Strength

Parents have the responsibility to give their children strength – strength to get through difficult times, strength to accomplish more than they thought was possible and the strength to carry on everyday. Not only as parents but also as adults, we should inspire all of those around us. We should be a source of encouragement, a resource for guidance and a cheerleader for our kids and for everyone in our lives as they reach beyond their limits and try new things as they go through their own personal growth. Our son turned 22 this past week, he’s quite an adult – just ask him! (just kidding but seriously, he is quite sure of himself) My hope at this point in his life is that he will say that his parents “Were always encouraging me, helping me figure things out and giving me opportunities to grow”.

So many people influenced me when I was his age. I turned 18 in February and by October, that year, I was in recruit firefighter school. The ‘men” I was working with saw things in me that I never did. They encouraged me, they taught me, they gave me advice and they put me in my place when I needed it. I’m sure they didn’t have any idea how they would impact me for the rest of my life and now I’ve taken those lessons and given them to my own son. He has the strength to be confident as he readies himself for what life has in store. I just hope that he can learn to “take orders” until he is the one at the top. Most everyone struggles with that and he will be no different.

Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

So, where do you get your strength? This passage reminds us to find our strength in God – “Him who gives me strength”. In our fast paced lives sometimes we can forget that. We can do everything through Him because God is our strength; he is with us all day – everyday. Our privilege to be a parent is a gift from God; He has put us in this place at this time. We have had a great mentor – Jesus Christ. He taught us to have compassion, patience and to be encouraging to those around us.

You can be the source of strength for your kids and those you work with by being a positive role model. When people ask you “Where do you get the strength from?” You can answer quite easily: God gives me the strength. In order to maintain your strength, like in any good workout routine, you need to work at it daily. We’ve all experienced a few days off from the gym; it gets harder to go back the longer you are away. Staying in God’s word or keeping up with bible study and devotions can be hard in our hectic lives, remain strong and stay committed. Much like the men who were there for me and had no idea that they would effect how I raised my son, you may be doing the same for someone else. Don’t worry; your strength is from God.

Does it have to be so hard?

Lately, I’ve found myself saying, “why does this have to be so hard?” I read a great article two weeks ago titled “Why Simple Rules Produce Better Decisions” by Valeria Maltoni. In the article she explains the beliefs found in a book by Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt “Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World”. The authors believe that we should use a small set of simple rules — “shortcut strategies that save time and effort by focusing our attention and simplifying the way we process information.” Simple rules work because they allow for flexibility, they produce better decisions because they make decision-making fast and easy and, they allow for activities to be synchronized on the fly; doing what is inherently right for the greater purpose.

I wasn’t trapped in my rules of overly complex situations; I was being challenged on matters that should have been quite simple. The other side of “this is hard” is when we get bad news. A couple of weeks ago, a young man who I used to work with passed away from work related cancer. This young man left behind two small children and an amazing family with fought with him to try and overcome a rare form of cancer. I’m not the only one who has had this happen to him; my guess is that everyone knows someone dealing with a hardship. We can’t over simplify these challenges and we can’t write new rules for how they are applied; we are not in control. Today’s verse reminds us that the road to the kingdom of God is not easy. We need to remember that the destination however, is paradise.

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

I wish I knew why we had to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus took our sins upon Himself and suffered for them so that we may be blameless in God’s eyes. We are assured of that in the bible. So why do we have to suffer in this life? I’d like to think, because no one really knows, that we need to appreciate all that God has done for us. If you look back over time, the human race hasn’t been very good at following the Commands of God. He gave us 10 simple rules to follow and the human race found ways around them or through them.

I often use the phrase made famous by Ronald Reagan, “Trust but Verify”. Is this what God is doing with us? Is God trusting us to do what He commands and have Jesus as our one and only savior but is He verifying our faith in Jesus? Where do we turn when things get bad, who do we rely on and how do we react in these times of hardships? There is only one simple answer; we must turn to God when we are faced with hardship. He will be with us all the way. He has never promised a smooth ride or a simple life, hardship builds character and demonstrates our faith in God. The road will be rough but it leads us to paradise – eternal life with God.

Watch your mouth

We seem to have an epidemic of people just blurting out everything that is on their mind – usually via twitter. I’m not suggesting that we stop being honest with each other, but do we really need to be sharing every unfiltered thought? Some share their “filtered” thoughts that really should be filtered! On the bright side, what know what these people really think and believe. Most of us do not go around and speak everything that is on our mind – thank goodness. We hold some things back to spare someone else’s feelings or we continue to support a friend instead of telling them the direct truth because the truth is too painful. Good or should I say smart husbands never answer their wives honestly when they are asked, “do these jeans make my butt look big?”

I would suggest that sooner or later we start forgetting what is true anymore or how to be truthful. We seem to be answering things “technically true” rather than simply true. Take a minute and think about how you communicate, when do spare someone’s feelings and when are you just not being truthful. I’m not suggesting that we go around being brutally honest; there is a line between civility and cruelty. What is on your heart is revealed in your words. The devil is trying to change your heart by changing your words and thoughts; stay vigilant!

