Persevere

“Times are tough all over” was the title of a hit song in 1990. People have been saying this for years and since the start of the pandemic, we all still know someone who feels like times are tough. It became a way of saying to someone “you aren’t alone” or “it’s happening to everyone” but it never really makes anyone feel better. Why do we suffer? I’ve said before that Lisa, and I believed that our 3 hour round trip to see our premature daughter in the hospital was building character. Today, everyone one of us knows someone who has received a cancer diagnosis or had another type of life altering event. We hear them ask “why me, why did God do this to me?” 

One of the greatest effects that homelessness has on people who lose their home or place to call home is that they lose hope. These men and women, who have faithfully persevered these past two years, are used to making positive contributions. Once they start to disconnect, the trip downward is fast and takes hope with it. Recent studies have shown that once hope is restored, recently evicted people often return to a productive life. No matter the situation, we all see people who are struggling in this world; living the “times are tough all over” kind of lives. What can we do help them? We can offer hope and support with less judgement and distain. 

“Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12

Some people look at this verse as proof that God is testing them before they can have eternal life. Yet others view it as even though you are tested, do not give up hope because the promise is still yours. You do not have to buy, perform, sacrifice, say, write or do anything to receive God’s forgiveness! He has given us that gift already; we are forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The “crown of life” James tells us about, is found in our belief that Jesus is our Savior. We don’t know why some people suffer more than others. 

We certainly don’t understand why some people deal with their trials better than others. It isn’t for us to understand. Think about the trials that St. Paul suffered and he was a persecutor at one point in his life. There are millions of people on this planet suffering simply because they believe in Jesus as their Savior. What hope do they have? They have faith in God’s word and in His promises. It might be all they have but they have it. God is not punishing them or testing them more than anyone else. The devil is still at work in this world and when hope is dimmed he is encouraged; it becomes his foothold in our lives. God is telling us, through James, to not lose hope but persevere because eternal life waits for us. To me, that’s all the reason to keep hope alive. 

Losing Hope

Rejection happens all of the time. People don’t like our ideas, we hang up on telemarketers, our company loses a big proposal or worse yet, a relationship falls apart. String a few of these together and life becomes miserable. People begin to fall into despair and then nothing can go right. This is when hopelessness takes over and all is lost; someone without hope becomes lost. The world is witnessing a hopeless situation in Ukraine. We are struggling to balance the protection of a nation against an aggressor with maintaining enough separation to ensure we are drawn into a war. In the U.S., we are struggling to seek solutions to a number of problems because no one wants to “lose”, and compromise has been deemed a weakness.

People are losing hope in their government and its leaders. When we lose hope, we lose all sense of belonging and self-worth. We feel rejected by everything and everyone. The effects of the pandemic will be felt for many years to come as we all struggle to figure out who and what to believe about our own safety. There are a number of people in this world who are rejected on a regular basis; many of them young people or our military veterans. There isn’t a month that goes by that we don’t read about a young teen that takes their life because their peers who resorted to bullying them have rejected them. Or the veteran who returned from military service only to find that the world they once knew has rejected their new world view. Do you know when you feel like you are losing hope? Can you recognize it in someone else? 

“He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”  Luke 10:16

We all have exclaimed at some point in our lives “This is hopeless!” We usually rebound and find a solution to the problem or God puts someone in our life to help us through. What about being rejected? We experience rejection a lot in our youth but we learn from it and adapt. As adults, we typically experience it less and my guess is because we don’t put ourselves in situations to be rejected – we learned from our youth. We must be aware in our own lives when we are losing hope or know someone who is. 

For some, this turns into clinical depression but for most of us, we just get down. Much like the frog in the pot on the stove that doesn’t feel the water getting hotter, we don’t know when it’s turning from being down to becoming depressed. Find your hope in God; through Him nothing is hopeless. Jesus is warning in this verse that He will not be rejected without consequences. If we reject Jesus, we reject the Father. There is no wiggle room in that! So, if our hope is in God we should have nothing to fear, right? God wants us to come to him and to come often in prayer. Know the word of God by reading the bible and you will be filled with hope regularly. Armed with this knowledge, you can be that person God puts into someone else’s life to bring them hope and acceptance rather than despair and rejection. 

