Perspective

Zig Ziglar once said, “You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.” I wonder how Zig would feel today, eight months into a pandemic? A lot can be said about having a positive attitude. I’ve written before about my wife’s unbelievably positive spirit. I only wish that it would rub off on me – she does too. Last week our daughter pointed out to me, “you’re really crabby lately so I don’t know how you’ll react.” I responded by telling her to get used to it because I’m not getting younger. We laughed. I have no doubt that its true, but it still made me think about positive attitudes and how they are truly contagious. 

I know what happens in the workplace when people are positive and how that energy fuels a team to excellence. In today’s world, it is hard to stay positive. I’m not the type to simply ignore what is happening all around me and tell myself that “it isn’t as bad as everyone says” or not take a look down the road for the long-term consequences of actions occurring today; that’s just years of consequence management training taking over. I’m learning that the key is not to focus on those things but direct my energies into things that do matter. I’ve not mastered it yet, but this is the time of the year to be joyful so that should help. Having a positive attitude can certainly make a big difference in how it affects your day to day personality. Face each day with the right mindset and you’ll enjoy the best life has to offer. I know I need to try harder.

“And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” – Romans 10:15

The difficulty with understanding this verse is knowing whether or not you were sent to preach. We are commanded to “go and make disciples of all men and nations”. I’d suggest that this single verse tells us that we are sent to preach. Bringing good news can come in many forms, passing out water to the homeless on hot days, distributing flyers about upcoming church events, witnessing to the lost and having a positive outlook on life are just a few. The good news of being positive can simply be found in the act of having a positive attitude. 

People can look to you as the example of positive thinking and modeling the way of the Lord. When they finally come to realize where you get your strength from, you will have the courage to profess your faith openly. When people ask about your positive outlook and attitude, you can tell them you have no fears or worries because of our savior Jesus Christ. I speak from experience when I tell you that this is easier said than done. I have so many blessings that I have no reason be negative, but I find myself there more often than I’d like. For me, it just another reminder that I need God’s help and guidance to keep pressing onward.

Expectations

“What do you want from me?” A phrase often uttered in anger between two people in a relationship. When I speak to Boards or Councils about their relationship with their CEO or when I coach supervisors, I always discuss setting expectations. If they do this often enough, they will prevent disappointment by both parties, and it will allow people to function without constant direction. Telling people what you expect of them is often the best way to meet your shared goals. My wife often says, “I can’t read your mind!” This is another form of missed expectations. I’ve written before about what we call the “order model” in emergency communications. Instead of just saying “copy” when given an order over the radio, the model requires that the message be repeated back to the sender to ensure complete understanding. It works well in high stress situations. The problem with low stress communications, the ones we have 99% of the time in our lives, is that it often misses the mark. 

How many times have you spend time in what feels like a circular conversation before you finally realize what you both of you are actually talking about? Usually both people assume they know but when they start asking questions, they realize that they aren’t at all on the same page. The order model would have helped but it sure would make for a long conversation. The bottom line is that we all need to work on explaining what we want or what we need no matter what role we are playing in our lives – spouse, child, co-worker, supervisor, employee, neighbor, etc. If you find yourself wanting to ask someone, “what do you want from me?” remember that you are half to blame for not knowing the answer. Be humble, be courteous and be direct in your exchange of needs. The results will be peaceful.

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

When I read the Old Testament, I am amazed by how simply things were being explained to God’s children. I guess It’s easy to think it simply because we know how the story ends. We know that God sent His Son to die for our sins and that we have been forgiven of our sins because of God’s grace. The readers of Micah did not. They ask, “What does the Lord require of you?” We all know the answer to that question – now. The readers at the time had no idea. I could close here by simply saying, “We know what the Lord requires, faith in Jesus as our Savior.” Too easy, right?

The wisdom that follows the question in Micah is what we should be concentrating on. “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God”. Now there is some good advice! In today’s world we hear little about mercy, we hear little about humility and we rarely see people acting justly. At this moment in time, the U.S. is ideologically more divided than ever and things like humility and mercy are left for the “snowflakes”. I’m not taking shots at the left or the right in the U.S. political debate; I’m simply saying that the words of Micah should be very meaningful right now as way forward in our quest of unity and healing. 

