Martin Luther King Jr Day

Today, in the United States, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day. He was just a great American, he was a great man who spoke all over the world. Hopefully, no matter what country you are reading in, you know about Martin Luther King Jr. The more I studied him of the years, I came to appreciate how inspirational he was. I thought that I should share one particularly moving quote today, he said “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Every day that goes by I seem to find it harder to simply tolerate the nonsense that I see on TV or hear about on the radio. Being in politics, I struggle to “hold my tongue” when I hear about the crazy things that state and national elected people do. As the old saying goes, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then say nothing at all”. I remain silent. I’m one of these weird people who often look for the middle ground on issues and work to get things done. Peace among people is where we need to start. When the individual people can’t agree or get along, peace is impossible. Dr. King is suggesting that we start with truth and love – something we are lacking in this day and age. Peace opens creativity, which allows people to feel free to exchange ideas and a willingness to collaborate with each other. Go out and make peace!

Romans 12:18 – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

The Bible teaches us to live in peace with one another and love your neighbor as yourself. Living this way allows us to reflect God’s love by loving each other and it makes all of our social interactions easier too. How better for Christians to show love than by living in peace? This is the message of the verse; “as far as it depends on you”. It all depends on you; how you react to a situation or how you create a situation.

We are taught to “stick up for ourselves” and not be bullied. We’re not taught to avoid conflict simply to live at peace. Conflict can be good and healthy for relationships. We should try to find common ground, work out the differences and keep our focus on the issue not the person. If you’re having a difficult conversation, start by making it safe for everyone, stay focused on the issue and how it makes you feel rather than what you think the other person is saying. This is not a time for assumptions. By living in harmony, we live by God’s word and show others that as God so loved the world, so can we.

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Hope for a New Year

Now that 2023 is underway and we all have hope for what this year will bring, I thought that letting the bible speak for itself might help point you in a more focused direction. Maybe some of your resolutions have already been broken or maybe you are struggling to decide what to make of the new year. Whatever the case, we all need to think about how we are living this life and where our focus is. In the New International Version, the third chapter of Colossians is titled “Living as Those Made Alive in Christ” – a good theme for the new year.

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 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 3:1-4, 12-17

Be Thankful

This week the U.S. will celebrate Thanksgiving, a time that Pilgrims were thankful for the help that they received from the Native Americans. The Pilgrims were known for offering a prayer of thanksgiving following a blessing such as the end of a war or a successful harvest. Thanksgiving became an official U.S. holiday in 1863 during the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln declared a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. For Americans, this is a day for the three F’s, family, a feast, and football. It is also the kick off to the Christmas shopping season.

For many of us, this holiday is an opportunity to reflect on the many blessings in our lives much like President Lincoln had intended. I hope as the year has passed, that you have taken the time to give thanks every day for the blessings in your life and that you aren’t saving them all up for this one day. You will notice that I started this post, as I usually do when there is a holiday, “this week in the U.S. we will celebrate…” I do that because I am blessed by having readers all over the world. The power of the Internet is unbelievable, but I would suggest that it wasn’t the Internet that connected us; it was God. Above all, I am thankful for my relationship with God and that He has chosen me to be the source of some insight into His word so that you too can have a stronger relationship with Him.

“Mercy, Peace and Love be yours in abundance.” Jude 1:2

The chapter of Jude starts like this:” 1Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ”. Jude 1:1. He offers this message of hope for all of us. Conventional wisdom tells us that Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the blessings that we have received but we don’t acknowledge where they come from.

President Lincoln knew whom to thank but as a society, we’ve lost sight of that. I would offer that this simple verse is what God wants for each us – mercy, peace and love. If we have more than this, we are abundantly blessed; most of us are. There is no promise of good health, big homes, great jobs, fine clothes or anything material. God wants us to have peace, know mercy and feel love. We can find all of these things in His word given to us through the bible. We should remember that our needs are small and that God provides what we need, everything else is overabundances given by a society that has forgotten the one who gave it all to us. Celebrate Thanksgiving by giving thanks, remembering who made it all possible and seeking the comfort found in the gifts from God – mercy, peace and love. Happy Thanksgiving!

Praise

Constructive criticism. Just the name makes me think “what an oxymoron”; what can be constructive about criticism? Having given out my fair share of it, I’m sure that it was an oxymoron to the person receiving it. I had always believed that it should be given as gift and received as one too. It takes courage to tell someone how they might improve or try something differently. It was when I started studying the concept of employee coaching that it really made sense. In coaching, the supervisor is not criticizing the employee but they are offering constructive observations about behaviors, seeking to understand the goals of the employee and attempting to align those goals with those of the organization. Effective employee coaching can go along way toward building up an employee, not criticizing them.

What does the word “praise” mean to you when you hear it? For many, it’s only something you do at church. Our society has become so negative that all we seem to hear is criticism and negativity. We should be throwing around a little more praise for people and the things they do. Think about the last time you told a server at a restaurant that they did a good job. You may have tipped well, but saying something will make it mean much more. I’m not suggesting that you walk around all day telling everyone “good job” but more often than not, they never really know unless someone says something. The next time the chance presents itself; tell someone how much you appreciated their work or advice. Not only will you make someone’s day but also you will be surprised how good you will feel about yourself.

