His Love Endures Forever

I’m finding it harder these days to be positive about many things. Everywhere I look there is turmoil and chaos; some people are stoking it and others are embracing it. Everyone seems at odds with each other and if you have a different point of view or opinion, you are attacked or outcast. Television shows seem to base their stories around conflict between the characters, even the comedies aren’t funny anymore. In today’s world, no one wants to take responsibility for their actions, so they blame the observer. We’ve lost the “common” part of common sense and now we appear to be on the brink of losing our senses altogether.

Originally, I set out to write about being positive in the workplace as leaders but I found it hard to be positive. The moral of this negative post on positivity is that no matter your leadership position, people look to you for reassurance – always. No one wants to be “gaslighted”, as my mom used to say, but they also don’t want to hear from someone who never has a positive thing to say – a Debbie Downer (SNL) if you will. Leaders have to speak the harsh truths, but they also need to find the sunshine in those cloudy moments to maintain hope. Once we lose hope, we have lost it all. I was in need of few rays of sunshine and where did I find it? The bible of course! In a rare (for me) bible quote from the Old Testament.

30 Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’ 32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! 33 Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. 34 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 35 Cry out, ‘Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.’ 36 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said ‘Amen’ and ‘Praise the LORD.’” 1 Chronicles 16:30-36

Comedian Tom Papa has a new Netflix special out called, “You’re Doing Great” and he talks about the good old days – bathing once a month and wearing a lot of leather goods. The times of the Old Testament are really the old days! Even my worst day is better than their best day. We are being encouraged here to rejoice in everything because, the “Lord reigns”. Seas, fields, and forests are encouraged to rejoice, why not us? “God’s love endures forever”.

If you break apart all of the troubles of this world, they are nothing that God’s love cannot overcome. In all things, let love abound. We only have each other and we only have today so let’s make the most of them both. There is nothing negative in love, only in the things that keep us from loving one another. Remove the obstacles to love and just as God’s love endures forever, keep love out in front and live your life loving each other.

Says Who?

One of the readings (1 Corinthians 2:1-16) in church this weekend really spoke to me; in a way that I haven’t felt in quite some time. I immediately knew that I needed to share it today as one of those Bible verses that needs little explanation. What struck me was how the Apostle Paul’s message for the people 1900 plus years ago was still relevant today – for me particularly. Why do I keep writing these devotions and by what “authority” do I find the gall to write about God meant in any of the verses found in the Bible?

1And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

 “We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”- the things God has prepared for those who love him – 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.’ The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 

11For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16for, ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”

We ALL have the spirit of God within us, giving us strength to go on, giving us strength to overcome adversity, giving us the strength to fulfill God’s plan in our lives if we simply allow God’s words and Christ’s example to fill our lives. It was end of verse six that opened my mind to let the rest of these verses work with me. I pray that they do the same for you.

 

Seek and Find

Unfortunately, there are times in our work lives that we will be supervised by someone who doesn’t do a good job of showing how much they care about us or worse, they literally just don’t care. The first type of person is far easier to work for that the later and honestly, the ones who don’t know how to show it are more prevalent in the workplace today. As the Baby Boomers are leaving the workplace, Gen Xer’s are now supervising people making today’s workplace a little frustrating. This type of working environment puts the responsibility back on us if we want to make “work” a little more enjoyable.

The higher up the “ladder” a supervisor goes, the less they pay attention to the things that their people need, and we need to remind them what we’d like to accomplish. Author John Maxwell describes 360º Leadership in his book with the same title; we can use this as a tool to help us achieve goals that we have set for ourselves. Being forward with our own supervisor is not something that feels natural but when we are dealing with our own future and needs, sometimes we need to push a little. If you are a leader, don’t forget to take care of your own needs but don’t do it at the expense of your people. God put you in this place and at this time for a reason, ask questions and seek opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Luke 11:9 – “So I say to you: ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

We are taught here to ask the Lord for what we need. We need to learn to put our trust in God so that He can deliver us what we need. The real truth of the matter is that what God delivers is not always what we want or plan for but it is what we need. Sometimes God gives us pain or suffering for our growth, other times he gives us joy and peace. Despite our belief in our own greatness, God knows what we need.

