Tag Archives: attitude

It’s Not About Me… John 3:22-30

Several of the churches in my area send postcards by mail advertising the latest sermon series or newly launched program. I’m always curious when the pastor’s picture is featured prominently on the card, sometimes to the point of dominating the message. What is church all about, really, and who takes center stage?

(John the Baptist’s words): “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:29-30 ESV

After Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, Scripture tells us that He and His disciples went into the countryside. People came to Him, and He baptized them. Some of John the Baptist’s disciples asked John about this, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness – look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” (John 3:26) It’s a perfectly understandable concern, really. John the Baptist had drawn crowds for quite some time, baptizing many for repentance from sin as he announced the presence of Jesus the Messiah. Now Jesus’ time had come; His public ministry was well underway. And, with that, John the Baptist had fulfilled his purpose. It was time to step aside.

How easy it would have been for John to let ego cloud his judgment. Had he shown bitterness, resentment, or envy at the fact that people were flocking to Jesus instead of to John, I suspect that many would have understood those feelings. Instead, John took his rightful place.

Egoism is a prevalent trait in our sinful world. As defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, egoism is a condition in which a person’s motives are driven by their own self-interest, sometimes with an overt display of self-importance. We see this all the time, don’t we? Be careful here. While we may be tempted to think that politicians, athletes, entertainers, or successful business executives have cornered the market on egoism, the reality is this: Even “regular” people like you and me can be overcome by an air of egoism manifested in feelings of entitlement, self-centeredness, or perhaps through overtly seeking attention for ourselves. We have many avenues through which we feed our egos – ever hear of Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter…? Yes, I am as guilty as anybody when it comes to putting myself out there in social media and taking pleasure as the “follows”, “likes”, and “retweets” come. Don’t misunderstand me; I think social media is great. I get news and information via social media. I stay connected with friends through social media. I also take hiatus from social media from time to time when I start to feel like it is dominating how I spend my time.

What is really important? What is it that should supersede everything else? John the Baptist knew that it was Christ.

So, back to the postcards. Since egoism is such an easy trap to fall into, I suspect that many preachers and teachers are sorely tempted, and even give in to the temptation once in awhile. While some postcards prominently featuring the smiling face of the church’s pastor raise the question, I know not to judge a book by its cover. But I wonder what those preachers talk about in their sermons. Do they present the Gospel? Is their message focused on Christ and the fact that He suffered and died to save us from the eternal damnation we all deserve because of our sin? Or do they feed egos by telling their flocks that God wants them to be happy; He wants them to be rich. Is the message they deliver each week about Him? Or is it about the people and their quest for happiness and self-esteem? Do they take the stage accompanied by pounding music and raucous applause or do they quietly, humbly, and contemplatively step to their position to deliver the Word?

What about the music and those who deliver it? Are they more concerned about their appearance and what the congregation thinks of their presentation? As they lead worship, do they move or dress to draw attention to themselves, or are they entirely focused on leading the congregation in worshipping the Lord? In my church, the congregation commonly applauds after the choir or soloist sings and after various ensembles offer their music. To be honest, as a musician I’m a bit uncomfortable with the applause, and I constantly remind myself, “this isn’t about me.”

God called John the Baptist to a very specific ministry. John was to announce to the world that the Messiah had come:

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” “No.” finally they said, “Who are you?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John 1:19-27 ESV

My role as a Christian is to announce Jesus to the world as He commanded in The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). It is not to draw attention to myself in doing so. Yes, I want to sing well as a member of the choir and when I assist in leading worship. When I play bells, I want to hit the correct notes at the correct time at the proper volume. I want to do those things to give glory to my God and my Lord. I confess that I am sometimes tempted to relish in the applause when it comes; God forgive me. As a Christian, I must also lift my pastor and all who preach the Word in prayer, that they would honor God in presenting His Word and that they would present His Word faithfully, truthfully, and forthrightly.

John the Baptist announced Jesus’ coming to the world, just as he was called to do. And, as Christians, we are called to do the same. It’s not about us; it’s about Him.

Ponder This: What is my attitude towards God? What is my attitude in worship, especially when I play a leadership role in the service?

My Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You and You alone are worthy of glory, honor, praise and worship. Even so, I confess that I sometimes forget that, as I focus on myself and what others think about me. I confess that I sometimes give in to the temptation to bask in the positive feedback others give me to the point at which it overshadows You. Forgive me, renew me, and continue to lead me on the path of sanctification. Help me use the gifts and talents you have so graciously given me to Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Sources:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Scripture text from BibleStudyTools.com

“Willie Weaver”

I was driving to work this morning, listening to a podcast from Alistair Begg, when a flash of white blew by me two lanes to my right, cut in front of the car just ahead of me in the center lane, and came to an abrupt stop at the red light just ahead. I pulled up just to his left and off his left rear fender. The car was a very nice Mercedes E-class sedan. The driver, a male appearing to be in his early to mid-40’s stared straight ahead with a firm grip on the steering wheel. When the light turned green, he was the first to clear the intersection. As we proceeded down the street, he swerved right, then left, allowing minimal clearance between his rear and the front end of the cars he was passing. Then, at the next red light, I pulled up alongside him again. For several miles we repeated the pattern, with the driver I dubbed “Willie Weaver” cutting in and out of traffic until the great equalizers in their bright red hue lined us up to start all over again. Finally, Willie Weaver turned right and we continued on our separate ways.

