Life Matter: Generosity

"Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
    who conduct their affairs with justice. . . .

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
    their righteousness endures forever;
    their horn will be lifted high in honor" - Psalm 112:5, 9.

God loves a generous person. The Bible is full of exhortations to be generous, reminding you how God rewards those who remember the poor. That assumes you know who the poor are, are in touch with their needs and have the willingness to help. If you have time, do a search of the word 'poor' in the book of Proverbs and you can see some of God's promises for the generous person. A few of my favorites are: "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done" (Proverbs 19:17) and "Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses" (Proverbs 28:27). Do you know any poor in your country or another? What do you do to help the poor? How can you increase your awareness of the needs of the poor and then increase your level of support?

Today's reading - Psalms 111-115

W52D2 - People Skills

"Now the Ephraimites asked Gideon, 'Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?' And they challenged him vigorously. But he answered them, “What have I accomplished compared to you? Aren’t the gleanings of Ephraim’s grapes better than the full grape harvest of Abiezer? God gave Oreb and Zeeb, the Midianite leaders, into your hands. What was I able to do compared to you?' At this, their resentment against him subsided" - Judges 8:1-3.

In today's passage, one of the tribes left out of the attack on Midian vigorously challenged Gideon's decision to go to battle without them. In other words, they angrily got in Gideon's face. Yet Gideon did not take the attack personally and skillfully deflected their anger by complimenting them on a past victory while minimizing his achievements. Leaders can expect to be "vigorously" challenged from time to time and must learn how to do what Gideon diddefuse a potentially volatile confrontation. When confronted, leaders can't become competitive and try to win the argument, but must rather do what is necessary to keep their team on task as they all pursue the vision of the organization through the human dynamics that almost always threaten to derail the journey.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to learn to listen when confronted and not become defensive. Don't react but rather respond. The first thing to watch is your body language. Don't cross your arms or legs, but remain open to the confronters. Then don't raise your voice, but rather lower it from your usual level. Listen intently and ask questions to clarify. You may want to practice these steps in your mind so you will ready when the confronter comes.

W45D3 - Hiring Skills

"He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand—but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation" - Genesis 40:21-22.

Joseph gets most of the attention in the Genesis story, but his 'boss' the Pharaoh also deserves some attention for his ability to promote the right people and recognize talent. In today's verse, we see Pharaoh restoring his butler while 'firing' the baker as Joseph had predicted (both had been on 'probation' in prison for some time). The butler, though quiet for two years, eventually introduced Pharaoh to Joseph, whom Pharaoh immediately promoted to be his second-in-command. What's more, Pharaoh delegated all responsibilities for famine management to Joseph, staying out of his way and giving him all he needed to do the job well. Pharaoh exhibited a keen ability to promote and hire the best person for a position while removing those who were not suited for their role. Leaders must either be skilled at hiring or have someone who is, for an organization can only be as effective and productive as its workforce enables it to be.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to evaluate how effective you are as a talent scout for your organization. How are your most recent hires working out? Are they a good fit, or are you now trying to work around them to make the hire look good? Is there anyone in your organization who is better at hiring than you are? Why aren't you relying on them more often? Below is an article you can read to gain more insight into the importance of good hiring skills.

Download Site Joseph and Pharaoh

W42D3 - People Skills

"If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other" - Galatians 5:15.

Paul warned his readers in today's verse that once they started down a road of backbiting, gossip, and sarcasm, it was difficult to control what the end result would be. All those behaviors only lead to more and more of the same, which eventually tears down the people closest to you, with whom  you work, minister, or live. Leaders must be especially careful not to set the tone and example for negative talk, abusive humor, and sarcastic remarks, but at the same time, they must be honest when there is a problem, confrontational when there are harmful attitudes and behaviors, and encouraging all day, every day.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to set the course for the conversations you are in today. Try this and see how people respond. When you sit down with another person on your team or in your family (it can also be a group), seize control of the conversation by saying something positive about your organization or the people who are in it (you can also do this through your social media presence). Watch and see if people follow your lead and build on what you said. If they do, then determine that you will do this more often than you have in the past. The key is to be proactive and start positive gossip and uplifting rumors!

W37D3 - People Skills

"Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a helpless people" - Proverbs 28:15.

There are two similes used in today's verse to describe a terrible leader. Anyone who encounters either animal in their described posture would experience a rush of fear and that is exactly what wicked leaders use to lead and control their followers. Fear naturally exists between leaders and followers, and poor leaders exploit that fear to control and manipulate others. When people live or function in fear, they cannot produce their best work, express their creativity, or take calculated risks. Those wicked leaders have no idea what they lose when they create an atmosphere of fear and some simply don't care, for it's usually all about them and what they want and not at all about the people who follow.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Remember when you were a child and told that the principal wanted to see you? Were you happy? Did you think, "Good, I have wanted to talk to her about some changes around here"? No, you were probably terrified! That is the fear that naturally exists between leader and follower. What Steps can you take to lessen that fear in your current work or ministry relationships? Do some offsite social meetings? Have an open-door policy? Do some team-building exercises?