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:8

I often reflect on a verse from Paul in one of his letters to the Corinthians that essentially says – we cannot understand the wisdom or the timelines of God. We don’t understand why things happen and we become frustrated when our prayers are not answered right a way. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about bad things happening to good people and how we simply cannot understand His ways. I also suggested that we seek to understand why these things happen.

We should not criticize what is happening but give praise and thanks for all that God has done. The person who is sick has been given another day to experience; the person who is financially struggling is being prepared for something greater or perhaps being drawn to God. We need to give more thanks and praise. In prayer, God can handle our requests and our questioning of His wisdom, but He can also handle our moments of praise and thanksgiving. Our praise should not remain silent in prayers but they should be shared with the “nations”. Spread the good news about what God has done, He deserves it.

God of Peace

The Chinese word for crisis has two symbols grouped together that mean “a time of opportunity” and “a time for danger”. I’ve used this symbol when I teach Change Management to illustrate that change can sometimes be viewed by employees as a time of crisis. We all loose something during “change”, sometimes its as significant as losing a job, while other times it may be less dramatic or it may simply be a feeling of loss that disturbs people the most. Whatever the case, as people, we all deal with loss in a variety of ways. During a time of change, we will go through the 5 stages of grieving: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Many times these stages result in significant resistance to change.

The status quo is very comfortable for us – we get used to what we do and how we do it. Good managers will recognize that people will grieve their losses (perceived or real) and take steps to help their staff move through the grieving process. Managing change is an art and a science; change leaders must understand that and work through the issues. Major change requires patience. Change management requires constant communication and reassurance and should never result in ultimatums that people simply accept the change or leave. Employees must also recognize that change is both an opportunity and a dangerous time. It’s dangerous for them as they navigate the grieving process and overcome their resistance. It is a time for opportunity because they can show that they are a team player and may even become a change agent.

1 Corinthians 14:33 – “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…”

God does not want us to live in disorder and chaos but He does want us to grow. Growth only comes with change. In the beginning, God kept forcing changes on us, He challenged everything that people knew and believed. He gave us opportunity after opportunity to change our hearts and minds. Finally, God sent us His son, Jesus Christ, known as the Prince of Peace. Jesus was a great reconciler for us; bringing us to peace with God our Father.

There are some that still are not willing to change from doing things their way and failing to believe in God and His son; they continue to do what they think is best based on earthly desires. Talk about resistance! There is no need to grieve; we have been given everlasting life with God through our faith in Jesus Christ. This is cause for celebration and not a moment of crisis. There is noting but opportunity in this good news. Continue to share your faith, keep up your devotions and listen to God as he speaks to you; He is speaking to you through the change agents in your life. The change agent maybe you, are you ready?

Where is God?

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

I’ve known several people who have had serious illnesses and they were inspiring to me as they fought through the challenges; they did the inspiring. So the answer to the question is not why but what are we to learn from this? Are you supposed to be a stronger supporter? Are you supposed to learn about the strength of prayer or how to trust in God? We are all God’s children and He gives us only what we can handle, so what are we going to do with the opportunity that God has presented? Rotten people might not seem to have these problems but if they are truly rotten to the core, then they have eternal problems to deal with. 

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

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

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

There’s a Plan

An injury forced me into “retirement” 13 years ago. I had no idea what I would do with my life or how I would support my family and put my kids through college. It was a scary time for us. Each year that passes in about September or October, I start to panic about the upcoming year and what it will bring in the way of income. No matter what successes I have been blessed with, I still find myself getting anxious. I guess this means that after 13 years, I still haven’t learned to simply trust God. I have been blessed in so many ways that I should just be calm, but I continue to witness people lose their jobs or receive negative medical news and calm is not in my wheelhouse. They face similar anxieties about the future but just have different questions. To help each other, sometimes we just need to recognize that others are in need as a starting point.  

Simply helping others may bring clarity to our own problems. It is so easy to focus on ourselves that we start to fall into self-pity and then, depression starts to creep into our lives. Once we let it in, it’s very hard to get rid of it. The key is to keep it out. We don’t know what will happen with the problems in our lives or how long they will be with us. Instead of worrying about the problem, we should be searching for the message or lesson that is contained in them. We don’t know what will come of them, but we do know that everything happens for a reason and that it is all part of a bigger plan; we just don’t know what it is.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2

God has a plan. We hear it over and over in the Bible. We also hear people say it often and this verse reminds us of it – “what we will be has not been made known”. God is in control, ordering things in our lives to help us. He is not directing or creating single paths; we do have free will to choose. The key is recognizing what is part of the plan and what is the work of the devil. Our world is so complicated, and we are left with anxiety about the “right” path to choose – “what we will be has not yet been made known.” 

