Saturday, September 16, 2017

Expectations

If you don't get a million dollars deposited in your checking account next week, will you be disappointed?  Probably not because you have no expectation of anyone depositing that amount.  But what if your paycheck is not deposited in your account?  In that case, "Heads will roll!"  Why?  Because you fully expect your paycheck to show up in place, on time and for the right amount.

Expectations play a larger role on our reactions than the actual action or event.  A million dollars would be better but we're only expecting our paycheck so we are not disappointed when we don't get a million bucks.

If you sat down at a restaurant and was served a perfectly cooked and prepared hamburger, would you be happy with it?  Depends.  If you were expecting lobster, there is not a chef in the world that could make your hamburger good enough.  If you were expecting a plain hotdog and a gourmet hamburger with all the trimmings came instead - well now, that's a different story!

This is one of the greater problems in relationships.  Wives expect things from their husbands that aren't being provided, husband want from their wives things that they aren't considering, parents want performance levels displayed in their children that aren't being achieved, bosses are insisting on outcomes that employees...  Get the picture?

In the church, we expect other Christians to behave in certain ways, live up to certain standards that we hold and hold over them in expectation.  When they don't act or talk or react in a manner that meets that expectation, we are disappointed with them and sometimes deem them unworthy.  Our expectations determine our reactions.

Sometimes there is a clear case of someone failing to keep biblical standards by lying, stealing, adultery, etc.  We do have to deal with those failures.  However, many times we are judging levels of commitment or amounts of giving or length of hair and so forth.  We are judging others based on our expectation of what we deem acceptable.

We need to approach expectations with great care because Jesus plainly says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judge.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Matt 7:1-2).

I'm not saying we should not evaluate what people do, for Jesus goes on to say in verses 15-20 that we are to inspect the fruit people bear.  What I am saying is that we need to be very careful and err on the side of grace not judgement.  Be sure your expectations are biblical standards and not personal standards.  Consider whether the other is up to the standard by which you are forming expectations.  Just be careful and grace-filled in your expectations.  Jus' Say'n.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Over The Horizon

Regardless of how clear the sky, you just can't see past the horizon.  When the eye meets the curvature of the earth, that marks the end of one's vision.  In order to see past that point one has to move in that direction so has to get past that part of the curve.  Simple principle: Man cannot see beyond the bend, regardless of how hard he squints.

I've noticed as the meteorologists have a real limitation in predicting the landfall of Hurricane Irma.  I just looked at a USA Today article posted an hour earlier that said, "It could be on a collision course with Sough Florida over the weekend."  The fact is that the weather gurus cannot predict even 12 hours out with certainty.

However, those same scientific folk are assuring us they can predict the temperature within a degree in 50 years and the rise of the ocean levels accurately around the world two generations out.  Really?  I must say that I doubt their accuracy at predicting increases as the curvature of time increases.

Even more arrogant than their scientific prowess of predicting beyond our ability to see, is there lofty belief they can actually control climate change and determine the temperature beyond the curve.  As climate change has been occurring as far back as evidence can reveal, how is it that we are going to stop it?  Could we have stopped the last Ice Age or the ones before that?

How do we even know what the normal temperature of the planet is supposed to be?  How can we know if we are not in the beginning of the end of another Ice Age?  Is man really able to determine the weather patterns and changes in the seasons from one place to another?  Really?

What is true is this: "Since no one knows the future , who can tell someone else what it to come?" (Eccl 8:7).  We cannot tell the future, let alone determine it.  As we've seen with weather predictions, we "do not even know what will happen tomorrow" (Js 4:14).  We certainly cannot control beyond the curve.  "As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes" (v. 16).

So, what do we do about the future?  We trust in God and do his will, which will include being caretakers of the planet, making our best decisions about waste management, fossil fuel consumption, agricultural chemical use and land management.  But let's not think that we will determine the future weather patterns or global climate change.  Only God can truly do that.

