Extra Grace Required

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 shake it. My mother used to jokingly say: “if everyone were perfect like us, we wouldn’t 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 or stop being engaged at work or socially; so most of us just give them a little grace and move on. We will display our grace in justifying the behavior of the person by saying, “oh, that’s just Bill”. We are giving grace.

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 key 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 would say, “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 has shown us such 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 loves us.

For me, little else is needed to define what God’s grace really means. God send 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 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.

 

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Reap what you sow

I was in Washington DC this past week to learn about solutions to problems facing our cities and town. We also spent time on Capital Hill with our Congressional Delegation discussing issues that connect Washington DC with our city. I wasn’t 100% behind attending due to the simple lack of cooperation that both parties seem to have. I’ve been saying for years that we have 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 think of all of the wasted effort that has gone on for the past decade. There is no part of local governance that would survive the ineffective approach to leading found in DC.

The whole concept of politics is disgusting and yet, I’ve been re-elected to another term on City Council. I’ve been saying for years 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. 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! You will reap what you sow; let it be 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 looked around Washington DC, I felt the sense of people pleasing the flesh. In other bible versions “the flesh” is replaced with “sinful spirit” and right now, that’s a better fit for 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 death. This verse reminds us that if we are pleasing ourselves, we will reap destruction (earthly death).

However, if what we are reaping is pleasing to God, we will be rewarded with eternal life; an eternal life found through the sacrifice of Jesus. Verse 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’s nothing political 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 salvation, which is through Jesus Christ.

 

Plan, What Plan?

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 quite often. I recently read a great phrase that caught my attention – “When your heart is right with God, your ways will follow”. I started thinking about the other verses that describe how we will act when we have God in our heart and for me, that always comes back to who’s plan are you executing? I work with someone who doesn’t seem to understand how his actions create problems for others. The really sad part is that he doesn’t care how he affects others. He is very knowledgeable and well respected in our field, but he simply doesn’t care or doesn’t possess the emotional capacity to understand that he hurts people when all he does is think and act in his own best interests. If it’s not his way, then it’s no way. No matter who speaks to him or who no longer wants to work with again, he still goes his own way.

We all know the people we can joke with and those that are all business. We know who can take constructive criticism and who can’t, so we all take these things into consideration and carefully maneuver throughout our day. We’re executing your plan. But what happens when your plan doesn’t match with anyone else’s? Usually chaos or frustration. People are upset, deadlines are missed, quality suffers and relationships are damaged. This is why; working to combine plans by finding common elements is when great things happen. It takes looking beyond yourself 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 myself every so often, of the order of life priorities that we used to say to our kids 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. For us, this worked well when their friends were becoming a problem, but it also helped keep things in perspective. We don’t consciously stop and ask ourselves what God would like us to do; although He wouldn’t mind. Our brain would never consider it as we process decisions unless we put it 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 so that it won’t seem that bad. God has already weighed your heart with great wisdom; simply follow His lead.

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 completely different work places that I have – City Council and the U.S. Army. The idea is that it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s just not okay to repeat them. 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 refer to this as accountability but in reality, it’s just proof that old saying: “one oh no wipes out 10 atta boys” is true.

Instead of learning, moving on and excepting that mistakes happens, people won’t let it go. They keep punishing the person over and over ignoring that people change and learn. We all 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. The difference between learning and tolerance is that 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 the 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!”