Expectations

I teach High School, and we are in the last few days of class. There is a widely used saying that there is no tired like end of the year tired. I can relate to that! Students are winding down from another year of busy schedules and cramming learning into every fold of their brain. At least, that is what teachers hope who are also scrambling to finish the content, juggle the paperwork demands, and crowding in one more meeting. This time of year everyone gets frustrated more easily. I am doing something new. I am writing my class expectations for next year right now. All the things that have grown old and worn us out will be addressed day one. Establishing expectations and sticking to them is a great tool in all areas of life.

God gave us His expectations for our behavior in Micah 6:8.

“He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?” ESV

Micah had asked what to do to please God? What offering He most desired and what would appease Him. He even exaggerates and speaks of offering thousands of rams and rivers of oil and firstborn sons, but none of those are what God wants or requires. Sacrifice, no matter how momentous, is useless without a life of justice, loving-kindness, and humility.

We are expected first to do justice. The word translated “justice” means to comply with the proclamations of a court. In this context, we can read it as doing what God has commanded. The highest court of all, heaven, has decreed what is right and wrong. We are to equally apply that standard in all of our lives and to all people.

Next we are to love kindness. Loving kindness is a deep affection based upon past relationship. We are love God and love others. That love leads to acts of kindness done. God wants us to be kind to all.

Finally, we are walk humbly with our God. There is a reverential awe we should have before God. We walk as Jesus did, as humble servants. We obey God knowing that we don’t deserve anything but His wrath.

Live a life which embodies justice, kindness and humility and you will be in step with God’s expectations.

Yuck!

Do you hate anything? I mean is there something you just can’t stand? When I was a youth director, I learned to hate tuna fish sandwiches. Growing up I loved them. But when I was a youth director and living on my own, every time we had sandwiches at church the loving people would send the left overs home with the starving youth director. It turns out, after eating tuna fish for nearly a week, I grew to hate it! I have sense overcome my aversion, but for a while it was strong.

We don’t like to think about it, but the Bible says there are things God hates. Prov 6:16-19 says,

“16 There are six things that the LORD hates,

seven that are an abomination to him:

17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,

and hands that shed innocent blood,

18 a heart that devises wicked plans,

feet that make haste to run to evil,

19 a false witness who breathes out lies,

and one who sows discord among brothers”

Wow! God hates some things. Notice the things He hates: pride, lies, murderers, scheming hearts, evil actions, sowing discord among brothers. The common thread in all of them is sin. All of them are sinful actions and thoughts. God hates sin.

God wants us to walk righteously. Pride, lying, and harming others is the opposite of that. He calls us to humility and of service to others. Jesus even said that the second greatest commandment of all was to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Are you walking in that kind of love?

104.8

I have always been overweight. I never viewed weight as a spiritual issue. Then came Financial Peace University. What does eliminating debt have to do with health? Dave Ramsey has often said, “You don’t take financial advice from broke people. It’s like taking dieting advice from fat people.” He also stressed stewardship in all aspects of our lives. God owns us and everything. We are merely His stewards.

It finally sank in that my stewardship of my health was pathetic. Last summer, I had trouble walking due to the pain and stress on my feet and knees caused by excess weight. I reached the highest weight of my life at 360 lbs. I knew I had to do something.

Shannon and I started Weight Watchers on July 1, 2017. Since then by eating lean proteins, fruits and veggies and making better choices in my carbs I have lost 104.8 lbs.! People have been asking how I have done it. The biggest factor which made this time different was finally have a good enough why.

Why did I want to lose weight? I finally get it that I am responsible to the Lord for stewardship of my health. Paul said in 1 Cor. 4:2 ” 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” ESV My health issues were self-imposed due to bad habits. I also have no desire to get back into a wheelchair. 11 years ago, Guillain-Barre Syndrome left me paralyzed and it was a long road to get back on my feet. Last summer, I saw that I was moving back to the wheel chair as my poor health took its toll on my mobility. I also turn 50 in June 2018. I saw that looming milestone and wanted to get as healthy as possible before entering a new decade. Finally, my last why is my family. My son, Joshua crossed over to Boy Scouts this year and I was sitting at 100 pounds over the maximum weight allowed for many scout adventures. I don’t want my health to limit him. My daughter is entering the high school where I teach next year, and I don’t want to reflect poorly on her. All of us needed to improve our health so we have taken this journey together.

Now that 30% of my starting weight is gone, I feel better. I have energy, very little pain, and my blood pressure is much better. I have discovered a new why and a reason to keep going. Many others have noticed and now turning to this fat boy for information on what works! We are reaping the benefits of working together to get better.

We will plan to remain good stewards of our health so that we can better serve the Lord. Learning self-control and discipline has paid dividends in my walk with the Lord as well. Seeing all life as a stewardship issue makes us more mindful in all of our choices.

