Consistency over Change

They say that the only thing that is consistent about our world today is that change will happen. Cell phone plans are changing, the world stock markets have been changing (hourly) and our access to information can change our point of view in an instant. I can’t take credit for creating it but I’ve been repeating a phrase for years about the fire service – we must be Semper Gumby; always flexible. It seems that things are changing so much that everyone must have a little Semper Gumby in them. How do you react to change? Are you a resister that has to be convinced that change is good or are you one of those people who jumps right on board with the change? There are a few people out there who are the objectors and will fight change right until the end. It’s important to know what role you play when change comes knocking.

The opposite of change is consistency. There is a lot to be said for being consistent; it can also lead to routine and ruts but lets stay positive. As a worker, a spouse, a family member or a supervisor, the people around us appreciate a little consistency. No one likes guessing which version of a person will show up from one day to the next. Consistent quality of your work is important too. When people can count on you to deliver consistent work products, you not only improve their lives but you raise your worth or value for to them. For as often as things can change, they can stay the same too. People say that history often repeats itself, which for me means, there is a little consistency out there. The specific names and places might be different but the circumstances are often the same. So, while things around us are changing at what appears to be a break-neck pace, know where you fall in the spectrum of change but also embrace the consistency of life to be that one person people can count on.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

This verse can become a great anchor point for our lives as we struggle with the constant changes around us. The world markets went on a wild ride this past week and people started worrying about the future. Thousands of people sold stock out of fear despite the warnings that the ride was temporary and was a needed adjustment. It was almost the example of quitting when things got bad. Do you cut and run when things get bad? The devil would like you to do that; turn from God and take matters into your own hands. If we turn away when things get bad and rely on our own ways and not God’s, we have taken the temptations of the devil.

We have consistency in God, through His Son Jesus, that we will be protected and have eternal life. There are no recounts in the bible of God’s love changing or of Jesus changing His ministry. Jesus remained consistent to the Prophet’s teachings right through His own death. God remained consistent with His desire to have His children close by Him and providing for their needs; even when His children disobeyed Him. God’s continued grace and mercy was given to us through His Son Jesus Christ, given to die for our sins, so that we may have consistency in an eternal life with Him. Sure, the world has changed over the thousands of years but God’s love has been consistent; we are free from sin and have eternal life through His son Jesus Christ.

Trouble Ahead

This past week seems to have brought news about a number of good people who have been diagnosed with cancer or another life threatening illness. I’m sure many of them are thinking, “why me?” In these circumstances, I can’t help but think about all of the people that I saw on their last day here on earth during my career. Some of them were expecting to die, others we saved because it wasn’t their time and for many others, they had no idea it was their last day. The old saying, “if you knew today was your last day, what would you do?” comes to mind. Personally, I don’t want to think about it, so we will move on.

I’m left to wonder, like so many others, why do bad things happen to good people? The guy who kills an entire family, including small children, gets life in prison but the faithful Christian woman who has spent her life serving others has only weeks to live following a cancer diagnosis. It doesn’t seem fair. Daily, we see examples of where life’s circumstances don’t seem fair and rotten people appear to get off “scot-free” in comparison. I would offer that “fair” is in the eye of the beholder. The concept of “fair” is found in the human condition of “keeping up with the Jones”. Life is about being content. You have what you have and that is okay. There will always be people who have more than you but there are also people who have less than you – in everything. Be content and in that moment, I bet you will find happiness. What if today was your last, do you want to happy and content or miserable and jealous? You can choose.

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:19

We find in a number of places throughout the bible that God never promises a trouble free life. I’ve written about this before and can go on about God’s plan for your life. This week I want to focus on the verse – “The righteous person may have many troubles”. If you believe that the bible is the word of God, given to us by Him, then you may also see how this is God telling us – “there will be troubles in your life”. According to this verse, some of us will have more troubles than others (many troubles). There is no avoiding it; we will have troubles. To what degree is left to God; just remember Job. God does not punish us with troubles, He uses them to prepare us for future opportunities or He uses us to prepare those around us.

