Luke 15:2—And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!”
Our pastor recently received an anonymous email that was highly critical of himself and his executive pastor. As an elder, I can honestly share that this kind of message serves only to discourage leaders. The person criticizing picks apart whatever he or she disagrees with, is not part of a solution and hides behind a cloak of anonymity rather than come and personally share what is misunderstood. It is too easy to be critical. It is also immature to lob rocks from the other side of the hill.
There is a popular phrase passed along by leaders, “Always praise publically, criticize or correct privately.” Unfortunately, this gets violated all too often in organizations where insecure or unthoughtful people publically criticize employees, family members, or co-workers. I once had a fellow team member complain to the program director over his offense at some of my closing remarks. Rather than just come and tell me, he went “over my head.” When the director mentioned his complaint to me I was surprised and lost respect for a fellow leader who prides himself in leading yet was unprofessional by not speaking directly to me.
Do you remember growing up hearing the rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!?” The intent of that couplet is to steel us against teasing and badgering but, the reality is, words can internally leave nasty marks. Cruel, mean-spirited, or foul comments may inflict enduring damage and color the way we view the antagonist.
Matthew 9:32-34—Just as they were going out, a demon-possessed man who was unable to speak was brought to Him. When the demon had been driven out, the man spoke. And the crowds were amazed, saying, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!” But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons!”
Cabe and Rhonda are trashing their lives. He is an alcoholic and she is a spendaholic. While they love each other, their weaknesses create a bad spiral. Rhonda gets frustrated by the long hours Cabe works and so she rationalizes going on spending sprees. When Cabe gets the credit card bill inwardly he is so mad at Rhonda that he knows he will say things he will regret, so he gets drunk instead. Unfortunately what then comes out of his mouth is even worse. Sadly, both of them know God and inwardly understand that their behavior is unacceptable, but they will not be exiting their spiral anytime soon because of the way they are treated by fellow Christians.
My team briefed me at 3:30 p.m. The key slide in their operational brief that I would have to in turn brief my boss at 5:00 p.m. was awful. The words that were to describe our progress were not clear and there were too many confusing acronyms. And what was supposed to be a clear map for the location of the disaster in our exercise, with scope of destruction from a notional bomb, was just a big brown blob. Each subordinate unit that briefed me had much better graphics depicting roads, cities and key information. But I couldn’t use their work because by the time all the units finished speaking there wasn’t enough time for the staff to swap content. Inside I was fuming. This was our first chance to make a strong impression on our higher headquarters and our one slide was unprofessional.
Dr. Myles Munroe wr0te in his book The Burden of Freedom, “When a lifestyle of irresponsibility is allowed to increase, the voice of conscience is progressively silenced . . . Conscience has died throughout much of the world’s society because we have inherited a spirit of irresponsibility.” Irresponsibility thrives when we fail to punish wrong behavior. But we also spur its existence by too quickly applying mercy without permitting disgrace. This may seem odd since the word disgrace carries such a negative connotation. This is why Scripture is profoundly important. Notice how God used disgrace to teach us a lesson.
Cassidy sent out an email to her boss. The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for Grok Inc. cited several recent incidents that occurred and accused Konrad, a coworker and fellow executive, of harassing her and generally acting like a jerk. The boss was surprised because he had worked with Konrad for years and had never before received complaints like this about him or observed him to act in a way that was disrespectful to others. So he asked his CFO to call him. When she did, he questioned her as to what exactly Konrad had done. In the course of the conversation the boss realized that Cassidy was making several bad assumptions about her coworker. It especially galled him that she had not discussed her concerns with Konrad before sending him the negative report.*
Often when I am driving on the road for long periods of time, I will tune in to listen to different radio talk shows. I have observed a pattern across the spectrum of those who claim to represent conservative America. Often they speak disrespectfully of politicians with statements like “he is an idiot” or “she is a moron.” They mockingly belittle the mental competency of their intended targets or accuse them of evil motives. Several of these hosts skillfully move between humor and anger and it is easy to be sucked into the emotion-charged airwaves.
