Monday Morning Manna: Should You Care What People Say About You?

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Now the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king, live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed:

There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers;

Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation.” — Daniel 5:10-12 KJV

“I really don’t care what people think about me.”

Or when frustrated, it’s: “well, they can say what they want… as long as I know the truth.” Or the defensive line: “they don’t know me anyway.” Or the sassy line: “no matter what you do, people will always have something to say. I can’t waste my time and energy worrying about that; I have things to do! They don’t pay my bills!

Most of us are taught at an early age not to worry about what people say about us, and the truth is, you’ll drive yourself nuts trying to correct misperceptions and wrong impressions. But too often, we use that as an excuse to continue poor behavior and attitudes, and while there is value in not obsessing over what unreasonable people say, we must be cautious not to disregard and dismiss the importance of maintaining a good reputation – whether in our families, at work, at school, in ministry, at church, in social networks online and offline, and everywhere else.

Why should I care?

The Bible has a lot to say about the value of a good reputation. In Acts 16, we learn that Timothy had a good reputation, which probably played a part in Paul’s decision to bring him along on his missionary journey. In I Peter 2, believers in exile are admonished to take special care to conduct themselves properly in front of the Gentiles so that even when their names were slandered, their good behavior would testify for them. He then said that their righteous conduct would “silence (muzzle, gag) the ignorant charges and ill-informed criticisms of foolish persons” (I Peter 2:15 AMP). In other words, Peter was saying that your behavior can change what people say about you.

Several hundred years earlier, Daniel had already proven this to be true.

When Daniel and his friends were taken captive into Babylon, they must have already had a reputation for being “skillful in all wisdom, discernment, and understanding, apt in learning knowledge, competent” (Dan. 1:4 AMP) since they were selected to be a part of the king’s special training program. Even in adverse conditions, Daniel was determined to maintain his integrity by refusing to adapt to the Babylonian cultures, traditions and norms – even when his life depended on it. But over time, by demonstrating character, competence, commitment and the courage of his convictions, Daniel strengthened his reputation even more and it earned him promotion, prestige, and perquisites. More importantly, it earned him additional opportunities to minister. (And we all know that preacher/prophet/musician/singer/workshop instructor who will never get another invitation to minister at our church because of what is attached to his/her name).

In Daniel 6, we find that King Darius named Daniel the first of three presidents, preferred him above the presidents and princes, and planned to set him over the entire realm. This promotion, and the related prestige and perqs were a result of the excellent spirit that was found in Daniel. Daniel was known for his excellence. As we saw in Chapter 5, excellence was attached to his name. It was his reputation. As I said in A Few Things I’ve Learned Along the Way, your name can take you places skills alone can’t.

At the heart of the matter is character, because you can’t really address reputation without addressing character. The longer I live, the more I realize that one of my greatest assets is my name, supported by my character. I don’t run around chasing down rumors to try to correct lies, but I will do everything I can to make sure that my character nullifies any lies or falsehoods attached to my name. After all, a good name is more desirable than great riches (Proverbs 22:1). So my final answer is yes, we should care about what people say about us.

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Monday Morning Manna: Downtown Sodom

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When you pitch your tent toward Sodom, it’s only a matter of time until you’re living in downtown Sodom.” — John Edmund Haggai

Every leader faces that moment when they have to make a decision that affects them and their entire team, and perhaps others. Sometimes, it doesn’t even appear to be a major decision, until you begin to see the benefits or consequences of the decision long after it’s made. Sometimes, we consider certain factors when making decisions, while overlooking those factors that appear irrelevant.

We find this to be the case in the book of Genesis, where Abram and his nephew, Lot, had too many possessions to remain in the same land together. Their herdsmen began to clash, so Abram asked Lot if he would be willing to separate himself and relocate. Abram told him that he could choose whatever land he wanted, and that Abram would go in the opposite direction, giving them both all the space and nourishment for the cattle they needed.

Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.” – Genesis 13:12 KJV

It was really a no-brainer to a logical thinker. Lot looked toward the east and saw how healthy, well-watered and fertile the land was in the plain of Jordan, it looked to him like “the garden of the Lord” and like Egypt. He wasn’t thinking about how it looked through God’s eyes; he never seemed to consider what God had just brought him through and what this move could mean for his family or their future. He looked with his natural eyes and saw that the land to the east would provide an abundance of nourishment for his cattle. So he made what most would consider to be a good business decision and chose the land that would give him the most opportunity for success. Lot decided to head east and pitch his tent toward Sodom. It would prove to be one of the worst decisions he could’ve made. The land Lot chose looked good, but it wasn’t good to the Lord.

Downtown Sodom

Verse 13 tells us that the men of Sodom were wicked and “exceedingly great sinners against the Lord.” In the next chapter, we find that Lot is caught up in the middle of a war, is taken captive and loses everything he owned. Fortunately, Abram learns of Lot’s misfortune and is able to go and rescue him. Shortly thereafter (Genesis 19), the evil men of Sodom visit his home while he’s entertaining angels. In order to appease the men, who surrounded his house, demanding that the angels come out, Lot offered his virgin daughters to them. With the help of his angelic guests, Lot and his family just barely escaped the perverted wrath of Sodom’s men.

He ended up having to leave everything behind just in time to escape the fire and brimstone God sent on the city, while they were making their dramatic escape, his wife looked back only to be turned into a pillar of salt, and later after he and his daughters took shelter in a cave, they got him drunk so they could get pregnant by him.

I’m not one for adding to Biblical stories, but after all that, I’d be surprised if Lot didn’t reminisce on the day his uncle asked him to move and wonder “what if….” I’d be surprised if he didn’t kick himself for not asking his favored, wise, older uncle for advice. Having left everything behind, and losing his wife along the way, I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t want to turn back the hands of time just a little bit and pitch that tent toward the west. I once heard an acquaintance quote, “if the grass looks greener on the other side, you can bet the water bill is higher.” Lot chose the greener grass, and paid quite a price for it.

Don’t Just Go for the Obvious

So today, I remind you that no matter how sound and reasonable your decision appears to be, if you set up camp close to disaster, just to gain irresistible benefits, could end up costing you everything you’ve worked for. When given a choice, we must keep our eyes on Jesus, and not fix our eyes on what looks best to us. Pitching your tent toward Sodom isn’t just about making a choice to move here or there. It’s about self-indulgence, hasty decision-making, failure to obtain wise counsel, and failure to consider the promises of God. Even the greatest expertise won’t lead us the right way, if our eyes aren’t focused on God and His plan. Don’t just go for the obvious. Pray about it, explore all the possible scenarios, consider all the possible consequences, ponder the benefits, and count the cost… then pray some more.

But whatever you decide in the end, know that if you pitch your tent toward disaster, it’s really only a matter of time before you end up living there.

Monday Morning Manna: Leading by Influence

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Last week, I came across this quote while perusing the internet. I think it might be credited to Russell H. Ewing, but there were so many variations, that it’s hard to tell.

A boss creates fear; a leader creates confidence.
Bossism creates resentment; leadership breeds enthusiasm.
A boss says “I;” a leader says “we.”
A boss knows all; a leader asks questions.
A boss fixes blame; a leader fixes mistakes.
A boss knows how; a leader shows how.
A boss relies on authority; a leader relies on cooperation.
A boss drives; a leader leads.

As a person who has had quite a few titles in church and in my career, this quote spoke volumes to me.  Anyone with a title can be a boss, but it takes a different quality to be a leader.  I went to the Word and came across this Old Testament passage:

And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among the scouts who had searched the land, rent their clothes, And they said to all the company of Israelites, The land through which we passed as scouts is an exceedingly good land.

If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord, neither fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their defense and the shadow [of protection] is removed from over them, but the Lord is with us. Fear them not.