Instead of arrogantly believing ourselves capable of seeing past the curve and determine what the planet will or will not do, let us humbly bow before the Creator, asking for his blessing and then being responsible in the management of the resources he gives us?  Jus' Say'n.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Curves in the Road

When I lived in the Panhandle of Texas, I could stand at my back door and see the night lights of Amarillo, 29 miles away.  The way the crows flies and the way the roads ran were pretty much identical - straight ahead.  You could always look up ahead for traffic jams, road blocks and weather changes.

Here in Arkansas, you can only look up ahead to the next curve in the road, which is about as far as you can throw an engine block.  In this state roadkill is the leading cause of death (not among humans).  I've know a fair number of folk who have gotten a deer on the way to the deer camp, rifle still in the case, rounds safely tucked in the box.  Death by car seems to be the exit of choice of deer, armadillos, squirrels, turtles and most other woodland critter due to their propensity to cross the road in the curves.  It is reported that one blonde asked, "Why don't they move 'Deer Xing' signs to safer parts of the road?"  OK, moving on.

My point in all of this is that a consistent reality of the terminal patients I work with is: "Life didn't turn out the way I thought."  It never does.  Looking down the road, we plan for a future and as far as we can see, things seem to be working one way or another.  The trouble is that just beyond where we can see, there is another curve in the road.

This is not only a reality taught by experience, it is a truth taught by Scripture: "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.'  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow" (Js 4:13-14).  In the words of the old Doris Day song, "Que sera sera," 'what will be will be, the future's not ours to see...'"

That's the reality of life: We are not in charge of circumstances and we cannot determine what they will be.  The truth of the matter is, "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails" Pr 19:21.

So, what is the answer to the curves in the road?  Get your pencil out or Ipad ready - "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Pr 3:5-6).  Jus' Say'n.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Flood-Water Truth

The unprecedented rainfall caused by Hurricane Harvey has caused flooding of epic proportions.  The economic loss is expected to be in the tens of billions of dollars, the displacement of families will be measured in years, and while Huston will eventually recover, some will never make it back.  Some died in the floods, others were decimated to the point that there is nothing left and no way to return.

The tragedy Harvey rained upon Huston is truly unmeasurable in terms of family impact, job loss, personal property loss, real property loss, et al.  But, in the middle of all the loss, there was something precious gained: the truth about the American Spirit.

While the media has been engineering a picture of a divided America in which white and black have little but disdain for each other, the flood water images flowing across the airwaves and the Internet displayed a united America, where the color of skin had no bearing on who helped whom.

Folks of all color were streaming into the Huston area brining food and supplies, pulling boats and coming prepared to enter into the flood waters to rescue those who were trapped by the deluge.  The color of the rescuers and the color of the rescued was of no consequence.  People were helping people.  There is a flood-water truth that Americans, across the board, are decent and caring, willing to sacrifice for others they don't even know and whose color is not their own.

I know that there are Caucasian knot heads and African American knot heads.  Stupid comes in all colors.  Hate and fear reside in the hearts of the ignorant and the godless.  There will be the radical KKK, NAZI, FATIMA, BLM and whatever initialized race-baiting, violence-spreading, culture-dividing knot-headed groups there might be, but the vast majority of Americans love their country and their countrymen.

The media has been actually reporting the news for the past few days.  I wish that would continue, that they would seek to uncover truth rather than exploit the news in a fashion that creates a false narrative of this country.  We have problems as we are human, but we are, by and large, a good people.

We need to hang on to the truth revealed in this tragedy when the media turns its focus again to the minority of people seeking to divide this country.  For truth has a divine power to heal a nation: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (Jn 8:32).  Jus' Say'n.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Due Season

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Gal 6:9).

In an agrarian society, where people live directly from the land by sowing and reaping, Paul's words make perfect sense and no explanation is needed.  They understood that there was a time to sow and separate time to reap.  They understood that in between the sowing and reaping came a period of time where cultivating what was planted was necessary for the crop to produce a harvest in the future.

In a post-industrial society like we live in today, we expect to stop by MacDonald's, talk in a box and have the food ready when we get to window.  We order a product from Amazon at night in our PJs and look for it to arrive to our door in 48 hours.  We can call Domino's and have a pizza delivered in 30 minutes.  We just aren't very keen on the idea of doing something today and then wait through a entire season of perhaps months or even years for results.

Paul's open-ended approach of "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people" (v. 10), waiting for positive results or real change to occur in another's life, or in the life of the church, is just foreign to our "once and done" mentality.

However, true change and lasting development requires time and timing.  There are seasons for planting and then there are seasons for reaping - the two do not occur simultaneously.  The fact that you put in your best effort today and see no results whatsoever is not particularly evidence of failure but likely the necessity of time to take root and develop.

You've tried hard, you've put in your best effort but you are seeing no results.  You want to give up, but don't.  Keep doing good, keep faithfully laying what you do and why you do it before the Lord.  At the proper time, if it is to be, God will make it grow (cf. 1 Cor 3:6).  Even if the results you had in mind do not come to fruition, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him" (Rom 8:28).  As my mother used to say, "good comes to them that wait."  Jus' Say'n.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Bearing Fruit

When I was a young Christian, I worked hard at "bearing fruit" as I had read the passages saying, "The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matt 3:10; Lk 3:9).  And I believed, based on what I read and was taught at the time, that bearing fruit was converting others to Christianity.

So, I had to be out knocking doors, confronting people with the Word, convincing them of what I believed and getting them to accept Christ in baptism.  If I accomplished that act and continued to accomplish that act, I was bearing fruit, otherwise I was destined to be cut down and thrown into the fires of hell.

Problem: Where is grace in all that?  And, does my salvation really depend on the decision of others to embrace my faith and convert to Christianity?  Really?  To be saved I have to be able to change others?  In other words, I have to earn my salvation by producing replicas of myself (bearing fruit)?

No!  For two reasons: 1.  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works..." (Eph 2:8-9).  2. Fruit bearing is not something done external of the tree, it is something that is done coming from within and as a part of the tree itself.  Listen to the words of Paul: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal 5:22-23).

Fruit bearing is being is reproducing the seed-bearing aspects of the tree.  When that it done and that seed falls into fertile ground, it will take root and grow.  But the fruit bearing is separate and apart from the growth of another plant.  I believe that will happen as we live out a Spirit-filled life but producing another Christian is not the point, being changed by the presence of the Spirit, by grace is the point.  Jus' Say'n.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Knock

I don't generally knock on my own door.  Normally, I just walk in as I have the key and the code to open the doors.  However, the other day, when I parked in our garage, I found the door locked and I was without a key to that door, so I knocked.  Fortunately, my wife heard my knocking and opened the door so I could come in for supper.

Jesus faces this same situation where he stands at the door of his own house, the church, and has to gain entry by knocking: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, they with me" (Rev 3:20).

Many would object saying that he is at the door of sinners, not the church.  I would counter by saying that he is knocking at the door of sinners in the church.  I know this to be true because the Book of Revelation was written for and sent to "the seven churches in the province of Asia" (1:4).

Could he be knocking on the door of your church?  Could you be one of the sinners within whose door is locked against him?  Are your eyes fully set upon Jesus?  Is your heart fully open to him?  Or have you lost focus, has your heart become calloused, have you "forsaken the love you had at first?" (2:4).

It happens easily enough, where one's passion for the Christ begins to wane as concerns about finances, health, job security, status, retirement, family, etc. - all begin to take the top spot in our time, energy and resources.  For many, even recreation time of biking, fishing, hunting, vacationing, all begin to eclipse their love for the Lord.

The question is not for "the many," it is for you, it is for me, it is for us.  Do we still have "first love" for Christ or has it been replaced.  The what it is replaced with does not matter; it matters only that it has been replaced.  So, what say you?  Is Jesus knocking at your door?  Will you answer it and invite him in to "eat with him and he with you"?  Jus' Ask'n.