All is Forgiven

“I’ll never forgive them for what they did to me!” Have you ever uttered these words? They say trust is hard to build and easy to lose. I’d bet that we’ve all experienced that. Mistakes often fall in the same category. How easily all of our good work, extra hours and overtime are erased when we make one mistake. Years of trust are wiped out – in both directions. We no longer trust those that lead us and they have weakened trust in us. When does the erosion stop? We must have some faith and hope that our leaders will return to a sensible state and we move forward. We followed them for some reason, or we wouldn’t care what they thought of us.

If we are simply following them because they sign our paycheck, then our relationship is not affected when we disappoint them. However, being thankful for our job and working at our best is something we do for our families, or ourselves not for the leaderless boss. Take your “oops” and turn it into a learning experience. Find your mentor, confidant or peer who will help you learn. Sometimes these experiences are gifts from others, wrapped in ugly paper – yes, but a gift nonetheless. In all situations that go bad, we share in the blame; so make the make the most of it.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you for your sins.” Mark 11:25

Forgiving someone is one of the hardest things we will do in our lives. It’s easy to do when the circumstances are minor, like not being able to go the movies. It is a little harder when someone we care about humiliates us, talks badly of us or commits a “wrong” in some way that affects us.

We recently saw the brother of a shooting victim hug and forgive the shooter and most of us wonder, “How can they do that?” Our Father has forgiven us for the long list of things that we do or when we ignore Him. He knew we needed help in learning about forgiveness, so he sent His Son to us not only as a Savior for our sins but to give us an example to follow. Jesus showed us how to forgive; we just need to remember to do it. Forgive and move on; life on earth is too short to carry around the weight of unforgiven issues.

 

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What Does Living Really Mean?

What does living really mean? Our lives are filled with violence in the news (or maybe nearby) and we all know someone who’s lost a family member too young. I was talking to a friend the other day about retirement and we both know of people who’ve retired and then got very sick. My friend said that no where but in America do people save their whole lives, work until they are too old to enjoy their savings and end up skipping the best parts of life while they are capable of enjoying it. There was a TV commercial a number of years ago that started out with the phrase “when did leaving work on time become a bad thing?”

Despite all of our desires, we can’t chart our own course through life. My life was planned out through age 59 – a secure career, a strong financial plan, a pension when I retired and good health. At age 44 my career was over, and my financial future was uncertain. I was injured in freak accident at work that required major spinal surgery and I needed to find employment with a disability to put two kids through college. I was NOT in control of anything. Once I put my faith in God, people started entering my life and new connections were being formed. Soon, I working a new field and expanding my view of “work”. Like a tree growing and spreading its roots, soon my life was filled with great opportunities, great people and options. I was not directing my steps and I’ve stopped planning everything. This brings me back to the opening of paragraph; we can’t plan for everything so perhaps we should be taking advantage of the things that are right in front of us.

Jeremiah 10:23 “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own, it is not for a man to direct his steps.”

I biggest thing that I learned from my life being turned upside down was that I was not in control. I often write about God’s plan and I have personally experienced it. This life is God’s will, the beginning and end decided by Him – “It is not for man to direct his steps”. In today’s verse, God reminds us that He is ordering the events of our lives and not us. When we start thinking that we are in control, is when we start to get lost. Our mind becomes the devil’ playground.

Our lives are not our own because we are here to serve each other and to give all of the glory to God for His work in and through us. We should focus on serving the Lord and doing His will by letting Him direct our steps. As leaders, we can lead through our example of how to care for each other. Be the “middleman” and care for everyone around you. Some have said that this is a test of your faith, I disagree. It is a statement of your faith and one that can be made over and over again.

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.

Anytime Showers

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

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

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

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

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

Discerning Heart

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

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

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

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

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

Rest Comfortably

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

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

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

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

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

People are the worst

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

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

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

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

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

Extra Grace Required

Everyone needs a break once in a while. When we work with the same people all of the time, we can get on each other’s nerves. Often times we can simply brush off the issue and move on but every once in a while, we just can’t shake it. My mother used to jokingly say: “if everyone were perfect like us, we wouldn’t have these problems”. How true is that? In my case, I don’t think I could handle another person like me. What do we do with these people who annoy us or create problems? We can’t ignore them or stop being engaged at work or socially; so most of us just give them a little grace and move on. We will display our grace in justifying the behavior of the person by saying, “oh, that’s just Bill”. We are giving grace.

Rick Warren in his book Purpose Driven Life, describes difficult people as being EGR or extra grace required people. This really sticks with me every time I encounter someone challenging. As he points out, the key is not to be one of these people. To give someone a little extra grace is to not hold the annoyance against them, listen to the intended message instead of the actual message, and don’t take what they say personally. Southern ladies would say, “Bless her/his heart” when they give a little extra grace. No matter how you do it, the important part is to give the grace; not because they deserve it but because you can.

7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – “ Ephesians 2:7-8

God has shown us such grace in our lives. He gave His only Son for us so that we might have eternal life with Him. He has forgiven our sins, not because we deserved it but because He loves us. God’s grace is larger than we can imagine. We sin every day, yet He forgives us. We doubt His love and question His work in our lives and yet, He still loves us. We take Him for granted, live our lives to satisfy ourselves, worry only about what we need and yet, He still loves us.

