True Friendship

I hate writing the phrase “politician” when I describe myself. Even though I hold a political office, I have never considered myself a politician – I’m a public servant. So, when we talk about people telling the truth, no one ever thinks about a politician being anywhere near even the top two-thirds of any list. I think that I’m pretty truthful and I know that I am fiercely loyal as a friend and co-worker. I’m also devastated when people break that trust with me. Unfortunately it happens, especially in politics. True friends on the other hand, will always tell you the truth and rarely let you down.

I’m the logical answer guy that you can call when you need help with a problem. I’ll always listen to the issue but 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 to share with a male friend, 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. True friends will always give you the hard truth, whether you want to hear it or not. We know what needs to be said and often we just say it regardless of the emotional fallout. This is why men and women fight so often in a relationship – logic vs. emotion. There is no answer to this problem but if you’re aware of it, maybe you can defuse a fight before it starts. In the end, men always appreciate honesty and friendship that they find in each other – no matter how painfully honest it can be.

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

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 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.

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Why is this happening?

This was a tragic weekend in the United States, two mass shootings and more than 30 people are dead. We still don’t know why and there are a number of people who trying to place blame. We don’t need to blame anyone; we need solutions to the problems that are causing these acts. There are not any simple, one size fits all, answers because these deep-seated causes have complicated solutions. What we really need are people to discuss this issue like rational human beings and work together to find solutions. But hey, who am I kidding? Rational human beings? Do any even exist?

So, we find ourselves asking, “why is the happening?” We never really understand why bad things happen to people or to us for that matter. Honestly, there are some people who seem to have a huge share of the “bad things” happening to them. It doesn’t have to be “mass shooting bad” for things to seem like they are piling up. It can be a bad medical diagnosis, or a credit card being declined, and the bad things start to pile up. Maybe it’s just your mind perceiving “bad things” and you get anxious about all things. Again, it doesn’t matter what the cause is, and the answer isn’t simple; it’s complicated. We’re human and prone to interference by the devil who likes to mess with our thoughts, but I believe that the verses this week may get us closer to answering the question – why is this happening?

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

God does not give us more than we can handle. He asks us to turn to Him for strength and guidance. As humans we often turn to inward needs or we turn to an escape. We usually only turn to God as a last resort, a kind of “I’ve done all that I could think of, it’s your turn” moment. In the long run, God is building us up, He’s making us stronger because He knows that the devil will be working hard to turn us away from Him.

These troubles in our lives are small compared to the love that God has for us. If we turn from Him during these difficult times, what will we do when it really counts? God is giving us the ability to face down anything that the devil throws at us. This week’s verses tell their own story, the problem and the answer are simply contained in two verses. Perhaps we aren’t supposed to know, why is this happening? God knows why and that is all that matters. Stand up to your troubles, stop worrying about why and know that God is with you, making you stronger – every minute of every day.

Favorites

There’s an old expression for someone who was the teacher’s favorite student, the “teacher’s pet”. Every kid in the class despised the teacher’s pet. They felt like the “pet” always received preferred treatment, got away with a little more social freedom than the other kids and seemed to get better grades. Children don’t realize the importance of following the rules, doing your work and getting along with others. These are the types of behaviors that these kids displayed to earn the title “teacher’s pet”. As we grow up, we often fall back into behaviors or feelings that we once had as children. I would bet that there is someone in your place of work or an organization you belong to that reminds you of a “teacher’s pet”. A co-worker or colleague who the boss seemingly treats better than anyone else or who has a little more leeway when it comes to using their discretion. Annoying isn’t it?

I wonder what our fourth grade selves might say to us when they see how we are reacting. Are we jealous because they are getting attention? What is it that they are doing that has put them in this “superior” position? What aren’t you doing? Supervisors have a responsibility to avoid these types of circumstances in their work places. It’s hard not to give high performers extra responsibility, more challenging assignments and a little more understanding when they make mistakes. Good supervisors however, will engage all of their employees to find out what they want to accomplish that will support the mission of the company. They will give employees the right challenge to match their skills and desires. They shouldn’t give them an accounting project if they don’t have any practical experience. Avoiding favoritism is hard for a supervisor but it critical for the overall team’s success.

“…God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Acts 10:34-35

Imagine if God actually had favorites. Now imagine being one of them! What kind of things could you do or what kind of things would you know? The truth is, we are all God’s favorites. If we think about the people or places in our life that are our favorites; we always give them special treatment. We’ll visit a favorite restaurant multiple times or the friend that we think of first when we want to go out for a night or have an extra ticket to an event. This describes the difference between God and us; He has no favorites. We are all equally loved, no matter what our place in life is.

