Proverbs 18:17: One Side of the Story

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Proverbs 18:17 (ESV)

Cross-examination is a key element of our justice system. A lawyer can craft a compelling story, peppered with supporting evidence, that appears to reveal the hidden motive of the defendant and their role in perpetrating a crime such that the jury is ready to drag the accused to jail themselves. This certainty often fades when the defense attorney rises and tells an equally compelling but different story, disputes the prosecution’s use of the evidence and perhaps reminding the jury of evidence that casts doubt on the prosecution’s case, and presenting another interpretation of the defendant’s life that either justifies their action or disputes their involvement. The jury mentally puts down the torches and pitchforks and cautiously considers what the truth could be.

The American adversarial judicial system prevents the problem highlighted in the proverb. Our passions can be ignited by one side of the story leading to regrettable actions because we neglected important facts. What seems like an obvious course of action built on logic leads to serious and expensive tactical mistakes. It is easy, but lazy, to defer to a confident and knowledgeable person when we should react with skepticism and due diligence. The person may be correct but they should be proved correct.

Sales presentations

People make poor decisions in their personal finances and business by falling for well-designed sales presentations and advertisements. Many people have timeshares and other “investments” (Beanie Babies) that they cannot unload because they succumbed to the logic and appeal of an inspiring presentation, time pressure (“this deal ends today”), trusted a salesperson and organization they didn’t really know, and they didn’t read the agreement. The best salespeople and sales organizations are trained in psychology and use this knowledge to design the pitch. I’m not criticizing the approach but reminding you to be aware that the car salesperson and telemarketer has been trained with many crafted scripts to address our concerns, questions, and rejections. They have an answer for everything that will appeal to your pride, anxiety, and insecurity. I’ve been through sales training where you are taught to create and then solve FUD: fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

I am not anti-sales. On the contrary, sales is what drives the economy and starts commerce. Through sales we learn of products that we really need that we didn’t know existed, medications that can help us with serious issues, and solutions to problems we want solved. However, in most cases there are multiple solutions or products that can fulfill our need  and we do not need to “buy now.” Buying from the first pitch without considering what another vendor has to offer or listening to another expert who highlights potential issues with the initial offer is foolish. More information will help clarify your needs, evaluate what is really offered, and provide insight on alternative products and solutions that may be a better fit or help you negotiate a better deal.

Personal relationships

The wisdom of the proverb will also help us with conflict in the workplace and our private lives. A manager or friend will be approached by a person who is having problems with another person. They will weave a tale of unfair treatment and unkind words and explain situations that have caused this person distress. Being the good friend or manager you confront the other individual about their accidental or intentional injustice. You may be surprised and embarrassed when you find the person is offended and insulted by your accusations and tells a compelling story that counters the first person’s account, supplies important information the other person neglected to mention, and even has witnesses that supports their view of events. Far from solving a problem, you created a bigger problem that existed before and now you have a starring role in the drama.

Although we want to be a good leader or loyal friend, we must remember that one side of the story is always imperfect. It is usually foolish to get involved in another person’s disagreement though we can provide godly counsel to help them resolve the conflict. The other person may see the same situation differently. Our view is colored by many things: experience, worldview, age, gender, personality, and many more characteristics. We filter our view through these things and respond accordingly. If you must intervene because you are a manager, make sure you get lots of information, ask follow up questions, look for evidence or information that provides some clarity, then act in the way that seems appropriate to the situation. But don’t react to one side of the story.

Success myths

Many business titans and successful people in many fields have a success myth. It comes out in interviews, is the subject of articles and books, and the person may even cite the one or two things that made them a success. Author Ryan Holiday begins his book “Ego is the Enemy” by telling his own success story then promptly reveals the important information left out that also contributed to his success and things that made him successful in one area that led to failures in another. He concludes by warning readers of CEO biographies and business success books that these stories, based in reality, are still myth. Important elements are missing. For every billionaire founder who skipped college and followed their passion to create a powerful company there are hundreds or thousands who followed the same path to poverty. We hear about the success stories but failures do not make headlines.

Glean what wisdom you can from success stories but realized that there are important nuances and situational differences that also contributed to the outcome. Perhaps they developed a product that hit at the right time, hired key individuals that contributed more to the success that is recognized, and had more luck than they are willing to acknowledge. You will not be able to mimic their success by doing everything they say they did. Someone can point out how they wrongly assessed the reason for their success, succeeded despite what they did, or how what led them to success in the past could lead to failure for them, or you, in the future.

