Veteran’s Day

The U.S. celebrates Veteran’s Day on November 11th each year. This is an ever increasingly important holiday for us as we attempt to give thanks to those that have served our nation to protect our freedom. When these ceremonies are held, we always remember our World War II veterans but they are decreasing in numbers each year. For some reason this year, at a local event, I started to think about the war this country had for our early freedom, the revolutionary war. Today, we talk about celebrating those that have protected our freedoms in the 20th and 21stcenturies. How about the courage of the men and women who fought to establish FREEDOM?

The British Army was the largest and most feared in the entire world at the time; we did not back down. We fought to ensure that we were free. The war of 1812 was another assault on our freedom. It is not discussed in detail however it was a proud victory from our past. Our Veteran’s deserve so much more than we give them. I’ve heard people argue, “They volunteered for it and knew what they were getting”. I hardly buy the volunteer argument, these heroes stepped up when many others did not, to protect our freedoms. Many of the service members that I’ve worked with have spent a career serving our country, which doesn’t sound like a volunteer. The person who volunteers at the food bank is not the same as the one who leaves behind a family to fight global terrorism. We owe our Veteran’s our freedoms and our thanks.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

If nothing says Veteran’s Day like “be men of courage” I don’t know what does. If you close your eyes, you can almost hear a commanding officer speak these words before combat. St. Paul is not talking to Roman soldiers or our military today; he was talking to the people of Corinth. They were, as we are today, in a battle for eternal life. St. Paul was warning them and us today, to be on guard and to stand firm in our faith. Everyday, God’s will and His Christian people are under attack.

The devil is trying to take back the souls won by Jesus’ death on Calvary by polluting the fabric of our society. False prophets and false teachings are everywhere. It isn’t often we hear about the saving grace of God and eternal life that can only be found in faith through Jesus Christ is our savior. St. Paul encourages us to be courageous despite these challenges. Confidently speak of God’s grace and mercy to all. Stay connected to God’s word and study the teachings of Jesus to remain strong in faith and to have the confidence to be strong.

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Positively Negative

Zig Ziglar once said, “You can’t get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.” A lot can be said about having a positive attitude. I’ve also written before about my wife’s unbelievably positive spirit. I only wish that it would rub off on me – she does too. We have season tickets to our local “professional” hockey team. I use quotes because they really don’t play like professionals. It has been a rough few seasons for hockey here in the desert. The couple that sits next to us also has season tickets. A week or so ago, Rick was getting on the team about various playmaking efforts. He can be a relentless critic when they don’t play well. I found that I too was becoming very critical that night. His poor wife was sandwiched between us; listening to our criticism the first 20 minutes of the game. I heard her turn to him and tell him to stop the negative comments. I didn’t realize until that second that I was doing it too.

The team ended up losing anyway but it was a big lesson for me; negativity can spread. We were just picking on the team but our comments fueled each other. I’ve admitted that I’m not the most optimistic person so it hard for me to imagine what it would be like if our comments were positive. I know what happens in the workplace when people are positive and how that energy fuels a team to excellence. I guess I took for granted what happens when the opposite takes place in a social setting. Usually people just walk away from a “Debbie Downer” but my seatmate was trapped. Having a positive attitude can certainly make a big difference in how it affects your day to day personality. Face each day with the right mindset and you’ll enjoy the best life has to offer. I know I need to try harder.

“And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” – Romans 10:15

The difficulty with understanding this verse is knowing whether or not you were sent to preach. We are commanded to “go and make disciples of all men and nations”. I’d suggest that this single verse tells us that we are sent. Bringing good news can come in many forms: passing out water to the homeless on hot days, distributing flyers about upcoming church events, witnessing to the lost and having a positive outlook on life are just a few. The good news of being positive can simply lie in the act of having a positive attitude.

People can look to you as the example of positive thinking and modeling the way of the Lord. When they finally come to realize where you get your strength from, you will have the courage to profess your faith openly. When people ask about your positive outlook and attitude, you can tell them you have no fears or worries because of our savior Jesus Christ. I speak from experience when I tell you that this is easier said than done. I have so many blessings that I have no reason to be negative but I find myself there more often than I’d like. For me, it is just another reminder that I need God’s help and guidance to keep pressing onward. Where do your feet stand?

Always a Leader

Diligent is defined as “Characterized by care and perseverance in carrying out tasks”. How can we live diligently? We can start by paying attention. Pay attention to the details of our work; generally don’t let things fall through the cracks. All kinds of people are looking up to us in our lives for guidance, information, instruction, and for friendship. The communities that we live in depend on all of us paying attention to the details: while driving, interacting with each other and maintaining an orderly society. Rules and laws provide the structure of a society that allows billions of people to live together.

Diligence also requires accountability; you must ensure you are meeting your obligations. We are responsible for each other and accountable to one another for our actions. Too often we see people going through life paying attention to only themselves and what they are doing. In the firehouse we used to call these types of people “one way”. They had only one way of thinking and it was all about their needs. We are all leaders in our lives no matter our position. As parents, we lead our families, as adults we lead children, as Christians we lead through our example. Regardless of your place of life you are a leader, so provide leadership diligently.

