Martin Luther King Jr

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I have to admit that I never really understood what he did and what was happening at that time in our history until I started attending presentations about his life. One of the local senior groups hosts a wonderful tribute to a great man. I have come to understand more than the civil rights fight that he undertook. The fight for civil rights is still not over as we witnessed this past summer during the unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd and so many others. Dr. King wouldn’t accept the status quo; he wouldn’t back down against great pressure nor would he compromise his beliefs. He spoke all around the world to, what is reported as, millions of people with a simple message – we are all one people. 

Violence even tried to take over our government as people used it to solve their differences or solve their conflicts. Martin Luther King Jr. fought against violence and took a stand to resolve the differences in a non-violent way though not everyone supported that strategy. His speeches were moving and his understanding of the issues was extraordinary yet many agree his work remains unfinished. He used his talents to change the world. Most of us will never reach the stature of Dr. King but we can have a huge impact on the world around us. Each of us has God given talents that we can use to impact those in our lives. Sometimes people are in our lives for a brief moment, like in line at the grocery store and others are people we’ve known for years but we have the opportunity to model the same beliefs that Dr. King did, good Christian values. 

“For in Him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge…” 1 Corinthians 1:5

I written before a friend who felt he had done things in his life and that he didn’t feel “right with God yet and as long as I’m not right with Him, I can’t be right with anyone”. I used this obvious opportunity to remind him about our savior, Christ Jesus. I reminded him that he was already “right with God” because of what Jesus did for us Easter weekend.  

1 Corinthians 1:7-9 goes on to say 7Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gifts as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” We lack nothing; there is nothing we can do or must do to be “right with God”. He knew our weaknesses long before we did and sent us a savior so we could enjoy eternal life with Him. God decided we were worth it long before we could do anything to prove it to Him. So, what does this have to do with Martin Luther King Jr? If we lack nothing, stand up and speak out about the issues that matter. Have the courage to speak when someone doubts their faith, be courageous in fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves, in a non-violent way. Martin Luther King Jr said these two inspiring things that require courage, the kind of courage that God has given you: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people” AND “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.

Nowhere to Turn

What a week! There are hundreds of adjectives that could follow in describing a week like this in America. There are also several emotions that emerge from the events we saw this week. People have said, “I feel lost and have nowhere to turn!” Many times they are just frustrated by what is happening at that moment and things aren’t as bad as they think. There are times however, when things are truly bad. Is this one of those times? Honestly, I don’t know. I was introduced to the military contracting world by a man named Todd who helped me make connections with people that would change the course of my life. I’ll never forget the Saturday phone call we had when he described the turmoil in his life. His ex-wife had burned down his house, his older sons were doubtful of their mother’s involvement which was creating conflict and his truck was broken into and some of his belongings were stolen. As we talked, he kept referring to the strength of Job and all of his troubles. Neither Job nor my friend lost faith. 

During my career in the fire service, I saw people’s lives changed in the blink of an eye. This week, our faith in political leaders changed, our confidence in “freedom” was shaken and our future became that much more uncertain. However, it’s not just this week that causes people to fear the future; daily struggles still exist for many people – medical conditions, financial issues, workplace stresses and relationships. It is how we deal with these problems that is key to our happiness. Unfortunately, some people turn to substance abuse to escape, while others turn to friends or family for help. Healthy choices have long-term effects. The others only ease the pain temporarily and then pile on more problems for later. If you are struggling or know someone who is, seek long-term answers because your problems are, in the grand scheme of things, short-term. 

20 “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:20-21

When I first started planning this devotional, I was looking only at verse 21. It is easy to write about listening to the voice that says, “This is the way”. However, it is important to remember that God also brings adversity and affliction. It sounds crazy to think that God brings these bad things to us but we must remember, “Everything happens for a reason”. Sometimes they build strength for what is yet to come, other times they provide you wisdom to advise someone else later in life. In some cases, God is using you as an example of faith for others to see – a living witness. 

We are reminded that no matter what ‘bad thing” is happening to us, “your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Much like you must open the door when opportunity knocks, you must be ready to hear God’s voice. He won’t necessarily speak directly to you or send an Angel in your dreams, but wouldn’t that be awesome! God uses all of us in different ways to send His messages. It was my new friend, who was experiencing far worse things than I was, that was sending me the message that my future was going to be okay. The day we spoke was transformational for me. Looking back, I know that it was God telling me that, “This was the way”. Keep listening!

Happy New Year???

My mind was all over the place in preparation for writing the first post of the new year. I went back and looked at old posts to see what I’ve written about – optimism, goal setting, new beginnings and the like. It just didn’t feel right for 2021. We all agree that this year HAS to be better than 2020 but if anything taught us to be pessimistic, it was 2020. No matter what corner we turned, another twist came. I normally would have said “another shoe would drop” but it seemed to be raining shoes last year.  There is no reason to believe that we shouldn’t be filled with hope as we start this new year but 2020 was like an anchor.

