True Friendship

I hate writing the phrase “politician” when I describe myself. Even though I hold a political office, I have never considered myself a politician – I’m a public servant. So, when we talk about people telling the truth, no one ever thinks about a politician being anywhere near even the top two-thirds of any list. I think that I’m pretty truthful and I know that I am fiercely loyal as a friend and co-worker. I’m also devastated when people break that trust with me. Unfortunately it happens, especially in politics. True friends on the other hand, will always tell you the truth and rarely let you down.

I’m the logical answer guy that you can call when you need help with a problem. I’ll always listen to the issue but I’m a little more direct and emphasize logic over emotion – just what all men do! So, when a man has troubles that he is looking to share with a male friend, it is often a hard conversation for both of the friends. Its not that men are incapable, its just that we aren’t really wired that way, so emotional conversations are hard for us. True friends will always give you the hard truth, whether you want to hear it or not. We know what needs to be said and often we just say it regardless of the emotional fallout. This is why men and women fight so often in a relationship – logic vs. emotion. There is no answer to this problem but if you’re aware of it, maybe you can defuse a fight before it starts. In the end, men always appreciate honesty and friendship that they find in each other – no matter how painfully honest it can be.

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Proverbs 27:6

There are a number of sayings about friends but the one that hits close to this verse is “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. False promises, false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and justifying sin are all around us these days. CS Lewis wrote a book titled “The Screwtape Letters” based on the fictional exchange of letters between two of the devils workmen – one was Uncle Screwtape. It is a fascinating point of view to look at our lives from the devil’s perspective (what can be perceived anyway).

The devil works all around us, each and every day, trying to get us to quit on God. He tempts us with perceived power, daily riches bought through sin, inattention to our relationship with God or simply getting in the way of us being with God. These are the kisses noted in Proverbs. These kisses are the distractions or the seduction of this life that we can easily get caught in. Sure, being good is hard and God doesn’t make our lives easier (for our own good) so a relationship with Him causes pain and offers joy (wounds). Our enemy (the devil) makes it all seem so simple that it can be easy to let God slide a little farther from your heart. Don’t be fooled! Like any friendship, it takes work but a relationship with God has eternal implications – eternal life with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. It’s the kind of relationship that you can only have with a true friend.

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Discerning Heart

Last week I was inaugurated into my third and last 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 first term after being appointed about a year ago. 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 personally will benefit or how their financial supporters will benefit, things start going wrong immediately.

Those in leadership roles should not only lead with the highest moral standards but take the time teach their 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 it. When choosing between right and wrong, if we do fall short and commit the sin; we are assured of God’s grace and will be free of guilt and the sin because 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.

Rest Comfortably

It’s so hard to determine what the truth is anymore. Our connection to current events is almost instantaneous and right away someone is telling us the “truth” behind the story. We’ve seen an avalanche of what is being deemed “fake news”, what is actually fake news in the form of “deep fakes” on social media and disinformation campaigns. What is really the truth anymore? When it comes to religion, we’re in trouble there too; young people are being driven away from organized religion in huge numbers. More than half of those surveyed do not consider themselves Christian anymore. We see moral decay all around us in the news these days and witness long time marriages breaking up.

It seems as though people are having a hard time telling truth from fiction anymore. Leaders have a responsibility to be truthful at all times. People deserve the truth and when leaders are truthful, their followers can begin to understand what is at stake. Trustworthiness is the number one personality trait that people look for in a leader. People have to trust you as their leader; your word is your truth. No one wants to hear the latest spin you’ve got or the “company line” when they ask questions or see you in action; they want the truth, plain and simple.

John 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is the truth.”

Fortunately, the bible is filled with God’s truths. We have been given examples of God’s promises and his fulfillment of them. There is no spin on anything in the bible and the only “company line” is “Love the Lord Your God”. The devil would love for you to begin creating your own version of the truth or even your own “take on God’s word”. Keep in mind that saying nothing is just as bad spreading falsehoods.

