Monday, March 2, 2015

5 Characterisitcs Of Truly Wise People

wisdom sign
The beginning of wisdom is this: "Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.” Proverbs 4:7-9

In the information age that we live it seems that knowledge is valued above wisdom. I don't think this is intentional but is a result of misinformation. Many think that knowledge equals wisdom. This is a fallacy. I have observed that the more information we have access to in our present culture, the less wise we are becoming.

The Oxford Dictionary defines wisdom as the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment. Wisdom has nothing to do with knowledge or even experience but how you apply that knowledge to everyday life. You can be the smartest person or even the oldest, most experienced person in the room, but if you don't know how to use that knowledge and experience to make  right choices and decisions, you are far from being wise.

I have heard it said that wisdom is not repeating the mistakes you made when you were young. That is a good measure, but I think wisdom goes a step further. Great wisdom is not making the same mistakes your elders made. According to the verses above from Proverbs, wisdom does not come to you. You must pursue it. You have to go after it if you want to be wise. I'm not saying that knowledge and experience aren't important. What I am saying is that we must put a premium on wisdom above everything for without it, we have nothing.

How do we get wisdom? There is no easy answer to that question and I believe there are no formulas for getting it. I can tell you that you can spot it when you see it. There are a number of people in my life that have modeled true wisdom, Let me share what I have found to be 5 characteristics of truly wise people.

They never stop learning.
This is key and is the common characteristic I have observed. These people are like sponges who soak up everything they can. They aren't passionate about knowing more but how to be better people. That is what sets them apart from everyone else. The moment we stop learning is the moment we become foolish.

They don't claim to be wise.
One thing I have noticed about truly wise people is that they never talk about how wise they are. In fact, they tend to downplay their wisdom, knowledge and experience. They are the first to admit that they don't know everything and don't have all the answers. They ask questions rather than make statements. That takes wisdom!

They don't play the age card.
I have learned from them that wisdom has nothing to do with age. I have met plenty of elderly people who sorely lack wisdom. I have also met many young people that are wise beyond their years. Those who are wise in their older years never assume that they are smarter than those who are younger. Young people who are wise beyond their years never assume that they aren't as smart as those who are older. True wisdom is the ability to learn from those older as well as younger than you. The pitfall of age is thinking others don't know anything. The pitfall of youth is thinking that you know everything. Wisdom breaks through the age barriers.

They embrace failure.
Wisdom is not the result of living a perfect life. True wisdom comes when we learn from the mistakes we make in life. I have heard it said that success is falling down nine times and getting back up ten times. Truly wise people never, ever claim to be perfect. In fact, they are quick to admit their mistakes. Some of the greatest lessons I have learned in life were forged in the furnace of failure.

They aren't intimidated by people who are smarter than they are.
This is a big one. I have observed that truly wise people have embraced the fact that there are always others who are smarter, wiser, and more talented than they are, and they are okay with that. In fact, they go out of their way to surround themselves with others who are better than they are. My tennis coach in high school taught me that if I want to become a great tennis player, I have to practice with someone at least three levels above me. He taught me a lot about wisdom that still impacts me to this day.

Read the verses from Proverbs at the top of this post one more time. Notice that it says, "Though it cost all you have..." Wisdom comes with a price. It doesn't come automatically. You have to work for it. You have to go after it and you have to hold on to it. The price is worth it and it will be your most valued treasure.
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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Four Qualities Of a World-Changer

holding the world
When God called Moses to go and lead His people to the Promised Land in Exodus 33, Moses replies in verses 15 and 16, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” What a great response! Moses realizes that if God doesn't go with him, he is destined to fail. We can learn a lot from Moses. In fact, the world desperately needs more people like Moses.

