The Good of Suffering

Why are all the good people suffering? It seems that too often we hear about someone who has lived very honorably getting sick while someone who has been a rotten person lives on. It’s frustrating because life might actually appear to punish the good. We never hear about “that guy” getting cancer or the evil person at work being involved in a horrible accident. It’s always good people. We aren’t asking for it to happen to bad people but we notice that they seem to never have these problems. In response to this question of, Why?; I have two immediate thoughts: 1) God needs good people to spread His word through their actions and trials and 2), I don’t know any rotten people well enough to know if they are sick. I digress, so I started to dwell on my first thought. Good people who get sick always become a source of inspiration for others in some way.

This past weekend the State of Arizona and United States of America lost Senator John McCain to cancer. I’ve had the honor to meet with Senator McCain on a number of occasions and found that his courage to do what was right always exceeded his obligation to his party. I’ve known several people who have had serious illnesses and they were inspiring to me as they fought through the challenges; they did the inspiring. So the answer to the question is not why but what are we to learn from this? Are you supposed to be a stronger supporter? Are you supposed to learn about the strength of prayer or how to trust in God? We are all God’s children and He gives us only what we can handle, so what are we going to do with the opportunity that God has presented? Rotten people might not seem to have these problems but if they are truly rotten to the core, then they have eternal problems to deal with.

“All whom the Father gives me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away.” John 6:37

God sent us all to Jesus – period. If Jesus won’t drive us way, what does? Many will answer that it’s sin but God took care of that on the cross at Calvary. Sin will not separate us from God’s love. I’ll suggest that the devil is the one who drives us away from our Savior Jesus Christ. He tempts us all of the time and disease is just one of his tools to turn us away from God. Many times people ask “why did God do this to her?” “Why does God let this happen?” It isn’t God. It’s the devil’s powerful way to make us doubt God’s love in our lives. The devil wants us to turn away from God and will stop at nothing to do it. Jesus will NOT drive us away!

God can use the pain of disease or injury to show us His love, strength and compassion. God inspires good people to do great things as a result of these bad events. The anniversary of the September 11thattacks is coming up and people often ask, Where was God that day? He was saving thousands of people to do great things and he was inspiring others to be strong in the face of tragedy. Have you ever spoken to someone who was there that day? They tell great stories about the people they lost or they tell of how they found strength in the following years to carry on. They became the inspiration for someone else. This week, make a conscious effort to be inspired by someone or to inspire someone; show the devil your love for God and that you belong to Him.

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If You Can

It was a big weekend in our house; we celebrated two college graduations. Our daughter graduated with her BA in Communication with a minor in Marketing and I graduated with a Masters in Public Administration. It makes you wonder what you can really accomplish if you put your mind to it. Yes, there is always a little hard work to add in the mix but you have to want it in order to achieve it. At this point in my life, I wasn’t sure how I could get it done. I was working here and there; I’ve been on City Council and working through those challenges, and then try to meet the demands of a Graduate program. A good friend of mine asked me how I managed to juggle all of the balls at once. Honestly, I’m not sure but I know a few things helped tremendously. I have an awesome family that is understanding and patient. My wife and son in particular, suffered most during these past 18 months. They missed me simply being present in the family. I was constantly working on homework or writing papers while they picked up the slack around the house. My son missed out on our quality time together – the whole point of my working from home. My friends were supportive and always encouraging. So how did I manage to juggle all of the balls? I didn’t, it was a team effort! If everything is possible, what would you do? Is there something holding you back from going after a dream or the next step in your career or life? I found myself talking about enrolling in a Masters Program for months before I finally did it. Eventually, I just took my fears straight on and jumped in. Having the confidence that I was protected by my faith is what I believe allowed me to leap. There are no boundaries in your life if you have the right people in corner; starting with a strong faith in God’s power.

“’If you can?’” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23

I love imagining Jesus speaking to me directly when I read verses like this. We’re just sitting outside on the patio on a sunny afternoon with perfect temperatures. I, of course, say something that gets His attention and He replies, “If you can?” As if to say, “why wouldn’t you?” or “Why do you doubt yourself?” He then begins to reassure me about all of things I’ve done so far and how God has been at work all of these years preparing me for this moment. “If you can?” He says again. “Why can’t you? Give me one good reason why you can’t”, He dares me. Of course, I have no good reason other than being afraid. He then gently reminds me, “Everything is possible if you believe in the power, the grace and love of God.” I learned over the years that God puts a team of people in our life to prepare us for just a time as this. I never imagined going to school at this point in my life but I’ve been preparing for it for years and I just didn’t know it. With God, everything is possible. Don’t let anything or anyone stand n your way.

