Strength for the Stumble

If you read my post Drinking Poison yesterday, I was struggling with my attitude last week when it revealed itself in unflattering ways at work.

Today was a good day to put some of my most natural attitudes and behaviors to rest and I found comfort in doing this in a couple of ways.

First, I spent a lot of time praying that the Holy Spirit would show me ways of glorifying God in EVERY situation and not just those in which I saw an opportunity to glorify Him myself. 

Second, I acknowledged to God who I am in this prayer, flaws and all, and did what I have been doing in prayer the last several days: I repented and focused on the wonderful life He has given me and repeatedly did so throughout the day.

Sometimes it meant being away from my staff more than I would have liked. I’m a hands on leader and being visible and connected is an important part of that.  This is O.K., though, because it is also important to allow some distance that gives my people a sense of the fact that I trust them to work independently but that they can seek me out for any reason and I will be there for them.  There have been many times in the nearly three years I have been with these officers where this has been tested, but I believe they know this.

The important thing to recall here is that these spaces of time where I am not with them is a time that is best used for strengthening myself. Not physically, or emotionally, or mentally but spiritually. Little moments of time where I remind myself that He is greater and dwells in me and He is greater than he who is in the world to torment, divide, and conquer us with treachery and deceit of all kinds.

I am very fond of a quote by C. S. Lewis which reminds how to go in moments of solitude, few and fleeting though they may be.  It is the kind of thought that reminds me of who I am trying not to be and also Who dwells in me:

As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people. And, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.

Here’s my advice to those who struggle with unflattering attitudes like I do:  Surrender and keep praying to be surrendered to God. His Son Jesus died so you would be able to do this and Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to take the place of the carnal spirit that we were born with.

That Holy Spirit is in the heart of every saved believer and surrender is the freedom we all seek. If you are not seeking this, DO!  You will never for a moment regret it. Here’s how:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:8-9

Once you have made this commitment, the Holy Spirit can and will act but you must call on Him. He will act. No more self-induced sorrow acting in our own strength. That strength causes us to stumble and fall, often.  The strength He provides powers us out of our nature and into His.  I like His nature much better. You will too.

Go ahead now and put the Kool-Aid the world wants you to drink down.


To Whom Does Vengeance Belong?


If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:18-20

Our sitting president has declared openly that the United States is not a Christian nation.  Based on what you have just read above, I think many of us would have to disagree. We, unlike any nation in modern history is one of the few nations that have rendered aid to every nation that has asked for it, including our enemies.

Once,  King David found himself on the run, after his adultery with Bathsheba and the rape of his daughter Tamar by one of his own sons, Amnon.  One of his other sons, Absalom was incensed that his father did nothing to avenge the rape, so he killed Amnon and began plotting to take the throne from his father, nearly succeeding. Many of the Psalms detail David’s prayers for justice against his enemies while he was in hiding and fearful for his life.

The point of this is that it is not for man to avenge offenses or perceived injustices against his peace and dignity any more than it is for any nation. But does this mean we must simply take what the world wants to dish on us?

Don’t misunderstand: I’m no 1960’s era peacenik. I served as a U. S. Navy officer under my Commander-in-Chief, Ronald Reagan.   There’s a poster out there I rather like which features his picture and mentions how we bombed the Libyan leader’s house in 1986 and they remained quiet for 25 years, until the current Commander-in-Chief thought apologies were better than a strong defense.

Last I looked, all Presidents of the United States take an oath in which they vow to protect our country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I took the same oath as a naval officer, like hundreds of thousands of others in our nation’s service.

Ideology has nothing to do with this oath. It was designed by the founding fathers to ensure that what is happening to our embassies now, sovereign ground under all international law, does not go without a defense or response to attacks.  Both of these have now occurred in other embassies throughout North Africa and the Middle East.  The situation worsens with every gaffe, every slow response, and every apology.

Incompetence is easy to identify. But if this is a deliberate series of actions, then our president has failed worse than David did with his adulteries and failure to act on his divine appointment.

Make no mistake, all those in positions of authority require our prayers and, for better or worse, are seated by God Himself. This is part of our covenant with a loving God, who wants the best for all of us, and will lead us to hat best place that seems so far away to many right now.

