I do believe!

Today marks the start of Holy Week as we await the solemnness of Jesus’ crucifixion and His glorious resurrection three days later. This week should be about Jesus. There are a number of verses in the Bible that discuss what Jesus was saying and doing in His last week. It is amazing to read that His disciples did not know what He has been talking about until it was too late. It made me think about how I read the bible and what I might be missing. As I considered what to write for this important week, I wondered about the people who know Jesus but like the disciples, do not understand what is happening around them. I’ve heard people say “Sure I believe in God and that Jesus was His son but I don’t get into the rest of the bible”. Perhaps you’ve heard someone say, “I go to church and that’s enough for God to know that I believe in Him”.

I’m not warmed by either of these phrases but I will hold judgment because that’s God’s call not mine. However, I really do know what Jesus did for us and continues to do on our behalf.  St Paul in a letter to the Philippians said 12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—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). St Paul is suggesting that we obey God’s word whether we feel His presence or not. This is such a profound statement that I can also hear Jesus saying this to me. Re-read the verse again but think of Jesus saying it instead. This verse means much more now doesn’t it?

We owe our salvation to Jesus, who intervened on our behalf, but we owe our eternal lives to God, who through His grace and mercy sent His Son to be punished for our sins. We can do nothing more at this point but believe in the word of God that assures us that we are saved through Jesus. Mark verse 9:24 says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Jesus taught us how to live our lives, what is important in this world and what we can do to enjoy eternal life with Him. If you have ever doubted, simply read the verses about Holy Week and give thanks for ALL that God has done for you. You will overcome any “unbelief” in no time.

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We all need to just ask

My wife has saying “You don’t get if you don’t ask”. We have several stories in our lives when she’s used this philosophy while we were faced with dilemmas. one example is when our daughter was little, we took her to see a live character performance. She had gotten sick about half way through it and we had to leave. My wife called the theater to see if there was anything they could do. They had us come down the next weekend and report to a special area. We were then escorted into the venue and right into the front row. The whole thing was crazy but you can’t get something if you don’t ask for it. Many people don’t like asking for help or asking for things in general; oftentimes we feel like we’re taking advantage of things. In the corporate world, they say that employees should be asking for raises and not waiting for them to be given out. What is it that you want that you are not asking for? Our families don’t know what we want if we don’t tell them. Most of us were encouraged to write Santa Claus with our Christmas list and some of us were taken to the store or mall to see the “big guy” and tell him ourselves. As we got older, we stopped doing that with everything in our lives. As employees, we have needs or desires for our careers or professional development. If we don’t share what they are with our supervisors, we will never fulfill our dreams or reach what Abraham Maslow described as “self actualization”. Don’t let anything get in your way of at least asking for the things you want, you never know what might come of it.

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:6

It’s one thing to ask a venue manager for tickets to a show but it’s entirely different to ask God for help. Do not doubt God’s power and love for you; believe in Him and that He will do what is best for you. It’s sometimes hard to understand that what God believes to be best for you is not always what you believe is best for you. Ask God in confidence, He answers prayers; remember – on His time. God also likes to hear praise and thanks for the things in your life. In this verse we are reminded that when we doubt God’s power, our lives will be churned like the sea. I say this often, God has a plan for each one of us and He puts people and circumstances in our lives to help facilitate that plan. He simply asks for our faith and trust in Him through Jesus. The bible is filled with verses that demonstrate God’s love, that tell us how to live our lives and that tell us to have faith. If you doubt what God’s plan is, ask Him. Many times people turn to God when they are in trouble or in need. God tells us to always turn to Him in prayer. The stronger that your faith in Him is, the easier it will be for you to see Him at work in your life. You will never doubt again.

By the Grace of God

Everyone needs a break once in a while. When we work with the same people all of the time, we can get on each other’s nerves. Often times we can simply brush off the issue and move on but every once in a while, we just can’t. My mother joking says: “if everyone were perfect like us, we would not have these problems”. How true is that? In my case, I don’t think I could handle another person like me. What do we do with these people who annoy us or create problems? We can’t ignore them, stop being engaged at work or socially; so most of us simply give them a little grace and move on. We are giving grace even when we justifying the behavior of the person by saying, “oh, that’s just Bill”. Rick Warren in his book Purpose Driven Life, describes difficult people as being EGR or extra grace required people. This really sticks with me every time I encounter someone challenging. As he points out, the real key in life is not to be one of these people. To give someone a little extra grace is to not hold the annoyance against them, listen to the intended message instead of the actual message, and don’t take what they say personally. Southern ladies frame in with the phrase, “Bless her/his heart” when they give a little extra grace. No matter how you do it, the important part is to give the grace; not because they deserve it but because you can.

7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – “ Ephesians 2:7-8

God is constantly showing us grace in our lives. He gave His only Son for us so that we might have eternal life with Him. He has forgiven our sins, not because we deserved it but because He loves us. God’s grace is larger than we can imagine. We sin every day yet, He forgives us. We doubt His love and question His work in our lives and yet, He still loves us. We take Him for granted, live our lives to satisfy ourselves, worry only about what we need and yet, He still keeps His hand on our lives. For me, little else is needed to define what God’s grace really means. God sent a Savior to bring us close to Him, so that we might have eternal life through Jesus. It is through God’s grace that we have been saved but not grace alone. We also need to have faith in Jesus as our Savior. Jesus is the one who took all of our sins to hell, left them behind and when He rose on the third day, He took His seat at the right hand of God to intervene on our behalf. He turns to God and says, “They are worthy, just like me”. Rejoice in God’s grace knowing that He gives it to us as gift through our faith in Jesus Christ.

