The bible speaks

I’ve been holding these verses in my folder for months as I review the folder for weekly inspiration. I can’t stop looking at them as one whole verse and when I try to break them up, it just doesn’t feel right. With Easter being so late in the year, I keep getting distracted by other verses that are more general for my posts. My attention keeps turning back to these verses since they speak to the bigger “story” of the meaning of Easter and why our faith is so important. Please read these slowly and listen to what they are saying to you. The majesty of the bible is that you can read it over and over and come away with something new each time.

Romans 8:22-30

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

JOHN 14:23-29

 23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.

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Juicy Gossip

Rumors are always the start of something bad. So what causes them in the first place? I’d like to suggest that if people don’t know what the facts are in the workplace, they will tell the story that they believe to be true. I may be naïve but I do not believe that people start rumors for the sake of telling lies – unless they are a politician. One of the key responsibilities that leaders have is to keep the truth ahead of the story. Leaders need to be mindful of the “tidbits” of information that they share and of what information they don’t share. The most effective way to keep the truth ahead of the story is through regular communications.

For many, communication looks like an email or a text message and for others, it’s communicating in person or by videoconference. The old saying is that the truth will set you free and in this case, you will be free from rumor. If your organization is facing uncertain times, be truthful about what is happening and do not speculate. Leaving people with your speculation of what is to come will only set their minds free to build upon it and generate stories of their own. Rumors can have wide spread effects on an organization and easily take on a life of their own as each person adds a little of their story to the one being spun; and a rumor mill is born. The rumor mill can only be defeated by facts and our job as leaders, is to fill our people with facts.

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.“ Proverbs 18:8

Who doesn’t love a juicy bit of gossip? We love to fill in the blank when someone asks, “did you hear?” God gave us the Ten Commandments, in which He tells us about how we should live our lives. Pretty soon the rumors we pass on become our truths and then these “truths” will start to fill our lives. Rumors are the devil’s work and he loves for us to spread them.

When we engage in gossip, we not only become more concerned about defending the “facts” we’re spreading but we are breaking God’s Commands; the real truths that God has placed before us. People also start to tell themselves “stories” about what God really says. Soon we begin to believe these as facts and we no longer feel the need to learn and live the truth He has provided us. God has communicated the truth to us through His inspired word of the bible. If the truth is what stops rumors, then we need to know the biblical truths and we can do that by reading the word of God. Be filled with His truths and not those of the devil. Take in more than choice morsels and let it go down to the inmost parts so that you are satisfied and nourished by God’s word. The truth of God, WILL set you free from the shackles of sin.

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak

During these times of uncertainty and frequent change, we need to get as many perspectives on an issue that we can. It’s easy to forget that our employees often have a very keen perspective of what’s happening in the organization that the leaders may not. The old expression “you can’t see the forest through the trees” has a lot of validity the further up the ladder you go. As James reminds us, “be quick to listen”; you might be surprised by what you hear. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.

The deeper down you dig, the less polish you’ll find on the things you hear or statements that are made. Leaders need to listen to what is being said, not how it is being said. Search for the facts, they may not be stated in a way that you’re used to hearing them. Be slow to speak, let the speaker get everything out before you begin say anything. These conversations are usually the time we simply justify why we are doing something or why we can’t change. Resist the urge to become angry in the face of criticism; remember there can be more than one right answer. If you want honest feedback and assessment of a situation from your employees, keep your emotions in check. The employees are giving you a gift, accept it with grace and they’ll do it again. If you don’t accept the gift well, you’ll never get a second chance.

 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” James 1:19

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to heed these words as well. Listen to the words contained in the bible; be slow to speak about why that isn’t realistic or how it’s impossible to follow the example of Jesus Christ. How often do you actually hear the Word, is it only in worship? The Word is a guide for us to learn and apply but it’s hard to do when you only hear it once a week. As you listen to the Word, let the meaning sink in. Look for what is being said beyond the words. Jesus often used parables as examples and honestly, they can be confusing too. Be patient and meditate on the Word of God, it will come to you.

