The Power of Gratitude

 

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! It is a day of gratitude!

Want some history on Thanksgiving? Go here.

Abraham Lincoln, 153 years ago, established the national holiday of Thanksgiving. His statement is powerful, as it addresses the difficulties of the time while recognizing the need to give thanks. You can read that here.

I would like to pull a few excerpts from his proclamation in order to provide some perspective about the power of gratitude in our lives.

1. GRATITUDE GIVES US FOCUS

“In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity”

There is never a bad time to give thanks. Many people in our country are stressed, worried, or fearful about our countries future. Might we agree that being in the middle of a civil war (1861-1865)  would be much worse than where we are at now? If gratitude was necessary in the middle of war, then it is equally as necessary now.

Right after making that comment, Lincoln goes on to describe the good things that were happening in the country…population growth, the growth of wealth and strength in extracting needed mineral resources for the country. If he had only focused on war, he would have missed the positive things.

Things are never all bad or even all good. Life is usually filled with a combination of both.

Might it be better for our hearts and souls to focus on that which is good?

2. GRATITUDE LEADS US TO JESUS

“They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God”

When we choose to live a life of gratitude, it always leads us to the One who has given us those things which we are thankful for. Blessed families, economic security, food at the table, great friends, and many other things that we experience don’t happen by accident. They happen because God has made them available to us.

When we exercise gratitude, we realize that there is a purpose behind all the good that we experience. Gratitude leads us to Jesus.

3. GRATITUDE LEADS US TO ASK FOR GOD’S INTERVENTION

“…commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidable engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

If we truly believe that God is the one who is responsible for our blessings, then it is also to God that we direct our requests for intervention in the difficulties we face.

Gratitude was the foundation of requesting God’s intervention in the chaos that existed.

Understand this, thanking God for the good things does not mean ignoring the difficult things that we face…whether personally or as a country. On the contrary…thanking God for that which is good sets us up to pray with faith and hope, believing that our God will intervene to bring even more of his blessings in the areas of difficulty that exist.

4. GRATITUDE LEADS US TO GENEROSITY OF HEART AND ACTION

I don’t have a quote from Abraham Lincoln on this one, but it is something I believe to be true. When we live a life of gratitude, we become others-centered rather than me-centered. In fact, gratitude is the antidote to selfishness and entitlement.

Gratitude sends us on a trajectory of living a healthy life as we focus on that which is positive and as we focus on how we can give, rather than receive.

Gratitude gives us focus.

Gratitude shows us Jesus.

Gratitude allows us to plead our cause to God.

And gratitude leads us to a lifestyle of generosity.

That is the power of gratitude.

How will you be grateful on this Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

What Now?

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What Now?

Donald Trump will be the new president of the United States of America. What now?

I, like many others (on both the right and the left) were completely surprised that he won. I know people on both sides of the aisle that didn’t think it was possible for him to win, yet here we are!

So, what to do? What’s the next step? What’s the next move? I believe there are a few things that you and I can do to respond to this new season that is upon is.

Before I get to that, let me give you a reference point for what I will say. Have you ever had a conversation with someone, read a blog post, or heard a sermon or podcast where the speaker/author shares a “perspective” with you, without sharing their point of view? But, when you read or listen to it, you know based off of how they’re writing or speaking what they’re really trying to say? They attempt to covertly bring you over to their side without telling you straight out.

Yeah…that is not what I want to do here today. My goal is to speak to everyone, challenging all of us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. It’s kind of like the movie Shutter Island. Is Leonardo DiCaprio’s character really a U.S. marshal, or is he actually insane? When I spoke to friends about the movie, I loved playing the “devil’s advocate”, challenging their assumptions no matter which side they fell on. I’d like to do the same today. Let’s get started!

Wisely engage your emotions. If you are happy that Trump won, then celebrate! If you are grieving about Clinton’s loss, then mourn! There is nothing wrong with what you feel. But please, for the sake of your friends, family (especially children), followers on Facebook or Twitter, etc. engage your emotions wisely. Only you can determine what wisdom looks like in the context of your emotional state. If you’re celebrating, don’t blame others for mourning. If you’re mourning, don’t blame others for celebrating.

I have my feelings, but most would not know them on Facebook, partly because I don’t even know how to express them properly in a way that everyone would understand…so I have chosen to engage my emotions a little more privately. If airing them in a public manner is helpful to you and others, then do that as well! I’m in no way creating rules here…just inviting you to exercise wisdom in your response.

Exercise EMPATHY over JUDGMENT. This one is huge. In fact, I may write a separate post just about this one. Between last night and this morning, I have been reading hundreds of people’s comments on Facebook and other locations. I am discouraged to see so many people ascribe motives to another person for their vote. That is judgment, nothing more and nothing less. It especially saddens me to see Clinton supporters think of all Trump supporters as racists, or to see Trump supporters think of all Clinton supporters as baby killers (abortion).