Life can create doubts all around us; sometimes we are not sure who or what to believe anymore. Despite all of this confusion and our own lack of understanding, God keeps His word and provides for all of our needs. He gives us eternal life in exchange for one simple act: Love the Lord Your God through your faith in Jesus Christ. This truth gives us a life better than we can imagine here on earth. So, despite all of the uncertainty around us, we can all rest comfortably knowing that we can find our truths in the bible and in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Truth and unconditional love

Today, in the United States, we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day. He wasn’t just a great American, he was a great man who spoke all over the world about love and hope. Hopefully, no matter what country you are reading this in, you know about Martin Luther King Jr. This quote came to my inbox last week and I thought that it should be shared today. He said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

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

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

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

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

Mistakes

I need to be careful about how I frame the two thoughts for this week, so I’m going to state them separately so that they are not combined. Thought #1 – we all make mistakes and Thought #2 – I celebrated my 32nd wedding anniversary this past week. DO NOT combine those thoughts. It was not a mistake to be married or married for this long! Lisa and I are very proud of the fact that we still like each other after all these years. What’s the secret? Is the first thing younger couples ask or those who never made it this far. (This is where the mistakes part comes in) We all make mistakes, but it is how we deal with them that makes the difference. We’ve made mistakes along the way but we learned from them and we moved on. We don’t keep bringing them up over and over.

Marriage is hard and it isn’t perfect, that’s why learning to deal with mistakes is important. One key to “dealing” with a mistake is to acknowledge it – “yeah, I really screwed that up”. Once you accept that you actually made the mistake, the rest is easy. I’ve been promising people that I work with two things – 1) I will make mistakes and 2) I will NOT repeat them. The not repeating part, that’s the learning. We all need to stop and look at our mistakes, figure out why it happened, what can be done to prevent it again and get over it through an apology. How do you keep a marriage together for 32 years? The answer is simple: love, faith, understanding, respect, a lot of mistakes and a wife who will forgive them.

“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm: though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

The old question, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” seems appropriate here. If you would never fail, is there anything that you wouldn’t try? A post on mistakes can be filled with stories about people and their huge mistakes. Here are a few famous “mistakes”: post-it notes, Velcro, microwave ovens, potato chips, x-rays, penicillin, silly putty and the slinky. These were all the result of someone making a mistake.

God has taught us to be truthful and repentant – admit the mistake and don’t repeat it. God knows what is in our hearts and He will not let us fall. The Psalm tells us that even though we may stumble, God will be by our side and not let us fall. Stumbling can surely be embarrassing but it doesn’t hurt like falling does. God is with us all day, every day holding out His hand to keep us from falling. God’s plan is revealed very slowly to us but we can be assured that He is with us. Our job is to be with Him. Daily devotion, prayer and thanksgiving keeps God close. We were never intended to navigate this life without God’s presence and help. Don’t hesitate to reach for His hand.

Freedom

Tomorrow is July 4th and in the U.S. we celebrate our country’s independence as the Fourth of July Holiday. I travel to Washington DC often for work and there you can see signs of our founding fathers everywhere and the power of our government on what seems like every corner. I waited to visit the Jefferson Memorial until I’d seen just about everything else because I never wanted to “go all the way over there” so I’d just skip it. I remember very vividly seeing the monuments one night and the Jefferson Memorial didn’t look that far away after visiting the MLK Memorial. I was wrong but that’s another story. When you see the quotes from great leaders like Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and MLK you are inspired as an American.

