If you can?

I haven’t been home for longer than six straight days since January 10th. I’m currently “out of town” again but will be at my present location for longer than I’ve been in any one place all year. To say I’m exhausted is an understatement! I love the work that I do and the people that I work with; otherwise this would be a huge emotional anchor. It is an honor to serve my community and my nation. Everyone I know asks me how I handle doing both, living in hotels all of this time and flying so much. Honestly, I’m not sure but I know a few things helped tremendously. I have an awesome family that is understanding and patient. My wife in particular, suffers the most (usually when I’m home). I’m sure she misses me simply being present in the moment.

To add insult to injury, I’ve been sick with one infection after another (or the same one that never left) making me tired and boring to be around. I managed to get it all done because of the teams that exist in my life – spouse, work, council, friends and church. If everything is possible, what would you do? Is there something holding you back from going after a dream or the next step in your career or life? Having the confidence that I was protected by my faith is what I believe allows me to keep pushing. There are no boundaries in your life if you have the right people in corner; starting with a strong faith in God’s power.

“’If you can?’” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23

I love imagining Jesus speaking to me directly when I read verses like this. We’re just sitting outside on the patio on a sunny afternoon with perfect temperatures. I, of course, say something that gets His attention and He replies, “If you can?” As if to say, “why wouldn’t you?” or “Why do you doubt yourself?” He will then begin to reassure me about all of things I’ve done so far and how God has been at work all of these years preparing me for this moment.

“If you can?” He says again. “Why can’t you? Give me one good reason why you can’t” He dares me. Of course, I have no good reason other than being afraid. He reminds me, “Everything is possible if you believe in the power, the grace and love of God.” God puts a team of people in your life to prepare you for just a time as this. I never imagined doing the things that I do at this point in my life but I’ve been preparing for it for years and I just didn’t know it. With God, everything is possible.

The Whole Point

Happy Easter Monday! For some reason this Easter really hit home for me from a “Christian Church” perspective. I’ve always known it, but I wanted to write about it this week because, Easter is really the point of our Christian faith. We say at Christmas that we should remember the reason for the reason, but Easter marks the reason for it all. As Christians, we have nothing without Easter Sunday. So, I’m going to write this week’s devotion a little, okay a lot, differently. I want to focus on the whole message of what the third day really represents. I want to share a prayer first:

Almighty God the Father, open our eyes to see hope eternal in the empty tomb and let us rejoice. Through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

St. Paul writes in a letter to the Corinthians about the resurrection of Christ Jesus. I have nothing to add this week but his words, which were divinely inspired by God. In this letter we see God’s grace; we see that no matter what we’ve done, we are forgiven and; we know that we have hope in our lives. 1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,5and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

I pray that you are reminded that God is with you and that Jesus died for all of our sins. It is because of His death that we now can enjoy eternal life.

The world around you

Today marks the start of Holy Week with 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 on earth. It is amazing to read that His disciples did not know what He was saying until it was too late. It makes 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 it is not for me to judge; that’s God’s call not mine. Do you really 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). He suggests that we act the same no matter who is around. I can also hear Jesus saying this to me right now. Re-read it 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 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.

Value Others

It seems as though I’ve been surrounded by people or circumstances that have revealed people genuine selfishness. Today’s world is filled with “I’ve got mine, too bad for you!” thinking. I have stayed away from political statements and hope to do that today but the American debate about healthcare and wealth is right at the heart of this. “I’ve got mine, too bad you didn’t work hard enough for yours” or “why should I pay for that?” I’m not suggesting socialism but I’m wondering if there isn’t a better way than “so sad, too bad”? Several months ago, I wrote about One Human Family and this is right back to that concept.

We are nearing Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from dead and the forgiveness of all of our sins through the sacrifice of God’s Son. He lived a perfect life but understood that his sacrifice was necessary to save us all from eternal damnation. Jesus certainly had His but He shared it so everyone could live an eternal life with God, our Father. I know that there are many who will say that it isn’t the same but is it really different? The beginning of the second chapter of Philippians is titled “Imitating Christ’s Humility”. St. Paul saw this in the people of the Church in Phillipe and it still stands today. Perhaps instead of labeling each other and picking sides we should be looking for solutions to the problems that exist today. Isn’t this what God wanted for us anyway?

3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

Through Paul, God is telling us to care for each other. It seems pretty clear to me. How can we run around with an “I’ve got mine” mentality when so many people need help? Obviously, there are limits but what are they? I don’t have answers to any of these, just more questions. If we build systems and processes that help people help themselves then haven’t, we done what God was commanding?

Later on his letter, St. Paul writes: 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). I think God wants us to figure this out. I do know that name-calling, labeling and picking sides isn’t getting us any closer to a solution and neither is doing nothing. We will revisit this verse again next week as we get ready for Easter. I promise there will be no political commentary, but I do ask for us all to consider what these things all mean as celebrate our risen Savior, Jesus.

Have no Doubt

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 when we were faced with dilemmas. When our daughter was little, we took her to see a live character performance. She had gotten sick about half way through it so 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 people.

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. As children we were encouraged to write to Santa 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. As employees, we have needs or desires for our careers or our professional development. If we don’t share them with our supervisors, we will never fulfill our dreams or reach what 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

Asking a venue manager for tickets to a show is not the same as asking 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 hard to understand that what God believes to best for you is not always what you believe is best for you. Ask God in confidence; He answers prayers. God also likes to hear praise and thanks for the things in your life. While He might know what you’re thinking, it doesn’t hurt to actually acknowledge God’s role in your life.

In this verse we are reminded that when we doubt God’s power, our lives will be churned like the sea. Again, I’ll say, 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 we should have faith in Him. 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 also tells us to turn to Him always in prayer. The stronger that your faith in Him is, the easier it is for you to see Him at work in your life. You will never doubt again.