Do Not be Afraid

Courage is a pretty powerful word. Not everyone has it to the same degree; some people don’t even have it. I think it takes courage to jump out of an airplane or ride a looping roller coaster – I won’t do either. Some people say that firefighters have courage to go into burning building or enter hazardous conditions – I would do both. I suppose that all of this means that we are each held back by different things. We are held back by fear, in most cases, a fear of the unknown. A new job, a new city and a new friend, a new challenge or facing those things that we already know we fear; they are all scary. Many of us would like to quit our jobs and live a life much different than we do today. So why don’t we?

Fear. Sometimes fear can stop us from taking chances at work. For example, we don’t speak up when we have an idea that could change things or that might be innovative. We’re afraid to look foolish. I would suggest that fear of the unknown is probably the top reason why people don’t take chances. They simply don’t know how things will turn out so they keep it safe and do what is comfortable. When you stop and think about all of the chances that some pretty famous people took, our lives would be much different without people like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. They faced fears and took chances. A few weeks ago I asked, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” Would your life be different? I challenge everyone this week to do or try one thing that pushes your comfort level, just a little. Nothing drastic, just push out a little and see what happens.

“…Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. Exodus 14:13

Moses made this comment to the Israelites as he was trying to reassure them when they were afraid and pushing forward. This advice, even from the Old Testament, works today. Do not be afraid and put your trust in God. This world is so very different today when compared to 10 or 20 years ago let alone thousands of years ago. Today, we have so many things to be afraid of: disease, the war in Ukraine, inflation, trade wars, global uncertainty, identity theft, computer hacking and Washington Politicians.

There are days when I wonder how we even function on a daily basis. Stand firm in your faith! God will bring you deliverance and peace when you share your fears with Him. Stay in His word to learn all of the promises that He has made to you. God tells us over and over how He will protect us. Do not be afraid. Reach out your hands and feel God’s presence in your life and go forward knowing that He is with you. Our fears are made up in our minds, and we should be confident that we aren’t alone. God is with you today and everyday so stand tall and take a chance on Him to bring you the deliverance you need from your fears.

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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. 

Suffering

We all know someone who is suffering, even if just a little bit. People react differently to what they perceive to be suffering. A teenager is “suffering” when they go on vacation to a place without cell phone coverage. I’ve done work in an organization that had suffering employees. No one in management would listen to the workforce, suggestions were ignored, benefits were minimized, and employee terminations were inconsistent and frequent; they were working in a culture of fear. Look in your contact list; I’d imagine that you could identify a number of people who are suffering from a financial or medical condition. How many people in your contact list would you like to trade places with? We all have troubles. Some people thrive when they feel the pressure to push through difficult times and seem to come out stronger, while others crumble. How do you react? Knowing before it happens may have a big affect on how you manage the situation.

What about the suffering that you are going through right now? Do you wonder why it is happening to you? Every patch of trouble or each time we suffer we are becoming stronger. If you look back in your life when you had success, I would guess that you could find a connection to another time when you suffered to get there. You were stronger because of it or you learned something or you met someone. Something better generally comes out of our suffering, we just don’t have the patience to recognize it.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

God has told us that we aren’t promised a trouble-free life so suffering should not be a surprise to any of us. None of us wants to hear our suffering or pain compared to another person’s worse case. How could a loving God let us suffer like this? People asked questions like this after the attacks on September 11th. Think about this: we heard story after story about people who got to work late that day or who made appointments when they normally would be at work and survived. Two buildings that normally house tens of thousands of people collapsed and less than 3000 died; God was there. 

Again, think about St. Paul sitting in jail suffering and enduring punishment for his faith telling his Roman followers not to worry about the suffering. He knew that by sharing his faith, God’s Glory would be revealed and millions would be saved. Paul suffered so that millions would read his letters and come to faith in God through Jesus Christ. Would you react/respond differently to suffering if you knew that others could be saved? A few weeks ago I talked about being worthy, this is yet another way that says, “You are worthy!” When we suffer and still show our faith in Him, God uses us to be His messenger of what a life in Christ is like. No matter what you are suffering with, your reward is in the promise of eternal life. 

Confidence

Father’s Day was yesterday; I hope that every one of the “dads” enjoyed it. Men have a funny way of expressing this day to each other, especially if you compare it to how women express Mother’s Day to each other. Men will simply nod and smile to each other if it comes up and if we don’t mention it, well, that’s okay too. When it comes to celebrating the day, we’re okay with simplicity. No brunches or special events. A good, or should I say smart, man will treat Mother’s Day much differently. Men are providers, we are “fixers”, we will just do our thing and keep moving. A father’s role is different and so is his reaction to any celebration. Few men seek accolades and often don’t know how to respond to someone who offers them. I notice that women love the attention of a restaurant staff lead birthday song but watch a man and he’ll slowly slide under the table. We’re just funny that way I guess. 