John 3:16 says “God so loved the world…” It doesn’t say that God loved a special few or that He loved His favorites, He loved the WORLD. God showed His love for us by saving us through His son Jesus. He didn’t offer to save His special friends or those that serve Him or specifically anyone other than those that fear Him, do what is right and have faith in Jesus as their savior. God’s promises are clear and no amount of works or giving or special prayers will get us eternal life. We have it simply through God’s grace, which means, we are ALL His favorites.

 

Facts

I am a creature of habit; especially when it comes to my TV watching. There is an old(er) show that is a favorite of mine – Cougar Town. Its been on a couple of networks over the past few years but ran through seven seasons. It’s a cross between Seinfeld and Friendsand ironically stars Courtney Cox. Anyway, there is a character on the show that, among other proclamations, she would proclaim “FACT” when she stated something, whether or not it was true. The moral was obviously just because we say something is a fact doesn’t mean that it is. It seems today that we might have a hard time telling the difference between what is true and what isn’t. “If its on the Internet, it has to be true” used to be all the rage but now we have to worry about “fake news” or internet troll farms. The irony is that some people still believe what they see on-line is ALL true! What do we know to be true anymore? It seems like every time you turn on the TV or open a news magazine, there is something just so amazing that you can’t believe it is happening in this day and age.

We all know someone who is need of medical care or needs a medical procedure. We have faith that the doctors are capable or that the hospital staff is competent, at least that is what I hope for. We’ve not met the doctors nor the hospital staff; we are left with hoping that they are good enough to care for our “someone”. It makes you wonder about the other things in life that you have to simply have hope for. When we used to travel and leave our 18-year-old high school senior home alone for a few days, we had to have faith that he would do the right things and then hope that we were right. At this point it looks like most of what we do in our lives is dependent upon faith and hope. We take chances that the mechanic isn’t fixing things that aren’t broken, that the financial advisor knows what she’s doing or that the doctors are capable. Come to think of it, faith and hope rule our days. It sure makes me wonder what I actually know.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

This verse can summarize our belief in God; being certain of what we do not see. No one alive today has seen God or Jesus. No one has seen the works of Jesus or His disciples to hear them recount the experiences first hand. Humans often have to be sure of what we hope for. We hope that this is all real; we hope that the passages of the bible are factual and we hope that our faith is real. What if you stop there with just hoping? Much like Thomas who doubted Jesus when He returned, do you need proof?

Our faith, as suggested in this verse is based on being sure of what we hope for AND being certain of what we do not see. In John 3:8 it is written that we don’t see the wind but we hear it; we don’t know where it comes from but yet we know it’s there. This is how our faith in God works, we can’t see it but we should KNOW that its there. I know that in today’s world it is hard to believe that God’s love and peace is still with us. If you need proof, look at the kindness of people or the compassion that people have for one another, these same traits are found in the teachings of Jesus; our savior and our proof of things that we do not see.

Anytime Showers

Delegation can be a leader’s best asset or worst nightmare. Often times, leaders believe that once a project or program is delegated to someone, they no longer have responsibility for it. Nothing could be farther from the truth! A leader can only delegate the work and the accolades, but they retain all of the oversight and blame for their delegate. “I gave this to ‘so and so’” doesn’t relieve a leader of their responsibility to properly assist the delegate in being successful. Poor delegation is often the cause of workplace frustration. The employee feels “micro-managed” or the leader believes that they “should have just done it themselves”.

Motivation and follow up are the keys to successful delegation. Of course, delegating the right project to the right person is the lock that those keys match. Being willing to work with and teach others is an important part of being a good delegator. You may have yourway of doing something but remember; there is more than one right way to get something done. Learning takes time and patience. What motivates you may not motivate someone else, so ask them how they want the project to proceed; regardless of which side of the delegation you are working on. People will make a mistake, that is how they learn; the key is in how we respond to those mistakes. The leader should be able to catch it early enough to make corrections and the delegate should be open to adjusting their course to achieve success. When the project succeeds, the delegate gets all the credit; this is simple leadership. The project can only fail if the leader does not take an active role in the process or does not provide adequate guidance and this is why the leader takes all the blame. Shower the delegate with support and encouragement and you will not have to worry about the project failing.

Ezekiel 34:26 – “I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season, there will be showers of blessing.”

God has blessed us with showers from above. He created everything that we can see and those things that we can not. How blessed are we to see a sunrise or sunset?  The majestic colors that are created and the shades of light that are cast are unmatched. The shower of blessings that rain down on us each second of every day can not be counted. The human body is an incredible creation that can fight off sickness, repair injuries and respond to the environment around it – we walk around with these blessings!

Unfortunately, we all are condemned to death because of sin. The good news, however, is that we have eternal life not by our own doing but through God’s Grace alone. He sent us a Savior in Jesus who took our place on the cross, a delegate of sorts, to take our sins away forever. Jesus did this so that we could enjoy the accolades that God intended for His children. Not because we deserved it but because He loves us; only as a Father can. God showers us with blessings here on earth but the true blessing is that we have Christ in our lives today and we will have eternal life because of it.

