Who are you?

I am in this group so I can say it, some of us are simply too old to change. It’s not easy to admit but I am generally too practical to see the positive in things. I ask “why?” a lot or look at things from such a practical application that I fail to enjoy the moment because I’m looking for the lesson in the experience. On the flip side however, I have an awesome sense of humor. I hope it balances things out. Do you know what kind of person you are? Being self-aware is so important today. I think that people are loosing the ability to know or understand who they are or how they come across because we are having fewer “in-person” experiences. We are having fewer phone calls and conversations but more e-mails and text messages. “Social media” is making us less social. It’s just another example of me being too old to change and too practical. Without a little self-awareness we have no idea how people receive and perceive us. When people see you, do they hide or do they seek you out? If you don’t know how to answer that question, you have a little work to do. Listen to what you say, if you use the word “I” often or you are regularly critical of others; rethink your view of the world. Your spirit tells a lot about you think is important. I’ve always said that you can leave a mark just make sure that it’s not a skid mark.

“For the spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

God has given us everything we have and need for this life, but most importantly, He gave us our spirit. God wants us to be confident in Him and not ourselves. God has given us the power or strength necessary to survive in this world, the love in our hearts to reflect or mirror the love He has for us and the self-discipline to keep our lives in order. God does not want boastful disciples that are selfish or who live lives full of chaos. He wants disciples who can live a godly life of faith putting Him before all others. What do people see when they see you? Do they see a cross necklace on someone who is difficult to work with or who doesn’t lend a hand because they are too worried about their own goals? God gave us this spirit of power, love and self-discipline because we were created in His image. There is no better way to witness to others than by showing your spirit everyday in everything you do. Timothy is not telling us to be self-confident or self-righteous, he is telling us to be strong because that is how God made us. He reminds us that we are not timid; we do not lack courage or confidence. We should have confidence in God to be with us and it’s in that confidence that we have the power to face what this world puts before us.

The work out

Nothing like being twelve plus hours late in getting a weekly blog post out! For now in only the second time, I’m late in getting this out. The “holiday” weekend threw me off cycle; I thought I still had a day to go. In any event, I was moved this week following a bible study at church to write about working out. While I wish I could give great fitness advice, I’m not doing that here. We all use the phrase “work out” in a coupe of ways: “I hope this works out”, “I will make it work out”, “I’m headed to the gym to work out” and “can’t we work this out”. Each one of these phrases has a slightly different meaning. At work, we all try our hardest to be the best that we can; some days are better than others. When our motivation is low, it takes everything that we have to “make it work” or simply “make work.” The word WORK for some has become a four-letter word. The number of people who hate their jobs is high, the number of people looking for jobs is high and the number of people retiring from jobs is high (I skipped any Colorado reference here). I read that the number of people quitting their jobs is a good sign of the economy improving; who knew? Most people simply want their “work” to be satisfying and others simply want to find some work. No matter your desire, working, while highly overrated, is still a critical part of our lives. How we behave, what we say/do, how we work, will all say a lot about our character. It’s not the work it’s self, it’s how we approach the work. No matter what you do, you are still important to the people around you and the people at home. While we would all love to sit home and have good money deposited into our checking accounts each payday, most of us have to “work” for a living. Our work however doesn’t have to be a four-letter word, no one makes us miserable, we simply let them make us that way. Take control and work hard for yourself; besides you never know who’s watching.

12”…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”  Philippians 2:12-13

There is often huge confusion about part of this verse: “work out your salvation”. Some people believe that you must work for your salvation; you need to earn your way to salvation. However the concept of justification says something quite the opposite. We were justified by Jesus’ death and resurrection. This means that those who believe in Him are “not guilty” of their sins in the eyes of God, we are forgiven!  The Holy Spirit works in us through sanctification so that we may live out our lives in faith. It is the combination of justification and sanctification that we can remain steadfast in our faith of eternal life. It’s certain something better than sitting home and having good money deposited into our checking account! Like a trip to the gym, we “work out” our salvation by studying the word of God and participating in the sacraments much like a cardio and weight regimen. Like a personal trainer, St. Paul’s letters are filled with great advice for us to maintain our workouts and remain strong in our faith. God is working in you to be the best person that you can be. He is working in your life not to satisfy your wants and needs but to fulfill his good purpose for you. Let the hand of God guide you no matter what is happening in your work life; He has a purpose for you, let him reveal it knowing that you are not guilty of your sins through His justification and sanctification.