Each one of us has a unique and specific God-designed purpose for our lives. There are people around us that God has birthed us for specifically for the purpose of being the right man or woman at just the right time and place to be a Moses to them. God has seen their bondage and misery and has sent us to be their deliverer. I'm sure each of us have had a Moses or two in our lives that have led us through some difficult times and we couldn't have made it without them. We can't do it alone though. Unless God Himself goes with us, we have no hope of making an eternal difference in people's lives. We need what I call "a spirit of Moses" to fulfill the calling God has put on us. There are 4 character traits that Moses developed that we must also develop in ourselves.
  • He was available. Although he tried to convince God that he had the wrong man, He did go. He just  wanted to make absolutely sure that this was God's idea and not his.
  • He was humble. He understood that he had nothing to offer in and of himself. Moses made sure that it was never about him. He always gave God the credit and attention. That is an extremely rare quality in leadership today.
  • He was dependent. He depended upon God for every step along the journey. He took great care to never venture out on his own. He only went where God told him to. Moses was very smart and intelligent but he never let that get in God's way.
  • He was desperate. He pleaded with God to not only go with him, but to show him His glory. He didn't settle for less than the full and complete presence of God. He wanted no less than 100% of what God had for him. This is also a rare quality today. We often settle for "just enough" to get by when God said that He is "more than enough." Moses wasn't a "just enough" kind of guy. He wanted it all and he was willing to die to get it.
I'll say it again - the world needs more people like Moses today. It doesn't need more talented, articulate, polished, and intelligent leaders. It needs the opposite because it is that kind of person who can be used by God to do the impossible. We don't need what man can offer. We need what only God can offer. Be a Moses for God and to your world around you. Then the Lord will say, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” (v. 17)
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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Art of Engaging Leadership

Every leader faces the challenge of not only getting employees engaged, but keeping them engaged for good. The more engaged your team becomes, the more productive they will be and therefore, you will spend more time leading and a lot less time managing. I have seen many leaders fail to engage their employees and have no idea why they can't seem to accomplish this critical task. Many fail because they think that engagement is a result of increased productivity. This is backward thinking however. The reverse is true - productivity is the result of engagement. People who are fully engaged and have bought in to the purpose of the company will naturally produce results.

There is no magic formula for getting people engaged but I have found that there are some crucial mindsets of engaging leaders. Whether you are a leader in a tech company, nonprofit, church, school, or private company, a lack of engagement will derail your team's ability to produce consistent results. Here are five leadership mindsets that will help you get your people engaged and keep them there.

Give them a sense of purpose in what they do.
People who simply have a job to do will do what's expected while people who have purpose will do the unexpected. A paycheck gives them a reason to show up while a sense of purpose keeps them coming back. Nothing creates engagement better than a sense of purpose.

Make them feel that they make a difference in the company.
I have worked for companies that saw people come and go in a steady stream. These companies see people as tools. I have also worked for companies that had an extremely low turnover rate. Those companies see people as a treasure. People who know that they make a viable difference in their workplace are highly engaged and produce fantastic results.

Publicly praise them regularly.
Nothing motivates employees better than making them feel genuinely appreciated. Nothing kills employee engagement faster than feeling unappreciated. Be careful however. Always make your praise sincere and genuine. Public praise shown to get something out of someone is humiliating and is rotten leadership. Never do it, ever!

Let them know that you value them personally.
A company that values the bottom line over people will find itself without people to help it make the bottom line. If you are getting results but your people are getting chewed up and spit out, something is horribly wrong and those people will leave for some place else. Companies that value people find its people stay for the long haul. When people stay with a company for ten, twenty or thirty years it shows they value them. Remember, people are your most important commodity. Without people you have no company.

Be a leader, not a manager.
A manager tells people what to do while a leader shows them how to do it. Managers sit in offices and watch everyone else do the work. Leaders get in the trenches, roll up their sleeves and walk along side those they are leading. This creates high engagement as well as respect.

Are you an engaging leader? It's never too late to start developing the art of engaging leadership. What are some of your ideas on how to create engagement as a leader? I'd love to hear them. Thanks for reading.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Overcoming the Generational Language Barrier in Worship

parent megaphone
It has been said that "worship is the language of heaven". Not sure who first said that but I have heard that phrase many times over the years. We live in a culture that is becoming not just bilingual, but multilingual. On a missions trip to Romania I was amazed by the fact that most people in Europe speak several languages. My missionary friends tell me that is the reality of most of the world today, with the exception of America. The vast majority of Americans only speak one language - English. In fact, in many corners of our country there is a fierce battle to keep our educational system "English only". Is that such a good idea? In my opinion it is a big mistake. The reality is that America is slowly becoming more and more irrelevant to the rest of the world. Could it be because we are refusing to adapt to other cultures and learn their languages which would help us be better global communicators? I'll let you decide that one.

