Character and Hope

The tornados last week in Oklahoma were certainly tragic. Despite the high death toll, it could have been worse. Two years ago I spent a few weeks training and certifying Army Reserve Units in that area. While our work tends to focus on chemical exposure, containment and decontamination, these units can be used in mass casualty incidents such as this. It is highly doubtful that the soldiers we worked with then are still “on mission” now or even in the same field of training. We did use a tornado as our training scenario, hopefully our work paid off for them and the civilian responders that participated. Tragedies like this become a great source of inspiration for the devil to create doubt in our minds: “Would a loving God allow such a thing to happen? How could a righteous God let innocent children suffer so?” We cannot explain it nor can we begin to comprehend God’s plan and what meaning something like this has in our lives yet alone the lives of those that suffered such great losses. Despite what the devil spins, God was present last Monday; He protected thousands of lives. St. Paul’s letter to the Romans speaks to us specifically this week following such great suffering.

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Romans 5:3-5

I’m sure the people of Oklahoma are suffering and cannot see the value of perseverance or character right now – but they will. They will see the hope in man-kind when thousands of volunteers show up to help them rebuild. They will see hope in the donations that will pour in to replace clothes and provide shelter. They will be stronger because of what happened to them, their character will be strong and they will have learned to persevere. We look upon these tragedies as horrible but as the end-times approach, we all will need perseverance, character and hope to stand up to the devil and the destruction he will bring before Jesus descends to earth to bring us all home.  This is not the time to doubt God’s plan or His love for us. It’s time to renew your hope in Him because He continues to fight for us and these works of the devil will be defeated once and for all when Jesus returns to call us home.

“Right, Right”

One version of this verse reminded me of Radar O’Reilly from the TV show M.A.S.H. – “before they call, I will answer”. He always knew the answer before Colonel Blake could ask the question. However, it makes me think of people who interrupt others because they have the answer before someone even finishes asking the question. The phrase “right, right” seems to have infiltrated our society today. People don’t want to let you finish what you are saying and this phrase seems to give them permission to cut you off by agreeing with you – twice no less. Everything, and I mean everything, is available in short bursts or precisely when you want it. Twitter lets people share their thoughts in 140 or less characters. Virtual assistants on smart phones get you information which saves you the effort of having to “Google it”. We are loosing our ability to listen – really listen. We need to take the time to look people in the eye and listen to what they are saying. Don’t focus on what you’re going to say next or make assumptions about what they are trying to say or jump to the end because you think faster than they do. Listen, smile, pay attention and really hear what they are saying.

“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

God’s people didn’t get it. In fact, many today still don’t get it. God was saying, “I know what they will need before they ask and I will always listen.” This is one of His great promises – speak to me and I will listen. It’s important to note, He didn’t say “I will fix it” or “I will answer you right away” but He WILL listen. It’s often hard for us to separate listening from answering. God’s time frame is different than ours. God wants to hear from His children, He knows what is on our hearts but He is not a “mind reader”. Tell Him what you are thinking. God will meet our basic needs; that’s Him answering before we call. He wants to hear ALL of our worries, concerns, appreciations, thanks and our needs. He will order things in our lives according to His will, not ours. If you think He isn’t answering, perhaps you are not being patient enough or you simply don’t see the answers/solutions present in your life. God hears it all, it’s usually us who fail recognize His work

The Fruit of the Spirit

This past week I lost most, if not all, of my self-control during a City Council Meeting. Nothing that would make the news or bring embarrassment to my family but something that I am not proud of in retrospect. As human beings, when we deal with people, we need to remain in control of our emotions and remain aware of how we act toward them. I’m not one who usually “flies off the handle” (my 15 year old might disagree) but when I get to that point, I turn into a freight train. Passion is a good thing to have in life – in love, in commitment or to help others, etc. We must guard that passion when we get emotionally involved in issues; there is a difference between passion and emotional outburst. Self-control starts with peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness as a result of faithfulness. Peace and patience allow you to remain calm in the face of the issue. Kindness and goodness remind us that someone will be on the receiving end of our self-control (or lack of it) and those interactions should be gentle. People will respect you, you’ll respect yourself and you’ll glorify God with the gifts He has given you.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-23, 25

Nothing like a little self-reflection to start the week! It is good to be reminded that the fruit of the Spirit or the essence of what the Holy Spirit has given us, lives within us. We don’t have to seek these things or learn how to do them; God has given them to us. Jesus lived His life demonstrating them, God inspired them to be written in the bible; all we need to do is be reminded of them and then put them to practice. It’s okay to be happy (joy) and to get along with others (peace). Be patient and kind with everyone, even those who require a little extra effort. Your demonstration of goodness and gentleness are God pleasing and witness to your faith in the Word of God. These fruits lead to more self-control and less frustration that will circle back to finding love, joy and peace in your life. God is amazing in how He ordered all of these “fruits” to work in support of one another in our lives. “Since we live in the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” is great advice to us for how to live our lives.

Mother’s Day (I know its early)

I debated about doing a piece on Mother’s Day, more so about when to do it than anything else. This is the week leading up to the day that Hallmark made. Before anyone takes offense, I feel the same about Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day. While my wife and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, we do recognize the other two for each other. It always seems that the spouses take these days more seriously than the children do, until at least the time when they are old enough to really know better and shop for themselves. Lisa and I have been blessed with two awesome mothers of our own. They not only like each other but they like their in-law kids too. I’m certain that I speak for both of us when I say; they treat us like their own kids. My mom gained another daughter and Lisa’s mom gained another son – it is better than I ever could have dreamed of. The quote from James reminded me of what a mother is but not only to her kids but also to her spouse as well. I originally planned to use this quote to talk about leaders in an organization and how, if they used these traits, can truly lead and encourage others to follow. As you read this, compare the actions of a good parent to those of a good leader and you will see, they are one in the same. A mother’s wisdom is pure and genuine, honest and full of love. No matter what happens, a child (regardless of age) will always seek a mother’s advice. A mother is peace-loving and considerate. She’s the one who always broke up the fights between brothers and sisters while seeking a solution that worked for everyone. Mothers taught us to share and taught us how to take care of someone who was hurt. A mother is submissive to the needs of the family, full of mercy and kind words (good fruit). Mothers showed us how to sacrifice and put others needs before our own. They deflected blame when we messed up and led the cheering crowd when we did well. Mothers never picked favorites (even though I know I am) and when they held your hand and looked into your eyes, you knew they meant everything they said. Great leaders, like all mothers, know how to do these things too. Mothers have earned a day just for themselves but they deserve it throughout the year, not just in May.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

The irony of this message is that its about Mother’s Day based on the gifts that we have received from our Father in Heaven. This verse is great reminder of how we are to act toward everyone. The wisdom from heaven was given to us through the writings of the bible. As you read/study the bible, you will see in the New Testament that each lesson shows us God’s pure way in the life of His Son, Jesus. Jesus then showed us His peace-making ability, how he was considerate to others – even those that opposed Him, submissive to the law of the land while not compromising the Laws given by the Father, His mercy and goodness through the miracles he performed to soften hardened hearts, impartiality and above all, His sincerity. Jesus did all of these things while teaching non-believers which is unimaginable. He did all of this to show us the way and then, in the ultimate show of mercy, He took our sins onto Himself so that we could have eternal life. Using these principles to live your life in all situations, will please God but most importantly, it will witness to those that do not yet believe.