No Fear

I always struggle writing about “current events” which have turned into the mixed messages coming out of Washington DC on just about any social issue. There was an old rule in the fire station – don’t talk about your wife, religion or politics. It’s not a bad rule but I’m becoming more concerned each week that as human beings, we are losing our moral compasses. If we stop taking care of each other then we are all in big trouble. The issues of “religious freedom”, healthcare, “illegals at the border” and public assistance programs are great opportunities to discuss the love of God and our sinful nature with people who you might not ever of had the chance to. 

I had opportunities to be more productive than I was this past week, some might say that I even wasted time. Those same people will say I sinned because I wasted time; what else is new? I know that not a day goes by that I don’t sin and most of the time I’m completely unaware of it. Someone I was talking with recently asked the question, are there degrees of sin? It was a great question because some people have a hard time accepting “big sins” but easily overlook the “small” ones; we need to remember that sin is sin. I will argue that all the discussions, arguments, and debates about the “current event” issues that I suggested earlier are focused on the wrong part of the equation, the sin. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a common phrase many people use. It’s a good one because it keeps the focus on the sin. I looked at several passages for this week that focused on God’s love, living in peace and sin but turned my focus back on why these discussions and debates started in the first place – fear.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:28

No one ever talks about forgiveness anymore. The conversation is always focused on the sin these current event debates – not working hard enough, being lazy, being “illegal”, unconventional life choices, the list goes on. There is not a day that goes by that we all don’t sin. We can’t avoid it no matter what we do, thanks to Adam and Eve. Sin came into this world to destroy it but God had other plans. 

God loves us despite our sins. 16“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. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18) We are forgiven, period. No amount of sin, no degrees of sin, no amount of guilt or fear can change that we are forgiven through faith in Jesus. Yes, we should love our neighbor as ourselves and yes, we should hate the sin, not the sinner but we should never be afraid because we are forgiven. We should practice love and compassion as Jesus showed us. He never chose one ethnicity over another when he healed or shared God’s Word. He taught us to love everyone – brothers, sisters, Jews, Gentiles, sinners, saints and even tax collectors. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I’ve posted this before and find myself returning to it every year at Christmas time. We just celebrated the birth of our Savior, and it is reminder of the real “new beginning” in our lives. There are two times during the year that I really focus back on God’s word; now and at Easter. We can get so wrapped up (no pun intended) in the hustle and bustle on “holiday season” that we can easily forget about our celebration. We forget about Love and Forgiveness as God promised to all of us. We rush from event to event that we miss the best present of all time. So again, I thought that I would let the word of God stand alone and reach everyone in its own way. Please have a safe New Year’s Eve and may God bless your 2022.

God’s Love and Ours 

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1John 4:7-16

A Great Loss

Last Sunday, the Mayor of our city passed away after a short fall injury and illness. As a city, we have mourned the loss of Georgia Lord but certainly not to the degree that her family is. I heard from several people who expressed their grief at her sudden passing, and we held a short public event in which each Council Member was able to speak about how Georgia had impacted each of us. It was truly touching. I said that she treated all of us like extended family and that her and I would often disagree, much like a son and mother would, but in the end, we cared and respected each other deeply. I looked at her daughters on Monday and saw the same sadness that I observed in my sibling’s eyes just four years ago. While we are sad for what we lost, I know that we should be celebrating the joys that she brought to us as well.

Our mayor, my friend, had expressed such peace in her final days that it was hard to be sad for her. I am sad for your family, her friends, and supporters, we lost a real special person last Sunday and our grief will be present for some time. Georgia’s assurance of peace and trust in God’s promises were truly inspiring. This time of year can be very sad for some people; a look back over the year that’s past and see what did and did not get done on top of the losses we experienced in the second year of a pandemic. I like to use this analogy: during our life, we cannot see the path that we are on but when we finish a segment of it, God sometimes gives us a satellite view of where we’ve been. We mourn the loss of another great friend, but we should celebrate that we had Georgia Lord in our lives at all in the first place.