So, let’s start 2021 with a reminder that we are free! We celebrated the birth of a Savior in the last 10 days and right now is the time to celebrate the birth of our freedom through faith. We should toss the shackles of 2020, break the chains of pessimism and celebrate the things we have right in front of us; we are no longer bound by our sins. While many of us will make (and break) New Year’s resolutions to improve something in our lives; start this new year knowing that you are free from sin. What do you mean, you ask? This is all best explained in St Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The verses prior to these explain the meaning of and importance of God’s Laws.

23 “Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:23-29

Knowing this, you can be confident in yourself as you boldly go into 2021 and all that it will offer. Be sure to celebrate all the small victories, accomplishments and the good days. You are not being punished for your sins, you are being protected by God’s love, grace and mercy; your sins are forgiven! Have a Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays?

I hope that you enjoyed a safe and very Merry Christmas holiday weekend. Some enjoyed the extended weekend while others returned to work on Saturday and continued their labors. If you are like me, you NEEDED the joy that Christmas brings at this time of the year. In a few days we will close the book on the year 2020 and not a minute too soon! Unfortunately, the first day of 2021 will not feel any different than today – we are still in the midst of a pandemic after all.

Let’s celebrate anyway and remember the good news of our lifetime – the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. This particular reading of the bible at Christmas time always moves me and I enjoy sharing it. I have no analogy to add and no wisdom to share; I thought that I would let the word of God stand alone and reach everyone in its own way. Please have a safe New Year’s Eve and may God bless your 2021.

God’s Love and Ours 

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 

13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1John 4:7-16

Merry Christmas!

This week we celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Much has been written about the circumstances leading to His birth, so I wanted to point out the significance of this particular birthday celebration. This year has challenged us like no other in a century. Each one of us has struggled at one point or another or constantly struggled in some cases, but God’s love has never dulled. 

I find great inspiration in the writings of St. Paul. His letters from 2000 years ago apply to our lives today. I hope you will find inspiration in this letter to the Ephesians that reminds us about the gifts that we received for the birth of Jesus. Merry Christmas!

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” 

15For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Ephesians 1:3-10, 15-23

Your Place in This Life

They say that this is the time of year that people are open to a suggestion to attend church. People are often searching for the meaning of their lives at this time of year. I’d imagine that it has something to do another year going by or people talking about family but maybe, just maybe, people are realizing that this time of year is about Jesus. For those that don’t know God, this can be a confusing time. For those that are questioning God’s role in this crazy world, this can be a time of turmoil in their hearts. For those that are lost, this can be a time of opportunity. So what time is it for you?

We should consider our own place in life as it relates to our faith in Jesus Christ and to God our Father. We are often reminded in the bible that Jesus knew what people were thinking and He often responded to them without a question ever being asked. God knows what we are thinking too. We need to have a conversation with Him about our fears and our joys. God will bring peace. This is the time of year when we really need to remember that Jesus was, by God’s grace, a gift of peace to the world. We now have the opportunity to share in eternal life with our faith in Jesus Christ. That is something to start celebrating.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.” Isaiah 40:28

They also say that this is the time of year that results in more stress related illnesses than any other time. Can you imagine hearing complaints and requests from 100 people? If that isn’t a recipe for stress, I don’t know what is. Take these 100 people and multiply them by millions or billions and that is the workload of God our Father. The amazing thing is that He isn’t fazed by it in the least. 

“The Creator of the ends of the earth” has more power than we can imagine, even in our wildest dreams. God is pleased when we call out to Him for help, seek His guidance or simply to say thank you. He has the patience to work with us because He loves us and wants to be close to us. “He will not grow tired or weary”. We were made in His image and He wants us to be just like Him – not tired or weary but strong and full of love. Send your cares, fears, worries, concerns, anger and thanks to Him because “His understanding no one can fathom”. We have no ability to understand how He can do it and why He wants to do it but we can be assured that His love for us is greater than we can imagine too. Take care of yourself with good food, good love, good sleep, good times, good prayer and the greatness of God. 

Something to Celebrate

As we come into this week, we are only a couple of weeks away from celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I thought a little deviation from the normal format would be okay. This time of year can be stressful and overwhelming. Presents to buy, parties and dinners to attend and, family gatherings to celebrate the holiday. We put up our decorations this week and my wife and I were reminiscing about our traditions of the past, many of which are slowly fading. We no longer have piles of presents for each kid under the tree and we don’t have to set up the video camera to tape Christmas morning reactions. We enjoy our life as empty nesters with adult children. But in the end, we all need to be reminded of the “reason for the season” and who better to tell the story than God Himself. St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, inspired by God, reminds us of the true celebration. 

Ephesians 1:3-14: “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

So, why celebrate at this time of year? We celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior and we celebrate this gift from God. Sure, this time of year can be overwhelming and stressful, but God never said it was going to be easy – this year particularly! Take that stress out of your life and imagine the presents are for Jesus and that the parties and family gatherings are to celebrate Jesus’ birthday because – they are. 

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!