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:10

God put His stamp on each of us and it was Him that sent a savior into the world. No matter what God did to steer us in the right direction; we still failed to obey His commands. But God did not give up on human beings; His love for us was still stronger than His anger or disappointment. In our heart of hearts, we believe in God. Some people want to see signs (Thomas), some believe because of their upbringing, some are confident and others yet do not believe at all.

Our hearts and our beliefs have justified us with God; we are free from punishment of the Law. It is our profession of faith that makes the bigger statement; it is what is on our hearts. People can walk around believing but without outward profession of faith they fall short. Profess your faith and you will be saved is the straightforward message of this verse. Give thanks before meals, even in public. Tell co-workers and neighbors about your confidence in the love of God our Father when the answer fits. We often hear about people who would “go to the top of a mountain to profess their love for a spouse” but would they climb that mountain to profess their faith in God and salvation through Jesus? Would you?

Always Present

They say that the only thing that is consistent about our world today is that change will happen. Streaming plans are changing, the world stock markets have been changing (hourly) and our access to information can change our point of view in an instant. I can’t take credit for creating it but I’ve been repeating a phrase for years – Semper Gumby; always flexible. It seems that things are changing so much that everyone must have a little Semper Gumby in them. How do you react to change? Are you a resister that has to be convinced that change is good or are you one of those people who jumps right on board with the change? There are a few people out there who are the objectors and will fight change right until the end. It’s important to know what role you play when change comes knocking.

The opposite of change is consistency. There is a lot to be said for being consistent; it can also lead to routine and ruts but let’s stay positive. As a worker, a spouse, a family member or a supervisor, the people around us appreciate a little consistency. No one likes guessing which version of a person will show up from one day to the next. Consistent quality of your work is important too. When people can count on you to deliver consistent work products, not only do you improve their lives but you raise your worth or value to them. For as often as things can change, they can stay the same. They say that history often repeats itself, which for me means, there is a little consistency out there. The specific names and places might be different but the circumstances are often the same. So, while things around us seem to changing at what appears to be a break-neck pace, know where you fall in the spectrum of change but also embrace the consistency of life to be that one person people can count on.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

This verse can become a great anchor point for our lives as we struggle with the constant changes in our lives. The world markets went on another wild ride these past few weeks and people started worrying about the future. Thousands of people sold stock out of fear despite the warnings that the ride was temporary and a needed adjustment. It is almost the example of quitting when things got bad. Do you cut and run when things get bad? The devil would like you to do that, turn from God and take matters into your own hands. If we turn away when things get bad and rely on our own ways and not God’s, we have taken the temptations of the devil.

We have consistency in God, through His Son Jesus, that we will be protected and have eternal life. There were no recounts in the bible of God’s love changing or of Jesus changing His ministry. Jesus remained consistent to the Prophet’s teachings right through His own death. God remained consistent with His desire to have His children close by Him and providing for their needs; even when His children disobeyed Him. God’s continued grace and mercy was given to us through His Son Jesus Christ, given to die for our sins, so that we may have consistency in an eternal life with Him. Sure, the world has changed over the thousands of years but God’s love has been consistent.

A Day to Labor

The work you do, no matter what it is, can bring glory to God. The actions that you take (or don’t take) can bring glory to God. Some people have made choices that put them in the right place at the right time – in our house we call that a “God thing”. God can guide your path by offering you choices that can lead your calling. Some people will search their whole lives for a calling, while others know they are in it. The choices that we make can influence how quickly we find our calling. Moving into any role takes just the right combination of education and experience, planned by God of course. It can be a calling that allows you to glorify God; if you want to see it that way.

Today is Labor Day in the United States; a day that we celebrate the American Worker. People often find themselves simply working a job, but God wants us to be in a calling. There are times when our work can be frustrating, and we’d like to “just do our job and be done”. That isn’t what God called you to do. Your life at work and at home will influence what type of person you are. Take notice of what you do, read, view and spend time doing and you’ll see that it’s reflected in your work and your personal behaviors. Your work influences your life, be sure that it means something more that collecting a paycheck. If it doesn’t, change your point of view or your position. You will labor less at work and your life will improve.

Ephesians 4:1 “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

“Live a Godly Life” is great advice and probably one of the hardest things that we, as sinners, can follow completely. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. By being nurturing, forgiving, understanding, slow to anger, patient, honest, trustworthy and caring is how we start. These characteristics will help us at work and honor God by living our lives that please Him.

You have received two callings in your life, both from God, one to love others and the other is to do it as a disciple of God. Live your life in a way worthy of God’s grace through His son Jesus, who taught us how to live a life of calling. You can be assured that every action you take will be pleasing to God if you are following the examples set by Jesus. No amount of good deeds or works will get closer to God or secure you a more righteous place in Heaven. We often ask ourselves as we toil in our jobs, what are we working for? The answer is Eternal Life and Salvation found through Jesus Christ alone. He did the hard work for us by taking our sin upon Himself. The least we can do is live a life worthy of our calling.

