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?

Missions

Growing up a PK, preacher’s kid missionaries were always my heroes.  They would come to our church from foreign fields and talk about the unfamiliar cultures, show us slides of the people and area they served, and shared what God was doing.  I always looked at them as supermen for God. If we were lucky, they brought with them MK’s, missionary kids and we got to hang out for a while.

Later, I was blessed to be involved in a church planting effort in Baton Rouge, LA.  I learned  some valuable lessons.  First, missions work is HARD.  I had it easy with a core group already in place, and we still faced obstacles existing churches didn’t.  Land alone was going to cost over a million dollars in a decent location.  I also learned missions doesn’t have to be around the world.  Baton Rouge was similar to home.   I didn’t have to learn a new language and had shared experiences with the people there.  I did have to get used to coffee strong enough to walk the dog on its own, but I learned to love it.   One of most important lessons learned was that we are all missionaries.  Our mission field is wherever we are.  Every member of the core group had to be on mission for God.  That is the same as at every church.

That is at the heart of what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20 ““All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” ESV

Our commission is make disciples wherever we go.  We give offerings to send missionaries to other towns, states, and nations.  That is good and should be encouraged.  However, we must also do our part to share the gospel here.  Wherever you find yourself, that is your mission field.  As we give to support worldwide missions, let us never forget to serve as missionaries right here at home.

Imitation

When I was a child, I had the coolest toy!  Sitting in our yard was a fire truck.  My Dad was chief of the volunteer fire department and with that came the truck.  I spent hours on that truck pretending to be a firefighter.  I was imitating my Dad and all of the other firefighters I had seen.  When I was older, I was allowed to ride on the truck to a grass fire with them.  I will never forget the moment I got to fight fire for the first time.  We had reached a fence the fire had just crossed.  Because I was small enough to do it, I was able to take a wet toe sack and cross the fence to put out the small fire that had crossed.  I was probably 10 or so years old, but felt grown up.

It is often said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  It is also true, that imitation is a great way to learn.  Children watch and imitate the actions of others around them and thus learn many of the social skills needed in life.  The same holds true in our spiritual lives.  The Apostle Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV  Paul modeled the Christian life for the believers in Corinth.  He lived a life imitating Christ.  He tried to let the character of Christ be visible in his life.  He did this so consistently, he could tell the church at Corinth, that they could imitate him and thus would be closer to living as  Christ lived.

The challenge to us is to follow Christ, so others will see Him in us as well.  Each day, we should ask ourselves if we are living for Jesus.  Are we walking as He walked?  Are we loving as He loved?  Are we preaching repentance as He did? Only when we answer yes, can we say as Paul did, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

Love and Serve

serving

In my quiet time the other day, I was reading Our Daily Bread, and read an interesting observation on John 21:15-22. In that passage, Jesus forgives and restores Peter.  Peter had denied Jesus three times on the night of His arrest. Here, Jesus asked Peter three times to declare his love for Jesus.  The point often missed in this text is that with each profession of love came a command to serve.   Every time Peter says that he loves Jesus, and Jesus asks Peter to feed His sheep. With love came service.

Jesus wants us to both love and serve Him. Perhaps that is why He said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15 It is easy to gather every week and sing, “I love You Lord” and “My Jesus I love Thee”.  It is another thing to serve Him in our daily lives.  The Holy Spirit has given each of us gifts designed to be put to use in serving Him, His people, and His world.  When we serve motivated by love it takes our discipleship to a whole new level.  We start putting the needs of others ahead of our own needs.  We see opportunities around us every day to express our love for God and for people by serving them.

Storms

raincloud-47580_640It is often said that April showers bring May flowers.  If that is true, we are in for a bumper flower crop this year!  We have seen many days of rain and several storms this spring.  The quote is often used to remind us that the storms of today can bring future blessings.   Paul said essentially the same thing in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

It is important to pay attention to what is said.  It does not say “all things are good”.  Neither does it say, “all things will be pleasant”.  God through Paul says that “all things work together for good”.  The storms and showers of today, can bring a greater good in the future.

God is building our character.  He works to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus.  In that process, He must remove some things about us which interfere with that goal.  He must also build within us new attitudes and skills.  That process is not always pleasant.

I always struggled with visiting hospitals as a pastor.  It was not that hospitals frightened me or anything.  You see, as a teen, I wanted to become a doctor.  When I was called to preach, that dream changed.  However, there was still within me a desire to be “of tangible benefit” to people.  I felt I was doing less just visiting someone.  I felt awkward.  As a bivocaitonal pastor, I also worked as an Emergency Medical Technician.  That gave some skills which were medical related.  There was always a desire to look at the chart and “do something”.

Then, eight years ago, I became the patient.  I developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome.  GBS is a disorder which left me paralyzed in the hospital.  I received a week of treatments and then spent a month in therapy.  During that time of helplessness the calls, visits, cards, etc. were a lifeline to me.  I experienced firsthand the value of a visit.  Guess what?   Being there for me was “doing something”.  I will never again feel awkward when visiting, calling, or checking up on Facebook.

I would not volunteer to go through that again.  However, I am grateful for that storm and the growth it brought to me.

Correction

JNESS-POLICE-CARHave you ever had to confess something?  I am talking about walking up to someone, admitting you are at fault, and waiting for them to pass judgment.  I have faced those circumstances a few times in my life.  One time I particular that comes to mind happened late one night as I was coming home from college.  It was after a basketball game.  I was part of an unofficial cheering section called front row lunatics at Jacksonville College. We painted logos in our faces and yelled our lungs out cheering on our Jaguars.     As I drove through the city of Kemp, TX, I noticed red lights in my mirror.  I moved to the right lane and kept driving thinking it was and ambulance or fire truck in the distance, but they stayed behind me.  I finally realized they were waiting for me to pull over before passing.  I was stunned when they parked behind me and I discovered it was a police car.  I received my one and only ticket that night. He probably did not know what to think of me sitting there in a muscle shirt with the remnants of face paint still visible.   I don’t think he liked it when I said I assumed he was in a fire truck since his lights were all red.  In my hometown we had blue lights with the red on police cars to distinguish such things.   He gave me a ticket for the ten miles an hour too fast I was going.  That was nothing compared to when I had to tell my Dad about it.  I had to confess and throw myself on the mercy of the parental court and hope for the best.  Now that I have children I realize something I could not back then.  My Dad’s love for me and concern for my welfare tempered his discipline as he dispensed justice.

I came across these verses which jogged my memory about those times of approaching judgment. “I know, Lord, that a man’s way of life is not his own; no one who walks determines his own steps. Discipline me, Lord, but with justice — not in Your anger, or You will reduce me to nothing.” (Jeremiah 10:23-24 HCSB).

It takes faith and courage to seek out correction.  Knowing that we have a loving Father as our judge, should help us when we have sinned.  I am not saying His love causes Him to ignore our sinful choices.  I am pointing out, that in dispensing discipline, His love for us has our best interest at heart.  Principles and commands from God’s word are not there to harm or deprive us.  They are there to protect us.  When God disciplines us He seeks to correct us.  The point is never to zap us, but instead it is to get us back on the right path living the best possible life.  Jeremiah understood that and sought out God’s gentle discipline.

When we have sinned, go to God like Jeremiah and seek His gentle correction.