God’s intervention in my life seems more apparent to me almost daily. You know the old expression, “when one door closes another one opens” is really the best summary of God at work in our lives. I’ve written a lot about God’s plan because I have seen it unfold in my life quite often. I recently read a great phrase that caught my attention – “When your heart is right with God, your ways will follow”. I started thinking about the other verses that describe how we will act when we have God in our heart and for me, that always comes back to who’s plan are you executing? I work with someone who doesn’t seem to understand how his actions create problems for others. The really sad part is that he doesn’t care how he affects others. He is very knowledgeable and well respected in our field, but he simply doesn’t care or doesn’t possess the emotional capacity to understand that he hurts people when all he does is think and act in his own best interests. If it’s not his way, then it’s no way. No matter who speaks to him or who no longer wants to work with again, he still goes his own way.
We all know the people we can joke with and those that are all business. We know who can take constructive criticism and who can’t, so we all take these things into consideration and carefully maneuver throughout our day. We’re executing your plan. But what happens when your plan doesn’t match with anyone else’s? Usually chaos or frustration. People are upset, deadlines are missed, quality suffers and relationships are damaged. This is why; working to combine plans by finding common elements is when great things happen. It takes looking beyond yourself and trusting in someone else to achieve great things.
“A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.” Proverbs 21:2
Have you ever thought what influences you and your decisions? I remind myself every so often, of the order of life priorities that we used to say to our kids when they were small – God, family and everyone else. Tell a teenager that he or she doesn’t come first and wait for the emotions. For us, this worked well when their friends were becoming a problem, but it also helped keep things in perspective. We don’t consciously stop and ask ourselves what God would like us to do; although He wouldn’t mind. Our brain would never consider it as we process decisions unless we put it there.
A person thinks that they are right; it’s their plan after all so why consider what God thinks. If He wants it changed, He can just change it – right? Hopefully by now you know that isn’t how God works. However, if you have let Him into your heart and into your mind, He will weigh your heart with His words and the examples given to us by our Savior Jesus. We have free will but if we’re in a relationship with God, He will influence our decisions and keep a little calm in our lives. Sure bad things will still happen but we will react to them with much less anxiety so that it won’t seem that bad. God has already weighed your heart with great wisdom; simply follow His lead.
“Forgive and forget”. It works great in theory but it’s hard to practice on a regular basis. We always seem to be quick to forgive but never quite get to the forget part. Men famously complain that their wives never forget “that one time when we were dating” – years ago. Men are just as bad, so I’m not celebrating here. Saying “I made a mistake” is one of the hardest things people can say to each other. It shows great humility and is a demonstration of respect that the person has for the relationship. There are several versions of “I made a mistake”: I was wrong; I shouldn’t have done/said that; I didn’t mean to or that’s no what I meant and the newest version – just kidding. I don’t quite get that one. Despite all of these versions, what we don’t often hear is a good old fashioned – “I’m sorry”.
Sometimes mistakes have consequences, one of which is it affects someone on a personal level. When it does, we should acknowledge the effort it took to admit the mistake by responding to them with affirmation that it’s “okay” or “I forgive you”. Our human nature makes forgetting about it hard; this mistake or hurt always seems to resurface when the same person is involved in a new but similar situation. Our brains are programmed to “recall” events and how we reacted to them is part of how we learn and is how we process rapid decision-making; so the mistakes comeback sub-consciously. We have to keep our emotions “in check” and dismiss it from our reaction (unless it’s a duplicate event). Ultimately, give everyone a little grace and your forgiveness.
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14-15
St. Paul was telling the Philippians to leave the past behind them, forget their old ways, old habits, old beliefs and old understandings. His advice to us today is the same, look toward the future and to what you can do today to live a better life. No matter what you’ve done, leave it in the past. At the time Paul wrote these letters, the people of the world were leading pretty brutal lives. They raped, pillaged and murdered each other. It was an “every man for himself” world. They watched human slaughter for entertainment in places like the Coliseum in Rome. He was telling them to leave all of it the past and focus on the future prize promised by God – eternal life through Jesus Christ.
I have no idea how many people read this each week but I will bet that no one has lived a life today like those who lived in the First Century. No matter what you you’ve done, look toward the future you have through Christ. God wanted you saved, that’s why He sent Jesus to die for our sins – then and now. You are forgiven! As it is written in Acts 10:43 “…Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” There are no other versions or ways to say it; you are forgiven. Now start living and looking toward to the future with Jesus Christ.