It is not an act of vengeance to use the power that God gave us in our Constitution, the power we expect our president to use to exact God’s judgment on those nations who seek to kill our officials who have given them no cause to do murder over their perceived grievances.

Sadly for the world, Obama doesn’t understand this or if he does, he refuses to use the authority God gave his office.

Let there be no more pictures of Obama at the site of flag-draped coffins at Andrews Air Force Base, when he has options that can and should be used.

It is not vengeance, but justice.

The time for reckoning is near.

Bless you all, dear readers.

Lessons in Vanity

Since my little health incident about five months ago, many things have changed in my life and today I had a chance to reflect on these changes and talk to my wife Sandy about some of them. With our 17 year old son Tim, we were on a long drive to visit my parents across state. I may have mentioned previously that I have been unable to drive since January but clearance to do so may come in about four weeks, if the doctor O.K.s it.

For the 22-plus years Sandy and I have been together, I have done nearly all of the driving on trips of any kind, long or short but she has had to bear this burden for the whole house during my recovery. Since she hates driving to begin with, that burden has been even harder for her and I haven’t always been the most agreeable passenger. It turns out that I scare easily when  I’m not driving and tend to think that others aren’t as cautious or considerate as they should be when they drive-this defined in my own terms, of course.

The discussion today centered around my routine two week check-in with my office to remind them that I am: a) still alive; b) conscious and able to think & speak with alacrity; c) intending to return after my recovery is complete and; d) capable of doing the same effective job upon my return, as I did prior to the emergence of my health issue.  Indeed, my wife has had to resubmit my doctor’s note three separate times this month alone to remind people of my planned return to work date, which I have also discussed with my boss and my boss’s boss. Enough of this, though. How bureaucracies work, or don’t, is not what this is about.

What this is about is the most ancient sin of all and the one into which I think most of us most easily fall. It has been the subject of innumerable books, movies, TV shows and the source of the downfalls of luminaries from every walk of life and culture throughout history.

You might be asking yourself, “Gosh Scott what is it? Is it sex?, greed?, lust for power?, what?”

I think it’s the most basic thing of all: Vanity. Everyone likes to be schmoozed. I do, you do, everyone does. Sure, when we are complimented by those who wish us well we may even feel a bit uncomfortable but we know that we feel more good than discomfort.  This happened to me the other day when I called my good friend and hard-working, intelligent peer. Our boss hadn’t shown up for work yet.

Anyway, we hadn’t spoken since she made a deal to come work at my office on the one condition that I be there with her, when I come back to work. What a wonderful vote of confidence this was,  but also a powerful temptation for me to believe that I came to this admiration of my own accord and not by anything The Lord had done in my life and which I fervently believe now. It reminded me of what Jesus said to Pontius Pilate at His trial:

You would have no authority over  Me, unless it had been given to you from above. Luke 19:11

Here’s the evidence of the vanity I was tempted to indulge in: I believed for the longest time that I came to my place in life of my own accord and not because I was destined and led by God. This was my mode of thinking when I made the call last week. What a mistake!

When we start believing our own press and disallowing the powerful heavenly forces that lead us to our stations in life, we become targets for easy mark by those dark forces in the world who want us to believe that we can do things on our own. This often ends in disaster for people like me who are Christians but have not drawn close enough to The Lord that He would draw close to us enough to recognize His tremendous influence in our lives.

The Roman centurion had it right when he approached Jesus and said:

“Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” Matthew 8:8-9

The biggest misunderstanding I had about my authority and accomplishments as a manager, and leader was that I came to it on my own and gave no credit to The Lord who really did the leading. My best moments professionally and personally came as a result of drawing in to my Lord enough that He drew close to me and set me on the well lit, right path of His healing, His peace, His humility, and His grace. He still draws me closer and He also draws closer moment by moment. No vanity here, only grace and peace that comes by this relationship.

No more regrets here. When I return to work, I will do so drawing in to Him who sent me forth to serve with a glad heart to do that work and that work alone.

Say the word only, Lord and I shall be healed.