I see a huge parallel in modern day worship in America. I was listening to a young preacher in a high school chapel not long ago speaking to students about my generation (I am a Boomer) passing the worship baton to their generation (they were Millienials). His take on the subject focused on admonishing them to reach out and take the baton from us and he asked them, "Who will stand up and take the baton?". This was met with about 150 blank stares and dead silence. I think that young preacher interpreted this to mean that they were just apathetic, uninterested and downright rebellious. He asked the question several more times, gradually increasing the volume, but to no avail. I really felt for him. But I also felt for those young people. I am convinced that I was witnessing a classic case of a language barrier. Let me venture to try to interpret what those teens were trying to say by their silence - "Why should we embrace your generation's worship when you are unwilling to embrace ours?" I think that is a very profound question.

It was almost 40 years ago that I was that age and worship was changing fast then as it is now. The late 60's and early 70's saw the birth of the Worship Chorus. We had never heard anything like that before and it was wonderful. Those songs let us go beyond just singing what we believed to telling God how much we loved Him. We could express our feelings! The generation in charge of doing things back then told us that worship like that was improper, too emotional, too wordy , and irrelevant. Sound familiar? I find myself struggling to connect with some of the latest worship songs and styles of today just like the rest of the generation in charge of doing things today but we better be careful not to make the same mistakes my parents' generation made.

I close with this thought. Why must each generation insist that everyone speak their language? I think the Church in America needs to become not only multi-generational but multilingual in its worship. I have decided to become a student once again and learn the worship language of my son's generation. I want to learn how to worship in abandon - a no holds barred, extravagant love kind of worship to God. That's their language and God speaks that kind of language too. Inf fact, he invented it. Maybe if we learn their language, they will in turn embrace our language which will help them stay Biblically solid. We need to break out of our worship speak and understand that the language of Heaven is beyond our own and never unilingual. I see the day when the youth don't just do their worship thing on Wednesday night and we adults do ours on Sunday morning, but we come together with one voice, embracing each other's language, and as a result enjoying a much richer, meaningful corporate worship experience! The book of Revelation tells us that is how worship in Heaven will be so we might as well get used to it now. Who knows, we just might see my generation actually enjoying a Bethel Live worship song while at the same time my son's generation actually loving a good old-fashioned hymn.

"He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord." Psalm 40:3

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Friday, January 23, 2015

How the Pursuit of Happiness Is A Dead End

dead end
As Americans, we are taught from day one that our Constitution guarantees us the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It's a noble goal and has helped our country become the great country it is today. But on a spiritual level, living life this way doesn't work.

The foundational principle to this concept is based upon the premise that I have a right to pursue these three things and it is a violation of the Constitution to deny me those rights. Jesus taught us that the true way to life, liberty and happiness is found the opposite way. He tells us in Matthew 10:39 that whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Man's method is living for himself. God's method is living for others. That is the key that unlocks real life, true liberty and real happiness.

Jesus not only taught this principle, he lived it. Philippians 2 gives us a snapshot of the life of Christ lived out. It says that even though he was God, he emptied himself and become nothing, taking on the form of a servant so that he could come to earth and bring us eternal life. He laid down his life for us. He showed us that the secret to real life, liberty and happiness is only found when we die to ourselves.

Does your life seem a little empty? Do you feel trapped by life? Are you unhappy? Perhaps you are pursuing these three things from the wrong direction. Start doing things backwards from the way you are used to. Instead of living for yourself, live for others. As you begin to do this you will then begin to experience a dimension of life, liberty and happiness that you never knew you could have. What do you think would happen if all Americans lived this way?

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