You Lost Me at “Thus Sayeth the Lord”

Before I continue, I would like to make a few things clear:

  1. I value very much the advice of wise people. (With an emphasis on “wise”.)
  2. I value very much the encouragement and guidance of a prophetic word.

 

I say these because I want to remove any potential accusation that I don’t like listening to wisdom nor respect supernatural insight. I do like listening to wisdom, so much so that I like to make sure, as much as I can, that whatever it is I am listening to is actually wisdom. And I do get amazed by supernatural insight, or what seems like supernatural insight. It amazes me so much that I don’t take the words for granted and take the time to see how they sync up with the Bible.

This helps me from falling for the lazy response of just accepting what someone else says. It doesn’t matter who said what, it is beneficial to validate before accepting.

When it comes to Christian beliefs, the validation comes from one primary source: the Bible. No word of knowledge, no prophetic insight, no pastoral advice, nor papal edict can counter (or should counter) Biblical teaching. Given that Christians believe in the Bible being God’s Word, we should be very careful with statements that claim to be from God, but cannot be validated using the Bible. This is why I personally have never felt comfortable using the phrase, “Thus sayeth the Lord…” to start out what really is a personal opinion on scriptural matters. “This sayeth the Lord” claims divine authority. A simple, “Here’s how I see this” claims personal perspective. If I claim divine authority, I better make sure that my claim is backed-up by the Bible. I would never use, for example, the president’s authority for something I am not sure is really authorized by him, even more, I will be very careful to say, “These are God’s words” since God is way beyond a president and His words are to be treated with more reverence.

This is true for theological interpretations and ideas as well. Sometimes, I’ll give my opinion on something and find that I’ve offended some very religious people, who come back at me with concepts like Calvinism, Cessationism, Continuism, Dispensationalism, Arminianism,God’s Perfect Choice-ism, and Spiritual Authority-ism. Frankly, I’m not an expert on these “Christian-isms”, even though I’ve probably read on them more than most, an exercise I find to be more confusing than clarifying. Here’s what I found while studying church history: a bunch of highly fallible men and women (not too different from you and I) making their best interpretations of the Bible and the world using the available data of the time, with views being refined as data improves, and a common ironic result: a church split.

Here’s what you’ll find over and over:
A small group of people passionately cling to a message and a mission, that group grows into a formidable group, that group tries to institutionalize themselves, with their growth comes a slowing down and weakening (though the leaders won’t notice this because of the sheer size), they find their institutions under attack by new ideas, new methods, new interpretations, and new people, they try to defend themselves by entrenching themselves in their beliefs (particularly by putting up dogmatic institutions), these lead to hard stances on issues instead of consideration, which leads to division, and which in turn leads to splits, and, despite their efforts, they cease to become the force they once were, surrendering this to another group, which was once a small bunch of people as well.

If you want to know how Jesus and 12 disciples have become a confusing range of Christian denominations, study church history. You’ll probably find what I found.

This is why I like to cut through the confusion of interpretations and “isms” to a very simple concept: Love God with your body, soul, and spirit, and Love others as yourself. I don’t need to get distracted with the discussions about the “elect” and the “saved”. It is hard enough to be self-less, to be humble, and to be truly prayerful, why complicate it with debates on things that have never been nor will be settled by men?

Ultimately, God is looking at the fruit of my life not whether I took the right position on these religious debates.

And what is my life’s fruit made of? Is there love? Is there goodness? Is there faith? Is there kindness? Is there self control? Do the spiritual virtues exist in my life? Am I loving towards my neighbor? Do I actually help the poor or do I just pity them? Do I actually improve the lives of others or do I simply complain about how hard life is? Do the results of my life show Godliness?

With these in mind, and with a clear goal to show God our love with the fruit of our lives,  I would like to share some simple points on receiving and giving  insight and advice:

  1. Loving God with your mind is beyond knowing dogma and theological interpretations. Loving God with your mind is about pointing our thoughts towards what is noble, lovely, kind, praise worthy, and Godly.
  2. Be very careful with claiming “Thus sayeth the Lord”. That’s serious business. And be very careful with receiving a “Thus sayeth the Lord” without validating with scripture. It will guard you from spiritual fatalism and spiritual weirdness.
  3. Get advise from WISE people. Wise isn’t necessary nice. Wise isn’t necessarily conventional. A teacher isn’t necessarily wise despite the title. A pastor isn’t necessarily wise despite the tile. A prophet isn’t necessarily wise either, not is a small group leader. Look for people who will help you bear good fruit.