Willie got me to thinking about how we approach life these days. How much stress do we pile onto ourselves with no good reason for doing so? How often do we live at breakneck speed, only to have life slow us down while the rest of the world catches up? Are we running on adrenaline, or are we living life at a comfortable pace while still accomplishing our daily tasks and goals? I’m not knocking Willie, for at one point in my life I was a lot like him. I’m thankful that I’ve learned over the years to relax, take life a bit easier and enjoy the scenery along the way.

Friends, as another long holiday weekend is upon us, slow down. If you’re driving, don’t be Willie Weaver. Enjoy the time off work (if you get it), enjoy your family, enjoy your friends. Celebrate the anniversary of our great country’s independence and take time to be thankful that you are an American. I hope my friend Willie is able to do so as well.

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

Hello, lamppost, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’
Ain’t’cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in doo-doo, feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life, I love you
All is groovy

~ Paul Simon, The 59th Street Bridge Song

2015 Photo-Some-Days 4.16.2015

According to yourdictionary.com, the poet author of “Piers Plowman” is credited with penning “Patience is a virtue.” I was reminded of that today during a telephone conversation with a coworker. Sales, especially in my line of work, is a process. In our conversation my coworker reminded me that it is important to be patient and allow the process to play out, because it will play out over time. It was just what I needed to hear, and I thank God for that conversation at that moment. God can use anybody to achieve His divine purpose. We must pray for His intervention and then tune in, for He may surprise you with His source.

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”  ~ Arnold H. Glasgow via brainyquote.com

What does this have to do with patience? Sit, sometime, and watch a sunset. You'll understand.

What does this have to do with patience? Sit, sometime, and watch a sunset. You’ll understand.

The Credibility Bank & Trust

Sometimes when I balance my checkbook, I lament that money often seems to be flowing out more quickly than it flows in. I balance my checkbook almost every day; I know what bills are coming due and I try to defer as much “extra” money as I can into my savings account emergency fund. I like to think that I am rather diligent in managing my money, but always with room to improve.

There is another account that is equally as important. I call the institution that houses this important personal account The Credibility Bank & Trust, or CB&T for short.

Unlike your checking account, your CB&T account balance is not measured in dollars. It is measured in reputation. Deposits are made when you do the right thing, while your account balance is reduced every time you fail to do so. Deliver quality work when you say you’ll deliver it – there’s a deposit. On the other hand, delivering subpar or late work constitutes a withdrawal. Make a promise to a friend or coworker and deliver on it – there’s a deposit. Break that same promise – big withdrawal. Promptly return telephone calls and acknowledge emails – easy deposits. Hide behind your voice mail and ignore incoming emails – withdrawal. Properly prepare for meetings and contribute positively to the discussion – another deposit. Sit silently in meetings while periodically peeking at your cell phone – balance reduced.

Each of us has a CB&T account at home, too, and it works the same way as your on-the-job account. For example, treat your family with love and respect – consistent deposit inflow. Take them for granted and your account depletes rapidly. You get the picture.

How do you know your CB&T balance? The greatest measure of your CB&T account balance is in your reputation. Do people trust you? Do they come to you with problems? Can they trust you to keep your promises and maintain confidentiality? If the answers to these questions are yes, you can rest assured that you have built a nice surplus in your CB&T balance that will serve you well in your career and your personal life. If the answers to any of these questions is no, it’s time to audit behaviors and begin repairing the reputational damage.

As you consider these questions, know that your perceived account balance may vary between individuals at work or within your family. Think about that for a moment. What happens when you treat people at work differently from one another? One person thinks you’re great while the other – not so much. Over time, such conduct erodes your CB&T balance until you are overdrawn; at that point you become ineffective and, well, dispensable.

So what must we do to ensure our Credibility balance is in the black? Jesus offers some very succinct direction:

“And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” Luke 6:31 (NKJV)

The people Jesus is talking about are all around you. They serve you in stores and restaurants. They occupy the nearby cubicle. They pass you on the highway. You live with some and you work with others. They are your family, your neighbors, your coworkers, your closest friends, and the strangers you pass on the sidewalk. If you consistently seek to treat others as you would like to be treated, you run little risk of depleting your CB&T account balance.

The notion of the Credibility Bank & Trust is something I try to bear in mind at all times, and I have shared it with several coworkers and business colleagues. Give it a try; It has served me well, and I’m convinced that it will serve you well, too.