Live Life to the Fullest

Have you ever said, “What am I doing here?” or “How did I get here?” These phrases are usually uttered in frustration with either the people or circumstances around you or at yourself for not paying closer attention to what was happening in your life. Many people have said that they “will never drink again” following a wild night and yet do it again days or weeks later. And yet, we continue to wonder what we are doing with our lives. This internal struggle ends in suicide for far too many people. I often write about God’s plan for us and that we simply can’t accept what it is because of our own need to be in control. We see numerous people who are living their lives disconnected from a purpose. There are numerous examples of positive people whose lives bring meaning to others and there are also examples of people who appear to be suffering for no reason at all.

We cannot understand these examples because we see them through our human eyes. We apply our reasoning, free will and our understanding to something that is being controlled by God. The sick person is an inspiration to others just as much as the MVP of a professional sport – hopefully more so. Our lives are a gift and every day is special. How do you look at the day ahead of you? I post this blog early in the morning on Monday in hope that it will inspire your week. I think it works. I have no idea how many people read this, share it or what impact it has. I do know that each week I get another person following the blog, so I keep writing. How do you live and inspire others? Is inspiring others a goal in your life. Many people believe that they aren’t capable of doing that because we are programmed to think that only celebrities or people in the news can do that. Every day, all of us can inspire others through a smile, a helping hand, a kind word, not saying what you really think, serving others, you name it. We can live very satisfying lives by putting others first and then watch what we get back in return. Everything you do is important to someone, do everything to your best.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

No one knows what life after death is really like. What is eternal life? I have to imagine that if you are reading this blog that you are waiting to find out because you believe that you have eternal life through your faith in Jesus Christ. God Himself has promised us eternal life. In both the Old and New Testaments, God promises eternal life. We have no idea what it means but we believe it. Jesus reminds us in this verse that He came to give us all life and not just life on earth. He took all of our transgressions, accepted the punishment that we deserved, and he suffered so that we could have eternal life and share it with Him.

Stop and think, Jesus did all this for us, shouldn’t we live our lives to the fullest as a living example of His grace? Jesus did not suffer so that we could ignore the teachings of the bible and “live our own lives”. God did not send His one and only Son into the world so that we would live in fear. Living life to the fullest is not permission to live selfishly, it is permission to live a life that inspires others, one that shares the good news and one that demonstrates love; the kind of love Jesus taught us about. Live your life to the fullest in Jesus.

Freedom

What does serving others mean to you? To some people it means volunteer work and to others, it means helping when someone asks for help. I have worked in service to others my whole life. My first job was a gas station attendant, then I went into the fire service before retiring and contracting for the military. There is a great deal of satisfaction serving those who are serving our nation. These men and women have committed to maintaining our freedoms that we will celebrate this July 4th. The other side of my life is as an elected person serving our community through policy making and oversight. Look at the people who are “public servants” and you will find that a vast majority of them do it with a smile.

Serving others means doing so without expecting anything in exchange; being a cheerful servant. Service to others is hard to do today. We have been bombarded with the notion that when you help someone, they “owe” us something in return. We go to work, perform well and in exchange we expect a paycheck – sounds natural doesn’t it? We all know that people who work for free have a hard time keeping a roof over their heads and food in the kitchen. A mental battle occurs between serving cheerfully and the pressures of this life to get something for our effort. When we give and give yet get nothing in return, it’s hard to keep giving. Remind yourself that you are serving others not for a reward today but for the genuine satisfaction of helping someone in need. When you serve from the heart, you serve with love in mind.

Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers, were called to be free, but do not use your freedom to indulge in sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”

We all enjoy freedom and God has given us the ability to make free will choices. Free will means that we are not bound to anyone or anything, but we need to remember the first commandment – “You shall have no other God”. Do not be bound by your love for material things, possessions, positions, money, etc. You are free to choose to give your love to God and to serve Him. Do not indulge in the sinful nature and avoid the traps of living today.

We should serve one another in love. Jesus gave us a great example of serving others in love. He knew what people were thinking, he performed miracles, he was presented gifts and he was free to roam the countryside. He served in love, He taught others as He traveled and in doing so, He showed us how to serve one another in love. Most importantly, he gave himself for us as the ultimate demonstration of His love and obedience to God. We aren’t being asked by God to be crucified, He just asking us to be good servants to each other.

Discerning Heart

Last week I was inaugurated into my third and last term as a City Council Member. It was a nice event where three incumbents were all sworn in for another term. One of us is serving her first term after being appointed about a year ago. A lot can be said today about politicians but the people I meet at the local level are much less about politics and more about serving their community. When local leaders start making decisions based on how they personally will benefit or how their financial supporters will benefit, things start going wrong immediately.