Another thing that frustrates us is that God will not do it on our timeline but on His. Today, with the microwave we cook faster, with streaming services, we get tv shows when we want them, and the Internet gives us information in an instant. This verse reminds us to ask, seek and knock on the doors that God provides. Behind some doors are scary opportunities in which we feel alone in our thoughts and in our decision. God has promised not to leave you. He gave us His only Son in order to keep us close and we should never forget that. Pray and have patience, He will open the door for you.

It isn’t hard to be nice

“It isn’t hard to be nice”. A phrase first used by our son and one that we spoke regularly on the vacation we took a couple of months ago. Somewhere, somehow, our society has lost the ability to treat each other like human beings and simply be nice to each other. Everyone now has a label and it seems that no matter where you find yourself, someone is classifying you into a group. At its worst, “you’re either one of us or you’re one of them”. Usually that type of statement is followed up by a “at its best” statement but in this case, there is no best. Generally, we seem to have lost our compassion for each other, we lost our empathy for those in need and we’ve become focused on “I’ve got mine” or “me first!” in societies all around the world.

To our son’s point, it isn’t hard to be nice. A smile when we greet, picking up something that a stranger dropped or not treating people in the service industry like our enslaved servants, is a great place to begin. I’m pretty rebellious by nature and the last thing I want to do is to simply give way when someone is trying to push ahead in a line or a crowd – “how will they learn if people just cave-in” is what I find myself thinking. There is a difference between being nice and being a pushover. I would love to have everyone live in harmony and follow general precepts of being a member of a civilized society. Since that isn’t the case, I pray instead. The bottom line here is to ask yourself, “how do I behave?”. Examine your behaviors, attitudes, beliefs and actions; how hard is it to be nice?

16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:16-19

St. Paul is remining us to be nice to each other; pretty straightforward – “Live in harmony with one another”. Nowhere in the bible does it tell us take care of ourselves first and then worry about others. St. Paul also reminds us not to take revenge but to leave that to God, it simply isn’t our place. These words of Paul to the Romans are very instructive for our lives today. They aren’t the words or parables of Jesus that someone has interpreted to mean something, they are the God inspired words spoken through an ordinary man to ordinary people – no spin here!

We are reminded to stand up for ourselves, “If it is possible…”, live at peace. We aren’t being told to cave in or let people push us around, but we are being reminded not to take revenge against those who treat us that way. “Live in harmony, do not be conceited, do what is right, live in peace, do not take revenge”; all pretty simple ways that, in my mind, summarize how to be nice. It isn’t hard if you practice being in the moment and focus your attention outward and away from yourself. After all that I’ve read and experienced, this life is way more about others than it is ourselves.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr

Today, the United States recognizes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. It wasn’t until I started studying his work that I realized he did more than just his famous, “I Have a Dream Speech.” One of the awesome benefits of being an elected official is that you are exposed to a wide range of experiences and information. Each year, various groups in our West Valley celebrate MLK Day with some type of program and they invite their elected officials. Several years ago one group printed this from a sermon by Dr. King on August 11, 1957:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’ An individual has not begun until he can rise above the narrow horizons of his particular individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. Every person must decide at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

We have all benefited from the deeds and sacrifices of those before us. They left a mark for us and now it is our responsibility to make contributions for the greater good. The freedoms we enjoy, the privileges we have as free citizens have all come at a cost to someone. Have you ever thought about the legacy that you will leave? We might not be in the national spotlight but we can always make a difference right where we are.

“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” – Proverbs 11:25

God has given us all great talents, not for our own benefit but for the benefit of others. God never wanted us to be selfish or alone; He wanted us in fellowship with each other. If we have talents, God has given us enough to share. If you Google “Spiritual Gifts” you will find a number of resources to help you determine what gifts you have and how you can use them.

Once you know how God has gifted you, you can start sharing them with others. Living the example of Jesus is pleasing to God and will make a difference in someone’s life. Sure, a difference for one person might not seem like a big deal but what if that person goes on to make a difference for 1000 people and then one of them goes on to make a difference in millions. Like dropping a rock in the water, the single act can send waves that are immeasurable.

 

Reflections of the Heart

There is an old management saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” What is in your heart will reflect on your leadership style. If you are caring for your people, deflecting stress from all angles, sincerely working with them so they can: achieve more, learn more and, reach their goals; then your heart is in the right place. Do you say, “I want to develop my team so that they can take my place” but you find that you are too busy to spend time with them in one on one career coaching?