I’m not writing about the differences between men and women; this is more about how we react to things. The “fixer” in us wants to perfectly plan a course for our lives and then follow it to the letter. When things don’t go according to plan, we lose hope and get frustrated. As men, we view our role as being there for everyone else but when we are the ones that need fixing, we throw our arms up and scream: “why do I bother!” The simple answer is that we bother because we are, by nature, fixers. Next time you feel like things aren’t going as planned or when you don’t have control over the direction (whether you are male or female), just remember, it always eventually works out. 

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Being confident in all things is often known as being arrogant or cocky. No one likes someone who is arrogant; they are often hard to be around. Having confidence on the other hand, is being sure of your self. The words, being and having, change the value of the word confidence. “Confidence” is more valuable to others when you have it rather than being it. Overall, I have confidence in my decisions and understanding of municipal government, which allows me to speak with authority. What is giving St. Paul the confidence as he wrote this verse? Why is he “being” confident? 

Verse 5 says “because of your [Philippians] partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now”. St. Paul is being confident that they have found favor in God’s eyes.  He is expressing his confidence (having confidence) that God will not abandon them and will carry them forward until the coming of Christ Jesus. St. Paul isn’t “being” confident, he is “having” confidence in the Word of God. How do we obtain that level of confidence? Being in God’s Word and accepting that salvation is found in Jesus Christ. Reading the bible gives us an understanding of the plan that men try so hard to control. God is THE “fixer”. He not only orders things in this life, He fixed our relationship with Him for all eternity. He sent us a savior to fix our inability not to sin. Do you have the confidence to go through life knowing that God is at work in it? I do. 

Nowhere to Turn

What a week! There are hundreds of adjectives that could follow in describing a week like this in America. There are also several emotions that emerge from the events we saw this week. People have said, “I feel lost and have nowhere to turn!” Many times they are just frustrated by what is happening at that moment and things aren’t as bad as they think. There are times however, when things are truly bad. Is this one of those times? Honestly, I don’t know. I was introduced to the military contracting world by a man named Todd who helped me make connections with people that would change the course of my life. I’ll never forget the Saturday phone call we had when he described the turmoil in his life. His ex-wife had burned down his house, his older sons were doubtful of their mother’s involvement which was creating conflict and his truck was broken into and some of his belongings were stolen. As we talked, he kept referring to the strength of Job and all of his troubles. Neither Job nor my friend lost faith. 

During my career in the fire service, I saw people’s lives changed in the blink of an eye. This week, our faith in political leaders changed, our confidence in “freedom” was shaken and our future became that much more uncertain. However, it’s not just this week that causes people to fear the future; daily struggles still exist for many people – medical conditions, financial issues, workplace stresses and relationships. It is how we deal with these problems that is key to our happiness. Unfortunately, some people turn to substance abuse to escape, while others turn to friends or family for help. Healthy choices have long-term effects. The others only ease the pain temporarily and then pile on more problems for later. If you are struggling or know someone who is, seek long-term answers because your problems are, in the grand scheme of things, short-term. 

20 “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:20-21

When I first started planning this devotional, I was looking only at verse 21. It is easy to write about listening to the voice that says, “This is the way”. However, it is important to remember that God also brings adversity and affliction. It sounds crazy to think that God brings these bad things to us but we must remember, “Everything happens for a reason”. Sometimes they build strength for what is yet to come, other times they provide you wisdom to advise someone else later in life. In some cases, God is using you as an example of faith for others to see – a living witness. 

We are reminded that no matter what ‘bad thing” is happening to us, “your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Much like you must open the door when opportunity knocks, you must be ready to hear God’s voice. He won’t necessarily speak directly to you or send an Angel in your dreams, but wouldn’t that be awesome! God uses all of us in different ways to send His messages. It was my new friend, who was experiencing far worse things than I was, that was sending me the message that my future was going to be okay. The day we spoke was transformational for me. Looking back, I know that it was God telling me that, “This was the way”. Keep listening!

Being Present

Today, our church installed the new Associate Pastor. He has been an ordained Pastor for almost 15 years, so the ceremony was somewhat anti-climactic, from a personally significant standpoint. The one thing that became evident with the numerous Scripture readings and the message from the Circuit Pastor was that you could sense God’s presence in the service. They all defined what being a Called and Ordained Pastor is and they explained what the Biblical demands of being a Shepard to a flock really are. By the time it was over, the congregation had a clear understanding of God’s presence in the Call and in the act of being a Pastor.