The second half of this verse is critical to our Christian faith; “the Lord delivers him from them all”. This is our assurance that God will not abandon us in our time of need (or any other time). No matter what we face, God will deliver us from our troubles. Our human nature however, does not understand God’s time frame. We are not assured that He will deliver us immediately or to our satisfaction but He will deliver us. If today is your last day, you can be assured that God will deliver you eternal life because of your belief in Jesus Christ as your savior. If today is just another worry filled day on earth, rejoice in the fact that you are still here and that God is going to deliver you from all your worries. Keep sharing and believing in God’s power and rest easy knowing that Jesus has prepared the way for you. You just need to be content with the life you have.

Whatever Happens

It’s been interesting lately to watch people: how they drive, how they speak on TV, and how they act in public. It makes me wonder how they act around people they know or if they are different when they are around strangers. Back in the 80’s there was a “movement” called the “me generation”. It was said that the people of that era were more concerned about themselves than anyone else and that they didn’t care what effect they had on those around them. This was how the “looking out for number 1” mantra was born. If you were alive or can remember back then, it was not a pretty time in the US society. Today, people claim that the Millennial generation does just the same; looking out only for themselves.

Studies on the Millennial generation show something a little different. They want to do things that matter and make a difference. They are more concerned about social and environmental issues than most previous generations; they are compassionate and understanding. I would suggest that they have been labeled as self-centered because they want more out of life early. Millennials do not want to wait until later in life to travel or explore. They don’t believe that they should work themselves to death and ignore their families or friends. They have seen the tired and worn down late generation baby boomers and early generation Xers; they want more out of life.

Back to people watching, the ones who have been more selfish and uncaring about others around them tend to be the same tired and worn down generations who once believed in looking out for number 1. I guess that is why it has been so frustrating lately, the people who have been around for a while; those who have been working so steadily are the ones who act so entitled. People complain that living today is hard. I would offer that it isn’t any harder than any other time in history; the problems are just different. Where are you on this spectrum and what can you do to change?

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Philippians 1:27

I wonder if we could have “take backs” for all of the times that we acted poorly, how far back would the clock turn? How many years would we get back? The verse today speaks to me in two ways – behavior and response. Our behavior drives how people act around us. If we are careless or focused only on ourselves, people around us become frustrated; even to the point where they don’t want to be around us. Small things like paying attention to drivers around us on the road, looking out for neighbors or the neighborhood and, noticing the subtle changes in others are great ways to behave. This may help others see life from a different perspective and become contagious.

The other way I see this verse is through our response to events. “Whatever happens…” says to me that no matter what people say or do, act in way “worthy of the gospel”. This goes for our response to circumstances in our lives. When a medical diagnosis isn’t positive or life events hit hard, act in a way “worthy of the gospel”. Jesus didn’t complain when He was being mocked, He wasn’t “stressed out” when people wouldn’t leave him alone and He did not pity himself when He was tortured and hung on a cross to die. He conducted Himself just as honorably in His last days as He did in the first days. Leave self-pity behind when things are rough and turn your thoughts to God. He is here for us in the good and the bad times, so as St. Paul reminds us – “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

From the Tops of Mountains

Yesterday, I was telling my brother a story about my son. Greg has a hard time understanding “spending habits” and what the consequences of bad habits are. I explained that you can literally hear him think because what ever is going through his mind comes right of his mouth. We had a good laugh at the almost eighteen year old’s expense. In the US, we are suffering through the start of the Presidential campaign season for 2016. This is a time when we get to hear from anyone interested in running for President and many of them have the same “problem” that my son has; we get to hear them think out loud.

