The new is here!

I’ve mentioned before that my inspiration for these weekly devotions come from a number of places. Often it comes from a sermon that I heard and then after pondering it, I apply it to some life message. Honestly, most often it comes from bible verses that I’ve read in the past and taken note of. Today’s devotion was partly inspired by the hit television show The Big Bang Theory; ironic isn’t it? The theme was letting go of problems and how to let things go. I’ve used the phrases “get over it” and “its water under the bridge”. Often times we want to focus on the cause of a problem or what should have been done or could have been done, which all end with our finger pointing at someone. This happens a lot in our places of work or in our homes, someone has to be blamed for the setback or the missed opportunity. Some workplaces call it accountability but in reality it’s just proof that old saying: “one oh no wipes out 10 atta boys” is true. We won’t let it go and we keep punishing the person over and over. People change and people learn. We know that the best way to learn is through mistakes. In science it’s called trial and error and is part of the “scientific method” of study. Researchers can go on for years coming up with ideas to test and then when they fail, they test a new one. In the rest of world its called learning from your mistakes but if you make too many, you find yourself out of job. The difference between them is tolerance. In science, they tolerate the concept of trial and error and in business they don’t. We should all be a little more tolerant of each other and work together to make things better. People can become better when they are supported and encouraged despite a mistake. We wouldn’t treat a child with same contempt for a mistake caused by not knowing, why do we do it to adults?

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

We all go through various transformations in our lives. In the fire service a rookie is transformed throughout their career. Lazy teenagers become successful adults and single, wild guys have become awesome parents. We are almost constantly under a transformation of one sort or another. St. Paul is reminding us of the transformation that we have through Jesus Christ. We are not the same people we were before Christ came into our lives. Our baptism washed away our sins; God washes away the original sin that we cannot ever escape, through His word and the sacrament of Holy Baptism. We become one with Him and are new again; we are transformed! As the TV commercial says – “but wait, there’s more! No matter when in our lives we are baptized, we remain in sin throughout the rest of our lives and yet, God still forgives us through His grace and mercy. He only asks that we confess our sins, repent and trust in Jesus as our savior. The old Adam in us is washed away and sin will never have power in our lives with Jesus as our one and only savior. We are a new creation, one in which God is happy to call us His Children despite our mistakes and failures; Jesus takes all of our “oh no’s” and makes everything an “atta boy” – “the new is here!”

Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is a funny thing. In one way it makes us stronger and more focused than someone without it but in another, it makes us so determined that we lose the ability to see the simple things around us. It also has the ability to force us to do things that we might just otherwise simply blow-off. I’ve been pretty self-disciplined my whole life, I had goals to reach and found ways to complete them. When one road was blocked, I found a path that would lead me to another road headed in the direction that I wanted to go. This type of drive can become all-consuming and before you know it, you aren’t paying attention to the things that are changing around you. My son made an observation tonight that really hit home; once it set in. Speaking to my wife, his sister, and myself he said, “You guys need to just relax and chill a little”. We were all talking about the homework and projects we still had to work on and the tension started to rise. Of course, my answer to him was that when he has more to worry about besides which movie to go see or what electronic gadget to buy, and then he can talk to us about chilling out. In retrospect, he is probably right; we need to chill out a little bit. Between my re-election campaign in full swing, my schoolwork, my special projects, work and daily demands, I could use a little less drive and a little more chill. Self-discipline won’t let us ignore the commitments that we’ve made, nor should we. However, it should also teach us to balance our lives and take time for our selves and each other. Look around the world at the top athletes and you will see very self-disciplined people. You will also see people so absorbed in them selves that they lose sight of the things that matter most. Stay balanced!

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

God never intended for us to be timid; He wants us to be bold and social. We are supposed to be sharing His word with a world that needs salvation and we can’t do that when we sit quietly by ourselves. God’s Spirit gives us power and love to be there for other people or to openly share God’s message. We should have the confidence to stand tall in the face of all adversity because God has given us the strength to do it. No matter what is before you, you have the power of God’s spirit by your side. When you are troubled, turn to God for strength to knock those troubles down. God’s love for you will protect you and He is always there for you. One part of self-discipline is that we remember to do what God has asked of us. We may be driven in this life, have great goals for our careers, and can even pave new roads to success but if we are not disciplined to be faithful to God by growing and sharing in His love, what is the use? God says to us “chill a little” on those earthly wants and needs and give me a little time. Learn what God has in mind for us, learn what love really is and learn what real self-discipline is by knowing how Jesus gave His life for us. He could have changed course when things got bad or quit when He found out that He was to die. Jesus had the self-discipline to stay the course that God had chosen for Him. God isn’t asking much of us, just a little time with Him and less in this world. Go chill with God.