For me, little else is needed to define what God’s grace really means. God send a Savior to bring us close to Him, so that we might have eternal life through Jesus. It is through God’s grace that we have been saved but not grace alone. We also need to have faith in Jesus as our Savior. Jesus is the one who took all of our sins to hell and when He rose on the third day, He took His seat at the right hand of God to intervene on our behalf. He turns to God and says, “They are worthy, just like me”. Rejoice in God’s grace knowing that He gives it to us as gift through our faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Reap what you sow

I was in Washington DC this past week to learn about solutions to problems facing our cities and town. We also spent time on Capital Hill with our Congressional Delegation discussing issues that connect Washington DC with our city. I wasn’t 100% behind attending due to the simple lack of cooperation that both parties seem to have. I’ve been saying for years that we have 535 Congressmen and thousands of staff people working here and nothing gets done. It’s funny, only because it’s true. I walk around this town and think of all of the wasted effort that has gone on for the past decade. There is no part of local governance that would survive the ineffective approach to leading found in DC.

The whole concept of politics is disgusting and yet, I’ve been re-elected to another term on City Council. I’ve been saying for years that if you want to insult me, call me a politician. It’s true. Why do we do the things that we do? Why are you doing the things that you are right now and who are you serving when you do them? I serve as an elected council member to serve my community and hopefully make a difference. I see others who serve in these capacities simply to feed their own egos. My work on this blog is about serving God and bringing the Word to the world. SO, back to my questions – why are you doing what you do and who do you do it for? It’s okay to work to support yourself and to have fun. Some fundamentalists don’t want you to know that – it’s okay to have fun! You will reap what you sow; let it be good.

8Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction: whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Galatians 6:8

As I looked around Washington DC, I felt the sense of people pleasing the flesh. In other bible versions “the flesh” is replaced with “sinful spirit” and right now, that’s a better fit for politics in Washington DC. What part of your sinful nature is driving your decision-making? We are all guilty of sin and will pay the price with death. This verse reminds us that if we are pleasing ourselves, we will reap destruction (earthly death).

However, if what we are reaping is pleasing to God, we will be rewarded with eternal life; an eternal life found through the sacrifice of Jesus. Verse 10 tells us exactly how to live our lives – “10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Serve God and His people but also serve others (do good to ALL people). There’s nothing political in that statement, there is no spin and there are no favors, its simple – do good! Our reward for working hard, getting shot down and working hard again is our eternal life with God the Father. God did not give us a pass or any vacation days from being His children nor does He deduct from us our salvation, which is through Jesus Christ.

 

Faith or Confidence?

What do you have faith in? Often times we hear that people have faith in “the system”, the assembly of policies or procedures that govern us. The system is broken these days, so maybe fewer people actually have faith in it. Where do we turn? The phrase, “if you want a job done right, do it yourself” sounds like we put faith in ourselves. In fact, many people put their faith there – in themselves. Something in their lives has driven them to believe in only themselves. They’ve been let down somewhere along the way or have become so focused on what they’ve accomplished that they lose sight of those that helped or supported them along the way. I hate to say this but as a “politician” people must have faith in me in order to elect me. I’ve never been “political” but during a re-election campaign, I have to be.

I take my job as a councilmember very seriously because of the faith that people have put in me as their representative. In any position you hold, people have to put their faith in you too. They have to trust that you will care and defend them as a leader or they have to believe that you will perform your job well as part of a bigger plan. When people count on you, when they have faith in you, you have a huge obligation to live up to those expectations. I pride myself on being prepared to answer questions at any time for a resident. I pay attention to what concerns people express and I’m always looking for ways to keep them informed and educated. People often comment that they appreciated my explanations; my reply is always that I’m just doing my job and that I take my role as their representative seriously. I want them to have faith in me. Be sure that people know they can have faith in you too.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. Hebrews 11:1

Faith in the biblical context is filled with ambiguity; there are a lot of things that we do not see. We can’t see eternal life and we can’t see God’s plan for our lives but we have faith in them. Some people focus so much on their personal success that they stop having faith in God to provide for them because they are so busy providing for themselves. The devil wants us to think that we are in control of our successes and that we don’t need prayer to be successful. These people have faith in just themselves. This verse in Hebrews reminds us that we can be confident in what God is doing in our lives and that our hopes are His hopes.

Faith in God also means that we can be sure of His presence and work in our lives even though we don’t see it. Faith is knowing, without question, that God is present in all things. Our sinful nature makes us believe that we are in control and that God only intervenes when we ask; sin puts faith in ourselves and not in God. The devil will shower you with money and success so he can keep you focused on yourself as the most important thing. Sin wants success and the feelings that come with it. When your faith is in God and all that He does, you no longer worry about success because it’s there. You won’t worry about material possessions because He will provide for you. Faith is confidence and we can be assured by the promises that God made which we cannot see. Have faith in God to watch over you.