I’ve been studying the subject of performance management for years. There has been a recent push to eliminate the annual performance review and replace it with regularly scheduled coaching sessions so that employees know how they are doing on a more frequent basis. As the workforce changes, so do the supervisors and leaders. The challenge this puts on a leader is that if they are required to interact with their people more frequently, it might just expose what is truly on their heart. If a leader really only cares about his numbers, his department’s goals or his promotion, it will all be revealed in these regular interactions. So, if you genuinely want people to be successful, you must ensure that your words and actions match. It takes far more time to recruit, train and develop new employees than it does to coach them and help them be successful. In the end, these efforts will reflect positively on everyone.

“As water reflects our face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” Proverbs 27:19

This verse is about our hearts as Christians. What is on your heart? Do you attend church weekly and sing the songs but go out on Monday and terrorize your workplace by showing no compassion for others or “steal time” by putting in less than a full day so that you can “get what is coming to you”? God knows what is your heart! Putting God in His rightful place on your heart may take time and it won’t be easy, but God is understanding and has compassion as you work toward it.

For many of us, putting God first is a hard transition. As humans, tend to be so self-centered or consumed by the needs of this world that we often consider God’s word as an afterthought. Perhaps it is one of those things that you’ll squeeze in if there is time. Try to introduce God into your decision-making at work or when you reflect on a decision that you made. It may feel uncomfortable at first but that will go away. Remember the love that God has shown us and be extra forgiving when someone really disappoints you. Daily devotional reading will help you understand the depth of God’s grace and love for you. As God fills your heart, that will be reflected outward in how you treat others. You’ll be more understanding, have compassion and show forgiveness. Think about what your reflection looks like today and ask, is this what I really want to show to others?

Hard Pressed but Not Destroyed

When our son decided to get a tattoo, my only request was that it be something meaningful to him. He had designed his own symbol that represents – be positive and keep moving forward, period! Two bent lines and a dot in the center (the period). When he looked up similar symbols he found that it is almost identical to the Viking symbol for create your own destiny. It was very meaningful to him and he had the two lines and a dot placed on the underside of his left wrist. I often think about the emotion that created the symbol for him and thought back to drive that I had at his age – oh, to be young again!

The verse today describes how most of us feel on a regular basis – hard pressed. Since we just started not only a new year but new decade, I’d suggest that we all should focus on the opportunities of the new beginning and not dwell on the past. Our son had the right idea – be positive and look forward in all things. He’s obviously much smarter than I ever give him credit for. So ask yourself, are you looking forward to what is possible or are you looking behind at what could have been? As they say, “out of the mouths of babes”, come great advice from someone who is choosing to see the rest of his life with great optimism. Many of us may not be young but we can all look to the new year with a positive view.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” 2 Corinthians 4:8

My guess is that this verse describes most of our lives – hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. We are however, not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned and not destroyed and we have God to thank for that. Life can be hard and challenging but God is right next to us, helping navigate the troubles of our lives. I can’t imagine if I let all of the negative things that happen in my life gain the advantage, how miserable I would be. I’m not always the most positive person but I rarely let take it control of me. God is where my strength comes form.

God is in control of our lives and He has a plan for us. While we can’t create our own destiny, we do have the ability to influence the things that affect that plan. We can choose to ignore God’s plan or we can choose to follow it. Our son’s tattoo is really a symbol of what God’s wants for us – stay positive and keep moving forward. We will not be destroyed by this life or by the sin of our lives. God sent us a Savior to make sure that we would be close to Him; forgiven of all sin and innocent in His eyes. This is enough reason to keep moving forward and to stay positive.

Go Confidently into 2020

I’d like to end this decade with a reminder for us all and another departure from my usual format. Let’s start this week with the verse, very appropriate for both the Christmas holiday that just past and the start of a new year.

“God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:19

This is why we had Christmas – so God could reconcile with the world. His people, born of sin, could not be with Him in eternal life unless we had a savior. This is great news! But think about what this verse means for you in 2020. God is NOT counting your sins against you! Sin is not measured by severity; every sin is the same and we can’t stop ourselves from doing it – no matter how hard we try. Just as we think we are living really good lives and following the commandments, we will sin again. If you become so confident that your godly life is more pleasing to God – you’re sinning. The complaining that you do about your boss or that one family member – you’re sinning. We can’t help it!