W32D3 - People Skills

"Then people brought little children to Jesus for him
to place his hands on them and pray for them. But
the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, 'Let the little
children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the
kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'" - Matthew 19:13-14.

Jesus was always accessible and friendly (except to the religious bigots). People felt comfortable enough bringing their children to Him for a blessing, knowing He would not shun or avoid them. Yet Jesus' administrative assistants and ushers tried to keep the people away from Jesus, thinking they were acting in Jesus' best interests. Leaders are meant to be among the people and not over the people. They must not allow themselves to become isolated from the people they serve and their needs, and must make sure their assistants and procedures reflect the values of openness and accessibility.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Today's Step is to examine the image your followers and team are portraying to the public. Are they keeping people and information from you that you need to see and know? Are they friendly in their encounters with others? One way you can find out is to ask around and perhaps even distribute a survey to a broader cross section of staff or public to get a clear picture of how they see your administrative 'world.' Then take any necessary corrective action.

W27D3 - People Skills

"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him" - John 13:3-5.

Jesus' relationship with His followers was not simply so He could teach them or to build a ministry network of workers. He was their "Lord," friend, and mentor. To break down any barriers between them, Jesus stripped Himself of all pretense (along with most of His clothing), took a bowl and towel, and washed their feet. This practical act of service was to rinse away the dust that gathered from walking through life together. No one in that group wanted to perform this act except Jesus, even though He was their leader and could have expected or demanded they do the same for Him. Leaders must work to build close relationships with their followers, and that means treating them like real people with real needs and not just workers to get the job accomplished. Leaders must also often do the"dirty" tasks that no one else chooses or desires to do as they seek to serve the needs of others.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Your Step today is to check out the 'feet' of those among whom you are called to lead, work, or live. When you see their feet, use your leadership power to wash and refresh them where they are with what they need. For one person, maybe it's an extra day or two off; for another, some time off to do school work, or some praise or recognition; for yet another, some time with you, going to a conference or trade show, or help in finding a new and better job.

W22D3 - People Skills

"He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him" - Isaiah 53:2.

This verse was a prophetic description of Jesus, who wasn't charismatic in the sense of being handsome, a dynamic speaker, or a flashy dresser. Someone who would have been looking for those traits in His leadership would have misread Him and His capabilities altogether. Leaders learn how to read and assess people not by their outward appearances but by their capabilities and the size of their heart. What's more, leaders should seek to develop their own inner person and character, and not pay so much attention to the trappings of power that speak to authority but may not deliver on what they appear to be.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Are you judging people by their outer appearances or your first impression of them? This may cause you to miss their gifts, character, and true value to the organization. Your Step today is to set up time in the coming days to meet with people in your organization to whom you are not naturally drawn so you can get to know them better. You may not like their outer style (or lack thereof), but you want to identify their worth as a person and worker because of their experience and gifts.

W17D3 - People Skills

" [A]nd standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume" - Luke 7:38.

The scenario of a woman wetting Jesus' feet with tears and drying them with her hair is apt to make some people uncomfortable. Yet what does this tell us about Jesus? It says that He was supremely accessible and approachable. The woman wasn't afraid of being embarrassed or rebuked, and she also wasn't afraid to perform this extravagant act in full view of all who were present. She could be herself around Him and be accepted. She could also be honest and open with her feelings and not be concerned that He would react, take advantage of, or be dismissive of her emotional, intimate moment. Effective leaders create the same atmosphere with their followers that allows genuine honesty and transparency.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Evaluate how accessible you are as a leader. First, look at your workspace. Is it fortified with closed doors and assistants stationed between you and the people, or is it open? Next, look at your calendar. How much time every week do you spend with other people? Third, examine the content in those meetings. Is your time with followers spent talking about your agenda or what's on their minds and hearts? What did you learn from your answers?

W12D3 - People Skills

"One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, 'David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them'" - 1 Samuel 25:14.

The story of Nabal and Abigail is full of insight into the benefits of people skills with Nabal having poor skills while Abigail and the servant in possession of  good skills. Nabal had lived under David's protection but treated David's men rudely when they asked for assistance, dismissing their request. The servant recognized that David's men were angry enough to take revenge, and Abigail also understood how David would react to her husband's boorish ways even though she was not present when the offense occurred. Therefore, she set out immediately to appease David's anger, thus saving the lives of many in her household with her wisdom and soothing words. Leaders need to be more like Abigail and the servant, and much less like Nabal, but that requires the desire to do so plus the work to sharpen that skill.

LEADERSHIP SKILLS: This is the third time you have looked at this story in this devotional because it contains so much insight into managing and relating to people, showing the effects of good and not-so-good skills. Read this story today in 1 Samuel 25 and journal your thoughts and insights from this story, especially looking at what you can do to be more observant like the servant and more conciliatory like Abigail.