Zig Ziglar once said, “You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.” A lot can be said about having a positive attitude. I’ve also written before about my wife’s unbelievably positive spirit. I only wish that it would rub off on me – she does too. We have season tickets to our local “professional” hockey team. I use quotes because they really don’t play like professionals. It has been a rough few seasons for hockey here in the desert. The couple that sits next to us also has season tickets. A week or so ago, Rick was getting on the team about various playmaking efforts. He can be a relentless critic when they don’t play well. I found that I too was becoming very critical that night. His poor wife was sandwiched between us; listening to our criticism the first 20 minutes of the game. I heard her turn to him and tell him to stop the negative comments. I didn’t realize until that second that I was doing it too.
The team ended up losing anyway but it was a big lesson for me; negativity can spread. We were just picking on the team but our comments fueled each other. I’ve admitted that I’m not the most optimistic person so it hard for me to imagine what it would be like if our comments were positive. I know what happens in the workplace when people are positive and how that energy fuels a team to excellence. I guess I took for granted what happens when the opposite takes place in a social setting. Usually people just walk away from a “Debbie Downer” but my seatmate was trapped. Having a positive attitude can certainly make a big difference in how it affects your day to day personality. Face each day with the right mindset and you’ll enjoy the best life has to offer. I know I need to try harder.
“And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” – Romans 10:15
The difficulty with understanding this verse is knowing whether or not you were sent to preach. We are commanded to “go and make disciples of all men and nations”. I’d suggest that this single verse tells us that we are sent. Bringing good news can come in many forms: passing out water to the homeless on hot days, distributing flyers about upcoming church events, witnessing to the lost and having a positive outlook on life are just a few. The good news of being positive can simply lie in the act of having a positive attitude.
People can look to you as the example of positive thinking and modeling the way of the Lord. When they finally come to realize where you get your strength from, you will have the courage to profess your faith openly. When people ask about your positive outlook and attitude, you can tell them you have no fears or worries because of our savior Jesus Christ. I speak from experience when I tell you that this is easier said than done. I have so many blessings that I have no reason to be negative but I find myself there more often than I’d like. For me, it is just another reminder that I need God’s help and guidance to keep pressing onward. Where do your feet stand?
It’s been interesting lately to watch people: how they drive, how they speak on TV, and how they act in public. It makes me wonder how they act around people they know or if they are different when they are around strangers. Back in the 80’s there was a “movement” called the “me generation”. It was said that the people of that era were more concerned about themselves than anyone else and that they didn’t care what effect they had on those around them. This was how the “looking out for number 1” mantra was born. If you were alive or can remember back then, it was not a pretty time in the US society. Today, people claim that the Millennial generation does just the same; looking out only for themselves.
Studies on the Millennial generation show something a little different. They want to do things that matter and make a difference. They are more concerned about social and environmental issues than most previous generations; they are compassionate and understanding. I would suggest that they have been labeled as self-centered because they want more out of life early. Millennials do not want to wait until later in life to travel or explore. They don’t believe that they should work themselves to death and ignore their families or friends. They have seen the tired and worn down late generation baby boomers and early generation Xers; they want more out of life.
Back to people watching, the ones who have been more selfish and uncaring about others around them tend to be the same tired and worn down generations who once believed in looking out for number 1. I guess that is why it has been so frustrating lately, the people who have been around for a while; those who have been working so steadily are the ones who act so entitled. People complain that living today is hard. I would offer that it isn’t any harder than any other time in history; the problems are just different. Where are you on this spectrum and what can you do to change?
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Philippians 1:27
I wonder if we could have “take backs” for all of the times that we acted poorly, how far back would the clock turn? How many years would we get back? The verse today speaks to me in two ways – behavior and response. Our behavior drives how people act around us. If we are careless or focused only on ourselves, people around us become frustrated; even to the point where they don’t want to be around us. Small things like paying attention to drivers around us on the road, looking out for neighbors or the neighborhood and, noticing the subtle changes in others are great ways to behave. This may help others see life from a different perspective and become contagious.
The other way I see this verse is through our response to events. “Whatever happens…” says to me that no matter what people say or do, act in way “worthy of the gospel”. This goes for our response to circumstances in our lives. When a medical diagnosis isn’t positive or life events hit hard, act in a way “worthy of the gospel”. Jesus didn’t complain when He was being mocked, He wasn’t “stressed out” when people wouldn’t leave him alone and He did not pity himself when He was tortured and hung on a cross to die. He conducted Himself just as honorably in His last days as He did in the first days. Leave self-pity behind when things are rough and turn your thoughts to God. He is here for us in the good and the bad times, so as St. Paul reminds us – “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”