The interesting thing about all that history however is, we have no idea what they really went through to get us to the point of “One Nation Under God”. Not too far from the Lincoln Memorial are the Vietnam Memorial Wall, the Korean War and the World War II Memorials. These four memorials all represent some of the “actions” that have kept our country free since July 4, 1776. Again, these memorials tell of men and women who sacrificed it all for us to be free in circumstances that are unimaginable to most of us. This Fourth of July is not just a celebration of our country’s birth but is a celebration of those that have fought, here and abroad, for us to remain free. Some did it with words and pens, others with swords and rifles, but they all did it for their love of their Country and in some cases, their actions meant millions of others would be free.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1John 3:18

When I first saw this verse I was ready to write about love and honesty but with the July 4th Holiday upon us, this seemed more appropriate. We “love” a lot of things in our lives – dessert, a TV show, a movie, our clothes/shoes, our cars, food and even our electronic devices. Some people “love” things so much that they post about them on Facebook, Twitter or Insta-Gram. None of these are what God had in mind when he inspired the writers of the bible. We can tell people we love them, we can write them poems or letters or in today’s case we can tweet it but how do we show it? People will say that they love their fellow man when they write a check to a charity and others by volunteering. It’s important to remember, sharing God’s love isn’t about works.

It’s not about how many checks you write or how many hours you volunteer at the homeless shelter or how many doors you knock on to share the word. We have God’s love because we believe and His love isn’t dependent upon anything we do. We are instructed with this verse to love with actions and in truth. The old phrase “actions speak louder than words” is best applied here. Don’t go around professing your love for God but cheating every chance you get. Don’t write or say: “You’ll be in my prayers” but then never pray. All of us as God’s children, have been given the gift of God’s love; not only was it written for us in the bible but it’s shown everyday by His actions in our lives. Let’s celebrate ALL of our freedoms this week: as a nation we enjoy certain freedoms and as a sinner, we are free from eternal punishment through our faith in Jesus Christ. We have these freedoms today because of courageous acts by many; we should never forget them.

From the Tops of Mountains

Yesterday, I was telling my brother a story about my son. Greg has a hard time understanding “spending habits” and what the consequences of bad habits are. I explained that you can literally hear him think because what ever is going through his mind comes right of his mouth. We had a good laugh at the almost eighteen year old’s expense. In the US, we are suffering through the start of the Presidential campaign season for 2016. This is a time when we get to hear from anyone interested in running for President and many of them have the same “problem” that my son has; we get to hear them think out loud.

Most of us do not go around and speak everything that is on our mind – thank goodness. We hold some things back to spare someone else’s feelings or we continue to support a friend instead of telling them the direct truth because the truth is too painful. Good or should I say smart husbands never answer their wives honestly when they are asked, “do these jeans make my butt look big?” I would suggest that sooner or later we start forgetting what is true anymore or how to be truthful. We seem to be answering circumstances “technically true” rather than simply true. Take a minute and think about how you communicate, when do spare someone’s feelings and when are you just not being truthful. I’m not suggesting that we go around being brutally honest; there is a fine line between civility and cruelty. What is on your heart is revealed in your words. The devil is trying to change your heart by changing your words and thoughts; stay vigilant!

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:10

God put His stamp on each of us and it was Him that sent a savior into the world. No matter what God did to steer us in the right direction; we still failed to obey His commands. But God did not give up on human beings; His love for us was still stronger than His anger or disappointment. In our heart of hearts, we believe in God. Some people want to see signs (Thomas), some believe because of their upbringing, some are confident and others yet do not believe at all. The ability to believe or not is within us.

Our hearts and our beliefs have justified us with God; we are free from punishment of the Law. It is our profession of faith that makes the bigger statement; it is what is on our hearts. People can walk around believing but without outward profession of faith they fall short. Profess your faith and you will be saved is the straightforward message of this verse. Give thanks before meals, even in public. Tell co-workers and neighbors about your confidence in the love of God our Father when the answer fits. We often hear about people who would “go to the top of a mountain to profess their love for a spouse” but would they climb that mountain to profess their faith in God and salvation through Jesus? Would you? It is your belief in Jesus as your savior that you will be saved, don’t be afraid to share salvation with everyone.

What is true?