Who is wise then? Who should we listen to? Let us end this post with some practical tips on who to listen to:

  1. Listen to people who have achieved results in the area you would like to improve on. This is super simple. If you want to be a better basketball player would you go to a chess player? Of course not. This is why I’m surprised when married men go to their single guy friends for advice. Or when married women do the same thing. Or when students would rather listen to their peers than experienced people. What do they know? Instead, look for people whose lives reflect the results you admire.
  2. Listen to people who have skin in the game, and even better, who have skin in your game. For example, I pay close attention to what my board tells me in business way more than to the praises or criticisms of random people. My board tends to be more scrutinizing. Why? They’ll lose money if I botch things. So they take me seriously. While it’s much more comfortable for me to bask in the compliments of others, their comments are worth much less than the words of my board. In the same way, the words of your spouse should be worth more than those of others. They have so much skin in the game. This isn’t to say everything they say is right. It is to say you pay close attention to them more than random insights or random news. This is why I like to surround myself with people who are invested in me, and I like to listen to them. This is also why I hardly ever go to these special talks or special dinners for traveling evangelists or wise men. In my observation these tend to lead to pop-wisdom. Nice sounding, but ultimately impractical in our specific contexts. I find that pop-wisdom gets in the way of real wisdom. Why would you listen to the “wisdom” of someone who gains nor losses nothing from his words over those of someone who is consistently with you, knows you better, and makes your life possible?
  3. Listen to people who know you. Sometimes, when I write, I’ll get a message from someone saying he or she wishes his or her parents had my perspective, or that their spouse were more open, or their boss. Frankly, while I am glad my ideas are causing people to think, I don’t think my perspective should quickly trump the perspective of someone who knows you better. Why? Because they know your context. For example, what if I see a person who wants to lose weight and I say, “Run sprints!” then their doctor says, “Don’t! It’s dangerous!” If that person listens to me, discounting the doctor’s advice, that person takes a risk. Maybe he has an enlarged heart. Maybe his foot is injured. Maybe there are conditions specific to his context that make my advice not just useless to him but actually detrimental for him. But you see this kind of behavior over and over, youth who will listen to their leaders more than their folks, spouses who will listen to their leaders more than their spouses, and employees who will listen to life hacks more than their managers. The context you’re in matters greatly. Listen to people who know your context.

Conclusion:
Sometimes, when reading through old posts, I see things I said that make me cringe. Ideas I was so convinced were right then, but were actually either very specific for that context or not right at all. When I see these, I am at least comforted by the fact that my blog is littered with disclaimers, me blatantly saying these are own opinions. I’m not so worried about being wrong. I am wrong a lot. I am worried about a verse that has never stopped haunting me since I first read it:

“Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”
– Proverbs 30:6

In many ways we are seeing this around us. Many popular Christiani-sms falling away. Even in my own journey I’ve moved away from many of the interpretations taught to me, allowing my perspective to be refined, and becoming more in awe of God in the process. At the same time, I am more afraid of making flippant claims.

God’s Word is serious, and we need to be careful with how we treat it.

Here’s the good news, and it comes just one verse before the one I just shared:

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
– Proverbs 30:6

I love that verse. If you have pop-wisdom you will have easily-popped security. If you have the word of God, not needing to embellish it with popular perspectives, you will have a shield. I don’t know about you, with everything I face on a daily basis, I want a shield. #DB

Professional Growth Requires Personal Growth

Professional Growth Requires Personal Growth

While we like to think that life can be lived in neatly separate compartments, the reality is that all the different parts of us flow into all the other parts. It is our responsibility to make the different areas of our lives thrive, by developing each as best as we can, and fixing the connections between them.

I’m writing this for young professionals (and maybe even some older ones). I’m writing this because I keep observing a disconnect between what people want and what they’re willing to do to achieve them. I see this in many areas, and the common mistake is wanting something without accepting the responsibility that leads to what we want.

“I want to be healthy. But I don’t want to give up sugar.”

“I want to be successful. But I only want to work 9-5.”

“I want to get married. But I don’t want to risk getting heartbroken.”

“I wish for world peace. But I need to love myself first.”

“I want a better government. But I won’t vote.”

I can go on and on and on about the number of times I’ve spoken to people about their resolutions, faith goals, OKRs, and ideals, only to listen to them conclude with excuses. This reminds me that, for all our so-called advancement and enlightenment, we are not as rational as we think. What kind of truly rational person would believe, “I want something but I don’t want to fulfill the requirements of achieving that something.” That is as irrational as believing in unicorns. Isn’t it more rational to accept, “If I want something, I must do what is necessary to attain it”? It is.