Most of us do not go around and speak everything that is on our mind – thank goodness. We hold some things back to spare someone else’s feelings or we continue to support a friend instead of telling them the direct truth because the truth is too painful. Good or should I say smart husbands never answer their wives honestly when they are asked, “do these jeans make my butt look big?” I would suggest that sooner or later we start forgetting what is true anymore or how to be truthful. We seem to be answering circumstances “technically true” rather than simply true. Take a minute and think about how you communicate, when do spare someone’s feelings and when are you just not being truthful. I’m not suggesting that we go around being brutally honest; there is a fine line between civility and cruelty. What is on your heart is revealed in your words. The devil is trying to change your heart by changing your words and thoughts; stay vigilant!

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:10

God put His stamp on each of us and it was Him that sent a savior into the world. No matter what God did to steer us in the right direction; we still failed to obey His commands. But God did not give up on human beings; His love for us was still stronger than His anger or disappointment. In our heart of hearts, we believe in God. Some people want to see signs (Thomas), some believe because of their upbringing, some are confident and others yet do not believe at all. The ability to believe or not is within us.

Our hearts and our beliefs have justified us with God; we are free from punishment of the Law. It is our profession of faith that makes the bigger statement; it is what is on our hearts. People can walk around believing but without outward profession of faith they fall short. Profess your faith and you will be saved is the straightforward message of this verse. Give thanks before meals, even in public. Tell co-workers and neighbors about your confidence in the love of God our Father when the answer fits. We often hear about people who would “go to the top of a mountain to profess their love for a spouse” but would they climb that mountain to profess their faith in God and salvation through Jesus? Would you? It is your belief in Jesus as your savior that you will be saved, don’t be afraid to share salvation with everyone.

True Friends

True friends will always tell you the truth. Our daughter knows that if she needs the clear facts about a subject to call me. If she needs someone to listen and be a good friend, she calls my wife. Not that I’m not a good listener, it’s just that I’m a little more direct and emphasize logic over emotion – just what all men do! So when a man has troubles that he is looking for another man to confide in, it is often a hard conversation for both of the friends. Its not that men are incapable, its just that we aren’t really wired that way, so emotional conversations are hard for us. Six years ago I was faced with the somewhat unexpected end of my fire service career. It wasn’t a planned retirement but my injury and subsequent surgery forced it on me. I had hoped to remain in a position that could use my mental abilities more than my physical ones.

I called a very good friend of mine and asked him to help me figure out what I was going to do for the rest of life. He offered a few suggestions that were not very appealing and he suggested that I teach fire services classes and share what I had learned in my 27 years on the job. My reply to his suggestion was that “I didn’t want to be that old retired guy who was hanging around just to teach”. As only a good friend could say, my very good friend said “I hate to break it to you, but that is what you are – a retired guy.” I was floored by his brutally honest answer. After the sting cooled, I realized that he was absolutely correct. I stopped worrying, began praying and started planning. Now six years later, I can easily say that I’ve never worried about being that old retired guy and I’ve worked hard to create a whole new path for my “second career’, mostly by letting God work His plan. I will always be grateful for my friend’s honesty and candor.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Proverbs 27:6

I hope that it’s obvious how this verse hit me after reading it. There are a number of sayings about friends but the one that hits close to this verse is “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. False promises, false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and justifying sin are all around us these days. CS Lewis wrote a book titled “The Screwtape Letters” based on the fictional exchange of letters between two of the devils workmen – one was Uncle Screwtape. It is a fascinating point of view to look at our lives from the devil’s perspective (what can be perceived anyway).

The devil works all around us, each and every day, trying to get us to quit on God. He tempts us with perceived power, daily riches bought through sin, inattention to our relationship with God or simply getting in the way of us being with God. These are the kisses noted in Proverbs. These kisses are the distractions or the seduction of this life that we can easily get caught in. Sure, being good is hard and God doesn’t make our lives easier (for our own good) so a relationship with Him causes us both pain and offers joy (wounds). Our enemy (the devil) makes it all seem so simple that it can be easy to let God slide a little farther from your heart. Don’t be fooled! Like any friendship, it takes work but a relationship with God has eternal implications – eternal life with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. It’s the kind of relationship that you can only have with a true friend.