Be slow to become angry or frustrated when you read the bible as you compare your life to what you are reading. Remember, God gave us the Law in the Old Testament and salvation in the New Testament. Don’t feel guilty about how you lead your life, Christ died for all of our sins – past, present and future. No day will go by without sin in your life. Some people think that that acting in a Christ-like manner just won’t work because they have too many “problems” in their lives or have done too many “bad” things for God to forgive. Nonsense! God sent His son to save the world and not condemn it. If no day can pass without sin, we would all be condemned if it wasn’t for God’s grace in our lives. Those with faith in Jesus Christ are saved.

Something New

I decided to do something different to start the month of June, focus on a number of verses that stand on their own. Last week I talked about the law and our freedom from sin. This week explains the whole concept in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Verse 20 is key for our understanding of our relationship to the law. We see again in these verses how we are free from sin and that it is nothing but God’s grace and our faith in Jesus that frees us from our sin. I’d like to suggest that you read the verses that follow and reflect on what they mean to you. Hopefully, they mean something more meaningful or insightful than the last time you read them.

Romans 3:19-31

19 Now 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

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God 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— 26 he 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.

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

 

Imitation is the greatest form…

We usually do not associate the words “love” and “workplace” without thinking of someone’s poor judgment. I’d like to suggest that we bring Christ’s example of love into our workplace. Among other things, we know Jesus as compassionate, caring, understanding, patient and overflowing with love. Leaders and followers need to be all of these as well. We all need to show compassion for our co-workers and our staff and we should care for them by looking out for their best interests. Sometimes that means having to deliver constructive criticism. It takes a lot of courage for someone to offer that type of criticism.

Oftentimes we are faced with having to be the one to tell someone else that their actions are having a negative effect on us or on our team. When giving someone constructive criticism, it should be delivered with compassion and care. If it’s done properly, constructive criticism can and should be received as a gift because it is being delivered as a present – genuinely given with thoughtful consideration of the person receiving it. We need to show understanding and patience to co-workers and staff. Making mistakes is okay, remember they cause learning to take place but making the same mistake over and over is the sign of a problem. Be patient with those around you especially if they are learning new systems, products or programs. Be slow to anger and disappointment, it shows that you care. All of these things combined show your love towards others, just as Christ loves us.

 Ephesians 5:1,2 – “Be imitators of God… as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us…”

We are so blessed that God loves us. When God handed down the Law contained in the Ten Commandments, the Israelites were afraid because they had seen God’s wrath first hand. As they continued to live according to their own ways, God spoke to them through the prophets giving the promise of a Savior. God wanted to be close to His children but sin was preventing that. God sent His only Son into this world to take upon the cross all of our sins.

Jesus suffered for us because of our sin, but He knew that it would bring reconciliation with God. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The ultimate sign of love just for us – even if we didn’t deserve it. God knows what we need. We cannot live without sin as Christ did but we can live a life of love as Christ showed us to. Be an imitator, show others your love and when they ask you why or how you can do it, don’t hesitate to tell them where your strength comes from.

 

You Can’t Fail

I’d like to end 2015 with a great reminder and another departure from my standard format. Let’s start this week with the verse that is very appropriate for both the Christmas holiday that just past and the start of a new year.

“God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:19

This is why we had Christmas – so God could reconcile with the world. His people, born of sin, could not be with Him in eternal life unless we had a savior. This is great news. But think about what this verse means for you in 2016. God is NOT counting your sins against you! Sin is not measured by severity. It is all sin and we can’t stop ourselves from doing it. Just as we think we are living really good lives and following the commandments, we are still sinning. If you become so confident that your “godly life” is more pleasing to God – you’re sinning. The complaining that you do about your boss or that one family member – you’re sinning. We can’t help it!

