Difficult People

People can be difficult! Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that I can be one of those people. Our daughter likes to say that people are the worst. I’m confident that I’m not that bad. If you are honest with yourself and consider your own life, you might be difficult at times too. Rick Warren in his book “Purpose Driven Life” refers to difficult people as those who are, EGR – extra grace required. I’d like to think that my own bouts of “difficultness” are driven by specific events, but these bouts seem to pop up more frequently when the stress in my life is high. My hope is that it is not the new normal and that I’m only difficult on occasion – check with my wife, she knows the truth. In my professional life, I have been known to force issues instead of letting them go; it’s a trait that I am not proud of. When I was in position of daily leadership, I found that I had a lot more grace to give than I do now. I now have multiple positions in widely different fields; each requiring different approaches to the people that I interact with. 

So, these are my “management confessions”. But honestly, there isn’t a day that goes by that none of us sin. We are all simply poor miserable sinners – that is the basic truth of the matter. Sin and grace go hand and hand. Someone offends you (sin) and you react; oftentimes negatively (more sin). People “talk it out”, make up and return to a congenial relationship (grace). If you think about the conflicts you’ve had or the times when you were less than pleasant, you probably lacked grace. If we were graceful in the beginning, we would not have been labeled “difficult” in the first place. Grace does not always beget grace, but it sure helps keep things running a little smoother. Think about the conflicts and difficult people in your life and ask yourself, have I given grace to this person or situation? Without question, grace giving is a two-way street, but someone needs to make the first move.

13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:13-14

We are all instruments for righteousness for God. Let that sink in for a minute. We are not sinners, we are not unrighteous and we are not unworthy. We were brought from death, because of sin, to life with God. We have eternal life with God through our Savior Jesus Christ. God knew us so well that he intervened on our behalf and sent His son to earth to live the perfect life, under the law, because we could not. During the Lenten Season we are preparing for the end of Jesus’ life on earth and the beginning of our His eternal life with God; who intends to use us as instruments for righteousness. We can’t help but sin but God solved that problem too.

Verse 14 is critical, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” We are all benefiting from God’s grace. It is not our adherence to the law or our gifts or our good works that gives us eternal life. We are all poor miserable sinners and there is no denying it. I’ve written before, there are no “degrees” of sin. God sees them all and forgives them all. He does this through His grace to us, His children, and our faith in Jesus as our savior. There is nothing difficult about that.

Righteousness Through Faith

Today, we said goodbye (happy retirement) to our Pastor at church. He has been in our congregation for 16 years and is retiring from ministry after 25 years as a Pastor. It was a bittersweet moment because he has earned this day and we are happy for him to enjoy the days ahead; those days that he’s dreamed of his whole life. Yet selfishly, we didn’t want him to leave because we enjoy his voice and words of encouragement each week. One of the scripture readings we heard today were the verses below. 

Occasionally, the verses just say it so well that I really don’t need to comment – these are those types of verses. I want to leave you with these comments as you read about faith and the law. Whether you have spent your life as a Pastor or spent it doing things that you aren’t proud to admit, the one thing that unifies us a brothers and sisters in Christ is our faith that Jesus is our redeemer and His death is what justifies us before God, our Father. A Pastor and a sinner will see each other in Heaven because of God’s Grace and our faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:19-30

19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

Righteousness Through Faith

21But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

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. 

New Beginning

We are already two weeks into the new year; how are those resolutions coming? I’m feeling pretty optimistic about this year and for no particular reason. I hope that everyone is feeling this way. The start of a new year generally is something like a renewal of sorts. We have no idea what lies before us – challenge, opportunity, pain and joy; who knows? I’ve written before about how far these devotions have spread – South America, Russia, Italy, United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and the U.S. I’m not mentioning this to boast but my point is that we never know who we touch with what we do. I had no idea how many people from outside the U.S. would ever receive my writings. January 12, 2012, I decided to write devotions for leaders that would help them and connect them to the word of God.

I set out to do something that I’d never done before, write devotions. I had no idea what to expect or what I was capable of doing. Would anyone read them? I took a chance to trust God and what He was guiding me to do. When I’m faced with an unknown, I like to say that I closed my eyes and jumped into the deep end. None of us know what 2019 has in store for us. We can look at this new year afraid and unsure or we can view it as an exciting time filled with new adventures and opportunities. We exchange a day of our lives for the things that we will do that day. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever and in its place is something that we have left behind. Will you leave something good? Go out and have a great day, great week, great month and a great year!

“Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24

What makes us new? What is a new self? There are shelves filled with advice in most bookstores to help people answer these questions. The scripture answers them for us. Righteousness is defined as decent; ethical, principled, moral, high-minded, law-abiding, honest, honorable, blameless, irreproachable, and noble. When we read that we should be “like God” it seems a little extreme or nearly impossible to compare ourselves to Him but we can be like Him in righteousness.