6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  1 Timothy 6:6-7

I am comforted by the faith I have in God’s promises and can see His hand in my life; sometimes by the people He put there and sometimes by the experiences He gives me. Georgia did a lot in her lifetime, raised great kids, had a large extended family but most importantly, she was a woman of great faith. She was very content with her life and was at peace when she passed. This verse from Timothy reminds me about the story of the DASH whose premise is what have you done with the time represented by the dash between the year you were born and the year you die. We bring nothing into this world, and we take nothing out; its what we do with our time that counts. 

God has given us the tools to do great things, we just need to slow down and read the instructions found in the bible. Sometimes we even have examples placed in our lives. Jesus lived as the ultimate example for us but God also gives us examples like Georgia Lord in our lives today. Slow down to see them and be content with the things in your life; it ends suddenly. We will never know the impact we will have on others. We all have a life that contains a DASH; fill it with contentment, love, kindness, and worship to God who made it all possible. 

Rest in Peace Georgia Lord, you earned it!

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is this week in the U.S. and if I tried to tell you everything or everyone that I was thankful for, you’d be reading this for hours. I was reminded of a few key areas in my life that I am grateful for as I wrote a proposal this week for a community that we started working with five years ago. I say “we” because my partner in this project is a long-time friend who I began partnering with over 10 years ago. I am very thankful for the opportunity that I have to work with a great professional who is also a dear friend. The proposal reminded me of the community staff and leaders that we’ve come to know over the years and I’m thankful for the opportunity to have gotten to know them. I also work with a great team of city staff and fellow elected officials in my official duties as a Councilmember. It isn’t always easy, but it is the people who I work with that make it all worthwhile.

The project that I bid on is one that my wife can join us on and I’m thankful for our great partnership both at home and in the business. When my wife and I spend time traveling together or just hang out together in our empty nest, we appreciate how grateful we were for the huge blessings in our lives and what we’ve been able to accomplish under stressful circumstances at times. We never let things set us back; we keep talking about how the hard times build character in us. Once again, we sit amazed by the work of God in our lives – even when we didn’t know it. I encourage you to take time this week to reflect on all that you have to be thankful for and look at how God has moved your life even when you faced struggles, He was there. Thank Him for His work and then thank someone in your life that makes things just a little bit better. Happy Thanksgiving!

15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful… 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:15,17

In our house Thanksgiving Day is the start of the Christmas season. We start listening to classic Christmas music, decorating the house finds it way onto the calendar, preparation for baking begins, Christmas card lists are printed and the peace of the season is in the air. The year will end soon and we all start thinking about how thankful we were for so many things and we look forward to what the new year will bring. No matter what has happened in your life let God’s peace, given to us through His Son Jesus Christ, be with you and comfort you.

It’s hard to think about telling God “thanks” for sending us a savior who had to die before we’d figure it out. God knew what it would take to save us and all He asks is that “whatever we do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and to give thanks to God through Him.” A simple “thanks”. Sometimes through all of the mess in our lives, the frantic pace that we live and the set backs we have, we still have a lot to be thankful for. Our faith in Jesus Christ and God’s grace has guaranteed us eternal life; free from all these worldly problems. Even when you struggle, be thankful. God has a place for you in heaven, which is something to be thankful for!

Leading or Managing but Never Both

Often, we come face to face with people who are either a manager or a leader but rarely are they both. There have been plenty of books written that describe a leader, so I’m not going to do it in a short blog post. The verse for today talks about: “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training”; all good signs of a leader. Taking the time to ensure that your people are trained to do their job is a management function. Taking the time to build their skills and knowledge so that they can grow/advance is leadership. Rebuking, which is the expression of disapproval or criticism is the management skill of correcting unwanted behavior. Leaders that have courage, will not only help others correct mistakes, but they also take the time to coach their staff toward improvement while allowing the staff space to make mistakes. These “mistakes” should serve as learning points and not disciplinary moments. 

