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.

Momentary Trouble

I was going to write about mentoring, coaching, succession planning and employee development in an attempt to get back to the roots of what started this website in the first place. As I have evolved since starting this in 2011, so has this site. The world is crazy right now and it seems that no matter what direction you turn, trouble is around each corner. The concept of “trouble” has a wide range of implications; some personal, some national and some international. Lately, I’ve been describing this year as weird because it seems like there is no good news out there and that means trouble.

All of this reminds me of when our daughter was born prematurely and airlifted to a hospital 90 minutes from our house. My wife and I would drive up three or four times a week to see her because the daily updates weren’t cutting it for us. We would ask ourselves, “why is this happening to us?” Despite the small victories, we never felt like there was any good news out there. Does this sound familiar to you? Many of you are struggling right now with all of the uncertainty in this world but this verse reminds us that it is temporary. I’m reminded that these troubles will lead to a breakthrough of sorts and that we will be stronger on the other side these troubles. Remain strong and find the courage to push on.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

As Disciples of Christ, more than the word of God is with us in our lives. The trials and tribulations of this life are making us stronger for what lies ahead in eternity. Our troubles are momentary, but they sometimes seem to pile up. It’s not what is happening to us that matters, it is how we react to it that counts. St. Paul is telling the Corinthians and us, that our troubles are light and momentary.

For those that believe in Christ, we know that no matter what is happening, we will have eternal life in Heaven. We all struggle with the concept of “momentary” because we are applying it to our understanding of time. A moment to God could be years for us. Open the bible and find peace for the troubles that are burdening you. Stop looking for the meaning in “why” and start looking at how you can react, with God at your side, to the troubles you are facing. Giving up your control and letting God work in your life is very hard. We have been promised eternal life through Jesus Christ; not an easy life here on earth. Celebrate the gift and live to His glory – the glass is half full.

Compassion and Discipline

Discipline comes in many forms. For some of us, it is the focus that drives us every day. For others, discipline means teachable moments and for a few, it means punishment. Supervisors “discipline” people as part of their duties. What do the people who you’ve disciplined take away from the experience? If the punishment was punitive, chances are that they took away a little bitterness. Our job as leaders is to be sure that the punishment fits the crime. If they didn’t know how to or were not equipped to do the job, perhaps seizing on the teachable moment will improve future performance over punitive discipline. The old saying that you shouldn’t kill an ant with an anvil is good advice about compassion.

People often think of compassion as being soft on others or caring about them. When we say, “I feel sorry for them”, we think we’re being compassionate. The word is derived from the Latin phrase: suffer with. The thesaurus lists: empathy, care, concern, warmth, love, leniency and kindness as a few alternatives. What version of compassion do you most often associate with in your life? Supervisors should exercise all of them. I would suggest that everyone should exercise a little compassion with each other rather than just suffering with a person in our minds.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him…” Psalm 103:13

Discipline takes on two roles – punishment and order. The order that discipline brings is getting out of bed every day at 5am to go to the gym for that dreaded spin class or the order that breeds commitment to seeing a job through to the end. Not wanting to repeat myself but the work we do is pleasing to God, we should have the discipline to do our best – always.

On the other side, fear and punishment are not often thought of when we think of our Father in Heaven. We all received punishment for the original sin of Adam and Eve. Child labor is now painful, we have to work the fields for our food and the price of our daily sin is death here on earth. We should fear God! The good news in this passage is that the Lord will have compassion on those of us who fear Him. God loves us and He has proven that by sending His son to die for our sins. We no longer have to fear the punishment of our sins; Jesus Christ did that for us on the cross at Calvary. God wanted His children close to him and while we will not stay in this life for eternity, we will share eternity with our Father in Heaven. A pretty fair punishment if you ask me.

Be happy in your work

Happy Labor Day! Okay, I’m trying to be positive in the grips of a pandemic on what should be a weekend filled with barbeques and gatherings. Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer but here in Arizona we’re under an Excessive Heat Warning with temperatures over 110 degrees for something like the 40th time this year. It looks like we’ve got another 60 days before we cool off into the 90’s. In our house we celebrated the holiday weekend with some extra work in the yard – trimming trees. While it’s easy to complain about work these days, this holiday does represent a celebration of us, the workers of the world. We use our talents, skills and abilities to make a difference for other people. In exchange, we are paid for our work. Granted, some are paid more than others, but we are able to provide for ourselves.

