Tag Archives: Quality

Judgment, Fruit Inspection, and Mixing Metaphors

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
Matthew 7:15-20 (NIV)

For over 25 years I have been in the business of the behavioral analysis of human interactions (e.g. “Your call may be monitored for training and quality assurance purposes“). One time the Quality Assurance (QA) manager of a client told me that she gave an agent a score of “0” on her call. There were about 30 behavioral criteria analyzed in a given call so that the score reflected a generally accurate picture of what the customer did and didn’t experience in the interaction. To get a “0” an agent would almost have to pick up the phone and immediately stroke out, but even then the agent would be credited for not rushing the caller off the phone. Getting a zero is practically impossible if the agent had blood pressure and a pulse.

As I asked a few questions I soon discovered that the manager didn’t particularly like the agent who took the call she scored “0.” I suspect there were other employment or personality issues between the two. When the agent did something the manager didn’t like on the call, the manager took the opportunity to exercise her power and dismiss the agent and her performance as utterly worthless.

In today’s chapter Jesus continues His famous Sermon on the Mount with a direct command not to be judgmental of others. He goes on to illustrate what he means by describing those who will find a “speck” of something wrong about someone else which they use to justify their judgment, grudge or dismissive attitude towards that person. The judgmental person is, of course, ignoring the glaring 2x4s of their own personal flaws as they do this.

Later in the chapter Jesus is speaks specifically about “false prophets.” In Jesus day there were all sorts of religious teachers, cult leaders, and false prophets making all sorts of religious claims. One of the things we fail to realize is that teachers and preachers claiming to be the Messiah were quite common in Jesus’ day. Just like televangelists and cult leaders in our current era, it was a lucrative gig to convince the crowds you’re the Messiah.

Jesus then gives a word picture to help his listeners be discerning and objective in their Quality Assurance assessment of these “false prophets.” Look at the fruit of their teaching and ministry. Is it the things of God? Goodness? Humility? Generosity? Repentance? Reconciliation? Changed lives? Or is it the things of this world? Wealth? Arrogance? Pride? Power? Control? Hatred? Look at the outcomes and results of these prophets and teachers. That’s the way to know if they are servants of God or servants of themselves.

Along my life’s journey I’ve run into many of my fellow followers of Jesus who will proudly and loudly proclaim: “I’m not supposed to judge other people, but I am called to be a fruit inspector!” These individuals then quickly find a “speck” on the “fruit” of another person’s life and feel perfectly justified in claiming the power and authority to dismiss or condemn the whole tree for quality issues. They use Jesus’ call to be “fruit inspectors” of false prophets to justify their judgement of anyone and everyone’s “specks.”

This morning I’m thinking about the ways we mix up Jesus’ metaphors and twist His teaching to justify the very things he commands us not to do. Even as I write this I’ve got my own 2x4s staring me square in the face. I’m praying for mercy this morning, and confessing my own critical and judgmental attitude towards others. God’s Message tells us that the “fruit” of God’s Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. In order to consistently produce a good crop there is regular regimen of cultivating, watering, tending, and pruning. I’ve been following Jesus a long time, but I constantly have some pruning to do.

Lord, have mercy on me.

 

Faith & Love Analysis

source: debord via flickr
source: debord via flickr

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV)

Yesterday I was on-site with a client. I sat with four Customer Service agents walked through the criteria that we will use to analyze the quality of service they provide over the phone. The process requires us to ask, “What does good service sound like? What behaviors are evidence of a quality service experience?” By listening for evidence of these behaviors in the calls we analyze, we can determine how consistently our client’s customers are receiving a quality experience.

This morning as I read the reasons Paul gave for being thankful for the Jesus followers in Thessalonica I suddenly saw it through my vocational lens. “What is the behavioral criteria that points to doing a good job in my faith?” Paul gives two:

  • Faith that continues to grow
  • Love that continues to increase

This morning, I’m asking myself some hard questions. What evidence is there that my faith has grown over the past week, month, or year? In what ways has my active love of others tangibly increased during those same periods of time? To what can I point for substantiation of measurable growth?

I’m not sure I like the answers to my questions. Lord, have mercy on me. Some days I look at the path and realize just how far I have to go.

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Spiritual Home Improvement

shack at the landfill
(Photo credit: margaretkilljoy)

Chapter-a-Day 1 Corinthians 3

Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. I Corinthians 3:12-13 (NLT)

Down in Missouri, on the lot next to our Playhouse there sits a house on a poured foundation. Years ago the owners poured a nice concrete foundation and began to build on top of it. They enclosed the house, furnished the inside and added a patio door that opened toward the lake. Then, they abandoned it.

No one has been to the house on the lot next to ours for decades. The roof collapsed. The furniture and walls are covered in black mold. Local wildlife have lived on the inside and caused more destruction to the contents. The house is a health hazard and an eye sore. But, the foundation is still solid. We have more than one friend who has eyed the property and come to the conclusion that you could bulldoze the house, clean off the foundation, and start building a new home on it.

