My cousin Eileen passed away this week at the age of 53 from a short fight with cancer. Her daughter survived a fight a number of years ago when she was in her late teens but her nephew, who also had cancer did not; he was just a boy. My Aunt and Uncle have buried a grandson, a daughter, his parents and all of his siblings. Eileen’s passing is a stark reminder that nothing is within our control and at times, nothing makes sense. For months, the world has been very tumultuous. We’ve got the pandemic, police shootings, protests and politic unrest. It makes you wonder about the end-times. And, while all of this is going on, most people will just go about their business as if it doesn’t matter as long as it isn’t happening to them or in their community.

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 we are not swept away. God’s grace and love are with us every day, 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.

God’s Armor

Calling someone a Christian leader should naturally come with the assumption that they will lead ethically, unfortunately there is temptation everywhere. Each of us have the ability to justify any action we take, whether right or wrong; the devil is always at work to throw us off course. The Josephson Institute lists twelve rationalizations that people will use to justify not making good ethical decisions: “1. It’s necessary, 2. if it’s legal, it’s okay, 3. it’s part of the job, 4. if it’s for a good cause, 5. doing it for someone else, 6. fighting fire with fire, 7. it won’t hurt anyone, 8. everyone’s doing it, 9. it’s okay if I don’t gain from it, 10. I’ve got it coming, 11. I can still be objective and 12. it’s creating necessity.”

No mater how we try justify our actions, when we violate the trust of the people in our lives, we have lost the one thing that is hard to get back; their respect. If we think about any of the latest “scandals” that have been reported and then compare the Josephson rationalizations listed, it is easy to see how things can get out of control. We must constantly guard against temptation at every turn and stay vigilant against the pressures of world around us.

“…let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:12.

The “deeds of darkness” can be those things that we consciously do and those things that we do or think unconsciously. As Christians, we are under attack by the devil everyday; he’s trying to win us over from God. Remember how he tempted Jesus by offering him the riches of the world and how did Jesus respond? He used scripture to rebuff those temptations. God has given us everything we need in His word through the bible.

If we have the word on our hearts and in our minds, we will know what to do when the urge to justify our actions starts to rise up. When we put on “the armor of light” we can hold our heads high and confidently look at ourselves in the mirror and smile knowing we did the right thing; even when it was hard to do. In the long run, people will respect you for acting ethically despite how they may initially respond. The struggle is daily but our armor will keep us protected.

Anxiety

I can’t watch TV news any more, I can’t read news on-line anymore and I’m starting to turn off TV shows that have too much conflict between the characters in them. It seems like everywhere I turn, there is conflict –a non-stop loop from kindergarten of: “yes you did, no I didn’t”. It’s making my nuts (or nuttier). I think it is also influencing how we speak to each other. I’ve spent the last month working in a high-pressure environment with the U.S. Army (12hr days for 25 straight days) and things can get a little testy among the team. As we were wrapping up, one of the team asked me a simple question about going home and I gave him a very sharp answer. He observed, “it has been a tense few weeks”. I had no idea of the way that I spoke. We never really understand how our words and actions affect those around us. What if your kind words were the only kind words that people hear in their lives? Would you go out of your way to speak them then?

There is a story called the blue ribbon that tells of a father who was given a blue ribbon by someone at work because they identified him as being important to them. He was then challenged to give the ribbon to someone who was important to him. He struggled to find that one person and put the ribbon in his briefcase before heading home. Once he arrived home, he found his son sitting in his room as he walked by. He returned with the ribbon and gave it to his son, explaining what had happened that day. He explained that while their relationship hadn’t always been the greatest, he wanted him to know that he was special and important to him. The son started to break down uncontrollably. When he was able, he explained that he was sitting there contemplating suicide because he thought that no one cared. Go out of your way today to speak a kind word to someone, you never know what your impact will be.

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25

There is a lot to be anxious about these days. I seem to be writing a lot about worry and anxiety but they are everywhere and can take over a person’s life. However, those strong in faith know to send those worries and fears to God in prayer. What about the other people in our lives who do not have the confidence or assurance to do that, what can we do to help them? Well placed kind words can mean a great deal to everyone we encounter.

Last week we discussed compassion and leaving people feeling good after we see them. Consider this the warm up act for compassion. When we are simply nice, generous with ourselves and offer kind words we will make a difference in people’s lives. Jesus never spoke poorly about anyone, not even those trying to persecute and kill Him. He teaches us the real meaning of compassion. Jesus was always uplifting even in the face of terrible times. If we compare our lives to His, we have it pretty easy. Share your grace and peace with others as it has been shared with you. A kind word will cheer up an anxious heart.