Our talents often feel like they go unrecognized and if you think your labor is a waste, stop and consider who you make a difference for. Restaurant staffs feed their customers, accountants provide a service and peace of mind to their clients, the grocery clerk who bags our purchase and so on; everyone makes a difference. We all have our jobs at this particular time for a reason that we simply don’t understand. So what, you ask? Enjoy your time and consider how you make a difference in everything you do. The word LABOR means that it is supposed to be hard but it doesn’t mean that it is without a purpose. Enjoy the holiday and look forward to the changing seasons that are coming.

“Moreover, when God gives a man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work- this is a gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19

I’m reminded of the old expression “a gift from God” with this verse. Our human nature is to think that we’re responsible for all the things that we do. “It was me who…” is how we start our sentences when describing an accomplishment. We often think of ourselves when it’s something great, but we blame someone else or God when it’s something less desirable. Why did God give me this disease? Why did God let me get fired from my job? We forget that God gives us ALL things; the good and the bad. He put the right people in our lives so that we meet the manager who was looking for a new employee and we landed that awesome new job.

God gives us what we can handle – not too little and not too much. God also wants us to be happy with what He has given us. He doesn’t want us being envious of the new car that our neighbor just got or be angry when we are passed over for promotion. He wants us to accept what we have (be content) and be happy. Everything, good and bad, is a gift from God and that is something to be thankful for. We are supposed to learn from the bad and model God’s grace for others. We are supposed to share the good with others too, God loves a cheerful giver but it’s not always money we need to give. God has blessed each of with talents and those should be shared too. Work should be less about labor and more about celebrating the gift of opportunity from God.

Obedient to Authority

WOW! This verse has a very wide range of possible topics to cover. I almost want to write about it for a couple of weeks in a row. The easy way out would be to write about political party’s, but I have tried very hard to remain topical and not political. So let’s go to one of my favorite topics – followership.  Being a good follower is an important characteristic of being a good leader. We must learn to follow before we lead. The notion of us following someone often depends upon whom we are following. If we don’t respect our supervisor or the company owner, it is hard to follow them. Conversely, if we believe in the person then we have little trouble following them. However, following does not mean that we do it blindly. We have to obey the rules established by our employer, the city or town we live in and those of our federal government. While we don’t always agree, we are obedient for no other reason than to maintain order within our society.

Being a follower has responsibilities too. We shouldn’t accept someone because they are in a position of authority or because someone else has elevated them to a leadership position. The proof is often in their words and actions. Look carefully at whom you choose to follow. The bottom-line is that we are all followers at some point in our careers or lives but it is more of a role rather than a position we hold. Those who are better followers are generally tapped to become the next leader when the opportunity arises. Google the word “followership” and you will find thousands of resources; look for one that sings to your heart. Today, it is easy to fall blindly behind someone because they are popular or because they represent a group that you belong to. Ensure that you are following them because they represent the values and beliefs that you hold.

“Remind the people to be subject to rules and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good…” Titus 3:1

The verse today should sing to your heart as well. The Ten Commandments tell us to be obedient to our government leaders. Jesus even told the Pharisees to “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. He was teaching us to be obedient. Titus then reminds us to be subject to rules and authorities and then be ready to do what is good. God is reminding us to be good followers; be a living example of Christian living. Are you ready to do whatever is good?

I’m sure that if someone asks us for help, we’ll be there. Unfortunately, most of us rarely look for ways to help; it is easier to react to a call for help then it is to generate support for one. There are a lot of people who need our help, especially at this point in history. Whether you lead or follow, be ready to do good. When the true financial impacts of the pandemics begin to reveal themselves and after tens of thousands of people are permanently laid off from their jobs, consider becoming a leader, this might be your opportunity. Martin Luther was credited with saying, “God doesn’t need your good works but your neighbor does”. As the U.S. enters the final eight weeks of our Presidential Election season, we must remain focused on being ready to do whatever is good and focus less on blind obedience.