There is an old saying, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” We can be so afraid of ourselves or of our lives that we simply give up trying. For some people, this fear can be paralyzing. They are afraid to try things or to explore new ideas because they are afraid to fail. Others will get so down on themselves because of sin that they give up on getting to know God. They’ll say, “God could never forgive me for what I’ve done”. God has already forgiven them, you and me! Our sins have been erased through our faith in Jesus Christ. He took them all to hell and left them with the devil. Sin has no place in our lives. God does not and will not count them against us because He loves us as any Father would love His children.

Start 2020 confidently and don’t worry about sin being an anchor in your life. We are all special people in God’s eyes, so go strongly, boldly and confidently into the next decade – like you can’t fail. Trust in God, rely on Him for guidance and strength and see what happens. Happy New Year!

North Star

Christmas is just a couple of days away so I feel that it’s appropriate to use the entire post this week for Christian living. The first Christmas day found the wise men looking for the brightest star – the North Star, to find the birthplace. God was sending us a savior, a leader, a servant and equally important, a bright star to show us the way. Leading a few to righteousness sounds like a big task, let alone leading many to righteousness. In typical human fashion, we can’t see ourselves doing that. God gave the world, in a single star shining in the darkness of the North, THE light of the world. Jesus spread the word of God with only 12 followers.

Out of a single man – a single star – came the salvation for all of mankind.The analogies are plentiful here – a single flashlight can lead to safety, a single decision, etc. God gave us freedom from sin and everlasting life through His son, one man, Jesus Christ. When you ask yourself – “what can I do?” you should think of yourself as that single light. This is the time of year people will be open to hearing about Christ. Take the opportunity to lead someone to righteousness. Like stars that fill the night sky, you’ll never know what you might be the start of.

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” Daniel 12:3

Christmas is just a couple of days from now and all of our planning for the holiday will finally come together. God gave THE ultimate gift that day, His Son. This day was prophesied throughout the ages. Even John the Baptist talked about “someone who is greater than I”. God sent us a light for this world, a world filled with darkness. This light helps us see God’s will, through our faith in Jesus Christ as our savior. God wants us close to Him and He wants all of us to join in Him in everlasting life.

Matthew encouraged us to keep our faith and remain strong in our belief by reminding us that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. If we can be strong in faith, nothing is impossible. Whatever your vision of the future is, use the help of the brightest star to keep your faith in Jesus Christ strong. A future without Christ is not a future; it’s the end. Enjoy the birthday party this week (Christmas); I hope you are spending it with your family or friends or both. Ask God for help finding the light for this life and let your imagination run wild for what eternal life will be like. Merry Christmas!

Mercy

The old classic management book: “Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburgers” contains a chapter on time management or as it is referred to – Sacred Time.  I’m reminded that when we work too fast or on too many things at once, that none of them are being done well or on time. The authors suggest three – “10 minute time outs” a day that are just for you. Most people will say that their best ideas come to them in the shower or in the bathroom. Do you know why? They are alone without interruptions – no phone, no e-mail, no people.

We all know about the game rooms at Google Inc. and the freedoms that come with working in Silicon Valley. Some companies are even letting their employees take off as much time as they feel they deserve or need, but they have to produce results. We have so many things vying for our attention today that we are becoming a society with zero attention span. If you complain that a movie is too long because it’s two hours, you are already on your way to joining the rank and file. Be merciful to yourself and build in some free time on your calendar. Look at your to do list and see what really needs to be done by you and what can be done by someone else. If you reduce your stress, you will extend not only your attention span but your life span as well.

“Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:36

Mercy has a lot of definitions. If we look at our own sin and our inability to follow God’s commands, we deserve the punishment of death. Our Father however, showing mercy and love and tells us, “believe in Me and My Son and you will be set free”. If He can forgive us for all that we do, how can we not show mercy to those around us?

“I forgive you”, three powerful words that are the opening to mercy. Christ taught us about compassion and love but it was the Father that taught us about mercy. God wants to be close to us despite our failings, so He sent Jesus to take all of our sins with Him in death on the cross. He then bought eternal life for us all by rising to heaven to sit with the Father. “God so loved the world…” the ultimate show of mercy. No one asked for your son but Luke suggests we be merciful to each other like our Father is toward us.