That house (or what’s left of it) is the perfect word picture of exactly what today’s chapter is trying to communicate. When we come to the point of decision and choose to follow Jesus, the Spirit of God indwells us and pours a rock-solid spiritual foundation in our hearts. From that point on our motivations, our thoughts, our words, and our actions are the construction materials with which we build our spiritual “house” on that foundation. As we live day-to-day, the quality of our choices and lives determine the quality of the spiritual house we’re building. Some of us throw up a shack and are content to live in spiritual squalor. Others take the time, develop the discipline, and make the sacrificial investment to build a spiritual mansion. Like our neighbors at the lake, some of us abandon our spiritual building and its foundation altogether.

Today, I’m meditating on this simple word picture and considering the quality of the spiritual house I’m building on the foundation of salvation Jesus poured in my heart 30 years ago. As all homeowners know, the work is never finished. I have sections of the house I’m proud of. I have other sections that need to be gutted and renovated from the ground up. As one company reminds us: “never stop improving.” As long as there is life and breath, the building and renovation of my spiritual house will continue.

 

On Leading and Leading Well

In questi occhi potrei perdermi / I could lose...
(Photo credit: cigno5!)

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 62

So many enemies against one man—
    all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
    or a tottering fence.
They plan to topple me from my high position.
    They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
    but curse me in their hearts.
Psalm 62:3-4 (NLT)

Since being elected captain of the Woodlawn Elementary School Safety Patrol in 6th grade, I’ve spent most of my life journey in one form of leadership or another. Student Councils, Chaplain, Youth Pastor, Pastor, Elder, Committee Chairman, Director, Producer, Board of Directors, Employer, etc., and etc.  Over the past few years I’ve been investing a good bit of soul searching, reading, quiet time and mental effort ruminating on my leadership.

The truth is, I feel less comfortable as a leader today than I ever have in my entire life. Perhaps it’s the old saying “the more you know the more you realize you don’t know.” I know I can do the job, but the further I get down life’s road the more I want to do the job well and it’s the doing it well part which I find myself pondering incessantly. My personal assessment shows more room for improvement than I care to admit.

As I read King David’s lyrics today, I instantly identified the groans and frustrations of a man who has experienced the burden of leadership in ways I never will. Still, I feel an odd sense of familiarity with the emotions he expresses in his song. Leadership at all levels can leave you feeling alone at the top with a target on your back. You see smiles and hear one thing said to your face while hearing nasty things whispered behind your back.

I appreciate David’s response. It is easy to react to criticism, negativity, and open hostility with anger, vengeance, and aggression either passive or active. I’ve learned, however, that our natural reactions tend to weaken a leader’s position. Leadership requires thoughtful response. When David chooses to respond to his critics and enemies by waiting quietly for God,  he is making the choice of a wise leader. He is avoiding the trap of emotional reaction, he is making space for his own thoughts and meditations on the situation, and as a leader he is recognizing an even higher authority to whom he is accountable.

Anyone can be elected or appointed to a position of leadership. Sometimes we just find ourselves in the position and wonder how we got there. I believe every parent knows this feeling. One minute you’re having fun in bed and the next thing you know you have these big, innocent eyes looking to you for provision, protection, and all of life’s answers. Welcome to leadership. Yet, for the sake of our children, our neighbors, our communities, our businesses, our nation and our world we need leaders who do their jobs well.

Chapter-a-Day John 19

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. John 19:23 (NLT)

I’ve always found this little trivial detail in John’s first-hand account of these events fascinating. Jesus had few possessions and encouraged his followers to do the same. The robe he wore, however, was unique enough that it was desired by all the soldiers and worth gambling over. Seamless and woven in one piece, it was not a cheap robe.

It is clear that Jesus’ travels and ministry were funded by donations from wealthy followers. I find it likely that the robe was a gift, perhaps from a grateful follower whose love one was healed by Jesus. We’ll never know for sure. Like so many nuggets of history, we can only make an educated guess.

I don’t find any great spiritual insight into this fact. I just find it fascinating that Jesus’ lone earthly possessions, the clothes on his back, appear to have been clothes of superior quality in that day. Jesus was certainly not a slave to fashion and He shunned earthly possessions. At the same time, He was certainly not dressed in rags.

Tom’s 30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 8

If you were on trial and someone you know (who is not an attorney) had to act as your legal representative, who would you want to defend you?

If it please the court:

What is really cool about this question is that I have several people that I could and would call upon. I had fun thinking about my many friends and acquaintances and considering their many positive qualities. No doubt I could put together an impressive amateur legal team. I had to think about the right mix of qualities that this person would need to have to be a good legal representative. The person I think who best exemplies that necessary mix would be my friend Chad.

Chad has that intangible quality that experience has led me to believe he could, and likely would, succeed at almost anything he set his heart and mind to accomplish. He’s intelligent and a quick learner. He presents himself well and would be articulate, easily building rapport with the judge and jury. I also see in Chad the necessary ability to feel empathy and compassion deeply while holding those feelings in check when there’s a battle to be fought and the need to focus on the immediate need.

Underneath all that, he’s a good friend and I know he’d have my back and take the responsbility very seriously.