When it comes to romance, maybe the wise thing for us to remember is that one day cannot offset 364 days. How we love the rest of the year speaks infinitely louder than the most creative gifts given on February 14.
I believe there are four keys to making a marriage prosper and endure and guys if we don’t get this, we are doomed to a lot of hardship. (Apologies to the unmarried and to gals, but this Reveration is for married men or those engaged to be married).
One man was a Pharisee, a religious leader zealous to maintain a sinless posture. The other woman was in all likelihood a prostitute. The Pharisee invited Jesus into his home and whether by oversight or by intent failed to offer the common amenity of providing water for his guest to wash his feet. The woman, taking advantage of a custom that allowed the poor into a home for scraps, bathed Jesus’ feet with grief-stricken tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them in profound reverence and perfumed them—perhaps with the very oil she once used to lure men.
“There is no sun,” the people cried. “Don’t talk to us about sun. Every day it is the same. We can see only so far in front, so far above and that’s the way it is. Life is a mist, soak it up. What we see is far more important than what we don’t see. What we believe is beyond us is of no consequence to what we experience. We do what we want to do and we want to be left alone. When we die we die and so it is better to live for whatever makes us happy.
I feel like I’m living in a giant bubble that increases with size and darkens in color. I wonder when it will explode and what outcome I can expect. Almost daily I receive emails from people that love President Bush and despise John Kerry. Conversely, I get messages that bash Bush and laud the Massachusetts Senator. Each person is certain of his or her views. I don’t ever remember seeing this nation so polarized and divided over who should be its next Commander-in-Chief. Perhaps in the tempest it is wise to remember the temptation to lean on our own understanding sets us up for failure. If our hope for the future is pinned on a man or a party we are destined for an overdose of pain.
A small crowd of perhaps a hundred gathered for the tree lighting. Four strands of multicolored lights ran up the 40-foot fir. The air was festive and the mood light. Christmas songs were sung off-key while boys and girls eyes roved frantically for Santa. One after another dignitaries walked forward and gave their remarks. Then the emcee asked the Chaplain to give the blessing.
Beria Emulous paces the floor. He’s angry with Crassus Arrogate, a man who controls information to protect his dominion. The two consistently spar. On the surface they remain civil but underneath these two gray veterans are cauldrons.
Sam walked from the studio into the sanctuary. The amplifier levels were set incorrectly and the sound in the room from the instruments was unbalanced. So he adjusted the levels on the soundboard and moved the amp volumes up to full power. He removed the old paper arrows taped to the board assigning each channel a specific level. Now the system sounded great. Sam was pleased he had helped the church.
Morning comes and Chris is tired. He spent a restless night battling the accusations of people who disagree with him. His character has been questioned. His actions are constantly scrutinized. His leadership is eroding and he feels angry. So, he contemplates how he should defend himself. Rather than talk to God about His pain, Chris reviews the weaknesses of his detractors and how he can prove them wrong. No longer can he minister effectively for his motives are based on a personal agenda.
It’s a dazzling day in Dallas. As you walk to your car you spot another woman who attends the same aquatics class. “Hi! That’s a nice outfit Shrena.” She looks at you surprised but then mutters, “Yeah, sure” (like you really care)! Surprised, at her response you innocently ask, “Shrena, are you alright?” But it’s too late. She walks away, ducks in her Audi and drives out of the parking lot.
“What’s wrong with you?” The question stung. Bryan replied from the safety of a carpeted banister, “Hey, this is my first time and I don’t have very good balance.” “So, it’s easy,” the boy retorted. Then with a look that said, “You’re a dork!” he took off. A friend skated to Bryan who then shared what the kid had said. He was appalled at the boy’s rudeness. He went over to some of their mutual friends and reported the insult. They devised a plan to body check the smart aleck. Not a godly response—but humorous. For Bryan, the balm of supportive friends covered the sting of criticism.
If being right is most important, listening may be a lost cause. There is a cost for preferring stubbornness to sensitivity, opinion to grace. For isn’t it true that there still remain churches: