Great Expectations!

“He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Micah 6:8

What do they expect from me?

We often ask this question for one of two reasons.  The first is because we don’t know the expectations.  There is confusion and no clear direction given as to what we ought to be doing.  The second way we use this question, with a little different emphasis in the wording, is when we feel the expectations placed on us are too great.

Not only do we use this question in our interaction with others, we use it in response to God.  Many times people are confused and just do not know what God expects from them  Usually this is because they don’t really know God.  The personal relationship with God has not been developed and nurtured.  We also use this question with God when we think He expects too much.

We don’t see ourselves as God sees us.  We see a God-sized task and decide we could never be a part of it.  In our mind we have limited the power of God when we say, “God could never do that through me.”  When God says through the prophet Micah that the requirement is that we would act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, He defines what He expects and lets us know that it can be done.

How are you doing with the “great expectations” God has for your life?  Our lives often revolve around the expectations of someone . . . parents . . . spouse . . . boss . . . friends . . . children . . . our church . . . self . . . co-workers . . . or any combination of a variety of people.  Isn’t it time to center your life so that it revolves around the expectations of God?

May you and I live up to the great expectations that God has for us!

It’s Not My Fault!

Who’s to blame?  When something goes wrong, we are often quick to try to avoid any responsibility.  I remember my grade school years.  I was not very coordinated and often paid little attention to what was going on around me.  Therefore, I was constantly splitting my head open or injuring myself in some way.  Yet I also remember not wanting to admit these injuries were my fault, so I blamed other kids for my mishaps.  Fortunately, my parents would get to the facts of the situation and hold me accountable for my own actions.

This avoiding responsibility was not a new problem begun by me.  From the beginning of time, mankind has been saying, “It’s not my fault!”  God came to Adam, and Adam said, “It’s not my fault.  It’s the woman that you gave me.”  Eve says, “It’s not my fault.  It’s the serpent that you created.”  From that point on, our sinful desires have been screaming out, “It’s not my fault!”

Typically parents have shouldered a great amount of the task of teaching children to take responsibility for their actions.  I grew up under the two for one plan.  If I got in trouble once at school, I received a bonus and was in trouble a second time when I got home.  This philosophy changed greatly during my generation.  Now we often see a child in trouble at school for something they have done, yet when they get home the story is different.  The child is not in further trouble, the teacher is in trouble for trying to correct the student.

This reminds me so much of the verse at the end of the book of Judges that states, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  What ever happened to the cry, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!”  “I was wrong.”  “I have sinned.”  Our society shows us a very vivid picture of the trouble that erupts when individuals cry out, “It’s not my fault!”

As Christians, as a body of believers, as individuals, may we take responsibility for our actions and repent when we do wrong.

Living Large!

“Would you like that super-sized, up-sized, mega-sized, or king-sized?”  If you go to fast food restaurants, I’m sure you have heard this question in one form or the other.  We live in a society where, for many, a regular meal is not enough.  We want more!  We deserve more!  We need more!  More money, more time to ourselves, more things, larger meals, larger homes, larger cars, etc., etc., etc..

God tells us in Ecclesiastes that the eye is never satisfied with seeing.  “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:10 NASB)

If left unchecked, the more we see, the more we want.  There seems to always be something just out of reach that we want, deserve, need, or just have to have.  We spend enormous amounts of energy and financial resources trying to find the biggest, best, fastest, nicest things we can find.  Or at least bigger, better, faster, and nicer than what those around us have.  It is so easy to get caught in this pursuit of things that we forget to pursue God.  Many times God gets the leftovers, if there are any, because we fail to plan ahead and give God from our first and our best.

I wonder what would happen if all Christians would pursue God with the intensity that we have in other areas of interest in our life.  Can you imagine seeking a super-sized Sunday School?  A mega-sized worship service?  A king-sized ministry of caring and missions?  An up-sized effort of outreach and evangelism?  It might sound something like this:  “Would it be possible to have more Bible study opportunities?”  . . . “I wish our worship service wouldn’t get over so quickly!” . . . “How can I help more people in our church, community, and world?”  . . . “Where could I best spend my time to impact lost people for Jesus?”

May you and I truly desire to live large by living large for Jesus!

Pass The Salt, Please

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  Let you conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  Colossians 4:5-6

How serious do you take your witness for Jesus?  Do you consistently think about how others view your actions?  As Christians, we generally try to avoid the things we consider major sins.  We would never think about stealing something or murdering someone.  Or would we?  You know, “the hotel expects people will take the towels, etc.” or “they have so much at work, they won’t miss a little of this or that.”  Or remember the teaching of Jesus, the harboring of hatred toward others is the same attitude in our hearts as murder!  It is a bad reflection on Christians when those outside of Christ look at us and see no difference in the way we live.

I’ve been to Christian conventions for both youth and adults.  At many of them, I have been told by hotel and restaurant personnel that they see no difference in the way they are treated compared to when any other group comes to town.  In fact, some hotels refuse to book rooms for Christian conventions because the youth groups or adult groups are rude, demanding, and show little respect or restraint.  Obviously, there are exceptions on both sides and some individuals and groups do quite well in representing Christ.  However, it saddens me when I hear these reports of individuals not experiencing the best treatment of their career when dealing with Christians.

We would do well to daily practice restraint and wisdom in dealing with others.  Our conversation should be gracious and “seasoned with salt”.  If you’ve ever been on a no-salt diet, you quickly learn to find seasoning of some type to avoid tasteless food.  I think that Paul is getting at a similar theme in these verses.  We’re not to have tasteless conversations that would void our attempts to witness.  As our speech is seasoned properly, we learn to answer everyone appropriately.

May God give us wisdom in our speech and actions so that we are productive and faithful servants of Jesus.

Growing Up!

How often have you wished that a child or person you know would “just grow up!”  We have a tendency to get frustrated when someone acts immature for their age.  Perhaps words or actions have made us think another person ought to be further along in maturity than what they were.

God wants us to grow up also.  Not only individually, but also as a body of believers.  Ephesians 4:15-16 states, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.  From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  Paul states that it is by truth that we grow into our head, Jesus.  Truth spoken in love brings us to maturity in Christ.  As we individually grow into the head of Christ, He brings the entire body together.  The body of Christ will continue to grow as we keep putting into practice the things found in scripture.  As we focus on things such as found in this passage of scripture from Ephesians 4:11-16, God honors His promises and plans.  The action of a church body growing requires all to be involved.

So, what is your part?  The Bible teaches that the whole body grows as each part does its work.  Everyone God adds to His church has important work to do.  If the work God wants you to do isn’t being done, the entire body suffers.  Even the tasks that seem hidden or less glamorous are needed and important.  I remember when my daughter’s liver and kidneys shut down.  Even though they were  small unseen parts, the impact on the entire body was very obvious and very bad.  Likewise, your part in a local body of believers is not insignificant.  Doing your part makes a big difference to the growth of the body.

May all of us grow together and be built up in the love and truth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

A Real Champions’ Breakfast!

We have probably all heard of numerous reports and studies designed to prove that a good breakfast is critical to the well-being of people, particularly students.  A well known cereal purports itself to be “the breakfast of champions”.  Their idea is that if you want to be a champion, this is what you will eat.  I don’t exactly agree with them, so I’ve found my own championship breakfast.  Those who have spent much time around me know that I always refer to my Dr. Pepper as the breakfast of champions.  I’ve often had fun with this, even while pointing out the obvious – that soft drinks of any kind do not make a good breakfast.

I do believe, however, that I have identified the true “champions’ breakfast”.  It cannot be found with a simple one course meal.  It requires a balanced diet, therefore several courses are necessary.  I believe that by beginning each day with a three course meal of prayer, God’s Word, and worship, we begin to prepare ourselves to be true champions.

As we study the lives of “champions” in the Bible, we find that these three elements are consistently present.  Bible characters became champions by staying connected to God.  They did this with regular time spent in prayer.  They knew the scriptures.  They would meditate on it day and night.  They worshipped God with their lives.  I’ve read a quote from someone that says, “If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy!”  This would be true of this entire “champions’ breakfast”.

When we begin each day with time spent in prayer, it helps put our entire day into perspective.  When we start the day with Bible reading, it helps us to meditate on God’s Word throughout the day so that we would choose to do right.  When we greet the day in worship of God, it shapes our attitude and responses as we interact with others.

As we feast on this “champions’ breakfast”, may God change our lives so that we are true champions in His kingdom.

Allegiance

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”  Matthew 15:8-9

(This is a reprint of an article I originally wrote in July of 2002.  It still seems quite applicable to today.  – Tom)

A lot of attention has been given recently to the wording of the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag.  The two little words, “under God”, have caused an uproar across our nation.  As news of this ruling became known, I couldn’t help but think of the scene just a few short months ago.  You remember it, right?  The scene of our nation’s congressmen standing on the steps of the capitol building singing “God Bless America” following the attacks of September 11, 2001.  Once again, political leaders of all party affiliations have spoken out.  This time with nearly one voice objecting to a judge’s ruling that threatens to remove the phrase “under God” from the pledge.

Both times, I had a similar reaction.  What hypocrisy!  As we watch the direction the nation continues to take, it appears to me that God is thought of very little as decisions are made.  Yet, when disaster strikes, we want God’s blessing.  Or when the public cries out against a change in tradition, we become uneasy.

In the verses above, Jesus addressed a question regarding his disciples not keeping the traditions of the elders.  He quotes from Isaiah and accuses the religious leaders of being hypocrites.  Their talk is designed to appear to honor God, but their actions and motives are far from God.  As Christians, are we more concerned about the tradition of a pledge using the words “under God”, or about living a life that honors God?  Is our allegiance to a flag and country more important than our allegiance to God?  I guess it bothers me when so many cry out against a change in the wording of the pledge when so few cry out against the injustice and evil that continues to grow in our nation.

I pray that our honor of God would be from our hearts and not just from our lips.