Every one of us can be decent, ethical, principled, law-abiding and honest; we can be righteous. This is what St. Paul is urging the people of Ephesus to be – righteous. We too can put on a new self, one found in our faith in Jesus Christ who teaches us what righteousness is. We have the perfect leader and teacher in Jesus as told to us through God’s inspired words in the Holy Bible. It’s an awesome combination to help us put on our new selves. What will you exchange the days in your life for and what are you leaving behind? The simple thank you to someone at work, recognizing a job well done, doing a little extra just because or going out of your way to assist someone in need maybe all that you need to jumpstart your new self.

Pride and Selfishness

Look what I did! I am so awesome! Have you heard or said these words? I once saw a plaque that read, “I know I’m not perfect but I’m so close that it scares me”. We often hear people expressing their confidence in very strong ways. What about the people who lack that type of self-confidence? Is there something wrong with them? Who wouldn’t be proud of what they’ve done? I would suggest that it may not be the lack of confidence or no pride in their accomplishments but it may be that they are simply too humble to talk about themselves. Humility is a God given talent and should be practiced but in today’s world it is seen as a sign of weakness. The opposite of humility is boasting and those type of people are even harder to deal with. We all know someone who is always right and identifies how others have “screwed up” without ever considering their own role in the situation. They make everyone around them miserable because they have done no wrong.

Related to this is the widening of the income gap. “I’ve got mine, too bad about yours”. I often hear people complain about school taxes because they don’t have any kids in the system so why should they pay school property taxes. “I got my kids through school with the help of others but I shouldn’t take my turn”. This selfish mentality is driving our world apart; we’ve forgotten about caring for each other. We need to keep watch over each other; we’re all we’ve got. I’ve got a picture frame on my dresser that says, “It won’t matter what my bank balance was, the size house I lived in, or the type of car that I drove but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” If you can change “life of a child” and make it “the life of another human being” we get a little closer to God’s will. Go make a difference.

8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD, for whose sake I have lost all things. 9…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  Philippians 3:8-9

Paul had everything in his life that he could want. He was considered a great man and was feared by many until he came face to face with Jesus Christ. Paul gave up everything (even his name) to follow Jesus. He was a righteous man under the law as a Pharisee; he told others what to do and people obeyed him. Jesus showed him the way to everlasting life and he spent years in prison writing and telling of the good news. He’d lost everything and yet was grateful for his faith in Jesus Christ.

He realized that he was nothing without his faith in Jesus and the righteousness that comes from God. Paul was humble, steadfast in his faith, shared the good news whenever he could, encouraged others with his letters and remained focused on what God wanted him to do. The power, the social status, the envy and the confidence that he had before, he considered a loss now that he has the knowledge of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Everything that we have is lost too, if we don’t have the same faith in our savior Jesus Christ. Share the good news about having eternal life through faith in Him and all that God has done for you. You will make a difference in the life of another human being.

Difficult?

People can be difficult! Unfortunately, I can be one of those people. I’d imagine that if you considered your own life, you might be too. Rick Warren in his book “Purpose Driven Life” refers to difficult people as those who are, EGR – extra grace required. I’d like to think that my own bouts of “difficultness” are event driven but they seem to pop up more frequently when the stress in my life is high. I hope that is more normal than not. I have been known to force issues instead of letting them go. Not a trait that I am proud of. When I was in position of daily leadership, I found that I had a lot more grace to give than I do now. I now have multiple positions in widely different fields; each requiring different approaches to the people that I interact with. Sometimes grace is plentiful and other times it is not. Enough with the confessional, I’m simply a poor miserable sinner – that is the basic truth of the matter.

Sin and grace can go hand and hand. Someone offends you (sin) and you react; oftentimes negatively (more sin). People “talk it out”, make up and return to a congenial relationship (grace). When you consider the conflicts you’ve had or the times when you were less than pleasant, you probably lacked grace. If we were graceful in the beginning, we would not have been labeled “difficult” in the first place. Grace does not always beget grace but it sure helps keep things running a little smoother. Think about those conflicts and the difficult people in your life and ask yourself, have I given grace to this person or situation? Without question, it is a two-way street but someone needs to make the first move.

13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:13-14

We are all instruments for righteousness for God. Let that sink in for a minute. We are not just sinners, we are not unrighteous and we are not unworthy. We were brought from death, because of sin, to life with God. We have eternal life with God through our Savior Jesus Christ. God knew us so well that he intervened on our behalf and sent His Son to earth to live the perfect life, under the law, because we could not. We are preparing during the Lenten Season for the end of Jesus’ life here on earth and the beginning of our eternal life with God who intends to use us as instruments for righteousness. We can’t help but sin but God solved that problem.

