God is Always Present

How could God let this happen? Why are these things happening, is this the end of days? We often hear people asking these questions or when people begin to question the existence of God. It’s these thoughts and when tragedies strike that they become a great source of inspiration for the devil to create doubt in our minds: “Would a loving God allow such a thing to happen? How could a righteous God let innocent children suffer so?” We cannot explain it nor can we begin to comprehend God’s plan and what meaning this has in our lives yet alone the lives of those that suffered such great losses.

God is always present! I’ve written before that we don’t always know why things happen or what purpose God is trying to fulfill through these events. Sometimes we feel like we are suffering when things are going wrong at work or if we are having troubles at home. Other times our suffering is in the form of a medical diagnosis. How we deal with these challenges is what builds our character. No one can help us through our suffering, no matter how close they are to us. St. Paul’s letter to the Romans speaks to us in our time of great suffering.

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5

I’m sure there is someone reading this that is experiencing a higher degree of suffering and cannot see the value of perseverance or character right now – but you will. You will see the hope as people come to your aid to help in ways you didn’t imagine. You will become stronger in your ability to survive and you will become an inspiration to someone else – maybe someone you know and maybe not. Someone will tell your story and you will hear the story of others.

You will be stronger because of what has happened to you, your character will be stronger and you will learn to persevere. We look upon our “suffering” as horrible but as the end-times actually approach, we all will need perseverance, character and hope to stand up to the devil and the destruction he will bring before Jesus descends to earth to bring us all home. This is not the time to doubt God’s plan or His love for you. It’s time to renew your hope in Him because these works of the devil must be defeated once and for all when Jesus returns to call us home.

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Mother’s Day

I debated about doing a piece on Mother’s Day; the day that Hallmark made. Before anyone takes offense, I feel the same about Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day. While my wife and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, we do recognize the other two days for each other. It always seems that the spouses take these days more seriously than the children do, until at least the time they are old enough to really know better and to shop for themselves. Lisa and I have been blessed with two awesome mothers of our own. They not only like each other but they like their in-law kids too. I’m certain that I speak for both of us when I say; they treat us like their own kids. My mom gained another daughter and Lisa’s mom gained another son – it is better than I ever could have dreamed of. The quote from James reminded me of what a mother is, not only to her kids but also to her spouse as well. I originally planned to use this quote to talk about leaders in an organization and how, if they used these traits, they can truly lead and encourage others to follow. As you read this, compare the actions of a good parent to those of a good leader and you will see that they are one in the same.

A mother’s wisdom is pure and genuine, honest and full of love. No matter what happens, a child (regardless of age) will always seek a mother’s comfort. A mother is peace-loving and considerate. She’s the one who always broke up the fights between brothers and sisters while seeking a solution that worked for everyone. Mothers taught us to share and taught us how to take care of someone who was hurt. A mother is submissive to the needs of the family, full of mercy and kind words (good fruit). Mothers showed us how to sacrifice and put others needs before our own. They deflected blame when we messed up and led the cheering crowd when we did well. Mothers never picked favorites (even though I know I am my mom’s favorite) and when they held your hand and looked into your eyes, you knew they meant everything they said. Great leaders, like all mothers, know how to do these things too. Mothers have earned a day just for themselves but they deserve it throughout the year, not just in May.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

The irony of this message is that its about Mother’s Day but it is based on the gifts that we have received from our Father in Heaven. This verse is a great reminder of how we are to act toward everyone. The wisdom from heaven was given to us through the writings of the bible. As you read/study the bible, you will see in the New Testament that each lesson shows us God’s pure way in the life of His Son, Jesus.

Jesus then showed us His peace-making ability, how he was considerate to others; even those that opposed Him, submissive to the law of the land, demonstrated His mercy, goodness, impartiality and above all, His sincerity. Use these principles to live your life in all situations, which will please God. And, your Mom too.

Constant Star

We all have heard about the rising stars or a shining star in an organization but what about the constant stars? Those people, that every day, shine in all that they do. These are the people who jump in to help others at work, have a smile even if it’s snowing in Florida or bring you a Starbucks when you weren’t expecting it. These people are just great to be around! They don’t want the spotlight or ask for attention; in fact, they are the ones usually shining the spotlight onto others. We tend to overlook those who shine consistently, but like the sun, we know when they aren’t around. Now ask yourself, what do you do for these people? Do you find yourself going to them just because YOU need a pick me up?