The world is very complex though we desperately want it to be simple and will reach for simple solutions or obvious answers. But to be personally and professionally successful we must give kind attention to what we hear, but turn an investigative and skeptical eye to see what we are missing and what more we need to know. The story may be good, but wait to hear the other side of the story.

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I Don’t Know What I Want To Be When I Grow Up!

In a world of seemingly limitless opportunities, bright young people can be frustrated trying to narrow down what career to pursue. Most don’t have enough work experience to know the great variety of jobs available. Others have aspirations but don’t know how they can make a living pursuing their passion or interests. They search the Internet, talk with parents and guidance counselors, and perhaps talk with friends but cannot discern the path they should take to a fulfilling career.

I wrote an article previously with general advice for young people on choosing a career that is satisfactory and allows them to glorify God in that vocation. In it I provide advice on handling adult criticism or worry about non-traditional career paths (social media manager, artist, trades) and how to use the career to support godly service. However, they may feel like they are trapped in a room full of doors wondering which one to choose. If this is you, I hope the advice below provides some important considerations and ideas for selecting a door to open.

You will probably have several careers

In contrast to my parent’s generation who generally stayed with one company for most of their career, you will probably work for several companies throughout your career. On the job you will likely start in detail-oriented production work until you become an expert who manages, jobs, projects, and/or people. As your skills develop you may discover new ways to maximize your joy and increase your income by pivoting from your initial career path to something you find more challenging or fulfilling. This may happen within one company but will more likely be a couple of moves within one company and moves within other companies as well. You may even be freelancing, that is, doing several projects or jobs (possibly quite diverse) for multiple companies while working for yourself.

Many pursue a course of work for a decade or two then change to something quite different that uses their knowledge and experience in different ways. The marketer becomes an inventor. The accountant becomes a consultant helping other businesses with financial decisions instead of detail money tracking. The successful businessman becomes a preacher. The stay-at-home mom becomes a nurse or teacher when the kids leave home. What you choose today may suit you for a period of your life until you choose something else to pursue.

Start with the tasks not with the title

Much of the frustration I had, and shared by some of my children, is not knowing what job “title” to pursue. We are accustomed to a person with a job title doing a particular job and our challenge is to uncover the one that is suited for us. I want to suggest a better path that will produce less anxiety: focus on what you want to do instead of what the job is called.

Choice Of Career OrientationThink about what you want to do in a job, not its title, who hires for that work, or will it pay enough to support you. Think about what kind of tasks you want to do every day (understanding that every job has some tasks that are unpleasant but necessary) or accomplishments you want to achieve. List those tasks and/or accomplishments and think about what skills you will need to do that work. You can search the Internet for the tasks or objectives (i.e., writing, computer programming, welding, building houses, helping people recover from illness…) to determine what skills are needed and perhaps read about individuals who are successful in this work. I would suggest being broad in your thinking and have similar overlapping options of the things you want to do. For example, if you are interested in gardening, consider skills in landscaping, food cultivating, and hydroponics as they are distinct but related.

Next, search to see how you can develop those skills today. There are many things you can study online, watch YouTube videos, read books, or learn how to use specific tools, whether the tool is a complex machine or computer software. You can also discover what trade schools, colleges, or apprenticeship programs teach those skills. An important boost to your career is finding hobbies that use the skills for personal enjoyment. Use this knowledge to determine how you can start learning the skills now, even if it just learning the fundamental principles until you can go to a college or trade school. Think of ways you can use the skills now as a volunteer (help in a hospital or nursing home) or experiment on personal projects  (i.e., building web sites, apps, animations, furniture, rebuilding an engine…) to gain practical experience you can demonstrate to employers. Following this path, some jobs and employers may find you!

As your knowledge grows and your skills improve the career options and  perhaps people or companies that will help you pursue your passion will start to appear. In fact, I don’t think some job titles or career paths will become evident until after you have started the journey following your interests and have accumulated knowledge and skills. So explore what interests you, what brings you joy or excites you, the things you can get lost in and truly enjoy doing, or the things you have enjoyed doing since you were a kid. Chances are, if you take a broad interest approach as described above, you will eventually discover what you cannot see by anxious seeking.

 

 

Connecting Three Bible Trees

How are The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Tree of Life, and the cross of Jesus connected?

Genesis opens the Bible with two prominent trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first allowed continued existence and the second an opportunity to exercise free will in rebellion against God. Adam and Eve ate of the second tree and lost access to the first. They came to know good and evil and also came to know separation from a unique fellowship with God and the pain of death.

Revelation closes the Bible with access to the Tree of Life restored, its life giving fruit, and a unique fellowship between God and man .

