Elevator Etiquette

going up3Genesis 41

In chapter 41 Joseph goes from slopping swill for the inmates in prison to crowds parting to make way for his chariot.  Was there ever such a sudden elevation in all of history?

“So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’  Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.” (Genesis 41:41-42)

What do you do when you are suddenly on top after being on the bottom for so long?  Here is some Elevator Etiquette from the Life of Joseph:

1.   Maintain Humility

I once took a ride on a coaster called The Volcano.  It was a VERY quick assent.  During that Volcano ride – it was hard to maintain my perspective… Am I up? Am I down? Rapid promotion can do that to you… you become disoriented.   Imagine how Joseph must have felt!

 Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.  ‘I cannot do it,’ Joseph relied to Pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer He desires.'”  (Genesis 41:15-16)

Joseph exuded confidence that the God who was with him in prison would also be with him on this “all important job interview!”  He didn’t need to wring his hands in worry… or fear that he would say the wrong thing… He could be confident… because his confidence wasn’t in himself

2.  Tell the Bad With the Good.

There was an old radio commercial I remember where a CEO shouted:  “I don’t want any YES MEN in my organization.”  To which his staff responded:  “YES SIR!”   Most organizations are actually FULL of “yes men”… parroting back what their bosses desire to hear.   If you begin to reach the top you will get this feeling that you don’t want to leave your perch.  Maybe you’ll just down play the bad news and feast on the good for a while! Not so with Joseph. Look at his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream:

The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. [27] The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.  (Genesis 41:26-27)

Do shortcut your integrity… even if what you have to say might not be pleasant to some ears.  As author Dr. Henry Cloud is fond of saying:  “Reality is your friend.”

3.  Be a Good Steward

It is helpful to remember this on your elevator ride to the top: Wealth isn’t yours to squander; and you may need some of that wealth tomorrow.  Joseph lived by these principles.

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt.  During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully.  Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it.  Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.  (Genesis 41:46-49)

Joseph’s plan to store up in the prosperous years so that they might survive the lean ones… is still a good one. Now matter how golden we imagine our futures… we can only see so far. Being prepared is a Biblically sound idea!

4.  Share the Wealth

 With all the perks that came with Joseph’s new job, he never forgot that first and foremost in his job description was to be a blessing to the world.

“When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt.  And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world.”  (Genesis 41:56-57)

We can either treat our homes as a treasure chest… or a store house. When we treat them as a treasure chest… we invest time and energy protecting our stuff… and life can become a hassle. When we treat them as a store house… we realize that God can bless others through the “stuff” we are temporarily holding for him… and life becomes a blessing.

I was so moved when I heard the following story in  Skip Heitzig’s book,  Jesus Up Close.  He told the story about a man named Josh who was sailing down a Chicago neighborhood street in his two-month-old, 12-cylinder Jaguar XKE when  a brick sailed through the air and struck its shiny, black passenger door. Brakes slammed, gears ground into reverse, and tires spun the Jaguar back to the spot from which the missile had been launched. The young executive jumped out, grabbed the kid, and pushed him against a fender. “That’s my new Jag,” he shouted. “That brick you threw is gonna cost you lots of money!” “I’m sorry, mister! No one would stop! I didn’t know what else to do,” the youngster sobbed, pointing. “It’s my brother. He rolled off the curb, fell out of his wheelchair, and is hurt. He’s too heavy for me. Please, help me lift him back.” Josh’s head of steam evaporated. Straining, he lifted the boy’s brother into the wheelchair, wiped the scrapes and cuts with his handkerchief, and checked to see that there was no serious injury. He then watched the younger brother push the wheelchair down the sidewalk toward their home. Josh never did fix his door. He kept the dent to remind himself not to go through life so fast that someone would have to throw a brick to get his attention.”  (Skip Heitzig)

Okay… so the elevator doors are opening.  Let me hold the door for you.  “Going Up?” I ask.  Somewhat embarrassed you respond:  “Yes…” Great!  But just remember… don’t let your success destroy your humble confidence… or let it tear at your desire to speak up for the truth… or let it stop your from displaying good money management skills… or… above all this… I say this to you as you enter the threshold… don’t let it keep you from blessing others!

Rise up and bless the world. That is your calling!

Blessings!

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Let Me Be the Donkey!

Donkey and Palm BranchesMark 11:1-11

All three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) make the point that the donkey Jesus chose to ride into Jerusalem was one upon which “no one had ridden” before.  Now I’ve never broken in such an animal before… but I have heard that sitting upon a donkey or horse that has never taken a rider can be “quite the experience.”   One would quickly find themselves launched into the air… praying gravity is kind in its choice of your landing spot. And yet with Jesus, this colt of a donkey upon which He rides is quiet, obedient, and responses easily to His commands.   Very un-donkey-like if you ask me!  It displays the nobility of a majestic white steed without any of the pride. There were a lot of reactions to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem that day:

The Crowds:  They spread their cloaks in the road, and shouted “Hosanna!”

The Disciples:  John 12:16 says indicates that they were puzzled by the whole spectacle.

The Curious:   John 12:18 says that many went out to get a look at Jesus.

The Pharisees:   They were tearing their hair out!  They cried:  “Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (John 12:19)

There seems to be (besides Jesus) only one person calm in this entire account.  Serving in a steadfast and gentile manner is the donkey. There have been times in which I have read this passage and pictured myself in the crowd with the palm branches.   My hosanna ringing louder than my neighbors!  But this is the same crowd that would turn on Jesus at the end of the week.  I certainly don’t want to be like them. I don’t want be dumbstruck like the disciples or a curiosity seeker like others that day or be stubborn and angry like the Pharisees… so if I have to put myself in the story.  Let me be the donkey.  He is the model of Christian servant-hood and leadership here. We could learn a lot from this donkey.

As pastors and a Christian leaders it is imperative that we do.  In an essay entitled “Becoming a Leader of No Reputation,” Scott Rodin wrote of his convictions about leadership after serving for several years as a seminary president: If I could put one Bible verse on the desk of every pastor and every Christian leader in the world, it would be this, ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.’ (1 John 1:8) As Christian leaders we must be engaged in a constant process of self-evaluation and repentance. It is so easy for us to be tempted in a variety of directions, and when we stray, we impact our entire ministry. Good leaders undertake their work with a deep humility and a keen awareness of their own weakness and shortcomings.  (Quoted by Crawford Loritts, Jr. in Leadership as Identity, p. 57.)

As Christian leaders, Pastors, Elders, Deacons, etc. bear a tremendous load.  And they are called to bear it with dignity and grace.  They must also be steadfast and yet not falter… never losing sight of their goal and mission. And added to all these things… humility is paramount!

Corrie ten Boom was once asked how she was able to maintain her humility after becoming such a sought after speaker.  Her reply was, “When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the back of a donkey, and everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments on the road, and singing praises, do you think that for one moment it ever entered the head of the donkey that any of that was for him?  If I can be the donkey on which Jesus Christ rides… I will give Him all the praise and all the honor.”

Amen to that!

Blessings!