Monday, October 25, 2010

Telling the Truth

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:25)

We live in a world where truth seems to have less and less value. Maybe it’s just the current season of mid-term election politics, but am I the only one who thinks political commercials mirror our times where the truth seems hard to find?

One mark that sets the truly devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ apart from his or her peers is a determination to always tell the truth. In fact, an individual who relies on truth-telling as a way of life will garner much advantage in every way.

If truth-telling has great advantage, how do we apply that to the world of our daily lives? How do we apply truth-telling to our work lives, our home lives, or our civic lives? We can begin by determining to always tell the truth throughout every phase of every process in our daily lives. Please allow me to share an example from my business life.

I have had the privilege to work in the field of fire protection for 45 years. I began as a fire fighter in 1965 and moved on into fire protection engineering in 1969. During the 45 years of my career, I have participated in the design of, or in the review of, several thousand fire protection systems.

The process of providing a fire protection system for a building involves the following steps:

  1. manufacture of the equipment
  2. fire protection system design
  3. approval of the design
  4. installation of the system
  5. acceptance testing of the system
  6. maintenance and periodic testing of the system

In order to apply truth-telling to this process, every person involved along the way must commit to total transparency and complete honesty.

The manufacturer of the equipment must build a product that meets rigorous national standards and obtain listing of that equipment from a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., Factory Mutual Approvals, or other laboratory acceptable to the Authorities Having Jurisdiction. Of course, the product must actually work and provide features that a building owner will need in order to meet the goals and objectives he or she has set for his or her building.

A qualified designer must begin by recording the design in carefully written specifications. Don’t leave anything to chance. Don’t leave any room for misleading interpretation. Don’t leave gaps that may later allow you to coerce an installer into providing something that you did not really include in the specifications. In other words, by means of detail specifications, tell the truth about exactly what design requirements you expect the fire alarm system to meet. Avoid using statements in the specifications that will leave decision-making open ended.

Next, as a designer, use absolute truth-telling as a guiding principle in creating the design drawings that will accompany the specifications. Make certain that the drawings leave no room for guessing on the part of contractors who will submit bids. Give everyone who will read the drawings as much information as possible. Avoid placing “catch-all” notes on the drawing that refer to compliance with the various codes and standards when you have not included a code- or standards-complying design on the drawing. To do so means you are depending on your cleverness rather than on the truth.

As an Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)—fire chief, fire marshal, building inspector, insurance inspector, corporate engineer—as you review the specifications and design drawings for the purpose of granting preliminary approval, make certain that you adhere to the principle of truth-telling. Do not substitute your own opinions and prejudices for the hard and fast requirements of the appropriate national and jurisdictional codes and standards.

Make certain that every criticism you transmit to the designer has a factual, truthful basis. Facts stated in a truthful way ensure the integrity of your review and, in fact, help build your own reputation for fairness and accuracy. If you don’t know something, say so. Whatever you do, don’t pretend to have knowledge. When you lie about your own level of understanding, you will jeopardize the faithfulness and value of your review.

As an installing contractor preparing to submit a bid on a fire protection installation, base your decisions and your communications on the principle of truth-telling. Don’t say one thing, and then intend to do something else. Make certain you have clearly understood the specifications and design drawings. Develop your bid based on the clarity of the design documents. If you don’t have certain information that you need to make a proper bid, make certain that you promptly and insistently ask for that information. Avoid including catch phrases in your bid that will mislead the owner into thinking you will provide something that you have no intention of providing.

Once you begin your installation, adhere to all proper installation practices. Don’t cut corners. Faithfully fulfill the true and proper intent of the design documents. Follow the installation requirements of the national codes and standards. If you don’t understand those requirements, seek help from a qualified code professional.

And, when you conclude your work, truthfully represent what you’ve done by conducting testing in a codes- and standards-complying manner. Make certain you provide an accurate, written testing report.

As the AHJ, when you witness the system acceptance tests, rely on truth-telling to provide a proper assessment of the work completed. Don’t use the power of your office to force changes simply because you failed to diligently review the initial design. Rather, if you’ve missed something, truthfully report that to the owner and explain why the missing item is needed. And, make certain you provide a written acceptance report.

Once the installing contractor completes the system, the owner needs to execute a periodic testing and maintenance contract to assure the long-term reliability and dependability of the fire protection system. Again, rely on truth-telling as the guiding principle in this transaction.

The principles embodied in this narrative can easily apply to every area of your life. Mark your life—your home life, your work life, your civic life—with the principle of truth-telling. Live and act consistently. The Lord Jesus Christ expects no less of us.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:25)
Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

No Condemnation

Has anyone ever condemned you? I mean throughout the course of your life, has anyone ever laid a charge against you and, at the same time, pronounced you guilty without asking you for a defense.

Or, maybe you heard the condemning words and, in turn, offered words that would explain your actions. Perhaps you even acknowledged that the one condemning you had misunderstood your intent. You took the opportunity of the condemnation to offer your apology for the misunderstanding and gave your accuser the assurance that you meant no harm.