Good Disciples

“If you hold to my teachings you are already my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31b-32.

I know what you’re thinking; this is not how he usually writes these! Scripture first? I needed to mix things up a little this week.

What did Jesus mean when he said “you are already my disciples”? What is a disciple anyway? A disciple is someone who is a follower; someone who believes and helps spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Jesus told us that if we “hold to my teachings” we are already His disciples. Holding to His teachings is Jesus’ way of telling us to grow in our faith so that we can overcome the pressures and troubles that we face every day in our lives. The Holy Spirit is in us and we should be in the Word every day; studying it, praying over it and obeying it. 

According to Scripture, being a Christian disciple means that we should do these things: 

  1.  Our attention should be on our Lord and pleasing Him in every thing that we do. You can ask yourself, would Jesus like me to say this, do that or think those thoughts about someone? 
  2.  Jesus was the perfect example for us to follow because He lived His life perfectly. 
  3.  Our job is to believe in Jesus Christ, and if we do, the Holy Spirit will produce the fruit in us. This fruit will bring change to our lives as we grow closer to God our Father. We’ll have better thoughts, words and actions that will make Jesus smile. 
  4.  We are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love is all about actions. We should be thinking more about other people than we do about ourselves. 
  5.  We are to share our faith and tell nonbelievers about the wonderful changes Jesus Christ has made in our lives. Sometimes we think that we can’t do it or that we might say the wrong thing. Remember, you have the fruit of the Holy Spirit growing in you and it makes a big difference. 

This is the time of year that people are open to hearing about Jesus. Have you considered bringing your family or a friend to church with you? Think of it like when they come, they get a little bit of God on them each time. The more times they come, the more of God and the Holy Spirit they get on them and the closer they grow to God. Shouldn’t everyone be covered in the love of God? The last line of our verse is “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” We know the good news of our savior Jesus Christ. We are free from sin because Jesus took them all to the cross with Him. We will have eternal life because of our faith in Him. We are free in the truth of Jesus Christ and our job, no matter how old we are, is to be good disciples and make disciples of others. Try to get everyone you know covered in God!

Hope and Compassion

I have to admit that I waited until yesterday afternoon to finish this week’s devotion. I was waiting for the election results. I had intended to right about hope and compassion this week regardless of the outcome, I just had two completely opposite openings to navigate. Then, while I sat down to write, I changed my perspective. For some people, Presidential Elections represent either hope or despair and no other options. Presidents come and go but it is the spirit of America that keeps us moving forward through this life. The outcome of local elections affects our lives far more than who the President is; we drive the streets and use the parks of our cities and towns every day. I can’t forget about the quality of our public safety services that are impacted by decisions made at the local level. If hope is on your mind today because of the election (either lack of or more of) then I challenge you to think deeper about the word hope.

Compassion on the other hand should always be on your mind. How can we care for each other or love thy neighbor without compassion? We care for our kids and our parents because we have compassion. I think that as a society, we are about to learn how important compassion is in the coming months. As the pandemic surges worldwide and the global economy remains bloody, thousands of people will begin the eviction process because they have not been working and have been unable to pay the rent. What will happen to them? Will they find hope and compassion? 

Love thy neighbor is a powerful challenge. I believe that most parents will always be there for their kids and that their compassion for their kids will never fail. Hope and compassion can be found in almost everything we do. Hope is found in the love of our Heavenly Father who also shows us that His compassions will never fail. Look around your life and you too will see God’s love all around you; and that should give you hope this week. 

21Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

The United States elected its next President this past week – ALL WEEK long. The world has been watching our unique democratic system in action for more than a year. If you are reading this and live outside of the US, be thankful! For the rest of us, we’ve been suffering through one of the most painful election cycles in modern times. Many people are excited about the outcome and many are not. Some may not even stop after the votes have been counted. Please pray for us!