 

Troubles

Every week seems to bring news about another good person being diagnosed with cancer or life-threatening illness. I’m sure many of them are thinking, “why me?” In these circumstances, I can’t help but think about all of the people that I saw on their last day here on earth during my career. Some of them were expecting to die, others we saved because it wasn’t their time and for many others, they had no idea it was the last day. The old saying, “if you knew today was your last day, what would you do?” comes to mind. Personally, I don’t want to think about it, so we will move on.

I’m left to wonder, like so many others, why do bad things happen to good people? The guy who kills an entire family, including children gets life in prison but the faithful Christian woman who has spent her life serving others has only weeks to live following a cancer diagnosis. It doesn’t seem fair. Daily, we see examples of where life’s circumstances don’t seem fair and rotten people appear to get off “scot-free”. I would offer that “fair” is in the eye of the beholder. The concept of “fair” is found in the human condition of “keeping up with the Jones”. Life should be about being content. You have what you have and that is okay. There will always be people who have more than you but there are also people who have less than you – in everything. Be content and in that moment, I bet you will find happiness. What if today was your last, do you want to be happy and content or miserable and jealous? You can choose.

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:19

Nowhere in the bible can you find a promise from God of a trouble free life. I’ve written about this before and can go on about God’s plan for your life. This week I want to focus on the verse – “The righteous person may have many troubles”. If you believe that the bible is the word of God, given to us by Him, then you may also see how this is God telling us – “there will be troubles in your life”. According to this verse, some of us will have more troubles than others (many troubles). There is no avoiding it; we will have troubles. To what degree is left to God; remember Job. God does not punish us with troubles, He uses them to prepare us for future opportunities or He uses us to prepare those around us.

The second half of this verse is critical to our Christian faith; “the Lord delivers him from them all”. This is our assurance that God will not abandon us in our time of need (or any other time). No matter what we face, God will deliver us from our troubles. Our human nature however, does not understand God’s time frame. We are not assured that He will deliver us immediately or to our satisfaction but He will deliver us. If today is your last day, you can be assured that God will deliver you eternal life because of your belief in Jesus Christ as your savior. If today is just another worry filled day on earth, rejoice in the fact that you are still here and that God is going to deliver you from all your worries. Keep sharing and believing in God’s power and rest easy knowing that Jesus has prepared the way for you.

Whatever Happens

It’s been interesting lately to watch people: how they drive, how they speak on TV, and how they act in public. It makes me wonder how they act around people they know or if they are different when they are around strangers. Some are young people, and some are “older” people; just like I seem to be (late baby boomer). Back in the 80’s there was a “movement” called the “me generation”. It was said that the people of that era were more concerned about themselves than anyone else and that they didn’t care what affect they had on those around them. This was how the “looking out for number 1” mantra was born. Today, people today claim that the Millennial generation does just the same; looking out only for themselves – I disagree. Studies on the Millennial generation show they want to do things that matter and make a difference. They are more concerned about social and environmental issues than most previous generations; they are compassionate and understanding. I would suggest that they have been labeled as self-centered because they want more out of life earlier that us “older” people did.

Millennials do not want to wait until later in life to travel or explore. They don’t believe that they should work themselves to death and ignore their families or friends. They have seen the tired and worn down late generation baby boomers and early generation Xers; they want more out of life. Back to people watching, I overheard a phone call at the airport this morning between a man (late 50’s) and his friend. The man’s father died on Saturday and he was relaying that he was told that dad wasn’t doing well on Thursday night and that he decided to work Friday and Saturday before flying out on Sunday – a day late. Living today is hard. I would offer that it isn’t any harder than any other time in history; the problems are just different. Where are you on this spectrum and what can you do change? Will you be one day late?

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Philippians 1:27

I wonder if we could have “take backs” for all of the times that we acted poorly, how far back would the clock turn? How many years would we get back? The verse today speaks to me in two ways – behavior and response. Our behavior drives how people act around us. If we are careless or focused only on ourselves, people around us become frustrated; even to the point where they don’t want to be around us. Small things like paying attention to drivers around us on the road, looking out for neighbors or the neighborhood and, noticing the subtle changes in others are great ways to behave. This may help others see life from a different perspective.

The other way I see this verse is through our response to events. “Whatever happens…” says to me that no matter what people say or do, act in way “worthy of the gospel”. This goes for our response to circumstances in our lives. When a medical diagnosis isn’t positive or life events hits hard, act in a way “worthy of the gospel”. Jesus didn’t complain when He was being mocked, He wasn’t “stressed out” when people wouldn’t leave him alone and He did not pity himself when He was tortured and hung on a cross to die. He conducted Himself just as honorably in His last days as He did in first days. Leave self-pity behind when things are rough and turn your thoughts to God. He is here for us in the good and the bad times, so as St. Paul reminds us – “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

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.

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.