A “manager” will spend time correcting every little thing that people do; we call these types of people. “micro-managers”. Every one of us has worked for someone who wants things done a certain way within a certain time period. A real micro-manager takes their “certain way” and makes changes to everything we’ve done. A “leader” will correct someone by teaching more effective processes, they will teach by explaining what and why certain things are important but most of all, they will acknowledge when they too are wrong. Training employees is critical for an organization’s overall success. Teaching is about learning new skills and training is about taking what you know and making it better. Leaders view training as an opportunity to let people experiment and get comfortable with concepts and processes. The signs of a good leader can be found in these traits, modeled by the greatest leader there will ever be. 

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

This is one of those verses that help summarize the Bible – “All Scripture is God-breathed”. It’s amazing to think that these are the words of God given to us through His writers. If you look back through the scriptures, you will see Jesus use teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in all that He did. Whether he was addressing large crowds, small groups, His disciples, His mother, or the Pharisees; He was working toward righteousness. 

The “man” referred to in these verses is all of us. We should use these traits to become equipped for every good work. No one will manage us, there is no one to “make” us do it; Jesus (our leader) has given us examples to follow. As sinners, it is easy to fall away from the teachings; no one really knows when we fall and there is no one to discipline us. Our coach and our leader, who is there all of time, is God. He is the one who inspired the scripture and sent His Son to be our savior. We shouldn’t fear that God is a micro-manager, we need to embrace the One whom we call “teacher”; He is the one that makes it all right in our Father’s eyes. 

Work, the worst four letter word!

We just spent a long weekend with our son and his girlfriend in California to celebrate his birthday, his new job and our 35th wedding anniversary. We jammed everything we could into 3 days. Our son is working in the television industry as an audio engineer – a post all by itself just to explain that end of a production. He loves his new profession and learning new techniques each week as he mixes sound for a popular TV show. He says that he is working to make the music, the dialog and the sounds be as crisp as possible. He works for the production company, but he is also working for his own pride in workmanship – we’re very proud! 

Who are you working for? We often hear the phrase in response – “working for the man” when people describe their jobs. Do you know why you are working like you do? I’d like to suggest that you might consider yourself working as though you are working for God and that His influence shows through in everything that you do. If you had to go to work for God everyday, I bet you would approach your daily work much differently than you do today. Change your outlook, always do your best and at the end of each day pause, close your eyes, tilt your head towards heaven and imagine God’s smile, a wink and Him telling you, “You’ve done a good job today!”

Colossians 3:23-24 “What ever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Do your friends and family ever wonder why you work so hard or have the patience that you do for your work? The “man” doesn’t care how hard you work, just that you keep showing up, keep your mouth shut and do your job. Working for the “man” is what many people feel destined to do. But the “man” in Paul’s letter is the Lord! Feels different now doesn’t it? We are a reflection of the goodness of God and all that Jesus Christ taught us about living our lives. He didn’t say, “go and work just for yourselves and leave the others to suffer”. 

Jesus taught us to care for each for other and give willingly. While many of us do just that and it can be hard at times. We do a good job and are thankful for the opportunity to serve others. God’s plan for us includes using us as examples for others to see His goodness. When you smile at or encourage someone at work, you are reflecting God’s goodness. When you continue to work hard when everyone else is taking advantage of the workplace, you are reflecting God’s goodness. When you un-jam the copier after someone else walked away from it, you are reflecting God’s goodness. We can see God’s goodness if we just look for it – its everywhere. It is the Lord you are serving, do it with all of your heart!