Listen my friends, there is only one person who knows the heart of man, and that is God himself. Second to that, we cannot begin to understand a person’s feelings unless we actually know the person. When we choose empathy, we choose to step into the other person’s shoes. I believe that most people voted out of fear during this election cycle. Those who supported Trump were afraid of losing jobs, losing the Supreme Court, etc. Those who supported Clinton were/are afraid that Trump’s election will bring about waves of discrimination against different minority (ethnic, social, etc.) groups. When we step into someone else’s shoes, we begin to know them for who they truly are, which increases our ability to engage them and love them. Choose to step into someone else’s shoes and see what you learn.

Pray. Did God place Trump as president? Was it up to the free will of the people who voted? Different Christians have different theological viewpoints on how man’s free will and God’s sovereignty plays out. I happen to think there is a combination of both at work. Either way, 1 Timothy 2:1-3 states, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”

I get three important things from this call to pray. First, when we pray for Trump, for our nation, for Democrats and for Republicans (and all others), the end result may be peace! Second, this is pleasing to God. And last, there seems to be a direct relationship between people coming to salvation and our decision to pray. Being driven by our desperation, by our fear, or even by our victories can easily jeopardize an opportunity for someone to come to faith in Christ through our example.

Hope. God’s kingdom is eternal. The reigns of Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, etc. are not! Even the worst dictator has an end to his reign. We place our hope, not in a political system, but in a savior who came to bring his life to the entire world.

If your hope was placed in Clinton, it was in the wrong place. If your hope was (and still is) placed in Trump, your hope is in the wrong place. The end has not arrived, and when it does, Jesus will be right there in the middle of it. Let’s choose to place our trust in the one who has the ultimate say about how all of this will play out in the end.

And lastly, come to church on Sunday. We are followers of Jesus first of all. Regardless of where we land in politics, we are brothers and sisters, part of a great family. We need each other at a moment like this.

If you’re in the L.A. area, you’re welcome to join us! citylifela.org

Love you all!

Jeff

 

California Propositions

Hey everyone!

With voting day happening tomorrow, there is a lot that you can vote for if you are a California resident.

In fact, there are 17 different Statewide propositions that are on the ballot, besides voting for local issues, voting for president, etc.

So, I wanted to give you a perspective on what I’m voting for. Now, I know that some of you would like to know who my pick is for president. For reasons I’ve stated before, I’m not sharing that publicly.

But, the reality of the matter is that the propositions in our state have a lot more of an immediate impact on our lives. If you want fuller descriptions of the propositions, you can go here.

I have a few different guiding values that help me in making decisions about propositions. They are:

  1. Simple is better, especially when it comes to taxes
  2. Local (taxes, decisions, management, etc.) is better than statewide
  3. Value life and freedom above all

So, here goes!