Those in leadership roles should not only lead with the highest moral standards but take the time teach their people how to make ethical choices. There was never a time more important to lead by example then when demonstrating how to make high ethical decisions. As leaders, we are put in a position to make decisions; sometimes they involve personnel and other times they involve the business. Regardless, we need to make decisions that maintain the highest standards and provide for the best possible outcomes. People appreciate it when their leaders are consistent and have their best interest in mind and our customers expect the same thing. As leaders, we are in a place to govern God’s people – providing them with direction and making decisions that affect them.

1 Kings 3:9 – “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and distinguish between right and wrong.”

The verse today can be used as a prayer to God from his faithful servant. We are bombarded with threats everyday and the urge to sin is ever present. We sin daily, the pressure to succeed is always upon us and it would be so easy to cut a few corners, change a few numbers, leave out a couple of details or simply lie. Who will know or even find out? Even if they do, it could be late enough that it won’t really matter anyway.

But God knows, he knows before we do it. When choosing between right and wrong, if we do fall short and commit the sin; we are assured of God’s grace and will be free of guilt and the sin because He gave us His only son, Jesus Christ, to bear our punishment. We can be free from guilt and filled with forgiveness by God’s love for us. We have been given the grace of God and a great example of how to live our lives in Jesus. If you have fallen to sin, ask for forgiveness, receive it and do what is right – always. By asking God for a discerning heart to do what is right you’ll always be able to look at yourself in the mirror.

Rest Comfortably

It’s so hard to determine what the truth is anymore. Our connection to current events is almost instantaneous and right away someone is telling us the “truth” behind the story. We’ve seen an avalanche of what is being deemed “fake news”, what is actually fake news in the form of “deep fakes” on social media and disinformation campaigns. What is really the truth anymore? When it comes to religion, we’re in trouble there too; young people are being driven away from organized religion in huge numbers. More than half of those surveyed do not consider themselves Christian anymore. We see moral decay all around us in the news these days and witness long time marriages breaking up.

It seems as though people are having a hard time telling truth from fiction anymore. Leaders have a responsibility to be truthful at all times. People deserve the truth and when leaders are truthful, their followers can begin to understand what is at stake. Trustworthiness is the number one personality trait that people look for in a leader. People have to trust you as their leader; your word is your truth. No one wants to hear the latest spin you’ve got or the “company line” when they ask questions or see you in action; they want the truth, plain and simple.

John 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is the truth.”

Fortunately, the bible is filled with God’s truths. We have been given examples of God’s promises and his fulfillment of them. There is no spin on anything in the bible and the only “company line” is “Love the Lord Your God”. The devil would love for you to begin creating your own version of the truth or even your own “take on God’s word”. Keep in mind that saying nothing is just as bad spreading falsehoods.

Life can create doubts all around us; sometimes we are not sure who or what to believe anymore. Despite all of this confusion and our own lack of understanding, God keeps His word and provides for all of our needs. He gives us eternal life in exchange for one simple act: Love the Lord Your God through your faith in Jesus Christ. This truth gives us a life better than we can imagine here on earth. So, despite all of the uncertainty around us, we can all rest comfortably knowing that we can find our truths in the bible and in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

People are the worst

Our daughter often utters the frustration, “people are the worst!” Unfortunately, she’s more right than wrong on this topic. “People” means us, you and me. We all possess the ability to be the worst when it comes to how we treat each other, our inter-personal communications, or how we don’t care for each other. I was sucked into Facebook today and saw a post from someone who said why can’t we all just along but two days before posted an inflammatory photo that spreads hate. Are you there for the people in your life? Your friends and family should be able to count on you when they are struggling. An important part of being a friend or being part of a family is knowing that you can count on each other to keep you grounded; like standing next to you in rushing waters.

Leadership at work includes providing direction, vision and support for your organization’s mission. It also means being your best so that your employees can count on you to stand next to them in rushing waters. Leaders should want to help their people navigate through their challenges (waters) and when things get bad, you can stand by them so that they are not swept away.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you…” Isaiah 43:2.

You can feel confident that God will be with you through thick and thin. This is another promise that God has made; to be with us in all that we do and that nothing will sweep us away – we have eternal life through Him. It is a great relief to know that we are not alone; we will not be challenged beyond what God knows we can handle. While we might think that we can’t possibly take any more and we feel like the waters are rising quickly, we should also feel the comfort and peace in knowing that He is with us.

If we develop trust and establish a relationship with our family, friends or the people we work with, they will have faith in us to believe that we will take care of them. We too then, need to develop our relationship with God and continue to learn about His promises. Don’t rely on God only when you pass through the river, get to know Him and see what happens when you are only passing through the puddled waters.