What things have a presence in your life? There are so many things that compete for our attention these days that it may be hard to determine what is important. As parents, we need to be present in our kids lives – not a spectator but a presence in their lives. As a leader, we need to be present at work and as an employee, we need to be present at work. Distractions are everywhere so we must make conscious decisions to be present in the things we do. Think about the various roles you have in your life­ – spouse, parent, friend, employee, leader, coach, mentor, etc. Are you present in your roles? When we aren’t present because we’re distracted by our phone or we let something else take our attention, we might just be sending the message that we don’t care. Giving your full attention to those in your life is so very important, especially now in the times we live.

“I will put my dwelling place among you… I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” Leviticus 26:11-12

Do you feel God’s presence in your life? It can be hard to feel it sometimes, especially when things aren’t going the way we want them to. It would easy to imagine God getting distracted by all of the problems in this world and that we might be ignored. This is NOT the case or even possible where God is concerned. The Leviticus verses are telling us that God intends to dwell with us, walk among us and be our God. It’s saying “God will lead you through it all, get used to Him because He’s not leaving, He’ll live with you, walk with you and never leave your side. God will be here for the good and the bad times; you can count on Him – He is your God.

We are His people today because we believe; we see His actions daily and feel His presence. You might wonder where God is when you feel overwhelmed but if you stop and concentrate, you can feel God’s presence. He is in each word of the bible just as He is in your thoughts and on your heart. You need to simply concentrate and let God be present. As I’ve mentioned before, we can be easily distracted or have our thoughts consumed by other things, but God is never distracted! He is with us all of time and it is us who need to let Him in. Close your eyes, clear your mind and open your heart; God will embrace you.

In the Storm

Where do you turn in times of trouble? For most people, it’s a good friend or relative. Someone who’s shared your tears and joys over the years. These are usually the same people who you turn to when you have exciting news or something great to share. These are often the people who become our best friends. When you work in a field like the fire service, this is what forms “the brotherhood”. “Brothers” turn to each other for support and become almost closer with each other than they do with their families. Highly threatening team activities or in-extremist teams (FF, police, military, bomb squads, etc) rely on their team mates to keep them alive. For those not in life/death situations, we need to find these people in our lives.

At work, these special people become either mentors or confidants. A mentor is someone who helps you excel and grow in your career by providing advice, opportunities and guidance. A confidant is someone who you can share things with but they don’t provide a direct source of career growth. If you are lucky, you will find someone who can be both. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us the bold truth and other times we need someone to be sympathetic to our emotions; rational or not. My daughter will call and ask for “reality check” dad when she needs to know what mom will never tell her. I’m lucky that I get to be both a confidant and a mentor to her; I can read her pretty well and know when to hold the bold truth until she’s ready. We all need these people in our lives. My wife has a huge cheering section of friends and a few close friends that she can talk to about everything else. I guess my point is to make sure that you have these types of people in your life and don’t forget that they are there. Life is so busy that we often forget that we don’t have to carry all of the burdens alone.

“You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” Isaiah 25:4

I’ve often said “now that I say this out loud …” We need to say things to others to make sure that we really feel that way. We also have a need to get our feelings out in the open. The challenge is getting them filtered before we say something hurtful. We all know people who are in various stages of suffrage. Cancer seems to strike every family we know, financial stress is still present and family pressures will always be present. If you are raising kids, have siblings or are dealing with aging parents, suffrage seems constant. We all find different ways of dealing with it – some healthy and some not so healthy. Last week we talked about our ability to go to God freely and with confidence. This week we see why.

God is all of the things in this verse – a refuge for the poor and the needy, a shelter in the storm and a shade in the heat. When things go bad in our lives, God is there for us. It is human nature to ask “why me?” but the truth is that God is there with us in these times of trouble. He’s there when things are good too! God will not abandon any of us, no matter what you’ve done. We are given the promise of God to have eternal life with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. There is no “reality check” dad with our Father in heaven. He knows what is on our hearts and in our minds and Jesus is sitting right next to Him saying, “all is forgiven”. I’d like to think that God inspires the advice that we get from our mentors and confidants. If we feel alone, this verse reminds us that God is always there; while St. Paul reminded us to go freely and with confidence.

 

Strength

Parents have the responsibility to give their children strength – strength to get through difficult times, strength to accomplish more than they thought was possible and the strength to carry on everyday. Not only as parents but also as adults, we should inspire all of those around us. We should be a source of encouragement, a resource for guidance and a cheerleader for our kids and for everyone in our lives as they reach beyond their limits and try new things as they go through their own personal growth. Our son turned 22 this past week, he’s quite an adult – just ask him! (just kidding but seriously, he is quite sure of himself) My hope at this point in his life is that he will say that his parents “Were always encouraging me, helping me figure things out and giving me opportunities to grow”.

So many people influenced me when I was his age. I turned 18 in February and by October, that year, I was in recruit firefighter school. The ‘men” I was working with saw things in me that I never did. They encouraged me, they taught me, they gave me advice and they put me in my place when I needed it. I’m sure they didn’t have any idea how they would impact me for the rest of my life and now I’ve taken those lessons and given them to my own son. He has the strength to be confident as he readies himself for what life has in store. I just hope that he can learn to “take orders” until he is the one at the top. Most everyone struggles with that and he will be no different.

Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

So, where do you get your strength? This passage reminds us to find our strength in God – “Him who gives me strength”. In our fast paced lives sometimes we can forget that. We can do everything through Him because God is our strength; he is with us all day – everyday. Our privilege to be a parent is a gift from God; He has put us in this place at this time. We have had a great mentor – Jesus Christ. He taught us to have compassion, patience and to be encouraging to those around us.

You can be the source of strength for your kids and those you work with by being a positive role model. When people ask you “Where do you get the strength from?” You can answer quite easily: God gives me the strength. In order to maintain your strength, like in any good workout routine, you need to work at it daily. We’ve all experienced a few days off from the gym; it gets harder to go back the longer you are away. Staying in God’s word or keeping up with bible study and devotions can be hard in our hectic lives, remain strong and stay committed. Much like the men who were there for me and had no idea that they would effect how I raised my son, you may be doing the same for someone else. Don’t worry; your strength is from God.

God’s Armor

Calling someone a Christian leader should naturally come with the assumption that they will lead ethically, unfortunately there is temptation everywhere. Each of us have the ability to justify any action we take, whether right or wrong; the devil is always at work to throw us off course. The Josephson Institute lists twelve rationalizations that people will use to justify not making good ethical decisions: “1. It’s necessary, 2. if it’s legal, it’s okay, 3. it’s part of the job, 4. if it’s for a good cause, 5. doing it for someone else, 6. fighting fire with fire, 7. it won’t hurt anyone, 8. everyone’s doing it, 9. it’s okay if I don’t gain from it, 10. I’ve got it coming, 11. I can still be objective and 12. it’s creating necessity.”

No mater how we try justify our actions, when we violate the trust of the people in our lives, we have lost the one thing that is hard to get back; their respect. If we think about any of the latest “scandals” that have been reported and then compare the Josephson rationalizations listed, it is easy to see how things can get out of control. We must constantly guard against temptation at every turn and stay vigilant against the pressures of world around us.

“…let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:12.

The “deeds of darkness” can be those things that we consciously do and those things that we do or think unconsciously. As Christians, we are under attack by the devil everyday; he’s trying to win us over from God. Remember how he tempted Jesus by offering him the riches of the world and how did Jesus respond? He used scripture to rebuff those temptations. God has given us everything we need in His word through the bible.

If we have the word on our hearts and in our minds, we will know what to do when the urge to justify our actions starts to rise up. When we put on “the armor of light” we can hold our heads high and confidently look at ourselves in the mirror and smile knowing we did the right thing; even when it was hard to do. In the long run, people will respect you for acting ethically despite how they may initially respond. The struggle is daily but our armor will keep us protected.

Compassion

What does compassion mean to you? People often believe that it is the ability to feel sorry for others and while some believe that it is showing care for others. I’ve talked about showing grace towards each other as means of sharing the teachings of Jesus, which has been called – being compassionate. I’d suggest that the answer to what is compassion is really all of the above and may include several other aspects that I haven’t touched on. Personally, I find that compassion is best served with part humility and a big component of being genuine about the subject. I’ve had a few people in my life that, after I speak with or see them, I’m left feeling great. They have such a demeanor that you can’t help but be warmed by your interaction with them. They are kind, giving and rarely have anything negative to say.

Compassionate people bring calm, understanding and positive emotions into our lives. They teach us how to look for the good in all things and how to accept the things that we cannot change. Most of us are compassionate about homelessness, poverty, children and the sick. There is a great line in the movie “Back to School” starring Rodney Dangerfield when he’s describing a teacher he has; “He seems to care, about what I don’t know”.

What do you care about and are there things that you should be more compassionate about? Our lives go so fast that we can miss opportunities to be more compassionate about more things. Commit to being more positive and strive to be the type of person that when you leave someone, they have a warm feeling inside because you were there.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13

God cares for and has compassion on us in all of our weaknesses. How many of us would stick with friends or family that constantly failed to meet our needs or respect what we’ve asked of them? We are weak from the original sin in our lives, yet God is compassionate towards us. Are you that compassionate with people in your life?

As a parent, I am compassionate with mistakes that my kids make, or the challenges that they present or the needs that they have. I’ve often said that the best supervisory training is parenting. God, our Father, has compassion on us too. We see His compassion most brightly in the form of a Savior sent to redeem us for all eternity. I do not fear God as the Psalmist did because of God’s compassion towards me and the grace that He gives me through His son Jesus Christ. Jesus intervened on our behalf with God and now we all can live in peace through Him. Just thinking about it gives me that warm feeling inside.