New “Normal” Begins Today!

With my employer’s announcement on January 16 of the company’s acquisition by a private equity firm, my work schedule imploded. There were special projects and additional meetings as we worked with our future owners to gather documents needed to complete the sale. There were temporary changes in procedure, which although necessary, were often disruptive. Some in the office were stressed and worried while others did their jobs without any evidence of worry or concern. Not a worrier by nature, I fell into the latter group as I handled the workflow changes and calendar disruptions as they came while I looked forward to the scheduled February 14 close. Fortunately, the sale closed as scheduled and I now look forward to our new “normal”.

As I sit here on the first Monday morning following the Friday close of sale, I wonder: what is “normal” anyway? What, exactly, am I looking forward to?

Certainly, with new corporate ownership comes change. Working under private equity ownership at various stages in my career has yielded a mixed bag of experiences ranging from stressful and unpleasant (working for a PE firm that focused mainly on cutting costs by reducing head count) to new and refreshing (working for a PE firm that shared growth goals and allowed us the flexibility to work towards achieving them). How will this one conduct itself? Sure, they said all the right things as the transaction was pending, but what will they do now that the sale is final and they are at the helm? What will our new “normal” look like?

Truth be told, it doesn’t matter. They can do what they like. I cannot control or even influence what our new “normal” will be. Many in this situation find that fact downright scary, but I know better.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Joshua 29:11

When God delivered this message to Israel through the prophet Joshua, Israel had been exiled to Babylon. Talk about a new “normal”, Israel was living it! God promised that He was in control; that there was an end game to their exile. His plan would be revealed in due course. In the meantime, He told them to live their lives – build homes, build families, build careers – God told them to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Joshua 29:7)

I said earlier that I am not, by nature, a worrier. I don’t worry because I trust God’s plan. This aspect of my nature is not my doing; it is a gift from God. Whatever happens, He has an end game in mind. All He expects of me is to work with our new owners in earnest and do my part to execute their plan. God’s plan for me in all of this could be a myriad of things – maybe a promotion, maybe increased job security, perhaps a new career altogether. Whatever it is, it will be grand. So as I head to work on this, the first Monday morning under new corporate ownership, I will stand firmly on the promise that God delivered to an exiled Israel and trust God for my new “normal”. That, my friends, is a relief. God is good, indeed!

These Dogs are Barkin’!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I confess. I am a huge fan of Del Griffith. Del Griffith? You know, the shower curtain ring guy played by John Candy in Planes, Trains & Automobiles!

One of the character traits that impresses me most about Del is his “take it as it comes” approach to life. A widowed traveling salesman with no permanent home (“I haven’t been home in years,” he says), Del experienced tragedy in his life at the loss of his beloved wife. That loss placed the daily inconveniences of life into proper perspective for Del. As a traveling salesman, life’s inconveniences often manifest themselves in the form of travel delays. Diverted from Chicago to Wichita, KS during Thanksgiving week, Del meets cynical marketing executive Neal Page, played by Steve Martin.  Together the two are the epitome of yin and yang; Del’s glass is half full while Neal’s is slightly less than half empty.

I travel on business regularly, and today was one of those Murphy’s Law travel days. And, like Del, “I’m just rolling with the flow, like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream.”

Or am I? For me, today was a travel day in which much went wrong, starting with a thunderstorm perfectly timed to delay my early morning departure from DFW airport and ending with a departure delay of just over an hour headed home from Corpus Christi. How did I handle it? Did I “roll with the flow like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream” or did I get frustrated and let my frustration show to those around me? Was I a Del Griffith or was I a Neal Page? Was I a discourager or was I an encourager?

Blogging at 34,000 feet

Blogging at 34,000 feet

To be honest, I was a little of both. Neal Page would be proud of my Facebook posts from this afternoon. Rather than reassure my family and friends that these travel delays were no big deal and all would be fine, I posted items designed to drag people into my pit of travel misery to wallow there with me. After all, why wallow alone? However, as the cynical approach began to weigh me down I decided to change my tactics. I met eyes and exchanged smiles with my fellow passengers. I made a TSA agent laugh as I caught her making fun of the way I dumped my backpack onto the security conveyor – classic Del Griffith.

"These dogs are barkin'!"

“These dogs are barkin’!”

Life is short. It’s far too short to live as a cynic. Cynics are too busy being cynical to enjoy the curveball moments life throws at us every once in awhile. Life threw me some curveballs today. The Neal Page in me whiffed a few, and the Del hit a few solid singles. For now, I’m enjoying the lightening show playing for me outside my airplane window as the twin Rolls Royce engines on this Embraer jet (it’s amazing what you learn from listening to flight attendant Tom’s in-flight announcements) whisk me home to the DFW Metroplex.

“These dogs are barkin’!” They are, indeed, but they’re happy now. Thanks, Del. Maybe I’m on the right track.

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