But all the congregation said to stone [Joshua and Caleb] with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the Tent of Meeting before all the Israelites. — Numbers 14:6-10 AMP

This is a passage from the familiar story in which God told Moses to send a few leaders to scout out Canaan, after promising the land to them. Among the 12 sent was Joshua. At this time, Joshua didn’t really have much clout, so when it turned out that he and Caleb were the only two who thought they’d be able to take the land, nobody paid him any attention. In fact, it was like he and Caleb hadn’t even spoken. The Israelites were so disappointed and frustrated by the majority’s report that, as was typical, they got loud and belligerent.  Joshua tried to help them out and encourage them, but they weren’t hearing him.

The problem, I think, is that although Joshua had status and leadership skills, he had no influence – or at least not enough to gain the support needed to lead the Israelites into the promised land. So one lesson we can learn from this story is that it takes more than a position and title to move people. In order to get things done easily, you need influence. According to best-selling author John Maxwell, the true measure of leadership is influence. The authority a leader has can drive his team members to do what they’ve been asked to do, but it takes influence to inspire them. And inspiration yields enthusiasm, mentorship, a positive work environment, thoroughness, generosity, commitment, and the list goes on and on. Authority can get the job done; but influence makes it easy and pleasant.

So how does one develop influence?

  • A leader who will become influential should have an influential mentor. (Joshua had Moses). Not only does this help you to learn the skills your mentor models, but it also validates you before people who don’t know you well enough to trust your leadership.
  • Position is not enough; you must build a relationship with the people you lead. Joshua was a tribal leader, but that wasn’t enough to help him to influence the others, especially since there were 10 other tribal leaders who opposed him. It’s important to have the trust of the people, and they won’t have much confidence in you if you haven’t demonstrated a track record of solid leadership.
  • Make sound decisions and operate in integrity. Even though Joshua was right, he still couldn’t influence the people to listen to him. That had to be frustrating. Surely you’ve been there (I know I have). But, even when you know you’re right and no one will listen…
  • …You must be consistent and trustworthy. To develop influence, you have to be willing to hang in there and be consistent and reliable, even when no one is following you. This inspires confidence and stability, and as I’ve said before, no one is going to follow a leader in whom they have no confidence.
  • Be sure to use your influence wisely and not to manipulate, take advantage of, or abuse the people who trust you. Joshua used his to lead the Israelites to success.

Leaders may start out with positions, power, authority, and titles, but they never start out with influence. It must be developed and earned. When Joshua returned with his recommendation for taking on Canaan, he couldn’t get one person from the congregation to take heed, even though he was right. What a far cry from what the Israelites said to him later on in Joshua 1:16-18 (MSG):

They answered Joshua: “Everything you commanded us, we’ll do. Wherever you send us, we’ll go. We obeyed Moses to the letter; we’ll also obey you—we just pray that God, your God, will be with you as he was with Moses. Anyone who questions what you say and refuses to obey whatever you command him will be put to death. Strength! Courage!”

Gotta love influence. 🙂

For more on this subject, I recommend Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others, by Jim Dornan and John Maxwell.

Monday Morning Manna: Maximum Potency Part II: The Gideon Model

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Visit Inspirational Contemplation to read Maximum Potency Part I

Guest Columnist: Vanessa L. Miller

 

And the Lord said unto Gideon, by the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand… Judges 7:7

We all know the familiar scripture that says God’s ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts, but still it is difficult at times to see how God is able to do more with less, when our inclination is that we need more than what we have to do anything great.

Growing up in a very small church, I’ve heard all of the clichés about not counting numbers, but making numbers count, and brightening the corner where you are, etc.  I honestly really never bought any of that, because it usually came from the mouths of people who had more to work with, and were striving to get still more.  What I seldom witnessed, however, was any of these churches, small or large, efficiently using the resources they had available to them.  It’s sad, but most times still, when I observe a congregation I see more potential in packages (wrapped up sitting on the shelf) than potential in progress (moving toward something).

But the story of Gideon says something about potential and potency.  All of those thousands of men he had at the outset were only strong in numbers, but not in unity and in heart.  The lesson I took away from this is that even if you have large numbers of people with you, it can be deceitful.  If their hearts are not with you, it is a false sense of security that can fail you at your most vulnerable time.  Instead of rallying to your side, they may forsake and flee.   What people say, and what’s in their hearts can be two very different things.

