I’m in the middle of a re-election campaign for City Council. There are three incumbent candidates and two challengers. We have a pretty benign political landscape in our city of just under 75,000 people. We all run “at-large”, which means we represent the whole city not just districts or precincts. There is nothing of controversy happening and we remain a vibrant, growing,and upscale community. I have no idea why we have challengers, most of the time they just want to run to see how it is. I was given some great advice when I decided to run the first time, “always run like you are ten points behind”. I’m never so self-confident that I would believe that I’m that well liked; besides medium speed is not a pace that you will find me at very often. These campaigns are very hard for me because I hate asking for help, I’m usually the one helping others. This weekend, the ENTIRE family pitched in to get the last details completed before we make the final push into the election. Today, my wife, son and I spent almost five hours driving around town in two cars maintaining the campaign signs spread throughout the 120 square miles of our city. We relocated signs, fixed those knocked over and reinforced the signs against the wind. We all gave up our Sunday afternoon to do what was right for the campaign. On Saturday, our college senior spent most of the afternoon and several hours of her Saturday night putting the final touches on the graphic designs for the door hangers and a banner. As I write this tonight, ALL of the preparation is done thanks to the teamwork of my family and their support of me. I’m not really into bragging but they reminded me why I am a truly blessed man (not that I needed it). My lesson-learned in all this, don’t wait until it’s all over to thank those that help you along the way. Thanks to my great family!
“…the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does…” Ephesians 6:8
In this verse, St. Paul is in the middle of telling the church at Ephesus how masters and slaves should treat each other. What he is saying is that we as human beings, do not get to judge or reward what we think is right or righteous. St. Paul is telling us that since God is faithful and just, caring and compassionate and, the one true judge that we should be more like him. Practice forgiveness, compassion and working hard, just as our Father in Heaven does, are the principles of St. Paul’s message. The Lord, our God will take care of the rewards for hard work. There is no mention of building up “credits” to win God’s favor, no amount of works that needs to be preformed, no amount of money to be tithed; simply living as God would. God became man to show us the way, the truth and then gave us eternal life with him in heaven through His Son our Savior, Jesus Christ. He will reward the good that people do; we don’t need to judge the lives of others. We do however, need to thankful, to God, for the people in our lives who make things better.
It seems like every day this past week we opened the newspaper or saw on the television a story about a manhunt or a terrorist cell’s plan being foiled. Everywhere we turned, was another scary story about trouble in the world. I often wonder if these events have been going on for years but we are now just hearing about them because of the technological explosion we’ve seen in the past decade. It sure makes life seem chaotic and leaves many people unsure and afraid. Pretty soon, we are too afraid to travel or go to large events. We are all extra careful about what we say or who we say it to. I was one of the 20 on-duty Battalion Chiefs in the Phoenix Regional Response System on September 11, 2001. Most of the Emergency Operations Centers were opened that morning in anticipation of further chaos. The skies were quiet and people were glued to their televisions. I remember speaking with a radio operator that morning who was scared about what the events meant for the future. I reminded her that if she became terrified that the terrorists had won and got exactly what they came for – America in fear. She appreciated my remarks and we went on with our respective duties. I offer that when things start getting scary, we have two options, we can lose focus and run scared or we can stand tall and gain control. The choice is ours. For me, I choose to stand tall and live without fear.
For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7
God reminds us in this verse that we should stand tall, in power, love and self-discipline. The events in Paris and Belgium these past two weeks are enough to scare anyone. Terrorists running free in Paris, terror cells plotting attacks, police crackdowns; all in addition to the regular things we have to fear. God is here for us. He gave us a spirit that can handle the fear by giving us the power to see through the terror. God is our strength! He will not give us more than we can handle, He believes in us. It is our sinful nature that convinces us that we can’t handle the stress and we look for outlets. Instead of being full of fear; become filled with the power and love of God our Father and then exercise your self-discipline to stand up to the fear. Do not let the fear win, you are strengthened by God and can defend against it. Our strength comes from God through our faith in Jesus Christ and His work on our behalf. Would you walk without fear if Jesus were literally standing next to you? He is with you always, start walking!