What connects these scenes of rebellion and peace, restraint and restoration? The cross of Jesus where the Savior was hanged upon a tree, cursed to redeem us from a curse (Galatians 3:13).

The cross became a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil for it informs us of the great evil that could crucify the Son of God, the exceedingly high price of sin, and the cost to redeem man. We also are taught of the exceeding love, mercy, and goodness  of God who would make such a sacrifice to redeem us (1 John 5:20). We come to know God in a special way through the cross.

The cross is also a Tree of Life through which the death of Jesus brought righteousness and life (Romans 5). The cross lifted Jesus so that even those who look to Him today can find salvation and eternal life (John 3:14-15).

Engaging Videos on the Life of Christ

Appian Media has made freely available a series on the Life of Christ filmed in the places where the events unfolded.

Appian Media has created an engaging and educational video series “Following the Messiah” that traces the life of Christ through the places where he lived and worked. Hosted by Barry Britnell, who regularly leads tours to these places, and Jeremy Dehut, an enthusiastic preacher of the gospel, they bring the history and meaning of the scripture alive as you look at the places where these events unfolded.

It is a series of short videos that would be useful for evangelistic studies of the life of Christ and Bible studies for all ages at home or in Bible classes. You can watch the videos for free on the Appian Media web site.

5 Things Preachers Need to Know About PowerPoint

Some preachers are able to use PowerPoint tools effectively to help illustrate points and provide a clear organization to sermon points and how they are connected. It can especially be helpful to parents of young children who may have attention taken away periodically during the lesson to keep the thoughts connected.

However, when PowerPoint is used ineffectively it can distract from the message, frustrate the audience, and confuse instead of clarify. Here are five things that preachers need to know to use PowerPoint more effectively.Television and internet production technology concept

  1. Don’t copy your outline to your slides. Few things are more frustrating than a sermon read-along. I’ve seen some preachers who will preach word for word from their “eye chart” PowerPoints. PowerPoint should not be a teleprompter or shared outline. It is a tool to help convey your message. The practice among professional presenters is no more than four bullet points of five words each (4×5 rule though some teach a 6×6 format). Simplicity is the key. PowerPoint is for main points not every point or every word. What is the takeaway? What is the key?
  2. Pull out quote highlights or use multiple slides per quote. Another challenge to reading is projecting a lengthy Bible or supporting quote. This is often very helpful but it can, like the OutlinePoint, be an eye chart. It is better to read the quote for context and put the smaller focus of the quote on display. If you feel that the complete quote should be displayed, consider breaking up the quote across slides so you have smaller sections in larger, more readable type. An easy way to do this is to copy the entire quote on one slide, clean it up, then duplicate the slide (Ctrl-D) multiple times. Edit each of the slides to show its part of the quote.
  3. Ctrl-Enter is the friend you didn’t know you had. I don’t know the Mac equivalent, but in Microsoft Office, holding the control key while hitting the enter key will add a soft return, that is, it shifts down to the next line without creating a new paragraph or bullet point. Using Ctrl-enter will allow you to clean up orphans (words that are alone on a line) by sending another word or two down to provide balance. It is also helpful when you want to balance the words in a multi-line title or subtitle.
  4. A slidedeck is not a handout. I know it is easy to dump the outline onto PowerPoint with the justification that you can give it as a handout but they are two separate presentation methods to accomplish different things. Better to handout a copy of your outline and use PowerPoint for communication assistance. Better yet, develop a handout for special lessons that have additional information that you cannot address in the sermon or links to other information. Failure to do this means your PowerPoint doesn’t have sufficient information to provide as a meaningful reference later, is not optimized for presentation during the lesson, or will be so long that you will have to kill a small forest to print it.
  5. One point per slide. PowerPoint doesn’t charge you by the slide. It doesn’t cost anything to create a new slide for a new point. You can even duplicate slides to match format styles to ease slide production. New slides signal a transition in thought as you progress through the sermon. Obviously, you may have a summary slide that brings together main points, but it can be confusing and hard to read a slide that has the three point sermon on one slide at all times.

An additional consideration is to ask if you need a PowerPoint slide at all. Most of the time when I preach I do not use PowerPoint unless I am using graphics, maps, or pictures as part of the lesson. I have an article, To Preach With PowerPoint or Without? that discusses some of my considerations when using this aid.

Used wisely it can be very helpful. Used ineffectively, it can distract. If it is a tool that we use for teaching, we need to make sure we can use it as skillfully as a carpenter uses a hammer.