There is an old saying, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” We can be so afraid of our selves or our lives that we stop trying. For some people, this fear can be paralyzing. They are afraid to try things or explore new ideas because they are afraid to fail. Others will get so down on themselves because of sin that they give up on getting to know God. They’ll say “God could never forgive me what I’ve done”. God has already forgiven them, you and me! Our sins have been erased through our faith in Jesus Christ; He took them all to hell and left them with the devil. Sin has no place in our lives. God does not and will not count them against us because He loves us as any Father would love His children.

Start 2016 confidently and don’t worry about sin being the anchor in your life. We are all special people in God’s eyes, so go strongly and confidently into 2016; like you can’t fail. Trust in God, rely on Him for guidance and strength and see what happens. Happy New Year!

 

Serve with love

What does serving others mean to you? To some people it means volunteer work and to others, it means helping when someone asks for help. I find myself thinking or writing a lot about restaurant servers when I think of serving others. This should shed a little light into my life with exactly how much time I send in restaurants but I digress. Watch a server run from table to table taking orders, dropping off food or drinks, picking up dirty dishes and making sure that you have every thing you need or that everything is just the way you want it. They do it all with a smile. Can you say that you serve others with such energy and a smile?

Serving others means doing so without expecting anything in exchange; being a cheerful servant. Service to others is hard to do today. We have been bombarded with the notion that when you help someone, they “owe” us something in return. We go to work, perform well and in exchange we expect a paycheck – sounds natural doesn’t it? We all know that people who work for free have a hard time keeping a roof over their heads and food in the kitchen. A mental battle occurs between serving cheerfully and not getting in return and the pressures of this life to get something for our effort. When we give and give yet get nothing in return, it’s hard to keep giving. Remind yourself that you are serving others not for a reward today but for the genuine satisfaction of helping someone in need. When you serve from the heart, you serve with love in mind.

Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers, were called to be free, but do not use your freedom to indulge in sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”

We all enjoy freedom and God has given us the ability to make free will choices. Free will means that we are not bound to anyone or anything, but we need to remember the first commandment – “You shall have no other God”. Do not be bound by your love for material things, possessions, positions, money, etc. You are free to choose to give your love to God and serve Him. Do not indulge in the sinful nature and avoid the traps of living today.

We should serve one another in love. Jesus gave us a great example of serving others in love. He knew what people were thinking, he performed miracles, he was presented gifts and he was free to roam the countryside. He served in love. He taught others while He traveled and in doing so, He showed us how to serve one another in love. More  importantly, he gave Himself for us as the ultimate demonstration of His love and obedience to God. We aren’t being asked by God to be crucified, He just asking us to be good servants to each other.

Discerning Heart

Last week I was inaugurated into my second term as a City Council Member. It was a nice event where three incumbents were all sworn in for another term. One of us is serving her final term due to term limits. A lot can be said today about politicians but the people I meet at the local level are much less about politics and more about serving their community. When local leaders start making decisions based on how they will benefit or how their supporters will benefit, things start going wrong immediately.

Our responsibility as leaders is to not only lead with the highest moral standards but to teach our people how to make ethical choices. There was never a time more important to lead by example then when demonstrating how to make high ethical decisions. As leaders, we are put in a position to make decisions; sometimes they involve personnel and other times they involve the business. Regardless, we need to make decisions that maintain the highest standards and provide for the best possible outcomes. People appreciate it when their leaders are consistent and have their best interest in mind and our customers expect the same thing. As leaders, we are in a place to govern God’s people – providing them with direction and making decisions that affect them.

1 Kings 3:9 – “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and distinguish between right and wrong.”

The verse today can be used as a prayer to God from his faithful servant. We are bombarded with threats everyday and the urge to sin is ever present. We sin daily, the pressure to succeed is always upon us and it would be so easy to cut a few corners, change a few numbers, leave out a couple of details or simply lie. Who will know or even find out? Even if they do, it could be late enough that it won’t really matter anyway.

But God knows, he knows before we do. If we do fall and sin when choosing between right and wrong; God’s grace has freed us from the guilt and the sin when He gave us His only son, Jesus Christ, to bear our punishment. We can be free from guilt and filled with forgiveness by God’s love for us. We have been given the grace of God and a great example of how to live our lives in Jesus. If you have fallen to sin, ask for forgiveness, receive it and do what is right – always. By asking God for a discerning heart to do what is right you’ll always be able to look at yourself in the mirror.