Don’t Be Afraid

Courage is a pretty powerful word. Not everyone has it to the same degree and some people don’t even have it. I think it takes courage to jump out of an airplane or ride a looping roller coaster – I won’t do either. Some people say that firefighters have courage to go into a burning building or enter hazardous conditions – I would do both. I suppose that all of this means that we are each held back by different things. We are held back by fear, in most cases, a fear of the unknown. A new job, a new city and a new friend, a new challenge or facing those things that we already know we fear; they are scary. Many of us would like to quit our jobs and live a life much different than we do today. So why don’t we? Fear. Sometimes fear can stop us from taking chances at work. For example, we don’t speak up when we have an idea that could change things or that might be innovative because we’re afraid to look foolish. I would suggest that fear of the unknown is probably the top reason why people don’t take chances. They simply don’t know how things will turn out so they keep it safe and do what is comfortable. When you stop and think about all of the chances that some pretty famous people took, our lives would be much different without people like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. They faced fears and took chances. There’s an old saying, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” Would your life be different? I challenge everyone this week to do or try one thing that pushes your comfort level, just a little. Nothing drastic, just push out a little and see what happens.

“…Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. Exodus 14:13

Moses made this comment to the Israelites as he was trying to reassure them when they were afraid and pushing forward. This advice, even from the Old Testament, works today. Do not be afraid and put your trust in God. This world is so very different today when compared to 20 or 30 years ago let alone thousands of years ago. Today, we have so many things to be afraid of: ISIS, Ebola, the economy, diseases, identity theft, computer hacking and Washington Politicians. I wonder how we even function on a daily basis. Stand firm in your faith! God will bring you deliverance and peace when you share your fears with Him. Stay in His word to learn all of the promises that He has made to you. God tells us over and over how He will protect us. Do not be afraid. Reach out your hands and feel God’s presence in your life and then, go forward knowing that He is with you. Our fears are made up in our minds, and we should be confident that we aren’t alone. God is with you today and everyday so stand tall and take a chance on Him to bring you the deliverance you need from your fears.

Leadership

This is my first weekend home from the exercise in Indiana with the Army. By all accounts, it was a successful training exercise for the soldiers who were able to practice their technical skills and for the Command and Control Headquarters elements to work out their processes. My role was to function right in the gap between fantasy and reality or as we refer to it, between the White cell and the BlueFor. The white cell is where the exercise is controlled. This is where the documents are created, the themes are established, and where plans are created based on player actions (BlueFor). My role is particularly unique as I interface with the BlueFor, gather information from the actual units in the field and report it up into the White cell for confirmation or what is referred to as the “ground truth”.

I’ve got to pay attention to everything that is going on so our team can provide the right information to the BlueFor to drive the exercise in a particular direction. The White Cell that I worked in is under the direction of a retired One Star General who runs in tight formation. During a briefing to the active duty Two-Star General, he provided information that was contradicted by a different white cell whereby making it appear that we were in the wrong. At our shift change, he lit us up like a Christmas tree about how we were not providing the BlueFor the correct direction in the field. It has been a long while since I’ve been in that type of situation. At the conclusion of the shift change, we provided his staff with the “proof” that we had been following the “script” all along and that the other White cell was wrong in their assessment. At the next shift change, he displayed something that is very rare among leaders; he apologized for calling us out. I was shocked to see genuine leadership by someone who I imagine is rarely mistaken. He could have swept it under the rug or simply chalked it up to the rage of war but he didn’t. He stood tall and admitted his error.

“Here is a trustworthy saying: whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.” 1 Timothy 3:1

It takes a lot of courage to step into a leadership role. The whole debate about “are leaders born or are they created” fails to recognize the courage component. If someone steps into a leadership position without a little fear, they are stepping on thin ice. I’ve said before that leading is a privilege and an honor that we should not take lightly. People are putting their faith in that person and in some professions, their lives. Leading is more than telling others what to do or having a rank/title. Leaders are accepting the faith that others are placing in them. It is a noble task. Timothy is describing those who wish to lead the church and is reminding them that it isn’t about the power and prestige that comes with it but the honor and responsibility that does. Jesus knew His role as the leader of the disciples. He knew what God was asking of Him and gladly accepted His fate. He charged us all to be “fishers of men” by teaching us how to live better lives, be examples for others to follow but most importantly, to rely on God for the wisdom and strength to carry out our daily lives. Leadership is a noble task and it is not to be taken lightly. People are putting faith in you. Rely on God for your wisdom and strength and you will always have their faith.