Worry won’t add to your life

Worry can consume a great deal of time in someone’s life. As children, some of our mothers warned us to, “wait until your father comes home” and then we’d spend hours worrying. Yet as adults somehow, we are comfortable worrying. I created phrase in our house a long time ago when I said, “let’s worry about worrying, when there is something to worry about”. We had fallen into the trap of “worry” before we even had a problem. As a family, we learned after my surgery that there is a plan for our lives; we simply needed to let it reveal itself to us. Humans want to be in control of everything and when we can’t adjust the circumstances around us, we start to worry. We do it so often that worrying has become second nature to us. We worry about things at work, we worry about things at home, in the stock market, in pro sports, on our drive to work and we worry about ourselves. I would challenge you to stop worrying and start living your life. 

I’m not suggesting that you become reckless but start to look around at all of the great things in your life and look at how they are connected. These are not random events that just happened because the timing was right; they are connected events that if you look hard enough, you’ll see the plan before your eyes. Let circumstances unfold without your intervention or delay your action just long enough to see the real “whole story”. If you are a supervisor or leader, you should be working to keep your staff from worrying. Keep them in the loop on issues and be honest. It’s hard for an employee to worry about something when they know the facts. Ask employees what they worry about, you might be surprised by the answers you get. Worry is wasted energy and emotions so don’t fall into the trap. You control your reaction – worry or action, the choice is yours. 

25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”  Luke 12:25-26

Luke answers my question – worrying will not add to your life, so why do it? As believers, we know three things about our lives: 1) God has a plan for us 2) Our time here on earth has already been determined and 3) Our trust is in God. We are, however, logical thinkers by design. God gave us free will to live our lives. I’ll argue then, that if you believe God has a plan for you and that you trust in Him, what do you have to worry about? 

If we cannot add a single hour to our own lives, then what is the point? Is worry the creation of Satan to break down our trust in God? I don’t know the answer but I know that far too many people turn away from God because they get lost in worrying and find ways to satisfy that emotion which in turn reveals more worry, etc. There is only one that can weave that sort of confusion in our lives. Let God take that worry from you, He likes to hear what is troubling His children. God will be there for you no matter what you are worried about, give Him your troubles. Let God work in your life and you’ll be amazed at the great things that he will reveal. Put your trust in God and less on your own ability and He will be there for you.

Parenting

I’ve often said that good supervisors are like good parents; firm when needed, caring when appropriate, there to help and offer advice and but they know when to let the “kids” figure things out on their own. My kids used to hate that part; when they would ask me for advice about something and I’d say, “what do you think you should do” or “what are the options you’ve considered”. Above all, a good parent loves their children and makes them feel safe under all types of circumstances. The same can be said for a good supervisor, you should love your people but in a different way. They should not fear the workplace or the atmosphere there, they should not feel unappreciated or like they have no say in the current direction or their own future. They should feel safe under your direction while you are seeking to constantly strengthen them.

I remember the day when I became a father, for the first time and again 5 years later, like it was just yesterday. It was a little overwhelming to become entirely responsible for another person and shape how they would turn out. How would my actions permanently impact their lives? There were things that I wanted for them like an annual family vacation and things that I didn’t want them to experience like loneliness. I’ve been blessed to achieve both, and I am very proud of my kids; they are awesome people who care deeply for others and are good role models for others. 

14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  Romans 8:14-15

We are all “sons” of God; male or female it doesn’t matter. I’d like to think that my kids feel lucky to have me as their father, but it does not compare to the feeling of being children of God. We aren’t “lucky” to have God as our Father; we have God’s grace and mercy to be led by the Spirit of God in our lives. Our free will allows us to accept it or deny it but the Spirit is always with us, waiting for us to accept God and our Savior Jesus Christ. No matter what we do or say, the Spirit is always present. Just as a parent is always there for their children, our Father is always there for us. 

We are no longer slaves to the fear of guilt or the wrath of God; we are free because of our love and belief in Jesus Christ and the triune God. No matter what we’ve done, God forgives all of us. Our Father in heaven sent Jesus to save us from the world we know and from ourselves. The devil wants us to believe that no matter what we do, there is no pleasing God so we might as well enjoy ourselves here on earth. Cry out to our Father and stay strong in your faith knowing that you are forgiven and safe in His care. Your Father in heaven loves you. Like a good parent, He is always there; just call on Him “Abba, Father!”