There are people in our lives who have struggles each day. A sick loved one, a family member who has passed, or other problems that can overwhelm us as individuals. It is easy to lose hope and get lost in despair. Take comfort in the verse today “therefore I have hope: 22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” God’s compassions never fail! As humans, we want our answers or our solutions right now. We tell ourselves that we don’t have time to wait and can’t understand why God doesn’t get that. We are being reminded that God’s compassions are “new every morning”. So, no matter what the outcome of the election is or what the test results say or what happens in our lives; we will not be consumed! God loves each and every one of us. Go forth this week in peace.

Why Bother?

“Why do I even bother?” It seems that I’m asking myself this question a lot these days. Why vote? Why speak up? Why do I care? Does my opinion really matter? We all ask ourselves these questions from time to time. I wish I had an answer to why we ask them. It seems to me that we are programmed to care about many of things in this world, even the things that have no direct impact on us. I suppose this is where compassion lives – we care. When we care, it matters to us. Our ability to influence the outcome is another story altogether but we still care and can get frustrated when we try to help and get no response. We’ll vote in the elections tomorrow and if our candidate isn’t elected, we’ll get frustrated and say, “Why bother?” 

Imagine for a moment though, no one cared. If it didn’t immediately affect them, they ignored it. People being directly affected by discrimination started civil rights movements but it was people who cared enough to help that made a difference. You can see where change has taken place across the planet and there were always people willing to do something to make that change possible. This door swings both ways – good and evil are accomplished by people willing to take action. The good news is that the good has far out numbered the evil. So what motivates you? Perhaps it’s music or reading or maybe even a special person. Knowing what it is will help and then keep it close to you when doubt creeps in. Staying positive is often easier said than done but you never know when or if you will be someone else’s inspiration. 

16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I can’t even begin to imagine if God had given up on us. We were terrible children who won’t or couldn’t obey His simple commands and requests. We grew impatient waiting, we ignored Him and when He did send us a savior, we turned away and then killed Him. But God was patient and knew us better than we knew ourselves. He let His plan unfold and now there are millions of Christians in this world and millions more now have eternal life because of Jesus. We are encouraged because we have faith in the Word of God.

We often hear that we should be looking for the silver lining in everything. Honestly, it is hard to find good in so much of the bad that is going on in this world. God tells us to encourage our hearts and be strengthened in good deed and word. The best place to find these is in the bible. We will never know the real purpose of him but we know the real promises of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. The devil does bad things to get us to turn away from God and our best defense against evil is turning toward God. Seek Him in everything and you will find encouragement and strength.

Reformation

I never really understood how the modern day churches came into existence until I became a Lutheran. There have been a lot of books, television shows and even a couple of movies written about the Reformation and a man named Martin Luther. The history behind the different “versions” of the Lutheran Church is also very interesting to read about. I don’t want to engage in a discussion about the differences between the various churches in existence today except to say that, the world of religion would not be the same if it were not for Martin Luther. Saturday October 31st is Reformation Day. It commemorates the posting of Martin Luther’s 95 theses’ on the doors of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg Germany in 1517. Martin Luther was a Catholic Priest who was translating the bible from Latin into German when he started to truly understand what the bible messages were. Martin Luther began sharing the Word of God with lay people for the first time in history. Until him, only the Priests of the Catholic Church were reading the bible and selecting the verses to be shared.

One of his strongest positions was on the practice that freedom from God’s punishment for sin could be bought with money. He became an outlaw under Emperor Charles V and was eventually excommunicated by Pope Leo X in 1520. Martin Luther gave the Bible to the people and began teaching that the Bible was the only source of God’s Word. His “freeing” of the Bible into everyone’s hands became the birth of all Christian religions we know today. Martin Luther was also very antagonistic toward those of Jewish faith and believed in a very strict interpretation of the teachings of the bible. No matter what denomination you worship in, if you are reading the Bible, you have Martin Luther to thank. Celebrate Reformation Day!

“ 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” Romans 3:20-26, 28

These verses show us where Martin Luther’s mind was at in 1517. The practice until then was for people to pay the church to forgive their sins and that it was only the Priests that could forgive sins. As a former Catholic, I remember going to confessional, telling my sins to the Priest and being forgiven after I recited prayers to God or the Virgin Mary. Confession of sin is still a paramount tenet of Protestant religions and we should do so without hesitation. The key that Martin Luther wanted us to know is that we can speak directly to God about our sins and that they are forgiven because we have all been justified by God’s grace alone. No special payments, no works, no special prayers; just God’s grace and love is what has saved us.