What do you call accepting of personal responsibility for one’s own results? In a word, maturity. Maturity IS personal growth. It isn’t reaching a level of perfection or of taking less risks, or having less failures, or even of committing less mistakes, but finally accepting that I am who I am, I am where I am, I have what I have, because of my decisions, and if that I am to advance from here, I need to grow – personally. I can’t hide behind my team, my family, my nationality, my excuses, nor my bright ideas. I, David Bonifacio, need to accept responsibility and do whatever it takes to fulfill what’s required.

This is why I ignore 99% of the business advice out there and focus on the information that will help me satisfy the requirements of my responsibilities. It doesn’t matter how cute or good sounding it seems, if it doesn’t help me be more responsible it is virtually worthless to me. Professional growth does not come from buying new gadgets, downloading new productivity apps, applying some life hack, nor getting a promotion. Professional growth starts and continuous through the acceptance of more and more responsibility. I love this approach because it puts my promotion in my hands, not someone else’s. I don’t need anyone to promote me. By increasing my sphere of responsibility, by being more and more personally accountable, I am promoting myself.

The bottomlife is this: Professional Growth Requires Personal Growth. Unless we deal with the personal weaknesses in our lives, we will never be truly professionally strong. Unless we deal with our personal bad habits, we will never be professionally sustainable. Unless we deal with our personal demons, we can expect those very demons to haunt our careers. I know this from experience. This is why I believe in a daily moment of prayer to spend time with God, because I know I have my own share of demons that I don’t want hurting what I’m building. Instead, I don’t want to react. I don’t want to be easily-triggered, easily-worried, easily threatened, and easily-angered. I want to understand, so I need to clarify. I want to be wise, so I need to be teachable. I want to achieve, so I need to be diligent. And the gap between who I want to be, what I want to achieve, and who I am now is vast! But I accept that reality, and embrace the responsibility to develop myself continuously.

And after all of that, what happens if I fail?

Then I failed. As simple as that.

But by being responsible, I improve my chances of success, though never really eliminating risk. Risk is part of life. Get used to it. At least, I wasn’t a coward, nor irresponsibile, lying to myself that the ills of the world were not of my doing, when my own lack of contribution made them possible. The goal of life is not to die unscathed. The goal of life is to love God and others with the outflow of the best possible version of you. #DB

Diligently Killing Ourselves

Diligently Killing Ourselves

I was in the middle of writing another article (What Makes a Great HR Manager?) when I decided to write this one instead. As I was writing down my thoughts on the need for Human Resource Managers to go back to its core purpose of acquiring, developing, deploying, and protecting necessary people, I realized just how far forgetting our core purpose can take us. Most managers I know want to do a great job. They want to feel proud of their work. They want to be promoted. They want to succeed. But I would also say that most managers I know are nowhere as effective as they would like to be, not so much because they don’t have the potential nor desire, but because they’ve forgotten the core purpose of the role in the busyness of the role. It’s ironic, but it happens a lot, that a person busily working on a role ends up forgetting the reason of the role. I am guilty of this. When we forget the core purpose, we start evaluating things wrongly, and when we have dishonest scales (which the Lord abhors), we start putting more weight on the wrong things and not enough emphasis on the things that need attention.

It’s like a father too busy at work trying to fulfill his role as provider that he forgets he isn’t just a bills payer, he is a father, and the only one his kids will have. So this father starts evaluating himself based on how much money he brings in and is satisfied or dissatisfied depending on how well he is able to do this. The person will end up being a bad father, and it’s not because he wants to be a bad father, on the contrary, it’s because he wants to be a good father. It is his mistaken emphasis on providing, and not the core purpose of providing love, identity, protection, along with the provision which makes a father.

It’s like a husband and wife too busy trying to fulfill their own and shared dreams that they forget to love each other in a way that reflects Christ’s love, and in the process end up burdening each other instead with expectation after expectation. People like this won’t make good spouses, not because they don’t want a good marriage, but exactly because they want a good marriage, but a wrongly defined marriage, a marriage built around each other’s happiness, not the reflection of true love.

It’s like a company too busy with its policies, its operations, it’s growth, its sales, and its efficiency that it forgets its customer, only to wake up one day to find that the business is crashing because someone else is meeting the needs of the customer in a much better way. It will fail not because it doesn’t want to succeed but because it has forgotten that companies do not exist to pursue policies but to serve customers. They will become victims of their own vigilance.

It’s like a leader allowing himself to be drawn into petty arguments or defensive exchanges on twitter, on text, or in person, forgetting that a leader should hold himself or herself above feelings and dispassionately focus on principles. This leader, because of his care, ends up hurting the organization he cares about most, simply because he has forgotten that the primary role of a leader is to influence others by the example he makes, and not realizing that the example he is multiplying is bad for the organization.