Back in the early 1990's, I received an assignment from the senior vice president to whom I reported that gave me rather broad responsibilities with respect to the internal and external communications within a large national insurance company. The senior management of the company had received complaints from clients about poorly worded letters and reports. An analysis of the internal memos also displayed a need for greater clarity and more precision in communicating the intent of any particular subject.

Because I was in charge of training, and because one of my college majors was writing, I was asked to research available courses on business writing. Eventually, we chose an excellent course and delivered it to all employees worldwide.

As a follow up, the senior management of the company gave me an assignment that would normally be considered outside the purview of my regular job tasks. They asked me to review all internal and external communications and serve as a quality control person to assure that employees used the principles of the business writing course. I was also expected to offer suggestions for corrective action that would improve the company's image.

To assure that I would have the appropriate powers to enforce their wishes, senior management added this new assignment to my formal Job Description. Unfortunately, it became clear in time that few people outside of the top executive level of the company fully understood this new assignment.

Six months into the new responsibilities, and after having reviewed many hundreds of memos and letters, I received a copy of a memo from a task group within the company that had been charged with developing a new approach to advertising. Much of the memo read like any rather dry corporate report. But, one paragraph nearly jumped off the page.

In this paragraph, the chairperson of the task group wrote a rather scathing personal attack against the manager in charge of the Communications and Advertising Departments. In a few curt sentences, the chairperson eviscerated the manager. The attack seemed quite out of place and, to make a serious matter worse, mentioned the manager by name.

I immediately telephoned the chairperson and asked to meet with her. When I arrived at the designated conference room, I explained that in the course of my job assignment her memo had come across my desk. I asked her, in a very polite a manner, if she could give me some additional information that would help me understand what had prompted her to write such harsh words about a colleague.

She reacted to my request with anger, stood up, and stormed out of the conference room. She then wrote an unbelievably nasty memo to me. She ranted on and on. She accused me of poking my nose into her business. She accused me of having some arch motive. “How dare I attack her in this way,” she wrote rather peevishly.

Of course, I wrote back. In a calm, but straightforward way, I explained that I was fulfilling the duties of my Job Description. I even quoted the relevant portions of my Job Description. And, I shared that my speaking to her was not an attack. Rather, I was trying to find out what had prompted her to write so harshly about a colleague without first seeking some other method of resolving whatever conflict existed. I had hoped that my careful and gentle response to her vitriolic memo would introduce calm into an escalating emotional situation.

Instead, she fired back yet another memo that used additional inflammatory words and directed her anger and frustration against me, personally. At this point, the senior vice president to whom I reported, and who had received copies of my response memos, lowered the boom. He called her supervisor into his office and, following a review of her written communications, the company terminated the task group chairperson's employment.

No one was more surprised at the senior vice president's action than I was. He later told me that the chairperson's continued attitude of condemnation made him realize that, if she would not listen to my polite and restrained response, she likely shouldn’t remain in the employ of the company. Her attitude of condemnation was simply unacceptable.

Of course, this incident was not the only time I have received condemnation in my life. Like most of you, I have received lots of condemnation from a wide variety of sources. Many times, both before and since this particular incident, my rather straightforward, no-nonsense approach to problem solving has rankled people around me. I have been showered with condemnation virtually every time I have taken a stand on some issue. I've learned that people usually don’t respond well to the person who stands up against carelessness, incompetency, slothfulness, inappropriate behavior, or sin.

Condemnation seems to be a part of life. We have to deal with condemnation from friends and foes alike. We even have to recognize that we stand before God condemned by our sins.

But, in regard to God's condemnation, how magnificent it is to read the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:1 and 2. How glad I am that, from the depths of my soul, I can affirm Paul’s words:

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

God chose us before the foundation of the earth to belong to Him. And, in due time, sent the Holy Spirit to convince us of our need for a personal relationship with Him through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. As we sensed the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and acknowledged our need of a Savior, God enabled us to receive the free gift of His salvation through Christ’s death on the cross and through the power of His resurrection from the dead.

The penalty we inherited from Adam—the curse of original sin compounded by our own many sins—has been paid. Our sins have been covered by the precious blood of Jesus. We have become a new creation in Him.

Doesn’t it feel good to know we have no condemnation? It surely does!

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Jesus is Lord of All

Nearly 35 years ago I recommended a young man for a job at the insurance company where I worked. He was a very bright, very talented individual who had worked hard to put himself through college and had even attended one year of seminary. Running out of money, he went to work at a local restaurant, part of a large national chain. Soon, his hard work, high intelligence, and winsome way with both customers and staff had resulted in a promotion to manager. As manager he learned one of the great secrets of the hospitality industry: it is extremely hard work.