In our family, we have a new (old) favorite show – Cougar Town. Its been on a couple of networks over the past few years but it ran through seven seasons. It’s a cross between Seinfeld and Friends. Anyway, we recently saw an episode in which one of the main characters would proclaim “FACT” when she stated something, whether or not it was true. The moral was obviously just because saying something is a fact doesn’t mean that it is. It seems today that we often have a hard time telling the difference between what is true and what isn’t. “If it’s on the Internet, it has to be true” has become a new common phrase. The irony is that some people believe it! What do we know to be true anymore? It seems like every time you turn on the TV or open a news magazine, there is something just so amazing that you can’t believe it is happening in this day and age.

My mother will be having surgery this week for a broken hip. She’d kill me if I mentioned her age so I’ll just say that she is in her “advanced years”. I have faith that the doctors are capable and that the hospital staff is competent, at least that is what I hope for. I’ve not met the doctors nor the hospital staff; we are left with hoping that they are good enough to care for her. It makes you wonder about the other things in life that you have to simply have hope for. We will be traveling often this fall and leaving our 18 year old high school senior home alone for a few days. We have to have faith that he will do the right things and hope that we are right. At this point it looks like most of what we do in our lives is dependent upon faith and hope. We take the chance that the mechanic isn’t fixing things that aren’t broken, that the financial advisor knows what she’s doing or that the doctors are capable. Come to think of it, faith and hope rule our days. It sure makes me wonder what I actually know.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

This verse can summarize our belief in God; being certain of what we do not see. No one alive today has seen God or Jesus. No one has seen the works of Jesus or His disciples to retell it first hand. Humans often have to be sure of what we hope for. We hope that God is real; we hope that the passages of the bible are factual and we hope that our faith is real. What if you stop there with just having hope? Much like Thomas who doubted Jesus when He returned, do you need proof? Our faith, as suggested in this verse is based on being sure of what we hope for AND being certain of what we do not see. In John 3:8 it is written that we don’t see the wind but we hear it; we don’t know where it comes from but yet we know it’s there. This is how our faith in God works, we can’t see Him but we should KNOW that He is there. If you need proof, look at the kindness of people or the compassion that people have for one another, these same traits are found in the teachings of Jesus; our savior and our proof of things that we do not see. The world is not filled with bad people. It’s filled with good people following the teachings of someone they have never met but who have the faith and certainty that God has put His mark on their hearts.

What’s True Anymore?

It’s so hard to determine what the truth is anymore. Our connection to current events is almost instantaneous and right away someone is analyzing the what really happened and then telling us the “facts” behind the story. A recent study shows that young people are being driven away from organized religion in huge numbers. More than half of those surveyed do not consider them selves Christian anymore. We see moral decay all around us in the news these days from public officials under investigation to, and as friends pointed out this weekend, long time marriages breaking up. Our friend pointed out that technology has made it too easy and tempting to look for greener grass. It seems as though people are having a hard time telling truth from fiction anymore.

Leaders have a responsibility to be truthful at all times. People deserve the truth and when leaders are truthful, their followers can begin to understand what is at stake. Trustworthiness is the number one personality trait that people look for in a leader. People have to trust you as their leader; your word is your truth. No one wants to hear the latest spin you’ve got or the “company line” when they ask questions or see you in action; they want the truth, plain and simple.

John 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is the truth.”

Fortunately, the bible is filled with God’s truths. We have been given examples of God’s promises and his fulfillment of them. There is no spin on anything in the bible and the only “company line” is “Love the Lord Your God”. The devil would love for you to begin creating your own version of the truth or even your own “take of God’s word”. Life can create doubts all around us; sometimes we are not sure who or what to believe anymore.

Despite all of this confusion and our own lack of understanding, God keeps His word and provides for all of our needs. He gives us eternal life in exchange for one simple act: Love the Lord Your God through your faith in Jesus Christ. This truth gives us a life better than we can imagine here on earth. So, despite all of the uncertainty around us, we can all rest comfortably knowing that we can find our truths in the bible and in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.