Have a little Faith

What do you have faith in? Often times we hear that people have faith in “the system”, the assembly of policies or procedures that govern us. The system seems broken these days, so maybe fewer people actually have faith in it. Where do we turn? The phrase, “if you want a job done right, do it yourself” sounds like we should put faith in ourselves. In fact, many people put their faith there – in themselves. Something in their lives has driven them to believe in only themselves. They’ve been let down somewhere along the way or have become so focused on what they’ve accomplished that they lose sight of those that helped or supported them along the way. I hate to say this but as a “politician” people must have faith in me in order to elect me. I’ve never been “political” but during a re-election campaign, I have to be. I take my job as a councilmember very seriously because of the faith that people have put in me as their representative. In any position you hold, people have to put their faith in you too. They have to trust that you will care and defend them as a leader or they have to believe that you perform your job well as part of a bigger plan. When people count on you, when they have faith in you, you have a huge obligation to live up to those expectations. At a candidate forum this week, I was prepared to answer specific questions about taxes and spending. I’ve been paying attention to what concerns people have expressed and I was prepared. Several people commented that they appreciated my preparation; my reply was that it was my job to know and understand what was important to them because I take my role as their representative seriously. I want them to have faith in me. Be sure that people know they can have faith in you too.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. Hebrews 11:1

Faith in the biblical context is filled with ambiguity; there are is a lot of things that we do not see. We can’t see eternal life and we can’t see God’s plan for our lives but we have faith in them. Some people focus so much on their personal success that they stop having faith in God to provide for them because they are so busy providing for themselves. The devil wants us to think that we are in control of our successes and that we don’t need prayer to be successful. These people have faith in just themselves. This verse in Hebrews reminds us that we can be confident in what God is doing in our lives and that our hopes are His hopes. Faith in God also means that we can be sure of His presence and work in our lives even though we don’t see it. Faith is knowing, without question, that God is present in all things. Our sinful nature makes us believe that we are in control and that God only intervenes when we ask; sin puts faith in ourselves and not in God. The devil will shower you with money and success so he can keep you focused on yourself as the most important thing. Sin wants success and the feelings that come with it. When your faith is in God and all that He does, you no longer worry about success because it’s there. You won’t worry about material possessions because He will provide for you. Faith is confidence and we can be assured by the promises that God made which we cannot see. Have faith in God to watch over you.

Not Your Usual Post

There is no way that I can stick to my usual format this week, its Holy Week after all. I’m sure that my observations about workplace practices and leadership opportunities are not what draw you here. Despite what I’d like to think, I’m pretty confident that there is something about the spiritual context that keeps you reading. So, in true “inspiration” I’m devoting this week to a passage that I heard this morning in church. I usually stay away from the sermon messages as a point of inspiration; God has already done His work through the Pastor and doesn’t need me plagiarizing that. What I found interesting was how this passage, one that I’ve read several times before, was framed into Holy Week. In spring bible study, we examined Philippians but today, it seemed to mean so much more. Paul wrote: “5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11

There are a number of lessons to be taken away from these few verses but what really stuck out to me was how this describes the whole point of the New Testament – God sending His one and only Son to be our Savior. A simple and humble man, who had the power and wisdom of God but choose to be a servant. He lived an obedient life to God, suffered through a crucifixion as punishment for our sins, not His and died for us. All of this was done to, once and for all, free us from the chains of sin by believing that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This is what Holy Week is all about. This is why we must remember that the prophet’s had spoken of this week and that Jesus knew His fate but carried on in obedience. God kept His promise to Jesus by seating Him in a place of honor and he kept His promise to us by sending a Savior. Rejoice this week and celebrate Jesus’ strength in the face of great sacrifice. He did it all for us! Lets give thanks and rejoice. Happy Easter!