We have little patience because this world moves at such a fast pace, but God does not. We become impatient and look for quick fixes (provided by the devil) and then the trouble starts. Slow down. “We are children of God”. Celebrate that! God has His stamp on your heart, mind and soul. Would He let you down? Stop searching for quick fixes and answers to questions that do not exist. Instead, look for God in all things and for the lesson he has presented to you. He loves His children and does not give us more than we can bear. Rejoice in the fact that God is giving you a path to walk through, He is preparing you for something better and wants you to be strong enough to enjoy it. 

Something to Believe In

According to an on-line dictionary, the word “believe” is defined as: accept as true, feel sure of the truth of and, have faith. The thesaurus gives us: be convinced by, regard as true and, think. Given my role as an elected person, I’m often forced to follow politics even when I don’t want to, and I’m forced to be political; and I never WANT to do that. So, I walk a very narrow line in the middle of the road. I’m an independent voter for a reason. We just finished primary election season here in Arizona so, the mailers came as did the endless TV commercials, all filled with half-truths and twisted facts. I hate election season now! 

Alternative facts, fake news, all of media being deemed “the enemy of the people”; it’s hard to believe in anything these days. I know the truth is out there and we should all be trying to find it. I love the old -phrase “figures lie and liars figure”. To me, it represents the concept that you can make anything appear the way you want it just by moving the numbers around. As a society and a humanity, we need to find a path into the future that is not polarizing our beliefs but benefiting from our differences. Perspective changes everything and oftentimes we simply lack perspective to understand the problems. The devil is working hard enough to turn us away from the love and peace that Jesus left for us, let’s not allow him to succeed or we will all understand what wrath means. 

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” John 3:36 

God’s word is very clear throughout the Bible; He can be made angry easily, He has a long memory, and He gave His one and only Son to save the world. If the Son is rejected, He will send His wrath and not let them see eternal life. The promises of God have not been broken. Jesus told us of the wonders of eternal life and the glory that we have, don’t we want to share that with everyone? 

I thought about the people that do not know Christ, which means they have rejected Him. What about the people that I know who don’t have a relationship with Christ or who have children that haven’t been baptized? After reading this verse, I became very sad when I thought about God’s wrath that remains on them. In reflection, this is why I keep writing these weekly devotions. Maybe, I can reach one person that is lost or sustain a relationship in someone else. The work I do with the military is all about safeguarding, and so is this verse. Please reach out to those that are lost and help them find Christ. We are all busy in this life but an eternal life is not possible without Christ. 

Like Fingers on a Hand

“Like fingers on a hand… We are all different and unique. We are all of equal value. We are all created to work together. And although we appear separate, we are all linked to – and a part of – each other.” This is the phrase on the landing page of website www.onehumanfamily.info. I came across this organization several years ago, but the concept means just as much to me today as it did when I first saw it. I can’t stop thinking about the concept, especially with the insanity taking place around the world.

I struggled to find a way to bring this into a weekly devotion I recently read Ephesians 2:11-22. I realized why this saying meant so much to me – I had heard the concept before. I encourage you to visit the website for one human family after you read the verses below. My prayer is that you will also see what St. Paul was saying is that we are all one through the strength of Jesus.

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:11-22

Focus

My business partner and I provide strategic planning consulting services for local governments. We use a slightly different approach to the traditional planning process where, instead of focusing on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, we talk about strategic focus areas and the principles that guide them. Every community or organization has them. Sometimes they are found in mission or value statements but often they are representative of the things important to the community. For example, every city, no matter its size, will focus on fiscal sustainability and transparency. In the past, strategic planning often focused on dreaming big – “what would we do if nothing stood in our way” thinking. In today’s reality, there are plenty of things to get in the way, so we ask our clients what is it that they are focused on and what principles are they based in. 

People, for the most part, can be the same – what are you focused on and what principles are those focused areas based in. Ask yourself, what am I focused on? How do you spend your time and what do you get from it? I’m not suggesting that if you spend your time watching TV for a couple hours at night and you’re not getting anything out of it and that you should stop; I am suggesting that if ALL you do is watch TV when you aren’t at work, perhaps you can focus some time elsewhere. Once you determine what you are focused on, you can start to drill in to why you do it and how you will do it. Bringing these things into perspective can help guide the choices that you make.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured on the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Talk about focus, Jesus had to keep His eye on where He was heading. Satan tried to blur Jesus’ focus when he tempted Him for 40 days. When God’s plan for His death was revealed to Him, Jesus remained focused on His goal of saving the lost. Even as He carried His own cross, Jesus remained focused on the goal of joining His Father in Heaven and defeating the devil once and for all. There were plenty of things to distract Him – fame, power, faithful disciples and the broken moral structure of the society that He lived in; yet Jesus remained focused. 

His strategic focus was saving the world and He based that focus on the guiding principles established by God – the Ten Commandments. Because of His focus, we can drill in to being good and faithful servants. Jesus took with Him, in His death, our sin and the guilt of breaking these principles. This freedom from sin allows us to focus on the teachings of Jesus and the Word of God. We can find our daily principles spelled out in the bible and maintain our focus on God. Spend some time reinforcing those principles and make time with God a strategic focus area.