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Guillain-Barr%C3%A9-Syndrome-Fact-Sheet

Bad Day

Have you ever had one of those mornings? You know the kind. The alarm doesn’t go off so you wake early in and in a panic. You can’t shave properly because you run out of shaving cream. The Keurig sprays coffee all over the cabinet instead of it streaming into your cup. Added to that are the even bigger difficulties of health, finances, relationships, and temptations.

The Psalmist knew that feeling and wrote of it in Psalm 25:16-17:

“16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,

for I am lonely and afflicted.

17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;

bring me out of my distresses.” ESV

There are times in which we feel lonely and afflicted from all sides. In those times of distress, remember that we have a loving Father who will rescue us by His grace. Jesus promised to never leave us alone. At times, difficulties can steal our focus and seemingly be insurmountable, but He is with us. Like the Psalmist, in those moments, we need to remember to cry out Him.

Notice the requests in this text. Turn to me, be gracious to me, and bring me out of my distress. When we turn to God, He puts it back into perspective. What seemed overwhelming shrinks back to its proper place.

The New has Come

I am writing this on my laptop. It was a great laptop a few years ago. Unfortunately, time has taken its toll. Several keys are missing, but the switch under the label is still there, so that isn’t the worst problem. Recently, some keys have uit working all together. (See, the missing “q”?) To get that letter, I must find it on another site or document and copy it into this one. Now other keys are getting slow to respond. Thankfully, I have a new keyboard on the way and will soon be typing without those hassles.

As I think about it, I wonder if that I how God feels when using us to impact our world? He wants to send a message of love and to so serve fallen humanity. Unfortunately, we too sometimes garble the message. In dealing with our own sin nature, we send the wrong signal. The amazing thing is that He uses us anyway! You know, in some ways it is like my keyboard replacement. God fixes the brokenness and as He conforms us to His image, we are made new. The more He has shaped us, the more clearly we can show His love to others.

Maybe that is part of what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 5:17

“17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” ESV.

I’m grateful that God doesn’t give up on us. In the meantime, I’m going to look at the tracking information on my keyboard!

Testing

Spring brings the dreaded testing season in Texas’ public schools. Every year, our staff and students are confined from 4-5 hours per test to give a so called standardized test. The students much pass to move on in many cases and in high school must pass in order to graduate. Even the schools are assigned a grade based on students scores. The odd thing is that a simple passing % such as 70 isn’t the way it is scored. After all have taken the test and the difficulty of each uetion is analyzed they assign it a point value. They then tally the points set a score deemed passing by how many points are earned. In other words, they make a standard after they can see the results! Each version of the test through the years has been more difficult and filled with trickier questions. In fact, much time must be spent on how to spot wrong answers to eliminate them instead of teaching the curriculum. The whole system feels punitive and designed to increase failures rather than having any real benefit for the students.

We face a different kind of testing season in our spiritual lives. God allows us to face trials and troubles which test our faith. He discussed this in James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Notice the purpose of the trials. They are to produce steadfastness. Our growth is the aim of the tests which God allows. He is working to strengthen us. In the end, rather than assigning a grade to us, He is building us until we become “complete, lacking in nothing”. He is equipping us to serve Him for His honor and glory.

So count it all joy when you face trials in the knowledge that God is working to make you all He wants you to be.

Spring

I was sitting on the deck in my new furniture (Thanks Craft Baptist Church!) and enjoying a fine spring morning.  As birds welcomed the new dawn, the sun filtered through every shade of green imaginable.  It seems everyone loves spring.  The dreary dead winter is ending and the world is bursting forth in new life.  At the same time, it brings its own share of troubles.  The beauty of the flowers and trees have brought with them spikes in the pollen counts.  Some of the new life emerging are mosquitoes and fire ants.  Spring storms are rolling through with sudden fury.  Along with the beauty, come reminders of the brokenness of our world.

It wasn’t always that way.  When God created Earth, He made a special place for Adam and Eve.  This paradise of creation was in perfect harmony.  Imagine bees without stings, roses without thorns, and life without death.  But sin broke that.  Adam and Eve brought death into the world through their sin and have passed that to us.  The ramifications of that act still reverberate to this day.

The good news is that it will not always be that way!  God will restore the brokenness in human existence and all of creation.  Paul spoke of this in Romans chapter 8.

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” Romans 8:22-24

Last Sunday, we celebrated our Savior’s resurrection.  Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins and rose again as the down payment of the future restoration of creation and eternal life to all who are in Him.  We have hope for the future.  We live to make things better now, and know that ultimately He will restore creation to its former glory.

For now we enjoy the rose and avoid the thorn and sneeze our way through the beauty of spring, but remember, the restoration is coming!  Don’t lose hope.