51 – Public School bonds. I say no. In many cases, bonds turn into taxes later on. A bond is essentially a deferred tax. It would be much simpler for the government to have certain tax rates, then make a budget according to income.
52 – Medi-Cal hospital fee. I say no. This was supposed to be a temporary fee. If the original plan was temporary, then let’s keep it that way. Also, charging hospitals in order to supposedly turn around and re-invest in those same hospitals is a waste of time and money.
53 – Voter Approval for $2+ Billion Bonds. I say yes. I don’t want to say yes, because our form of government is a representative one, where we vote people into office in order to make decisions on our behalf. But, many legislators have taken so much advantage of their role, that I think this would be a worthwhile opportunity for the large projects in our state.
54 – Public Viewing of Legislative Bills for 3 Days. I say yes. Again, same as 53, I don’t want to have to say yes, but I think this is necessary for more transparency.
55 – Extension of Income Tax Increase. I say no for a few reasons. First, this tax was supposed to be temporary. So, let’s keep it that way. Second, while many would say “Hey, no problem, it’s a higher tax rate on the rich”, the reality is that it starts higher rates at the $250,000 income level. Many people at that level are small business owners who would be adversely impacted as a result.
56 – Tobacco Tax Increase. I say no. Do I like smoking? Not at all. Would I love it if no one smoked? Absolutely! But once again, there is no need to continue complicated the tax system by putting a separate tax on a certain segment of society, especially when there is no guaranteed place where the money will go.
57 – Juvenile Parole. I say no. On its face, this sounds like a good proposition, but the reality is different. For example, if someone originally did time for a small offense, then is now doing time for a bigger offense, they may get parole based off of their original small offense, regardless of what their current offense is. This doesn’t make sense. They need to go back to the drawing board on this one and rework it.
58 – Non-English Language Teaching in Public School. I say no. I believe that kids should speak many languages, but that is not what this proposition is about. The easiest way for a non-English speaker to learn English is to learn by full immersion. I have five children who have all learned Spanish at home and have had no problem going into an English-speaking school and picking it up. There are still opportunities for children who have difficulty learning English to learn in their own language. This proposition would simply create a situation where many of our students are not ready for the workforce due to limited English skills.
59 – Overturn Citizens United. I say no. Regardless of all the rhetoric out there, such as, “Big corporations can influence elections however they want”, the reality is that certain big corporations were already doing that before Citizens United. Simple case in point: media conglomerates, whether they tend to lean left (NBC), or whether they tend to lean right (FOX), already used their money to influence elections. Citizens United simply gave the opportunity to all businesses to have a voice. I believe that the best way to increase people’s knowledge is not to have limited access to information, but rather to hear from more voices, rather than just a few.
60 – Condoms in Porn Films. I say yes. Now, I am typically in favor of adults being able to choose what they want to do with their lives, even if that’s the porn industry (which does much damage to our country and the people involved in it). But there is another element to consider. There is a connection between pornography and sex trafficking. While this does not solve sex trafficking, it may provide some limited protection to those who are victims of it. For that reason, I think it’s worth it to say yes.
61 – Drug Price Standards. I say no. While on its face this proposition looks good (in order to save money on drugs), it suffers from what everyone knows as “cause and effect”. Once California departments are no longer legally allowed to purchase drugs above a certain price, certain drug companies will not sell their drugs to those departments, thus depriving people of the drugs they need. That would not be good.
62 – Repeal death penalty. I say no. I recommend that you vote your conscience on this one. Maybe on a later date I will post a fuller explanation, but put simply it’s this: Because I value life, especially the life of the victim, I believe there are certain cases where the death penalty is the only just punishment for what was done to the victim. My eyes are focused more on what is just for the victim of the crime, rather than the perpetrator of the crime.
63 – Background checks for Ammunition. I say no. It’s one thing to have it for guns. It’s a whole other thing to have it for ammunition. I don’t believe that this would actually eliminate gun crimes.
64 – Marijuana legalization. I say no. Yeah, I know how many people say that there’s no long-term harm, it’s a low-level drug, etc., but I think it’s still beneficial to use the force of law to outlaw certain things that have no proven benefit to society. Marijuana does not.
65 – Bag Revenue to go to Wildlife Conservation Fund. I say no. Basically, many grocery stores and others would be forced to no longer use disposable plastic bags (prop 67), and would be forced to charge consumers to pay for other types of bags. Then, the money charged would go to a certain fund. Why do I say no? Two reasons. First, this is more complication of taxes in our state. I already said that I like simplicity. Second, this is essentially an additional sales tax on every person in the state. For these reasons I say no.
66 – Death Penalty Quicker. I say no. While I like to streamline processes as much as possible, many people on death row who are found to be innocent of a crime are cleared of it much later than five years, which is the limit imposed on this proposition. While in this case a longer process is more complicated, I value life more than a complicated process…so “no” it is for me.
67 – Plastic Bags. I vote no. Why? I simply believe that local jurisdictions would be better to decide on this one rather than the state at large. Jobs are lost because of this. I want to take care of the environment, but I think this decision would simply be best at the local level.
I hope this was helpful! Now, if you have more questions, agree or disagree, or anything else, feel free to comment below and I’ll respond!
Happy voting!

Integrity Is All You Have

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Integrity is all you have

Integrity is all you have. We are all imperfect. We make mistakes, we fail, we screw up. Along the way, we make some good decisions as well. In all of this, each of us wants to continue advancing – in business, in personal growth, in family, in the church, and any other area we can dream of. But in the midst of all of this, integrity is all you have.

Sometimes, along this journey of life, we come to a crossroads. We’re not quite sure what decision to make. We tend to analyze our decisions based off of a matrix of risk vs. reward.

This is all well and fine. But, along the way, moments come when the risk is to lose your integrity, while the reward seems to be great. So, you throw your integrity to the side in order to travel the path that seems will benefit you most.

It seems like a great plan. And we tend to justify, saying things like…

  • No one will ever know
  • The (perceived) benefit far outweighs the cost
  • What could possibly go wrong?

The only problem is this: When you compromise your integrity in the dark, the consequences will be seen in the light.

You see, it is impossible for something to START in secret and to STAY in secret. The compromising decisions that we make will affect certain areas of our lives that are visible, even if no one knows about the original compromise.

It takes a lifetime to build integrity and a moment to lose it.

I have not always made the right decisions, but I have always attempted to make honest decisions. I don’t want to lie to myself, to God, or to others.

Everything that you build in your life will influence others, whether it be kids, spouses, employees, employers, subordinates, friends, acquaintances, etc.

Integrity is all you have. Once you lose that, you begin to lose everything else and everyone else.

Sometimes, choosing integrity means choosing loss. If that is the case, so be it. It would be better to lose everything while maintaining the people that you love, rather than maintaining things while losing those you love.

And remember this: once you lose the people, losing the things will follow closely behind.

Integrity is all you have. Remember, the product you deliver is a representation of your integrity. Your product might be a widget, or influence, or relationships. It might be technological, or service oriented, or something else. Whatever your product is, people will connect your trustworthiness and integrity to the things that represent you.

There really is only one way to live.

Integrity is all you have.

Choose wisely.