It’s like a church so caught up in its dogma, in its programs, in its leaders, and in its traditions that it starts becoming more and more about the security and satisfaction of its members and leaders, such as what is happening in our current materialistic version of Christianity. We end up hurting our lives, not because we don’t want a good life, but because we want “our best life now”, but forget that our lives have a core purpose of glorifying God.

It’s like a parent burdening their kids with pressure to get high grades, bombarding them with studies and bribes, but forgetting the purpose of education is to prepare a person for liberty, to teach them how to make free wise decisions, NOT simply hit grades. Then we wonder why our young people are weak, why, despite their good grades, they’re ineffective. We educated them for grades not for the core purpose of learning.

I can go on and on of things we do and situations wherein the core purpose has been forgotten, and the very thing we think we are promoting, the very thing we think we are protecting, is the very thing we destroy, not because we are not hard working nor committed, but because we have forgotten the core purpose.

A good example of this, and one I use often with my team, is the story of Jesus and the High Priests:

One Sabbath, Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
– Matthew 12:1-8

The Pharisees, forgot that the core purpose of the Sabbath was for man to rest, not for man to be subservient to the Sabbath.

Jesus would again have to set His own disciples straight and point them back to the core purpose of His ministry:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
– Matthew 20:23-28

His disciples were trying to get positions of influence, and Jesus says, “Hey. Ministry isn’t about positining for power or favors. This is about serving others, about laying your life down.” It’s very different from the politics and petty ego massaging common among religious and civil leaders. Why? It’s not because someone criticized them or was offensive, though we like to blame incidents. It’s because we have stopped emphasizing the core purpose. A good sign that we have lost our core purpose is when we are petty, when we are easily offended, easily angered, and easily frustrated.

Who cares if things are difficult if the core purpose is fulfilled?

Who cares if people are eating during the Sabbath if they are resting and recreating?

Who cares if your spouse can’t afford a grander lifestyle if he’s loving you faithfully?

Who cares if your sex life isn’t like the movies if your faithfully serving each other?

Who cares if your kids’ grades are low if they’re learning how to handle adversity and learning how to learn?

Who cares if the policies are changing if it means serving customers better?

Who cares if they way someone said something is offensive if the point is true?

Who cares if I am regularly corrected if it means growing more each day?

Who cares about the petty distractions when my core purpose is being fulfilled?

All of this to make one point: Go back to the core purpose.

We don’t start businesses for ourselves. We start them to serve customers, to bring them value.
We don’t lead people to order them around. We lead them to bring them to a better place, to bring all of us together to a better place.
We don’t get married to fulfill each other’s hopes and dreams, but to love each other faithfully.
We don’t preach to burden people with our morality but share the Gospel: The Good News!
We don’t make policies to police people, but to be efficient towards serving our customers.

Sad ironies happen when we forget what our core purpose is. We end up failing at that we have so intensely tried to work on. It’s ironic because the failure doesn’t come to those who didn’t work hard, but to those who worked hard on the wrong things, spending too much time, money, and energy on other things, and not enough on the core purpose.

In Revelations 2:2-5, a letter to the church in Ephesus is written:

“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

In the letter, the church is reminded that all the virtue and righteousness in the world is worthless if we forget “the love you had at first”, which is the original love for God and love for others, which is the core purpose of the Christian walk.

The Bible is so full of good advice for leaders in any field. This reminding letter can be applied to pretty much all our different life roles:

“I know your works, your efforts, your achievements, but you’ve forgotten to love your spouse, your first love.”

“I know your efficiencies, your growth, your dedication, but you’ve forgotten your customers, the people you’re supposed to be serving.”

“I know your service to your kids, how you provide, and how you care, but you’ve forgotten that this is about preparing them. This isn’t about you as a father or mother, but them learning to be faithful, loving, and wise.”

Again, I can go on. When we abandon the love we first had, the core purpose that attracted us, that made us fall in love, we end up destroying that which we are working on. It’s extra hard to correct this because no one can fault us for not trying or working hard. This requires a lot of personal humility to say, “My efforts, for all their good intentions, for all the energy I’m investing, is not leading to fulfilling the core purpose. I am sorry. I need to change.” The person who can admit that is rare. This is why I believe most organizations, especially those that have tasted success will ultimately fail. 

I worry about this in my own life a lot. I know how prone I am to making this mistake.

Like I said, it’s a sad irony. It’s sad when that which we worked on most is destroyed by our very own hands, simply because we have forgotten our first love, the core purpose we found beautiful at the start, especially the core people we were supposed to be serving.


“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
– James 4:6

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