many things.

We should take every opportunity to pray in thanks for those who are above us in any way.  Sure, it’s altruistic but even Ayn Rand (who rejected religion) would have supported the idea of supporting leaders who are working for the betterment of all.   I don’t know Donald Trump, but I get to be actively involved in his life when I pray for him.   I don’t know Barack Obama, but I’m actively involved in his life when I pray for him.  Bill Gates, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Dalai Lama, the owner of your company, your pastor, that stranger who flipped you off on the road, and starving kids in India:  you may not know any of them, but Jesus gives you the opportunity to be part of them by actively praying for them.

We spend so much of our time excommunicating other people from our lives.  How about we re-communicate with them by first praying to our Lord for their benefit?

For further reading:  2 Timothy 2:17, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Timothy 2:1

Lord, today, help me to pray for leaders, and show me today just one person for whom I can pray.

Daily Proverbial, from James, 8 January 2014

Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!  James 5, verse 9.

I am a project manager on a large remediation project in Minnesota.  I’m the program project manager, the training lead, and the logistics lead on an effort that is updating medical codes at a medium-sized insurance company.  Come October, if you visit a doctor in the United States, you’ll be affected by the codes we are updating because every doctor, hospital, and insurance company is doing it.   It’s a UN initiative; we’re simply complying to bring us in line with codes the rest of the planet is already using.

The team I’m helping to lead has nearly 40 people on it.   When you get any large group together and try to get them moving in the same direction, you’ll encounter friction.   Personality conflicts, unforeseen circumstances, emergencies, dissatisfaction, glory and glory-seekers, success and setbacks:  you encounter all of them if you stick around long enough.

So I find it amazing that some of the most practical management advice is as old as the Bible because it’s found in the Bible.   Want to handle conflict?   Try the Golden Rule.   Want to address issues at the lowest level?   Try Matthew 18.  And if you want to lay out cause and effect, follow James’ advice here.   Don’t grumble against us because we’re all being judged.  We are constantly being judged by God, who is the original TQM (total quality management) advocate, ensuring quality (holiness) in all things by constantly applying and evaluating the highest measurable standards.   It’s His job:   he’s the boss.

Don’t believe me?   Well, what else does a boss do but judge?   Said judgment can be good or bad, constructive or destructive.   It’s a manager’s job to constantly (and consistently) evaluate.   Performance, people, systems, environment, changes, information:  we evaluate everything.   So does God.   And He can see when we’re doing petty things like holding grudges, gossiping about each other, and grumbling about the way things are.   God sees those things as dysfunctional, counterproductive to the primary mission, which is sharing Himself for eternity.   He’s always watching, always measuring us.

The measure He uses is Jesus.   When He sees Jesus in us, all is well.   Quality is at its highest, performance is optimal, and standards have meaning.   You can lead any team successfully with Jesus as your standard.

I don’t know if you’re a boss, but you’re still a manager, you know.   You manage yourself.   Nobody else is responsible for you; only you.  Accordingly, if you want to see success, don’t grumble against others.  Adopt Jesus as your only standard and watch how you won’t feel like grumbling.  Invite Jesus into your life and see how well you can manage things.

Lord, you are the highest standard and the only measure I desire.   Remake my sodden life, so that when people judge me they see only You.


Are you a grumbler?

How do you feel when others grumble?

What is your standard?   Or who?