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.  Proverbs 23:7

Which brings us to the idea of maximum potency.  As I stated in Part I, it has to do with the removing of all fillers and unnecessary ingredients in order to obtain greater concentration and focus.  This principle applies to individual lives, but as the story of Gideon so vividly illustrates, it also applies to group efforts.

The first thing that stands out, is that God called Gideon and gave him the mission.  We must be sure that our endeavors originate not with man, but with God.  That way, we are building on a rock and not the shifting sand of fallible people.  Whether numbers increase or decrease, whether your most trusted associates forsake you; you will still have as insurance, that Blessed Assurance that God is faithful.  What he has said, he will do.

Next, we must realize that if we are doing something great and effective, especially for the Kingdom of God, we may not only attract those that are like-minded, but people with various other motives and agendas.  Just because they are there, doesn’t mean they are there for you or your vision.  I’m reminded of the Israelites in Ezra 4:1-4.  As they built the temple, others came and said, “Let us build with you.”  It was not long before it was discovered that their true motives were actually to weaken the hands of the Israelites and to take away their focus.

I believe our efforts are diluted because, especially in the church, we welcome any help offered and never take a moment to see whether it fits God’s instructions.  What started as a pure endeavor to please God can be sabotaged by those who’ve gained leverage and began pulling in the direction of their agenda.   Before you know it, politics have entered the camp and you and God are being threatened with an overthrow.   I know a lot of churches find themselves hurting for resources at times, but we should never compromise our vision in the name of achieving our vision.

This is a difficult subject, because by no means am I saying that we should sit up and fret about who is for us and against us or be paranoid about someone taking what is ours.  What I am saying is that we should vigilantly guard the work that God has assigned to each of our hands.   We should not allow a hireling to come and damage or derail our focus, making us less effective in the very thing we have been called to do.  In Gideon’s case, it wasn’t a personal thing.  In fact, it was mostly a matter of dismissing those who didn’t want to be there anyway.  Hmmm…  twenty-two thousand men showed up for battle and in their heart of hearts, that is not where they wanted to be.   Gideon ultimately found out that both he and they were better off if they went their way.  The other ninety seven hundred were not so easy to dismiss, but they simply did not have the innate skill to do the job at hand.  They weren’t bad people, this task just wasn’t for them at this time, but the victory when it was won, was for all of them, even the ones that went home.   Similarly, the endeavors that benefit your church or group are for the benefit of the whole, not just those that are selected to work in that particular area.  Any hard feelings can be quickly assuaged with the knowledge that though this may not be my calling and it might not be for me to work with this particular area right now, but there is a calling and a purpose specifically for me.  If I involve myself with finding, and then working that purpose, I have no time to spend worrying about things I wasn’t called to do.

I think that one of the biggest problems in church today is not lack of numbers or failure to be relevant.  I think that at the very root is an identity crisis.  People that don’t know who they are and their own God-given purpose tend to run to where they feel God is doing something great and try to jump in there (I know because I used to be one of these people).  But because that is not their call or assigned work, they are like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, ministering havoc and hindrance to those who are trying to work and grown in what God has called them to do.  When even one person fails to stay in their lane, the result can be a terrible accident that may cause someone to get hurt or killed, and will certainly delay us all from getting to our destination.

While the problem may never be completely eliminated, it can be greatly reduced by focusing on one’s goal and destination, and being prayerful as to who you select or permit to be on the frontline of moving the vision forward.  Everyone will help or benefit in some capacity, but everyone wasn’t called to be by your side, in your ear, or even on your team.  You may look at what’s left and think it’s not enough to get the job done, but just remember that tiny cup of “concentrated” laundry detergent, or Gideon and his modest three hundred men, and know that your main active ingredient is really all you ever need.  “If God be for you…”

Vanessa L. Miller is a multi-talented writer, musician, graphic artist, and a diligent intercessor and student of the Word. A native of Utah, Vanessa currently resides in Reno, Nevada where she serves faithfully at Rehoboth Holy Temple Church of God in Christ. Follow Vanessa’s blog, Inspirational Contemplation, at http://nessalynn77.wordpress.com.