It’s hard to imagine what keeps these people positive all of the time, but they do it. I had a peer once in my career who worked for another agency who was like this. We used to see each other for meetings once a month or sometimes more frequently but after every time I saw him, I always found myself saying what a great guy he is. I would try to be more like him and still try today. Despite my best efforts and intent, I’m just not the “smile when its snowing guy”. I do however; make sure that if I have people like this in my life, that I let them know how much I enjoy their company and focus time on them. We all need positive people our lives and should seek them out regularly, not to improve our own disposition, but to be a mutual benefit to each other.

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking. Ezekiel 1:28

For the first seven years of his ministry, Ezekiel faithfully relayed to his fellow Jews the stern, heart-rending, hope-crushing word of divine judgment: Because of all her sins, Jerusalem would fall. The only hope the prophet was authorized to extend to his listeners was that of living at peace with themselves and with God during their exile.

Once news was received that Jerusalem had fallen, Ezekiel’s message turned to the Lord’s consoling word of hope for his people—they would experience revival, restoration and a glorious future as the redeemed and perfected kingdom of God in the world. Ezekiel had become the constant star in people’s lives. He was there for everyone. Some may argue that it was easy; God was speaking to him directly. God speaks to us every day too. We just need to listen. It’s the phone call that comes in the middle of an argument to stop you from saying something hurtful or the unexpected check that comes in the mail when your bills are late. God is with us all day, every day; we just need to learn to listen for Him. Send your worries to God, pray daily, give thanks for what you have and be assured that your sins are forgiven. Then, stop and listen for God.

Why are We Doing All of This?

As we come into this week, the week before we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I thought a little deviation from the normal format would be okay. This time of year can be stressful and overwhelming. Presents to buy, parties and dinners to attend and, family gatherings to celebrate the holiday. As our nest becomes empty, my wife and I are realizing that the traditions of the past are slowly fading. We no longer have piles of presents for each kid under the tree and we don’t have to set up the video camera to tape Christmas morning reactions. We are a home in transition – adulthood we call it. But in the end, we all need to be reminded of the “reason for the season” and who better to tell the story than God Himself. St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, inspired by God, reminds us of the true celebration.

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

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

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

 

I Have Hope!

I saw two unrelated things this weekend that made today’s verse come alive for me. First was the cover of a magazine that revealed Olympic Gold Metal Figure Skater Scott Hamilton’s third brain tumor. His outlook is inspiring and he is quoted as saying something to the effect of, “No day is guaranteed by God. So I live them one at a time and nothing will change that”. At some point after the second tumor, I would start asking myself questions about continuing treatment. I tend to be naturally pessimistic about these kinds of things. Not Scott Hamilton! He really demonstrates how important staying positive is. I pray that he recovers from this medical event and keeps telling his story.

The other was from the movie “Bad Moms” that was released this past summer. I’m not a perfect person and I must admit that I like movies that truly add nothing to my life but a few laughs; movies like Blazing Saddles and Caddy Shack are classic to me. I’m not a movie critic but from my point of view, “Bad Moms” was a waste of time. I could go on but to get to my point, there was a scene in the film when three moms were telling each other how they would do anything for their children. No matter what, these moms would always be there for their kids. I believe most parents feel that way and their compassions will never fail. I use these two examples to show that hope and compassion can be found in almost everything we do. Scott Hamilton shows us hope because of the Lord’s great love and that parents (God, our Father) have compassions that never fail. Look in your life and you too will see them all around you; and that should give you hope this week.

21Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

The United States will be electing its next President tomorrow. The world has been watching our unique democratic system in action for more than a year. If you are reading this and live outside of the US, be thankful! For the rest of us, we’ve been suffering through the most painful election cycle in modern times. Many people have given up, some aren’t voting and others will not stop the rhetoric even after the votes are counted. Please pray for us!

Seriously though, there are also people in our lives who have struggles each day. A sick loved one, a family member who has passed, or problems that can overwhelm us as individuals. It is easy to get lost in despair. Take comfort in the verse today “therefore I have hope: 22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” God’s compassions never fail! As humans, we want our answers or our solutions right now. We tell ourselves that we don’t have time to wait and can’t understand why God doesn’t get that. We start to feel consumed by doubt. We are being reminded here that God’s compassions are “new every morning”. So, no matter what the outcome of the election is or what the test results say or what happens in our lives; we will not be consumed! God loves each and every one of us. Go forth this week in peace, knowing that you have God’s love with you.

Finding Strength

“Why do I even bother?” It seems that I’m asking myself this question alot 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 November elections 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. Know what helps to motivate you and keep that close so you can use it 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 evil 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 him is turning toward God. Seek Him in everything and you will find encouragement and strength.