Celebrate the Trials

It seems that everywhere I look these days; someone I know is living through some hardship. There always seems to be a new cancer diagnosis or new medical condition afflicting someone I know. Much of it is related to me getting older but more of it is simply becoming common place. People faced with these types of challenges or even a serious personal medical diagnosis; often begin to question God and the purpose of these trials. It is an easy path to go towards. How could God let this happen? It is a question we always seem to hear after a horrific tragedy, like the Las Vegas shooting event in 2017. What we rarely hear about are all of the people who were saved that day. 

No one asked the question, why were they spared? Over time, these circumstances may reveal why it happened but they may not. I knew a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer at least four different times in her life. She fought each time and won. She became an inspiration to a number of people; they could use her example to boost themselves or people they knew when cancer struck another home. 

Our attitude and outlook are based on our reaction to the circumstances presented not on the circumstances themselves. We are in control of our attitude and focusing on that, instead of the meaning or reason, is what allows us to inspire others.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-8

I have written on a number of occasions that we WILL have trials. We see this repeated in the bible. This verse in First Peter is very revealing. I first saw verse 8 and thought about writing about faith as expressed in our not seeing Jesus Christ or God. However, the verses before and after are more inspiring. We will have trials, our faith is to be strengthened by them and as a result, we will have salvation. These trials are a result of our sin, started in the very beginning, and continuing throughout our lives. 

We sin daily; its our nature. God sent His Son to live the perfect life – free from Sin, so that we may have eternal life through Him. Lets not let the trials of this life get in the way of our eternal life. God’s trials will test our faith but we should not let that diminish our belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Anger is a human reaction to negative circumstances but it doesn’t produce a single positive outcome. Turn to God for understanding, comfort and most of all, LOVE. God loves you and while it isn’t how we would show love; we aren’t Him. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. Our Father loves us; never forget that.

Start with the End in Mind

Do you start your workweek with a plan? How about the workday? Planning is easy for some people and then there are those who struggle to get out the front door on time each day. The concept of “planning” can be used for short-term things like the best way to drive to work or for long-term projects like building a house or starting a business. Whichever you are doing, a plan always starts with the end in mind. What is it you want to do or accomplish? Some authors call that the vision but “the end” is as simple as knowing what you are planning for. The best analogy is taking a car trip. We start by knowing where we want to go and then we look for routes to get us there. Along the way we look for cities or towns where we can stop for fuel or grab something to eat. Longer trips require us to look for a place to spend the night. 

Whether you are doing long or short range planning, the process is virtually the same. Write down your goal or the end and work out a route to get there. Whether you are seeking personal growth planning or directing the work of a team, route the course to get to the end. Write down your goal and the steps (course) to get there. Share it with the members of your work team or for those personal goals; share them with close friends to make it more meaningful and to get support from those who might help along the way. Consider them your “reservations” for points along the way. You will need support to achieve your goals and a good plan will make the path that you take a little more direct.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3

I have written before about God’s plan for us. If we let God direct our lives, we cannot fail and we’ll bring glory to Him. Letting God direct our lives sounds like He’d be our personal Google Maps and He chooses the path for us. Like Maps, we can choose to ignore the directions but it is always easier to just let the App tell us where to go.  While this might be easier, its not what God wants for us. He wants us to enjoy our lives, love our neighbors and most of all, He wants us to be faithful to Him – Commit to the Lord. 

If we work with the goal of being faithful to God, doing what He commands, sharing the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ, how can we go off course? God loves us and sent His Son to die for our sins so that we may live with Him in Glory for all of eternity. The irony of eternal life is that there is no end. Our lives here on earth will end, so we must make plans to Glorify God in whatever we do. At work, be honest, work hard, be obedient and support those around you. In your life you can bring Glory to God through regular worship, bible study, Christian fellowship and supporting your fellow man. When your walk in life is in step with God’s, your plans will succeed because your goals are the same – sharing eternity with each other.