Monday Morning Manna: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

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Okay, so you got me. It’s not really Monday. Aaand, it’s not really morning. This was supposed to be posted yesterday, but I needed a day off to recoup from a busy and exciting weekend! Best of all, I got to spend some time with two fellow administrators, Belinda and Nancy, my sisters in the call.

Starting yesterday (lol), OIC will begin a new feature, called Monday Morning Manna. Every Monday, we’ll take a leadership lesson from a passage of scripture. To help us celebrate, on next Monday, we’ll have a special guest author.

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A Word from Nehemiah
I love Nehemiah. He’s my role model; the ultimate administrator, and a near-perfect example of sound, effective, Godly, wise leadership. This morning, I was studying his story, and I noticed something I must’ve either missed or forgot. Follow me, if you will:

Nehemiah 1:1-4
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

In the beginning of the book, we find that Nehemiah is brought some bad news about the wall of Jerusalem, and the Jewish survivors. Both were in desperately bad condition and needed quick help.

Nehemiah 2:1, 2:5
(1) And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.

(5) And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.

Now, if you’re familiar with this story (and as an administrator, executive pastor or senior pastor, you should be), you know that there are so many lessons to be learned here.  Perhaps in time, we’ll revisit some of them. But here’s the piece I had missed (or forgotten). Chisleu (also referred to as Chislev) is the ninth month of the Jewish calendar (what is today the end of November and beginning of December). Nisan is the first month (March-April). There was a four month span between the time Nehemiah got the word and the time he requested time off from work to go do something.

The Bible doesn’t tell us what he did in that time, but it’s pretty safe to suppose that he took that time to prayerfully develop his plan. In 2:6, King Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah how much time he would need. In the next verse, we are told that Nehemiah gave him a time frame. Then, he went on to make specific requests that letters be sent requesting a work permit, a passport, lodging and supplies to rebuild the wall. Clearly, he had given this some thought.

Nehemiah had a plan. One of the mistakes leaders often make is to act before we assess. Many of us, when faced with an urgent situation will react emotionally and not spiritually. While most emotional reactions consist of acting first, then thinking/planning afterward, a spiritual reaction includes prayer, fasting, and strategic planning. The three go hand-in-hand, as demonstrated in this story. And that reaction is proven to yield results.

How many times have you had to “fix” something that wouldn’t have been broken if you had planned first? Or perhaps you’ve had to spend more time or pay more money, or even abort a project, because you didn’t plan it properly? Cancel a program? Reassign leaders? Rescind an invitation? Retrain? Relaunch? Redesign? Relocate? Redo… you get the point.  We waste so much of our most valuable resource doing things over, just because we didn’t take time to plan it properly in the first place. And what about the times we don’t get an opportunity for a do-over? Sometimes, you only get one chance.

For whatever reason, Nehemiah waited four months before taking any action. Even after he got to Judah, he strategically took three days to survey the disaster zone and conduct an onsite assessment. He knew which key figures to approach to get what he needed. Because he was prepared and had thought it through in advance, he was able to mobilize and motivate a team of volunteers who were downtrodden and in despair to carry out a huge project in record time. As a result of his stellar leadership, not only did he rebuild the damaged wall, he also was able to rebuild the damaged people. There’s no telling what would’ve happened had Nehemiah gone to Judah without a plan. He could’ve destroyed the Jews’ spirits or cracked under the pressure of the opposition. Perhaps, he would’ve run out of resources or supplies. Shoot, he could’ve even been killed!

Whether you’re facing a major problem or project, or carrying out a vision or bright idea, stop, pray, fast, and take time to plan. Think ahead (Proverbs 13:16). Count the cost (Luke 14:28). Write the vision (Habakkuk 2:2). Trust me, you’ll get much better results if you follow Nehemiah’s lead.

To ensure success, you must have a plan (Proverbs 21:5).

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