Challenges

I have used this verse before to describe friendship and to define leadership. This verse speaks to me on so many levels that when I read it again a couple of weeks ago, I was compelled to write about it again. For months, the world has been very tumultuous. We’ve seen terrorist attacks, police shootings, police being ambushed, and horrific violence across the globe. It makes you wonder about the end-times. And, while all of this is going on, most people just go about their business as if it doesn’t matter as long as it isn’t happening in their community. There are others however, that become frightened by what is happening on a global perspective.

In our lives, we are constantly fighting a war against ourselves. We are worried about our jobs, the economy, the bills that are piling up and the latest news from our doctor. Worry sets in and we slowly start to panic – war has been declared. Pastor Greg Brown wrote a great book titled “The Seven laws of Breakthrough” in which he describes a journey that we take moving through our lives. At each level, we achieve strength and confidence just before we breakthrough the ceiling to the next level. He points out that when we breakthrough, we are once again on the floor. 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 will be with us. Its easy to write – don’t worry about things, but when you know that you are not alone, it should make it a little easier to.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1b-2

We have all heard people say or we have said it ourselves “God has a plan for you”. Some believe that the circumstances in their lives are merely chance happenings and that God doesn’t get into those details of your life or worse yet, that there isn’t a God at all. God does have a plan but it’s being revealed on His timeline not ours. A day or a year in God’s eye is not the same as an earthly one. Many of you will agree that “this life” is complicated and filled with all kinds of problems and trials. Can this really be part of God’s plan? It sure can be! God will only give us what we can handle and He wants us to grow in our faith and in our lives.

We cannot grow if we are not challenged; this is when breakthroughs occur. We all learned to crawl before we walked and mastered that before we started to run. These too were challenges and like the events of today; they exist for specific reasons. God, our Father, wants us to grow and like any parent who helps their baby take those first steps, He is there with us holding our hands for balance. As things get harder and the waters turn into rivers, He will be there so you are not swept away. God’s grace and love are with you everyday, sometimes you need to simply stop and realize it. 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 waters. Thank Him for His care and presence in your life.

What is true?

In our family, we have a new (old) favorite show – Cougar Town. Its been on a couple of networks over the past few years but it ran through seven seasons. It’s a cross between Seinfeld and Friends. Anyway, we recently saw an episode in which one of the main characters would proclaim “FACT” when she stated something, whether or not it was true. The moral was obviously just because saying something is a fact doesn’t mean that it is. It seems today that we often have a hard time telling the difference between what is true and what isn’t. “If it’s on the Internet, it has to be true” has become a new common phrase. The irony is that some people believe it! 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.

My mother will be having surgery this week for a broken hip. She’d kill me if I mentioned her age so I’ll just say that she is in her “advanced years”. I have faith that the doctors are capable and that the hospital staff is competent, at least that is what I hope for. I’ve not met the doctors nor the hospital staff; we are left with hoping that they are good enough to care for her. It makes you wonder about the other things in life that you have to simply have hope for. We will be traveling often this fall and leaving our 18 year old high school senior home alone for a few days. We have to have faith that he will do the right things and hope that we are right. At this point it looks like most of what we do in our lives is dependent upon faith and hope. We take the chance 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 retell it first hand. Humans often have to be sure of what we hope for. We hope that God is 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 having hope? 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 Him but we should KNOW that He is there. 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. The world is not filled with bad people. It’s filled with good people following the teachings of someone they have never met but who have the faith and certainty that God has put His mark on their hearts.

Showers of Blessings

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 your way 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 showers of blessing 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.

Unfortunately, we are condemned to death because of sin. The good news however, is that we have eternal life through God’s Grace. 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. No because we deserved it but because He loves us; only as a Father can. God blesses us here on earth but the real blessing is that we have Christ in our lives today and will have eternal life because of it.

Easter is the reason for our faith

Happy Easter Monday! For some reason this Easter really hit home for me, from a “Christian Church” perspective. I’ve always known it but I wanted to write about it this week because, Easter is really the point of our Christian faith. We say at Christmas that we should remember the reason for the season but Easter is the whole point. As Christians, we have nothing without Easter Sunday. So, I’m going to write this week’s devotion a little, okay a lot, differently. I want to focus on the whole message of what the third day really represents and start with a prayer first:

Almighty God the Father, open our eyes to see hope eternal in the empty tomb and let us rejoice. Through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

St. Paul writes in a letter to the Corinthians about the resurrection of Christ Jesus. I have nothing to add this week but his words, which were divinely inspired by God. In this letter we see God’s grace; we see that no matter what we’ve done, we are forgiven and; we know that we have hope in our lives. 1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

I pray that you are reminded that God is with you and that Jesus died for all of our sins. It is because of His death that we now can enjoy eternal life.