Now married and with a child on the way, he desperately wanted to find a job that would provide a greater income, more security for his growing family, and require less hours at work to accomplish those goals. He would often quiz me about what I did, asking very thoughtful questions and seeming genuinely interested.

After one such encounter, I invited him to come to my home and spend some time seeing the kind of paperwork involved in the job. He took me up on my offer and came over one Saturday afternoon.

Together, we poured over the detailed engineering reports associated with Highly Protected Risk property insurance. He watched, as I performed the calculations to determine if the facility had a water supply of sufficient capacity to support the automatic sprinkler protection. As he went to leave at the end of our four hours together, he told me he was very excited about what he had observed. I urged him to fill out an application. I told him if he would provide me with the necessary information about his background, I would gladly recommend that the insurance company hire him.

The truth was that he did not meet the minimum requirements for the job. He did not possess an engineering degree from an accredited institution. Nor had he ever had any fire protection or fire fighting experience. Nevertheless, I felt confident that he had the intellectual capacity to learn the intricate details of the job. And, more so, he had the will to do his very best to start down the pathway of a career that could serve him well for the rest of his life.

In due course, he gave me his paperwork and I turned it in with my highest possible recommendation. Within days, based largely on my recommendation—since, at the time, I was in charge of training new hires for more than half of the United States—he was hired.

Shortly after the young man began working, my boss called me into his office. "You took a real chance recommending your friend for a job," he said rather sternly. "I would not have done that. There's just too much of a chance that he wouldn't work out. I wouldn't want that on my record."

I've thought about that conversation many times over the years. I'm pleased to report that my trust in the young man's abilities was not misplaced. He quickly learned every aspect of his new job. Within a relatively few years, he was promoted to supervisor. He eventually rose quite high in that insurance company until the time when the company ceased to exist. Today, he continues to work in the field of fire protection engineering at another company. His children have grown up, gone to college, and become parents themselves. Time and time again, the quality of his workmanship has proven exemplary.

This individual has achieved success through his own determination and commitment to excellence. My only role in his success was recommending him at that starting point in his career. I took a chance, believed in him, and did my best to support him during those early days.

Have I left out any part of the story. Well, in fact, I have. You see this young man was a devout believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. He had abandoned his hopes, dreams, desires, and ambitions and placed them at the foot of the Cross. He had followed with perseverance the pathway laid out before him. He listened closely to the leading of the Holy Spirit and followed the pathway that God created. His devotion to serving Christ, his willingness to trust the totality of his being into the care of the blessed Savior, resulted in a life not left to chance.

This young man allowed Jesus to have the place that He wants to have in every person's life. This young man allowed Jesus to be Lord of all!

In 1973, Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote the words and music to a gospel song that has touched thousands of lives down through the years. The Gaithers titled the song, "Jesus is Lord Of All." It has a haunting melody and a very rich text. One of the most beautiful recordings of this song appears on the vinyl, Satisfied, with a vocal solo by the late Don Doig and an orchestral arrangement by Ronn Huff.

I don't know what inspired the Gaithers to write this song. Perhaps it was the words of the Apostle Paul, as he wrote to the fledgling church in Rome, found in Romans 10:9-13:

9 ...if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

No matter what trials may find their way into your life, you can rest in the sure knowledge that Jesus IS Lord of all! I urge you to place your unreserved trust in Him. He loves you with His everlasting love. There is no situation in which He will not act in your best interest. All you have to do is trust in Him and Him alone.

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jesus is praying for you!

I don't know about you, but when I am walking through the "deep waters" of life, I take great comfort from knowing that people who genuinely care about me are holding me up in prayer. Prayer has the ability to buoy my spirit.

I have also noted that when I have a particular need in my life I am more likely to receive the satisfaction of that need when somebody prays for me. Obviously, God stands ready to give good gifts to His children. It's nice to know that when someone asks God to give me what I need, God stands ready to send the Holy Spirit to provide exactly what I need.

It's even more comforting to know that Jesus, the very Son of God, is praying for me, too.

In that great portion of scripture found in John 17, the portion Bible scholars call "Jesus' High Priestly Prayer," our Savior prays specifically for you and for me. Take note of these words from John 17:20-21:

20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me."

What an amazing gift to us. The very Son of God—the one who died on the cruel cross of Calvary that His blood might cleanse us from our sins and who rose in victory from the grave—is praying for us.

The next time you feel weighted down with care, ask those who love you to pray for you. And, as they do, remember that Jesus is praying for you, too. May the Light of His Presence shine into the dark corners of your life and give you a song of victory in your heart.

The fourth verse of an old gospel song, Wounded for Me, by William G. J. Ovens and Gladys W. Roberts captures the peace that comes from knowing that Jesus cares enough for you and me that He prays for us continually:

Living for me, living for me,
Up in the skies He is living for me;
Daily He’s pleading and praying for me,
All because Jesus is living for me.

I urge you to place your trust fully in the One Who Loves You Most, the blessed Lord Jesus Christ. And, remember that He is praying for you!

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.