You are cared for

These are uncertain times for sure. There is a global pandemic, people of losing their jobs and the U.S. election isn’t making anyone feel great about the future. How are you feeling right now? My guess is that you’re anxious, nervous, both or maybe just weird. I’ve been hearing describe this period of our lives as just weird. they’ve been tough. If you’ve weathered the storm thus far, someone has continued to provide for you. Even though paychecks have been flat, or hours are reduced, or there’s been no overtime to supply the extra buffer of cash you counted on; you have still been provided for. It’s hard to think positively when the past few months have been a struggle.
Think about what makes you happy at home and at work and focus on those things. Many people “re-invented” themselves in the early 2010’s when a job loss forced it. What do you want to do? Is there something that you’ve always dreamed of doing? Now may be the time to do it. The world that we knew has changed and doors will open for people in a lot of unusual ways, they just don’t see it. We can seek opportunities to expand our experiences by offering to help our bosses with their projects. If you feel “stuck” in your job with no hope, look outside of your current position or field for a new future. They say it’s always easier to find a job when you have one. If you are without one or are “underemployed”, follow your passion!
“…God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19
So many people think that they are in control of their destiny and that if THEY don’t do things it won’t happen. As Jesus would say “Those Fools!” God has said throughout the bible that He has the plans and that they are not for us to know. He also promises to meet all of our needs and this verse from Paul is another reminder. He reminds the Philippians that God will meet their needs. What God doesn’t promise is that he’ll meet the needs that WE desire.
We have to remember that what we need to sustain us here in this life is NOT the same as what we need to sustain ourselves for eternity. Paul reminds the Philippians (and us) that we need the riches of Christ Jesus, our savior. God wants us to be content in this life and he wants us to keep our focus on Him, not our happiness. If you are down about the current situation in your life, send your cares to God through prayer. He didn’t finish His work when He raised up Jesus from death; He was just beginning His work. He continues to tell us where to focus our lives. Live to His glory and He will meet all of your needs.

Love, a gift from above

In what will be a huge shock to my wife, today I’m going to write about something very personal. Yesterday, we celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary. What can you say to someone who you’ve spent over half your life with? There are no gifts or no greeting cards that could ever express the emotions that you feel when you slow down to think about the amazing people in your life. You don’t get to choose your family but your spouse… Some people have not been as blessed as we have been in finding a true match or a true partner for life. Sure, there are ups and downs but all in all, we’ve been blessed to have each other. What kind of a gift do you give to a person like that? You tell the world! Since these devotions reach around the world, that is exactly what I’m doing; tell the world how much I love my wife.

I’m not one to be serious for long, I keep finding ways to lighten the mood – so here you go: As I wrote the last sentence in the last paragraph, I thought that people are going to think that I did something horrible and this is how I’m being punished; a grand gesture because I was a complete jerk. It’s true that I can be a jerk at times, but this is written purely from the heart. We regularly celebrate what a great team we are, how we support each other (her supporting me more) but we constantly work hard at it. People ask, what is the secret? The answer is complicated to do but basically simple, keep your spouse in mind – always. This is the foundation of teamwork, putting the team ahead of your own desires or ambitions. We have always cared for each other, even when the kids were small. We knew we were stronger together than we were apart. Today, our nest is empty and when people ask how it’s going, I always reply, “We still like each other after all these years so it’s going great”.

17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. 19My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:17-20

What a verse to describe your spouse – “Every good and perfect gift is from above…” As a couple, our path to faith was a winding road. I believe that the good and perfect gift of my spouse is truly a gift from above. We didn’t have “a moment” that brought us close to God, but we did have constant reminders that faith in God and the understanding of the love shown to us by our Father and His Son was important to our lives. God’s love was consistent and reliable, just as James is reminding us here. While there is great marriage advice in verses 19 and 20, it is also great advice for living in these turbulent times.

Verse 19 really needs to be repeated, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”. In a world that we often cannot tell fact from fiction, we must take time to seek the calm in the world, God wants us to be righteous and love one another. President Kennedy, in a commencement address he gave at Yale in 1962 said: “For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” As I have been blessed with great love in my life for 34 years, I hope that you choose love, truth and peace over hate, myths and anger so you can “produce the righteousness that God desires.” You can do it because Jesus is beside you all of the way.