“If a man’s gift is … leadership, let him govern diligently…” Romans 12:6, 8

As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, if we are to lead, we must do it diligently. We must pay attention to the small things; the devil is in the details. It is easy to obey the straight forward commandments like not stealing or killing but what about the “details” of the others like not being jealous of what others have or putting other activities before worship with God, especially during football season.

Who is keeping you accountable for what is happening in your life? Confess your sin, give it to the Lord, repent and turn toward God. The good news is that Jesus took it all upon himself on the cross for us. Be diligent in your daily study and time with the Lord, it will make leading much easier. We often do not seek Christian leadership roles in our lives. Whether you have chosen it or not, God has chosen you to be an example for others. Do you carry out your Christian duties with care and perseverance? You don’t have to be the designated leader to have people follow you, but you do have to be aware that people will follow you, good and bad, so why not be better prepared? You’ll be rewarded in many ways.

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!

Sowing and Reaping

Have you ever stopped to think about all of the people that have helped you in your life? There are teachers who helped mold your mind or shaped your learning, there people that you’ve met who have shaped your worldview and there are strangers that have helped in ways that you don’t even know about. If we were to list them all, it would be too long to comprehend. We all have had people put in our lives that played a significant role in shaping a part of our lives. Some of them have given us great advice or simply been there to listen and others created a pathway for us to follow behind them. The latter did what is referred to as “the heavy lifting”. Both the advisor and the trailblazer are significant to us in our development. I taught an ethics class for the fire academy this past week and I was reminded about how our lives, values and morals are shaped. It is a constant process, for most of us anyway. People are shaping and teaching us constantly; some are reinforcing our beliefs while others are changing our worldview. The whole dialog got me thinking about whom I’ve relied on in my life to help make me who I am today. Lisa and I realized this weekend that we met 30 years ago in January, which by the way, neither one of us can remember the specific date. Besides being unable to comprehend being together that long, we both know how much we have influenced each other. I’m not getting mushy here. I also know that there are about a dozen people who were there for me as I traversed my career; some reminding me to slow down and others pushing me on because they saw something that I hadn’t. I know that I have had little to do with who I am and that others had done the heavy lifting. Some took chances on me, others pulled me up into opportunities while people like Lisa were there adjusting to be everything else I needed. Give thanks for those people in your lives and then let them know how much you appreciate all that they’ve done.

37Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”  John 4:37-38

This verse is Jesus speaking to his disciples after he met the Samaritan woman at the water well. Jesus is the sower, He did the hard work for us but we will reap the reward; eternal life through Him. Jesus also is speaking of those before Him, the prophets and those doing the work that God commanded, allowing us to all reap the benefits of their labor. So, is the sowing all done now that we have God’s word and salvation through Jesus? I don’t believe so. “One sows and another reaps’ is true”. As disciples we still have a harvest to tend to as is said in John 4:35 “…look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” We are the ones that have reaped the goodness of the harvest but we also have some sowing to do. Let’s get out there and sow the good news of Jesus Christ. I bet some of you are saying, “Are you kidding? You want me to go and preach to others?” I’m suggesting that you be a witness of God’s love and grace. He has blessed each of us with specific talents or gifts to sow the fields. Some can sing, some can write, some have strong arms and backs but all have love and the belief that we can make a difference. God is with you and He has already given you what you need to be the person that changes lives. Look around your life and see what He has done for you and then look for ways to pass it on to others. The fields are ripe!

Shine the Light

Communication is a true art. Books have been written about how to do it better. In fact, I have a book on the subject of Listening; a huge part of communicating. On the scene of a fire, due to its high level of danger, we have an “order model” to prescribe how we are to communicate. It essentially says that the receiver of the message will acknowledge the message by repeating it back to the sender. “Command to Engine 1. Take a hose line to the second floor. Engine will call back: “Engine 1 copies, take a hose line to the second floor.” There is no room for misunderstandings when lives are on the line. Yet, how many times have you had a fight with someone only to find out “that’s not what I meant”? Leaders need to keep communications open with their people too. Some call it “touching base” and others call it “checking in”. Today, change is constant and people need to know what is going on around them. If they are worried about the latest rumor, they won’t focus on their job and then you’ll be communicating with them in other ways. The old saying “you can’t treat people like mushrooms” is true. Keeping them in the dark and feeding them crap just won’t work. People need light and encouragement from their leaders.

“The people walking in the darkness have seen a great light: on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

Living in the shadow of death without hope of eternal life is unimaginable to me. The sad truth however, is that there are people living in those shadows. They walk in darkness and despair without hope because they don’t know about the light of Christ. Witnessing to people is one of the hardest things that we can do. Sometimes we’re not confident in our knowledge of bible verses or we simply don’t want to be pushy. It takes courage to overcome these fears. Ask God for help. Maybe this blog post is that help. You don’t need to go around quoting the bible or offering street corner sermons. Simply reminding people that there are options and that no matter what they’ve done, God loves them. If you are still not sure, close your Face Book page or Twitter account for 15 minutes and look up witnessing tips. We have seen a great light! Now, go and share it!