Have a little Faith

What do you have faith in? Often times we hear that people have faith in “the system”, the assembly of policies or procedures that govern us. The system seems broken these days, so maybe fewer people actually have faith in it. Where do we turn? The phrase, “if you want a job done right, do it yourself” sounds like we should put faith in ourselves. In fact, many people put their faith there – in themselves. Something in their lives has driven them to believe in only themselves. They’ve been let down somewhere along the way or have become so focused on what they’ve accomplished that they lose sight of those that helped or supported them along the way. I hate to say this but as a “politician” people must have faith in me in order to elect me. I’ve never been “political” but during a re-election campaign, I have to be. I take my job as a councilmember very seriously because of the faith that people have put in me as their representative. In any position you hold, people have to put their faith in you too. They have to trust that you will care and defend them as a leader or they have to believe that you perform your job well as part of a bigger plan. When people count on you, when they have faith in you, you have a huge obligation to live up to those expectations. At a candidate forum this week, I was prepared to answer specific questions about taxes and spending. I’ve been paying attention to what concerns people have expressed and I was prepared. Several people commented that they appreciated my preparation; my reply was that it was my job to know and understand what was important to them because I take my role as their representative seriously. I want them to have faith in me. Be sure that people know they can have faith in you too.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. Hebrews 11:1

Faith in the biblical context is filled with ambiguity; there are is a lot of things that we do not see. We can’t see eternal life and we can’t see God’s plan for our lives but we have faith in them. Some people focus so much on their personal success that they stop having faith in God to provide for them because they are so busy providing for themselves. The devil wants us to think that we are in control of our successes and that we don’t need prayer to be successful. These people have faith in just themselves. This verse in Hebrews reminds us that we can be confident in what God is doing in our lives and that our hopes are His hopes. Faith in God also means that we can be sure of His presence and work in our lives even though we don’t see it. Faith is knowing, without question, that God is present in all things. Our sinful nature makes us believe that we are in control and that God only intervenes when we ask; sin puts faith in ourselves and not in God. The devil will shower you with money and success so he can keep you focused on yourself as the most important thing. Sin wants success and the feelings that come with it. When your faith is in God and all that He does, you no longer worry about success because it’s there. You won’t worry about material possessions because He will provide for you. Faith is confidence and we can be assured by the promises that God made which we cannot see. Have faith in God to watch over you.

Why did you do that?

I seem to frequently ask the ask the question: “Why did you do that? Or “Why would you do that?” I have no idea how or where the phrase entered my speech but I use it often. Sometimes, it lessens the “are you crazy?” thought in my mind but I guess that in the end, people who hear my question are probably hearing the crazy one anyway. I started wondering though, why do I do the things that I do? Personally, I’m not into the fame or recognition of things. I won’t lie, I like to know when people appreciate my work for them but I usually don’t hear about it so I’ve grown accustomed to not hearing it. Public service is usually a thankless job. However, working for the public is not a thankless job, it is just the opposite – fulfilling. What drives the work that you do? What drives your work ethic either at home or “in the office”? During this past week, the U.S. watched the Super Bowl preparations from right near my home. We witnessed a player from the NFL team Seahawks sit for nearly an hour during a press conference answer each question asked of him by reporters with: “I’m only here so I don’t get fined”. He forgot who put him there and why they require media day interviews – it’s all about the fans. But not to this player, it was all about him. Think about what drives you: the money, the fear of getting fired or the satisfaction of your work. I would suggest that what drives you, defines you and people can see that a mile away. Find your inner strength, know why you do what you do and then do it to the best of your ability. No one loses when you do your best.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

“Do it all for the glory of God”. I could almost end this devotion right here. What else is there to say? Every step you take, every decision you make, and every move you make should be to the glory of God. Your boss may not see or appreciate what you do at work but work hard anyway because it brings glory to God. Your spouse or kids may not know what you go through, but do your best because it brings glory to God. What would happen if God were to stop by and evaluate your work, would He be pleased? Did you cut corners or take longer to get the work done because “you weren’t feeling like it today”. Your work or vocation is a gift from God. Regardless of what you think of your job, He may be training you for something greater or perhaps is putting you in the just the right place to make a difference in someone else’s life. God’s plan is greater than our understanding and we should be ready to serve Him with gladness. Now when someone asks you, “why did you do that?”, you can confidently answer that you were doing it the glory of God.