Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 14 May 2018

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief1 Thessalonians 5:5 (NIV).

One of the verses my Concordia reference cites for 1 Thessalonians 5:5 is Luke 16:8, which is the verse in the parable of the shrewd manager where Jesus talks about how the shrewd manager was commended by his creditor for acting wisely according to the ways of the world.   The manager was astute and sharp about practical things – debts – that were owed to his boss.   He did this to gain standing with people because he realized his position in the world was in danger.

Have you considered that Jesus gives us faith to be shrewd with it?   We are to be generous, outgoing, joyous, giving, sharing, submissive, and loving in how we share our faith, yet we are also to be astute and wise.   The devil is often called “the prince of this world” because he has set himself up as the ultimate authority, the ruler, of all things earthly.   Even though it isn’t so and even though he has already been supplanted through eternity, it is also still a fact with which we must deal here.   In being bold warriors for Christ, we are tasked with using our faith wisely, sharply, astutely as we defeat the many tactics of the evil one.

That means being wise around each other.   If a friend is weak in faith, we should do things to build them up, encourage them, be a friend to them.   If a friend is strong in faith, we should find ways to support their mission.   If someone wrongs us, we should always examine ourselves to see if there is indeed wrongdoing in our response or ourselves, and then we should readily forgive and seek understanding.   These are behaviors that are wise, measured, and prudent – you know:  shrewd – for God’s people to exhibit when interacting with each other, especially if the other person doesn’t follow Jesus.  Such shrewd, wise behavior may just be a way Jesus can use to touch their heart.

Why would we want that?   Yes, it’s even Godly to ask this, and you know the answer:  because God loves all people and wants all to be saved.   Eternity matters most, both being part of eternity now and an eternity with Jesus and His followers forever.   Have we considered that those who don’t follow Jesus are in darkness?   When the end of time comes, it will come as a surprise to them.   They’ll be caught thinking “but I need more time.”   Living our lives wisely, shrewdly, lovingly is the best witness we can give each other so that they will begin to walk with Jesus now, and rejoice when He returns instead of cowering in dark fear.

For further reading:  Luke 16:8, 1 Thessalonians 5:6.

Lord, I live in Your light.   Constantly teach me to be shrewd with my faith so that You may use my days to reach others.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 17 May 2017

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10, verse 24

I’m a project manager.  I manage a team of people working on a project to remove Social Security numbers from older peoples’ Medicare ID cards.  Because I work remotely, I’ve never physically met most of the people on my team (though I do know some from previous jobs).  It’s tough to get to know people you don’t see face to face, and that makes. even more sense because I’m the new kid on the block.  On a work team, you’re drawn together by the commonality of your tasks and the fact that you’re employed for the same reason by the same people.  Yet in a virtual work environment, you never see your co-workers or team members in person.  Unless you know your co-workers from previous interaction, you don’t have common ground.   That makes motivating a team difficult.

So Hebrews 10, verse 24 is perhaps some of the best project management advice ever written, especially for virtual teams.

“Let us consider” is a call to friendly action.   Notice that it doesn’t say “do this” or “you will.”   It isn’t directive in nature and yet it places the reader in a position as if they had been directed.   “Let us consider” are three words that are swung as a velvet hammer.   They don’t force you to do anything yet place the burden of inaction squarely on you and you alone.   They ask you to do something without commanding you to do something.   They appeal to your reason and your sense of belonging.  That shouldn’t be surprising because that’s usually how Jesus operates.

“Spur” (according to dictionary.com) means “anything that goads, impels, or urges, as to action, speed, or achievement.”  The King James version of Hebrews uses the word “provoke” but no matter what version is used to translate the word, the intention is clearly to convince others to move.   A manager spends most of his time doing just this.   A good manager will do it in such a way as to inspire you to act on your own to do your part in a larger mission.   As managers, we spend most of our time spurring people forward to support the tasks we oversee.   As followers of Jesus, we should be spending most of our time doing the same thing, and the task with which we’re charged is sharing the Gospel.

And we are to spur one another TOWARD love and good deeds.   Sure, we are to comport ourselves in love and righteousness.   Jesus gave us both of those things and we’re to use them in living our lives.   Yet when we manage and lead others, we are to inspire them in the direction of love and good deeds.   We aren’t supposed to do other peoples’ love and good deeds for them.  Helicopter parents beware:   you aren’t responsible for living your kids’ lives.   Your job is to inspire them by parenting them, teaching them, preparing them.

Helicopter managers beware as well:   you’re responsible for the efforts of your team, but it isn’t your job to do their work for them.   It’s your job to spur them toward doing it.   It’s our job to serve a greater good by helping those around us serve it as well.  May I suggest that, whether you have Jesus followers on your team or not, some practical advice on why, even how, to do that is found first and foremost in the Bible (and not in the PM Body of Knowledge?)?

Best of all, we get to do these things while relying on the foundation of faith in Jesus’ true good news.   Love and good deeds are both the reason and the by-product of living in Jesus’ presence where love and good deeds become standard operating procedure.  In working with them we find it’s the journey and not the destination that matters most.

I don’t know whether my team-members are believers or not.   In today’s super-sensitive work climate, it’s almost taboo to discuss matters of faith.   Yet whether they’re believers or not, more often than not I find myself asking “what should I do” of my Savior when I have even the slightest question about work.   I’m learning to entreat Him into my routines, involving my faith more and more as a practical tool for managing my work team.   There is no downside to that.

For further reading:  Titus 2:14.

Lord, be involved in my work.   Lead me and teach me so I may lead and inspire others.

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?