Service Before Self

“Service Before Self”, is one of the core values of the US Air Force. We all serve someone at some point in our day and usually throughout our lives. As parents, we serve our kids, as spouses we serve our mate and as employees we serve customers – either internal or external to the company. Even leaders have people that they serve. A leader should be someone who is serving those that follow them; the concept of servant leadership. By making their followers stronger, servant leaders build up their staff and work to make them successful. There are people in leadership positions who wrongfully believe that since they are in this place of “power” that people should be serving them. A true leader is more concerned about how they can support and help those that follow them. Ken Blanchard writes extensively about servant leadership and his research on leadership. We all see many people today who are simply serving themselves. The millennium generation grew up watching the greed of Wall Street and “leaders” serving their own interests. If anyone else benefited, well, that was just extra. So, who are you serving? I would suggest putting your focus on others and see what comes of it. I have benefited from a number of mentors in my life and I have also played that role for others. It is immensely satisfying and rewarding to help others when there is nothing to be gained.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

St. Paul wrote a lot about serving others in his letters, focusing much of his attention on humility. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds them to be humble proclaiming “I came to you in weakness and fear”, he was asking them to serve others with humility too. Using Jesus as our example, ask yourself, how did He show humility for us? The first thing that comes to my mind is the washing of His disciple’s feet at the last supper. The leader of the group, the leader of the heavens washed feet. Jesus was serving us! The Son of God and God Himself was serving us so that we would have eternal life. God has prepared the good works for us. He has set the course, put people in our lives and us in the lives of others so that we could execute the plan He has for us. God has prepared these good works for us in advance; they aren’t chance but these opportunities are given to us to do God’s work. We are not put here to do our works or to be boastful. My apologies to the Air Force but “Service Before Self” really came from God, was demonstrated to us by Jesus and now we must humble ourselves to serve others, just as God planned.

 

Sowing and Reaping

Have you ever stopped to think about all of the people that have helped you in your life? There are teachers who helped mold your mind or shaped your learning, there people that you’ve met who have shaped your worldview and there are strangers that have helped in ways that you don’t even know about. If we were to list them all, it would be too long to comprehend. We all have had people put in our lives that played a significant role in shaping a part of our lives. Some of them have given us great advice or simply been there to listen and others created a pathway for us to follow behind them. The latter did what is referred to as “the heavy lifting”. Both the advisor and the trailblazer are significant to us in our development. I taught an ethics class for the fire academy this past week and I was reminded about how our lives, values and morals are shaped. It is a constant process, for most of us anyway. People are shaping and teaching us constantly; some are reinforcing our beliefs while others are changing our worldview. The whole dialog got me thinking about whom I’ve relied on in my life to help make me who I am today. Lisa and I realized this weekend that we met 30 years ago in January, which by the way, neither one of us can remember the specific date. Besides being unable to comprehend being together that long, we both know how much we have influenced each other. I’m not getting mushy here. I also know that there are about a dozen people who were there for me as I traversed my career; some reminding me to slow down and others pushing me on because they saw something that I hadn’t. I know that I have had little to do with who I am and that others had done the heavy lifting. Some took chances on me, others pulled me up into opportunities while people like Lisa were there adjusting to be everything else I needed. Give thanks for those people in your lives and then let them know how much you appreciate all that they’ve done.

37Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”  John 4:37-38

This verse is Jesus speaking to his disciples after he met the Samaritan woman at the water well. Jesus is the sower, He did the hard work for us but we will reap the reward; eternal life through Him. Jesus also is speaking of those before Him, the prophets and those doing the work that God commanded, allowing us to all reap the benefits of their labor. So, is the sowing all done now that we have God’s word and salvation through Jesus? I don’t believe so. “One sows and another reaps’ is true”. As disciples we still have a harvest to tend to as is said in John 4:35 “…look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” We are the ones that have reaped the goodness of the harvest but we also have some sowing to do. Let’s get out there and sow the good news of Jesus Christ. I bet some of you are saying, “Are you kidding? You want me to go and preach to others?” I’m suggesting that you be a witness of God’s love and grace. He has blessed each of us with specific talents or gifts to sow the fields. Some can sing, some can write, some have strong arms and backs but all have love and the belief that we can make a difference. God is with you and He has already given you what you need to be the person that changes lives. Look around your life and see what He has done for you and then look for ways to pass it on to others. The fields are ripe!