Verse 14 is critical, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” We are all benefiting from God’s grace. It is not our adherence to the law or our gifts or our good works that gives us eternal life. We are all poor miserable sinners and there is no denying it. I’ve said before, there are no “degrees” of sin. God sees them all and forgives them all. He does this through His grace to us, His children, and our faith in Jesus as our savior. There is nothing difficult about that.

The Light

Christmas is just a few days away so I feel that it’s appropriate to use the entire post this week for bible reference. The first Christmas day found the wise men looking for the brightest star – the North Star, to find the birthplace of a savior. God was sending us a savior, a leader, a servant and equally as important, a bright star to show us the way. Leading others to righteousness sounds like a big task, let alone lead many to righteousness as Daniel suggests. In typical human fashion, we can’t see ourselves doing that. God gave the world, in a single star shining in the darkness of the North, THE light of the world. Jesus spread the word of God with only 12 disciples. Out of a single man – a single star – came the salvation for all mankind.

The analogies are plentiful here – a single flashlight can lead to safety, a single decision, etc. God gave us freedom from sin and everlasting life through His son, one man, Jesus Christ. When you ask yourself – “what can I do?” you should think of yourself as that single light. This is the time of year people will be open to hearing about Christ. Take the opportunity to lead one person to righteousness. Like stars that fill the night sky, you’ll never know what you might be the start of.

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” Daniel 12:3

Christmas is just a few days from now and all of our planning for the holiday will hopefully come together. God gave THE ultimate gift that day, His Son. This day was prophesied throughout the ages. Even John the Baptist talked about “someone who is greater than I”. God sent us a light for this world, a world filled with darkness. This light helps us see God’s will, through our faith in Jesus Christ as our savior. God wants us close to Him and He wants us all to join in Him in everlasting life.

Matthew encouraged us to keep our faith and remain strong in our belief by reminding us that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. If we can be strong in faith, nothing is impossible. What does your vision of the future looks like? What does it look like with the help of the brightest star? Keep your faith in Jesus Christ strong. A future without Christ is not a future; it’s the end. Enjoy the birthday party this week (Christmas); I hope you are spending it with your family or friends or both. Ask God for help finding the light for this life and let your imagination run wild for what eternal life will be like. Merry Christmas!

A New Self for the New Year

We are already five days into 2015 and I’ve maintained my commitment to eat fewer carbs and exercise more – five days down and only 360 to go! I’m feeling pretty optimistic about this year and for no particular reason. I hope that everyone is feeling this way. The start of a new year is generally a renewal of sorts. We have no idea what lies before us – challenge, opportunity, pain or joy. At the end of each year I get a report from the host of the blog site that details where people are viewing this blog from and how many visits I’ve had. There are more people viewing this blog from South America than from North America. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, there are people in Russia, Italy, United Kingdom, Canada and Brazil, to name a few, following this blog. Brazil has more views than any other country. I’m not mentioning this to boast but my point is that we never know who we’ll touch with what we do. I had no idea how many people from outside the U.S. viewed this site. Three years ago on January 12th, I set out to do something that I’d never done before, write devotions. I just decided to write devotions for leaders that would help them and that would connect them to the word of God.  I had no idea what to expect or what I was capable of doing. I wondered if anyone read them. I took a chance to trust God and what He was guiding me to do. When I’m faced with an unknown, I like to say that I closed my eyes and jumped into the deep end. None of us know what 2015 has in store for us. We can look at the new year afraid and unsure or we can view it as an exciting time filled with new adventures and opportunities. We exchange each day of our lives for the things that we will do today. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever and in its place is something that we have left behind. Will you leave something good? Go out and have a great day, great week, great month and a great year!

“Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24

What makes us new? What is a new self? There are shelves filled with advice in most bookstores to help people answer these questions. This scripture answers them for us. Righteousness is defined as decent; ethical, principled, moral, high-minded, law-abiding, honest, honorable, blameless, irreproachable, and noble. When we read that we should be “like God” it seems a little extreme or nearly impossible to compare ourselves to Him but we can be like Him in righteousness. Every one of us can be decent, ethical, principled, law-abiding and honest; we can be righteous. This is what St. Paul is urging the people of Ephesus to be – righteous. We too can put on a new self, one found in our faith in Jesus Christ who teaches us what righteousness is. We have the perfect leader and teacher in Jesus as told to us through God’s inspired words in the Holy Bible. It’s an awesome combination to help us put on our new selves. What will you exchange the days in your life for and what are you leaving behind? The simple thank you to someone at work, recognizing a job well done, doing a little extra; just because or going out of your way to assist someone in need maybe all that you need to jumpstart your new self.