I was saying to a very good friend of mine yesterday, “If it all went as I had planned…” My concern was on how my plan did not turn out as desired. Forget the fact that I am not in control. Sticking with the theme of a new year and new beginnings, I wanted to end with the idea of- where do you turn for directions? My experience has been that we have the tendency to be either the advice seeker or the advice giver on a regular basis. Sure, the observation is obvious but if you are a regular seeker you should be asking yourself who are you getting direction from? If you are a regular giver, you should have someone that you can turn to as a seeker. How reliable are these people, how good is their advice, what is it based on and what is their rate of success? We need to be careful about who we get direction or advise from. Sometimes we find that those who give unsolicited advice are probably the ones who really should be seeking advice from others. At work, a good place to get advice about work related issues is from a mentor or in most cases a trusted confidant. These people have the experience and education to offer sound advise on a number of issues. A mentor is a very formal role that is mutually agreed to by both people with the understanding that there are specific outcomes desired. These are not casual relationships, as we often believe them to be. A mentor has a responsibility to their mentee. In the trusted confidant role, the relationship is very informal and this is where most of us seek advice or guidance at work. Sometimes, it’s our supervisor and other times it’s a senior or more experienced coworker. Regardless of the position, know who you are getting direction from. Sometimes, simply changing who is influencing your life can make all the difference.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5
I’ve mentioned God’s plan for our lives many times before. God is the only one who knows the plans for our lives. He knows our first and last days and He orders all circumstances in between. So I laughed at myself when I started to say: “If it all went as I planned”, as if I had control over the outcome. I stopped myself and remembered if God wanted it that way, He would have seen it through. So, I’m back to being taught about patience. Besides, I’m too busy to worry about it; God knows what I need to do to slow down. He’s teaching me and in a way I guess, He’s mentoring me in what is best in my life. I learned a long time ago to lean on God and to trust Him; I just keeping forgetting and He keeps gently reminding me. God will put special people in your life to teach, mentor or advise you but we must be on guard because the devil will too. So, how do we know the difference? Your understanding of God’s word will see through the devil’s work. If you are comfortable in the bible and your heart is filled with God’s goodness, grace and understanding, you will know the difference. When you don’t know where to turn, get your directions from God. He loves His children and will provide the guidance necessary if we slow down and listen to Him.
We are already five days into 2015 and I’ve maintained my commitment to eat fewer carbs and exercise more – five days down and only 360 to go! I’m feeling pretty optimistic about this year and for no particular reason. I hope that everyone is feeling this way. The start of a new year is generally a renewal of sorts. We have no idea what lies before us – challenge, opportunity, pain or joy. At the end of each year I get a report from the host of the blog site that details where people are viewing this blog from and how many visits I’ve had. There are more people viewing this blog from South America than from North America. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, there are people in Russia, Italy, United Kingdom, Canada and Brazil, to name a few, following this blog. Brazil has more views than any other country. I’m not mentioning this to boast but my point is that we never know who we’ll touch with what we do. I had no idea how many people from outside the U.S. viewed this site. Three years ago on January 12th, I set out to do something that I’d never done before, write devotions. I just decided to write devotions for leaders that would help them and that would connect them to the word of God. I had no idea what to expect or what I was capable of doing. I wondered if anyone read them. I took a chance to trust God and what He was guiding me to do. When I’m faced with an unknown, I like to say that I closed my eyes and jumped into the deep end. None of us know what 2015 has in store for us. We can look at the new year afraid and unsure or we can view it as an exciting time filled with new adventures and opportunities. We exchange each day of our lives for the things that we will do today. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever and in its place is something that we have left behind. Will you leave something good? Go out and have a great day, great week, great month and a great year!
“Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24
What makes us new? What is a new self? There are shelves filled with advice in most bookstores to help people answer these questions. This scripture answers them for us. Righteousness is defined as decent; ethical, principled, moral, high-minded, law-abiding, honest, honorable, blameless, irreproachable, and noble. When we read that we should be “like God” it seems a little extreme or nearly impossible to compare ourselves to Him but we can be like Him in righteousness. Every one of us can be decent, ethical, principled, law-abiding and honest; we can be righteous. This is what St. Paul is urging the people of Ephesus to be – righteous. We too can put on a new self, one found in our faith in Jesus Christ who teaches us what righteousness is. We have the perfect leader and teacher in Jesus as told to us through God’s inspired words in the Holy Bible. It’s an awesome combination to help us put on our new selves. What will you exchange the days in your life for and what are you leaving behind? The simple thank you to someone at work, recognizing a job well done, doing a little extra; just because or going out of your way to assist someone in need maybe all that you need to jumpstart your new self.