We reap what we sow

I’m in Washington DC this week to learn new techniques for governance and to work on Capital Hill with our Congressmen on issues that connect with our city. Tomorrow, the President will address the National League of Cities attendees, I’m sure, to express how important cities and towns are to America. We’ll be meeting with Senators McCain and Flake on Wednesday before we head home. Today, as we walked around the US Capital I said, “There are 535 Congressmen and thousands of staff people working here and nothing gets done”. It’s funny, only because it’s true. I walk around this town and can’t help but think of all of the wasted effort that has gone on for the past six years. Back home in Arizona, our legislature and Governor reached a budget deal that they have been working on for days – behind closed doors. It was finally released to the public on Friday and will probably be voted on by Wednesday this week. Its a budget that defunds education and increases prison spending – welcome to Arizona!

The whole concept of politics is starting to feel disgusting to me. My wife told someone tonight that if you want to insult me, call me a politician. It’s true. Why do we do the things that we do? Why are you doing the things that you are right now and who are you serving when you do them? I serve as an elected council member to serve my community and hopefully make a difference. I see others who serve in these capacities simply to feed their own egos. I was asked earlier this week why I’m not on twitter and my response was, “I don’t think that I’m so interesting that people will want to follow me”. I believe that I’m simply a servant. My work on this blog is about serving God and bringing the Word to the world. So, back to my questions – why are you doing what you do and who do you do it for? It’s okay to work to support yourself and to have fun. Some fundamentalists don’t want you to know that it’s okay to have fun but it is. You will reap what you sow; let it be something good.

8Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction: whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:8

As I look around Washington DC, I feel the sense of pleasing the flesh. In other bible versions of this verse, “the flesh” is replaced with “sinful spirit” and right now, that’s a better description of politics in Washington DC. What part of your sinful nature is driving your decision-making? We are all guilty of sin and will pay the price with our death. This verse reminds us that if we are pleasing ourselves, we will pay reap destruction (earthly death). However, if we are reaping to please God, we will be rewarded with eternal life; an eternal life found through the sacrifice of Jesus. Galatians 6:10 tells us exactly how to live our lives – “10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Serve God and His people but also serve others (do good to ALL people). There are no politics in that statement, there is no spin and there are no favors, its simple – do good! Our reward for working hard, getting shot down and working hard again is our eternal life with God the Father. God did not give us a pass or any vacation days from being His children nor does He deduct from us our sins that guaranteed our salvation through Jesus Christ.

What’s in your heart?

God’s intervention in my life seems more apparent to me almost daily. You know the old expression, “when one door closes another one opens” is really the best summary of God at work in our lives. I’ve written a lot about God’s plan because I have seen it unfold in my life pretty often. I have a daily bible verse calendar that contains a phrase to go along with the verse and this one particularly caught my attention – “When your heart is right with God, your ways will follow”. I started thinking about other bible verses that describe how we will act when we have God in our heart and for me, my thoughts always come back to: who’s plan are you executing?

At the urging of my daughter, I’m changing the format of these posts for the mobile app readers out there, because the two-block format doesn’t read well on a cell phone. So, I’m changing my plan. I thought my way was right but with an open mind and a little trust in her, here we go. On the flip side, I have a friend that doesn’t seem to understand how his actions create problems for others. He is well intended but he lacks the emotional capacity to understand that he hurts people when all he does is think and act rationally. He does nothing by emotion and if it’s not his way, then it’s no way. I call it politics and we all do it, everyday.

You know the people at work that you can joke with and those that are all business. You know who can take constructive criticism and who can’t, so you take these into consideration and carefully maneuver through your day using politics. Essentially, you execute your plan. But what happens when your plan doesn’t match with anyone else’s? Usually chaos. People are upset, deadlines are missed, quality suffers and relationships are damaged. This is why when we strive to combine plans by finding common elements,  great things happen. It takes looking beyond your self and trusting in someone else to achieve great things.

“A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.” Proverbs 21:2

Have you ever thought what influences you and your decisions? I remind our kids, every so often, of the order of life’s priorities that we used to say when they were small – God, family and everyone else. Tell a teenager that he or she doesn’t come first and wait for the emotions. However, for us, this worked well when friends were becoming a problem but it also helped keep things in perspective for them. We don’t stop and consciously ask ourselves what would God like us to do; although He wouldn’t mind, but our minds consider it as we process decisions if we have put God’s word in there.

A person thinks that they are right; it’s their plan after all so why consider what God thinks. If He wants it changed, He can just change it – right? Hopefully by now you know that isn’t how God works. However, if you have let Him into your heart and into your mind, He will weigh your heart with His words and the examples given to us by our Savior Jesus. We have free will but if we’re in a relationship with God, He will influence our decisions and keep a little calm in our lives. Sure bad things will still happen but we will react to them with much less anxiety that it won’t seem as bad. God has already weighed your heart with great wisdom; simply follow His lead.